Leaving home

02nd May 2013
We have a car parked at either end of the boat. Something we feel typifies New Zealanders and this is why:
We are ‘up on the hard’ for work to be done that we can’t do in the water and one car belongs to Craig who runs the chandlery here at Westpark who, when he saw Mike waiting for a taxi said ‘Don’t be daft take my car’. His “truck” as its known affectionately now includes his trailer so we can take our 30kg anchor and 100m of chain to be galvanised.
At the other end a rather posh Lexus courtesy of Steve the brother in law of the rigger we use here. He came out when we went for a sail to have our rigging checked, finding out we didn’t have a car he simply turned up with his ‘old’ car, directions and photocopies of maps to get to a couple of beautiful spots here on North Island. Handed over the keys and said ‘Have for as long as you need it’ and even arranged for his son to drive him home.
Just can’t imagine this happening in the UK but maybe I’m wrong. We have met this attitude time and again from so many people that we have only just met: ‘Come for dinner – and they mean it - borrow my car/my house/, is there anything we can do to make your stay here more pleasant?’ It’s one of the many things we will so miss when we leave New Zealand for the last time heading for Fiji at the beginning of May.


It’s not just been chores on the boat since we got back from the UK. We have been off the boat for a few weeks touring North Island, nothing quite like realising you are leaving for the last time to focus the mind on all the many things you’ve left undone … and unphotographed in Mike’s case!. So car packed (this time a hire one) we set off for our own ‘Tiki Tour’ trying to see more of North Island, the Coromandel, Lake Taupo, Tongariro, Wanganui River, Napier, Wellington and Martinborough. Each of these places could fill an entire Sea Mail on its own, here are a few of our highlights.
You can’t go far in New Zealand without experiencing some form of geothermal activity as the country is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire. It’s not always the dramatic huffing and puffing of volcanoes and geysers, sometimes its more surprising.


Take Hahei in the Coromandel just a couple of hours drive from Auckland. At low water one stretch of beach is crawling with people (ourselves included) digging shallow pits in the sand. Why? The water bubbling up through the sand is warm, well actually pretty hot to the point of scalding in some places, courtesy of said geothermal activity and we are all creating our own little spa pools. It’s a wonderful and bizarre sight though as the tide starts to come back in you do get the unpleasant sensation of cold sea water flooding your warm little pool on aptly named Hot Water Beach.
Lake Taupo is in fact a caldera of a long extinct volcano (hope it’s extinct as it measures approximately 35 km across!). This all kicked off approximately 26,500 years ago with the largest of its eruptions, when an estimated 1,170 cubic kilometres of material was ejected. To put this into perspective the Icelandic volcano that caused chaos and airport closures not that long ago only spewed out 0.27 cubic kilometres of ash – so Taupo was one very big eruption and resulted in several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land collapsing into the void this caused and forming the caldera. So there you have it an enormous 616 square kilometre lake.

Lacking Sea Rover we did the next best thing and hired a canoe to explore a very small bit of the lake that included Maori carvings over 10m tall completed in the late 1970s.
Many of you know The Tongariro Range by another name – well part of it anyway, as Mount Ruapehu featured as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. Its companions Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe make up what is cited as the best one day tramp (walk to you and I) in New Zealand’s North Island, part of the Tongariro Circuit. However, nature intervened as she has a habit of doing and the second half of the walk was closed as Tongariro was steaming and had been spewing rocks out of its active vents since last August.


For once we had to agree with the Health and Safety elf! Still we did half the Tongariro Alpine Crossing walk and that was pretty special, including walking across the South Caldera, which felt like you were on the moon.
We don’t seem to be able to stay away from water for very long and the Wanganui River beckoned, in particular the Bridge to Nowhere – built in 1936, it was meant to link the communities on either side of the river. But the road was never finished as economics and a change of government intervened and now the bridge exists purely as a tourist destination with only walking tracks to and from in glorious countryside that we’re sure would be covered in housing in the UK.


The space that everyone here has is something we both look at with longing, given the housing intensity back in the UK. We’d decided on a jet boat trip up to the bridge and then to canoe back down. Mike continued in his bid to kill me by successfully steering us through the 50:50 rapid (so named because 50% of people roll their canoes here) only to roll us at the next one! Was rather fun floating down the river hanging on to the upturned canoe until the though struck that I couldn’t remember if there was one more rapid or not and I didn’t fancy going through one out of the boat. So some frantic kicking to get to the side, some manoeuvring and bailing and we were back on course, if slightly soggy.

We know it’s been pretty cold in the UK, with records tumbling everywhere, but here we have been enjoying an Indian Summer with gloriously warm and sunny days at the end of one of the hottest driest summers in New Zealand. All of which has led to a drought and this land, which we think of as green and lush has been turned into a parched yellow dust bowl. Driving around we have been shocked by the state of cattle, which look more like they belong in drought stricken parts of Africa than temperate New Zealand.
Being New Zealand wine is never that far off the agenda and visits to Napier (Hawkes Bay area) and Martinborough, a short distance from Wellington had to include a few visits to vineyards, well it would be rude not to. Across the board the viticulturists here are very excited about this years’ vintage. The dry weather, heat and sun that have plagued the cattle farmers have been excellent for the grapes and wine producers are cautiously predicting the best vintage for 30 years, possibly the best ever – so memo to self ‘Buy 2013 Kiwi wine’. We have certainly tasted some wonderful wines and eagerly await this vintage.


Along the road we have managed to catch up with friends in Wellington, Ritchie and Lindsey (only to be berated for not calling them up and inviting ourselves to stay – so Kiwi) and in Martinborough sharing a rented place in a vineyard with cruising friends Ken and Wendy. Interesting catching up with them as they have now sold their boat and are heading home to Canada and the adjustment of life back on land, something we will have to get our heads round in a couple of years when we too will be on our last leg home and about to sell Sea Rover. Still plenty of time for new adventures and experiences before we face that day.
So back to the here and now. Well the drought and Indian Summer have come to an end with rain and 40 knot winds – not much fun when your boat is up in a cradle. Still an opportunity to polish the hull and we must be doing something right as one of the passing tradesmen remarked ‘What a beautiful boat…she reeks of quality’, so some encouragement to stick with the polishing, and here we must admit to a certain pride that, five years on, random strangers still stop and openly admire Sea Rover – well I guess there has to be some pay back for all those hours of maintenance and polishing. The list of jobs is gradually decreasing, even if the list of things to buy is getting longer; we are back in the water and in the Viaduct for the last time and a chance to say ‘Goodbye’ to the many friends we have made here.
But it’s not all play here in downtown Auckland. Our main job has been the dreaded generator – yes it’s been playing up again, more Mastervolt moments, so much so we’ve had to have it hauled off the boat for serious work (aka expensive) to be done. We then needed to hire a crane to come alongside the boat to hoist the generator back aboard and into its hole below decks. So how does this all fit in with being in the Viaduct, a posh marina in the centre of town? Easy, all you do is ask. Which is what Mike did of Team New Zealand very busy preparing for the America’s Cup, their amazing trimaran has departed for San Francisco and the backup team have already shipped 74 containers worth of kit over there. Mike wandered over to their base and asked if we could use the space they had been launching (or rather craning) their boat from. In true Kiwi fashion they invited him in and their response - no problem, we’ll make sure Auckland council are OK with it as they own that area.


Team New Zealand even phoned us on Friday to confirm arrangements then laid out cones so nobody blocked the space needed by our crane! You just have to love this country.
With the trees turning golden brown and the temperatures feeling much cooler its time head north to the tropics. We both know that as we set off in a couple of weeks or so (all weather dependent) there will be tears as we sail out of Hauraki Gulf for the last time and bid farewell to the Land of the Long White – our home from home.


Just time for a shameless plug ...enjoy greetings cards featuring photos from our travels
Don't worry the pictures aren't of us!

More photos from our times in New Zealand's North Island

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Comments

Photo comment By Alex: Lovely to hear from you! You both look splendidly well in the photos, and your reports paint a vivid and enticing portrait of NZ. Safe travels, and I hope leaving NZ isn't too sad. I can't wait for the next update. Wonderful photos as per usual, Mike! Lots of love, Alex xxx
Photo comment By Craig Torckler: Hi guy's or should it be bye for now guys. Meeting & getting to know you both has been great, we consider that you are honorary Kiwi’s. One thing we know is that you will be sailing with a big piece of NZ on board, most of it on a USB sticks or in your camera, the rest of in your mind & hearts. Looking through your pic’s this morning is just a snapshot of what we have down here and you are welcome back any time. We look forward to the next time we catch up, were ever that might be… Have a safe passage & we will be following you closely via the air waves. Waving Craig Torckler Westpark Marine Chandlery & Electronics.

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