Feb 28-29 Glacier Country

You run out of adjectives attempting to describe glaciers. We trekked the Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier Valley Walks and were again reminded how magnificent these living mountains of ice are. In NZ, trekkers can either hire guides to do a variety of glacier treks, hire a helicopter for trek/sightseeing/skiing adventures, or walk the various well marked trails yourself. We chose to see both Franz Joseph and the Fox Glacier ourselves, and were rewarded with incredible scenery that burns into your brain and leaves lasting memories. The glaciers here are unique, as they abut tropical rain forests. The glacial streams are a gray-blue color, as befits glacial ice melt. Our timing was great, and we managed to avoid the tourist crowds and heavy rains that are usually found in both areas. What also impressed us was the fact that the rope lined trails ended within several hundred meters of the face of the glaciers; incredibly close and great for picture taking. The two towns that have grown nearby these glaciers are only 23 km apart, and appeared to us like an alpine village set in some ski area. The rains have started and stopped all day today, and the clouds forming like a necklace toward the top third of the nearby mountains as viewed from our cabin are constantly changing.
The coastal drive took us past Punakaiki, aka Pancake Rocks and blowholes. It reminded me of Bryce/Zion National Park, with geysers of water shooting up (when the tide is in). Michael is looking at the dry 'hole', and in the distance is the Tasman Sea.

Feb 26-27 Thru Golden Bay to Westport

We've spent two nights in Golden Bay, and enjoyed hiking the Whaririki Beach area. We also went to the Wainui Falls, hiking thru forest and going over a swing bridge, our first experience doing so. Stopping briefly in Murchison for a late lunch, we ended up in Westport, at the Seal Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. Internet is very slow, so pictures will have to come later. Driving has been up, over and thru mountains and valleys; one lane roads and washout areas abound. These Holiday Parks have been immaculate, and the communal kitchens, heads and showers are first rate. Yesterday, we had a nice talk with a young couple from Chechoslovakia, and many languages can be heard around. We figure the camper van franchises must be doing well, as we see lots of them on the roads. The larger towns have had Countdown or New World grocery stores, as well as banks and petrol stations. Our station wagon is getting about 26 mpg, not too bad, top speed limit on the NZ roads is 100 kph (62 mph), but most of the roads are so winding that a much slower speed is essential.
Pic: Sue shows the majesty of the coastal rocks at Whaririki Bch.; the walk to get there through rolling farmland, streams and wind blown coastal brush was scenic as well. Our king of hiking.

Feb 25 - to the South Island

We couldn't have picked better weather when we departed on the Bluebridge Ferry for the 0800 ride from Wellington to Picton. The gale warnings for the Cook Strait had been lifted, and winds and seas were mild and the temperature warm. Arriving at Picton, we drove the scenic route around Marlborough Sounds, through Nelson and up towards Abel Tasman National Park to Pohara Beach on Golden Bay.We drove over Takaka Hill, known as 'marble mountain' and enjoyed beautiful vistas of mountains and bays. We've booked two nights at the Pohara Beach Golden Bay Top 10 Holiday Park and will go exploring tomorrow.
To view a map of the South Island, check out-
Pic: Coming into Picton, the train of sailing prams were being towed out for their sailing class. It's a mandatory part of schooling. There were so many of them! And kayakers and boaters of all kinds. A very scenic welcome.

Feb 24 - Our last day in Wellington

We started the day by taking the famous Wellington Cable Car up the mountain where a Cable Car Museum, Observatory and Botanical Gardens are found. It's $6 round trip, although one way ($3) would have been OK, as walking down to town after viewing the Lady Norwood Rose Garden was all downhill and appeared easy enough. We spent hours walking thru the Botanical Gardens (founded 1891) and surrounds, identifying trees and plants by their posted names. For lunch, we walked thru more of the downtown area, and settled on a fresh fish market serving, amongst many other items, fish and chips. The store was so small there were no tables and was a take out place only, so we walked a bit more and stopped to sit under a tree to eat lunch. There are hundreds of shops and thousands of tourists and locals around; this is a very crowded city with lots of car traffic. One nearby street to the Trinity Hotel (where we're staying) is Cuba Street, and it's cordoned off for a few blocks for pedestrians only. There, we stopped for a beer at the Bristol Hotel, one of the many well known bars in town. Talking of bars, they, along with restaurants, coffee shops, clothing and jewelry shops take up many of the storefronts. The fashionistas are in vogue here, and short skirts are definitely the "in" fashion. Clothes, and especially shoes, are insanely expensive in NZ, and seem to be even more so here. Another observation of Wellington is the variety of old buildings and architectural designs; many have been restored from the early 1900's. Later, for dinner we ate Malaysian food at a place called the Satay Noodle. All in all, we had a full last day of walking and seeing the sites here, and if you're into exploring a bit of city life, we highly recommend you check out Wellington, the second largest city in NZ, as well as its capital.
Pic: Taking a break at the Gardens.

Feb 22 - Wellington

We thought the drive from Masterton to Castlepoint was pretty windy, but the drive from Castlepoint back thru Masterton and on to Wellington was also one that required careful attention to the road. It rained heavily all day and night, and the forecast was for gale warnings across the Cook Strait. Since you have to take one of two ferries across the Cook Strait to get from North to South Island, we decided to wait in Wellington and see the city sites until the weather cleared up a bit. (One advantage of not being on a tight schedule.) It turned out that the Interislander Ferry wasn't taking bookings due to "technical problems," so that left only the Bluebridge Ferry to go from Wellington to Picton, and we're booked for an 0800 Sat morning crossing. We stayed the night at the Top 10 Wellington in lower Hutt, then decided to leave and booked into the Trinity Hotel in downtown Wellington today. Yesterday, we went to the Te Papa Museum, a wonderful place that celebrates the culture and history of New Zealand. Today, the rain has finally stopped, but the winds were howling most of the day. We continued our walking "tour," gazing into the many shop windows and stopping at book and camping stores. This evening, we ate dinner at a notable place; the Tulsi Indian Restaurant, where we very much enjoyed a wonderful, fairly priced meal.

Feb 21 - Castlepoint

After going to Whakapapa Village in Tongariro National Park, we drove to Castlepoint. There, we met up with Martin and Angela (sv Katie M) and stayed at their friend's bache overlooking the beach. The coastal views were incredible and we went hiking during the afternoon. Although Castlepoint Rock is only 162 meters high, the climb up was arduous, but worthwhile. Overlooking the small settlement of Castlepoint on one side and on the Wairarapa Coast, the other side is bordered by Christmas Bay, where Capt. Cook was anchored Christmas day many years ago. We also hiked the stairs up to the Castlepoint Lighthouse, which is still a functioning lighthouse, first lit in 1913 and automated in 1988. Around the Lighthouse grows the yellow daisy, unique in the world, and a gray/brown moth, also only found in the immediate area. Kewl. After our climbs, the hot showers felt great, and we enjoyed a home cooked steak dinner with accoutrements with Martin and Angela. (Sometimes, it's just plain tough being a cruiser.)

Feb 20 - Road Trip

We departed Opua and met up with some friends of ours in Aukland. They're living aboard at Pier 21, in the heart of downtown. The mega sailing yachts were there for a regatta, and the expected complement of super expensive European luxury cars were parked nearby. Aukland downtown is like any other big city downtown, but we had a really good time visiting, and had a chance to stop at a chandlery for a Raritan head part - a small gasket seal costing $30! (It's cheaper to use a bucket...) The next day we drove to Cambridge, a small town near Hamilton, to visit some family of a dear friend of ours back in Florida. They immigrated here from South Africa, and we had some quality time with the family and some friends of theirs, and hope they visit Florida so we can reciprocate their incredible hospitality. The next morning we drove to the Waitomo Cave area, and went hiking on the Ruakuri Tunnels Bush Walk. Limestone caves, tunnels and grottos wind around a stream, and it's a beautiful walk. After, we drove to Ohakune, a small town on the way south to Wellington. The scenery of rolling hills and winding roads is beautiful, all rural, and sheep and dairy farms are everywhere. We stayed the night at the Top 10 Ohakune, which is a Holiday Park camping area which offers small motel rooms (your choice of ensuite or communal bathroom facilities, and some rooms include bedding, towels and cooking facilities also) as well as camping accomodations. It spreads out over a clean, safe few acres, and we're planning our next day's adventures towards Castlepoint to meet up with some other yachtie friends there.
To look at a map of the North Island, go to-

Feb 14 - Valentine's Day

We all remembered today, didn't we? Wanting to do something special, we drove to the Puketi Forest, near Keri Keri, and walked amongst the kauri trees. The oldest kauri tree in the Puketi was about 500 years old, but the oldest one known in NZ was over 4000 years old, and extinct a long time ago. We enjoyed reading the Forest Service informational plaques and wondered at these beautiful trees which can grow so tall (up to 150') and had diameters up to 15'. We're happy to report that efforts are being made to save the kauri from extinction, and that wholesale cutting has been prohibited for many years. After our walk we drove to the nearby Ake Ake Vineyard & Restaurant for a late lunch. We can tell you from first hand experience that their wines are really good, and the meal we had was some of the best food we've had in New Zealand (we shared a delicious sirloin steak and bowl of green lipped mussels). We returned to the boat in the late afternoon to clouds and rain, as a trough is slowly settling into the North Island. What a fun day; we hope you enjoyed your Valentine's Day as much as we did ours!

Feb 13 - Infini went sailing today!

That's right - we left the dock! Roger Hall, the Doyle Sails pro suggested we take the boat out, hoist the new main, check things out, and go over the details. Seeing that we hadn't left the dock since arrival in Opua about 4 months ago, the burning question was whether the barnacle growth on the prop was too great to get steerage and gears! I probably haven't mentioned that the currents here are quite fast, and can easily reach 2-3 knots thru the marina area, not counting any cross breeze that generally is happening also. Getting in and out of your slip can be a bit nerve racking, but this morning things went smoothly, with our friend Rich (Slip Away) in his dinghy ready to act as a tug in case we needed it (we didn't); and we motored out to the fairway and hoisted the main. It set beautifully and the Doyle workmanship is definitely up to offshore standards. We then put a reef in to see how things set up, spending about an hour going over things with Roger. Coming back into the marina we had 10-12 knots of wind directly astern along with a 2 knot current pushing us along. We had to make a hard right turn and then a hard left into our slip, so timing is everything. Our friends Paul & Karen (Gigi) took our lines as we berthed gently and secured the boat. Things went great, for which we are so thankful! We also had a chance to go over a few sytems we hadn't used for quite a while, and all was well. Roger then measured for the new sail cover we need made and we sat and visited for a few minutes before he had to scoot off for other appointments. We then went into Keri Keri with Paul and Karen to do a bit of shopping and for us to get a few items we'll need for our upcoming road trip. It's been a long day.
(Infini is hull #49 of the 43' Westsails...)

Feb 10 - Happenings

We picked up our car yesterday from Phillip (Cars for Cruisers; phillipzisakis@yahoo.com) and are now driving a sharp looking Mazda Capella wagon. We think it will serve our land touring purposes well, and many kudos to Phil for finding it on the spur of the moment for us. Roger of Doyle Sails brought our new mainsail to Infini today, and we've planned a test sail this Monday to see the shape of the new sail once its hoisted and figure any other refinements needed. Sue's been busy sewing up new hatch covers, so it's been a busy day for everybody. Tomorrow is the cruisers swap meet, and we hope to lighten the boat by at least a few ounces...that is, if I don't find anything from anyone else's crap pile, I mean treasures of the bilge pile, to buy.

Feb 6 - Waitangi Day and Superbowl

It's Waitangi Day here in NZ, a public holiday to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. To quote Wikipedia, "The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Ma-ori rights to their land and gave Ma-ori the rights of British subjects. There are differences between the Ma-ori and English language versions of the Treaty, and virtually since 1840 this has led to debate over exactly what was agreed to at Waitangi. Ma-ori have generally seen the Treaty as a sacred pact, while for many years Pa-keha- (the Ma-ori word for New Zealanders of predominantly European ancestry) ignored it. By the early twentieth century, however, some Pa-keha- were beginning to see the Treaty as their nation's founding document and a symbol of British humanitarianism." Many stores and public businesses were closed. We cruisers, however, got together to watch the Superbowl at the Opua Cruising Club. About 18 people shared a potluck, and enjoyed the game on the wide screen TV. Interestingly, we didn't get to see any of the American TV ads played during the game, as all the ads were either NZ or European!

Feb 2 - Update

I installed our new batteries late yesterday and everything checked out OK. Our 2T chain hoist came in handy and saved everyone's backs from strain lifting the heavy 8D batteries. The replacement element for the water heater was installed, wiring rechecked, and we're awaiting one bronze elbow to complete the install of the Aqualarm Save Your Engine Kit (part 20064). The new Doyle mainsail arrives next week, and our projects should be winding down enough to take off for our extended road trip of north and south island. We've been checking maps, noting places we want to see and hike, and are getting ready!
(Rich and Michael unloading our dead batteries)