Sunday, November 30, 2008

More from Northern NZ

Hole in the Rock, just outside Opua, the first land formation we spotted from sea.

Cape Brett, this is the first light we saw from sea as we approached New Zealand.

We've spent two and a half weeks in the Opua area and have done some really interesting excursions. Unfortunately, I'm unable to post pictures of the glow worm caves, but I'll tell you all that it was a very cool experience. The glow worms we saw only exist in Australia and New Zealand and are a close relative to the shrimp - not fireflies as you may suspect. The light from these very tiny organisms is just the size of a pin head and glows kind of a turquoise blue. The glow worms feed on insects that emerge at dusk. The worms spin traps, kind of like spiderwebs, that hang down like icicles to catch their prey. It is actually the worm excrement that emits the about toxic waste!

Hundertwasswer Public Toilet Block, Kawakawa, New Zealand.
On the way home from the glow worm caves, stopped in Kawakawa to visit the famous Hundertwasser toilets. Now I know this sounds, perhaps, a little less than appealing but Fredric Hundertwasser, a world renown artist and designer, rebuilt this building back in 1998 just two years prior to his untimely death. It is the only Hundertwasser structure in the Southern hemisphere and attracts hundreds of visitors from far and wide every year. The artist loved New Zealand and made a home in Kawakawa where he enjoyed his anonymity. He redesigned the toilet house as an expression of gratitude to the community. Hundertwasser is best known for his first building, Hundertwasser House, in Vienna, which attracts more than a million visitors each year.
Jenny in the ladies room.
Another nice exploration we took was to the Haruru Falls. Although the falls themselves are not very large, the do offer a peaceful setting and a lovely nature walk through a kiwi bird reserve. Sadly, we did not spot any kiwi birds, but we did get to see the New Zealand variety of cormorant called a shag, nesting in the trees alongside the water.
Jenny & Marg at Haruru Falls
Jocelyn was unable to do much of the walk as she had sprained her ankle and was on crutches for several days. She's doing much better now.
When Orca III arrived and just before Nathalie left for France, we had an informal ladies breakfast up at the Blue Water bistro. This was a really fun time for us all to visit. We talked about Jacquelines new grand babies that she was going to visit over Christmas and about our future plans and past adventures.
Left to Right - Renata (Nuku Alofa - Germany), Maria (Mama Cocha - Holland), Dionne (Orca III - Canada), Nathalie (O'vive - USA), Tanja (Upps - Germany), Jacqueine (Ahu - Holland), Joan (New Paige - Canada) and of course Me!
The girls continue to work diligently on their school assignments and have just recently completed Biology 11. I was working on the computer one day and got up to get a cup of coffee and just about had the liver scared out of me when I came face to face with a frog on the galley table! It looked very alive, but thankfully it was not, the girls were just getting ready for an experiment. Life on board is very interesting sometimes.
We've since left Opua and are making our way South towards Auckland where we'll be spending Christmas. I'm sure I'll have many more adventures to speak of and pictures to share of our trip along the way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kia Ora New Zealand

Nathalie, Dave, Marg & Jay on hike in Russell

It took us seven days of travel to get from Tonga to New Zealand split about equally between motoring and sailing. There were times when the sea was glass calm and times when the swells were three meters high and the winds 38 knots. All in all it was a good passage but as always, land is a welcomed sight. We spotted land at 6:20am November 10th and arrived at the quarantine dock at 11:00am. Customs and quarantine formalities were very quick and efficient and we were snugly secured in a slip at the Opua Marina before 12:30pm.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse - Northernmost tip of New Zealand

Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea

As you can imagine, after being in smaller countries for months, we were very excited about all of the great grocery stores and products available here.

Our first week has been filled with activities celebrating the “All Points to Opua” rally of the Island Cruising Association. Monday’s event was a free pizza dinner and was particularly appreciated following our passage at sea and since we were celebrating Dave’s birthday, we were treated to cake on board O’vive following the dinner.
Jacqueline (Ahu - Austria), Marg, Tanja (Upps - Germany)

The best show we’ve been to so far has been the Bay of Islands, Culture North Night show at the Waitangi treaty grounds where the country of New Zealand was born back in the 1800’s. The show started with our group being challenged by a group of Maori warriors and was so realistic and frightening that we really felt that we were among the first visitors to this land. Once the ‘chiefs’ of our group assured the warriors that we meant no harm, we were invited into the long house to enjoy an evening of song, dance and drama which told of New Zealand’s history. This was an absolutely amazing show and one we’d highly recommend to anyone visiting this area.

We’ve done quite a lot of driving this past week as Nathalie is flying to France to visit her parents and needed to see as much as possible during her week here. We have had a lot of fun exploring to the Northernmost tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, and back. The vegetation here is amazing, while some of the flowers and greenery are similar to what we see at home, some are very different, such as the Ponga tree which is a national symbol. This tree looks like a palm tree but is more like a huge fern growing on top of a tall skinny trunk.

Alec & Jocelyn at Cape Reinga

There are some huge sand dunes in the North Island and the kids really loved this part. We rented a couple of boogie boards and they hiked to the top of the hills and surfed down the dunes. Now, you may ask “didn’t they get sand in their eyes?” the answer is “absolutely! as well as everywhere else you can imagine!” but what a fun time they had. Be sure to see the video on youtube!
Board rental lady - what a character!

Jocelyn & Alec

Throughout the countryside there are beautiful rolling pastures filled with sheep and cows.

Another place we visited was the Stone House and Mission House, these were the first buildings constructed in New Zealand in the early 1800's and are now wonderfully preserved as historical monuments. The area surrounding these buildings is absolutely gorgeous, with a lake like inlet and high rolling hills with beautiful homes and gardens.

Yesterday, we took a little ferry across the bay to the town of Russell the site of the first European settlement here. We particularly enjoyed the art galleries, beaches and historical hike to a viewpoint. This is what we thought New Zealand would be like.
Kids at viewpoint
Russell road trip with O'vive & Upps (Tanja not in picture)

Christ Church, first church in New Zealand - 1800's

Orca III arrived yesterday afternoon safe and sound and just in time for the Pig Roast dinner and awards ceremony for the rally. Orca III took the prize for the largest fish caught on the passage, an eight foot marlin! while O'vive won a $500 certificate to Cater Marine and we won a $200 certificate for Northland Spars and Rigging! The Island Cruising Association and the Opua Business Association sure know how to welcome cruisers!
Congratulations! Steve and Kyle - Orca III

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Farewell Tonga....hello New Zealand!

All in all we had a great time in Tonga, enjoying the wonderful diving and snorkeling and swimming in the nice clear water in many beautiful anchorages.
The girls both have their favorite places on board to relax and on one of our traveling days in the Ha'apai group, it was calm enough to 'hang' out and read while underway.
We caught a huge Mahi Mahi while passing through the Ha'apai group and, as usual, shared a big fish feast on O'vive - Dave really is the master when it comes to barbequing fish.

Just prior to our departure, we joined with many other cruisers for a Halloween buffet at Big Mama's Yacht Club at Pangaimoto on Tongatapu. The wind was really blowing +30 knots and it was pouring rain - similar, actually, to a typical BC Halloween! The kids all dressed up, Jenny and Emilie as 80's movie stars, Alec & Jocelyn and gangstas but when it came time to go ashore the costumes were completely covered with rain gear for the very wet dinghy ride in. The effort was well worthwhile as about 75 people showed up for the excellent buffet dinner. After returning to the boats and retiring for the night, we heard a bang and then some cries for help, so Jay and I both leaped out of bed in time to see one of the boats anchored near us, frantically trying to raise their anchor after dragging into another boat. The dragging boat got away just fine and the boat that was hit suffered just a few scrapes. It was a very anxious night for all of the boats in the anchorage as everyone was anchored fairly close to one another.
Jenny & Emilie - '80's beauties!

November first was a day to celebrate with Earl (owner of Big Mama's) and his son as they celebrated Earl's 60th Birthday and the son's 12th. Big Mama's invited all of the 'yachties' to a traditional Tongan dinner in their honour and about 150 people showed up. It was a wonderful evening of fun and fellowship, excellent food, fantastic music (8 person band) and lively dance. The Tongan's at this party were not the reserved Tongan's we've read about and met!

The Tongan people are very spiritual and traditional in nature. Just before we left Nieafu we witnessed a funeral procession. The procession was lead by a 50 piece marching band, followed by a pick up type truck which was covered with a long woven mat that extended back from the truck about 20 feet, women, I presume family members, carried the mat high above their heads and they marched through town and they were followed by several cars. The funeral lasted six hours and we witnessed the same procession returning through town. It is customary for the mourning family to wear black, and everyone wears a Ta'ovala (waist mat) as a sign of respect to "God, King, and Country".

Weaving the Ta'ovala's - waistmats.

A common sight, tongan woman in mourning at the market.

Ta'avola come in many different styles and can be purchased at the market.

All school children wear uniforms and many of the uniforms, especially for the older kids, also include a Ta'ovala. The kids are very friendly and just like the kids at home, love to go to the store for a treat when school lets out.

As usual, weather is the hot topic amongst the cruisers and sometimes an impromptu weather pow wow will take place, like this one at the Friends Café - Jay, David - O'vive, Bernd - Upps, and Isaac - Tulavie, which happened just following our delicious lunch.

The fish market at Nuku Alofa was a sight to see! There is no ice, no enclosed cases, in fact, there is no building, just a roof in a parking lot, under which are several concrete tables. Each of the fishing families arrives at dawn to display their catch and they stay until dusk in hopes of selling their fish. At the market, you can buy fresh octopus, a bag of assorted reef fish, a pop bottle filled with assorted fish guts, a palm sack filled with sea weed and either whole sea urchins or already
shelled sea urchins as well as giant clams.

Giant Clam

Octopus - can you believe we've all tried it and like it!

One of the last tasks prior to departing Tonga was to fill our tanks with Diesel fuel. This was not as easy as in Canada, that's for sure, as we first had to obtain a duty free certificate from the port captain then go right to the fuel company to order the fuel which was transported in 200 litre steel drums. The gas company delivered the drums to the dock, along with a hand pump, and we hand pumped 1000 litres of diesel between us and O'vive, the kids thought this was quite an interesting experience.

Jenny pumping fuel!

We departed Nuku Alofa on Sunday morning with Minerva Reef as our intended destination. Minerva Reef is a submerged reef 250 miles South of Tonga, a perfect place for a rest. We anchored at Minerva for one night in order to rest and to fix a wiggle in our mast and to load our dinghy on deck. While at anchor, we were contacted by New Zealand Air Force Orion which was flying by doing a routine check, Upps took this picture of Malachi & O'vive with the airforce plane in the background - it was very cool.

Just five boats at Minerva Reef.

New Zealand Airforce Orion bids us all farewell!

Minerva Reef looking East out to sea, the closed land in this direction is South America!

Sunset at Minerva Reef

Malachi and O'vive anchored inside Minerva Reef. At high tide the only above water evidence of the reef is the rocks you see in the foreground.

During our passage between Tonga and Minerva Reef, we encountered so nasty weather that seemed to cling to us rather than pass by. For several hours, we were surrounded by heavy rain, wind and lightening and it was so dark we could not even see the bow! We hove to in order to wait it out. Jay and I were in the cockpit with all of the canvas zipped up and we still had to wear rain gear! After several hours we were finally free and able to comfortably continue to the reef. It took us two nights to get to Minerva and we stayed there for approximately 22 hours to rest and load the dinghy as well as a couple of other chores. The trip between Minerva Reef and Opua, New Zealand took five nights and we arrived at the customs dock at 11am Monday morning. Check in was a breeze and the people are very friendly and lighthearted, what a lovely welcome.