Monday, October 11, 2021

                                            July 2020 “Life goes back to Normal”

The 4th July rocked around and it was time for yet another party, this time to celebrate American Independence Day.  

Held in the grounds of Riverside Drive Marina the Cruiser’s Band played everyone’s favourite tunes until just after sailor’s midnight at 9 pm.

The entertainment included some open mic tunes as well as a sparkly show of midriffs from the marina girls who’d been taking Belly Dancing classes, it was quite a show. 

With a plethora of pot luck dishes, complimentary beverages and BBQ, no one left hungry.

During the early part of July, we hit the bitumen for a two week road trip with our American best buds Vandy and Eric from S/V Scoots. As far as plans went we’d be heading south of Auckland with no agenda that was set in stone. Having sussed out and booked a couple of  Air BnB’s for the first few nights, we loaded up their car, affectionately known as Baxter and hit State Highway One.

Maori painting on Mt Maunganui

Our first stop was “sunny” Tauranga although it really wasn’t living up to it’s name when we arrived with the rain tumbling down and all. 

After a longish drive pretty much all day we checked into our accommodation for the night ready to explore the sights of Tauranga and it’s surrounds the following day.

Setting out early we headed to  Mt Maunganui, climbing the 232m steep sided extinct volcano which has awesome views across the entire coastline of the of the Bay of Plenty. 

With well marked hiking trails crisscrossing the mount there was no excuse not to see it all.

Eric, Vandy & Liam on the trail at Mt Maunganui 

Lunch was at one of the many eateries down in the beachside town and then we headed off to the Classic Flyers Aviation Museum just out by the airport. 

Filled with dozens of aircraft types both working and static along with memorabilia from a bygone era, the self guided tour was worthy of the $15 pp entry fee and the couple of hours we spent there.

Crazy paddlers
The following morning we stopped for a cuppa with a former colleague of Liam who lives just out of town and is the source of many of Liam’s forwarded jokes.
If you are on Liam’s joke email list then you for sure would have seen the email address of Bruce in Sunny Tauranga. It was great to catch up with Bruce and Maureen and enjoy their hospitality once again.

From Tauranga we followed State Hwy Two along the winding shore and deep fast flowing gorge of the Waioeka River which is a kayakers paradise in these parts. And yes, we did see a few paddlers along the way and concluded they were all nuts.

On the deck at Vineyard Vista 

Arriving at our Air bnb Vineyard Vista in Hexton we couldn’t have been happier. The former family home sat at the end of a small country road surrounded by farmland and vineyards complete with automatic lawnmowers, aka sheep. After the hustle and bustle of the big smoke of Tauranga it was a welcome change to hear nothing but the odd bleat of sheep. Ahh the serenity.

Day four saw us stretching our legs just down the road in Greys Bush Scenic Reserve which is one of the most popular and accessible Dept of Conservation reserves in the Gisborne area.

The reserve is a nesting, resting and feeding habitat to a plethora of both native and introduced bird species including Magpie, Kingfisher, Gold Finch and the list goes on. Seasonally the rare North Island Kaka can also be spotted. A full circuit of all the tracks in the reserve only took around an hour.

Citrus groves everywhere

Next we were off to Gisborne, winding our way past  the many citrus orchards along the way. Gisborne which sits on the edge of the Bay of Plenty seemed  to us a slow paced city. In 1769 this was the first part of NZ sighted by Cpt James Cook.

Captain Cook Memorial
As a result of fertile soil and hot summer temps a large wine industry has sprung up in this region. This area is famous as a Chardonnay producer.  Along with the vines the surrounding hills also support a booming forestry industry. 

The Gisborne harbour port of Eastport is the second largest log exporter in NZ. Each year it exports between three and five million tonnes of logs.  A lovely waterfront walk graces the foreshore and a memorial to Captain James Cook with an adjoing garden dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks is just a short stroll further on.

Three hours south at Hawks Bay is the bustling Art-Deco city of Napier, here we made camp for two nights. Back in 1931 Napier was hit by a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Lasting just two and a half minutes the inner city almost completely demolished with 258 lives lost. 

The quake raised some areas of the surrounding land by two metres turning roughly 4,000 hectares of sea-bed into dry land. The enormous task of rebuilding the city is the reason for the Art Deco flavour of Napier today. That style of architecture was chosen not only for its beauty and simplicity but also because of its strength.

There was a lot to see and do during our stay here. Starting off we signed up for the Art Deco tour. We strolled the streets with our tour leader who imparted a wealth of knowledge about the style of the buildings and their facades.

The Daily Telegraph building was definitely one of the major players of the show with it’s zigzags, fountain shapes and symmetrically patterned fa├žade.

Another favourite was the National Tobacco Company building which combines Art Deco with motifs of Art Nouveau. Roses, bulrushes and grapevines framed the elegantly curved entranceway. 

There were dozens of the soft pastel facades dotted around the main streets and all you had to do was look up to enjoy what was on offer.

After pounding the pavements we moved on to the Hawkes Bay Museum where we took in the excellent earthquake exhibition and accompanying film. The lookout up at Bluff Hill gave us a birdseye view over the bay, the port, the city and the beautiful snow capped mountains beyond

Another big hit with us was the National Aquarium of New Zealand.  It is home to over 100 species of aquatic and land animals from both New Zealand and around the world.

 One of the main attractions is the huge glass fronted Oceanarium where divers put on an amazing show while feeding the various assortment of reef fish, sharks and stingrays.

Meanwhile over at the Penguin Cove exhibit we got an up close view of the antics these ever so cute little blue penguins as they dart and dive happily through the water.

 There are a plethora of other exhibitions as well, including Coral Reef, Rocky Shore, Reptiles and Amphibians and Native New Zealand Icons, just to name a few. You need to put aside at least 2-3 hours to fully explore place.

While we were in the Napier area we also visited Mission Estate, NZ’s oldest winery. Formerly a seminary owned by the Marist Order it is now Hawkes Bay’s largest winery. Tastings cost $10 pp but you do get to go home with a boxed souvenir embossed wine glass and the wines weren’t half bad either.

Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand was to be our last main destination and here we’d rented a house for two nights. It was a huge place  with views over the lake complete with a log fire. 

As the weather was rather chilly we made very good use of the fireplace. The Taupo region, like Napier also had lots to see and do.

The highlights for us was taking a lake cruise to the ten metre high Maori rock carvings etched into the cliffs of Mine Bay, stopping at Wairakei Terraces and immersing ourselves in the varying degrees of naturally thermal heated silica pools (sorry no photos as it was a bit risky taking the camera in with us) followed by a stroll through the geothermal park known as Craters of the Moon.

Next up was the former site of the Aratiatia Rapids where the hydroelectric power plant of the same name now stands. I say former as the Waikato River was diverted slightly to accommodate the hydro plant, and the gorge where the rapids once flowed is now dry. However being present as the mighty Wiakato River hydro flood gates opened releasing thousands of litres of water into the dry gorge below had to be seen to be believed. It is truly spectacular.

The gates open three times a day in winter and four during the summer months. As an aside there is a scene from The Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug which shows the dwarfs escaping from their captors by hiding in barrels which were thrown downstream in the Aratiatia Rapids.  And  for the finale of this region... that was witnessing the immense power of rushing water as it is squezzed into a narrow chasm, then dropping 10 metres over the Huka Falls to the calm waters of the Waikato as it wends its way 425 klms to the west coast and the Tasman Sea just south of Auckland.

Us at the top of Huka Falls and below is a tourist jet boat at the base of the falls

Enjoying the spa at our accommodation in Raglan

Leaving the Taupo region we ventured south stopping at the Tongariro National Trout Centre for a quick but interesting visit before making our way north for our second last night of the trip in the seaside town of Raglan.

Our final night was spent just south of Auckland  before arriving back to Whangarei where GWTW was waiting patiently for us the following afternoon.

We had a fabulous trip in company with friends Eric and Vandy from “Scoots” who we can’t thank enough for all the laughs, the fun times and the lion’s share of  all the driving. Thanks guys, we can’t wait to do it all again somewhere, sometime in the future.





Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Life in the New World

May & June 2020

Even the animals wore masks

After lockdown finished the celebrations began. 

The marina staff who had entrusted the running of the our marina to three trusted souls in their lockdown absence orgainsed a fancy dinner out at Sails, Whangarei’s poshest restaurant for us, Eric and Vandy from Scoots as well as Dave from Rewa. 

The boys had taken charge of all things requiring maintenance over several weeks

Thankyou dinner at Sails 

Liam was in charge of general maintenance issues, Eric was postmaster, parcel delivery and electrical breakages technician and Dave ran the finance side of things which included washing and sorting laundry and shower money.

Our new three hole putting green

Many upgrade projects were hatched during this time and included a major upgrade to our floating party barge to replace the current flooring and turn it into a putting green complete with pro grade AstroTurf. That was a win win for we golfing sailors.  

June 19th clocked around and it was a big day on the social calendar.  Pretty much all the boats at our marina from 19 nationalities were “Dressed’ for the occasion .

Boats dressed with GWTW below

On GWTW each country’s flag that we have visited since leaving Australia in 2006 was hoisted and that totaled 69 flags. Good thing we have a tall mast!  The creative people in the marina painted giant “Thankyou Whangarei” banners which were strung up between the yachts and the scene looked very festive indeed.

From that day on many a party was organised and yes we cruisers know how to party to the max. The kickoff event was essentially a big  “Thankyou” to the people and the city of Whangarei for hosting the community of International cruisers based here during the lockdown period, and for not throwing us to the wolves when the world was being ravaged by Covid.

Held on a drizzly Saturday morning under the shelter of the canopy bridge which spans the Hatea River, the Mayor of Whangarei Sheryl Mai, along with NZ Customs & Immigration officers, several of the boys and girls in Blue, members of the public and the local press turned up for the occasion.

One of the  beautifully painted banners now hangs in city’s Council Chambers.

Above & below the Cruiser's Band

Customs officers said it was a pleasure to have us all in NZ

Once the speech’s and blessing of the fleet by a Maori Elder were done and dusted the ‘”Cruisers Band” aka “Riverside Drive Marina Band” filled the air with a string of catchy tunes that even the diehard toe tappers couldn't resist and there was dancing in the streets, well on the bridge to be more correct. It was a great couple of hours.

Liam showing his style with manager Sharron

Dave and me hitting the floor at the dinner dance

Later that evening  the neighbouring marina organised a pot luck dinner and BBQ and the band once again preformed . Sunday night the fun continued with the Whangarei Cruising Club being the venue of choice for the celebratory Dinner and Dance night. With over one hundred in attendance we partied hard and danced the hours away.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Covid 19 edition. 2020 the year that wasn’t

Living through Lockdown and whatever else came next.

March 25th – October 8th 2020

Foggy Covid morning

It’s just over a year now since Covid 19 engulfed planet earth and consequently reshaped our lives and the way that everyone has lived since Adam was a boy.

As you all know we are still in New Zealand and to be honest we can’t think of a better country to be in to sit out this pandemic.

Backtracking just a little I'll fill in the gaps of how NZ has got to where we are today. 

 NZ’s first case reared it’s ugly head on February 28th. As of January 29th 2021 this island nation has recorded 2,305 cases with 1950 confirmed cases and 355 probable ones. 

RV's lined up at ASB stadium to be used as self isolation units for NZ returnees

To date 26 people have died from the virus. The pandemic here peaked in early April with 89 new cases per day and a total of 929 active cases.

On March 19th the entire New Zealand border was closed with the exception of returning citizens and residents.

Birthday boy Liam
March 20th was Liam’s 69th birthday so a few of us got together at a local Thai restaurant to celebrate. It was a really fun night but little did any of us  know this would our last night out for a very long time.

A four level alert system was introduced on March 21st to manage the outbreak in New Zealand. Two days later the nation was put on notice that we were now entering Alert Level 3 and that within 48hrs would move to Alert Level 4.

This announcement  sparked mass panic buying in the supermarkets as every man and his dog raced against time to stock up for the foreseeable future. Roads were clogged and carparks overflowed. 

Within a day the shelves were  pretty much stripped bare. There were no paper products left at all nor disinfectants, hand wash, sanitizers or face masks.  Stables such as rice, pasta and canned goods as well as meats, vegetables and long life products were no where to be seen except in overflowing shopping trolleys stuck in snaking checkout queues. It was madness.

And as the clock struck 11:59 pm on March 24th 2020 New Zealand plunged down the rabbit hole head first into a nationwide lockdown.

Empty roads
We awoke the next morning to deafening silence.

 There were no cars on the normally busy roads, except of course for essential workers, no planes or helicopters zoomed across our Whangarei skies and no chatter from early morning walkers as they strolled past the marina.

 Well there actually were no walkers to hear.


Empty playgrounds

The sound of happy kids squealing in the playground just meters from our marina berth was also silent. 

The playground along with many other public spaces had been roped off with “Danger” red tape.

Overnight the New Zealand we knew had changed. We were now in our own little world, our bubble along with the occupants of thirteen boats who also shared our dock. Our dock is gated and only assessable to those who have a key. Believe me it was kept it kept firmly shut to the outside world during  Level 4.  

The day before lockdown commenced our marina appointed Liam, Dave from Rewa and Eric from Scoots as the interim managers. Liam would be in charge of everyday maintenance, Dave looked after money laundering from the communal bathrooms and laundry facilities while Eric was the receiver of mail and parcel deliveries as well as all things electric in nature.

 As you would already know online purchases soared during lockdown and here in the marina was no different. So Eric was a very busy guy. It was quite a responsibility on the three boy’s collective shoulders given the size of the Town Basin Marina. It was also quite the honour for the three of them to be chosen as part of the “Trusted Trio”.

Tuesday "Happy Hour "
So how did we spend our time during five weeks of lockdown? Well we felt it went pretty fast. We just kinda thought of it as a long ocean passage. On our dock there were 27 people and we were a close knit bubble. 

We socially distanced but still managed to have fun. The usual “Happy Hour” on Tuesday evenings had a different take. 

We all either sat on the bows or stern of our boats chatting to our bubble buddies next-door rather than the usual get togethers on communal area at the end of the dock fondly know as the Barge Inn.

Boat projects flourished as chores that had been on the list for eternity finally made the “might as well do it now” list. Potted gardening became a big thing. Our normally bare dock sprung to life with veggie gardens and potted colour. At least once a week our sails were unfurled to dry out from passing rain showers. The last thing we wanted were moldy sails.

Virtual sailing during lockdown
Those way more talented than me with sewing machines  took on tasks such as fashioning new sun awnings, re-covering cushions and couches and tailoring professional looking dinghy covers. 

The interest in musical instruments increased two fold with many finding talents they never knew they had.

As birthdays and anniversary's rocked around our now extended family all celebrated, socially distanced of course.

 Baking became the new norm with enticing smells wafting through the air. And as the internet providers advertised endless data plans at very competitive rates streaming  became a big part of everyone’s life here in New Zealand.

During level 4 exercise was allowed but only in your local neighbourhood. So the majority of our dock took up walking “The Loop”, a pathway which follows the  banks of the Heatea river and covers roughly 6 klm, at least once and sometimes twice a day.

Lockdown birthdays on our dock. Above Eric  From "Scoots" and below Lisa from 'Argo"

The message from our government was to stay safe and be kind.

There's a bear in there.....

The nation was encouraged to put toy bears in front windows to make both children and the grown ups smile  as they walked for their daily exercise.

Bears were to be seen not only in household front windows but on hedges, attached to letterboxes, in shop fronts and pretty much everywhere. 

The "Be Kind" message  really took off and was advertised across all media platforms ..and it worked a treat.

Both Easter and Anzac Day came and went but even so the Easter Bunny left baskets of goodies for each boat on our dock. 

The note inside our basket read ...

Good Morning and Happy Easter!

The Easter Bunny and team would like to assure you that they are Covid aware and appropriate measures were employed during the preparation of your basket. Assembly took place with the utmost care, in a sanitary burrow, far below ground. All bunnies involved used appropriate PPE ( Personal Protective Equipment)

So please enjoy these goodies knowing they were prepared with your health and safety foremost in mind. 

Your ever caring, Easter Bunny.

Anzac Day toast with Bernice & Grant on Sea Flair

As there were no traditional services for Anzac Day the nation was asked to stand, candles in hand, at the end of their driveways as the dawn broke. For us that meant standing on our deck. 

Later in the morning Liam related to our non Kiwi / Aussie dock family the meaning and the importance of the day and played the last post over the loud speaker. 

And of course this was followed by a thimble of rum for any fellow dockers who wished to imbibe.

On April 27th the nation moved to Alert Level three where we stayed for two weeks. Many rejoiced as fast food outlets like McDonalds and KFC reopened. The queue of cars at the drive throughs had to be seen to be believed.

At Last ..on the golf course again
NZ entered Alert Level 2 on May 14th and we once again hit the golf course for a much needed round or two 

On June 8th the Ministry of Health announced that there are no active cases of Covid 19 in the country and at 11.59 pm the country moved to Alert Level 1. 

Restrictions on work, school, sports, domestic travel and gatherings size were lifted, however the borders remain closed.

This photo is of all our "Bubble Buddies" on our dock during lockdown. We had shirts made up to mark the one  period of time in 2020 that we will never forget.

Life for New Zealand  had essentially returned to normal. However there were a couple of hiccups in August for those living in and around Auckland and on August 12th  the city moved back to Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country went back to Level 2 as a precaution. Auckland remained in lockdown until August 30th. Because of various clusters that popped up in the city the Alert Levels for that area yoyoed between Levels 3 and 2.

Then finally on October 8th Auckland joined the rest of the country at Alert level 1 . And that pretty much sums up the how, the when and the why New Zealand crushed the virus so well. The whole nation has their collective fingers crossed that  it stays that way for a very long time.

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