Boat jobs in Kawau Island

Monday afternoon we were still preparing the boat for varnishing when a familiar boat came into the anchorage – it was Chris on Sea Bear! Fantastic, had been such a long time since we had seen him. So we let him get settled and then all headed across to the Kawau Boating Club where we had a few cold ones and a great reunion.

Tuesday morning and we started removing the old varnish….and just to remind you here are the before pictures again.

Well, the varnish was so thick that it took almost three coats of varnish stripper to get anywhere near the bare wood. Richard continued stripping and scraping (and cursing I might add LOL) while I worked hard rubbing down the eyebrows (which go along the top of the coachroof). Once I had finished them, I started sanding down the wood that Richard had managed to get relatively clear. It was really hard and dusty work!

The Club now closes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so we had to make our own entertainment. So we invited Chris over to join us for dinner and we had a movie night (tonight’s choice was Everest). It was interesting to hear his take on the film as an experienced mountain guide.

Wednesday morning and Richard continued stripping, scraping and cursing the rail while I continued sanding. This continued all day…. In the evening Chris came over again for another movie night (this time it was Jack Reacher).

Thursday morning and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. So we spent the whole day doing the final sanding and were very pleased with our efforts. But it looked like rain so we decided not to start the varnishing.

Richard, instead, took the outboard apart and changed the plugs, and it worked. Woo hoo! We were very pleased that this was now back in service. While Richard was in the dink he made friends with the female duck who had been visiting with us all day.

Later on we went ashore for dinner and a few drinks. While we were in the Club we were treated to Morphie on anchor in a sunny glow followed by a spectacular sunset and then a great big full orange moon. And the boats starting coming in thick and fast for the Easter weekend. There was all sorts of anchoring methods with some of them just too close and with very little scope (bearing in mind we were anchored in 22 feet at low tide) and it reminded us of the BVIs all over again LOL.


During the night there was a massive bump and judder and I woke with a start thinking that one of the nearby boats must have hit us. But, it was actually Richard! He had popped his head up to check that we remained clear of the other boats (there was one who was way too close and he was not inclined to move despite us telling him we had a lot of scope out) and, when he turned around for a 180 degree look out, he fell from the top step into the saloon. A bit bruised and grazed up but thankfully he wasn’t hurt. Gave us both a bit of a shock though, he is usually so sure footed!

Friday morning we were surrounded by boats and still more came in. Wow it was getting really busy in the anchorage. Happy Easter to all our family and friends. To celebrate we had toasted hot cross buns for breakfast and a couple of pieces of chocolate in lieu of Easter Eggs.

After breakfast, on a chilly but sunny morning, we checked all the wood again and dried everything after a heavy morning dew. We found a few spots here and there that needed further attention so we dealt with them and then did a final clean up to ensure that no dust was around. We also removed the original blue masking tape, cleaned up any residue left behind, and then re-taped the rail.

Then it was time to apply our first coat – which was a sealant. Richard started on the bow and worked his way down the side while I did the eyebrows, the helm seat and the back rail. Eventually we finished and sat back and relaxed for a little while.

Chris joined us for dinner in the cockpit watching all the revelry around us and we had another movie night (this time it was American Sniper). Even when Chris left us people were still partying on their boats and dinghies were flying everywhere. Good night had by all I think.

Saturday morning lots of boats left and loads more arrived….crazy times.

We continued to ignore them although we did have a few shouted compliments as boats went through the anchorage. We lightly sanded everything and then put on our first proper coat of varnish.

We finished around 1.30 pm so by 2.15 pm we were picking Chris up for an afternoon in the Club. It was absolutely rammed with lots of kids running around plus a few very well oiled locals….was fun to watch although a bit loud at times. We came back to Morphie before dark and had a quiet evening on board.

This morning, Sunday and the forecast was for afternoon showers so we got out of bed early and quickly lightly sanded everything again. We were much faster today and we had finished varnishing by 12.30 pm.

After a snack we got cleaned up and Richard serviced the generator.

We are now both down below resting up and that will be it for the day. Morphie is looking quite shiny again now. According to the forecast it looks like Monday / Tuesday will be raining so we’ll probably hold off the next coat until this period of bad weather has moved through. Our weary bones and sore fingers will thank us for the reprieve LOL.

Bye for now

Jan

Coromandel Peninsular to Kawau Island

Thursday afternoon the weather deteriorated even further with gusts up to 40 knots in rain squalls. This caused a chop on the water which then pushed around the corner so our lovely little anchorage was no longer pleasant and we were ‘nodding’ constantly into the waves. So, in a lull between showers, we picked up anchor and moved across the bay to Name Bay, where we joined two other boats. By 6pm we were settled and enjoyed a quiet night on board.

Friday morning and it started much brighter, although the sea state out in the wider Hauraki Gulf was quite rough and marine warnings remained in place. We decided however, in another lull between squalls, we would move around the corner into Coromandel Harbour. This was a tough rolly trip but only for six miles and we had anchor down at noon in East Bay off Waimate Island passing lots of oyster and green lipped mussel farms along the way.

Another lovely spot and again we had a couple of other boats to accompany us. We were also treated to a spectacular rainbow on the other side of the harbour after another squall had gone through. We had a quiet day on board while we waited for the weather to calm down, which it did overnight.

Saturday morning we picked up anchor and moved across to McGregor Bay so that we could dink up the river following the well marked channel into town (which was still over a mile away from our position). It was a beautiful sunny day which perked us up no end. We anchored on a rising tide (there was an eight foot drop that day) and got a good set in sand.

We then headed off in dink on an adventure up the river through the mangroves. The wind was still blowing about 15 knots but it was behind us so we had a good run in passed some boats sitting on docks and others lying in the mud, with lots of cormorants drying out after fishing and some geese.

When we arrived in town we were a bit disappointed that we had to clamber onto a very soft and muddy shoreline and drag dink up above the high water mark – all it needed was a floating pontoon really. We didn’t think we would be able to manage this on our own so Richard left me with dink and went off to the petrol station where he got our propane tanks filled and some extra petrol.

While he was there a young man (called Willow) offered to help us and promptly came across the road and manhandled dink onto the grass. Really friendly and helpful people here in New Zealand! So we tied dink to a post and went for a walk across the bridge into town. But first things first, coffee and a pie LOL.

Coromandel town is quaint with some old architecture and a nice high street. The town’s history clearly pointed to the gold rush as the Assay Office building still existed. We went into the oldest boozer in town and had a cold drink before heading back via the local supermarket where we picked up some fresh produce.

All sorted we returned to dink, chatted with some Australian tourists for a while, and then pushed him back into the water – it was just after high water so it was slack tide and we didn’t have so far to splash. We then took off back up the river. As we cleared the mouth of the river the outboard died. We had 15+ knots of breeze on the nose and we couldn’t row and make way against the chop. We were being pushed further and further into the shallow areas and towards the mangroves. Eventually we hit a mangrove so I hung on for dear life while Richard attended to the engine but it just wouldn’t work. It would start and conk out immediately again leading us to think it was a fuel issue. We were now a bit worried to say the least. We managed to pull ourselves along the mangroves – aided by the odd bit of rowing and pushing against the mud – until we came to the first dock near another slipway back into the river. Richard left me sitting in dink with all our worldly belongings while he sought some assistance.

He walked to the wharf to try and find someone who would give us a tow out to Morpheus and came back with Lance, a liveaboard guy, who had offered to help. I was quite worried about the tide dropping, especially as this part of the river dries out and, if that happens, we are stranded ashore for the night. We really did not want to leave Morphie in her current position unattended as we never planned to stay there the night, it was just a daytime anchorage for convenience. Anyway, Lance took the outboard apart, and found water in the carburettor – so he cleaned the carb, made sure the drain was working properly, checked and cleaned the spark plugs and tried again. Still the same symptoms. So Richard disposed off the old fuel and went back to the garage for more petrol and two-stroke oil. In the meantime Lance had stripped it all down and cleaned it again….so fingers crossed. And it still wouldn’t work so now we really are worried. We only had a couple of hours before the area dried out. So Lance phoned the harbour master (who had the day off) and told him this ‘elderly couple’ needed assistance. Cheek!!! Anyway, the harbour master Stu came by to check the water levels were OK for him to rescue us and return back up the river himself. Thankfully the answer was positive so he went off and collected his pontoon boat. Lance left us at this point and we offered him some cash for his assistance but he was adamant and wouldn’t take it. What a nice man!

He quickly deployed it and towed us back out to Morphie. Phew! Again, the harbour master told us there was no fee for this service as that was what he was employed by the local council to do. Can’t imagine that would be the case in many other places.

Once back on board we emptied dink of all our belongings and quickly picked up anchor and returned to East Bay for another night on the hook. Was quite an experience – oh the shame of having to be rescued! We had an early night worn out by the excitement of the day.

Sunday morning with dink back up on the arch and the outboard secured on the rail, we scared off all the swifts who were having a rest on our bow, picked up anchor very early as the sun came up and by 7am we were underway heading towards Kawau Island. We had loved the Coromandel Peninsular with its spectacular scenery and quaint town. Just a shame we couldn’t have lingered but without a way of getting ashore there was no point…..

On the passage to Kawau we had extremes of weather, from six knots (motoring in flat calm seas) to 16 knots (all three sails out on a close haul) to 11 knots (on a beam reach) to 30 knots in rain squalls and big seas. It was only 42 miles but felt much longer in the cold southerly wind. We also crossed the main shipping lane into Auckland Harbour so we slowed down for a tanker, the Aotearoa Chief, to cross our bow. Whilst on the radio to them we were obviously overhead by Serenity of Swanwick who radioed us to say hi – we met them on the Pacific Crossing – so it was nice to catch up briefly as they headed over to Great Barrier Island. Having crossed the shipping lane, and enjoying some brisk sailing up to 7 knots, we heard two Mayday Relays – one jet skier whose machine was on fire and one boat who had lost their engine. Neither incident were close enough for us to assist but it is always sobering to hear these incidents and rescues going on. Thankfully everyone was OK.

We eventually arrived in Kawau under a cloudy sky and dropped the hook just outside the Boathouse so it was easy rowing distance ashore. We were surprised to see new mooring balls that had been installed since our last visit almost a month ago. Anyway, chilled to the bone, we had quick hot showers before we headed ashore and were joined by Steve and Jo from SV Tamanu in the bar later. We had a lovely evening together and they very kindly towed us back to Morphie at the end of the evening.

This morning, Monday, we were invited for breakfast onboard their beautiful 420 Island Packet and Steve taxied us back and forth as they are anchored much further into the bay than we are. We had another good time and look forward to catching up with them further down the line as we both head north in due course.

We plan to stay in Kawau for a while now as we are going to get the varnishing done – we are ashamed at the state of the capping rail which needs some loving care. So here are some ‘before’ pictures.

Back onboard after breakfast and Richard is starting the preparation for the varnish job while I’m blogging. It takes a while to prepare as we need to get the canvas off (dodgers); remove lines off the deck; moving the spare fuel cans off the rail; raising the blocks up the stanchions and, when the area is all clear, there is the taping up above and below the capping rail and the eyebrow. So I guess we’ll get that done today and start removing the old varnish tomorrow…. Neither of us are looking forward to it but Morphie deserves some care and attention.

Bye for now

Jan

Auckland, Waiheke and Coromandel

Friday we did a provisioning run to the large Countdown in Takapuna. We took one of our big roller suitcases with us to help carry it all as we went by bus but, again, too much to carry so we treated ourselves to a taxi back.

We got everything stowed away onboard and then got ready to go into Auckland to meet Paul. We met him at 5.30 pm and enjoyed a beer. However, the DJ was setting up for the night and it was really loud so we decided to move on as it was difficult to hold a conversation. Paul knew this great little Vietnamese restaurant so we walked there and managed to get a table…..the food was interesting and very flavoursome….so much so that Richard and I had three courses! Was a lovely evening and we were very grateful to Paul as he turned up with a brand new 1TB hard drive for us complete with films and TV shows. That’ll keep us entertained, particularly now that Autumn has started to set in here in New Zealand.

After Paul had left we went to Shuckers for a pontoonie while we waited for the ferry to take us across the bay back to Morphie.

Saturday morning we got the early ferry into Auckland in the pouring rain – as I had a hair appointment and Richard needed to visit some chandlers to get some materials. We have decided, in the next few weeks, to take some time out to varnish our capping rail and eyebrows, as the wood deteriorated significantly whilst we were home in the UK for such a long period of time. So I went for my hair cut and Richard went off – rejoining me a few hours later. Whilst I was in the hairdressers the fire alarms went off and we had to evacuate the building, so a bit of excitement watching the firemen turn up, check the little mall was safe, before we could go back in. Sadly the skills of the hairdresser was not as high as her price – never mind.

Richard returned to pick me up and we had a few hours before the next ferry back across to Bayswater. So, in the rain, we headed to The Viaduct….and enjoyed a couple of beers in Headquarters. It was good to see genuine Aucklanders out enjoying their Saturday afternoon which they celebrated with a few drinks. We were having such a good time we decided to go on an afternoon pub crawl. The next hostelry was Dr Rudi’s where we met an English couple from Bristol.

then onto White & Wongs (where we also had a bite to eat)

and ended the afternoon at the Crab Shack. We got the 8.20 pm ferry so we didn’t stay out late but had been a great last fun day in Auckland.

Sunday morning we continued to get the boat ready to go back to sea. I did online stuff like banking, bills and downloading updated charts. Richard ordered some new batteries for Morpheus. We have five house plus one engine Lifeline ATM batteries on board and they were new in 2012, so a seven year lifespan isn’t too bad. They would still be OK if we were rock hopping and could pop into a marina and plug in every now and again or run the generator at anchor, but with long sea passages ahead, this is as good a time to replace them as any. He also ordered a new battery monitor to go with them. There are other spare parts we need too so we are looking through our lists while we have access to internet here in the marina. By ordering them now they should be ready and waiting in Opua for when we return in early May.

Another thing we did, while in organisational mode, was to book ourselves onto a rally into Australia from New Caledonia. We can be as actively involved with other participants as we want and we probably won’t buddy boat, but the cost of joining is largely offset by all the discounts that we get for customs wood inspections, boat yard haul outs etc. And they supply all the information we need for checking into Australia, cruising guides for New Caledonia, welcome events/seminars etc so we thought it was a worthwhile thing to do. Not to mention the party week on arrival in Bundaburg which we quite fancy LOL. We have also been putting feelers out with a couple of boat yards in Australia to haul Morpheus out of the water for when we return back to the UK for a few months. And that was about it for the day.

Monday morning Richard did engine checks whilst I did all the laundry. We then received our final invoices from the marina and, OMG, they were so wrong it was laughable. We had already pointed out discrepancies in February’s and March’s invoices (which had been charged in full to us despite this) so we had some credits in the bank, but it was still far from accurate. So we spent a few happy hours going through everything and recalculating what we thought was the correct amount. We sent this email to the office and said I would be in later to discuss and guess what, the administrator was not going to be there. How convenient!!! Never mind, 8.30 in the morning it is then.

The rest of the day we checked out various anchorages and downloaded weather forecasts. We were surprised to see light south winds coming through on Tuesday which would mean a stop in Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island, was possible for a night. Yay we really fancied going there.

Tuesday morning early I was at the office while Richard unplugged our power cables etc and got the ropes ready to slip. Well, of course, the woman was in late and wasn’t ready to talk although did say that she thought our list of discrepancies was a bit much. So I explained, tactfully and politely, how I had come to my conclusions and went away for 15 minutes while she tried to get her head around it. When I returned she agreed some, disputed others, but the bottom line was that she thought I owed less than I thought I did (seriously!) so I just accepted her position and got our security bond refunded all in the same transaction. That was seriously hard work.

Glad to finally escape I skipped back to Morphie, we slipped from the dock, and by 9.45 am we were underway. We enjoyed our last glimpse of Auckland on our way through the channel and were impressed by the training ship Spirit of New Zealand sailing under the bridge and eventually passing alongside us.

We sailed all the way to Waiheke in light airs dodging ferries. By 1.30pm we were on anchor in Oneroa Bay having travelled a mere 15.54 miles.

We got a great set in sand and straight away we got busy dropping dink off the davits and getting the outboard on the stern. Once we were happy and settled, we headed over in dink to say hi to fellow Island Packeteers Steve and Jo, on Tamanu, who were anchored nearby. This isn’t something we normally do but it is so unusual to see an Island Packet in these waters we thought we would say hello.

When we got over to them, they already knew we were Richard and Jan from Morpheus as they had checked on the IP Yacht Owners’ Association. We were a little flabbergasted by that LOL. We spent a while chatting with them and realised that our plans may be similar for the coming few months. They were trying to lead us astray by offering us beer and, in the heat of the sun, we were sorely tempted. But we managed to resist as we had to go into town to get some more supplies (things we had missed or used since the last big provisioning run). So we said farewell and headed to the beach. By now the tide had gone out and even though we have OAP wheels installed on our new dinghy, it was still quite a drag.

Eventually we managed it and walked up the very steep hill into town. We got our provisions in the little supermarket and went to a rooftop bar overlooking the bay for a few cold ones. Was lovely.

Before the sun went down we headed back to dink, pushed him back into the water (not so far now as the tide had started to come back in) and returned to Morpheus and had a nice evening in the cockpit. It was pretty warm in the sun but we still needed fleeces once the sun went down.

During the evening we ran the weather again to see if we could stay another day or whether we had to move on. At this point we found that a gale warning had been issued for Thursday. Great….so we looked at the wind direction and found an area over on the Western Coromandel coast which would be a good place to shelter while the blow went through. Squadron Bay (in Te Kouma Harbour) would give us protection from N/NW winds (the first wind direction) and if, indeed it switched (timing was indecisive on this) we could go across the way to Name Bay (also in Te Kouma Harbour) to get protection from S/SW winds. So our decision was made before we went to bed.

Wednesday morning we were up early and ran the weather again. The position had worsened if anything, gale warnings in most places for Thursday, and torrential rain all day too. Never mind….we had a plan.

So at 9.30am we picked up anchor – said goodbye to Steve and Jo – and headed out on a beautiful sunny day with light NW winds. We attempted to sail downwind on genoa alone but the wind completely died on us so we ended up motoring slowly virtually the whole 23 miles.

There was lots of bird life on the water and, at one point, Richard could hear this squeaking and it was a little blue penguin who had surfaced beside us giving us a fleeting glance. Made us very happy. By 3pm we were on anchor in beautiful Squadron Bay surrounded by stunning scenery and the only boat around, but lots of cows on the hill and even one wandering along the scrubby beach. We even had a duck welcoming party so we gave them a cornflake treat.

We had a nice afternoon and evening in the cockpit. Just before the sun went down another boat came and anchored over in Name Bay which has no protection from northerly winds – so we double checked the weather again just to make sure we were in the right position and, yes, no change. The winds were NW up to 40 knot gusts.

This morning, Thursday, and the weather was quite pleasant first thing. The forecast remained the same and was supposed to kick in at 10 am so we had breakfast in the cockpit first. At 10 am the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up, Morpheus moved head to wind (NW as predicted) and we prepared to sit it out.

By 10.40 the heavens had opened and it poured with rain. So I’m sitting down below blogging and Richard is reading. I guess that will be it for the rest of the day.

Friday we had hoped to move around the corner into Coromandel Harbour as there is a town a couple of kilometres up the river, so could be fun to go exploring the river in dink. We have also decided to return to Kawau (which is pretty protected) to do the varnishing as at least there is a yacht club to get off the boat now and again after a hard day’s work, so we will probably be there for Easter. But we are totally weather dependent as we are back on the hook and this front could linger, so we’ll make our decisions on a daily basis.

Bye for now

Jan

South Island Tour – part 2

Friday (29 March) we got up early for the eight hour drive to Queenstown (yes Google maps say less than seven but they clearly don’t understand the terrain). It was a long way and we had planned to avoid such lengthy drives but the exceptional weather event earlier in the week had made us reorganise our plans.

Never mind, we set off in good spirits, armed with snacks and soft drinks. Clive and Richard did two hour shifts each to share the driving, stopping when it was convenient. There was great scenery along the way and we made a couple of comfort stops too….

Around 5pm we arrived at our waterfront apartment and checked in.

We found a good spot in the private car park to leave the car and headed up in the lift to the 5th floor. The apartment was large although a bit dated. As we had the double bedroom last time, Clive and Val took up residence in the main bedroom. They definitely got the better deal as it was a large king-size with ensuite. We ended up in the twin (with two small single beds) at the back with a separate bathroom. Never mind, at least we had two bathrooms….. But, you know what, when the views are this good from the window who cares?!?!

We got ourselves organised and headed along the waterfront for dinner – this time we chose a pub for simple fare of ribs, then returned to the apartment for pontoonies.

Saturday morning we had to meet our coach for a 7.11 am pick up for the trip to Milford Sound. We weren’t sure exactly where the coach was going to be (except outside the Crown Plaza which happened to be the next door hotel) so we went early and waited as numerous coaches passed us in both directions….eventually ours turned up…and we settled down for the long drive.

It was a great trip across the country with some special photo opportunities from mirror lakes to majestic mountains, valleys and ice above us. We even went through a tunnel….. Absolutely stunning. And the commentary was interesting and informative – we didn’t know that possums were such a pest and nuisance and, when he saw one splattered on the road, the driver made sure they were dead by turning them into squishums!!!

We arrived at Milford Sound and boarded our large catamaran. We were very lucky that this was another dry day.

We enjoyed our included lunch and then took up residence on the bow. We were very lucky to see some dolphins, fur seals and, of course, there is the obligatory getting soaked under the waterfalls. Or at least Richard and I did, Clive and Val ran for cover LOL. Another amazing time.

After the boat trip we re-boarded our coach for the long trip back. Some tourists had opted to fly back on a small plane instead (and there were spaces available) so we tried to tempt Clive but it was too rich for him, so we stayed on the coach as well. We dozed for a while until we reached our intermediary stop of Te Anau and had a coffee. Then we got back on and watched a movie The World’s Fastest Indian about a local guy who went to the US to take on the land speed record on a motorcycle. He came from Invercargill (a Scottish town at the bottom of the South Island) and as our driver’s name was Hamish we did wonder – he later confirmed that he actually was a distant relation. It was a great film with some really funny moments.

Arriving back into Queenstown the coach wasn’t stopping at our stop so we got off and walked for about 15 minutes to get back – which we all needed having spent 13 hours on the road. Back at the apartment we had a pasta meal and stayed home with our feet up.

Sunday morning we all headed through town to the Gondola station, once we had been to the ATM for more drinking vouchers. We enjoyed the ride up to the top and the spectacular views – and watched some crazy bungy jumpers and some paragliders. We also watched the luge but thought it looked a bit tame although Clive was tempted….. As we had booked onto a jet boat trip at 1pm we left them up there and, yes, Clive did do a few luge runs once we had left.

We walked down to the main wharf, were briefly entertained by Happy the singing sheepdog, before meeting our driver, kitted up with life jackets, and climbed on board.

The one hour trip was amazing….check out the photos. We have also put a video up of the trip on Richard’s Facebook page. It was really good fun and an adrenaline rush.

On our return to the wharf we enjoyed the underwater observatory into the lake and then wandered down the waterfront, checking out the little black ducks, just enjoying the sun. So we visited the floating bar and watched the ‘sharks’ come and go. They speed along, go under, and then jump out of the water. Looked fantastic! We did enquire about taking one each, but at $154 for 15 minutes seemed a bit steep….maybe next time?!?!

Returning to the apartment we all got together and shared our adventures. We then headed back into town for dinner and, this evening, we fancied a curry so chose a nice-looking Indian restaurant just set back from the main drag. The food was lovely and we really enjoyed it. We chatted to a Scottish guy on the next table who decided to swear and become loud about British politics (despite the fact that he had lived in New Zealand for many years). This was to the annoyance of other diners so we asked him to calm down which he did for a while, then got excited again LOL. So, once we had finished our dinner, we exited left and hit a few hostelries on our way back.

Monday morning and we headed off in the car towards Dunedin. Again there was some spectacular scenery along the way, but different. This is a fruit growing region so we saw lots of farms, including vineyards. There was more of a volcanic look to the rock and lots of pasture lands with kale, sheep, deer, veal calves etc.

Arriving into Dunedin we checked into our hotel and headed out in the car towards the coast.

We admired the spectacular beach at St Clare – with only a few crazy surfers around – and had a nice lunch. The wind was blowing strongly at this point and it had turned very cold.

Back to the hotel we left the car in the secure overnight parking spot reserved for us and walked into town. We went past the Salvation Army monument, numerous churches, Art Deco buildings and then to the train station.

Afterwards we decided to stay out and headed to the main centre of town, the Octogen. We sat on the pavement (wrapped up against the cold) having a beer and watched the world go by but it was very very quiet and we were a bit disappointed to be honest. So we headed back towards the hotel and found a lovely restaurant. The dinner was superb, in fact, probably one of the best we had had on our whole trip.

After dinner we went into the neighbouring casino for a little flutter….I spent a whole $10 on the slot machines and walked away with $20 a little while later. Clive tried the roulette table and, feeling very tired, we said our goodnights and left them there. We watched TV for a little while in our room before having an early night.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast in the hotel, checked out, and picked up the car. We then headed along the coast to Brighton (yes another one) to see if we could see any seals or penguins that reside on this wild coast. Sadly our head count was zero!

We then drove cross country towards the airport, hoping for a final bakery/cafe visit for coffee. But we found nowhere open….. Apart from Dunedin’s suburbs the larger district is very remote and isolated. Eventually we were almost at the airport so we filled up with petrol at the nearest village – still no cafe open – and drove towards the terminal building. At this point Clive didn’t believe me that this was a regional airport as all he could see was small private planes landing!!! Well, Dunedin only has one airport (I checked) so this was definitely right LOL. We returned the car and headed into the terminal, we checked our bags, and finally got that coffee. We were a bit early but, hey ho, nothing wrong with that.

After a couple of hours we went through to the gate and boarded the plane. It was a good flight and we landed in Auckland on time at 5.40 pm. We recovered our luggage and now it was time to say goodbye. Clive and Val were booked into a hotel near the airport for the night, prior to their flight to Bali the following day. We, however, were returning to Morphie. So we said our sad farewells and headed into Auckland on the Sky Bus.

At the main wharf we had to wait for a ferry across to Bayswater so had a glass of wine and some nibbles in Shuckers. We got back on board Morphie around 7.30 pm and were pleased that she was in good order and very happy to be back onboard. We quickly unpacked and had an early night….

Wednesday morning we had a lay in. We had been on holiday for almost six weeks and were both feeling tired….so no schedule! Later on I did the first of the South Island blogs while Richard did all the laundry. We kept ourselves occupied all day and had an early night after dinner in the cockpit, despite the rain.

Today, Thursday (4 April), Richard is reorganising the boat in preparation for going back to sea, ie reinstating the ‘garage’ in the stern cabin. I’m blogging again and thinking about the provisioning we need to do tomorrow…. So no rest for the crew of the good ship Morpheus.

Bye for now

Jan

South Island Tour – Part 1

Sunday evening (24 March) we got together and headed across the street to the Sky Tower. We had dinner reservations for 7.45pm which entitled us to free entry to the viewing platform (usually about $30). The Sky Tower, at 328m is the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest structure. The lift up to the observation decks does it in 40 seconds and there is even a glass panel in the floor to watch the ascent. On arrival we wandered around the deck and enjoyed the spectacular views of Auckland, including over to Morphie safely tucked into Bayswater Marina. Then the sun went down…..and we had lovely night views.

And of course there was some silliness aided and abetted by the on-site professional photographer.

Later on we headed into the Orbit restaurant and had a fantastic three course meal. The service was a little slow but it didn’t detract from the evening. It was a great way to start our next adventure. Afterwards Val was tired (unsurprisingly having just flow in from London), so her and Clive retired to their apartment while Richard and I headed back down the hill to have a few pontoonies on the wharf.

Monday morning and we all went for a stroll down the hill and found a local cafe for breakfast. We then continued downwards to the harbour and walked around the wharf area admiring the views back to the Tower. Richard also fancied getting his hands on the Americas Cup. All too soon it was time to return back up the hill to our apartment and we picked up our bags and waited for the shuttle to the airport. This arrived bang on time and we drove over to the domestic terminal.

On arrival we got checked in easily enough and then headed to the gate. This was a different end of the terminal than we were used to so it was a bit confusing especially when we came across security scanners. As we were flying internally this was a new development for us but, hey, no problem. Going through easily enough we waited at the gate until it was time for our flight to Christchurch.

We landed in Christchurch late afternoon and collected our large SUV, a Toyota Highlander.

Richard drove us to our rented house on the outskirts of South Hagley Park having stopped at a supermarket on the way to pick up provisions. I had printed off the entry instructions only to find that the code on the door did not work. Hmmmm…… So we tried again and eventually had to phone the owner. She gave me a different code to use but this still didn’t work. So she agreed to come over but would take 30 minutes to get there – not great, but what could we do? Val and Clive went for a walk while Richard and I minded the bags. After a while I decided to try again and, lo and behold, it worked. So I quickly rang the woman and told her we were in. Have to say we were disappointed at the exterior of the property as it was pretty shabby and looked unloved….

Anyway, inside, we found three bedrooms, two bathrooms and loads of other amenities. The place was pretty clean and very well found with lots of extras including chocolate! Sadly the bedrooms were a bit small and we only had one with a double bed (and no ensuite) so we flipped a coin. We won so we got the upstairs double bed and separate bathroom and Clive and Val had the downstairs bathroom and twin bedroom. At least we had privacy in that we were on separate floors.

By now it was getting on for about 7pm so we headed straight out to the City to find somewhere for dinner. We wanted to go to a particular area and appeared to be heading in the wrong direction but then this woman came along and adopted us and showed us the way. Well, it was miles, and she went at a pace. Finally we arrived, couldn’t find the actual restaurant we were hoping for, but found another one and settled down for dinner.

Food was fine and it was warm enough to sit on the pavement and watch the world go by. By 9pm, however, the place was emptying, the kitchen was shut, and the whole area was shutting up. So we returned to our house (in a taxi) for pontoonies while we planned our next day.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast then walked into the city crossing the river and enjoyed the birdlife.

We found an alternative route and realised that we had walked a lot further the night before than was necessary! Oh well….never mind…. Walking along we came across the huge flower wall which was dedicated to the victims of the recent terrorist attack. Was quite sobering and emotional to walk along reading the various tributes from every part of society. If this attack was designed to create racial and/or religion tension than it was clear it had failed spectacularly. The overall message was one of love, peace and inclusiveness…..

Moving on, our first destination was Quake City, passing some beautifully restored buildings along the way, as well as some currently being renovated. There were also some pretty impressive modern buildings.

Christchurch was hit by two deadly earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 which left 186 people dead. We looked at exhibits explaining how the earthquakes hit and watched some frightening CCTV footage of actual buildings collapsing as people tried to run through the streets. The upward pressure was stronger than gravity so many people were actually thrown into the air. Inside the exhibit there were moving stories of heroism, loss and heartache. The two clocks at the entrance to the exhibit are from one of their damaged historical buildings which are set at the time the quakes actually hit.

Since then, entire streets and neighbourhoods have had to be abandoned and Christchurch’s heritage architecture is irrevocably damaged. Some areas – such as the historical port of Lyttelton was badly damaged – with roads and bridges crumpled and residential suburbs in the east were also inundated as a process of rapid liquefaction saw tons of oozy silt rise from the ground. In fact, many of these areas remain to this day, abandoned and too dangerous. Emotional stuff indeed. But the underlying theme was that the City will rise from the devastation stronger and better than before, it will just take time and vast amounts of money…..

Leaving Quake City we got on the hop-on, hop-off tram ride around the City. The beautifully restored old trams trundle around a 17 stop loop leaving every 15 minutes or so and the driver commentary was really informative. The funniest thing was seeing signs near the seats that the Queen had sat here…and Prince Harry had sat here…. at different times obviously. But the Americans were loving it and taking photos and selfies with the plaques LOL.

We sat around one complete loop then got off at the Anglican Cathedral. This was terribly damaged and remains untouched to date. The sheer power of the earthquake was evident here. The City are hoping to renovate it but this is just one on a lengthy list of jobs to be done.

Having completed the tram loop and jumped off and on a few times admiring more architecture and other modern art installations, we had a sandwich lunch and talked about what to do next.

We didn’t fancy the botanical gardens or punting on the river so decided to go for a drive out. So we walked back to the house and picked up the car. We drove through towards Lyttelton and came across numerous road closures – the views were not as spectacular as we had hoped – and we certainly couldn’t continue driving up through the nature reserves as the roads were too steep, unmade, and only suitable for trekking really…. But we did find some lovely beach scenes down in Brighton.

Heading back to our house we were relaxing with a glass of wine in the lounge and turned the TV on to find out about the horrendous weather on the West Coast. We watched the footage in horror of the road bridge being swept away and heard reports of numerous land slips and dangerous conditions. And, of course, this area was next on our itinerary! So before we headed out for dinner we emailed the properties (one in Arthur’s Pass and one in Franz Josef Glacier) to find out the situation (especially as we had non-refundable rooms booked). Emails fired off we headed out to a local pub we had spotted the night before and had a really good meal.

Arriving back to the house later we checked emails to find that Arthur’s Pass was still open to traffic from Christchurch. But Franz Josef was blocked by a land slip one way and the bridge collapse to the other – with lots of tourists trapped in the area too….. So we were able to cancel Franz Josef without charge and agreed that we would still drive up to Arthur’s Pass in the morning as planned.

Wednesday morning and we were on the road after breakfast for the four hour drive to Arthur’s Pass. As we drove through into the mountains and valleys the scenery was absolutely spectacular. Amazing….really difficult to describe.

Having checked into our (crinkly tin built) side-by-side cabins at Arthur’s Pass Motel and Lodge we went for a walk and visited the smallest Post Office ever! The road was running with water and we found the river in full flood….moving very fast. Was quite a sight.

We were going to walk the trek to a famous waterfall but it was marked up on the information board as ‘moderate’ with ‘rocky and muddy’ conditions to be found, and that was before the biblical deluge from the previous day so decided that we were not equipped for that type of hiking (or tramping as they call it here in New Zealand). We then spotted a car being allowed through the road block – interesting! So we chatted to the guy manning the stoppage and he said that, providing we had a high sided vehicle, we could go through for a drive. So we picked up the car and headed off past the long queue of traffic. We saw signs of road slips that had been cleared, where the rock was porous and the rain had generated little waterfalls wherever we looked and, where we could see streams and rivers they were running scarily fast. We then came across a bizarre sight – a diverted waterfall and a tunnel, controlled by traffic lights. This was actually a culvert cut in the late 1800s to reach the gold fields. Can’t even begin to imagine the conditions these guys must have lived through during that period.

Afterwards we came across another small single lane bridge that was under a couple of inches of water. Either side there were diggers trying to move the gravel that had been washed down and to save the bridge. We drove across anyway……realising that, if the rain came again, we would need to back track very quickly. More spectacular scenery (along with evidence of roads being undermined and roadworks everywhere) and then there were rain spots so we turned around quickly and headed back the way we came, including past a very strange hotel…..but a great driftwood horse! We didn’t want to end up trapped without supplies nor (suitable) accommodation LOL.

Arriving back at Arthur’s Pass we sat together outside having a drink. Richard headed off to the local (only) restaurant The Wobbly Kea to check what time last orders were. He was told that we had to be there by 6.45 pm latest, doors were closing at 7pm, and that we would need to be out by 8pm. No worries…..so we rested up for a while (with heaters and heated blankets plugged in for later as it had turned chilly)…and headed up the road at 6.45 pm on the dot. On arrival we were rudely told we were too late but could have a takeaway pizza. Richard said, hang on, I came and checked and this young lady told me differently at which point the blond waitress denied ever having spoken to him. Definitely not impressed!!! So we ordered two takeaway pizzas and asked for a drink while we waited for our food – the answer was NO. What?!? Outraged. At this point Val and I returned to one of the cabins and waited for Richard and Clive to return. When they did we perched on beds and ate our pizzas washed down with a nice Sauvignon. Thankfully we had supplies with us…..and, as Richard said, it probably did us a favour anyway as the staff were rude and the place had the ambience of an undertakers. However, we did do a bad review on Trip Advisor later, as it is one thing to be given duff information, it is another to be lied too!

In the morning it was cold and misty as we retraced our steps back towards Christchurch. We had decided to book a motel in Akaroa which had been one of our favourite stops on our earlier cruise. So we headed through the valleys and mountain ranges down to the coast, enjoying the views again, and noting how the water levels had dramatically dropped overnight without any more rain.

We arrived in Akaroa, checked into our motel, and went for a walk through the town along the coast road. Really pretty place and it’s French influence makes it quite different. It does feel like you are walking onto a movie set…..especially with London buses and concrete cows!

Clive and Val wanted to rest up but we weren’t tired so we took a bottle and sat on a bench at the water front of the property and enjoyed watching the birdlife whilst taking in the warmth of the sun.

Later on we got together and headed to a French restaurant, Renaissance, for dinner (we had made reservations earlier as one bitten twice shy and all that)….. The food was fantastic, the ambience lovely, and the service great. Was definitely a worthy replacement for the glaciers, although still sad we didn’t get a chance to see them.

Part 2 to follow – bye for now

Jan

North Island road trip

Wednesday morning we headed to the airport by cab to pick up our hire car. It was a bit of a faff at the airport as the car wasn’t ready – despite the online booking – but eventually we drove off in our RAV4 around 11.30 am.

On the road, once we cleared the outskirts of Auckland itself, we enjoyed deserted roads with very little traffic.

Our first stop was Hobbiton, the movie set for both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogies which was originally built as a temporary site, but is now a permanent fixture in a sheep station set amongst the beautiful rolling hills. We hadn’t pre-booked a tour and found out we had to wait almost two hours for the first available one which was a bit of a surprise. Should have pre-planned it really. Anyway, as we sat down with a bottle of water to wait an announcement came over that they had a few spare seats on the tour going now. So we rushed over and got the last three.

We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around amongst the little houses and even visited the Green Dragon pub and had a cold ginger beer. Was fun….

Moving on we headed further south to Okere Falls. We went to the first look out point and it was interesting to see where they had, many years ago, diverted the water to run the hydroelectric turbines.

Walking back to the main path we came across this sign:

and decided to do the loop. Well, they lied about the distance, and their definition on the main board into the area said all walks were ‘easy’. Hmmm….. We walked miles….and miles….through the woodland and couldn’t see much at all through the foliage. And of course we had to climb like mountain goats. Absolutely shattered at the end of it, having trekked for almost two hours!

Moving on we headed towards Rotoroa where we booked into the Sudimo Hotel and enjoyed our first sniff of sulphur as we were now in New Zealand’s thermal activity zone. We got ourselves cleaned up and walked towards Eat Street where many restaurants are based in the town, enjoying the sight of the full moon along the way.

We all fancied Indian food so settled down to a lovely meal. Afterwards we had a few more beers before returning to the hotel – this time, via taxi, as I really could not walk another step.

Thursday morning we headed to the Third Place Cafe and enjoyed breakfast whilst admiring the views over the thermals on the edge of Rotoroa lake.

After breakfast we headed to our first venue of the day, the Te Puia thermal / cultural reserve. We wandered through and enjoyed the view of some of the Maori carvings and the meeting house. There was also some silliness.

We then encountered the bubbling mud….

followed by the geysers themselves. Pohutu is the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and erupts once or twice an hour and reaches heights of up to 100 feet. Apparently the sign it was about to blow was that the Prince of Wales geyser adjacent to it would start spouting first. So we sat down and waited…. And it was worth every minute. Absolutely fantastic sight.

We then checked out both the cooking pool and the steam vent cooker – both of which are still in use for those guests who book lunch – and also went to see the elusive nocturnal kiwi in his enclosure. Photos were not allowed in there but we did see him wandering around. He looked a bit daft to be fair and so plump, I can understand why the early settlers used to kill them for food to vary their diet. All in all a very enjoyable visit despite more hours of walking.

Moving on we arrived at our second thermal wonderland, Wai-O-Tapu. This was different as it had no active geysers but it did have champagne lakes of very hot water which constantly steamed and, because of the minerals, they create a rainbow effect of colours in the water. Check some of them out.

This was, again, another long walk so felt pretty tired at the end of the trip and it was time to move on but not before more silliness in the gift shop.

We had already booked a Haku Falls river trip on the Waikoto River for Friday morning so decided to check out the location on the way to our overnight destination, Taurangi. We drove through Taupo, marvelled at the beautiful scenery en route, and ended up at our motel, the Taurangi Bridge Motel. We had gone shopping for some beer along the way so we sat on our motel balcony and had a few cold ones and chilled for a while.

Later on we headed into the motel’s restaurant and bar and were pleasantly surprised – lovely place – and to top it off fantastic food.

Friday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and retraced our steps back to the Waikato River Dam. We watched the dam open, filling the space behind, which caused rapids through the rocks. Huge amount of water passes through at a tremendous pace.

We boarded our river boat and cruised down the Waikato River towards the Haku Falls enjoying the serenity and bird life along the way. Made a real nice change from walking LOL.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at Haku Falls and, again, the rush of water caused the surface to boil and we did 360s in the foam so everyone got a chance to stand up the front and admire the water.

We then headed back up the river to pick up our car. Afterwards we drove towards Waitomo where we had a two cave combination ticket for later in the afternoon. We should have arrived around 2pm but resurfacing roadworks thwarted us a few times – although Richard managed to direct Clive onto a workaround route – and pulled into our hotel car park around 3pm. This hotel looked a bit like the Bates Hotel and, allegedly, it is haunted.

We quickly checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed back down to the caves having first admired the Maori portraits that lined the staircase.

First stop was Aranui Cave which was discovered by a Maori chief when he was out hunting pigs with his dog: the pig and the dog disappeared in a hole and, on rescuing them, spotted the interior. We met our Maori guide Missy and she pointed out a few plants along the way having already pointed out the preying mantis on the gatepost. As we arrived at the cave entrance we were joined by a number of fantails who tweeted along to Missy having a huge conversation. They clearly like her a lot as they even came into the cave with us and had to be shooed away!

I really didn’t like the grass-hopper creatures inside the entrance – they look like spiders and jump up to 3m. Glad they didn’t seem interested in us…..

Inside the cave we were treated to the sights of many stalactites and stalagmites (tites come down and mites go up) along with pillars where the two had joined. Was really cool in there and we enjoyed the 45 minute walk through.

Leaving the Aranui Cave behind we headed to the Glowworm Caves. These were discovered by an English guy and a Maori chief a few hundred years ago. They were returned to their original Maori tribes back in 1990 and many of the original family work in the caves, so are very knowledgeable. We met our tour guide and headed in. Then the lights were turned off and the ceiling glowed with little lights. These aren’t actually worms, they are flies in their larvae stage who drop spindly pieces of string (like a spider’s web) to catch bugs (or each other) and devour them.

Having walked through the cave we then boarded a boat to meander along on the underground river (which brings in the bugs that the glowworms eat) and marvelled at the natural spectacle of seeing them twinkling. It was like looking at the most fabulous night sky you have ever seen. Was amazing!

After this cave we drove the car back to the hotel car park, walked down the hill, and had a nice evening in The Tomo Bar and Eatery. Surprisingly they were doing roast dinners so we all chose that (beef with yorkshire pudding yum) and had a nice time chatting to people on other tables around us. The bar offered a complimentary lift back to our hotel which, as it was straight up the hill, we were pretty happy about. Thankfully no ghosts visited us in the night.

Saturday morning we did a scenic drive through the clouds up and down hills into the mist and eventually arrived back on Morphie in the early afternoon. I spent time blogging while Richard did the laundry for all of us and Clive packed.

We had planned to go into Auckland for a night on the town. However, we misread the ferry timetable and realised that we had missed the opportunity. So headed in the car to Devonport and had supper in the Patriot pub. Sadly no live music playing – instead, it was a rugby match. So we bailed out and had another beer on the seafront before returning to the marina via the liquor store for cold supplies. We then enjoyed a nice evening in Morpheus’ salon, finally retiring to bed around 1am.

This morning, Sunday, we drove back to Auckland Airport and returned the car. We then waited for Val to arrive before getting the shuttle to our apartment. Tonight we are dining at the top of the Sky Tower and on Monday we fly to Christchurch to start our tour of South Island.

So more adventures await….bye for now.

Jan

Sailing reunion to Waiheke and Kawau Islands

Tuesday and Wednesday were a blur of activity as we readied the boat, the hardest task was relocating everything from our ‘garage’ so that it turned into a guest cabin again LOL. All done, we headed to Auckland to do a provisioning run, and taxied back. Finally everything was done and stowed – phew!

Thursday morning we were up early and headed across to Auckland on the ferry. We then walked to the bus stop on Customs Street and got on the Sky Bus to the airport. This was slow going through the City and we were a bit worried that we would be late. Thankfully, we arrived in time and found the arrivals area, by which time Clive’s plane had landed. About 20 minutes later he walked through the gate.

Reunions over, we then reversed the journey and headed back across the bay to Morphie, although we did stop for one beer on the wharf while we waited for the next ferry. By 2.30 pm Clive was on board and he took a nap to try to recover from his long trip from London. And, surprisingly, he brought the sun with him – it certainly hadn’t been that hot for a while!

Later on, cleaned up , we headed back into the City where we did a mini pub crawl around the Viaduct Wharf area and had fish and chips for supper before returning to Morphie on the last ferry at 9.10 pm. Was a fun night.

Friday morning we slipped away from the marina after breakfast and headed out through the bay. The plan was to sail to Kawau Island but the wind direction was completely wrong and we didn’t particularly want to bash into the wind for hours on end so we changed our planned destination to Waiheke Island instead. We had a lovely sail in 10-15 knots of breeze and dropped the hook around 2pm in Puteki Bay after a mere 15 mile passage.

Once we were happy we were secure we got dink off the arch, the outboard installed, and went over to the car ferry area where there was a small floating dock. Dink safely secured we wandered up to the ferry terminal to find out that, despite our cruising guide saying buses were available, they were discontinued two years ago. Very annoying. Anyway, never mind, we found a cab and, during the journey, the driver told us about events unfolding in Christchurch. But he had very little confirmed information so we would have to wait until we got online.

We headed into Oneroa, the main town, and wandered around. The main reason we wanted to go into town was to sort out a wine tour as Waiheke is known for its numerous boutique wineries. We found out about the Explorer Hop-On, Hop-off tour so we planned that for the following day.

Oneroa was quite touristy with some funky artwork, was very pretty with an excellent beach and had a nice vibe. We found a bar with spectacular views but sadly the service was lacking and, having sat there for 15 minutes without even being approached for our order, we voted with our feet. Which worked well, as we then found a bar doing happy hour beers LOL. We sank a couple here and then went back up to the street level and found another place with great views. At this point we realised that the news from Christchurch was terrible as one group of women nearby were listening to a broadcast on their phone and they were clearly distressed….but we were still unaware of the tragic events.

Heading back to Morphie after a great few hours we collected dink and got back onboard. We quickly got online and read about the shocking incidents. OMG this is the last country on earth that we would expect this type of thing to happen. The response from the public and the Prime Minister was amazing but the whole country is in mourning with flags at half mast. Sobered by the news we had a quiet evening and supper in the cockpit.

Saturday morning we headed ashore and got a cab to the nearest bus stop (which was too far to walk). We waited patiently for the Explorer bus and during this time we got chatting to a guy from Hong Kong who worked in one of the vineyards. He was very knowledgeable and gave us some great tips about which ones to visit. Our bus turned up and we headed off first to Onetangi beach for a coffee as it was too early to start our wine tour at this stage.

We had a quick look around then rejoined the bus and got off at Stonyridge Vineyard first. This was a lovely venue and the wine was fantastic – I didn’t indulge in the taster session as the wines here were mainly red (which I don’t drink) but I did get both their Sauvignon Blanc tasters so didn’t miss out. We enjoyed our time here and, of course, our friend from the bus stop was there and treated us to a small taster of one of the high end wines. Very nice too! This place was quite large and very corporate, clearly expecting large groups into the restaurant for lunch.

Leaving Stonyridge we walked across a disused airfield to visit Te Motu Vineyard. This, in comparison, was pretty small and family run. The tasting session was much more informative and we found it quite interesting. As this was purely a red tasting session, Richard and I purchased some Sauvignon and Rose and left the tasting to Clive. Have to say, reflecting on the day later, we think these wines were the best we tried.

Leaving Te Motu we rejoined the bus and went to Batch Winery. This was a spectacular setting with lovely views. We had a simple lunch along with a wine tasting. Here they are famous for their sparkling wine so I swapped one of the reds out for that so we were all happy. The food was fantastic but, sadly, the wine was probably the least impressive for the day. It was fun, though, to actually see the wine producing area.

Back on the bus we went to our last vineyard of the day Mudbrick. This is a spectacular place which is especially popular for weddings – apparently there is a two year waiting list. By now, Clive and Richard were ‘wined-out’ so they went back on the beer while I made the most of their lovely Sauvignon sitting on the roof-top terrace. Very chilled.

Back on the bus we headed to Matiatia Bay to drop people off for the passenger ferry and we stayed on the bus for our last visit to Oneroa. We had a single beer, enjoying the lovely views again, before cabbing it to the dock. Back on board we had dinner and a lovely evening listening to tunes. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Waiheke Island.

Sunday we headed back out to sea again towards Kawau. And, of course, the forecast lied. The wind direction was perfect, just shame that it didn’t blow more than 6-7 knots all day. So we motor sailed until we reached the channel towards our chosen bay, Bon Accord Harbour.

We loved looking at the little islets / rocks dotted around, particularly the one that we thought looked like an old-fashioned diver’s helmet. We found the Kawau Boating Club and anchored nearby. We made sure we were secure then dropped dink and headed ashore to check it out. Was a lovely little hostelry with friendly people and we enjoyed sitting outside watching the world go by. This small island has few roads so most people travel around by boat. Back to Morphie for another evening in the cockpit.

Monday morning we took dink across to School House Bay and secured to the public wharf. We then followed the path towards the Mansion House. We were told this was an easy walk of around 30 minutes….well, it wasn’t! It took us 45 minutes and it was a strong uphill walk, followed by some flat through the forest, and then a downhill stretch towards the Mansion House. Phew, was hard work! But some lovely plants, trees and butterflies…..and a view of the old Coppermine.

The Mansion House was built by the then-Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, when he purchased Kawau Island for his home. This has been renovated and we enjoyed walking through the interior. The grounds were also nice and we loved seeing the wikkis and peacocks as they tried to get us to feed them crumbs….. Peacocks and wallabies were introduced by Sir George along with numerous non-native plant species almost 150 years ago. The wallabies are regularly culled as they present a nuisance to gardeners but there is no plan to totally eradicate them and, sadly, we didn’t encounter one on our travels.

Some of the pine trees he imported, however, are a nuisance as they drop huge cones (weighing up to 8kgs) and can be a bit of a problem. So, throughout the forest, they have been cutting them down. Was an interesting visit and it was clear that Sir George was very influential with Queen Victoria. He was also a bit of a difficult character and he was not particularly liked for his tough stance during the land wars during his second term in office.

We did try to get a ferry back to the bay but, sadly, they were returning to the mainland so we had to do the whole trek back again. This was tough on my poor old legs but I managed it! Back to Morphie I rested up for a while and then we went to the Club again for a few sundowners. Such a lovely place….I think Richard and I may well revisit this bay on our way north later on this season. It might even be a good place to base ourselves to do the varnishing……you never know!

Tuesday morning and we were up very early and worked out way back towards Bayswater Marina in Auckland. And, again, annoyingly the wind didn’t get above 7 knots so very light airs and the weather had changed to grey, cloudy and some showers. So, for the first time, we were wearing jackets in the cockpit and keeping warm with hot chocolate drinks but were cheered up by a glimpse of a few dusky dolphins. On the way back we were passed, in both directions, by huge car carriers…..not to mention the various ferries. We pulled into Bayswater around 2pm having done a total of 76 miles in the last few days.

This afternoon, we are catching up with laundry, blogging and packing as we are heading off on a small North Island road trip tomorrow morning.

Bye for now

Jan

Friends’ reunited cruise (part 3)

Tuesday night was formal night in the restaurant. We started off the evening by having champagne with Carolyn and Ron on their suite balcony and very nice it was too although a bit chilly as the sun went down.

In the restaurant there was a special Chef’s menu, which was only six courses! None of us ordered them all, instead just going for a selection, and it was all very nice although the service did get a bit muddled at times.

Afterwards we headed to the Grand Saloon for the evening show before heading upstairs to the Observation Bar for our final pontoonies of the night.

Wednesday morning we pulled into Nelson. It was nice to be tied alongside a wharf for a change so we were able to just walk off the ship. The wharf was inside the commercial port so we had to get a shuttle bus into town. When we arrived we booked ourselves onto a three hour tour which included a drive around the area plus a visit to the Brightwater vineyard, a pottery factory and a glass factory. Nelson, which is the ninth largest urban area by population in New Zealand, was a bit uninspiring and was not helped by the driver’s demeanour, who was ex-British Royal Navy with the poshest accent ever and did not really engage.

We arrived at the Brightwater Vineyard and the scenery across the vines was lovely but were disappointed to find that this was just really a wine tasting experience – with all the barrels empty awaiting the harvest, and we didn’t get to look at the grapes themselves either. The wines, however, were delicious.

Their main claim to fame was a visit by Prince Charles and Camilla and they even had the original (unwashed!) glasses on display LOL.

Moving on we headed to a pottery which was very small and although we did get a little tour, the main purpose was really actually just to sell us something very expensive. Afterwards we headed to an inlet on the river for lunch and, despite the restaurant looking a bit uninspiring, the food actually was very good.

After lunch we headed to the glass factory. Well this was really just a shop selling exclusive (expensive) glass products with just a screen showing some footage of glass blowing. Never mind…. But both Carolyn and I came away with a unique stunning glass pendant so wasn’t all in vain LOL. Afterwards we were taken to view the beach but this was probably just to make sure that we were returned to the city after three hours and not a minute more.

So Nelson was our least favourite place in New Zealand, although we enoyed watching the yachts racing around us and the tugs showing off whilst we waited to push off back to sea.

In the evening we headed to Earth and Ocean for dinner. On arrival there was a queue for tables….we decided to wait….then the head guy told us they had run out of starters but had lovely tofu instead! What?!? Never mind, we’ll manage without the starters, really looking forward to the short ribs. Then, after waiting for over an hour, we were told they had run out of these too! Not impressed especially as we had got a bit chilled in the process although the pool area is pretty at night.

So we rushed down to the main restaurant (to get there before it closed) and found that the staff had already organised for us to get two bottles of top-shelf wine that was only available on the premier list, which we hadn’t felt the need to peruse before as the complimentary wines were already of a good standard and we didn’t feel the need to spend $100+++ or more each night. So the whole situation was actually handled very well and the service we received was impeccable. Now running late we arrived to the show so missed the opening songs but enjoyed the Sand Man, Marcus Winter, who ingeniously creates pictures using just his hands and moving sand around although, on occasion, he does use paint. Very talented artist.

Thursday morning it was time to arrive into Wellington which is actually called Windy Welly by the locals – and certainly it delivered. The wind was howling and it was very cold out of the sun. Wellington is actually at the bottom of the north island and we got the shuttle bus into the city. The first sight that met us was the original government building completely made out of wood (so it flexes and survives earthquakes) and then crossed the road to look at the new version. Definitely prefer the older of the two.

We then wandered through the city and enjoyed the look and feel of the place. We headed towards the cable car station and joined the queue…. Eventually we were onboard and being whisked up to the top of the hill through brightly lit tunnels. Despite it being crowded we enjoyed the experience.

On the top is the botanical gardens and we decided to walk back down towards the city.

So we enjoyed looking at the plants and flowers as we meandered back down the path. Was a lovely walk despite the fact that my ‘good’ hip has now decided to start playing up, probably as a response to my poor posture over the years protecting the bad one and my back which, now fixed, are behaving beautifully! Never mind…..

On arrival back to the city we decided to get the bus again across to the next stop. We asked one of the volunteers (who are at every shuttle bus stop to assist the cruise passengers) for a recommendation of somewhere to go for lunch. So…we followed his advice…to Cuba Street. This opened into a pedestrianised area but, to be honest, it was a bit seedy and run down. Not what we were expecting at all. So we stopped for a restorative beer in the ever-present Irish pub and then wandered back to the wharf.

The wharf was lovely (despite being very cold in the wind) and we enjoyed the sights before finding a suitable watering hole.

Refreshed we then headed back to the ship just in time for a quick bite to eat before Richard and I took ourselves off on the bridge tour. We enjoyed this and stayed on to chat to the British officer afterwards – and asked the million dollar question as to why we headed towards Norfolk Island when it was obvious the weather wouldn’t allow us to disembark. Apparently, the weather models didn’t agree so they thought they would give it a try. Actually we think it was something more to do with crossing into international waters and keeping the casino open and the alcohol duty-free LOL.

Back to our suite to get changed, we got into our swimmers and spent a little time in the jacuzzi to watch the Maori show. Not quite up to the Waitangi standard, but still fun to watch.

Quick run back to get changed and then we returned to the pool deck for a champagne, caviar and classical sail away.

Then we stayed for dinner at Earth and Ocean (having successfully bagged a table early enough) and then went on to see Lifford Shillingford, the Soul Man, the evening’s entertainment. He was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent but we thought his real claim to fame was that he was related to the West Indies cricketer from Dominica. Then it was time to hit the casino before bed.

Friday morning we arrived in Napier. Napier is a coastal city and is set amid the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay. The city was flattened in an earthquake in 1931 and lots of land was pushed upwards creating a bigger area. The only properties that survived were wooden but many were then lost to the fire that followed the quake.

The locals, however, were determined to rebuild and that their new city should be the most modern in the world – so it was rebuilt in art deco style, which we wanted to look at. Arriving on the shuttle bus into the town from the wharf we found a plethora of tour options but were most attracted to the antique cars and trams. So please meet our 1925 ride Clyde and his driver…..

Beautiful place with stunning architecture…so enjoy the tour.

After the tour we thanked Clyde and wandered around on foot. We quickly realised that it was not just vintage cars that abounded in this city, but also some pretty super classics too. Ron felt really at home here!

Back on board we all agreed that this had been a very special day. Later in the evening we headed to Thomas Keller for our next experience. We explained that we wanted to make the 10 pm show – which was a good move as the people on the table next to us left complaining bitterly about the service and the quality of the food, calling their main meal inedible! Thankfully, we didn’t have the same experience and thoroughly enjoyed the food, especially the roast chicken, carved at the table.

We did manage to get to the show to see Katei again who was even more impressive second time round.

During the night the weather turned nasty and it was a bit rolly again with torrential rain. Check out the stormy sunset.

Saturday morning and we had already decided to stay on board and enjoy another day in the retreat. First though, Carolyn and I headed to the spa for a facial….lovely! We then joined Ron and Richard and, stoically, we wrapped up in robes and towels to keep warm while we watched the clouds trying to disperse.

It remained chilly but the sun did try to break through – and we had a lovely lunch after a champagne and caviar starter.

Later on we headed into the jacuzzi as it was warmer there than anywhere else and, of course, at this point the heavens opened!!!! But we stayed put and drank more champagne…..despite the rain and wind biting into our faces we just had a fun afternoon.

Getting out wasn’t so much fun – absolutely freezing – and Carolyn and Ron headed back to their suite. Richard and I stayed put though and enjoyed watching the white out, the gale (of at least 50 knots of wind) heel the boat over quite dramatically….and snuggled up in our cabana and drank more wine and watched a very bad movie. The funniest thing was the waiter’s face when he realised that we weren’t leaving and that he would have to serve us in the rain….

Later on we headed to the main restaurant again and then to the show to watch the singers and dancers giving a performance which took us around the world – along the lines of Strictly with live music. Was fun.

Sunday morning and we pulled into our last destination, Tauranga. We got the shuttle bus into the city to find a pretty uninspiring place so wandered for a little while and, despite enjoying the waterside views and the interesting animal statues (from a famous children’s book allegedly) we returned pretty much immediately to the wharf.

Check out our ship tied up….

We then walked along the headland to the small town of Mauganui which is quite up and coming and relatively prosperous. Had a lovely vibe with a good beach – where there was a children’s surfing competition going on – and some great bars and restaurants. It was very nice and we thoroughly enjoyed this part of the area.

Back on board and we spent the afternoon, after lunch on The Patio, back in our suites packing although we did take some time out for a last visit to the pool.

Was difficult to believe that the whole adventure was almost over – very sad! We headed to the main restaurant for our last dinner and then to the show for a variety performance.

Chris Harley, the cruise director, opened it with an amazing rendition of Nessun Dorma. Wow, what a powerful voice, and completely unexpected. It was goose-bump time….. Then we watched the Soul Man and the Sand Man again bringing it to a close.

Have thoroughly enjoyed the shows onboard the Seabourn Encore. Afterwards we headed to the Observation Deck but it was very quiet so decided to return to Carolyn and Ron’s suite where we enjoyed finishing their (and our) last bottles of complimentary wine from our fridges. Lovely way to end the trip.

Monday morning and it was almost over…. We arrived into Auckland before the sun came up and enjoyed the views of the city.

We went for our final breakfast and then to the Seabourn coffee shop to await our disembarkation instructions. We left the ship, cleared through the various levels of officialdom, and said our farewells. Was very sad and I admit to shedding a tear or two. We had had such an amazing holiday together…..couldn’t believe it really was over…..or that Carolyn and Ron came so far across the world to see us (particularly as they do not really enjoy long-haul flights). We certainly have made some special memories to cherish.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the luxurious Seabourn experience, but now it was time to get back to reality. No more champagne on tap; no more jacuzzis; no more fabulous food served; and no more staff to clean our suites and launder our towels. But it was probably time to get off as I think the four of us managed to pretty much drink the ship dry of our favourite wines LOL. Hope you have enjoyed travelling along with us.

Alone again, we manhandled our bags onto the ferry across the bay to rejoin Morphie. By just after nine am we were at the marina and we went down the dock to see our girl. Thankfully she was just where we had left her and had come through bad weather unscathed. We rested up for a little while and then set to work with earnest….by the time we had an early night on board we had reinstated all the canvas; dink was off the bow, re-inflated, cleaned and back up on the arch; we had the power back on; we had unpacked; the fridge was given some care and attention; extra shore lines had been removed; and I’d started on this blog.

Tuesday morning and it is another day of boat jobs ahead of us plus we need to go to the city to do some provisioning…..and then, of course, there is all the laundry…… No rest for the wicked though as Clive flies in to join us on Thursday so we need to be ready by then to meet him at the airport and bring him to Morphie. We then hope to go sailing for a few days before we head off on the road for some land travel. So more adventures await.

Bye for now

Jan

Friends’ reunited cruise (part 2)

Thursday was another sea day and it was chilly. So we made camp on the stern of deck five to try to keep out of the wind. We had a nice time but it got really cold so we returned to our cabins for a rest up in the afternoon.

In the evening we headed to the casino after dinner – I won a few quid – and went to the club bar for drinks. There was a great band on, singing some fab tunes, but unfortunately there were no other guests. But we had a great time LOL.

Friday morning, later than scheduled we arrived into Milford Sound. But, in some ways, we were glad as it gave us the opportunity to go to the bow of the boat and watch as we entered. OMG what an amazing view….spectacular….actually, awe inspiring!

We didn’t anchor – as the sound is too deep – and actually isn’t a sound as it is a fjord created by a glacier. So the ship just stooged around. We were called to join our Zodiac trip (think big black ribs with 70hp outboards) and, amongst all the chaos, we were finally fitted with life jackets and waited in line….and waited…until we were able to join our RIB. The scenery is spectacular and no words can do it justice, so just enjoy….

Apparently we were exceptionally lucky with the weather – Milford Sound is known for high rainfall and fog. Rejoining the boat we were freezing and wet, having caught a few waves over the bow as well as getting splashed by the waterfall, so we got cleaned up and headed to the pool bar for a late lunch. Then we returned to our cabins to chill out. And all too soon we were leaving Milford Sound behind.

Later on we went to Thomas Keller bar for pre-dinner drinks. We then took up our reservations in the restaurant and met our server for the evening. He was a bit more formal than the French guy previously but, unfortunately, he decided that alcohol consumption was restricted, almost as if he had paid for it himself LOL. Seriously, though, in the main ‘posh’ restaurant on board we would not expect (wine or water) empty glasses to go unnoticed and have to ask for more…. Not quite Oliver but, hey, you get the jist….

After dinner we headed to the Observation Bar again for another night with Vlad and Rachael.

Saturday we pulled into Stewart Island which is New Zealand’s third island. It lies beneath the South Island and is just about the last inhabited place on earth before Antarctica. The town was named after Oban in Scotland due to the strong influence Scottish settlers had in early colonial New Zealand. Over 85% of the island is national park and most people come to this remote island for hiking and birdwatching. But not us….we just wanted to go for a walk off the ship.

After anchoring we waited whilst the tenders went ashore with those people on organised tours….and we waited….and we waited some more. Eventually we found out that the delay was because the customs man had decided that every single bag should be scanned when it left the ship – despite none of us having been ashore since we left Auckland. But the biosecurity stuff is pretty significant and we don’t blame them for wanting to protect their environment.

When we finally reached shore we walked up and over the steep hill which was about half a mile to the town. We wandered the little place for a while and ended up in the southern-most pub in New Zealand, the South Sea Hotel. We had a small lunch, a few glasses of a very nice Sauvignon, and then caught the shuttle bus back to the wharf. Sadly we didn’t see any penguins or ospreys, but the gulls were pretty enough sunning themselves on the beach of this sleepy town.

Saturday night we met up in the club for a few pre-dinner drinks and then headed to the main restaurant for dinner. Lovely dinner with good service but, during the end of the meal, I felt absolutely shattered. So clearly it catches up with all of us at some point….so I retired early whilst Richard went to the Grand Saloon to watch the evening show but couldn’t find Carolyn and Ron and went to the Observation Bar but couldn’t find them there either. Oh well….so he returned to the cabin for a few beers on the verandah. Lesson learnt….pin down the arrangements in advance….otherwise things can go pear-shaped LOL.

Sunday morning and we were up very early – Richard did the laundry whilst I finally managed to get the previous blog published. That was an effort….phew! Hopefully the problems won’t return as I really was losing the will to live LOL.

After breakfast we headed ashore (as we were alongside in Port Chalmers) and checked out local tour companies. The tours on the ship are very expensive so we thought we could do better independently. So, we booked a three hour exclusive tour, and thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Dunedin. First stop was the steepest recorded street in the world…. I wasn’t convinced as I was sure some streets in Dominica could give it a run for its money LOL.

Dunedin is another Scottish-influenced town and this is apparent in the architecture….which includes local stone coupled with Aberdeen marble…. Architectural this place is pretty stunning. Check out the train station.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour….and went to spot seals on the local beach but all we found were lesser-spotted surfers.

Before returning to the ship we had lunch in Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel which had a great feel to it although the food offerings were mainly fried…. Great service from the bar, though, as they gave us a complimentary lift back to the wharf to rejoin the ship.

Arriving back to the ship we had dinner together in another restaurant called Earth and Ocean – OMG, absolutely fantastic food, wine and service. The only downside was that it was located on the pool deck so was subject to outside temperatures…..which are chilly once the sun goes down….but they supplied us with blankets. Quality! Lovely evening.

Monday morning we were at anchor again at Akaroa which is the new destination for cruise ships for Christchurch as the main wharf was damaged by an earlier earthquake. So we pulled into this tiny place…..French-influenced…..and we booked a two hour tour. Stunning…….

The town itself, is so picturesque it felt like we were on a movie set. Even the flowers looked like they were on steroids.

We had a seafood lunch with Carolyn and Ron loving their oysters, whilst Richard and I had pretty large tiger shrimps. Only downside was that we had to peel them!

Back on board and we went to the formal restaurant for another great dinner and then headed to the Grand Salon to see a rock violinist called Keitei, who was Japanese by nationality, Chinese / Korean by origin, who now lives in Australia. He could definitely play a mean fiddle. Absolutely amazing performance – what a treat!

Tuesday morning and it was time for our arrival into Kaikoura for our whale watching tour. More stunning scenery.

When it was time to get off the ship, the swell was pretty big, and it was using its bow thrusters to protect the tender from the sea conditions, but it all failed miserably. We got aboard the tender, thankfully, and then one of the lines snapped, the tender smashed back into the platform, and did some damage. Most people were pleased to be safe and uninjured but we were convinced that there had been some damage and certainly not helped by the crew checking the bilges for water. Thankfully all was OK and we made it ashore safely.

We waited a long time in the hot sun awaiting other passengers but, eventually, we took off in the Whale Watching catamaran. Not very long into our trip we spotted our first sperm whale….followed by our second….followed by our third.

And that’s without the absolutely stunning scenery….every view is better than the last. This amazing place cannot be described…..

And then, of course, there was the albatross (not the largest of the species) but pretty impressive all the same.

Then we spotted dolphins……common dolphins, dusky dolphins and hector dolphins (which are unique to New Zealand and are an endangered species). Well….we saw them all…..playing around and giving us a show. Absolutely magical!

We returned to the ship and had lunch on the outside patio deck. Was lovely….particularly as we all enjoyed the caviar and champagne. Afterwards we went to the pool, did some more jacuzzi bobbing, before heading back to our cabins to rest up before another formal night.

Bye for now

Jan

Friends’ reunited cruise (part 1)

Friday morning and the weather forecast had improved significantly so we decided to leave the sails on (just tightly wrapped) plus we removed the dodgers and the infill piece of canvas to reduce windage on Morpheus (just in case). Last job was to get all the cockpit cushions below, unplug the power, get our bags off and double check her lines before saying a final farewell….. Bye Morphie, take care, love you!

We walked through the marina and our taxi was waiting for us. The traffic across the bridge to the south side was bumper to bumper but we did manage to arrive at the Cordis Hotel around 1pm as planned.

As we walked in, Carolyn came around the corner as they had arrived earlier from the airport and we had a lovely reunion. The room we had prepaid and booked was not available on our arrival so they upgraded us and gave us a bottle of wine to say ‘sorry’. Result!   Come 3pm Carolyn and Ron were lagging (having flown in from London) and were finally able to access their room. Ours was still unavailable so another complimentary drink was made available.  Finally at almost 4pm we were given our room keys. The front desk service at the Cordis was a bit shambolic to be honest, but the room was lovely when we eventually got there.

Later on we reconvened…..now in the pouring rain…. and got the courtesy shuttle bus from the hotel to the Viaduct wharf area. After a couple of abortive attempts at different venues we finally got a table at White and Wongs and had an amazing dinner. Fantastic end to a lovely day.

Saturday morning we had an excellent breakfast and checked out. Our luggage had been collected from both our rooms but the front desk couldn’t find any of them.   We actually needed to re-tag one bag that Carolyn and Ron had brought as it actually belonged to us and had our posh (cruise) gear in. By now our driver had arrived and we had to keep him waiting whilst the chaotic luggage service continued.

Eventually we were reunited with our belongings and was driven to the wharf to meet our cruise ship the Seabourn Encore. The ‘wharf lounge’ to process the cruise ship passengers was full so we dropped our bags off and headed to the wharf and, guess what, we ended up in Shucker Brothers people watching. Was lovely to chill after the stresses of the morning LOL.

We wandered back to the wharf and were processed relatively quickly although the form filling to get onboard was a bit tedious and none of us were particularly happy about having to hand over our passports for the ship to hold. Hey ho, what can you do?!?

Finally we were walking up the gangplank and were directed to the Patio Restaurant on the stern of the ship for complimentary champagne and lunch whilst we waited for our suites to be ready for our arrival.

And we stayed there whilst the ship slipped away from Auckland. The announcement was made that the suites were ready so we lingered for a little while longer before heading there. OMG – absolutely amazing – wasn’t expecting a bath and a shower; the bed was lovely; the wardrobe space was fantastic and there was even room under our bed to stow our multiple suitcases.

We spent the next few hours unpacking and then we had to go to the Muster station for the lifeboat drill. All very civilised….

That evening we headed to the Thomas Keller bar for pre-dinner drinks. This is the only restaurant that requires reservations but they actually had space so we were accommodated. Oh yes…and this ship is ultra all-inclusive…so everything, including champagne, is included. We settled down to have a lovely meal although found the service annoying.

Sunday morning and we were up early, had breakfast, and headed down to get a tender across to Russell. our destination for the day. From the main wharf we picked up the passenger ferry to Paihia and wandered around a little before our taxi turned up to take us to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The taxi was a minibus and I don’t think I have ever been in a dirtier vehicle in my life but, hey ho, it got us there.

On arrival at the Treaty Grounds we were told that our schedule had been reorganised, so our carefully planned day started to fall apart! So instead of a walking tour, followed by a cultural performance, we now had the cultural performance first….and the walking tour was no longer an option as it would be too late in the day. Frustrated by this – as I’d booked it all online a few months earlier – sigh. Luckily we knew the way so we took Carolyn and Ron to see the war canoes and then headed up to the meeting house and made sure that Ron was dead centre at the front so that he could nominate himself as Chief of the Day.

This all went to plan and, yes indeed, Ron was crowned chief of our tribe. He received the formal, slightly threatening, welcome and told them that we came in peace. Amazingly he didn’t flinch once when threatened with thrusting spears within inches of his face LOL. We then entered the house and Ron completed his chiefly duties by saying a small speech and took his front row seat with us….. Perfect!

During the performance the spears came very close to both Carolyn and me (and we both jumped) but Ron stayed unflinching throughout. Thankfully both of them thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After the show we headed in to watch the movie about the origins of New Zealand, how the treaty came about, and the alliance between the British and the Maori tribes. This was a perfect introduction to this fascinating country which does feel a bit like home, just more tropical.

Leaving the grounds we asked at reception about getting back to town and she assumed we were on the other cruise ship which was in the bay (Cunard’s Queen Victoria) and told us to get the courtesy shuttle bus which we did. Result!

Arriving back in Paihia we went to Charlotte’s Kitchen on the end of the wharf hoping for some oysters. Sadly that was not to be the case (as they are too skinny right now) but we didn’t have time to have a proper lunch. So I made excuses but did say I would like to go shopping quickly before we headed back to Russell on the ferry. Carolyn thought this was a bit strange…not knowing this was a delaying tactic….

Finally we left the store and hid out so they would lose us for a minute while we teed everything up and then we showed our hand and said we wondered if they would like to have a look at the Thunder Trikes before we headed back? So we walked over and then the woman said “Hang on, aren’t you Ron? Petrolhead Ron?” The look on his face was a picture and the guys said “Hop on, we’ll go for a spin”. Ron, thinking that we were under strict constraints said we didn’t have time….but Richard said there was always time. Then the penny dropped that this was our surprise!!! Gobsmacked I think is the only way to describe it LOL. So they hopped on and speeded away whilst Richard and I took off behind them….

The speed was amazing and this was definitely a thriller ride as we went up and over the hills towards Opua and the centrifugal force on the corners had me grabbing the OMG bar, as the driver called it LOL. We stopped in Opua for a photo shoot and, thankfully, Ron and Carolyn absolutely loved it. Photoshoot over we returned back to Paihia. Was the most exciting white knuckle ride we had ever been on. Just fantastic!

Back on the wharf we got the ferry back to Russell, had a very average lunch (with manky calamari) in the Duke of Marlborough pub, and returned to the ship.

Back at the ship we sat on our cabin’s balcony as the ship moved away from Russell. With the forecast of big seas and 35-45 knots of wind at least (which was the remnants of Cyclone Oma) we were surprised that the ship didn’t change the schedule as it was going to be uncomfortable at sea. The next stop was Kingston, Norfolk Island, Australia. Oh well, what do we know?

We reconvened with the Smiths later at the Observation bar for pre-dinner drinks. Carolyn looked really peaky and had been ill…..damn…..so she decided to swerve dinner. We think this was a combination of a long couple of days of travel and a bug, not helped by the dodgy lunch!

Anyway, the movement of the ship had started to pick up by now and, as the wind and waves were coming from behind us, we were rolling around quite a bit so we had to hang on tightly. We had a fantastic dinner in the main restaurant – this is definitely fine dining combined with great service – and returned to the Observation Bar for a pontoonie or two, being entertained by the singers Vlad and Rachael.

Back to the cabin, Richard and I enjoyed our first night at sea where we didn’t have to stand a watch or keep a lookout for traffic. So we wrapped up warm in our dressing gowns and drank some wine from the complimentary mini bar (which had been stocked with our preferences on arrival) and enjoyed watching the sea.

Overnight it was very very rolly…..and we were all given heavy weather warnings to make sure that things were stowed properly in our cabins….so just like prepping to go to sea then eh?!?

Monday morning and Carolyn was feeling better, thankfully, so we had breakfast before making camp around the pool. It was sunny but very chilly in a bitter strong wind. But we made the most of it and ended up having champagne in one of the jacuzzis. Could certainly get used to this! When we got out of the hot pool we were chilled so we moved into a more sheltered area for a few more drinks in the pool bar before retiring to our cabins for a lazy afternoon.

The ship was still rolling around so the pools were more like wave machines LOL. In the evening we got dolled up (as it was formal night) and we headed down to meet the captain, which was all a bit bizarre and not unlike the Oscar’s ceremony with staff doing walk ons and being introduced.

After this event finished, we headed back down to the main restaurant for another fantastic meal. OMG the waistband is increasing in inches by the day!!!! 

Good job we had lost weight before we came onboard! After dinner we had more pontoonies in the Observation Bar before calling it a night. And, again, Richard and I sat on our balcony late at night enjoying the night sky and the quarter moon lighting up the huge whitecaps. Seas were running around 15 feet at this stage.

Tuesday we arrived early at Norfolk Island and dropped the hook. Then the captain picked up anchor, did a 360, and turned back making an announcement that, on the grounds of public safety, we would not be stopping after all as it was too dangerous in the sea conditions to tender people ashore. Really?!? Could have told you that before we left Auckland mate…. It was frustrating though because some of the older guests had been really struggling to get around in the rolly conditions and it was just unnecessary to put them through it. Moan over…

So we had another sea day ahead of us. We had breakfast and headed to the stern of the ship where we had spotted a small pool, two jacuzzis and a sitting area which we liked the look of. And, as we were now bashing into the weather with the wind on our nose, this turned out to be pretty sheltered. So we made camp there and it was a lovely spot. We spent the day relaxing and bobbing in the jacuzzi. This area, however, does not have service so Richard collected a bottle of champagne from our cabin so that we could continue with the tradition of having bubbles whilst sitting in bubbles LOL.

Another lazy afternoon followed…and we reconvened later in the Observation Bar for pre-dinner drinks followed by another great dinner before going to watch a NZ comedian. He was really an impressionist and we didn’t find him particularly funny but, hey ho, who cares?!? Loving the whole ship experience…

Wednesday morning and the plan was to meet at 9am to head to The Retreat – a select area at the top of the ship on the bow that we had pre-booked for a sea day. Well, that was the plan. Richard and I were sitting on the verandah and I heard knocking……but by the time he got to the door there was nobody there. Then I was lazing around watching the news and heard knocking again….and again Richard found nobody there. When I heard it the third time I was in the shower and I was being called a crazy unhinged woman by my husband. Then the phone rang and it was the Smiths – where are you? Is everything OK? Well, the clocks had gone forward and our cabin clock hadn’t changed so we were already half an hour late. OMG…what idiots we felt….

Anyway, eventually, we met up at The Retreat and made our apologies. The Retreat has 15 cabanas so we had two side-by-side. It was cloudy but still a bit chilly in the wind so we lazed around in our robes and read books, being fed with lovely fresh fruit plates and very tasty fresh orange juice.

Later on we had a bob in the jacuzzi with Bolly (dahling) rather than the usual house champagne. And very tasty it was too….

After bobbing we had caviar delivered and they all enjoyed that before the rest of our lunch arrived.

OMG the biggest prawns I have ever seen and so delicious. We enjoyed our food and settled back to enjoy the sun whilst we relaxed on our sunbeds. But then it turned cloudy, the wind picked up and it all got a bit chilly. So Carolyn and Ron left us to it as we decided to stay put and enjoyed watching a movie on our cabana’s big screen TV.

Later on we picked up our passports (no longer required by the ship as we didn’t stop in Australia after all) and reconvened in the Thomas Keller bar before going to the main restaurant for dinner. Afterwards we headed to the Grand Salon again and this time we watched the ships singers and dancers do a rock / operatic type performance, which we enjoyed.

Overnight the clocks had gone forward again so we made sure that we reset all our clocks before we turned in LOL.

Thursday morning and we had another day at sea ahead of us as we motored south towards Milford Sound on New Zealand’s South Island for a Friday morning arrival. So as well as blogging (which went a bit pear shaped due to a software glitch) there was definitely some more champagne bobbing to be done…. Oh yes, and we did bring the Iridium Go! with us on this cruise, so have been pinging positions every now and again to our “Where are we now?” page. We definitely can’t sail that fast LOL.

Watch this space for Part 2. Bye for now

Jan