Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The excitement of the 5th of March, 2021

Due to many queries on the day by people who had heard about the tsunami warning for New Zealand on Friday, the 5th of March, I'm adding this experience to our blog.

Just after 10 AM both Tim's and my mobile phone erupted with the horrible screeching noise that we associate with an imminent change to the COVID alert level.

I received my alert on Larus and Tim received his in the marina shower.  It took a while to process what appeared on the screen. The emergency alert sirens, which are instigated by the local council, started within a few minutes of the phone alert and heightened the feeling that we really should be getting a move on.
Not knowing for sure if Tim had his phone or not, I packed his backpack and mine with things I thought we might need - passports, wallets, water, phones, glasses.  We were staying in the Basin Marina, Whangarei, which is surrounded by residential areas and is a very close to a lot of very high ground.  It wasn't like we were evacuating into the wilderness or abandoning ship into the liftraft, but next time I'd definitely bring something to sit on, bug spray and our hats, which we soon missed.

I met Tim at the marina showers and he dashed back to the boat for a few more essentials, including a half dozen banana muffins, and we headed for high ground.  The nearest high ground was about a hundred metres away up someone's drive, but we thought it best to try to find a more public location to wait it out.
It is amazing how few public areas there are in residential areas.  We walked for quite a while trying to find a comfortable shady place to sit and they really were few and far between.  Locals who lived in houses closer to the river  had brought sun umbrellas and deck chairs or were simply sitting in their cars.
We found a group of people from the marina sitting around a street-side picnic table and a local gentleman was bringing water and allowing them to use his bathroom.  We stayed there for a little while but there was little shade and no where comfortable to sit, but moved on to sit on the bottom steps leading up to local homeowners front gate.   

We later learned that boats at anchor were instructed to head out to deep water.
The Kermadec Islands are about 500 to 620 miles northeast of New Zealand. It took about 3 hours for any hint of a disturbance to be seen along the coast.
When we got bored or sore from sitting, we'd pick up our things and try to find somewhere more accommodating.  This was how we passed the time until the alert was cancelled at around 1400 and we wandered back down to Larus.

Once back on board, we discovered that there were no dangerous waves or tsunami anywhere on the NZ coast.  Much of the warnings were for areas immediately a long the coast as there can be unexpected currents.  Tutukaka, on the east coast just north of Whangarei, had unusually strong swirling currents in the harbour but no waves or damage.

If you are interested in knowing more of the facts around what happened, the following link is to RNZ News this article is very useful  Earthquakes and tsunami threats in New Zealand - How Friday Unfolded and links other articles published on the day.

If you did not receive a 'Family and Friends' email and wish to in future, please let us know.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

To market, to market

New Year's Day, camera in hand, I walked to the Whangarei Growers Market in search of grapefruit.

My route started from our berth on the far side of the Hatea River in Town Basin Marina.  The yellow line is my route, the red star marks my favourite shop and things of interest are circled in red.

About four weeks ago, hand-knitted and crocheted works of art and craft began appearing along the Hatea Loop , a 4.2 km walk along the banks of the Hatea River.  They are just the thing to lift the spirits.

I started at the gate to Pontoon D where Larus is berthed. 

I do like the tassels.

Our toilet, shower and laundry block is in the background.  All the water fountains have a square bowl near their base for the dogs that accompany the walkers, runners and cyclists who use the Loop.

Crossing the pedestrian Canopy Bridge.

The Hundertwasser Art Centre hadn't long been started when we first arrived in New Zealand,  September 2019. The tower is yet complete but the Art Centre is expected to be open by the end of 2021. We don't expect to be here for the opening, though I would very much like to see it finished and open to the public.

The dangling spirals are fun.

I turned inland on my walk to the market after taking this rather lovely photo of Larus in her berth.  Or is it a photo of lovely Larus in her berth?

When we first arrived in Whangarei, I was awed by the quality and quantity of the street art that decorates the city.  What I didn't know was that all the murals were thanks to the Street Prints initiative.  Follow the link to see many more of the works of art that have decorated the city since they were created in 2019.  

It is says a lot about Whangarei, and New Zealand in general, that all these works of public art are still pristine, intact and in place.  

As it was New Year's Day and very few shops were open, there were few cars to obscure the murals.  I walk past all of these regularly and it was my first unobstructed view of them.

The expression on the Maori girl's face is one that is used in traditional dance.  Read here for Maori Dance symbolism explained and watch here to see traditional Maori dance.

The design on her chin represents a traditional Maori Tattoo all of which have spiritual meanings.

And finally the market.  I was quite late as it opens at 0630 and many of the stalls were packing up when I arrived.

There were no grapefruits to be had.  The farmer on this stall told me that during the Once in 500 Year Storm in July last year, severe flooding caused the grapefruit trees to spontaneously drop their fruit. He suspects the fruit was sacrificed to save trees themselves.  

I contented myself with bags of oranges and lemons and wishes for a better crop of grapefruit later this year.

Last but not least, we received the most inspired Christmas present.  After dinner out on Christmas Eve with our friends Rob and Frances from Alia Vita, Rob handed us a small flat square gift wrapped package.  When we opened it, we were completely astonished to find four coasters printed with a reproduction of an oil painting of Larus at anchor on them.  

It was serendipity that Rob had been looking through the Opua Facebook page and saw an oil painting of Larus in an advertising post by a local artist who he contacted the artist to ask about the painting.  She had thought Larus pretty, had taken the photo while we were anchored off the Bay of Islands Marina a few weeks previously and had only just sold the painting.  The artist gave Rob permission to use a screen shot from Facebook however he liked and the coasters are the result. 

I am still amazed every time I look at them.  Not only do we have wonderful coasters but someone out there has an painting of Larus on their wall. I could almost get my head around a watercolour, but an oil painting?!

I'll end now by wishing everyone everywhere a safe and prosperous 2021 from the both of us.

Nancy and Tim


Friday, 27 November 2020

Mount Tongariro


It's almost a year since Susan's and my road trip up and down the North and South Island.  South of Rotorua, where we visited the Whakare Thermal Springs, lies Mount Tongariro. Mount Tongariro is famous for it's one way19 km hike.  Transportation can be arranged to bring hikers back to the carpark at the start of the track.

It is also famous for being used in the Lord of the Rings films for Mount Doom.  

We had no plans to do the whole walk regardless of the recommendation.

Brrr. So off we headed off for the short hike to the Soda Springs.

This well prepared lot quickly passed us and probably made it up and over Tongariro before we got back to the carpark.

The mythology is wonderful.

The scenery is stunning.

And the Alpine vegetation unlike anything we had yet seen in New Zealand.

Can't you just picture Frodo and Sam clambering over the rocks of Mordor?  During the walk I'd let Susan get ahead for the pleasure of running after her and calling, 'I'm coming, Mr Frodo. I'm coming!' I don't think Susan fully appreciated the depth of my nerdishness until then.

Mount Doom, doom, doom.

Shiny smooth igneous rocks.

There was a lot of information provided on the sympathetically designed signage.

Soda Spring.

It was a soggy, wet, slippery hike to the base of the falls.

On our way to the spring, we met an 'old as we were' lady taking photos with a young woman who was her guide for the day.  We chatted for a bit and the guide asked what we were up to.  I replied that we were heading up to the Soda Spring, where we'd have second breakfast, and then come back down.  'Good on ya', she said after a moments thought. So here you see me contemplating my second breakfast.

The paths were well tended and a lot of effort was made to ensure that hikers are aware that the alpine ecosystem is fragile and that they should keep to the path.

We met a couple of lads on the trail and took turns taking photos of each other.  From our start in the morning, the weather definitely had turned colder and we were glad to be on our way down.  Only one of the guys in rather short shorts was doing the whole walk and looked woefully ill prepared, but he did seem determined.

New Zealand is quite creative when it comes to public toilets.  This was the first of many blog worthy bathrooms I have seen. : )  Picturesque and eco friendly to boot. BYOTP.

We did make it back to the beginning thoroughly tired and footsore.  It was only about 7 km return but it was the first long walk we'd done.

Back in the car we drove from the foothills of Mount Tongariro to the ski village in the clouds of Mount Ruapehu.  

It was memorable as a drive up into the clouds.

It looked like we had parked on the moon. We must have got out to look at something but I can't for the life of me remember what.  We then headed home for an early night and early start the next morning, west to Napier, famous for it Art Deco buildings and waterfront. 

For more information on the area - Tourist Tongariro, including info on LOTR filming in the area, and for Tongariro National Park information on tracks and conservation.