Where are we

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.

Friday 6 November 2020

West Haven Marina, Auckland

We've been out and about more recently as the weather gets warmer (we haven't had to put on the heater in several weeks) and more settled. Today, however, it is blowing a gale but we are all snugged up in West Haven Marina.  We had a short walk yesterday along a small part of the marina board walk and hope to see more of Auckland tomorrow.  The marina is huge.  With over 2,000 boats it is the largest marina in the Southern Hemisphere.

Right now, dockside, it is a huge construction site. They seem to be updating the boardwalks and entry gates to the pontoons for when New Zealand hosts the 36th Americas Cup.

While anchored in Putiki Bay, Waiheke Island we saw two of the Americas Cup yachts training. They aren't yachts as we know them and have things like 'foils' that lift them above the water.

I did wonder if they are out yesterday because it really is blowing a gale and I can prove it. :)

This is our electronic barometer.  One of its useful facilities is to beep until acknowledged when the pressure has dropped fast enough to indicate a gale in the next few hours.  Just in case you need an extra reminder, there is the image of a sailboat being blasted by gale force winds.

Weather reporting is quite good here and it needs to be as things change very quickly. One of the apps we use is called MetService and it's very comprehensive.

Another safety feature we have is our Anchor Alarm, which is part of our AIS (Automatic Information System).  AIS is used to keep track of marine traffic (and even the odd low flying helicopter) in our vacinity.  We also use it to let us know if we 'drag' when at anchor.

Whenever we drop the anchor, we 'Set' the anchor's location in AIS and let out the amount of anchor chain needed for the depth of water and conditions. 


All the little dots you see are where Larus has been since the anchor watch was set.  We move around the anchor because of changes to wind and current.  It earned its keep recently as we dragged (the anchor moved from where we had put it) and let us know with an alarm.  Sometimes we get an alarm because the chain is just straightening out or the anchor wasn't on the bottom (it is hard to tell) and we were still drifting when Tim hit the 'Set' so the anchor position isn't exactly where the anchor actually is.

It was a odd situation because we shouldn't have dragged at all. The wind was light, there was little current, but we did seem to have moved a couple meters when looking at the yachts near us.  Rather than re-anchor, we opted to let out more chain and that was the last we heard from the alarm.

When we did finally haul up the anchor to leave, Tim found this knot of rope and net fouling the anchor. So no blame to our Rocna anchor.  We do love the New Zealand made Rocna that we bought here about a year ago, but not quite as much as our Spade anchor, which stowed on our bow roller perfectly.

It was interesting that the Rocna was VERY reasonably priced here, while a Spade anchor was REALLY expensive.  When we were in the UK, Rocna was an expensive exotic and the Spade quite reasonably priced.

We have been an number of place before leaving the Whangarei area.  We spent time in McLeod Bay and, an old favourite, Urquhart's Bay.

In Urquhart's Bay we met up with Shirley on Speedwell of Hong Kong.  

We met Shirley in Trinidad several years ago.  She is a sailor's sailor and sails for the love of it, which is just as well as 26" Speedwell of Hong Kong, with her junk rig, averages about 3 knots. She was once given up as lost but arrived after 3 months at sea. Kudos, Shirley.

We called in on Shirley to see if she wanted to walk the Smuggler's Bay Loop Track.

She did. The walk takes you out around one side of the headland via Smugglers Bay and then down to the bay through rolling pastures.

 You can see lots of young cows, then Larus, the first boat from the beach, and behind her is Speedwell.

Early the next day, Shirley headed for Great Barrier Island.

We followed Shirley to Great Barrier Island a few day later. The forecast had better wind and we suspected that Shirley might have taken over 24 hours to do the short day sail.

We headed back up the river for a days car hire. Once the important stuff was done we went for a drive.  I thought I could navigate us up the east coast without a map to a little sea island village. Laura and I had the best chips/fries both regular potato and kumara/sweet potatoes.  It turns out I couldn't, but we did find Pataua. We had a walk along the sea side beach, which carried on into the bay and made for a sheltered beach front.

The current rushing in under the foot bridge was quite unexpected as the tide was supposed to be going out. That's still main land on the far side but it would be quite a long drive to get to the roads, houses and baches there.

Inside the bay with Tim in the far distance. 

A panaroma of the bay.  It's quite swallow with many sand bars exposed at low water.

A glorious display of nasturtsiums.

Whangarei Heads, which encompasses both bays and quite a few others, is well known for the Whangarei Heads Walking Tracks.

From McLeods Bay, Tim did the Mount Manaia walk.

The view was spectacular though. Larus is anchored in the bay under cloud. The view looking to the top of Mount Manaia was equally impressive. 

We have now visited Great Barrier Island twice and it always seems a little rushed and I have few photos of any note. It is a lovely island of lots of anchorages and walks.

Most memorable for me was stopping to talk to a hobbyist bee keeper. He was a South African who had lived many years in NZ.  We talked about the effect of last years drought on the bees - bees were unable to produce enough honey to support them through the winter.  Their bee management needs some looking at as anyone can move, say, 300 hives into an area whether or not there are the plants to support them. Great Barrier Island is pretty remote so he might be safe for a while.  I also learned that there are manuka and kanuka trees which have different sizes blossoms, flower at different times, and one has a rough and flaky bark.

This photo is looking out of the last anchorage on Great Barrier Island toward the Cormandel Penninsula.  The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa. The most popular translation usually given is 'long white cloud' and its easy to see why. They are everywhere.

This was our route down to Waiheke Island where we visited with friends for Tim's from his Iluka days. It was just a short hop from there to Auckland.
Back in Auckland, today unlike yesterday when I started this blog, it has been dry and mild and we took advantage of that to check out the chandleries, see some sights and get a bit of shopping in. 
And we did it on electric scooters and bicycles.  You download an app to your phone which shows you were the nearest scooter/bike is.  You scan the bar code on it and you have half an hour to use that particular scooter, as the idea is that it is used for short trips. You log off your scooter you get there and log on to a new scooter or bike when you are ready to go again.  It's a pretty good idea but i wasn't hugely confident on the scooter so switched to a bike for subsequent trips, despite the seats being viciously painful to sit on.  That might be so people just use them for short trips. I felt like I'd been riding all day after just a couple minutes.

This was my first and last scooter ride. I just could not relax. I love the Maori design of the pedestrian/scooter/bike area near the city docks. 

Tim scooting quite happily on the boardwork from the marina towards the city centre.

Almost all of central Auckland and the docks were under construction. 

As per the Prada website - It all begins with the America's Cup World Series Auckland between 17 - 20 Dec 2020 followed by the PRADA Cup from 15 Jan - 22 Feb 2021 and the 36th America's Cup Match from 6-21 March. 

Today is the 6th of November and the 17th of Dec seems awfully close.  I wish them the best of luck to complete the construction work in time.  It will be spectacular, I'm sure.

Tomorrow morning we are heading our very early to start back up to Whangarei as we have packages to pick up and more shopping to do.  Shopping up north is much more reasonable!


Friday 16 October 2020

Spring update

Hello.  All is still good with us.  We are back down in the Whangarei area for dental stuff, outboard repairs and provisioning.  Our Covid Level is back down to Level One across the country and there are no cases in the community.  We hope you can all keep safe and well where ever you are.

Blogger recently changed its format and photos are handled differently.  I can no longer 'drag and drop' whatever I fancy where ever I fancy, but I'm coming to grips with that.  I have chosen to post medium sized photos because if they are too large it makes adding text very slow.  All photos can be viewed in full size by clicking on them.

Sept 11 - We head north for Cape Karikari after a quick stop in Paihia for a few provisions. 

Just before Cape Karikari are two bays, Maitai Bay and Waikato Bay and we spent a couple days there with the anchorage to ourselves.  

With quite a lot of swell in coming into the bay, we anchored in behind Takini Point.  

We rowed ashore and rolled the dinghy high up the beach.  Much of the land surrounding  the bay is Maori and we are only allowed access to the beach. This 'lobe' of the bay above is the only area where fishing and collecting shellfish is allowed.

The walk around the bay was made up of long slices of beach with wonderful rocky outcrops. The tide coming in and going out has filled crevasses between rocks with small smooth stones.  It looked like a man-made path through a very rocky rock garden.

The sun is very low in the sky here still. It makes very dark shadows in photos and its hard to come to a balance with lighter shadows without washing out the photo.  That problem doesn't hide the clarity of the water.

Someone had been having fun earlier in the day.

Long ago I read (and reread) a book called 'The Bone People'  by New Zealand writer Keri Hulme. Baches were often mentioned, but not explained and I was never sure exactly what they were. 

These Baches (interesting link!) probably have a much better view of the bay than we had of them, but I liked the way they peaked out over the dune.

The path from Waikato Bay and Maitai Bay.

They really know how to 'do' beaches here in New Zealand.  With the tide out, there was a lovely spot of flat hard sand sheltered by rocks that would have been a magical place for a bit of yoga. Maybe next time once it warms up a little more. 

From the beach we could see two blue pouwhenua over looking the bay.  They are used to mark boundaries or places of significance.

The sea viewing pouwhenua were carved on one side to look like sea monsters.  These were very unlike any we had seen before.  

If they turned their heads to the right, they would look out over Waikato Bay.

The inland facing pouwhenua were carved to look like women in traditional dress. Both sides were very different from those we had seen before.

We often see Oystercatchers and Dotteral but not their nesting grounds.

And back we go to Larus. 

Sept 14 and 15 - Mangonui Harbour

We had a wonderful sail across Doubtless Bay and arrived in time for a walk into the town.

I was rather surprised to find that we only took one photo of our short time in Mangonui, and this is it -  the town Penguin Crossing sign.  We knew there were penguins in both the North and South Islands of New Zealand but hadn't run across any, probably because we didn't know where to look of what to look for.  Just before leaving Paradise Bay, we had met up with a boat we know called Ponyo. They told us how to tell Little Blue Penguins from Sooty Shearwaters.  Both birds float low in the water and look quite similar and black in the low sun, but if it swims away its a penguin and if flies away its a shearwater.  'No kidding,' might well spring to mind but penguins are usually seen in groups of three, and shearwaters in groups of hundreds.  

Now that we know what to look for we have seen less than ten penguins and thousands of shearwaters.

View a nest live stream and learn more about the world's smallest penguin - Little Blue Penguins at The Department of Conservation - Te Papa Atawhai .  Its a great site and you can even find out what to do '...if you don't want noisy penguins nesting under your house.'

We planned to do more walks, take more pictures but it was not to be.

We now know that Mangonui Harbour isn't suitable in unsettled weather.  The harbour is small and the anchoring is very limited.  We spent an uncomfortably bouncy night when the wind direction changed and blew straight into the harbour against the tide.  The next day we decided to try farther into the harbour. We found a spot just out of the channel but the holding was so poor, the mud bottom so soft, that the anchor never dug in and just slid right through it.  After the third attempt we bit the bullet and re-anchored where we had spent the previous night.

We left the next morning for Whangaroa Bay.  It was on this leg of the journey that we spotted our first penguins.  There were three, as expected, and they just paddled on past looking like any small dark (with the sun behind them) water bird.  We now know what we are looking and hope to see more once we are back out sailing.

We met up with two boats we are very friendly with, 'Into the Blue' and 'A Capella of Belfast' and had a nice get together that evening on Into the Blue - blue hulled boat below.

The next morning, the beautiful bay we were in had disappeared.  There was no wind and heavy fog.  

So we out our dinghy on a long lead and headed out of the bay.

Even as we left the fog had started to lift.  We motored around to a bay we had visited before with the idea of staying over night, but with perfect wind and only a 5 hour sail back to Paihia, we anchored for lunch, take the outboard off, put the dinghy on the deck and arrived in time for dinner.