Seasons Greetings from New Zealand!
Christmas Eve finds me at a “Backpackers” hotel/hostel near the center of the north island near The Tongario national park where I hoped to do a 16km hike between two of the parks semi-active volcanoes. The weather is not cooperating at the moment with high winds, heavy clouds and rain in the mountains. A week plus into the second major road trip exploring the many charms of New Zealand everything from museums, geothermal pools, geysers, 2000 year old trees, gold mines tunnels, surf beaches, kiwi farms, Auckland city, a cheese factory, caves with glowing worms, cheap golf and amazing landscapes to name a few. Experiencing the amazing hospitality of some of our new friends with invites to BBQ’s, birthday parties and lodging. Tomorrow it’s back to Opua for a Christmas day diner at the Opua Cruising club
So far, settling into the convenience of marina life sure is nice with hot showers, the ability to simply step off the boat on to a dock and great sleep knowing I’m secure to a dock sure is a nice for a change! Real showers are at the top of my list after nearly 6 months without a really nice long hot shower. Usually, it’s just been a frugal sailor shower using only a gallon or two of water or just going for a swim with a rinse from the “solar shower” in the marginal privacy of the cockpit. Stepping off the boat on to the dock to jump on the bike for a ride or to simply go for a walk without the complication of running the dinghy to shore makes life so much more spontaneous.
It hasn’t taken long to get back into the swing of life ashore and I didn’t waste anytime getting some wheels. Finding a reliable car was easy with an abundance of imported used Japanese cars at really reasonable prices. The idea is that the cost of owning a car and selling it at the end of the stay will be a better value than renting a car for the same period. I ended up with a nice Honda that I expect to easily sell for close to what I paid. Buying the car was certainly easier than learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road especially after such a long hiatus from driving.
I’ll be calling the Opua marina located in the beautiful Bay of islands home base for much of my stay in New Zealand and the area can be likened in many ways to the San Juan Islands in Washington State. There are a few touristy towns interspersed between a modest sprinkling of vacation homes, forests and green rolling pastures making for pleasing back drop to the marina. The marina is about a ten minute drive from the nearest town and an hour from the nearest city making a car pretty essential as the public transportation is really limited.
The weather so far this spring has been similar to a Seattle summer with clouds, rain and some sun. The locals say this has been one of the colder winter/springs in recent memory and promise the weather will improve as summer progresses. I expected warmer weather and it’s been quite a rude shock having evening temps drop in to the fifties and day time highs reach only into the seventies after so many months in the perpetually warm tropics.
New Zealanders are a really friendly, easygoing people and as an example the local yacht club offers a temporary membership and encourages visitors to join in on the Wednesday and Friday night races. Planning to race La Vie at least once a week with a crew of yachties and new local friends. This local yacht club also hosted a thanksgiving diner just for the American cruisers and Christmas diner for all of us far away from our families.