Ahhh Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, where men are men and short shorts and gumboots, (that’s Wellies , Galoshes or botas de aqua for some) aren’t restricted to Glanstonbury attendees! Yis, New Zelund, more specifically Northland and The Bay of Islands, are some of the most spectacular cruising grounds we’ve seen so far. Visually, I’m not sure I could want for more, (well the odd snow capped mountain wouldn’t be bad…). There’s rolling green hills complete with a smattering of sheep, lush, cool dark green bush full of Panga’s, (tree ferns) Flax and Cabbage Trees and the odd Eucalyptus grove to make me feel at home.
I like trees, I always have and the Pohutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree, has become my new favourite. When we first arrived these beauties were on the verge of flowering and over the past month the coastlines have been covered in an explosion of brilliant red. The trees themselves can be huge, with low-lying branches that spread in all directions making them a tree climber’s paradise, (I may know 2 small people that have been monopolizing on tree climbing opportunities!).
The bays and beaches are spacious yet intimate and largely empty- apparently that’s about to change, but for the most part they’ve been pretty ‘light-on’ people wise. Then, there’s the walks- I really could go on and on about the walks but perhaps I should let some pictures do the talking for me. Let me just say, vast, views and variety! Along with the natural beauty of the place, people have been wonderfully friendly, the supermarkets an absolute joy to wander around, (they have a basket of fresh fruit available at the entrance for children to munch on whilst you shop) and for two dollars, (at the marina) you can have a 5 minute shower with continuous hot water, (it’s the little things but my goodness what a luxury that has become). There is a catch, it’s VERY green around here for a reason and the water is somewhat cooler than we’ve become accustomed. Luckily, we aren’t made of sugar and we all have a wetsuit!
The last month or so has flown by and in true Mottl form we’ve been quite busy. Seb and I celebrated our birthdays, we’ve reconnected with dear friends, undertaken boat maintenance involving hauling out and antifouling the hull, had two sets of guests on board, I’ve had a 10 day trip to Melbourne to see my family and to top it all off an ambulance ride to the local hospital with Seb for a suspected concussion! Yep, never a dull moment you could say.
Being up on the hardstand was something new I have to say. We stayed on board whilst doing the work, using a big long ladder to get us from the boat to the ground. It’s certainly a bit unnerving looking down and seeing stones and ground beneath you instead of water- ‘be careful what you wish for’ crossed my mind more than once for those few days. Being in the yard itself wasn’t too bad. I was regularly amused by the passing traffic, (other people in the yard doing the same thing) wanting to see what propeller we had or commenting on our ‘bottom’ and how clean she was when she came in. There was a steady stream of questions and banter that made the cleaning and sanding, then the rolling of paint onto the bottom of a boat whilst standing on the ground somewhat more compelling…
We had a fantastic introduction to Kiwi culture early on, (apart from the visions of men in gumboots!) which we shared with The Mighty Sapphire crew. Their plans changed, (a common occurrence for anyone with a boat) and they came to stay for 4 days. We toured the Waitangi Treaty Grounds learning a lot more about the history of the country than previously known. We wandered around “Romantic Russell,” once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific, hiked some islands and watched a film called The Hunt for the Wilder People- well worth a watch if you like something a bit quirky, (you will find it hard not to quote choice lines from it at appropriate moments).
So what comes next for SOL and her crew? Well, it’s a legitimate question and one that’s occupying quite a bit of brainspace. We’re currently on our way down the coast for Christmas with some very special friends just outside of Auckland. We’re still meeting fantastic people along the way and hoping to catch up with more friends over the summer. Just a few nights ago we were in the middle of what one might call an in-depth discussion about the next step- I’m sure my husband has another name for it, but lets just call it that. There wasn’t much progress being made and I was getting, dare I say it… EMOTIONAL. We were interrupted by a very strange sound, almost like someone unloading something beside us. We crept up on deck to find that the unloading sound was the exhaling of a pod of very large dolphins rounding up their dinner. There was complete darkness and once our eyes adjusted you could see them in the phosphorescence. I caught a glimpse of a fin as one swam across the moonbeam but other than that there was just a lot of blowing and slapping and flashes of light. Mike had woken Lilly and we sat up on deck snuggled in our sleeping bags to marvel at this natural spectacle. Discussions were postponed for a more civilized hour and a more rational time of the month…
Watch this space.
It’s almost time for cookies, carrots and milk and we can hardly believe that a year ago we were in Las Palmas not having crossed the Atlantic, not having crossed much in actual fact. What an incredible amount can be done in a single year! We’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy healthy and safe New Year.
For now this is Slice of Life ignoring ‘what comes next!’