Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Zealand, Epilogue

As we noted on the first page of the New Zealand portion of this blog, New Zealand had long been high on the list of places we hoped to visit someday.  It didn't disappoint.

Highlights included the often stunning scenery, the unusual plant and bird life and the accommodation NZ has made for outdoor oriented travellers like us.  Campgrounds are frequent, hiking trails abound and did we mention that public restrooms are everywhere? 

Perhaps most memorable of all though was the almost universal friendliness of the people.  Nowhere we've been before have so many people just come up to us and started conversations, often asking how our trip was going and if we'd been treated well.  There's a real sense of pride among the people in their country.

Note:  For those who have been following our blog and are interested in the more technical aspects of Minimus and the voyage from San Diego to French Polynesia, we will soon be publishing updates to the sailing pages on our website at:

Thanks, New Zealand!

New Zealand, 9-18-2017--Parakai to Auckland

On the last day of our trip we dropped the minivan off at the Auckland Spaceships location.  We can't recall ever having such a positive experience with a company as we did with Spaceships.  The van was well equipped and ran trouble-free throughout 3 weeks of driving extensively around both the South and North Islands.  More than that though, the people we dealt with were just outstanding. 

A good example is Vicki (pictured below) at the Auckland location.  She just couldn't do enough for us and everyone else who was either dropping off a van or picking one up.  Free wifi, free soft drinks, coffee and tea were all available, as was comfortable seating and a conference room.  She not only pointed out where the drinks were, but asked if she could make us coffee or tea. 

She also asked if she could call a cab for us to the airport, which was about 6 miles away.  When we inquired about the cost, she said "Oh no worries, that's on us."  At one point I (David) asked if she could be cloned as a model of customer service.  Everyone in the room heartily agreed.  

Vikki at the Auckland Spaceships Rentals

And the customer service didn't end there.  

Later that evening on the flight to San Francisco, we suddenly realized in considerable dismay that we'd left something important behind in the van.  On the sailing voyage we had a mascot, a stuffed Minnie Mouse doll that we'd come to have a significant sentimental attachment to.  Not only had Minnie accompanied us during the sailing voyage, but also during the NZ trip, where Pearl had perched her up on a curtain rod in the van.  When we cleaned out the van in Auckland, neither of us thought to look up and Minnie got left behind. 

When we landed in San Francisco the next day, Pearl's first task was to call the Spaceships company in Auckland.  Martin, the friendly fellow who'd originally helped us to make the van reservation answered and she explained the situation to him.  He said "Just a moment, love (he always called her 'love')." A couple minutes later he was back. "Minnie is sitting right here on my desk in her lovely purple dress." 

Needless to say, we were quite relieved and told him we'd reimburse him for his time and the postage to send her.  "No worries love, it's on us." he replied, reassuring us that lots of folks forget items and Spaceships is always happy to return them.  

Minnie arrived home yesterday and is now sitting above the table where we're writing this.  

Minnie keeps an eye on the blog.

New Zealand, 9-17-2017--Waipoua Forest to Parakai

Our trip around New Zealand was drawing to a close.  We would be flying out of Auckland the next day, so this day our main goal was to get close enough to Auckland to have a comfortable no-stress tomorrow.  Our last touring day ended with these encouraging messages... 

The Waipoua Forest Trust is a community-based environmental organization with a vision to create a mature kauri forest over the next 2000 years. 

Now there's some long-range planning!  

One of many kauri trees planted by the Waipoua Forest Trust.

New Zealand, 9-16-2017--Raetae Forest to Waipoua Forest

We camped near the Raetea Forest about 70 miles south of Cape Reinga.  The next morning we woke to find 3 other vans parked next to us.   

This fellow from England bought a van and then outfitted it himself.  This is a popular way to go for people planning to be in NZ for months rather than weeks.    

Even in the middle of nowhere, public toilets can be found. 

Rural scenery in the north half of the North Island. 
Tide flat near the head of Hokianga Bay.  Hokianga Bay is a long bay that cuts nearly halfway across the north part of the North Island.  It was one of the first places to be colonized by British settlers in the early 1800's.
Mangungu Mission, originally built in 1838.  In 1840, more than 70 Hokianga chiefs gathered here to sign the Treaty of Waitanga, which was to become NZ's founding document.  The signing took place in front of a crowd of over 3000 people, mostly natives.  

Not everyone was so sanguine though, as noted on a sign at the mission site (below).  

As Chief Te Taonui predicted, the native Maoris got short changed.  The only signs of poverty we saw in NZ were those like this dwelling in a nearby native village.

Calla lilly, a native of southern Africa, has naturalized in NZ and is a common sight in roadside ditches and swampy areas.  
Sand dunes near the mouth of Hokianga Bay.

Tide rips where Hokianga Bay empties out to the Tasman Sea.
Our next stop as we continued south was Waipoua Forest, home of the last big kauri trees.  These giants rival the huge California sequoias and are NZ's largest, though not tallest trees.

After nearly 200 years of cutting down kauri trees for lumber, the remaining trees are being rigorously protected.  Everyone entering or leaving the kauri forest passes through a shoe cleaning station like this one.  The object is to keep kauri dieback fungus from infecting the forest where the last big trees are. 

Tane Mahuta, the largest living Kauri tree in NZ.  The woman standing in the foreground gives some sense of the immense size of this tree.

"Tane Mahuta"  We just stood in awe looking at it.  

The vital statistics of Tane Mahuta. 

In the late 1800's, a kauri that was later consumed by fire was reported to have a base height diameter of 8.54 meters (28').  

Te Matua Ngahere, the second largest living kauri tree. 

Te Matua Ngahere's vital statistics

Looking up the trunk of a kauri tree, one can see why they were a sought after timber tree.  Not only did they yield long, straight lumber, but many of NZ's other trees are gnarly and not good for lumber.  As a result, kauri trees have been decimated in NZ.   
Although a conifer tree, the kauri has leaves rather than needles.

Jungle-like growth among the kauri trees.

Leaves of a silver fern tree.

Fern tree in the kauri forest.

Pearl cleans her shoes after a walk in the kauri forest.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

New Zealand, 9-15-2017--Matai Bay to Raetae Forest (north end of North Island)

Starfish in the sand at Matai Bay, Karikari Peninsula

Unidentified marine organism in a tide pool at Matai Bay

Matai Bay at the north end of Karikari Penninsula

Unidentified plant at Matai Bay

Olives are among the many orchards we passed on the Karikari Peninsula 

Daisies alongside the road on the Karikari Penninsula

Another sign that we're entering the subtropical region of New Zealand as we head north.
Pearl sits in the gnarly roots of a kauri tree.
Maruka Wood, the kauri craftsman at Awanui.  His showroom was filled with all manner of bowls, furniture and sculpture carved from kauri wood.

Maruka shared this photo of a crew digging up a buried kauri log.  These logs have been buried for anywhere from 1800 to 45,000 years.  Also known as swamp karui, they've been preserved because they were buried in an anerobic state in salt marshes. Cutting live kauri trees is no longer permitted, so these buried karui have become quite valuable.  

Large scale vineyard being planted.  The wind screens are a testament to the NZ wind.

Norfolk pines are a frequent sight on the North Island.  They're endemic to Norfolk Island north of New Zealand.

An extensive clearcut on the narrow peninsula that makes up the northernmost 50 miles of the North Island. 

Looking west toward 90 Mile Beach, a misnomer as it's only a bit over 50 miles long. 

Cape Reinga at the north end of the North Island

The usual signs to everywhere, this time at Cape Reinga

Looking north from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga

The view south from Cape Reinga along the west coast

New Zealand, 9-14-2017--Parua Bay to Matai Bay

The next morning we drove into Whangarei to see a friend we'd met back in the Marquesas Islands.  This photo along the downtown waterfront was taken early in the morning, but by mid-day it's a festive atmosphere bustling with tourists.  

One of innumerable boats along the Whangarei waterfront.  

We managed to find our friend Carl, whom we hadn't seen since the Marquesas.  It was fun getting filled in on some of the other sailors we know in common.
NZ's relatively new markets in China are changing the landscape.  Dairy cows are becoming as popular as sheep on the North Island to meet a booming Chinese market for dry milk.   

A 'dairy factory' 

NZ countryside as we head north along the northeast coast of the North Island.

The small town of Kawakawa's claim to fame seems to be its Hundertwasser Toilets, named for an eccentric architect who settled there.  Nothing unconventional about the plumbing or fixtures, but the building and decor certainly were.

Urinals at Hundertwasser Toilets.  

Would that every town would take such pride in its public toilets.  Not only posting information on toilet hours, but going the second mile to say where a toilet can be found after hours.  The rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do in this dept.   

I (David) got so caught up with the toilets I almost forgot to mention it was Pearl's birthday!  We celebrated with fish and chips...  

...and some bacon for dinner at the Kawakawa meat market.

At the Bay of Islands we stopped to see another of NZ's popular sailing areas.  

Bay of Islands

The day ends on a sweet note as Pearl again celebrates her birthday with a bakery treat we'd picked up earlier in the day.