UA-31290512-1

Friday, February 12, 2016

New Zealand's Open Air Live Sculpture Event


New Plymouth’s 11k (~ 6 miles) Coastal Walkway
is inviting by design for both cyclists and walkers.
New Plymouth’s visionary Len Lye Centre (click here for that) was the nice surprise that landed us in the town, rather than bypassing it on our way to South Island.  Once there, New Plymouth’s award-winning Coastal Walkway looked like a better alternative for stretching our legs than the overcast skies over Mt Taranaki.

An extra bonus?








Passerby in New Plymouth stop in fascination to observe
this true open-air sculpture “studio.”

Couple sculptors move their work-in-process.
Our walk coincided with the every other year open-air Tekupenga sculpture auction.  Stone sculptors complete their creations in front of the public over a 6-week period in a section along the 11k Coastal Walkway.  At the end of 6 weeks, the sculptures are auctioned off.

Jennifer Corio – wouldn’t that be awesome if Vancouver Washington could pull that off?

A friend from Whangarei commented when we told him about our time in New Plymouth, “New Plymouth’s known for being a little… backward.”  Dunno.  The bit we saw struck me as being a bit forward thinking, especially for their innovative approaches to attracting tourists to their tiny town.


The dust flies as this sculptor in New Plymouth
does some serious grinding.

Sculptor smoothing his creation.

Sculptor assuming his unique work position in New Plymouth.
Leaving New Plymouth, we noticed a bit of blue sky peeking out around Mt. Taranaki's snow-dusted volcanic cone.  Undoubtedly there’s some climatic quirk that explains late afternoon clearing on an otherwise leaden day – at least I’d like to think it’s not just some malicious plot to mess with fair-weather tourists itching for a good long day track with a spectacular territorial view.  Maori myths claim when Taranaki conceals himslef in rainclouds he's crying for his love, the beautiful Pihanga, lost to Tongariro.


Lest you get the impression New Plymouth takes itself too seriously,
this mural’s weird whimsy will quickly divest you of that notion.
We drove up in time to catch a brief gander of Mt. Taranaki’s excellent and well-sited for the view Department of Conservation (DoC) park office. The DoC office closed at 4:30.  That gave us enough time to walk to some nearby lookout points and still make it back to our campsite with dinner done before dark. 

For visitors who love the great outdoors, New Zealand’s greatest treasures are its parks. New Plymouth may not be the main event in a New Zealand visit but offers from decent highlights if you’re passing through North Island’s Western side, though nearby Mt. Taranaki’s Egmont National Park is certainly worth a stop if your aim’s for enjoying the great outdoors.

 While New Plymouth was a nice diversion, Mt. Taranaki was enough to whet our appetite for spending more time there, preferably in more welcoming weather. 


Sadly, embarking on one of New Zealand’s multi-day park “Great Walks” isn’t likely to happen before we set sail, as there are so many other marvelous spots we also want to see before we leave.  It’s a nice problem.

Towering at 2518 meters (8261 feet), Mt. Taranaki in one of those rare moments it wasn’t bashfully hiding behind clouds. 
Technically still an active volcano, Mt. Taranaki's last eruption was in the mid 1800s.

Location Location
This blog post was written about New Plymouth New Zealand, which we visited early on in our 28-day New Zealand North to South Island and back road trip.  New Zealand is roughly 1,500 miles long, and our road trip left from North Island's Northland, and went to Bluff, New Zealand's Southmost mainland point.  


We returned to our boat in Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) February 7th, 2016 and are readying a few weeks of serious boat work in Riverside Marina, starting February 15, 2016.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Paris. Sydney. New Plymouth (New Zealand)?!?

Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand.  Significantly smaller
in stature than the Eiffel or Opera House, but arguably as iconic.

 Eiffel Tower (Paris).  Opera House (Sydney).  Len Lye Centre (New Plymouth [NewZealand]).

That’s the theory, or at least the hope behind tourist-hungry New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre's iconic architecture.



The interior space use of New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre is
as striking as the exterior.  Wayne, leaning against the wall
gives you a sense of the scale.


Ironic or deliberate, the contrast in style between the ultramodern
reflective, wavy surface of the Len Lye Centre and the town’s
adjacent classically designed clock tower is intriguing

In truth, our initial intent was to just pass through the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island on our way to scenic South Island, land of glaciers and fiords.  Christina, a local Kiwi and semi-retired schoolteacher at our campsite urged us to check out nearby New Plymouth, extolling its wholly worthwhile free attractions.  


Len Lye’s moving, “singing” sculptures were designed to be built
substantially larger than these sizable models in
the New Plymouth Len Lye Centre.  
Rather road-tripping substantial miles further Southbound that day, we decided to take Christina's advice and peruse New Plymouth, and spend another night at our nearby campsite.

Besides, when the weather's a bit iffy (and it was), when we have a choice, we lean more toward urban experiences rather than getting wet in the great outdoors.  After so much time sailing and in non-first world countries, these days city cultural activities are still novel experiences for us. 

New Plymouth is the primary town in New Zealand's Taranaki region (North Island's mid West Coast), with a population of over 50,000.  In recent years New Plymouth's invested heavily in making the town more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly, with an 11-km coastal walkway.  

Like many New Zealand towns which got their start in the 1800s, New Plymouth embraces its pioneer architecture, though in the case of New Plymouth, Len Lye Centre is a nod to a turn of the century, yet very modern Kiwi-born artist.  Len Lye created avant garde kinetic sculptures and stylistically influential films.


Era artwork captured underfoot and protected by
a glass top in New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre.
Brilliant!
Opened in July, 2015, Len Lye Centre is less than a year old, with free admission.  My guess is it won't remain admission-free, though for now it's a good way to get the word out.

The centre's architecture is unique, lending an energetic scale fitting for Lye's work.  While the museum is not that large, I enjoyed its wide open spaces, movement, and looking back at work that was ahead of its time.  If Len Lye was still alive (he died in 1980), I got the sense he'd enjoy moving through the space created for his work.


Len Lye’s influence carries through
New Plymouth’s shore side promenade with
this Len Lye designed wind wand.
While New Plymouth will not likely spring to mind as readily as Paris and Sydney, the Len Lye Centre is definitely an ambitiously iconic symbol for a town of a little over 50,000 residents in a country where sheep outnumber people 6:1.  It's well worth a detour of an hour or so if you're headed down New Zealand's North Island West Coast.  

We missed out on taking the extra time to visit the adjacent Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and opted instead for a leg stretch along a portion of New Plymouth's  excellent coastal walkway (watch for that in a future post).

With all the great expectations of New Zealand's better known tourist attractions (Franz Josef Glacier, Fiordland and Milford Sound, action-adventure-central Christchurch, Wellington's Te Papa), we're finding the little surprises like the less well known New Plymouth and its Len Lye Centre more enjoyable.  They're certainly less crowded!

From Whangarei, we drove to New Plymouth New Zealand after
first stopping outside Auckland, and Nikau Caves, as we
worked our way down to New Zealand's South Island.
Location Location
This blog post was written about New Plymouth New Zealand, which we visited early on in our 28-day New Zealand North to South Island and back road trip.  New Zealand is roughly 1,500 miles long, and our road trip left from North Island's Northland, and went to Bluff, New Zealand's Southmost mainland point.  
We returned to our boat in 
Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) a few days ago, February 7th, 2016

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

NZ “Fleurds” – Sheepish Or Not?

This flock of sheep blocked the road on our New Zealand road trip.
Is New Zealand sheepish?

While New Zealand does indeed claim more sheep than human residence (over 6 sheep for every one person) , with ~30 million of the former, 4.5 million the latter. Bovines also abound abundantly, with around 11 million (roughly 2/3 of those, dairy cows)*.

*According to Beef+Lamb New Zealand.


If you look closely, you'll note these sheep are being herded via ATV.
Nonetheless, it seemed we saw far more cows clambering New Zealand’s hills and dales than sheep.  Maybe it’s just because bovines are bigger and blend less into the hillsides than sheep.

Cows make more money, according to Kiwi self-proclaimed "fleurd” owner, Peter Kalb, whose day job is large animal – primarily livestock – veterinary service.  Peter and his lovely wife Ainslie graciously gave us a tour of their spread.  In fact, Beef + Lamb supports Petter's assertion.  They reveal per exported head of lamb ranchers earn ~$100/head, for cattle, ~$900.  

Part of Peter's "fleurd."  Peter's a New Zealand
livestock vet who also ranches.
Peter’s paddocks include a mix… deer, sheep, goats, with a spare steer or two in another paddock, and a few chook (chickens) and turkeys on the side.

“I don’t know why venison isn’t more popular,” (New Zealand ‘s livestock population includes ~1 million deer) pondered Peter.  “It’s much leaner.”  That night, however, Ainslie stuffed us with a delicious roasted lamb dinner.




There are several types of deer on Peter's ranch.
It’s getting folks past “eating Bambi,” I theorized, recalling the horror an Ozzie observed whilst I expressed that very analogy when I expressed my interest in trying – or in her words – “eating their national symbol” – a kangaroo*. 

*Found in South and Western Australia’s rural lands eating ‘roo “pests” was much more acceptable than in citified Melbourne.  Like London Broil, made correctly, ‘roo was lean and tender.  Cooked carelessly, it's rumored akin to shoe leather.

Peter's fond of this buck, whose antics will lead
to his role as a dinner guest in the not too distant future.
Once upon a time, New Zealand raised far more sheep, even as recently as 1982 there were 70 million sheep.  Surely with cheap synthetic alternatives to wool, and less interest in lamb steered ranchers toward moving more grasslands to cows.  Kiwis themselves eat nearly  three times as much beef as lamb.  








This loudly protesting cow seemed
none too pleased to be herded off the road.
Too bad.  In New Zealand I’ve learned to cook more lamb.  Click here (for a balsamic reduction lamb dish) and here (for a Mediterranean style lamb dish) my two favorite quick lamb recipes.

The other reason I can’t accept New Zealand’s “sheepish” status? (If you looked up "sheepish" in Merriam Webster's online dictionary, here's what you'd find.

Never have I seen as many “greatest” and “best” and “world famous” claims than here.  That includes New Zealand’s Bay of Islands as the “best cruising grounds in the world” (per Cruising World).  As good as New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is, I'd still challenge anyone who's sailed both there and the Pacific Northwest's Desolation Sound to definitively declare Bay of Islands the sure winner.

What do you think?


In the case of sheep though, I can certainly attest to some pretty tasty New Zealand lamb.  Best lamb claim, I would definitely buy.

After a month of road-tripping, we're back at our boat
in Whangarei New Zealand as of tonight!
Location Location
This blog post was written about our 28-day New Zealand North to South Island and back road trip.  New Zealand is roughly 1,500 miles long, and our road trip left from North Island's Northland, and went to Bluff, New Zealand's Southmost mainland point.  
We just returned to our boat in 
Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) today February 7th, 2016

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

NZ's Abel Tasman National Park - Brief Budget Blitz

Abel Tasman's Split Apple Rock made me yearn for my kayak.
Split Apple Rock Beach was one of Abel Tasman National Park's
less crowded beaches, maybe because it's a 15-minute
hike rather than a drive-up.
Abel Tasman, New Zealand's smallest national park, at 87 square miles, mostly reachable only by foot or boat, is impossible to fully appreciate in just an afternoon (we were staying in Upper Mouterre, about an hour's drive from the park), especially on a tight budget.









The shore cliffs at Abel Tasman National Park's Split Apple Rock Beach intrigued.


Still, Abel Tasman National Park was too pretty to not at least try.

We ruled out taking "a great walk" -- that's Kiwi for a multi-day hike.  They require reservation (limited amount of hikers for their predesignated overnight stops - mostly huts), preparation (reservation, equipment, conditioning) and time.  

Doing a drive and some short wanders of accessible areas fit our financial and time budget.







Tractors and and water taxis worked together to make
New Zealand's Abel Tasman National Park accessible
 for those who could afford it.
We stopped off where the water taxis shuttle tourists on a bigger budget than ours, and did the short hike to Split Apple Rock.

The area is known for its sunny skies, and our time there was no exception.  It made me long for my kayak, as many were about and the waters were quite clear.








This crowded camping just a few feet from the street is exactly why we didn't stay in Abel Tasman National Park.
Most of all, going to Abel Tasman is a bit like showing up hungry at a great restaurant with only enough cash for appetizers, surrounded by diners, feasting.  It's nice.  Quite satisfying, worth doing, yet at the same time makes you hungry for more.

River at Abel Tasman National Park - a playground.
Location Location
This blog post was written about our New Zealand South Island mid January road trip stops in Abel Tasman National Park.  We are currently in Picton, South Island.  Tomorrow morn we catch the early ferry back to North Island.  We're working our way back to our boat Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) targeting a February 8th arrival for a haul-out in Riverside Drive Marina.  Since we arrived on South Island a little over 2 weeks ago, we've put about 3,000 kilometers on our car (over (1800 miles).  And that doesn't even count North Island.  We didn't want to sail the Cook Straits, but Abel Tasman and the Marlborough area did make us wish we cruised there.

Cruising by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand.  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

NZ’s Most Mischievous Bird

Franz Glacier kea, New Zealand's mountain parrot,
pilfered apple in beak.
"Kea combine curiosity with calculated resourcefulness.  Once learned, they remember how to manipulate locks, draw back bolts and open doors to reach food…. The aviary kea throw stones to attract the keeper’s attention."
-Queen's Park aviary, Invercargill, New Zealand

Mine, this kea seems to say, with apple-icious satisfaction.








It was my birthday, and I’d just reached the trail’s end.  I gazed up at what is left of the most crowded New Zealand outdoor attraction, Franz Josef Glacier.  Honestly, considering the level of foot traffic popularity, I felt a little let down.  Guess Glacier National Park in the US, particularly Iceberg Lake, spoiled me a bit.


Apple gone, this kea was sussing out its next Franz Glacier target.
Suddenly, a whir of wings descended.  Their breadth seemed hawklike, as did the brown and white wing colors, accented with orange.

Then the body  -- a parrot sporting what looked like a middle-aged beer belly.  Its body movements were equally gawky*, moving in waddles and hops. 

*Caught on video -- will add a short clip later.

Awkward as it appeared, it was one canny bird.

Kea tackles a Franz Glacier hiker's unattended purse
in hopes of more food.
Quickly, it zeroed in on a woman eating and apple, and nabbed it.

Off it hopped, relishing its “catch” with great gusto.  Next it tried to charm another hiker out of his lunch.  No luck.

Off it hopped to a pile of purses, pulling at one with its beak, to no avail. 

Mountain parrot waddles swiftly across the parking lot in the rain
at The Chasm, Fiordland, Milford Sound.
Convinced no further booty abounded, it took off.

I’d met my first Mountain Kea.  Its antics made my day.

Fortunately, we discovered more since – or – rather they discovered us.

Despite the rain, in Milford Sound we were visited by Keas in two locations, both banded and numbered.

The first was at the Chasm, where it literally ran across the parking lot to check out us and the other visitors.  Unfortunately for that one, folks were more interested in taking photos than sharing food. 

This Milford Sound kea seemed as grumpy
about the rain as we were.
The second Milford Sound kea stopped by the same foxglove festooned alpine stream we did.  This one was a bit luckier as Wayne’s a sucker for feathered fellas and despite the warnings, can’t resist sharing his food with them. 

When we wandered through Invercargill’s Queens Park aviary, we weren’t surprised that the placard there extolled kea’s cleverness, calling them one of the smartest parrots.  “Who me?” the cartoon kea said, next to the note that mischievous keas threw rocks at the keepers to catch their attention.

While I’ve never had a pet bird nor had an urge for one, I confess, a kea would be cool.  Not sure, however, I’d like being outsmarted by a “birdbrain!”

"Who me?" quips the rock-throwing kea, after braining a keeper
at Invercargill to get her attention.

Location Location

This blog post was written about our New Zealand South Island late January road trip stops at Franz Josef Glacier in Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park and nearby Invercargill.  We are currently just outside Christchurch in South Island, working our way back to our boat Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) targeting a February 8th arrival for a haul-out in Riverside Drive Marina.

Cruising by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand.  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.