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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NZ's Best Geothermal Attraction?

Hoestedder Cauldron steams at Orakei Korako, New Zealand
Lonely Planet New Zealand claims Orakei Korako is 'arguably the best geothermal attraction in New Zealand.'  These days I often find myself indeed arguing with Lonely Planet's conclusions, given how far they've strayed from their original budget-oriented roots,  However...

Given Orakei Korako was a mere 5-10 minute easy paddle across gem like Lake Ohakui from Rotota, I couldn't resist checking it out.  Besides, Orakei Korako featured most of my geothermal favorites.... cauldrons, geysers, vividly colored mineral pools, gurgling, bubbling mud pools and a well-maintained walk.  

Algae paints colorful streams at Orakei Korako.
Orakei Korako is missing cool bath areas, like a number of my old favorites in the Pacific Northwest like the delightfully quirky Bagby Hot springs and Breitenbush.  Then again, staying at Rotota, my needs in that area were more than well met.  Otherwise I might've urged Wayne to track down Kerosene Creek, a cool - well, hot - soaking pool in the Rotorua* area.

*On the way to Rotota, we passed through Rotorua aka "RotoVegas" given its touristy reputation.

Orakei Korako's trails enchanted me more than
its geothermal features wowed me.










While Orakei Korako is far from free at $34 NZD (about $20), unlike many other popular geothermal attractions, it's not stinky. 









The hour and a half walk -- less for those who take less time photo-taking than me -- was perfect for a sunny afternoon with nothing on my agenda.  The walk was easy, with broad boardwalks, some scattered steps and relatively gentle ups and downs.  The area oozes stunning primordial atmosphere, with lush ferns both underfoot and luxuriant palm-tree-tall varieties towering throughout the steaming rolling hillsides.
Mud pools - look cool and sound even cooler.
 Orakei Korako video forthcoming (eventually)

Closer view of the mud pool.
Ohhh they sound so cool as the bubble and pop!



Algae colors at Oraki Korako come in an array of startlingly
intense patterns in ochre, green, orange, red, vividly bordered in
contrasting browns, light grays and whites.

The clear teal of Orakei Korako's Soda Fountain captivated me
more than its mist.  Soda Fountain, like all the features here
and in Yellowstone were strictly hands off.  You'd boil alive.

Nonetheless, I can't honestly compare Orakei Korako to many other New Zealand geothermal sites because I haven't seen many.  What I've heard is Orakei Korako is one of the least commercial-touristy of the larger Kiwi geothermal sites.  From locals, I've heard Champagne Pools is one of New Zealand's other most worthwhile paid geothermal sites.







Orakei Korako's Map of Africa and Rainbow Terrace area.

I confess, if you can stand the hordes of tourists, of all the geothermal places I've visited, Yellowstone's tough to beat.  Like Yellowstone, as cool as geysers, naturally psychedelic mineral pools, algae and mud pools are, the less dramatic serene beauty of the less crowded places that seem to surround these sights (like the Beartooth Mountains outside Yellowstone) are more to my liking.

Still, if you're in the area (especially Rotota) and have the time and money, Orakei Korako's worth the time.

What's your favorite?  (Not counting active lava volcanoes.)

Panorama of New Zealand's Lake Ohakuri, as seen from geothermal attraction Orekei Korako, not far from Lake Taupo.
Red kayak on loan from Rotota, which I kayaked over to
Orakei Korako,to formally pay to enter their geothermal park via ferry.
Location Location
Our boat’s finally back on a pole mooring in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina (S35.43.412 E174.19.539), We've been road-tripping for the last several days, though by the time you read this, likely we'll be back aboard Journey.  At the moment, we're in near Cathedral Cove, in the Coramandel area.

Shag, also known as a cormorant, in the lily pads near
the Orakei Korako Cafe.



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).  Budget permitting, 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 Vanuatu then Australia.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia and return to work - somewhere. 





Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Zealand: Winner for the Flag Is…

Photo says it all - after the final flag referendum vote New Zealand is
retaining its current Union Jack flag.

Back when we first arrived in NZ, there was a special referendum to consider replacing the New Zealand flag. For more about the reasons proposed for changing the New Zealand flag, the process and the options considered, click here.

Yesterday, Kiwis placed their vote for whether or not to keep their existing Union Jack flag.

And the winning flag is….
Retaining the Union Jack over the silver fern on the New Zealand flag, by 56.6% to 43.2%.














Did the final result occur because


We’ll probably never know.

I confess to confusing the New Zealand and Australian flag, which to my untrained eye are pretty similar.  Would I be more inclined to move away from the Union Jack for a more independent identity?  Probably.

However I didn’t understand why a special referendum was run, rather than economizing on the vote by including the referendum voting process with something that already required the ballot process. There are a lot of extra costs associated by a separate vote, and the flag referendum required at least two of them – one to select the flags in the running, then one to vote between the final choice and the current flag.

Wayne said he thinks they should've gone with the Kiwi with the lasers.
(This one - which never quite made the running)
Uhhh, I don't believe he's serious.

Did I like the final new flag design better than the current flag?  No.  I liked the silver fern best for what it was best know for, set against black for the “All Blacks,” New Zealand’s world renowned rugby team, even though I’m not a rugby fan.

Would I vote against a flag just because of the process and any ill will I might harbor regarding John Key?  Probably not.

If it were up to me, I’m not sure what my vote would be.   


Meanwhile, the people of New Zealand have spoken. 

Journey's bow currently faces the night lights of Whangarei's
Town Basin bridge over the Hatea River.
Location LocationOur boat’s finally back on a pole mooring in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina (S35.43.412 E174.19.539), though by the time you read this, likely we'll be road-tripping down New Zealand's North Island for about a week.

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).  Budget permitting, 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 Vanuatu then Australia.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia and return to work - somewhere. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

NZ's Ultimate Road Food - the Not So Humble Pie

Mostly savory pies in this case in a bakery
in New Zealand South Island's Omaru.
What do you eat when you're cheap, road-tripping and want a hot little something to eat? 

Dig into New Zealand's hand-sized yet not-so-humble, ubiquitous and usually savory (rather than sweet) pie.  They're steamy-hot, and nearly always less than $5 NZD, or about $3.50 USD.  

Even the smallest towns, you can count on finding someplace that sells pies; even if it's the hot serving case at a gas station or small-town Four Square market.  If they carry only one item, it's pie.  Mince (that's hamburger to us from Stateside) or steak and cheese are the most common.







McDonald's gobbled up Georgie Pie's sites and their
Kiwi fans finally convinced them to reintroduce
them to their menu.

Even McDonald's New Zealand got into the act, though they did so kicking and screaming.  

Ironically, it all started when they gobbled up Georgie Pie, a proud Kiwi franchise that began specifically in 1977 to offer a better alternative to the big international fast food franchises like McDonald's.  McD's acquired them in 1996 primarily for their excellent locations, bid bye-bye to Georgie Pie, much to the disappointment of their fervent fans.

Finally, a Facebook campaign, "Bring Back the Georgie Pie" convinced McDonald's eventually, in 2013, to reintroduce Georgie Pies, albeit in a fairly limited fashion.


Savory New Zealand pie, "before."
I swung by the Kensignton Whangarei McDonald's to see what they offered.  "We only sell the bacon-and-egg or sausage-and-egg pie here in the morning," I was informed.  Ah... a bastardized egg McMuffin.  I passed.   

For the record, those that do sell the "real" (well, reformulated) Georgie Pies, they come in three savory flavors, steak, mince & cheese, butter chicken, and as well they also sell plum and custard.  I have not tried them, and probably will not.




Same savory pie, "during."  Oops!  Gooey, good, though.
Don't try this while driving!  (I didn't - thanks, Wayne)
I digress.... back to the ultimate road food experience....

The trick in eating New Zealand pie is not goobering up the car with gravy or crumbs when the crust is flaky.  Napkins are key, regardless of how neat an eater you may be.  The other trick us maintaining a non-slip yet oh-so-gentle grasp on your succulent little treat, while "delicately" slurping it up a like a big dog.

Meanwhile, my not-a-breakfast-person and also celiac husband kindly indulges my piggishness as the mouth-watering aroma permeates our car.  Friends Patty and Steve of Armagh introduced us to Jesters pies, who sell a several of their flavors in gluten-free versions.  Wayne finally got to try them.  Turns out, they're just not his thing.


Jester's New Zealand pie franchise includes some gluten-free
versions, though the texture is not as nice.
What's the best New Zealand pie?  According to New Zealnd Times, an annual Supreme Pie tasting that included 4,500 pies from 444 Kiwi bakeries, the winner is Viands Bakery, for the second year running.  Based in Kihkikihi. they aced the top spot with a Cointreau pie and also placed second in the seafood category with a scallop, shrimp and prawn with sweet chili and coriander (that's cilantro to most of us) pie.

Maybe I'll never get a chance to try New Zealand's best pie.  I'm okay with that.  Like pizza (and sex, claims my husband), believe New Zealand's not-so-humble-pies, are good, even when they're bad.  Fish and chips?  Well, that's another blog, but I am willing to agree to disagree when it comes to fast food faves.


Whangarei's Hare Krishna Cafe, next to the Saturday Grower's
Market, also sells a sort of pie.  Ironically, they are located
next to a Domino's Pizza.
Location Location
After undergoing much major and minor work, our boat’s finally back on a pole mooring in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina (lat/long in an update - forgot to bring it with me to the library where i'm currently drafting this post thanks to their free power and wifi). 

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).  Budget permitting, 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 Vanuatu then Australia.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia and return to work - somewhere. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

NZ Landlubbers: One More Night?

Wayne gives Journey, our Pearson 365
sailboat  one last look before she splashes
from Riverside Marina, Whangarei New Zealand.
New Zealand's Whangarei's Riverside Marina.... 

We thought we'd be ready to get Journey in the slings, ready to splash except some spot bottom anti-foul paint Monday night.  Then Tuesday night.  Wednesday morning, we slinged, painted, then splashed.  We were in the water by about noon, sitting pretty.

We figured we'd be off to our pile mooring in a day, or within close to 24 hours.  All we needed to do was make sure the engine was good to go, then load up all the stuff we stripped off Journey for her time time in the yard to make it easy to work on her, and to support our life in apartment while her galley cabinetry was disassembled and cut, the primary entryway made inaccessible most of the time and fiberglass and epoxy and other noxious chemicals abounded.




Journey back in Riverside Marina's
"engine bay" dock, after her splash.
Whangarei, New Zealand.
At 1:15, after a series of distractions, Wayne fired up the engine.  She started first click and practically purred.  Best she's ever sounded.

Wayne's cautious, and given the whole engine was pulled out, reworked, reinserted and rehooked up, he wanted to run the motor for 1/2 hour before considering it good to go.

First few minutes were great, but then there was lots of white exhaust and some disconcerting noises that convinced Wayne the engine was still not quite prime time.

A bit of consulting with RD Marine mechanics and there was agreement one of the four injector needed some work.  Off it went to the local diesel shop.  Cleaned and back. Still not right.  More work, back that afternoon.  Still not right.  A new tip for the injector is due in tomorrow.  

So, one more night, then tomorrow we're officially back aboard.  We think.

Whangarei apartment steep stairs.
They're more like a ladder.  Fun moving!
Other than the extra expense of staying in a marina rather than on a pole mooring and knowing we're potentially delaying some other cruiser in the queue for limited work space, we're not really complaining.

Much as we love cruising and exploring New Zealand, we've really enjoyed this short-term apartment.

Our rent was only $200 NZD/week (about $130 USD).  

Our landlord's incredibly nice and went out of his way to be accommodating - providing basic appliances we don't have on the boat (microwave, toaster, billy, standing fridge-freezer, 4-burner ceramic stovetop, convection oven) furniture (dresser, couch, wheelie office stool, computer desk, leather couch, dining table, tv trays) and arranged for us to coat-tail a flatmate's 100 GB/month wifi connection.  



Queen-sized inflatable bed in our Whangarei apartment.
Wow!  Legroom!  It's not shaped like a pie slice.
We bought a new queen-sized inflatable bed for ~$40 USD when our landlord's source for a regular king bed didn't work out and brought over our foldable chairs.

Raised shower.  Our friend
Steve said it was the perfect
place for a show.  He wondered
where the chair was.
The apartment entry was a large service room, with shower (endless hot water!), service sink, bathroom sink vanity and toilet.  The kitchen's huge with tons of cabinets, drawers, counter space and a double sink.  The alcove, a perfect dining area, made a great storage area for us, as we needed someplace to put all the stuff we stripped off the boat (sails, line, extension cords, camping gear, scuba equipment...).  There was a good sized bedroom, and a huge additional room, well lit from large windows, overlooking the street and Mt. Pakahara.  Throughout the apartment, you can walk with ease, swinging your arms without thunking into anything.

Freezer!  Good enough to store ice.  Wayne's favorite
feature in our Whagarei apartment.
It was a 5 minute drive to the boat or the take-off point for morning Mt. Parihaka hikes with the gals.  






Dusk highlights over the Z gas station across the street.

Across the street from a gas station, above a Chinese take-away restaurant with decent, cheap food.  For $10 NZD (about $6.50 USD) Wayne got enough fried rice with steak to eat for two nights, and my $12.50 (about $8.50 USD) chicken and veg stir fry was two meals for me.  Two grocery excellent stores were only about 5 blocks away.



Sigh.

We're still here, and there just a few things left to move, and I'm already in past tense.

We've gotten good at making a home, quickly, wherever we are.  Tomorrow, and we hope for a year or so more (budget allowing), home will be our Pearson 365 sailboat and its ~150 or so square feet of space with a practically endless backyard.  As well. for another month or so, home is also our car, a Toyota Caldina wagon, slogging its way up New Zealand's mountainous roads, loaded down with camping gear.

With both, we are fortunate to explore some awesome places, meeting some terrific folks along the way.  Certainly, we can attest to incredible Kiwi hospitality and look forward to ways to return it, and to pay it forward.  It's nice to feel "home" is as much or more inside us, as where we are at the moment.

Kensington, Whangarei apartment.  We're in the middle,
raised upstairs section, two left windows.
Location Location
Currently our boat’s in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), off its stilts, at the "engine bay" dock. after undergoing much major and minor work.  We've been living in an apartment in Whangarei's Kensington neighborhood, moving fully back aboard tomorrow. Maybe.


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).  Budget permitting, 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 Vanuatu then Australia.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia and return to work - somewhere. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Splash? Amphibious Return.

"W
"Before" Journey's engine out for
convenience and maintenance.
e should be out in two weeks," Wayne predicted, optimistically, regarding our time "in the yard" for boat maintenance and repair.  "Maybe four."


Pragmatically, I figured on four, maybe more.  Ironically, Wayne is usually more the cynic and worrier, and I'm usually more the optimist.

We arrived at Riverside Marina March 15th to tackle an ambitious series of boat work projects.  Normally, arrival in a boatyard for us means hauling the boat out, but opted to get started from the engine bay, a fancy name for a dock that's near the marine mechanics.





New, custom-made fuel tank, painted by Wayne.  That he was
able to get back in "more easily" while still in the engine bay.
How to lift an engine into a boat "on the hard"?  By crane!  Wayne's
climbing into the v-berth hatch as the companionway ladder
main cabin entrance is the area the engine comes down.
There our most challenging work began

Wayne, guiding the engine in from the boat side of the crane.
Slender, flexible  Byron was also instrumental in part of the
several hours it took to get Journey's engine back inside.
See how pretty our Pearson 365's Westerbeke 40 looks now?


We also planned on the usual stuff most cruisers do in a haul-out

  • prepping our hull for a fresh anti-foul
  • applying the anti-foul


Relatively unique to our boat

Our Pearson 365's new custom-made
stainless steel engine drip pan.  Spndy!
Our opportunistic list (just a few of the items on our list)....
  1. rebedding stanchions and windows to stop leaks
  2. replacing a recently cracked window in our v-berth
  3. adding a catch tray below our engine to contain normal oil drips
  4. professionally cleaning all our boat's upholstery and bedding
  5. De-rusting the stainless

Then came the surprises

  1. Very, very bad surprise:  fixing a big, rotted hole in the bottom of our boat -- we had no idea it was a time bomb waiting to reveal itself once our boat rested its weight on the work yard stands
  2. Very good surprise:  we thought we'd have to replace our prop shaft and found out we didn't. 
  3. Dodged bullet:  by pulling the engine, Wayne spotted a nearly disintegrated raw water engine cooling hose, which could've caused serious engine issues if he hadn't caught it when he did.  It took removing the engine to see those hose's rotted underside.

Raw water engine cooling hose rotted out on the bottom.
Looked fine on the top.  Replaced, now with new hose.
This morning, one month after we arrived at Riverside Marina, Journey's set to splash.  Just prior, we'll spend a few hours in the Travel Lift sling, just enough time to slap on a few coats of anti-foul plaint in the places we were unable to while it was one the stands in the yard.

Then, drum roll, Wayne starts the motor!

Once that happens, we'll move all the stuff we stripped off the boat to make it easy to work on, back.  
Fiberglass hole fixed plus some keel improvement.  Bottom paint
and boot stripe newly applied over it.  Journey's ready to splash!

It will be a long, busy, day.

The following day, we move back aboard.  Wayne and I were both wrong; we'll have spent a month in the boat yard, though technically, not all of it "hauled out."

Wish us luck!


Last night in "our" Whangeri Kensignton  apartment, the left
two windows in the higher middle portion.  Gonna miss it!





Location Location
Currently our boat’s in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), about to move off its stilts, after undergoing much major and minor work.  We've been living in an apartment in Whangarei's Kensington neighborhood while the boat's "on the hard," moving back aboard in a day.

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 Vanuatu then Australia, where we plan to sell our boat and return to work. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Feel Lucky?

Bold graphics at Auckland Museum's special volcanoes exhibit.
Visiting WA State friends Katlin and Gary hail from
Mt. St. Helen's volcano territory.
"Right now, you are standing on the rim of a volcano.  Do you feel lucky?" - teaser from Auckland War Memorial Museum's special volcano exhibit.

This sizzling exhibit drives the point home that Auckland - and much of New Zealand - was formed volcanically, by still-active volcanoes.









If the signs didn't grab your attention,
this lava flow model will!
Ironically, our volcanic museum tour was prompted by visiting Vancouver Washington USA (aka "the other Vancouver") friends, Katlin Smith and Gary Kokstis.   Figuring prominently in the display, is the relatively recently erupted volcano (May 18, 1980) from our "backyard," Mt. Saint Helens.  The St. Helen's focus centers on the human response to the those caught in that eruption.

What makes the Auckland Museum's exhibit particularly interesting is its multi-sensory approach, and thought-provoking use of multimedia.  

A realistic-looking towering model of a lava flow encasing a home greets you just inside the exhibit's entrance.  







My basalt "rock music" audio coming later.
A simulated newscast, featuring an interview with a volcanic expert covers the scene using modern assessments taken from data about Auckland's volcanic potential, accentuated by the kind of public behavior often exhibited in natural disaster evacuations.

Videos graphically show both the theoretical dynamics of volcanic eruptions, interlaced with imagery of actual eruptions.

Various volcanic rocks are displayed for touching, and lifting.

You're encouraged to make your own "rock concert" by striking basaltic stones for a range of tones.

"Dino" was discovered by volcanologists
who monitor New Zealand's volcanic
activity via camera.  One of the
ighter-hearted displays.
If the curators figured out an appealing way for visitors to smell and taste it, they likely would.  However, sulphuric and poisonous gasses likely wouldn't draw rave reviews, nor is volcanic ash a tasty treat.
Auckland Museum's false calm in its volcanic living room.

The coup de gras is the faux Auckland living room setting, likely inspired by the Mt. St. Helen's Coldwater Lake interpretive center.  

The exhibit coyly waits to strike... literally jolting you with its message; newscast warnings that it's not possible to "outrun" a 100 km wave of lava.  You eventually notice your lovely view of Auckland's waterfront begins steaming, and after that, the action becomes truly explosive.



The Auckland Museum "living room" view is no longer benign!
If you see this coming your way in Auckland,
it's already too late to react!
Auckland's  last volcanic eruption was 650 years ago.  Historically, there's eruptions every few thousand years.  

When will the next one be?  

No one knows.  

Exiting this powerfully deft combination of the science and human experience instills a sense of wonder, awe and some serious considerations regarding emergency preparedness, just in case.  No wonder -- the exhibit is sponsored by the Earthquake and War Damages Commission (EQC).  

After all, if Auckland experiences an eruption, "feeling lucky" will be as likely as surviving Detective Callahan's (Clint Eastwood's) ire in "Dirty Harry."  Considering that one of the highlights of our trip to Galapagos was hiking the steaming rim of Sierra Negra, which last erupted as recently as 2005, and that we also enjoyed the still-active volcano walks along the volcanically heated trail of Hawaii's Big Island, as well as "Soufreres" in St. Lucia and Martinique... in I guess we do feel lucky (and that likelihood is we'll "go" in other far more mundane ways).  

Nevertheless, kudos to the folks at Auckland War Museum on their unforgettable effort.  

We spent several hours exploring Auckland War Museum.  The first two floors
focus on culture and nature.  The third floor focus on war, primarily New Zealand's
involvement in WWI and II.
Location Location
We may be as little as 1-2 days away from "splashing" (getting off the stands, "on the hard" in Riverside Marina) in Whangarei (S35.43.674 E174.20.17).  We need to test-drive a few things there first, like making sure our engine actually works with our boat in the water.  Then we'll return to our pole mooring in Whangarei Town Basin Marina and resume more land-based travels until we jump to Fiji.

Cruising by the Numbers
From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Jacksonville Florida to Opua New Zealand, Bay of Islands.  Since sailing from Bay of Islands to Whangarei in January, we've mostly explored New Zealand by land.  We'll resume serious cruising once cycle season ends, sometime between April and May, budget permitting to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Australia, where we plan to sell our boat.