New Zealand – Feb – March

In February most delightfully, Wendy joined me again for a month, we planned a road trip in the camper van and to do some walks. We did not have much luck with the weather as the day after she arrived it rained and rained for the next 4 days, the tail end of a cyclone sweeping over NZ. It turned out that by the time I left 3 cyclones hit NZ, an unprecedented number this year. We had wanted to spend time in the Coromandel but the weather forecast was bad for North Island for weeks so we headed south where the weather promised to be better. It was not much fun driving down to the ferry at Wellington with the rain and mist and no views to be had but once across to Picton we had sun again. Did a lovely walk out to the end of The Snout, a long peninsular that stretches out from Picton into Queen Charlotte sound.

The Snout, Picton

Heading further south we stopped off at Kaikoura and had another delightful walk around the peninsular there.

Kaikoura penisnsular

We were heading for the Mt Cook area and another long drive took us via Fairlie across to Lake Pukaki and up it with the views getting better and better

Lake Pukaki

before arriving at the DOC campsite at the foot of the Hooker Valley.

Mount Cook
On the Hooker Valley track

It was a beautiful afternoon with no clouds so we grabbed the opportunity to walk the Hooker valley track up towards Mt Cook. A brief visit to the Tasman glacier next day and then we started to head over to the west coast. You have to head a way south and cross the Lindis Pass before you can turn west but the views over the lakes you pass are wonderful and we stayed by the side of Lake Wanaka, just a bit spoiled by the gale force winds we were experiencing.

We hit the west coast at Hasst, it really is the wild west out there and Haast a tiny little place. Unfortunately the weather was not good when we past by Fox glacier and Franz Joseph glacier areas with rain & the clouds very low so we pressed on up the coast to Greymouth

The weather news was that cyclone Gita was headed for NZ and on track to hit the top of south island on the day that we were booked on the ferry  back to North Island. We managed to change our ferry booking and hunkered down in Greymouth, staying in a holiday studio whilst the Cyclone passed over. It was nice to have a bit of luxury and it proved a wise decision as the road south of Greymouth and Fox glacier area  was cut off, there was extensive flooding and a camper van was rolled on the road.

Once Gita was past we headed on up to Nelson here we visited WOW, the museum of wearable art, walked up the hill to the centre of New Zealand and swam on the beach. We took the very scenic Queen Charlotte road which followed Pelorus sound and the Queen Charlotte sound back to Picton and the ferry back to Wellington.

Queen Charlotte sound

One of our big wants was to walk the Tongariro Alpine crossing and it looked like we had a small window of opportunity to do that so we drove up to Turangi. Early next morning were were picked up by the shuttle and taken to Mangatepopo for the start of the walk. It turned out to be a beautiful clear and sunny day but with a cold wind, but it is an amazing walk passing the volcanoes and craters.

 

Tongariri alpine crosssing
Tongariri alpine crosssing

Next day the cloud was down and there were no shuttle buses running so we really had managed to grab the chance.

On to Taupo and then to Rotorua, the campsite here having pools with volcanic heated water

The Te Puia geyser at Rotorua thermal park was another must see, it was a grey drizzly day but it didn’t matter so much, the geysers, the bubbling mud, the hot rocks were all worthwhile.

Te Puai geyser

The weather looked liked remaining wet and cold up on the plateau so we headed off to Whakatane. The weather precluded a boat out to White Island, NZ’s most active volcano,  but we did a great walk from Whakatane Heads along the coast to Ohope.

We revisited Mount Maunganui as earlier in our trip it had rained nonstop there, this time we walked up the mountain for great views and also walked around it.

On to the Coromandel where we did the short walk to Cathedral Cove, a popular spot this, but lovely despite the crowds.

Cathedral Cove

Escaping the crowds we visited the beautiful and deserted Otama beach, a beautiful place for a swim and then to the more popular but still fairly quiet New Chums beach

Otama beach

It was time for Wendy to return to UK  so we had a last day in Auckland to walk up Mt Eden and visit the art gallery. We had driven about 4,500 kms in  the camper van in our month together and we had had a wonderful time despite the weather.

Mt Eden thats how far I have come as crow flies but longer than that by sea

With Wendy’s departure I drove back up to Whangarei and next day I moved Sea Bear to Riverside Drive marina for a lift out. I spent a few days laying up Sea Bear then caught a plane back to UK. I have things I must do back there and it will be good to catch up with family and friends.

The haul out

I cannot pretend that the trip across the Pacific, single handed with all the reefs, squalls, storms and big seas did not take it out of me a bit. Yes I had some delightful times, some wondrous experiences but I don’t deny I found it hard at times.

I have decided to have a break from sailing for a while whilst I decide what to do next but will return to Sea Bear in due course, meanwhile this will be my last blog entry until then.