Blog Posts

Lockdown in New Zealand

Self isolation on the boat

By now I had planned to be back home in UK but I found myself trapped in NZ with the lockdown.

Corona virus pandemic was starting to grip the world and the NZ government was taking early and tough measures, announcing self quarantine measure for arrivals in NZ and soon following up with a ban on non New Zealanders arriving in the country. At this stage there was only a handful of cases in NZ and with the testing programme they knew that all the cases were people who had come to NZ from infected areas. As soon as there were two cases that they thought might be from community transfer they announced a level 4 lockdown. All cafes & resteraunts and shops apart from supermarkets closed and all business to close. Everyone to stay at home in their own bubble and with no non-essential travel, allowed out only to go to the supermarket and for local exercise.

Although the British govt was urging all Brits to return home, this was impossible – there were no flights and almost all the transfer hubs for flights had closed.

The morning of the lockdown (25th March), was eerily quiet, gone where the sounds of work in the boatyard, traffic on the roads very light and very few people on foot.

The Hatea loop, a 4.2km cycle and walk way that loops from the Town Basin and canopy bridge and down one side of the river crosses the Te Matau a Pohe bridge (fishook in Maori) and back up the other side, normally very popular and busy, was virtually deserted.

 Te Matau a Pohe

As well as the Hatea loop, I am lucky that right on my doorstep is the Parihaka Scenic Reserve. Parihaka is an eroded volcanic cone 241m high and there are 3 tracks up it. From the top there are marvellous panoramic views over the town & harbour and right down the estuary to Whangarei Heads. My favourite is the Ross track, from the end of the tarmac, the track follows the stream ascending by the side of a small waterfall by a wooden staircase. The track carries on up through the native bush and there are a  number of Kauri trees. Opposite the largest of these is a handy bench for contemplation. I generally push on preferring a non stop ascent. Sometimes I stop in descent when I generally take it slower anyway to ease the creakey knees, legacy of a lifetime of bashing up and down the mountains.

Kauri tree on Ross track

The other tracks start by following the Hatea river, there is a boardwalk through a mangrove swamp then up through the woods before branching up the hillside. Near the top of the Dobbie track are the remains of a Maori fortifications (a Pa site).

It is a good circuit to ascend and descend by different tracks and switch ways up to add to the variety.

My other form of exercise is on the bike, a folding Brompton. A couple of circuits of the loop or taking the 10km Onerhai cycleway/walkway which leads to the Waimahanga walkway, a track following the estuary and partly the course of an old railway line.

All in all it’s not to bad being stuck here in Whangarei, I am probably better off (and safer) here than in the UK at the moment. I was looking forward to being back home and catching up with every one, I am missing my family & friends back in UK. The future is full of uncertainty but others are in a worse situation than me and my thoughts go out to them.

Around and about Whangarei

Back in Whangarei Wendy and I  did some nice walks in the Whangarei Heads area. To Smugglers cove and Bream Head and also over Mt Aubrey with its dramatic pinnacles.

Smugglers Cove
Mt Aubrey

A visit to Tutukaka and the marvellous coastline there walking  from  Matua bay to  the glorious Whale bay with a  swimming here.

Closer to Whangarie a walk along the Matea river to visit Whangarei falls with a swim in the pool here and a walk along the tree walk of AH Reed memorial park with its large Kauri trees.

Whangarei Falls
Wendy on bridge over Hatea river

 

Hugging a Kauri

All too soon Wendy’s time in New Zealand was up .

The Pasifika Fusion festival provided diversion for a day with lots of dancers from the Pacific islands.

Pasifika festival

I walked the Hatea loop several times, shopped at the growers market for fresh fruit and veg, drunk Flat whites in town but also  more energetically cycled the cycle track along the estuary and through the mangroves to the jetty at Onerahi.

On the Hatea loop
Waka Sculpture

Whangarei town centre
Heron preening at the marina

Another day I walked up to the Abbey caves, an area of caves and eroded limestone boulders.

Great Barrier Island Jan 23rd – 9th Feb

Early morning swim Hatfield beach on way from airport

Wendy had arrived for a visit, we made use of the campervan to go to the Bay of Islands music festival in Waitangi then visited Kerikeri for waterfall walks then across to Hokianga harbour and down through the Waipoua forest and the giant Kauri trees. Back in Whangarie it was time to go sailing again. 

Leaving the marina just before midday, at the top of the tide, we slipped the mooring warps and headed off down the river, under the Hatea bridge and away. We anchored for the evening in Urquharts bay, cooked tea and relaxed in the cockpit with a sundowner. The forecast for the morrow looked good for the crossing to Great Barrier island with fine weather and westerlies of 10 to 15 knots. We left at first light, the weather was fine but the winds remained light all day. We did fly the cruising chute for a while but progress was to slow to ensure a daylight arrival so we ended motoring most of the 40 mile passage. Late afternoon saw us anchoring in Nimaru bay, Great Barrier  Island.

We moved next morning, sailing around Maunganui point where the wind was strong and gusty and the sea a nasty slop, into the calmer waters of Port Abercrombie and thence to Forestry Bay, Port Fitzoy.

Dinghy landing Forestry bay

Here we rowed ashore and followed the Bridle track first to Port Fitzroy itself then returned to the junction with the Warren track up the waterfall. Farther than expected the timings on the track signs being a bit out. The waterfall itself was a little disappointing – reduced to a mere trickle on account of the drought. Next day a walk took us around to Kiarara bay and a walk up the old forestry road.

Forestry Bay

Back at the boat we made the  short hop to anchor in Kiarara bay . It was very windy the next day so we stayed put.

Moving on again to Kiwiriki bay, a lovely bay this, rocky islands by the entrance and wooded hillside all around, no roads no houses. We did a couple of walks whilst here on the Kiwiriki track. One up towards Maungapiko and the other up to Coffin creek and thence to Kiarara bay. Other times we played about in the dinghy and on the paddleboard.

Kiwiriki bay

After a few days we moved back to Port Fitzroy, anchoring in Forestry bay again. A walk to Port Fitzroy  and up to Lookout Rock rewarded us with fine views and later with bread and fruit from the shop and a delicious burger and chips on the quayside.

Lookout rock above Port Fitzroy

Great Barrier island is off grid, there are few roads and no mains power, poor or non-existant phone signal. Residents rely on catching rain water for their water supply. It is a lovely largely unspoilt place though was once heavily logged for the Kauri trees.

We could have happily stayed there longer but decided to return to the mainland whilst conditions were good. It was calm as we motored out from Port Fitzroy but later the wind kicked in a little NW at first then later it switched to West 17 knots dead on the nose then to SW.

9pm and just dark as we anchored in Uruharts bay , a long tiring passage.

Next day we took the tide back up the river to Whangarie, under the bridge and moored alongside at Riverside drive marina again.