The Voyage of FORTY TWO – Dirt Dwellers

May finds us ashore with Forty Two on the hard at Duck Creek Marina. Duck Creek is a small marina close to Fairfield Harbor up a narrow shallow creek. We had to carefully watch the water level, which up here is wind driven and not tidal. Between leaving North West Creek and getting into Duck Creek the water dropped about a foot so we found ourselves aground about 100 yards from the marina entrance and had to be dragged in by a launch. With Forty Two now on the hard we are busy raising the water line, new boot top paint, redoing the cabin sole and the exterior varnish. We have also purchased wheels, a 1995 Ford Explorer with 185,000 miles on the clock but cheaper than rental cars.

The prime reason for dirt dwelling in May and June is our planned trip to New Zealand for Brian’s niece Samantha’s wedding on June 10, so this log will be mainly of our travels by air and campervan.

May 26 found us on American flights first from Raleigh to Newark, NJ, then on to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles leg showed us just how small this world really is when in a conversation with passengers across the aisle we found we had friends in common in Brisbane, Australia and then that their travel agent was Brian’s brother Ian! Los Angeles was an overnight stay where we managed to catch up with Brian’s old friend Bill and his wife Alima. Next morning we had an 8 1/2 hour flight on Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete where we arrived at 1820 to local music and flowers for our hair. Again an overnight stay with just enough time to explore the Papeete downtown and find a microbrewery with great beer and a very good jazz group. Several foreign yachts were moored in the harbor and we had a brief chat with one group from Seattle. An early start the next morning had us leaving Papeete at 0805 on the final leg to Auckland where we arrived (after loosing a day) on Sunday May 29.

The first two days were spent with Brian’s sister Margaret and Dave just generally catching up and visiting Brian’s mother who is now 92. Then on June 1 we picked up the campervan for our tour of the North Island. We had booked a van with Tui Campers and had a Ford Transit diesel with shower/toilet, cooking facilities with refrigerator, and a rear section that was two bench seats and a table by day and a double bed by night. It was just like being back on Forty Two except for having to convert the living area to sleeping each night. After a thorough check out of the systems by the Tui staff we finally got away about 1030 and drove to Mangere for our first stop at a supermarket to stock up on supplies. Then on south through Hamilton to Waitomo where we had hoped to see the famous Waitomo Caves and glow worm grotto. Unfortunately because of heavy rain for several days before the caves were not fully open and the glow worms could not be seen. We decided to stay the night at Waitomo and spent the afternoon driving out to Marikopa Beach. On the way out to the beach we stopped at Natural Bridge where a cave had collapsed to open up the river and leave a limestone bridge and then a lovely 15 minute bush walk to the Marikopa Falls.

The next morning the caves were open and we were on the first group through – only six of us with the guide! The trip is about one hour underground with wonderful stalagmites and stalactites. The highlight is getting on the boat and floating silently through the grotto which is lit by the natural light of thousands of glow worms attracting their prey.

Leaving Waitomo Brian introduced Judy to a New Zealand toffee called Minties. Unfortunately these are very sticky and tough to chew and of course pulled a gold crown off one of her teeth. An unscheduled stop in Te Kuiti found a dentist that could fit her in and re-cement the crown in place. After Te Kuiti we continued down through the center of the North Island past Tongariro National Park to Waiouru. Tongariro National Park has three active volcanoes, Mounts Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe and Tongariro. Unfortunately all three were covered in cloud so Judy missed out on what can be a spectacular scenic display. Waiouru was a trip down memory lane for Brian as it is the home of the New Zealand Army and the place where he did his National Service basic training in 1966. The New Zealand Army Museum is there but as it had opened ten years after Brian left he had not seen it. As we got there late in the afternoon we did not get to see everything but talking with museum staff members we were given complimentary tickets to return.

We left Waiouru for Taihape, some 30 km south which was the nearest campground, we thought. After about 15 km we saw a sign for River Valley Lodge with pictographs for campervan sites. Thinking it was closer we turned off and followed the signs. Nearly one hour later we finally got to the Lodge and promptly got stuck in the camping area. By this time it was dark so the bar and an offer of a roast meal were very enticing. Found we were in the headwaters of the Rangitikei River at a Lodge that caters primarily to river rafting trips. We were clearly the oldest people there and all the others, both staff and guests, appeared to be in their 20’s.

The next morning (Jun 3) we were pulled out by a Toyota 4 wheel drive and went back to Waiouru and the Museum. By 1130 we had finished and the snow was falling heavily so we bugged out to Taihape. We heard later on the radio that the road through Waiouru was closed for 24 hours and many cars were stranded there for the night. After Taihape the road follows the Rangitikei River until almost Palmerston North. As this was the start of a holiday weekend in NZ (Queen’s Birthday) we decided to continue south to Wellington for two nights. Found a very nice campground about 10 km from Wellington center.

Saturday morning we figured out the bus system and rode into Wellington to visit Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. The weekend coincided with Matariki which is the Maori New Year so the museum had some special exhibits and we were treated to a Maori youth group singing traditional songs and performing a haka and action songs. We spent some six hours in the museum and did not see it all. We also took the cable car up Mount Victoria which gives a great view over the Wellington Harbor and the grounds of the University. Brian remembers this on his last trip to Wellington when he was a teenager!

Sunday we returned to Palmerston North to meet up with Molly Akers. Molly has authored a genealogy study of all the members of Clan McRae who immigrated to New Zealand. Brian’s family on his mother’s side are there and it was fun meeting Molly, getting a copy of the book McRae’s to New Zealand and seeing his ancestors back many generations. After leaving Molly, we continued on through Dannevirke and Norsewood to Waipawa for the night. Dannevirke and Norsewood are reminders of the diversity of early New Zealand immigration as they were first settled by Danes and Norsemen (Norwegians).

Continuing north the next day we first stopped at the beach at Napier. Another trip down memory lane for Brian as this was the place where he competed in a surf lifesaving carnival in 1963 in front of Queen Elizabeth and had his photo published in the New Zealand Herald. The photo still hangs in the Muriwai Surf Club clubhouse.

From Napier we continued up the east coast through Gisborne, Tolaga Bay, past East Cape to stop the night in Te Araroa. This is rugged unspoilt country where the road goes up and down mountain ranges, kisses the coast briefly in spots and is a mixture of cultivated forests, native bush and farm land. On this section we encountered our first “New Zealand traffic jam” – a flock of sheep being driven down the road by several shepherds and their dogs. Once around East Cape the road gets closer to the sea and the scenery becomes more pastoral as we come into the Bay of Plenty region which is a major fruit and vegetable growing area.

At Whakatane we turned inland once more for Rotorua – the main thermal area of the North Island. The road took us through Kawerau and its forests which are a center for paper production from the pine forests planted in this area. Coming into the Rotorua area we fist passed Lake Rotoiti and stopped at Hells Gate in Tikitere. Hell’s Gate is a natural thermal area with boiling water and mud pools, and steam vents with a self guided tour. After Hell’s Gate we went on into Rotorua and stayed at a very nice campground with its own thermal hot pool. The soak was just what we needed to ease away the stiffness from sitting in car seats for so long. That evening we went to a Maori show and dinner at Rainbow Springs. At the beginning the MC asked for a volunteer to be the chief and Judy promptly raised Brian’s hand! The show started with a welcome in the form of a warrior challenge that Brian had to face, then speeches that he had to reply to. After the tourist group was accepted by the Maoris, they put on a show of songs, dances and hakas with some explanation of the historical background. Dinner was a hangi – a traditional Maori feast cooked by steaming in an earth oven. A fire is built in the bottom of the pit and stones placed on top to get hot. Then the stones are covered by damp cloths, the food put on top and more damp cloths over the top. Finally earth is pilled on top and the whole lot steams for several hours. After dinner we were taken on a walk down to the Rainbow Spring to see the natural spring water emerging from the bottom of the pool. Of course we were much more interested in the size of the Rainbow Trout swimming in the pool.

The next morning we left early to drive to the Agridome just outside Rotorua. This is a farm area with a display of sheep and cattle. We were treated to a show of each of the sheep breads in New Zealand, a shearing demonstration, working dogs display and hand milking cows. Judy was selected to be one of the spectators who got up on stage and milked the cow. Then on to Tauranga and up the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsular. Again we saw spectacular scenes of bush and coastline as the road wound its way north. We finished up the day at Ha Hei in a campground right beside the beach. We really wanted to find a pub with satellite TV that evening as it was the Lions v Taranaki rugby match, but Ha Hei has no pub and the campground did not have satellite TV. The campground manager suggested we try the local fire department. Sure enough, at 7:00pm the volunteers arrived for training and we were able to talk our way into the lounge. Comfortable settees, wide screen TV and a bar – what more could we want!

The next day took us over the top of the Coromandel Range and down to the east coast though Coromandel Town and Thames. Most of the road on this side follows the coast line so we had mountains on one side and water on the other. We continued to follow the coast all the way around and back to Auckland, where we parked for two nights at Margaret and Dave’s friends Cushla and Ian.

June 10 was Sam and Billy’s wedding and Brian donned a tie and Jacket for the first time since Michael’s wedding in February. The wedding was in a marquee with beautiful gardens around, a wonderful setting. Billy is a natural comedian so the wedding was not as straight laced as some, but a nice moving ceremony that really spoke to how each felt about the other. The reception after was a wonderful blend of Maori and Pakeha cultures that is difficult to describe – you had to be there to experience it.

Next day the family all gathered at Margaret and Dave’s for a lunch. Brian’s two brothers Stuart and Ian with Rosie and Pat were over from Australia, niece Natalie and Simon, his mother and of course Sam and Billy all got together once more. After lunch we jumped back in the camper and headed north to Dargaville. This time we found a pub with the Rugby on and were treated to the first ever defeat of the Lions by a New Zealand Maori team. From Dargaville we continued north to Hokianga. This passed through one of the few Kauri forests left. Like the California Redwoods, the Kauri is a huge slow growing tree. Many of the trees in this area are 600 to 1000 years old and because the area has been protected for many years you can also see new young kauris growing as well. We stopped twice to take walks though the forest to see these magnificent trees. Hokianga is a beautiful natural harbor on the west coast with a deep bay extending miles inland. We traveled about half the length on the south side, then took a ferry across to the other side and continued on through Kaitia to the east coast where we stopped for the night near Mangonui.

Turning south we drove to Kerikeri which is a large fruit growing area and also of great historic significance. At Waitangi, just outside Kerikeri the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840 between the Maori Chiefs and representatives of Queen Victoria which gave Britain sovereignty over New Zealand. Since Brian left New Zealand the Treaty Grounds have become a national park, the original house restored and a Maori meeting house and canoe added. We also toured Rewa’s Village, a reconstruction of an early Maori fishing camp. Nearby is Pahia which is a port of entry for foreign sailing vessels and the bay is full of anchored yachts flying many foreign flags as well as local yachts.

Continuing south we stopped at Whangarei to look at the marina and town docks and chat with a New Zealand couple who have been sailing the south Pacific for several years. Our final stop that day was Waiwera, a hot spring area close to Auckland. Brian remembered it as a pleasant, somewhat rustic series of pools. Now it is a spa resort that charges a basic $20 just for entry with a sliding scale of other services such as massage and mud baths!

But all good things come to an end, the campervan had to be back on June 15 so we drove slowly down the East Cost Bays and over the Harbor Bridge back to Auckland and Margaret’s home where we unloaded the van and cleaned it out. Then back to Tui Campers office to turn the van in. What a wonderful way see the country – independent and free to go where we wanted to. In two weeks we managed to travel some 3,500 km (2,100 miles for those who are not metric literate). New Zealand is beautiful with unusual wonders to explore. Judy totally fell in love with it. If we return permanently our new address will be Paparoa, New Zealand. If you find yourself on the road to Dargaville stop in for tea.

Our last couple of days were spent with Brian’s mother and visiting some of his old haunts around Parnell. Judy got to see St Mary’s Cathedral where Brian was a choir boy and altar server for a number of years (hard to believe isn’t it). This is the largest timber framed Gothic church and dates to the late 1800’s. All too soon we were back at Auckland International Airport on board Air Tahiti Nui. Unlike the trip outwards we flew direct to Papeete, a one hour layover then onto Los Angeles, Dallas and Raleigh NC arriving at 1:00 am on Monday morning. Our friends Joni and Jim went beyond the bounds of friendship and picked us up and took us back to their home where we slept nearly 10 hours. Judy’s daughter Margaret, who had been house and dog sitting for us drove up to Raleigh and picked us up for the return to Fairfield Harbor and home once more.

As we write this in mid July our plans for a summer in the Chesapeake are currently on hold. Judy went to have some lumps on her neck checked out and found she had a heart condition probably caused by an overactive thyroid. So we are staying put until this is resolved. Forty Two is back in the water and tied up at Northwest Creek Marina. We will suspend our logs for now, and resume once we start sailing again.

Once again we have more pictures in a gallery here.

Fair winds,

Brian & Judy.