Friday, April 29, 2011

Last Day in NZ

        The last of our pictures bring us fond memories of our dear friends we left behind in Whangarei and they remind me of how much fun we always manage to have with our cruising friends we met long ago in El Salvador, but how sad it is when we say good-bye, never knowing whether or not we will see each other again. The good thing is that usually we do meet up again eventually, so I do hope that we will see Steve and Derusha from Scream in Fiji, and we will see Amanda and Brian on Clara Catherine somewhere. They are both trying to get jobs in New Zealand but, so far, they have been put on hold. I wish them the best of luck.  
        The first few pictures are of the six of us hiking to some glow-worm caves and it was a hoot. Glow-worms are bugs that send out long tenicles which catch flying bugs inside the caves.They glow in the dark, appearing like shining stars in the black night. We walked among huge old gnarly mossy trees, interesting rocks and climbed into the caves. It was great fun.

         Our last campsite had some great little waves and the stand-up paddle boarders were out. We were very happy to catch a brief bit of sunshine in the afternoon and celebrated our last night in our psychedelic hippy van. Today, our last day in New Zealand, was partly sunny and we wandered the city streets of Auckland. The university is beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the campus. This evening is the very special wedding in Britain and I am sure most New Zealanders are watching on TV with enthusiasm; they do love those Brits!  We are watching it on our very own flat screen in our comfy hotel room;  ah....... a real bed as well! Off to Fiji we go tomorrow. Bye for now. 

From Park Albert on the edge of the campus, the needle stretched high into the sky. We did contemplate going up, but the expense deterred us, so we just admired this feat of architecture. The view must be fabulous from up there!  David did try to convince me to go up there with him tonight for a festive last night dinner and celebration; I do love that very special guy of mine!  New Zealand, thank you. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Last Week in New Zealand

From the town of Keri Keri we meandered our way up the Kerikeri Penninsula to see the end of the Bay of Islands in the sunshine, and it was beautiful. We stopped at a little harbor, walked around, and soaked up the colors. The land is picturesque, filled with high-end ranches and houses overlooking the bays, and it did inspire David and me to think about possibly sailing Sidewinder to New Zealand sometime. 

We then took off for the Northlands on Hwy 10, checking out the wilder, more awesome areas north along the coast heading up to the very end, Cape Reinga. With a tip from a local farmer at the store, we headed for Matai Bay and had an afternoon cocktail at the wonderful beach cove. We stayed in Whatowhiwhi that night and headed back south given the gray weather. We stopped for the infamous fish and chips at a lovely historic whaling town of Mangonui, wandered through their Easter Sunday market, and then continued south back to the Bay of Islands and the once capital of NZ, Russell. In the rain, we wandered the town, took in the museum the next morning and headed along the coast down to the Maori village of Mokau. 

The scenic drive was obscured by the rain, but it was still awesome, and once we arrived, we were rewarded by actually finding Connie's* parents at the marae, community center. What wonderful people they are, and how lucky we were to find them!!! We had a fantastic visit with them and learned so much more about the Maori culture. They are both really active in teaching the language, keeping the culture alive, and helping their community function as a viable support system for everyone in their tribe. Again, David and I feel so fortunate. 

Taking "5" after a hard days of driving...

View of Bay of Islands

More Bay of Islands

Connies parents, neice and some bum we picked up on the right.

That's smiley on the right with Connies very cool parents and neice.
We will drive from Whangarei today, after we visit with Brian, Steve, and Derusha, sv Clara Catherine and Scream,  and find our way to our last Top 10 Holiday Resort in Orewe, close to Auckland; we have a bit of organizing to do before we must deliver the van back to ESCAPE, Thursday morning, 10AM.  What a great adventure we have been on. Love to all! 

*Connie is married to Suzi's ex-husband's older sister's friend. Get it? - the Blogmistress

Update on Liz

All of you who have been reading this blog may have noticed a few mentions we have made of Casey's girlfriend Liz and how she has started a tough fight against a very aggressive cancer. Up until now I have hesitated to dwell on it as it's a personal battle she is waging, and I wasn't sure if this was the right venue for a plea for help. Well, it is the right venue and this is the time.

Liz has been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma tumor based in her brain stem and the cerebral lobe of her brain. It is incurable but controllable to a point. Fortunately it is of the type that can be fought with chemo and radiation, so those treatments have begun and will continue in different combinations for the next 6 months. Needless to say this will be a long hard fight, and Liz, her family and Casey will need some help from everyone who can give it. I'm not talking financial help but emotional and spiritual help at this stage. Send those positive thoughts along with visions of healing white light surrounding Liz's head and centering on the base of her skull at the top of her neck. Pray to the God of your choice asking for all the strength that can be mustered to be sent Liz's way. Email Casey short messages of support or facebook him.

There is web site that some friends of Liz have set up where financial donations and purchases of sweatshirts and T-shirts can be directed her way. The website is This website was started for a cancer victim named Kevin Carlberg, but Liz's bio will come up when you reach the website. You will read that this is a very active and beautiful (both inside and out) lady who can light up a room with her smile. 

This is Casey's best friend. They live together and are fighting this battle together and it's tearing my heart out not being there for him. But there isn't a lot Suzi and I could do at this point beside sending out this plea for help. If you are reading this, you have been following Suzi and me as we deal with mechanical problems and other adversities while sailing across oceans. But all the problems we have faced and overcome so far pale in comparison to what Liz is going through. I ask you to give her the same positive words you gave us; they helped us and I know they will help her also. 

Thanks for your help..... David & Suzi

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bay of Islands/Opua/Kerikeri

Before heading north from the Bay of Islands, once again McDonald's has provided us with free wi-fi, along with some really good "long-black" coffee (double expresso with a side of hot water and hot milk), and even though I am supposed to stay away from coffee now, I just couldn't resist this morning. The sun is in and out, thank goodness, but the season is definitely changing here; fall and winter are coming on strong. The winds are gusty and the clouds are continually giving us sprinkles to let us know winter is on its way. 

David is still feeling a little under the weather, so yesterday, after visiting with some special cruising friends we just happened to run into in Opua, we drove over to Kerikeri, found a Top 10 campsite on the Kerikeri River, and then drove down to the historic Stone Store site in the harbor. I took off on a beautiful 2 hour hike to Rainbow Falls and David relaxed in the van. Because of the iffy weather, I didn't take my camera, but the waterfall was definitely worth the hike through the flourishing forest, and it felt great to get more exercise. 

Today we are heading north with the intention of going to the most northern tip of the North Island, although that will depend upon the road conditions and the weather. Hard to believe it is Easter for us tomorrow, but, as I have already mentioned, it is a time for me to reflect on the abundant life I have been given. Special energy goes to Casey and Liz who are needing extra love sent their way in Portland, Oregon. On Casey's facebook page (Casey Sobolewski), there are several fund-raising opportunities to help them financially deal with the fight ahead; please feel free to get involved. Love to everyone! Suzi

Links for Liz:

Hey Everyone,
Liz told me about this Don't Worry Be Happy Foundation that was started in tribute to Kevin Carlberg.  Kevin was diagnosed with brain cancer and lived well beyond doctor's expectations before he died, but his family started this fundraising website in honor of him that helps to raise money for their sponsored "warriors".  Our Liz Lord is one of their warriors.  Here is Liz's bio:
You can buy all sorts of "don't worry be happy" products (t shirts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.) and the proceeds go to support whatever cancer warrior you designate upon checkout.  I just bought a shirt for myself and one for Brian and it's really easy.  Just make sure that when checking out in PayPal you write Liz's name in the "notes to seller" box.  Just wanted to send this along to everyone.  I know we all feel pretty helpless right now, but we just need to stay positive the way Liz always does and show our support.  She has so much love surrounding her, and this is just one simple sign of our support.  Love you all, and I hope that where ever you are, you are smiling.
Much Love, Jamie 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Musings from Suzi

The countryside of New Zealand makes me think of the places at home that I am so blessed to have in my life. It is Easter week and very emotional feelings are filling my being. At this time of the year, the ranch is just as green as this incredible New Zealand area, and there are wildflowers everywhere. With so much water it must be amazing right now, and the Easter Celebration of Thankfulness will be wonderful. It will be the first family Easter gathering without Willie's physical presence, at least in human form, and we will all be on alert for the essence of his sweet spirit, which is always there anyway. As my dear family and friends struggle to make sense of the difficult challenges which abound, I am filled with a deep sense of love and gratitude for all that I have been given. Thank you everyone for being in my life, supporting and helping me greet each day with strength, courage, and confidence. I send warm, loving energy to all of you. 
The volcanic Mt. off Highway 45 on the west coast of the north island.

Looked like so much fun and we wished we were in those saddles.

Some old Hippie standing by his Van and thinking of burning one !!

Pretty photo, wish I could tell you what it was of.

Ten miles of beach and only (2) people.

Sending good vibes your way Liz -

Must of seen a thousand of these turkeys, they were all over.

We drove so far we got back to PCH, I was looking for Laguna.

Beautiful horse country just south of Auckland.

North Island

Keli (Dick & Kitty's daughter) and Suzi at Keli's house in New Zealand

Catheral Cove was as pretty as 9th St. Beach in Laguna and it had a fresh water shower for after those V-ball games

More of Cathedral Cove on the Coramandel Pennisula

Wishing for sunshine ....

The cave went all the way through to another cove.

Weird rock formations and crystal clear water.

The fishermen use tractors to launch their boats.

The tractors are higher off the water so they can go deep enough to launch or pick up the boats.

I saw a bunch of these tractors in people's front yards and wondered what they were for.
We have thoroughly enjoyed driving through more amazing lands, meeting cheerful, interesting characters, and relishing all that is wonderful about New Zealand. By the time we finished the fantastic ferry ride from Picton to Wellington, we were quite ready to stop and try to relax, not something that is easy to do in the beautiful city of Wellington. The ferry ride over through Queen Charlotte Sound was beautiful, and once we got into Cooks Strait, which can be horrendous, the crossing was easy. We found the only campground in town, in a carpark on the wharf and stayed there after a great walk along the harbor and wharf. We did stop for a late drink at the infamous Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club where the wonderful seafood dinners are way beyond our budget, and it was easy to crawl into our comfortable van bed and fall fast asleep, even with the traffic of the city close by. Even this carpark had warm showers welcoming us to our day in the city. We did muster up the energy to take in the fabulous Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. We were both exhausted after three hours, but the new exhibition of the Maori Civil Rights Movement and struggles was amazing and disturbing, reminding me of our own Civil Rights Movement in the US. It has been many years the indigenous people, along with many New Zealanders who are seeking human rights for all, have struggled peacefully, and their presence is certainly now felt.  We drove out of the city, knowing we missed a great deal of culture, but we needed to get out of town and back to some peace and tranquility. 

We decided to drive the west coast Surfer's Highway, which took us to some great towns on our way to New Plymouth. We stopped at a few of the famous surf spots but there were no waves. We met classic salty-dog fishermen, surfers looking for waves, and many people just living life in the laid back area. After many weeks of David eye-balling all the golf courses in every town, we stopped by one and the older guys invited him to come play the next day. So, we stayed two nights in a lovely campground on the beach in Oakura; David was in hog heaven golfing with the guys, and I was delighted to hike the trail down to the beach for the afternoon the next day. As with all the campgrounds we have stayed in, each one has great kitchen facilities, laundry rooms, internet availability, usually a TV room, and clean showers. What more could we need to mellow out?!

The next couple of days we worked our way up to the Coromandel area to where Keli and Chris live,  an incredible area of stunning beaches and amazing countryside. We started by continuing up the west coast on a little country road to the very quiet mostly fishing Kawhia Harbor, with beautiful sand dunes and views at the state park, and then began our drive to the east coast of Coromandel and the lovely town of Tairua. We stayed with our friends' daughter, Keli, her husband, Chris, and their son, Ryder. We had a great curry dinner and laughed as we recalled people from the past they both knew from growing up in Laguna Beach. They live in a great house at the top of a hill overlooking the bay, and Chris and Ryder surf and do stand-up paddling daily. Even though the weather was marginal, they inspired us to go to Hot Water Beach, the Lost Springs Resort in Whitianga, enjoy a fabulous dinner at Squids, and hike to Cathedral Cove, one of the only beaches we have ever seen which could be just as beautiful as 9th and 10th Street Beach in Laguna. 
Hot Water Beach

We left the Coromandel a couple of days ago, and drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Auckland,  bypassed the big city, and are now in Wangarei, having a wonderful visit with cruising friends we met in El Salvador. David is really happy wandering the boatyard where Scream is having work done on her bottom, and the sun has finally come out. We will enjoy some more time here tonight and be on our way tomorrow, heading for the Bay of Islands and a few other places we have been told about. It is hard to believe this amazing vacation is almost over. We certainly have thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful country and its people!  We are both a bit tired of camping in the van, but it has really been a reasonable way for us to see as much as we have. We are definitely lucky to have been able to be here in the land where people really do embrace what they have with smiles on their faces.  Life is good.          
The pictures of me meditating are letting Casey's girlfriend, Liz, know that I am sending her love and light. She is struggling right now in Portland, Oregon and needs all good vibes sent her way. I love you, Liz.  I love you, too, Casey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Abel Tasman, Arthur's Pass, West Coast

We have included some photos of our trip through the Authur's Pass area as well as some of the Abel Tasman National Park and the ferry over to Wellington. We stayed in Nelson the night before driving to Picton where the ferry left for Wellington. The ride on the ferry took us out through Charlotte Sound, which is absolutely stunning and we have heard that trekking that area is wonderful as well. Another time. I will try to label the photos after Kris posts them for us. I haven't been able to figure out how to put captions on them before they are posted. 

The area we drove through on our way up to Arthur's Pass reminded us of driving up 395 on the way to Mammoth. The only difference was the lack of people and the size of the rivers. There is no shortage of rivers and water in New Zealand, and they make use of it with lots of hydroelectric dams. No nukes for this country.I have to apologize for so many photos of mountains and rivers but around every corner seemed to be a prettier shot. Hard to choose what to include and what not to. Hope you enjoy.
Waterfall in the way, no problem, just extend the creek.

Designer cows, they all had the one white stripe.

Why is boys always have to throw rocks ??

Sunset on the Tasman Sea.

Every town, small or large, had at least one Golf course.

If you played good that day you paid, if you played bad you didn't ??

Davey Crockett as the greens keeper.
Pancake Rocks

There has to be fish in this river, just has to be !!!

Kayak trip in Abel Tasman National Park

David thoroughly enjoying kayaking

Tide goes out, boats roll onto their sides, no problem.
Loading up for the crossing over to the north island.

Just after leaving Nelson on the ferry.

Just through those rocks you enter into one of the worst bodies of water in the world. It's the channel running between the north island and the south island of New Zealand and connecting the Pacific with the Tasman.

Very cool rock formations on the southwest side of the north island.

The green is a moss line from the freshwater in the river.

A rainbow to greet us as we docked in Wellington.

Our brief stay on the West Coast of the South Island was also spectacular. Although we never did make it southwest to the Fox Glacier (another time I promise myself), we thoroughly enjoyed the little campground in Punikaiki, where the tropics meet the Tasman Sea. The Pancake Rocks were really interesting and the drive up to Westport was awesome, sort of like a tropical Hwy 1 through Big Sur. We then headed inland and ended up in a little kayaking/river running town named Murchison. We strolled along the river at the campsite, met some amazing kids who were kayak and river guides, mostly enthusiastic, bright young women, and enjoyed just being that evening. Next day we drove to Abel Tasman for two days of wonderful fun.  Suzi and David

P.S. from David on Golf

The photos I have of the Murchison Golf course are typical of so many golf courses I've seen during this tour of the south island of New Zealand. Almost every town, large or small, has its own course and sometimes even two courses. They never seem to have many players on them but they all look well maintained and very attractive to try. Green fees are anywhere from $15 - $40, and if you get there after the starter has gone home or is at lunch, you just put your money in a box and head off to the first hole. It's all very casual and low key, but today I found out the course members are not only good players but take their games seriously. I played an 18 hole course here in Oakura on the west coast of the north island, and four of the nicest guys allowed me to play a round with them. There were only 5 other people on the whole course, so it didn't matter that with adding me they now had a 5-some. I rented some clubs that would have been considered antiques back in Calif. but I didn't really deserve any better, and they all seemed to be there. That is, until I tried to use the 7 iron and found it was a left hand club. Oh well, sometimes it's good to have a left hand club in your bag; you may get stuck up next to a tree and can only swing from the left side. Could have used that 7 iron a few times though!!!! My playing partners were cool guys, all about my age and friendly as hell. They didn't even laugh at my swing which is more than I can say for some of my friends back home. Anyway, I had a load of fun, made a few good shots and had a few beers with the guys afterward. I just wish I could understand this New Zealand English better..............David