New Zealand. A country Roy has always wanted to visit, but one Elaine had no real desire to see; For no particular reason, other than the fact that her first impressions of New Zealanders was that of a very unsavoury character whom she had to work for in London and there appeared to be far more interesting places on earth to see, but for Roy, it was a place of intrigue.
It was also a country that did not appear anywhere on our circumnavigation itinerary, but fate changed that when we decided to slow down and leave the World ARC in Tahiti. That meant, as for every sailor in the South Pacific, we had to make a choice of where we would spend the hurricane season, or as it’s known in the southern hemisphere, the cyclone season. Two choices existed; head north to the islands closer to the equator, like Micronesia and the Marshall Islands or head south to New Zealand, along with the vast majority of other sailors. The latter it was!
It would be remiss not to acknowledge that Elaine’s impressions of New Zealand have possibly been tainted by her preconceived feelings, as well as her in-depth exposure to the New Zealand healthcare services, but as the author of this article, she will attempt to provide an unbiased opinion by documenting our experiences, which for every lowlight, there was definitely a highlight.
After leaving Fiji on 24th October 2016 and ”running the gauntlet” to cross the South West Pacific Ocean, we arrived safely in Opua, New Zealand on 31st October 2016. We were in good company for this passage with Talulah Ruby III (Andy and Paul), whom we first met in Bonaire in 2014, Blue Summit (Kate and Steve), whom we met on the World ARC and Whistler (Margy and Monty) whom we had met in Fiji, amongst a number of other yachts whom we had not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person.
Besides the huge and very convenient customs wharf that we tied up to and the very professional officialdom process we encountered the following day, it was the weather we experienced on arrival that became a lasting impression of New Zealand for us. While we looked forward to a good night's sleep, the temperatures had plummeted, which certainly forced us to reconsider our sleeping arrangements, if we were to survive the summer in New Zealand. Yes, you read correctly, the summer! So, another first; we hauled out our spare blankets and ran the central heating. After 15 years in Arizona and 3 years in the tropics, the very cold weather was definitely an unexpected shock! It didn’t help matters that the next day we woke to a bitterly cold morning, with a thick mist hanging over the water. It was definitely time to unpack all our winter woollies, never mind the blankets.
On our first evening we headed ashore to the Opua Cruising Club for drinks and dinner, where we were pleasantly surprised to find Blue Summit. In the warmth of a log fire, we exchanged passage stories, reminisced on a wonderful sailing season and looked forward to discovering our new home for the next 6 months.
The following day was spent getting ourselves settled in. That included getting to the nearest town, Paihia, in order to get to a bank and pick up some groceries, getting access to all the marina facilities, obtaining membership to the Opua Cruising Club and getting some high priority issues resolved like our depth sensor and wind generator bracket.
A trip to the farmer market was a wonderful outing and, needless to say, Elaine returned with all sorts of delightful goodies, like smoked salmon pate from the local smoke house, homemade chocolate clusters, a huge butter lettuce, freshly baked potato bread and avocados, the latter of which we couldn’t even remember when last we were able to purchase them.
We also had the opportunity to reconnect with Time Bandit (Ann and Stewart) whom we last saw in Panama and Raya (Ros and Rick) with whom we enjoyed a Bon Voyage party in Tonga, as well as meet the myriad of faces behind all the voices we'd heard on the SSB radio nets for months.
Of course, the highlight of our arrival in New Zealand was waking up on 3rd November 2016, a day ahead of the USA, to the news of the birth of our twin grandsons, Brayden and Carter, who were both healthy baby boys, weighing in at 5lbs 12oz and 6lbs 2 Oz, respectively. It was a very emotional morning given that we weren't there. We were, nonetheless, grateful for modern technology, since we still got to “meet” them via Facetime.
We had planned on celebrating their birth at the Opua Cruising Club that evening, but instead we settled for a quiet evening aboard, given that a very long sailing season seemed to catch up with us both all at once. So a good hearty meal of bangers, mash and baked beans, accompanied by a very tasty New Zealand red wine, followed by fresh strawberries and cream, topped with almond chocolate clusters, was a fitting meal, we believed, to mark the occasion!
It seemed our stay in New Zealand, having started off so well, was going to be very enjoyable. That, however, changed just four days after our arrival, on a late afternoon hike along the coast from Opua to Paihia withTalulah Ruby III and friends of theirs, Endorphin (Lizzie and Colin). Having walked for nearly two hours, enjoying the most spectacular scenery, we were definitely looking forward to our sundowners and a meal at the Alfresco Restaurant. Unfortunately Elaine and Andy weren’t paying attention and found themselves off the beaten track, scrambling over the rocks that were exposed at low tide. Then, Elaine slipped and our stay in New Zealand took a direction that we had definitely not expected.
While we enjoyed our dinner of fresh calamari for starters, followed by New Zealand mussels for Elaine, a rack of New Zealand lamb for Roy and sticky date pudding and cheesecake, respectively, for dessert, Elaine felt her right ankle become more painful with each passing hour. Fortunately we didn't have to walk back as the restaurant offered a courtesy service which returned us to the marina later that night. However, while life takes these unexpected twists and turns, it is fair to say, that if anyone had told us we would enjoy a wonderful meal with Talulah Ruby III in Paihia, New Zealand, after we said goodbye to them in Curacao more than two years before, we would never have believed them. It is indeed a strange old world!
By the next morning, Elaine’s ankle had swollen quite considerably and she struggled to put on her boots. Regardless, it was time to find some new shoes, since the soles of these very comfortable, not to mention, very expensive, leather ankle boots had simple disintegrated. It seems nothing lasts on a yacht! So, it was off to Paihia to find a doctor and a shoe store.
With new shoes procured and while we awaited the doctor’s appointment, Elaine worked her way through all the tourist brochures we had collected in Paihia and created our New Zealand itinerary for the remainder of our stay. We certainly had plenty to look forward to. However, given that the weather had remained miserable and apparently would remain that way until the new year, we decided to change our plans by visiting family and friends in the UK and the USA sooner, thereby freeing us up to enjoy New Zealand when the better weather was expected from January. A much better idea!
It was with a heavy heart though that we suddenly realised it was unlikely that we would see many of our sailing friends again, as they had departed for other destinations in New Zealand to haul their yachts and go home, either for the season or for a few years. It seemed this was going to be a very different hurricane season from the previous two we had experienced in Bonaire and Grenada, where sailors gathered to spend the season together vs. dispersing, as they did in New Zealand. We, however, had a wonderful holiday season with loved ones to look forward to.
Our return to New Zealand on New Year’s Day after the holiday season and to Paihia on 2nd January 2017, revealed a very different destination from the one we had left behind some weeks earlier. We had a great day in Auckland, pub crawling along the water front that was very festive and Paihia was teaming with tourists, the beaches were crammed, people were swimming and it was 31C; A far cry from the freezing, stormy conditions that welcomed us to New Zealand just two months earlier.
Being back “home” though, also meant dealing with Elaine’s ankle, following another incident in Arizona which resulted in her re-entering the American medical system, albeit briefly. This revealed some incredulous contrasts to the medical care we have received in different parts of the world since starting our sailing adventure.
In Martinique and Ecuador there wasn't a single form to be completed or signed, only a process of answering some pertinent questions pertaining to the ailment, the answers of which were captured by the doctors directly onto their computers. The additional advantage of Ecuador’s examination, treatment and medication was that it was completely free. In New Zealand there was just one form to be completed, although, this system leaves much to be desired in many ways, particularly the associated expense for very untimely and questionable care. In the USA, upwardly of twenty pieces of paper covering financial disclaimers, medical record disclaimers, privacy disclaimers had to be completed and countless questions on matters that had absolutely no bearing on the actual ailment had to be answered. In fact, in all the forms, there wasn't even a question where we could capture the reason for the doctor's visit and subsequently had to scribble it down as a random note. The difference in the USA though is that Elaine received prompt and appropriate care. There was, however, a major revelation with the USA system. Although we have international medical coverage, which excludes the USA for everything except Accident and Emergencies, it was cheaper for us to pay as visitors and, therefore, as a cash customer, following which we could submit a claim for the expenses directly to our medical insurance company, as appose to having the providers process the paperwork as an insurance claim. In fact exponentially cheaper: $65 vs. ~$600 for the doctor's consultation and $70 vs. ~$350 for the x-rays.
Since there was no evidence of any fractures, breakages or dislocation from the x-rays taken in America, the first time this was ordered, some six weeks after the hike to Paihia, doctor’s orders were to “continue with the anti-inflammatory tablets prescribed by the doctor in New Zealand and follow the RICE regime; rest, ice, compress and elevate, until Elaine cold see an orthopaedic or podiatry specialist once back in New Zealand. So, with another doctor’s appointment lined up in Paihia to obtain a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon, our contrary adventure through the New Zealand medical system continued. We spent the next several days seeing various doctors instead of getting the referral we originally requested, as the decision was taken to ensure there was no evidence of any underlying medical issues. The most unhygienic visit to a pathology laboratory, followed by another doctor’s appointment eventually resulted in the referral, all of which was costing a pretty packet for each visit as a private patient, not to mention the private expense of the laboratory tests.
Then we had to wait a month to see the orthopaedic surgeon and another three weeks to get an appointment for an MRI and additional x-rays. By the time we received the results it was close to the end of February; four months since the accident, while paying exorbitant private fees which, strangely enough, does not expedite the care in any way. In fact, on entering the social medical system in New Zealand, you are placed on the waiting lists just like everyone else; an understandable practice, had we not been paying the outrageous private fees, but merely covering costs.
The “insult to injury”, pardon the pun, came with our private medical insurance, IMG Europe Limited, who have yet to settle a single claim submitted. After paying our premiums for three years and never making a claim, it seems, when we actually needed the service, it was non-existent. Not to mention that there pre-notification process turned into a pre-authorisation for care and by the time that was granted, weeks had elapsed. Fortunately this slow progression of their process correlated with the New Zealand medical system. The worrying factor was that, as transient sailors, by the time we would have received the pre-authorisation we would have sailed to our next destination. Cumbersome doesn’t even begin to describe one of the most inefficient processes we have ever encountered.
The cherry on the cake though came during our consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon following the MRI and x-rays. Fortunately Roy joined Elaine in the consultation room; otherwise Elaine would certainly have agreed that she’d totally and utterly lost her mind. While this appointment was eagerly awaited, it ended up being the most worthless and confusing consultation ever. We were even more confused when we received the actual reports on the results of the MRI and x-rays from the radiologists a day later.
The feedback went from indicating that no surgery was needed, to possibly needing surgery at a later date, which would involve a camera being inserted into the joint, to physiotherapy involving strapping and bracing, to cortisone injections using the fluoroscopic technique in order to reduce the swelling in the subtalar joint. Through all of this we then learnt that the specialist didn't actually deal with ankles per se, but rather shoulders, hips and knees.
That said, what we thought we understood from the consultation was that there were no torn ligaments or tendons. The injury was a severe sprain that caused the ankle joint to open, which then caused inflammation of the tendons, ligaments and joint. The swelling that continued unabated was due to the joint remaining open and could not close due to the inflammation, all of which could not be resolved with the RICE regime and anti-inflammatory tablets alone.
While arrangements were made for the cortisone injection procedure, the direction Elaine was then given was to "carry on doing what she’s been doing", start walking and moving the joint as much as she could bare and get "something" to support the ankle so that she didn't roll over on it again,. Unfortunately the earliest date at which the cortisone procedure could be administered was weeks out.
Once that was all digested and we were back in Paihia, we paid a visit to the pharmacy in the hope of getting "something" that would support Elaine's ankle so as not to exacerbate the injury. It was then that we were referred back to the physiotherapist whom Elaine first saw nearly four months earlier. The song, "Oh my life's a circle" springs to mind and by this point, we decided that the best course of action was to just go home and have a very strong drink!
What the actual reports from the radiologists revealed, after spending the day digesting the information, was that the injuries, in fact, were: #1 - Moderate ankle and posterior subtalar joint synovitis with pronounced synovial thickening and oedema in the lateral gutter (aka swelling of the subtalar joint lining and a build up of fluid at the surfaces of the joint); #2 - High grade partial tear of the Anterior Talofibular ligament with thickening and oedema (aka torn ligament, albeit partial, with swelling); #3 - Partial tear of the Dorsal Talofibular ligament with thickening and oedema (aka torn ligament, albeit partial, and swelling) and #4: - Tibialis Posterior and Long Flexor tendon tenosynovitis (aka inflammation of the sheath of these two tendons).
It appears that what we both understood from the consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon was indeed a figment of our imaginations and that we had both, in fact, lost our minds!
The circle back to the physiotherapist turned out to be a blessing in disguise and, in fact, became the only treatment plan that put Elaine on the road to recovery. Between the bracing, physiotherapy and range of motion, strengthening and balancing exercises, together with instructions to move as much as possible, including walking, cycling, rowing and using an elliptical, paid off. Fortunately by this point our time in Opua was coming to an end and, although we would make the four hour round trip back to Paihia every week for the physiotherapy sessions, we had made arrangements for a slip in the Whangarei Town Basin marina, which meant Elaine had access to the hydrotherapy pool and fitness centre at the Aquatic Centre. Couple that with the little car which Kate and Steve from Blue Summit had loaned us, while they returned to the USA, and we finally had everything to get the improvements so desperately needed.
While progress on a day to day basis seemed slow, when we looked back at the fact that Elaine was unable to walk at all at the beginning of March and was unable to even get up the marina dock ramp at low tide without Roy pushing her up it by her bottom, a sight that must have been rather bizarre to witness, her progress over the following weeks was indeed remarkable; a sentiment expressed by the orthopaedic surgeon during our follow-up appointment to discuss and finalise the cortisone injection procedure. It was definitely time to celebrate when the conclusion was reached that the procedure was no longer necessary. From Elaine’s first walk of roughly 0.5KM to the Saturday Craft Market on the Canopy Bridge in Whangarei, where she bought some freshly baked artisan bread and enjoyed some tourist attractions along the way, to eventually walking the entire 4.5KM Hatea Loop, was a struggle of monumental proportions; a struggle that, at times, lead to meltdowns, fits of despair and felt like we'd entered a parallel universe of being gainfully employed again; waking up to the sound of an alarm clock while it was still dark and cold outside, making our way to the Aquatic Centre in the pouring rain to begin the workout, since access to the pool was limited and exercising at every opportunity, seemed endless.
Of course, it didn’t help matters that almost every other joint in Elaine’s body resulted in excruciating pain every time she moved. While the orthopaedist and physiotherapist said this was symptomatic of the ankle injury and, since extensive blood work had ruled out any other underlying health issue, it was time to think "outside the box". What has changed since January? Well, surprise, surprise, her mattress!
It was only after temporarily swapping out the new mattress with an older one from one of the other cabins, that Elaine realised she had basically been sleeping on something that may as well have been the floor, given the firmness. Sleeping on something softer was like being in heaven and the benefit was realised immediately. She woke up the following morning with all her other joints either entirely pain-free, like her neck, shoulders and hips and the others, like her knees and elbows significantly improved. You can guess what she wanted to do with that new mattress!
With Elaine eventually on the road to recovery, there was, however, another consequence to this injury. We had to significantly curtail our touring of New Zealand due to the exorbitant private fees we were paying and the constant hanging around while we waited on appointments that never seemed to materialise in a timely manner. That included foregoing a tour of the South Island altogether. We did, however, still have the opportunity to see Northland, both by land and by sea, so all was not lost.
Our first adventure was to Russell, New Zealand's first capital, which we visited by dinghy. Our first challenge, however, was getting tied up to the very interesting dinghy dock, if you could call it that - Nothing like having to climb up a 3M rusty old ladder to actually reach the dock.
While Russell, previously known as Kororareka, was full of history, with New Zealand's oldest pub, its oldest church, Christ Church, which is still scarred with musket ball holes from the war in 1845, the French Catholic mission building of Pompallier, built from "rammed earth" and once having printed 40,000 bibles in Maori, as well as the oldest licensed hotel, The Duke of Marlborough, what struck us about this pretty seaside village, was its charm and elegance. Beautiful historic homes, set in colourful gardens, surrounded by white picket fences only added to the character.
Our first stop was Pompallier, where we enjoyed a hands-on experience of the printing operation. The missionaries translated religious text into Maori and then printed and bound them into beautiful leather-covered books, where the leather was produced in the adjourning tannery.
After visiting Christ Church, we then walked to the famous flagstaff on Maiki Hill, which was cut down four times between 1844 and 1845 due to disagreements and misunderstandings between the Maori and the British. Today is flies New Zealand's original flag 12 days a year and boasts spectacular 360° views of the Bay of Islands. We wrapped up our adventure with a delicious lunch at The Duke of Marlborough Hotel, while overlooking the bay and watching dolphins frolicking in front of us. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day out!
For Roy's birthday, which coincided with our 1-year anniversary of setting sail with the World ARC for the start of our circumnavigation, we took the car ferry from Opua to Okiato as foot passengers, where we were collected by the shuttle service from Omata Winery. After the wine tasting, we savoured a delicious lunch; a seafood platter for two, accompanied by a bottle of Omata's award winning Pinot Gris, followed by their sweets plate, topped off with a specialty coffee. Add to that the magnificent views of the vineyard overlooking the Bay of Islands and it was indeed a fabulous birthday celebration.
Although Elaine was still limping around, we also got the opportunity to explore Kerikeri and visited some of the historical sites, In particular, Mission Station, which was established in 1819 and one of the first places in New Zealand where the Maori invited visitors to live amongst them. At the heart of the mission station are the countries two oldest buildings, Kemp House and the Stone Store, the former being the oldest, built in 1821-1822. The Stone Store was built in 1832, which was originally the Mission Society's warehouse, but later assumed various roles, including a trading post and general store, a role which continues today. Unfortunately we never made it to Rewa's Village, which is a full-scale replica of a pre-European Maori fishing village or to St James Church, which was opened in 1878 and, during its many years of existence, has never witnessed any battles, but was physically moved by a tornado in 1968. We wrapped up this outing with a stop at the Makana Chocolate Factory and Café to enjoy some chocolate and an ice-cream.
While anchored near Russell, we took the opportunity to take the passenger ferry over to Paihia a number of times. On one of these occasions we decided to become "gastronomic tourists" for a late afternoon / early evening adventure. First stop, for starters and drinks, was at the 220 Alongside restaurant, where we both enjoyed New Zealand green-lipped mussels in a ginger and lemongrass sauce, accompanied by a freshly baked garlic baguette. Then after taking a short stroll / hobble, we settled on the 35° South restaurant to enjoy our main course of scallops with smoked potato puree and lemon dressing, accompanied by a side of green beans and roasted hazelnuts (Elaine) and lamb rump, comfit lamb shoulder with roasted garlic, broccoli tapenade and red wine sauce (Roy). But, alas, it was not meant to be! After waiting nearly two hours for our meal due to a power outage covering the entire Northland area, we threw in the towel and headed back to Paw Paw for a toasted cheese sandwich and a "feel good" movie to lift our spirits - What a disappointment. Our mouths still water at the thought of that meal!
On 6th February 2017, we were up early to make our way to Te Ti Bay to anchor off the Waitangi Treaty Grounds; it was Waitangi Day. Every year New Zealanders of all communities, backgrounds and creeds gather to commemorate the signing of New Zealand’s most historic document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed in 1840 and forged the land that is now called Aotearoa / New Zealand.
From the anchorage we could clearly see the historic Treaty House, built in 1830, Te Whare Rūnanga, the magnificently carved meeting house which houses the world's largest ceremonial war canoe, Ngatokimatahaotua and the flagstaff, which was flying the very first flag of New Zealand, the United Tribes flag and the Union Jack.
While some of the celebrations started as early as 0500 with the traditional Dawn Service in Te Whare Rūnanga, we arrived in time to see Ngatokimatahaotua along with a myriad of other traditional canoes making their way from the Treaty Grounds to Te Ti Bay for the remainder of the ceremonial service. It was wonderful to join the parade in our dinghy while enjoying the traditional singing from the canoes. That was followed by the Royal New Zealand navy’s Big Band performance and then the Kapahaka at the Flagstaff, as well as a 21-gun salute. It was a very special morning indeed!
Another outing that commenced with the passenger ferry from Russell to Paihia was our 13-hour round trip coach tour to the very top of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean and where the most spiritual grounds in the Maori culture reside, Te Rerenga Wairua, Cape Reianga as well as Cape Maria van Diemen, so named by Abel Tasman in 1643 after the governor's wife of the Dutch East Indies.
En route to our first destination, we passed through the town of Kerikeri again, known as the "fruit basket" of New Zealand. It was here we eventually received an explanation for the rows of very high trees that demarcate the properties. They are Manuka trees that, not only serve as effective wind-breaks, they also keep the bees, used for honey farming, with their designated owners.
About an hour after leaving Kerikeri, we arrived at Puketi Kauri Forest, where a short meandered revealed the ancient and magnificent giant Kauri trees. We learnt that a diameter of 1M is equivalent to 300 years of life and that these particular trees have survived purely because of their geographical location. Since there were no streams or rivers near this site, the Maori and early pioneers were unable to transport the trees.
The wood was used extensively to carve out the traditional canoes as well as in construction. It is believed that, at one time, the entire Northland area was covered with these trees, but felling was so extensive that one could walk from one end of Whangaroa Harbour to the other across all the logs that floated therein.
On the return leg of our tour, we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Tree Village. Around 100AD a massive seismic event, the same one that is believed to have created the volcanic Lake Taupe, is believed to have split the valley in Northland, causing many of the Kauri trees to end up buried in swamps. These trees are around 50,000 years old and are now being reclaimed from the swamps to make fabulous, albeit extremely expensive, furniture. The village housed a magnificent staircase made from a Kauri tree trunk and has a price tag of $7.5 million USD.
From the forest we continued to make our way north through Kaeo, where we stopped for morning tea and then headed on to Whangaroa Harbour, a popular sailing destination, and on to Mangonui, Taipa and Awanui. Mangonui is a very popular summer holiday destination for New Zealanders, in particular Coopers Beach and Cable Bay, the latter being the location where the first underwater cable was laid from Sydney to New Zealand in 1912. Our lunch stop was at the picturesque, Houhora Heads, where we enjoyed delicious "fish and chips" before heading to Te Paki Stream and the giant sand dunes.
As we travelled north, we noticed a significant change in the landscape; from tree-covered valleys and mountains, to grassland savannah over rolling hills, to sparse tundra, with huge sand dunes. We also noticed a change in agriculture. Large dairy and beef farms dominated the countryside, apparently replacing 50% of the sheep farming industry in New Zealand now. The second striking factor was how dry it was. There had been little to no rain for a few months in this area, but there was a 6-week waiting period to buy and bring in water as well. Staggering in this day and age!
Another mystery surrounding the Waitangi Treaty was resolved during this tour. While the Treaty was translated to Maori from English the night before the signing, the Maori word for "sovereign" was incorrect, thereby resulting in the Maori chiefs signing over their land unknowingly. As a result a tribunal was established in 1970 which is still working to return land to the Maori nation.
Off-roading in a 4-wheel drive tour coach was very cool indeed. With "seatbelts fastened and heads away from the windows", we made our way up the Te Paki stream and stopped at the foot of one of the enormous sand dunes, where Roy went sand-boarding. Not only was he a distant dot by the time he reached the top of the dune, he was soaked coming down when he stopped in the stream. Even if Elaine wasn't on crutches, she doesn't think she would have been brave enough for this particular adventure!
From there we headed to Cape Reinga. While Elaine found a comfortable bench to enjoy the panoramic views, Roy hiked to the lighthouse. One enters the area through a beautiful arch and, from this point forward, one is on spiritual land. In the Maori culture it is believed that, no matter where a Maori dies in the world, a Maoris’ spirit will return to Te Rerenga Wairua. It is believed the spirit returns along the west coast of North Island via the Ninety Mile Beach or via Spirit Bay on the east coast. It then departs the Cape underwater for the Three Kings Islands, where it waves a final goodbye to New Zealand, before entering the resting place, Hawiki.
En route to the Cape we also passed the natural silica dunes which used to be mined for glass-making. The silica used to be transported to Auckland and then on to England. Today, for ecological reasons, this practice had been stopped. The silica was, however, used to sandblast the tiles for all the space shuttles.
Our final adventure on this tour was another off-roading stint along the Ninety Mile Beach, where we stopped to dip our toes in the surf. While the beach is not actually 90 miles long, it is an impressive 50+ miles long and more than wide enough for cars, motorbikes and buses to travel along in both directions.
Although it was a very long day and Elaine had to pass on some of the activities, it nonetheless left us with a wonderful appreciation of New Zealand's natural beauty and some aspects of the Maori culture, which is unfortunately no longer evident in the day to day life of New Zealand, a sharp contrast to the other South Pacific islands we have visited.
Other tourist attractions we enjoyed included a visit to the Hundertwasser Toilets and seeing Gabriel, the steam engine, which travels through the town centre of Kavakava, as well as a journey along the East Coast Discovery route, passing through the seaside towns of Metapouri and Tutukaka, where we stopped for a delicious lunch at the Schnappa Rock restaurant, before heading on to Ngunguru and Whangarei.
Besides our road trips, cruising around the Bay of Islands was not only an opportunity to enjoy New Zealand's top cruising ground, it also took us off our mooring ball a few times and was, indeed, a welcome change of scenery.
One of our favourite anchorages was the beautiful Orokawa Bay and it was a bay we navigated back to on more than one occasion to shelter from bad weather. With time on our hands, curiosity got the better of us, so we did a little research into why the adjacent bay, Te Hue Cove, is also known as Assassination Bay. Our efforts revealed that French explorer, Marion Dufresne, setup a hospital for his sick crew in 1772 on the adjacent Moturoa Island, but everyone was massacred in Assassination Bay soon thereafter. Delightful!
Another delight of Orokawa Bay, besides enjoying the peaceful evenings and watching the sunsets, was the constant entertainment provided by the numerous Grey-Faced Petrels. They are a protected species in New Zealand and are absolutely fascinating to watch, as they fly high over the sea, scanning for fish and then, from heights of 30M, they conduct the most spectacular dive, folding their wings to speed up and reaching speeds of 100KM per hour as they hit the water. All one hears is a loud splash. It's a wonder they didn’t knock themselves out!
It was in Orokawa Bay that we celebrated Elaine’s birthday. Although the weather had turned foul again, her day started with a cooked breakfast, complements of Roy, opening her gift from her folks to discover a beautiful silver pen decorated with Swarovski crystals and then receiving a surprise gift from Roy; a paddleboard, followed by a myriad of birthday wishes from family and friends all over the world who had realised it was the 19th in New Zealand. The good news was that she received more wishes again the following day as it was 19th in most other corners of the world; nothing like having two days to celebrate your birthday and, given that the weather had cleared to reveal a gorgeous sunny day, a second day of birthday celebrations ensued. To mark the occasion, Roy got to work in the galley and turned out a number of treats, including a soda bread bap, which we enjoyed for lunch as well as an old South African favourite, an upside down pineapple cake, which we enjoyed with afternoon tea and again for dessert that evening. With the wind having died down and Paw Paw floating lazily in calm waters, we decided that a good old fashion South African braai with boerewors, accompanied by a delicious bottle of Nederburg cabernet sauvignon was the perfect way to end the day.
Other islands and bays that we visited in the Bay of Islands included Pomare, Koroareka and Matauwhi Bays, not far from the historic town of Russell, Otehei Bay, Paradise Bay and Otaio Bay on Urupukapuka Island, Kiekie Cove on Motukiekie Island, Waiwhapuku Bay, Ohipoho Bay, Awaawaroa Bay, Hahagarua Bay and Waipoa Bay on Moturua Island, Twin Lagoon Bay on Motuarohia Island and Parekura Bay, in particular, Te Uenga, as well as Opunga Cove and Parora Bay. While all were simply beautiful and seeing dolphins while out and about always brightened up the day, there wasn't a restaurant, bar or shop in sight, unless one was anchored near Paihia or Russell, primarily because all the beachfront properties were privately owned, with no access to roads, etc. There were accesses to walking trails and beaches on some of the islands though. What we also realised was that cruising the Bay of Islands was more about chasing the wind on a daily basis and picking the best anchorage accordingly, as the fronts and ridges alternated in a continuous flow over New Zealand, resulting in one day of bad weather and one day of good weather, with winds spinning in various directions. If we were lucky, we got two consecutive days of each.
Sailing down the Te Rawhiti Inlet, however, with the entire racing fleet participating in the Bay of Islands Sailing Week coming in the opposite direction, made for interesting helming as we didn't want to get in anyone's way, but it's not the largest of channels with delightful rocks just where you don't want them to be.
In between our road trips and cruising the Bay of Islands, we passed our endless days in rural New Zealand by watching the start of the Russell Tall Ships regatta, finding a shady spot under the trees on the beachfront of Russell to enjoy an ice-cream and enjoying a late lunch of "fish and chips" at the Crusty Crab, made from Tarahini which is a deep-water, white, fleshy fish found in the South Pacific. Desserts and coffees were enjoyed at the Newport Boutique Chocolate Factory, late afternoon / early dinners at the Duke of Marlborough's Tavern and Valentine's Day dinner or a Sunday Roast at the Opua Cruising Club, as well as morning coffees at the Marina Cafe.
Unlike most of the cruisers who arrived in New Zealand for the hurricane season, we made the decision to spend the majority of our time on a mooring ball in Opua. On hindsight, we’re not altogether sure this was the best decision, given the isolation of Opua, which resulted in the lack of a social life, as well as the total lack of many services a full-time cruiser needs. Arriving in the Whangarei Town Basin marina at the beginning of March 2017, was indeed a welcome return to civilisation and all the services we needed.
In Opua, simply services like obtaining dinghy fuel meant a trip to Paihia or Russell. Finding a security guard posted at the entrance to the only available garbage disposal units in the entire area halfway through our stay was rather disconcerting. Especially when we learnt that this was to prevent cruisers from using the facilities, although we had made arrangements with the marina to do so when we first arrived. Fortunately, we were able to gain access during afterhours using the marina key we had. There were no public transportation services to access grocery stores and a taxi would set us back $40NZD for a round trip of 8KM / 5 miles. There was no access to propane gas, unless we paid $85NZD to have a single bottle inspected before they would fill it. The only alternative was that we had to purchase a New Zealand bottle for $75NZD. The same level of bureaucracy applied to getting our dive tanks filled and, trying to use shore power in the marinas, was prohibited if your cable had not been certified in New Zealand first, of course, at a cost of $100NZD. Then there was nowhere to enjoy a sundowner or a dinner, unless we joined the Opua Cruising Club for $180NZD. The internet service, provided through Northland Connect, was flaky at best, but trying to obtain any support was non-existent, even when trying to obtain a refund for a service that failed continuously. It was staggering to realise that there was very little understanding that full-time cruisers actually immigrate into a country as temporary residents and, therefore, need basic services to live. The mind boggled!
Not having the basic services was irritating enough, but we were also very surprised at the prices suppliers tried to charge for yacht parts and repairs. Parts that we could source in the USA were anything up to four times the price in New Zealand. Then there was the unreliability of many services, which, we learnt afterwards, was a general complaint amongst cruisers. Arrangements would be made and no one would show up or tireless and frustrating follow-ups were required to ensure delivery. In some instances, we had suppliers who seemed to be in a total fog about work they were doing for us or what delivery dates they had agreed to. This included getting our depth sensor replaced, which was handed in weeks prior and apparently had got lost in the mail, having our weather guard for the helm station replaced, acquiring the replacement of Elaine's mattress and trying to get our rigging inspected.
Furthermore, when certain services were delivered, we felt ripped off in that a full disclosure of the costs were withheld in many cases. For instance, we understood “wet-sanding” during our haulout would encompass machines. Instead, what we received was “two ex-rugby players frolicking in the water”, as Roy described it, trying to sand our antifouling by hand at $60NZD per hour each; a complete waste of time that cost us $240NZD in the end until we stopped this activity. Another example was the quote we received for the spray painting at $40NZD per hour plus materials, but we had to mix the paint, which all sounded reasonable enough until we received a bill for $300NZD just for the plastic and masking tape used to cover Paw Paw in preparation for the painting. A verbal quote from the dentist for oral hygiene was stated to be $135NZD, but when asked to write that down, it mysteriously altered to $135NZD per half hour. If you work that out, that’s less than a minute per tooth and down to a few seconds if you include the preparation time. When questioned, it was revealed that an oral hygiene would, in fact, cost $270NZD, as it would more than likely take an hour. Definitely left a bad taste in our mouths!
Simpler services, like trying to hire a car, turned into a fiasco, when the supplier thought it was perfectly acceptable to present a vehicle where the entire inside was covered in dog hair. Trying to purchase a second hand car also left much to be desired, where dealers seemed to think they were offering an unbeatable, “50% buyback” deal on vehicles that, in many cases, were more than ten years old, with more than 250,000KM on the clock. Then, come to find out, you’d be lucky to get 20% - 30% back, since the dealers knew they had the cruisers over a barrel, given that cruisers had to get rid of the vehicles prior to leaving New Zealand or abandon them. The words “racket” or “scam” certainly enters one’s mind!
We were definitely left with the impression that the yachting community in New Zealand is really only geared up for the local weekend cruisers or those full-time cruisers who come to New Zealand, get their yachts hauled and either leave the country or go touring on land after purchasing a car or camper van. In essence, we couldn’t help but wonder whether or not the potential income associated with the yacht itself was more sought after, not necessarily the cruisers, especially the likes of us, who remained on our yacht for the season.
Overall, we found New Zealand to be a very expensive destination, where one even had to pay for a shower while berthed in a marina or while on the hard. General sales tax sat at 15%, although cruisers could get the tax break on yacht parts and services if one happened to select a provider that offered it. Accommodation, like hotels, motels and B&Bs were double what we have seen elsewhere in the South Pacific and petrol was more than $6USD per gallon.
That said, Opua had great laundry facilities and there were no new rules introduced that prevented us from using these facilities, thank goodness! We were, however, in fits of laughter on one occasion because of an incident that was actually very embarrassing at the time.
With Elaine's ankle still playing up, Roy was helping to fold cloths as they were removed from the tumble dryers. In the midst of our little production line, Elaine asked Roy to remove the next load. So, in his infinite wisdom, he opened one of the dryers, started pulling out laundry, lifted up a pair of rather large ladies frilly panties and, at the top of his voice, says: "Jeez Elaine, these have stretched". When Elaine turned to look she noticed he'd opened the wrong dryer, but the man who actually owned the laundry was standing right behind Roy looking less than amused. Needless to say, we completed our chore and scurried out very quickly thereafter.
Fortunately our time in Whangarei turned out to be a “day and night” contrast to that of Opua. Having left our mooring ball in the Bay of Islands after 4 months and after rounding Cape Brett in very benign conditions, we enjoyed a fabulous "shake out" sail en route to Whangarei; close reaching at 6.5 Kts, in a 15 Kt easterly wind, with slight seas around 1M. We spent our first night in Puriri Bay, in the very picturesque harbour of Whangaruru, in the company of just one other yacht.
Our second day ended up being a long day of motor-sailing from Puriri Bay to yet another very picturesque anchorage, Urquharts Bay in Whangarei Harbour, where we spent two more nights, before Paw Paw had a very unusual adventure; a trip up the Hatea River. After meandering our way up the dredged channel of Whangarei Harbour, we eventually reached the Hatea River and the Te Matau a Pohe (aka The Fishhook of Pohe) bridge, where we awaited the bridge opening before continuing to snake our way further up the river, at times only having two feet of water under the keel, even at high tide, before reaching our berth in the Whangarei Town Basin marina, some 12NM inland.
It was very refreshing to be tucked in amongst a myriad of international cruisers again, who had obviously decided to spend the season in Whangarei rather than in Opua and it was easy to see why. If it looked like we were in the middle of the town on our Yellowbrick tracker, we actually were and that meant we had everything we needed on our doorstep; restaurants, bars, supermarkets, chandleries, shops, laundry facilities, etc, including a 4.5KM promenade, known as the Hatea Loop, where Roy enjoyed long morning walks and where Elaine could practice her walking over a shorter distance on an even surface and not having to negotiate getting in and out of the dinghy to get ashore.
It is fair to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Whangarei. While there, we enjoyed activities like the craft market on the canopy bridge, coffees at Serenity, ice-creams on the promenade when the weather was warm enough, some tasty dinners at The Quay and the Love Mussel restaurants, some very sociable "sailors happy hours" and a rather large dose of “retail therapy”. We were delighted to find a home goods store full of all the items we so desperately needed to replace on Paw Paw, but didn't have the packing space to bring them back with us from the USA / UK.
It was a case of “out with the old and in with the new”, after Paw Paw was kitted out with new floor mats, a new garlic press, a new non-stick frying pan, a new stainless steel sieve for baking, new pegs, a new cloth horse, egg poachers and a cookie cutter. Given all the repairs and maintenance activities that were also completed on her during the hurricane season, her makeover was almost complete. All she needed was her bottom cleaned and she would be as good as new!
As with all hurricane seasons, the list of “boat jobs” are usually endless by the time the season arrives and, given that we had sailed close to 10,000NM since leaving St Lucia, our list was no exception. These included:
· Fixing the support arm of the wind generator
· Replacing the stop switch for the wind generator, as this had rusted away
· Replacing parts on the reefing system
· Replacing sections of the weather guard around the helm station
· Replacing the dinghy davits and lazyjack lines
· Varnishing all the teak
· Replacing the bolts on the swim ladder
· Hot-knifing a number of the rope ends
· Relocating the SSB/HF radio cable to run in its own conduit so as to further reduce the possibility of any interference with our other electronic equipment
· Relocating the iridium satellite system
· Installing new wiring to allow the excess solar energy to trickle charge the generator battery
· Installing a new battery for the generator
· Replacing the generator lift pump
· Fixing both fuel tank floats to ensure the gauges read correctly again
· Replacing the fuel tank pipes which seal the fuel drains
· Checking the fuel and the tanks to ensure these were not contaminated in any way
· Cleaning the exhaust elbow and heat exchanger on the starboard engine
· Installing the new engine hour meters on each of the engines
· Servicing both engines and the generator
· Resolving the watermaker issue, which turned out to be the membrane
· Determining the root cause of the leak on the port side water heater and, once that was achieved, applying an ingenious fix
· Resolving the blockages and cleaning out our port side holding tank (aka black water tank), replacing the "o-rings" on both the holding tank throughhull valves, replacing the waste pipes as well the joker valves in both starboard heads (aka toilets) and the macerator pump in the port aft head. For some weird and wonderful reason, this particular job became an endless undertaking all season and continues
· Replacing the majority of all our cooling fans, since only two of the six fans were actually working. The others were either burnt out or rusted. So much for marine grade equipment that costs a small fortune to purchase!
· Installing the new grill and servicing the rest of the stove while it was in pieces
· Fixing a leak in two of the hatches on the starboard side
· Replacing the mattress in the port aft cabin
· Removing the old grout in both port heads (aka bathrooms)
· Installing our new, larger TV screen, which now affords us the opportunity to watch our movies without the need for binoculars; nothing like a few home comforts!
· Repairing the ceiling in the starboard forward cabin
· Repairing the Velcro strips which secure the cockpit cushions
· Wiring Paw Paw to pimp her out with new "festivity / party" lights in the cockpit
· Completing the endless list of minor, niggling sewing jobs
· Undertaking a detailed cleaning both inside and out which included the helm station, all the bilges and underneath the floorboards, all the drains, as well as all the bunks and lockers, taking the opportunity to rearrange items for a better distribution of weight or simply disposing of them, getting all the cockpit cushions and the scattered cushions lovely and clean again, washing all the sunshades of the cockpit and polishing Paw Paw.
Before being hauled at Port Whangarei, we also had a very unexpected, yet fascinating afternoon when we took a tour of the Clapham's National Clock Museum. The museum had initially been built to house New Zealand's most famous horologist, Archibald Clapham's very quirky clock collection, after it had been donated to the city by his family, following his death. However, the artefacts have grown over the years into the most amazing collection. Amongst them is the Komet Music Box dating back to 1890, which first arrived in New Zealand from Germany on the paddle steamer, Wakatere. Also on display were numerous beautiful cookoo clocks, skeleton clocks, hand painted porcelain clocks, cathedral dome clocks and grandfather, grandmother and granddaughter clocks, most of which dated back to the 18th and 19th centuries. A definite gem in the heart of Whangarei!
On 15th March 2017, we meandered our way back down the Hatea River for our haulout. Being “put on the hard" is, in many ways, similar to undertaking a major home renovation. One enters a bubble, where you spend the entire day slogging from morning to night, doing all the things that can only be done while out of the water; scraping, sanding, painting, repairing, replacing and finally, cleaning and "decorating".
As with all haulouts, all of this, however, becomes a race against time and weather, but given the weather we had while in New Zealand, it became more of an issue. Painting couldn’t be done in the rain and it rained almost every day during the second week. Spray painting couldn’t be done in the wind and it was windy. We could only be splashed at high tide which meant a night in the sling and an early morning start to the day. The list went on. However, although we were dependent on all these external factors, the boatyard still charges various daily fees for "living" aboard, renting the boatyard space, renting the ladder / steps, etc which is over and above the charges for any labour and services required to be hauled, chocked, splashed, etc.
Other inconveniences while on the hard generally include the fact that, although we had running water from the tanks, this could not be used, unless it was caught in a bucket, since all the water would drain onto the ground underneath the yacht. That meant we definitely could not use the showers or indeed the heads (aka toilets), even with the holding tanks closed, as the waste trickles out slowly. That in turn meant using the communal bathroom and kitchen facilities in the boatyard and a physical workout on the ladder / steps getting up to and down from the living area of the yacht, numerous times, day and night. So, as you can imagine, we were definitely not pleased at having to add an extra week to our stay due to an unexpected dry sanding effort required to remove all the previous antifouling.
The first day was spent getting Paw Paw’s bottom jet-washed and then wet sanded. Once she was positioned in her new home, we wasted no time in getting on with our laundry list of To Dos. While Elaine dry sanded the propellers and sail drives, Roy finished removing the last of the barnacles and then removed the propellers in preparation for the new zincs and lock washers, as well as glued the rubber fairing of the saildrives back in place. Then, for the next week, while Roy worked on the dry sanding, Elaine got busy with the smaller jobs; applying coats of primer to the saildrives, cleaning all the nuts and bolts that hold the propellers and zinc anodes together, as well as applying the thread locker needed to ensure they don't unscrew once reassembled, cleaning Paw Paw's waterline and removing what looked like crude oil which we believe we picked up in Pago Pago, American Samoa, resealing the keel bolts, undertaking a detailed cleaning of the bridle, the primary anchor and all the chain, cleaning the windlass and chain lockers, sealing both the primary and secondary anchors, marking the chain and filling in some gelcoat scuffs in the hulls. With some time to spare, she then amused herself by updating the patches on her "dog bed".
Once the dry sanding was eventually completed, Paw Paw received a thoroughly good scrub before the primer coats were applied in preparation for all the masking and spray painting. Ever seen barnacles on a cruise liner or, for that matter, on a cargo ship? Well, neither have we! So, after two very unsuccessful attempts at putting on the so-called "best antifouling" for yachts, not to mention two extremely expensive undertakings and then have it fail dismally, we decided to rather use what the commercial vessels use. After two further coats of paint which we rolled on, Paw Paw was sporting a rather strange colour on her bottom, but, if it was good enough for Disney's fleet, then it was good enough for her! In between the final coats of anti-fouling we also cleaned the bottom of the dinghy. Well, at least to the point where it somewhat resembled its original colour. We also changed the dinghy engine oil, turned the chain around and got that and the primary anchor back in place. We were eventually done and ready to be splashed after two gruelling weeks. As exhausted as we were over these two weeks, we still managed to find the energy and inclination to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a barbecue at the crew lounge.
As our time in New Zealand came to a close and as we awaited a weather window for our passage back to Fiji, it became evident that, although there were a few aspects of New Zealand that we definitely did not expect, the weather was the biggest surprise. Given that this is a hurricane destination, we definitely did not expect to experience, for instance, three major storms with gale force winds and two subsequent storms that arrived in quick succession during our first 12 days following our arrival. Also, throughout our stay in Opua and while sailing around the Bay of Islands, these storms continued unabated, reaching wind speeds of anything from 35–50 Kts, forcing anchor watches and, at times, having both engines running for prudency. Looking at the synoptic charts on some occasions, it was difficult to even find the outline of New Zealand buried amongst all the low pressure systems and fronts. Preparing Paw Paw for strong winds, like letting out more anchor chain to increase our scope, wrapping the genoa sheets around the headsail to prevent it from unravelling inadvertently, stowing our cockpit cushions and various other bits and bobs so that there was no risk of items being blown away, even having to pack away the paddleboards, was not only a necessity, but became a routine. Add to that the risk of a tsunamis, the very cold temperatures at times, especially when the wind blew out of the south and one too many cyclonic lows, including Cook, which barrelled towards New Zealand causing torrential rains that poured down for days on end and we can’t help but think that we left the tropics to avoid these intense storms and would probably have fared better if we had avoided New Zealand altogether. This sentiment was definitely confirmed after our passage from hell which we endured en route back to Fiji.
But, no matter what we experienced, both positive and negative, these are, nonetheless, experiences which have inevitably enriched our lives. Without having travelled to this part of the world we would not have encountered Patrick off Eagle Dancer who was kind enough to ferry Elaine around for her various doctor’s appointments, who took Roy grocery shopping and, at times, loaned us his car for appointments further afield. We would not have had the opportunity to forge a stronger friendship with Kate and Steve off Blue Summit. Although we had experienced the World ARC together and we would not have experienced the unparalleled generosity of having the use of their car while they were away. This proved to be invaluable to get Elaine back and forth to the hydrotherapy pool and physiotherapy appointments. It was truly a blessing and helped enormously towards her recovery.
We would not have met Wade, from whom we rented our mooring ball in Opua, and with whom we spent a delightful afternoon viewing the yacht which his father spent 26 building and, after his death a year ago, Wade has been working to complete. Besides the fantastic purpose-built workshop at the back of his parent's property, containing every conceivable tool you can imagine, some of which were handmade to complete particular jobs, the yacht itself was absolutely spectacular. The craftsmanship of the teak and kauri woodwork, the stainless steel work and the handmade standing rigging and fittings was unbelievable, not to mention the attention to detail. After seeing the yacht, we can understand why Wade wanted to show her to us. Truly a labour of love! He also took the trouble to show us around Kamo, his hometown, following which he drove us up to the Parihaka Viewpoint, where we enjoyed fabulous views of Whangarei, the harbour and surrounding countryside.
We would not have experienced the helpfulness of the caretaker from Total Yacht Care who assisted us in getting back onto Paw Paw when we returned from the USA. Although it was a bank holiday and he wasn't working, he took the time to drive to the marina from his home, launch his dinghy in the water from its trailer, load us and our luggage and ferried us out to Paw Paw, then coming to our rescue a second time, after a mad panic to get our own dinghy back in the water, having realised we'd left our bag of groceries inadvertently on the dock.
We would not have met Lily and Otto, the owners of the Marina Café, who were always there to greet us with a smile and take the time to spend a few minutes chatting, helping alleviate the loneliness and providing the only social interaction we had for weeks.
Finally, one also cannot help, but admire the New Zealanders in many ways. For such a small nation, they, not only are incredible sportsman, particularly in sailing, rugby and cricket, but are very self sufficient in many ways. The fresh produce and food products they produce are of a very high quality, relatively inexpensive and absolutely delicious. Food tastes like food, unlike many other western countries we have visited or lived in. Fresh New Zealand lamb tastes very different from the frozen variety we've eaten in various parts of the world. Being in the land of the most natural antibiotic, raw honey, added to a “hot toddy”, became invaluable when we both got the sniffles from the cold weather.
Dating back to the "day dot", the "hot toddy" has always been considered the best way to cure a cold. The reason it is so effective: The raw honey contains the natural antibiotic, the heat of the hot water activates the antibiotic and the alcohol assists the body in absorbing the goodness more rapidly. Unfortunately the watered-down honey of our modern world, which is heated through the manufacturing process, removes the vast majority of the healing ingredients, but not in New Zealand! And then, of course, being able to purchase boerewors, droerwors and biltong definitely was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
It was also refreshing to see that most items one can purchase in the shops are made in New Zealand or from countries like India, Vietnam or Australia, not simply cheap Chinese imports. Of course, this does, however, place some items in a ridiculous price bracket. For example a pair of named brand walking shoes, which one can purchase in the USA for just over $100USD, was in excess of $300NZD. Other items like towels, rugs, kitchen items were priced across the board and varied tremendously from store to store, necessitating the need to definitely shop around. It was nice though to arrive in a place where household items were indeed available.
In summary, we are hard pressed to place New Zealand on our list of favourite destinations. Our disappointment can be contributed mainly to the appalling weather, the dreadful experience with the medical system, our isolation in Opua together with the lack of essential services required by full-time cruisers and, although, yacht services were available, many were unattainable due to the very poor level of service offered and the exorbitant prices.
New Zealand reminded us of just another western country, but not exactly positioned for the 21st century in many ways. The level of bureaucracy is completely out of kilter for the size of its sparse population and is indeed, in our humble opinion, smothering growth and development. It was also very disappointing that there was very little evidence of the Maori culture. but it does boast, quaint villages and towns, scenic landscapes, beautiful scenery and it was the place where we enjoyed one of our coolest experiences; off-roading in a 4-wheel drive tour coach up the Te Paki stream where Roy went sand-boarding on one of the enormous sand dunes and then off-roading along the Ninety Mile Beach.
On hindsight, though, especially considering the passages we had to get to and from New Zealand, we would never have taken Paw Paw there, but rather have visited New Zealand as a general tourist, purchased a camper van and toured for a month or two!