We are really beginning to believe that we, and A Capella will be coming home sometime soon. The cargo ship, the Dynamogracht, is currently in Australia so not so far away, and is due in Auckland in the middle of May. We have booked some fully flexible flights to London via Singapore, and have even managed to have our first Covid vaccinations. We are due to have our second jabs a week or so before we fly home.
We will miss New Zealand, our adopted safe haven for nearly a year and a half, but at the same time we are very keen to be back at home. We have used the past month to visit a few of our favourite places in the Hauraki Gulf – in particular Great Barrier Island and Waiheke Island, and have done some boat jobs in preparation for the big trip home.
Peter and Barbara from S/Y Musketelle very kindly lent us their mooring poles in the Tamaki River in Auckland. Getting between these poles and attaching the mooring lines is very tricky especially given the strong tide in the River, but once attached this has proved an excellent home for A Capella these past few weeks. The Panmure Yacht and Boating Club made us very welcome and the Club social Thursday evenings are not to be missed. Thank you Peter, Barbara, and the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club.
We took the opportunity for a little more land travel and it seems volcanoes have been the thing. It is becoming more autumnal and we were keen to fit in some final long walks. We headed to Taranaki and the wonderful Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge, and on the way visited Katrin and Dominic at their diary farm at Kio Kio, and returned via New Plymouth, the Forgotten Highway and the Tongariro National Park.
We met up with Bill and Zoe at The Park Hotel. Unbelievably it is the third time we have stayed here! We did the 20km, 600m accent, Tongariro Crossing the following day. The Crossing had been closed during the previous few days but we had fabulous blue sky all day. Despite the beautiful day, at over 1,200m the temperature was quite cool. This was my second time doing this walk and it still did not disappoint. The volcanic landscapes are just so big and so different.
Taranaki is off the main tourist trail, but Mt Taranaki is the most perfectly shaped volcano and we had not been down the west coast of the north island so it seemed a good place to visit. It is a good five hour drive from Auckland. We were fortunate to meet dairy farmers Katrin and Dominic while walking on Great Barrier Island. They live about halfway at Kio Kio and very kindly invited us to stay on their farm. Despite our extensive travels, and much to our surprise, we had seen relatively little of the famous New Zealand dairy farming. This was about to change as Taranaki and King Country is grass growing land, and home to many dairy farms. We had a great evening, just loved their house which was built with rammed earth walls, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing around the farm in the morning. Katrin and Dominic – thank you so much for your kindness.
Mt Taranaki and the Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge did not disappoint. The Lodge was quirky, but super friendly and in a fantastic location up the mountain. Julian was particularly delighted that all the electricity was supplied from a very old hydro electric system that has been running continuously since the 1930’s.
We had two magnificent walks. The first to the Stratford Plateau mainly through the bush. The damp cool climate here makes the vegetation just fantastic. It has a real hobgoblin feel.
Our second walk was more ambitious as we headed up Fantham’s Peak. We failed to reach the top, but did climb 700m of relentless, never ending steps. We were pleased to reach above the bush line and the grassy area before the scree. The mist came in so we decided to turn back ever so slightly hurt that our mission had been curtailed. We later heard that the ice on the higher sections was rather dangerous.
And finally it was onto New Plymouth and the Forgotten Highway. I was very keen to visit the art gallery in New Plymouth but it has to be said we were underwealmed. Julian likened it to an “emperor’s clothes” experience but I felt a little more generous. The weather was foul, but we found an excellent restaurant for dinner.
The route to Tongariro took us along The Forgotten Highway or State Highway 43. This is a great drive of 150km winding road and its goes across some seriously crinkly landscape, through gorges, tunnels and dense forest. Built on colonial bridle paths and formed in the late 19th century, this is seriously remote territory.
We have had a busy time but now we will have to get the boat ready for the cargo ship and start saying goodbye to our many friends here in New Zealand. Wishing everybody well at home and so much looking forward to getting back.