15 December, 2007

Welcome back to civilisation, and it doesn’t get much more civilized than Singapore. We have been here for two weeks now and seen only one bit of graffiti, no tagging, pretty much no rubbish, which after Indonesia is a real treat. Still I suppose a few lashes with the cane will deter most spray-can wielding youths.

Yes it’s been a while since we updated, sorry Doug, nice to see your comments back, we missed you, how’s the Earnslaw?

From Bali we took a wee trip north, to Paris for the Rugby World Cup. Why you ask, good question. By the time we arrived I (Shane) was down with the bot, the weather was freezing and the rugby, well what can you say. The only up part was that the French were so embarrassed with the win and the ref, call the man a ref?, that they bought us drinks and were quite embarrassed by the whole thing. Needless to say we then got behind the Froggies, “Allez Les Bleus”. Alas, they then crashed and burnt. Maybe we should support Aussie???, (with the new coach….who knows) Despite all that it was great to catch up with two of my bros in a tiny apartment in Paris. We also managed to catch up with two of Heather’s old work mates, Geoff and Simon, and brother Kim in a very smoky pub for the final.

Plus, Heather caught up with a (won’t say old) friend; she had last seen here on a school exchange in Tahiti…..well some years ago (like over 30 years). They were great and took us for a tour of their area including a nice little estate we thought we might buy at a later date, much later.

Thanks again Eric and Dominique. After Indo the budget took a bit of a hammering in Paris, two beers, about $30. Ouch!! Oh, and it was sooooo much fun being there during the first of the metro strikes. Fortunately we could walk to the middle of town from where we were staying in the apartment, but what a mess the traffic was. Now, as most of you would know, I might be accused of tending a shade to the left, but really, those Metro (train) workers, working a 35 hour week and retiring around 50, get real guys.
While the world cup was on NZ must have scored one of the best advertising coups I’ve ever seen. Smack in front of a really big aerial where everyone was visiting (The Eiffel Tower), a huge football shaped pavilion advertising 100% Pure NZ. Very smart

Aunty Helen was there to open it. I was sick in bed so missed the opening complete with the mandatory Haka and blessing but Heath trouped along with Kim and his new, as in just proposed to in Paris, fiancee Diana. After a few days and some good medication I started to come right just in time for Heath to get crook for a few days. Still we did manage to see all the usual sights, The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, etc. Brother Campbell and wife Ande even got me back to the Picasso Museum to try and awaken my love of modern art. Alas, it still lies dormant. We found good lattes still hard to find …but… if ever in Paris, go to Maccas, Champs Ellysses and you can get very good coffee for about 2.5 euros and sit outside for free. Best deal in Paris.

Thence on to Santorini in Greece. We were there about a month after the main holiday season. A lot of stuff had shut down and the following week just about the whole place was due to close for the winter break. Had the odd cruise ship still coming in with the grey brigade, but very quiet. Beautiful town though built on cliff edges.

Now I still can’t get more than five photos on one blog so carry on reading below!
Stopped in at Athens for a couple of days on the way back, which was probably the best bit of the trip. Both healthy, costs back to a manageable level and a very interesting city with the Acropolis etc and good shopping and cafes. Went to the movies there and there were about six advertisements pre kick off. Very unusual for us to see adds for smoking but they were there with avengence. All the actors looking very youthful, healthy and loving life. Must have worked because just about everyone smoked in Athens. Same in Paris. Bars reeked of smoke. Athens is also home of the world champion of the silly walks competition, and they take it very seriously. Still it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and they have had a few scraps in their time.

And that was the end of Europe.

Getting back to the warm weather in Bali was nice and coming around the corner in the cab and seeing “Enzwell” still afloat was very comforting. Home again. We didn’t hang around too long as we still had a few hundred miles to go before our visas ran out so after a couple of stops, headed off to Kumai at the bottom of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. This is one of only a couple of places in the world where you can see the Orangutan wild…ish, in the jungle. We hired a river boat and crew to take us up the river for an overnight trip.

The first day we visited the conservation station which was set up some years ago to study the orangutan in the wild and has since become well established. Each day the ranger puts bananas and milk out to supplement the orangutans’ diet. Here we saw quite a few orangs come down and grab a feed, nearly all with young ones.

Pretty cool and the babies are always cute.

Staying on the boat in the river that night was really great. Beautiful food dished up by the cook, sitting out chatting and having a couple of beers with the crew of three serenaded by the cicadas and frogs. Now if anyone tells you about the serenity of the jungle, they have never slept there. What a racket. You could not believe the noise those tiny animals made!!!!! Fortunately they only keep it up until about two hours after sun down. Next day we visited a couple more feeding stations and a river village. At the last station the big alpha male came down. This guy was huge! And very full of himself. When he climbed through the trees quite a few branches broke off. And he knew he was kingpin.

Another male was in the trees but wouldn’t come near the feeding platform because he knew what would happen. He didn’t appear too happy about this and snorted and bellowed and ripped branches off the trees he was in. Now this was seeing them, as they should be. Very impressive. When the big fella had his full he moved away about 40 meters and then just “hung” around, literally. The other males stayed well clear but one female came down with her young one and munched away quite happily, goes to show who really holds the power eh. All in all a great experience and certainly one of the highlights of Indonesia.
From there it was time to seriously get bailing out of Indo. Had a rotten trip for the first couple of days, bashing into a sharp chop and fighting 2-3 knots of current meant we were only making about 2 knots over ground at times. It was about then while thinking back to the lovely calm river voyage we considered selling the boat flying to Europe buying a canal boat and making it all very easy. Not a bad idea actually and we may consider it. Still after a couple more stops we checked out of Indo and now sit blissfully in a flash marina in Singapore at Sentosa Island with the gym and pool nearby. Fortunately amnesia is a wonderful thing and the horrid trips are just an unpleasant memory.
Singapore is soooooo nice after Indo. Talk about extremes, just 15 or so miles between them but about 50 years apart. Singers is spotless, as I said at the start, no rubbish, no tagging, no graffiti etc. It really is a very rich country with building going on everywhere. Massive housing, shopping and the biggest casino complex going up here at Sentosa. The main occupation here seems to be shopping which we have managed to do quite nicely. We will leave in a couple of days and head about 50 miles to another flash resort, with golf course attached, at Sebana Cove, Malaysia. We will spend Christmas there; and with that all there is to do is wish all and sundry a very Merry Christmas wherever you are and hope to catch up in the new year (we’re planning a trip back home in February/March.

Shane and Heath.

08 October, 2007

It’s been over two months since we left Aussie, and also a long break between blogs. Finding a decent internet with any speed in Indo has been impossible so this comes from gay Paree. We have left the boat in Bali and hope it will be there (and intact) on our return.

We had a fun last day in Bali contributing to the local police retirement fund. Corruption is alive and well in Indonesia but one comes across it personally when hiring bikes. It goes like this. They pull you over for some minor, if not imagined offence and ask for and International driving licence. We couldn’t produce one, so they start writing a ticket and fine you 200 000 rupiah (about $NZ30) for no licence and another 200 000 for your offence, and you have to go to Denpassar, or, you can pay them now. We had been wised up by a mate prior that the going rate to ‘pay them off’ is about Rp50 000, about $NZ7.50. You open your wallet having already made sure that you only have Rp51,000 inside, and after much hurrumphing and saying sorry, off you go less your money and the cops split the money, three ways in our case. Oh well, the up side is we have had some fantastic meals in very flash restaurants in Bali, and paid about $25 for two mains, two entrees and two drinks.

We have seen and done so much it’s hard to put in one blog, so we’ll split it into three and put some photos in as well. One of the highlights of our journey so far would have to be seeing the Komodo dragons.

Giant monitor lizards that only live in a couple of islands in Indo. Very slow during the heat of the day but they can sprint at about 30km per hour over short distances. They have been known to attack wild buffalo and a couple of humans have met their demise from them so they should be treated with a fair bit of respect.

We saw a couple of small ones on the beach at this anchorage at the south of the island of Rinja, but saw the big fellas in the National Park on the north coast of the island. This anchorage also provided a great feed of big luscious oysters.

The diving and snorkelling here is fantastic with great coral and clarity of water. It’s like diving in an aquarium and with the vis at up to 50 feet plus you just slowly mooch around checking it all out.

Plus in a number of these great anchorages we have gone ashore at night, had a BBQ on the beach with a few other yachties in the rally, and watched the glorious sunsets that you get in Indonesia.

Indonesia has been very diverse. We have covered the whole spectrum, from dirty dusty cities such as Kupang where we started; traditional native villages that hardly ever see tourists; great anchorages with fantastic coral and snorkelling; through to Bali which is full-on tourism and very westernised. Although it has been great most of the time, you do realise that you are in a third-world country, with all the associated issues such as pollution, risk of disease (e.g. malaria), and lack of access to some things that we take for granted at home (clean water and good standards of hygiene).

Kupang was our entry point into Indonesia; it didn’t have anything else going for it really. The local transport in Indo is the ‘bemo’; small vans that you squish into the back of, with drivers – some who look barely old enough to be able to drive – and most with noisy stereos blaring out with the bass turned up to maximum volume. Shane thought he would sit in the front seat on one trip to get a view out the front window; fat chance when this is the view he got from the front seat!

Indonesia has been very diverse. We have covered the whole spectrum, from dirty dusty cities such as Kupang where we started; traditional native villages that hardly ever see tourists; great anchorages with fantastic coral and snorkelling; through to Bali which is full-on tourism and very westernised. Although it has been great most of the time, you do realise that you are in a third-world country, with all the associated issues such as pollution, risk of disease (e.g. malaria), and lack of access to some things that we take for granted at home (clean water and good standards of hygiene).

Kupang was our entry point into Indonesia; it didn’t have anything else going for it really. The local transport in Indo is the ‘bemo’; small vans that you squish into the back of, with drivers – some who look barely old enough to be able to drive – and most with noisy stereos blaring out with the bass turned up to maximum volume. Shane thought he would sit in the front seat on one trip to get a view out the front window; fat chance when this is the view he got from the front seat!

Keep going, there are two more updates below as we can only get five photos per blog;
After Kupang it was down to the island of Roti for Shane to have a surf. We went to a village called Nembrala; a really nice spot. The water here was lovely and clear, with white sandy beaches and palm trees…..postcard perfect.

After a few days there it was back to join the rally at Lembata. We did a tour to a village that they call ‘Nature’s Kitchen’, a lot like Rotorua where they cook/steam the food in the ground.

As well as checking out the cooking, we intermingled with the villagers. Here I am sitting with one of the ladies, as she sits spinning her fine wool on to a spool. The locals got quite a bit of amusement out of me; what with my blonde hair I was somewhat of a novelty, and they continually pointed at my nose as us Europeans have quite big noses compared to the Indos. At least I didn’t get my nose pinched, as one of the other Kiwi yachtie ladies did – mind you, her nose was even bigger than mine!!

One of our next stops was at the village of Waimalung on the island of Flores. The afternoon we arrived, some of the locals came and visited us on their small dug out canoes. They were quite fascinated with the yacht and asked to come onboard. Conversing was a little limited, so Shane got his guitar out, and sang a couple of songs. They then proceeded to try and show him up, by displaying their musical skills. They were pretty good too!

Here’s a bike loaded down with the supplies to take off to sell at market. It’s absolutely amazing what can be squeezed on to one small motorbike……..

The last big city we visited before Bali was Bima on the island of Lombok. It was the first time Bima had been a stop on the Sail Indonesia rally, and they went all out to impress. The people were lovely, but again, Bima is just another dirty, grimy Indo city. One of the great things there though was the local transport, horse and cart, which were known as ‘Benhurs’ – don’t ask us why!

As you can see, as well as passengers, they also get loaded up with other things, in this case plastic water bottles. The bottles packed on to the back of the Benhur are like ‘water cooler’ bottles from home, and is how you buy drinking water in Indo. Twenty litre bottles, which sell for anywhere between the equivalent of $NZ 80 cents to $4. In the photo all the bottles are empty, but it was still quite a load for the poor old Benhur. The Benhurs had lots of bells around their neck; riding on them reminded me a lot of the donkey ride I had in Tijuana, Mexico. I don’t know quite how they made it to Indo, but…..

After Bima, we carried on further west, towards the Komodo dragon tourism industry and Bali, and you could sense you were approaching western civilisation again…..
We had nearly a week in Lombok. Lombok, we gather, is how Bali was 20-30 years ago. Tourism is happening, but they haven’t quite got it together. Off the north west coast of Lombok are the Gilli Islands; they are supposed to be quite lovely. We didn’t have time to get there, so will go on our return from Bali.

Then it was off to Bali. The rally fleet normally stops down the south of Bali – near Kuta and all the action – but with the number of yachts this year, there just wasn’t room so we were all up north at Lovina Beach. Lovina has a much slower pace than down Kuta. We went to the markets in the nearby city of Singaraja – lots of fresh fruit and veggies, and chickens ready to purchase.

Not quite packaged like Tegel do it, but at least you could see what you were buying! Note Fido hoping to find something of interest below the chicken stand! We had earlier in the trip, bought two chickens at the Bima market. They were quite tasty, and we lived to tell the tale!

At each venue we have been to, the local Regency (government) hosts a ‘gala dinner’, and Bali was no exception. Usually the gala dinners take the format of speeches, dinner, and then entertainment from the locals. Most have been great, but sometimes the dancing gets a little monotonous and goes on a little long.

Lovina was no exception – as far as the format of the gala dinner went – but the dancing was spectacular, as were the costumes. The dancers performed on the beachfront. They were the national champions, and had performed most recently prior to us, to the President. Describing the dancing on the blog would not do it justice, but hopefully this photo of some of the younger dancers gives you an indication of what a spectacle it was. It was like they were straight out of a Cirque de Soleil show.

The following night we were treated to another spectacle on the beachfront. There was a parade of the villagers, taking their offerings to the temple for the full-moon celebrations.

On their heads, the women each had a basket, especially stacked with fruits and other food to take to the temple. The parade was impressive to watch, as was the later dancing and celebrations at the temple.

We did a tour while in Lovina, of the northern part of Bali. There are lots of terraced rice paddies, and beautiful waterfalls. We also visited the processing plant for ‘Bali coffee’, and saw cloves being picked, dried and processed for export around the world. We saw a beautiful temple on the lake, and went to the local produce and clothes market. The locals are still doing it hard tourism-wise after the Bali bombings, and were almost pleading with us to buy their wares.

Lovina was a great stop, there was enough there to keep us busy, and we found a great spot to watch the All Blacks vs Scotland game at the Rugby World Cup. One of the Kiwi yeachties met up with a keen rugby supporter, who owns a resort in Lovina. He invited us around to watch the game, so we sat in the bar at the resort until start time, then 20 of us piled in to one of the villas – as he didn’t want us making a racket in the bar and disturbing all his paying guests! It was a good night, with a good win to the Abs.

After Lovina it was time for us to say farewell to the rally and head south to Serangan (near Kuta) to leave the boat while we went to Europe. We did the trip south in a two day hop. We set off on day two for the last 40 miles of the trip at about 6 a.m. in the morning.

For 180 degrees, right around us on the horizon, all we could see were these small fishing trimarans, most with brightly coloured sails. They had been out fishing overnight, and were returning to their villages on the east coast of Bali. There would have been hundreds of these small boats, and just when you thought they had nearly all passed by, another rush appeared from off the horizon. There are thousands and thousands of these boats around Indo; seeing the locals in them makes you appreciate what a hardy race of people they are.

So after five days in Serangan – surfing, drinking, eating great food, shopping, and inhaling lots of smoke and grit that comes with thousands and thousands of motorbikes being on the road – we are leaving the boat for a month, and flying off to Europe, to hopefully see the All Blacks achieve what they haven’t managed for 20 years…… victory at the World Cup. Paris will certainly be a contrast to Indonesia, but we are both looking forward to it; a change of climate and culture, and to catch up with Shane’s brothers.

09 August, 2007

8 August 2007

Sorry folks but after spending over an hour to upload photos in the internet office with a little mouse running in the wheel to make it go, we gave up so when we get to a faster internet somewhere in the world, its storey only:

First up – (not) a photo of the rally yachts taken from the Darwin Sailing Club. We had to anchor about a mile offshore, as the tides in Darwin are so big. It made for a long tender ride ashore; it took us about 8 minutes! The Sailing Club was in a great location, and it was neat looking out and seeing the yachts at anchor.

We got away from Darwin on 21 July. We had a champagne breakfast in the morning with non-rally cruising friends, and got back to the boat at 10.30 am. The rally start-gun went off at 11 am; suffice to say that the crew of Enzwell were still getting ready and we crossed the start line fashionably late by ten minutes. There were still plenty of yachts still to come behind us – after all, we were in a rally not a race! In past years, rally participants have had to motor most of the way to Kupang due to the lack of wind, but we will lucky, we had great sailing conditions on the first day. We did have to motor at night though. On that first night, we had at least 25 other yachts near to us; with all the navigation lights on it was like we were sailing in the middle of a Christmas tree! About the only thing of interest that we passed were two oil wells during the second night. The burning flame was pretty impressive and could be seen for miles. I found the passage quite rolly at times and not pleasant, so was pleased when we got to Kupang, 75 hours after we left Darwin. We were 23rd boat in, out of 115 odd who started, so we were pretty happy.

Formalities were up first, and we needed to get cleared by Customs, Quarantine and Immigration. We got in to find they had only cleared two yachts, at least 20 were still waiting, and another ten yachts had come in around the same time as us. Nothing in Indonesia works to a schedule or strict time keeping.

There was another small problem in that Customs didn’t have a boat to get out to see us all. After about an hour, they found one boat, so split into about three teams, they started to visit the yachts. We were lucky; they got to us early and did all the necessary paperwork, but then they couldn’t get to the next boat as their boat had disappeared. No problem, Shane told them to jump in our tender, and he became the ‘taxi’ to get them to the next yacht! After we had cleared, it was off to shore to explore.

The first official rally function in Indonesia was three days after we got to Kupang. The Governor of the district hosted a dinner for the rally participants; there were the usual speeches and traditional dancing. Each boat crew was given a gift on arrival – a plaque and woven scarf – and then they called for a representative from each country to go and get a further gift. New Zealand was first; no one went up (we thought someone had been chosen to receive the award) so on the second calling of NZ Shane went up and got another woven scarf and plaque. So, Shane is now the official NZ rep. Here he is with the representatives of all the countries participating in the rally. (no he’s not)

During the days in Kupang we had a good wander around. It is typically third world; dirty and dusty, the seawater is dirty, there is rubbish everywhere; but as it is off the regular tourist trail all the locals are very friendly. Particularly the younger kids. They loved practising their limited English vocabulary on us; everywhere we went it was “hullo mister”, “hullo missus”, “bye bye”. They had very infectious laughs and giggles. The local transport is the ‘bemo’ – a small mini-van with a row of seats along each side inside, and with a stereo system where it is mandatory to have the base and sub-woofer cranked up the maximum possible level. The noise got to us a bit after a while.

Sitting in the front seat of the bemo was good; you could see a bit more. In saying that though, the bemo windows were all covered with big transfers – most of them either soccer orientated or to do with the latest fashion trend – it’s a wonder the drivers could see out the front to see where they were going! Each bemo had a driver and ‘conductor’ – who collected the money. Some of the conductors were as young as 11 – obviously their schooling has given way to learning the art of Indonesian commerce.

We managed to find internet cafes, although they are a lot slower than what we have been used to for years, and firewalls and virus protection are unheard of. Eating out was super-cheap in Kupang; we went to the local night food markets just across the road from where we were anchored and could get nasi goring for both us for $1.50. Suffice to say I didn’t cook in Kupang and we ate out every night! I got an upset tummy – the nasi goring I had for lunch one day was a touch on the spicy side – so I stuck with Western faire the following day. Quite a few people got sinus and sniffles in Kupang; the air was very dusty, and there were burn offs ashore so we would wake each morning to thick smoky air. I got a bad throat infection, but got on to antibiotics straight away and got rid of the worst of it fairly quickly.

There are excellent markets in Kupang. Quite by accident, we stumbled across a very big fruit and vegie market, where all the locals go. We stocked up on fruit and veggies; a bunch of bananas was 80 cents and a bag of tomatoes 20 cents, so as you can see, it is very cheap here.

Kupang has been great and everyone really friendly, but it will be good to get to lovely islands where the water is clear and the air fresh and clean…….

In Kupang there were two tours organised, but we thought rather than do a tour with 300 other people, we would do a tour with only a few of us. On our first day in Kupang, we met Marco, one of the locals. He had spent a year working at Kakadu National Park in Aussie, and his English was pretty good. He offered to organise a tour for us.

So, on our last full day in Kupang, eight of us headed off in a bemo with Marco. On our way to the first stop, we called in at a fishing village where the local fishermen were building new fishing boats.

The boats were made of the local wood, with the bark between the strips of wood for sealing. Shane asked and they also used epoxy – so even though they build the boats in the traditional way, they still resort to white man’s magic! It was pretty amazing to watch them make these local craft; seeing the boats at sea sometimes made you wonder how they stayed afloat. But I guess they don’t have seas like Cook Strait to contend with…..

The first stop on our official itinerary was a monkey cave where the monkeys were roaming free. Some of them were extremely tame and loved being fed peanuts. So much so, they tugged at the legs of my shorts for more! Then it was off to a cave with a fresh water pool. We had to walk across a field, and then down into the cave. It was pretty slippery, so it was down on hands and feet to crawl down into the cave.

The water was a beautiful green and very clear; it was also nice and warm. We were all hanging out for a swim; we hadn’t been able to swim in Darwin (crocs) and the water where we were anchored in Kupang was filthy.

During the day we went to a waterfall for yet another swim; we visited the last King’s widow at her house (what a lovely old lady); and went to some small villages. We passed these kids who obviously get trained very young to take the family’s produce to market. People here seem to work very hard, but are happy with their ‘lot’. The day finished with a meal at a slightly more upmarket restaurant, for which we paid the princely sum of $US11 each. Shane and I both ordered fish; unfortunately it came out covered in chilli sauce and Shane couldn’t eat his at all. I persevered for a while on the side that wasn’t covered with chilli.

The following day we headed south to the island of Roti. Roti is known worldwide for great surfing spots, and we knew a few other boats from the rally had gone there. We went to the village of Nembrala. Nembrala was a complete change from Kupang; the water was lovely and clean, the air was fresh, and the village and houses were certainly of a higher standard than Kupang. We found out that Nembrala harvests a special type of seaweed which is sold to the Japanese and Chinese for use in cosmetics; this seaweed has made the village reasonably affluent compared to a lot of Indonesia. Nembrala has leased off blocks of land - $A30,000 for 30 years. A few lots have been leased to Aussies and Americans. They have built lovely (and thankfully not ostentatious) houses right on the beachfront.

We found one other gem in Nembrala, it has a bakery. The bakery made fresh bread, focaccia, and banana and chocolate cakes amongst other things. We put in an order, and got two loaves of bread, two small donuts, and two cakes for $NZ14. A bargain. Now all I needed to find was a café that made good flat whites…..

Here’s a shot looking out from the beachfront. All the local fishing boats tie up close to shore. You can see us yachts in the background. We are anchored in between the two coral reefs. Shane was able to get up first thing in the morning, take his surfboard in the tender over behind the reef, and surf to his hearts content. Meanwhile I was back on enzwell…. Cooking, cleaning……. A lot of the guys were getting in three surfs a day. Heaven……

You may also note Mr Piggy wandering along the beach. It’s a funny thing here, the pigs are all fat and healthy, but the poor dogs are all pretty scrawny. We haven’t quite worked out why.

On our third day at Nembrala, five of us hired three motorbikes and went for a tour around the bottom part of the island. We saw some beautiful little bays on the south side of the island, as well as more great surf beaches. Some of the roads were a little tricky, so we had to take it easy in parts. On our way back across the island, we came across the local road works gang.

This is how they make roads in Roti. Lay out even sized boulders on the road, try and make the surface as flat as possible, heat up the tar in a big drum in the adjoining paddock, and then pour the tar over the top of the boulders. Fascinating to watch, it just shows how it can be done without the use of big trucks and other first world means.

We have had a great time at Nembrala. It has been wonderful to relax and take it easy, at a lovely island. Unfortunately though, we are back to Kupang to sort some business, and then after that we are heading to Lembata to catch up with the rally.

We’ll update you further along the track in Indonesia; probably when we come across the next internet café.

OK it's getting way too hard. Here are the photos from the second part of the blog.

02 July, 2007

29 June

We left Cairns on 6 June, for the big trek up the Queensland coast and over the top to Darwin.

First stop was Low Isles, two sandy cays just off Port Douglas. We caught up with Di and Brendan from the yacht Sunburn, who we hadn’t seen since last October in Cairns, and got in a bit of snorkelling. Then it was off to Cooktown. We arrived at the start of Queens Birthday weekend, and the biannual celebrations commemorating Captain Cook’s landing there in 1770. Cook spent about 45 days in Cooktown making repairs to the Endeavour after it was damaged on Endeavour Reef, and it is recognised that he and his crew were the first white people to spend time in Cooktown.

Shane was not too interested about seeing a few blokes ponce around in fancy dress, but I dragged him along to the re-enactment and we both enjoyed it. A bit of humour introduced to the show made all the difference. Here is a photo, showing the scene just as the Union Jack had been hoisted, and a cannon fired to declare the land had been proclaimed in the name of the King of England.

We had two lovely sunny days in Cooktown, the first time we had seen blue skies for a while. On the Sunday afternoon we enjoyed listening to a jazz band playing at the Botanical Gardens. When we were walking back to the boat, we came across this interesting scene. We are not sure if the firemen look different here, or if they failed to save this poor family’s house…..

After Cooktown we had a fast sail up to Lizard Island, where we planned to spend two nights. However the winds blew and blew, and we were there for four. Lizard Island is the last stop north during the cruising season for yachties; after spending a bit of time there, they return south when the northerlies kick in in October. Lizard Island is also where Captain Cook went, and climbed to the top of the 358-metre hill, to try and find a way out between the reefs.

Lizard Island has two lovely bays; the southern bay has a lovely resort, and the northern bay is where all the yachties anchor. We found out that the rooms at the resort start at $900 a night, going up to $2500 for the most expensive! There was great snorkelling at Lizard; we saw some amazing giant clams. We also went ashore to the Marlin Bar (the staff bar at the resort) and watched the second State of Origin game (continuing on in our theme of latte-hopping and watching international sporting fixtures…..).

After Lizard we did a 24-hour run, going between the inner and outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. It was quite eerie at night; there was no moon so it was as dark as the ace of spades, there seemed to be flashing lights everywhere, indicating parts of the reef and who knows what else; and ships were passing us, that didn’t appear to be travelling in the shipping lanes. All in all a little unnerving……

After a couple more stops, we made it to Escape River, our last anchorage before going “over the top”. Shane put a couple of crab pots out when we arrived, but he misjudged the depth of water and the buoy was below water level. We both set off again in the tender to attach more line, both being extremely paranoid about any crocs that might be lurking in the nearby mangroves. All in all it was a wasted exercise, as when Shane went to get the pots in the morning they had gone!

The following day we got to Cape York, and had the obligatory photo to say we had made it to the northern most part of Australia.

By this time we had met up with two Aussie couples on their catamarans, and enjoyed time socialising in the evenings with them. Jim and Cheryl (Odyssey 9) had done this coast before, so it was good to be in the company of people who knew where to go and what to do.

Then it was off to Seisia, a small settlement just around from Cape York, to get a few last supplies in before we sailed over the gulf. A cargo shop arrives every Monday night in Seisia, having taken two days to get there from Cairns. We arrived Tuesday morning, so the supermarket shelves were well stocked. I grabbed a couple of magazines (New Idea etc) until I saw the price $8.20 each – and promptly put one back. I told Shane I would read every word twice in the one I bought, to get my money’s worth!

Our trip across the Gulf of Carpenteria was not much fun. The first day started off calm, but by that afternoon it felt like we were in a washing machine, stuck on the wash cycle. Although it calmed down a little, it wasn’t a lot more pleasant for the next two days either. I had to summons for a bucket at one stage….. I was pleased to reach Cape Wessel at the end of day three and get that part of the trip over. While we were doing this trip, and for the next few days, most of Australia was having lousy weather. We continually had strong winds and grey skies. We even had to get the duvet out for the bed!

We had a few short hops down the Wessel Islands and along the top of the Northern Territory coast. By this time we were travelling with another catamaran; Grant the skipper is recently from Havelock North and knows my sister and her ex – small world!!! Grant is now living in Perth, and had bought the cat in Southport and is sailing it home with crew.

Grant is a keen hunter and fisherman, so we have all spent a bit of time hunting out crayfish and oysters. We have been successful on the oyster-front (enjoying a couple of nights of Oysters Kilpatrick) but we have dipped out on the crayfish. After a couple of dives, Shane got very paranoid about the crocs, so gave away looking for them. (Shane…… Yeah!! After Grant told me he saw croc tracks on the sand about 500m from where I had the dive. Visibility was about two feet and I kept imagining Mr Croc behind me……...).

Since we left Cape York, we have been ‘buzzed’ about 4 or 5 times by the Coast Watch/Customs planes. This part of the coast is where many illegal immigrants try and get into Australia. The planes call us up, get our details, and then let us carry on our way. One of the choppers got so close to us, Shane managed to get their photo, while they were probably taking ours!

We started an overnight run yesterday morning, planning to get some mileage under our belt and get right up to the channels (that lead down to Darwin) by lunchtime today. I was having a rest early yesterday afternoon, when I heard a noise coming from the deck. I called out to Shane; he checked, and discovered that the line between the tender and the yacht had snapped. Our tender was now floating some 100 metres behind us, bobbing up and down in the 2 metre waves. We had to get the sails down, do a 180-degree turn (all the while trying to keep an eye on the tender’s location) and then motor back to where it was. Despite 30 knot winds and high seas, Shane managed to get a boat hook under one of the side straps on the tender, I grabbed the broken line with another hook, and we eventually attached a new line. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds here either…..! We were dead lucky to hear the line snap and get the tender back. Buying a new tender wasn’t on our shopping list. Well, not for a while anyway……

We are currently one day out from Darwin; tomorrow will also be the 365th day since we left Brisbane on the boat. We have timed our arrival in Darwin perfectly as we arrive tomorrow afternoon (just in time to watch the NZ-Australia Tri-nations rugby at night!). We are travelling in the company of Grant and his crew, and another Kiwi (Frederick) who is in the rally with us. We had planned to anchor in a bay today, and catch up for lunch. And Grant was going to bring over a fresh loaf of bread that one of his crew had baked. But with the lunch stop cancelled, how would we get the bread? There was mention of getting alongside and hurling it across, but we figured we were likely to end up with a loaf of soggy bread. Instead, Grant brought his cat right up behind us, and dropped the loaf into the tender. Here is an action shot just as he had deposited the cargo safely!! The bread was lovely and warm out of the oven, thanks Georgie!

So, as you can see, we have had a busy month. When we get in to Darwin we will be flat out, getting things fixed, buying necessary supplies etc (including all the little yummy foodie things we won’t be able to get in Asia), and generally getting everything organised for when we leave Darwin on July 21st. There is a lot to do, but we’ll do another quick update before we leave Australia.

04 June, 2007

It’s been a long drink between blogs. Sorry about that, it’s just that as we have been retracing our steps there doesn’t seem much to report.

We are now back in Cairns having made stops after we left Sydney at Brisbane for a week, plus various other spots for a day or two. We have been in Cairns for two weeks, getting a few jobs done and antifouling the boat. We could have done it in Darwin but as there will be about 150 boats there heading to Indonesia on the same day we think it will be a mad-house so we are getting all set here. Yes 150 or so boats, there are 110 on the Darwin-Kupang rally plus another rally leaves for Ambon on the same day and we are pretty sure there will be some hangers on as well. It’s going to be crazy but we’re sure it will be loads of fun as well.

So, the adventures, getting to Brissy was the first one. If you remember “Finding Nemo”, you will know there is a very strong current running down the east coast of Australia called “The Eastern Australian current”. As it runs at up to three knots we were motoring up against it or we would have been going nowhere fast. About 10 pm I was watching a DVD with the headphones on while on watch, and I heard the motor stop. When I take off the headphones I also hear a lot of water sloshing around……….panic!!! So here we are, wind blowing us onto a rocky shore about a mile away, no motor and water sloshing about!! The water…… Our stern gland (that keeps the water out) has been leaking a bit (we got a new one here in Cairns). Water was always dribbling in which is fine because the automatic bilge pump takes it out – but the auto part had packed up. I turned on the manual switch, water gone, first panic over. Good thing about a yacht is the sails, so I hoisted them and sailed away from shore, not quite in the required direction due to the current and wind against us but to safety. Check the motor, no oil, what!! I just changed the oil in Sydney and couldn’t see 5 litres slopping about in the bilge. Go to other tack, boat leans the other way, the oil comes back. Yes I know, how could you trust such idiots to go to sea, well, we are learning. Check the fuel. Twin tanks, both empty, or close to it. According to our calculations, at 350L per tank we should do X miles. To cut a long story short - we carry two 20L drums for just such an occasion and so we motored happily to Southport (Surfers). When we filled up we found that our 350L tanks are actually 320L tanks of which we can’t get to the last four or so litres to use. Yes we learn a little more every day.

Anyway, a couple of days later we were back in the Brisbane River saying goodbye to friends. After a week we pottered off heading for the Whitsundays as our first stop. Due to lack of wind we decided to stop off at Lady Elliot Island, a small coral cay with the clearest water we’ve seen so far. It is the only time we have dropped anchor and seen it go all the way down and hit the bottom 50 feet below.

True to our mission of “Latte hopping around Aus” we wandered ashore for a coffee at the resort and saw they where having a “turtle hatching excursion” that evening. Unfortunately we discovered that it was at the end of the season for the hatchings but we tagged along with the resortees and managed to see three of the little mites dig their way out of the sand and head off in the direction of the light given off by the moon. Given there where about 10-15 of us taking flash photos they had a bit of trouble deciding which light to head to but did make it eventually.

That’s one thing we have seen an abundance of here, turtles. Lots of them around the Whitsundays and we have seen them snorkelling sometimes, us that is, not them, they don’t need snorkels.

Another stop on the way back was at Middle Percy Island. We visited last year when we were heading south and loved it so decided one more visit would be worthwhile. Went for another bit of a snorkel and for the first time I decided to lay the anchor face down instead of its edge. About 6am we woke up to the sound of a glass breaking and the boat was really rocking about. That wind must have really got up in the night we thought…... We were rocking and rolling and the tender was banging the back of the boat all the time. Got up to clean up the broken glass. Holly S…… where the hell are we. One mile out to sea as it turned out, fortunately beside another island and not on it. First time we have really dragged. Don’t think I will adjust the anchor again!!!! (See above ….”How can you trust such idiots” etc).

That’s most of the dramas. We spent a week at Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays catching up with Patrick and Elizabeth on LaBarque who we spent time with at Sydney and Brisbane. Heather managed a spectacular fall leaving a café at Airlie and had the bruise to prove it for some days.

Had a lovely night at Fitzroy with Garth and Ruth – Garth was one of Heather’s old work colleagues. They are there working on the rebuild project for the place and every night move 20 feet from their caravan to the beach front and have a couple of sundowners and watch the sun go down behind the hills. Just magic. As they are working there they don’t need their car and so we had the use of it while in Cairns for a few days which was a godsend while we were in sandfly heaven, also know as the haul out yard.

And so to Cairns. While here we have managed to cross off most of our jobs to do and still catch up with some friends from our last visit here, and watch the All Blacks beat France last night. We watched the game on the big-screen at the casino. To celebrate we went to a really good restaurant on the Esplanade with Helen and Ian and a couple of their friends. They have stayed and worked here through the summer to get more cruising coupons and will head to The Philippines in August.

And that’s about it really. We will leave here Wednesday if the weather is OK and head off to Darwin for July and then we really begin the adventure of seeing the world from our mobile home.

23 April, 2007

Saturday 12 April

A nice shot of Sydney Harbour Bridge to start with......

When we last wrote, we were about to head back to NZ for three weeks to see family and friends and attend to a bit of business.

The first night in NZ I managed to get to see the Hurricanes play at Wellington stadium, and snatch a last minute win from the Blues! Thanks to Helen for getting me a ticket to the game. While I was at the rugby, Shane went to a 40th birthday party for one of his fireman mates at the surf club in Lyall Bay. During the evening he went out on the deck to have a cigarette and felt the full brunt of a southerly wind coming straight off the Southern Alps – welcome back to Wellington’s weather!!!!! To be fair, the weather was pretty good for the three weeks we were home, except for the last couple of days in Auckland.

The trip home went well; it was great to see everyone again after having been away for nearly a year, and we were certainly racing around trying to fit everything and everyone in.

Mid-March and it was back to the boat. Sydney had two major thunderstorms while we were in NZ, but ‘enzwell’ came through them unscathed. We went back to our anchorage in Balls Head Bay, and caught up on all the goings-on from our English friends, Patrick and Elizabeth.

We have had a couple of trips to Manly for Shane to get a surf in. Unfortunately our most recent trip there a couple of weeks ago proved fruitless. We went ashore and over to the beach two days and on both there was hardly a wave to speak of. Later on the second day though, the beach got closed as they were on ‘tsunami alert’ after the big earthquake in the Solomons.

As you can see, Manly isn’t a bad spot to spend a bit of time…..

We had our first lot of visitors in a while just after we got back from NZ. Wendy and Jim came to stay for a weekend. Wendy has been a friend for years, and flatted with me in Wellington for three years back in the mid nineties. They moved to Jim’s hometown of Canberra last year. Over Easter we went down to Canberra and stayed with them. Shane and I hadn’t been to Canberra before, and we were very pleasantly surprised. Canberra is a lovely city – wide boulevards, a fantastic War Memorial, lovely lake in the middle of the city, and at this time of year the autumnal colours of the trees were spectacular. We have to say that Canberra is well worth a visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip there.

We have been busy doing a bit of ‘organising’ in the last month. We have entered the Darwin to Kupang rally which starts on July 21st. Wendy and Jim are down to crew with us, so we will see a bit more of them in three months! It took a little bit of effort to get the entry in, as we had to plan our itinerary through Indonesia for our cruising permit. But we are in the rally, along with 76 other yachts, and the number of entries is still rising! They will take a maximum of 100 yachts, plus on the same day that rally leaves, the Darwin to Ambon rally starts as well so there will probably be about 150-200 yachts scrambling to get out at once. Should prove interesting ????

The other thing we have been busy organising is our trip to Europe in October. Two of Shane’s brothers decided it sounded like a good idea to go to Paris while the Rugby World Cup is on, and hang out there and take in the atmosphere. So we decided we should join them too……. Tickets to the games are both hard to get and out of our price range, so we have our spies out to track down a good sports bar to watch the games, particularly the final in which the All Blacks will come through victorious (she says with fingers tightly crossed…….).

After two and a half weeks in Paris we are heading to Athens and Santorini, and then back to Bali where we will have left the boat. We’ll carry on through Indonesia in November, and probably look at spending Christmas in Singapore. After that, it will probably be to Malaysia, either the states north of Borneo or up the eastern coast of the mainland. We will see how things go, and pick up tips from other yachties on where is good to visit.

But in the immediate future, we are about to head off from Sydney. We are getting the last bit of work done on the boat on Monday, and our last inoculation shots, then it will be off to Manly for the night (and one last final surf!) and out the heads and on to Brisbane on Tuesday. Sydney is starting to get a little cooler now, so we have decided to head off to the warmer climes of Queensland!

It should take us about five days to get up to the sunshine state. It will be the longest trip I have done, but it will be good experience for what lies ahead over the coming months. I just hope that the seas aren’t too rough, and that sleep deprivation doesn’t get the better of me…….. We’ll have a few days in Brissy, and then the next stop will be the Whitsundays.

Not too sure where our next instalment will come to you from; probably Cairns where we (hopefully) will be painting the boat’s bum before we head over to Darwin.

Till next time,

Shane and Heather

09 March, 2007

OK, I think these are the pictures that where missing ???? Some bright spark has changed the system for putting the photos on the blog so bare with us till we get a bit sorted.

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