Well, it's been a long time since we last posted a blog. The blogspot is
called Manbys on Calliope and we haven't been on board much at all since
late October, when we arrived in Opua in the very far north of New Zealand.
We had a quick sail down to Auckland, a great Oyster party at the Royal NZ
Yacht Squadron and then left Calliope in Gulf Harbour, just north of the
city. We hired a car and drove all round North Island, fitting in walks,
wine-tasting, hot springs and Maori culture; we had a few days on South
Island, too, walking part of the Queen Charlotte track and enjoying Picton
and Blenheim. Next, we flew to Australia, explored and loved Tasmania and
enjoyed fun times in Sydney, Adelaide (though the cricket was disappointing)
and Kangaroo Island, as well as an extraordinary few days at Arkaba Lodge in
the Flinders Ranges. Then we had three months back in Europe - Christmas in
Suffolk, catching up with friends and family there and in London, and
fitting in lots of skiing.
Back to New Zealand in early March, where they'd enjoyed a fantastic summer
and it was now turning colder. Hmm...may have got our timing wrong.
Unfortunately, the considerable programme of work on Calliope was running
behind schedule (not helped by humid, tropical conditions when the
newly-painted hull wouldn't dry) and we found ourselves with an
uninhabitable boat and three weeks to spare. There are many, many worse
places to fill in time than NZ's South Island. We hiked the Abel Tasman
track, drove down the splendidly wild west coast and flew up to Fox Glacier.
We cycled the Roxburgh Gorge and rode horses at luxurious Mahu Whenua lodge
above Lake Wanaka. Accommodation varied from fairly basic to extremely
stylish but the welcome was always warm. The birdlife is fascinating and we
are huge fans of NZ's Department of Conservation (DOC) for their excellent
tracks, great signposting, maps and intelligent planning how best to
maintain and improve this beautiful landscape. We made a quick trip to
Melbourne to watch the Melbourne Demons play Aussie Rules, and see the
qualification of the Grand Prix, with Miss Tiggy and Meteorite.
Finally, we returned to Calliope about ten days ago. It feels like coming
home and we are finding our sea legs again. She is in fantastic condition,
with a gleaming hull - same colour (pale grey) but it had faded in patches
due to strong sunlight over the last five years. A few last-minute
adjustments and we headed out of Auckland, past Waiheke Island, which we had
enjoyed exploring in March, particularly the less-visited eastern end, and
on to the Coromandel coast. We met up with Sea Flute and enjoyed dinner
ashore, reached by taking the dinghies up a very long, very narrow and very
tidal creek to Coromandel town. We got slightly lost on the way back in the
dark... We've had some great sailing in the Hauraki Gulf; the boat feels
faster, which may be because she's got a clean bottom, all those tropical
barnacles having been removed and new anti-fouling applied. The light on
these vivid green hills and craggy rocks is gorgeous. But just when we were
getting into the rhythm of life on board, the weather has turned nasty, with
gale force winds, and we have taken shelter in Marsden Cove marina (where
it's fun to be almost next to SunSuSea) to wait until we can head up the
coast to the Bay of Islands, there to wait (again!) until cyclone season is
reliably over before we start the next stage of our adventure. That will
take us to Vanuatu, which has active volcanoes and men who dive from high
platforms (bunjy jumping without any elasticity to the ropes around their
ankles) as well as tribes distinguished by the size of their penis wrappers.
Lots to look forward to! After that we plan to fit in a few days on
Nouvelle Caledonie, where Alex spent five happy months teaching English,
almost ten years ago, before heading for Mackay in Australia and the
Whitsunday Islands. Then in July, it will be Indonesia. Masses of planning
and a fair bit of bureaucracy to be done for all this travelling -- and more
planning for the very exciting event in December, when Pippa is marrying
William Nicholls in Aldeburgh!