Perceptions of Paradise

Are we not all fortunate that the human race is so different, with different goals, ideals and perceptions. Take Paradise for example, we all have our own perceptions of that, although for most people it’s typically connected to some beach or vacation. 

I spend about five to six months a year sailing the Pacific, and have spent more than my fair share of time over the last 13 years on beautiful, deserted beaches, but they’re not my idea of Paradise. 

The word ‘Paradise’ usually sums up images of a deserted white sand beach, with azure blue sea and palm trees. And yet for some, the idea of Paradise is sipping cocktails on a hotel balcony overlooking a beach crowded with sun beds, umbrella’s, screaming children and hundreds of people (Palm Beach, Aruba springs to mind here,). This is about as far from my idea of Paradise as I could imagine, a cruise ship conjures up the same image in my mind; the idea of being stuck in an enclosed environment with thousands of other people, and loud hailers blasting all day, announcing dinner or the next entertainment, no thank you, not for yours truly. 

I absolutley hate crowds and loud noise, I’ve never been one for concerts, and although I used to love to dance, now I’m totally content with the simple things in life, my painting and sketching, reading a good book, time in the kitchen baking, or tending my beautiful garden, growing my own delicious produce and colorful flowers to decorate my home, and just watching the birds. 

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My perfect Paradise is my home in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, which has the most incredibly beautiful views that take my breath away each time I look out, and my crazy beautiful garden that’s bursting with lush tropical plants, fruits, and amazing, brightly colored birds and butterflies. It’s my very own ‘Heaven on earth’.

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My absolute favorite way to spend an evening would be a dinner party at home with friends and family; time around the table is always the best, with lively, fun conversation, great food and good wine, what could be better!  It’s always the simple things in life that are so special. Bob has always said “happiness is being happy with what you have” and happily, I truly am. I’m so fortunate to have not only found my ‘Paradise’, but to actually own it. It wouldn’t be for everyone, and for that I’m eternally grateful, as it may not have been available to me had it been what everyone else wanted.  

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Thank goodness we’re all different.

Trip Up Mount Yasur Volcano, Tanna

 

Tuesday 20th August 2019.

We (me, Bob, Glenn, Paul, Trish & about 25 other yachties)  took the dinghy across to the yacht club here in the bay of Port Resolution, on the island of Tanna (Tanna means ‘Earth’ in Tannese),  to meet Stanley, who runs the yacht club, and who had also organized the trip for us.  There were about 30 of us cruisers all together, from the Pacific rally. We all piled into the waiting pick up trucks and headed off on the dirt tracks through the jungle to the greeting center. 

 When Bob did the trip up the volcano with the first Oyster World Rally  6 years ago, it was simply a truck ride to the volcano and then a hike up to the top.  Today, the islanders, having capitalized on the tourist’s interest and have made it more of an event.

 The visitor center was built just a short truck ride from the base of the volcano.  Here you pay for your visit and collect your ‘hard hat’ if you wish to wear one.  I really couldn’t see the point of it, if I was going to be hit in the head by something flying out of an erupting volcano, a little plastic hat was hardly going to offer me any protection!

It all starts with a “ceremony”; first the tourists are divided into groups, determined by whichever country they’re from, and issued a guide for the trip.  Then we’re all given safety instructions for the visit!  Once again I had to question what the hell I was thinking, climbing up an active volcano, did I have a secret death wish, and honestly what was the use of safety instructions? It’s an “active volcano” for crying out loud, we were going to be walking around the rim, the only safety instructions as I could see it would be to tell us not to jump in!  

Once the all important safety instructions had been issued,  a person from the audience is invited to present the Chief with Kava, who  then goes away to decide if we’re allowed to visit the volcano,  meanwhile, the local people in their traditional grass skirts arrive to perform a dance.  After the initial dance, we (the tourists) were invited to join in, which involves much vigorous stamping of the feet and shouting, I didn’t partake, mainly for fear of dislocating a hip.  Obviously Paul (from Babe) was first up to dance, and with typically tremendous enthusasiam.  Following the dance the Chief reappears, and having consulted with the volcano (!) grants his permission for us all to visit the volcano.

We were all issued a number, for the pick up truck that was to deliver us to the foot of the volcano.  Then another bone shaking ride followed, through jungle, via pot-holed dirt tracks to the base. The path up was steep, very steep in places,  and quite slippery due to all the ash underfoot.  

Having lived onboard for the last three months I’m a little out of shape, (one doesn’t get much exercise on a boat) and it wasn’t long before I was huffing and puffing with a beetroot face that mimicked the glow from the volcano.  Once up at the top, there’s a viewing area with a wobbly fence that offers absolutely no protection, they may as well just have painted a line on the ground with the words “do not cross”.  

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The path around the rim of the volcano is only about a meter wide in places, with no fence, and a sheer drop on each side.  

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Thankfully the wind was in the right direction today for people to walk around  the rim and gaze right down into the crater to see the exploding, boiling lava. With each explosion the ground beneath us shook, and enormous glowing red boulders spewed out of the crater high up into the air like gigantic burning coles. 

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The clouds of ash billowed above the crater and hung like dark storm clouds over our heads. We were offered masks by our guides, to protect us from the ash, the masks had a duck bill type shape to them which made us all look quite comical.  I had declined the hard hat, but I took the “Donald Duck” mask.

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As the sun set and the wind picked up, the temperature plummeted. Trish and I stood huddled together for warmth, we were both freezing.  Bob, Paul and Glenn had gone further around the rim to get a better view into the crater, this had involved a very steep climb down, and neither Trish nor I had been tempted to join them.  It was fast growing dark, and the idea of the climb back down the volcano was not a pleasing prospect, thankfully we had at least all brought headlights.

This was a truly amazing experience, that I don’t think you would be allowed to do anywhere else in the world; thankfully for us, the island of Tanna has not yet embraced “Health and Safety” laws. 

Photo’s curtsey of Glenn Magyar

 

Beauty & the Beast!

Still in the lagoon at Falaga. We moved anchorge today from, what I shall always remember as ‘Mosquito Bay’, to another  bay in the lagoon, that I shall think of as ‘Mini Conch Bay’.  Once safely anchored, we took the dinghy ashore to explore. 

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This beach was so much nicer than the slimy mud  flats of yesterday, and the rocky areas around the beaches were layered with literally thousands and thousands of tiny Conch shells, Cones and Ceriths, sadly for me they were all occupied and so not collectible.  However, Bob found me a small Nautilus shell, and another good size shell that I’ve yet to identify.  

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We had so much fun combing the beaches, and paddling through the crystal clear water, the sand was lovley, white, soft and clean (totally slime free) and the many islands of coral, like enormous coral mushrooms, with little palm trees growing on the top of them were stunning.  There were cave like openings in the coral that seperated us from the outside reef, where we could see through to the ocean beyond. There was more wind today, and happilly no mosquitoes on this part of the island.

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Falaga really is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen,  but I could seriously do without all the mosquitoes, it feels like being back in the Caribbean.  The 8 years we spent in the Caribbean were miserable for me as there were so many mosuitoes and their bites were really horrible, they itched for days, even weeks sometimes, taking forever to heal.  

When we arrived in the Pacific 4 years ago, I was so happy because there were hardly any mosquitoes, and on the odd occassions that I have been bitten, it’s barely itched, and even then not for long. I’ve hardly had any mosquito bites in the last 4 years, up until this week; tonight as I sit here writing this, I’m itching like crazy, my arms, legs and feet are on fire. Thankfully, again unlike the Caribbean, the nights here in the Pacific are cool.  No matter how hot the days are, the nights are blissfully comfortable, sometimes even cold, that helps a little with the burning mossie bites.  

Falaga is incredibly beautiful, but the mosquitoes are a beast…

On To Falaga, Lau Islands, Fiji

Having spent almost 13 years living on Crazy Daisy, and having visited some of the most beautiful and isolated parts of the world, I’ve become a little hard to impress when it comes to Islands, after all they’re just Islands.  Palm trees, white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, what’s not to love, but at the end of the day they’re all much the same, well to me anyway.  

Everyone was so impressed with the Bay of Islands, and it was truly lovely, but I just wanted to find a deserted beach.  The water, although clear and clean was dark, and for me formidable, but then everyone knows what a pussy I am when it comes to deep water.

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I need beaches. I’m in search of two particular shells, the “Imperial Harp”, which I would be extremely fortunate to find, as it’s very rare, so it’s not very likely, but that doesn’t stop me searching, I’d also be quite happy to find it’s sister shell the “Major Harp”, much more common, but still not easy to find, and in almost 5 years in the Pacific I’ve yet to find one.

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The other shell I’m in constant search of is a “Precious Wentlewrap”, apparently it’s not that rare, but still difficult to find, in all my years beachcoming, I’ve yet to find one one of these either…

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Yesterday, Tuesday 16th July 2019 we arrived at the foot of the Lau Island chain, Fulaga. The Island consists of an oval rim of jungle covered hills of raised coral around a lagoon about 6 miles by 5 miles.  The entrance into the lagoon was for me, reminiscent of my experience at the “Hole in the Wall” off the Australian coast, no fun, and very scary. 

The entrance to the Falaga lagoon is through is a 50m-wide pass, straight but challenging, and apparently very dangerous in bad weather.  We were lucky the weather was calm, but going through the pass was still hair raising, we had 4 knots of current against us, and at one point we were only making 1 knot, with just 4 meters below us, the coral reefs along side us were so close that at one point we could almost have stepped off the boat and onto the reef.  

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Once safely through and into the lagoon, I was able to look up, I’d barely raised by eyes from the swirling water around us in the pass,  the beauty of what greeted me took my breath away.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not easily impressed with Islands anymore, there was a time when I thought that each Island I arrived at was more beautiful than anything before it, but that was a few years, and a few hundred Islands ago. However, this lagoon of Falaga beats even the Tuamotu’s for me for beauty.  It’s impossible to describe how lovely it is here.  I’m really hoping that some of my photographs will capture a little of the magic.  

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It’s quite remote, and a little more difficult to get to, consequently not many boats come here, although the Chief of the village told us we were the 50th boat to arrive this year, although about 30 of those were with the pacific rally, so I guess its becoming more popular, and more cruisers are making the effort to reach these remote, unspoiled Islands as they’re gradually becoming rarer and rarer.

The one downside, there’s always one, even in paradise, “mosquitoes”!  OMG, there were so many, and even though we were liberally spraying ourselves with the horrible mossie death spray as we walked, they were still all over us.  They bit through my clothes, and buzzed in great numbers around my head, it was hot, humid, and the mosquitoes could not have been worse. 

Once we reached the village of Monacake, a local woman, Luci, came out to greet us and escort us to the chief’s hut.  We presented our gift of Kava (see note below) to the chiefs  who welcomed us with the traditional sevusevu ceremony, and afterwards we were introduced to our host family,  where we drank hot lemongrass tea, and ate from the plate of breadfruit and pancakes, I was so grateful that we didn’t have to share the kava, it’s considered rude to refuse but its like drinking dirt.  

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I used my jewelry again to purchase a lovely wooden dolphin carved by the father of our host family, a lovely reminder of our visit here.

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The walk, or should I say swift march back to the dinghy was once again through swarms of mosquitoes, Oh and enormous spiders, with nightmarish enormous webs, strung through the foliage next to the path. Arriving back at the lagoon, we met three local ladies from the village sitting on the beach shelling clams, they too were swiping at the many mosquitoes swarming around them. I couldn’t get back to Daisy fast enough, Bob took Whoops-a-Daisy across the lagoon at speed to get rid of any mossie’s that were either in the dinghy or on us.

Back aboard we shut up the boat and turned on the air con, I put a citronella candle and a burning coil out in the cockpit, to dissuade any other mossies that may be headed our way with ideas of a buffet on Crazy Daisy.

The next morning we took the dinghy to explore around the lagoon, the shells were disappointing, all clam shells, not much else.  Walking from the dinghy to the beach, the water was very shallow and the sand was sticky, slippery and slimy with algae, not very pleasant it was like sand colored mud.  Maybe we will discover better beaches on the other side of the reef tomorrow.  The beauty of this place is outstanding but the beaches so far leave much to be desired, and the mossies are the worst…

I have, and always will show respect for the Islanders traditions, but I often find myself asking why they have some of these strange traditions, Kava for example, UGH no thanks….

note: 

Kava is a ritual drink, made from powdered roots from the Piper methysticum, a type of pepper plant. The ground up root is wrapped in cloth and mixed with water in a large kava bowl (tanoa), the resulting infusion looks (and tastes) like muddy water.  During a sevusevu ceremony, visitors sit cross legged facing the chiefs and the large tanoa containing the kava, which is drunk from a coconut cup (bilo).  When a cup is handed to you, you must clap once and drink the whole thing down in one go, then everyone claps 3 times. 

Kava is a very mild narcotic, following a few drinks  (if you’re daft enough to drink more than one) you may experience a numbness in your lips, and a strong mix can make you drowsy and even disorientated. 

Oh For Water!

Our first few weeks in Fiji it seemed as though there was more time spent on fixing the damn water-maker than there was out having fun and exploring!

Bob replaced all the water-maker hoses on Daisy in 2017, upgrading them to new tougher hoses, with a higher psi than was actually required, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”.  The new hose was quite expensive but we thought it would be worth the money.  How wrong can a person be?  Well we we weren’t actually wrong, but we were wronged!  The hose turned out to be from a bad batch (such is Bob’s luck) and consequently burst in several places, all while we were last in Fiji with Nic & Sam, it almost sunk the boat, twice!  Not a fun experience for anyone aboard, and certainly one I hoped never to repeat.

When we returned to New Zealand in November 2017, we went back to the supplier and they gave us new hoses. At this point I have to add that it’s a long, difficult, back breaking job replacing all these hoses, and to have to do it twice was not much fun, anyway, to cut a long story short, all the replaced hoses must have been from the same faulty batch as before, as they too have burst over and over, requiring Bob and Glenn to spend many hours replacing all the broken hose parts with other hose.  Now finally, (although I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this) we have a fully operational water-maker producing 10-11 gallons and hour, and so far we have a full tank of water and no more burst hoses.  

Sadly, much of our time spent in the beautiful Bay of Islands, Fiji, was spent on fixing the water-maker hoses, but we couldn’t manage without water, so what else could we do? It’s just more evidence that boat life is simply  maintenance in exotic places”.   

I quite liked the Bay of Islands, it was beautiful, and watching the thousands of Fox Face Bats take off from the trees every evening was truly amazing to see, but honestly I was a little bored but, (yes, ok, I know I’m spoilt) there were hardly any beaches  for shell searching (my favorite thing to do in the Islands),  and there was nowhere to walk, I just didn’t fancy the snorkeling, despite everyone saying how fantastic it was. So after the first two days when all the other boats had left, I was a bit fed up. This photo by Glenn was the only beach we were able to reach in the dinghy, it was lovely, but quite small.

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After five days in the Bay of Islands we went back to Lomaloma Bay to get a few much needed, essential supplies, flour, yeast, eggs, and of course Bob’s favorite ‘baked beans’ (absolutely essential), Oh and let’s not forget Ice cream.  

I took a walk along the beach in the bay this morning while Bob and Glenn were making yet another fix of the hoses, and I found some really beautiful Tiger Cowry shells. Thankfully unoccupied ones :)

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My little shopping excursion used up the last of our Fiji money, so I traded some of my fresh water pearl jewelry for a sightseeing trip around Vanua Balavu Island. 

Tevita (otherwise known as David) was our tour guide, he and his family have the little store on the front in Lomaloma bay, and his brother Charlie, is the acting Chief of the village.  We were taken to David’s home to meet his wife Alumita, and enjoy a cup of coffee before we headed out around the Island; there were no roads, just dirt tracks, so the drive was incredibly bumpy, and we were tossed around in the truck like clothes in a tumble dryer,  but the scenery was lovely, and it was good to actually see more of the Island and the other villages.  

Bob’s back is still recovering!  

 

Nutter’s who live on Boats!

Life’s rarely dull when you live on a boat, there always seems to be something going on.  Yesterday, just as we were getting ready to go ashore, the rally leader, Nigel, came tearing across in his dinghy to ask for help, as one of the rally boats had managed to go so close to the shore it was up on the rocks.  Needless to say everyone jumped in their dinghy’s to go across and see what could be done to get the stranded catamaran back in the water and off the rocks.  The tide was going out so time was critical.  None of the dinghy’s even with their combined efforts had enough power to pull the boat off and back into the water, after about 40 minutes of unsuccessful attempts, a local fishing boat arrived, thankfully with it’s 150hp engine it was able to pull the stranded cat back into the water.

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How on earth the boat actually managed to get itself stuck there in the first place is something we can only guess at; they were apparently passing through the narrow channel into the bay at 5 knots, (I would have thought that much too fast), aside from that, there was little other information forthcoming regarding their predicament. I can only think that whoever was at the helm, wasn’t at the helm, or was simply not paying attention, it’s anyone’s guess!

In these situations where one of the boats is in any kind of trouble, it’s wonderful how everyone always pulls together to help, it really is a good group of people that we’re with in this rally. Cruisers are great people (in general).

 

Daisy’s Passage of Misery!

I debated whether or not to write about our passage from New Zealand to Tonga as it was ‘my’ worst in 12 years of living on Daisy.  But then I thought of all the people who constantly say how jealous they are of my incredible lifestyle, and it seemed appropriate to enlighten them with the actual realities of life on a yacht!

It’s not always about lazing around sunning yourself on deck with a cocktail, or lounging in a hammock strung between a couple of palm trees on an isolated island. Sometimes, yes that can be the case, but mostly it’s about maintenance, and dealing with the logistics and difficulties of  a “sea gypsy” lifestyle.  Not having a permanent land base, proper address, or anything resembling normality can present incredible challenges and difficulties when trying to deal with ordinary things landlubbers take for granted.

Anyway, back to my story:

Bob and I had to depart New Zealand before May 30th. That wasn’t initially going to be a problem as the rally was due to leave for Tonga on the 20th May. However, due to the bad weather the rally departure was delayed, and our days were quickly running out, so not to overstay our allowed days in New Zealand, Bob and I jumped on a plane to Australia, leaving Glenn aboard to take care of Daisy.  The plan being, as soon as there was a good weather window for us to set sail we would immediately fly back and sail out on the same day.  ‘Ha’ good plan you would think, with the exception of relying on the airlines!  We booked a flight that would get us back into New Zealand just after midnight on the Tuesday, with the plan to sail out Tuesday midday.  This would have worked well except the plane we were on,  sat on the runway for 4 hours while the broken engines were worked on! We were all eventually turned off the plane and shuttled into a hotel for the night, with an alternative flight out that afternoon, this wouldn’t get us back into New Zealand until 9pm Tuesday, too late to sail out with the fleet, so we would miss our weather window.  Now we only had one day before we had to leave.  The decision was made and agreed by all 3 of us to check out anyway in front of the next bad weather system and head South, (the opposite direction to where we needed to go, but avoiding the storm).  We sailed slowly South for 2 days in rough seas to avoid the bad weather, before turning North and getting in front of the next system that was due through… If you’re not confused by now I must be explaining it too well.  The 4 days at sea were spent rocking gunnel to gunnel non-stop. It was like being stuck on a really bad fairground ride that you couldn’t get off. I was in bed throwing up for the full 4 days, and when I say ‘in bed’, I was being constantly tossed around, rolling from one side of the bed to the other, so I couldn’t sleep as I spent the whole time just hanging on; I couldn’t put the lee cloths up because that made it too difficult for me to get out of bed quickly, and getting to the bathroom was already a challenge which several times proved too much, so I was throwing up in bed, this involved much changing of the bed, yet another major challenge while rolling around.  The mountain of bedding was mounting up…  Once we managed to actually turn around and head in the right direction, the next bad weather system was on our tail the whole way, the seas were big, around 4-5 meters, so even under sail and motoring we were still rocking and rolling,  everything was stowed, but it was still all crashing and banging around in the cupboards, and that coupled with the noise of the engine, there was no quiet, I had a pounding headache, I was sick and cold, the weather was really cold, and my hatch started leaking so I had cold water dripping on me in bed, the bed was really damp, I was about as miserable as I’ve ever been.  We may have been heading for Paradise, but we were going through Hell to get there.  Out of the 9 days at sea, there were only 2 where I was able to get up and move about the boat, fix meals and perform with some semblance of normality. It wasn’t much fun for Bob or Glenn either, they had to man all the watches between the two of them, and take care of “her indoors” moaning bitching and throwing up everywhere.

Do I ever want to do another passage? “Absolutely not” this will be my last major passage, from now on, even with all the unreliability and nonsense the airlines throw at you, I’m flying and meeting the boat there.

 

Unplanned!

As the owners of Crazy Daisy, we never cease to live up to our name.

Today is Thursday May 23rd 2019, and we were (along with about 35 + other boats) supposed to have already left Opua Marina, in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand and been well on our way to Tonga, with the Pacific Circuit Rally.

Instead, Bob and I are on an unplanned vacation in Brisbane Australia, while Glenn is left taking care of Daisy and making sure she’s ready to leave, at a moments notice, whenever that may be!

You may be asking yourself what we’re doing?  I have to admit I ask myself this same question many times a day!

So, while Bob and I wait for our New Zealand residency, we’re only permitted to stay in New Zealand  for 183 days at a time, those days are up on Friday, so to keep within our allowed number of days, we had to leave the country while we all wait for a safe weather window, with a plan to return and sail out on the same day, therefor staying within our allotted time limit.

As seems to be our luck, there’s a weather system (apparently unusual for this time of year), predicted over Tonga and Fiji which would have coincided with the arrival of the rally there, hence the unexpected delay in the departure while we all wait patiently for a weather window to safely make the 7-10 day trip to Tonga…

In the meantime, Bob and I plan to do some exploring here in Australia, and try to get some relaxation; we’ve both been working full out on maintenance, updates and repairs on Daisy for the last 6 months and we’re both a little stressed and throughly exhausted; so, maybe this unplanned vacation will help us to recharge the batteries and come back to Daisy fresh, relaxed and ready for the sail to Tonga, as soon as the weather permits…

At least our lives are never dull!!!

Another Adventure

The clock’s ticking, counting down the days to our departure which is set for Monday 20th May, weather permitting.

Crazy Daisy is taking part in the Pacific Circuit Rally.  An organized rally of around 40 boats sailing from New Zealand to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, over a period of five months.

We’re so happy to have our good friend Glenn, join us as crew, as well as Edi and Paige, who hope to join us in Tonga.

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I’m really looking forward to visiting these fabulous islands again, although New Caledonia will be a first, I’ll need to brush up on my French.

The last five months have all been about preparing Daisy,  a very long list of jobs, which is almost complete, I say almost, the job list on any boat is never fully completed.  Also Bob hurt his back, about a month ago which set the work back,  he’s better now but has had to work day and night for the last couple weeks to catch up, so we’re ship shape and ready to go.

In between all the boat work we bought a house here in beautiful New Zealand, so leaving is bittersweet, I’m really excited about sailing the Islands again, but at the same time I would love to be here setting up my new home. That will just have to wait till we’re back in November.

I’m a little better equipped  for all the hiking ahead this trip. I have a set of hiking poles (a present from Matt, Glenn’s very generous brother) and proper walking shoes, they’re not very glamorous, but very practical and will hopefully help me drag my old pins up the volcanos and other mountainous peaks that Bob intends to drag me to.

Obviously Internet will be sketchy for the next five months, but I’m going to try and post our adventures as often as I can.

So, watch this space as our adventure unfolds…

Photo’s From The Outback, Northern Territory

 

 

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Kakadu National Park

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