As we said in the last article it is quite a bit colder here than where we’ve been spending our days as of late. But, if you are going to be in the cold weather you might as well embrace it and get out to see the spectacular winter scenery. Over the first few days of our trip here to Queenstown we took some beautiful drives and saw some absolutely dazzling places.
The first morning we awoke to some truly stunning scenery at our perfect little Air BnB. The clouds were low in the valley over Lake Wakatipu as the sun was coming up. There was still ice and frost on the grass from the days of snow they had before we arrived. My feet nearly froze to the large stone outside as I ran out barefoot to snap a few photos. Yes, it was pretty chilly but it was also truly impressive. We all enjoyed the picturesque views from the dining room window as we ate breakfast and planned our days ahead.
One day we took a drive up to Coronet Peak. It’s one of the ski areas here. The 17 km drive from town is quite scenic as the roads twist and turn through the mountains. We reached the bottom of the mountain to find signs there indicating whether or not you could drive up to the ski lodge and if you needed chains. All looked good for us to make it all the way to the top without the need to stop in one of the designated parking areas. Of course there were definitely some icy spots along the way where the sun had not reached the road. I’m no sissy when it comes to this stuff but I will admit that I held my breath a few times as I felt the tires slide on the ice while I looked over the side of the mountain. Dan obviously drove it like he’d done it his entire life so there really wasn’t much to be afraid of in all reality.
We reached the top and were rewarded with some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below. The air was crisp and clear as a bell so you could literally see for miles. The slopes were not open yet for the season. They would not be opening for a few more days so we virtually had the area all to ourselves. Lutz & Gabi were planning to go skiing one day so they checked out the lodge and slopes while we took some incredible photos of the area. We aren’t much for the freezing cold but it was a bit fun to play in some snow and act like kids for a bit.
After enjoying the views we headed back toward town where we were hoping to find a bite to eat. We stopped at the Shotover River along the way for a little side adventure. There is a restaurant there but since ski season isn’t officially open they weren’t either. Shotover is a 75 km long river that runs from the southern end of the Southern Alps through to Queenstown. Being fed from the Alps and their glaciers, this water here is a beautiful color of pale turquoise. This is a fast moving river with lots of rapids and is used for whitewater rafting, jet boat tours and more. Since we arrived in town just before the “season” opened we had the opportunity to see it without the crowds. It’s simply spectacular!
After our little side adventure we headed into town to eat. We ended up at my favorite Irish pub, Póg Mahone’s. It’s such a quaint little place with a stone fireplace and lots of dark wood. When we were here last year the bartender told us that the entire bar had been shipped here from Ireland. It’s truly beautiful. And, they have the absolute best Beef & Guinness Pie I’ve ever had so I, of course, had that while the rest of the crew had ribs. We enjoyed our afternoon in the warm pub as we imbibed in some frosty beers and feasted upon their brilliant meals. All the while we chatted about the events of the day as we began planning for the next. There truly is nothing like great adventures with awesome friends…even if it is a bit chilly outside.
New Zealand is at Covid Level One and we can now move about the country freely. With the whole Covid thing keeping foreign tourists from visiting the Kiwis are doing everything they can to encourage domestic tourism which means low prices and huge discounts on everything from airfare to accommodations. So we, along with our dear friends Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn, decided to take advantage of this time and make a ten day trip to Queenstown on the South Island.
As usual I was put in charge of the planning so I took to the laptop to research flights, things to do and, of course, a place to stay. We found very reasonable flights out of Auckland and I located an amazing Air BnB in Queenstown. We chose a delightful home located just 2 km from the city centre. It is up on a hill and has the most phenomenal views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range from every room. It is super clean and absolutely perfect for the four of us.
Flying into Queenstown means flying over the Southern Alps. The day of our arrival was sunny and very clear so the views of the Alps were spectacular. The snow capped peaks and rugged rocky cliffs … simply awe inspiring! We even got a glimpse of several glaciers along the way. Until we came to New Zealand I never really knew what diverse geography they have from beaches to mountains to glaciers to farmland and beautiful forests. It’s really very spectacular. If I could recommend one country for people not to miss in their lifetime, it would be New Zealand.
We landed at Queenstown Airport around 1530 hours. The sun is already beginning to set behind the massive mountains that surround this quaint lakeside town. As we exit the airport and head to find our car in the car park we are greeted with a blast of icy cold air. Oh yes, it’s much, much colder here than in Whangerie. The temp this afternoon is around 4°C (39° F). Now if you are from cold climates you probably don’t think much of this but for a ragtag group of sailors used to living in the tropics this was quite shocking to our systems…so much so that it literally took our breath away.
We located our car and headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items for breakfast and some dinners. After all, we have a fully equipped kitchen at the house we are renting so why go out to eat for every single meal? Of course we also hit the liquor store to provision up with some beer, vodka, rum and wine. It’s very obvious that keeping warm is going to be essential and you should always start by warming the insides first. With our provisioning complete we head out to find our home for the next ten days.
We have all been to Queenstown in the past so we are somewhat familiar with our surroundings. Our temporary abode is just a short ten minute drive from the store along the beautiful lake. As we exit the main road we wind our way up up the mountain and soon find the house. We were warned that the driveway is a bit narrow and narrow it is with the house on one side and a fece on the other and mere inches of clearance between them and the SUV we are driving. Of course Dan negotiates it with ease and soon we are unloading our things and checking out our home base.
WOW! This place is exactly as described in their Air BnB ad and corresponding photos but until you actually stand inside and look out of the plate glass windows to take in the view of the lake and mountains you really can’t appreciate it. There was still ice not the grass outside and with the sunset the frosty white mountain peaks were glowing above the lake. It was absolutely awe inspiring!
We put our groceries away and picked our bedrooms and met back downstairs for a traditional “anchor down” beer. While Gabi and I checked out the kitchen opening cabinets to see what appliances and dishes are available, Dan and Lutz were checking the wood supply and wood burning stove. We know we will be getting a lot of use out of that in the coming week.
Soon John and Karen the owners of the house show up to help get us acclimated. John goes over the operation of the stove and Karen talks to Gabi and I about restaurants, hikes and things we shouldn’t miss while we are here. They are an amazing couple and very kind. She’s from Germany and he’s a Kiwi. We truly enjoyed our visit with them.
After they left we decide since it is our first night in town and it is getting late we will head out to get a bite to eat rather than cook at home. On Karen’s recommendation we make our way to The Cow. Contrary to what you might think from its name, this is not a steak restaurant, rather a pizza and spaghetti place. It’s the oldest continually run restaurant in Queenstown and has had the exact same menu since 1977 when it first opened. Located on Cow Street the building was originally stone stables where they housed milk cows that would wander the lane back in the old days. And, interestingly enough, it’s not named because of the street. It’s name after Queen Victoria. Apparently one of the more crude nicknames for her was ” the Cow”. Apparently she made a statement likening breastfeeding to being a cow and instructed her daughter never to practice it. Knowing the history of the name you can see the subtle reference to Queen Victoria’s comment in their logo.
Inside this place reminds you of an old Swiss chalet with it’s stone walls, heavy wooden beams, roughhewn wood tables and dim lighting and candles. It’s small inside with maybe ten or twelve tables and has a large stone fireplace in the middle just across from the bar where people who are waiting to be seated gather to warm up and sip their mulled wine, beer or cocktail. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and quite frankly the pizza was exceptional! There wasn’t piece left between the two large pizzas we ordered.
Since it had been a fairly long day we headed back to the house to sit by a warm fire and relax after dinner. The house was beautiful, the company divine and all was absolutely perfect in the world!
Well 2019 was certainly a spectacular year for the crew of Dazzler. It started off with a bang as our dear friends, Jack & Mary flew in from the states to join us on a three week road trip around New Zealand. We covered a whole lot of ground making it all the way down to Queenstown and back to Whangarei and we saw many wonderful sites along the way.
That trip ended and we were off to the states for a month to visit friends and family in California and Florida. Yes, having family on both coasts makes for a lot of traveling but we got it all in and still had time for a little sightseeing along the coast of California where Jilly got to see hundreds of Elephant Seals up close on the beach in San Simeon.
FIRST TO CALIFORNIA
THEN TO FLORIDA
After seven long weeks of traveling we returned to Dazzler who was on the hard. There was no time to rest as Dan got to work immediately preparing and painting the bottom as well as working on some other projects like replacing a thru hull and cutlass bearing.
No sooner had we completed all our work and it was time to start provisioning and preparing for the trip back north as our visas were about to expire. At the end of April we cast off our lines and headed back north on the nine-day passage to Tonga where we spent a month traveling the islands. We learned that we really love the Vava’u group of islands the most. And, we especially love the eastern most island of Kenutu. On one side of the island the Pacific Ocean crashes onto the craggily coast with the fury of God and on the other the bay is as flat as glass. It’s spectacular! The Tongan people are very kind and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.
By the end of May we were headed north to Fiji where we spent the next five months. Fiji is a spectacular place! We fully circumnavigated the northern island of Vanua Levu with our German friends Lutz & Gabi on SV SuAn. We visited islands and villages where they had not seen outsiders in years! One village was so excited to have visitors that practically the entire village came to the shore to greet us. It was fabulous to get a chance to visit these remote places and get to know the people there. Most have little to nothing. They live in tiny box like homes with no windows or doors, just cloths hanging over the openings. Most have no furniture to speak of except maybe a mattress on the floor where they sleep. They have community kitchens that are usually set up in the middle of the village and all cooking is done over open fires.
The villagers live on the fish they catch and eat the hogs, goats and chickens they raise. The have some solar power that is provided by the government and their fresh water is collected from the rain. These people have virtually nothing but we can tell you this…we’ve never met more genuine, honest, hardworking and selfless people in the world. If we’d have asked they would have given us, total strangers, the last of their fruits or vegetables and never once asked for a thing in return. It was quite humbling to get to know these fine people. Each village we visited we had the same experience. In fact, in one village the Chief had his son, Soniala take us on several hour hike up to Tavora falls while his wife, Elizabeth, fixed us a huge lunch to have when we returned.
We visited the island of Makogai where they grow clams as big as humans! This island was once a Leper Colony where people with Leprosy from all over the world were brought to spend the remainder of their days. It’s now a marine conservation station where they grow coral and giant clams and even sea turtles to release back into the wild. We enjoyed several wonderful days here. We found some electrical items, line, clothes and other things on Dazzler that we donated to the village. We also gave the kids a brand new volleyball. They loved that! Dan played volleyball and soccer with them for several hours while I enjoyed the afternoon chatting with the ladies and learning about their culture. We intend to return here next season to spend a week or two helping in the village.
After a month of traveling Vanua Levu we headed west toward Vitu Levu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. WOW! What absolutely stunning islands and waters we experienced here. There were places we could see the bottom 200’ below us!
We spent a significant amount of time at the island of Malololailai also known as Plantation Island. There are three resorts on the island and one, Musket Cove, is particularly popular with cruisers as it has a marina and their famous Island Bar. The bay here is well protected and they have very strong moorings as well. We spent so much time here because Dan had to go back to the states for his youngest daughter’s wedding and I was left on the boat for 16 days. If a girl has to be left alone someplace this isn’t a bad spot at all.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone the entire time. I had my friend Donna fly in from New Zealand for ten days. Donna and I enjoyed our “girl time” on the boat. Donna isn’t really a boater so teaching her to get in and out of the dinghy and how to conserve water and power aboard was a bit tricky but all worked out swimmingly.
Once Dan returned from the states we took off for the Yasawa Island Group. These are the northwestern most islands in Fiji and also the most beautiful. We visited several islands and met some incredible villagers. We happened into the village at Noboro Pointe on the only day of the year that they hold their church fundraiser. What a wonderful experience this was for us. All three villages on the island gathered together. The goal for them was to raise $21K FJD. This is equivalent to the salary of two people working at a resort for one year. That’s a lot of cha ching for people who make between $100-$300 FJD per week. ($50-$150 USD)
We were treated to a kava ceremony to celebrate them reaching their goal. It was by far the largest one we’ve ever attended with forty or more people sitting on the woven mat drinking kava. It was an exciting and very enlightening day for us. We were honored to be a part of this special day and can’t wait to return next year.
Before we knew it the time had come for us to leave all of our dear Fijian friends and head back here to New Zealand. This is a passage that neither of us was really looking forward to making. You see this passage is known to be one of the toughest in the world. You pass through an area where the Coral Sea, Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean all meet. This makes for some pretty interesting weather systems and often times turbulent seas. Sailors who have made this passage all say the same thing… “This is not a pleasure cruise. This is a get there safely as quick as you can passage.” Just prior to our departure two sailboats sank making the passage. One was just south of Fiji and the other off the northern cape of New Zealand. In that sinking a man lost his life. As you can imagine we just wanted to get it done.
Our eleven-day passage was, at times, filled with rough weather and more than half of the trip was fraught with issues including a large wave that crashed over the top of us literally swamping the entire cockpit sending water down the companionway.
On three different occasions we had to heave to in order to work on the water lift silencer which ended up with several holes and a large crack. The first night we were bobbing in the sea in the middle of the night while Dan tried to diagnose the issue. At one point we lost all power, which really freaked me out. I had visions of the Navy coming to rescue us. As it turns out Dan accidentally hit the kill switch. He thought it was hilarious. Me….not so much. Thanks to an amazing little product called Minute Mend Dan was able to patch up the unit and make it work to get us to New Zealand.
And let’s not forget the leaking jury can full of diesel fuel that we dealt with in the middle of the night or the leaking chain plate that allowed water intrustion into our lockers. Or, there’s my absolute favorite…the morning I was catapulted off the head with the seat attached to my bum as I slammed face first into the head door. Yes, this was quite a trip.
By day eight we were both exhausted and ready for our passage to end. Seems God must have sensed our exhaustion and blessed our final three days with amazing sailing and beautiful weather. We arrived in Marsden Cove Marina almost exactly eleven days to the minute from when we left Momi Bay in Fiji. I could have kissed the dock and probably would have if it hadn’t had bird poo all over it!
We now have the boat tied up at Whangerie Town Basin Marina. Dan has been working on many projects not the least of which was to replace the exhaust lift silencing unit, fix the leak at the chain plate and rebuild two teak hatches in the cockpit.
Of course we have taken a little time to enjoy being back in New Zealand. Our Thanksgiving was simply spectacular. We made a full Thanksgiving dinner on Dazzler which is quite the feat in a galley that’s only about three foot square. We enjoyed a wonderful day of laughter, family, food, drink and music with our wonderful German friends from SV SuAn and SV Rebell. Dan played his ukulele and I played my Irish tin whistle. If we couldn’t be with our blood relatives this was the next best thing. As we like to say, “ We had an American Thanksgiving in New Zealand with our German family!”
We spent Christmas in Auckland with our Kiwi family there. We had three lovely and relaxing days of family time and even met another wonderful new couple who have become the newest addition to our Kiwi family. Jilly got the new Huawei P30 Pro phone that has a 40 MP camera so you’ll see a lot of really great photos in the future. (Note the difference of the ones below) Dan got a custom made, hand-carved flagpole created for him by Macu, a wonderful Fijian carver from the Lau group of islands. Of course he says it’s too nice to put out in the elements so it’s become a beautiful piece of art that is displayed below deck on Dazzler.
Now that the holidays are about over it’s time to get back to work. Dan’s working feverishly on varnish while I’m working very hard on our Book Buying Fundraiser for the children on the remote islands of Fiji. During our travels to the remote villages of Fiji we were blessed to get to know many of the families and tons of children. On Kia Island when we visited they let the kids out of school early for their afternoon meal to visit with us. Two of the young ladies grabbed me by the hand and rushed me across the lawn to see their new library. It is a wooden building about 20’ x 10’. I could smell the freshly cut lumber and new paint. These girls, about 13 or so, were so excited to show me their new library but as we walked in I immediately noticed that the beautiful wooden bookshelves were virtually empty. I broke my heart!
More and more kids came pouring into the library. Each was as excited as the next to tell me all about it and how everyone in the village participated in building it. Still I kept looking at the empty shelves. Later Dan and I spoke with Epeli, the headmaster, who told us that reading books are what they need most. It seems the Fijian government provides textbooks, paper and pencils but no reading books. Before we left we asked the kids what they would like us to bring back to them when we return next year. Each and every child replied, “BOOKS!” They could have asked us for anything else in the world but all they asked for were books. As we visited more villages along the way we heard this same request over and over from the children.
This experience touched us both very deeply and we made a pledge that we will return to these villages next season with as many books as we can buy and carry. As of today we’ve raised $1405 USD which brings us just short of 50% of our goal but we’re not done yet. We will continue to take donations through March 1stand we truly believe we will get there with the help of our fans, friends and families.
Well, that’s about all from the Sovereign Nation of Dazzler. If you want to see some photos of our adventures be sure to check out our Dazzler Art Photos & Videos Page by CLICKING HERE We’ve recently posted several hundred photos. We’re also working on a book of our travels, which we hope to have ready this year.
We certainly hope you all have a Fabulous and Propersous New Year!
Jilly & Dan
P.S. Grape Ape also had the time of his life this year. He is growing rather quickly and acts much like a teenager wanting to spend more time exploring on his own than hanging out with us but then that’s kids for ya. He does enjoy riding in the dinghy when we pull it behind the boat though. He loves his Uncle Lutz of SV SuAn and he’s made quite a few new friends this year. He’s looking forward to seeing what 2020 has in store.