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Spreading Happiness

As you all know due to Covid and border closings Dazzler chose to sit out this cruising season and stay in New Zealand until next June. Fortunately for us and many other cruisers the New Zealand government has been very gracious in providing blanket visa extensions to allow us to stay through cyclone season this year. So far, we are clear through February but we’ve also applied for a formal extension to get us through until June.

Not going up to Fiji this year meant we were not able to begin delivering any books to the children. You know, the 2000+ books we raised money to buy and that were donated from organizations like the Lions Club of New Zealand and Kokopu School? The biggest issue became what to do with all of them as we wait for next season to come along. Fortunately our dear friend Allan Gray who owns Wynn Fraser Paints here in Whangerie came to the rescue. He offered to keep them stored at his paint store. There are so many wonderful people who have played a role in this endeavor.

The good news is that we did find three crews that were planning to sail to Fiji this season in spite of not knowing whether or not they would be allowed to come back here or go to Australia during cyclone season. So, two months ago we made arrangements with the Captains of these yachts to drop off boxes of books to them. It was really exciting to know that at least some of the books would be making it to the kids this year. 

Last evening we received word from Richard & Michelle Marshall of SV Pogeyan that they have made their first delivery. They chose the island of Makogai. We visited Makogai last season and spent quite a bit of time with the people there. We donated some clothing and other items to them as well as a brand new volleyball. While I sat and chatted with the ladies Dan played volleyball and soccer with the kids so it was nice to know that some books have made their way to people that we know and love.

Here’s some comments from Michelle and Richard about their delivery…

“Makogai has a small primary school on the other side of the island so we made arrangements to take some of the books over in our dinghy.  But, the weather and seas were too rough the next day so we geared up with backpacks and hiking boots instead.  John (one of the islanders)  led us on the 5 kilometer hike across the island and I was so happy he carried my backpack.  It was heavy!  And he walked there and back in thin rubber dive boots!  He said it was no problem and that he does that hike every day.

As we approached the school I saw one of the students spot us then run over to a large brass bell and start ringing it.  I guess that’s how they announce visitors.  The rough trail we had been hiking emptied onto a large flat open field that was perfectly manicured.  The six or so school buildings lined the edge of the field and were brightly painted and very tidy.  We arrived right at the end of the school day and stood attention during a brief flag ceremony.

The headmaster gathered all the students together on the lawn and introduced us.  He then asked Rich to talk about how we arrived and where the books came from.  The books were then passed around so the kids could look them over. There are 31 students in the school broken into two classes, 1-4th grade and 5th -8th grade.  The kids were very attentive and they seemed to really like the new books.”

We can’t even begin to tell you how delighted we were to get the news. Our hearts were full and for me, tears streamed down my face. To see the smiles on the faces of these children is something I will never forget. I just can’t wait until next season when we will get to deliver books ourselves. For now, we are so grateful for people like Richard and Michelle who volunteered to assist us in this endeavor. They are a treasured part of our cruiser angels team and we look forward to seeing more of their adventures as they continue to spread joy and happiness around the islands of Fiji. 

As for our donors, we hope you enjoy these photographs and assure you that, as promised, we will provide you with continued updates, photos and videos as more books are delivered.

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Our fundraising effort made the news last month as our efforts were mentioned by Cindy Smith in an article she wrote for IslandCruising.nz. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

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Baby It’s Cold Outside

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.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

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Moving About The Country

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.

Does the “W” remind you
of anything???

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.

Photo is property of The Cow and is used with their express permission.

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!

Until next time…

Jilly & Dan