31 January, 2007

A Whirlwind of a Week Upon Arrival


I flew in, hitched to Opua, and found there was a sailing regatta going on.  The little place was packed with boats from all around the country.  Araby was fine and just as I had left her, so the next day I went to the race tent to check on the happenings.  There was a race currently going on and one for the following day.  On the notice board I saw a boat looking for crew, and, what's more, looking for crew on the passage back south to Wellington.  I was excited to race but what I really wanted was a good passage offshore to get reacquainted to the sea.  And also, I knew the boat that was offering the berth, Andiamo—or, at least, I thought I did.

I found the boat after the race and it was certainly not the boat I knew.  This was a snazzy 55 foot race boat with sails as expensive as my whole boat.  (The boat I knew was Poco Andante, both Italian names with "go" in them.)  The crew thought the race tomorrow would be a good warm up for the passage, so I was on to race.  Yippee!


At this point I hadn't been back to Araby for 24 hours yet, and would leave in another 36.  I thought I would only be away for, perhaps, four days.  Now I haven't a clue when I will be back, could be weeks.  Funny how we step into things because they feel right, but we don't know why or where they will lead us.  Bilbo once said, "It's a dangerous things stepping out your front door.  If you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to."



The race was fun but the winds were light.  We planned to leave for Wellington first thing the following morning.  They thought the passage would take three days, but this was highly optimistic.  In the end it took only a full four days.

The provisioning was outrageous.  Massive amount of lamb and bacon and steak…….and beer!  The owner had told me that there would only be a beer at lunch and a sundowner or two, but this looked more like Mardi gras (sp) or a Nascar race.  I wasn't encouraged.

Also, these guys were mainly racers, not cruisers, but Kiwis are reputed as being the best sailors in the world and there were some grizzled old salts aboard, so I still was feeling "mostly" good about things.  This was a good opportunity and there was no real competition for my time.  So we set out before eleven the next moring.


The drinking was only heavy by one of the crew and he couldn't helm the boat anyway.  The weather was beautiful, though we had a northerly and therefore had to motor up and around the north cape.  Once around the cape we would sail all the way to the fearsome Cook Strait were the wind collapsed on us once more and we motored into port.

We had a few fits of rain and one rowdy squall which initiated what kiwis call "a Chinese gybe" and I've always called "an accidental gybe" which is when the boom unintentionally swings dangerously across the boat when sailing downwind.  It was raining so hard the helmsman couldn't read the compass and lost his bearings.  It was a bit hairy for a while but we got it back together.  I took the helm for the rest of the night and enjoyed some invigorating sailing.  That night I logged the second highest speed of the trip, 15.6 knots under a double-reefed main and jib.  It was second best only to my trip winning 16.8 knots of the day before.  I was quite proud of this as everyone was trying to win the high speed mark and I was the guy who had never steered the boat.  And it wasn't a fluke because I had the first and second scores and on different days.

The glory was all mine!


I did enjoy the helm.  I got the nickname "Cptn. Aerodine" which is a NZ epozy because I was stuck to the helm.


Upon arrival in Wellington the rest of the crew were there to greet us (with much rum and wine and beer).  As we celebrated and told stories the owner offered me two to three days work on the boat.  I could stay aboard, eat the massive amount of food still aboard (not to mention drink the beer), use the marina facilities and I could stay for as long as I liked.

I hesitated only about a second or maybe two before I graciously declined. . .

Yeah right.  Free food!  I've never turned down free food.  Not to mention work.


That night I was taken out to diner with the skipper, worked a part day the next and went out again with two couples to an asian joint for dinner.  If all that weren't enough to make me feel like the gods were smiling on me, this coming Friday I was invited to sail a speedy catamaran in a rum-regatta.  There is also the Summer X-Games a block from the marina Friday and Saturday.  The National Museum is a half mile away and FREE. And if I stay long enough I may be able to hop another ride up the east coast to Auckland—that is, if I race in another regatta the following weekend.


It is getting hard to leave.  I'm living on a $400,000 yacht alone and the showers don't run on quarters.  I can take long showers.  Such luxury!  If only I had a change of clothes.

30 January, 2007



This will be brief because I am in a cafe and I "don't love' writing in cafes.  But this is to say that I am now in Wellington.  I sailed on a 55 foot racing sloop from Opua around the north cape and down the west coast to Wellington, which is at the very southernmost point of the North Island.  This means that I got to sail past the beautiful Marlborough Sound and through the infamous Cook Strait.  I also got to sail at 17 knots which is approximately three times the speed of my boat.  Three times!  That's a lot faster.

We had a hilarious crew.  All racers.  We ate lamp and sausage and bacon and steak—we'd have three meats on a plate.  It was out of control feeding.  They boozed a bit much.  I am not into boozing underway and was told by the owner that there wouldn't be any, but alas.  The only one too get seriously trollied couldn't steer the boat sober so it was of little consequence.

We had one serious gale with stupendous rain.  There was a bit of drama involved but we managed.  I am thankful to have a small manageable boat.  Cook Strait was beautiful and calm.  We motored most of it.


Now I will stay in Wellington through the week working on Andiamo, the boat I sailed down on.  The owner has some jobs for me to do and the fridge is still full from the trip.  Someone has to eat all that bacon!

24 January, 2007

home home

I'm back at last.  Praise the Lord, I'm home.
.....now what????

23 January, 2007

Widge over Missoula

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Yukon Sunset

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Long Departed




I have stayed too long; I broke my annual 2-3 week time cap on Christmas vacation.  A mistake.  I think I've been here near 5 weeks:  way too long!   All year I long forward to coming home, the peace, laying back on the couch watching 007 reruns and the History channel.  I eat ice cream and drink Coca-cola.

A 2-3 week bender of this type is tolerable if not healthy—but, any more than that is reckless indulgence and consumerism.  I feel ill. Coming home is like falling into a dream.  I change.  I drift into old habits and forgotten routines.  I see it happen and allow it.  It would be uncomfortable to resist and there defeat the point of coming home.


I am so excited to get back on a pasta diet, more fruit and vege—start running regularly again.  I am again encouraged to get fit and healthy.


The trip home was good.  I did most of what I came to do.  I had my share of detours and dead-ends, but so much good came of the trip.


09 January, 2007






DAY -7:

            Hitchhike to meet my friend Kim in Auckland—little over three hours! Faster than if I had drove.  Look at vans to buy.  No luck.  Head to Wharf and look at boats.  See one of only 37 Wylos in world (my dream boat).  At the same time, am spied by Peter, a friend from Tonga, who coincidently is also a Wylo owner, different Wylo.  We drank beers together until I had missed the last shuttle to the airport.

Instead of spending night in airport waiting on Kim, I meet random streetwalking insomniac and chat all night. 

DAY -6:

            Sleep a couple of hours; wake and wait at the wharf for Kim—who randomly finds me there even though she hadn't read the  email I sent her of my whereabouts.

Spend a day around Auckland with Kim, catching up.  Sunny and wonderful.  Get a bed at her hostel for the night.  Eat awesome Indian food for dinner.

DAY -5:

            Wake and luckily get a free tour (a rare thing) around the surrounding areas of Auckland.  Old artillery stations, nice beaches, cool suburbs, and a great under-bridge walk to a bungee station.  Riot of a free time.  More city walking in the afternoon.  Found nice high-rise bar to watch sunset and have pizza.  Great time all around.  Kim would leave for Rotorua in the morning.

DAY -4: 

            Kim left for caving adventures and I hunted vans.  Made good investigations, but no success.  Found Will and caught up on his adventures sailing down to Auckland from Opua.

DAY -3:

            Back to the vans.  Find one I want, only have to pay cash and don't have enough.  Girls agree to sell to me anyway.  The three of us head out of town to camp on a beach with two bottles of champagne.  Good time, nice fire. 

DAY -2:

            In the morning I extract the necessary funds from the ATM and seal the deal.  Vanetta is mine.  Still have time to kill before Martina arrives.  Hang with the two girls and this cool blind guy at his place for the day and night.  Play music.  First night in Vanetta.  Love at the first!

DAY -1:

            To the airport.  Not far, but didn't want to risk being lost and driving on the left side of the road was not a pleasant thought.  All goes well.  Luck out and find great camping spot just a skip from the airport.  First of many.  This was a working farm—an interesting spot for a public camping facility.  First contact with the sheep I would come to love.  Great sea-side run.


DAY 1:

            To the airport in earnest.  Allergies flipping out—blame Vanetta but could be wrong.  Realize on my way to the airport I really have no idea what Martina looks like.  I've only seen her once—5 years ago on a train in France and only for approximately 7 minutes.  Not hopeful.  Hopefully she'd recognize me.  (She has a picture of my face.)

I leave the queue for just a moment, come back.  Then I imagined I heard a faint, "Jonah?" from behind me.  I think then turn briefly.  There was a woman there; she might have been looking at me.  I wasn't sure.  I turned again.  I think she was.  "Did you say, 'Jonah', I asked?"  She nodded.  I apologized profusely for not recognizing her immediately.  Not an auspicious beginning, but I got over it.  




Drive from Auckland to Opua.  No radio.  We'd never listen to it once in three weeks.  We always talk, talk constantly.  Much to learn.  Arrive. Eat pasta.  Read poems.  Allergies galore

DAY 2:

            Clean Vanetta (the van).  Drive the Bay of Islands.  Evening with Monkey's Business.  Monkey's Fist Wine.  Stay one last night on Araby.

DAY 3:

            Leave.  Drive to Keri Keri to buy auto insurance.  Amazing drive NW through rainforest to see the mighty Kauri trees.  Epiphytes galore.  Lucked out with a great camp after some nice short hikes around the trees.  Night hike.  Saw great eel, heard Kiwi bird.

DAY 4:

            Continue drive south, past Auckland and Hamilton.  After Martina notes how much the scenery looks like the Shire from Lord of the Rings and I note that, although we are looking for climbing, there is no rock to be seen anywhere.  But around a corner comes a river, and with the river a lush gorge with basaltic / andicitic crags.

No town, but a techy climbing shop.  The owner, Bryce, said the weather was calling for rain—so we went and hopped on the rock immediately (5:30) and got four routes in before dark and the coming showers.  Found a little deserted picnic area to park Vanetta for the night.  Beautiful and strange black swans on the river.

DAY 5:

            Continue south toward Taupo.  Realize that where we had been climbing the day before HAD been the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies.  And realized that the forecast was dead-on.  Rain.  We café'd in Lake Taupo and begrudgingly passed Tongariro, which housed some mountains we had wished to climb.  Perhaps on the way back.  Pass a few dodgy camps (only ones on the entire trip) and find a grassy one with plenty of facilities—ie: gas cooker, toilet, and SHOWER!

 DAY 6:

            Made Wellington early and the first ferry to the South Island.  Beautiful fjords into Picton.  Drove south-east toward Kaikoura.  Still sketchy weather.  Rain on and off.  Cloudy at the least.


            Great sea-side camp.  Windy and cold.  I cook while Martina waits in the car.  Take a nice walk on the black sand beach.  Totally deserted.   Rocks jut from the shallow shoreline.


            Kaikoura.  Can't get on a dolphin-swimming trip.  Long waiting list, but we get on it.  As we sit and deliberate the cell rings and the dolphin encounter people said they had a cancellation and we could go the next day. (We were still in the office—it was their café.)  We took an amazing coast walk and saw seals and birds and dazzling coastal scenery.  Headed back out of town to find a lady who sells cheap (relative) crayfish (like a fat lobster with no claws).  Dined at a picnic table beside Vanetta.  Beautifully landscaped place.  Lady said we could park there for the night if we wished.  Hurray indeed.


            Woke early and headed back into Kaikoura.  Suited up in wetsuits and hoped on the boat by 9:30.  We found dolphins early—and not just a few, but the mega-pod, hundreds.  It is impossible to know how many, but the biologist-guide estimated them at around three-hundred.  We dove in and the dolphins (dusky dolphins, smaller than bottlenose and bi-colored) would rush up and play with you, maybe tease you—hard to tell.  They would come so close, mere inches and you often couldn't see them approaching from the sides because of the slight tunnel vision of the goggles.  They'd instantly appear and disappear just four inches in front of your face.  Wild.  And they want to play.  They will swim a circle around you and see if you are a coordinated enough swimmer to keep up the circle.  If you spin like mad they liked it and would continue swimming around you.  If you only stare, they'd leave.  It was a hell of a riot of a good time.  I was surprised.   I was only really going along for Martina's sake.  I didn't expect to be so lucky.  Amazing gymnastics as well, backflips and cartwheels.  We also motored up to giant wandering albatross on the water.  I had never seen albatross so close, maybe 5 or 8 feet away from the boat.  Huge.

We left Kaikoura after a filling meal at the same café (Dolphin Encounters) and headed toward Christchurch.   Martina had a contact there that had offered to give us a place to stay.  This part of the trip was out of control.  For more info read the story, Man from Menzies Bay.  Suffice to say we had a wild and unexpected drive into the middle of nowhere and met a sheepfarmer who let us work on his farm for a few days.  We worked the sheep and ate and socialized with great folks.  The true and uncontested highlight of the trip for me.  Want to go back.

DAY 10

            Sheep  Read, "The Man from Menzies Bay"

DAY 11


DAY 12

            Finally and begrudgingly leave Menzies bay for Mt Cook National Park.  We drive through "Rohan" of L of the R and find camp on a stellar and huge lake with a tremendous view of Mt Cook across the water.  Wind is whipping again.  Weather is about to turn it seems.

DAY 13

            Drive into Cook with serious wind.  Laze in Vanetta for a bit.  Take a short run alone, Martina naps.  I come back and we retreat into the Old Mountaineer's Café.  Great place.  Drank much tea for many hours.  Couldn't leave.  Stayed for diner as well.  What to eat??  Lamb, of course.  Look at pictures and are amazed at how well they had come out thus far.  Really nice time in Old Mountaineers.

DAY 14

            Weather clear and we take an early, early morning hike up to ??? Lake.  Nice walk but brief.  We load up and head south again toward Queenstown, the "adventure capital" of NZ.  We make Queenstown, check it out briefly to stock up on a few things and head south toward Fjordland.  Find a quiet spot with the expected spectacular view.   And still alone.  Near Te Anue.

DAY 15

            Wake and drive into Milford  Sound.  Martina goes on the morning cruise as I sit in a café and write about our sheeping excursion.    Good times all around.  Leave Milford and hop on the Routeburn Track for a day hike.  As we set off I commented on the shame of not camping.  We quickly retreated and grabbed our tent and bags and were off again.  Glorious weather—a lucky thing on this trip and for this area.  Nice camp off the trail.  Tremendous views, as advertised.  Nice time, but very little food, no cooking.

DAY 16

            More hiking but then back to Vanetta for some miles, now miles out and back north.  Pass Queenstown and Wanaka.  Take a good dip and wash in Wanaka Lake.  Head NW to the coast.  Great camp but many sandflies.  Perhaps nicest (camping) view of the trip, just south of Haast Pass.

DAY 17

            Big drive north.  Pass Fox and Frans Joseph glaciers quickly.  Much driving and some serious story telling.  Make it all the way to Nelson in time for dinner…..I think.  Expensive dinner.  Very tired.  Not overly impressed with Nelson, but my green-lipped mussels were superb.  Camped just outside Abel Tasman National Park, exhausted.

DAY 18

            Perfect weather for the beach, which, coincidently is just what Martina has been waiting for since she arrived now over two weeks ago.  Abel Tasman has beautiful waters.  [Allow me to switch to present tense here if you don't mind.]  We hike to a pristine and deserted spot and lie down in the sun.  Kayakers float past us but no one else bothers our solitude.  Where does the day go?  I leave for a good long run on the classic Abel Tasman track, one of the "Great Tracks" of NZ.  Top views of the coast and clear waters.  Reluctantly we hike out as the sun descends.  Craving fish 'n chips—why pass a restaurant that we are already parked next to?  [That'll do.]  The Park Café looked good.  More than that actually—it looked great.  Big wooden tables, huge wide-opening windows.  The menu looked equal to the challenge minus the fact they didn't have fish in chips.  The meal was top and we stayed on for a long while.  The waitress commented that we were the first customers during her tenure there that had succeeded at making it through all three courses.  I asked we deserved to eat for free.  She said no.

Our plan had been to catch the night ferry, but it left from Wellington, not Picton.  The next ferry would be at 5:30 am.

DAY 19

            Wake on time but poorly planned time.  Rush for the ferry.  Have hardly a chance to make it.  Am disgusted at myself for missing a potential shortcut.  Martina is a racecar driver (almost literally—has raced motorcycles and cars offroad).  We are rocking.  We make it by maybe four minutes.  And there is room on the ferry.   Bloody miracle.  We would have wasted half a day waiting, and we made it!  Triumph!

Look briefly at Wellington and then head north to Tongariro NP.  Our goal is to climb Ngauruhoe (2287 m)—better known as Mt Doom in L of the Rings.  Beautiful volcanic cone.  After a long stint through a continual construction zone we find the visitors center as the doors are being shut.  We explain to the ranger we only need to know the length of the climb, . . . oh and a map, . . . and what was the forecast, . . . and how much snow…….she relented and let us in.  This was, again, no small feat.  If she hadn't let us in we would to have had to return in the morning and wait for them to open.  Instead, we headed to a camp nearer to the mountain.

DAY 20

            Wake at dawn to a ferociously cold morning, sub-zero for the first time.  This was supposed to be winter.  The hike began on the famous Tongariro Crossing (another of NZ's "Great Walks" and then scrambled up the northern face of the mountain.  It was a steep scree scramble but we managed to find a nice buttress to rock scrambled up most of the way.  The cone was magnificent, still smoking profusely around the rim.  The rock looked like basalt but was mostly andicite from what I was told.  We circumambulated the rim, sucking up the view.  Clouds were gathering.  We thought better of taking our lunch there and head down instead.  We were fortunate to find a good stretch of light scree and descended quickly to the shoulder where the climb began.  Took lunch and enjoyed the tea we had smartly packed along in a thermos.  Descended the trail back to Vanetta.  The sun was shining on us, but a great cloud loomed over Mt Doom.  We loaded up Vanetta once again and set out toward a warm meal in Rotorua.


When we had set out from Opua it was my wish to find a good hotspring.  I quickly and sadly learned that seemingly every spring had been turned commercial.  I gave up the search.  Now heading toward Rotorua, a stumbled over a sentence "only un-commercialized hotspring in NZ".  I was stunned.   (I would later learn that this isn't true either—there are more.)  I didn't know whether to be excited or not.  It was likely crappy.  The guide didn't talk it up—this good be a blessing or a hint.  But it was on our way—we would have to find out.  Sore legs called out.

We found Kerosene Creek easily and I was dumbfounded to find out that it wasn't a hotspring at all—but a hot river!  And it wasn't luke warm either, but down right hot. Amazing.  This blew the mind.  A hot river, free and not many folks to share it with.  There was a little waterfall and everything, shallow water.  We veged there for an hour or more until our legs were satisfied and our bellies cried for like treatment.  We found the "something"-dog Café and ate the best meal of the trip there for cheap.  Left town near-exhausted and found camp north.  We were headed back toward the Shire and the fine rock climbing and the trip was winding toward a close.

DAY 22

            Woke and found our way into the Shire (somewhere south of Hamilton: Wharepapa South).  Have nice weather once again.  Upon arrival we fell to the ground and vege on a blanket.  I don't know how much time passed.  We managed to get a few routes in before lunch.  Such fun.  Good climbing, but we both tired quickly.  Luckily the routes were short so we were able to cram a few in.  A couple were really great fun.  We laughed a good bit, but climbed well, no top-roping, all leads.

Tired, we headed to the local school that allows people to camp on the lawn.  This would be our last real camp.  Tomorrow we would head back to Auckland and stay somewhere near the airport.

Martina packed her things as I cooked dinner.  (I always cooked dinner.  She always drove.)  We ate and looked at photos as we downloaded all mine to her memorystick and all of hers onto my harddrive.  We drank much tea, as was our want.  Slept reluctantly.

DAY 23

            We dissuaded ourselves from climbing by the fact that the weather was only marginal—really we were sore and tired.  Martina was encouraged that the weather was perfect for a town day and she hadn't seen Auckland.  I wasn't as encouraged, but had wanted to take her to a really great restaurant in Auckland called Oh Calcutta—and at least I'd be able to do that now.  In Auckland we'd scour the book stores for a book Martina had wanted and searched for the entire trip, an out of print collection of NZ poetry.  The day passed quickly in town and there was only time for one last bookshop before we needed to head for dinner.  We find the shop and, of course, they have the book.  But, of course, they can't find it.  The lady looks and looks, but it is Martina who finds the book—of course.  She had worked to hard to find it to have someone else hand it over.

We enjoyed dinner, then more tea, then as we got in Vanetta to leave Martina breaks out in hysterics—right next to the Indian restaurant and now just across the street is this icecream shop—not just any, but the only one she eats.  It is Swiss ice cream (she lives in Geneva) and she has never seen it anywhere else.  We naturally go for an ice cream.

It is getting late now and she has a morning flight.  We drive south toward the airport where I know a spot to park for the night.  It is a sad night and I don't sleep much, also we were parked in a parking lot with people coming and going.

DAY 24

            Doom's day.  Martina left at six.  It was a rough good bye.  I left the airport and drove north, first to Whangerie, then Opua.  Went to bed at 4:30 pm.  No dinner.  Not hungry.  Slept hard.




            With a light pack and a shoulder bag I walk to the road in the rain and hitch-hike back down to Auckland.  I hitched so I wouldn't have to leave Vanetta in long-term parking.  The hitch was a little tough—got dropped in some tough spots.  But I made it plenty early because of a great lady who took me directly to the airport even though she wasn't going there herself.

Meet Will at the gate—it's been six weeks since we last spoke.  He tells some hilarious tales about penguins and monster trout.  The flight was a breeze.

Jonah Manning
S/V Araby

Online Journal -www.freejonah.blogspot.com
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

128 Holliday Rd
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Emergency contact:  
Dibble Manning
phone:  001 - 803 - 787 - 4352  
also check addresss in "to" column

The Man from Menzies Bay________



After our dolphin encounter, we deemed it necessary to sit with some tea in a sunny café and relish the experience.  After a long, very long hot hot shower, of course (provided with the tour).  We watched ferocious sea gulls pilfer unwatched or abandoned plates, occasionally breaking glasses in the process.  Little devils.    It was one of those beautiful sunny days, the sort that only can happen after days of rain and cold.  You just sort of soak it in like a draught.

After what seemed like an overly-appropriate amount of time we agreed to set forth down the road south once again.  Kaikoura had been grand indeed.  Christchurch was next.  I wanted to see the harbor and Martina had a contact there through a friend so we'd hopefully have a place to stay the night.

The drive south was the same as all the driving thus far: utterly spellbinding.  New Zealand defies description.  The landscape is ever changing in subtle ways, colors and hues, rainforests, moors, canyons and crags.  Flowers are in bloom and spread across broad river glades and crawl up the sides of cliffy bluffs.  Columbine of pink, yellow, blue, purple and even a few orange.  By the millions.


It is at this point where the story starts to lose control of itself.  From here, things get a bit out of hand and things happen of there own accord. 


Time was getting on.  The harbor of Lytleton (Christchurch) was blah-blah so we proceeded west onto the Banks Peninsula where Martina's contact, Hamish, lived.  We assumed that the address was in the town of Akaroa.  We planned on getting gas there and we were running low.  Martina was the driver; I the navigator.  It occurred to me that Hamish was supposedly a farmer (his cousin had climbed in Chamonix with Martina).  If he was a farmer he certainly couldn't live in town.  The address, Menzies Bay, wasn't in fact a road, but a place.  By simple random chance the bay, which was small and impossibly remote, was printed in a Lonely Planet map where it was absent from my travel atlas.  It was north and we wouldn't pass through Akaroa after all.  But it was not so far.  No problem really, I thought.  The peninsula was small.

The mountains steadily grew before us and clouds crowded then spilt over the high ridges in crashing waves.  Martina down geared as we slowly worked up and up.  The mountains were certainly not on the map.  Up, up, and up.  The steepest road thus far.  We  past through the cloud and then crested the pass, thankfully, and started down the other side.   By God! if the backside wasn't even steeper than the front.  The gas gauge steadily dropped.  Thankfully we planed out and started into a little hamlet at the mouth of a stunning bay (Little Akaloa) and rimmed on either side by great mountains edging down to the northern sea. 

The road ended at a T and sign to the left indicated Menzies Bay.  Praise the Lord!  At least we were not off track.  But then the doom of the situation started to settle on me.  Menzies Bay.  It was another bay, the next one west presumably.  Looking at the mountains we just came down and the ridge surrounding Little Akaloa Bay I realized we'd have to climb out of this bay to reach the next.  The gas gauge was at the bottom, just off it.  The weight of impending disaster turned my stomach.  The road looked treacherous, steep and long.  I had no idea if we could make it.  But could we, would we really turn back??  This place was stunning—even by New Zealand standards.  And we were off the track at last, off the "Lonely Planet Path to a Killer Trip."  The road sign read: "Menzies Bay No Exit."  I recognized several different connotations.

Naught to do but go on.  Martina again downshifted as we headed up the steep concrete.  It would eventually go to gravel and dirt.  The edge was a sheer as any Himalayan highway I can remember.  Seatbelts—bah!  We were going all the way to the waves.  But Martina was stellar behind the wheel.   She's driven the entire trip.  We peaked the ridge.  The fear and excitement likely added to the impact of the vista.  This was sheep country.  No trees.  Only Scottish-style high-grass moor.  We pondered the necessity of the fences along the road.  Where in the heavens could these sheep go?  We would eventually learn, but first as we crested and then descended did I understand that this wouldn't be Menzies Bay at the bottom.  It was still another bay away.  The drama was only have overcome.  I grimly accepted there would be no making it out.  I'd have to hike out, probably days.  But I didn't care.  It was too marvelous, too surreal—a word we found ourselves using far too often but somehow apt.  Yeah, we'd run out. . . if, if we couldn't get fuel from Hamish.  He was a farmer, and remote; I knew he'd have some.  But I now wondered if we'd even make it there in the first.  We'd long been empty and we were driving hard.

The next farm we pass is far and away the most beautiful I've ever seen: perfectly manicured  and sculpted.  Not a soul around to see. 

We see the opposite side of the bay now before us.  There is no road cutting the face.  This is the end of the road and we weren't making it out alone.  Yet there was no relief ro trepidation—it was far too exhilarating a place and adventure.  We were all smiles and giddiness.  Small tractors and sheds littered the valley, paddocks and corrals, dog kennels, shorn grass and dust on the road bending back toward the head of the bay, Menzies Bay.

We see a couple folks kenneling dogs.  Time to face our demons. We look at each other, smile and cut the engine (for the last time???),


Martina had tried to call Hamish and had only reached his answering machine. So we had no idea of knowing whether he'd be home.  Of course, he was a farmer; odds are. . .  So seeing someone was a relief.  But we also suspected he might have heard our message and expect our coming.

We introduced ourselves and we received a big smile in return: "ah, you're Martina.  You did good to find us."

Ah, what relief.  Hamish was youngish—maybe forty dusty slacks, ripped and stained Polo shirt, collar up, sleeves rolled, worn and oiled hat over his ears.  A perfect image from The Man from Snowy River.    Eerie really, but encouraging.  This was my kind of man.  And his smile was genuine.  This was Menzies Bay, the end of the road; you don't get many folks out here.  Old hospitality still holds true for strangers.

At the time we didn't know Hamish's last name.  Judging the nature of the place, I guessed it: Menzies.  Of course, Hamish Menzies of Menzies Bay.  His family has been here for a hundred and fifty years.



We spent three days in Menzies Bay.  We arrived the day before the mustering would begin.  This next week would be hectic.  All of Hamish's ewes and lambs must be "mustered"—which is like herding, bringing down with dogs from the pastures to the paddocks.  The lambs were to be weaned from the ewes, then shorn, and "dagged"—a hygienic sheering of their bums.  All the ewes were to be dagged as well.  Most of the lambs were to be sorted and many sold, the rest kept to keep up the herd.  Hamish keeps about 3000 sheep in Menzies Bay.

As we talked to Hamish that first time we both knew that we would have to stay on; this wasn't the sort of place you left to quickly.  And to stay on, we'd naturally have to work.    And what did we know about sheep farming?  No matter.  We'd learn, and it would be great.

And that's how it went.  We woke up at five, had breakfast with the crew and went out with the breaking light to muster, sort, and dag the "mob".   I can't remember the last time hard work felt so good.  To be on the land, on a farm, working animals, watching black and tan sheep dogs keenly hopping fences and managing sheep with an inexplicable understanding of the process.  My smile never faltered and I was determined to show my best.  I was the youngest and not having a dog of my own to work, I became one.

There was certainly something more.  I really loved the work; I loved the place; I loved this crew.  Everything about this thing was right.  It dawned on me that I may have found my place.  Or, a place for a while.  I worked all the harder.  For my future.

I asked loads of questions; I learned to work independently; I hustled like a dog and raised many a laugh and cheer from Hamish for succeeding where misbehaving dogs failed (rare).  We moved loads of sheep.  Martina and I worked a good two days before we decided we couldn't stay any longer; her trip was too brief and we had still so far to go.

Leaving was tough.  We all had become close overnight.  Hamish was a climber when the sheeping was light.  He had been to Chamonix once and had climbed a daring route on Mt Cook.  His dad done a bit of sailing and had built his own sail boat.  He said he had access to mooring all around Banks Peninsula if I ever wished to sail down.  (He had no idea of how much I was thinking of doing just that.)  I had learned a bit of Hamish's business and NZ sheep farming in general.  Most farmers couldn't afford to hire on help,  Hamish ran the farm alone except in times like this where there was much to be done.   Help normally came in the form of other farmers, friends in a similar situation themselves, whom Hamish would likewise help when the time came. 

So my prospects of work weren't great.  But they were somewhat good.  There was what Martina and I called "the Holiday House"—a sort of guest house on the property.  Hamish had made it clear he'd love to have us back.  At the least I could have free room and board.  Before I left we discussed the prospect more seriously and he said he could find some paying work for me as well.  If "Old Man Menzies" (Rick Menzies) could find me a free mooring and I could work for room, board and a bit of cash, live in the Holiday House—I could lead a hell of a life for a while, learn the sheeping business, climb a bit with Hamish around Mt Cook, take enough time off to write. . . . .


It is a beautiful dream.  To me.  It has its drawbacks.  We aren't as close to the Southern Alps as I'd like to be.  And it is bounded.  A man is coming to work for Hamish in May.  I wouldn't relish sharing the Holiday House even if Hamish wanted me to stay on.  So the dream is looking like a  two month stint perhaps.


But it is a dream and could flee in the coming weeks.  The Banks Peninsula is a long way from Opua.  And I still haven't seen Nelson, my previous first choice for harbor and home.  What is more important was that it was an incredible experience, something new, different and refreshing.










New Day Dawns


I've been busy, a happy sort of busy.  I've been sitting in a dark moldy room using an old computer with archaically (ha!) slow internet.  I hardly go anywhere.  There is precious little food in the house.  Don't even have sweet tea!  No one seems to call me back, no matter how many times I call.  (Why does everyone seem to climb in a hole when I come to town / finally have a phone?)  Martina is half a world away and not leaving—very distressing.  And I have a cold!

Yet, somehow, I am extremely enthused. 

Why?  Because I am finally making headway on a project I conceived five years ago, meant to start four ? years ago, and has been stagnant ever since.  For one thing, all the auxillary parts weren't well conceived in my head, not as well as they are now.

Unfortunately, I am talking about the most simple of things: a website.  Sorry to disappoint.  But this really means a lot to me.  I love photography and I've never been able to share my pictures with anyone.  The photos I / we (Martina and I) took in New Zealand are far and away the best of my life.  But how many of my friends have seen my Alaska pictures, or Ladakh?  Not too many, I don't think.

What is more, for the last two to three years I've had no software to work on my photos.  (I had photoshop on my old computer, but no more.)  Now I downloaded Picasa, which is simple, but I think it may be a really great thing.  I've spent hours using Picasa to reorganize, to crop, add light and contrast—man! this program has brought photos to life that I never dreamed had such character to them. 

It has been an obsession for days.

Now I have almost complete folders of the photos that I wish to upload to the internet.

Ahh. . . but where?


The internet is so slow my attempts at building a site were throttled and mocked.  However, the repeated failures led me to learn more about my blog.  I can open numerous blogs.  Then it occurred to me—I don't need a site with numerous pages, I can use one site linked to numerous other sites.  Blogger has been bought by Google and both are affiliated with Picasa.  I use gmail so now I have one log in for everything I use on the internet (well, mostly).  I've learned how to upload photos into my blog, at last, but now have links to my photo galleries in Picasa.

So at last it has begun.  The blog that I have had since '03, started in Nepal, has now morphed into something more respectable, something more useful, something that will become a serious tool in the years to come.

At present it is still a social tool, but I hope to change all that in the next five years.  I hope to change a lot in the next five years.  And what I am doing right now, today, is laying the ground work for what is to come.


Today I started looking at quality cameras.  That is the next, immediate step.  I am writing down email addresses for potential writing submissions.  The big rock I've been tentatively trying to push is now slowly starting to budge.


In all fairness I should say that, for the most part, my trip home has not been nearly this rosy.  At first, I went out with old friends and did have a hell of a time—best I've had home in years and years.  But it went eventually too far, staying up too late, eventually caught a well-deserved cold that won't go away.  I haven't been exercising enough.  But I got hit hard by family drama—I always get a full year's dose all in a week.  And it has been a big year in the family.  It wore me out.

And I miss Martina who I had such a great time with in New Zealand.  I won't ever be the same.

Yes, and I have NZ stories—I'll get them out soon, I hope.

So until. . . now. . . I've been quite low, even with friends around, quite lonely.  I was more at peace alone on my boat.


But this is often because I feel unproductive here.  Usually true.  But not at the moment, not now.  I'm knocking it out and it feels good.  Of course, this is all perfunctory, it doesn't add up to much—but I think in the end it will—it is part of something that is my passion.   Time will tell.



SO. . . from now on, if you care to read what I have to write, you'll have to click one more bottom to do it.  No more mass emails.  Now there will be pictures in my blog on occasion.  So please—just click the link.  No problem.  Don't be discouraged.  Easy as a self-tailing winch!




08 January, 2007

no news

No new news. Had some good meetings with folk about business stuff. Had an excellent conversation with JRincker last night, long awaited. All is well. The best part is sending so much time with my younger brother Charles--the most time we've spent together in five, six years.

This is a picture of Martina with a pet lamb when we were staying in Menzies Bay on the South Island of New Zealand.
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04 January, 2007

Getting it together - Techno progress

Considering that I am on dial-up, I can’t use my own computer, and I’ve somehow lost my external harddrive, I am rather pleased with what I am getting done.


I am home, back in Columbia with my family for the holiday. It is a long stay, because I was hoping to make use of free internet. I think even though it is free, dial-up is almost as bad as paying by the hour.

So this is where I am. Araby is still sleeping at the dock in Opua, I hope, safely. I have a sore throat, have been staying out too late, and miss friends that aren’t here. Would love to get some phone calls.

Anyway, I am trying to get my photos online so I can share them. That is happening slowly. I am also renovating my blog to act more like a website—since I can’t build one on this old thing I’m typing on. But I’m encouraged. I’m learning slowly. I even opened a MySpace page to see if that would be of any help. I’m skeptical, but it is a neat thing.

So now for the first time I have a photo on my blog, and links to more albums on Picasa and still more to come. This is all encouraging.