Wednesday, 20 February 2019

White Island volcano

White Island Volcano
Feb 2019

Following Mondays earth tremor we pushed the boat out today and took a 30 mile sea crossing to White Island, New Zealand's most active marine volcano.

 Ohope Beach at sunset

I have a passion for geology and plate tectonics so visiting an active offshore active volcano is something of a treat. The island is the caldera of an old volcano which blew up thousands of years ago but has been spluttering away ever since, and having its last real eruption in 1976.

Sulphuric White Island

These days it is pretty calm but still suer heater sulphur spews out of steaming fumeroles and fills a central lake which gently simmers away at 50c. But don't bathe in it because it is 60 times as acidic as a car battery!

We went in armed with hard hats and gas masks should the wind shift and blow the sulphuric gas over us.

The island was home to a sulphur factory for 10 years between the wars, but it ended tragically when there was a minor eruption which killed all the workers. Today just he ad and corroded remains stand as an object for the handful of visitors who make the passage to see the place.

On the way back we met a huge school of dolphins which played on our wake and offered a challenging photography.


February 2019

I feel I have known Gisborne for years. It is, of course, the home of Barry and Sandra (Homebrew Boat) before they came to England and we have heard soooooo much about the place. To be honest I was more that a little apprehensive lest it not live up to expectations.


We drove up from Napier and arrived at lunch time and what better time to visit Verve, the coffee shop run by Barry's brother Ray.  It wasn't hard to find and with Gisborne being home to about 30,000 people its a very accessible sort of place. Ray greeted us so warmly and we spent the lunch period together, drinking eating and having a detailed discussion about Brompton Folding Bikes and the local satellite launching facility - as you do!  

Verve cafe, Gisborne

Then it was on to Wainui Beach which provided the backdrop for Sandra and Barry's non boat wedding where we wandered on the golden sands and generally chilled out with a sea breeze taking the edge off the heatwave.

Wainiui Beach

Barry and Sandra had warned their friends that we would be coming and Anna and Andy very kindly offered the use of their drive and washing machine. We had already met them at the Black Country Boating Festival four years ago so it was great to catch up.  The space on the drive soon expanded to a meal in the evening, shower and even a lovely real bed for the night. The Camper bed is ok, but after three weeks it is revealing its shortcomings.

We had a great night and inevitably talk turned to earthquakes. Then, would you believe it, I woke soon after 1.00am to a real shudder and the house gave a good creak. reference ti the internet revealed a 4.5 quake from the fault line which runs beneath Wainui's breakers.

 The following morning included a whistle stop tour of Tuaheni Point and the town museum. Its easy to see why the place gas such a big place in Sandra ad Barry's hearts. It was lovely to be invited into a friends home and to be made to feel so welcome. Gisborne is a lovely place where European and Mauri cultures mingle. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Napier Art Deco Festival

Napier Art Deco Festival
Feb 2019

Napier is famed for its Art Deco style of buildings, which came about due to a massive reconstruction effort following a massive earthquake back in the 1930's. As a result the while town looks like something out of a period drama. I was quite surprised no to meet David Suchet in a cafe!

The town has taken its Art Deco persona to its heart and every year in mid February the town transforms itself into a living breathing Art Deco experience. We knew about the festival and a change on our plan meant that we could visit on the Sunday of the 2019 event.

The town was heaving but we managed to find a pitch in a somewhat sub standard camp site, but at least it put us close to the action. 

The site was full of vintage Indian Motorcycles who had been parading on the Saturday and many campers were decked out in period attire.

We made an effort with shirt and dress and got a taxi into town - not sure what to expect.

In the event the place was quite magical. There were period gazebo's everywhere on the sea front Marine Parade to which groups would retire for elegant picnics at lunchtime, but not before the legendary go cart derby.  This is an annual fixture with the most amazing engineering creations being raced down Emerson Street, with crowds lining the pavements and cheering the young participants on.

Then there were the street performers, classic cars and live period music but most of all the event is all about people watching, there to see and be seen. It is one of the very few events where taking photos of strangers is positively encouraged.

Napier is lively in its own Art Deco way, but add thousands of enthusiastic participants during the Art Deco Weekend and you have a complete theatrical experience.

All this kind of made up for a camp site with few facilities, no wi fi and with one of the islands main roads being just over the fence!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Crossing to Wellington

Over to North Island
15 Feb 2019

One of my nerdy ambitions on South Island was to look at the stars without all the light pollution we have to contend with, even in the darkest bits of the UK.

So, before we went to bed at Pohara Beach I set the camera up on a small tripod, attached the zoom lens and aimed upwards. The shot of the moon was satisfying, especially the clarity of the craters at the edge of the light / dark interface:

The Moon

But my real satisfaction came from a shot of a random bit of sky. Ok, its a bit blurred, but the thing which shocked me was the variety of colours on the stars - its the first time I have seen red shift for myself (Google Red Shift).  Also, when I lightened the background the density of pinpricks of light visible through a standard lens was amazing. Its no Hubble image but it pleased me in its own small way.

and the stars

Anyway, we have now spent a damp night in Picton, with Helen indulging in her passion for Mussels at Havelock along the way. The Marlborough vineyards are impressive in their sheer scale and its hard to imagine that much wine.

We have now moved over to North Island by the InterIslander Ferry which entailed a very smooth and sunny 3.5 hour crossing and are ready to move up to Napier and its Art Deco weekend tomorrow.

Last views of South Island

So it's goodbye to South Island and goodbye to Fi and Andy, our travelling companions for the last 10 days.

The gang's last supper

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Paddling in Pohara

Pohara Beach
February 2019

We have covered a lot of ground sing our last post, over 700km and have moved from the Southern Alps to the sandy north coast on the Golden Bay.

The West Coast is famed for its insane levels of rainfall and finally, after two weeks of wall to wall sunshine, the clouds rolled in and gave us a massive drenching. In fact it rained so hard we had to stop the van and wait for the squalls to pass. it seemed slightly surreal that we were heading for Nelson which was reporting wildfires and the closure of Route 6, on which we were travelling. In the event we saw nothing of the fires - not even a smudge on the horizon. But the ground in the north is tinder dry and the pastures are very brown.

For the last week we have been listening to Rose Tremain's "The Colour" which is set in New Zealand and follows the fortunes of a settler couple who suffer the privations on their small farm outside Christchurch and then get caught up in the gold rush of the 1860's. By a strange coincidence the main character came into Hokitika from the sea just as we arrived by road, but separated by 160 years.

Hokitika retains the feel of a frontier town with its single story buildings, wooden store fronts and victorian covered walkways. 

We spent our first night on the north coast in Nelson, one of the largest towns on South Island using it as a stop over site after 260km of travel through the mountains. Then it was north west to Golden Bay and a night on the fabulous Pohara Beach.

The sad thing is that we are closing in on Picton, the point we will leave Andy and Fi, our travelling companions for the last 10 days, and catch the ferry to North Island and the rest of our journey to Aukland.