Last look at New Zealand as we make our way to New Caledonia, only 900 nautical miles away. It should take 7 to 10 days to sail there and hopefully we will have wind to get us there.
Here I sit waiting for the weather window for us to sail off to New Caledonia. It has been a week now and we are more than ready to get out into the big blue ocean. But well one is waiting for something to happen may as well go stick your head in a hole. Believe it or not, New Zealand has some great holes or caves as they call them. Cary and I went down to Waipu Cave on the north island of New Zealand to find the mysterious glow warm and the beauty that lies within middle earth. After an hour drive from Opua Marina we arrived to cross the paths of two horses.
They loved attention so we gave them a little rub “hi big lady how you doing”.
After a hop over the fence, through the horse grazing fields we entered the “Waipu Cave” with only cameras, head torches, and a sense of adventure to guide us. O yeah we had a one paragraph narrative on how to navigate the cave, “guess that should work”. Must add that the temperature outside was warm and the cave was cool and musty like an old pair of gym shorts in the bottom of your locker, well at least my old high school gym locker.
What a shocker the cave was dark as a black out night at the bar with your best mates aka buddies. That’s right the harder I tried to focus the blurry it got so I took out the headlamp and bam I could see ten feet. May as well been a bloody marry on a Sunday morning before church. So Cary and I now acclimated to the dark side of New Zealand we slithered or way through the cave. The cavern was cool, wet, and the ground was slick with a clay mud. Not to bad if your with a lady but not too good if you’re in a cave.
As we scaled our way through the blackness we began to see pin pricks of blue light. It was as if the sunset and stars came out to guide us into the blackness. Cary set his Nikon D7000 camera on a tripod and I used a head lamp to illuminate the cavern for a set of photos to capture the essence of the New Zealand glow warm. But if anybody were to walk in we looked like two explores with highly technical equipment with a sense of being. Maybe that’s the way I felt I guess, what can I say, yesterday I was on boat and now I am 10 minutes into the earth halfway around world. Please click on the pictures to see them better.
Ok so we had our lunch and it was only 2pm so we took a look at our guide book and found that there was another cave only 10 miles away. Or I should say 3 wild limestone caves that are called the Abbey. Yes being full of American Burger King food we drove our “shit box of a rental car” that was covered in ants and bit us as we drove, we arrived in the back roads of Whagarein, NZ at the Abbey Cave site. Now our one page narrative informed us that the cave could be waist deep with water and togs “aka swimsuit” should be worn. Also one of the caves could be explored all the way and opens up to a beach. “Interesting Cary must be a black hole to a New Zealand Beach full of half-naked kiwi girls, bet my next beer on it”. So changing in the middle of road and only mooning one car we were off to the Abbey Caves with excitement and totally no clue on what we will find in the caves.
The First cave we found was the Organ Cave, but I have to back up a bit on this story. Before we found the cave we came across a grave of a young child that had a headstone from the 1800’s and toys lying all around it with a white picket fence. It was a very odd site. Among the limestone natural statues that looked like more like a manmade carvings but was Mother Nature’s work not ours.
Besides the creepy headstone we were among cows that laid cow pies the size of a small ponds and had the constancy of grandmas cranberry sauce that no one every eats. They made lots of noise that sounded like zombies approaching from the north or more than likely south if you live in the mid-west, just saying thats were they will be coming form if it happens. Anyway, with an odd sense of fright we found the Organ Cave and it quickly descended into the depths of the world. It’s funny, when you are in cave and you forget the narrative on whether or not it has an exit on the other end you feel a great rush of adrenaline and a sense of “I wish brought the direction”. Well I guess the directions were simple, “stay with the water and your good or dead”. “Shit Cary! we should stay with the water”. I started my stop watch at the beginning of the cave and we started wadding through ankle deep water and the skylight was quickly snuffed out by the black cold cave. It ate us up like a lion consuming its kill. The child’s grave fresh in my mind and the close tight cave walls beginning to close their thick figures around use and my head lamp struggled to light my path. The rush of water between my feet and sound echoed around us but I smiled and pushed deeper. “I thought to myself right then that this is why I travel and run to that edge called life, if it’s in the cards it is. I wonder how many more times I will get to think that, lol” . We had to duck under walls and hug through corners as the cave became smaller and smaller darker and darker. 15 minutes into the cave the glow worms outnumbered us a 100 to 1 and my head lamp illuminated only a fraction of the space around us. The cave got deeper, and now we were waist deep in water that was cold and rushed by us. “Hay Cary is this cave with the beach on the other end? I don’t remember! SHIT!”. Heart pounding and adrenaline running strong 20 minutes in I think that this cave will go for ever and a search party will have to come find us. O wait we didn’t tell anybody were we were going oops, guess it’s a fitting death. BAMMMM end of the cave.
Well Cary I guess this is the end, the end Jacques?
This blog was written under the influence of New Zealand Wine, STUFF TASTE REAL GOOD!
Jacques H, S.
Sorry for the odd post, I was testing my radio equipment. my SSB radio sent a old blog post sitting in my outbox. We are still in Opua New Zealand and are making arrangements to check out on Tuesday the 22nd of Apirl. All is well and good SSB radio check.
Back in February of this year my good friend Cary flew into New Zealand to go on an adventure. After some thought and research I decided to hike the famous but rough Dusky Track near the Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand. The Dusky Track description for high adventure seeking people was as follows “The Dusky Track is a complicated route that travels 84km across two mountain ranges, 21 three wire bridges, and is covered in waist deep water and mud. It is recommended that a guide be used to complete the track”. Ok sounds perfect and off we go!
In order to gain access to the trail head we had to take a 1 hour boat ride that sliced its way through the glassy waters that reflected the mountains that surrounded us. It was a postcard image on the water that I looked into as we glided across the wild south island expanse. The boat had 5 men , I recall a nice older man from Australia hiking his way around New Zealand living off odd jobs and having few things to hold himself back from a life of adventure. A young man with a rifle looking to go deer hunting up in the wild unforgiving mountains, which I never did see again. A young American out traveling the world behind his Nikon Camera and never stopped taking pictures of us or everything else. I wanted to toss him into the ice cold lake and be done with his annoying questions.
The picture above shows our route from the shore to the mountains you see in the background. You can see how the valley makes a V right up to the blue sky. That’s where we are going and over those mountains.
Right from the beginning we could tell that traversing across the land was going to be a challenge. For starters the trail was hard to find but had good markers, you just had to look at the lay of the land and push on. See if you can find the orange triangle marker in the picture above.
Our first hut was in a swap that was covered with black flies that would bit the heck out of you. I could no longer stand the fly’s so I took part of my tent and hung it in the bunk to sleep in. Work well but was very hot to sleep in.
We started to cross all the 3 wire bridges and they were fun to cross. As you walked across the wire it would bounce and sway from side to side.
As we traveled up our fist mountain we had to muck our way across tons of mud holes and swamps to get to the bass of the mountain. As you can see it was not easy getting through the mud. But after many hours of trudging through mud and water we broke through the tree line and what a sight to see.
The dark clouds of the storm that is coming to get us up on top of the mountain. The mountain top is filled with little pond lakes that are dark and cold but reflect the beauty that surrounds them.
After a stormy night on top of the mountain we packed our gear and left the hut.
Our morning was met with cold hard wind that sliced through your gear right to your bones. The ground was wet and mushy. Our boots were soon soaking wet and heavy to lift. The trail marks appeared and disappeared as we hiked over hills on top of the mountain.
After a morning of hiking through puddles, and snaking our way around little lakes on mountain tops we had to descend 3500 vertical feet to the sound below that connected to a river that flowed to the ocean. The decent was very wet and rough, made up of twisted roots and jagged rocks we climbed down with our full packs and sore knees. At points we used chains that were bolted to the rock faces to descend safely down the wet trail.
Finally at the base of the small mountain we had to hurry because it had been raining hard all night and the river that we had to cross was swelling and if we could not cross because the water was high would have to sleep under the stars. We plunged knee deep into the cold river water and made our way across the 3 wire bridge to the hut.
We stripped our wet clothes off and got into dry ones. We made a fire in a tempt to dry out our cloths.
I read in the hut that if the water doesn’t raise over the stumps the trail would not be underwater going north, so I snapped this picture before I went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning I took this photo of the stumps. O boy the trail is going to be wet and maybe underwater in parts.
Well the stumps didn’t lie, after a full night of rain the rivers raged and we hiked through water and then had to hike through river guts.
The trail would pass over river guts that would feed the main river. We would put our packs on your heads and wade through as shown above in the video. The water is ice cold from far up in the mountains.
We hiked out of the valley along the river and looking back a rainbow was showing were we came from. Now it was time to hike over the mountain pass to the next valley. We could see up high in front of us that it was snowing.
The snow was around us as we hiked through the mountain pass. The wind was very cold and blew so hard we fell over many times.
Finally at the top of the pass you could look back at were we started our day and see the river and vally below.
The trail over the pass was very rocky and hard to get a solid foot hold with the wind blowing so hard but we made it anyway.
After 10 hours of hiking we made it to our hut and we new tomorrow we would be one last short hike out of the wild and off the Dusky Track.
We woke early slid back into our wet boots and cloths and hiked out under a beautiful sun. The land was drying out and felt fresh.
We made it finally to the end of the trail. Now let’s get to that really well earned BEER and Shower! The 8 to 10 day hike took use 5 long hard days and two par of hiking boots that got thrown out. But it was one heck of a adventure. Wish I could share more about the Swedish man we found after he had been on the mountain for 29 days and counting or the Oz man too, but that’s for another day my friends.
We had a great cruise up the east coast of the north Island of New Zealand from Auckland to Opua. We stared out averaging 7 knots and around midnight the wind died off. I sailed around 3 knots during my shift but was joined by a half dozen dolphins. I had a pod of dolphins playing along side Dragonsbane for about a hour which made my 12 to 4am shift go by fast.
Now we are hanging out in Opua for our weather window to Depart New Zealand for New Caledonia. Right now there is a class 5 cyclone north of Austraila that should cross the Tasman Sea and hit New Zealand In the next few days. It should hold mostly rain and be pretty weak by that point.
I am hoping by Wednesday we can be off but we will see what this thing does first.
We are casting off for another short 130 nautical mile cruise up the northern coast of New Zealand to Opua. We will be leaving Opua to New Calidonia when the cyclone passes by from the South Pacific/Tasmen sea.
One fun moment here in Auckland was when Prince William drove by when we were on our way to the marina parts store.
Had a easy start to our next adventures to come 130 natical miles in the bank. That said did anyone Check the fuel? Oops ran out of fuel again, good thing I had a extra tank to get us in. We only drifted for 20 minutes after purging the air from the fuel lines we were off. Just wished we had more wind for us to push our rigging and systems before we head out to the big bad blue ocean because sometimes she will GETCHA!
All is well with our new crew members Cary and our good friend Nick. Cary will be joining me and my dad for hopefully the whole tripback to the USA. Nick is a good friend of my dAds and I, we met here in NZ he helped us cruise up to Auckland, good man. But now it’s time to sit back and kick back some cold ones what do you say?