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Landlubber expeditions & The Americas cup challenge

For two weeks we left Saorsa in the town Basin at Whangarei to embark on “land based” activities in the South Island. Saorsa was not short of company as her berth was located at the heart of the beautiful town wharf and there was a stream of locals and tourists admiring her ocean going pedigree along with her now rather splendid teak coach roof.

After a beautiful flight into Queenstown descending through the mountain ranges, we donned our walking boots and joined our Ultimate hike guides for the 54km Milford Track walk. John had never done a long walk before and I wanted to ensure he had a good taste of the south islands beauty.

Last time I did the Milford track it snowed in Feb on top of the Mackinnon pass, and I had hoped to do it again and see the view!. We opted for the lovely catered lodges of Ultimate Hikes which were a pure delight. This time it poured with rain! The up side of this was the magnificent waterfalls and John kept the guides well entertained with his constant banter as to how he was astounded that people actually pay to get this wet, endure knackering climbs while having to carry your own backpack!

We met some lovely people on the hike and it was great that they later were able to join us for some Americas cup racing. Once the McKinnon pass, ( the highest point on the Milford Track), was done Johns positive vibes kicked in and you could see by his cheeky smile that he was in awe of his surroundings – especially the view from the bedroom window on the last night!.

Proud of his walking endeavours it was now time to cycle for four days on the Otago trail. Armed with our new padded cycle shorts, waterbottle and an electric bike we stepped back in time to experience the kiwi outback.

Our bike rental company, ( shebikeshebikes – who were excellent), were rather astounded that John managed to run out of battery on the first morning! He professed it was faulty, nothing what ever to do with the fact he had it on permanent full power and that he was of the impression electric bike meant “electric” and that pedalling might be optional!. With pedal power engaged and expectations reset we were treated to spectacular weather and had a ball cycling the 170km from Clyde to Middlemarch ( with side trips). It was like cycling through the wild west with gentle climbs and descents along a gravel track where we expected to be ambushed by Cowboys and Indians. We even met our very own “Smith & Jones” two lovely retired school teachers that stopped at every village to check out old and new schools.

Our accommodation was quirkily: from a 1930s time warped hotel to a turn of the century renovated farm cottage in the middle of know where. We did detours to old gold mines, old engineering works, an ice skating rink, and many a sleepy and character village enroute. A thoroughly enjoyable few days.

Our legs in need of some TLC, and John in need of a treat, we booked an evening on the Earnslaw ( steam ship), and dinner at a kiwi farm station. John is a qualified steam engineer and was in his element in the steam room – unfortunately the crew were a bit grumpy and didn’t appreciate his vast knowledge and chose to ignore the steam guru that was on board. We still had very memorable evening and enjoyed the steam cruise tremendously.

Next up: THE Americas Cup.

We arrived in Auckland bang on time for the first Americas cup race, and the racing just got better and better. We were so lucky to have different friends join us every day, departing from Waiheke or downtown Auckland about lunch time, arriving on the appropriate course to anchor with the other 1700 boats!. The party spirit was thriving with folk swimming, and having fun in very close proximity. One day when the tide turned 30 min before the start of one race it was chaos but the kiwi “ it”ll be right mate”, prevailed – and it was. Yes, various boats touched but there were plenty of folk to fender off and after a couple of beers no one seemed to mind anyway. The last two races were just awesome and the atmosphere out on the course was electric. Hat off to the Lunna rossa team who put up a fantastic challenge, but the kiwi boat was faster and as they got a few races under their belt there was nothing that could stop them storming to victory. We had a spectacular time as a spectator boat and some very memorable afternoons and evenings with friends celebrating.

Auckland marinas were packed and had no room for us which was a blessing in disguise as we had no option but to anchor opposite Auckland city and had a great city view eating dinner across from the skytower – a fantastic city apartment! It was a short dinghy ride to the action and the Americas cup village where we guzzled pizza and watched them haul the kiwi boat after its victory. This weekend we retired to our suburban Auckland apartment to meet more friends.

Grateful for a fabulous few weeks of trekking, biking and sail racing in the company of loads of other people we do recognise how lucky we are while many other friends and family elsewhere are still struggling in lockdown, or worse still, from actually having to endure the horrible virus. Sunday we ended our vibrant few weeks with a visit to church to say a few thank yous and to try and put in a few words for those that are less fortuntate.

The plan now – goodbuy and thank you Auckland now we go to explore the Huraki Gulf, and the Coromandel and of course a few boat repairs! – Great Barrier here we come.