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Waiheke - Motueka (Abel Tasman) 30 January to 11 February

It was almost like being at home for the ten days we spent on Waiheke Island.  Wonderful to hang up our clothes and settle in for so long!  Ray and Audrey were absolute gems.  Not only did Ray let us use his office for all our computer work, he also carted us around to the airport and back and, on top of it all, helped Flemming with the 100 hours maintenance.  Audrey had planned several outings with me on the island, thinking that I would be much freer than Flemming.  But my time was taken up with laundry, office work (faxes to the South Pacific countries to request  flight authorizations,   and to the FAA in the US for a waiver), phone calls to reserve fuel in Tonga and Western Samoa, kayak bookings for Abel Tasman National Park, etc.

Another major concern was to find another 'toilet facility' or potty to replace the one I forgot at Lord Howe. With Audrey's help, I searched for one on Waiheke, but with no success. All the 'Tupperware'-like containers were square and would be most uncomfortable to sit on! So Audrey and I took the ferry to Auckland to search for one.  This was no easy task either.  We were unable to find anything suitable within walking distance of the port of disembarkation.  By this time it was pouring with rain, so we took a taxi to a large shop specializing in plastic containers.  To my dismay, the only container of a suitable size and shape was transparent!  I explained my dilemma to the shop assistant and she had the brilliant idea of selling me some sticky linoleum to cover it with.  I chose a pleasing pattern of buckets and spades and star fish on a beach, all in pastel colours.

In spite of all the work, we did take the time to enjoy some very pleasant meals with Audrey and Ray on their deck overlooking Oneroa Beach with Coromandel peninsula in the distance.  What a view!  We also received invitations from several of their friends on the island.  There was Pamela and Denny's birthday party the night after we arrived.  Then Diana and Phil invited us for lunch at their beautiful house by a lovely secluded beach.

When we arrived on the island, a Cessna 182 landed a few minutes before us.  In fact, Audrey said that our welcome committee got all excited, thinking it was us!  The pilot of the Cessna, Steve Horne, had been following our movements for several months via our web site.  He was particularly interested in talking to us as he is considering becoming an Earthrounder himself.  He and his wife Christine invited the four of us to dinner at their lovely house on the east end of Waiheke which has to have one of the most stunning views in the world, overlooking the Waiheke sound and beautiful islands and bays.

The most important event of our stay was Ray's 70th birthday party on 3rd February.  Audrey had arranged it all in a private dining room at the Mudbrick Restaurant overlooking vineyards, the sea and the Rangatoto volcano.  There were about 24 of us, including Ray's oldest friend Ron whom he has known since age five.   They showed us a school photo to prove it!  Ron had prepared a long speech, which gave us some amusing insights into Ray's early days.  Flemming had been too busy working on the plane to prepare a speech, but he gave an improvised one on the years they worked together at CERN, previous excursions together in the Mooney, ending, of course, with THE trip of his lifetime!

Ray had kindly taken his Cherokee 180 out of Waiheke Air Services hangar, so Flemming could work comfortably in the hangar. Ray's aircraft mechanic, Graham Gillivier, had organised transports of aircraft jacks kindly lent to us by Dick Neave, a Mooney owner in Auckland. We had discovered in Singapore that a cowl flap hinge was broken and Flemming had ordered parts from Lake Aero in California to repair it. Fortunately they had the parts in stock, the Mooney factory is bankrupt since summer 2001. Graham Gillivier kindly lent Flemming his riveting tools to do the necessary  repair work. Also both inner gear doors had touched the ground at some point between Geneva and Auckland and needed repair and readjustment. On 7 February, we put the finishing touches to the maintenance of the plane and washed her down.

We 'just' had to send off some more faxes to French Polynesia and buy some provisions on the morning of the 8th, and then it was 'Away we go!'.  But there was one snag.  The weather, which had been so clement the past 10 days, turned bad.  The forecast (TAFs) looked very good for VFR, but the actual weather was entirely different. This is very common in New Zealand.  Flemming had filed a VFR flight plan for Motueka (near Nelson, northern end of South Island), so we couldn't fly in cloud.  It was overcast when we took off from Waiheke airport, and we soon got into showers as we started to head south along the western shore of the firth of Thames (we had planned to refuel in Thames). Visibility was diminishing fast due to rain, the ceiling went down to  500 feet, so - for the first time on this trip - we had to make an 180 degree turn and head back for Waiheke.  There, he filed IFR for Nelson and off we went again.  Waiheke Air Services kindly sold us some fuel so we had enough   continue to Nelson. We flew through a few bumpy cumulus clouds and rain showers at our cruising level of 10'000 feet before breaking out to a marvelous view of the Marlborough Sound.We quickly changed our destination from Nelson to Motueka and cancelled IFR while descending. Motueka is much closer to the point of departure for our sea kayak and hiking trip in Abel Tasman National Park

I had booked our sea kayak rentals with Ocean River in Marahau, an excellent and well organised company which we can only recommend.  After a good night's rest at the Triangle Inn in Motueka, run by a Welsh woman who's doing a university degree in aviation, we were picked up by Ocean River and taken to their HQ.  We were given a briefing and kitted out with life jackets and skirts before they drove us to the beach.  For the first stretch, we were accompanied by Solana who gave us more advice on such things as what to do if you capsize.  After that we were on our own.

We were very lucky with the weather the two days that we had the kayak.  It was quite sunny but not too hot thanks to some cloud, and above all, the water was calm.  The first night, we camped at a secluded spot in Torrent Estuary lagoon. The reason there were no other kayakers was that you can only get access to the lagoon near high tide, and the timing worked out perfectly for us.  Fortunately, for me, there was another couple at the camping site.  The friendly Kiwi helped Flemming haul the heavy kayak the last metres up the beach.  I say 'heavy', because we were carrying a lot on board: tent, cooking apparatus, clothes, food,water and last but not least, wine! Kayaking is a great alternative to 'tramping' (as they call hiking in New Zealand).  You don't have to carry your own gear!  You can't see quite so much from the kayak, but you can stop at beaches and go for walks.

The next day we rowed round the small island of Tonga where there is a colony of seals. We saw pups bounding along the rocks and taking swimming lessons under the watchful eyes of their parents.  Quite impossible to capture in a photo!

Our two days kayaking rental was up that afternoon.  Ocean River came to collect the kayak from Oneahuti beach so we gathered up our belongs and pitched our tent again for the night before taking a walk to Awaroa Lodge for a delicious dinner.  After pasta and tomato paste the night before, we really appreciated the good food!  Luckily they served dinner early because we had an hour's walk back to our beach and we had to reach it by 8 p.m. before the tide got too high - otherwise we would have to swim across a river.  We got there in good time.  We just needed to take off our boots and wade across in shorts.

Then the shit hit the fan in the form of rain.  It bucketed down all night without ceasing.  We thanked our lucky stars that all our gear was in the dry, but even so, there was so much water that the floor of the tent got wet.  It was a relief to be picked up by a water taxi the next morning and taken back to civilization.


Audrey Megson and Ray Sherwood; Graham Gillivier; Dick Neave; Waiheke Air Services; Denny and Pamela; Diana and Phil; Steve and Christine Horne.

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Flemming working hard on the 100 hr. inspection in Waiheke.

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Solana from Ocean River gave us good tips and advice on sea kayaking in Abel Tasman.

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Lunch on a beach.The kayak provides for easy transport of wine and good food.

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Packing up the kayak again after lunch.

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Fern and Manuka trees in Abel Tasman.

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Our lovely morning walk along the Torrent Estuary

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Torrent Estuary

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Torrent Estuary

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Angela up front enjoying the calm waters of the Torrent Estuary

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Seal sunbathing on Tonga island, Abel Tasman

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Hurry up! The tide is coming in at the Oneahuti beach crossing

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