DAY 670: SOUTH YARRA – PORT MELBOURNE – (BOAT TO NEW ZEALAND) TASMAN SEA – DAY 1
WEDNESDAY 30TH JANUARY
START: 8:15 – FINISH: 8:45 – DISTANCE: 5KM – RIDE TIME: 0H 25
It’s finally come. It’s a very exciting day. This afternoon the Australian chapter will be over after 160 days and I will be heading to New Zealand by boat. The Bahia Castillo is a container ship owned by Hamburg Sud.
It can carry over 3500 containers. It is as big as a boat can be so it can pass the Panama Canal.
It turned out to be my shortest cycling day ever – having only to cycle 5 km from South Yarra to the Hamburg Sud office in Melbourne. From here the agent Aaron took me out to the boat at West Swanston dock. The container terminal was mad. The boat was getting loaded and containers were coming and going in every direction. On board I met the Chief (second-in-command) Karalina – it is not often there are women officers on a ship.
The Captain came straight down to meet me. His name is Tomic and like the rest of the officers is from Poland. I was blown away when I saw my cabin. It is on the Th floor, right in the centre of the boat between the Captain’s cabin and the Chief Engineer’s cabin. The owner’s cabin is huge. I have a lounge with sofa, table and chairs, work desk, TV, CD player, stereo and a fridge. There are 3 windows with a nice view. From here I was watching containers whizz past the window as they unloaded the boat. The bedroom is also generous with two double beds and a bathroom.
I went for a wander round the boat and found a gym, sauna and a swimming pool. No chance of getting bored.
For lunch I sat at the Captain’s table with the Chief and Chief Engineer which was pork soup followed by spring rolls, chips and salad. There are no other passengers on the ship. At 1 p.m. Australian customs came on board to stamp me out. That was easy. I then got a ride with them back to the port gate. As I walked to the Customs car it looked as though I was getting detained with one customs officer in front and one behind. The security gate then got me a lift over to Fitzroy so I could go to the supermarket to stock up on snacks for the crossing over. I had to be quick because the boat was sailing at 4:30 p.m. Walking back I got a little lost. All the docks look the same. I made it back with an hour to spare.
At 4:30 p.m. on a lovely sunny evening we slipped our mooring. The harbour tug pulled us away from the wharf and we were on our way though it takes 4 hours to get out to open sea so for that time there is a pilot on board. It felt like you could reach out and touch the underside of the gateway bridge as we passed under it. We were in a bit of a convoy. There was a cruise ship in front of us and another 4 ships on the way out. About the same number of ships passed us on the way in as well. We stayed close to the coast, sandy unpopulated beaches. The Captain invited me to come up to the bridge after dinner. He has said that I can go up anytime I want even during the entering or exiting port.
The bridge is huge……….with instruments to tell you everything. The crew have been so helpful in taking the time to explain in-depth how everything works……….It is awesome and very interesting. From the bridge we had a nice sunset. A few hours later the moon was just as impressive when it came up over the horizon.
DAY 671: TASMEN SEA – DAY 2
THURSDAY 31ST JANUARY – 798 KM (24h)
During the night we continued to hug the Australian coast. This meant that the seas were calm and we got a good nights sleep. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. in time to watch the sun coming up.
I went down for breakfast which was bacon and eggs, then up to the bridge for a few hours…………there was one other ship on the radar so I waited for it to pass. It turned out to be the only ship we saw today. I have gone full circle. I seem to have now put on more weight than when I started. Running on a running machine at sea was a new experience. I had to hold on because you never knew where your feet were going to land .
After lunch the third mate took me for a familiarization of the boat and took me through all the safety procedures. It was a long walk down to the front of the boat as she is over 300 metres long. At the front of the boat you are so far away from everything. It is the place to come if you want some quiet time. It is possible to come up any time as long as the weather is ok.
I like it the way you can move freely around the boat. There are not too many restrictions within reason. This afternoon I set myself up deck and dismantled the bike and gave it another clean. I’ve been told New Zealand customs will come on board at our first stop, Port Chalmers and I will be of interest to them and they will be coming straight to see me. So I’d better be ready for them. The clock is going forward 1 hour tonight and then another hour the following night to get us on New Zealand time. The swell finally arrived at 9:30 p.m. and we started to roll a bit and so did everything in the cabin.
DAY 672: TASMAN SEA – DAY 3
FRIDAY 1ST FEBUARY – 852 KM (24 H)
I didn’t sleep too well last night. I was constantly being rolled around in bed. But I have a plan for tonight. I| have been told to put the survival suit and life jacket under the mattress to create a cradle to stop me moving. Hopefully it will work. The clocks changed in the night.
All clocks on the boat automatically change………..drawing the blinds it revealed a foggy day due to sea temperature at 19 degrees and air temperature at 18 degrees. Since we reached the open sea we have only seen one other boat there is nothing on the radar for 50 km around. After another breakfast of bacon and eggs, Karalina the Chief took me on a tour down into the hold. The compartments are massive. Here the containers are stacked 7 high from the bottom of the hold and are just a dwarf stood by the containers. We were checking on the dangerous cargo which is stored at the front of the boat and has a special foam sprinkler system. I learnt yesterday that the ship makes its own water, about 20,000 litres a day. I was loving climbing up and down all the ladders and through all the compartments, opening and closing water-tight doors as we went. When I wake up tomorrow I should be able to see New Zealand for the first time in 7.5 years.
DAY 673: TASMAN SEA – PORT CHALMERS, NEW ZEALAND
SATURDAY 2ND FEBUARY – 902 KM (27H 30)
I slept with the blinds open last night so when I woke up I could look straight out the window to see New Zealand. When I did wake up the sun was on its way and shone brightly through the window so I couldn’t see much! I had a quick shower and went straight to the bridge. It was 7:30 a.m. A bit cloudy and foggy……..You could only just make out the South Island of New Zealand.
But after breakfast things were much better. On the port side was The South Island of New Zealand. With long sandy beaches, mountains and on the tops of the mountains was a scattering of snow. I was loving it very much. There were a few lighthouses along the coast and lots of farmland with a few buildings here and there. On the starboard side was Stewart Island and next to that many small islands. Around lunchtime we passed the port of Bluff and soon we will start heading up the East Coast of the South Island.The boat is scheduled to stop in Port Chalmers (Dunedin) tonight and after Napier and Tauranga before arriving in Auckland.
After dinner I was straight up to the bridge again. 9 p.m. tonight we are due to meet the pilot who will then take us into the port. I was very lucky to be present on the bridge for this it was such awesome experience. We had to wait at the entrance to the harbour for a cruise ship and a tanker to come out. During this time I got to steer the boat. We entered the harbour just on dusk and the harbour was so beautiful and as we passed close to the lighthouse we saw some albatross nesting with their chicks. The bridge binoculars come in very handy.
Earlier in the day we saw dolphins………now we saw thousands of penguins heading out to feed. The harbour is flanked by mountains and along the coastal road are scattered little very weathered shacks and little wooden fishing boats tied up on little jetties in small coves. I was really left buzzing when we got up to the terminal we had two tugs turn us around before we berthed. We are the only ship in port tonight. They will start unloading the boat tonight. It could be difficult to sleep. We are due to sail again tomorrow night but not before I step foot on to New Zealand soil for the first time in 7.5 years.
DAY 674: PORT CHALMERS – PACIFIC OCEAN
SUNDAY 3RD FEBUARY
I was surprised when I was told New Zealand customs didn’t want to see me. I will be processed in Auckland. So straight after breakfast I was down the gangplank. I walked the 400 metres to the gate and then I was free. It was so surreal after 7.5 years, walking into a sleepy very laid-back little town.
To be fair it is Sunday morning…..lol. Walking the supermarket aisles seeing brands long forgotten and hearing strange accents, even the money is different from when I was last here. I got an odd look when I got a small round 50 cents coin and I said to the shopkeeper……….I haven’t seen one of these before………..after the initial shock Port Chalmers is a lovely little town.
It is just what it is and that is what made it so nice………….its not over-commercialised. I hiked to the top of the hill overlooking the port, very steep and the trail went straight and up. On the side of the hill was an old cemetery from the 1800s. Part of the trail went through native bush full of ferns. At the lookout was a memorial for Scott and his party who stopped in Port Chalmers before their ill-fated journey to the South Pole.
We sailed at 4.30 p.m. on a lovely sunny afternoon. I was again up on the bridge. I think our departure was more spectacular than our arrival and that was pretty good. You could see a lot more in daylight. We passed so close to the land.
Nice green pastures with grazing sheep. An old whaling station and we saw the albatross again. The channel runs so close to the road and the coast and there is no room for error. You do get a very nice view.
When it is time for the pilot to leave a gangway is lowered and a rope ladder whilst the pilot boat comes along side. It looks like a difficult operation. It was something interesting to watch.
After dinner I did a 30 minute run, followed by a stint in the sauna. Tomorrow, I will see about getting the swimming pool filled up so I can have a swim.
DAY 675: PACIFIC OCEAN – NAPIER
MONDAY 4TH FEBRUARY
We are continuing to sail up the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Unfortunately this morning there is a lot of cloud and a little bit of rain…………so there is not much to see. Just after lunch we crossed over to the North Island. It will be another 11 hours till we reach Napier.
We will have to drop anchor and wait till the morning for the pilot to board and take us in. I was also lucky that after lunch the cloud suddenly lifted and we were gifted with a nice view of the east coast of the North Island. Sparsely populated with just a few farm buildings, grazing sheep, forests, some sand dunes and the castle point lighthouse along a rugged coast.
2 p.m. – I went for a swim after the crew filled the swimming pool for me. They had to pump salt water straight out of the ocean. The water temperature at 17 degrees may sound warm; but it was absolutely freezing. I tried getting in but it was too cold. So I did 20 Min’s in the sauna first, before jumping in the pool. Even then I didn’t last long and there were quite a few trips between the sauna and the pool.
DAY 676: NAPIER – PACIFIC OCEAN – DAY 7
TUESDAY 5TH FEBRUARY
Departed: 11:30 p.m.
I was sleeping this morning when the Bahia Castillo berthed in the port of Napier. We are due to leave at 4 a.m. the following morning so there is plenty of time to go ashore.
After another breakfast of bacon and eggs and after not cycling for weeks, I have packed on the weight. When I get back, people are not going to believe I have been cycling………..because I am carrying a lot of weight and I am not looking that fit. The watchman called for a shuttle van to take me from the ship to the port gate.
Unfortunately it was a wet cold windy morning. The city itself is pretty close. I braved the rain for the short walk. Napier was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. The result, created after the rebuild, was a small town with plenty of style and character with its Art Deco buildings. Napier is a favourite with the cruise ship passengers. There was one ship in either side of us. The city has come a long way since I was last here 15 years ago. The marine parade has changed a lot. The old 1920’s paddling pool is now a modern complex of swimming pools and heated outdoor spa pools.
Next to that there was a new war memorial with an eternal flame. The old prison is a museum. The courthouse where I can remember seeing gang members sitting outside is now the department of conservation. The main street has been modernised. having been paved and now only allows a single lane of traffic. Either side of the street is lined with palm trees. I stayed out for lunch but I went back for dinner. After dinner I went back ashore to visit the seamen’s club with a big chunk of the crew which is located just outside the gate. It’s pretty handy and the free internet was a bonus.
DAY 677: PACIFIC OCEAN – TAURANGA – DAY 8
WEDNESDAY 6TH FEBRUARY
Arrived at midnight – 24 1/2 hours – 561 km
I knew we could be passing a cruise ship during the night. I woke up just before 4 a.m. and there she was completely lit up like a Christmas tree.
It looked spectacular. After breakfast the chief engineer took me on a tour of the engine room. The ship has one massive engine and some big generators to power everything. We went everywhere right down to the bottom of the ship where the drive shaft left the ship to the propeller.
You could even see it spinning. The chief engineer got a bit nervous when we visited the control room with my back to a control panel on the wall. Got a bit close. It was such a nice day at sea, calm and sunny.
It is really going to be my last day at sea. Tomorrow we will spend all day in the port of Tauranga before sailing that night. I spent a lot of time in the bridge. We continued to sail up the east coast after east cape we passed White Island and its volcano. We could see white puffs of smoke coming from its crater.
Shortly after this, there was a tsunami watch issued on the Maritime radio after a magnitude 8 earthquake had been forecast in the Solomons. It gave me a bit of a fright. Thankfully it was cancelled shortly after. Near sunset I did a lap of the ship to take some photos.
It is 250 metres down to the bowel and 250 metres back which is half a km. Back on the bridge someone saw some dolphins. There were 50 of them so I headed back to the front of the boat. We were at half speed as we had to slow down otherwise we would arrive too early. Our spot is taken and we have to wait till 11 p.m. for that ship to leave before we can enter the port. That was good because when I got down to the bowel (front of the boat I found many dolphins swimming with us which was awesome to watch as they swam very fast from side to side and then every so often they would leap out of the water.
DAY 678: TAURANGA – PACIFIC OCEAN – DAY 9
THURSDAY 7TH FEBRUARY
Again I got to have a few hours off the boat. Straight after breakfast I got a lift up to the gate. From here I walked the 6km to Mount Maunganui.
It was a lovely morning – sunny and warm, no wind and the water was sparkling as I walked over the bridge, past the marina and along the beach, till I got to the Mount and took the walking track to the top. It was a bit of a climb but was well worth it. The views were awesome and I liked walking through the fern trees.
I had worked up an appetite and wasn’t going to make it back to the ship for lunch so I grabbed some good old Kiwi fish and chips. They even came out wrapped in newspaper. I got thrown by the New Zealand coins again when I tried to use some Aussie 10 cent pieces. They used to be the same size as the 20 cents piece and you could use them in either country , but not now.
I am making a few observations on my return to New Zealand after 7 years. Everywhere is very clean. Hardly see any litter or graffiti. The people are super friendly, pretty laid-back and the traffic is light. On prime beach fronts, waterfront, there are a few flash houses but still a lot of simple batches. I keep hearing the word, Dairy. I haven’t heard this for such a long time – in New Zealand dairy is the name of the local corner shop.
This afternoon we sailed at 6 p.m. on the high tide. The pilot and tugs took us out to the heads on a very pleasant evening. There were lots of yachts and small fishing boats on the harbour. We passed to the south of the wreck of the Rina whose stern was fully visible as she lay on her side firmly stuck on the reef. She has been there over a year while they slowly cut her up. Last night on the ship so I had another sauna and swim.
DAY 679: PACIFIC OCEAN – AUCKLAND – DAY 10
FRIDAY 8TH FEBRUARY
START: 13:15 – FINISH: 16:30 – DISTANCE: 33 KM – RIDE TIME : 2H 28
Arrived: 6 a.m. – 11h 50 – 278 Km
We arrived into port just after 6 a.m. I will stay on the boat till lunch-time and after I will disembark. At 6:30 a.m. I was in the shower when I got the call to go down and meet customs.
They were in a hurry to meet a cruise ship that had just arrived. I filled out an arrival card and I was done. They didn’t even want to check my bike………….it was too easy. The ship’s agent came on at 8:30 a.m. and I met Bruce who is one of the people who kindly helped organize my passage to New Zealand.
The captain offered me lunch before disembarking so after some Chilli Concha the captain and crew helped me get my luggage and bike to the shuttle van. The ship will sail again tonight for the Panama Canal.
From the gate I set sail for my cousin’s place in Albany and my first taste of New Zealand roads. If I hadn’t had long enough on a boat I only went 4oo meters before catching the ferry to Devonport. The Auckland harbour bridge is off-limit for cyclists.
The ferry was pretty straight forward. After crossing the harbour I went straight into the tourist office and sorted myself out with some local cycling maps. The cycling lanes were pretty patchy.
They kept coming and going. I started off taking some nice quiet back roads that went for a short time along the coast. It was a nice day for cycling. I ended up cycling 30 km to Albany and I had a few hills to go over and up. But it was a nice way to ease back in to the bike after a few weeks off. When I got to my cousin’s letterbox, the driveway runs down quite steeply…….for about 300 meters. With brakes full on and gaining speed, I quickly used the emergency brake and wisely walked the bike down the rest of the way. My cousin Paul and his wife, Janet and their children, Cieran and Kathrine have a lovely semi-rural house surrounded by some lovely native bush.
DAY 680 – 682 ALBANY – REST DAYS
DAY 680: SATURDAY 9TH FEBRUARY
There is a party at the house tonight for Cieran who is off overseas shortly. Started the day with a nice fry-up on the BBQ.
After a few hours setting up, I was then in the pool for a swim before everyone arrived. Cieran’s party was a great way for me to catch up with the Auckland side of the family. My Aunty Mary and cousins Linda, Brian and Sandra and their family, who I haven’t seen for about 12 years. It was great catching up with everyone.
DAY 681: SUNDAY 10TH FEBRUARY
DAY 682: MONDAY 11TH FEBRUARY
Now that I am in New Zealand and in between a few swims in the pool and a couple of dips in the spa pool, I have been busy planning my route down to Wellington – dragging out the last leg.
I am going to head to Te Aroha, Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Whakatane, Opotiki, East Cape, Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne, Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa, Takapau, Norsewood, Dannevirke, Woodville, Eketahuna, Mount Bruce, Masterton, GreyTown, Featherston, Rimutaka Incline, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Wellington.
I am planning to see a few parts of New Zealand that I haven’t seen before and it should be very scenic. I am also going to be away from the main highway as well. I have now set an arrival date in Wellington for the 9th March 2013…………giving me plenty of time to arrive on time. My cousin’s wife Janet has been very pro-active for me trying to help me drum up some publicity. Janet persuaded me to go and get a t -shirt printed – so I have. I was in need of a new shirt after I dumped my Kathmandu cycling shirt as it is just in shreds…………shame Kathmandu wouldn’t come to the party so as to replace it for me. No worries I have done it myself now.
DAY 683: ALBANY – DEVONPORT
START: 10:30 – FINISH : 13:30 – DISTANCE : 28 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 06
TUESDAY 12TH FEBRUARY
For the rest of the week,
I am going to move around Auckland catching up with friends. Today I cycled back to Devonport to visit old friends from Wellington, Justine and Elcid. Along the way I stopped off at the beach at Narrow Neck for a short break. Lovely morning. A few people were out and about.
Rangatoto Island which is an ancient volcano was a fantastic back drop.
DAY 684: DEVONPORT – GLENDENE
START: 10:30 – FINISH: 13:30 – DISTANCE: 23 KM – RIDE TIME: 1H 50
WEDNESDAY 13TH FEBRUARY
Mid-morning I said goodbye to Justine and Elcid and took the ferry across the harbour. I then cycled straight up Queen street before taking the cycle path next to the North Western motorway. I headed out to Glendene to visit Dave and Kathie who I met in South America back in 2004.
Got caught in a bit of a rain shower so had to sit under a bridge for 5 mins. The cycle-way passed through the tidal flats along a long causeway. Perfect timing – Dave arrived home just as I was cycling up their street. Dave and Kathie took me out to a boutique brewery. We had a nice afternoon tasting – you get 5 glasses with 5 different beers to taste.
After the beers, it was gourmet burgers on the way home. I had my favourite beef, bacon and avocado which I had last in New Zealand 7 years ago………..it tasted pretty good.
DAY 685 : GLENDENE – MT WELLINGTON
START: 10:45 – FINISH : 16:50 – DISTANCE: 33 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 54
THURSDAY 14TH FEBRUARY
Today I am going from the west side of the city over to Mt Wellington in the east.
I stopped in Mt Albert to catch up with another Dave who I first met in Canada back in 2003/2004 for a bit of a yarn and some lunch. After lunch I had a bit of time before I needed to get over to Mount Wellington,
so along the way I cycled up to the top of one tree hill. Though the tree is no longer there after a vandal cut it down.
All that is left is a stump but from the top of the hill you get a nice 360-degree view of Auckland. The traffic wasn’t too bad as I crossed over to Mt Wellington. I found Anthony’s house with no problem. I relaxed on his deck till he got home. Anthony is another friend from Wellington who has moved up to Auckland and I last saw him 10 years ago – now he has a wife and kids (Sheree and Campbell).
DAY 686: MT WELLINGTON – REST DAY
FRIDAY 15TH FEBRUARY
I didn’t do much today.
Apart from walking down to the mall to stock up on supplies for the bike. Will start heading South East on Monday. Nick, a mate of Tones recently back from overseas came over and we had a good old Kiwi BBQ and a few beers.
DAY 687 MT WELLINGTON – PAPATOETOE
START: 16:00 – FINISH: 17:15 – DISTANCE: 15 KM – RIDE TIME: 1H 05
SATURDAY 16TH FEBRUARY
This morning Tones needed to go over to his rental property over in Devonport and Nick and I went as well. We left Tones at his property and went for a nice walk into the village for a coffee.
Devonport was holding a wine and food festival and we had a wander through. It was only a few days ago I was staying in Devonport so I surprised my friends Justine and Elcid by calling in on them quickly. Back at Tones, we all sat out on the deck for some lunch.
Late afternoon, I relocated again by cycling a little further south to Papatoetoe to stay with another mate from Wellington, Steve who I went to school with, and his wife Syrian. I will be nicely placed when I cycle to Thames on Monday.
DAY 688: PAPATOETOE – REST DAY
SUNDAY 17TH FEBRUARY
Another lovely sunny Auckland day. Steve and I got the the train over to the big shopping centre in Manakau. We then went home and watched the cricket for the rest of the day.