Friday, November 14, 2008

All Points Rally to Opua

First, to recap our passage to New Zealand:  On the final day, Monday, we sailed 122.3 miles.  That totals 1046.5 miles made good for the entire passage.  Actually we sailed more miles than that but we only track MMG.  Any miles sailed that do not bring us closer to our destination don’t count with us.  I know that won’t make any sense to the landlubbers, but sailors understand that sometimes you must sail in the wrong direction in order to get to the right destination.  Passage duration was 0730 Monday through 0130 Tuesday of the following week, for a total of 7 days and 18 hours (8 nights at sea).   A 46-foot British boat left Tonga at exactly the same time we did and they arrived in Opua about 16 hours after us.

We arrived at the Quarantine Dock in Opua and were tied off at 0130 Tuesday morning. Of course there was no one around to help us with the dock lines but that was simple and we did not require assistance to dock.  We followed a German boat in through the channel; then they drifted around because they couldn’t figure out where to go.  It was misting rain and difficult to see in the pitch-black night.  We nosed around until we found the Q Dock (it is back behind the old wharf and south of Opua Marina).  After we were tied off then the German guys followed and tied up behind us.  This Q Dock is quite long and could easily accommodate 20 to 30 boats.  It is a long floating dock and is not attached to land.  Bill and I ate a very late dinner of the final 2 bowls of chili; had a hot shower; and went to bed.  We were up and dressed at daylight because had no idea when Customs and Quarantine officials would arrive to clear us in.

Two Quarantine officials arrived at 0800.  After all the stories about how difficult Quarantine can be in New Zealand, I was greatly relieved with how very simple it really was.  The men were very polite and helpful.  One of the men carried a heavy-duty black plastic bag into which he placed our garbage bag and the few items that they removed from our boat.  The second man wrote down each item that they removed.  We had no fresh or frozen meat to dispose of, and they did not take one single can of any canned meat because ours did not contain bones.  They did say that many canned chicken products are prohibited because things like canned chicken chili or turkey chili contains ground bones.  Mayonnaise is often removed but I had Hellman’s and that brand is not a problem.  Several other people later told me that Quarantine removed all their mayonnaise.  The country of origin didn’t seem to be the deciding factor.  The officials seemed more concerned about the brands.  Guess they know what they are looking for. 

Since we have only microwave popcorn, they let us keep that.  Regular loose popcorn kernels are prohibited, but microwave popcorn is okay.  They approved all my spices because they are all in bottles and commercially prepared.  I usually do not buy local spices and had none onboard.  They did not take cheese, butter, canned milks or UHT boxed milk.  Powdered milk is not allowed but UHT is okay.  The things removed from our boat were:  3 boiled eggs, 1 orange, tiny bit of leftover baked boneless chicken and 6 bags various dried beans.  And it was convenient for us that they took away the garbage accumulated during the passage.  So, moral of this story is to ignore those oft-told stories of difficulty of clearing into New Zealand Quarantine.  It was a breeze.   BTW, we arrived with about 1 case of beer.  Bill did a pretty good job of drinking up or sharing those 25 cases we had aboard in mid-March in Panama.

Shortly after the Quarantine officials left then the Customs guy dropped by to deliver a gift bag to us.  Now that is a first!  Certainly never had an arrival gift from Customs anywhere else we have visited.  This gift was a nicely decorated heavy straw bag containing all sorts of useful information about the Opua area and New Zealand.  Even had some discount coupons for coffee shops and bakeries and the like.  Soon 2 Customs officials arrived and we did the paperwork dance.  Turns out that we indeed should have that Multi-Entry Visa that we tried to obtain both in Niue and again in Nuku’Alofa and were told that we did not need.  They said we will need this Visa when we clear back in at the airport in January because it proves that our later departure on a boat is guaranteed.  We will try to take care of that before we fly home on December 10 but I am not very hopeful that this will be accomplished. 

The complete clearing in process with both Quarantine and Customs took less than half an hour.  Then we moved the boat a very short distance to our slip at Opua Marina.  Other people arrived worn out from their passage but we felt well-rested and ready to do things.  We tidied up the boat and went walking to check out the local shops.  Opua is a tiny, tiny “town” with only a few shops so that did not take long.  We stopped at the Bluewater Café for a burger.  My hamburger had lettuce, tomato, grated carrots and beets.  Both Bill and I opted not to have a fried egg on our hamburgers which is the normal way burgers are served both in New Zealand and in Australia.  New Zealanders don’t do pickles on sandwiches.  In fact, I don’t think they eat pickles at all.  Instead, they use beets for that tangy taste.  Unusual, but not objectionable.  At the café we met a couple we had talked to on the VHF radio the day before.  They are New Zealanders who have returned after 11 years doing a circumnavigation.  They walked with us down to the office to register for all various activities for the All Points to Opua Rally.

The All Points to Opua Rally is held each November, and the Opua to All Points Rally is held each April.  November is the time that boats leave Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu to sail down to New Zealand to avoid the cyclone season; and anyone doing so should register online for this rally.   The arrival celebratory activities are wonderful.  These rallies are sponsored by the extremely active Opua Cruising Club.  The club seems to constantly have something scheduled.  Most of the rally activities are held in the clubhouse and their hospitality is phenomenal.  Monday night was free pizza night for the rally participants, but we obviously missed that since we did not arrive until 0130 Tuesday.   Tuesday night was free seafood night and it was great.  Enjoyed meeting up with people we haven’t seen for a couple of thousand miles.  Wednesday morning was a breakfast at a local café, which we skipped since Bill can’t eat eggs anymore.  Wednesday night was a barbeque dinner at a local restaurant, free transportation provided.  (That dinner was not so great but we enjoyed the companionship.)  Thursday night was a free wine and cheese tasting and then a trip to the Waitangi Northland Culture Show held at the Waitangi Trust Treaty Grounds, the birth place of New Zealand.  Tonight is a free beer and bangers barbeque at a local boat yard.  Bangers are Kiwi sausages.  And tomorrow night is Pig on a Spit and Rally Prize Awards, followed by live music entertainment.   There will be a number of awards like biggest fish caught on passage here, best gourmet meal served on passage, best story and things like that.  Each thing must be documented with a date-stamped photo with no photo-shop doctoring.  We will not submit any entries, but this should be fun.  And the door prizes listed are fantastic.   Heck, one of the door prizes is a free haul-out, water blast cleaning and launching.  We could use that one since we don’t plan to haul-out for bottom job until April.

The cultural stage show last night was good.   This was written, produced, directed and acted by Maoris.  The show covered the history of Maoris since the arrival of the warrior/voyager Kupe in New Zealand from Havai-iki in French Polynesia (Bora Bora or Raiatea depending on which source you read) around 800-900 A.D.  The Maori name for New Zealand is Aoetearoa.  Visitors to the show arrive in a large group at the carved Maori meeting house and are greeted in the traditional Maori warrior fashion.  The meeting house holds the tribe’s history and ancestry.  This is depicted in the elaborate carvings and the weavings on the walls.  The tribe for this particular meeting house traces its history back 2000 years including time before they arrived in New Zealand.  Our group leader selected 3 men volunteers to be symbolic visiting chiefs.  The warriors approached our group from the porch of the carved meeting house.  They were doing that fierce Haka thing with spears twirling about and making all kinds of guttural noises and yells and jumping about while making the ugly faces with bulging eyes and tongues sticking out.   It sounds silly but in person these guys would make anyone stop and take notice.  They seemed fierce.  When they were within 30 feet of our 3 “chiefs” then they stopped and made a challenge by laying some things on the ground.  Each of our chiefs then approached the challenge offering and picked it up.  You are supposed to maintain eye contact at all times while picking up the challenge offering.  One of our chiefs lost eye contact with the warrior opposite him and the warrior went ballistic acting out how a real Maori warrior in olden times would have killed that visitor.  Losing eye contact meant the visitor was weak and should not be allowed.   Once the challenge offering was picked up and the warrior felt that the visitor was not threatening, then the 2 men pressed their noses together as symbolism that they were friends or “as one.”  

After the warrior greeting then we all proceeded to the carved meeting house and removed our shoes before going inside for the show.  There was a lot of warrior dancing and weapons-use reenactments.  The women did singing and dancing and twirling these white ball things on strings.  None of it looked easy and obviously required many hours of practice.  The story covered the Maori arrival here, the Europeans arrival, the Waitangi Trust Treaty of February 1841, and the later war that resulted because the English signed an English version of that treaty and the Maori signed a Maori version of that treaty and the two differed somewhat due to language translations.  The Maori have claimed since day one that they did not sign away their rights to their lands.  The English interpreted the English version of the verbiage differently.  Same thing that happened in the United StatesEngland signed a treaty and then reneged on it and changed the interpretation to be what they wanted it to be.  The treaty still exists and the Maoris continue to fight legally to get the treaty ratified but that has not happened yet.  As you may guess it all comes down to money and land values.  The Maori want their land or some of their land because their culture places highest value on the land.  They believe you cannot be a complete person unless you own the land.   We enjoyed this cultural show and would recommend it to other visitors.  I did not bring a camera but will try to get some photos from others who did.

We love New Zealand.  Could happily live here if they would let us, but they won’t allow people our age to immigrate.  They don’t want us old folks even if we bring plenty of money.  The climate is better than Sausalito on its best day.  And the people could not be more friendly and hospitable.  And they speak English!  Love it here.

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