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Kilometers of Fun on the Left Side

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As January came to a close, we excitedly made preparations for our two week trip to New Zealand. This involved finding a suitable place to leave Blue Moon, and finding a way ashore then to the airport. We had spent some time anchored in Rose Bay, and felt confident in the holding for our anchor and the neighborhood. With nowhere on shore to leave our dinghy long term, we devised a different solution. The day before our flight, we took all our luggage and Kendra ashore in the dinghy, then David rowed the dinghy back to the boat, hoisted it on deck, and paddled back to shore on an inflatable watermelon tube which we then deflated and put in our bag. From there we caught a ferry downtown, which connected us to the train station to reach the airport. We spent the night in a hotel before our early flight, knowing we couldn't have accomplished all the logistics the same morning of departure. Three hours after takeoff we were on the ground in Aotearoa - the native Maori name for New Zealand. Cousin Brian and his partner Cassie were already waiting at the terminal, after a much longer journey from the US.


We set off in our rental car to explore what we could of the beautiful subtropical North Island in a week’s time. Our BNB bach pad was four hours north from Auckland in the town of Mangonui, but the drive went fast despite the anxiety of keeping in the left lane on narrow, winding roads. After a good night's sleep, we set out exploring the next day, soaking in the rolling paddocks framed by wooded hills, epic vistas over the many bays, and in small towns as old as European history on the island. In Kerikeri, we found a wonderful family run winery, exquisite woodfired pizza, and a stone store so ancient that the floor was worn into a curve at the entrance. The next day we hiked a long forest trail to the “Duke’s Nose”, with no shortage of exertion, silver ferns, and amazing views.


The multiple permutations of the Northland landscape provided endless sightseeing, the only catch was a lot of time spent in the car to travel this sparsely populated region. A beautiful beach day led us to a couple more wineries, before heading home to grill a big dinner at the bach. Our last day in the far north, we took the long drive to the Cape Reinga peninsula for more stunning views, and the highlight of our day, sand boarding. The dunes on this coast are so large, it feels otherworldly walking upon them, but the best part is riding a boogie board down at warp speed after reaching the summit!


With much more to see, we struck out the next morning back towards Auckland, but we didn't plan to stay in town long - we had a booking on the ferry to Waiheke Island. The wind was blowing a steady 25kts, and despite all of the beautiful anchorages we had seen along the coast, this pattern of regular gales was part of the reason we chose not to sail Blue Moon to this country. Onboard the car ferry, the wind was no threat but the waves did cause a motion somewhat disagreeable with the stomach; nothing like the smooth side to side roll of our little monohull. We enjoyed two beautiful days on this special island haven, enjoying wine and the simple joys of life. When we drove onto the ferry again, only one week of our time in New Zealand remained. For this, we headed back to the airport to catch a hopper flight down to Queenstown in the south island.


Disembarking the plane onto the tarmac, we were stunned by the majesty of the mountains surrounding us. We felt suddenly smaller than we had in the north, and a new sense of adventure gripped us. Again we rented a car, and drove north up the winding pass, beyond the old gold mining towns, on to the little village of Wanaka, a place of local mountain culture and rad stoke beneath the veneer of the tourist shops. Besides stunning views over the lake, we also found more hikes, breweries, and wineries than we could shake a stick at. We immersed ourselves in all of it, and even took a swim in the glacial river behind the BNB. Local high school kids had an epic rope swing set up (which we couldn't resist trying), and they gathered en masse to do flips off the bridge. When we drove back towards Queenstown two days later, we made a stop along the way to the Kawarau Bridge - the original home of commercial Bungy Jumping. We threw caution to the wind, and then threw ourselves off the 140 foot high bridge. Epic.


South of Queenstown we followed the only roadway along an endless lake wedged between two mountains. Hours later we arrived in Te Anau, our gateway to the Southern Alps and Milford Sound. Here we enjoyed another quaint accommodation, grilling up a king's feast and playing yard games in the summer sun. Waking to crisp autumn temperatures, we began the two hour drive through the mountains to reach the ocean via Milford Sound. There we took a boat tour around the sound, bundled against the chill of the Tasman Sea winds. It was a stark reminder of why we have no desire to be sailing ourselves at 45 degrees latitude (they don't call them the ‘roaring forties’ for nothing!).


When we headed back to Queenstown the next morning, we had just one more day to experience New Zealand. The gondola took us to the heights overlooking town, but the real fun was in riding the luge track down. Each of the three runs was more exhilarating as we drove the carts faster and faster, propelled by gravity and the thrill of competition. On our final day we started with a hike that ended in rain (which produced beautiful snow on the mountain peaks) followed by a few wonderful breweries to ward off the weather. As the next morning dawned and we made our way to the airport, we felt beyond satisfied with all we had seen, hungry for more of what the Land Way Down Under holds. Gaining altitude and climbing out of the valley then eclipsing the mountain peaks, it wasn't long before the Pacific Ocean met the land and we knew just a short hop across the ditch separated us from Blue Moon.


All was as we had left it when we stepped back onboard. The next days were spent resting, which was interrupted abruptly when the head (toilet) mechanism seized. Boat maintenance waits for no one, but this urgent issue involved a sailor's least favorite job onboard, disassembly of the plumbing. With that job tackled, we then began packing once again for our next adventure. Australia as a continent evolved rather separately from the rest of the Earth, producing many endemic species of reptile, bird, and marsupial. What it did not originally have were large quadruped mammals, until Europeans introduced them. Deer, goats, water buffalo, and even camels now roam wild, introduced hundreds of years ago either intentionally as a food source, or accidentally as escaped livestock. Our goal was to hunt two of these unique game species while also seeing a bit more of inland Australia. We signed up months ago with one of the few outfitters in the country, then went through the arduous process of obtaining a temporary firearms permit. With all of our planning in place, we picked up a rental car in Sydney, repeated the process of closing up the boat and paddling the watermelon, and began our 6 day vacation inland. On our way to the ranch where we would be hunting, we spent two nights at a BNB in the Blue Mountains, exploring this beautiful region just west of Sydney. We learned that there is a “Great Dividing Range” of mountains and plateaus that runs parallel to the entire length of the east coast. In this region, the elevation reached up to 1000m, but further south, the range becomes the Australian Alps, where 2,000m is reached and snow is common from June to August. Appropriately called the Snowy Mountains, it is here that a breed of escaped sheep evolved into the hardy Snowy Mountain Ram which David would be hunting. Kendra had chosen to pursue the magnificent Red Stag, which grow appreciably larger in these temperature ranges than their European ancestors.


When we arrived to the family-run ranch a few hours west of Sydney, we were greeted by our hosts and shown to the lodge by their house. We spent the remainder of the afternoon with our guide, first testing the rifle he lent us, then scouting for game. The ranch cultivates good grasses in the valleys of their 8,000 acres, divided by steep eucalyptus-forested ridges. We positioned on the slope of a ridge and watched the valley ahead where a couple of nice stag bucks lay, and soon spotted a larger one further off. As an added bonus, we were treated to a kangaroo boxing match, watching two powerful bucks spar and kick. The peaceful quiet as we sat immersed in nature while the sun set reminded us of just why we enjoy being out in the woods, regardless of the outcome of the hunt. The next morning, we were up before dawn and worked into a position we thought the deer might be. We found them feeding and the large stag was with them, at a range that Kendra was able to make a perfect shot. The stag weighed twice as much as any whitetail buck we've seen, and sported a stunning 14 point rack!


After congratulations, photos, and taking the stag back to the processing shed, we enjoyed lunch before heading back out into the bush in the afternoon. Though the sun warmed the air above 70F, it was cool on the ridge as strong wind whipped over the open country below us. We located a group of Rams, but played a long waiting game as they moved away from us, unable to sneak closer undetected. As the afternoon waned, we made a last effort to reposition on an opposite slope, arriving just as the ram we wanted came into range. It was a long shot and he began working away from us, but with a good prone rest, David steadied and hit the mark.


We spent our remaining time at the ranch the next morning packaging the meat from both animals to take back to Blue Moon. Loaded down with coolers, we left the beautiful tableland region of Australia and headed back towards the coast. We made a stop to drop off our mounts at the taxidermist along the way, who would see to it that they get processed and shipped back to Wisconsin. With many trips in the dinghy, we got all of our gear and the meat onboard, which filled every inch of our fridge and freezer space. Our mission now complete, and the boat fully loaded, it was time for us to do what sailors do, and move on from Sydney. We spent one last weekend in the iconic harbor, watching the Sail Grand Prix races right off our stern. With fine weather ahead, we hauled anchor and sailed out through the rocky heads, then pointed north with the first light of Monday morning.


Posted by BlueMoonSailing 09:44 Archived in New Zealand

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Wow you packed in some unique experiences in that short month timeframe! New Zealand looks beautiful! What an amazing experience to successfully hunt large animals you don't see back home. Can't wait to see them on the wall!

by Lisa Straw

Looks like you made all you could out of two weeks in NZ! I have a very good friends in KeriKeri and visited many years ago to witness America's Cup racing, so it brought back memories of a visit to Cape Reinga and time spent on Waiheke Island (we probably visited the same winery!). Next visit will be for a month!
About the stag I think the locals might say "good on ya" Kendra! My favorite part is the paddling to and fro on the Watermelon!


by Kelley

I’m so in awe at everything you two are seeing and doing! Love following all your adventures! Thanks for sharing! I can say I’m very jealous!!!

by Kathy Endries

Beautiful pictures and stories. I enjoy and look forward to reading about your adventures. You guys are so lucky to be traveling like this. The memories that you are making....... These memories will last a lifetime. Life is too short. Enjoy your travels. Looking forward to seeing pictures and reading about your next adventures.

by Laurie Shavlik

Dear Kendra & David: You're having a lifetime adventure! So many special experiences that most of us never get to do. Wishing you both continued safe travels. Love, Grandma Pat

by Patricia Krueger

Looks fun , reminded me of my bike trim there, If you are a biking fan like me then you should also try Vivi Bicycles specially designed to levelup your travel experience and whats the fun part? Avail <a href="https://www.reecoupons.com/view/vivi-ebike">Vivi Bicycle coupon code</a> and save on your nest cycle trip.

by Ashleyjaz

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