About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Sunday, March 29, 2015

The great kiwi myth.....

Wrapping up our great visit to the Catlins region, we made a quick stop in the small city of Dunedin.   In the late 1800's, as a result of several gold rushes on the south island, Dunedin was a happening place, the largest city in the country, and a hub for industry and commerce.   Although now officially the 4th largest city in New Zealand, Dunedin has a nice laid back vibe, due largely to the 2 universities in the city, and is loaded with heaps of historic charm. We liked it!

The old Dunedin train station is an eclectic piece of architecture, dating back to 1903.

















"Age to Perfection.....Positive Aging in Action".......great tagline, they saw these old farts coming!



After Dunedin, we said farewell to Glen and Carol, and pointed Dirt Bravo back south, to cross to the southernmost of New Zealand's 3 largest islands.  Stewart Island, we'd heard, is THE place to go to see kiwis, New Zealand's most famous and iconic birds.

We met up in the little town of Bluff with cruising mates John and Kathy from m/v 'Mystic Moon'.  Like us, John and Kathy were doing a long road trip exploring and hiking around the country.  Bluff was an interesting place, definitely "the end of the road".



Stewart Island in the distance, from Bluff overlook


Official bottom of New Zealand's south island


The stretch of water between Bluff and Stewart Island is considered among the roughest in the world, as the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea, on a natural ocean shelf only about 100 feet deep.  The little catamaran ferry was specially designed for the rough seas that occur in all seasons.






Workers at Bluff cannery "wet fish department" on their "smoko"

After the short ferry ride, we arrived in the town of Oban, the only real town on Stewart, and were met by Ang, who drove us to our hotel/cabins.  Pretty sweet spot, we got to sleep on a real bed, in a building, no less, for the first time since leaving Auckland several weeks earlier.  What a concept, gotta say, we get it, that bed was comfy!!!

Lots of kaka's, a New Zealand parrot, hung around our cabins.  Yes, there really is a bird named the kaka !!!  And these bad boys are not at all shy!!!













 We spent a nice morning on neighboring Ulva Island, hiring Ang through Ulva's Guided Walks.  She was a great guide and naturalist, and did a terrific job of showing us a lot of the birds and plants of the island.  Ulva is a national park and bird sanctuary.  It was declared rat free in 1997, and, with no predators, has been used since as a sort of holding pen for many of New Zealand's rarest birds and plants, some of which are nearly extinct anywhere else.  It was a beautiful spot, though we were a bit underwhelmed at the populations of critters.  But a great hike nonetheless.



Water taxi (blue boat) waiting to shuttle us over to Ulva



Tiny orchids



A "weka", a large brown flightless bird.   The closest thing we came to seeing a kiwi


Mother weka and two chicks



Supposedly a kiwi footprint, we're convinced that the guides tramp around after the tourists leave with "kiwi stamps"


Though we heard that Stewart Island is home to 15-20,000 kiwi birds, we went out kiwi spotting all three nights we were there, and never saw one!!!  We're convinced that the damn things are just chickens with a Photoshopped beak.....who knows???

But we did several nice hikes on Stewart, and recommend the visit to anyone exploring the south island.  It's not a cheap trip, but the overall laid back spirit of the small isolated island community is really pretty cool.....


Guinea fowl





Kathy and John, with his favorite Stewart souvenir and trusty compadre.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Catlins area


Lot's of ground to cover today.....hang on for the ride!

We headed east from Queenstown to the Catlins, an area on the NZ coast a bit off the main tourist circuit.  Beautiful rolling hills, predominantly used for sheep and dairy farming (what a surprise!!!).  Just inland of the farms are dense rainforests, full of flowing rivers and waterfalls to explore with short hikes.  Great stuff.....

























  

We saw large "New Zealand sea lions" on several beaches.  The big bulls when they weren't trying to score with the harem, would lay in the sand and flip sand on their backs to keep off the sun and flies.  And then they wonder why the females aren't more receptive???  (it likely also has to do with the fact that they mate in antarctica before migrating to NZ!!!) 



















Nugget Point lighthouse, the oldest in NZ.....1870












 









Curio Bay

We entered the Catlins from the south, and headed to camp at Curio Bay, where we had heard about a possible yellow eyed penguin rookery.  These penguins are quite rare, with an estimated 6-7000 remaining.  Curio delivered the goods, as we hiked from the campsite over to the beach to check out the action.  Let's just say we weren't the only ones who had penguins on the brain.....lots of penguinistas from all over the world were here with big lenses, ready for the show.....






There were two penguin chicks.  Now 4 months old, and nearly full grown, the chicks have about a month to go before they first take a swim.  So their parents go out fishing twice a day, staying out for hours at a time.  The ranger told us they head out to fishing grounds around 20 km offshore.  TWICE A DAY !!!!!   That's about 25 miles every day, to keep themselves and the monster chicks fed.....amazing!







Where's my dinner???



It was getting pretty dark by the time mom waddled ashore for the feeding, so the main event could begin....






This area of "beach" was really interesting in itself.  It's the site of a ancient forest, and the lumps you can see in the photo above are fossilized tree stumps and trees.  On some, we could even see rings in the stump.  This is one of the least disturbed examples of fossilized forests from the Jurassic period found anywhere in the world, estimated at around 180 million years old!



Fossilized tree stump

But back to the penguins.....








Unwelcome seagull waits in the wings for any "scraps"......mmmmmmm....tasty.....




"Mom always liked you best......."












Tufts of permanent feathers appearing on the chicks' necks







As it got dark the dad finally came in from his afternoon fishing expedition, and reluctantly coughed up the goods for the chicks second course.  A great evening!!!



Cathedral Caves

One of the popular attractions of the Catlins is Cathedral Caves.  Only accessible at low tide, the caves are about a 1 km walk from the car park ($5/person for access).  Well worth it, the caves are beautiful, on a terrific beach.



















Far to the back of one of the caves, we came upon 2 very small blue penguin chicks, obviously waiting for their parents to return with the evening meal.







Lost Gypsy Bus Gallery

We had to stop to check out what has been awarded "Best Gallery in New Zealand" for the last two years.....the Lost Gypsy Bus.  







The bus is the opening act for this amazing quirky assemblage of "gadgets and gizmos" that artist Blair Sommerville puts together from found objects to amuse and delight anyone with half a sense of humor.  Blair calls it "the worlds largest collection of rustic automata", I guess as good a description as any!  Check out this BBC video on his website, which also gives a good flavor of the Catlins:  http://www.thelostgypsy.com/?page_id=2369

All of the gadgets are really whacky kinetic sculptures, so video is the best way to view.  But here are a few examples before you head off to watch the video! 




ceiling of the bus




main workshop


















Oamaru

OK, Blair's crazy bus and museum is a pretty good segue to another whacky stop we made on the South Island's east coast, the small town of Omarau, home of the Steampunk NZ National Headquarters.

So what is this "Steampunk" you may ask ?????  (I know we did!!!)  
From Wikipedia:  
"Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy—also in recent years a fashion and lifestyle movement—that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery."

or this, from "The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences":   
"Steampunk is modern technology—iPads, computers, robotics, air travel—powered by steam and set in the 1800’s.....What others see as junk or scrap parts, steampunk artists transform it into something new and expressive, be it an original creation or a modification of a modern convenience."

No doubt some mind altering substances come into play as well!!!

So, what does it all mean???  Well, the photos tell the story best, so here are a few shots from the amazing Steampunk NZ HQ:

























































Old steam locomotive, been in continuous service since 1924.




Uses 1/2 ton of coal daily....the train may have green paint, but that's about it!!!


Oamaru was indeed an interesting stop, with a great historical center of late 19th century limestone architecture, nicely preserved.





The whisky store across the street from the brewery.....we like this town, we do!!!




Cindi working her way through a flight of whiskys......tough duty!  (Actually the only tough part was picking which to buy, they were all so damn tasty!!!)



 Next stop, Stewart Island, south of New Zealand's South Island.......see you there!