After Fehi life goes on

Tue 6 Feb 2018 01:50

Fire and Fury around the White Ship Zoonie

A tongue in cheek title since I have just finished Michael Wolf’s fast paced and perceptive book about the first year in Trump House. Rob is ‘enjoying’ it at the moment.

When we landed back in NZ the dairy cows on the south island were suffering from lack of shade as all the trees in their pastures have long since been felled to allow the vast irrigators to spray unheeded. Some herds and flocks were being trucked to green pastures and things were looking dire for the coming winter as animal feed stocks were already being used.

Forest fires were proving a dangerous challenge to firefighters and residents alike and many were praying for rain.

Then down came rain filled Cyclone Fehi, straight down the Tasman Sea and wreaking havoc down the west coast from Wellington, across the Cook Straight and all down the south island. Roads were blocked by slips brought down by the wind and rain. Remember the motor cyclist who came off his bike on a bend infront of us between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef? Well the slip that blocked that road was 100 metres long and a helicopter pilot circled overhead trying to figure out how to rescue the 117 tourists who were trapped in the town beneath him.

Further down near Haast, where a tiny café sells the most delicious coffee, 700 tourists were trapped in their hotels by impassable roads and while the radio interviewer bragged about the hospitality they would be enjoying, we wondered about how the delay would affect their holiday itinerary and flights.

Near the mouth of the Grey river at Greymouth, a place which holds fond memories for us, a 25 year old closed tip was blown open by the wind and massive waves and liberated tens of thousands of old plastic carrier bags which headed lemming-like for the Tasman. Mother Nature has since blown the mess back ashore to help in the clean-up process.

A group of hikers tried to cross a wild and swollen river a couple of days ago and two poor 17 year olds didn’t make it and the milk from a number of herds near Westport had to be ditched as the electricity supply to the processing plant was outed by the storm.

We had hoped to get away to Great Barrier at the start of this week before another violent weather system arrives but ended up with the choice, wait it out on board and at anchor or stay put with all the shoreside facilities handy for us.

We need to leave in the next hour to catch the tide if we are going…..

So that deadline has gone and we are counting the advantages of staying another week or so awaiting more ‘clement’ weather. Rob would like to see the film ‘Churchill’, we can attend Naylene’s (from the marina office) country and western gig, which is on next Friday evening, the post I am waiting for from the UK may well arrive and we’ll see our friends again.

This coming Tuesday is Waitangi Day, commemorating the signing of the Treaty written hastily and ambiguously by the Brits to the disadvantage of the Maoris, so there may well be something to see in town, I’m thinking Haka!

We have already decided to return here at the end of April to celebrate Rob’s birthday with our friends before looking for a weather window to head off for Fiji.

Of course we are now approaching the southern winter and the end of the cyclone season when the weather is less stable and cyclones at their most likely. We’ll never forget the weather last March and April will we! Cyclones Debbie and Cook! But this year we will be on board to look after Zoonie.

Yesterday we had an amazing day with Jeannie and Merv. It started with being collected by Jeannie and taken out to the home of friends of theirs who have 30 acres overlooking the estuary and Limestone Island where Merv has been converting part of a workshop into a small apartment.

Jeannie cooked a yummy breakfast in the kitchen of the main house and we sat at the oak table with the window walls slid wide open giving a fine vista across the mangroves to the river proper, wondering if we would leave on the morrow. The house is a lofty single storey construct of well insulated pre-cast concrete sections.

The couple were away at the time exploring the south island and when they designed the house they made all the corners curved and the floors polished concrete. They have covered the walls with their choice of artwork and filled beckoning spaces with quirky sculptures. The result is a delightful home in an elevated and secluded spot.

After we’d cleared up Jeannie and I scrumped ripe lemons and passionfruit from around the bushes in the garden.

Then off we went in Jeannie’s little car to a steep walk through native bush for a couple of hours before settling on Zoonie for lunch and a briefing from them both about their cruise around the south of Australia from Sydney to Dampier, a journey we hope to start later this year.

Its Tuesday, Waitangi Day today and I decided to celebrate by getting up early for a hike up to the lookout in the cool. Rob, still half asleep, mumbled “Miss you already” as I left, plugging myself into the radio on my phone. Rob is nursing a very large blister on the ball of his big toe at the moment so I walked alone right up to the top, one ear plug tucked into the top of my teashirt so I could hear the radio reports from the Treaty Ground and listen to the fauna sounds around me at the same time.

Still low down I passed through a band of raucous cicadas and in places the track was washed over with mud and leaf litter from all the rain.

Just after I got to the cool lookout a lady arrived and we started chatting. Gail is from Budapest, the modest Pest side actually and her hubby is from North California. They are going back to Europe soon and preparing their boat for haul out. In conversation it transpired she met Merv on the track the other day and as a result is hoping to buy Jeannie’s Sailrite sewing machine, so that became a source of conversation for a while. They have spent a number of years to and fro-ing between NZ and the south pacific islands. Hmmmm.

We split because she was going back the same way and I like a circuit, so half way down the other side who was coming up but Jeannie and Merv with a friend Stu.

I enjoyed the physical and humorous high ground and tapped my wrist watch,

“What time do you call this then?” It was 07.20am.

“Ah well we had to wait for Stu,” Jeannie replied. Merv commented in response to the beautiful blue morning that held such promise, “I bet you wish you’d gone now don’t you?”

“Not at all Merv, we made our decision and hope to get away Saturday now!” Merv is going to send us photos of his 29kg fisherman’s anchor to see if we’d like it for our trip around S. Australia where the bottom is usually sea grass on rock. They dragged a lot for want of an anchor made of two prongs that would readily penetrate the grass rather than blades, like our Delta, that tend to sit on top and slide over it.

Coming back down the pontoon I spotted Rob working hard polishing Zoonie’s stainless steel and white-work and the day has continued nicely from there. Jack Sparrow and his mini pirates keep visiting in the hope of some crumbs. The barometer has risen 10mbs since Cyclone Fehi went through but there is still a lot of unstable weather around, so later we will wander over to the Riverside Café and meet some of the other yachties, then maybe take in a film with J & M. Life goes on……

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