Friday, February 12, 2016

Kiwis, wine, birdlife and sailing.

Destination: Waiheke. Tiritiri Matangi. Kawau.

We made it safely out of Auckland and Pier 21. First stop was Waiheke Island – home to 30 wineries and several lovely bays for anchoring. The wind direction forced us into Putiki Bay just off Shelly Beach. Our booked wine tour was on the next day (Tuesday) and we would be picked up at Kennedy Point. We dinghied to the point and wheeled Pukupuku (the dinghy) up the beach amidst the many stored dinghies.

The tour took us to three different wineries – Kennedy Point, The Batch (or Thomas Winery) and Stonyridge. We had tastings at all three along with a tour of the winery operation and vineyards. Jewel, our driver, also took us on a little tour of the island including the "rooster retirement center." There is a park where the locals drop off their roosters. The local rules allow people to have up to six chooks (chickens) but no roosters. So the roosters get sent to the park. When a local needs a stud rooster, they simply go to the park, pick one up for an afternoon where the rooster has a ton of fun and then returns it. There were some mighty handsome roosters and we could understand why they get all excited when a vehicle pulls up. Besides borrowing a rooster for services to the hens – the vehicles will also deliver food. We hear many locals are still very loyal to their roosters. Only in NZ!

After we were "happy" with some tasty wines (the area is mostly known for bordeaux style reds and syrahs) we enjoyed a lovely lunch – and boy were we ready for it at 3 pm!

On Wednesday, we moved on to Tiritiri Matangi which is a DOC island (Department of Conservation). It is a nature reserve with no population of a human kind. But the bird population is magnificent. The island was a barren place until locals and the DOC started to replant all native species of plants starting in 1984. Once the plants were established, they then started to repopulate the island with native and often endangered birds. Now there is a great variety of birds – many of which we had never seen including the Saddleback (Tieke), Stitchbird (Hihi), North Island Robin (Toutouwai) (only on two islands in NZ), Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki) Tui, Fantails and the strange Takahe. We took a great hike and saw most of these on the trail. The lighthouse at the top gave an incredible view of the Hauraki Gulf all the way to Auckland.

That night, we went back to the island for a night walk to try to spot the elusive Pukupuku – the Little Spotted Kiwi - which has been reintroduced on the island. The rule is you have to have red-lighted flashlights to do the night kiwi search. The three of us went armed with flashlights and high hopes. The chances seemed slim we would actually see one. Very few New Zealanders (known themselves as "kiwis") have actually ever seen a kiwi in the wild. But luck was on our side. A kiwi screeched very close to Michael – a very loud piercing noise from a little critter – and Michael came looking for his two partners in the adventure which were supposed to be following him. We all went back and Michael switched on his light and sure enough standing there was the cutest little kiwi. He stood still for a bit – let us check him out and then dashed off.

As we continued the walk down the hill in the dark, we heard more rustling in the bushes and when we turned the light on into the brush, we also saw a very rare tuatara lizard. These are ancient lizards – dinosaur relatives – that have a strange third eye. We saw two of these large lizards. We didn't see the endangered Wetapunga – a giant insect that is making a slow comeback after being brought to this island. We were thrilled with the things we saw on our night adventure.

The next day – off again. This time we had a nice sail to Kawau Island. We got tickets to a music at the mansion event on Kawau on Saturday the 13th. Luckily we got here early and anchored. There are two big events on this small island. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squandron is hosting a weekend of races, fishing, and parties, as well as the music event. Starting today, Friday, they are expecting about 200 boats to arrive over the weekend. Don't know where they will all anchor – but we expect there will be little room between boats. Should be interesting.

Hopefully Sue is having a good time – couldn't get her to do the log entry.
At 2/12/2016 4:38 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 36°25.38'S 174°50.28'E

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