When the weather and our general lagging prevented Dane and I from sailing to Tonga in time for me to catch my flight to New Zealand from there, my family and I were unsure if I’d even make it to see them after they’d come literally halfway across the world almost just to see me. I say “almost” because, sure, it’s great seeing family you haven’t seen in several months, but with the bonus of checking out a new country. Regardless, we (actually my brother, the transportational planning genius) made it happen with much finagling with airlines. The flight required a layover in Apia, Samoa (otherwise known as “Western Samoa” or “The Real Samoa” if you’re me). The flight from Pago Pago, American Samoa, to Apia, (Western) Samoa takes only about 30 minutes in a rickety Twin Otter plane. It was so awesome to see American Samoa from the air with the steep mountains covered in jungle. A short jaunt across the ocean and suddenly (Western) Samoa rises up in front of you, so much bigger and imposing than American Samoa. Once we landed and went through the one-room customs procedure, I had to take a 40-minute cab ride from the small, Polynesian Airlines airport, to the bigger international airport, which will take you to New Zealand or Fiji. I won’t bore you with a play by play of my time in Apia (though it really was a lovely place, so much like American Samoa but MORE, somehow), except to say that nothing is ever a given on an island.
Eventually, tired and having lost a whole day when I crossed the International Date Line on the way to Samoa, I made it to New Zealand and met up with the aforementioned father, Ossie, and brother, Austin. We met in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and Austin’s favorite Kiwi city, and started on a whirlwind tour of a good portion of that big country as part of the Inaugural Hall Sheeplandia Trek. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, I was prepared for summer, but it was rainy, cold and windy from the moment I got there. Austin, bless his heart, brought my boots from America, but left them at our friend Catherine’s house about 5 hours away. I cursed him and the weather many times while wearing 6 layers of clothes and 2 pairs of socks. Wellington was really amazing, very reminiscent of Portland or Seattle in every way. It was hilly and rainy and the houses were adorable and dang if those hipsters didn’t love their coffee. There was an espresso stand on literally every street corner. It was such a gift for me after 3 months of instant coffee. And the food in New Zealand is delicious, with the freshest ingredients even in the shadiest food court. Even the YMCA in Christchurch, our next stop and our dad’s surprising favorite, had a delightful café.
It was an amazing and delicious and exhausting 2 weeks of public transportation for me. We took a scenic railway over the Southern Alps, and then the next day, another beautiful train trip up the South Island coast to Picton, which was my favorite little seaside town, full of sailboats and amazing hikes a minute from town. We crossed the Cook Straits in a giant ferry, then took a bus up to the Hawke’s Bay area to spend time and a few days of much needed rest with our friend Catherine and her adorable dog, Hunter. Next up was a visit to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty to check out potential harbors for Cadence if and when Dane and I arrive. Dad had to leave us there, as he was catching his flight back to the Bahamas a bit earlier than Austin and I. Then we had our sibling adventure in Auckland where we got to stay in a real live hostel (!) and culminated in seeing the final Hobbit movie in the plushest theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in with the most fun group of Kiwis I’ve ever had the pleasure of larking with. I made it back to American Samoa and was so happy to see Dane, despite having another eventful layover in Apia (my bags took the scenic route home). I was also so very happy to not be traveling any more. I was coming home to my guy; even if “home” means Pago Pago.
- Kiwis are very nice.
- They are living in the Stone Age when it comes to wireless internet access.
- Public transportation is fun!
- There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, which made it easy for my brother to realize his dream of taking a selfie with a sheep. Lofty goals.
- Kiwi food is really good, but expensive.
- They have real beer and it was delightful.
- SaveMart is not just a grocery store in California, but also goggling warehouse of thrift store clothes in New Zealand.
- A cappuccino a day keeps the doctor away, as dad and I can attest.
- Auckland is not a place to keep your boat unless you have a spare million in a Swiss bank account.
- 2 weeks of constant plane, bus, train and foot travel really takes it out of you. And the sightseeing. There are only so many sights you can see before the stores and houses and hills and sheep all start looking the same.
- I really like New Zealand, but with Cadence? Not so sure.
- I’m too fucking old for hostels.
As for Dane, he’s not been idle while I was gone, continuing on his trend of providing very capable handyperson services on various boats in the harbor. He actually got a bona fide 9-5 job on Aloha, a 54-ft ketch tied up to the pier here. He was waking up at 6:30 a.m. and working all day and going back the next day to do it again. Even with a rowing commute, he was busy and having fun tinkering, which is what he loves most of all. He even got a SIM card for his cell phone while I was gone. I guess that means we’re official residents now that we can actually make calls.
So what’s next for the sailbirds, you may ask? Well, that’s a great question. The weather is still misbehaving, either being dead calm and hot with no wind, or gusty and rainy. It’s the latter today. Tonga is still a possibility if the weather decides to pick a goddam side. Staying here in Pago for the season is another option, which is comfortable now that we know the place so well. That’s how it gets you, with its flying fox hooked claws. Who knows, maybe even an upwind sail to French Polynesia and beyond is in our future. I’ll keep you posted when we figure it out ourselves. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our cell phone allowing us internet on the boat, our Vailima and our new roles here as semi-reluctant residents.