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Friday, May 1, 2009

April 26 – 30, 2009 Opua, Auckland, Opua & Last day in New Zealand

Sunday morning I drove down to Whangarei to pick up my friend Julia (from Moasi), for a foray south to Auckland. We had made big plans for a girl's night away. Upon arrival we checked in to the swank new Westin Spa and Resort, dined on the waterfront where I had my final Bluff Oyster fix, hit the spa and then readied ourselves for the big event. We had purchased tickets to see Silvie Guillem dance at Auckland's theater, The Edge. This show was, hands down, the most incredible performing arts production I have ever attended. The evening was presented in four performances choreographed by Russell Maliphant, who performed a solo and then the final number with Silvie. Silvie performed two solos. I cannot put into words how utterly mesmerizing and hypnotic these performances were. I can only say that everyone should have the opportunity to see either or both of them on stage in his or her lifetime. I returned to Opua Monday night ready to get down
to the business of preparing for passage to Fiji.

We have joined an official cruising rally for our first time and are grateful to be part of the Island Cruising Association. The rally fee of $450.00 per boat is a worthwhile investment indeed, allowing us special considerations with regard to provisioning (duty-free and in bulk) for certain items, Customs paperwork at the departure and arrival points, Logs, charts, radio nets, and of course the opportunity to cruise with a group of yachts. For the nontechnical side, we have official t-shirts, battle flags, competitions/contests, parties and dinners. This entire pre-passage week has been filled with social and official activities for those of us who joined the rally. We are excited to be part of this group and feel some added level of comfort and security going to Fiji.

Fiji is caught up in yet another political coup at present. This of course adds another layer of complexity to travel to and fro. On one hand we are told that it is inadvisable to venture into high-tourist areas or cities. On the other hand we are informed that in order to encourage continued tourism, Fiji has devalued their local currency 20%, giving us .45 on the $ there. Fiji is a different animal as it were when it comes to countries. Aside from the desire to attain political amity, the system is (in our personal opinion) helter skelter. There are two tribal Chiefs who largely own and reign over most parts of Fiji as if Kings. They are treated like royalty and must grant permission to us to enter their coastal waters and to set foot on their lands. There are specific rituals we must attend to – aside from compulsory governmental documentation and customs regulations – such as the presentation of a particular weight and size of Kava root to
the King/Chief, which must be purchased at a designated market specifically acceptable to said Chief. I'm not sure what the penalty for failure to comply with tribal rules is but Customs violations will result in fines beginning at $1200.00 per incident – escalating per incident, so that 4 infractions will cost an individual $20,000 (Fiji currency). And blah, blah blah. Just read up on Fiji, you'll get it eventually. This is probably why most tourists just go to a resort, and get there via air rather than private yacht.

OK, so we have done everything we can do – Destiny is ready to leave. We have checked out of the country. All paperwork is done. Legally and technically we were to depart today at 10:30 AM, NZST. Weather has been deteriorating all week and it wasn't that great to begin with. Within the last week, 2 yachts have sunk and one is lost at sea just off the coastal waters between Auckland and Opua. One had made it all the way to the entrance to this bay trying to get here for the rally when his engine went out and he drifted into rocks. His yacht, "Three Amigos" sunk within 2 minutes! We don't have first hand news of the other 2. Because it is obviously too dangerous for us to depart, NZ Customs has granted us a one day delay for departure. There are some 20 Rally yachts headed to Tonga and only 6 headed to Fiji with us. Because of the political unrest in Fiji some boats have pulled out of our rally and are going elsewhere instead. We are
not worried. We are just a little anxious to get there and to find out for ourselves what all the fuss is about. So, this is probably the final post I will send from New Zealand. We expect to be at sea for 8-10 days and will be posting our position on the website. We will not have internet access obviously while at sea, but can be reached on our Winlink email. It is also likely that we will not have internet access at all in Fiji. We have heard that we will not, but times are ever changing so who knows!

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