Cartegena Columbia

We’ve heard great things about Columbia. So time to go and see. We spotted this in the Mexico City on our way. The reader board was sharing details regarding traveling with your pet.

Now I’ve been on some chicken busses, but never chicken planes. Maybe it will be different… Cockfighting is more common in Mexico than in Seattle I’m thinking.

We arrive in Cartegena and find our way through the airport, customs, and a taxi to the hotel. Which is located inside the old walled city.

Back in the day this was one of the largest ports in the new world. Gold, silver, slaves, agricultural products flowed through. Accordingly the Spanish and the English were frequently fighting for control over Cartegena.

Cannons are handy to discourage Invaders. They were all over the fortifications.

There is a hill just outside the walled city. Once it was used by the English as high ground for an attack to successfully take Cartegena. And then the Spanish took it back and did some major fortifications to the hill. And that was the end of anyone taking the city, it remained Spanish until Columbia’s independence in 1810.

This guy is a piece of Columbian history. He was a military officer that went into politics after conflict with the English became less of a full time occupation. If you’re paying attention he has one leg, one arm and one eye. Tough son of a gun!
The Old City is serious about it’s architectural heritage. You can remodel one of these 300+ year old structures. But you are not taking them down. One modern building was allowed in this town. Everybody hates it. And before long it will be replaced with more traditional stuff.

And the architecture is worth preserving. We enjoyed pleasant evenings in several of the squares in town.

Columbian people are worth talking about. Very friendly outgoing folks. Street vendors can be annoying but here the were approachable and had a great sense of humor. Not that they were any less ambitious to sell you stuff.

Hats were a big item. If you did not have one, you were an instant mark. One evening a guy picked me out for a Hat pitch at one end if the city. Later that night he hit me again as Nancy and I were riding along in a horse drawn carriage. Later still he found us dining outdoors in a square on the other side of town.

Regrets in life. Shoulda bought my hat from this guy. I did end up getting one. Advice for you, dear reader. If you go to a place like this that is going to have street vendors selling hats and other things, bring a hat. Failing that, buy one the first day. The rest of your visit you won’t have any hat vendors after you.

Here we have the mother load. The watershed of Hats etc that feeds all the vendors in the city.

We took a tour that included a trip up another hill to 300+ year old monastery. Awesome view. This photo includes the old City, top right. The fortified hill can be seen just this side of the walled city. To the left bottom downtown Cartegena. Pretty happening place. Back left is Boca Grande. A peninsula that is being populated with lots of high rises, many residential.

And this was HQ for the Spanish Inquisition in Cartegena.

With all the gold that passed through Cartegena you’d think they might have a gold museum. They did.

This is a cool display of earrings many hundreds of years old.

After all that touring you get tired!

Popular with locals was catching breeze and shade in an old cannon port in the fort wall. Frequently in amorous embrace! You don’t get a photo of that. 🙂

And it was certainly hot in Cartegena, but there was a steady breeze most days making all the difference. Here I’m one shirt to the wind and I’ve finally got a hat. Which likes to blow away in said wind! I made a chinstrap later.

Our phones work pretty well in Columbia. Good internet most of the time. That being the case Kat, who is watching out for Spill the Wine’s progress in the boatyard was able to keep me up to date on how all that was progressing. Decently.

When you get started on a project there are always surprises. The prop shaft bearing (aka cutlass bearing) is done. Tricky bit to press the old one out and new in. But Kat got it done.

Time to find our way back. Through Mexico. Then I head for NZ and Nancy for Seattle briefly.

On the road to Loreto

Nancy and I took a bus from Opua to Auckland. Kind of a bummer we are leaving just hours before the our friends Tony and Lee get in from Australia. Well you never know. We were walking down the sidewalk at the Auckland bus station and Tony comes busting out a door. He saw my legs going by he says. So we get to spend a minute with them after all. 🙂

We are set to fly to LA early in the morning. So we are hotel bound. We get settled and walk to a restaurant that’s not too far away. But we have to walk past a cemetery. I’m whistling naturally but can’t help but spot SpongeBob. Not him really, just one of his biggest fans. Passed on unfortunately. And he was about my age… Who knew SpongeBob’s demographic was so broad!

We made our flight to LA. 12 hrs, ouch. In LA we rent a car and drive to Oceanside to visit Nancy’s niece and family. Super nice people. They have a vintage trailer in their yard for visitors. Fun!

Here is Grand niece Maia not whining a bit! Seriously she was a delight as was her sister Alexis and brother Dorian. He’s nearly two and likes boots and dancing. But clothes not so much…

This guy is a card for real.

It’s fun to be the uncle!

After a nice visit we are off for Loreto. At the LA airport we meet a bunch of the crew that are connecting and off we go. There are vans to haul 20 odd people off to the resort. Which was in the middle of nowhere on a very attractive bay.

This would be me and the Birthday Boy.

The next day we took a side trip to a mission up the hill about 20 miles. Nancy and I had been there about 23 years ago. It was not changed that I could see.

It was from 1700 or so. Pretty darn old. There were 40,000 people living up that valley when the Jesuits came. The Catholic Church cast out the Jesuits some years later during some power struggle. By then there were 5000 people. Missionaries brought unfamiliar diseases that killed the rest. Hopefully their souls were saved before they died.

There were some beautiful flowers blooming. I think these are bougainvillea. We toured an olive grove that was 350 years old. Jesuits planted them. They still get plenty of olives.

Jesuits also planted fruit trees. Check the skin thickness on this funky lemon. We ate it. A mite sour maybe! When I’m as old as those trees I expect to be quite sour…

We also saw some spectacular roosters. Cockfighting is a diversion in the middle of nowhere.

I took a hike with some other birthday crowd to the other side of the point. It was Hot and Dry as only the desert can be. Time for a swim. The water was cold and it was a good thing. Very shortly I was properly chilled for the return trek.

Another day I rented a bike. A very stylish beach cruiser. Which I used to tour the golf course. Nice facility. Strung out across a rack of hills to the edge of the sea. Nice hills to ride. But then the bike was too small for me. One gear only. Brakes on rear only. Kind of a disaster really. I’m the wrong guy for the bike and it’s the wrong bike for the terrain. I about spun out trying to get the inadequate brakes to keep speed under control on the dirt track. But did not thank you! Rehabing my own bike in Opua was a bit of work but this bike made me very glad I fixed mine. Mine fits, goes about anywhere, has front and rear brakes, multiple gears, and isn’t stylish. 🙂

Our friends Art and Sharon were able to make the trip. Great to see them outside WA. Sharon and I had a go at stand up paddle boarding. New to me. Great way to go swimming every few minutes. I’ll probably get better. No photos. Too wet!

Another day was notable for a boat trip to an island to snorkel and hike. Visibility was only ok and water cold. So let’s hike!

This was the view from the top of the bump I scrambled up. Serious desert county. The dots on the beach are Nancy and the rest of the compadres. There’d better be some beer left when I get down! There was. 🙂

We did escape the reservation (aka resort) a bit. Made it to Loreto one afternoon. Nice little town as I remembered it. 23 years has not hurt Loreto, still charming.

Next we head to Cartegena Columbia.

Return to Bay of Islands

Ok, ok, it’s a sailblog after all. Let’s get back to the boat. Our friend Kat picks us up at the airport in KeriKeri. And takes us to home sweet Spill The Wine.

Exciting times ensue if you enjoy whacking parts on your boat. And I am odd that way. Kat was looking after STW while we were gone and noted that the bilge pump had expired. There was an extra one on board and she and another friend Roddy diagnosed the existing pump (fatal, seized bearing and roasted armature), and put the spare into service. Broke my heart not being able to attend. Oh well.

But there was plenty to do with Mr. Well Traveled Box of Parts! Visors for the side opening port. So you don’t necessarily need to close the windows for a bit of rain. Makes better ventilation.

Cockpit speakers. I already told the sad tale of the death by corrosion of my previous pair. 8 years is a long time for speakers in a marine environment. Replacement not to dramatic. Worked.

I brought a new water pump for the freshwater system. The pump that originally came with the boat began to deliver at a reduced pressure some years ago. So I retired it to be a spare and replaced it. Recently the replacement developed a short circuit. Fatal. So I put the original back into service. And it still delivered at a usable but undesirably low pressure. Hence this replacement. New one delivers great pressure and the low pressure one is once again retired to spare status. Note that here and whereever else possible I want my spare to be a plug and play replacement. Sometimes this means modifying the wiring of the unit to achieve “plug and play”, but I do it. Easier now at my leisure than in the dark some lonesome night.

There is a strainer between the fresh water tank and the fresh water pressure pump to keep debris out of the pump mechanism. For some reason the lid keeps cracking. Chronic. Every year or two it cracks, allows air into the system, and the fresh water pump is not designed to pump air. Chokes it. I lost another lid recently and so brought more spares.

I had a rope clutch fail. Everybody has rope clutches right? You pass a rope through these devices, close the lever, and they secure the line where you left it. If you don’t have one go get one! Like so:

In this photo you see two banks of triple clutches to handle 6 lines. The winch to the right is used to put serious tight on the lines before engaging the clutch to keep them there.

There is a pin running through the clutches from side to side. The ends supported by a tough plastic side plate. Now I just replaced my device. But since then I learned that you can replace those side plates. So I ordered another pair of those and will rehab my old triple clutch. And, you’ll never guess, put it into the Spares Bin! 🙂

Speaking of spares, I acquired another bilge pump so I would still have a spare. And I wired it so it would plug and play.

And it wasn’t all work. Plenty of time to enjoy friends, and do some sailing with the Opua Cruising Club! My boat is not in order yet so I bum a ride on a local boat. Fun bunch. And generous wind.


Time for STW to come out of the water. Bottom paint. Gelcoat repairs. Window leaks. And she’s up on stands in Opua. It’s fun to live on a boat in the yard.

Nice ladder to get you on and off. Time to huddle with fiberglass fixers and bottom painters to get things planned. Kat will be living aboard and so able to monitor progress.

Before we left I wrapped up one more project. My sad bicycle. It spent too much time on deck in the weather and spray. By the time we arrived in New Zealand the handlebars would no longer turn. Nevermind the shifters. Or the flat tire.

Behold the rusty steering bearings and rusty bearing race! The bearing race comes off with a press of sorts. I hauled it off to a bike shop to get the steering bearings replaced. Special tools required. For the rest I dismantled completely and greased everything. I had extra shifters in the magic spares bin. I ran new control cables for brakes and derailleurs. Dismantle and grease the brake mechanism (not the shoes…). Sanded the very rusty handlebars and painted them. New chain. Put it all back together and it rides like a new bike. Nice note to leave town on.

In a few days Nancy and I will depart for Loreto Mexico. We know a guy who’s turning 60. Tom Easton. Mistress of ceremonies Karen Easton. And various attendees. Should be fun.

Auckland to Wellington by Train

1/2/2018 In a vertical country it is easier to build a railway. Like a spine! We sleep well, if all too briefly, after arriving from Seattle last night. Catching the train for Wellington at 0745.\n Takes all day. And will be a peaceful ride through the backyards and back roads of New Zealand. And we are ready for peaceful. Train runs through some mountains. At one point there is a spiral tunnel carved into a cliff to gain altitude more gradually than the terrain would otherwise allow. They are telling us that each foot of altitude gain can be accomplished in no less than 50 feet of track. Steeper than that and engine loses traction. Maybe with more locomotives steeper might work.

Views are fantastic. And the pace is a big relax. Really like train travel. We chat with our neighbor about the area. She is very local. Her dad worked on the railway. Finally we arrive in Wellington. Big old time train station from the golden age of rail. Awesome. Wellington proves to be a delightful city.

They have a botanical garden worthy of the name. You ride an ancient cable car up the hill and walk down thru the garden. And it’s a beautiful day!

Somehow they must have heard that my wife Nancy Patterson was coming to town. And they reserved a parking spot. Nice folks. We should have rented a car! Or maybe it’s a no parking zone… Other countries are so confusing!

Their waterfront was awesome. Lots of cool brass stuff like Mexico has on their Malecons. But it’s a bit spookily underpopulated. Turns out this is the capitol of NZ. And it’s a holiday weekend. So they are all off in the bush enjoying their countryside! Leaving the town to the few that remain behind. Works out.

Around town and in the airport there are creations from WETA. Movie prop making group here in Wellington. Awesome work.

After a couple Wellington days we fly to Queensland on the South island. Very interesting experience. Hit the airport. Go through security. They did not ask for any ID other than our boarding pass. We told them who we were, and they took us where we needed to go. Very refreshing. This was the pattern through all of our travels in New Zealand. We rented a van to facilitate touring.

Queensland is a nice enough tourist town but it’s definitely a tourist town. This is their industry. After picking up the van we drove up the Central Otego valley to do some wine tasting. The have lovely wine here but great Pinot Noir for sure. We stop at the first bungee jumping place ever. Maybe. But it is spectacular. They toss customers off a bridge and they are recovered by a raft in the river below. Unrivaled setting.

Queensland is on beautiful lake Wakatipu. If you look you might see some rain across the lake.

There is an old steamship TSS Earnslaw. Built 1921 and ferrying people up and down this lake for 97 years. We did not ride but just watching it depart was stunning.

Here is a photo across the lake. Grey cloudy day. Then hole in clouds spotlights the opposite shore. I hope the photo does this Justice.

We don’t spend much time in Queensland as we are on our way to Glenorchy at the North end of the lake. From age 9 to 15 I lived in Olympia Washington. One of my buddies had a sister Kathy and her life found her living with husband John in Glenorchy. They have invited us to spend a few days in their home. About 450 people live in Glenorchy. So small town for real. One of the towns amenities is the campground that Kathy is involved with.

Now campgrounds kinda don’t do well anytime but summer. This one too. So there have been serial owners and serial failures to really make it work. The group is financing/organizing the campground and associated general store rebuild is making changes to expand their functional seasons beyond summer. They turned some of the land into hotel-ish housing. But different. They have a large solar panel array. Sewage is composted. Wastewater is handled on site and becomes irrigation for the landscaping. Building materials are recycled and/or locally sourced. Artists working on site drive the esthetics of design. The financial backers are putting all profits back into the Glenorchy community. Really impressive. This place is at high risk of serving as a model for beyond sustainable environmental and community development. Grand opening March 2018 and long may they run.

Apart from spending some delightful evenings with Kathy and John, we toured the Dart River valley.

This would be the setting for Isengard in the Lord of the Rings series. Beautiful countryside.

Nancy and I did a hike (a “Tramp” in local parlance) up to Sylvan lake. Trails very well maintained.

On our way we met a Bush Robin. Very curious little bird. Not so interested in our food, just inquisitive. Made us want to do more hiking.

But dirt roads are hard on the equipment. We ended up getting a flat tire. We put the micro spare (labeled “don’t drive on me very far!”) on and got back to Kathy and John’s.

It’s later on a Friday afternoon. We have some driving to do to get to other parts of the South island. Tire was destroyed. Need to be replaced. Nothing like that can happen in Glenorchy. And too late to get to Queenstown before things close for the weekend. And we need to travel did I mention? John suggests we call the car rental company and enquire about options. He does this for us and they say no problem. We will swap your van for another and look after the tire fix on Monday. They really made it possible for us to keep up with our previously scheduled stuff.

Kudos to the staff at Scotties rentals for taking care of us when things got complicated. 🙂 1/7/2018 We take our leave from Kathy and John. Brilliant hosts and fun to peek at the interesting projects they have become involved with in New Zealand.

It’s Sunday and we are headed for Te Anau. It’s a few hours drive through some great mountains. We find our hotel and scout the town so we know where to be the next morning. We will catch a bus and a guide will take us to Milford sound and on a few hikes on the way there and back.

After getting the lay of the land and dinner we return to our hotel to relax. We spot a couple in the hotel courtyard and join them. Chris and Elaine from UK. We enjoy a lovely evening as the sun sets. Sharing some wine, nice conversation and some guitar. The next day we head for the bus to Milford sound.

We are about to discover this Fjiording is wet work!

The guide has a lot to say about the area. The route passes through progressively more rainforest area. Lots of rain here on an annual reckoning. To include today off and on. But that is what fuels waterfalls after all.

We reach the tour boat dock. That and a parking lot. There is no town here.

There is a reason nearly everyone comes here by bus. And we get on the boat. Milford Sound is a fjord. Very deep with steep walls. Lots of waterfalls dumping the night’s rain into the sea. This place is alive with seals, penguins, dolphins, wow! And rain off and on.

More short hikes on the way back to Te Anau. Crazy New Zealand birds and more waterfalls.

We get back to town in time for dinner. Next day we pack up the van to travel further south.

On the way across the south end we saw evidence of chronic severe winter winds from Antarctica. Impressive!

The town of Bluff is the gateway to Stewart island. We check in to this funky art deco Foveau Hotel across from the ferry dock. Much of the waterfront is a hundred years old or more with lots of deco buildings. Interesting neighborhood flavor.

Ferry the next day to Stewart island. Not too many people. Tourism is probably their biggest industry but is far from over done. We did a short bus tour then did a hike across the island. Watched cormorants fishing. Met some crazy guy with no shoes on the beach that lives on his boat. Who would do such a thing!

Return ferry later that afternoon and it’s time for dinner at Bluff’s excellent Oyster Cove restaurant. We enjoyed breakfast at the Foveau with the owner. Interesting expatriot woman from the US. Hotel is for sale if you are in the market for one.

Driving back North to fly back to the boat via Auckland. We stay one night at Queenstown. Unpacking the van I note that my guitar is missing. Maybe I should not have leaned it up against the wall where it could hide behind the door… So I phoned the hotel owner and she mailed the guitar to us NZ Post at the marina. Problem solved.

In Queenstown we had a delicious dinner at Vknow. The sommelier was very informative and personable. Then airport again the next day and off for Auckland and back to the boat in the Bay of Islands. With my trusty box of boat parts. That sucker is well traveled. It flew from Seattle to Auckland. It rode the train Auckland to Wellington. The box began to fail so I had to reinforce it in Wellington. Then it flew to Queenstown. Traveled around the South island in a van. Then flew Queenstown to Auckland to Bay of Islands. And everything arrived intact. A miracle!