Friday, May 31, 2019

Special Guests

Last weekend we had some very special guests from the US.  When we were home at the holidays I was catching up on months of accumulated mail and came across the newsletter from my college fraternity.   An article about an undergraduate brother studying in Auckland caught my eye.
Andy & Victoria
I made contact with Andy Cook and we kept trying to meet up here in New Zealand for several months.  It took a while for boat projects, school projects and weather to line up properly.  When we cancelled our mid-May departure from New Zealand an opportunity to meet finally arrived.

Andy and his girlfriend Victoria Kotwica are Penn State engineering students participating in an exchange program with the University of Auckland.  They are also accomplished outdoor adventurers and all-around cool people.  Together with some other exchange students they've done a remarkable amount of hiking and backpacking in New Zealand's best locations.

It was such a treat to talk to them about backpacking in Pennsylvania, Penn State engineering and my fraternity chapter.  A lot has changed in almost 40 years.  And a lot has remained the same.

We had a great time talking with them about what they have been doing and their plans for the future.  These two bright and ambitious young people work hard for their goals and still find time to give back to the community through volunteering.  They both took a semester off and interned with companies Michelle and I are familiar with.  It was really fun talking to them about it.  Their intern income allowed them to fund their time in New Zealand.

Andy and Victoria arrived late Friday night by bus from Auckland.  We were on a dock about 50 steps from the bus station - another wonderful feature of Whangarei.  Saturday morning they were up with the sun and exploring nearby trails before we even had our first sip of coffee.

Saturday was windless but sunny so we motored out past the Whangarei heads and headed for a nearby group of islands called the "Hen and Chickens".  It was a bummer we couldn't sail since Andy has sailed quite a bit on smaller boats and would have enjoyed it.
Water smooth as glass

Enjoying the ride.
Passing Whangarei heads with the sun overhead.
Andy and Michelle often had this pose.
The Whangarei heads back lit with misty clouds moving over them.
Going past Bream Point

Bream heads - one of our favorite places!
We puttered around the hen and chickens for a bit then motored back inland to the shelter of Urquharts bay and anchored for the night.  We broke out the bathyscope for the first time since we arrived back from the states.  In the less-inhabited islands we run about in our dinghy looking for good snorkel and dive spots.  This involves one of us periodically hanging upside down over the side of the dinghy with their head in the water - looking around with a dive mask.  The bathyscope should let us get a peek at the bottom without those gymnastics.  Victoria tested it out on some blue fish she spotted.
Victoria looking for wildlife!
Approaching Hen & Chickens

We arrived at Urquharts bay about 4 PM to find quite a few boats in the anchorage.  It wasn't long before we were hailed on the radio.  Our friends on Oyster Reach were pulling in for the night.  They are a wonderful couple we met through mutual friends back in the States.  We invited Cindy and Ian over and enjoyed a very pleasant evening hearing about some of their adventures.  And swapping Tonga whale stories.
Oyster Reach dropping the anchor
Sunset at the anchorage.
Michelle drives us back North while the Penn Staters have a chat
Heading back past Whangarei heads
When we got back to the Town Basin marina we shared another of our Whangarei favorites: fish and chips from a local take-away.   Michelle introduced Andy and Victoria to the dock ducks!
The ducks come waddling our way when Michelle is sighted

Feeding oats to the ducks
The 3 Penn Staters!
Good-bye for now.
It was such a treat to meet you Andy and Victoria.  You are two impressive young people and we wish you the best in everything.

To view all the photos from their visit go Here

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