Pacific Ocean

Stopover on the other side of the world... New Zealand (part 1)

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Whangarei is the biggest town in Northland (around 50,000 inhabitants). On the Town Basin Marina pontoon, the marina manager himself, Brian Caulton, took our lines. We are not used to this, back home. Service above all, and with a smile. This was our first impression, on setting foot in New Zealand: the locals are pleasant, kind, friendly. We were tied up for a few days in the very heart of the town, after our passage from Tonga. We noticed cars, grandmothers taking their grandchildren for a walk, strapping men wearing farmer's hats drinking Red Lion on the terrace of a caf_, Japanese car dealerships, and shops. Barbara and the kids were fascinated. Let loose in the town, eager to run around, like dogs that have been kept on a lead for too long in the relative destitution of the basic little grocers in the Pacific islands. Note that I was not the last person to appreciate this new-found abundance, for a while. The notion of happiness, in its material aspect, is without a doubt relative. Take away the possibility of comparison, and you would have difficulty appreciating it. A long term voyage leads you to seek a frugality with which you are happy. We must voyage, therefore. Voyage, like a moral requirement for personal salubrity. The voyage helps to put things in their place, and keep them there.
But for the moment, after several months of relative gastronomic deprivation (or rather monotony) in the Pacific islands, our voyage turned for once towards alimentary materialism! To give you an idea, the Captain had gone from 92kg at the start to 79, but above all, the children were not very fat when we arrived here. One of the crew's first reactions, on the pretext of simply going to 'get some fresh bread for this evening', was in reality to rush to an ANZ (a local bank) ATM, and dive into the nearest yellow-signed supermarket to the pontoon: Pak'n'Save! And there, they had a shock. Firstly, visual. The shock of rediscovered alimentary abundance. Complete shelves of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, a wine section, white or red, incredibly well-stocked with French varieties, cubic meters of bread, and cheese, marked (here I think we were being taken for a ride...) 'Sweet creamy Camembert' or 'Soft ripened Brie'. The era of the boycott of French products in New Zealand, following the incident involving the French secret service against Greenpeace's 'Rainbow Warrior' in the port of Auckland in July 1985 is well and truly over! France has progressively regained a special place in the hearts of the New Zealanders. Our sailors and their beautiful machines, and sometimes the exploits of our national rugby team against the All Blacks impress here. After the first visit to 'Pak'n'Save', the everyday fare aboard improved radically. The popularity of the home-preserved Atlantic Sailfish and the Pacific Marlin aboard had dropped! What am I saying, it was in freefall! Fresh cream reappeared in the sauces, there was meat on the menu for every meal, followed ...

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