Chocolate cargo waka welcomed at New Plymouth after 29 days at sea
After 29 arduous days at sea battling six metre swells and 40 knot winds, the waka Uto ni Yalo has docked at the New Plymouth marina.
High winds on Monday afternoon delayed the waka's entry at the lee breakwater and the welcoming party was postponed until Tuesday, where more than 80 people met the crew at Ngamotu Beach.
Uto ni Yalo left Fiji on August 1 and sailed to Papua New Guinea to pickup up one tonne of cocoa beans for the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
Wellington Chocolate factory co-owner, Gabe Davidson, organised the trip in order to transport the cocoa beans in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Uto ni Yalo's captain, Angelo Smith, said the boat was built to keep alive some of the traditional sailing navigation techniques used by his Fijian ancestors.
"The last leg from Honiara (Papua New Guinea) was the hardest," he said.
"We had a mixed crew in terms of experience, but everyone held up well."
Docking at Ngamotu beach on Tuesday at 2pm the crew were welcomed with a mihi performed by Ngati te Whiti spokesman, Jack Cassidy, who said it was part of their custom to welcome waka onto the shore.
Members of the public including 20 Ngati te Whiti members, children from Motorua School and a member of Otaikokako Waka Ama Club, Ian Haldane, who paddled a solo waka out to meet the crew.
Crew member, Agnes Sokosoko, has been sailing on the Uto ni Yalo since 2011 and said the last leg from Honiara was one of the toughest she's sailed on.
"This voyage was a bit different because we sailed up through Melanesia before heading down to New Zealand," she said.
Uto ni Yalo will head to Wellington to drop off its cargo of cocoa beans before heading north again to Napier, Tauranga, Auckland and then back home to Fiji.