Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Return to Castle Point

Once again I found myself with everything I own in my car, only this time I had a few extras. Surfboard, guitar and some socks and underwear my mom and aunt sent me for my birthday. My time at the flat was up and on Saturday, I officially became homeless again. So i did what everyone who has everything they own in their car and a weekend off....I went to the beach! I headed back for Castle Point. For some thinking, surfing (as a swell was coming) and solitude.

A few hours from Wellington, but still feels like the middle of nowhere. Driving the suby (which runs great now) on the beach, is fun, ridiculously fun actually. I can't get enough of it. But I surfed and surfed and surfed. I actually surfed the 3 days prior as there were waves after work in Wellington. I was wondering why I was so tired on Monday and realized I'd been in the ocean for 5 days in a row. Can't complain about that. Anyways, Castle Point was yet again as amazing as it was the first time. The weather was a bit crummy and I got rained on all night, but it was worth for the waves. I good time to reassess things. I did a little hike to this beach called Christmas Bay, and it was really cool. But I found these really bizzar, blue jelly fish everywhere. They looked like they're hurt really bad so I didn't touch and just took pictures. Check em out.

As for an update on my living status, I'm currently staying with my previous flatmates (Hamish) family. As they graciously offered me an extra room until I figure stuff out. I was flat hunting again, but decided I need to move soon. Time for a new town or a change or something...not sure. But I haven't been sure about anything for many months now...why change?
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/CastlePointCampingWeekend

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Surf.

Thursday: Couldn't take it anymore, found a cheap board to tie me over until I find THE ONE. Friday: Got off work at 4, rushed home, picked up Hamish, my flatmate, loaded the car and drove 4 hours up the west coast. Our destination: the Taranaki region of the North Island known for cows and epic surf. Drove through what seemed like endless pastures of cows and sheep. Stopped at a local pub for some fish n chips and a brew. Had a crazy experience with some "real" NZ locals. Ask me about it and I'll tell you. Lets just say we bailed halfway into a doubles game of pool. Found a camp site, pitched tents and tried to sleep through a night of 40+mph winds. The views of the Southern Cross and Orion helped pass the sleepless evening though. The stars are very unfamiliarly spectacular down here.

Saturday: Got up and started driving again. Talked to a surfshop owner about the waves and in respectable style, told us the basics. "The mountain controls the winds around here" and "there are waves everywhere, just start looking." Cool. So we just started taking dirt road after dirt road through the endless pastures of cows, grass and flax. Lots of points, reefs, beaches with nobody on them. It was incredible. I imagined this is what the North Shore of Oahu must have looked like in the 1930's.
We stumbled across two spots known as Rocky Lefts and Graveyards. Both named appropriately. We chose graveyards for the long peeling left breaking off the point. 5 guys out, sunny, and the water was warm enough to shed the wetsuit. Caught a couple of nice rides on the new board. Hamish caught a few and got super stoked as well. He then became infected with with surf virus and would go on to buy himself a board later in the weekend. It was amazing, schools of fish flying in and out of the beautiful, turquoise water. Then, looking back from at the beach, you realize you are being watched, not only by the people on the beach, but also from the massive volcano towering just behind the pastures. Taranaki, is what the native Maori have called it for thousands of years, Egmont, is what the British named it after "discovering" New Zealand. A massive, snow covered peak that comes to a point sharp enough that looks like it could pierce skin. Surrounded by the native Pounga trees and Flax, it almost looks prehistoric, I keep imagining some massive beast coming out of the bushes...but just cows. And lots of them.
After an exhausting mid-day session at Graveyards, we went into this little town and stoped by a surf shop, for me to continue my never ending quest to find a decent board. No luck. We head to New Plymouth and had an evening session at a beach just outside New Plymouth. This time, there were lots of people out. But it was offshore and shoulder high. Finally, after two sessions, we called it a day and set off to find a campsite. We came across a Holiday Park and got the last site. Set up out tents, cooked dinner, played the guitar and passed out....hard! Best night of sleep ever. Sunday: Got up, Hamish could get the board he saw at the shop out of his mind all night so we went back and he purchased his first board. Then we started looking for surf. We drove down every road possible checking spots, but it was either too small or windy, the swell had died from the previous day, so not much. We ended up stopping at a nice little cove with some small mushy waves for Hamish to try his new board. He loved it. Both pretty exhausted from the weekend, we decided to start making the long journey home. 4 hours later, we're back in Wellington. It felt good heading back to Wellington. Coming into the city again gave me a good vibe. Nice little reminder I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Out!

Here's the link to the photos from the weekend.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/TaranakiSurfWeekend

Ps- thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday. As for the rest of you...we are no longer speaking. jk.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where am I?

Trying to sum up the past weekend in words, doesn't even seem justifiable. I got pictures and tried to capture it the way I wanted to remember, but as it seems to happen all too often in this country, it just isn't the same. Pam and Sandra, a couple of geography friends from college, and Pete (Pam's guy) and Matt (Pete's Bro) were traveling Australia and New Zealand for the past 3 weeks or so. They decided last weekend to stop by and hang out with me in Wellington for a few days. They then took off and invited me to hang out the following weekend up north with them, but it was too far to drive so I'd have to fly. Having been through some financial craziness this past month, I declined the offer and said goodbye not really knowing when we'd all hang out again, as I would most likely be missing our annual Ski-2-Sea competition in Bellingham this May. I went on with my week, and about Thursday I got an email from Pam with my flight itinerary. She bought me a ticket to fly up and meet them for the weekend! I was aware she might do this, but I told her she shouldn't, but she did. Indescribable awesomeness. So I get off work on Friday and walk to the airport, fly to Auckland, Pam and Sandra pick me up in their rental car and we drive almost 3 hours to Mt. Maungunai, a beach town on the East Coast of the North Island. This was a surf town and I was stoked! Surf shops everywhere (still didn't buy a board). Apparently there was an artificial surfing reef that this town put in to attract surfers. Maybe Andrew knows more about this than I. Anyways, we rented some long board from one of the shops and went out into the waves. The waves weren't great but to my surprise....the water was warm!!!! I went surfing without a wetsuit! Whooowhooo! Coming from Washington, these are the temps dreams are made of, especially since I've only felt the chilly waters down south. So I gave Pam a proper surf lesson and she stood up...numerous times! See the pictures for proof.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/MtMaunganuiAndCoromandel

We traded boards between surfing and laying on the beach frying in the super hot southern hemi sun. I applied 5 times of spf30 and still got burnt. Anyways, we packed up and drove another couple of hours that evening towards a beach on the Coromandel Peninsula called Hot Water Beach. Apparently on this beach at low tide, warm spring water wells up and you can dig holes in the sand and make your own quasi "hot tub". We didn't get to do this but is sounds fun. I saw pictures and it looks really weird....really weird actually. But, people come from all over to do this so it must be cool. We hung out on that beach for a bit and then did this hike to another beach called the cathedral cove or something like that. Again, check out the picts and see for yourself. I seriously felt like this was one of the most amazing places I've been. I feel like I keep saying that, but this place was awesome. White sand beach, sunny, warm, crystal clear turquoise warm ocean water. It was something out of a travel brochure.

I took a swim and never wanted to get out of the water. Truly amazing. I could try to go on, but shouldn't cause I wouldn't even begin to give half the justice it deserves. I took pictures but still feel like they don't do it's justice. So I'll stop. We hiked back and Pam and Sandra drove me almost 3 hours to the airport to head back to Wellington. And boom! its Monday and I had to go to work. I can't believe that this weekend happened. It was so fun, but way too short. Thanks for an awesome weekend guys! Mercators in NZ!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

32 days and counting...

I've never been addicted drugs before. I just read what I wrote in the following lines and I can imagine its something like this.
I finally made it into the waves this past weekend. Wellington finally had surf. Pretty much the first time since I've been here. I still don't have a board, but I needed a surf, and there were waves. It was 4 foot and offshore. Nothing spectacular, but when your gills have been dry for two months, anything will do. Rentals were expensive and my only option, but I could almost taste the salt on my lips, it didn't matter. Money was a minor detail when it came to craving just a few seconds of my feet on the board looking down the face of clean shoulder high wave. The thought of not going out, was never an option.
The minute my head went under that water, I felt clean again. Clean being the only verb I can possibly come up with to describe the feeling, when everything all at once seems to make sense. The cold water on your face, the breeze on your skin, the feeling of your feet dangling free. It's almost like it enhances you senses. The dripping of water from your hair on your shoulders, the smell of the sea, the feeling of the board wax on your finger tips, the colors of the hills looking back at the beach. For a moment, just one moment, everything makes sense.

I realized that it was the 6th of January. I arrived in New Zealand on the 6th of December. I have been here exactly one month. WOW! Was really all I could think of at that time. There was so much I'd been through in just the last 30 days. Almost every emotion humanly possible. Recently, I'd been struggling a bit to try and make everything all work out. Pretty much stressing in wondering how it will all work out, because things were not happening the way I thought they would. But that afternoon in the waves reminded me that it is all working out. 30 days ago I showed up in a foreign country with a backpack and few dollars. I managed to buy a car, find a place to live, a job and made some incredible friends along the way. If all that can happen in 30 days, kind of makes me wonder what will happen in the next 30.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Beginings

Happy New Year!! I guess it's been a few days since my last post, but I hope everyones new year celebrations were awesome! Life hasn't been too exciting recently, but I've had a few adventures. I'll put up some pictures is a bit. I guess the news worth writing about is my new job. I've been working doing construction, building a fitness gym. It's good work and I'm actually enjoying it for now. It had been two months since I've actually had a job and it feels good to be making some money instead of spending it. The cool part is it's one block from the beach, so I can spend my lunch break chillin in the sand checkin out the surf. Still don't have a board but I'm working super hard on finding one. Soon. Been hanging out with my new flatmates a ton too. Been having a great time with them. Last weekend we took a day and went up into the hills and did some fly fishing at a river called the Waiheine or something. It was in the Tararua Forest Park, in case your geography inhibitions take over and you decide to google map it. But really beautiful. No fish of course. Check out the pictures here.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/FishingTheWaiheineRiver

The other exciting adventure was a trip out to Cape Palliser I took today with the flatmates. It was really beautiful. Had so much fun taking pictures there. I kept blinking in awe and thinking to myself "is this for real?" It looks really close to Wellington on the map, but it ended up turning into a 2.5 hour drive out there. Beautiful scenery though, well worth it. Tested out the old Suby on some dirt roads and mountain passes and she loved it. Check out the Cape picts here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/CapePalliser


Anyways, I just wanted to get some pictures out to you. I'm pretty tired and can't think of anything really intelligent to say so I'll leave you with a quote my buddy Jake used to say to me "If you find yourself alone in the woods and you hear a banjo....RUN!!!!"