Sunday, April 27, 2008

On the road again...(Gotta love Willy)


How many people have you ever met that goes through life having free stuff just thrown at them all the time? I’m not sure how many people I’ve met, but this seems to be Craig. Free Craig. In 5 months in being in New Zealand I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many deals and cheap to free things thrown at me. Maybe cause it’s winter and all the tourists have gone home for the season, maybe it’s cause I’m traveling with someone and things seem cheaper, or maybe just because it’s Craig that’s what happens when you hang out with him. No complaints from me at all. But here is a quick list of examples: Coming to New Zealand Craig took few planes to get here and not once did he have to pay for the surfboards he brought (I’ve never paid anything less than $80 a board per flight). In Wellington we come across a 2 for 1 steak dinner (never seen before). Later without me, Craig stumbled across a $5 BBQ dinner and free beer…for the whole night. If there is one thing in New Zealand that I never thought I’d see for free, it’d be beer. Anywhere from $7 to $11 a beer, a frosty beverage has not been in the budget for a long time. The other day after buying some fuel for the stove, we walked out of the hardware store and there is a guy with a BBQ offering us some food and all he asked was for donations. And today, in Kaikoura, we stumble into town as we wait for the mechanic to look at my car (again), looking for a Flat White (Kiwi version of a Latte) and find a place with really good coffee that happen to all be 2 for 1. In a land of high prices and nothing comes free, Craig has somehow immersed himself into New Zealand with a peculiar sort of ultra “Free Power”. He is Free Craig. I don’t get it. But I like it.

We have since moved from Wellington. And we’re on the road. We caught a ferry from Wellington back to the South Island and have arrived in Kaikoura. These waves here are “unreal“, but since we’ve been here they have been more “non-existent”. On the journey south, my car has been having some overheating troubles again. I thought I had taken care of all this back in Wellington, but I guess I’m not surprised. There is a mechanic in Kaikoura who is getting awfully familiar with my car now and I wanted to take it back to him. The trouble was we showed up on Friday which is one of the many kiwi holiday’s where everything is closed.

So we needed to wait until Monday. With not a lot of waves to surf we decided to go hike up one of the many mountains that surround Kaikoura and spent the night in a hut on top of Mt. Fyffe. It turned out to be a couple of spectacular days up in the hills and some of the most breath taking views I’ve ever seen in this country. The hike left us pretty sore, but more than worth it. Today we’re waiting for the verdict on my car and then hopefully heading south. Besides getting waves, my one mission on the South Island is to see penguins. There are a few types of penguins in New Zealand. I’ve sort of seen some of the “Little Blues” out on the water, but I’m after the “yellow eyed”. Not really sure why, but they captive me and I need to see one. Craig thinks it’s silly, but he’s in. Here are some picts for you.

I have to once again shout out my many, many thanks to the McLaren Family who have so generously put me up again for a few weeks and never asked anything in return from me. I really hope one day I can return all the hospitality they have given me. They have helped make the trip so amazing and have helped me out so much. Thank you again so much!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Arrival of Craig and Winter

So I don't know really know what the winter back home has been like as I've been enjoying relatively mild days as we've been pushing through what the Kiwi's call Autumn. But Craig arrived yesterday after two days of travel from Olympia and brought with him the coldest southerly storm I've felt since I've been here. It's winter. Bone chilling really. Craig says it feels like home.

My apologies for not writing the past few weeks. Hadn't had much to report. Been hanging in Wellington with the McLaren family. Doing some construction work with Grant and just hang out and enjoying the company of good people and friends. It's been really nice.

As the southerly storm is passing us by, today I drove Craig out to Castle Point to get some waves. We had an awesome time. It's one of my favorite places on the North Island. Getting there was another adventure in my un-reliable Subaru as she's been threatening with overheating on every hill we tackle. The plan is to take off to the South Island here in a few days after I finish working and head into colder waters and bigger waves. I couldn't be more excited.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/SurfingCastlePtWithCraig

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Great Waves, Bad Car, Back to Wellington

There is nothing more frustrating than having your car overheat on you on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Except if your car overheats on you and you've spent all day driving 400 kilometers to try and beat the sun for an evening surf session and your car overheats 15 kilometer's from the waves. Then, there is nothing for you to do except wait for your car to cool down and watch the sun disappear over the Pacific Ocean knowing that there are waves breaking right in front of you that you cannot see or ride.
After the hiking trip in Able Tasman, I figured I had been out of the water long enough that my gills were starting to dry up, so time to get back in. There was rumor of a swell hitting the Pacific Coast, so I headed back to Kaikoura. I could hardly believe it when my car started overheating. I mean it's been smoking from a massive oil leak for 6 weeks now, the check engine light has been on since I've bought it and the power windows seem to not have any power left in them...But overheating, this I didn't see coming. Especially after driving the whole day for waves. Took me an hour to go that last 15 miles. Found my trusty old campsite right on the beach where I left it 3 week prior. In the morning I was going to have to figure something out. Dawn brought an incredible sunrise, and thinking about my car kept me up all night, so I was fortunate enough to ponder life's great curve balls while watching the sunrise. I knew it was all going to work out. I managed to slowly make my way to the mechanic that morning 10 kilometers down the highway. I spent all morning with him as we pressure checked and drained the radiator, tested the thermostat and then took it for a drive. He concluded it was a clogged radiator. Told me it'd be $100. OK, so I paid. Then he said it'd be $400 more to actually fix it. Bummer. Then he told me he'd need the car for a while. He needed to ship the radiator to a specialist. He then told me this would take a week. Double bummer. I informed him that this wasn't just my car. It also just happened to be my bed, my kitchen, my lounging room, my guitar studio when it rained, my theater room for watching movies on my laptop and above all things, it was the only place I could go home to at the end of the day and call it my own...It was my home. "Well" the mechanic said, "think it over and get back to me Monday. It's Friday, I need a drink." "What!?!" I said. I was so confused. It seems that when you're not doing much other than having a good time, you don't know the time, or day or week even. April came and I was confused how it got here. I slowly made my way to Managamanu point after a few cool down stops and parked my car for a few days. There was some serious thinking that needed to be done and I was going to the only place I knew where to accomplish that..in the surf. And what not a better place to clear your head than in the water when there are 5-7 foot rights peeling off a point for a 100 yards or more? I can't think of any. It was glorious. I got absolutely no thinking done, but I scored the waves of the trip thus far. I met a really nice British couple and hung out with them for a couple nights. We swapped travel stories over wine and just had a good time at the beach for a few days. It was amazing.

The only thing I concluded after a weekend of waves was that I should head back to Wellington. I was in desperate need of work, I had a few connections there and I could get my car fixed probably a bit cheaper. If the McLaren's could put me up again while I got my car fixed, I would be solid. I called Grant and asked if I could crash with them for while until I figured things out. "Of Course" they told me. I am so grateful for this amazing family. I have no idea how I can ever thank them. So I talked to the Mechanic and he told me that if I was to try and get back the Wellington with my car and the condition it's in, I need to be careful. Keep the heat and A/C on and watch that temperature gauge like a hawk. The day I wanted to leave also happened to be the day with the best surf. My ferry wasn't until the next day so I figured it'd be best to wait the day out anyways. Besides if I wait until the evening, it will be cooler and make it easier on my engine right? Right. The surf was cranking all day. The morning was by far the best with hardly anyone out except a few friendly locals and some fur seals. After 2 hours I got out of the water, grabbed some food, then jumped back in the water for a few more hours. With my wave appetite sedated, it was time to get on the road. It was about 100 miles to the ferry. My reservation wasn't until 1pm the next day. I gave myself plenty of time in case something went terribly wrong. I really wanted to stay for a surf the next morning, but knowing my luck, I got on the road. I was prepared for a long drive. It was probably about 10 kilometers before the first of the many hills on the highways came into view. I watched my temperature gauge like a hawk and sure enough, halfway up the hill, the little needle is on the "H". I pull over, totally expecting this, turned the engine off to let it cool and kindly waved to the only vehicles on the road, farm trucks carrying hundreds of sheep in a single load. 15 minutes later, the engine had cooled and I was off going again. 10 kilometers later it happened again. This pattern continued pretty much regularly with every hill or 10 kilometers. I miraculously made it to Picton, where the ferry is, but it was probably the longest 100 miles I've ever driven.

In all it took me 4.5 hours to get there. I pulled in super late at night, found a campsite, put my tent up (which is unsual for me), as there was a nice place to do it and I was ready for a change from the back of the Suby, and proceeded to sleep better than I had in a long time. The next day came and it was beautiful. I was going to Wellington. I was going to hang out with people and get back to civilization. I was going to sleep in a real bed...I was going to shower! It was all too exciting. Almost more than I could handle. Arriving in back in Wellington gave me this feeling like I was returning home. This had been my home. I had friends and a family here I could stay with and hang out with. It felt really good. I showed up at the McLaren's and walked in Monday evening. They had given me a key they told me to keep when I left almost 2 months prior. As I marched up the stairs and through the front door, I felt like shouting "Hi! I'm home!". It's been so nice the past week being back here. I've hung out with the McLaren's, ate and cooked delicious home cooked meals, watched some rugby and netball games, met up with some friends for a beers in town, went to say hi and hang out with Tim and Jennifer at their home for a dinner party and intense Cranium tournament. It's been awesome. Feels like I'm not a traveler at the moment, but I'm very OK with that as I know I'll be back on the road soon enough when Craig arrives in 2 weeks. The fall is definitely here as the days are shorter and cooler. I'm currently looking for some work for the next few weeks. Hopefully something will come along soon. So that is my current status. My car is finally fixed and back to running pretty good. I'll probably be in Wellington for a few weeks and then I'll be off again hitting the road, searching for the world....and waves.