Friday, May 30, 2008

What do I really need?


I thought I've been through this already! Before I left, I reduced everything I own to 4 Rubbermaid tubs into my parents garage. I put everything I needed for a year into a backpack and a small pack for carry on items. I thought that was enough of a radical reduction of my worldly possessions. How in the world did I accumulate more stuff?! I was living in my car basically for the past 4 months! Something doesn't make sense.

Today I've found myself sorting though all my stuff into 3 piles. What I need. What I want. And what I don't want. It seemed that that pile for what I don't want was a lot smaller than the want pile. But Tuesday I begin a journey over the next few months of going around the world. I can't afford to be lugging stuff I don't need. Today was a bit of a cleanup day and I have to say I am completely shocked of how much stuff I've accumulated in the past few months. I've really had no budget to buy anything, but somehow, I've managed to fill the trunk of my car full of things I'm getting rid of. In the words of the famous Madonna "We live in a material world and I'm..." Never mind. You get my point. Stuff sucks and it somehow it finds its way into our lives. It's good to get rid of stuff every once in a while and downsize periodically, but I really didn't think I'd be doing one this massive after living a life of trying not to accumulate stuff.

Craig and I have found ourselves in the Coromandel Peninsula for the past few days. The days are really short this time of year, but the sun has been shinning and it's so beautiful. Being the winter and the low season, we've had the place to ourselves. The hostel we've been at the past 3 nights, we've been the only ones staying here. It been a great way to relax, chill and finish off the last few days of an epic trip. Tomorrow I'll take Craig to the airport and end a 6 week journey that has taken us up and down and back around the North and South Islands of New Zealand. There is rumored a swell is hitting Raglan this weekend and I'm headed down there for a few days. Tuesday I leave for Sydney. It will be bitter sweet, but I'm more than ready. Enjoy the picts from the past few days.
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/CoromandelPeninsula

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Return to Raglan


I’m sitting on the 12th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Auckland sipping a Flat White espresso, and listening to classy Jazz music in the Exclusive Member’s club while looking out the window on all the city‘s skyscrapers. I’m not kidding. For Andrew’s last night, he used some of his points to book us into classy-ness for a night. I have to say, it was awesome. But today Andrew leaves NZ. L

We never made it to Gisborne on the East Coast, but we did however, return to Raglan for a few days of awesome surf and sunny days. Raglan really has become one of my most favorite places in all of New Zealand. I can’t completely describe why, but it just has the vibe of a place that you could spend a lot of time in, or even live. Here’s some more picts for ya! Enjoys.

http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/ReturnToRaglan
Craig and I have a few days left before he leaves to go home this weekend, then, given my car sells, I’ll take of to Australia some time next week to meet up with Hamish, Kunnal and Damien. It’ll be the beginning of a really long voyage home and the end of an amazing 6 months in New Zealand.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Far North


After dropping Andrew off at the Airport, Craig and I found ourselves blazing through Auckland and trying to get as far away from it’s chaotic traffic as possible. Having spent the past month or so pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the sights and sounds of a large city came as a bit of a culture shock to us. We kept driving north and found ourselves in the little town of Raukaka just south of Whanagarei. Craig has some friends back home from Sequim that have family here that he’s never met. We gave them a call and asked if we could stop by and say hi. Sure enough in true Kiwi hospitality, we were welcomed into the home of Judy and Mark Frasier with open arms. They treated us to a proper kiwi “tea” of a lamb roast (which was raised in their back yard) and potatoes. They offered us beds for the night and Judy even cooked us a huge proper kiwi breakfast in the morning. When commenting on how big and amazing the breakfast was, Judy simply told us “Well, you gotta live another day right?”. We were so thankful for such amazing hospitality at a time when we’ve spent almost the past month sleeping on the ground and cooking on a little camp stove. Since it was stormy all evening, it was even more of a treat. Mark and Judy, if you are reading this, thank you again so much for everything. You hospitality will not soon be forgotten.

After leaving Raukaka, we ended up in Whangarei, a large port town that surprisingly reminds us of Olympia. We met up with some Susanne and David, fellow Oly travelers that have been on the road for the past three years. Only they haven’t actually been on a road for three years. They’ve been on the water. Three years ago they left from Cornwall, England on their catamaran, the Chesire, and after a couple of ocean crossings and many incredible adventures later, they have found themselves in New Zealand. Craig and I spent the evening and most of the morning the next day chatting with our new Oly compadres and absorbing all the amazing experiences they shared with us. They cooked us an awesome breakfast on their boat in the morning and gave us an incredible slideshow of their travels. It was truly inspirational to be hanging out with fellow travels from home, who is traveling the world in a completely different way than most people I know. Seeing the world from a boat is just yet another type of travel that fascinates and inspirers. If you’re interested in the travel of Susanne and David on the Chesire, here is a link to their blog:
http://www.ssssclub.com/a/ltcheshr.htm

After leaving Whangarei, Craig and I kept going north. Our destination was some hot springs and another world class left hand point break called Shipwrecks. After a nice muddy soak in some really low key and very hippy-esque hot pools just outside of Whangarei we were on the road again. The further north we drove, the more apparent it became of our Pakeha status. We were definitely a minority in the far north. Only about 90 miles from the top of New Zealand we came to Shipwrecks and to our surprise it was actually really good. Shoulder to head high left handers were peeling off the point for almost 100 yards or more. There were only a few guys out, but on my first wave, it was perfectly lined up and I probably could have went forever, but to my luck, a local guy looked right at me as I was surfing towards him and he dropped in right on top of me making me wipe out and get washed up right into the rocks. I was fired up. In 6 months of being in this country, I have yet to get a bad vibe in the water let alone get totally stuffed the way I did. For the whole session, 2 local guys were blocking every wave Craig and I went for, even if it meant for them to wipe out, they did not want us getting waves. I managed to sneak a few waves, and they were absolutely amazing. They went forever. But the general vibe in the water put a limit to the fun quota. Not one smile or head nod the whole time we were there. It’s a bit unfortuante that such a good wave and potentially incredible experience was ruined by 2 dudes. But that’s the way it goes. Not being from there and having my entire life in my car on the beach kept my mouth closed. I would like to return there and give shipwrecks another try, but the next day there were no waves so we drove south. The weather and waves are not cooperating for us at the moment. Andrew arrives back in the country tomorrow, so we may be in for a long drive to Gisborne, in the middle of the North Island on the East Coast where there is rumored a decent sized swell is coming. Chao!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Raglan and Lala Land

Wrote May 19th, 2008

Since the arrival of Andrew, somehow we have been getting nothing but really fun waves and warm sunny days. The time in the snow and freezing rain that Craig and I put in on the South Island has finally paid off. After leaving Taranaki, we headed to Hamilton where Andrew was staying to check out a school. He had meetings to take care of, so Craig and I headed to the little town of Raglan. For those that are not aware of Raglans existence, it was featured in Bruce Brown’s 1966 movie “The Endless Summer”. This wave is claimed to be the longest and best left-hand point break in the world. It’s a world-class wave, and I’ve never seen a setup quite like it. Upon arrival there was some fun little waves rolling through and we were super quick to get on it. The swell wasn’t huge, but he waves were so fun. Long peeling lefts for a 100 yards or more. The sun was shinning, the waves were fun, and the water was that beautiful turquoise color. It was truly a gift.

We used the abundant sunshine to completely dry out the damp car and try to find Herman. He’s in there somewhere. But still no luck. The nights have been pretty cold and the sun sets pretty early now, but for 3 straight days, we had nothing but warm sunshine. I thought those days were well long and gone. But even winter can surprise you sometimes. As far as seasons go, this is by far my favorite month since I’ve been in New Zealand. After Andrew’s meeting’s, we met back up and went back to Raglan for a few more days of awesome surf. It also happened to be Craig’s 31st birthday on the 17th, so we scored some really fun beach break, surfed until we couldn’t move, then went into town and saw an amazing local reggae band play all night. It was awesome.

Raglan is by far one of the most awesome places I’ve been in New Zealand. It’s beautiful rolling, brilliant green hills drop off right into the ocean on endless sandy beaches, creating this almost mythical landscape where you feel caught somewhere between and a movie and a dream. The waves are perfect and relatively un-crowded. The beaches are soft and warm. The locals and travelers alike are warm and friendly. The community and life surrounding Raglan sucks you in gives you the feeling like you wouldn’t have any trouble staying there for a long time. I’m finding it really interesting how as my time in New Zealand comes to an end, I’m finding more and more beauty than I ever have before. I guess that’s one aspect of traveling that keeps us on the road. There is so much beauty in this world and we only have a lifetime to experience it.

Today we departed with our fellow traveling buddy Andrew as he’s flying over to OZ to check out a school in Perth. But he’s coming back at the end of the week to join back up with us and score more waves. Craig and I are headed north to meet up with some fellow Oly folks, thanks to Zeta (owner of Artisan‘s Group where Andrew and I used to live), that are hanging out in NZ after spending the last 3 years sailing around the world. Craig also had a good friend from home that has family up north and we’re going to try and meet them as well. I’ve only got a few weeks left in NZ, but I’m loving every second of it.

Now to figure out how to sell this car…

Enjoy the Raglan Picts:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/Raglan02

Monday, May 12, 2008

Taranaki and the Mouse

After almost a month of Traveling around New Zealand looking for surf with Craig, I have begun to realize many things about the inter workings of this world. One being that many people travel all over the world for many different reason. No one single person is on the road for the same reason or same purpose. It makes it unique and inspiring. Then I have come to realize that there are those that don’t need to wonder the globe looking for something they may never find. These are the people content right where they live and have lived their whole life. This in itself is inspiring in a completely different way.

Craig and I have almost spent a whole week in the area known as Taranaki. It is the New Zealand version of Oahu’s North Shore in terms of waves. Except there are hardly any people and the water is colder. So maybe it’s nothing like Hawaii, but it is amazing. But here in Taranaki, there are both kinds of people. There are the ones that have come from all over the globe to sample this regions physical oceanographic bounty. In beater used cars that break down every 1000 kilometers. Ones that have spent the past 8 days camping for free and whose hair or skin hasn’t felt fresh water in what most would claim as “way too long”. Then there are those who have been here their whole life’s, either working on a farm or some brutal physical labor job and couldn’t ask for anything more because they know, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. These are the guys we see walking through their farms to the beach with surfboards or getting rides down the beach on their four-wheelers or tractors.

It’s a chill existence right now. The simple routine of checking surf, making food and setting up camp has become the world we live in. Beers, hotdogs and driftwood beach fires has been our entertainment after the sun sets at 5:30pm. Craig has a pretty good system of setting up his tent that is rapidly falling apart. I have figured out a few tricks of parking the Subaru at the perfect level so all the blood doesn’t rush out of my head in the middle of the night. Among the few interesting characters we meet out in the middle of nowhere, I have met a new friend. I’ve named him Herman. It appears he likes to hang out at night when I’m sleeping. He’s an interesting fellow, as I can’t seem to figure out where he sleeps all day, but when he scurries across my sleeping bag at night, I know he wants to play. Herman has been pretty respectful as he hasn’t got into our food….yet. He seems to stick to the garbage bags that we keep in the car at night now due to many run-ins with the ever abundant possums that plague New Zealand's native environment. But I’m hoping to discover him soon.

As for what’s next we’re not entirely sure. Andrew is somewhere in the country, aimlessly wondering Kiwi-ville, so we’re hoping to meet up with him at some point soon. Until then, enjoy the picts!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Keeping on Moving


Over the past few weeks, the hunt for cold water waves took us on a tour over 4,000 kilometers around the entire South Island of New Zealand. Huge mountains, raging rivers, glaciers, rugged coastlines, lush forests, barren landscapes, endless farms surrounded by rolling hills and spiky mountains was the scenery always in the frame of the car windows. It was almost too much to take in sometimes. My mind found it difficult to grasp all the incredibleness that each day would bring. Looking back at the pictures only to be disappointed, knowing that an image will never capture what we saw in it’s entirety. Things that you can’t get from an image, like the true mass of a mountain. The feeling of being surrounded by so many large natural features that you feel so small and unimportant. The vast emptiness of a beach. The sound of the sea crashing on rocks and the cry of birds and seals. The thundering of waves on your pillow at night as you try to go to sleep. And then the colors the landscape would give off when the sun broke through the clouds.

Our tour of the South Island didn’t leave us with too many waves, but it was more than worth the journey. We are currently making our way to the North Island and to the Taranaki area. There is a good sized swell coming to the West Coast and we’re hoping to tap some of it’s energy. Andrew is arriving to join us on the 12th and we will officially have a crew. The car is doing ok considering how many miles we’ve put on the ol’ girl. Still dealing with the same issues of a decent sized oil leak and the newly discovered sound of the CV joints going out (yes, I did just had them replaced a few months ago) . But I’m optimistic that I can get the car to last another month. Cause that’s all I need out if it.

After almost 6 months, I’ve decided to start making my way home and finally leave New Zealand. My sister’s wedding is August 31st and I will be home for that. I’m going to taking the long way back as I’ve just booked myself a ticket to Indonesia in June with a brief stop in Australia. Lots of craziness on the way. As I wave goodbye to the South Island, it’ll probably be the last time I see it, on this trip anyways, I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Deep South


Wrote May 2nd, 2008
When I said that it was winter and it was cold in my previous post. I was wrong. It is NOW officially winter and it is cold. I didn’t even know what cold was until making it this far south. As I am currently writing, it is snowing and hailing and raining all at once. It is cold. It really is winter. I can hear the thundering of the Southern Pacific Ocean pounding the most southern point of the South Island of New Zealand. With the exception of a small island off the coast, the only thing separating me and a brutal winter in Antarctica is an ocean and the massive storm erupting outside.

We finally fled Kaikoura after getting my car fixed and started making our way south. The further south we drove, the evidence of winter became more and more apparent. The leaves were amazing colors. The Canterbury Plains near Christchurch gave way to rolling hills of green pastures the closer to Dunedin we got. Deciduous trees because more abundant and so did the colors. Checking for surf the whole way down, we followed endless country highways twisting, climbing and flirting with hills for hundreds of miles. The leaves we everywhere, falling and covering the road. We could see our breaths on every beach we stopped at. The change of season was here. After a stop for the night to check out some Penguins and some odd round rocks on the beach, we eventually rolled into Dunedin. A dramatically beautiful and chilly city. We decided that after a week of camping, a night in a hostel might do us some good. A shower at least would be nice. Being in a city was exciting in itself. Dunedin is also the home to one of New Zealand’s biggest school, the University of Otago. The striking resemblance of our own college town in Bellingham, Washington gave it an air that just called for some exploring.

Our first stop was a tour at the Speights Brewery. A popular New Zealand beer which is found all over the country. Everyone said it was a “can’t miss” and for an entire hour we didn’t understand why. We were in a brewery, we were thirsty and we were learning the history of some dudes that made beer. Pretty dull. At the end of the tour it all came together for a 20 minute showdown. They unleashed us with schooner glasses and 6 beers on tap to try. They let us behind the bar for our own pouring. For 20 minutes they let us at it. And 20 minutes later we successfully sampled all their brews. Needless to say it was an exciting evening. Having spent so much time camping in the middle of nowhere, it was a blast to pretend to be civilized for an evening. But much like the rest of New Zealand, hanging out in cities has a way of draining the wallet fairly quickly. The next day we were off. Back on the road and heading further South, looking for surf.

We stopped at every beach we could get to and eventually we found ourselves somewhere south of Dunedin, 30 miles down a dirt road and on an empty beach in the middle of nowhere. The sun was setting. We set up camp and put every single layer of clothing we owned on. We bunkered in because on the horizon, when the last drops of light faded away around 5:30pm, we saw a massive dark wall on the horizon headed our way. Temperatures hovered around freezing all night as wind, rain, snow and sleet pounded us. It was a completely sleepless night but I felt even more sorry for Craig because every time a giant gust of wind would hit and shake the car, I’d look out from the window of the Subaru and see if Craig was still there. He never flew away but it made me cold just looking at his flapping tent that was completely soaked.

The next morning we quickly threw everything into the car and got on the road as fast as we could so the car could warm up and thaw us out. We went for a much deserved warm breakfast but we were still cold. It took us all day to finally warm up. This southerly storm is in full force now and there is no way we were about to attempt to camp again. We found a chill little hostel with a fireplace on the beach and I haven’t moved 3 feet from it in hours. We’re in the Catlins. A rugged spot and a beautifully remote stretch of coastline. It’s amazing here. Again, the striking dramaticness of this country never ceases to amaze me. The weather is crazy. It is cold and fierce. Unfortunately we haven’t found waves in a while, but I’m having the time of my life looking.

Mission Accomplished

Wrote May 2nd, 2008
Five years ago I found myself on a river boat shooting up the saltwater canals on the Caribbean ocean in one of the rainiest places in Central America. The trip is incredible, lots of Crocs, lizards and rare birds. All of which are fascinating from a distance and viewed in a timely manner, especially when it is a 4 hour boat ride in a small, open skiff with pouring rain. On this particular trip, I was so fortunate to share this pleasure cruise with four elderly ladies from the UK who were avid “birders”. I had never met a “birder” before then, but it didn’t take for me long to realize that they are a unique breed of humans that should not be let into society without some kind of warning. This boat ride turned into an all day, soggy, sore butt adventure as every bend in the river brought some new species of bird that these ladies have never seen. Each bird forced the poor skipper to stop and allow them to find some kind of new excitement with every squawking nu sense. To me they all looked the same. I really couldn’t tell the difference. They were just birds. Almost 7 hours later we finally get to our destination. My legs slowly regained feeling and I seriously contemplated taking up bird hunting. That trip permanently engrained an image of “birders” in my head and I vowed to never become one.

The point of me telling you this story is to let you know that I’ve never really liked birds. With the exception of the Pelican, I’ve never really seen anything cool or exciting about them. Pelicans surf and dive-bomb, so naturally they’re a cool creature. But all other birds, in my book, are stinky, smelly, weird looking rats of the sky. But I have to confess. I have fallen in love with yet another bird. The Penguin.
They’ve always fascinated me. It’s true. I feel embarrassed to admit I really like them. I will never become a “birder” but this creature is so awesome. Coming to New Zealand I found out that they have a few types of Penguins here. It has been my mission to see one since arriving on these crazy islands, but it has yet to happen. Until the other day. As Craig and I headed deep into the South Island, we decided to stop and try our luck at a Yellow-Eyed Penguin reserve and see if we could spot one of these rare creatures one evening. Sure enough, it happened. I first sighted them walking up the beach as we stood from the bluff. I can’t even begin to describe to you how funny they are when they walk. If you’ve ever tied your shoelaces together and tried to walk, it looks something like that. Then we started seeing them swimming towards the shore from the ocean. They really do look like birds underwater. It looks just like flying, only not in the air. They are fast! As the sun went down, more penguins started showing up. They spend all day in the water come to spend the night on the beaches and bluffs surrounding the reserve. When they get out of the water and onto land, they just stand there readjusting their eyes and body to being back on land. They look very confused and sometimes walk all the way back to the water, get wet and then back up the beach. Soon, one of the funny little dudes made his way all the way up the cliff almost right to where we were standing. It was truly a rare treat. And I really do mean rare. The Yellow Eye is only home to Southern New Zealand and they estimate that there are only around 4,000 of these birds left. One of the most amazing things about them, that I find anyways, is that they dive up to 330 feet deep to get food! How crazy is that? Not to mention how beautiful they are with all their bright colors and amazing looking eyes.
Anyways, I’m still not a “Birder” but I was really excited to get to see some of these penguins. So enjoy the pics!