Thursday, November 19, 2009


The longest left in the world. At least on a really really good day. But while we were at Raglan for two days, it was just about your average left point break.

We woke up to our neighbor's squeaky van door in our "eco-camp" (which really mean they just don't have any facilities) this morning up on the hill over the ocean. They seemed to be in a rush to get out of there, probably down to the surf, while we took our time waking up to coffee and yogurt. We drove down the steep driveway to Manu Bay, one of the best surf breaks in the Raglan area.

Now Manu Bay is not your average kicked-back local wave. There is quite the scene in that little parking lot with just some showers and toilets. There are guys out there with their super zoom lens expensive cameras taking photos, the Volcom rep is in his painted Volcom van, there are guys video taping this wave, the little blond surfer groupie girls checking out the the guy surfers, and some just hanging around with beers (at 9:30am actually) watching the wave. It seems as though everyone is a rasta, with at least 1 in 3 guys in Raglan having a big long head of dreadlocks.

There was no question that it looked like a really good wave out there this morning. Calm, glassy conditions and a peeling left off the rocky peak were so appealing we jumped into our wet-suits and booties (although the later was more for the rocks, as the water was hovering at 60 degrees) and headed out for a surf. At first I thought it would be no big deal to hop off the little boulders and into the white-water. But once I stood down by the waves, on the sketchy volcanic rocks, and saw another surfer struggle to get out, I decided I should just head for the boat ramp. Although this was a longer paddle to the peak, I'd get there without getting my hair wet, or getting my board beat up on the rocks.

When we'd watched the wave from the camper, there were only about 10 people out and there was a nice zippy shoulder coming through that a lot of guys were missing since they were out at the peak. I scoped out the spot, but when we got out there, things had changed. Now, the number of people had tripled and the rising tide had drown out any fast shoulder I had seen. It was frustrating to try and get waves out there, and felt a lot like a cool gray day out surfing at Swami's (only a left) back home. After awhile, the wind had picked up and the crowds had not lessened, so we paddled back towards the boat ramp and called it a day.

We went into the little odd town of Raglan for some chai and a late breakfast and sat at a cute cafe and watched the hippie crowd pass by the windows. After we ate, we decided to drive a ways down the road to see Te Toto Reserve, which is actually a gorge right on the ocean. Apparently, this is the spot where Maoris pushed off other Maori slaves, including women and children, to their death hundreds of feet below. It had a gruesome past, but all we saw was a wooden viewing deck that hung out over the gorge and looked out to the ocean. It was not quite as dramatic as the Pali Lookout in Oahu (where King Kamehameha pushed off hundreds of men in battle) but impressive nonetheless.

On the way back towards town, we checked the beach break in Raglan, but the conditions had worsened with the wind picking up and the swell on it's way out. Figuring we didn't need to stick around for the surf that was going to be smaller over the weekend, we headed north towards our last area to visit on the trip, the Northlands.

We did have to make one small detour, however. I had just drank the very last bit of the Starbucks coffee that I brought and that certainly qualified as an emergency. Erich, as always accommodating and so understanding of my neuroses and caffeine addiction, agreed to drive out of the way to the city of Hamilton where they happened to have one of the few Starbucks in New Zealand. We finally located the store in the heart of the downtown, but had some fun checking out the urban lifestyle here as well. We passed a cinema where "New Moon" had just opened, but we missed the start of the movie by ten minutes. Erich was certainly not overly excited to watch the teenage vampire cult movie, so he was off the hook and it was decided I would go see it when we did not have places to get to before dark. So, Jerilyn, you will have to go see it again, or I'll just get to go in Boston when it is snowy and cold.

We pushed on to the north, passing New Zealand's brownest lake and smelliest highway section (there must have been a slaughterhouse) through the massive city of Auckland with it's high-rises and traffic, to the Northlands. This is the peninsula, which they claim is a tropical paradise (even though the water is only 62) is supposedly gorgeous with miles of beaches and off-shore islands. We've enjoyed the scenery so far, and have decided to camp in a very nice spot, Wenderholm Regional Park, on the ocean. It's an open park like setting, with plenty of room to spread out from the few neighbors around.

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