Not even two months in my new job, they already sent me on holidays. I didn’t complain ;). I packed my bags (“Are you moving out??” asked my flatmate. “No, I just don’t travel light.”), a tent, my surfboard, an extra leash (I was ready for bombs), some food (I was going off the beaten tracks), running shoes, a pink hula hoop, my camera and the Lonely Planet. I was ready to be a traveller again.
My first stop was Purangi and Hahei on the East Coast of Coromandel. Val had her sister and aunty visiting from the States and I joined the family reunion.
We borrowed some kayaks and started our ‘adventure’ up the Purangi river. After about a kilometer of paddling in a clear blue water, I was feeling really confident, felt like falling in love with kayaking and started planning my next kayaking trip up the Amazon river in Brazil. They say you have to aim high, right? Anyway, as soon as we got to the part of the river surrounded by mangroves, murky water and shitloads of bugs, I gave up on my Amazon idea… I guess my adventurousness has limits… :).
We found the bottom of Purangi Winery, left our kayaks there and headed up the hill. After about an hour of (lazy) paddling it was time for pizza (I’m definitely not ready for the Amazon challenge!), strawberries, home-made liquor, fresh plums and a game of petanque. Purangi Winery is the most chilled out place with delicious food and the nicest people possible!
“Oh no, do we have to paddle all the way back now??”
After a couple of days with my American family, it was time to say goodbye and hit the road again. After about 50km of driving, I thought it was time to make the next stop. After all, I have to start my road trip slowly :). I was hoping for some waves (as I said, I was ready for bombs and even packed two leashes with me). If anywhere, with the given (un)swell, the waves will be in Opoutere, a tiny little village with a gorgeous little campsite and only a short stroll through a pine forest to the beach. Unfortunately, the ocean couldn’t be any calmer. I think even the lake Bled has more of a swell than the ocean on the East Coast of New Zealand on that day 😛 .
I’ve always liked Mt Maunganui so I stopped there again. The ocean was still flat as. I ran up the mountain (well, it’s more of a hill) instead enjoying the views over Tauranga and Matakana Island, went for a swim and… “There must be waves somewhere…”.
I arrived in Whakatane late in the afternoon. Still no sign of any waves, so I decided to visit White Island instead. “I’m sorry but the tour is fully booked for tomorrow. However, you can come in the morning and if someone doesn’t show up, we’ll get you on the boat.” I was lucky, once again, and there was a spot on the boat for me. And I even got a sandwich :). After a two-hour boat ride (with some dolphins passing by 🙂 ) we reached White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano. The steam was coming out from everywhere, it was very smelly, I learned some interesting facts about the island and felt happy that the volcano didn’t erupt that day.
I was still hoping for some waves, so I drove further around the east coast. I reached a beautiful little bay, Maraehako, with a campsite right by the water. There was hardly anyone there. There was hardly anything there. “Excuse me, do you live here? So you will know… is there anything here to do, like, anything at all?” “Of course, there is a track to waterfalls not far away from here! Just walk up the road and you will see cars parked, a trail and people going in and out of the bush. Just follow them.” I thought the lady was talking about something like Bridal Veil Falls or Slap Savica, if not bigger. So I was quite sceptical when I found a little stream and something, what might be classified as a track. No cars parked, no people, no trail. “Hm, is that what tha lady was talking about? It can’t be… or is it?” I walked in the bush, followed the stream, jumped over the rocks to cross the stream, and then again, climbed over a few trees, until I reached this tiny but beautifuuuuuul waterfalls.
I woke up at 5.30am, to a beautiful (and very loud) bird singing. I guess I have seen everything that there is to see in Maraehako, so I continued my drive along the east coast. Not long after I reached the East Cape, the most eastern point of mainland New Zealand. By the time I reached the top of the hill where there is a lighthouse, the sun replaced morning clouds and rain and I enjoyed some of the incredible views. As soon as I left Whakatane, there were less and less people, and the East Cape was no different. “Where is everyone?”
The road took me through Tikitiki and Ruatoria. It was the Christmas day, but these places were empty. And by empty, I mean empty! The one shop and the one cafe in Ruatoria were closed, the gas station seemed almost abandoned, there were absolutely no people anywhere to be seen. Tourists? Nah, none but me.
So I drove further, all the way to the gorgeous Anaura Bay. The ocean was still flat, but I was impressed by its intense turquoise blue colours. Like I would have entered a completely new world. I popped up my tent and sat down to enjoy the views when this lady came out of nowhere “Merry Christmas! I hope you like crayfish?” holding a massive (luckily already cooked) animal in her hands.
The next morning I stopped at Tolaga Bay and my hopes for waves rose. Could there be any waves?? Not knowing the spot and with no people in the water (nor on the land) I wasn’t sure where to surf, so I continued down south. After a short drive inland, I reached the next bay. “Woooooooaaaaaaa, are these waves???”
I didn’t feel like staying in Gisborne, so I continued my way to Mahia peninsula. The place is absolutely gorgeous! Again, I couldn’t believe the colours of the water. However, unfortunately, there were no waves again. Damn! My surf trip was turning more and more into a running and swimming and everything-else-but-surfing trip 🙂 .
The wave forecast was not promising, so I decided to leave Mahia and go inland. I’ve been planning to visit Lake Waikaremoana for a while. I’ve heard about its amazing trails and I really wanted to run them. Besides, I felt I was ready after my surf-turning-into-a-running-trip. However, when I reached the lake, the weather turned into a s***. I also entered the area from the south end, which meant I missed the visitor centre located at the north end. Therefore, I had no maps, no information about the trails, huts and boats – no clue how to deal with the track. “Hm, maybe I should just do a quick hike to the top and leave the rest for next time. I don’t really feel like camping in this cold weather anyway.”
A sign said 180km to Rotorua. Easy. Or so I thought. I didn’t encounter that this meant 180km of windy gravel road through a narrow gorge. I think my top speed was about 40km per hour. I reached the first town, if you can even call it town – there were maybe 5 houses and a few people on horses. I was amazed – I was not even 6 hours from Auckland (370km away) but it felt like I was in some completely different world. “Where do they get their bread and milk from? Petrol? What do they do all days long? There is not even any reception here, so they can’t even spend any time on Facebook! Wow…”
I thought this road will never stop. But it did. I finally reached Rotorua and I was obviously not the only one. I found the civilization again. And I was annoyed by it. “Maybe it’s time to go back home. I’m done with my solitude, I solved all the world’s problems, I am not ready for these masses of people and tourists, I need my friends!” I knocked on Seb and Val’s door in Raglan late that evening. “Any surf tomorrow?” “There were awesome waves over the past few days, but I think it will be flat tomorrow.” “Aaaaahahaaaaa, I guess I was carrying the extra leash for nothing :).”
On my little trip, I had some (well, quite a lot) of time to think. The end of the year is also a good time to reflect back and set up goals for the new year. I have everything I need and want at the moment – I have most amazing friends in different parts of the world, I love my house, I enjoy my new job, I travel to work by ferry, I am fit, healthy and I feel good. I think it’s time just to enjoy what I have. To stop planning, to stop overanalysing and overthinking. To leave the past behind, and not to worry about what the future will or will not bring. I think it’s time to just go with the flow for a little while, until I figure out what and where next. And I decided to say YES to everything (well, everything that is morally and ethically acceptable 🙂 ).
“You don’t have to stay till 5 today at work, you know.” “Yeeeeeesssss, see you tomorrow boss!”
“Wanna go for a surf after work? And let’s go for dumplings afterwards!” “Yeeeeeesssssss!”
“Wanna go out on a date?” “Yeeeessssss!”
“Are you coming for a morning yoga class? I’ll see you at 7?” “Aaaaaaaaa… this is tyring… but… yes, I guess…” 🙂
“Be present. Make love. Make tea. Avoid small talk. Embrace conversation. Buy a plant, water it. Make your bed. Make someone else’s bed. Have a smart mouth, and quick wit. Run. Make art. Create. Swim in the ocean. Swim in the rain. Take chances. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Learn. Know your worth. Love fiercely. Forgive quickly. Let go of what doesn’t make you happy. Grow.” Paulo Coelho