Category Archives: New Zealand

Me and New Zealand are mates

Massive cyclone swell, I finally got to see the potential of the east coast wave machine, New Zealand

I’ve been without a Vehicle in New Zealand for the past 3 weeks.  This had made surfing difficult as I have had to rely on friends to give me rides to the coast.  Luckily I have made some great friends here that are avid surfers so getting out to the surf only requires a phone call and I can usually find someone super keen for a session.

I took several trips out to Muriwai Beach, which is just north of Piha, and one of the closest beaches to Auckland.  It is on the surf rich west coast, and most days there is swell.  Usually its timing the session with the winds which are fickle and change quite often.  One of the best parts of Muriwai is that you can drive on the beach with a 4×4 and head miles in either direction to find a bank that is working and a peak all to ourselves.

4x4 on Muriwai Beach

4x4 on Muriwai Beach

After several missed east coast swells, frustration and feeling stranded at times, I was finally able to rally a few guys to head up north to the east coast to meet a big swell event.  Over the weekend a good sized tropical cyclone hit the pacific islands and Fiji got rocked with 230 kph winds (142 mph).  This whipped up a massive fetch that sent heavy ground swell in a NWN direction on a collision course with the ragged, point and river bar laden east coast of New Zealand.

On Wednesday a friend, Alex and I drove north 2.5 hours to catch the forerunners of the swell.  We went to Ocean Beach near Whangarei, a spot I have surfed before and a known swell magnet.  The sets where lully, and the tide was low by the time we arrived in mid afternoon.  The beach was closing out a bit, but we decided to paddle out anyway and try our luck at dropping into close-out barrels.

The water was warm, and absolutely crystal clear.  The sun was shinning and bouncing through the barreling waves, making shimmering silver tubes that looked like postcard wave shots.  I dropped into one particularly big set wave and had a chance to pump twice down the wall.  As the wave threw over me, I slide my hand across the vertical barrel wall, seeing through the back of the wave.  The silver tube closed around me and I punched out. The the view that I got in the barrel will be forever seared into my mind.  It is a vision I will take to my grave.

The next day we headed back up north close to Langs Beach, where I did all the fishing earlier in the summer.  Mark’s Family has a bach (vacation house) and we were going to crash there for the night.  We headed to a beach called Te Arai near Mangawhai.  Mangawhai has a famous river bar break that can hold solid swell. Te Arai is a shallow point and we decided to try here as the crowds would be less.

As we pulled up, a massive double over head set rolled in, and the breath was taken out of the car.  The point and beach at Te Ari where completely closed out….but we paddled out anyway.

The waves where massive and not really ride-able except for the occasional smaller sets.

After the surf we stopped in Mangawhai to look at the bar…its was thumping!

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Beach Break

Mangawhai Beach Break

Mangawhai Beach

Mangawhai Beach

The next morning we awoke to miniature swell. The east coast is crazy like that.  One night massive, the next morning almost completely flat.  I’m just glad I got to see the East Coast work before I had to leave!

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Sold The Van! Now What?

Well, my time in New Zealand is coming to an end.  I am slowly wrapping up all the loose ends and planning my next move, which is a little up in the air at the moment.  As of now I am looking for design jobs in Australia, and trying to network, but it is slow going, and I’m not getting many responses.

I told my self when I set out on this expedition, that if I made friends, and they ended up heading to interesting places, I would follow them.  This idea seems to be coming to fruition, as one great friend, Scotty Staples is in Thailand for two and a half months.  I’m thinking I may need to visit.  Another great friend from my days in San Diego is headed to Peru in May.  Another place to visit?  And yet another old and dear friend is going to Bali in June for a wedding for a guy I have been hoping to do consulting work with for over a year.  Should I head over to Indo for a meet and greet?

Great places to go, and a lot of cash for flights.  But as I see it, money comes and goes, ebbs and flows.  There is nothing more I can think of that I would rather go into debt for than travel.  I might just have to do a crazy 3 month glob trot.

Luckily I sold the Van!  This gets a considerable chunk of cash that was tied up liquid again.  It should pay for a few flights.  I sold the van to a sweet, slightly hippyish music teacher.  I think she will enjoy it, and I’m glad it went to someone that will truly value it, not some, looping the country backpacker.

So we will see what is next.  I have to get all my gear someplace to store it while I fly back and forth across the world for the next few months.  I am thinking about finding a friend or even a storage locker in Sydney, Australia to drop the stuff and make Sydney my rally point.  Any suggestions are very appreciated!

Thanks for reading!

Phil

Natural Water Slide, Possibly The Coolest Thing I’ve Done In New Zealand

For the weekend I decided to head out to the eastern section of the north island and the city of Gisborne.  I scored some decent surf on the way at Mount Maunganui and then continued on along the coastline of the Bay of Plenty on a warm, perfect day.  The waves where beautiful the entire drive, and by late afternoon I entered the mountain range  that creates the east cape of New Zealand.

Bay Of Plenty Surf

Bay Of Plenty Surf

I spent a few days in Gisborne and on Sunday ended up at one of the coolest natural play lands I have ever been to.

Check it out!

Rock Water Slide

Rock Water Slide

Looking from the Bottom

Looking from the Bottom

******

******


The Walk Back Up

The Walk Back Up

Walking Over Volcanoes

Mt Ruepehu

Mt Ngauruhoe

Coming over to New Zealand I hadn’t really planned on doing too many hikes.  Since this expedition was more about surfing and snowboarding I wasn’t really interested in doing any more walks after the amazing Milford Track which is considered one of the most beautiful walks in the world, and after doing it, I can see why.

However, I was told of a day walk on the north island that was suppose to be New Zealands best day hike, and it went across the Tangariro National park which is basically a massive volcanic area that has several peaks, one of which was used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.

I drove down from Auckland mid week to the center of the North Island south of Lake Taupo. I arrived late, around 8 pm and decided to sleep in the van at the car park at the end of the track.  I had arranged a ride from the end of the track to the beginning so I could just walk back to the van.  It generally takes 6-8 hours to complete the track and goes over 2 volcanic peaks over a 18.5 K (11.5 miles).

I made a quick dinner and had the back of the van open for about 30 min while I cooked at dusk, which was a big mistake because the mosquitoes where vicious and huge.  The whole night I was awoken by buzzing in my ear, and had to use a flashlight to try and find them.  I must have killed 30 throughout the night.

The next morning I was picked up by a shuttle and driven to the start of the track about 22 k away around the volcanic pass.  I started the walk with about 50 people around 9 a.m.

Fog In Crater

Fog In Crate

The morning and beginning of the track was fairly clear and sunny, but as we climbed up to the pass the clouds rolled in and socked in most of the good views of Mount Ruapehu and the summit walk to Mt Ngauruhoe. I was pretty annoyed wit the cloud cover, and knew I was missing some spectacular views.

Foggy Crater

Foggy Crater

Once over the pass, we walked out to a huge flat crater.  At times is was so foggy I couldn’t see feet in front of me.  Once in a while the cloud would blow through and a clearing would open up, and the scale of the place could be felt.

Quick Clearing

Quick Clearing

Once through the crater we climbed up onto the Red Crater.  This massive hole in the ground would be what one would think a volcanic crater would look like.

Volcanic Valley Looking To The East

Volcanic Valley Looking To The East

Volcanic Valley

Volcanic Valley

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

We walked up and over the Red Crater and descended down a steep ash slope to emerald pools.

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool and Red Crater

Emerald Pool and Red Crater

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Red Crater

Red Crater

The rest of the walk was out and down the volcanic plane and down the backside of the mountain through bush and then forest and finally back to the van.  It took me 7 hours and several blisters.

Valley

Valley

View Looking North

View Looking North

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

The Track

The Track

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Langs Beach and a Man Sized Fish

Langs Beach from the Staple's Bach

Langs Beach from the Staple's Bach

The very next weekend after my amazing fishing trip with the Marshall’s I was invited to go out on another fishing excursion, this time with Scotty Staples at his family’s bach at Lang’s Beach.

Langs is about an hour and a half north of Auckland on the east coast of the island.  The Staple’s home here has an amazing view, sitting atop a rolling hillside overlooking an beautiful crescent beach and the Whangarei headlands across the Breen Bay.

Kaipara Harbour Sunset.  This is the largest harbor in New Zealand. It is on the way to Langs.  The evening we drove up there was an amazing sunset.

Kaipara Harbor Sunset. This is the largest harbor in New Zealand. It is on the way to Langs. The evening we drove up there was an amazing sunset.

Kaipara Harbor Sunset

Kaipara Harbor Sunset

Langs Beach

Lang's Beach

Langs Beach

Lang's Beach

Langs Sunset

Lang's Sunset

Staples's Bach

Staples's Bach

Scotty took a few of us out on the family boat, and headed to his secret fishing spot.  They had been having luck catching Snapper here all summer, and our trip out was no exception.

Launching the Boat

Launching the Boat

Scotty on the Tractor

Scotty on the Tractor

On the Sand at Langs

On the Sand at Langs

Matty's Catch

Matty's Catch

Mikes Catch

Mikes Catch

We where all getting bites, and I finally caught a fish on the rod I brought to New Zealand.  But the big excitement of the day was Scotty’s catch.

Big Snapper In The Net

Big Snapper In The Net

Scotty's Big Fish

Scotty's Big Fish

*******

*******

*******

*******

*****

*****

21.3 Pound Snapper

21.3 Pound Snapper

Here is some video of Scotty reeling in the monster.  Sorry about the language (boat talk).


I have officially learned how to fillet a fish, and done it enough times that I think it is ingrained .  Its a great feeling being able to provide for yourself, and prepare your own catch.

Filleting Catch

Filleting Catch

Finally getting the hang of it.

Finally getting the hang of it.

After the morning catch, we went a few houses down to the Von Roy’s family bach and played this interesting Swedish beach game that semi resembled horse shoes….if they where made of wood.

Swedish Game Called Kub

Swedish Game Called Kub

Hanging near the Von Roy's

Hanging near the Von Roy's

Beers on the deck at the Von Roy's bach

Beers on the deck at the Von Roy's bach

After some games and drinks Scotty, Matty and I headed back to the house and Scott cooked up the best meal I have had so far in New Zealand.

Scotty Cooking

Scotty Cooking

Curry Snapper

Curry Snapper

Outside dinner to end the day magically

Outside dinner to end the day magically

Another great fishing trip in the books…..now, just waiting for surf.

Deep Sea Fishing with the Marshalls

Ghost Diver

Ghost Diver

Rowan Marshall, aka Speedy had a birthday party several weeks ago that I attended.  On this trip I went out on the Marshall family boat and enjoy a day of fishing.  A few weeks later I received a call saying that Speedy was planning an overnight deep sea fishing trip to the Alderman Islands off the coast of Whangamata.

I was super excited, I had never been deep sea fishing before.  I probably should have went out while I was in San Diego, but never had the opportunity, or willingness to spend the money.  The plan was to head to Whangamata on Friday, sleep on the boat in the marina that night, get up early and head out.

Myself and 4 other friends arrived at 9 pm Friday evening and loaded up the boat with our stuff.  We all had rooms and beds and crashed out, excited about what was to come.  The next morning we checked the surf, which was flat, and pulled up anchor to headed out.

The Cabin

The Cabin

Cabin

Cabin

Boat Bathroom

Boat Bathroom

Boat Kitchen

Boat Kitchen

Speedy and Pete finding the fish using technology

Speedy and Pete Marshall finding the fish using technology

Captains

Captains

We headed right for a fishing spot and dropped our lines in.  We all had luck and caught fish.

Cliffs and Caves

Cliffs and Caves

After the morning fish the wind really started to pick up, and we headed over to Slipper Island where Speedy’s dad, Captain Pete has a mooring.  It was in perfect position on the island to shelter us from the wind.  Once in place we went for a snorkel.  I took out my camera in the water housing and went for a dive.  A few of the guys went cray and paua hunting.  Speedy caught his first legal sized crayfish, and I got some amazing pictures.

Speedy Diving for Crayfish

Speedy Diving for Crayfish

Matty Snorkeling

Matty Snorkeling

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

Speedy with Crayfish

Speedy with Crayfish

Speedy with his catch

Speedy with his catch

The water was filled with a weird jelly like substance, which was later explained to me by Pete to be plankton.  There where also many jelly fish floating around, and at one point the boat was surrounded by them.

Jelly Fish Surrounding Boat

Jelly Fish Surrounding Boat

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish


That night we feasted on fresh caught fish, paua, crayfish and beer.  We spent the rest of the evening getting drunk on a boat, the only thing one can do in that situation.

Filleting Fish and Drinking

Filleting Fish and Drinking

Boys Filleting Our Catch

Boys Filleting Our Catch

Pete Grilling

Pete Grilling

Red Snapper and Paua

Red Snapper and Paua

Split Crayfish Ready for the Grill

Split Crayfish Ready for the Grill

View in the evening from the mooring near Slipper Island

View in the evening from the mooring near Slipper Island

In the morning I went for a hangover breaking dip off the bow and we cooked up a sausage and egg breakfast.  We detached from the mooring and headed for the Alderman Islands. These islands are visible from the coast but are a distance to reach.  They are a very unique look island chain, marked by jagged cliff faces, rock spires jutting up from the ocean surface and rock caves.  They almost look like they belong in Thailand, not New Zealand.

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

On the way, we checked a few deep water spots, and did some trolling for school fish.  Its a cool process, we put out several lines and used the large outriggers on the boat to spread the lines out.  We used squid like jigs that dance just below the surface of the water and criss-crossed our path on the surface to find the school fish.  One person sits in back of the boat looking for a breaching fish, or the zip sound of a line, then yelling “strike!” once a fish is hooked.  Usually when you get one, you get several, and we pulled in three Bonito.

Bonito

Bonito

We tried a little deep sea fishing with no luck, and decided to head to a small bay in the Aldermans for a snorkel and lunch.

The water was very clear and warm in the bay and we ended up spending several hours snorkeling and cliff jumping.  I got some great underwater pics…..this was all getting a little surreal at this point.

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

Alderman Islands

This is the small bay we anchored in for lunch and snorkeling in the Alderman Islands

This is the small bay we anchored in for lunch and snorkeling in the Alderman Islands

Mark Cliff Jump

Mark Cliff Jump

Black Angel Fish

Black Angel Fish

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish

Sandagers Wrasse Fish

Sandagers Wrasse Fish and Leather Jacket Fish

Sandagers Wrasse

Sandagers Wrasse

Sandagers Wrasse

Sandagers Wrasse

Sandagers Wrasse

Sandagers Wrasse

Tarakhi Fish

Tarakhi Fish

We headed to one more fishing spot in the Aldermans and caught a few snapper and tarakhi fish, then headed home.

Matty P and Mike Fishing

Matty P and Mike Fishing

Big Fish and Blue Water

Big Fish and Blue Water

Pete Filleting on the way back to the mainland.

Pete Filleting on the way back to the mainland.

The next night we ate a massive fish and chips dinner with our catch.  I’m not sure how I am going to top this, it was amazing.

Full on Kiwi Seafood Meals!

For the past few weeks I have been eating freshly caught Seafood.  I’ve been linking up with friends and been out boating and fishing for the past 3 weekends in a row.  I think I am comfortable enough here in New Zealand finally that I am gaining weight, which isn’t a good thing.  I have also been surfing a lot, so that may have something to do with it as well.  I guess if I’m going to get fat, it might as well be on some delicious home cooked meals, check them out:

Right off the boat, or a day after, we have eaten most of the fish we caught as fish and chips.  Usually the cook just flours or breads the fish and pan sears it, then they either roast potatoes, fry them in a shallow pan or bake them.

The beginnings of fish and chips

The beginnings of fish and chips

Scotty caught a massive snapper and brought over the belly section.  Apparently on big fish this is a tasty treat as the flesh tends to be very oily and tender.  Here in New Zealand the common way to prepare this is to smoke the section.  To do this a little portable smoker is used.  The smoke is made from burning Manuka (tea tree) wood chips.

Smoking Fish

Smoker on grill with oil dish burners under to burn the wood chips.

Matty closing up the smoker

This cray was at the boys flat.  Frasier had caught it on the weekend along with a king fish but had to go on a multi-day job interview.  He offered the cray and fish to us.  We ended up flash boiling the cray and then pan frying it the rest of the way through and ate with mayo, butter, salt and pepper.  Scotty ended up simply pan searing the king fish and added light seasoning.

Scotty and Crayfish

On the boat, the boys went snorkeling and came back with Paua or as we call it in the US, abalone.  This is a delicacy in many parts of the world and is extremely expensive, although not when you fish it from the sea!  It ends up being a little tough, but has a very mild taste.  I can almost equate the look and texture to undercooked portobello mushrooms.  The flavor is light, much like a clam.

The fish is a Red Snapper.  This one was small, so we just took the scales off and grilled it whole!

Grilling up Red Snapper and Paua (Abalone)

Here is another crayfish.  This one was caught by Rowan (Speedy) on the boat.  Pete split it and then grilled it, He added cheese afterward for a little twist.

Crayfish (rock lobster) split and ready to cook

After 2 weeks of fish and chips we decided to mix it up a little.  Scotty made up a veggie curry, and rice.  He then pan fried the snapper we caught that day, placed it over a bed of rice and poured the curry over top.  This was so good I almost threw up from over eating.

Scotty Staples's Curry Snapper

Scotty Cooking

Scotty Cooking

Scotty caught another massive snapper.  This one he decided to have commercially smoked. Basically the same process we did for the belly, but done in a refrigerator sized smoke house.

Smoked Snapper

Smoked Snapper