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Thank god for Opoutere

Woke up in Waihi Beach cabin, well-rested. A super comfy bed, though I probably would’ve appreciated anything if it was marginally softer than the ground. The wonderful thing about the weather here at this time of year is it gets nice and toasty during the day, up into the 70s. Warm enough to prance around in a bikini or tank top and shorts on the beach. Hot enough in the car to turn my chocolate bar to soup. But when night falls, the temperature drops down to around 58 degrees. Cool enough to sleep all snuggled up in a sleeping bag. And this morning I awoke to a fully reformed bar of chocolate. A bit oddly shaped, but back to solid.

The oatmeal and apricots and banana was so good the day before, I had it again. No free pots and pans here, so I cooked it up in my little steel cup with the fold-out handles. A cup of tea was made from a nozzle that furnishes boiling hot water. The apple carved up with my knife on a cadged cutting board. The room was cheap but everything else is for sale, including hot showers. I found the thought of plugging coins into a meter to get hot water so depressing that I skipped the shower altogether. I think I may be forming unintentional dreads. I sat outside in the semi-shade eating and checking e-mail.

A little shadow-surfing on the new board. I will take what I can get. Look, ma, I’m noseriding!

On the road north to Whangamata – which I just found out is pronounced roughly like this: FUNG-ah-ma-TAH – in search of waves. The wind was strongly onshore, so I didn’t have much hope that it would be any better north up the coast. But it was a good excuse to travel a bit farther, and Whangamata is supposed to be a better surf spot. Weather changes. Maybe I will get a good day there, I thought.

Not a far trip at all and I arrived. The downtown strip seemed sleepy and slow. Checked into the i-Site and found a few motor camps nearby. I looked at one, didn’t want to decide just yet so headed to the beach.

I parked at the north tip where the ocean meets the harbor and walked south along the u-shaped coastline. There were actually waves here today, as opposed to the barely perceptible bumps in Waihi. The problem is the damned onshore wind, creating a whitewater jungle, and sloppy’ messy waves. I kept walking looking intently for surfers. If someone was out, I might give it a go. Depending on how they seemed to be faring. I saw one guy and he was definitely fighting the whitewater. Farther up someone had gotten out and caught a quick ride that looked fun. I turned back north and passed the struggling surfer waking down the beach. I asked him if this was the main surf beach and if there were any other spots in town. He said this was the main beach for surfing but there was a good point, probably the best spot, right around the corner of land jutting out to the north. He said he had never been out there because he was just starting out. That’s the spot I want, I thought, and headed back to my car.

Heading north in the car, I stopped a couple times to check the coast and realized I was looking into the harbor. No waves there. So I continued north, turned right then right again until I was on the peninsula. A sign at the beginning of a rocky, gravelly dirt road said something to the effect of Peninsula sporting spot. Maybe this was the place. Bumping and dodging sharp large rocks and potholes, I slowly made my way down the road. Twists, turns. some cows, an organic farm, some more turns….it just kept going. Every time I thought I might reach the end, it continued on some more. If I got a flat out here, I might be spending the night in my tent. No matter, it will be worth it if I find the secret surfing spot. Then I came to an inexplicable and unmarked fork in the road. Right or left? Right seemed right, so there you go.

At the top of the final hill was a great lookout spot. Back down onto the beach I had been at maybe an hour earlier. I was the only one around. I grabbed my bag with water, changed into my vans and took the little track into the bush. A 15 minute lookout loop sounded great.

Somewhere near this lovely site I had my first outdoor pee in New Zealand. The wilding of Beth is well on its way. In Waihi Beach there was a little cafe called the “Hot Pipi”. I couldn’t help but laugh every time I passed it. Which was many, because I drove up and down that road a few times trying to find the way out of town. Hot Pipi. heh.

i gave up on finding the surf spot and headed back down to the main beach. When I got back, I decided to have a paddle, as they say. The conditions weren’t looking much better, but if I watched long enough, occasionally there was a wave or two that lined up and looked like maybe, just maybe, I could surf it. So, why not? I have this new board and have yet to take it out.

The wind had picked up mightily and was basically blowing me back towards my car. I had to carefully hold the board pointing right into the wind, or risk being blown over. As I stepped through the dunes down to the sand, I thought, I am being ridiculous. But I’m gonna give it a go anyways. The day was pretty brisk so I had the full 3/2 suit on. As I got into the water, the waves weren’t too strong, just constant. I paddled and paddled and paddled. Looked back and didn’t seem like I had gotten anywhere. Alright, I probably won’t get out, I thought, but my arms need the workout. Six months of no surfing has left me weak. I might as well just think of this as some training. And that’s what I got. I caught some whitewater back in when I had worn myself out.

I lounged around in the car a good long while, warming myself up and watching the parade of people coming to check the waves. The after-work and after-school crowd was out. A bunch of young guys with short boards were out there now. They got out, but didn’t seem to have much luck catching anything. Time for dinner.

Whangamata seems to be a pretty depressed town. Most shops were closed up and shuttered and it was only 5p.m. Every other shop had a sign in the window saying the business was for sale. “Owner investing overseas”. “For Sale due to illness”. I settled on Craigs Traditional Fish and Chips. A classic meal I have yet to have. Breaded Hoki, four mussels and a side of chips. It came out all wrapped up in newspaper. Done up like a present. I took it down to the harbor and ate it while a small flock of gulls hovered nearby begging. Used the new bottle of “Tomato Sauce” (ketchup) Gavin convinced me to buy at the Pak’n’Save in Auckland. They charge extra here for ketchup! How Un-American! Thanks, Gav.

I really didn’t want to stay in that town. The second motorcamp I checked out was just a lot, more or less. If I am going to pitch a tent, I would at least like to have some greenery around. Something pretty. And they charged for hot showers too. Bah. The woman I had met at Solscape had mentioned Opoutere. Just north of Whangamata, it was more secluded. The Lonely Planet gave big thumbs up to the YHA there. So I split.

And this is exactly what I wanted. On a gorgeous piece of land. Lots of trees, a view over Wharekawa Harbor. And some older couples puttering about in the kitchen and the lounge. I sighed with relief. The new young lady working at the desk even had an extra mat to offer me. I pitched my tent. Took a long hot shower in a bathroom I had all to myself.

After sitting briefly outside on a comfy, battered old couch with the most gorgeous view. A pinking sky, marshlands, distant spit of blue land, all framed by trees. Right past my feet beyond the verandah:

I headed into the kitchen area hoping for a little social interaction. I set up my computer to download photos and the middle-aged couple at the table behind me struck up a conversation. They were having dinner while another middle-aged couple prepared nearby. Couple number one is from Canada. They are WWOOFing two hours away on the Coromandel Peninsula, but have come out to this YHA four times now. They talked about a great hostel near Brunswick, Georgia. Hostels are very hard to come by in the States, but this one was a gem. Couple number two are from Olympia, Washington. The man is wearing a shirt that says “May the Forest Be With You”. They talked about the Procession of the Species, a big over-the-top parade that happens once a year there. Split into the elements, earth, wind, air and fire, people make elaborate costumes and parade in an unorganized fashion on Earth Day.

Another great tip from the woman of couple number one. Take the kayak out tomorrow near high tide. They are free here! I think I know what I will be up to tomorrow. Also, it seems you are allowed to collect shellfish here (there was a ban in Piha). If I find some mussels, I might try cooking those up. Both couples will be around tomorrow, I am sure someone could be of use in that project.


  1. WOW that last photo is where I want to be.

    Do they give a few lessons in kayaking before you set off? Do they give you a buddy to go with? I have heard that they roll over sometimes, do you know how to get back up? OH NO my mother ‘instinks’ are setting in. Have a great day,love PLOB

  2. mussels

    I can’t believe Mom didn’t point out that you want to make sure the mussels open up on their own when you cook them. Believe me you don’t want to get food poisoning from mussels. Believe me. Love, Mom #2.

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