Sunday, November 28, 2010

Road Trip to Opounake

Monday, November 29th, 2010
10:20 AM

After recovering from our awesome Thanksgiving experience (by laying around all day Friday eating pie and chicken soup), Matt and I decided it was time to explore more of Taranaki, since up to this point we have basically been wearing ruts into the road between Oakura and New Plymouth, and not gone anywhere else. So on Saturday morning, we packed up some lunches and the surf gear, and headed south around the Bight to see some new territory. First stop was Kumara Patch, one of Taranaki's more famous surf breaks (they all have fun names, of course: Graveyards, Stent Road, Kumara Patch, and my personal favorite, Fin Fucker). Having surfed almost exclusively at Ahu Ahu Road until now, Matt wanted to go see K Patch, which involves hiking half an hour down the beach from the nearest road.

 These big pinecones were littering the beach. With no pine trees remotely closeby, I can only guess that they washed up from somewhere else along the coast.

It's a bit of a laborious process getting down the beach, especially with the sand is so hot we couldn't walk barefoot- and any of you who have walked through sand in jandals (flip-flops) will know how much energy that takes. While Matt surfed for an hour or so, I sat on the rocks in the scalding sun, chased off the sand by multitudes of sandflies (evil, evil cretins). It was an absolutely gorgeous day, HOT in the sun, and gorgeous colors of sea and sky. From the beach there, I got this cool photo of Mt. Taranaki rising up behind the dunes:

After leaving Kumara Patch (taking the high road through a series of cattle paddocks, unhooking and rehooking the electric fences behind us - a handy skill we learned in Opotiki), we headed south to Cape Egmont, where we drove out to the Cape Egmont Light, a gorgeous old white lighthouse that sits at the westernmost point of Taranaki, on a high point of land surrounded by more cow paddocks. I loved the views there, and the setting, at the edge of the sea but right in the middle of the ever-present farm land, with the mountain rising up behind it. The lighthouse was built in London in the 1860s and shipped to New Zealand, and originally sat on Mana Island near Wellington, but was moved after concerns that sailors were confusing it with another light, resulting in a number of shipwrecks. It's been at Cape Egmont since 1881, and eventually was automated in 1986.

 (Click on photos to enlarge)

 View of the sea from the light. 

 Peekaboo cow.

Peekaboo Matt.

 It was quite a windy day, as evidenced by my hat's position in front of my face. 

 A classic New Zealand view: the NZ flax plant against a blue sky!

Matt communing with livestock, per the usual.

 For Mom & Dad, a bit of New Zealand roadside geology: All along Highway 45 are these mounds, caused by ancient lahars flowing from Mt. Taranaki, which got caught up on various boulders strewn around the region. They exist around pretty much the entire length of the Taranaki Bight, with many of them once used as Maori fortifications due to their height and defensibility.

War Memorial in Rahotu, south of Cape Egmont.

We continued our explorations south to Opounake, a really sweet little town most of the way down the bight. It has some pretty good surf spots and gorgeous cliffy bays, and almost every free wall in town is covered with a mural. Here are a few views of Opounake:

From Opounake, we turned inland and came home via the inland road that skirts the edge of Egmont National Park. It was roasting hot in the car in the sun, but we came through some lovely farmland and got great views of the mountain as we drove straight at it:

From the high points on the inland road, I could see the two oil rigs, Maui A and Maui B, that sit 33 km offshore of Opounake, and provide this region with a lot of its non-dairy economy and job opportunities.

We got home around 3 PM, and after a powernap, we went for a really great surf down at Ahu Ahu, in some of the best conditions I've experienced (for me, which means gentle waves and nothing over 3 feet!) Matt has been helping me build up a lot of my surfing confidence, and my wave sense is getting better, and with all the paddling, I have built up some pretty major arm muscles!

Yesterday and today we have been doing our usual cleaning around the place, job searching, and working on a vague plan for the rest of our time in New Zealand. Now it's time to head into town to drop off a couple job applications and hit the library again. It's a pretty good life.

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