Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rocks, Waves, and Treasures on the Beach

Wednesday, 8th December, 2010
Oakura, New Zealand

Posted Thursday, 9th December, 10:00 AM

(WARNING: I will inundate you with photos in this post!)

It's a gorgeous bright sunny day in Taranaki, but I'm sitting at the table inside to type this, because I've already gotten plenty of sun today! We got out and about and down to the water for the first time in a few days, as we've had a lapse in swell (no swell = no surf) over the past few days, as well as some gray weather and the first real rain in a month. It was good to get out today; between lack of jobs (i.e., we're getting a little bored) and not a whole lot to do around the house besides clean and read and watch tv, we've both been getting a little (read: a lot) stir-crazy and grouchy, and it's doing neither of us any good. Today, it seems crazy that we've been complaining to each other about how bored we are and that we've been getting snappy due to feeling a little stuck, because this morning the sun was out again and the waves came back, and now it seems silly to want to leave this place and get in some new adventures. All in good time, I know, but this is part of the ups and downs of traveling long term- we do in fact have to stay in one place for a couple months in order to save money and finance the rest of our journey, but sometimes the staying in one place gets a little old, and we're getting kind of antsy to move on and see other places. We've committed to staying here until late January, and ultimately we don't have too much to complain about-- as you'll see from the pictures below. Just every now and then we have to pull ourselves up out of a rut and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be here!

Things were pretty gray and soggy on Monday, but we needed to get out of the house, so we decided to go for a scramble up Paritutu Rock, the iconic pinnacle next to the Port of New Plymouth. It's an old volcanic plug, and it's no standard hike to the top- it's pretty much a vertical 154m climb.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

 Matt, about halfway up.

 As Matt pointed out, the best caption for the next two photos is "Looking for hobbits" or alternatively, "On Our Way to Mordor":
 Back Beach, another surf break, from above.

 Looking south towards Oakura.

 Matt, heading down, with Lucy far below in the car park.

 New Plymouth, some port/industrial facilities, and Mount Moturoa, the green bump behind the tanks. 

 Mountain goat Matt.

Port of New Plymouth

The views were pretty epic, and considering that the rainclouds and fog were quickly closing in, we'll have to go up it again on a clear day and see just how epic it can get! We were at the top only for a couple minutes, as it started raining and we knew that the climb down could get pretty treacherous if the rocks were wet. Once down, we explored a bit around the port and found the following:

 We know the holidays are coming up, because the Pohutukawas, known as New Zealand Christmas Trees, are starting to bloom!

A distinctively New Plymouth sight: a functioning oil derrick in a car park.

Yesterday evening we went for a wander along the beach at Weld Road, and while the beaches here seem devoid of interesting shells and things at first glance, I discovered that if I keep a sharp eye while walking the high tide line, in fact the sand is littered with all kinds of interesting things. I found sea urchins, various parts of crabs, all kinds of amazing driftwood, and sea snail shells the size of my fist. The urchins are my favorite:
The sand is also covered with these tiny "sea worm" shells:

We didn't take the camera to the beach yesterday, or I would be able to show you a photo of the dead stingray we found- pretty cool to see one up close, even if it was quite dead.

We headed down to Ahu Ahu at high tide today, and while the waves were a bit beyond my surfing capabilities, the sea was at its most beautiful. Some of the waves were six-footers, and heaving about and breaking very heavily, but the wind was dappling the faces of them beautifully, and when the sun broke through the clouds, it was fantastically sparkly on the water. The sea was all kinds of colors, stripes of all shades from deep blue to pale green, I hope you can see it in the pictures, although they hardly do it justice (I couldn't stop myself from taking a million pictures of the waves, trying to capture it all). Matt went in and had a great surf, but given the conditions, I was more than content to sit in the sand, and walk the beaches to see what there was to be seen. Here's some photos of our local beaches and sea here and some of the little treasures they hold:

 I'm absolutely loving the clouds in New Zealand. There's just something about them that's extra magical in the way they stretch out in these panoramas. This is looking towards the village (Oakura).

 Matt, heading out.

 Amazing ground water rivulets in the sand.

 A Taranaki surfer catches a sweet ride...

It was a great day for animal life on the beach. I saw a few white pelicans swooping around just over the waves, and there was this awesome surf dog hanging out on the beach with me:
His owner was out in the line-up, and surfer dog just hung out waiting for his human, occasionally barking out towards the waves as if to say "I'm still here!" :)

Coming back from a wander around the point towards the village, I got a really great view of a White Faced Heron. He was very interested in eating something in this log, and let me get incredibly close for a photo. These herons are very common around here and quite small, this one was about 14 inches tall (60ish centimetres) with his head tucked down the way it is in these photos.

When Matt was done surfing, we had a picnic lunch and then drove south to the surf break at Stent Road, one of the more legendary Taranaki surf spots. The road is no longer signposted, because people kept stealing the sign for a souvenir (and the locals would take it down the rest of the time), so the turnoff is now marked by a giant boulder:

The break is rocky as, and wasn't really working because we got there at low tide, but the views were gorgeous:

I am really going to miss all the time I spend at the beach here. I used to hate getting covered in sand, and now I love just plopping down in the sand to write or to watch the waves, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of living within view of the sea and visiting the beaches at Ahu almost every day. Between sand, sun, and surf, I think we're pretty lucky to experience this place.

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