Oakura, New Zealand
The last 5 or 6 days down here in Taranaki have been pretty idyllic for me and Matt. We've had a run of absolutely stellar weather since before New Year's Eve, and so far 2011 has been full of sun, sand, surf, and socializing. Other than recovering from colds, life has been pretty amazing these last several days, and we're both super grateful to be here, enjoying the weather and company and generally being surf bums.
We saw the New Year in quietly, staying at home with Stefan while everyone else headed for the beach for a giant drinkfest. None of them made it home that night, so we were more than happy to be here. We just chilled out and watched the countdown and fireworks from the Skytower in Auckland on TV, and then went to bed. We got up at 8 AM the next day, and were the only functional people around the place all day. I could never keep up with the partying aspect of New Zealand, and wouldn't want to. Especially around the holidays, getting wasted and spending the next two days hungover is the thing to do, but I can't really get behind that.
Since New Year's Eve, our days have gone like this: Get up around 9 AM, eat breakfast on the deck (where it is already blazing hot in the sun), chuck the boards and wetsuits in the van and go find some surf for a few hours, come home and eat lunch, nap or chill out with the day's assortment of visitors, do our housekeeping work, catch another surf if conditions are right, shower, make dinner, and then hang out on the deck with our friends until bedtime. Sleep, repeat.
There's currently a collection of really awesome people staying here, and we're having so much fun spending time with them all. Besides all the regulars, right now there's a couple of hilarious Scottish guys, a group of 3 fun British girls, a young couple from Wellington, and an Italian hitchhiker who showed up last night just as we were sitting down to a BBQ/potluck dinner on the deck with several others. Since Niko, the Italian, had no food with him, we invited him to join us and we all had a great time.
We've had our hands more than full with constant housekeeping and changing out the rooms, as tourist traffic around here has picked up crazily since Christmas. In addition to all the itinerant surfers, there are gigs a couple times a week in the village, and concertgoers often stay here for one night after the shows. Matt and I and Megan and Nigel have sort of become the fallback managers of the place since Al and Jono are rarely around, so we're answering the phone, showing people around, and taking payments that we then hand off to Jono at the surf shop. It's fun being hosts, and getting to meet all the people who come here from all around the world.
Here's something to write home about, that is simply not possible (for the sane) in Oregon: Today, for the first time, Matt and I left the wetsuits behind and paddled out at Ahu Ahu in "boardies and rashies" (board shorts and rashguards) in the warm, warm water. The sun was blazing, the wind was blowing, and surfing in skins in the tepid sea felt absolutely amazing. I'm gaining more confidence in the water now, learning the science of wavecatching and how to handle myself among other surfers in the lineup. Although I haven't yet mastered the art of dropping in on a wave properly. I did, however, manage to hit my head on the sand bottom during a wipe-out today, and thus am quickly learning how to recover from a trundling like that. It's all part of the game, I guess.
I've been wanting to show you all some of the projects that Matt has been working on recently. He's been very inspired by the beautiful Maori artwork and designs we see constantly here, and to keep busy on surfless days he's been drawing and whittling some amazing creations. The first is a wooden spoon that I started carving from a piece of driftwood I found way back on the East Cape in October. He co-opted it and turned it into a memento of New Zealand that will mean so much more than anything we might buy here:
Detail of the Manaia, a mythical water creature with a bird's head and a fishlike body.
We realized that the end of the spoon looks exactly like a Maori pa, or fortress. Terraces just like these are visible on various lahar mounds around here, where fortified pas once existed.
Matt's other project was decorating the fin he managed to shear off his surfboard a few weeks ago. He did the initial outlines in pencil and filled it in with permanent marker. The plan now is to seal it with some kind of polyurethane spray and then mount it on top of the van, so that Lucy will have a dorsal fin :)
This boy never ceases to amaze me with his artistic mind and abilities.
We're going to get a little change in weather pretty soon, as the big storm system that has been causing the floods in Australia is headed our direction. The forecast for the next several days is overcast with some rain, but with temperatures continuing on through the mid-20s (Celsius- around 75F, but much much hotter in the direct sun), and with lows only around 18C/65F at night, we're supposed to reach 95% humidity tomorrow night, with the mugginess continuing for several days. Yikes! But the surf is supposed to stick around, and around here, anything can be endured as long as there is surf! And soon we will have Jessa here to enjoy these lovely days with us!