Saturday, March 21, 2009


There is something about Raglan that keeps drawing us to it. We've been traversing the same latitudinal line for a month now. Raglan to Whangamata, Whangamata to Raglan. West coast to east coast and back again. It's been somewhat of a habit. We do two things when we arrive in Raglan: Check the surf and head to Solscape.

The surf was midget sized so I was excited to surf it; Kyle was psyched to take photos. It's really hard for him to get a photo of me surfing as I'm only vertical on my board for about 5 seconds. I'm proud to say that I made my first turn and had my first battle for a wave. Unfortunately that battle was unwarranted because I actually took off on someone elses wave. For any other newbies out there, that means that I spoke out of turn. Needless to say, the tattooed Maori cut me off and I found myself apologizing my way towards a timeout on the beach. Sorry surfer dude.

Ava loves Solscape. Maybe that's one reason we keep ending up there. It has the feel of a rejuvination center except you have to separate all your own trash. We park our van so we can see the ocean swell, plug in, and chill out. The grounds are full of animals for Ava to chase. I'm only guessing that she is painting her love of chasing chickens or rabbits or perhaps snuggling the kitties that roam the grounds. She first took her shoes off here and hasn't worn them since. That was three weeks ago. She decidedly threw one flip flop behind a washing machine and made it clear she was going shoeless: Kiwi Style. No one here wears shoes. You see entire ball teams running down the sidewalk for their evening warm-up. All barefoot. A beautiful and striking sight.
Solscape is as close as you get to off the grid without actually being off the grid. All the water, including the gray water, is filtered on the property. You separate your trash into about 20 different categories so the only thing you actually throw away is dirty diapers. It's pretty organized.

We decided to ditch our van for a night and head up to the TeePee Sanctuary on the property. You walk past all the tents and cabins, the garden and chicken coup then head into the forest. After crossing the water reclamation area, which poses as a lotus pond, you feel like you really are leaving somewhere and entering nowhere.

Our friends Lindsay and Ben from Whangamata hadn't arrived yet, so we picked flowers and read books until it was time to make dinner. Ava and Ben are best buds so they disappeared into the fray once they arrived.

Kyle and I joined another teepee dweller, Keith, in the kitchen to try out the wood stove. A beautiful structure with shells and stones worked into the molding. That night was full of laughter, wine, candles, UNO, and dueling matches of cowboy-ninja-bear.

The morning sun was warming, the company was gentle, and so was Ben's attempt at the guitar.

We are on our way South finally, done with navigating the same thoroughfare. We are headed to Napier: Art deco capital of the world, and wine region to boot. See you there!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Van Life

This next entry is mostly dedicated to our little red van.

LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas i.e. Propane) conversions are becoming more popular here much as conversions to Bio-Diesel are in the States because LPG, like bio-diesel, runs cleaner and more efficiently than gasoline. Environment aside, our machine gets 14 miles to the gallon. Ya'll ready for some conversions? Gasoline runs $1.70NZ/liter and LPG is $1.30NZ/liter. That .40 cent per liter saved really matters when you are on a budget.

We were reveling in the youthful engine-lift our 27 year old van had recently received when we pulled up to the liquor store for a swappa-crate*. Kyle had just returned with our vittles and set them in the van, and closed the door. CRASH!
The door fell off.
The liquor store attendant quickly came out to see what all the commotion was about and offered her assistance in setting the door back on its hinges. She then pointed us in the direction of the local panel beater (body shop).

We had thankfully landed ourselves in Te Kuiti, a very small town known to NZed as the "Sheep Shearing Capital of the World".

Two salty Kiwi's and their young assistant (whom neither one of us reckon actual assists in anything) came to our aid. As we waited while the right parts were located (in some unseen magical hobbit hole of 25 year old parts) the youngster regaled us with his stories of small town party life. After his tales we decided to stay off the roads after dark.
30 minutes and a crate of beer ($15US) later our door was back in line and we were on our way!
Our story doesn't end here though.
We were off to the airstrip for a bit of evening climbing. We ended up missing our turn and decided to go the extra 15 minutes to get gas. We were camping on the same land we were climbing on so we had stocked up on groceries earlier.
In addition to being hungry, we had arrived at the area as the sun was setting so we started making dinner. The rice was bubbling, the silver beet was stewing, and the propane ran OUT! The moon was rising as we drove yet another 30 minutes to the nearest town.
Did I mention it was Friday the 13th?
We did get to climb the next day. Here are some pics.

Swing and a Miss (v6)

The ultra rad tufa pooping, "Good Form".

The down climb is a slot cave and you pop out of this seam on the side of the boulder! This area has more than 300 mapped caves. If you ever get here check out the glow worm cave.

"Frantic" (v8)

*Swappa-crate is the fantastic invention of the Kiwi's. Buy 12- 750ml bottles of beer in a crate. Return the crate and the empty bottles, get your next crate for half the price. It's beautiful and cheap.

p.s. Ava is having a great time. Hanging at the ocean, looking out for sheep poop, she's even become a very patient van traveler! If you notice in our first photo of van life she is sitting on her potty. She loves the book Once upon a Potty by Alona Frankel and hopes to be like Prudence some day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wh is pronounced as F

We arrived in Whangamata with the Billabong Pro Surf Contest in full swing. Bummed to see the crowds, but inspired by the surfers, we decided to stay on the beach to have a splash.

Ava and I discovered about 50 or so hermit crabs that had washed up on the beach. One of which was particullarly ready to leave it's shell and we picked it up just as it jumped ship!!! This odd sight was accompanied by small, brown, round starfish and little clear blobs that looked like legless jellies. No one could tell us why this sudden appearance of shellfish and sea life had made their way to the exposed sand.

This is a portrait of Kyle's surf buddy and our campground neighbor Ben. In the morning Ben and his girlfriend Lindsay took us to one of their favorite spots with the promise of smaller crowds and good waves. The place was Paunui Bar

I took this photo of one of the boys surfing at Paunui Bar.

The next day we went out searching for hidden rocks along the beach. After descending a steep and slippery trail we came upon a perfect beach break, hidden from sight, with four friends playing in the waves. As we passed quietly by (not wanting to bum out the locals) one of them had only enough time to do a 180 then leap off his board onto the sandy beach just next to me. We looked at each other and as he gave out a huge laugh, I knew we were cool to play on the rocks surrounding them.

On our way to Lake Taupo we stopped in Rotorua, the capital of thermal activity in New Zealand. The entire city smells like sulfur due to all of the boiling mud pools and hot geysers the city is built around. It is also the Maori cultural hub. This is a park we visited in the middle of town.Ava is our avid bug hunter. She even gives them kisses when she says goodbye.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Airstrip

We were able to meet up with Waikato Region local Bevan Jenkins who came out of his office midday to give us the lowdown on the region. (Thank you Bevan!) We were destined for "The Airstrip" bouldering area which is situated on the Stubbs' farm near the Waitomo Caves. A unique point about bouldering on the north island is that most of it is on farmland under private ownership so permission must be obtained.
After contacting the owner, we arrived in time to find him elbow deep in lamb guts after having to slaughter the 6 month old due to a broken leg. A special occasion for a poor farmer, a special occasion for three grocery shoppers.
After a long walk around the property, we set out for a short evening bouldering session. In order to reach the climbs we had to carefully meander our way through adolescent bulls and sheep.
We arrived with the setting sun on the rock, perfect grassy landings, and smeary open-handed climbs. Unfortunately only the most classic problems of the area were over 10 feet tall but each one was well worth it.
"Wazzup" V8

That evening we parked our little red van on a hill overlooking the hilly region. As sheep filled in around us we nested in for a good nights sleep.
The next morning we visited Grot View Cave which is a large overhanging limestone roof with many fun climbs on it. I was able to peace out the classic thirteen move V7 "Franks Route" first try which left an entire day for falling off smeary sloping problems!

I continued my climbing day solo while Kyle and Ava ventured through yet another patch of sheep (which Ava happily chased away) towards a wetter part of the property.

We plan to head back to the region soon to check out the glow worm caves ad I suspect we'll probably be doing some more climbing while we're there!