Good friends, not so good surf, and views to die for
01.12.2008 - 01.13.2008 70 °F
We hooked up with the Sweaseys again down in Whangamata (pronounced Fangamata). They were staying at a friend’s house and we were staying at a nearby holiday park. We spent all the days there together looking for surf, surfing, walking, skating, playing games, eating or just doing laundry. Whangamata is on the Coromandel Peninsula, a beautiful area just a few hours southeast of Auckland. The town itself has a permanent population of only 4,000, but during the holidays it swells to 40,000 of mostly vacationing Aucklanders. It’s a very pretty place and feels as if it’s been carved out of a rain forest. It has. Commercial forests with quick growing pine trees now cover many of the hills. We were told by some locals that they grow three times faster here than they do in the US due to the near-perfect growing weather, and they stand proudly and geometrically, like giant rows of corn on the hillsides. It is a hilly area. Strike that. It is an extremely hilly area. It even seems mountainous, though the peaks don’t carry much altitude. A 50 km drive will take you well over an hour just wrapping your way around all the hills. Of course the logging trucks can do it in 10 minutes. The hilliness gave the peninsula a feeling of real remoteness. What am I talking about? This place IS remote.
The waves were nice, but small, and the beaches were great. The water was colder than the north of the island, and it gave you a sense that you were part of a larger food chain, more so than in Australia or the US, especially when you were out in the water a 100 meters or so. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but seeing schools of fish in the 100s or 1,000s, racing underneath and around you and your board makes you feel like something larger is chasing them, and you’re just in the way. Hal actually had a penguin swim by him while he was in the waves. I wonder what finds that little guy tasty? A local that I was talking to in a laundry mat described encountering orcas while surfing and told me about the look of terror on the face of all the surfers as the 5 foot high sail approached. He said it was really cool to be out in the water with the pod every other surfer swam to shore he said. I would have too me thinks.
Truth be told, we actually stayed in Opoutere, which is 15km north of Whangamata, and boasts maybe 100 permanent residents, and you have to pass a one lane bridge to get there. The one lane bridge actually isn’t that incredible. We’ve encountered many of those on the main highway – no kidding. Anyway, Opoutere was unbelievably quaint and picturesque. Opoutere is nestled on a lush hillside running along a tidal estuary that fills and empties with the tide. We shot a few pictures from the balcony of a the nice little house our friends were staying in so you can get a sense for the lushness and the tidal fluctuation. The sand spit off in the distance and the estuary are great for grabbing green lip muscles and while we didn’t go hunting, you could see people walking with buckets, nabbing their limit of 50 per day. This was the last time we will see the Sweaseys on the trip most probably, and we all said our goodbyes along side the van. The boys were very sad.