Friday, November 13, 2015

Solo mission to Mahia

Last week was a big week.  My daughter turned 18, so it felt like the right moment to go on a solo surf trip.  I haven't really done that in years, since she was a very small toddler.  I've taken my family and forced them to watch me surf, but I haven't taken off solo and allowed myself the luxury of surfing every possible moment and consigning washing to a distant memory.  I've been eyeing a spring trip to the east coast for years:  The westerlies that devil this coast blow hot and offshore there, and spring storms in the antarctic send a succession of southerly swells.  It would be a chance too, I thought, to catch up on my Nanowrimo, or more accurately, keep the momentum going, because at the time of departure I was, amazingly, ahead of the game.

I'd planned on allowing parts of two days to get over there, but I hadn't factored in getting out of work early or the difference in speed I got from a) taking a different route over than I have in the past and b) not lugging a family of four and all their crap.  I still took part of two days, because I wanted to camp at Tutira and see if I could snaffle myself a trout for supper.  I couldn't, but it's still one of my favourite spots to camp.  A southerly front had passed up the country a couple of days before and there was still snow lying on much of the high ground.  The evening was crisp, cold as soon as the sun went down, but undeniably beautiful..

It's only a couple of hours from Tutira to the Mahia peninsula, and it wasn't until long after I got there that I realised I'd miscalculated, a little.  Firstly, I was banking on finding something, a village store or something where I could buy milk and a couple of supplies, but there's nothing, nada, zip.  And secondly, the spots that were catching the southerly swell were big, spooky, and I would be flying solo.  My radar must be pretty good, because I was chatting to a local a couple of days later and I was told that the spot I was eying up had recently taken possession of a resident 5 metre white pointer.

Blacks, bigger and spookier than it looks.
The southerly swell was due to back off, and an easterly to kick in.  I figured I'd head north to Gisborne for a day or two, pick up some supplies, and hit the surf there.  It's an easy hour's drive, and there's good places to stay.  Lovely places to stay.

Beachfront, Tatapouri
Surf was OK, nothing special.  Headhigh and semi-organised, good enough to spend a couple of days surfing twice a day and feeling some kind of surf-fitness coming back to me.  I got a few fun kegs but nothing fabulous.  Surfing twice a day calmed the voices in my head enough for me to crank out a fair few pages of my Nanowrimo.  It's starting to acquire life and momentum, which is great.  It's easy to keep writing something that wants to keep being written.  It's like being wanted.

Typical Gizzy surf that I got, fun but nothing more.

Out of season Giz is a relaxing place to hang out.  It feels remote enough now, back in the day this place must have felt like the end of the world to those who lived here and the travellers that made it this far.  There's a beauty all its own to this part of the coast, gentle and unkempt at the same time - very different from the rainforests in my part of the country.

East Coast hillside, dawn.
After a couple of days I was ready to head south again.  I checked the surf forecast and saw that the east swell would hold for another day, the next dawn looking like it'd be it for a few days.  So I determined to head for home after a night on the peninsula.  I found a deserted freedom campsite, which really...doesn't get a lot better.  I cast out a line and watched the sunset, once again acting as a one-man fish exclusion zone. 

Spot for the night, Mahia peninsula

Yeah, that'll do.
The surf the next morning was just...magic.  Blue, sand bottomed lefts and a conveyor belt rip, a golden sunrise and ahhhh!  Surfer heaven.  A thousand miles made worthwhile in two wonderful hours before the first breaths of the sea breeze stirred. 

I headed towards home.  I'd passed the Ruahines on the way East and thought they looked like there'd be a cool spot to pass a night.  I puled into a campsite at three, which was deserted, miserable, and felt like nothing so much as the kind of place you go to get axe-murdered by bogans. 
Ruahines, beautiful but spooky.
I had an uneasy couple of hours nap, then, sort of refreshed, I looked at the map and figured I was about three and a half hours from home.  I pushed on through dusk and reminded myself again, that this year, at last, I really must get the bus's headlights resilvered.  It was a magic few days away, I fell in love with the bus and surfing all over again, and it'll be a small price to pay.  However, that's for winter.  I'd like to keep her busy this summer....

Pushing through the night with epic, epic headlights.