Adventures

I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Surfed Out


Rangi knows where to get the best waves in New Zealand.


Yes, it has happened: I am officially surfed out. This might have something to do with the fact that I have surfed twelve times in the past eight days, with at least four of the sessions being 2+ hours and EPIC.

As you very well know, I was pretty sick for a while and, after Mark went back to Canada I was all alone on the boat and feeling a bit blue. I thought to myself, what do I need to do to make myself happy? Of course the answer was easy - I just needed to get some good waves - but this is easier said than done.

Although the surf forecast for the week looked pretty bad, I booked a surf trip with New Zealand Surf Tours. I figured that if anybody was going to get good waves that week, they would. After dishing out $700 NZ (a huge splurge for me) I packed up my surfboards, wetsuits and guitar and watched a surf flick to get amped on a surf trip.

On Monday morning our little tour bus surf-mobile picked me up at the head of the dock (one of the reasons why I picked the tour). I met everybody, loaded up my ridiculous amount of gear, and we headed out to Ahipara on the West Coast of New Zealand.

The surf lodge where we stayed is at the south end of 90 Mile Beach, just north of Shipwreck Bay. Remember Shippies? My favorite place in NZ? Unfortunately the swell was too small for Shippies to be breaking, but in the evening we loaded up the boards and headed north up 90 Mile Beach.

90 Mile Beach is exactly what it sounds like - a 90 mile stretch of beach that curves around in a big arc, catching all sorts of swell angles and creating thousands of empty peaks to surf. Our first surf was at Waipapakauri, which was the very first surf ever for many people on the tour. Out of the eight of us there were three Swedes, two Brits, a Chinese guy and me (representing USA!). It was pretty amazing to watch the progress of these people throughout the week. From never having touched a surfboard to paddling out the back and catching green waves in four days... just goes to show that with the right equipment and good waves anybody can surf.

Basically all I did from Monday through Friday was surf, eat, drink and sleep. On Tuesday we surfed Waipapakauri again with sunshine, light offshore winds and chest to head high peaks rolling through. The waves were super fun, and the thing that blows my mind about New Zealand is how uncrowded the waves are. There were miles and miles of waves, peeling perfectly down the beach, without anybody on them. I got to the point where I stopped paddling for every good wave that came my way because I knew there would be one soon after that was all for me. I don't think I have ever had a session like that before. And I really, really like it.

On Wednesday the surf was not great but it was a great day anyway. I woke up fairly hungover, watched a movie, ate breakfast and then Rangi - our tour guide and New Zealand wave expert - drove us to the east coast to surf. The surf was average as so we didn't surf for too long. Back at the lodge I ate a huge lunch and then took a four hour nap, waking up just in time to go for an evening surf. After surfing the east coast again we came back, ate dinner, had a few beers and fell into a blissful sleep. Seriously, Wednesday I did absolutely nothing but eat, sleep, surf and drink. Such a good day.

Shit this is getting really long. Sorry. You know how I can ramble when it comes to surfing. Thursday was an epic day as well. I was expecting the surf to be weak again like it was on Wednesday, but in the morning Rangi told me it would be good on the east coast. I didn't believe him. He told me to chill out, that during the day the wind would switch offshore and then die altogether, making the waves good. I still didn't believe him, but went along with it.

When we got to the beach it was definitely cleaner than the day before, with chest to head high peaks coming through and of course, not another soul out. I paddled out for a bit but as the waves were not amazing, I went and got one of the guy's underwater camera and started taking surf shots of everybody. I got a few awesome shots of my friends wiping out, and a few of them charging like rockstars.

After I got back out on my surfboard something happened and the waves turned on. For the next 4 hours I caught wave after wave after wave - perfect, lined up lefts and fast, down-the-line rights. You know it is a good day when your hardest decision is whether to go right or left. After 4 hours of surfing we were all hungry, so Rangi went to the market and came back with a huge pile of fish and chips. We all stuffed ourselves full of the hot, salty food and took a rest before paddling back out for one last session.

The last session of the day was perhaps the most epic. Perfect lefts and rights, just me and my surf buddies taking every wave we wanted. So fun. On the way back to the lodge we had a few celebratory beers before getting serious - we had to go big as it was our last night.

I woke up Friday morning feeling a little under the weather and so surfed out that I didn't bother going for one last session. I was sufficiently surfed out. We all packed up and headed back to Whangarei/Auckland, where I was reunited with Mom and Dad. It might be hard for you to imagine that I was excited to see them, but it has been three months since I have seen Mom and two since I have seen Dad! After living within 50 feet of them for a year, I missed them! We have been having a nice time ever since. And now that they are back I have a car again, so I can surf whenever I want. Like today. : )

Sunday, February 19, 2012

G'day, Mate!


On patrol at Ocean Beach, NZ.


Heya! Good morning! Nothing cures a head cold like a weekend at the beach - especially when the sky is bright blue from sun up til sun down, the surf is good and the water is (relatively) warm.

I spent this past weekend out at Ocean Beach training with the lifeguards as I will make my attempt to become one of them at the beginning of March. Training involved doing run-swim-runs (which almost killed me), swimming around and jumping off the rocks, doing practice tube rescues, first aid drills and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Aside from surfing, the most fun thing we did was take the motor off the IRB (basically a dinghy) and paddled it out in the surf. The waves were chest high and we flipped more than once trying to catch waves, which was more or less successful although not particularly graceful - but good for a laugh.

After a massive BBQ dinner we played frisbee on the beach under a fire red sunset. Not many things/events make me want to write poetry, but sometimes an epic sunset - such as this one - make me wax poetic.

Around 10 PM we realized that the senior guards had disappeared, and had to do a search and rescue mission in the bush behind the surf club. We found them with horrendous wounds (all fake, fortunately), but had to practice our first aid skills in action. It was really very sweet that they went through the effort of getting out the fake blood to make it all the more realistic.

Surf lifesaving, as the Kiwis call lifeguarding, has been one of the most cool things I have been involved with in New Zealand. Way cooler than that job I never got... and in fact I am so jobless that I have decided to go on a surf tour this week. I leave in a few hours. Unfortunately the surf forecast looks pretty weak, but we will be sure to get some sort of wave (I hope!).

I know it is kind of kooky to go on a paid surf tour instead of going it alone or whatever, but the nice thing about this tour is that they pick me up at my front door (or head of the dock), take me to the best waves in Northland, and cook and clean up after me for a week. Hence my most recent Facekook status that says: I am a salty travel surf bum slacker. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sicky-Poo

After excessive partying, drinking, traveling, running around and general shenanigans, I decided to chill out for a few days and take it easy. Big mistake. Once I let my guard down and relaxed a bit I was slammed with a nasty head cold that has kept me down for days now.


Granted, I can't really complain because this is the first time I have been sick on this entire trip (well over a year) when I should have been sick a dozen times from eating greasy street tacos, under-cooked meat, drinking unsafe water and hanging out in poor villages. I guess I should consider myself lucky, but it is hard to do so when my head feels like it is going to explode.


Ok, enough whining, although it is ironic that the one weekend the weather is nice, the surf is up and the wind is light I am not out there to enjoy it. Such is life. It really has taken all my restraint not to accept offers to go surfing or out for a beer, but really I am focusing on getting my health back.


Moral of the story? Don't take your health for granted! Appreciate ever day you feel awesome. And you should probably not go a day without drinking because I did and that's when the trouble started.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Home!

Ok, I have been bad. I am sorry. For all you know I could still be stuck in hurricane force winds on the beach in Fiji, but alas, I am not. I made it back to Whangarei, New Zealand just in time for the clouds to roll in and an icy wind to pipe up. And although the weather has been average as (as the Kiwis say), I am happy to be "home".


I had conflicting feelings about leaving Slow Dance and Fiji and in general. I would have been gutted to miss out on cruising to the Lau group and surf the epic waves Fiji has to offer, but I will be back in Fiji in a few months, so leaving was bearable. AND, I actually got to surf before I left Fiji - a totally unexpected bonus.


The backpackers I was staying in at Smuggler's Cove usually does not have any waves on the beach, but due to the high winds there were sloppy little wind waves breaking in front of the hostel. The night before my flight I was laying on my bunk feeling a bit sorry for myself, just wanting to pop a xanax and pass out until I had to leave.


Being that it was only about 6 PM I decided to cruise around the hostel and see if anything interesting was going on. I noticed some local guys stand up paddling on the waves and even though it was windy and rainy, I jumped into my bathing suit and went out to join them. They were not too keen to let me use a board for free, but I charmed them with my incessant pleading to take a board out and they relented.


Even though the waves and weather were crap, I was so stoked to get out in the water - as usual. Nothing changes my attitude like a surf, and I went from wanting to sleep all evening to ordering drinks from the pool and heckling the fire dancers who were putting on a tourist show. It was a good last night in Fiji, although I woke up with a pounding headache. My flight was on time and I was able to fly back to NZ without incident, and although I was tempted to get a drink at the bar before my flight (that is what living on Slow Dance will do to you) - I didn't.


I flew into Auckland and as the parents are road tripping around the South Island, I had nobody to greet me/pick me up from the airport. I took a bus into downtown Auckland but had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. In complete honesty I was so partied out, so tired of traveling and meeting people and drinking and putting myself out there, I just wanted to go home to my nice cozy home - S/V Rutea.


Regardless, I followed the crowd of backpackers off the bus and into the ACB Backpackers in Auckland. I went into the lobby and checked the rates for a night's stay, but when I saw the huge pyramid of empty Jagermeister bottles and heard an announcement for free drinks for all the ladies for the next hour, I walked out. I had no desire to take part.


After trekking around the city for a while I found a bus that would take me right to Whangarei, hopped on, and fell asleep only to wake up right at the marina office. Although you might think I would be excited to have the boat to myself, I was very glad that my good friend Mark (from Merkava) is staying on the boat while his is torn apart. He was on the boat when I got home and it was very nice to have somebody to recount my crazy travels to. It was also very nice to fall asleep in my own bed.


For the past (almost) week now I have been cruising around Whangarei. I spent the weekend out at Ocean Beach with the lifeguards and while it was cold, cloudy, rainy, windy, and crap surf, I still had a good time. I know that I need to do something constructive/productive with the rest of my time in NZ, and am currently working on landing myself a little job, practicing to get my lifeguard award, and planning a little road trip to Raglan. I will keep you updated on how things go.


Here is a link to photos I posted on Facekook:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100244779940898.2460271.6716829&type=1&l=fd41edf470


Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Backpacking"

Posting retroactively...

I am pretty sure I am writing you from the cheapest internet "cafe" in Nadi, but the fact that there is no air conditioning and Bollywood music is blasting from bad speakers makes me think that I should have dished out a little more than the $2 (Fijian) I am paying per hour. I don't know if I will be able to last the whole hour in here. But it is much better than the $8 (FJ) they are charging at the backpackers I am staying in, so I can't complain too much.

Let us back up a bit. Yesterday morning I woke up on Slow Dance to find out my flight with Air Pacific (also known as Air Pathetic) at 5:00 PM was cancelled. Sean and I went into town in Savusavu and sorted things, and it turned out I could get on a flight in a town an hour and a half away that very morning. We raced back to the boat so I could pack my bags and get the hell out, but relaxed a bit after realizing the clocks on the boat have been wrong for a few weeks now and we actually had an hour to spare. So a glass of champagne and a shower later, I was on my way.

I said a teary goodbye to Ron, BJ, Victoria and Sean. Man, I HATE goodbyes. I was feeling pretty blue as I got into the cab, but cheered up as the cab driver shared some of the fruits of his garden with me on the ride out to the airport. I will admit, I did not really want to leave Slow Dance - especially because if they were going to sit through a cyclone I wanted to be there for it (in a "good experience" kind of way). But a while after physically leaving the boat I felt a breath of fresh air and a freedom that I have not felt in a month. I will reflect more on my time on Slow Dance later, but want to get on with the story now.

The airport in Labasa is not really an airport, more of a shack with a runway. The plane was only two hours late, and minutes after it landed we were off for Nadi. The flight was fast and easy. When we arrived in Nadi it was pouring rain and the sky was dark even though it was only around 5:00 PM. I went to the tourist desk in the airport and got set up with two nights at a backpackers called Smuggler's Cove at the bargain rate of $56 (FJ) for two nights, or about $30 US - a continental breakfast and shuttle to and from the airport included.

Smuggler's Cove is more of a stop over for people arriving or departing Fiji, but seeing as how the weather was so bad it was packed with people who came in from the islands. It is a nice place right on the beach with a pool and bar out in front, but has been pretty well shut up since I have been here due to high winds and rain.

Last night I was exhausted from a long day of traveling, but managed to drink a few beers at the bar, drink kava and have a little jam session with "The Kavaholics" before passing out in a blissful, uninterrupted, fully air conditioned all night sleep - something I have not had in weeks. Granted, the mattress was lumpy, the bunk bed rickety, and in a room of 30+ beds, but it did not matter at all.

This morning I contemplated the weather as I drank my tea and watched the wind whipping through the palm trees and rain pelting the windows. A German guy sitting next to me said, "I hear it is going to be like this all week, ja." "Yup," I replied, "But I guess that is the rainy season for you... How long have you been here, anyway." "Oh ja, I got in yesterday and I am here for a week before I go to Australia." Bummer, dude. To come all that way for a week in the rain and winds really sucks.

I, however, was not to be deterred by the weather. Well - that and while Smuggler's is a cheap place to sleep, it is not a cheap to eat, drink or do internet. I hopped on the bus with a bunch of other tourists and headed into Nadi, a place that I have spent a little bit of time and somewhat have my bearings of.

I asked the bus driver where his favorite place to eat was and he said, "Ohhhh, Bo Hai. Go down the street, up the stairs, and there you go." I followed his advice and when I saw a very shady looking staircase I went up. There was a dark door at the end of the hall that seemed slightly horror-esque but when I opened it I entered a restaurant full of Chinese families eating lunch. Perfect. I got a beer and a delicious meal which will also be my dinner for under $20 (FJ). As long as you are not staying in 5 star resorts and drinking imported champagne, Fiji is very reasonable.

In fact, I really like Fiji. And one month here has just been a tease - a taste of what is yet to come. I leave here tomorrow morning and am already looking forward to coming back

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cheapo

This afternoon I endured an hour of blaringly loud Bollywood music in a stuffy and un-air conditioned internet "cafe" to write you an extremely clever and poignant blog post, only to have the internet shit out on me before I could post it.

I did, however, save the post on the crappy desktop computer I was using, so if the kids who run the place email it to me like they promised to, Insallah, I will post it. If not, well... I will be back in NZ tomorrow and should have ample time to ramble on about life in the tropics.

That will teach me to find the cheapest internet place in Nadi. Cheap little brat.

Until then...

Bula.