Monday, November 18, 2013

Life in Mt Maunganui: surfing and more

Although it is quite hard to believe (at least for me), it is already more than month since I arrived to Mount Maunganui. So it is a perfect time for a little look back...

Definitely the biggest part of the update will be on surfing (because that is pretty much all I have been doing here all the time ;)). As written already in the previous post, immediately after spending the first few minutes on the board I fell in love with surfing. And the best part is, that the feeling and excitement escalates with every step I move forward. By surfing I get the very special feeling why I also love backcountry skiing and alpine touring that much: and it is the fact that you just use the power of the nature (whether it is the waves or fresh snow) and a piece of a board to enjoy your ride... The important thing is the close connection with the nature - you won't get this feeling on a wake board lift on a lake or any beautifully prepared slope in a ski resort... 

I started practicing surfing by renting surfboards from the backpacker hostel that I'm staying in, but from the first moment I knew that it will be much more practical and cost efficient for me to buy my own equipment. I was able to find a good second hand board suitable to my skills and also good for further improvements and an affordable second hand wetsuit as well. So I'm really happy now that I can grab my board anytime (even 5:30am before going to work) and hit the waves. I even bought straps to attach the board(s) on the roof of my car, so I'm ready for surf trips as well :)

Running towards the waves. Mount Maunganui is perfect place to learn surfing - the waves are usually pretty small, but time to time there is a big swell with decent sized waves - although the waiting for this to happen might get a bit annoying ;)

Waiting for a wave with Dudi

Catching the wave - the waters might get really crowded in here - especially during the weekends and when the waves are not the best...

Riding the wave - I've probably caught better waves than this one already, but with no photographer present to create an evidence material ;)

Apart from surfing, I continued working in the kiwifruit orchards (more suitable is probably to write tried to continue, as we are struggling to get enough work from our employer in the last days) and enjoyed the already almost summer weather in this beautiful place surrounded by amazing people I met here.

Few more random pictures from the last days in Mount:

Sunsets and sunrises in Mount are magical

Sunday 'Fishing' session - one rod with no line, one got stuck in seeweed :))

Party time! :)

*note: few of the pictures in this post were borrowed from my brazilian fella Dudi - cheers bro! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mount Maunganui: This must be the place!

When I was planning my NZ trip back home, I chose couple of places as a possible candidates for my summer long-term stay and Mount Maunganui was on the top of this list. I don't know why, but I just had this feeling that this place is somehow special even back in Slovakia when seeing the pictures of the Mount... And after 2 weeks I spent here I must say that it is special...

Mount Maunganui is placed on a beautiful peninsula ended by the mighty Mount (the hill on the picture below). The Mount offers beautiful views over the town and surrounding bays. The town is rather small and not really crowded yet (I suppose it gets much crazier during the summer holidays) but it has a magical chilled atmosphere that make this place special.  

Upon arrival to Mount, I've spent two days in one hostel that was not really my cup of tea, so I decided to try the other one (there are only two backpacker hostels in Mount) and that was where the real Mount life started :) 

Sunset and the Mount - beach view. This picture was done right after I arrived to Mount. Love at first sight.

The main beach in Mount - 5 minutes walk from the backpackers where I'm currently staying :) Mount is a surf-town (that is also why it was on the top of my list), however there were not many days for surfing since I arrived here - the ocean is too flat all the time. Hopefully it gets better...

View over the town from the Mount and Chris "Ze German" 

Mount backpackers backyard. One of the most magical places in Mount for me. Of course nothing special about the backyard as such, it is the people I met here that make it special :)

In mount I finally started to play football from time to time :)

My first surfing lesson. Totally unplanned. It was fucking freezing without a wetsuit. Since then I managed to go surfing once more (this time with a wetsuit and some bigger waves) and I must say that I fell in love with this sport right away, but also that it is pretty difficult. But I managed to catch few waves and stand up on the board :) beautiful feeling.

Mount bike gang :)

Maclaren falls - supposed to be lazy sunday there, but it ended up by jumping to the freezing water from the rocks (or even a bridge for some crazy guys). The picture is downloaded as I didn't have my camera with me)

Oh yeah. And I got my first job :) I'm working on a kiwifruit orchard - helping the plants to grow the most beautiful kiwifruits. It is really easy and relaxing job and as I work with 5 other friends, we have a lots of fun and laughs during the time spent in the orchard :)

So, as written in the headline, I think this must be the place for me to spend the summer in!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coromandel peninsula: beauty after beauty

When I chose Coromandel peninsula as my next travel destination, I didn't really know what to expect or what should be the reason to go there... I just did. And I must say that I did good that I did... Coromandel is rather small peninsula (I guess around 130x40 km) located south-east from Auckland offering many kind of beauties (by beaches being the top one of course). It is creating the outside border of the Hauraki gulf (the one where Auckland downtown is directed as well) and you can get here both by taking the road around the gulf or by ferry from Auckland. As I really liked the dividing of previous post into parts, let's do the same with this one again ;)

1) West Coromandel: the gold-diggers 
As the west coast of coromandel peninsula is directed into the gulf, the beaches are not the attraction number one here (please wait for the east coast ;)). The main driver here (basically on whole Coromandel, not only the west coast), is the gold! There were (and apparently still are) some supplies of gold in the Coromandel soil and rocks, that's why one of the first settlements in NZ were established here. There are only 2 towns in west Coromandel (Thames and Coromandel town), otherwise it is just really small villages (basically few houses staying close to each other). As the weather was not really nice to me, I just did a quick walks through both of the towns. You can visit several mining museums or even take a ride on steam train through the old mine, but I was more interested about the real atmosphere in the towns. And it was pretty magical. These places are not that touristy, so I really enjoyed the mixture of local fishermen, gold diggers and housewives meeting in the 'boulevards' of these old towns. And what I liked the most were the 'no mining' signs - apparently they are trying to protect the nature as much as possible, that's why they proudly hang signs like 'NO MINING SINCE...' everywhere possible. I especially liked the ones hanging on few houses: 'No trespassing. Please do not mine under our home.' :)

Downtown Thames

Shop in Coromandel town

Coromandel town - gold-digger can't be thirsty, right?!

View over Coromandel town and harbor 

2) Far north Coromandel: away from civilization 
The civilization as such ends in Coromandel town, but the peninsula continues for another approx. 60 kms up north. The far north coromandel offers isolated bays, stunning views from the hills and beautiful coastal gravel roads... To get to the northernmost tip of Coromandel peninsula and back, I've spent almost whole day on uneven and bumpy gravel roads riding around 40km/h all the time. But I didn't mind at all, because:

The road was either stretched directly next to the coast...

...or climbing into the hills and offering these kind of views...

...or leading to the tractor beaches ;)

3) East Coromandel: beaches, beaches, beaches... And a mine.
The East coast of the Coromandel peninsula is facing the beautiful waters of Pacific Ocean, so you can imagine what is to be found here ;) Beaches. Beaches everywhere. Literally the whole coast is covered with really beautiful white sand beaches, so I will just pick up the three most interesting. And as a bonus, one bizarre town-centre facility :)

New chums beach: hidden behind a reef and accessible only by foot - approx. 30 min walk through rocks and forest and this is what you get as reward :) When I saw these rocks I already thought what will I do with that much of gold ;) But sadly I discovered that it's really just a stone.

New chums beach: I met several people on the way there and a group of around 20 kids with parents on the way back, but during the time I've spent on the beach, there was nobody... And it was magical :)

And this is the price I paid for seeing this beauty. This happened just after I got off the rocks (walking on them barefoot hurt quite a lot) to the forest trail and thought it's gonna be much better...

The weather during this day was really crazy: 20 min of the brightest sunshine, right after that 10 minutes of heavy rain followed by strong wind etc. But everything had a Hollywood ending with a calm breeze and rainbow on the sunset... Makes me wanna say: "and they lived happily ever after" ;)

Hot water beach: grab a spade, dig a hole, find some hot spring (notice the little bulb at the centre bottom of the picture) and build your own free spa directly at the ocean. Truly amazing :) the only problem is that you need to come during the low tides (which means either early morning or evening). I arrived just when the tides started to destroy the spas :) and the water is fucking hot! (at first I didn't get why the kids are bringing the water from the ocean to the spa, but I realized just after I stepped inside right next to the spring :))

Cathedral cove and Stingray bay: no comment needed :)

Cathedral cove

Cathedral cove: noticed anything weird on this picture? Yes, there was a stoned guy standing on the rock and pretending to be part of it :)

Stingray bay: snorkelers getting ready to explore the waters. The water was really crystal clear and I was so jealous when seeing them. I need to get back here and see the underwater life one day definitely...  

Waihi: huge (still partially functioning) gold and silver mine (once most productive in NZ) right next to the town centre! The entrance to the mine was just next to the visitor centre, bank, Subway etc :)

Old steam-engine pump-house used for getting the water out of the mine back in the days. After it became redundant due to switching to electricity powered pumping and almost fallen down, they moved the whole building for more than 300 meters from its original place.

There could be also fourth part of this post - central Coromandel - but I didn't stop in the forest parts, as the main attraction there are the Kauri trees, and I've seen the best and biggest of them in the Waikatu forest before... And I think the post is long enough even now ;)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Out of Bay of islands again; Destination: Coromandel peninsula

After a long procedure full of thinking and analyzing, I decided to leave Bay of Islands again. This time alone, as Lola found a job in Paihia and stayed there. I was considering also the option to stay, but the curious part of me was stronger and forced me to get on the road again. As the next destination I chose the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula (more on its beautifulness in the next post) and stopped on several places that I did not visit on the way up (and I'm sure I still missed some notable places even after this second round). To make it easier (for both you and me), I will divide this post into 2 parts:

1) Southern Whangarei coast
As my way up north from Auckland to Whangarei was planned just for one day, the fact that our planet is turning so quickly caused, that I missed several places (beaches) due to darkness then... But as the sun comes up everyday, I had the chance to see them now:

Waipu Cove

Langs beach

Langs beach

Mangawhai heads

2) Piha and Karekare
As I proceeded on my road towards Coromandel quite quickly (I found myself in Auckland at around 1PM), I decided to make one more stop. After a quick research I chose two black-sand surf beaches near Auckland, and I must say I could not choose better (OK, maybe I could, but I will never know.. please don't tell me ;)). 

I visited several black-sand beaches before, but I was totally amazed from the blackness of the black sand on these two beaches :)

Piha - top-down view

Piha - bottom level view

Piha and my face demonstrating that the sun was shining :) I was so happy about that, because just before I got to Piha, it was raining quite heavily and whole coast was lost in one big cloud...

Karekare - huge abandoned beach

Karekare - mysterious piece of wood in the middle of the beach

Karekare - in comparison to Piha, Karekare was a lot bigger and much more empty and abandoned beach. In Piha there were several houses, campsite and even a shop and library right next to the beach, while in Karekare, the only building on the beach was the surf-club, which was closed at the time being... 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back to Bay of islands (and around)

The plan for the way back south from Cape Reinga was to make several stops in order to see something, get some rest, and Lola to ask for some job opportunities in local bars. As the Northland is really not that busy, it has guided us back to Bay of islands (Paihia), but we had two quite funny stops on the way: 

Ngawha springs - thermal spa (few pits full of stinky water and mud with no showers :))

Kawakawa - toilets designed by Friedrich Hundertwasser. Fully usable and free (been there 
, done that)

Upon arrival to Paihia, Lola started to look for a job (seems that quite successfully), so I spent some time exploring on my own or with Francois, who was back in Bay of islands as well at that time:

Russell - nice old settlement on the other side of Bay of islands. It is a total opposite to Paihia, which is full of bars, restaurants and backpackers accommodation. Russell is an old (actually it was the first capital of NZ - before Auckland and Wellington) quiet settlement full of posh restaurants and luxurious houses with stunning views over the bay.

Russell beach 

Living in Russell

Russell's Long Beach

On one of the day we did with Francois a kayaking trip to Haruru falls (Francois was staying and helping a guy who runs a business with kayaks, so we got a better price for the trip):

Tony Estanguet and Michal Martikan in action

And after the action... :)

As I really had enough of the beaches and wanted a bit of something else, we did a 2day trip to the west coast to see the Kauri forests and do a bit of trekking. It was a nice change and I'm glad that I finally moved a bit, but trekking in forest is definitely not as interesting as in the high mountains. So I'm really looking forward for the treks in the South Island Alps. We've had little problems with navigating to some campsite for the night, but when we finally found a suitable one, we got a really nice reward - we spotted a kiwi (the bird, not a NZ citizen) during the night walk in the nearby forest :) Unfortunately I do not have a picture as a I didn't have my camera with me, but it was real fun to watch this weird animal :)  

West coast - on the way to the forests

French guy destroying the NZ pride :)

The biggest Kauri tree (Taune Mahuta) 

Some more forest

And some more forest