February 18, 2007

Rag Town

Raglan, also known as Rag Town, is a world-renowned surfing spot. The past two weekends Ryan and I rented a car and drove down to Raglan on Saturday morning, spent the night in Whale Bay, and drove back on Sunday. The drive takes about 2.25 hours, including a stop for gas or restroom break. The initial stretch out of Auckland on Hwy 1 is straight with very little curves, but once we turn into Ngaruawahia, the two-way, one lane each way, country road starts winding, curving, which makes for an interesting drive.

Ryan booked a group surfing lesson the first Saturday. I am not as comfortable in the water... unless I have a BCD on like in scuba diving... so I hung out in the Horizon Lodge. The view is great, except for the power lines that are mysteriously not in the photo on the website. His lesson was from 3-6pm. So, I made my way to the beach at around 5. Within a few minutes of my feet touching the black sand beach, it started raining... hard. So, I walked as fast as I could back up this huge hill back to the parking lot. Then up another huge hill to where I parked. I was drenched. Thinking that the rain would ease up after a few minutes, I waited in the car. But the rain kept coming, so I sat in the car and just relaxed... enjoyed some quiet time to myself. Right about 6, Ryan appeared in the parking lot, and we drove back to the house to clean up for dinner. We drove back into Rag Town and picked up an order of fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop. It was wrapped in the typical newspaper way... so soak up the grease. Then we drove to Manu Bay to eat and watch the surfers. The coolest thing to see was this father and daughter pair. The father would be working the surfboard and the daughter would hang out in the front of the board. She remained sitting most of the time. Still, it looked like fun.

This Saturday, we repeated the trip.. same house, same surfing school, same beach. Except this time Ryan took a private lesson. It was definitely tougher being out in the big waves. Surfing is hard.

For not having had much sun in the past 3 years, I am now making up for it. Though, it's rather dangerous down here where the ozone is thinner. This weekend we had 2 gorgeous days with very few clouds and lots of sun. Ryan got sunburned, and I got brown... even with sunblock on. On Sunday, the news reported the UV levels to be 'extreme'... I think that's just coincidentally NZ, isn't?

Pictures from Raglan here: http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=95reg1b.8x72a5sz&x=0&y=6sq07m

Posted by oneray at 9:25 PM

February 6, 2007

Bay of Islands - New Zealand

We were inspired by a coworker to head north this weekend. There were plenty of places to visit, but we opted for the Bay of Islands. I didn't think much of the name, and it wasn't until we got there that it hit me... The area is a big bay, and there are lots of little islands in this bay.

The city we stopped in was Paihia. It's a small town with a dock for several of the business that offer tours, deep sea fishing, ferry to Russell, etc. The biggest attraction out in the Bay of Islands is the "Hole in the Rock". Just about every tour boat/cruise company offers a trip out to see it. We took the "Hole in the Rock" tour from Fullers, which was a 4 hour excursion. The boat took us along the islands while the captain gave a little explanation about each island. Then we had a stop on the last island, which seemed to be inhabited and probably owned by Fullers. We got out to roam around, walking up some big hills, catching some great views, and getting close to some local sheep.

Afterwards, we drove to Kerikeri (~20 minutes) where I had booked us a night at the Stone Store Lodge. The place felt modern yet natural. You were seranaded by a chorus of insects in the forest. The lodge is basically a house that has 3 bedrooms (with ensuites) for rent. There's a kitchen, dining, and lounge area. Though, to be honest, it didn't feel like I was just in someone's house; I felt like I was in a really nice spa. For 195 NZD a night, it was a bargain... It's difficult to find a luxurious and comfortable place to stay for less than 300 NZD. Wish we could have stayed longer.

On Sunday, we stopped in the Kerikeir Farmer's Market before heading back to Auckland. On the way, we stopped at Waipu Beach to have lunch. Waipu has a nice surf beach which is really wide. There's plenty of space for everyone!

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Posted by oneray at 4:15 PM