Friday, March 21, 2008

My Summer Vacation by Tracy Pepper age 33

This one is for those of you who check in frequently and I've let down the past few months because I've been to preoccupied to write an update!

As you know, we are coming to the end of our summer. The kids went back to school in early February and although the weather is still really hot, we are heading into the cooler nights and mornings of Autumn.

"Autumn"... that's a loose term here.... especially considering that winter in this part of New Zealand resembles Autumn in Canada.

Anyway, I am going to tell you about our summer holiday. We bought a caravan last November. We found one that we liked and got it for a pretty fair price. It sure beats having to sleep in a tent and it doubles as a guest house if we ever have "guests" come to stay with us for longer than a week. I'm hoping that some of my friends and family will come out one day. I'm thinking ahead...

Natalya was going away for 10 days to Girl Guide Jamboree so we decided to take advantage of our week with only one kid and try out our new caravan. We booked ourselves in at the campground at a little spot called Mokau (pronounced Mo-cow). It is about 3 1/2 hours south from where we live on the West Coast where the beaches are all black sand and have a reputation for being "wild". The Tasman Sea is on the West, separating New Zealand and Australia and is fondly known by Kiwis and Aussies as "the ditch". Mokau is in the Taranaki Region of New Zealand which is known for it's lush farmland and New Zealand's highest volcano - Mt. Egmont.

Not only are the beaches wild and rugged, but the fishing is supposed to be incredible! That was the selling feature... because as Brian says, "Camping isn't camping without good fishing." He also says that, "A bad days fishing is still better than a good days work."

It was a fantastic week and the fish were plentiful. We brought two kayaks, one single and one double. We took a long line (which is basically a reel with fishing line that you stick into the sand on the beach and it has 25 hooks attached to it that you drag out into the sea) which we attached to the back of the kayak and then paddled out approx. 2km straight into the sea. This is one of the best ways to catch fish. Brian is putting the bait on the long line with Chantelle's help in this photo.

There were some days the surf was pretty rough - but Brian was out there paddling into it every single day. There were only two days he couldn't get through the pounding waves... and man, he wasn't a very happy camper! On calmer days I would go out there with Brian in the double kayak. It was great exercise. But on the rougher days it was too scary - I made the trip twice but I was so afraid we were going to capsize and I was going to drown or be eaten by sharks, I refused to chance it again. Still, nothing stopped Brian - everyone at the campground thought he was absolutely mad! Did I forget to mention that he never wore a lifejacket?

He'd go out at least three times a day and each time we would drag in approx. 8 - 10 fish. He became a legend!! People who camp at this spot regularly told us that they would watch people come here to fish day in and day out and often leave without a single bite.

The sunsets were spectacular.

We made friends with some locals and shared our catch. The most common fish we caught were Snapper and Guarnard - two of the nicest fish in the sea. The first few days we were eating fish for lunch and dinner - gobbling it up and saying that we could never get sick of yummy fish. It's the nicest fish I've ever eaten - and I was never a fish lover... but Canadians (particularly from the interior part of the country) don't know what real fish tastes like. But by day 4 we were giving it away to our new friends and eating the sausages we packed and brought with us. By the 5th day we were ready for fish again but only in moderate amounts. Do I ever wish we had some for dinner tonight! (actually we do - Brian went down to the beach today with the girls and his friend and they caught 8!)

Two friends we made were Poppa Dick and his wife Jocelyn. They invited us, along with a few other regular campers, to celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary. Such a lovely couple. We all went out for dinner at the local pub down the road. We had a really fantastic night out and the pub provided a shuttle service so that we could all have a few drinks and not worry about getting home safely.

We were also "adopted" by Barb and her mother Pearl. They spend most of the summer at the campground where Barb has a permanent site. She tries to take her mother up there as often as possible. Pearl is a doll (just look at those mischievous eyes in the photo). You know what her full name is? Pearl Diamond! What a name! She is a real gem indeed. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and sharing our fish with such kind and generous people.

Poppa Dick and Barb both helped to pull in the long line every time we'd put it out. It was a real community event. Chantelle was excellent at winding up the reel as everyone grabbed a stick, wrapped the line around it and pulled it in. Hard work, but great fun.... except when it would get tangled up with other people's long lines (they would drift over ours when they weren't paying attention to it). What a mess and waste of bait! It was very frustrating. But no one used the system we did. You can buy motorized things called torpedoes which carry the line out for you. The biggest problem with these gadgets is the fact that they get easily carried with the current from the undertow and you can lose sight of them, especially if the surf is a little rough. That's how you get tangled up with other lines. Our system was much better because when you paddle out, you're taking your line out straight and then dropping it with weights so that it doesn't get moved with the current. Once it's out there, you just sit on the beach for about an hour and wait for the fish to bite. It's a nice way to spend a day.

For a change of scenery one day - and also because the weather was a bit rough at the beach near the campground - Brian and I took the kayak and long line out to the river mouth further south near a place called "The Three Sisters". I'll have to take my two sisters Ann and Marni there one day...

It was a beautiful spot but still too rough for me to paddle out, so Brian went out on his own. It took him nearly half and hour to get out past the big waves and he was dumped a few times. I kept telling him to give up but he was determined and refused to let the weather win. He made it through the big surf but he still had to contend with the unruly waves further into the sea. I paced along the beach, watching him get smaller and smaller. Once he gets out far enough (or when he thinks the waves might be getting too big and he could capsize), he waves the paddle in the air to let me know that I need to put a stop on the line so that it doesn't keep winding out. Well I started to panic a little because I lost sight of him for at least 5 minutes. The sea was rough and I couldn't spot him. I was almost certain he tipped. It wasn't a nice feeling and I was so relieved when I saw him wave the paddle and turn back. Unfortunately it wasn't a really successful trip either because this is the only thing we caught...

We call it "lemon fish" at the fish and chip shop. Nice, thick, meaty fish with no bones. I threw this one back because he was just too beautiful.

It was a great holiday. We spent everyday on the beach but we kept active too. It was like we were in another country but without the tourists. We'll definitely be going back to Mokau again for another holiday like this one.

No comments: