Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ruakaka Kiteboarding

Eve and Heather at Mair Rd
by Scott

Several weeks ago, while hunting for kiteboarding possibilities, we stumbled upon Ruakaka. Lucky us. Within minutes of arriving, Dave, the local kiteboard builder (Decay Kiteboards), kiteshop owner, kite instructor, and cable park entrepreneur was offering us demo gear. Later, he gave us a tour of his factory, let us plug in the van, hosted a barbecue for all the kiters, and even cleaned and cooked a fish I caught.

We kited for a couple more days until the wind died. Heather, excited to finally meet another female kiter, finished off the remaining wind with a girls-only morning session with Eve (from Switzerland).

Thinking the wind was over, we said our goodbyes, and hit the road, but like many kiters, we couldn't quite escape Ruakaka. For no-wind days, Dave has built a cable park--think wakeboarding behind a boat, but without the boat or the wake. OK, maybe more like kiting without the kite or the need for wind. See (and listen) for yourself, as Heather, inspired by Eve and coached by Dave, almost lands a backroll.
With no wind in the forecast, we said our goodbyes again, only to end up back in Ruakaka a couple weeks later. Again, Dave hooked Heather up with a small kite and Decay board, allowing both of us to be on the water at the same time -- a rare pleasure. We did an epic 20km (12 mile) down-winder from one end of Bream Bay to the other. The day was capped off with a big kiter gathering back at Dave's with fantastic carbonara pasta and freshly made Kiwi pavlova.

There was no wind the next morning, so we again said our goodbyes. With a flight back to the states in 5 days, we aren't planning to be back in Ruakaka, but until the plane is on the runway, you never know.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Make the Most of Every Day

by Scott

As I approached my 40th birthday, I was thinking about getting old. That led to memories of my dad and grandpa. Dad always greeted Grampa with, "How are you doing?" Grampa always replied, "It's no fun getting old." That was as close as he ever came to complaining. I can still hear Grampa saying it, and after visiting Grampa, I can still hear my Dad repeating it. It seemed like a song waiting to be written.

It didn't have to wait long. The dark rainy New Zealand winter was forcing us to spend a lot of time in the van. Unfortunately, for the first time in almost 20 years, I was without a guitar. Never again. I had to work out the song in my head. Poor Heather had to put up with endless renditions of me whistling the guitar solo. After searching New Zealand's eBay equivalent for a month, I finally broke down and bought a used guitar and a calculator-sized digital recorder.

I spent the next month playing with my new toys - recording, re-writing lyrics, and arranging drum tracks. I was hoping to have the song finished by Christmas, but a funny thing happened - summer! The sunshine and long days meant less time in the van and less time for music. Now that the rain is back, and the days are getting shorter, I've found time to finish it. Click here to enjoy it while you can (mp3). Getting old ain't much fun.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Plan The Plan's Planny Plan Part II

It's been 1 year since we posted our planny plan for leaving Australia and moving to New Zealand.  Since then, we've found adventures in the many nooks and crannys of NZ, and had a wild ride navigating the unpredictable weather.  In 13 days, we will be on a plane heading to the USA to start another era of "hsadventures".  Many people have asked, "what's your plan now?".

We will be landing in Detroit and staying with my parents in Ann Arbor.  Our initial focus will be on visiting family/friends while shopping for our next vehicle and it's contents.  What type of vehicle that will be is still up in the air, but it will be dictated by the planny plan.

So, what is our plan for the next few years?  A little back-story first.  While reading various travel blogs over the past year, I came upon a surprisingly large contingent of people (mostly Americans and Canadians) who have driven from Canada all the way to the tip of South America.  Yep, that includes Mexico, Central America, and South America!  As soon as I started reading about the possibilities, I was hooked.  It didn't take long to convince Scott that this should be our next goal (surfing possibilities = happy Scott).  So, there you have it.  Our plan for the next many years is to drive the Americas -- all of 'em.  You can imagine the logistics that are required for such an endeavor -- just the kind of challenge and excitement we are looking for.  We will finally learn Spanish, too.  We still aren't sure if we will head south in 2011 or 2012.  Depending on what we learn about the weather patterns in Central America, we might want to stick around North America for a bit.

This takes me back to our next vehicle.  We know that we want 4WD, but aren't sure what we will find that meets our needs.  We hope to find a van that has already been customized as an RV that we can tweak a little and then convert to 4WD.  Thi$ i$ ea$ier $aid than done.  We also need to consider vehicles that are easily serviceable in Central and South America.  Another complication is the fact that we really don't want to buy a used vehicle in Michigan (salt on roads = rust).  During a cursory check for used vans and RVs, I found quite a few in Florida, Texas, and Arizona.  Looking at vans in these states would involve more logistics.  Do we buy a new one?  Do we get an empty van and convert it ourselves -- plumbing including shower, electrical including solar panels, propane including cooking and heating, etc?  We'd prefer not to start with an empty van.

Scott has already spent many brain hours on the gear we will want while traveling through the Americas.  Surfboards, kiteboards, kites -- how many and which sizes?  Bikes -- fancy full-suspension or simple hard-tails? The backcountry snowboarding equipment will probably have to wait in Ann Arbor until we can accompany it on a plane trip back to South America.  The gear shopping is a time-consuming challenge that we will be focusing on over the next couple of months.

Scott told me the other day that he hasn't been sleeping well.  I think he's got the planny plan on his mind...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maybe we Shouldn't Park on the Beach Tonight

We were near the northern tip of New Zealand when the Japan earthquake and tsunami occurred.  The earthquake struck during the night, and we happened to be parked nearly on the beach.  In the morning, the radio warned of the potential for the tsunami to reach the northern tip of New Zealand.  At first, I ignored the warning.  After 10 months of not being in Northland, I forgot that we finally were in Northland.  We moved the van.

Later that morning, we ran on the beach, and walked up the stream feeding into the ocean.  We watched waves of water run UP the stream every 8 minutes.  The waves were small, but it was fascinating to realize the power of the tsunami.   The waves had traveled across hemispheres and 5500 miles.  Scott tried to catch a big trout with his bare hands.  It had been stranded in the shallow water by the rapidly rising and falling stream, but it flip-flopped it's way to safety.

About a week later, we were at Bayley's Beach on the west coast. Here, you can drive onto the beach, even with a 2WD vehicle.  We thought it would be epic to park the van on the beach for the night.  It happened to be the equinox (spring or autumn depending on which hemisphere you're in).  The moon was the closest it had been to the earth in 30 years.  Thus, the tides were expected to be extreme.  Keeping this in mind, we hung out in the van, watching the sunset, and carefully watching the rising tide as it inched towards our van.  High tide was scheduled for 10pm, so we figured if the van wasn't swept away by say, 10:30pm, we would probably be okay for the rest of the night.  Come 9pm, a large surge of water lapped at our tires.  We decided to find another place to sleep.  The next morning, we drove back to Bayleys, only to find that the ramp on the beach was closed.  The massive tide had flooded at least 50 feet beyond where we had been parked.

Maybe we shouldn't park on the beach tonight...

Monday, April 4, 2011

White Sand Beaches and Rooster Rest Areas

White sand tropical-ness

It was about about 1.5 months ago that we started our adventures in Northland, the region north of Auckland.   It is much more tropical than we had ever imagined.  In many parts, there are no more than 20 miles between the east and the west coast. The fine, sugary, white sand beaches on the north and east coasts are my favorite.  The west side has black sand beaches created by volcanic rock that was carried up the coastline from Mt. Taranaki.

Rooster rest stop
A weird
thing we noticed in Northland was the abundance of wild roosters at the roadside picnic and rest areas.  We suspect people simply dispose of their male chicks, since they only need one rooster. One night, we were really tired, and we couldn't find one of our epic camping spots.  We decided to park along the road at a rest area.  It was still very dark when a dozen roosters introduced themselves.  At one point, I think they had our van surrounded.  There was no sleeping-in that morning.