Day Thirty-Eight, Thirty-Nine & Forty – Surfing….eventually!

Laura Letts Blog Take-Over Days:

Oakura, where we stayed last night has a surf shop called Vertigo and from the shop they offer surf lessons. We had provisionally booked in a lesson for 9.30am today, however when we woke up and looked out the window (we’re on the beach) the sea was calm. So calm it was basically flat…

We headed to the shop for 9.30am and as expected we were told that the conditions weren’t right and the lesson couldn’t go ahead. “Tomorrow?” We asked hopefully, “maybe” was the only commitment we got. So instead of a surf lesson, we decided to head out to Egmont National Park to explore some of the walks around Mount Egmont or Taranaki, as it is also known.

Taranaki is an active volcano, although it last erupted in 1755. The hike to the summit of Taranaki requires a lot of skill and equipment, neither of which we have, so that hike is out. Instead we settled on two walks; the Wilkies Pool Loop track and the Kapuni Loop Track.

The two walks were amazing. The first took us through rainforest (aptly named the Goblin forest due to the Karachi trees hanging with ferns and mosses) and across the Kapuni stream to the Wilkies Pools which are a series of plunge pools, formed by the scouring action of water-borne sand and gravel on 20,000 year old lava. The track then loops through sub alpine scrub and forest past two twin falls, back across the Kapuni stream and back to the start.

The second walk followed the Kapuni stream through rainforest to the top of the Dawson falls. A steep side track then takes you down to the base of the waterfall. The fall is worth the walk and we spent a good amount of time at the base of the falls, mesmerized by it’s power and the volume of water cascading down. The track then loops back through the forest. A good way to spend an afternoon.

On arrival back at the van after the second walk the weather had begun to turn and the wind was up. It seems like a good time to retreat off the mountain and back to our campsite. Tonight we are staying at a different campsite, this time in New Plymouth which is about 20 mins from Oakura, just in case we are able to have the surf lesson in the morning.

We wake up and check our messages and email – nothing from Vertigo…we try calling and emailing but no luck.

Both of us are feeling tired so perhaps this is a good thing. We spend the morning reading and generally relaxing in a little cafe in New Plymouth.

By the afternoon I am restless and decide I need a gym workout. I drag a less than impressed Matt to a City Fitness where we both get in a good session. By the time we are done it is mid-afternoon and it doesn’t seem worth moving on today. Our next stop is Waitomo, which is a good three hour drive. Plus maybe we’ll hear back on the surf lesson for tomorrow…the Magic Seaweed website suggests surf could be good in the morning Matt tells me.

The rest of the day passes without much to comment on, although we did find a different campsite which was on a cliff overlooking the sea. We’re therefore in a perfect spot to watch the sun set over the sea. Not something you get to do everyday.

We wake when the sun rises about 7.30am and we eagerly check our email. Still nothing. It seems the surf guides are pretty chilled, either that or just rubbish at responding to email! We send a follow up and start to get ready to leave New Plymouth, not expecting to hear back. Then the phone goes…we can have a lesson at 11am.

So off to Oakura we go. We reach the bay and meet our instructor. We’re told we need to get in the water asap as conditions are changeable. We quickly dress in the warmest wetsuits they have and down to the beach we go, with two boards. 10 mins on the beach getting basic tuition and we’re in the water.

We’re told that when the wave picks us up to paddle, one, two, three times and then pop up onto your feet. Easy right? Matt picks this up pretty quickly and looks good getting up. Staying up is another matter!

As anyone who knows me will testify I’m not the most balanced of people so popping up on a moving board onto my feet wasn’t a natural movement. After a few failed attempts we change tact. One, two, three, onto the knees then up… This works and soon enough both Matt and I are getting up on the boards. The next challenge was that the tides were changing and we were then contending with a side current, so even when we got up we were often knocked off by a wave from a different direction…

90 mins later I was exhausted from the effort of being on the board but more from getting out into the waves. The current was so strong I was being thrown all over the place just getting out far enough to catch a wave!

Perhaps not the easiest of conditions for a first lesson but it was great fun nonetheless and something we both agreed we want to do more of, when we get home.

After the lesson, both buzzing we got back in the van and headed off to Waitomo in search of more water based adventures.

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Surfing is tough – it knocked me out for a while
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