Some Hospitable Fishermen

Monty dropped me off at the gas station, it had been an interesting camping experience on the beach and now I was on to the next thing. He went inside to go meet his kids, I stuck to the road and thumbed cars as they came, I thought I'd say "Auckland" when asked where I was headed, then go from there.

Someone stopped, I waived goodbye to Monty and his group and started down the road with Pete, a guy heading for his home south of Auckland. This became my destination as well when he offered to put me up for the night.

He told me about some favorite spots in New Zealand and told me about his various cars and boats; he owned an automotive shop and had just bought some new equipment up north, it was loaded in the back.

We passed through Auckland right at rush hour, his daughter was right behind us on her way back from work by coincidence.

He gave me a quick tour of his town and the pointed out the yacht club he frequented, also a field of horses that was once a US air base.

At his house I met his two daughters, one was on her way out the door with her husband, the other had a friend over and we talked a while. Pete handed me a Steinlager beer and showed me around his property, olive trees out front, pool in the back and a couple big workshops and garages with old cars, kayaks, boats and toys like this.

We had a good dinner, the girls ran off to the movies afterward and Pete and I watched one at home called Boy.

The older sister came back later and showed me some photos of the trips they'd been on and some of the giant fish they'd caught.

In the morning I packed my laundry we'd run the night before, it would be days later until I realized I left my so shorts behind. Pete dropped me off in town, clouds looming overhead and the forecast was days of rain.

All the same, I wanted to see the Coromandel peninsula, so my mind was there, my feet were moving and my thumb was out.

A woman gave me a lift to the main motorway, from there a guy from kenya picked me up. He went a little out of his way from where he was going to get me to the Coromandel turn off, telling me about the corrupt government back in kenya and his happiness to be in New Zealand.

My next ride was from a car towing a trailer that had sped by too quick and turned around to pick me up. Ricky was the driver, heading back to his home in Waihi Beach. He worked at the gold mine, but had done all sorts of jobs, including once being a commercial fishermen and always a personal fishermen. He also spent some time in the bush in Australia where he'd learned all sorts of survival tricks and gained heaps of camping experience.

It was a gray day, rain seemed inevitable. Ricky gave me his number and said to call if really started coming down and I needed a place to stay, he said he had a hog he'd just got that could be dinner and his partner Kate would love to meet me anyhow.

He dropped me off at the edge of Waihi where I kept my thumb out for a short time until a van pulled over with a few people heading towards Whangamata for a wedding. Once in the next town I walked down the main drag and to the beach where I saw plenty of kite surfers flying around.

I headed back down the road until I found a good spot, then got my rain gear out as it finally started to break. At last a camper van pulled over, a German traveler about my age was cruising up the peninsula in search of good Japanese food. This was his second trip in the country, so he told me different things he'd gathered about the culture and the prices of things compared to other prices in the world and this sort.

We stopped in a town called Pauanui where he was going to eat; by this point he'd decided he would head back south as well and start back towards Auckland, more or less, and he'd give me a ride back down that way if I wanted. I told him I'd meet him back by the car if that were the case, then I walked down a path to the water just to see it, then headed back and found that he'd settled on a burger and fries for lack of much else around.

I munched on some fries and told him about America, he was planning a trip out there and wanted to know what routes might be best and this sort of thing. We hopped back in the car, he grabbed me a Steinlager Pure from his fridge to let me try on the drive, it was a good one.

He dropped me off at a junction in Kopu, by then the rain was proving it wouldn't be going away anytime soon and I was Waihi Beach bound to take Ricky up on his offer. Two American girls picked me up, one from Wisconsin and the other from North Dakota, the latter being one of the two states I haven't been to yet, that and Hawaii.

They had work visas and were heading down to Queenstown to start looking for jobs, Rotorua was where they were heading on this night though. They were still getting used to driving on the left, and the stick shift, but we cruised smooth on through the rain having a good time. They dropped me off in Paeroa, a town known for a lemonade type drink called L&P that everyone seems to love, I'd eventually have one and have to agree with the masses.

I caught a ride out of there from a guy who took me into Waihi and to the Waihi Beach turn off, letting me use his phone to give Ricky a call. Ricky pulled up and I hopped in, "wetter than the last time I saw you", he joked. I shut the door and he hit the gas, then the brake in a ripping drift spinning us backwards in the right direction back towards his house, I could tell he'd done some driving in his day.

He described his home as being on the beach and almost with a warning mentioning leaks and whatnot, "it's on the market for 1.25 million, but the house itself is worth about fifty cents". Seeing it for myself once we got there I loved it. It wasn't a masterfully built place, and there was the odd leak and the feel of the wind rushing through just a hair, but it was right on the beach with a great view of the ocean, which at the moment was in full tear with high waves crashing down and coming higher and higher in the storm.

Kate was his partner, a woman from France with a keen sense for sustainability, gardening and environmental preservation. She was cooking when we came in, giving me a warm welcome, Ricky had told her a bit about me beforehand as he'd also told me a bit about her, I felt at home right away. The rain was booked for the next couple days according the forecasts, Ricky and Kate said I was welcome to stay as long as I liked.

It was a good night talking with them and having a nice pork feast, plenty of sides, a proper meal along with wine and beer here and there. Ricky didn't drink, he said he'd done enough in his life and it would bring out an uglier side of him, so these days he'd have to the odd beer sometimes, but that was it. It wasn't hard to tell he had a rough side to him and a past to prove it, but it was also clear that he was a genuinely nice person and this shined through the most.

The next day kept raining, I sat at the table watching the waves crash sipping on coffee after coffee and looking at fishing magazines while Ricky told me about the different kinds of fish and stories about his outings, tips and tricks.

Several friends came in and out talking about the car crash that had happened just a couple nights ago. Some kids driving flipped around and smashed into a four wheeler just outside of town, tearing the car in half and killing just about everyone involved. In this small town, it was on everyone's mind and everyone was coming together, talking about the details and coming up with ways to help and console the direct families involved. Ricky planned to drop some fish and pork off for them to eat.

One of Ricky's friends was a big guy described as a character, "that old barnacle" as Kate put it once, he'd done things like tar his car when it started rusting. On hot days it would melt a bit, I was told once a cat got on the roof and went down the windshield leaving little tar paw prints all the way down. He told me stories of the olden days in town when there was only one cop or two and really the justice came from within. If something got stolen or anything, they'd find out who and give him a pretty good beating and drive them out of town. They'd party in the big houses by the beach in the off season, the people who owned them would only come out for a couple weeks a year and they'd be sitting empty for the rest of the year.

I hiked up to a good view with Kate the next day while Ricky was at the mine, then we met up with one of the couples that I'd met the night before, walking along the water in their neighborhood after some coffees. From there we stopped at another woman's house, coffee again, seeing her garden and eating some of her corn.

We had a big tasty lasagna dinner that night, then Ricky decided things had calmed down enough to give the torpedo a try. The torpedo looks just like that, it's about few feet long with a motor on in attached to a huge fishing line. We set it off into the ocean from the beach where it motors out for about a kilometer and a half, every so often theres a small line with a hook attached and a piece of bait. After it motors all the way out, it's left sitting for an hour or so, then pulled back in and hopefully has some big fish coming back.

No fish came back this time, the water was too rough maybe, they said it was only the second time out of thirty odd times it's come back with nothing. I'd have to wait another day to see a fish be caught.

The next day things had cleared up all together. Ricky had left for the mine, I spent the morning with Kate, and coffee, helping her get squared away on her computer and the world of gmail, google voice and really all things google. Afterwards she gave me a ride to Paeroa. It had been great learning about fishing and meeting everybody, now I was poised to start towards the next adventure, down south to Kiwi Burn.