I must have gotten sidetracked. I never posted these photographs from 2016…
A colleague at work recommended the Wainuiomata Beach for beachcombing. Always interested in a new beach experience, Lorraine, Leslie, Hillary, and I drove about 30 minutes to the beach. It was barren with few people. From the beach, one could see Cook Strait and the lighthouse complex at Baring Head.
We were hoping to find some beautiful seashells and sea glass. We found neither. All we saw were rocks and driftwood. Regardless, it had its stark beauty.
As Hillary and I walked the beach, we did come across a man fishing. I am not sure how successful he may have been. It looked difficult to me, what with the wind blowing onto the shore and the wave action; I do not see how he could have gotten his bait out far enough to do any good.
On the drive to the beach, we had passed a sign for the Remutaka Forest Park. Leaving the beach, we decided to take a quick look at the park. I am glad we did. I was very picturesque. The only thing that was somewhat irritating was the constant sound made by the cicadas. They were noisy. While I had certainly heard them before, I had never seen one before this trip. They are an odd-looking insect.
Leslie had made lunch before we departed the house. We found a picnic table in the park and had lunch. After that, we took a brief stroll and then went back to the house.
We decided to take a long weekend at Castlepoint, New Zealand. We wanted to stay in a bach since we knew many of those would be right on the beach. A bach (pronounced “batch” without the “t”) is like a cabin or summer home. We had heard of them, but we had never stayed in one. I visited the website Bookabach to find our accommodation. We decided on a two-bedroom bach, on the beach, with stunning views of the Castlepoint Lighthouse. The only things we had to bring were our linens and groceries. Other than that, everything is provided by the bach owner.
The small town of Castlepoint is a little more than a two-hour drive from Lower Hutt. The journey is not bad; although, Leslie would disagree because of Rimutaka Pass. She really dislikes that pass.
Castlepoint lies along the east coast of the north island. If one is looking for wild nightlife, this is probably not the place to visit. There is one coffee house/grocery, the Castlepoint Store (they are called dairies here) and one hotel/restaurant, the Castlepoint Hotel and Guesthouse. It is also known as the Whakataki Hotel. On our way into town, we stopped at the hotel for a coffee.
September is the beginning of spring in New Zealand, so the weather can be dicey. We indeed found that to be true. It was cold and rainy for much of our visit. Regardless, we had a fun, relaxing weekend. It seemed more like a fall afternoon than a spring day.
We whiled away some of our time by quietly sitting in the bach, reading, or doing art projects. When we looked up, we were looking out of a large picture window, right at the lighthouse.
Except for some raindrops periodically hitting the bach, it was tranquil. It was also rather chilly inside. There were some space heaters available, but we did not turn them on too high. We would rather be comfortably cold than excruciatingly hot.
Part of what made the environment so relaxing was the water. I mean both the ocean and the rain. I have never been able to put my finger on the reason why, but something is soothing about the sound of water to the human spirit. It seems to “soothe the savage beast.” I could sit, watch, and listen to the ocean and the rain for hours. The smell of the sea and the rain added to the experience and the overall relaxation. I love Colorado, but I have come to love the islands of New Zealand too.
On our first afternoon, we walked along the beach in front of our bach. There was a lot of activity because there was a fishing tournament in full swing. We watched one man for a while as he set his bait, cast, and then reeled the line back to shore. He said he had caught a couple, but he did not think they were anything to write home about.
The fisherman told us the tournament was drawing to a close. He said there would be a large gathering at the Wairarapa Sports Fishing Club to celebrate the winners and have a fish-fry. He suggested we stop by and partake. We opted not to since we did not feel comfortable. Besides, we had our heart set on dinner at the hotel.
The ocean swells were reasonably strong. At times, the fishing boats out disappeared from view as they bobbed up and down. Leslie and I were both glad we were on terra firma.
Since the fishing tournament was ending, people were beginning to bring their boats to shore. It is always fun to watch people launch and recover boats. They drive out onto the beach with a tractor, point the trailer into the surf, and either launch or recover. I assume the small bay is too unprotected to have an actual marina. Also, once a marina is in place, then it requires time and energy to operate and maintain. So, I am sure the locals think the tractor and trailer method is much preferred.
Because of the weather, we opted to not climb to the lighthouse that first afternoon. For dinner that evening, we went back to the Castlepoint Hotel. The dining area was a combination of a bar, diner, and pool hall. There was a more formal dining room to the left as one entered, but everyone seemed to opt for the other. I am sure a big reason why was the roaring fire in the woodstove. We had a glass of wine and a good ol’ stick-to-your-ribs dinner.
Back at the bach, I sat up my tripod to try to get some photos of the lighthouse in action. It was a cloudy, misty, and cold evening. I think that made for a good picture.
The next morning, we drove a little farther north along the coast. In about 15-minutes we came to the Mataikona Rocks. One of the Kiwis in the hotel the night before had recommended we visit. They were an unusual formation. We arrived as the tide was coming in. That limited how much of the structure we could see. The compositions are layers of sandstone that have been upthrust when tectonic plates collided.
It was still a mostly cloudy day. However, now and then, the sun would poke through. That made for some excellent photographs.
On the way to the Mataikona Rocks, we drove past a beautifully green paddock. It was part of a sheep ranch. One could see dozens of sheep and lambs. The shades of green in this country are hard to explain adequately. They are just so brilliant.
Near the Mataikona Rocks was a little-used trail along the beach. Along the path was a sign regarding Paua taking and the relevant regulations. I found that very interesting.
After some additional exploring and beach-combing, we drove back to the bach. Before departing Lower Hutt, we packed some groceries…and wine. That evening we ended up barbequing some beautiful steaks. I am sure part of the reason they tasted so good was the picturesque beauty all around us. The patio of the bach had a small overhang. I moved the barbeque under that for protection from the weather.
The following morning, our last day there, I woke up early. I checked outside and saw that the sky was relatively clear. I had never taken photographs of the stars. I decided to try it. I can tell I will need a lot more practice to get a perfect shot. That said, I did end up with one shot that I liked. Without very much light pollution at Castlepoint, it is incredible all of the stars one can see.
Many of our friends from work have been to Castlepoint. For those that have not been there, I highly recommend the trip. It was so lovely to relax and not be running from one tourist site to the next. We felt very relaxed when we returned home.
It was a smashing morning. We were both excited about our fishing adventure with Pete Lamb Fishing. We arrived at the Seaview Marina at about 11:40 for our 12:30 departure. Another 19 people from the office and their family joined us, for a total of 21 people.
We saw our boat, the Daniel, entering the marina from Wellington Harbour. At 62 feet (19 meters), it is a good-sized boat. It is white with a red gunwale. As each of us walked up the stairs and stepped on board, Captain Pete greeted us with a smile and a handshake.
Behind the pilothouse was a small room with a dining table and storage cabinets. Leaving that room, one is on the deck. There is a roof above about half of the deck. The remainder is open and not shaded.
Leslie and I took up positions near the door to the dining area, under cover. All of the fishing poles were rigged, baited, and standing in rod holders evenly spaced along the gunwale. As the Daniel reversed and began to make its way through the marina, we marveled at homes above Point Howard. They have a commanding view of the harbor.
Moored just outside the Seaview Marina was the oil products tanker ship, Pacific Rainbow. It is a 28,000-gross ton ship, capable of carrying as much as 46,000 tons of product. At just under 600 feet (180 meters), it is small for a tanker. I imagine that is due to the depth of the harbor. More massive ships probably have too deep a draft to dock at Seaview. The contents of the tanker are pumped to holding tanks at the Mobil Petroleum Products Company for ultimate distribution throughout New Zealand.
Once in the open waters of the harbor, Captain Pete pointed the boat toward the southern point of Somes Island. It is the largest island in the harbor. Currently a reserve under the control of the Department of Conservation, the island previously served as an internment camp and a quarantine location for both humans and mammals.
We passed Somes Island off the starboard side of the boat. I did not realize until this trip that there is a lighthouse on the island. The current tower dates from 1900, while the original lighthouse dates from 1866. It is one of 23 operating lighthouses in New Zealand.
The weather became windier. Luckily, the wind was out of the north, so it was not really cold. Throughout the afternoon, it became more and more cloudy. The good news, we did not have any rain.
Continuing, off the port side of the boat, we could see the Point Halswell Lighthouse. It sits on the northern point of the Miramar peninsula.
After a trip of just under six miles (nine kilometers), we reached the “fishing hole.” We anchored just off the point of Oriental Bay. As soon as the anchor hit the harbor floor, Captain Pete sent his deckhand around to instruct each of us how to use the rods. The hooks were many times larger than the hooks one uses for trout fishing. They are known as self-setting hooks. A trout hook looks roughly like the letter “J.” The self-setting hooks look more like a sloppily drawn letter “J.” The small portion of the hook is bent back considerably toward the main shaft. The tip of the hook is bent back a little more. This design makes it more difficult for the fish to spit out the hook. Virtually every time, the hook ends up in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
For bait, the hooks had either fish or squid pieces. Each pole had two baited hooks and a lead weight of about 12 ounces. There was no casting. One placed a thumb on the wound fishing line on the reel, released the drag, and allowed the line to drop to the harbor floor. As soon as the weight hit the harbor floor, one re-engaged the drag, wound once or twice and then waited. The water was about 65 feet deep (20 meters).
Very quickly, people started hooking fish. The most prevalent fish was the kahawai. I had a large kahawai hooked, but just at the surface, it jumped off. I did not catch anything else the rest of the afternoon.
Leslie did land a good cooking-size kahawai a little later. Captain Pete commented that there was a school of kahawai near us, as evidenced by the sea birds. Several types of seabirds circled near the boat, diving periodically for the fish.
In addition to the kahawai, two red gurnard, one red snapper, and one barracuda found their way onto the Daniel. When a fish made it to the deck of the boat, either Captain Pete or the deckhand removed the hook, dispatched the fish, and placed it in a cooler. They also assisted with snags and tangles, of which there were a few.
The fishing expedition was communal. That means that all fish caught are filleted and distributed evenly to those fishing. So, even though I did not land a fish, I still got an even share of the total catch. When the cooler was full, the deckhand began filleting the fish. He never gutted any of the fish. He filleted both sides and then removed the skin. The deckhand tossed the remains over the side, much to the delight of the seagulls…and who knows what in the depths.
When the first fishing hole petered out (no pun intended), the captain weighed anchor and motored the boat near the port. That meant that while we fished, we could watch the loading of ships. There were two ships docked at the port, a container ship, the other boat was a cargo ship, taking on logs from New Zealand bound for China.
After 30 or 40 minutes, Captain Pete moved the boat to a spot just off the west side of Somes Island. That is where one of the fishermen caught the lone barracuda. The captain said the barracuda was not a keeper because of the worms they usually carry. Instead, the barracuda became bait.
We had fished for a little over six hours when we left the west side of Somes Island, bound for the Seaview Marina. By the time we arrived, the deckhand had all of the fillets in 21 separate plastic bags. Since we received two, I estimate Leslie and I ended up with about two pounds of fish.
Two nights after the fishing trip, we had the fish for dinner along with a trout that a friend had given us. I must say, I was not all that wild with the kahawai. I much preferred the trout. Regardless, the fishing trip was a lot of fun.
Los Angeles is the location we chose for a rest stop. It is a long way from Grand Junction, Colorado to Wellington, New Zealand.
At the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard, we lounged around in the room until it was time for dinner. About 20 steps from the hotel is a great restaurant, Zpizza Tap Room. They sell pizza either whole or by the slice. Their hand-tossed pizza is delicious. The crust is thin; not paper-thin, but certainly not thick and doughy. Also offered are craft beers. We opted for wine instead of beer. After dinner, it was back upstairs for some television and sleep. The following morning, it was downstairs for the buffet breakfast. While eating, breakfast, we discussed things to do that day. We had plenty of time to kill since our flight to Auckland did not depart until 22:30 that night. Our decision was the Santa Monica Pier. Neither one of us had been there before.
Google Maps efficiently guided us to the pier. When we arrived, we stopped at the red light directly across from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. I knew I had to get a photograph of the iconic sign. That would have to wait until we parked.
The traffic light turned green, and we proceeded across the intersection and began our descent to the pier. At the bottom of the drive, one had to turn left to the parking lot on the boardwalk.
Once we parked, I walked back up to the entry sign while Leslie waited on the boardwalk. I was certainly not the only one who decided to take a photograph of the sign. Group after group of people stopped to take a “souvenir” photo beneath the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign. All the while, the locals went by, hardly noticing the tourists. In the first photograph I posted, a blurred runner attests to that fact.
I was surprised at the crosswalk at the intersection. Virtually the entire intersection was a crosswalk. I had never seen one painted quite like that. With all of the converging lines, it was almost too hard to look at and stay oriented.
The pier itself is not as large as I had imagined. Much to my amazement, there was parking right on the dock. There was additional parking in a paved lot at the beach level. As we began to stroll along the pier, it was evident that the pier was not quite in full swing. Since we are usually early when we go anywhere, we frequently miss the largest crowds, which is just fine with us.
One of the things we noticed on the beach was a field of crosses on display. It seemed to be drawing attention to the many soldiers the United States has lost in the war on terror. We could not discern why some crosses were white while others were red. If one looks closely at the photograph, one can make out at least one Star of David and one Muslim crescent moon. Those that installed the display did an exact job. No matter which way one looked, the crosses lined up perfectly.
In addition to the more significant buildings and restaurants on the pier, there were numerous kiosks. The kiosks had all manner of tourist kitsch. Of course, we had purchased some kitsch; specifically, our prerequisite refrigerator magnet.
At the end of the pier, we sat near the Mariasol restaurant and watched all the sights. There were a lot of people fishing from the dock. While we were there, we did not see anyone catch anything. Maybe on other days at other times, those fishing have much better luck.
We ended up sitting on the patio of Mariasol to have a coffee. There were a few others there for lunch. The Mexican food looked amazing. Unfortunately, we were between a rock and a hard place. We had eaten breakfast, not all that long ago. Also, we planned to drive to the In-N-Out Burger for lunch. If we ever get back to that point on the planet, we will prepare better so we can try some of the Mexican food.
I did not realize the Santa Monica Pier was the end of Route 66 until I saw the Route 66 Last Stop Shop at the end of the pier. When we walked back along the dock, we saw the “End of the Trail” sign.
A little beyond the Route 66 sign is the old Hippodrome building. I understand it is the oldest building on the pier, dating from the mid-1940s. Housed in the Hippodrome is a beautiful antique carousel. The carousel dates from the 1920s. We did not ride it (apparently there is a weight limit), but we did sit and watch it for a long time.
We got back in our rental car and drove off the pier. Sitting under the Santa Monica Pier sign, waiting for the traffic light, we noticed the drive down to the dock was no longer open. We could only imagine the drive reopened periodically as people depart as we did.
Just like the last time I was there, the In-N-Out Burger by LAX was packed. Somehow we were lucky enough to find a parking space. Inside the restaurant, all the employees moved at a frenetic pace. It is a fantastic sight to see all the employees working assembly-line-fashion to fulfill the dozens and dozens of hamburger orders.
While I waited for our order, Leslie went outside to find a table. In my opinion, half the reason to eat at this particular In-N-Out Burger is to watch the endless stream of planes landing at the airport. We got our fill of burgers, fries, and aircraft.
After lunch, we walked across the street to watch the planes approach the airport, flying directly overhead. I filmed a Southwest Airlines jet and posted it on Facebook. By clicking on “watch on Facebook,” one can see the video.