Thursday, April 17, 2014

Castlepoint: a Hidden Beauty

Castlepoint. A place I would have happily stayed for many days. Beautiful bays surrounded by sun-warmed hills covered in soft grass. Sea cliffs. Winding trails through the country side leading to breath taking overlooks and hidden waves without a soul in the line up. I was enchanted. I spent equal time in the water, mostly alone, and in the hills with my camera.

The people I did meet were, as always, friendly and one young ferry worker in for the weekend from Wellington led me to a hidden break he called Christmas Bay. We climbed barefoot, surfboards in hand up a steep ridge before breaking from the trail and hiking through prickly heather and thistles down a steep embankment. At the bottom, a pod of seals sat fat in the sun, idly watching our descent. I was baking in my thick neoprene wetsuit. The conditions were perfect and we surfed in the sun all day. I was fairly certain that I would die of dehydration on the climb back up, but it was impossible to leave the water. Set after set of turquoise waves rolled past us in an unbroken chain of perfection.

On my second day, I surfed other breaks, including the main beach break in front of the village and "The Gap" pictured above. The seals joined in on my session there, and I would have given anything for a waterproof housing for my camera on more than one occasion. The backdrop was breath taking and I don't think the smile ever left my face. Conditions slowly became wild, but the sea cliffs protecting the entrance to the bay (how the gap got its name), kept most of the wind and chop outside their walls. I wished for more board under my feet at one point (or less exhausted shoulders).

When exhaustion finally set in, I paddled back to shore and decided to put my legs to use. Sunset wasn't too far from the horizon so I hurredly stripped out of my rubber, grabbed my tripod and set into the hills.

Watching waves filter in through "The Gap"
I spent the last hours before sunset ascending a wooded hill that leveled out and opened to a view of the bay I had spent the day surfing in. It was a fantastic evening. The wind was brisk, but the lingering sun kept a warm kiss on my skin as I walked through the tall grass. All in all, it was a good day and I would be sad to see it end. The following morning I was to drive to Wellington to catch a ferry to begin my adventure on the South Island.