Tuesday 29 May 2012

Haere Ra Un Zud, Bula Fiji!!!

Had an epic week in Gizzy, not much happening after the last blog update but did manage to score the island pumping .. only three of us out:

Nek minnit - off to the South Island to go on a hunting trip, catch up with mates and basically hang out in the amazing playground that is Maui's waka (sorry Aussies you'll have to catch up on some Maori literature to get this one!)..

First stop Christchurch; I stayed the night at my mate Zeff's (in his early seventies but still hunts in the mountains more than guys half his age!) and his lovely wife Gwen's house. They were full on into house refurbishment after the big earthquake, nevertheless they were still as welcoming as ever and put me up for the night with dinner and a roof over my head. 

Unfortunately Zeff was too busy to come for a hunt with me, my mate Hector also had to pull pin last minute due to other commitments so I was facing the prospect of a solo hunt on the West Coast. Not a huge deal but it can get a bit lonely out there especially as the nights are so long over the winter months. Fortunately I managed to arrange a hunting mate from the NZ fishnhunt forum.. some may question whether heading into the mountains for five days with an armed stranger you met on the internet is a good idea... what could possibly go wrong?!

 Anyways, I picked up my rental car from Ace Rentals in Chch.. $18 a day for a beaten up Sedan? WIN! I cruise over to the west coast, firearm, surfboard and a shit-ton of dehydrated Backcountry meals in my arsenal. It was all going sweet until I noticed the white smoke billowing out the back as I headed down from Arthur's Pass.. Oh sh*t. Pulled over and it seemed OK but I did notice that my top end speed kept dropping and dropping till I was maxing out at 80kph.. as long as I make it to Hokitika it's all good I kept telling myself.. 

As I hit the coast and catch my first glimpse of the Tasman I can't believe what I'm seeing... Some of the most perfect surf I've seen in my life and not a single soul getting amongst! Didn't even know this was a proper surf spot!! As I pull the dodgy rental car up it cuts out and I literally roll into the carpark. The SOB won't start now and the only bloke around is collecting firewood with his dog, totally oblivious to the ridiculously pumping waves that lay before him.

Ah well, I guess I'll go surfing and deal with the aftermath of the shit car later. I'm literally shaking with excitement and can't get into my wettie fast enough.. I sprint down the beach and hit the water.. WHAKA ME THIS IS COLD!! And to think the West Coast used to be my reprieve from the cold water in Chch back in the uni days! The sight of those perfect waves pulls me back into focus and I head out.. scoring empty amazing waves in the late arvo sun. I surf 'til almost dark and my heart skips a beat as I see a dark shape cutting through the water towards me.. dolphin or shark?? OK, keep calm, slowly paddle in.. fortunately it was a dolphin,  a lone endangered Hector's dophin in fact, who proceeded to circle around me at arms length, truly awesome experience. The irony that my mate Hector should've been surfing with me out here and it was his namesake that showed up was not lost on me. I'm not one to be superstitious but I took this as a bit of a sign to head in.. as I walk up the beach a casual glance down reveals a big chunk of greenstone at my feet. Well this must be my lucky day! I put the greenstone on the bonnet of the car and booyah it starts up! 

The only downside is that the new max speed is around 40kph.. It was a very slow 30 odd km to Hoki's. I make it to the local petrol station and the mighty Nissan Sunny spits the dummy again.. another stroke of luck - the petrol station was right next to the local mechanic where I left it to be fixed while I headed bush for the next few days.

I team up with my new hunting mate Aaron (Smiddy) and after the night in Hokitika we head into the hills for a few days .. put together a wee vid of the adventure here: https://vimeo.com/42694207

The next stage of the journey was to pick up the replacement car (rental company even dropped it off at Hokitika as the old one was too buggered to fix there) then head to Queenstown and catch up with my mate Ben. He's a full time Pounamu (greenstone or NZ jade) carver. Does some amazing work including the piece below which he'd done for me. Check out his work at http://www.facebook.com/tokiaotearoa .

Ben took a bit of time out from work to take me for a mish to Skipper's Canyon; an old abandoned mining town just out of Queenstown. The road in there is an adventure in itself. It's a little morbid perhaps but the graveyard was fascinating.. it told a story of the hard life they lived back in the goldrush days.. a lot of people dying very young from drowning, rockfalls and dynamite.. tough times.
After the heavy shit the kids came out to play .. throwing rocks off high shit continues to provide a lot of entertainment into adulthood haha.

Cheers to Ben and Jo for putting me up and putting up with me!

The drive back to Chch was epic.. good weather to showcase that epic South Island scenery and a nice cop who let me off some marginal speeding ;-) 

Had a quick catch up with mates Andrew and Amy for the last night in Chch, before heading on back to Gizzy then Aucks to see my mum and stepdad Peter.

Currently in Fiji - small but fun waves today at Cloudbreak but it's gonna be pumping tomorrow and it's looking on for the next week! Hopefully we can get a few waves in before the Volcom Pro Fiji starts on Sat. Watch this space ;-)

Sunday 6 May 2012

Ducks, Deer & Beer

The valley was echoing with the sound of shotguns Saturday morning (being the opening morning of duckshooting season in NZ). Thought I might join in the fun so took out the old girl Ziggy for a walk along the river.. five minutes in we had a pair of paradise ducks flying overhead .. first shot was a 'warning shot' but the second resulted in a dose of lead poisoning for one unlucky ducky. Down it went like a lead balloon on the opposite riverbank. Ziggy was so excited she momentarily forgot how old she was and leapt off the edge of the bank (a good couple of metres high) toward the river below.. what she hadn't bargained for was the crack obscured by grass in the landing zone that she fell straight into. The poor old girl was well and truly wedged in there and had that classic 'embarrassed' dopey face and wag of the tail going on.. I had to pull her out by the scruff of her neck she was that stuck.
With all the excitement she forgot where the bloody duck was..this still didn't stop her swimming around aimlessly in the river for the next five minutes.. I even tried throwing a stick next to the duck in the hope she'd see it and grab that instead.. nope, the stick was apparently more palatable! 

As we stalked along the riverbank I educated a bunch of fortunate ducks with another round of warning shots (pretty amateur with a shotgun) and decided to call it a day. I was resigned to the fact that I would be the one retrieving that damned duck from earlier so we made our way back and I stripped down to my birthday suit and swam across the murky river. There are some huge eels in that river and with the wedding tackle hanging free I was feeling slightly vulnerable.. it was evidently pretty cold too.. glad I only had the mutt to laugh at me! Meanwhile the duck had copped a bit of a flogging from a resident hawk who'd decided it would make a good breakfast - fortunately he'd only succeeded in partially plucking it for us!
All in all it was a bit of a shambles of a duckshoot but we both had a great morning of man-dog bonding time.

Officially on a hunter gatherer roll.. it was time to head for the hills and try my luck for some venison...

It's late arvo and the wind is in my favour... with smell being the primary defence mechanism of deer I've got one box ticked.. only the odd deer roams the area I'm hunting but fortunately there's been rainfall recently and in the muddy patches of the forest I can see there are a few fresh prints made within the last day or two. One set in particular belongs to what looks like a good sized stag which has me on high alert. I stalk my way up the hill, trying my hardest to follow the tracks. The wind is really light and it's so quiet I'm sure any deer in the forest can hear me coming despite my best efforts to stay silent.

After an hour or so of uphill walking I've made my way to the top of the hill and am heading along the main ridge. Out of the corner of my eye in the quickly fading light I see hint of red.. the red of a deer! A quick look through the scope reveals a good looking stag around 50m away gorging his guts out on the long grass between a group of young trees. He's facing directly toward me and the angle I have can't guarantee a quick kill; there's also the risk he's going to move behind one of the trees he's feeding beside and deny me the shot altogether.. a tense waiting game ensues - fortunately the stag lifts his head, I have just enough light to place the crosshairs on his chest and squeeze off a shot. The last few fruitless hunts have led me to this moment and the pressure is on. The shot feels good, but with the recoil of the rifle I lose sight of him through the scope. The echo reverberates around the valley, followed by silence. It's too dark to see anymore. I sit there wondering if I've blown it.. After a five minute breather to settle the nerves I make my way down by headtorch. I think I'm in the area where the stag was. No sign of blood. No sign of deer. My heart sinks. I'm contemplating starting a grid search of the area when I catch a glimpse of deer hide.. I make my way over to one very dead deer - I can see he dropped like a sack of spuds. 

It's an interesting wave of emotions.. elation at the success of the hunt with a touch of remorse at gunning down a monarch of the forest. This guy had been tearing strips of bark off the young trees in the vicinity with his antlers so I know the forest owner will be grateful.. And I'm sure a few friends and family will be stoked to get their hands on some wild venison! If you guessed I had a few celebratory lagers you'd probably be right ;-)

I went and retrieved the beast this morning with the help of Ziggy, currently it's in the chiller ready for the butchery job tomorrow which should tie up a good chunk of my day. 

Really enjoying being back in NZ.. hunter gatherer's paradise. Check this spread of food - all from around home or in the hils. Can't complain!

A few more random pics of home:
 ^The paddocks at home
 ^Looking toward Gizzy
 ^Sam the flightless turkey (abandoned by his flock and ever since hangs out with the sheep and chooks at home!)

So the blog so far is more man-vs-wild than man-vs-wave.. hopefully I'll get to throw some surfing in the mix soon!


Friday 4 May 2012

Kia Ora NZ.

Great to see the family.

Yet to score any waves in Gizzy (though I'm not too worried after surfing myself silly on the Gold Coast).

Looking forward to spending some time in the South Island next week. Plan is to land in Chch then drive to South Westland where my mate Hector and I will either walk or catch a chopper up to the Southern Alps on a hunting trip chasing tahr. Not many people (even Kiwis) know what tahr are - simply put they're a goat on steroids. Originally from the Himalayas, they were first released at Mt Cook in 1904 as a gift from the Duke of Bedford in the hope of establishing a wild population in NZ for hunting purposes. Seemed to work pretty well - the population is around 8,000 animals these days, one of the main methods of population control to limit their numbers (and environmental damage) is recreational hunting; giving us an awesome excuse to head up into the mountains with bangsticks and basically go feral for a while.

They are incredible animals to hunt - a large part of the challenge is getting to within shooting distance without getting spotted, heard or smelt..no mean feat when they're living in steep and icy mountains. The weather is extremely frigid and changeable at this time of the year, but it's also the ideal time to hunt tahr as it's the rut (mating season). The dominant bull tahr in the area will round up a harem of ladies (nannies) and chill out with his girlfriends high in the rocky tops of the mountains in order to have his wicked way with them. This gives us a chance to bump into the big boys, who on the west coast are often hiding in the thick bush at lower altitudes for the remainder of the year. Tahr also happens to be one of the tastiest game meats out - beautiful dark and lean meat..not dissimilar to venison or kangaroo. Here's hoping for a good feed of backsteaks & hopefully a bit of diving & surfing in the mix too.

Random pic below of a morepork our cat brought in.. it was alive and seemed OK.. possible broken wing so we dropped it off to a bid sanctuary to nurse it back to health.