The Raglan Surf School

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Karioi lodge

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Sunday, November 7, 2004

On the other hand, I am glad to have left Auckland. Very glad. To the point where I wished I had left a lot sooner. Why does New Zealand keep getting better?

I expected Raglan to be quite a small village, mainly with a surf community, a decent beach and the usual hostel setup. Well the village is small - the usual '4 Square' (small supermarket) on the corner, a few cafe's and bistro's, one or two shops and a liquor store. That's pretty much it. But again, there's a 'warm' feel about this place. From the hills, the ocean looks magnificent. Another breathtaking coastline with that bright, deep shade of blue that makes your insides smile when you look at it.

Raglan is world famous for it's surf. They say it's New Zealand's equivalent of Byron Bay in Oz, but what's really unique about Raglan is that it boasts some of the longest 'left hand' point breaks in the world.

The thing that has blown me away most of all is my new abode - 'The Karioi Lodge', at the Raglan Surf School. From the moment I dumped my pack next to my bed and stepped out on to the balcony, it just felt right. It was completely and undoubtedly me. I can't believe I'm saying this but it really is the best yet. No, I should re-phrase that - it's 'different'. It's the best yet in its own way.

It's set on the side of a mountain (actually an extinct volcano) about 5km's from Raglan village, so we're pretty much out in the sticks. The hosts are very friendly, helpful AND entertaining. Charlie is a very bubbly, boldly-spoken laughable fellow. He is originally from the States and has always been a keen surfer. After visiting Raglan a few years ago, he has never looked back. Just set up the lodge and surf school, and has settled here ever since. He was telling me how he worked in an office for years, living the usual mundane, society-conforming existence. Now he gets up bright and early, has a refreshing morning surf, walks the dogs, enjoys the odd round of golf, and generally entertains and cooks fine wholesome food for surfers and travellers. He's never been so happy.

We arrived in Raglan to stop off for supplies at around 3pm after taking a short detour to visit the Bridal Veil Falls. Then it was up in to the hills to the Surf School. There was an option to surf this afternoon but I decided to opt for the surf lessons which would mean an extra nights stay, a free home cooked meal and free access to the sauna thrown into the bargain. After seeing how perfect the setting was here and how completely secluded and peaceful it was, I booked three nights without any hesitation.

The dorms are pretty basic (as are the showers) and there isn't any electricity in them but take a step outside on to the long balcony and the petty negatives are immediately forgotten. Immediately outside my dorm hangs a hammock, invitingly, strung between two posts next to a couple of tables and chairs that all look out on to the hills of the volcano itself and to the left - a beautiful, picturesque view of the Tasman Sea. Oh and the noise - there isn't any. The only thing you can hear is the rowdy banter between the native birds in the trees. Apart from that, pretty much nothing. Last night I tried to sleep in the city with lorries clattering through the streets and workmen digging up the roads nearby. This is quite different. This is like being on holiday.

A few steps down from the rooms, you have another large building, again with its own viewing balcony. This is the large communal lounge, kitchen and chilling area. A large dining table and chairs suitable for a small medieval banquet dominate the centre of the room while internet facilities and a TV/Stereo area with a few comfy sofas make up the rest of it.

After checking in, Charlie gathered everyone outside by the sauna, introduced himself and gave a bit of background and general info on what we can expect here. Tonight we were in for a treat. An 'eat as much as you like, build your own burger night' - a buffet style BBQ type feast with lots of meat/veggie options as well as fruit, veggie's and huge salads made from Charlie's own organic garden. Sounded good to me!

So anyway, as I said, it's pretty much miles away from anywhere but there is still plenty to do when your not surfing. There are many treks available on and around the volcano, one of which is a good six hour round trek to the summit where you can watch the sunset and admire the magnificent views of the Tasman Sea. You can also take a short ten minute walk down to the beach. On the grounds around the lodge there are other things to keep you occupied. The 'Flying Fox' for example. This is one of those 'zip lines' - a seated cable-run type thing that transports you at high speed down a long hill, then brings you to a show-stopping halt just when you've started to develop a proper grip. A short walk up the hill takes you to the sports barn, which offers a few more activities such as basketball, pool and table tennis. It is also used by the surf school to brief the students with wall charts and mock boards, before moving on to the more serious open water. Further beyond the barn there is a ropes course, the sort that's suspended off the floor and is supposed to be a 'confidence builder', but in reality breaks or sprains a few ankles after a night of post-beer adventure.

So there was quite a lot on offer and I'd got the next few days to try it all out.

This afternoon I took the 'loop trek' around the volcano with a few English girls that were on the bus that day. We had all met earlier at the falls and discovered that we were all travelling individually, so the long walk made for some good talk. This trek was the smaller of the two, lasting around two hours all round (providing you follow the pink flags). It took us around three hours as we nearly crossed over on to the six hour summit track (orange flags) a couple of times. A few wrong and right turns later we got there, quite proudly, though 'celebration peak' only consisted of a small pile of rocks. The summit track is supposed to be a little more picturesque!

By the time we got back, it was ready for dinner and we were knackered.

Tonight was the 'BYO Burger Night' and was lip-smackingly fantastic. There was a mountain of good, fresh, tasty food on offer that made a thoroughly enjoyable evening while getting to know lots of new people.

Well, tomorrow awaits and it's to be spent with the surf school down at the beach in the afternoon and over the next few days.

In the meantime, I shall make myself quite comfortable in this perfect, peaceful setting. What an amazing place. I can't help thinking though - this is just getting better all the time, but how good 'can' it get? I mean this really would 'do me', it really would. Yet I am constantly, consistently told that this is absolutely nothing, nothing at all. Seriously. Not a day goes by without someone chuckling to themselves and saying 'You think this is good mate? Get down the South Island! As soon as you can, just get down there'. Well they must be saying it for a reason, but I just can't see how things can get much better. I guess we'll see..
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