There is no mistaking, that very often on our travels, the best possible experiences and memories, come from those unplanned, most unexpected and unlikely of situations. Fishing in New Zealand wasn’t high on our plans but things soon changed!
Above all, it’s the people we meet, that can be the most inspiring, generous and overwhelmingly humble to us strangers. Coming from all walks of life, rich, poor and anything in between, they share their incredible stories.
Often it’s a lifetime of experiences that we talk about with people, it also makes us realise how immensely grateful we are. Furthermore, to be in their company and hear about their remarkable lives is humbling.
In contrast, this reminds us that out of all the bad in the world, there is so much more good in the human spirit.
People can have the most incredible lives, but this isn’t necessarily related to grandeur or wealth. It’s actually a more deep-rooted richness, coming from deep within. A result of their own hard work, strong ambition and dedication to family and friends, combined with their surroundings.
There is no mistaking, that those people who live in the most incredibly beautiful places, where life is so much more about living and where the skies are blue rather than grey, seem to have the brightest of attitudes. Therefore, they seem most blessed, with gratitude for the land they call home.
We were just lucky enough to come across two of the most kind-hearted people on our road trip through New Zealand.It was a chance meeting, an out of the blue moment, that resulted in one of the most memorable day’s of our travelling lives!
It all started in the most normal kind of way, as these things do!
Having spent the night on a Freedom Camp area in Tairua, on the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula, we’d woken early to a chill in the air. As the sun rose, the surrounding bush shaded our campervan from the heat of the Summer sun.
Not ones to sit and wait for warmth through the windows, we started the engine. Driving just a short distance, following the beautiful estuary route to a sunny spot alongside a harbour.
As we parked up beside a picnic bench, overlooking the water, Nigel began the process of preparing the breakfast. I sat in the sunshine and admired the views from the bench (crafty I know!).
Suddenly, an old 4×4 drove up, parked next to us and out popped a petit looking chap, with weathered appearance. His terrific white long beard caught my eye, followed by his country looking, wide brimmed hat, chequered shirt and jeans. All that was missing, was a pair of cowboy boots and we’d have mistaken him for a Texan!
We made our friendly exchanges of “Good morning”, then he approached me, to enquire in a rather disapproving tone, as to whether we’d wild camped there for the night!
I explained that, we’d just arrived, in search of the warmth from the sun, leaving the shade of the Freedom Camp behind. He gladly told us, he was pleased to hear that, as he and the locals, “don’t like the campervan’s parking up where they shouldn’t“!
Feeling relieved that we hadn’t upset him and the locals, we got chatting. The conversation soon turned to the Stingray swimming in the harbour. Before we knew it, he invited us to join him on his mates boat, for a few hours of fishing!
Just as the invitation was gratefully excepted, along came the mate, in his own, ageing 4×4, parking up too alongside, ready for a day on the boat.
We were left contemplating, the inevitable questions – what had we done? What on earth was the boat like? Who were these guys? All we could really think about was finishing our Weetabix and tea which was still on the side. Wanting a hearty breakfast inside us, hoping it would be better than an empty stomach out at sea!
With an exchange of pleasantries and names, we were then formally introduced to 80 year old Ray, and Dave the owner and skipper!
We asked if we could possibly just eat our breakfast, to which they replied “sure, follow the path round the corner to Charlene, when you’re ready”!
Charlene, was the name of Dave’s trusty fishing boat, obscured from our view by a deluxe apartment complex. As we quickly munched our way through the breakfast cereal, we could only imagine the type of boat we were about to board!
Worst of all, what if there was no toilet…..yikes, perish that thought!
As Ray and Dave disappeared around a sharp corner we were left contemplating the sight of the boat! Thinking back to my childhood years and my own experience on my Dad’s small fishing boat, brought a moment of dread!……We’d spent all our time leaning over the side as the sea sickness took hold!
Not only that, but it was always rough seas back in Welsh water. Freezing cold off the shore and there was, a never-ending engine problem. Meaning – we usually had to get a tow back from a passing vessel!
Not to be easily deterred, we packed a small rucksack and got ready for the big reveal!
We headed off down the path, nearing the corner, to where our view of Charlene first appeared, we needn’t have worried – We couldn’t believe our eyes! Wow!! Charlene was just incredible!!
As we climbed on board, Ray gave us a quick tour of the boat. Dave welcomed us to join him from the driving seat on the top deck. I needn’t have worried about a toilet either!
Complete with spotless shower room, kitchen, large lounge and bedroom areas, as well as upper and lower open deck areas, Charlene was incredible.
With the engines in action, the weather was now scorching and sea flat calm. Dave guided Charlene out from the Tairua harbour towards the open sea.
The water was crystal clear and no sooner had we set off, than the fish came into sight. Shoals of fish leaped from the surface in abundance, making patterns on the flat, calm surface where they gathered.
The radar displayed large shoals on the sea bed too. The amount of fish out here in New Zealand is truly incredible. With a women’s fishing competition coming up that weekend, Dave was testing the water for a good place for his wife to fish. She too loved fishing and regularly joined him on the boat with the family. A real big outdoor event out in NZ.
Ray began to organise the rods, having a selection of over 60 on board, he certainly wasn’t short of choice!
Placing the rods into holders, built into the boat, he set about slicing up the bait, huge fish caught the day before, which were waiting in the icy freezer.
True Kiwi’s, both were so generous, down to earth and had plenty of tales to tell. Dave, was a retired pig farmer who had given up farming of his 40,000 pigs.
He’d sold the farm and house and now lived in a small batch near the sea. Truly content on looking after his family and sharing the good things in life, with those around him. He took Ray out on the boat several times a week, a true friend and companion.
Keeping an eye on the radar for fish deep below us, we watched out for dancing fish on the surface of the water. Consequently, finding a spot to drop anchor!
As we lowered the fishing line from the reel of the rods, the first bites began in earnest! No sooner had we dropped a line, than we had a fish. We could actually see them, with the naked eye deep in the water too. It was incredible!
Reeling in fish after fish, I needed all my strength with the weight of the catch on the end of the line. Determined to do it myself, my arms had their work cut out, using muscles I didn’t know I had!
As the fish came into sight through the deep blue colour of the sea, I used all my will to bring it to the surface. These were no little tiddlers! As more fish took the bait on the other rods, our freshly caught fish appeared…..Snapper, Golden Snapper, Kahawai, were soon all on board!
We were almost ready for the next fish, so Ray helped in measure the previous catch. Alongside him, lay a chart on the side of the boat, detailing the legal measurements for the fish and how many could be kept of each species.
Consequently, anything under the size limit, was put back in the water. Then the larger fish were filleted, ready to take back to the campervan for our tea that night.
Next it was time for coffee and sandwiches between even more fishing, bringing a moment to catch up on talk about our lives.
Therapeutic in every way! Finally, after trying out a few more fishing spots further out to sea, the talk got on to Sharks. It seems like these were the real kind, not the rogue trader types!
Yes, they are in the water’s off New Zealand. Ray, mentioned a dog that had been snatched as it splashed in the water. This was from the very beach where we’d walked the day before.
Both advised us not to take a dip off the boat into the tempting water. Especially as sharks are attracted to the very fish that we are trying to tempt! They’d also had sharks circling the boat and knew only too well the dangers that they pose, out at sea like this.
The time was now nearing 2 o’clock. Of course – the day had completely flown by. While we were ready for dry land, we reflected on the most wonderful, unplanned day. Feeling grateful for such incredible Kiwi hospitality.
We felt blessed to have met Ray on that sunny March morning. Above all, we hope we’d brightened up his day too. Finally, wherever we are in the world and whatever age, it’s just so good to meet new people.
Furthermore, age has no barrier, hence, it’s just so good to be enriched with people’s genuine warmth and hospitality.
Probably, it’s rare in many aspects of life to meet people with no agenda. So many expect financial reward or something in return. So, for that reason, to meet people with no other motive than being themselves is rather unique.
The Ray and Dave’s of this world make it a better place for all of us. So, as we said our goodbye’s, we thanked them for the most memorable of days.
Later that night, whilst cooking our fillets on the outdoor stove, we reflected on the day and how it almost didn’t happen!
Certainly, New Zealand is a special place for many reasons.
Firstly, the trust and generosity of its people. Secondly, the laid back attitude, oozing from this part of the world. Finally, as a result of such an amazing day, it was even more reason to say we can’t wait to return again soon!
Because of Ray, Dave and Charlene, it seems like we are now hooked on fishing! This day of fishing in New Zealand was one of the most memorable ever!
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