Weather Roulette

Weather Roulette

Friday night rolls around again, two-thirds packed, 5/16th of a plan and a full complement of anxiety.

As always, I’ve let weather roulette choose the adventure, with a 3-hour driving radius.

Plan A is out, which is a shame as it's close to home and would have fire and get me on the bike, something I itch to do. Plan B had looked promising till Thursday Night. Blowing the dust off the latter part of my list, it's apparent I haven’t gotten that East Coast sunrise I've been longing for. More specifically, I want to see the sunrise at Castle Point.

I load the offender, run a few errands as I leave town and realise the afternoon has run away with me, but I’m on the road, as has everyone else.

I traverse the Pahiatua track as darkness falls, and so too does the rain as I make my way towards Masterton for a quick shop for breakfast and tomorrow's dinner.

Anxiety is a double-edged sword. My casual intent provides comfort in knowing I’m not committed to going away if I find myself in an uncomfortable space. It also means I have last-minute stresses of no accommodation and no local knowledge of where to wild camp. With this in mind, I call the Castle Point Holiday Park. “You’ve reached us out of hours, for bookings please use the website”.

As I drive I find myself refreshing my emails, waiting for a booking confirmation. One that never comes. My haste to get on the road and short attention span have meant that while I didn’t need to pay via credit card, I did have to submit my details to secure the booking.

Castlepoint 7:30 pm. I ring the bell. Realising my mistake, I then pushed the intercom. They have no record of my booking, but a friendly voice tells me this isn’t a problem and they will be with me in under 10 minutes.

Checked in, I make my way to the deserted beachfront sites, confronted by an awe-inspiring sight. The Lighthouse illuminated in red, then blue, then green. The peninsula casts a shadow in the last remaining light from the horizon.

A moderate westerly breeze blows offshore as I cook dinner, with the distraction of the vista that lays before me. Eventually, I turn in for the night just as it begins to rain.

6:30 a.m.: The horizon emits a subtle, ever-increasing glow in the almost cloudless sky. An East Coast sunrise from my kitchen as I brew a coffee and contemplate the day. The white sandy beach is deserted as I walk along the peninsula toward the lighthouse. The summer hotspot is but a deserted coastal settlement of peace and tranquillity. Devoid of its characteristic fast-rolling skies, the sea calm. It seems patience and casual planning have yielded me a personal paradise.

Casual plans paid off. The point is to enjoy the moment and go where the mood takes me, with no schedule or expectations. The morning before I left, I learned there was more to Castle Point than just a lighthouse. There was another attraction and associated walk requiring exploration. Deliverance Cove and Castle Rock. I set off on the short walk, 1.5 hours return apparently.
I sit on the peak of Castle Rock in the cool morning air. I look down upon seagulls as time escapes me.
As I sat enjoying a coffee and some lunch it dawned on me. This day had four hours of sunlight left. I contemplated my options for the night, helped along with the mandatory ultra zoom-in of Google Maps. At this point, I recognise my error. Within cycling distance on quiet roads is a pin, Mataikona Geological Gems. With the distinct absence of my bike, I set off to explore these roadside rock formations and scope out the area for a wild camp.

The perfect lines of sandstone ridges almost look like they are man-made relics, being claimed by the sea. Quite the wonder as they seem to continue endlessly underneath the crashing surf.

I love wild camping and prefer not to camp at the people farm (motor camp). But I feel my best option was to make my way back to Castle Point again.

As I return, I cannot help but notice a woolshed almost on the beach as it's such an unusual sight.
As I stop to take photos, I chat with the (suspicious) locals, curious about a stranger circling on their road and poking around.

The interaction confirmed my thoughts. No matter how wild and secluded it feels on a remote coastal gravel road, it is disrespectful to wild camp 500m from a beach community, so it's back to check into the beachfront campground of the previous night.

I sit with my camera, endeavouring to capture as many memories of this magical spot as the sun begins to set, but these snapshots cannot capture the atmosphere. Nor the feeling.

As the sun goes down and the wind comes up, it rocks the LandRover and me to sleep. Ready to awaken to one final East Coast sunrise before setting off again to tackle the ever-growing list of places to explore?

It was no surprise the Anzac Memorial walkway was closed following the extreme weather the East Coast has seen in the past 6 months, something to enjoy on a future trip.

Headed back towards Masterton, I drove right by the next stop, an unassumingly small sign marking the entrance to Rewanui Forest Reserve. With a quick turnaround, I headed back to a deserted car park, home to a Rata tree that refused to give up on life in spite of the odds. I take a relaxing walk through an area of regenerative plantings where the recent weather events became apparent.

With the trip home hanging over me, I reluctantly continue towards home. This a gentle reminder that winter is definitely upon us, the ranges in the distance lightly dusted with snow.

While patience is a virtue I seldom possess, perspective is sometimes an acceptable substitute or distraction. Waiting over a year to finally visit Castle Point was worth the wait, with fewer people and perfect weather. Not to mention the "distractions" I embarked on in other parts of the country while playing weather roulette.

Posted: Sunday 24 September 2023

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