Just one hour from Wellington is Baring Head, a bleak and rocky coastline known for great bouldering. Saturday we scooped a couple mates from town and made for Wainuiomata and then south on the coast road until it dead ended at the sea. Next stop: Antarctica
The boulders can be reached one of two ways. The long and safe way is to park a kilometre inland, cross the bridge and walk 60 minutes over sheep shit to the rocks. The fun way is walking the coastline, which requires one to ford the Wainuiomata river.
Jess and I considered this crossing once before. Upon reaching the river and seeing its depth and swiftness, Jess shook her head in a furious blur. We turned back and took the bridge. This time, I asked her to keep her cool until we saw the river and decided as a group how to proceed. Perhaps the water level was down?
Nope. The river was moving fast as ever. But fuelled by Saturday groupthink, the four of us – Jess, me, my British workmate Cailtin and our new American friend Brittany – linked arms and crossed that MF river like the world champs we are. Yes, it was cold and painful but you can do it.
We arrived at the boulders midafternoon. Normally a windswept peninsula, the weather was calm and mild. Sun rays pieced the clouds and lit our handholds at gloriously unexpected times. Nobody was around. I climbed while the girls walked the waterline. Headphones on, alone, traversing rocks while the shadows danced on the mountains. I was really really happy.
Later, I caught up with the girls and we stumbled upon a grumpy sea lion. He growled at us, then chilled, then dare I say enjoyed his glamour shots before disappearing in the ocean. Probably got taken by a shark soon after.
As sunset, we gathered heaps of driftwood, zeroed in on a comfy alcove and built a huge ass bonfire. Then out came the music and the wine. I know what you’re thinking … LAME.
After all the stars were counted and bottles were emptied, we walked back toward the car, where the comforts of the camper van beckoned. We braved the river crossing once more – this time with fewer inhibitions – and found ourselves in an empty parking lot to make camp. Brittany and Caitlin pitched a tent. Jess and I curled up in Walter White. With the sounds of waves lapping, we drifted into a peaceful sleep.
Then at 4 a.m. I awoke to someone pounding on the window. “Scott! Scott! There’s somebody out here! Let us in!!!” I threw open the sliding door and the girls jumped in. As our haze lifted, we listened as the girls described in shaky voices what had just happened. Apparently a car had pulled into the parking lot and apparently stopped near the tent. Then apparently someone got out and slowly circled the tent, no doubt taking his time to consider which one to kill first before something miraculously scared him off.
I think it was a sheep.
Regardless, we all crammed into the van and spent the rest of the night jockeying for position. Pretty sure nobody slept a wink. I considered taking my chances with the madman outside just to get some relief. It was murderous. But also a story. Thank you girls for keeping this blog in business. Good times.