December 17

My first few days in Waipu have been excellent. Zhoel and I have been out fishing nearly every day and I have learned so much about plants from his mum, Liffy. I have been helping her to do a bit of restructuring, moving and sorting through plants and trees. I had only caught one fish so far and it was a rock cod, which apparently are disgusting, so we threw it back. However, I learned that you are supposed to throw back your first fish each day anyways, in order to appease the gods. (This is a Maori tradition.)

Today we headed to Zhoel’s work, The Cove, so that we could get some breakfast. I had possibly the best breakfast that I have ever eaten. We both got Mediterranean Bruschetta, which was a thick slab of toast with avocado, corn, tomatoes and a lemony pesto type sauce. On that we had two poached eggs and bacon. It was fantastic!

After breakfast, we headed back to Liffy and Mike’s house and Mike let me drive a tractor for the first time! I found it to be quite fun!

We headed out in the afternoon to do a bit of fishing, first at the pontoon down by the oil refinery, then over to the rocks at Waipu Cove. As soon as we arrived down by the water, Zhoel pointed out a huge eagle ray (similar to a sting ray, but without a stinger), down in the water.

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It is kind of hard to see in the water, but it is at least 20 inches squared. When I exclaimed about the size, I was informed that eagle rays can be the size of the hood of your car!

At the pontoon, Zhoel had the first big catch of the day.

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After hours with no success we headed back to the cove, to try a different location. I caught my first edible fish ever! My catch was a kahawai (pronounced cow-a).

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While we were fishing, a group of friendly young men joined us. They were very talkative and one guy in particular was chatting quite a lot with Zhoel. He pulled me aside and told me that they were a National Rugby League team, the Warriors. He explained that this would be like my favorite football team showing up and fishing with us. (Yes, he was fan-girling as he told me this.) The guy talking to him was one of the best players, Manu Vatuvei. (I googled him to find out who he is.) So my night was made by catching a fish, Zhoel’s was made by talking to Manu. As we were fishing the tide came in, and we were forced to wade back to the car park through thigh deep water at 10:30 pm.

When we got home, Zhoel taught me how to filet a fish correctly. I am not very good, but hopefully I will catch more fish so that we can practice! We also put together kakoda with the raw fish. This is a type of cold salad where the fish marinates in lime juice and coconut cream and this cooks it. There is also tomato, red onion, avocado and we added other vegetables to make it more substantial. As always, Zhoel’s cooking was amazing. I felt very accomplished that I was able to contribute to our meal!

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