© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

A R-eel-y Random Raglan Experience

© NZPocketGuide.com

19 Days on the Road

Raglan exudes a relaxed atmosphere – a slower pace of life. As long as there’s surf and others to share it with, people seem pretty happy here in the North Island surf town. We’re (trying to) embrace that today with a “what happens, happens” sort of mantra. Although we do have a short trip to see some eels planned. (With spreadsheet, organiser-crazy, OCD Robin on board, it’s hard to go a whole day without one tiny thing planned).

Ok, this is too much. Let’s plan something.

We start the morning in our hostel, Raglan Backpackers. We’re working away from 5.30am and slowly but surely, we are joined by the hostel’s long-termers at around 10am – a little later than your average hostel dwellers – who are obviously getting ready for today’s surf. One guy working in the hostel, Pablo, mentions a pub quiz tonight. We’re keen as a bean! We have no idea where it is, but we just plan to meet him in the kitchen tonight. (Damn, did we make another plan already? Is it accepted as “spontaneous” if we plan something on the same day it is happening?)

Finding the red mailbox

Our small plan to see some eels begins with a 10-minute drive out of Raglan. We have been given some somewhat vague directions of getting to this eel farm: “Follow Ohautira Road for about 2.4km. You will see a red mailbox on the right. This is very easy to miss.” All we have to do is park across the road from it.

Laura, who is always on direction duty, panics at the first red mailbox she sees opposite a corner with road signs.

“We can’t park here! It’s illegal, you moron!” Robin exclaims in the most tactful way he knows how. Ok, so Laura may have got a little flustered. Yes, we are only 1km down the road. Ok, regroup.

After parking at every red mailbox we see, we finally find the right one. The next text on the directions says: “You will be greeted upon arrival.” Oo, what will we be greeted by?

Killer ducks

“Be careful of the killer ducks,” a lady in a 4×4 buggy says. We guess this is the greeting? Killer ducks? She opens a gate next to us and, indeed, three pekin ducks waddle like crazy in our direction. Jan, from Raglan EELS, assures us they are her pet ducks and she feeds them. We are now in a field with a couple of ponds by the river with some ducks and a goose she is looking after because it has been shot in the foot. What’s going on?!

The lady, Jan, explains that we are in the world’s only sustainable freshwater eel farm. Although the farm is a little further upstream, these ponds are where she can show people the eels. Not only is Jan’s business about farming eels in a sustainable way, but the Raglan EELS stands for Environmental Education Leaders in Sustainability. The company are involved in a number of projects to keep Raglan eco-friendly, a concept that is very prominent in this town. We had even had a conversation about sustainability with the hostel owner, Suz, earlier this morning. Raglan is very forward-thinking in that respect. If backpackers were looking for some meaningful volunteer work in New Zealand, Raglan EELS would be the perfect people to talk to. Plus, hostel owners may be able to point you in the right direction.

Feeding the eels

Within the ponds lie the eels that have made their way upstream. Jan gets out a container of meat so we can feed them and have a closer look. These blind creatures follow their nose, grabbing the meat from our hands. There’s something about interacting with animals (or fish) that never gets old. We’re mesmerised by this slithery little guys!

We’ve had our eel session. Now, we’re going to stroll around Raglan’s township, checking out the surf shops, historic buildings and art along the way, before heading back to the hostel for that spa pool that has been enticing us ever since we came.

One minute we are cooking like lobsters in the sun. The next, the heavens open and the sky pisses on us. The rain is quite refreshing.

The second-best quiz team in Raglan!

If you’re ever staying in a hostel, the kitchen is a good place to hang out, especially if there are long-termers who have a baking habit. Hang around long enough, and you might just be offered cake! We even get a serving of ice cream on the side. Fancy! We continue to hang out the cake-baking girls until we head off to that pub quiz we mentioned earlier.

It turns out the quiz is a short drive away from the backpacker hostel. Two car-loads of us arrive at The Wharf pub for the pub’s first ever quiz night! Because of the maximum team size limit, we leave the girls to team up and join some of the locals. We have a blast with Amber, Phil and Caroline in our team, “Who’s Nuts?” (For some reason, we didn’t win the prize for the best team name). After pure hustling and drinking, we manage to come second by half a freakin’ point! What is this nonsense?!

Nevertheless, we have fun, head back to the hostel and call it a night. Tomorrow, we are joining the guys from Raglan Surf School for a session on the waves (in winter, yay!) See you then!

Soaking in the Raglan Backpackers spa pool

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