Archive for June, 2013

Wicks

I am going to need a new stick because of how much I intend surfing here in Australia. Adam has been good enough to drive me around all the local beaches so I can get the lay of the land.

I have been on the lookout for a surfboard superstore but haven’t managed to find one, so decide to go shopping at Wicks at Collaroy because they seemed to have the biggest selection. 

Modern BlackbirdAfter a healthy amount of horse trading I vuy one of these Modern Blackbird boards, whose dimensions are 8’0″ x 22″ x 3″.

I bought a lovely red one because everybody know they go faster, but forgot to take a picture of mine before treating it to a coat of wax.

However I found this picture of one online. At the same time I found the following promotional video which talks the board up so much you would think it could solve world peace!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LWY3WF_EAkI#at=13

 

 

 

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Snugg WetsuitAll this time indoors sheltering from the rain and being reluctant to keep going back for more punishment from Windows 8 does mean that I can catch up on a few essential chores.

My Snugg wetsuit and I have been surfing together for at least 6 years. I can’t recommend the manufacturer enough, but after getting baked in the back of a hot car for months as well as generally showing its age I need to do some repairs to keep it functioning.

It was custom made when I bought it and has been fantastic but some of the stitching is splitting and the less we say about the reasons for that the better!

Frankenstein StitchingI do some repairs using glue and the whipping twine I picked up earlier on my travels. It is heavy duty waxed thread so the end end result has a lot more to do with function rather than style.

So much so that it looks like Dr Frankenstein has done the stitching! However all I wanted was to be sure that it would see me through to the end of this holiday and I think I can guarantee that now.

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Kathleen 5After a fantastic few days with Kathleen in Sydney, her responsibilities mean that she needs to get back home to Lismore, so I escort her back to the airport grabbing this picture on the way. It has been nearly 25 years since we last saw one another, but we have had a great time together and will be seeing each other again when I go north to surf the beaches close to Byron Bay later in my stay in Australia.

On my way back to Adam and Rosanna’s place I buy the new laptop and mobile phone which I have been using to catch up on this blog since my old hardware finally threw in the towel in Tahiti. I don’t want to labour this point too much because nobody cares about anybody else’s IT woes but ever since that time to when I write this, which is nearly a month, I have been turning the air blue with expletives and tearing my hair out.

Photographer's Wedding Photos 115Adam and Rosanna (who I seem to have failed to take a picture of to this point, so here is their wedding photo instead) have been incredibly patient since then as I rant and rave from their spare room.

It turned out that the first Windows 8 computer I had been given was actually defective, but the second one I was given after wasting a week on that was really little better and given that I am a Microsoft certified technician with the skills to rebuild computers entirely I should be able to run with this far easier than most.

I am staggered at how bad the product is that Bill Gates’ successors have brought to the market. If you are thinking of buying one may I recommend highly that you dont until the updates and service packs mean it is much more stable.

Windows 8 problemsAnother buddy Neil who has since spent time with me has said that he wouldn’t believe the number of problems that I have had if he hadn’t seen them for himself.

I am thinking of recommending Windows 8 to the CIA as a replacement technique for water-boarding to elicit information from terrorists and such like. However it would be such a cruel and barbaric treatment that I’m not sure I could sanction such brutality.

The weather here has also been appaling. By all accounts I have arrived during the wettest month in 6 years and I am reminded about being without my waterproof jacket almost daily. Generally this in the form of another drenching so I am not overly keen to go out much.

The upshot of all this is that I don’t do a great deal upon arriving in Sydney. However it hasn’t been the least bit relaxing. The only way is up from here!

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Kathleen 1Upon landing at Sydney airport I was met by an old school friend of mine called Kathleen, which is by far the best arrival I have had in any of the countries I have visited to date. Kathleen has joined me in Sydney for a few days to come and see the sights.

The two of us are collected from the airport by an old flat mate of mine from London called Adam who has returned to Australia to continue practising law and marry his lovely wife Rosanna, who is also a lawyer. I am lucky enough to have been offered a place to stay for the whole of the Australian leg of my travels in their house in North Sydney, which is just over the harbour bridge from the centre of the city

Luna ParkWe spend the next few days being driven around, and generally being spoon fed the lay of the land. After more than six months of constantly being lost, and trying to find my way to safety in languages not my own I can’t tell you what a relief this is.

I have previously mentioned how shattered I was by this stage, and cannot stress too much that I really was running on empty by the time I arrived, so this was exactly what I needed.

Harbour Bridge 6On one of the days we take a stroll down to Luna Park on the north end of the bridge to catch a ferry across the harbour, during which I get these photos.

By Sydney’s standards it is apparently freezing, but given it is still nearly 20 C during the day I am loving the weather. We get excited as soon as it gets warmer than 15 C in the UK!

It is quite cold in the evenings though and leaving my coat behind in New Zealand is something I regret hugely straight away, but I’m told by the campervan office it will be with me again soon so I will just put on an extra layer until it arrives.

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Another of Captain Cook’s achievements was discovering Australia, and in a similar fashion to him I will be exploring the coastline to see what I can find.

Usual backpacker haunts such as Uluru (a.k.a. Ayre’s Rock) or the outback are going to have to wait for another trip because the island is so big and I would waste far too much time getting to them and back to the coastline again.

Australian Wildlife

To aid me on my adventures whilst here I have been sent this alternative map by one kind soul, who is aware of how concerned I am by the angry fish. How kind!

Not sure that I would do anything at all based on its guidance, but to be honest that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for a week or two. I really need to recharge my batteries so that I have the energy I will need for the second half of my travels and Australia is the only place left on my trip where that is possible.

Lions MalesMy R&R will entail Rugby and Reclining with a beer in hand as I enjoy the business end of the British and Irish Lions tour, but I also need to catch up with all the buddies I have that are now living here.

I am flying into Sydney early on a Saturday morning and am looking forward to seeing what this truly global city has to offer over the next few weeks.

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Kiwi SurferAfter leaving Mount Manganui I have time to reflect on my Kiwi experience on the road across the top of north island to Auckland. I love the islands themselves but as a rule I would have to say there really isn’t much here. I have scored some great waves whilst here but have spent huge amounts of time just driving to see some of the country, and have only really scratched the surface.

I have also noticed that due to the distances involved between themselves and others the locals seem to have become quite resourceful and independent in order to overcome anything. E.g. the lady who cut my hair in the barbers she has established in her gift shop alongside the road. It is called ‘Barber Ann’ and as a Beach Boys fan I couldn’t resist!

Mangled RoddyI head straight for the campervan depot near the airport to return my van, and get lost for the umpteenth time on this trip. Annoyingly as a result of being late arriving, dealing with the failings of my van, and then being pushed out the door for them to lock it behind me, I leave behind my wonderful Berghaus 4 season jacket without realising in the rush. #$%#@#$!!!!! I am told it will be sent on to me when I ring the call centre, but it has been great for swerving weight allowances on planes because of its huge pockets so I am dreading the next flight.

I am collected there by Sarah and Elspeth who had driven across town to meet me, before going back to enjoy a fun evening with Roddy who has manage to mangle his leg playing football in the two weeks since I arrived. On a mission of mercy I then get lost again trying to score some beer for us to enjoy with our pizzas. My phone runs out of battery right at the wrong minute and I am driving blind around several suburbs of Auckland trying to find their place for about an hour.

Qantas

I know I am physically, emotionally and mentally spent after the first six months on the road, and am now making too many mistakes which are causing me more problems. Sadly I can’t catch up on sleep because my flight is very early the next morning and I decide to sneak out in the morning when my cab arrives, rather than wake up the whole house for no reason.

I am already grumpy by the time I get to the airport and am not at all in the mood for the Jobsworth on the Quantas check in desk who insists on me unpacking all the contents of my bags at the front of the queue in order to transfer 5 Kg from one to the other as opposed to sensibly using the combined weight of the two. I hope he isn’t going to be an indicator of what I should expect in Australia.

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Mount Maunganui & Tauranga Harbour - aerial

Mount Manganui is the big rock you can see at the end of the peninsular here and is what the town is named after.

I can immediately see similarities to my home town of Llandudno back home in north Wales which has its own big rock at one end of the bay, called the Great Orme. A few people walk around that to keep fit but it seems like half of the north island are speed walking along the beach then up and down the Mount.

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I have arrived late in the afternoon but immediately go in search of a surfboard, because I want to go surfing early the following morning. The waves are looking clean and tempting, and a few questions around town result me hiring this 7’6″ surfboard from the Mount Surf Shop.

By the time I get settled in at my camp site right on the beach there is only half an hour before the sun sets so I crack on with making dinner and wait for the morning. (Only possible after scoring some free rolls from the lady in the burger shop to enjoy with soup – She took pity on my plight because all the retail shops were shut and I needed a little bit of bread to get rid of the supplies in my van.)

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I have loads to do the following day so turn in early in order to get moving as soon as the sun comes up.

At first the surf looks great but by the time I have my wetsuit on and am in the water the tide is too high. Whilst it looks pretty it is a crap conditions for a surf. The waves are not breaking until right on the shore, because the water is too deep and I have a couple of nervy hire board inspections after stacking into the sand trying to bag a few.

Hot_poolsIt isn’t the best wave I have surfed by a long way but I do catch a one or two, and after returning the board I console myself with a dip in the heated salt-water pools located in the town.

I manage some lane swimming before giving up due to feeling like somebody was boiling my face, and spend another half an hour just hanging out like everybody else and soothing myself in the gorgeous water.

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IMAG1273As usual on this trip I have managed to swerve just about all the historic culture since arriving in New Zealand. However rolling through the town of Rotorua I get a chance to take in both the interesting geography and some of the Maori culture.

I pull in to the Te Puia centre (www.tepuia.com) just off the main road and am instantly made aware of all the geothermal activity nearby due to the pungent sulphur smell in the air. It is like fifteen egg sandwiches rolled into one.

Te Puia is home to schools dedicated to continuing the highest levels in Maori arts and crafts. I see the workshop where fantastic wood carvings are being completed and a lovely lady demonstrated how the local plants are transformed into a fabric and then rope using only a mussel shell.

Pohutu-geyserHowever the real stars around here are the various geothermal phenomena. This picture is of Pohutu Geyser, meaning big splash or explosion, which erupts up to 100 foot high about 20 times a day showering everybody downwind in spray.

There are others here too though, including the Prince of Wales geyser which spouts three ways at once signalling the imminent eruption of Pohutu. It was named to honour the visit of a British Prince, however I prefer to think of it as the WRU geyser because it also resembles the crest of the Welsh rugby team when it erupts.

IMAG1275There are other features too such as the boiling mud pools you see here, hot water ponds and streams. There is even a pool in which vegetables and fish are still cooked!

I pick up a carved mask to add to my collection in the shop but have to make tracks because I have a lot to today, not least get away from this smell!

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After leaving the Hannah family in Hastings I decide to head north across the central plateau. As with all New Zealand scenery the views everywhere in the road are stunning.

The first place of note that I stop for a bite to eat is Taupo, where I cannot resist having a go at the Hole in One challenge. The island you see here is floating on the lake and for a small fee you can whack some balls to try and land them in the holes. Doing so wins $5,000.

I don’t scare the island much with my erratic shots but do bounce a couple of it using a 9 iron, and am more fascinated by how they must collect the balls. You wouldn’t imagine needing scuba gear at a golf club!

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Many years ago when I was trying to start a career in IT I got my first job working on the service desk at South Eastern railways in the UK. One of my former colleagues from that time was a Kiwi who had returned home and was now living in Hastings.

Neither of us are involved with the railways any more, so it was quite amusing to see this railway warning sign right outside Andre’s house upon arrival.

AndreWe haven’t seen each other in nearly ten years but have a great time catching up over a few beers. I meet Andre’s family and am treated to my first home cooked meal in months.

As ever it is great to see a familiar face where ever I am on my travels, but also to find out what various former colleagues have been up to since we last saw one another.

Hannah surfboardsAndre doesn’t surf himself but I am surprised to find that his father did and actually shaped boards under the Hannah Surfboards brand.

Searching online later I discover there is still an operation making them in the Hawkes Bay area, but I am too late to find out if it is related to Andre’s family, but I’m guessing it is too much of a coincidence not to be.

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