Archive for July, 2013

The Cambridges

Just a quick note to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their new arrival, who is to be called Prince George and instantly became the most eligible man in the world because he will be our future King.

I’m sure he will like living in North Wales as much as William and Katherine do.

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Splendour in the Grass

Without knowing it Kathleen and I arrived in the Bryon Bay area at the same time as the Splendour in the Grass festival which is going on just down the coast.

We are not interested in the massive festival but get stung for more than $75 for one night in the caravan park because they are ramping up the charges because of the demand at this time. Normally it can be as cheap as $21!

Festival HippieThe other side effect of the festival is the huge influx of crusty trustafarians who roll through town while we are here.

Byron Bay is quite an arty, hippy-ish sort of place anyway so they almost fit in.

It is binning down with rain though and has been for a few days, and you can tell that so many of them are so ill prepared for the elements. Good to know you can ‘enjoy’ the Glastonbury experience in Australia too!

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The Take OffI had visited this break with Neil on the way northwards but decided to pass on The Pass at that time because it was so busy.

However there was no way I wasn’t going to surf it, and once Kathleen and I had left her place in Lismore, Byron Bay was the first place we headed for.

DCIM102GOPROThe wave breaks off the rocks you see here, so you snag a wave, get your bottom turn in going right and then just keep on surfing all the way along the beach.

It does mean the most suicidal once more will guarantee themselves the ride, but needs must so I made sure I got at least my share.

DCIM100GOPROThese pictures should give you some idea of how much fun I was having.

I didn’t surf it when it is huge but it seems to be a really mellow wave. Perfect for cruising along, if you know what I mean, and the locals were all really friendly while I was there too.

I was having a laugh here with the crew in the line up because foolishly one wave went by without anybody actually going for it despite how busy it was.

Me Riding 1The break here is so good and so close to where we stayed that I actually surfed it a couple of times, which is very rare on this trip.

Kathleen got this picture of me riding during one of the sessions. You can see me over the top of the wave.

The break here is so predictable that I decided to try to film some video with my Gopro. Watching this footage you can probably see why. (click here) If anything that was a short ride compared with some of the corking waves I surfed here.

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You can also see me here spotting the dolphins that hung out with us for a while. They were of a species whose fin is nearer to triangular than crescent shaped, which gives you a nervous shiver until you see how they move in the water!

No pictures of them in the water with me. I tried, trust me I tried, but nothing came out because they were only appearing briefly on the surface and just for a second to breathe.

I absolutely loved it here!

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Speeding FineIn quick succession I have been informed that I have been caught speeding during my adventures in both Australia and in New Zealand.

My sister who is looking after my UK based administration has passed on the good news

Need for Speed WorldwideIt would seem that my own need for speed has caught up with me.

I can’t help myself putting my foot down because I am trying to squeeze so much into this year, but it is no excuse.

I have already been stung with an administration fee from both the hire companies but am wondering if I can get away without paying the associated fines due to living abroad.

Caparo T1 RRV Police CarAnybody got any ideas on that?

Think I will wait and see how things pan out. I doubt they will deport me just yet for the offence.

I am going to have to slow down though, otherwise I will start seeing police cars like this one in my rear view mirror!

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Writing on a computerI am spending the next week with Kathleen, but while she has to go to work for a couple of days I take advantage of the facilities at her house in Lismore.

I clean the van, catch up on a ton of laundry and make a huge dent in the blog backlog using her reliable wifi connection.

The PrisonerI could probably have got more done but have been gladly distracted by Kathleen’s dog Peppi, who I have been chasing around the house with her yoga ball for hours in a scene not too dissimilar to The Prisoner.

I am told one day on her way out the door by Kathleen that Peppi does not bark, which seems unlikely. This I see as a challenge and five minutes of lifting his paws off the ground later and he is making a right racket exacerbated by me once more chasing him using the yoga ball.

Peppi & Me 2In case of complaints from the neighbours we also practised our innocent faces in preparation for being asked if it was us. I think we would get away with it, don’t you?

He isn’t supposed to be on the dining chairs either but who am I to refuse a dog that wants to snuggle up to me whilst I work on my laptop?

There may be some retraining required for which I can’t help feeling a tad responsible.

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WP_20130722_005From Byron I had driven on to spend another night in the truck stop at Ballina.

When I woke up in the morning I discovered I was parked next to this, which I am pretty sure was part of the set from Superman III. Can anybody tell me what they are? I don’t know, but for some reason I want one!

WP_20130722_012I drove straight to the site of the new Lismore and Ballina Surf Lifesaving Club, which is in the snagging list stage of its construction and looks fantastic.

The Richmond River runs out to sea at Ballina making a natural harbour, and to ensure the boats get in and out easily the entrance has been exaggerated by two rock groynes having been constructed.

WP_20130722_014The original beach has been segmented as a result and the club is on the part north of the river mouth.

While I am checking out the surf and trying to decide whether to go in, a steady stream of pensioners appear each in turn taking a swim in the ocean. This leaves me with no excuse so I paddle out

My board is still taped up, I am still sore from my fall the day before and in all honesty my attention is focused on meeting up again with my friend Kathleen later in the day so I don’t bother with the Gopro here.

Bull-sharkI caught a hat trick of rides and then got out, but later discover that the break where I was surfing is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous in the area due to all the Bull sharks there. The species (also known as the Zambezi shark in Africa) is so aggressive it actually swims up rivers in search of food. It is also one of the species most likely to attack humans.

The pensioners of Ballina must have a death wish, because there must be loads of these angry fish hanging about the river mouth looking for an easy meal!

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Dusk Til DawnDriving south from Norries Head in the last light of the day I see this sign warning me about kangaroo activity, which seems to suggest they are capable of overturning cars.

My first though is that they don’t put that in the travel brochure when trying to entice tourists to Australia!

Dusk Till DawnNext I’m wondering in a nod to the Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez’s film From Dusk Till Dawn if perhaps there is a supernatural reason for this strength beyond their size.

Probably not and the few that I did see on my drive south, which were my first in the wild, did not make any lunges for my throat.

I drove on until I got to Byron Bay where I watched the last round of the British Open golf on the telly over a couple of beers in the pub.

During which I had a phone call from a friend back in the UK who wanted to let me know some great news. I won’t share it because he hasn’t passed it on to everybody yet and he doesn’t want me stealing his thunder, but I couldn’t have been happier as I drifted off to sleep in my van later that evening. What a great day! 

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After patching myself up at Durunbah it is only 1pm so I get back in the van and drive southward checking out the other breaks along the way.

I still have a dead leg and am quite sore so am not tempted by much that I see through the afternoon. That is until I drive past the town of Cabarita and see these waves breaking off the north of Norries Head as I come over the brow of the hill.

OwwwI can’t resist a surf here because there is hardly anybody out and it looks gorgeous. I’m not sure how well my leg is going to work but decide to give it a try anyway.

The rail is smashed in on my board where I landed on it, but because I don’t have the time to do a quick repair before the sun sets I opt for a gaff tape bodge job to try and keep as much water out of the foam on my board. (It can wreck your board once under the surface, stripping the fibreglass off the foam core.)

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The water is not cold but soothes my leg and I have a brilliant surf in the late afternoon sun. All the waves are rights and I’m surfing towards the sun so I got a stack of great photo.

This is probably the best of the bunch but I have hundreds to choose from!

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The wave might not look as impressive on this one but you can see how much I was having.

Three fantastic breaks in one day and I’m so stoked that I’m practically walking on air. I need to be because walking still hurts. (Strangely surfing didn’t.)

The next eighty waves are off to a flying start!

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Border SignpostFrom Snapper Rocks I travel up the hill in the van to the Captain Cook Monument on the headland, which also marks the border between New South Wales and Queensland. Here I am with one foot in each state.

Durunbah is the break south of the headland known as Point Danger and I can see that there are two breaks in the bay.

One is mobbed down at the rock jetty at the south end where the surfers are desperately trying to get some tube time as the wave jacks up with the reflected swell.

DCIM103GOPROI opt for the Point Danger end of the bay which is much quieter and where I can still see loads of tempting rides on offer. I think it may also be possible to surf from one state into another here.

(You can see the Captain Cook monument on the cliff behind me here.)

It is about chest high on the sets but the paddle out is so easy you can nearly walk out into the line up, saving your arms in the process.

DCIM103GOPROI realise it is warm enough to once more be surfing in shorts without a wetsuit and have a great session in the sunshine.

I haven’t caught many lefts lately but am having so much fun catching these waves off the point and seeing how long I can ride them for on my backhand.

DCIM102GOPROIt is still only lunchtime but already having enjoyed my second session of the day I decide to catch one more and then go in. I hate paddling in at the end of a surf. It never feels right to do so.

It is a great ride but I take it that little bit too far in getting caught right in the shore dump. You can see the wave taking the board and my legs out from under me here, the result of which was going over the falls and then landing very heavily on the rail of my board with my hip.

Surfing HurtsI have a dead leg and blood is dripping off my arm so I think it just as well that I was getting out anyway.

I limp up the beach and back to the van where I fix the hole in me, but am gutted to discover I have put another one in my board. I only had it fixed yesterday!!!!

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DCIM100GOPROI have set up camp at the Kirra Tourist Park for two nights and have a great night there chatting with a young couple from the UK who are also passing through town.

I get to have a go on one of the Aussie griddle BBQs for the first time whilst there, cooking myself an awesome steak and stir fried vegetables in record time. We enjoy a chat over a few beers, but it isn’t a big night and I turn in relatively early.

DCIM100GOPROI am up and away just after dawn and head straight to Snapper Rocks to try and beat the crowd because once again it is a weekend when I am visiting that break and it is bound to be busy as a consequence.

It is a fairly cold start by Gold Coast standards and I enjoy a relatively easy paddle out, although this shot would suggest otherwise.

DCIM100GOPROThere are already more than twenty guys in the water and because this is the home break of both Joel Parkinson, the current world champion, and Mick Fanning, a former world champion and another stop on the ASP’s world tour I know I am going to have to be on my game today.

Thankfully both the champions are at the US Open back in Huntington Beach so I stand half a chance of catching a wave, but I decide the only way forward is to paddle straight out into the line out and compete for everything. It works and I steal a wave from right under the noses of the local crew and shoot off across the beach through the section known as the superbanks where massive barrelling sections would be on offer if there was a bit more swell. 

DCIM100GOPROI’m not complaining about the waves though because I have a fantastic session and am completely unaffected by the competition for the surf.

I catch loads of great rights all the way across Rainbow Beach going so far that at one stage I find myself right in the middle of a high school surf contest that is going on at the Greenmount end. Time and time again you just get out walk back along the sand and then get back in at the point to catch another. An absolutely awesome session which is a great way to start the next 80 waves (even if this is technically wave 80 because wave 1 was a wave goodbye!)

After my session I chill out by my van in the sunshine enjoying a cup of coffee. I’m glad of my early start as I watch hordes descending on the break, and to celebrate I cook an omelette  for breakfast. 

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