Archive for the ‘South Pacific’ Category

Great White SharkI am very sad to report that another surfer has been killed by a Great White Shark in Western Australia. The attack happened a very short distance from where I was surfing at Smiths Beach and Yallingup just a few weeks ago. 

During this year I have spoken to many surfers from that part of the world and still cannot understand how they can so readily enter the water there. Cahn, our surf guide in the Mentawai Islands, told me that he has lost three friends to shark attacks but still goes into the sea!

Board BiteI have joked about angry fish for most of my trip, but the ocean in certain parts of the world is no laughing matter. I will freely admit to being at the very least nervous (but more honestly scared) for the whole time I was in the water over there, and now you know why. I couldn’t enjoy myself in the ocean with such an ever present threat and certainly wouldn’t paddle out there again.

It is a terrible tragedy and I send my condolences to the victim’s family and friends.

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WP_20131023_013I am late for far too many things and have stumbled through the doors of churches before now, midway through the wedding ceremonies of family and friends.

As a consequence I made a particular effort to be on time today, so much so that I actually arrived at the venue for the festivities about an hour before anybody else!

WP_20131023_017It did allow me time to explore the venue before the other guests arrived and I was particularly impressed with the melon sculptures you see here.

The function was on an island in the middle of a lake in the north of Hanoi and moored to it was a boat largely consisting of a swimming pool on which this floating decoration was installed.

WP_20131023_033In Vietnamese culture the function is far more important than the ceremony itself and as a consequence I was staggered when all the local guests attending the function just disappeared halfway through the ceremony and speeches because the food was being served.

This leaves Tom, his brother Patrick who was acting as his best man and his father having their speeches interpreted to people who are largely more interested in the wonderful food which had been prepared for everybody. This was only mildly interrupted by the gentle ribbing from Patrick about his brother during his speech, which caused some degree of alarm to Tom’s new Vietnamese family about the caliber of man they are allowing into their family. What is normal in western weddings would have the locals reeling in horror.

It is a great experience though and as somebody who is not always a fan of weddings I have to say how much I enjoyed the one for Thomas Edward Wallace Bulfin and his beautiful new wife Lily.

As with all things in Vietnam everybody starts early goes hard and then disappears around ten o’clock. I enjoyed a few more beers with the Bulfin family and their friends before getting a cab back to the old quarter.

I couldn’t resist a gin and tonic or two before turning in at the Moose & Roo bar just down the road from my hotel, which has become a second home for me during my stay in Hanoi. It is a North American Aussie hybrid bat that serves great food, and as usual I was warmly received there having a great chat with the owner and his staff.

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StagWeekendsAs soon as I returned to Ha Noi I had to get changed before heading straight out to join the stag night drinks one of my surfing buddies Tom. Before I go any further I will state that the stag in this picture is not Tom, and in fact looks nothing like him, but I wanted to give you some flavour of the sort of mischief which the groom’s friends can get up to.

Tom’s brother and several of his friends from back home on the Surf Highway in New Zealand have flown in for the festivities and it isn’t long before the beer is flowing and the tone of the chat between the Kiwis and myself is heading towards the gutter.

Early newborn Lambs herald SpringI didn’t take any pictures of the night’s events and even if I had I wouldn’t display them here in line with the code expected from a stag do. However I can at least recount one of the nights event involving myself which at least will not incriminate anybody else.

At one stage I had perhaps taken the concept of trying to pick up women too far and a bit like the farmer you see here carrying two new born lambs, I had scooped up a diminutive local girl under each of my arms. I then proceeded to dance around the bar with them dangling down. Safe to say they were not impressed, even if I and the rest of the chaps found it very funny.

Hanoi NightIt was not long afterwards that we decided to wind up the proceedings. Most of the others opted for a taxi back but I decided I would go on a magical mystery tour to see if I could find my hotel on foot. As soon as their cab disappeared I wondered if this might be a mistake, but armed for the trek with pockets full of the beer bottles I had sensibly stocked myself with in our last venue I staggered on with the bottles clanking together.

Hanoi is normally an endless racket of moped horns, music and all kind of madness in every direction so it was quite creepy to be wondering around the place so deserted at 4am. I thought if ever there was somewhere I would get myself into more mischief than I bargained for then this was it, but managed to find my way back unscathed.

locked-doorThen having managed to find my way home I was somewhat disappointed to discover the door to my hotel was chained shut when I got there, and that a message had been placed on the window saying that I should have been back before 3am.

After failing to get a response with the doorbell I could have taken the option to sleep on the doorstep until somebody woke up. However I decided correctly that kicking the door very hard and making as much noise as humanly possible might result in a more comfortable time in the land of nod. The person who let me in didn’t look too impressed but there haven’t been any repercussions since then, so I think I am allowed to continue my stay here.

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Crocodile DundeeSince arriving into this global centre of the surfing universe back in June I have seen more wildlife than Crocodile Dundee.

I have witnessed the British Lions get their first series win in sixteen years and the England and Wales Cricket Team retain The Ashes. Given the sporting powerhouse that Australia is, I couldn’t have timed that better if I tried

Sunset SurfI have managed to increase the number of breaks I have surfed from 67 to 127 breaks in the last three and a half months, but will have barely scratched the surface of the number of waves that are available here.

However the sun has come down on my opportunity to bag any more though and I must pack up and leave the English speaking world for the last time until I get back to the UK.

Some last minute satellite navigation issues when my phone felt it best that my desired route should resemble a figure of eight as opposed to a straight line, didn’t stop me dropping off my hire car and getting to the airport on time.

Qantas2Once there I am also amazed that Qantas don’t charge me a thing for my surfboard going all the way to Japan. I am speechless! It might actually be the first airline on this trip to treat me like they would like more of my business.

Sadly this airline highlight is somewhat tarnished because of a really annoying repetitive beeping for the first two hours of my flight, and me also being unable to drown it out because the sound on my entertainment unit being broken. Grrrr! 

It is an overnight flight though and before I know it I am looking out the window at the sun coming up over the Land of the Rising Sun.

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The time has come for me to leave Australia for the last time, so I need to say a big thank you to Adam, Rossana, Romy, Spyda and Lily who have looked after, sheltered, fed and tolerated me since this particular strung out surfer arrived on their shores back in June still devastated from the loss of his surfboard.

Their house has really felt like a home from home and has allowed me to get back in the groove of my trip more than once. I know it wont be the last time I see them though, but guess that Spyda (who appropriately has a ball in his mouth in this shot) will have to find somebody else to play fetch with for the foreseeable future.

I’m going to miss you all.

🙁

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DCIM100GOPROAfter a day off I have arranged another dawn raid with Chris to try and bag one more of the northern beaches before I leave Australia.

I am waiting outside his door on a Monday morning at 5.30 am with the engine running. the wheels are soon rolling northwards up to Long Reef which is at the north end of the same bay as Dee Why.

DCIM100GOPROSadly the waves have dropped considerably from the previous day which I had opted to utilise for trip administration as well as allowing myself some rest after surfing five different beaches and having gone sailing in the previous two days.

We have made the trip and there are at least waves so we paddle out anyway just after the sun comes up over the eastern horizon.

DCIM101GOPROIt is before 6 am and there are already at least fifty surfers in the water up and down the bay, but we find a little peak which isn’t too busy and make the most of the fun waves which are on offer.

It was an amusing session, but tinged with a bit of sadness because it is my last one with Chris, who you see here getting ready for a day in the office after we had got out. It has been great having a surf buddy in the water, and from here all the way back home I am likely to be going solo again, or at best surfing with strangers.e make his ferry into Sydney with ease and even have time for a McBreakfast before saying farewell.

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Hawthorn Win

Whilst in Melbourne earlier on my travels I was lucky enough to be taken to see Hawthorn play an AFL match against St Kilda, which they won comfortably as they have done many times this season. They finished top of the league so it is quite fitting that they won yesterday’s Grand Final here in Australia to crown them as champions for the season.

100,000 people watched the game played against Fremantle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (known as the MCG) and I had decided to support them in the game because of my earlier involvement, but also because Hawthorne in Los Angeles is the area where The Beach Boys grew up

Hawthorn

The full time score was 77 -62 with the Hawks scoring ten goals to Fremantle’s eight.

I’m betting that William and Matthew will be very pleased with the result too.

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Newport BeachNewport beach is where Rossana and Adam’s legal practise is based. There is a beautiful beach there that Chris and I drove to after getting off the sailing boat, although the speed with which we tried to get there before the sun went down may well have ended with us being in front of a magistrate!

I wasn’t at all convinced we would be in time to make the rally driving worthwhile, but take my hat off to Chris who had convinced me otherwise.

WP_20130928_073I love a manic surf trip. It gets the blood pumping like it used to when I first started going to the beach in search of waves.

As you can see night was already well on its way as we pulled up in the car park. The waves were very small but consistently coming through so we didn’t think twice before getting into our wetsuits and running down the sand. I wouldn’t say this was an all time legendary surf trip but we did catch plenty of little rides each, with the bay to ourselves.

EmptyThat was apart from an inept young lad who was already on the water and decided he wanted to come and play with us, but just kept getting in our way. A few choice words after one incident saw him leave the water soon after.

We only caught a few more of the one foot crumbling waves before getting out ourselves. It was as dark as you see here in the car park, and I am willing to play shark bait only when the surf conditions are above certain thresholds. After drying off we caught up with Rachel and Stuart in the pub in Mosman for victory beers after a fantastic day.

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WP_20130928_009Chris has arranged to go sailing after his visit to the tax man on Saturday afternoon and is kind enough to ask me if I would like to join him on the boat.

We meet up with his wife Rachel and the owner of the boat called Stuart, before driving over to Pittwater, which is a huge inlet north of Sydney named after a former Prime Minister of the UK. 

WP_20130928_027The boat is a 28 foot Daydream called Jamboree and I am delighted to be invited on board because I have never been out on the sea under sail, and it is for that reason I am claiming this wave even if I wasn’t actually surfing here.

I actually think sailing is a natural progression for surfers, who still wish to enjoy playing with the ocean once the ravages of time do not necessarily allow them to paddle out into all the waves they once did.

WP_20130928_048It is a very windy day and after getting clear of all the other boats moored near by we set sail for Barrenjoey headland which is the far end of the peninsular past Palm Beach.

As we get close we notice that a small fire seems to have started on the headland, which reminds me of the Great Orme back in Llandudno. Due to its location on the headland it sadly can only have been started as a result of human negligence such as a tossed cigarette butt or glass bottle.

Alf StewartStraight away I am on to the emergency services to alarm them about the fire, because you should never assume that somebody else has rang, but the wind quickly gets hold of it and a bush fire is quickly engulfing all the tinder dry plants and trees there.

In no time at all all the area that you can see behind Alf Stewart, a grumpy local resident, is ablaze and there is really nothing the local fire fighting services can do other than try to save the historic lighthouse on the top of the headland.

Helicopter FirefighterTo try and save the buildings a squadron of helicopters flies over the blaze dropping water from buckets they have filled. We couldn’t work out why they didn’t use sea water adjacent to the headland but can only assume it was to protect the animal and plants there. However this just meant that whilst they flew off to a freshwater reservoir or something similar, the blaze went unchecked for huge stretches of time, and anything there would have been burnt to a crisp anyway.

Watching all of this was exciting enough, but to add to the script for today we were joined on the water in our grandstand view of proceedings by a pod of dolphins swimming around the boat. Annoyingly though I still have no pictures to demonstrate another close call with these animals! They kept disappearing.

WP_20130928_067Once the fire was under control we set sail back for the mooring near Church Point and you can see Admiral Simmons here displaying fine mastery of the row boat to ferry everybody else back to shore.

As first sailing experiences go it was an amazing afternoon and sadly I suspect will be hard to match up to on any subsequent voyages. Once on dry land Chris persuades me that there is still a chance for another wave even if there is barely any light left in the day.

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DCIM103GOPROAfter a day of rest Chris convinces me to make another early start in search of waves on saturday morning. We pick up another ex-pat surfer Ben who I enjoyed many waves with back in the UK and set of on a wave safari.

Ben, Chris and I check out a number of different breaks that I haven’t seen before but decide to opt for the waves at Dee Why. You can see all three of us in the line up here.

DCIM101GOPROI had actually surfed here before, but staggeringly forgot to report that I had visited this break back in July. Only discovering that when I was about to report on returning there. It must have got lost in a previous backlog, so I am hoping there are not any more.

The surf is a bit all over the place but certainly the best we saw along the coast.

DCIM103GOPROIt doesn’t take me long until I have dropped into a few, and all the time in the water am enjoying the banter between Chris and Ben.

The waves are about head high and there are loads of people in the water, but I certainly manage to get my share of waves while we are here, including one fantastic right which I manage to slalom my way to the shore picking a workable line through the surfer soup. 

DCIM101GOPROWe are in the water for a few hours and having loads of fun, but as ever fatigue or another appointment means we have to get out.

Chris has a visit scheduled with the tax man here in Dee Why so we get out and enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat whilst enjoying the Australian wildlife walking along the sea front.

DCIM102GOPROI already knew it but this session confirms that you cant beat surfing with your friends.

My smile says why.

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