Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

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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Falls WalkwayWhilst at Heaven on the Planet I am staggered to hear via email that my jacket, which you see demonstrating its wonderful waterproof  capabilities at Iguazu Falls, has resurfaced back in New Zealand. I have annoyingly bought a replacement already so it is now on its own way back to the UK.

You can catch up on its own exploits at www.aroundtheworldineightypostoffices.com

The tale involving some duct tape and the franking machine is outrageous!

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Crimewatch_title_screenThis is a great opportunity to introduce the term BOBFOC to you. (It stands for Body off Baywatch, Face off Crimewatch.) It is a favourite of mine, but Neil hadn’t heard it. Enjoy.

However this is a far more serious post. The local police have been in touch with our programme and have asked for our assistance in solving a couple of open cases. 

600-117-73737190New South Wales Police are looking for these two men who were last seen raiding the sugar sachets at the local MacDonalds.

They are described as in need of a shave and heavily armed with hamburgers.

They have a history of not being afraid to indiscriminately use their tomato sauce so please do not approach them.

ICN 621448051The New Zealand Police force believe that there may be a link to this maniac seen doing nearly 20 kilometres per hour over the legal limit.

Whilst they suspect he was (as usual) late for a connecting travel arrangement, they suggested a warning be issued to Kangaroos throughout Australia where it is believed he headed next.

Please remember that crimes such as these are unusual so please don’t have nightmares, do sleep well.

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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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Falls Walkway Me 1The only downside to our first day was the receipt of an email from the campervan company I had used in New Zealand. It told me that the lovely Berghaus jacket I have travelled half the world with and whose waterproof capabilities were working so well in the picture here (taken at Iguacu falls), has been lost in the post between there and Australia.

It is my own fault for leaving it behind, but I probably wouldn’t have done so if there were not so many issues to deal with in the van I had been given. However the upshot of this news is that I have pointlessly been waiting for three weeks in the rain without a coat and not wanting to buy one because I wouldn’t have had room for it in my bags going forward.

GrumpyI am now down a $500 coat with no chance of any compensation, and not at all happy about it.

I suppose it is one of the reasons why I took out travel insurance, but I am anticipating them doing everything possible to avoid paying out for it, not to mention dreading the administrative pain in the butt that will go with the process.

None of the above improves my mood. Sorry Neil.

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Me and RickI have been in Sydney for about 10 days and am delighted to hear from one of my old neighbours in the flats I used to live in back in London. Rick is a Kiwi who works in the oil business and is now based in Singapore.

However he is in town for a couple of nights on business and we take the opportunity to catch up over a few beers.

Lions vs RebelsWe meet up in a rugby club that is located right in the heart of the city. There is not a rugby pitch in sight, but the atmosphere there for the game between the Lions and the Melbourne Rebels is like any rugby club in the world.

We are joined by one of Rick’s colleagues James and have a great laugh watching the game, whilst reminiscing about motorcycle trips across Europe to Austria with the rest of our ‘chapter’ Dom and Adam, who join in the fun back in London via the internet. A great night.

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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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