Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Barefoot Resort

My apologies, once I got to this island I got my blog up to date, and then gave it a rest, as I figured things weren't happening as fast - it's easier to retrospectively write about things sometimes, than it is writing about things happening in the recent past.
I believe this photo was taken on the day of my arrival - I figure that as it is of a sunset, and from the place where we ate our meals - in this case dinner.
On arrival to the resort, I knew I was going to like this place as it had a lot going for it, a lot of other people, 3 beaches, a dive shop, and a fellow Kiwi that worked at the dive shop (which is a bigger/rarer thing than you'd think - other than him, the only other Kiwis I had come across were in the hen's party on the Sea Spray yacht.)

The first thing I did was sorted out how I was going to use my activity voucher - the down side of pre-paying for all the activities was the fact you had to be organised and plan when and how you would fit the activities in - especially as often it would require 3 others to be keen too, due to the price of petrol. Anyhow, the next day was Sunday, and I was keen to check out a Fijian church, so I asked about that, and ended up using the voucher for that - the church we went to was actually in a village on another island - if you look at the photo below, it was well beyond the point of the next island (where the sun is rising).

So once I got that sorted I had a fantastic snorkel from the beach in front of my cabin before dinner. Dinner was awesome, basically a Fijian hangi. I ended up sitting next to an Irish guy and his Venezuelan wife - who I ended up sharing several meals with in the following days, they were great company.
The next day I woke up early. I decided to get up and make use of it, so I snorkeled around the peninsula that the resort was on (from one beach in front of my room, across another, and into the other on the opposite side to the one I started from. It was nice, but started to drag when I got around to the other side as I was fighting the current, and then due to it being low tide, struggling to find a way in without damaging coral or myself.

Once I made it in breakfast was ready, so I chowed down on that, and then got ready to go to church on another island.

I hadn't realised how far we would have to go by boat, I had imagined that a village was nearby, in fact it was probably about half an hours boat ride through some rough waves (in the above photo we had crossed that channel and went around the point where the sun is rising). - For a moment I felt like I was Ed Hillary on some epic journey, but then remembered Ed would do it himself, I really was just relying on the locals, which made me more like wimpy English hero in Africa, with a a pith helmet and some half dressed natives.

The church service was good, and fully in English, except maybe some of the hymns. Fairly traditional, but not boring. The village we went to (and other villages I ended up visiting) had a sense of being quite poor, but then you realise it is all in how you define rich and poor. I think the villagers had all they needed, and lived in family groups - a lot more communal than what we westerners do. They also of course live in virtual paradise. I may touch on it again later, but for now I will just say that despite the Government being a military dictatorship, it seems to function well - the island children all get educated etc.

Once we went back to the resort I had lunch and then did a bit of reading, and later did a snorkeling safari, which was pretty cool.

The next morning I woke up earlyish again, but decided to go for a walk instead, so I went to the other end of the island to see what was there - see photos below.
Pineapple plant. Interesting to see how they actually grow - I think I would've imagined that they hung off a tree like an apple otherwise.
The other end of the island, looking at another island, in the direction of the mainland (South-ish)
A cool looking bridge I had to cross.
The drum used to call the guests to mealtime.
For the rest of the day I kept myself busy getting ready to move to the next island, reading and chatting. I wasn't planning on swimming as I didn't want to have to deal with wet clothes, however the heat got the better of me eventually so I had a quick snorkel from the beach in front of my room with the bare minimum, ie just my gym shorts mask/snorkel, and flippers.

I was sad to leave the island as I had finally caught up with some people that I had met previously at other resorts (most of the time you'd met someone and then never see them again) and it also meant that I had no more new islands to explore - I had a night to go back on South Sea island, and then it was back to the mainland.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Long Beach

Looking East, the "Long Beach" to your left. To get to the "Blue Lagoon" you would go out that way, and head left (North)

Looking South, across the bay.
On the catamaran I stocked up on 2 x 1.5 litres of water as it is cheaper to buy there than it is at the resorts. I was also not sure if I would be getting lunch when I arrived at Long Beach due to the time, so I had a couple of the cheap yet delicious curry wrap things they sell on the boat.
Turns out I did get lunch when I got here, and enjoyed a great conversation with a honeymooning American couple from San Francisco. First thing I asked them when I discovered where they were from was the result(s) of the Americas cup, but they were in the dark as much as I was. They told me the snorkelling is fantastic here once you get out far enough, which is the hard part. I subsequently attempted it myself later in the day, but didn't seem to get far enough out.

I was the only guest last night, was had its pros and cons, the pro being I got a bure to myself, including having a double bed, which was a nice change from the hard wooden slat beds in the last two places. From what I can tell, I have the room to myself again tonight.
Lunch on the Second Day, rather delicious.
The down side was that it means I have missed out on going to some caves as they need at least three people to do them. They said to talk to the people running the boat, who are also the package people for a refund or something. So this morning I did quite a bit of reading, I finished "Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe" (good, easy to read and get through, but not as good as his other works), started and finished Paul Reiser's "Couplehood" (he was the writer and star of "Mad about  You" on TV in the 1990s with Helen Hunt - ok book, and obviously easily readable, but not a good choice when you are single and lonely on an island... - I actually bought it so I had a book I could swap in a book exchange) I also polished off this weeks NZ TV guide, and a Women's Health magazine I picked up for a dollar (just like a Men's Health really, just ignore the bits about PMS)
Other books I have recently devoured include - Danny Wallace's "More Awkward Situations for Men" (good and readable. Better than the first, but nothing compares to his "Yes Man" and "Friends like these". )
- Dom Harvey (from the Edge radio station)'s "Bucket List of an Idiot" (readable, but random and seems to lack cohesion.
Adulting - a sample, about being an adult, interesting but not sure ill commit the $17 required to get the full iBook.  
I have read the last five books pictured here - I read "A Bit Mental" even before I went away, and "Adulting" was a Sample book (ie 10 or 20 pages of it)
Some of the Books I am yet to read on my iPhone - these were all free, being old books (out of Copyright)
Still to read are the iBooks on my phone (pictured) and "Sales Dogs" which is part of the Rich Dad (Poor Dad) Advisor's series, but isn't motivating to read, I seem to have lost enthusiasm for those books. Just before now I walked down to the other point of the beach to see what was there and have a bit of a swim. On the way back I got talking to one of the locals who actually lives in Wairoa, so we had a good chat, and then he invited me to have a cup of tea with his extended family group, so I did. It was nice to do the local thing, but not in a contrived touristy way. I had to smile when, while we were all sitting on a tarpaulin cross legged having a cup of tea and cake, along came a dog, (not sure if it was a pet or a stray, there seems to be less of a distinction here,) it still had it's man bits - could tell as it came and sat with us, almost cross legged as well, with a look of "can I have a cup of tea too please?" Anyhow the guy next to him gave him two pieces of cake. I've seen a smaller dog who when he saw me yesterday got excited and followed me around. I told him to sit, and considering he didn't understand that, I've treated him with caution as I assume a pet would be vaccinated etc, and would understand that instruction. (The German couple that arrived before I left nick-named him Wilson, after the ball in Tom Hank's "Castaway"
This is facing West, to get to the good stuff you have to get out of the shallows and out to in line with that set of rocks in the middle.
Following that I went for a snorkel - attempting the channel again, this time I started further out so didn't have to swim as far and took a slightly different direction. I was rewarded this time, finding the reef, and subsequently seeing either two white tip reef sharks, or the same one twice (I believe it was the latter). A little bit scary admittedly. Unfortunately my camera had run out of battery by that stage, so I don't have a photo of it, but at the same time I wouldn't want to have my attention focussed on anything but the shark either.
The good thing about snorkelling at the time I did is I could use the sun set as an indicator of time, ie sunset is at 6 (dinner at 7, and time to head in before it gets dark).
Usual routine, dinner (pictured above) read etc, power goes off, sleep, wake at 4 or 5 in the morning, snooze a bit, get up, breakfast.

This morning after breakfast we did a boat trip up the coast to the blue lagoon, made famous by the movie "The Blue Lagoon" starring Brooke Shields. The highlight was snorkelling with the fish and feeding them leftovers from breakfast, which they went metal for, so I may try sneaking some bread away next breakfast.

Hopping on the boat south shortly after lunch.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

White Sandy Beach

The further north you go, the dodgier the boat it seems...

We were welcomed at the next resort with a drink, which was ironic, as after that the only free drink was at breakfast times. Shortly after we got there, it was lunch time - lunch was savoury mince and noodles, which I devoured as it was the most normal thing I've eaten this trip, not that the other stuff isn't nice, just it isn't as familiar. On my boat with me was an Australian girl, which has been a lot rarer than I expected, so far I have only encountered one other Australian, and no other kiwis, bar the hens party that made up a portion of our yacht trip. Anyhow, she didn't eat all her lunch - to be fair, the Fijians give us huge servings, especially the carbohydrate portion - and it took all my self control not to ask her if I could finish hers.

After lunch I read and slept, and later had a snorkel, although it took a bit of effort to get out to where it was decent.

The next morning after breakfast we went to swim with the manta rays. We spent virtually the whole morning snorkelling, but unfortunately did not see any. The quality of the snorkelling was ok, but not the best so far.

We returned to shore for lunch, and then due to getting a bit burnt I wasn't in a rush to get back out in the sun, so I just slept and read for the rest of the day.

The next morning I had hoped we would have the chance to try to see the manta rays again, but it became apparent that that wouldn't be the case, so I went for a walk over the hill to Honeymoon bay and had a snorkel there - which was actually very good snorkelling. I couldn't muck around there though as I needed to catch my boat north at 11:45.

Naqalia Resort

The next morning got up, had breakfast and ready for the boat to take me to the next destination.

I said farewell to the people I'd met, some of which had been there the whole two days as well, and in the case of a particular hot Dutch girl, had been on my yacht cruise as well. I'm happy to say I got a farewell hug from said hot woman. What happens is a small ferry boat takes you out to meet the big catamaran. On this day the catamaran had broken down, so it was about an hour late, so they had taken me out, then returned me back to shore to wait again, before eventually going and meeting the catamaran. At the time I was sad to go, as at that point that was the Fiji that I knew.

Anyhow, a short time later we arrived at the group of islands where my next destination was located. I transferred into the ferry boat, which was less substantial than the last - the last had a roof and stairs etc like what I remember  of the Whitianga ferry, whereas this boat was a glorified whaling boat. It was also a reasonable distance to my resort.

Since my boat had been delayed, I didn't have to wait too long before lunchtime, and until then, the Fijian guys were watching a Super 15 game - which just happened to be the semi-final I had gone to watch with Graham at Waikato stadium this year - the Waikato Chiefs vs the Crusaders. 

I read, slept, and later had a big snorkel in the bay in front of the resort. Later that evening I played cards with some of the others staying there - it was a reasonably small place, low key, and quiet.

Over night there was a storm, but it had died off by morning. After breakfast we went out on one of the boats to a reef to see and swim with some sharks. Unfortunately, due to the storm the night before, the sea was quite choppy, and once I got out there I vomited several times before I could get into the water. The sharks weren't particularly scary, they were maybe a metre long and not so interested in humans.

We headed back in for lunch etc. As part of my package I had another activity to choose from, I would've preferred to have done a kayak, but with time constraints etc I decided it was easier to join the others climbing the hill. It was a bit of a mission, mostly probably because of the heat. The guide started to piss me off a bit too, as he was a little bit pushy and kept asking questions like how much do you weigh etc, when all I wanted to  say was shut up, let me do my thing and we'll be sweet.

Once we got down again I jumped into the shower, clothes and all, as my shirt was soaked with my sweat anyway.

So again, dinner, cards, and bed. The next morning I had a quick snorkel before breakfast, and did a bit of a walk after, before boarding the boat again.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

South Sea Island

This is the moon, about the time of Sunrise - approximately about 5am.
After an early getup I got picked up and taken to somewhere else, and hopped on a big bus destined for the port. I ended up being seated to a hot Ecuadorian girl named Jessica, and had a fantastic chat with her. Unfortunately we weren't heading to similar places. 

After checking in at the port, it was a short boat trip out to South Sea island. By this stage it was still only 9am, and all the day trippers with their kids arrived at the same time. I went hard and did the free activities that were on offer - first off was a glass bottomed boat, which was a good concept, but didn't allow great photos. Straight after that I did a snorkelling safari, which was basically been taken out to a similar location and snorkelling along the reef.

By this stage it was roughly 11, and therefore lunchtime. Lunch was nice, a BBQ, including fish, chicken skewers and a sausage, plus some pineapple and melon and rice.

I followed that up with a sleep, and later did a snorkel right around the island - which isn't very big - before happy hour. Met some of the other people staying there and tried out some of the tropical cocktails. This was then followed by dinner, again delicious and in great portions.

The following day was the yacht trip. First we had to catch the ferry to Mana island, where we boarded the Sea spray. They took us to Castaway island - where Castaway starring Tom Hanks (and Wilson, who they made a big deal of) was filmed. The island was complete with "HELP ME" written with coconuts - which I thought would've not been allowed as a plane might take it as a genuine plea for help. We got to hang out there and snorkel for about an hour while they prepared lunch for us.

Lunch was awesome - barbecued fish, chicken and sausages.

We then moved onto the next island which had a village, where we had a kava ceremony. The guide asked who would like to be the "chief" of our group - I noticed at this point there weren't many males in our group, so I offered. We walked into the village, which was interesting, it reminded me a lot of when I play "Pirates" on the computer, sailing around, entering towns etc. anyway, we had the ceremony then went to have a look at their stalls where they sold necklaces etc. despite some cultural significance, To be honest I'd have rather sailed somewhere else and made better use of the afternoon.

We then sailed back to Mana island (whilst making use of the free bar as much as possible without making myself sick) at Mana we transferred back to the catamaran and back to South Sea Island.
Sunrise, as mentioned above

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lots of Adventure, not so much travel...

Since my last post, I started and finished the ibook on my phone that I mentioned "A Bit Mental" by Jimi Hunt. I wanted to read it because he Lilo-ed the length of the Waikato river, I want to kayak from Cambridge to Port Waikato, so figured it would have some good pointers. It did, in terms of distance/manageable daily chunks, but I also got a lot out of it from a mental health perspective. Medically I wouldn't be classed as someone who has been depressed, but there have been times where I have been really frustrated, and half expected the white coats to come and get me. It's a fantastic book and I totally recommend it.

Any, as promised, this is a far more interesting post as it involves international travel... Eventually...
Retired: Passport #2 - July 2004-September 2013
On Tuesday I headed to the airport with dad. He was tying it in with a visit to our paper supplier. I got there nice and early, however once they finally opened I was told my passport wasn't in a fit condition to be used for travel, due to the water damage it had received 3 years  ago in Paris. I had however been to Egypt, and returned to New Zealand via the Usa in that time, so was a little surprised they were fussy about it. Of course, it ended up looking worse because they played with it. Anyway, in the end you win some & you lose some,& getting a new passport and tickets etc didn't end up being too difficult or expensive (at least I could still go). I got dad to run me into town while I sorted it out, & I ended up staying with my old school mate James for a couple of nights, which worked perfectly as the first day he was working in town, allowing me to catch a ride into town, look around, and collect my passport. The day of my flights he was working at the airport (as he works for Air NZ) so conveniently he dropped me off too. I have to give NZ internal affairs a big ups, as they had my passport ready for me in 24hours. Made me proud to be a kiwi.
Enter Passport #3, Pretty Flash aye.
So, at the airport I had to wait till the check-in opened, so I had the obligatory McD's breakfast. Once I checked in I went through and did some duty free shopping.
Flight FJ410 - Fiji Airways Says Relax, You're on holiday bro.
On the plane they fed us a chicken burger and some shortbread biscuits.

Once i got to Fiji I went through customs etc. I saw SIM cards were free, and u could buy packages, so I got the cheapest one with data.
My resort for the first night was nice - whole room and double bed to myself. Had a little walk, one of the staff was walking the dogs so we walked together. Afterwards had dinner, sampled the local beers, and had a nice swim before bed.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Making Sense and Redemption.

So here we are again! catching up like old friends, at least ones that listen. My life isn't as fun and eventful as I'd like (you) to think it is, so catching up since June probably won't take too long... 

So, Since the Fielddays, I had a few more rehearsals for my play, one night I went out on the town with some of my castmates, and Scott came back from Kuwait - so we subsequently caught up at the rugby, when the Chiefs played the Hurricanes (and won). Most of the reason I know that there isn't much to tell you about in the two and a half months since my last entry, is because July was pretty much taken up with my play performances - of Footrot Flats, by Ball, Hall et al... the exception in July being invited to Luca's 4th birthday dinner at the start of the month, and his party proper at the end of the month.
 I enjoyed performing in Footrot Flats, it was nice to be in something so iconically Kiwi, the opening song to the second act was "Slice of Heaven" by Dave Dobbyn & Herbs, and everytime it made me want to put my hand on my heart - next to the silver fern... Artistically too I liked it, in the first act I was Boris the Boar, and didn't have any offical lines, so it was a nice challenge portray a character with limited means (including costume), and then in the second act I appear near the end as the new owner, with lines. It is probably the first role I've had as the bad guy, which is a nice change.

 The First weekend in August I took the Friday off and went to Auckland on the Thursday night. I went up mainly as there was a Family History Fair on, but also to cut loose and relax after my month of performances. Unfortunately I didn't get much out of the fair - I had gone with great expectations, as the one I went to in 2011 I got a lot out of, however that was when my tree was in it's infantcy, whereas now it is at a stage where any progress is marginal, especially without spending much money. To be honest, it also ended up taking second place behind my social agenda and sight-seeing.
 On the Friday, I decided I wanted to go there (to Manukau) using the train, which I did, but ended up taking a bit of time. Once I got to the events centre, they were having technical issues with the internet being down. That night I went to a ceroc evening which was fun, yet also gave me feelings of inadequacy, not because I dance badly, but more because I'm from Hamilton. 
The following morning I went to the Otara markets, as it was something that I have intended doing for years. Too be honest, the markets themselves weren't any more spectacular than the Frankton markets. I met a friend there, so we went to a local food place, and I got to try a bit of Pacific cuisine, which was my main goal. From there I went and visited Jan and Alan in Papatoetoe. Jan is in the process of selling off her father's stamp collection, and well, I'm in the process of tidying mine up, so I made a few purchases, and had a good catch up with them. I ended up not bothering with the fair that day, so headed back into town and caught up with someone. Following that, on my walk back up the hill I went and caught some comedy at the Classic. Problem is, they always put you up the front if you are by yourself, and the front is not a good place if you want to maintain a low profile.

 The rest of August included catching up with a few mates, and some terrible dates... enough said. I went to another Family tree thing, had not a lot more success, but the following week I went to a talk in Matamata on using Ancestry.com.au which was alright. What I also enjoyed was before I ventured over there I had just been to the Red Cross book fair and got some books, and a CD by Anthony Robbins - which made really good listening on the way over there. What he was saying was that your experience is governed a lot by the vocabulary you use, ie, you choose the strength, and it becomes habit. The evening before I had gone back to Riverlea to watch "The Producers", which I wasn't sure about, but I'm so glad I did, as it was totally funny. I guess my reservations were along the lines of being more of an on-stage person than a watching person. Two positives that have come out of August were my promotion into Accounts Payable person - my workmate and long-time family friend Heather retired, so I have taken on her responsibilities. The other thing was finally getting my holiday sorted - there were various factors that were obstacles to my decision-making, but they cleared up, and admittedly with a bit of help from Suzanne, I sorted out a trip to Fiji, a tour of the Mamamuca and Yasawa islands with a whole lot of snorkelling - something I had researched last year, but decided against then because I would be returning to unemployment. 

So, here I find myself in September. Mum and Dad are currently away in the Gold Coast, and I am home alone, which is nice- nice to be responsible for myself again, in charge of what I eat, etc - and not in the "eat all I want" sense, more the "control of input" sense. 

On Saturday I went across to Rotorua to use up a night in a hostel that I had pre-paid for this time last year (I had bought a 5 night-pass, but only had used 4.) It was nice to have a change of scenery, and enjoy the hot pool, however it didn't live up to the hype in my head, as a shooting gallery I had been to last year wasn't open (you could shoot at a can for example, and if you shot it down from the string you won a can of drink), and by the time I'd walked back to the hostel bar, and watched the All Blacks vs. Argentina game, I was a bit tired and not in the outgoing state of mind, so I went to have a lie down to see if I regained my energy, which I didn't, so I slept. 

In keeping with tradition, here I get to share my pearls of wisdom with you. The title of this post relates to the victories of the past few months: redeeming myself on stage despite some challenges; finally feeling like my career is roughly back on track after a four year detour; booking my trip; redeeming myself with the travel agents in doing so - I felt bad last year when I had huge plans to do this and that, such as going to England again, and then changing it to Fiji and Melbourne, then facing reality and sticking to the South Island, I felt that they thought I was a tyre-kicker and full of shit, so it was nice to come back and say here's my money, lock it in Eddie! On top of that, its nice knowing I didn't take the easy road and hide from them because I was embarassed. I guess also, I like to think of myself as a travel blogger, and yet this is my first international foray in nearly 2.75 years. 

Along those lines I have had a random thought recently - I remember the careers advisor at school (who also happened to be my tutor teacher in 7th Form) saying that in our life times we would have several careers, some of which wouldn't have been invented yet. When I apply this to my life, I certainly have had multiple mini-careers, and in the case of my most recent job, emails had bearly come into being in 1997... 

I have also gotten into TradeMe in a bigger way lately. I initially opened an account in November 2008, prior to going to the UK - which was a great idea, as then it gave me 2 years credibility by the time I came home, without having to do much. I bought the odd thing initially in 2011, but lately have bought books and a rugby jersey... Lets start with the Rugby Jersey... recently I came to the realisation that most of the "cool" clothes I like are in fact clothes Scott gave to me in the UK, when he headed to Kuwait, (and admittedly they are on the slightly small side now, at my present weight.) One of the items I paid forward (like the movie pay-it-foward) before I left was an old Irish rugby jersey, which I would've liked to have kept, but I had to draw a line somewhere, so I gave it to my Irish mate. So it was a no-brainer when I saw a 2007 RWC Irish Jersey in my size on Trade me. What I love about that jersey is that the seaming of it is quite flattering - makes you look like a rugby player, rather than just a fat bastard. That and the homage it pays to my Irish ancestors. Of course Suzanne and Bevan were a little bemused in my sudden desire to spend money, so Bevan forwarded me a link to buy a modern All Black's jersey - without the AIG logo which now appears on it. So, I ended up buying three jerseys in quick succession (including the Waikato one at the fielddays).
In terms of books I discovered New Zealand and TradeMe have in fact discovered Danny Wallace and his books. I used to look forward to Thursdays in London when I could pick up a Shortlist magazine from the tube station and read Danny Wallace's column. I later discovered he was the author of Yes Man, which at the time was in the height of it's popularity as a movie (starring my man, Rhys Darby) Last year I read Yes Man the book, which was different to the movie, as it was actually Danny's own experience as opposed to the fictionalised movie. I enjoyed it, and admittedly cried a little at the end when he got the girl despite the odds (to be fair I had recently lost my girl in a similar odds situation). Anyhow, this round I came across a book he had written called "Friends Like These".
Basically it is about Danny reconnecting with his childhood friends, whom he has lost contact with over the years. Now I have always been partial to trying to maintain my relationships with people, and while I was a student, was doing quite a good job keeping email contact going. Admittedly Facebook, Laziness, and other priorities such as travel has made me drop the ball a little. Anyhow his book totally struck a chord with me, reminding me of the value of those you grew up with - and I grew up with some awesome people. One of his mates had died in the time they were out of contact, which I can relate to, (although we were in contact) - again reminding me of something we were told at Primary school - that statistically in 20 years time, one or two of us would have died. When you are 11 that's a scary thing to be told, especially when you are in a class of only about 10 kids. If you have been following me since the beginning, you may recall this post - at the time of the London 7/7 bombings. One of my mates had recently beaten meningitis, and only by chance had not taken the bus that had been blown up. I later found out that his brother's workplace was in one of the archways under the track that would've contained the train that wasn't blown up, and he fortunately wasn't at work that day also. I don't know what else to say here. I guess the moral of the story is stay in contact and don't be scared of expressing your love for your friends.
 So, other than that masterpiece, I also read "Join Me" and "Awkward Situations for Men" (also written by Danny Wallace), and have purchased several Bill Bryson books to read, and a Haynes repair manual for my Honda Civic, which is looking mint by the way, after I fixed the trim on the passenger door, and sewed a green gearstick sock. I also have made a few iBook purchases on my iPhone to read in Fiji - including "A Bit Mental" by Jimi Hunt - he travelled down the Waikato river on a Lilo, I intend to go from Cambridge to Port Waikato on a kayak.
 So, hope you have enjoyed my honesty with you, and myself. Thanks for reading this far. Keep an eye out for the next adventure - Fiji baby!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Meddling with Mediocrity

So it's been a while since I wrote a proper entry about my life - hopefully you have enjoyed the variety and change of scenery, I certainly have.

It appears the last entry dealing with my doings was in late February.

Well as you may have gathered from the title of that entry, it was a really hot long Summer, which was nice, as my Summers for the last few years had been pretty average. Mid-March the Hamilton Gardens had an Italian festival, which was nice, especially with the hot weather, made it all the more genuine.

Later that week I had an audition for Footrot Flats - The Musical. I subsequently got a part in it as Boris the Boar, and late in the second act, as the man. Since late April we have had rehearsals 3 nights a week, so I have been kept busy with that.
We had our stocktake at work prior to Easter which was OK, best thing was the food Mum & Dad put on for lunch.

Suzanne, Bevan, & I also went to Stations of the Cross at Hamilton Gardens around that time, which was good.

Easter I ended up just going to Papamoa with the family and chilling out, despite my big ideas about going up the Coromandel, or kayaking down the Waikato river, because I figured I'd left both too late to organise, and with the river I'd require a support crew (and Mum and Dad would be at the beach).

Mid April I did a walk along the rivers at Ngaruawahia, with some people I had previously climbed the Hakarimatas with. That was quite interesting, and not so tiring.

Around that time I went to a couple of seminars through work which was nice, made me feel valued and professional again.

Queen's Birthday weekend I didn't get up to much either, Suzanne and Bevan were moving out of their house, so I helped a little with that.
This weekend was the Annual Agricultural Field days. I enjoyed it, and ended up spending over $300. I had been keen for a while to get a decent pair of steel cap boots for work. Similarly I had toyed with the idea of a camelbak for a while. Later on when I came across the Kukri stall I decided to bite the bullet and get a Waikato jersey, as it would be nice to have something to wear to a rugby game etc, and the Waikato jersey I have now is from when I was 14, and about 71kg, so it is rather skintight at the moment.

So, for the near future - is mainly my play coming up. Once that is over I intend thinking bigger picture, getting serious about getting healthy, sorting out a trip somewhere, and moving out of home, either going flatting, or buying. At the moment I'm in a prison of indecision, and I have a London-sized chip on my shoulder.

Friday, 31 May 2013

My Travel Bucket list

This one has literally been in the pipeline for a while, I just haven't gotten around to finishing it off and making it look pretty etc. A while back I thought I would construct my Travel wish list, so I have a reference for when I am older and forgetful, or for the nearer future when I have started to forget all my great plans.

It's no secret that I want to go back to England, and especially to check out Cornwall, which I raved on and on about doing when I finished my contract at the Crown Prosecution Service, which then subsequently didn't finish until it was too cold at the end of November 2010. Since then of course I have looked into my family history, and have discovered some of my ancestors came from Cornwall, as well as Dorset, and namely Cerne Abbas - which I would have travelled to in transit there as I knew of the Cerne Abbas Giant, a giant sketch of well, a giant on the side of a hill, (the chalk underneath the soil providing the white outline. 
The Cerne Abbas Giant, Cerne Abbas, Dorset
Courtesy of http://www.dorset.net/

When I manage to find the map of South West England that I longingly looked at, I shall scan it and put it up here, and you'll see why I was so eager, and why I thought it was so possible.

Of course all the other places my ancestors came from, such as Yorkshire, Ayrshire, Dumfries, Lincolnshire, North Wales, and Norfolk.

Kayak the canals
After watching one of the many documentaries on Sky, I am even more keen to explore the canals of Britain, especially when you see things like this - that is an aqueduct people - that isn't a train, that is a canal boat!
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen Canal
Photo Courtesy of http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/
Walk (some of) the Coast of Britain
(Definitely too much watching Coast on TV) Maybe I would limit it to walking from Kings Lynn around to Rhyll perhaps (look on a map, and you will see how far that would still be). However I could kill several birds with the one stone, I'd be checking out Norfolk, Dorset, Cornwall, and Wales. I'd also get to check out the Dover castle, Essex (I had a semi-plan to visit Essex one night as it has a bit of a reputation, and then I also fell in love with The Only Way is Essex. On the aside, for some reason Made in Chelsea doesn't have the same appeal to me, I think it is the class divide thing, MIC appears to be about a bunch of Upper Class wankers who wouldn't give me the time of day, whereas TOWIE is about slightly trashy, yet successful people, much like my ancestors (I had ancestors that lived in either place, and in the case of my Irish ancestors, both places, but none of them got life on a plate, albeit maybe a sponsored ticket to New Zealand).

- PolandEgiertowo (formerly known as Eggershutte) where my German ancestors came from. And as mentioned in another post, Malbork castle, which doesn't look that far away from it.

- Italy
- mainly because I watched James and Thom's Pizza Pilgrimage and want to try all the food, but also I like the sound of the Cinque Terre and all the other places Suzanne and Bevan visited on their tour with Top Deck in 2010. On that note, the other week I watched another Italian food programme on Choice or Sky, and they had a pasta machine. Later that week I had gone to Stevens to buy a mortar and pestle (as I want to make my own pesto, I already have the basil from an earlier purchase) and hello, pasta machines are on special...

Namely because it is one of those cities that the TNT continually reviewed, as it was a decent city break from London

Same reason, and also because I remember it from playing Where in The World is Carmen Santiago? on the Commodore 64.

El Camino de Santiago - walk across Spain.
Our vicar has done this, and from what I remember of Spain it is reasonably flat, and beautiful. Adding to this is the fact last year I was in Don Quixote of La Mancha, and I believe this walk would probably take you past some of the towns mentioned in the play/book (and so what if it doesn't?)

Walking across Europe
Looks easy enough. Somewhere I have a pamphlet by Calder and Lawson Tours which outlines a walk around part of Central Eastern Europe, i.e. Prague and Budapest etc.

Kayaking from the Netherlands to Eastern Europe.
As you can see from the below two maps, you can get from the North Sea starting at Amsterdam right across Europe all the way to the Black Sea, via the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. Buy a kayak, sweet as.

Check out http://www.communitywalk.com/map/12225 for the full size map of this, which includes all the cities you would pass along the way, and labels which river you would be on at that stage.

 I want to do the snorkeling tour I investigated last year. Basically a boat takes you up the Yasawa islands from Nadi, and apparently it is pretty awesome snorkeling.

- then I have effectively ticked off Asia, and it looks like you could do the three in one hit.

- although the pangs aren't as strong as they were pre-London, I would like to go back and check out some of the stuff I missed out, which to be fair wasn't a whole heap - mainly just Nara and Ise. I still crave Coco Ichiban from time to time (Japanese curry), and would love to catch up with Eita and Noriyoshi and some of my other students. What is scary is thinking than Ichitomi the three year old at the time is now ten, and the "Angels" who were about 12, are probably at university now.

Since I was about 10, when I first read something about Rio de Janeiro and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, I've been keen to check it out. Similarly I wouldn't mind checking out the hot ladies on Copacabana beach.

In more recent years I have heard about Machu Picchu in Peru.

Last but not least I would like to go to San Jose Banda, in Argentina, where my ancestor Donald McDonald was supposedly born.

Mainly then I can say I have been to every Continent in the World (loosely defined - as I have been to "The Americas" i.e. North America, as far down as Mexico, Asia, Europe, Oceania (obviously) and Africa (Egypt))

Keep an eye on this page, as the list will probably keep growing.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

App-ly Named...

For something different, I thought I would do an entry reviewing my favourite apps on my iPhone. Pictured below is a selection of some of my apps (basically the icons that came out when I did a screen dump from iTunes).

Not sure if I have mentioned it, but I don't know what I did before I got an iPhone... There are so many things I can do with it, from searching the net to playing games, listening to music, checking my emails etc. I kind of wish I had it back when I lived in London, as it would have proved invaluable on my daily tube journey, almost and hour each way, not only that, would have been useful for using public transport also. Too be honest the thing my phone probably gets the least use with is texting and calls, due to the sad state of my social life. With the 5,000 free texts I get each month I'd have to be dating the entire 16yo female population of New Zealand to use them up.

Anyhow, lets proceed...

Big Bang!

This is your soundboard app - because I'm cheap I have just stuck with the free version and it's limited amount of sounds, however the few sounds it has are very useful, 3 of them are whip sounds (I looked it up after seeing it on the TV programme The Big Bang (hence the name). The other sounds include a drum roll, badaboom bish..., and a cow mooing.

Obviously I have used this in the past. It is good, but it has it's limitations, but mostly because it is always easier and more functional to create a blog on a computer than on a phone. However, it is useful when on the run/adventure (travelling) to be able to write as I am going along, on the tedious bus journeys etc.

Pocket Jake
I remember back in 2009 my mate Scott had this app when we were in Berlin, and it provided some hearty laughs. I went through a stage of thinking of using it in all sorts of inappropriate situations, such as when I used to work at Corrections, which totally would have been the wrong thing to do, and especially not the audience to encourage thinking that domestic violence is funny.

Note Pad
Useful because I can jot all sorts of lists down, and they are kept in the same place. They then can be subsequently copy and pasted into emails etc.

The Night Sky
This is a cool app, you can check out the stars - by facing the phone to the sky it shows you the names of the stars you are looking at, and also where the satellites are at that moment, including the Hubble telescope and the International Space Station. Also adding value is the fact it identifies Mars and Jupiter etc, which you would otherwise just assume were general stars.

Vodafone App
Useful to know how much data, minutes, or texts I have left, as well as how much credit - although I don't use this so much now, as we have wireless at home, and so I don't eat through my bandwidth anymore. The hardest thing is remembering to top-up my phone each month (I am on the GO-19 prepay plan, for $19 I get 5000 texts, 50minutes of calls, and 500MB of data.)
Good for New Zealand news. Admittedly I only really use it when someone mentions "Did you see XYZ in the news?"

TNT Magazine UK
If there is one thing I miss about London, it is reading the TNT Magazine every week, and it was free. It is a travel magazine (and substantially meatier than the NZ version) Admittedly I don't look at this app much at the moment as I have plenty of other things to do, and it just reminds me of where I can't be.
The App store
Where all good (and some bad) apps can be bought on an iPhone near you!

iPod (now since I have updated to iOS6 - Music)
An MP3 player - good, but doesn't get a whole lot of use by me.

Awesome for counting calories vs calories burnt with exercise. Even comes with a barcode scanner, so you can scan the barcode which automatically uploads the information.
The downside however, is I got a little disheartened when I saw how many calories things I thought were healthy had, e.g. Muesli. And also the barcode scanner makes you prefer eating processed foods, as it is easier to enter the data that way.

Google Maps
To be honest, since updating to iOS6 I still haven't checked out AppleMaps due to the bad reviews, and the first thing I downloaded was GoogleMaps.

Despite my love/hate relationship with Sky (i.e. some awesome documentaries vs. repeating the same crap over and over again and having Tom, Dick, & Sanjay ring me trying to sell me it) I absolutely love their app.
We don't have Sky at home (my sister and brother-in-law do, as mentioned previously) but Sky allows you to have a favourites tab  - so I have put in order all the freeview channels, and then my favourite Sky channels (UKTV, The History Channel, BBC Knowledge etc). Not only that, but you can set reminders so it tells you when something will be on shortly. I have got it down pat that I go through my TV guides each week and set reminders for myself. The only downside is Sky will only show you one week in advance, whereas the TV guide comes out a week early.

Lightsaber (sic)
I don't know about you, but I have definitely had in the past, the desire to whip out a light sabre and annihilate someone or something from the gene pool, especially after the times I have played Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast - a totally awesome game, especially when you are in the mood to cut some stormtroopers in half.
Well, now you can. Such Fun!

CSR Racing
This is, in the words of someone else - living The Fast and Furious. A simple concept, racing a straight 1/4 mile stretch against other cars. Addictive and free, they live in the hope you'll cave and purchase some gold to speed up the upgrading process. 

 Jetpack Joyride
Quite addictive, despite being very repetitive. A good thing about it however, is the fact it doesn't try and up sell you anything, or have ads that slow it down (and eat your data).

 Kingdom Rush
This is a neat game too, not free, but no ads, and has a bit of a challenge to it, and not repetitive.

Awesome for looking anything up, without the BS.

I shall leave it there, as I have to go, and Google image search has helped limit the amount of icon pictures I could find.