A Travellerspoint blog

Day 46: Wednesday 17th April 2013

Hello North Island

rain 19 °C

We woke late, having not set an alarm to a bright yet drizzly morning. We got up and went for a 30 minute run along the estuary which the carpark we had stayed in serviced. We had a great run, Martin did some exercise, I got changed in the public toilets: the novelty of getting changed standing up (the van is so low that this isn't possible unless you change outside the van), the toilets were impressively clean. We had breakfast and then after a bit of planning we got on our way.

We had a rethink on venturing further north based on the weather: the bay of islands was about 400 km away and petrol is even more pricy here than in Australia so we opted to head south of Auckland to a spa town called Rotorua which would also be closer to the run we had booked for Saturday.

En route we found a shopping centre and popped in to sort out phone / Internet options. It turned out that New Zealand is more expensive than Australia for mobile connectivity...with our oz dongle (USB) completely useless over here we opted for Vodafone, which in fitting with its UK, and contrary to it's Australian is a good quality network with good coverage....we got a dongle and decided to do without a phone to save the dollars!
Back out in the car park I put the key in the ignition, turned and nothing happened: we had accidentally left the lights on when we had gone into the shopping centre, about an hour earlier, and the battery had gone completely flat! We obviously hadn't taken out the insurance which covers us for such stupid acts and resorted to trying to push start it, with Martin pushing and me sitting in to no avail. With little options available to us we started to ask passing drivers, singling out any trade vans and older vehicles who's occupants we thought were most likely to own a set of jump leads. Thankfully a local guy did have a pair...in his wife's car, she had just left the shopping centre so he called her on his mobile to get her to come back.
In no time at all the engine was back running (thankfully our diagnosis of flat battery had been right and we hadn't wasted the poor guys time!) we thanked them profusely and got on our way, being mindful of not stalling for the first half an hour or so.

It would appear people in New Zealand are really friendly, with another person stopping and offering longer jump leads to help us. Never of them were condescending as to our unfortunate error and they went out of their way to help. Much nicer than we had previously experienced in Australia.
We opted to stay in Taupa, a small town known for its corrugated statues which is on the road to the spa town: they have obviously used these animal based creations to attract visitors to stop in their town and use the local shops. We managed to find another lay-by to sleep in for the evening, tucked away behind the houses and the main street in a park.
We ate the reduced price steak we had found in the supermarket the night before and did a sweet potato mash and veg to go with it. We were very impressed with our dish, especially as it was cooked in the semi darkness out the back of the camper van on a camp stove!

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 15:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 45: Tuesday 16th April 2013

Goodbye Australia..it's been a pleasure!

rain 18 °C

We were up at 4:30 for a 4:50 pick up to the airport, all our time in Australia we had used the bus and then the train to the airport, on this occasion we decided to opt for the transfer bus, we assumed this would be expensive but went for it as the surfboards would be difficult to transport, it turned out to be $60 for the two of us....a bargain considering that's probably only $20 more than our usual option. It was so straight forward, we sat their and arrived in just over an hour at our terminal.
Next obstacle of the morning: checking in our 'extra bag' ....after last nights mini crisis the surfboards were taped together in their respective bags. The didgeridoo sandwiched between them in Barry's bag, we did the self check in, with the help of one of the assistants, and then made our way, almost knocking the poor assistant over with the end of the boards, to the desk. Luckily the girl was so busy asking us about our back packs that she didn't really notice the fact the extra bag was in fact two bags strapped together, she however did look a little confused that a surfboard could weigh 18 kg!
We deposited the boards in the extra sports baggage cage and found ourselves a seat in the departure area, saving the immigration and bag security checks until nearer the time: we were 3.5 hours early for our flight! We made use of the excellent wifi available at terminal 1 and spoke to my parents on Skype, loaded some videos of us onto our you tube site by which time it was time to go through into the main departure area.
Martin had to go into the full body scan whilst I looked normal enough to just go through the metal detector. In departures we got a quick bite to eat and then made our way, in theory late, to our departure gate....the plane was delayed so we sat around for a while before eventually boarding. The flight was smooth considering the amount of cloud and wind.
We landed in Auckland amidst heavy rain clouds, the temperature when we got off the plane was evidently cooler despite using a walkway into the terminal. We were through immigration in no time, Shrek and Barry were already waiting for us propped up in a special holder to the side of the carousel, we quickly got our bags and then had to go through the screening system which included the scanning of our bags to make sure we weren't bringing any animal based goods, including traces of soil into the country, even the surfboards got scanned!
Once officially clean we made our way to the taxi rank as described in the rental details a taxi would cost us around $20 to the hire company depot, however when we told the driver our destination he informed us that we could use the companies shuttle bus...they have a shuttle bus?
Sure enough a phone call later and we were being picked up by a nice Mari lady and taken tot he depot. There was some confusion over our deposit which took some time to sort out, but that was ok: for the inconvenience they swapped us into a brand new van and gave us a heater for free!
Once on our way, the first stop was the supermarket. They don't seem to put as much effort into presentation in New Zealand; the shop wasn't the polished, smart labelled, fresh looking shelving you would expect to see in UK or Australian supermarkets, but the service was friendly enough. First impressions were that fresh produce was cheaper whilst imported goods, similarly to Australia, were pricy.
Once the shopping was complete we got on our way, heading north we intended to get north of Auckland and then find somwhere to camp, Owera fitted the brief: we turned off the main highway and quickly found a carpark which we though advertised camper parking, it turned out the following day, it was in fact an area whe you can empty your porta-loo!
We had soup and bread for tea and then got an early (ish) night. After the early morning we were grateful to get to bed!

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 18:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 44: Monday 15th April 2013

Sorting, Packing, Returning & Posting

sunny 22 °C

We got up and got straight down to sorting out the camper van: moving the rest of our belongings out and then giving it a clean. Next on the agenda was packing our bags ready for New Zealand. Once we fingered out what we wanted to keep we had to figure out what was going home and what to throw or give away.
We carried everything destine for home to the post office: the boxes in there were too small so we went in search of something suitable: we had the 1.2 meter didgeridoo we had bought in Byron to fit in. We soon found one in a local green grocers, although the lady had to remove all the flowers in it for us. We used one of the benches outside the post office to package it all up. just under an hour late it was all in and sealed using a whole reel of brown tape: well we wanted to make sure it was secure.
Presenting our well wrapped parcel at the counter the sales assistant look worried she thought it might be too heavy, her colleague thought it might be too long....and it was: Australia post will only take parcels up to 105 cm, ours was just over 120! We had to take the whole thing apart, buy another smaller box and put everything but the didgeridoo back in, we then re-taped the box and sent it off: we would be home before this one but sent it to my parents just in case.
Next on the list was returning the van, luckily we had decided to return it a day early so we would have plenty of time before the flight, it was a good job we did too, it took ages for them to process us. We dropped into a couple of gift shops on the way back to dee why, including a boutique cupcake shop, purely for research purposes, to sample a couple of their mini cakes before getting the bus back.
Back in Dee Why we finished off our packing and then went down to their garage to get the surfboards ready: we had to take the fins off before putting them both into one bag. unfortunately it was more than a tight fit...they weren't going to fit, we had no choice but to put them into their respective bags, put the didgeridoo in too, and their straps for attaching them to the roof, and then tape them together in order to make them look like the one bag they are supposed to be!
With everything crossed that the airline would accept the boards as one bag, we went out for dinner with our hosts for the final time: we had stayed with them for just under four weeks in total, spent Christmas and new year with them as well as met up for meals and even an ocean swim whilst we had been in Australia: we were sad to say goodbye (we would be up well before them in the morning). We had a lovely meal in a beachfront restaurant in Dee Why before saying our final good byes.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 18:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 43: Sunday 14th April 2013

Mud and guts

sunny 28 °C

We woke early at our 'next to the event' park accommodation. Grabbed a quick breakfast and headed ingot eh event. The sun was shining even at 7am, it was going to be a glorious day. I was very great full to be in the first wave, just that little bit cooler. My wave left at 9am so hopefully I could finished before the sun really got his hat on.

I was feeling a little nervous at this point, the average finish time was 3.5 hours. As ever worth here things they build up the toughness of it, but we got the feeling it was going to be a lot more intense than the school playground tough guy challenge we had both done in Melbourne. I was very lucky to have such great support, which would have only been made better with Pom-poms.

There were quite a few people mulling around on the course ready, some guys were wearing just skins (a tight cycling short like garment) on their bottoms. I thought to myself they are clearly on a mission. Little did I know I would be soon joining the 'shirtless' crew.

The race sort of started by us running along and jumping a wall into the 'holding pen' where a guide took us thorough all the details and got us in the mood. There was a lot of testosterone on show all good fun.

Then it started and we were off, the first half kilometre only contained a jump over bails. I was about 40 people back. The first event was a 30m crawl through mud under barbed wire. Thankfully this was more real mud, not the stinky compost we had experienced previously. A dab hand I thought, as we carried on running. I must admit I found the first 15mins really tough, my breakfast kept repeating as did the numerous free sport nutrition products I had greedily consumed before the race.

The next obstacle was straight into the river, explaining the lifeguards we had seen at the beginning. Chest deep in a river we had to wade and duck and swim through the river up stream. upon exiting my number had completely come off bar one pin and so I had to remove it, furthermore my t-shirt was so heavy, I need to get rid.

Back into the main area I managed to give Sarah my t-shirt on the way through. the next obstacle was to jump into the back of a dumper truck of ice, crawl underneath and through the other side. It was freezing, numbing and I climbed out shivering. Slowly heading on my way to warm up the semi frozen muscles.

There was some significant hill running up hill and down dale. The second quarter was a lot of running with some obstacles. To be honest the obstacles blur into one another, and I couldn't tell you the order, or even probably remember all 20. But on route there were lots of crawling through tunnels, wading through mud, climbing over fences and trenches, sliding down mud into water. The second quarter was great fun, I was out pretty much on my own, with a Irish guy, who we talk for a while and he, on hearing we were vagabonds' offered for us to have a shower at his house in bondi when we were done. It was great having company on the lonely trip and giving each other motivation was helpful to keep pushing. I hadn't realised I was going so fast but clearly we had been doing well.

Half way was marked by my least favourite obstacle, carry 2 x 5kg sand bags 1km through mud and deep water (in places). It was knackering. After that though I started to feel really good, and up for it, the fire had increased. A few obstacles later as I jumped over and under wooden poles the attendant said I was in fifth place. Wow I thought, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being so high up the field. By this stage the Irish guy was starting to flag and so we gradually separated to our own races. By the last 25% they had saved the best obstacles, but I could see 4th place and 3rd place in front. Determination and grit stuck in and i pushed forwards. I could see I was gaining on both guys. The next obstacle was jumping over a hay bail pyramid I shot up and managed to catch up a good 20 yards on 4th. Pushing down the hill to the next obstacle a straight face climb. Which we reached top at he same time. Only happened that there was a 5m drop the other side into water. I asked how deep the water was and being told 3m I jumped straight in. 4th place (now 5th) was far too cautious and I managed to get well ahead and closing my sites on 3rd.

I had caught 3rd by the next obstacle, a climb over 3 12ft walls. Which I jumped up grab on and pulled myself over. Thanking a 'fortifying your upper body workout PDF' a friend has sent me, it definitely had made the difference. After the walls a look back showed two guys who were closing in about 50ft behind. After the walls we headed down to the much talked about eels obstacle, a crawl through water with electric fencing dangling down. there was little choice but to crawl through, you couldn't avoid the wires and so had to take the shocks, which were pretty strong, especially with the water. Mostly i was ok with the pain, as it was like being hit by the stallion fences we had encountered riding, strange where training comes from. At the end of the obstacles I copped an electric shock right in the face which made my head go fuzzy.

I must have got shocked between 10-20 times, but the only one which hurt still was my face. However, it had taken it its toll on my energy levels, I had gone from buoyant to exhausted in the space of the 5m crawl. Thankfully I had Sarah support screaming me on which as lovely and helped my tired body push onwards.

But what was next was a few killer long hills and massive inclines. A quick look back showed a couple of guys were catching. I dug deep and pushed for the top, my legs burnt but I was in 3rd and determined not to relinquish my 'bronze' position. Pure grit and determination got me up the hills, but these guys were so fast, they had caught me near the top, almost as soon as they had caught up and overtook, they started walking, which wasn't much slower than my run at that point. At the water station at the top of the hill I pushed on fast and they didn't follow as quick. As we headed down the hill I looked back to see one of them folded over and out of the game. I could also see 2nd place 500 yards in front. So I pushed on to see if I could catch him, feeling safe from challengers behind.

I ran straight up the face of the 'Everest' a clear sprint up climb and then down onto the monkey bars. I was catching second place all the time, but by this stage my body was struggling and every step was a painful reminder of the many before. Sarah was also running alongside pushing me onwards in loving taunts. Finally the final obstacle a run though more of the electric fences this time dangling down with no water and the finish line the other side it was a piece of cake.

I was exhausted but delighted to have finished what I thought was 3rd place, only 10 yards behind second. Only after being forced a can of solo and a beer for the photos as well as my finishers headband did i realise that there were 3 people having their photo taken for the top three. So I was in fact in 4th place, then winner was so quick apparently, that the woman must have been confused when she told me I was in 5th. I was so gutted, having fought so hard for what I thought was third. It failed to dawn on me at that point that finishing 4th out of the 500 I started with was pretty dam good. Instead I was left really disappointed. Strange if i was told that i would finish fourth before the race i would have been ecstatic. The disappointment soon left and exhausted but happy we headed back to the van.

we headed back to dee why in syndey, where we caught up with friends talking all about our Australia travels as well as enjoying hot showers. I went for a little rest whilst Sarah went for a swim.

We finished the day, after a snooze/swim with a classic Sunday roast and a few drinks at the social club. A massive not for profit bar/ casino/ bowling hall. It's an amazingly big venue and very cheap. Having relaxed thoroughly it was time for bed. Having had a very eventful and good fun day.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 18:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 42: Saturday 13th April 2013

Night strolls and cupcakes

sunny

We woke up in the park having enjoyed a good nights rest. Manly was busy and car park places were clearly fiercely competitive judging by the bad looks we received upon exiting and eating breakfast. We headed to our favourite manly cafe opposite the laundrette and wash our clothes whilst enjoying coffee and the wifi service.

After washed and dried we walked to manly beach to watch the free surfing competition, with none other than world renown Kelly slater. Unfortunately we have seen more waves in the bath and so no one was catching anything. Instead we headed into manly and did some souvenir shopping. We had booked a cupcake decorations course with a famous company in Sydney and so headed there for our afternoon cakes. Arriving very early we settled for lunch next door at a great pub, on the balcony in the sunlight, and talked about our travels and how it was sad to be leaving but exciting to be heading on.

The cupcakes course was good, no where near as detailed as our previous one, and we spotted the difference straight away. However, we had clearly progressed and were producing some pretty fab cakes. Going for baby shower colours, they looked the business. Still the company used the pre-baked premixed cakes which tasted poor, but looked amazing.

After a good few photo sessions we rushed back to manly for the night time safari tour at north head point. It was a birthday present which had been cancelled, because the owner had to go fight bush fires. Thankfully no such fires and a splendidly clear evening got us in the mood, and more importantly the animals were bought out to play. We were given night vision goggles and headphones. Feeling something like the Special forces we headed on safari, looking at a great number of possums, bandicoots and nightlife. Whilst travelling over north head. It was great to also hear the history of the region and find out more about the ancestral owners of the land. We also enjoyed some bush food a tea whilst hearing stories in the star light before heading home (to the van). It was a lovely end to our time in manly and a good farewell. We jumped in the car and drove the 2 hours to the tough mudda event. Stopping at a car park, in a local park, 5mins down the road from the event.

Posted by Jolley-Jarvis 18:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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