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Posts Tagged ‘Auckland’

A lot has happened since late March when I last posted.  All of it is for another time though because I’m going to finish off sharing some photos from Mum and Dad’s visit.  This post is the first stage of our Wellington visit, the train trip from Auckland to Wellington on the Scenic Rail Overlander service.  To be honest, although stunningly beautiful, it’s difficult to capture photos that do the views justice.  Hopefully there’s something in these for everyone… trains, mountains, people, gorges, bridges, buildings, stations,  sea and lots more.  The day was very long but everyone lasted amazingly well.  The girls did an inspirational job – no whinging, lots of colouring, lots of iPod watching, lots of standing in the open air carriage.  We arrived in Welly and then just pushed it a bit by walking to the hotel before going out for dinner.  The poor girls were buggered by this point and we barely managed to feed them before they completely crashed and had to be able to taxi them back to hotel to recharge.

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The great photo-editing bonanza continues.  This time a couple of outings over Christmas.  Firstly to Onepoto Reserve, a park we’ve mentioned before that has an excellent cycle track all laid out like a mini road system.  the second location is North Head down at Devonport.  A lovely place for a family walk, hills, tunnels, views, guns and history.

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Swimming took a new direction this summer.  A bunch of like minded fish-types from the evening swim class I use decided to join up on Sundays for an open water swim somewhere.  We usually swim somewhere on the East Coast Bays, starting around 8:30am and swimming for about an hour.

I’ve been gradually building my distance at these swims.  The first one I did, I think I probably did about 1.5km, having to turn back after a bit to ensure I didn’t get myself stranded.  Gradually the distances have pushed up as I’ve been able to keep up with the group more or less.

A few weeks ago I managed to get up to just under 3km which was the distance I swam during the harbour crossing, when I suffered terribly from cramp.  And that became a bit of a psychological barrier, which has haunted me since November.

Well I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to bury that demon well and truly with the swim I did at the weekend.  Starting at Milford Beach we were aiming for Mairangi Bay Surf Club.  I wasn’t sure of the exact distance but was aware it was over 3km.  the conditions were perfect, hardly any wind, blue skies and the air and sea temperature were lovely.

So we set off heading for a reef marker to ensure we avoided some shallow rocks off Castor Bay point.  Once we were all out to the reef marker we chose a good landmark (a big Douglas Fir on Murray’s Bay point) and set off.  Swimming about 100m off shore we made steady progress.  My mind wandered all over the place during the swim, but I managed to keep a pretty good course and chipped away at the distance.  Towards the end I could feel my legs going into what I call ‘pre-cramp’ stage.  This is where I can feel cramp knocking at the door, but it’s not quite there yet.  I know that if I have to do anything sudden or unusually strenuous or awkward my calves will go solid instantly.

But amazingly it didn’t happen.  I closed down the last few hundred meters and kept heading for the surf club building and eventually found the beach.  We didn’t take note of the exact time but it was around 1h20m.

When I measured it online later in the day I was fairly astounded and somewhat delighted that I’d done somewhere in the region of 3.7km!  I’d absolutely smashed my previous best distance and time.

It’s fair to say that I was a bit chuffed.

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My most fabulous wife got so fed-up with me huffing and puffing about not having a computer that she bought me a Mac Mini to replace it.  So I just set it all up last night properly having borrowed a monitor and went photo crazy!  I was up until after midnight getting reacquainted with my Bamboo Touchpad and ripped through our backlog of photos.

So here’s the first batch – in no sensible order I’m afraid.

These were from one of the rare nice weather days we had when Rob and Nat arrived at Christmas.  We headed up to our favourite beach Tawharanui.  Rob took his surf board and Emily had a new (pink) body board to play with.  Father Christmas had also bough Rob and Nat some water guns which stayed hidden for a while…

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Santa Parade

We’ve decided that Santa Parade is one of our most favourite things to do here.  For the uninitiated, Farmers is a big department store here and every year they sponsor a huge parade of floats and marching and giant inflatables through the middle of Auckland.  Families line the route, the sensible ones (including us this year, haha ) have their own camping chairs.

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Some people are just never satisfied are they?  Having decided that I wasn’t going to enter the Harbour Crossing this year, I caved in to text message pressure from the organisers to take part just five days before the event.  I was not sure I was fit enough and I didn’t want to enter unless I could better last year’s time.

In the 7 days before the event I’d done two open water swims.  A training run on the previous Sunday morning, covering about 1.6 to 1.7km and an event on Tuesday night covering 1.5km.  Sunday had gone well until I suffered from bad cramp and had to make for shore earlier than planned.  Tuesday I was really pleased with – a time of 26 minutes for the 1.5km.  They did warn us on the night that the course was a little short, but even so I was pleased with that.

So I get a text message wishing me luck (if I’d entered) and letting me know there were still places (if I hadn’t) and mentioning that it was a really good weather forecast.  So I caved in and decided I’d feel really let out if I didn’t at least try.

Yesterday it looked like the forecast was just plain wrong.  By the middle of the afternoon it was overcast and starting to rain.  Not what I’d ordered…  I picked up my race pack from a very congested Copthorne Hotel in Auckland.  It was looking like I was in for a long wait, but was very lucky because the line for my bib number (silly name really because you don’t wear a bib…) was almost empty.  So I skipped past the queues and after grabbing my pack, picked up a new pair of goggles at the SwimT3 stand. I love these guys.  I bought my wetsuit from them two years ago and they took such care helping fit it and get me setup for my ocean swimming in New Zealand.  And do they take advantage of being at the race pack pick-up by edging prices up a little?  No, in fact they applied a 10% discount across everything instead…

So what about the race?  Well the weather cleared and the morning was glorious.  I was sat on the deck at 7am eating porridge listening to the birds in the trees that were feeling not a breath of wind on their leaves.  I could picture the harbour – in it’s gentle, mill-pond like state, beckoning 1300 eager swimmers into it. 

After being dropped off it was clear that it was going to be a nice day, although the water conditions turned out to be not quite so mill-pond like.  As with last year the start is done in waves based on estimated time.  I was in the fourth wave this year, hoping to improve on last year’s time.  Only a minute apart I was soon following the rest of the pack around Bayswater Marina and out into the harbour.  It was all feeling good.  I was very pleased with my stroke and felt like I was making good progress.

I had real trouble sighting the first buoy so I just headed towards the pack ahead and kept going in roughly the right direction.  I got course corrected by a lifeguard after 15 minutes or so because I was drifting to far towards the bridge and away from the set course.  I picked a new landmark and pressed on.

It’s amazing how for the majority of the race there is no-one around you.  In a pack of 1300 people you’d think it would be all thrashing arms and legs.  Far from it, for the majority of the crossing I was on my own (maybe something to do with my erratic navigation).  I felt like I was doing really well as I approached the last buoy in the the open water, I’d even started to pick up some other swimmers.

It was somewhere around this point – about 30 minutes from finishing maybe – that someone swam over me.  Not a big deal, they just clipped my legs and it happens.  However, I tensed up and my reaction caused both my thighs to cramp up horribly.   I took a few minutes to slow down and do some different kicking to swim through it and cleared the cramp.  But now I had a problem.  The other muscles in my legs decided to join the party.  So if I tried to put on any power through my arms, I’d have to kick to stabilise with my legs and one after another my calf would go, then I’d clear it, then an ankle, then the other calf.  For the remainder of the swim I was concentrating purely on kicking out whatever cramp had just hit.  I’m pretty sure it crucified my pace for that last section and as I approached the steps I was actually a little worried that I might not be able to stand as I left the water.

The last section of the race is through the newly refurbished part of the the viaduct harbour and it makes a great end to the race.  You swim under the new opening bridge and round to some new steps that lead down from the refurbished Wynyard quarter area and make a great place to finish and to spectate.

I didn’t even see the clock because my legs were so sore as I managed to stand and hobble over the finish line.

In the end I did finish ahead of last years time.  Only by a minute or so by the clock time, but last year’s course was shorter.  So if you adjust the time to make it a fair comparison my time this year of 1:27:56 was about four minutes faster than last year’s adjusted 1:31:42.

So I’m delighted I went for it.  I’m delighted I beat last year’s time.  I would have preferred to hit somewhere around the 1:10:00 mark and who knows, without the navigation and cramp blunders I would have been nearer to it.  But they are all part of the event.  So for another year that’s the harbour crossed.  Whenever I look out at the stretch of water between Bayswater marina and the viaduct harbour I feel very very satisfied.

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Auckland is changing.  There are so many projects on the go at the moment.  Many were in the lead up to the rugby world cup, but that’s all done now, so it will be interesting to see if the rate of change slows significantly.

One project that has nothing to do with the world cup is the change to Aucklands motorway in the Victoria Park area.

The Victoria Tunnel Project re-routes around 450m of motorway through a new northbound tunnel in order to allow traffic in the opposite direction to use all four lanes of the fly-over (currently two north and two south).

Admittedly it’s not quite as impressive a construction project as other tunnels, for instance the The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland at 57km long, but when the opportunity arose to walk through it on the open day we had to take it!  We’ve been regularly driving past the works for more than a year and there was mostly very little to see.  Occasionally you would get a glimpse of the uncovered trench of the cut and cover tunnel, but mostly it was largely hidden from view.

I really hope they have the traffic modelling correct because if they haven’t it’s going to be a very big expensive way of moving a bottleneck 450m further south!

I’ve included a few photos of the family and some civil engineering ‘porn’ for other tunnel fans!

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Well, that was an even LONGER gap between posts.  I offer no excuse.  It has been rather busy round here lately though.

We’ve had an entire Rugby World Cup since I last posted.  The whole event has been fantastic.  Right from the unbelievably over-successful build up to the opening ceremony to the last point of the last game where New Zealand won as the All Blacks beat Les Bleus by a single point.  Although you could argue that All Blacks didn’t deserver the game, the French truly did not deserve the cup.  Their campaign was lacklustre, sporadic and inconsistent.  The All Blacks on the other hand played solid rugby in every match and their performance was nothing short of inspiring.

Josie and I decided to be part of the action live and treated ourselves to quarter final tickets and watched the All Blacks play Argentina at Eden Park.  The game was brilliant to watch although a little odd as well.  For starters there was no commentary!  Maybe obvious, but without camera closeups and replays and experts nudging along your understanding you have to just figure it all out for yourself.

To get to the match we walked the ‘Fan Trail’.  This was an ‘Only in New Zealand’ scheme where a route was marked out from the waterfront of Auckland all the way up the main street and then the full 4.5km to the stadium.  They dotted the route with entertainment and some art exhibitions, sausage sizzles, face painting, free stuff etc.  It took an hour and a bit to walk the route and the atmosphere was brilliant.

Well it’s all over now and the country has the outcome it wanted.  Emily idolises Richie Mccaw the captain and was utterly thrilled to catch a glimpse of him at the utterly packed victory parade on Monday.

She has several big broadsheet double page posters up on her wall of the team in various poses.  Both she and Lucy absolutely love the Haka of course.  Lucy does a hilarious rendition herself which I haven;t managed to catch on video yet.  She does the first bit ok (Ka Mate, Ka mate, Ka ora, Ka ora) then drops into a kind of speaking in tongues three year old mimicry of a language she can’t speak and finishes with a big ‘He!’ and jumps in the air.  It’s quite delightful to watch.

So I’m a little wiser in the ways of rugby (partly through watching and partly from the book I got when I left Asda).  I’ve been to my first live rugby game.

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It’s been over a month since my last post.  That is truly dreadful, I feel quite ashamed.

A couple of weekends ago it was New Zealand Father’s Day.  It’s a different date to the UK version.  Josie got the kids all excited and whipped up into a frenzy… a week early.  She tried to tell Emily she’d made a mistake, but it didn’t stop Em bursting in on Sunday morning around 7am, shouting “Happy Father’s Day Daddy!”

A week later on the correct weekend I was truly shown a magnificent day of appreciation.  It started earaly in the morning with a written note.  The note had a big ‘L’ drawn on it and the words “lovely presents from Lucy’.  I got some fantastic choccies and biscuity stuff that Lucy had made at day care and then I got another note with an ‘E’ on it.  “Lovely presents from Emily” followed.

Very excitingly I got a Sushezi Sushi making device.  It’s an amazing thing.  It resembles an artifical insemination device you might find on a farm.  Thankfully the stuff that comes out of it is much more tasty… You boil and season your rice as normal and then load up the tube like device with 1/2 a cup or so.  You can then use part of it to make a channel in your rice and load up some filling.  As the tube is kind of split in half lengthways the final stage is to press the two halves together and then turn the screw thread plunger to compress the sushi to just the right consistency.  Once done, you can just push a perfectly formed sushi ‘sausage’ out onto some seaweed and roll it up.  Hey presto – perfect sushi.

Anyway, back to father’s day.  More notes and getting dressed, we headed out to a cafe for some yummy food.  The girls took the opportunity to make the most of the skatepark thanks to the early morning and slightly overcast weather.  Some kind soul from the previous day had smashed a bottle on the park and that was going to be really bad for any of the kids that would descend later in the day.  Looking around I spied the most likely source of a broom – The Salvation Army!  A very nice porter leant me a truly huge holy broom with which I smited the glass bottle right off the park.

The day progressed and we headed into town to visit our newly opened art gallery.  It is truly fantastic – they have done an amazing job of renovating the old part of the building and adding a lovely new part.  We stayd for ages and grabbed some nice food hall lunch before heading off.

After briefly pausing to watch some boys doing Parkour (and the girls having to have a go of course) we decided to make the final call of the day to the Wynyard Quarter.  This is an area of waterfront in Auckland that has sat undeveloped and somewhat derelict for years.  In time for the Rugby World Cup they have done an amzing job of renovating it and putting in public areas for play, rest, eating and drinking, contemplation and mediation.  Art works and sculptures sit alongside huge benches on wheels that make use of the dock areas old rails.  Really thoughtful.

I have to say it was the most lovely day of feeling loved by my girls. 🙂

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