Kiwi Adventures 2015: Weeks 3 and 4

Kiwi Adventures Weeks 3-4

“There and Back Again…”
This is the equivalent of that postcard you scribble out on the flight home and pop in the postbox along the road from your own house. I reckon it’s a pretty good sign when you’re having too much fun on your travels to find the time to write about it…

“Not all those who wander are lost…” J.R.R. Tolkien

After an adrenaline-fuelled first couple of weeks swinging off bridges and rafting down rapids, I got behind the wheel once again and did some road-tripping. After playing a game in one of my favourite places in NZ, Taupo – we’ll gloss over the hockey for now – I continued through the North Island up to Tauranga. Having (theoretically) ‘grown up’ in Jersey, I have good reason for being a bit of a beach snob. However, after trekking up the summit path of Mount Maunganui in the sunshine to look down on the white sand of Maunganui beach, I can safely say that this place ticks some serious boxes. It’s pretty mindblowing to look out across the ocean knowing that the next landmass is Chile – about 6000 miles away.

One of the awesome things about this trip has been having the chance to catch up with friends – Brits abroad and Kiwi mates who live further away than I would like them to. The day after Tauranga, I also managed to pop in and visit my fantasy cousins in the Shire. Maybe this just makes me a weird Lord of the Rings nut, but there’s something pretty magical about going in a hobbit hole and drinking a cheeky (hobbit-sized) beer in the Green Dragon Inn. A hike up to Wairere Falls and our brilliant day in Middle Earth was complete.

Time flies when you’re having fun and 2000km of road-tripping later, tournament week in Whangerei, Northland was suddenly around the corner. We stayed in a beautiful location in Tutukaka and relaxation is pretty important when you take on the challenge of seven games in nine days. The standard of hockey was definitely better than last year and the ‘Central Caterpillars’ and I gave it everything. We essentially just missed out on a semi-final place by one goal, leaving us all gutted. Having said that, it was a brilliant week – we played some exciting hockey and I loved being part of such a fun and gutsy team. It’s always great to have the chance to step out alongside top players you’ve admired as an opponent, but it’s also nice to see younger players making their first mark on the game at a high level. I hope I’ll get another chance to wear the Central colours…

After the tournament, I gatecrashed the winners’ party (thanks for having me Auckland!), caught up with more friends and did a final bit of exploring with my trusty tour guide and general legend, Jules. Most of our travels usually seem to revolve around food but as well as filling our boots we fitted in a day trip to Waiheke island for more beach wandering and a stunning winery, a morning at Takapuna Beach on the North Shore, and a very windy view across Auckland from One Tree Hill in Cornwall Park.

After another amazing adventure with some amazing people, it was finally time to set off on the long journey home. The really, really long journey. I’m very happy to be safely back home with the boy and feel ready for the special and exciting few months ahead. But there’s just something about New Zealand that makes me feel like a little part of me belongs there too.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The Lord of the Rings

 

Find me on twitter @inkingfeeling and Instagram @herbie17 for updates…

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Kiwi Adventures 2015: Weeks 1 and 2

Kiwi Adventure 1

This entry comes from New Zealand… It’s a pretty spectacular place and as well as being very well-looked after by my brilliant adoptive Kiwi family, I’m doing my best to make the most of being here. Rather than my usual ramblings about sport and whatever else gets my ideas flowing, I thought I’d write a bit of a blog-postcard about my travels.

After a few days of waking up outrageously early, acclimatizing to NZ’s wind and rain, and a bit of training with the Central NHL team, I’ve settled in nicely for this year’s Kiwi adventure. The first game was on Saturday and we started with a great 3-2 victory… although only a few days after a 38-hour 4-flight journey my body did not feel like it was winning. We then had a fund-raising dinner and I was definitely more nervous about taking the stage for a Q&A with an All Black and two of the greatest ever Blacksticks players than I will be for any of the hockey games!

I road-tripped down to Wellington on Monday – the furthest South I’ve ever ventured. The roads here are a little different to the motorways back home. ‘State Highway 1’, which as its name suggests is a reasonably significant route, is over 1000 kilometers long in the North Island alone. It’s mostly single carriageway, with occasional passing lanes to let you overtake the truck you’ve been stuck behind for miles on end. A bit of a contrast to the good old M25…
I spent most of the day in the ‘Te Papa’ Museum of New Zealand. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to free-to-access museums in London, but this museum was right up there. Exhibitions on the World War I ANZAC campaign in Gallipolli, Maori history/culture and colonial emigration kept me entertained for a good few hours. I finished my day with a trip to a lookout point on Mount Victoria for some 360° views across the city and the Cook Strait, and a toe-dip in the ocean at Oriental Bay – not as cold as I feared.

“Do one thing that scares you every day…”

A couple of days later, I went to the Mokai Gravity Canyon with two of my Central team mates. After spotting a website promotion, we decided to forsake our dignity to get the experience for half price by wearing onesies – luckily Georgia’s outfit made Pip and I look almost normal. A technical glitch meant we couldn’t stick to our original plan to go on the ‘Flying Fox’, a 160kph zipline. Instead, we faced the stomach-dropping option of NZ’s highest bridge swing, which involves a free fall of around 50m. My inner adrenaline junkie tends to make me laugh – ok, giggle – in the face of danger and I’m pleased to say the other two embraced the idea of doing something that scares you every day.

One day of excitement in the great outdoors wasn’t enough for me, so I set off at 6.30am yesterday for half a day of white water rafting. The amount of rainfall meant that the river level was right on the safety limit for rafting. This led to a bit of standing around until the guides decided we were safe to navigate the Grade 5 rapids. Our guide told us the Rangitikei is a technical river, “which basically means there’s lots of rocks.” He also mentioned about five different spots where people had drowned whilst rafting, including an instructor. Good to know.
Most of my fellow rafters seemed to be “proper travelers”, bus-touring and backpacking around NZ. Thankfully, a Mancunian-Aussie, a Kiwi PE teacher and a Belgian Catholic priest let me join their gang for the morning. I don’t tick many boxes when it comes to organized religion, but if we had hit a big rock/capsized/become Rangitikei River horror story no.6 for our instructor to tell his next crew, I figured at least pity might be taken on our whole raft. Having said that, I later saw Father Louis drinking a pint in the lodge wearing full on cassock and collar so…

I’m already looking forward to game two this weekend in Taupo (the location of my skydive last year). After that, more travels and catching up with friends.
Until the next adventure!

 

Follow me on twitter @inkingfeeling for updates