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Andi’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 26 Jan 2006

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

MapFirst off, I want to say Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you all had an enjoyable Xmas and a peaceful New Year. I apologise to each and every one of you for the fact that you did not receive a card from me, not even an electronic one. I would like to say I’ll do better next year, but we’ll see…However, I hope you all know that I thought of each of you over the time, and missed you all.

So, the rumors have been abounding and most of them have found their way back to me. If the rumours are to be believed, it would seem I’ve joined a modern day mountain biking church, I’ve married a kiwi girl, and I’ve bought the next best thing to Buckingham Palace that can be found in this Fair Isle. And I guess it’s all true. Well, in part.….:-)

I have indeed decided to settle here in New Zealand for the foreseeable future and I have bought a house. The sale will complete on Feb 1st. I’ve put photos up of my new abode for all to see. I’m really chuffed with it. Its modern and totally renovated throughout, has a pool and is less than a km from the beach that I intend to swim in each morning (-yeah right!). This will be the first time in 2years, since Rachael and I separated, that I will have a home of my own, and I am greatly looking forward to it. It’ll take a wee while to settle in, especially as I’m not earning at the moment so I don’t have vast sums of money to spend on furnishings But having my own space, and a sense of home will be just great. I feel very positive about my decision to live here in NZ. It is a beautiful country, and most importantly I believe it is the place where I can establish that life of balance and nature that I yearn for. It will just take time, thats all, and you know me - impatient little tyke! As well as the house, I’ve bought myself a big 4WD to lug my ever growing collection of bikes around in. Its nearly twice my size (the truck, not the collection of bikes), and so its pretty fortunate that it has those runner board things along its side, otherwise I think I would have to pole vault into it

So, did I marry a kiwi girl? Is that what all this moving to NZ is really all about? Well, I’ll come clean and confess that I had the pleasure of spending most of November and December with a rather lovely lady, whose photo does appear once or twice in the pictures on this site (Misty). However, hold fire on your cards and presents, because the romance was short lived (relatively), and she has moved onto fresher pastures (how can that be? I hear you all cry….  ). I guess nobody likes being rejected, no matter what they tell you, and I did fall a fair way for Misty, so I was/have been sad that things didn’t work out. But, one of the great things about Auckland is that it is full of lovely, sporty, fun, intelligent women – thus, in this case, the old maxim “plenty more fish in the sea” is a most true one  So, rest assured I’m having fun and staying chilled in spite of the coming and going of said romance.

So, onto more happier subjects… - what have I been up to in the three months since I last wrote to you all (other than buying a house, a car and falling in and out of love, you all cry!) Well, back in October, I left the Glaciers of the South Island and headed down to Queenstown. I had now journeyed into true “Lord of the rings” country and it really was (is) quite spectacular. I was joined by a recent, but already good, friend Sim and we holidayed in and around Queenstown for ten days. Our adventures included throwing ourselves around the cliffs and rocks and water pools of infamous Routeburn canyon (in the name of the sport “canyoning” you realize), sea kayaking in the mysterious fjords of the Milford Sounds and mountain biking the Moonlight trail round Ben Lomond (although we were sensible, and did the 50Km route in daylight…). However, the highlight of my time in Queenstown had to be learning to paraglide. It’s a pretty daunting sight when you first open up your kite, there’s so many fine lines attached to it, and given my tiny stunt kite has been sat all tangled up,under the kitchen cupboard in Cambridge for the last four years, I was not feeling confident about my chances of not getting this mammoth beast into the most almighty mess. Thankfully, our tutor was a patient soul (and also very attractive, so you can imagine I was an attentive student), who trained us well and ensured there were no serious mishaps with the lines throughout the course. Our first day was spent running down a relatively benign slope, learning how to handle the kite. This went off so well, that the instructor told us at the end of the day that we were ready to take on our first solo flight, off the top of the 500m Coronet Peak…..Well, I had initially only booked in for a single introductory day, but the chance to fly solo off the top of the Peak was just too irresistible, so I was signed up for another three days, in order to get my first level license (PG1). I was soooooo nervous at the launch site, getting the kite ready and watching other, more experienced gliders go off the edge. Keep in mind, that because I had skipped the 100m practice hill, I hadn’t actually flown solo at this point, just lifted a few metres off the ground. As I un-wrapped my kite, I tried not to think about the fact that at this stage, no one had actually discussed with me how I should land. It’s a pretty daunting prospect throwing yourself off a hillside, whilst not really knowing how you’ll get down……other than catastrophically of course..:-) As it happened, no one actually talked me through the landing process before I launched, but I was wired up with radio communication and the instructors did a fantastic job of talking me through the whole process live. And WHAT A BUZZ! I have to say, you get the most amazing rush as you run like a mad devil to the edge of the hill and then get that sensation of being lifted. Once you’re up, and sat back in the chair, its all you can do to say to yourself in a slightly euphoric (even delirious) way “Oh my f*&^in god, I’m flying – there’s just me, and this sheet with cotton attached to it keeping me in the air right now…….oh good grief….” It’s a hell of a rush. I hope you enjoy the pictures, it was an amazingly beautiful place to fly for the first time.

After my adventures with Sim in Qtown and Milford Sounds, I headed across to Dunedin to hook up with some old friends from Cambridge-Dave and Jude, who emigrated out to NZ nearly two years ago now. It was great to see them again, and they showed me great hospitality, and I had a very chilled out time hanging with them. The highlight was the trip to the Yellow Penguin reserve. Check out the photos. These penguins are solitary penguins, only forming single partnerships with the one partner for a lifetime. During suckling, which was taking place when we visited, the partners take it in turns to sit on the babies to keep them warm, whilst the other goes out fishing. So, every morning either Dad or Mum can be seen trudging off from their nests, along the dunes, down to the sea to go out for their days work. Then, around 4pm, they come back from the fishing, and take over baby warming duty, whilst their partner trudges off for more fish. This partnership of fishing, warming and feeding goes on for a couple of months. And it is the funniest sight to see them making the long walk to and from the sea. You can almost hear the penguin muttering as he trudges from the shore front to the nest across the dunes “I wanted to live closer to work, but noooo, she had to have the nest with the view on the lake; and now I have to walk a mile instead of a quarter of a mile…..mutter, mutter, mutter”. Very funny, intriguing and beautiful animals.

So, after Dunedin. I flew back to Auckland to hook up with Misty and do some more holidaying and adventuring around the North Island. Our first trip was to the Coromandel region, which is a beautiful peninsular region to the South East of Auckland. The highlight of these few days was our epic 70km off-road mountain bike ride around the entire peninsula. It was damn knackering, and as you can see from the photo’s we got a bit mucky too – but the views of the peninsula and coastline made the effort and dirt well worth it.

Other adventures before Xmas included cylcing 160Km around Lake Taupo one weekend. This cycling event has 10,000 competitors, and handles nearly 5000 "relay" riders around the course, moving bikes around to relay stations in trucks. Spot prizes for participants included motorbike, quadbike, plasma TV and even a Nissan Murano (great big four wheel drive). It was quite an event. I also spent a week up at Whangerei Heads, which is north of Auckland and more mountain biking down at Rotorura (sorry no pics of any of these adventures, something, or someone, must have been distracting me…. )
Then, my Xmas was spent in Australia, visiting Becs and Dave, two gorgeous people, who have been friends of mine for nearly 12 years. We had the most fantastic Xmas – very Aussie - surfing on the beach on Xmas morning and then over to friends for a seafood lunch that consisted of crabs, giant prawns, moreton bay bugs and lobsters. It was very special. The following day, Becs, Dave and I had our own quiet Xmas day, in which we exchanged pressies, ate more good food and chilled out and watched movies. It was fabulous to see them both. I had originally intended to stay in Oz until Jan 10th, but I was beginning to get restless feet by the 28th or so and my mind and attention were wandering to the challenges I had set myself for my new life in Auckland. My house purchase needed some attention to get complete, I needed to get myself some wheels, and I was eager to get started on my new business plan, so that I could start earning again sooner rather than later…..not to mention get NZ residency aswell… So, although I know Becs and Dave were a little disappointed, I cut my trip short and headed back to Auckland for New Year.
So, since arriving back, I’ve been putting a lot of energy into making new friends, sorting my new home and getting my business off the ground. The business is in the field of “mobile commerce” and the goal is to utilize wireless communication technologies to encourage and maintain adherence to exercise programs. I have made some good contacts at the Uni Auckland Business School, and we have identified a potential funding partner for the initial development. I expect that the business plan/funding proposal will be complete by mid-feb, and we will know if we have secured funding by end of Feb. Aswell as this, there is a project underway here in Auckland to set up a Bioscience cluster, and there is a high probability that I will be able to work as a consultant on this project. So, exciting times indeed. Aswell as hard work, grit and determination, I think I need a little lady luck too, so cross those fingers folks. I’m riding my road bike a lot, and was also out on my mountain bike quite a bit, until the latter was stolen three days ago from the garage (not of my new house, but the house I have been staying for the last two months). Pretty disappointed to lose the bike I bought in Canada to petty criminals, but – what can you do? I also spent a weekend up north diving at the infamous Poor Knights Islands, with Jo’s family. If you recall, Greg and Jo are a couple from Auckland that I met whilst in Fiji. Since my arriving in NZ, they have become firm friends, and have been absolute stars in allowing me to rent their spare room for the last two months. Our day out at the Knights was simply perfect, warm, blue, sunny skies and it was a great diving spot - I’ve included some photos. There’s one in there of the rarely seen Selp – kind of a giant pink tube creature that just floats around in the sea all day doing not much else. Pretty weird organism! My ear held up brilliantly, and until my bike was stolen, I was preparing to buy my own diving kit – however, I will have to wait now until I have replaced my bike, and probably until I’m earning again.
So, that is pretty much my news. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will try to not be so lax in the future, and hope to write more often than I have done. I know a lot of you were beginning to worry if all was OK. Hopefully, you’ll see that all is very well. Mum and Deryk are arriving on Feb 22nd for six weeks, which I’m terrifically excited about, as I have missed home and family a great deal. My Dad and bro have plans to come at Xmas, and Evi is coming over next Feb 07. All this helps me feel good about my decision to stay here, as the world does indeed appear to be getting smaller. If all goes well with getting funding etc on the new business, then I hope to be back in Europe in June – but I will keep you all posted on this. Otherwise, who else is up for some fun in the most beautiful country in the world? My house has three spare bedrooms – so there’s plenty of room  Write soon with all your news, thinking of you all.
All my love