Neoprene clad arms flail about me, and not just my own. There are hundreds of them. All fighting atop the frigid ocean. Slowly churning the seawater surface into a white froth that a barista would be proud of.
Green, blue, red and white capped heads bob between the arms. Heads turning and mouths agape gasping for breath between strokes.
Not for the first time I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Competing in the Auckland Harbour Swim
When most people go on holiday they think about relaxing on a beach sipping a cocktail, or fine dining and experiencing local cultures. So what the hell was I doing lining up to race in the 2.9 km (1.8 miles) Auckland Harbour Swim?
And more so, what the hell was I doing lining up to race in the 2.9 km Auckland Harbour Swim without ANY training!
Auckland Harbour Swim course, 2.9 kms (1.8 miles)
To say I grew up in the water is probably an understatement. Living in New Zealand meant that we were always near the ocean. My family have all represented New Zealand in Underwater Hockey (yes, it is a sport and it is where Adela and I met). My older brother, Moss, even swam in two Olympics and won Gold at the Commonwealth Games.
So I am no stranger to competing in ocean swims. What I am stranger to, is that this was all quite a few years ago.
Mum had convinced my two brothers and I to join her to raise money for depression which she fights on a daily basis. I only had two problems. One being that she had told us that we were doing it 2 weeks before I flew back to New Zealand, and two, that we had no time to train.
Before: Cole, Mum, Dane and Moss, slightly nervous…
Staring out across the course for the Auckland Harbour swim would put most people off attempting it.
Add to that the slow gathering of darkening clouds overhead, heavily laden with rain. The wind howling under the majestic arch of the Auckland Harbour Bridge sweeping the ocean surface into a swarming mess of waves and whitecaps. And even the most sane would decide to back out.
But still the hundreds of the pre-registered swimmers turned up in their droves. Most squeezed into their slick wetsuits with the aid of a little vaseline. Some mad ones choosing to brave it in just a pair of budgie smugglers.
It was only now that apprehension began to seep into the pit of my stomach. The porridge I had consumed at breakfast for its slow releasing energy threatened to release a little quicker from my mouth as my stomach twisted in butterflies and knots.
All too quickly we were ushered into the sea. Barely enough time for a last tightening of goggle straps and hugs all round.
The hooter sounded as we bobbed up and down like corks. The frenzy began.
The starts are always the worst in these events.
Struggling to find a rhythm we stroked away from the line as everyone else took off with blatant disregard for the total distance we had to cover. All thoughts of their own training gone out of their heads as the fight for space ensued.
Boxing Mum in-between us to keep other swimmers out of her path we splashed on. Clawing our way across the Auckland Harbour in a ragged line we followed the marker buoys.
Thoughts rolled uncontrollably through my head.
The salt water spraying from the top off rolling waves quickly dried my throat. Why didn’t I drink more?
Each breath I took increased the raw chafing beginning to burn around my neck where neoprene met skin. Why hadn’t I applied more vaseline?
Weary arms flopped uselessly from my shoulders. Why hadn’t I trained?
Minute after minute we pounded on. Fatigue slowly wearing us down. Yet with each stroke the distant shoreline creeped closer. The rolling waves that had been tossing us about began to subside.
My nostrils filled with the sudden scent of diesel fuel mixed with the ocean. A smell only familiar with moored boats. Through my foggy goggles the outlines of the sun-stained and exposed pilings from the wooden piers plunged into the Auckland Harbour.
Strangers lined the docks cheering us on as if we had just returned from war. Perhaps we had. A war fought against the sea.
A surge of energy flowed through my leaden limbs urging me on.
Blood rushed into our feet as we staggered up the finishing ramp. Legs trembling , barely able to hold my weight. Hands clutched together, grins cracking our weathered faces we stepped across the line.
A moment of triumph.
After: Mum, Dane, Cole and Moss.
If you want to compete in the Auckland Harbour Swim, or any of the six excellent State Ocean Swim Series around New Zealand next summer, check out their website for more information. I highly recommend it. But maybe train a bit more than me first! I would also advise you booking your Auckland travel package in advance, so you get the best deals on your flights and hotel accommodation
Special thanks to all our supporters who donated to our Swim for Depression. We managed to raise $1100!
A huge thank you to the Organiser of the State Ocean Swim Series, Scott Rice, who supported us in the Auckland Harbour Swim. And also Rebecca Barlow for the professional photos taken on the day.
Four Jandals ABC’s of Travel
A journey to the past to look back on our travels from our brief time on this beautiful planet we all call home.
We were recently tagged by the hilarious Lucy from On the Luce and D.J. from the World of Deej in the Travel Blogger’s “A to Z of Travel” meme that has been doing the rounds on the interweb for the last few months. We thought it would be a great chance to look back at not only our last 2 and a half years of travel as a couple but also our travels individually.
All of the questions were pre-picked so grab a cup of coffee / tea / juice sipper and sit back and join us on our journey into the past…
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
Cole – Does it count if I was in my Mum’s tummy when she travelled to Canada? If not then probably when I was a few years old to hop across the ditch to Surfer’s Paradise with the family. Went back several times and always loved the beach, weather and theme parks.
Adela – Not sure if this is the first trip but it is certainly the first one I remember. We went on a family trip to Noumea and I think I was about Seven. Having the luck that my family does it rained every day! And me being the bossy/naughty kid I was, I ran off from Mum and Dad when we were in town. Needless to say I was on a very short leash for the rest of the trip!
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
Cole – Tough call but having a cold Bintang in Jimbaran Bay, Bali, always springs to mind when thinking about tasty beers. I think it’s more about the setting rather than the beer!
Adela – Singa beer in Thailand. I agree with Cole its all about the setting. Drinking in an outdoor bar right on the beach is pretty damn good!
C: Cuisine (favorite):
Cole – Since it’s about travel it has to be France apart from when I ordered just a plate full of beans for Adela with my hopeless grasp of the French language. Otherwise BBQ’s in New Zealand win hands down.
Adela – Italian! I could eat pasta every day!
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
Adela – Favourite; Munich is an awesome city. The buildings are beautiful, especially the glockenspiel. The feel of the place is awesome with beer gardens and awesome food markets. Least favourite; London is just too big for me!
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
Cole – Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt.
Adela – Going to the “Edge of the World” in Jasper National Park.
F: Favorite mode of transportation:
Cole – Bicycling anywhere whether it is Mountain Biking in Scotland or cruising in Paris.
Adela – I definitely agree with Cole unless snowboarding counts?
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Cole – The freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Adela – Seeing places that you have dreamed of and saved for months then turning those into memories that you will treasure forever.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
Cole – Definitely not Scotland! But I would say Marrakech was fairly hot and we were only there in the off-peak season.
Adela – Probably Thailand. Lots of afternoon naps required.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
Cole – Always staying with friends and family when we travel. It is so nice to have a “local” show you around an area and cook a nice home cooked meal when you are on the road. Beats 5 stars every time (but that’s because we never stay in 5 star places haha).
Adela – I am goingto be cheesy and say we had some damn good service in Canada but then their motive is getting a tip. So its not really genuine good service haha.
J: Journey that took the longest:
Cole – We had to rush back home to New Zealand from Scotland when a loved one was sick. Not only was it the longest trip in terms of time, 37 hours, but it was also hard not knowing if we would make it in time.
Adela – Journeys that feel the longest are the ones where you get delayed. If you do get delayed use a company like Flight Delay Claims 4 U as you will not be ready for the time you have to spend in the airport otherwise! On the way back from Egypt we sat on the runway in Amsterdam for an hour and didn’t take off before spending a further few hours in the airport. Not fun.
K: Keepsake from your travels:
Cole – Photographs and this travel blog are our only ones at the moment. I did use to collect nail clippers until they started restricting them on flights!
Adela – Badges that I sew on my backpack. Except my backpack broke so now I am just adding to the pile of badges under my bed.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Cole and Adela – The Mona Lisa. Its smaller than we pictured it and you have to fight your way to get a spot to actually see it. In fact the whole of the Louvre was pretty boring. Have been to wayyy better museums elsewhere.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
Cole – I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love travel. It was always just one giant adventure as a kid and when solo travelling and now with a partner it is completely different again.
Adela – I used to browse through travel brochures as a kid. Probably a sign I was always addicted to travel.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
Cole – No places immediately jump out at me. I guess I am too much of a cheap-ass to afford a nice place.
Adela – Kata Beach Hotel in Thailand. Right on the beach, amazing pool and great value for money.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Cole – Landscapes. Nothing beats Mother Nature. I just hate that my pictures never look as good as the human eye but I am getting better.
Adela – Capturing the locals in their daily lives.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?:
Cole – Wow I had no idea how many Countries I have been to (with an overnight stay) until now! So make that 18 countries with at least another 2 to be added over the next couple of months.
Adela – No one will stamp my British passport as I am part of the EU which sucks!
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
Cole – Drumheller in Canada where they have the world’s largest T-Rex statue.
Adela – There is a bridge in Paris where people stick locks on to show there love for their partner. There are so many on there its crazy!
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
Cole – Oktoberfest was a highlight from last year although I cannot remember a fair chunk of it…
Adela – Snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
Cole – We are stingy when we travel and hate forking out for a cup of coffee to warm our freezing hands. But for the sake of a good night sleep we usually stay away from hostel dorms unless sharing with friends.
Adela – Fruit. Its really lame but I have to eat healthy even when I am away. Gotta keep up the 5 plus a day.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
Adela – I felt the most touristy on the tour in Egypt. On the bus, off the bus, on the bus, off the bus. But a tour is the best way to go as its safer and you know you are not getting scammed for your money as you have a local guide.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Cole – Every time we travel it is unforgettable. I love waking up in different countries.
Adela – Sailing around New York Harbour watching the sunset over an incredible skyline.
V: Visas, how many and for where?:
Cole – My first visa was for 5 months to work at Mammoth Mountain, California for a winter in 2006. Then Jasper to work at Marmot Basin Ski Area and as a White Water Rafting Guide in Canada for a year in 2009/2010. Now we are living it up in Scotland and have been here for just over a year now. Looking to extend that before heading to Asia to teach English in the not to distant future.
Adela – Canada for a year but it was not long enough! Plus I am one of the lucky ones who has a british passport 🙂
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?:
Cole and Adela – We are not really wino’s unless it is at a BYO somewhere and then it is always the cheapest from the local supermarket.
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
Cole and Adela – Sshhhh, it’s a secret spot in Jasper called “Edge of the World”.
Y: Years spent traveling?:
Cole – If we just take our current trip in to consideration then 2 and a half years so far. I would say we are about halfway at the moment!
Adela – 26? travel with mum and dad, with sport, with friends and now with Cole. Enjoyed every bit of it.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
Cole – Kiwi’s are proud supporters anywhere the All Blacks play even though we act all staunch but we have nothing on Europeans and their fanatical watching of football.
Adela – I realy like the tennis especially Nadal 🙂 Sorry Cole hahaha.
The Best International Travel Tips for First Time Travelers
Travelling abroad for the first time can be intimidating, but travel can also expand your horizons, show you the great beauty of the world and develop many important life skills. If it is your first time travelling abroad, here are a few simple tips for a fun, successful and valuable experience.
Choose Somewhere Easy
If you have the luxury of choosing where you are travelling to, be sure to pick somewhere simple – even veteran travelers can feel intimidated travelling to strange, far away places. Pick somewhere that is not too far, easy to reach and you can speak the language/there are a lot of people who can speak your language.
Fully research where you are travelling to and this will help to build confidence and teach you what to expect. You should research exactly where you are going, where you are staying, how to get around, currency, language, local customs, tourist attractions, how to stay safe and whether or not you need a visa.
Following on from this, be sure to get your paperwork together well in advance of the trip. This includes making sure that your passport is valid, obtaining any necessary visas and getting travel insurance. It is also wise to make photocopies of key documents and leave one set with somebody that you trust. You should also inform your bank of the dates you will be abroad and where you will be travelling.
Carefully consider what the climate will be and what activities you will be doing – this should help you to pack exactly what you need. There is advice for packing online, but one top tip is to use an international courier service to send items you no longer need home or to have items shipped out to you. This can be easy and affordable with companies like TNT.
Don’t Plan Too Much
One of the major mistakes that first-time travelers make is attempting to see and do too much. This can cause a great deal of stress, stop you from enjoying yourself and embracing the experience. Take your time, schedule time to relax and recover and be flexible with your itinerary.
Feeling anxious or stressed is perfectly understandable, but try to relax and stay calm at all times. Not everything will go to plan, but this is fine and all part of the experience.
Travelling overseas can be stressful and especially for first timers, but the above advice should reduce stress and allow for a great trip.
Swimming, Shopping and Stars – 6 Fantastic Reasons to Visit Darwin, Australia
Darwin, Australia is often overlooked as a holiday destination for many visitors and Australians alike. It seems so remote all the way at the top of our country, and there never seems to be any national news stories coming from it, so why visit it? It’s wildlife is astounding, the views of the natural landscape are to die for, and the culture present is palpable, and that’s just naming a few on the spur of the moment.
Grabbing yourself a Darwin serviced apartment and taking a few weeks to look around up there is one of the most worthwhile things you can do on holiday, and we’ll explain why in this segment.
First up is the nature. The nature explorations in Darwin are incredible, and Mary River National Park is a must-visit destination for the nature lover in you. The camping areas are astounding, combining the solitude of the bush with the camaraderie of a campground, and you’re never far from an amazing river or beautiful billabong in Darwin.
For those less inclined toward the jungle thickets and bush of the northern territory, the ocean has a lot to offer in the way of life and interesting exploration. Being careful to avoid the seasons where deadly man-o-war box jellyfish swarm the waters, the warm ocean of Darwin is a great place for diving and snorkeling, and tiger sharks are regular visitors closer to the coast.
The wildlife of Darwin is the big seller, as the Northern Territory has the largest population of saltwater crocodiles in Australia. Saltwater crocodiles are the largest, most dangerous crocodiles found anywhere in the world, and their impressive size has to be seen to be believed. As well as this, barramundi regularly flood the rivers and waterways of the national parks, making the fishing in these waters reliably prosperous.
If looking down on sweeping valleys, towering peaks, and endless forests sounds like something you’d enjoy, then the scenery of Darwin is your personal draw card. With a sprawling, beautiful national park on either side of the city of Darwin, there’s no shortage of breathtaking sights, and with many days’ worth of adventure at your fingertips from a central hub in the city, there’s no reason not to explore.
The history of Darwin is rich and plentiful, having been established as a city by European settlers in 1869. The indigenous histories of the greater Darwin area are fascinating, and such a rich culture and past has to be experienced first-hand to be fully understood. With many ancient history sites such as Mt Borradaile, which needs special permits to access, Darwin is brimming with history lessons for all that have a thirst for knowledge.
Art culture is alive and well in the Northern Territory, and Darwin boasts many art galleries both large and small. The Northern Centre for Contemporary Art is one such place, and the modern art installations within are as poignant as they are fascinating. Hours could be spent poring over each individual piece, but to see it is to really appreciate it.
As you can see, Darwin is a place of some considerable renown. There’s absolutely no reason not to pack up your things right now and set off for this gorgeous, interesting, fun city as soon as possible, so wait no longer!
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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