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.
Popular vs. Underrated Destinations:How To Avoid The Crowd?
The biggest dilemma you have to face as an enthusiastic holidaymaker is whether to embrace popular destinations or to find lesser known regions for your vacations. Popular destinations have the advantage that they are experienced with tourists. You can be sure that you will find someone speaking your language and that hotel receptions will be open 24/7. But they are likely to be crowded to the point where it can be impossible to find a free spot on the beach or to walk down that famous avenue you’ve read about in your guidebook. Underrated destinations, in comparison, offer freedom of movement and peacefulness that you associate with a quiet pace of life. But they may not have all the necessary facilities to welcome tourists. You may struggle to find someone who speaks your language or even to get a decent hotel room, let alone direct flights to get there. In short, what’s the best answer to this dilemma?
Popular destinations with a twist
When you pick a destination that is familiar to the tourist industry, it’s both a blessing and a curse, as the available facilities and attractions are likely to attract hundreds if not thousands of same-minded tourists. However, these destinations are popular for a reason, so it would be a pity to avoid visiting marvels of the world just because you want to stay away from the crowd. Dubai, for example, receives every year a growing number of tourists, with estimations for 2020 to top 20 million. Needless to say, you’ll need to find things to do in Dubai that avoid the main entrance to their attraction area. But, looking for concierge services in famous cities like Dubai, Paris or Hong Kong can get you access to a privileged network to avoid tourists.
The perfect mix: Destinations that are about to get trendy
There are some destinations that are getting the necessary infrastructure to welcome tourists without having yet become popular. They are destinations in the making, areas that are about to go big and that you can visit while they’re not yet famous. The rising stars of the holiday industry are places such as José Ignacio in Uruguay – where you can meet the likes of Shakira among other celebrities – and Sofia in Bulgaria, which is Europe’s cheapest city destination. In those places, you can enjoy quality visits, beautiful landscapes, and architectures, without forgetting the exquisite hotel services too.
Beautiful and underrated destinations offer peace
Finally, there are places that simply don’t attract tourists for a reason or another. They are not specifically growing in popularity, but they remain hidden gems across the world. You will need to plan your holiday in advance, as some of these areas provide minimal comfort, such as the Basque Country which is a humble and quirky location. The Canary Islands, while being a highly popular spot in summer, is almost deserted in spring. There, you don’t need to worry about holiday attractions.
In short, picking the best destinations for you demands a little bit of logistics juggle at first. Nobody likes a crowded place, so you can avoid other tourists either by choosing a different tile in a popular area or by working directly with a privileged service. If you are not keen on a famous destination, visit rising holiday stars or forgotten jewels. You’ll have fewer tourists but still a lot of fun!
Five Of The Best Ways To Soak Up Scotland
Rugged scenery, historic landmarks and a rich heritage – Scotland is a fantastic place to explore. With walking routes dotted between quaint cosy pubs, cities full with culture, and miles of beaches and scenic drives, there’s really no excuse not to embrace the tartan. Here are some of the best ways you can explore and soak up Scotland’s rich heritage.
Tour famous film locations
Scotland’s landscape is stunning, so no wonder its dramatic scenery has been captured on the big screen. Explore the picturesque film locations, such as Glen Coe for James Bond’s Skyfall moments. Visit Gairloch for the Billy Connolly classic, What We Did On Our Holiday where you can see views of the Isle of Skye from the expansive Red Point beach. Explore the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber for the iconic arched bridge that the Hogwarts Express chugs down in Harry potter.
Take the leisurely route around Scotland and travel by train. It’s a much needed break from walking routes, with stunning views from the window that look out across the ever-changing landscape. Scotland’s rail routes connect its seven cities with stops in many towns and villages across country, so you’ll find it easy to delve into the West Highlands from Glasgow, traveling through the scenic Fort William, or roll past the battlefields of Robert the Bruce through Dumfries.
Walk, trek, stroll
Discover all the wonderful wildlife and nature on foot. Trek through the rugged countryside for unbelievable sights of the towering mountains, shimmering lochs, golden beaches and lush farmland. Find Lochan Urr in Glen Etive for a spot of paradise, stroll along Applecross Bay, or scale new heights for stunning views of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. For longer routes head to Fort William and Glen Coe for miles of green countryside.
Castle to castle
You’ll find castles on top of, near enough, every rolling hill in Scotland. From pretty fairy tale castles to robust medieval fortresses, you can visit the most spectacular buildings all around Scotland. Enjoy strolling around the floral gardens looking up at the enchanting French design of Dunrobin Castle, on the northern coast near Dornoch. Explore Culzean Castle for dramatic scenes, or, Kilchurn near Dalmally in Argyll to gaze over the Loch Awe. Visit the royal stronghold, Fyvie Castle near Turriff for rich decor and 13th century furnishings. For something completely different, head to Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire for a colourful mural of unusual cartoons.
Cruise the Scottish waters
Take a look at Scotland from a different point of view by travelling Scotland’s shores on a boat cruise around the islands. Visit the Isle of Skye, Stornoway, Port Ellen, Montrose and the picturesque Holy Loch Port. For something even more adventurous, canoe in the lochs and rivers around Fort William.
Sound good? There’s so much to see in Scotland that you’re bound to be mesmerised!
Top things to do in Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio may not be a well-known city like the Big Apple or the sunny beach cities of California, yet there is still much to do in this small but very vibrant city. If you have been planning on heading out to this wonderful city, then you’re in luck as there are numerous activities, attraction, and reservations that will be sure to educate as well as entertain the family.
Here is a small list of places and activities for the family and visitors to enjoy.
# 1 Hard Rock Rocksino
The Hard Rock Rocksino offers people a Las Vegas-esque kind of vibe and feel for the citizens and tourist of Ohio. If you love games, racing, elegant cuisine and just an overall fantastic night out on the town, the Hard Rock Rocksino is the place for you.
# 2 Outdoor Activities
If you are someone who isn’t too much into the nightlife and the whole city feel then Ohio still has you covered. Ohio indeed is one of the most aesthetically pleasing states to see and visit. Boasting and offering its residents and visitors sights and environments such as the Cuyahoga River in Lake Erie where people can go kayaking to The Townpath Trail where people can go jogging, hiking or horseback riding.
If you are an outdoor’ kind of person than this is the place for you. Beautiful atmosphere, surrounded by nature and overall a sight that is awe-inspiring to look at – what more could an outdoors person as for?
# 3 Education – Family friendly Orientated Places
Now, ask yourself what type of family trip it would be if you just visit and didn’t walk away learning something new and different? Well, in Ohio there are a plethora of places where you can take the family for an educational trip for the day.
There is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo which boasts a wide array of animals from all around the world. There really is nothing more splendid for kids to see the animals that they love to imitate in person.
If the Zoo were fascinating and intriguing then the next destination, Greater Cleveland Aquarium would be sure to be as equally entertaining as the Zoo. When Visiting the Greater Cleveland Aquarium enter into an under that is akin to the Atlantis. Experience the aquatic lifeforms in such proximity.
Lastly, Ohio offers its residents and visitors many museums. There is the International Women’s Air and Space Museum which educates the populace about the story of aviation and how much women had their part in history. And let’s not forget the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
If you are deciding to visit this fantastic state, then be prepared for a wonderful visit and many cultural aspects that will be learned and offered. Make this trip a trip to remember with these places in mind.
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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