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Competing in the Auckland Harbour Swim

Most people go on holiday to relax. I choose (was coerced) to compete in the annual State Ocean Series Auckland Harbour Swim. Find out what its like.

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Auckland Harbour Swim start line

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.

Auckland Harbour Swim

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

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.

Auckland Harbour Swim before

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.

Auckland Harbour Swim start line

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.

Auckland Harbour Swim Finish Line

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.

Finished Auckland Harbour Swim

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.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    January 24, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    What an awesome thing to do with your family! Glad I finally got to see pictures of this! Congrats!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 24, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      It was horrible weather on the day but still so much fun! Glad my Mum twisted my arm 🙂

  2. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey

    January 24, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Amazing swim and for such a good cause (your mum!).

    • Cole Burmester

      January 24, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      Well she is worth it 😉 would do it again in a heartbeat!

  3. Laura @Travelocafe

    January 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    One more great adventure.

  4. Christina

    January 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Wow congratulations! I would never have been able to finish that swim.

    I’ll also have to look up underwater hockey. I spent almost a year in NZ but never heard of that sport.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 25, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      Don’t worry, most Kiwi’s haven’t heard of Underwater Hockey either. It is played in over 40 countries too! So probably someone near you plays somewhere!

  5. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    January 24, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Wicked fun with the family it looks like 🙂 I’m not a good swimmer…one day I need to get out there and get more comfortable with it. As it stands now, totally not for me, but I can cheer from the sidelines LOL

    • Cole Burmester

      January 24, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      We love the ocean. Helps that I basically grew up in it. Thought you would go swimming since you are based in a pretty perfect place 😉

  6. bronwen

    January 24, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Yes it was a 10/10 experience for me. Thanks sooo much guys for doing it with me, sorry Cole B for entering you without your permission or warning!! I would love to do some of those Ocean swims they have in Croatia and also Samoa. One day!!!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 24, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      Hopefully we get a chance to do a Greece or Croatia swim this summer! Maybe you can join us 🙂 and was awesome doing it with you!

  7. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    January 24, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Congratulations! Looks like your mom raised her boys right 🙂

    I’m glad you could be there to help support your mom and the cause.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM

      Thanks Mary 😀 Was great fun and well worth the effort, even just to see her so pleased at the end!

  8. Vera

    January 25, 2013 at 2:32 AM

    Well, it’s no news to me that Kiwis are pretty much bonkers when it comes to sports;)! I’m kidding, although ‘you guys’ do love your adrenaline-pushing activities – and your families! Congratulations on raising that much money, and also on doing it all together. Very good read:)! I still think y’aaaall crazy;)

    • Cole Burmester

      January 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM

      Hahaha I still think I am crazy too but wouldn’t stop me from doing it all again 😉 We are researching a few swims in Greece for the summer. Basically Island hopping along the way so hopefully we can step it up now!

  9. Jennifer

    January 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Congrats on finishing and raising that money for a good cause! I’ll have to read about underwater hockey. I’ve never heard of it before!

  10. carolynaishkiwikate

    January 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    I love how you all ‘boxed your mum in’. That is one hell of a family get together! How far did you manage to do that for?

    • Cole Burmester

      January 28, 2013 at 10:06 AM

      We basically swam beside her the entire way, although the start is the only chaotic part. After about 500m everyone has stretched out into a ragged line so much easier then! 🙂

  11. Ali

    January 28, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    I would not survive that! But wow, what a cool thing to do for such a great cause!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 29, 2013 at 8:27 AM

      Thanks Ali. Was a great swim although I was buggered by the end of it haha.

  12. Nico

    January 29, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    The water looks pretty damn cold, I’m not surprised that so many people are wearing wetsuits.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 29, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      It was freezing to begin with Nico but quickly warmed up 😛

  13. Anne

    January 29, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Great you have a good heart for those needy people.

    Congratulations

  14. Danyelle Franciosa

    January 30, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    Wow! Congrats to that achievement… That experience is really memorable.
    I wanted to achieve that swim as well.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 30, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      There are lots of swims all around the world you could join in Danyelle 🙂

  15. Kristy

    January 31, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    It’s nice to know that aside from travelling you are also good at swimming. Anyway, I also want to join a fundraising such as this one so that I can also help people too.

    • Cole Burmester

      February 1, 2013 at 8:51 AM

      We were lucky to grow up beside the sea so swimming has always come naturally for me 😀 Lots of charitable causes and races such as running for you to be involved in too!

  16. Faisal

    February 11, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Sounds like a fun experience that you’ll be able to talk about for a long time, much better than just sipping drinks with umbrellas in them 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      February 11, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      Haha I dunno if it is much better sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, but it sure if different 😉

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Adventure Travel

Is It Time to Find a New You at a Thailand Retreat?

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If you feel like you a lacking a little direction, or that you have become lost in the hustle and bustle of your faced paced life, do not despair. There is hope. Spend too much time buried by work and inevitably the world will grind you down, but it needn’t. You can do something about it. The answer is a lot simpler than you may think (and more affordable, too).

You have to act though. Indifference or accepting that nothing will change will result in exactly that, nothing changing. What you need to do is interrupt your life and take a step back. Now this doesn’t mean falling off the radar, or a sudden change in your career. You just need to invest a little of your own time in yourself and book yourself into a personal development course at a Thailand retreat.

 

Isn’t That Strange?

No, it isn’t. Again, you are not changing the world in which you live, rather you are looking to change how you live in the world. A getaway at a retreat can help you do this. So, lose the negativity and cynicism and think about the possibilities for a moment. If you feel strange about going alone, why not round up your best buddies and go together? (Click here for more guy adventure tips)

 

A Little Self-Therapy

 

If you work hard, and feel constantly exhausted, at some point things are going to get even worse – be that your physical or mental health. By looking after both your body and mind and learning healthy practices at a retreat, you’ll fortify both your mind and body ready for the rigours of daily life once you return to it. The techniques, practices and understandings that you will gain by attending a Thailand retreat will help you to not only cope, but to thrive. It is like learning a shortcut to happiness that many simply do not know about. Brilliant right?!

Burnout is a real problem in society, and prevention is a much better solution than trying to find a cure. It is likely that you will have to keep working in your employment and that life will throw all manner of things at you as you battle onward, but learning to cope whilst smiling, with a stronger fortitude and greater will to succeed is a more certain way of becoming a success before you become a casualty.

Through mindfulness practice, physical activity such as yoga and stretching, and incorporating meditation, you are adapting a holistic approach to your own health, happiness and self-development. This can help you become mentally stronger, physical fitter, more at ease with yourself and life, and aware of the world in which you live. You can actually learn to live rather than exist. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Life begins at the very edge of your comfort zone, on the outskirts of familiarity and away from your normal habits and routine. Rather than shun it, or even fear it, you can learn to embrace, experience and even enjoy it too. This isn’t changing what you do, but how you do it. It isn’t changing who you are, it is letting you become the true you, unleashing your full potential.

A Thailand retreat based around health and self-development puts your wellbeing at the very heart of the programme. This isn’t self-indulgent but rather self-fulfilment; letting your life exist beyond the limits of your expectations. It is time for you to look after yourself that little bit better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventure Travel

Preparing A Holiday With An Anxious Relative

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As much as you love going on holiday and planning a trip to a region of the world that you don’t know, it can be a little frustrating to travel with relatives or friends who are naturally nervous about discovering new things. You know the kind: They won’t try exotic food in a restaurant, in case it wouldn’t agree with their stomach. They look at your travel pictures with envy but always find an excuse not to join you on your next adventure. And more importantly, they try to avoid travelling abroad if they can at all help it. Be kind before you launch into criticism. They can’t help feeling anxious about everything. And maybe, if you want to help them relax a little, it’s your responsibility to make travelling as easy and enjoyable as possible. However, you’re in luck, because we can help you with that. All it takes is a little bit of planning and thinking ahead to get them sorted.

Get informed at first

If your friend or relative doesn’t travel often, the best thing you want to do is to convince them to come on a trip with you that is poorly planned. First things first: It’s about defining when it the best time to visit your destination of choice. You wouldn’t want to accidentally pick the monsoon season when going to a tropical country, for instance. That’s exactly what this handy website is about : It helps you to find out when is the best time to visit where with monthly weather overview based on observations from the previous years. In short, if you’re travelling with someone who hates being cold, you can direct them towards countries that are warm in winter, for example. As silly as it might sound, knowing what kind of weather to expect can be a great help for a nervous adventurer: Knowing what to pack is already a step out of the unknown zone.

Get the health check

You can’t easily decide to travel to any country without planning. For health reasons, there is a number of regions in the world that require vaccinations to keep you safe. You’d better keep yourself informed of the health requirements in advance, as some vaccinations need to be started up to 2 months before your departure. The typical countries where you’d be expecting additional health vaccines tend to be around the south and south-east Asia. Hepatitis A and B is a common risk in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and even the Fiji. In India, you need to be aware of risks of rabies and Japanese encephalitis in addition to more common vaccinations. You also need to ensure that you and your relative are up to date with routine immunisations such as tetanus and diphtheria. The bottom line is that even though there are little risks for cautious travellers, you don’t want to take any chance.

Do you need authorisation?

If your friend or relative has only travelled to safe and known areas, such as Europe for instance, they may not be aware that certain countries require visitors from abroad to apply for a visa, aka an official authorization to entry the country. If you intend to visit Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, you will need to apply for a visa, which can take several weeks and require an official letter of recommendation from your destination hotel. Visiting South Africa, North America also require a visa, as well as some areas of Asia. Additionally, you need to ensure that you have free pages for control stamps in your passport. It might sound stressful at first, but it’s something that you can easily clarify in advance so that you don’t need to worry about it during your trip.

Protect your holiday

The main reason a lot of people feel anxious about travelling abroad is that they worry that anything might happen to them while they’re outside of the country. The fear of not knowing how to sort out common health and finances issues forces a lot of people to stay at home while they should be thinking about travel insurance instead. If your friend or relative is worried about falling ill on holiday or about losing valuable items abroad, you should take a look at standard travel policies to ensure that you can find an appropriate answer to their worries. From overseas travel insurance to snow sports insurance, you can find a lot of options to cover for most accidental situations smoothly and easily. More often than not, you can get an expert insurer to define the best-suited policy for your holiday. This will save you a lot of time searching as an insurer will be able to rely on the data of previous travellers to advise you.

Know how to spend the time

But I can’t travel to India: It’s a long flight, and I’ll get bored!

If that’s the kind of comments you get, you can reassure your friend or relative immediately: There are plenty of solutions that stop you from getting bored during your long journeys. Reading always is a good idea, especially if you’ve got a Kindle so that you can fill it with several books to keep yourself occupied while travelling. Some people might prefer audiobooks, however, if you’ve got a long flight, you’re likely to want to use earplugs and rest your senses. There are also plenty of online games that you can play with a smartphone, so it’s impossible to get bored!

Not one for tech gadgets? A simple crossword or sudoku book can do the trick and keep you busy until you’ve reached your destination. If you’re sitting aside, nothing is stopping you from playing a card game or a small board game. In short, getting bored is not a fatality!

Get a guidebook

How do you know about the best places and monuments to see when you’re visiting a new place? It’s obvious: You get a guidebook like every other traveller. Guidebooks might sound old-fashioned, but they are filled with useful information about an area, from where to stay to what to see. More importantly, you get a detailed breakdown of prices, which makes it a lot easier to plan your trip. As a traveller puts it, in a guidebook you find information that you didn’t know you needed, which helps you to prepare the best you can for your holiday. Besides, you can be sure that gathering knowledge about your destination will be handy to reassure your nervous co-traveller. Knowledge remains, after all, the best weapon against the unknown.

Pick your book

Do you need to know the language?

Most travellers would tell you that speaking English is enough to get by in any destination of the world. However; you need to be aware of one important fact: Just because English is the proxy language by definition, it doesn’t mean that everyone will understand you. A lot of people don’t speak English at all, and therefore you’ll need to be able to ask for directions or a cup of coffee in the local lingo. Why does it matter? You don’t need to be fluent to ask for things you need abroad, but you can be sure that locals are more likely to help and understand if you say it in their language. More often than not, you can get by with a simple phrasebook, from ordering food in a restaurant to finding the way to the art museum.

Prepare a visit plan

What if your friend would agree to go on a holiday but doesn’t know where to? You could inspire them with a list of the most wonderful sites to visit in the world. Stonehenge in England is a great destination for history lovers to enjoy the mysteries of the past. You can even organise walking among the famous stones on specific days! If you want to take their breath away with a fascinating historical site, try to Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. If you want to seduce a nature-lover, take them to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which is the world’s largest mirror. Or you could visit the Great Blue Hole in Belize, which is 407 feet deep and can be easily seen from above – no need to dive, thankfully!

Decide on a budget in advance

Let’s be honest: Most people avoid travelling because they’re afraid of spending too much on the go. In reality, it all comes down to clever planning: If you know in advance where you’re going to stay and what’s around to see and visit, you can plan your budget accordingly. Of course, there will always be the unexpected expenses in the form of a cocktail night at the local bar, or a really cute jumper that you simply couldn’t live further without. But for all these, you can rely on a budget app such as Trail Wallet to keep track of your expenses throughout the day. In a few clicks, you can get an overview of how much you can afford and how much you’ve already paid.

In conclusion, the secret to turning a travel-anxious friend into a travel-happy holidaymaker is to share your planning secrets with them. Yes, travelling takes a lot of preps. But it means they can enjoy their trip with their mind at peace!

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Adventure Travel

Top 5 Things to See in Dubai on Your Next Holiday

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Dubai has quickly become a top destination for travelers from around the world.  It offers an impressive mixture of the best of modern architecture, stunning scenery and is a shopper’s paradise.  So, what are the top things to see during your holiday to Dubai?

Burj Khalifa

You can’t miss the Burj Khalifa when you visit Dubai – at 828 meters high, it is the world’s tallest tower and dominates the city’s skyline.  But the building is far more than admiring.  There is an observation deck on level 124 that is a must-see part of visiting the city while At The Top Sky Lounge is on level 148.  If you want a meal amid the clouds, At.mosphere on level 122 offers quality meals.

Palm Jumeirah

Another impressive man-made wonder of Dubai, Palm Jumeirah is a palm shaped man-made island and one of the largest artificial islands in the world.  It is home to a host of high quality hotels including the Waldorf Astoria and the Atlantis, The Palm.  It also has its own monorail that runs along the ‘trunk’ of the tree to connect it with the mainland.

The Dubai Mall

As well as enjoying the glamour of Dubai on your next holiday, you can also enjoy some of the highest quality shopping.  The Dubai Mall is more than just a shopping mall – there are 1200 shops, 150 restaurants, an indoor theme park, a waterfall, ice rink and even an aquarium and underwater zoo.  It takes shopping to a whole new level!

The Dubai Fountain

Standing outside the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain is equally impressive and stands at the entrance to the Dubai Mall.  It is the world’s largest choregraphed fountain system reached 150 meters high with colorful, illuminated jet sprays that are timed to various musical pieces.  There are two shows a day on afternoons and evenings so plenty of chances to watch it in action.

Dubai Creek

Dubai is the epitome of a modern city but that’s not to say there isn’t history amid the stunning skyscrapers.  Dubai Creek is the heart of the old city, where the original Bani Yas tribe settled.  Here they started the pearl diving and fishing trades and the area slowly built into a trade center.  Now you can visit the gold, textile and spice souks as well as take a ride in a traditional abra boat.  It is also great value at just AED1 for a ticket.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe 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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