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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.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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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

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated and they are cities on our list to visit again once the Coronavirus allows. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy and we want to change that after Coronavirus. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them to learn about while stuck at home due to Coronavirus:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

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Adventure Travel

3 Tips For A Luxury Camping Experience

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If you are used to travelling in style and staying in high end hotels, camping is probably your idea of hell. Why would you spend a week sitting in a freezing cold tent, hiding from the rain when you could be relaxing around the pool in a nice hotel? But camping gives you a completely different travel experience and if you do it right, it can be very rewarding. If you invest in the right equipment, you can enjoy all of the good things about camping without any of the downsides. If you follow these simple tips, you will have a comfortable experience and fall in love with camping.

Image From Pixabay CCO License

Buy The Right Tent

The tent is the most important thing if you want a comfortable camping experience. All of those horror stories you hear about leaking tents only happen because people buy cheap tents. If you invest in a good quality tent, it should hold up to the weather and keep you dry and warm.

When you are buying a tent, you need to check the hydrostatic head rating. This gives you an indication of how much rain the tent can stand up to before leaking. The higher the rating, the less likely your tent is to leak. It is also important to consider the size of the tent and how easy it is to put up, especially if you are planning a road trip. You need to make sure that it fits into the car easily, and you also want to avoid anything that is too complicated to put up. However, be careful with pop-up tents because most of them will not stand up to the rain.

If you want the ultimate comfortable camping experience, you should consider a camper trailer instead. There are some great camper trailers that come with all of the same facilities that you would find in a basic hotel, so you can camp in comfort. If you really hate the idea of camping, this is the best option.

Get A Good Quality Sleeping Bag

If you are worried about being freezing cold at night while you are camping, you need to get a good quality sleeping bag. A cheap one will not be comfortable and it won’t keep you warm, so you need to make sure that you buy a good thermal one. Sleeping directly on the floor will be uncomfortable as well, so you should invest in a sleeping mat as well. If you are willing to spend a little more on good sleeping equipment, you will be nice and comfortable while camping.

Pack Good Food

The food is another big issue for people when they go camping, but there is no need to live on beans all week. You can get some great dehydrated camping food packs so, as long as you take a small camping stove, you can still eat proper meals. If you pack a coolbox and freeze some food before you go, it should last a while so you can have barbecues as well. As long as you plan ahead, there’s no reason why you can’t eat well while you are camping.

Camping doesn’t have to be the nightmare experience that you think it does. If you follow these simple tips, you can have a luxury camping experience and enjoy all of the benefits of the great outdoors.

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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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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