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.
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.
A Beginner’s Guide to Yacht Charters: How to Choose the Right Yacht and Plan the Perfect Trip
Yacht charters offer a unique and luxurious way to explore the world’s most beautiful destinations. Whether you’re looking to spend a week exploring the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, or you want to take a romantic trip to the Mediterranean, a yacht charter is an excellent option. Phuket is an excellent location to charter a yacht and is one of the most popular destinations for yacht charters in the world.
However, choosing the right yacht and planning the perfect trip can be a daunting task for those who are new to yacht charters. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make your yacht charter experience a success.
Consider the Size of the Yacht Needed
Yachts come in a variety of sizes, from small sailing boats to large motor yachts. Consider how many people will be traveling with you, and how much space you’ll need for your trip. You’ll also want to think about the type of activities you want to do on your trip. If you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, a smaller sailing yacht may be the way to go. But if you’re looking for a more luxurious and spacious experience, a larger motor yacht may be a better choice.
- Small Sailing Yachts: These are typically 30-50 feet in length and are ideal for more intimate and adventurous trips.
- Mid-Size Motor Yachts: These yachts are typically 50-80 feet in length and offer more space and amenities than small sailing yachts.
- Large Motor Yachts: These yachts are typically 80 feet or longer and offer the ultimate in luxury and comfort.
- Superyachts: These are the largest yachts, typically over 100 feet in length, and are often custom built to the highest standards.
Consider a Place to Discover
Yacht charters are available all over the world, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, so choose a location that appeals to you and your travel companions. Research the destinations you’re interested in, and find out what the weather will be like during your trip. You’ll also want to consider the time of year that you’re traveling, as some destinations may be more expensive during peak season.
Here are some popular yacht destinations:
Mediterranean: The Mediterranean region is a top destination for yacht charters, with its turquoise waters, stunning coastline, and rich cultural heritage. Some popular destinations include the French Riviera, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and the Greek islands.
Caribbean: The Caribbean is a popular yacht charter destination for its warm weather, beautiful beaches, and clear waters. Some popular islands include the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and Antigua.
Bahamas: The Bahamas are another popular yacht charter destination, known for its stunning crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and tropical landscapes.
Maldives: The Maldives is a group of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, known for its stunning coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and abundant sea life.
Thailand: Thailand is known for its stunning beaches, lush tropical forests, vibrant local culture, and rich history. Some popular destinations for yacht charters in Thailand include the Andaman Sea, Phuket, and Koh Samui
When it comes to planning the perfect trip, timing is everything. Booking your yacht charter early is key to ensuring that you get the yacht and destination that you want. Don’t wait until the last minute to book, as yachts can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. It’s also a good idea to book well in advance if you’re traveling during the holidays, as yachts tend to be in high demand during these times.
Yacht Charter Cost
Another important factor to consider when planning your yacht charter is the cost. Yacht charters can be expensive, so you’ll want to budget for your trip carefully. Consider the cost of the yacht, fuel, food, and other expenses. Some yacht charters may include some or all of these expenses, so be sure to ask about what’s included when you’re booking. You may also want to look for yacht charter deals or discounts to help save money on your trip.
Think About the Crew
Finally, you’ll want to consider the crew. Yacht charters typically come with a crew that includes a captain, chef, and other members. Consider the size of the crew, and make sure that they have the experience and skills you need for your trip. You’ll also want to make sure that the crew is friendly and professional, and that they can accommodate any special requests or needs you may have.
A yacht charter is an excellent way to explore the world’s most beautiful destinations in style and comfort. With a little bit of planning and research, you can choose the right yacht and plan the perfect trip for you and your travel companions. So start exploring your options today, and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
Medieval Towns with German Castles Near Munich & Frankfurt
Our favorite castles in Germany near Frankfurt and Munich:
We were crazy enough to visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a public holiday. This meant that along with all the Asian tourists, there were an awful lot of Germans. Plus, even though we arrived by 11 am, the soonest tickets we could buy were for the German tour at 2.30 pm, as the terms in English were sold out until 4 pm. So, if you don’t have German friends at hand to translate the tour for you, we recommend booking in advance online. The castle was impressive, and the time was undoubtedly fascinating! Don’t worry, I won’t spill the beans, but the manmade Grotto room made my jaw drop!
Mespelbrunn Castle is located on a pond between Frankfurt and Wurzburg. Unfortunately, we arrived 30 minutes after its closing time of 5 pm, but it looked cool from behind the fence!
Lichtenstein Castle is located on a clifftop near Stuttgart and costs 6 euros per person for a tour in German; however, they did give us a very informative written guide in English. This castle is small compared to Hohenzollern castle, but its story is fascinating. Tanks shelled it in World War II, and today you can still see the cracked mirror from where a small fragment of a tank grenade ricocheted!
Hohenzollern Castle is not too far from Lichtenstein Castle. It is located on a hilltop near Hechingen, and we enjoyed the guided tour. Along with getting to wear GIANT slippers, make sure you explore the casemates and secret passages. One sign made me want to learn more. It read, “Exactly where these steps lead to is unknown. More casemates and secret passageways are likely waiting to be discovered in the heart of the mountain”!
Heidelberg Castle was a lot larger than we expected! Unfortunately, we had spent far too much time at the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, so we did not have time to explore this castle. But if we get the chance, we will explore the town and its castle next time in Germany.
On our drive from Munich to Frankfurt, we also loved:
The beer garden at Andechs Monastery was just like Oktoberfest but amongst trees and more family-friendly. The beer was cheaper, and the food was great, including the giant pork knuckle, which Moss could not finish. It was also fun walking up multiple flights of stairs to the tower’s very top.
Three hours in Rothenburg was not enough to explore this wonderful medieval town! We recommend getting your hands on a city map from the tourist information office. We enjoyed Roder Gate, walking along the wall and exploring the 17th-century spital bastion, plus Moss lost me in the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop for over half an hour, and I didn’t even buy anything!
The average person would Google Munich to Frankfurt and see that it only takes about 3 ½ hours depending on how fast you wish to drive on the autobahn! However, we are NOT typical. We took one look at train prices and decided that hiring a car wouldn’t cost too much more.
Suppose you’re interested in traveling to Germany for a damn good deal. In that case, plenty of tour companies have some pretty unique and affordable vacation packages to Berlin, Munich, and Bavaria.
We aren’t going to tell you our exact route. Still, after surviving Oktoberfest in Munich, we did a giant zigzag to see as many castles and medieval towns as possible. So to save you doing so much driving, we have picked our favorite cities and castles. First of all, ‘Ausfahrt’ is not a destination accessible from every off-ramp! It means ‘Exit’! Another word of wisdom to keep in mind is that the autobahns with speed limits do have speed cameras… and the flash is blinding!
Running with the Bulls Video
Our shaky Running with the Bulls Video footage from the Festival de San Fermin in 2012. Experience it first hand in Pamplona. Enjoy.
We recently wrote about our life or death experience of Running with the Bulls this year at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. On that run, I carried along with our GoPro video camera and tried to shoot some footage for our running with the video of the bull.
All our travel video shooting techniques went out the window when the bulls’ hooves started to shake the ground beneath our feet.
Once we had lined up for the running with the bulls, there was no escape from it as we were walled in by apartment blocks, shopfront windows, and 3-meter high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lay the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who were still partying from the night before. Behind me, a dozen wild bulls pawed the stony ground looking for freedom.
Unfortunately, I was standing in their path.
What we ended up with is below. However, I think what we filmed for our running with the bull video captures the chaos, craziness, and complete madness a lot better than if I had stood my ground.
Enjoy it and watch for the guy that nearly gets trampled to death near the beginning!
Running with the Bulls Video
Would you ever consider running with the bulls?
While we are very aware that not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead mainly due to animal cruelty, we think there are two sides to every story. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the Festival de San Fermin and whether you would ever consider running with the bulls.
If you want to join the next Festival of San Fermin or any other wild festivals in Europe, such as Sail Turkey, book with our partners Busabout.
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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