A Travellerspoint blog

Music Maestro please

sunny 25 °C

Riding out of Auckland I reflected on the fun I'd had and the new friends I'd made - a sociable, friendly lot the Kiwis.

The only fly in the ointment came at the Big Day Out music festival, held in six cities of NZ and Australia over two weeks - Auckland, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide & Perth. It was going to be the last one in NZ as logistically it wasn't working any more. Sadly (for NZ) the headline band pulled out when it heard it was going to be the last one but happily (for me) the replacement was Soundgarden who I really liked and had wanted to see for ages. Other bands in the line-up included Kaspian and My Chemical Romance (who I'd seen in Edinburgh with Oz and really enjoyed) along with displays of heroic skateboarding by the likes of Tony Hawk (who at the age of 43 is still the master of the skateboard) and his Vert Jam team.

I scampered along to the venue all excited about getting up close and personal to the boarders and hoping for some cool photos but alas, it wasn't to be. At the gate some little girl in a fluorescent jacket asked to see my ticket and to search my bag - which I assumed was to look for illegals. I opened my bag and she said, "You can't take that in here". Wondering who had planted some Class As or a gun on me during the walk from the train station I asked what she meant only to discover she was referring to my camera!!! WTF?? I can't take a camera into a music festival - are you serious?? Were they worried I'd photograph someone 'famous' ... like who exactly?? I asked (ok I admit, quite 'firmly') just what the f*ck she suggested I do with my camera while I’m in the festival, to which she looked rather like she might wet herself and shouted, "Dave!!".

Enter stage left 'Dave'. Dave was wider than he was tall and had a non-existent neck an All Black prop would be envious of. Couple this with a look which I think was supposed to be ‘menacing’ but actually came across as ‘constipated’! Dave 'explained' the policy to me in words of one syllable (I think more for his behalf than mine) and I reiterated just how stupid a policy it was, asked for an actual reason for the ban and added that neither the website nor ticket stated no cameras (in fact I later looked it up again and the website suggests bringing "water, sunscreen, phone and camera"). I told him I was a tourist not a terrorist and was not a journalist but journeyed. Sadly, reason and logic was lost on Dave and he just tried to look a bit more menacing and drew himself up to his full 5' 4"!! I was waiting for the, “You can’t come in” line but he said he could store the camera for me in a secure container. I told him my camera was very valuable to me to which the little girl (clearly braver with Dave stood beside her) squeaked, “We have much more expensive cameras in there than yours.”... I leaned in for effect and growled, “You are missing the point girly, the only camera that I give a f*ck about is mine.” I looked up to see Dave smiling at me and he said, “Come on I’ll show you the container”... I think I’d won him over! He even asked me when I was leaving if I had enjoyed myself!

I can report that the skaters were amazing, MCR and Kaspian great and Soundgarden suitably too loud... I cannot, however, show you any photos of the event. I did take some photos on my phone and would be eternally grateful if someone could explain how to get them off again as I’m buggered if I can work it out! Below is a photo stolen from the web of Tony Hawk doing what he does best at some other event.

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I rode out to Corromandel the following day in the sunshine stopping for a hearty brunch at Thames. Corromandel is a small and interesting town with a mussel and fishing industry. I stayed at a motel with a resident Tuk-Tuk which brought back happy memories of India. I wandered about and went for a ride to the top of the peninsular on a 80 km dirt road. The road snakes up the over the hill to the east coast, then along past beautiful bays to meander back over to the west until reaching the tiny village of Coleville. I stopped for a coffee at the cafe /book exchange/ gift shop where I met one of the 20 residents, then poked around the post office/store/petrol station then trundled back to Corromandel for a beer and yummy supper which was a fitting end to a delightful day.

The following day I took a train ride at the Driving Creek Railway which was built over 30 years by one guy called Barry. The train is tiny and both the carriages and bridges are built to the owners design. It twists up the hillside through some of the 7,000 native trees he has planted and stops at the property boundary adjoining national parkland – stunning on a sunny day.

Moving on to ride down the east coast I rode across and through the town of Whitianga which reminded me of a rather down-market English seaside town. I made a quick decision not to stay there and moved on to Hahei which was far nicer. However, I hadn’t organised accommodation for the night (as usual) so started to phone round. The town is tiny and I slowly worked up in price range until I reluctantly called the most expensive only to be told they were full too! She did give me the owner’s number and suggested I tried calling him which I did. Richard suggested I stay at the guest cottage next to his house which was up on the hill just outside the town, perfect... or so I thought!

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A possum explores my bike only to decide it wasn't for him! And a cool 1923 Norton I met in Corromandel
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Views and coos on the Corromandel Peninsula dirt road.

Posted by kateonthemove 14:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland festival new_zealand motorcycle big_day_out soundgarden Comments (0)

Bikes, burnt noses and bloody good views!

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Yesterday I collected my new Red Baron. Silver, shiny and raring to go!

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Henry from Experience Motorcycles (BMW) Auckland was chaos personified. He was very kind the day I bought the bike when he drove me across town to Motormail bike shop so I could buy my riding gear cheaper than BMW stuff. After I bought a lid, jacket, gloves, waterproof over-trousers and been given a great motorcycle atlas of the whole of NZ showing great on road and off road routes, Chris the owner told me to call him anytime I needed help or suggestions. Henry drove me back and all this kindness forgave the fact he wrote up my insurance in the wrong book, tried to charge me the wrong amount then spent an hour looking for the service book for the bike!!

Eventually I managed to have both the bike AND the keys but by that time it was raining! Undeterred I set off up the road executing a deft manoeuvre into the traffic... just like me and Herr Baron! About 1/2 a mile later I was lost!! Heading towards the motorway I realised I needed to turn round and with Henry's words ringing in my ears, "50 kph in town, 100 kph in the country" I looked down to discover I was at 55 kph - perfect. So why at that very moment some dickhead in a souped up rust bucket decided to come looming into my mirror and harass me I don't know. He was tailgating me and trying to push me either faster or to move over - I did neither, I'm in the right - sod him. I did spot a turning on the right so indicated and pulled across into a filter lane. He roared past and cut in before swerving back into the left lane. Ho Hum...

I then caused a problem without knowing it (until later!). I was trying to turn right across the road and in the UK that means giving way to the flowing traffic. Well there was a car turning left into the same junction as me and he stopped and looked at me. I waited for him to turn so I could move but he just sat there and stared at me... moments past... some more moments past... in the distance a cock crowed... no really this was getting embarrassing! Finally I realised he wasn't going to shift so I turned across him and he then followed me. A couple of streets later he was still behind me and I started getting paranoid, was he the New Zealand FBI equivalent? Was my visa no good after all? was he an undercover cop who had seen the road rage incident?? or was he just a normal guy obeying the NZ code of the road which makes people turning left give way to people turning right and I just hadn't found out yet?!!! Hmm... turns out I need to acquaint myself with the highway code!!

Finally I found a street I recognised and my way back to the motel where I am staying. Cynthia and Hilton came out to welcome me and the bike and ooo'd and aaarr'd in the appropriate manner! They are real sweeties and he drove me up to Mount Eden last night to take some photos as it, "was the best night this summer for it" and he pointed out all the different sights from the top of this incredible extinct volcano. The crater was perfect - I mean totally perfect! If you had to sit down and design a crater this is what it would look like! Perfectly round but dipped on one side to give interest, grassed with undulations and the higher side even has a small flat area from which you can photograph the city from all points of the compass.

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On the drive back we talked about the Prime Minister and Hilton said that he went to a black tie function which the PM attended. He said that after the formalities and photos the PM loosened his bow tie, leaned back in his chair and ordered a beer! In Hilton's opinion this made the PM, "A bloody all right bloke" - high praise indeed.

A couple of days ago I took the ferry over to Devonport on the other side of the harbour and had a wander about. The front is a delight with pretty wooden bungalows looking out across the harbour. After a chai tea I walk back to the ferry port and notice that the railing has been covered in knitting! Had no clue what it was all about but it looked like different people from around the world had knitted a foot of railing cosy and it had all been stitched together... very cute!

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New Zealand has sneaky sunshine! I was only out on the ferry for 15 minutes in each direction and a half hour walk around the town and I am now sporting a burnt forehead and nose! NZ has a hole in the ozone layer above it which gives the country the sad honour of having the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. I am now carrying a tub of 1,000 spf cream around with me and trying to shake off the Rudolf look!

The Sky Tower is supposed to be the highest building in the southern hemisphere (although I think there is a big discussion about this 'fact'). I took the lift to the 220 metre (722 feet) sky deck and looked out over this lovely spread out, low rise city. I'd waited until about 7pm as I thought it would be quieter and was rewarded with just a group of teenagers being led by someone with 'James' written on the back of his shirt. I resisted the urge to call out 'James' then, when he turns round say, "Oh sorry, I don't know you" and took some photos instead.

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Over a rather nice martini I contemplated the building... is it cheating to build a really high structure then put a REALLY tall mast on the top so it is even taller? Just what constitutes a 'building' over a 'structure' ie is a radio mast counted in the highest building list? Does the water from the toilet reach terminal velocity when flushed from the Sky Bar? It was at this point I decided to stop thinking for the day!

Posted by kateonthemove 15:19 Archived in New Zealand Tagged islands auckland new_zealand motorcycle waterfront sky_tower Comments (2)

New Zealand, New Adventure!

Auckland ramblings

semi-overcast
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Imagine the word "Auckland" - what do you think of?

Sunny days? America's Cup yacht racing? Great social scene with waterfront bars perhaps? Well... it is a city of surprises.

New Zealand's population is around 4.3 million and just over a quarter live in Auckland and the city is apparently increasing by around 700 per week - so now you have a picture of crowds, dirty streets, road congestion and endless high-rise buildings. Not a chance of it! The pavements are washed down every night by an army of machines, the traffic flows in steady fashion, the streets are busy but not packed and the overwhelming majority of people live in two story houses.

But now it all seems rather boring?! Add into the mix the fact that Auckland is build on 48 volcanoes (yes, you did read that right - 48 volcanoes!) some of which are still classified as active - OK so they haven't erupted in 600 years and are not likely to any day soon! Do you think this worries the residents.... hell no! This is one big party town, from Wednesday to Sunday people roam the streets looking for a good time, hollering and whooping as they walk from one bar to another.

I sit in Starbucks to shelter from a rain shower and I look around. There are four white faces and the rest are Asian. The four whites are a group of Swedish (? - certainly Scandinavian) all looking beautiful, blonde and tanned. The rest mostly look Japanese but I really don't know as I can't distinguish between the languages being spoken - I think the majority are tourists. I have spoken with around 15 people who live in New Zealand since arriving a week ago including 3 from the UK, 2 Irish, 3 Filipinos, 1 Polynesian, 2 Canadians and a South African!! Are there any Kiwis here??! According to government statistics (gotta love government stats!) 37% of the country's population were 'born oversees'. This gives Auckland a multi-cultural and dynamic feeling.

I jumped on a bus and headed toward Mount Eden, one of the 48 volcanoes the city sits on, to the museum. The city stats are wonderfully weird: 50 islands, 48 volcanoes, 2 harbours, 50 vineyards and the highest structure in the Southern hemisphere - the 1,000 foot Sky Tower which people throw themselves off on a half-hourly basis... attached to a bungee of course! My apartment overlooks the tower and it took me a while to work out where the screams I kept hearing were coming from!!

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The bus takes you through the suburbs of Parnell which is one of the oldest areas in the city. Pretty wooden houses and small boutique shops line the streets along with pavement cafes and there is a genteel calm about the place.

The museum is filled with thousands of Maori artifacts including beautiful rare carvings, recreated buildings, spears and a wonderful 25 metre long war canoe carved from a giant Totara tree which held 100 warriors and was built in 1836. There is a floor devoted to natural history and an exhibition celebrating the national sport - rugby (New Zealand won the 2011 Rugby World Cup of course!). There was a Maori cultural show in which they showed traditional dance, explained their dress, translated words and at the end, performed the Haka which is the ancestral war dance (anyone who has seen the All Black Rugby team in action will need no explanation for this!) (I'm going to try to upload a little video I took - check back later). I spent several hours there but could have stayed for days.

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I took the bus back to the city centre and had a rather nice supper of New Zealand lamb and local beer on the wharf while watching the dinghy racing in the harbour... delightful!

Today I am going to take a ferry across to Rangitoto which is an island formed just 600 years ago when it erupted from the sea. Apparently there is a walk up to the crater rim which sounds fun.

Tomorrow I move across the city to a B&B near the BMW shop and start preparing the bike for a road adventure.... now that's REALLY exciting!

Posted by kateonthemove 15:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland museum new_zealand motorcycle waterfront sky_tower Comments (0)

Wedding celebration


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At 9pm on Saturday night I started to hear the music. I'd just got in to my room after a yummy chicken Biryani and was thinking of settling into my book for a few hours when I became aware of trumpets and drums. Looking out of the window I saw a strange procession of lights making its way very slowly up the road. I was looking down from my 13th floor room but could make out a pair of white horses pulling a wonderfully decorated buggy with someone in it. I decided to investigate further...

Down in the hotel lobby the noise was considerably louder. Once in the street I was engulfed by women in brightly coloured saris and men wearing white or black suits - everyone was dancing! I felt very scruffily dressed in my jeans and polo shirt surrounded by such wonderful silks with gold braid in a cacophony of colour and vowed to buy at least a pretty scarf.

The band were a motley crew of men each in a white costume with a large fan of red and gold on their heads! They looked like rather strange cockerels and sounded about the same!! They looked wonderful in their ill-fitting uniforms with trainers on their feet!

The groom looked suitably nervous and was accompanied in the buggy by four children, the little boy next to him kept poking the girls with a gold stick!

It was a delight to watch and everyone welcomed me with smiles and nods. I asked someone if it was OK to take some photos and they looked puzzled that I should ask - everyone else was - but it seemed only right to ask. The photos are not good as I didn't want to use a flash and everyone was moving so fast with their dancing ... most are a bit blurred!

They drew the groom towards the hotel function room and it is tradition for the brides family to persuade him into the hall. I asked if the bride was in the hall but apparently she stays in her room until the actual ceremony.

After a while I left them to celebrate into the night and took myself of to the bar for a G&T.

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Posted by kateonthemove 21:39 Archived in India Tagged wedding india delhi Comments (0)

Destination Delhi

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Walking through the arrival gate I am braced for India's worst but it doesn't come. I've read quite a bit about India and was expecting a seething mass of humanity but, although there were about 200 people milling around, it was all rather calm.

After a short visit, I left London on Tuesday evening and now it was very early on Thursday. Despite a row of taxi drivers waving paper with other people' s names on my guy wasn't here - I had booked it in the UK. After waiting for an hour I contemplated pretending to be "Mrs Schmitz - Lion Tours welcomes you" and taking someone else's taxi but gave up instead and recruited the aid of a man selling hotel rooms. He phoned the hotel who arranged a taxi for me, unfortunately he told the hotel I was very angry with them for not coming to get me - a total fabrication as the hotel were told I had a private transfer. Hotel reception were mortified and kept apologising and I had to explain several times what had happened ... I eventually fell into bed exhausted at 2.30am!

Looking out from my 13th story room with vultures wheeling past the window I can see a 25 carriage train being pulled by an exhausted engine, people leaning out of the doors as it gathers speed heading south. Lots of green moto-rickshaws whizz along, their yellow tops shielding the occupants from the Delhi grime. Last night the smoke from a million cooking fires hung heavy in the air leaving a misty residue this and every morning.

But I have to leave my bubble and venture forth... with excitement and slight trepidation I step out into the Delhi street.

Posted by kateonthemove 22:33 Archived in India Tagged travel india backpack delhi Comments (0)

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