i had planned to update this blog on a weekly basis, but that only lasted a week. I think its over a month since the last update, so my new target will be monthly, but that might only last a month.
we've had a fairly busy time since, with trips to new plymouth, hawkes bay and wellington as well as plenty of action while up here in Auckland.
We went down to New Plymouth to watch Ireland v USA at the Yarrow Stadium (renamed Taranaki Stadium to please the RWC sponsorship police). New Plymouth looked more like Dublin than than NZ with an Irish invasion taking over the cities pubs and clubs. We had originally planned to go down to NP for a week but we both picked up nasty colds so headed back after the weekend.
Back in Auckland we spent our time catching up with friends and family, went out fishing for a morning in the Hauraki Gulf, but were more successful in drinking beers than catching fish.
During all this I got my Work Visa for NZ in a week instead of the expected 2-3 months. We also have an arrival date for our stuff thats being shipped over (18 Oct), which was also quicker than expected. We are filling out the customs etc forms at the moment, hopefully we wont have too much trouble or delay getting it through Biosecurity etc.
We went down to Hawkes Bay to see Canada v Japan and catch up with some of the Kale side of the family. The weather down their was way better than we'd been having in New Plymouth or Auckland with clear hot sunny days although the nights got pretty cold. Becs and I stayed with her cousin Rachel and her boyfriend Anthony in Napier, while Johnny and Steve stayed with Steves twin brother Richard in neighbouring Hastings. We squeezed in the rugby game and beers after, then a vineyard tour the next day mixed in with an education on Becs Maori heritage from Steves brother Alan. It turns out Becs great, great grandmother (not sure if i have got the number of 'greats' right) was the daughter of a Maori Chief who signed the Waitangi Treaty, which was the Treaty the British used to take control of NZ and is still the basis of legal battles today for resolving disputes about who owns what in NZ. Becs and I bought 11 bottles of wine, the others bought a few too so that we could restock Steve's wine cellar which we have been depleting since we got here. The following morning Steve, Johny and I played a round of 9 holes (me last, Johny first) before heading back up to Auckland.
The excitement ratcheted up a notch as we went to watch the England v Scotland game at Eden Park. We had a beer with some English friends before the game and watched the France v Tonga game in the pub. Once on Eden Park it seemed to be about 80% Scots fans (some of which were actually Scottish, the remainer was anyone who wasnt English). The England fans started the game well but within about 2 mins all you could here were Scottish chants. The game was pretty frustrating for 78 minutes but alls well that ends well and when we went ahead with a couple of minutes remaining the 'scots' all disappeared. Auckland had sharpened up its act considerably since the opening ceremony when their predicted 50,000 revellers was actually 200,000 and their public transport system melted down and their was crushing in the areas where the festivities were taking place. We were fortunate compared to most - we tried to catch a train from Orakei to the city centre but despite repeated announcements that there were trains every 10 mins we saw 2 trains come thru in an hour so full that no one could get on. Eventually we gave up but as we walked down the road Becs mum passed us on the way home from work and kindly picked us up and dropped us off (unusually Aucklanders had followed the official advice and left their cars at home to use public transport so the roads were completely empty). We ducked into a bar on Quay Street to meet some friends and ended up staying there for most of the night to avoid the crowds outside. Once we emerged at around 2230 things had quietened down a bit and we wandered round a few bars until heading home around 3am courtesy of a Kale Taksi (ie Becs dad came to pick us up). After the Scotland v England game we were downtown within 20 mins of leaving the ground because of the improved transport arrangements that had been made after the authorities took a hiding after the opening ceremony.
After a lot of average weather there was finally a bit of sun so I rented a bike from 'Adventure Capital' which is an initiative during the RWC to provide cheap bikes to tourists for the princely sum of $5. I spent a couple of hours cycling around Aucklands bays, taking a few snaps along the way. I always knew Auckland was pretty hilly, but you dont really appreciate exactly how hilly until you have to cycle up all of those hills. It was the first hard exercise I had done for a couple of months and after my loop of about 20km I was pretty bushed. Despite that I enjoyed it so much I went out and bought a bike the next day from a shop that was having a closing down sale, so I managed to get a hardtail MTB, helmet, pump, lube, bottle and holder for $860 (about £430). Cycling it back to Becs parents place I discovered a whole lot more hills to get over which I had never noticed before. Before I had a chance to use my new bike in anger we were off to Wellington early the next morning. We caught the 0725 Overlander Train and settled in for the 12 hour journey, which was pretty pleasant and scenic and good value at about £40 each (the downside was our coach was fully of rowdy South African fans heading down for their match against Aussie). We stayed with Andy in Wellington and took things pretty quietly on the Thursday and Friday. Saturday morning we dropped Becs off for a day of shopping with Andys girlfriend Amanda, while Andy and I headed to Karori (just west of Wellington) for some mountain biking. It was a cool and grey day but it wasnt until we had just paid for our rental bikes that the heavens opened and there was a massive downpour. Having paid for our bikes now though there was no way back so we headed out to Makara Peak mountain bike park in the rain. The guy at the rental place had given us a little map and marked out the route he suggested we take. It all looked pretty straightforward at the time. Within about 10 seconds we took our first wrong turn and ended up back on the road after 50 metres. We turned around and followed the right track which was a reasonably gentle climb along narrow, muddy, but mercifully sheltered (by the native bush) trails. After a few minutes we were pretty glad of the cool conditions as it didnt take long for us to heat up from the inside. The tracks were supposedly well signposted, but we had difficulty working out which tracks went where (not helped by the fact that it was too cold to stand still and work things out for any length of time) and after pulling the map out of my pocket a couple of times the mud, wind and rain caused it to more or less disintegrate. We kept heading up hill and managed to follow our planned route most of the time (I didnt realise until I looked online later that at time we were cycling up a 4x4 track and not the mountain bike track we were supposed to be on) eventually arriving at the summit after 90 mins or so. By now the wind was really blasting across us and on top of the mountain there was little shelter so without much delay we started our descent. Unfortunately where we were supposed to turn right off the 4x4 track onto the MTB track we went straight and didnt realise for another kilometer or so which meant another climb back to the top. We finally found our track down and it was a lot of fun, winding down steep narrow muddy tracks with a sheer drop on one side and prickly bushes on the other. The trouble with mountain biking is that the downhill part goes way faster than the uphill part and we soon arrived at the bottom (not exactly where we were supposed to be after I missed another turning) caked in mud, cold and wet but pretty happy and exhilerated.
We drove back to town, showered, went to the pub, drank, watched all the wrong teams win the quarter finals then drove back up to Auckland in a rented car the next day (big mean 4x4 Subaru after having paid for a small Kia) before watching all the wrong teams win the quarter finals again. The excitement of England being there is gone, but then we dont deserve to be there the way we played and the way our team behaved throughout the tournament (being topped off with one of our players jumping off a ferry in Auckland harbour). Lets just hope Wales win, if the Kiwis do it will take away the one thing that I can beat them with when it comes to Rugby.
I'll try and keep these updates more regular, this one was a bit of a marathon to write and I am sure to read as well...