Sean Mc on Skynet

Hawkes Bay Polo competition

Time for round 2 of the B-grade national league polo competition. This time the event was taking place in Hastings, in the Hawkes bay area. The venue was the pool in Flaxmere. The pool was ok but not the ideal size for a polo pitch, it was a bit short and narrow, with teams talking of shooting from their own goal line if the opposition goal was empty! Someone even passed the joke that the 6m lines were overlapping!
After starting off so well the previous weekend we were a little disappointed with the results of Saturday's games but it did take us a while to gel as a unit, we were playing with 7 players instead of 5 as in the previous competition. This time we played well on the Sunday instead, and still improved our ranking.
There's 2 Auckland Canoe Polo B-grade teams and this weekend we were in the same group so we got to play each other, great fun! The idea was to have 2 evenly matched teams and sure enough the game between us was a draw. Well matched I think.
We (Hammerheads) finished in 7th position and Mako finished in 6th position, an improvement for both teams.

posted by SeanMc @ 1:24 AM, ,

Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach

At least by getting to the Bay of Islands we were getting further north than previously, now we just had to get all the way to Cape Reinga.
Originally we had hoped to drive to Cape Reinga ourselves by road and possibly drive back down on 90 mile beach. After talking to people it soon became clear that taking our van on the beach wouldn't be very clever. Our next plan was to get one of the many tour buses that base themselves in Kaitaia.
To cut a long story short we booked with one company but we were the only ones, so they cancelled and shoved us on a bus with a company called Harrisons and refunded us the difference in price.
It was definitely worth paying the price for a tour instead of just driving to Cape Reinga and looking over fences to see the countryside. The bus driver was a good tour guide, with a funny sense of humour, who gave us so much more information about the history of the area than we would've read in any 'Lonely Planet' or 'Rough Guide' book. He gave us an insight into the socio-economic history of the area and how it came to be as it is today. Of course we assume that he was telling the truth but I guess like any good tour guide the facts are stretched a little.
The highlights of the tour included getting to Cape Reinga, driving on a quicksand river bed, sand tobogganing and of course driving on the world famous 90mile beach.
Whilst we were at the cape there were some people there who had 12 months previously set off from Cape Reinga on horseback and ridden to Bluff at the very south of New Zealand to raise money for a charity helping teenagers with cancer. Canteen is the name of the charity, go to if you want to know more. The views from Cape Reinga are amazing, as you look northwards you see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other. What's amazing about it is how different the two bodies of water are, they are different in colour and behaviour and you can see where they meet. The day we were there was quite calm but we're told that on stormy days the two bodies of water often collide in spectacular fashion.

From the top of New Zealand we had no choice but to head in a Southerly direction, next up was driving on the bed of a quicksand river. It's not really as spectacular as it sounds but it's still strange to be driving along the bed of a river, not just crossing it from one side to the other. In all we probably drove in the river for about 500m. Along the way we pulled in at the side of the river to go sand dune tobogganing, much the same as sledging down a snow slope except it was on sand, not much more to say 'cos it is as it sounds. Good fun though. From here it was onto 90mile beach, the place that gives the tour it's name. In spite of it's name 90mile beach is not 90 miles longs, apparently it's 102km long, there are various tales about how it got it's name. It's a strange feeling to be driving along a beach for such a distance but it does get a little monotonous after a while, all you see is sand both in front and behind you, to one side you have sand dunes and to then other you've got the sea, quite a barren landscape really. We did stop on the beach just to take in the vastness of it all, and yes it is a HUGE beach. Interestingly the beach is a designated national highway.
That was most of the tour done but on the way home we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom so the bus could be washed. The Ancient Kauri Kingdom is not a magical forest or anything that the name might suggest, it is a workshop where they make furniture from kauri wood. It is the most expensive furniture I've ever seen, there was a sofa there with a price tag of $55000 (yes 55 thousand dollars!!). They did have a really spectacular staircase there, like everything else it's made from kauri wood but with a twist. The staircase is actually carved inside the trunk of a huge kauri tree, it truly is a piece of art. After this it was back home to the campsite.

The previous evening at the campsite we had got talking to a few people, it turned out they were part of a larger group who were staying the weekend for a regional meeting of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). I mention this because they invited us to join them for dinner, suited us fine. They laid on a huge spread with some of the largest steaks I have ever seen, one of the steaks took 3 of us to eat, I don't want to think how much a restaurant would charge for it. A great bunch of people who were very helpful to us.

posted by SeanMc @ 12:28 AM, ,

Back on the road again - Bay of Islands

There was still one part of the country we had not seen, it was the area north of Whangerai. On two previous occasion we had travelled as far as Matapouri about 30 minutes north of Whangerai. Work was quiet so we took this opportunity to get back on the road again. This time we were determined to get to the Bay of Islands and all the way to Cape Reinga. Our first stop along the way was in Paihia, one of the main towns in the Bay of Islands.
We spent 2 nights in Paihia and a day looking around the town. As a town it's nothing without tourism, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of local industry here which is quite surprising given it's historical place in New Zealand history. The treaty of Waitangi was first signed here and there's now a cultural centre built up around the treaty. This was our first sight to see for the day. It's a well put together centre that starts with a short video giving a back ground to the founding of the nation and the treaty of Waitangi. It goes someway towards explaining modern day treaty negotiations and settlements. Perhaps most interesting is the Treaty house, this was the house if the first official citizen of New Zealand. Like everything else in this park it's well put together to give an idea of what life was like at the time. After spending a few hours there it was time to go back to the wharf where our cruise boat was leaving from.

Basically the cruise takes you out around the island with the tour guide giving a little bit of historical and current information about each one, whether it's who owns the island or how it got it's name. It's interesting but there is a lot of information to take in. Just out from Paihia there was a huge school of bottlenose dolphins playing in the water. They were pretty cool to see but definitely not as playful as the dusky dolphins we'd seen down at kaikoura.

The main point of the visit is going out to the 'hole in the rock' and sailing through it. Although the bay is very sheltered, by time we got out that far it was a bit touch and go whether or not it was safe for the boat to sail through the 'hole in the rock'. After sailing through the 'hole' it was time to head for home. On the way home we had one short stop at Russell to drop off some passengers and then it was back to Paihia and back to the campsite for some well earned dinner, a good day all round.

posted by SeanMc @ 11:56 PM, ,

Auckland A-grade polo competition

Due to the national league being held at indoor venues here and the numbers of teams that enter it results in A-grade and B-grade competitions being held on different weekends. This weekend the first A-grade competition was being held, at Henderson leisure centre in South Auckland. There were 8 teams playing, much like at home. I don't think the standard was too much different to at home either. The biggest difference is that there was a separate womens A-grade league with 5 teams. It great that there's enough numbers to have both a womens A-grade and B-grade league. In addition to those numbers there's also womens players playing on many of the teams in the A and B open divisions.
The womens A-team, Anarchy was made up of Clare, Vish, the two Mels, Toni and Phoebe.
The ACP mens team were playing too and consisted of Paul, Marty, Cam, Dave Isaacs, Fuzzy and Peter.
The ladies team ended up 6th and the mens team finished a surprising 3rd. Well done to both teams.

posted by SeanMc @ 1:20 AM, ,

Otaki Canoepolo Competition

19-20th April was the start of the national canoepolo league here in New Zealand and the first round of the B-grade league. The competition was held in the swimming pool in Otaki, about 1 hour north of Wellington. There were 2 teams from our club in Auckland, namely Mako and Hammerheads. THe idea was to enter 2 even teams, in the end the two teams finished in 9th and 10th places. It was a good competition which was well run and it even ran on time, something I'm not used to in Ireland. It was fun to play b-grade and enjoy a weekend of polo again. I haven't enjoyed too many polo weekends the last while so it makes a nice change to have fun at one.

posted by SeanMc @ 11:28 AM, ,

Beginners weekend on the Rangitiki

This was our first river paddling weekend in quite a while. Basically it was a beginners river weekend with almost all people being complete novices. The paddling part of the weekend consisted of 2 runs on the Anawhenua Power station section of the Rangitiki river and one on the slightly more difficult mid-section. The Anawhenua section is dam controlled so the water levels are more reliable. We ran this section once on Saturday and once on Sunday. The get on for this was a little tricky, it was at the bottom of a very steep embankment beside the powerstation wall, we ended up lowering all the boats down on a rope and getting in at a rocky outcrop. The picture should explain I hope.
There must be something in paddlers blood all over the world that makes them have spaghetti Bolognese for dinner on paddling weekends! This was no exception with almost 20 people all helping to cook dinner on gas camping cookers. Amazingly chaos didn't ensue and the dinner was tasty. It may have helped that it was washed down with plenty of wine and beer or whatever people were drinking (no water though!!)
Sunday morning was a bit slow getting going, due to the night before but we still managed 2 river runs, including the mid-section of the Rangitiki in the afternoon. We'd been told that this was a nice fun continuous grade III section, unfortunately for us there was no water but I could easily recognise that with water this would be a fantastic run. As it was it was still a fun run with some pourovers to play in and plenty eddylines to mess in. I definitely hope to get back to the area during the winter when there might be some rain falling. Hopefully I'll get on the Anawhenua section in a race boat and get enough water on the mid-section to have lots of fun in a playboat.

posted by SeanMc @ 11:11 AM, ,

Time for Work

We finally succumbed to the idea of earning some money again, needless to say but the bank manager had a large say in our decision to seek work. We've been working for making the lightest plastic sea kayak available. Not only is the boat very light but it paddles well too!


posted by SeanMc @ 10:22 AM, ,

Party time in Taupo

We were looking forward to spending a few days in Taupo catching up with people whom we hadn't met in a few months. What better occasion than a party. It was time for the now annual flatcrawl party. The idea this year was based around 5 flats, with each one being given a film as a theme. The people in the flat and their friends would dress according to their film. The five films chosen were
Peter Pan
The Wizard of Oz
The Ringer
Clash of the Titans

It's a pretty cool idea for a party and gives everyone an instant idea for a costume, instead of people arriving in all sorts of costumes. They certainly know how to do a good house party here.

posted by SeanMc @ 6:36 AM, ,

Back on the North Island

We've finally seen most of New Zealand and were making our way back up to Auckland where we'd some work arranged. First stop was Wellington, not much choice really as that's where the ferry docks. Once again we'd arranged to stay with our friend Alan, now that he'd been in Wellington for a few days we were hoping that he'd be settled in to his new place well enough to let us stay on his floor. Sure enough not a problem. He was out to work early in morning so that meant we were out early too, suited us fine. We'd been in Wellington already but hadn't paid a visit to the museum so we took this opportunity to have a look. In many ways it a lot like most other museums we've seen i.e. lots of old stuff. There was a very good exhibition about the volcanic and geothermal activity in New Zealand and how the movement Also of interest was a motorcycle built by Mark Brittan in his back yard and used to win numerous races around then world. The museum took us most of the morning before we started driving north.
Enroute to Taupo we did a slight detour to have a look at the whitewater park, The course is small and basic but all in it's a nice setup which I think could be replicated quite cheaply at home. The course is built just a few metres downstream of a hydroelectric power plant and utilises any water being released from the dam. To turn it into a slalom/whitewater park all that seems to have been done is that some boulders were placed in the river to creat obstacles and some steps were built to facilitate people getting in and out of then water. I don't see any real reason why a similar setup couldn't be built at home in Ireland, perhaps at leixlip, Inniscarra or Ardnacrusha? We were pretty tired so didn't bother paddling but may try to get back there sometime, maybe in a slalom boat.

After this detour it was onwards to Taupo, late by time we got there but it was good to meet up with friends again.

posted by SeanMc @ 6:29 AM, ,

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