Paddling the Nile
The first ever paddle down the Blue Nile from source to sea. 5,000km through wild rapids, war zones, crocodile and hippo infested waters, disease, terrorists, guns, arrests; the works...
Newly married amongst the neon glow and dumpling vendors as we bumble our way trying to figure out the world's most populous nation at this exciting time in it's history...
The Great Canadian Bike Trek
23 years old and naive, I set off in the middle of Canada's barbaric winter perched on a woolskin seat-cover peddling solo from one side of Canada to the other...
With the days now furnished with early sunsets, late sunrises, chilly crosswinds and leafless trees, it would be fair to say that the Irish summer of '01 has come to an end. My first summer on the Emerald Isle didn't bring on fatalities from heat exhaustion or mass migration to the island's beaches, rather a reduced heating bill and a few ice-cream ads on the Tele.
There were days when the sun would radiate a warm glow until 11 in the evening, but even with the beautiful weather outside, a good portion of the local contingency would be sharing a pint and a yarn within the brick confines of a smoky pub. That is part of the charm of Ireland -the hard-coded pub culture that captures all who come near it to have an unbridled attraction to the buzz and the 'craic' that is the Irish pub - sun, rain or snow (Ireland can't beat everyone at the rugby, but has beaten everyone on drinking stakes, having the highest consumption of alcohol per capita in world, up from 12th place in 1996).
Summer couldn't have started off on a better note with the first long weekend in May playing host to Triona's sister Sinead and, her then fiancée, Dereks' wedding. It was a wedding of true class from the black-tie attire, to the Rolls Royce wedding cars to the beautiful church and afters homestead in county Meath. Things got off to a rocky start for me with the embarrassment of arriving even later than the bride and missing the priests acknowledgement of the guests from far abroad (in which everyone waited in silence for the 'New Zealander' make himself known). But I was soon back on track and enjoying the ceremony right down to Abba tribute band who thrilled the crowd until the early hours.
As the temperatures warm up in summer, so do the uniquely Irish sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling. I was lucky enough to catch a few matches, with the most memorable of them being the first game of the year for the boys in blue from Waterford taking on the ruthless Limerick Hurlers on the neutral ground of Pairc Ui Caoimh in Cork City. We made a weekend of it with the trip organised by staunch Waterford supporter, John Barron and his devoted sidekick Colm Dwyer.
Although the game wasn't until Sunday, we were down in Waterford bright and early on the Saturday taking in the sites and soaking up the pre-game atmosphere in the Hurling-mad city. Our flawless tour guides took us to places such as the quaint fishing of Dunmore East, and the scenic red cliffs of the Waterford coast, catching the fine hospitality of a few thatch-roofed pubs in the middle of nowhere, followed by the bright lights of the city bars.
After one of Mrs Barron's famous hearty breakfasts, and saying our farewells (Mr. Barron was an all-Ireland Hurler a few years back, bringing home the championship for Waterford), we joined the convoy of blue & white flag bearing cars en route to Pairc Ui Caoimh. For the entire journey west, the streets were lined with people and buildings bearing encouragement for Waterford, with many supporters camping for the day on the front lawn, cheering anyone who remotely looked like a Waterford fan.
The atmosphere was electric, with the capacity stadium evenly divided with floods of blue fans with their blue flags and the green flag waving fans of Limerick, all passionately cheering on their home teams (with a little help from a few antipodeans). Although the blue boys from the sunny Southeast got off to a huge 11-1 lead, they couldn't hold the strong-finishing Limerick side from ending their season, just one game into it. Although it was the first Hurling match I had seen and I was hardly up to speed on the rules, being the fastest field sport in the world (and one of the roughest), it would be hard not to thoroughly enjoy it.
It wasn't too much longer before I was back down in Cork with Lorraine (from Cork) and Phil a mate from back home. Cork is a city with a lot of history and pride, and being the Republic's second largest city (population 300K), consider themselves to be the 'real capital', rather than the more Anglicised Dublin. It has a much more laid-back feel about it than Dublin, but there still seemed to be a lot going on there. As we were staying in the city at Lorraine's boyfriend Atkin's pad, we were close to a few of the sites, and the pretty campus of UCC (University College Cork) on the hill.
Cork is the largest county in Ireland and has quite a few sights to see, including Blarney Castle, where word has it if you kiss the famous blarney stone, you get the gift of the gab. I joined the hordes of tourists who weaved their way around the skinny passages through the castle queuing for the chance to bend backwards and smooch the stone, like many before them. We left Blarney castle and made our way out to the sailing town of Kinsale, set on a pretty harbour amongst the rolling hills. We wandered the well maintained streets, enjoying some of the famous seafood, felt the sand between our toes at the beach and went for a swing on a rope swing that Lorraine and Atkin found one day while exploring the town. Before we left town, we bought some freshly caught fish that Atkin would use in a traditional Nigerian Dish that he was cooking up for dinner.
My Great, Great Grandfather, Thomas Tanner had left a small town called Bandon in Cork over a hundred years ago before ending up in New Zealand after a long journey zigzagging the continents. While I was in Cork, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to discover my roots, and I stopped in a small Bandon shop doing some investigative research about the Tanner Tribe. After asking a few people in the seemingly small town, none of whom seemed to know any Tanners, I left the town unfulfilled.
I made my way up to the rugged in Counties of Sligo and Mayo for a weekend away for some walking in the mountains including the unforgiving Carranbinna Horse Shoe in the Nephen Beg Ranges in Co. Mayo.
With our backpacks and a tent, Triona and myself spent a weekend in Connemara in West Galway hitchhiking around the spellbinding area of pristine white sandy beaches, with crystal clear turquoise water dotted with rugged mountain ranges, rivalling Dingle as my favourite place in Ireland so far.
The summer months had provided a build up for the Dublin City Marathon, which myself, fellow kiwi, Gavin Costello, and the untraditionally civilised Aussie, Dan Johnson, had many a training runs around the unspoiled Howth Head and Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled parks in Europe and home to its own herd of wild deer. The big run was remarkably well organised, with 3,000 of the 7,000 runners coming over from the USA, accompanied by an even greater number of enthusiastic supporters. A time of 3:23 was followed by the usual week of soreness.
An aftermath of the September 11 atrocity meant that there were some cheap flights to Europe, so the week after the big run, I was on a big bird to Munich with a mate from work, Dave Madden. Dave had lived in Germany for 8 years, including a couple in Munich, so he knew his way around pretty well. We sampled beers in a few of the city's drinking establishments including a well-known beer hall, an Irish pub (couldn't resist), a few cafes and a mega discotek where thousands of Munich's youth were dancing to light shows and techno tunes.Remarkably we weren't to hung over the next morning and hired bikes and rode around the immaculate city, through the beautiful English Gardens to catch the autumn colours along the river and amongst the lovely buildings of old city. I headed south to the Alps for the afternoon as I had long wanted to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairytale castle on the edge of the Alps that featured prominently in the classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and was apparently what the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland was modelled on. I arrived just as the sun was setting, and it cast a golden glow on the dazzling palace, spectacularly placed between mountain peaks, by a waterfall, overlooking the rolling hills and lakes of the Bavarian district. With the many colours of the autumn and the time of the day, it would have to rate up there as one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I took many photos from many different angles, to capture the prized structure, but to my disappointment, after 3 years of quality pics, I lost my camera with the snaps. It would be a shame not to have a shot of the castle on my site, unfortunately I cannot take credit for photograph (as if you couldn't tell).
As another long dark winter looms, I am much better prepared than last year, now I have a stomach accustomed to the smooth black stout they call Guinness