8 achievements unlocked since Dunc’s Big Bike Ride

Ben Resipole summit

Dunc’s Big Bike Ride finished on 29th August 2015. What a ride! Knowing nothing was going to live up the complex feels felt during a complete lap of Aotearoa, I’ve been filling my days writing about it… and occasionally heading out on other mini adventures too. Here are eight picks from the last two years:

1. Walking Auckland’s Coast To Coast

This is a relatively easy day walk, joining up Auckland’s west coast harbour with its eastern counterpart. My Bike Ride team mates Scoot and Simon were up for it, so we took the bus to Onehunga Beach and walked through the suburbs into Epsom, over One Tree Hills, Mount Eden, Auckland Domain and the Viaduct Harbour. As long as you’re okay tramping on the roadside grass berms, as opposed to native bush for a day, this is a solid urban adventure. Worth checking out if you’re new to the City of Sails and want to smash out a few volcanoes in one go.

2. Walking the Tongariro Crossing

I’d been hearing about this New Zealand great Walk for years, but never understood why it was called a ‘crossing’. Was it just one huge swing bridge, with clusters of tourists in jandals all gingerly edging their way across? Well, it turns out it’s a rather awesome volcanic day trek. Yes, it’s popular in summer. Yes, it’s world famous. But, yes, it’s awesome! Recommend: parking your vehicle at the end, then catching a bus to the beginning, then you can finish when you like and not when the buses finish. Don’t recommend: Wearing anything less than half-decent walking boots, particularly if you want to detour to the summit of Tongariro itself.

3. Climbing Ben Resipole

I found myself joining my parents and friends on their annual jaunt to western Scotland, where a mountaineering expedition to the summit of Ben Resipole took place. I’d previously only camped at the coastal foot of it as a teenager one summer, so had no memories of the snow-capped mountain. Having made our way up most of it, the weather turned and a blizzard struck. The experienced mountaineers in our party herded us behind a set of rocks and we waited it out, staying close to conserve heat. As abruptly as it had arrived, the weather passed and we were on the move again, this time to the summit. Then all we had to do, was get back down again.

4. Walking from Luxembourg to France to Germany

I visited my friend Anne in Luxembourg, which shares a border with France and Germany. Since the Schengen Agreement, these borders have been essentially non-existent, meaning you can easily hop from country to country, once legally inside one of the 26 EU nations. Beautifully, the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg all meet at the town of Schengen, so it was there that we completed this unique little adventure. ‘FRANCE’, reads the sign on the border.

5. Walking the Capital Ring

Comedian Pete Lupton and I set out to complete the Capital Ring: a 126km circular walk around the outer suburbs and green spaces of London. We set out to do it in four days, knocking off some 60km of the walk (Woolwich Foot Tunnel to Richmond Bridge) in our first two days, leaving what ought to have been 66km or so for the last two. But things are never what they seem and we always walk further than we realise, meaning those final two days came out more like two marathons. Which was fine. This really is a great walking route and you get to see many hidden treasures of London’s sprawl, plus heaps of places I’m glad I don’t live in. Try it out.

6. Driving from London to Poland

This was ridiculous and, admittedly, in a 20th Century fossil-fuel burning vehicle, but it’s still an awesome road trip and one I’d like to attempt away from the autobahns and by cycle someday. I went with my mate Mad Pete. It was for a wedding, so having the van helped us transport suits without creasing them and it came in handy with the giant piano we had to take for the church pianist, Pete. Be sure to check your vehicle’s tyres after each fuel fill.

7. Cycling the Meridian Line

My wild brother Matt came up with this one. Based on my ‘closest available route to the coast’ rule from DBBR, we plotted a route south from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, and followed the line of zero degrees longitude as closely as possible. We met one Sunday morning nice and early and hit the pedals for an amazing day ride to the south coast of England, totalling a little over 100km. There’s a few nods to the Meridian along the route and a monument on the cliffs at the finish at Peacehaven – it was moved in the 1960s during work to sure up the coastline.

8. Climbing Maungawhau Mount Eden 31 times in 31 days

March 2017 was Auckland Transport’s inaugural Walking Challenge month – a team event where contestants set about walking all the steps they can, in a bid to win prizes, get fitter, burn less fossil fuels, arrive at work less stressed and generally be healthier. My walk to work comes to about five minutes, so I engaged in another challenge: to the summit of Maungawhau 31 times in 31 days. Needless to say, by climb number 15, it starts to get a bit tedious. But I saw this one through.

There were a few others as well, maybe tell you about them another time. Dx

Five amazing New Zealand experiences

Pararaha Valley as the sun rises over the hills

I arrived fresh off the train and plane in New Zealand on 10th September 2008. Since then, I have had some amazing experiences – some of which simply couldn’t have happened in hometown London, the UK, or even Europe for that matter (no money!).

Here are my five most amazing New Zealand experiences, all of which can be done for little or no money:

1. The time I kipped in a rainforest

In 99% of rain forests, I reckon camping on the floor would be a bit hazardous. I’m not a rainforest risk assessor by trade, but I do reckon this.

Camping in Pararaha Valley, Waitakere Ranges - an amazing New Zealand experience
Pitching tent under a massive rock can protect you from the elements, unless those elements are falling rocks

Due to the New Zealand Land Mammal Predators Act of 1656AD there isn’t much on the land of Aotearoa that can hurt you. Sure, a good friend of mine once got bitten by a grub while hanging from a tree, and there are a lot of road deaths around public holidays, but out in the bush you are only really at the mercy of the elements.

Taking these facts in to account, I packed some things and went tramping off in to the ranges. And slept. Then I woke up and walked back.

Cost: NZ$6

Amazing!

2. The time we took an inflatable palm tree onto a glacier

Inflatable palm tree on Fox Glacier - an amazing New Zealand experience
If you take an inflatable palm tree on to a glacier, probably don’t wear a shellsuit.

Tourists will do anything for a good photo. When my friend Scoot announced at Fox Glacier that he had with him an inflatable palm tree and that he intended to bring it “up the glacier” with us, that is exactly what happened.

He doesn’t beat about the bush, that Scoot, and he certainly doesn’t slip about the glacier.

Try pulling that stunt in Devon!

Cost: NZ$100 approx for Fox Glacier tour (glacier can be accessed for free if you have proper crampons and other gear)

Amazing!

3. The time I drove a car on a beach

The Land Transport Act of 1250AD dictates that all beaches are classified as public roads in New Zealand, unless otherwise stated. That means that a quiet walk up the beach can be interrupted by a 4X4 hurtling along at 100kph. But this never happens.

The longest uninterrupted beach here is called Ninety Mile Beach; it is about 88km long. Back in the day, before anyone had walked it pushing a metre stick, they used “the distance a horse could walk in a day” as a measure. Failing to take in to account a slowed horse due to the thick sand, the distance was presumed to be 90 miles. It is not.

Toyota RAV4 parked on Ninety Mile Beach - an amazing New Zealand experience
Once on the beach, keep moving at a steady pace. Do not stop. Do not stop and pose for photographs.

Situated in the far north, Eighty Eight Kilometre Beach is that long sticky out bit at the top left of the map of NZ. People use the beach as a relatively fast route to Cape Reinga (Te Reinga), which is the very top of the North Island. This is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. It is here that Maori believe the spirits of the deceased enter the underworld. There are also some mean public toilets here.

A couple of hours after high tide is the best time to drive it, giving you ample time until the next high tide should anything bad happen. Look out for buses. In scenes similar to Needles and his gang at the end of Back To The Future Part III, young boguns will drive up alongside you in their dad’s SUVs and challenge you to a race. Just say “NO!” Or ignore the little shits.

Cost: NZ$50 fuel plus vehicle hire

Amazing!

4. The times we ate Christmas dinner outdoors

Unless you live on or near the equatorial Northern Hemisphere, or downunder, you’d have to be a few charcoals short of a full barbie to consider eating Christmas dinner outdoors.

I have done this twice in the three Christmasses I have spent in New Zealand. It is quite nice. The food still tastes the same, but you feel like you’re outdoors while eating it.

Cost: What are you having?

Amazing!

5. The time I bathed in a hot stream

People bathing in Kerosene Creek - an amazing New Zealand experience
Once a private hotspot, now a well-known hotspot.

Once a secret reserved for locals only, the small, hot stream several kilometres south of Rotorua is probably only one ice cream stall short of charging an entrance fee.

The place, which I shalln’t name because there is no point, has become so overrun with tourists in recent years that any literature about it now carries a thief warning for travellers who leave their vehicles at the end of the road.

I have never seen a thief there. I once saw a runaway dog there. But never a thief. Bit probably don’t let your guard down on my account.

Anyway, once in, the water is lush warm, like a bath. Don’t drink it, though, as it’s full of chemicals that are only good for the skin.

Don’t pee it in either: It is said that the chemical combination is explosive and extremely dangerous!

Cost: NZ$0 (for now)

Amazing!

New Zealand is amazing

There you have it! Five amazing things I have done in Aotearoa New Zealand during my time living here. Amazing!

“Turban Warfare” – Utterly Unhelpful and Meaningless!

A good friend of mine currently living the United States drew to my attention the headline chosen by the New York Post this week to report on the Iranian election crisis: ‘Turban Warfare’.

Obviously some little misinformed spade at the Post came up with this irrelevant pap some months after 9/11 and has been waiting for a ‘suitable’ time for its publication for the best part of eight years. When turmoil erupted in Iran recently, they presumably ignored the advice of several more-educated interns at the paper and ran the headline anyway.

It’s a real shame for them, getting it wrong on such a grand scale. All they had to do was open an ‘Atlas of the World’ and look up Iran’s main religion to see that this headline wasn’t actually appropriate in this case. This is the level of research readers’ hard-earned money is put towards at good newspapers.

My friend in the States saw the headline on a copy of the ‘paper’ in a cafe. He left, having remarked, in ink, on the front page: “Racial Propaganda”. I suggest you do the same.

Turban Warfare