Patricks New Zealand Weblog

Oxford

We spent a lovely couple of days in Oxford with my cousin Catherine. She took us for a walk around the town and past some of the lovely old colleges. This first one with the long queue is Kings, I think, at least its the one where the Hogwarts dining hall was filmed, so it gets quite a few tourists. We met a lovely gentleman who pointed us in the direction of one of the colleges. We thanked him, and he said “it’s a privilege”. We definitely felt like we were in genteel England at that point (or somewhere in the middle of a Bronte novel)

1-P70900035-IMG_20160709_1426286-IMG_20160709_1428321-IMG_20160709_1253582-IMG_20160709_1357093-IMG_20160709_1401034-IMG_20160709_1402232-P7090017

My cousin Thomas came up from London for a day too, which was great. He Cath and I are quite close, as there’s only 12 months between us so we’d hang out whenever there were family gatherings. It it the downside of living in NZ – not getting to see as much of such fine fine folk as I would otherwise like to.

4-P7100053

I also caught up with cousins (and an Uncle) on the Davey side too which was extra cool. My Uncle was over from South Africa, so its always special to see him – just perfect timing really.

3-P7090023

Finally, we visited the Pitt-Rivers museum. It’s an odd sort of museum, everything organised by category (rather than country / time / anything else). I definitely enjoyed the games area. It was odd seeing quite a few Maori artefacts amongst the collection. One wonders how they were acquired etc. I mean it’s nice that other people get to enjoy them, but there can be quite a lot of feeling mixed up in these things.

3-IMG_20160710_1033272-IMG_20160710_1031191-IMG_20160710_1025117-IMG_20160710_1107206-IMG_20160710_1101145-IMG_20160710_1100264-IMG_20160710_1100079-IMG_20160710_1113108-IMG_20160710_111253

All in all a lovely stay in Oxford. Nice watching Andy Murray win at Wimbledon too.

No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.

Onward to Oxford

And then it was time to leave London and head towards Oxford. Canals again came to the rescue in avoiding traffic. We decided to split our journey to Oxford, 110km or something was a bit longer than we wanted to do in one day, so we headed to Cookham (68 km).

I would guess that for all but 10km we were completely off road and on canals. There were a few spots where the road was little more than a very bumpy dirt track, but still, got there in the end – and with no punctures.

01-IMG_20160707_11320602-IMG_20160707_11325203-IMG_20160707_11534004-IMG_20160707_12163905-IMG_20160707_12230706-IMG_20160707_12344007-IMG_20160707_15264008-IMG_20160707_170926

We used AirBnB for the evening and were happy with the place we stayed. Headed out for pizza for the evening, yum.

09-IMG_20160707_194449


The next day, we continued on to Oxford

There were a surprising number of “bridleway” paths (for horses) on our route. Planning these things on Google Maps you can never be quite sure what you’re going to end up with sometimes ;)

10-IMG_20160708_09293711-IMG_20160708_09391012-IMG_20160708_10334413-IMG_20160708_103732

As we arrived into Oxford, slowing coming up a small hill, we heard a loud BANG! Never a particularly good sound to hear on a bike. The rear wheel had completely deflated and the cause was obvious (ruptured tyre wall)

14-IMG_20160708_14361015-IMG_20160708_153317

We were super lucky that it happened in Oxford. Anywhere else in the preceding 50km would have been a pain, as there really wasn’t anywhere to get a replacement, and I didn’t have anything for patching up a tyre.. In the event, it was a short 10 minute walk to the nearest bike shop, where I bought a replacement tyre, this one with Kevlar walls.. I think the tyres that were originally on the bike were great, but, more designed for road cycling around, rather than long-distance touring. Still, it only cost us an hour or so, and then we were on to see my cousin Catherine.

1-P7080111

No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.

London Town.

London. It’s a great town, so much going on, a very lively place. There was a little bit of apprehension in the air around Brexit. Maybe not that much will change, but it’s likely some value will be lost in the housing market, and likely that some jobs will move to mainland Europe. Still, we’ll see.

Maaike and I ended up spending a week in London. We did quite a lot of walking. It’s funny, usually I take the tube in London, but walking around gives such a different perspective on the place. I recommend it!

We walked to the Tate modern from Hackney. Nice walk through parks, with the buildings becoming ever grander. Decent graffiti work on Brick Lane. After being in Colombia we knew some artists and had an idea of what to look out for. I was particularly happy when I saw the “City of Ronzo” plaque.

hackney fieldsgraffitimore graffitieven morecity of ronzo - brick lanenice thoughthandsome manview to tateSt. Paulsriver liffey  - no - thames ;)weeping angels abound

We passed the Tower of London. I had left my hat in The Netherlands, as A) I didn’t think they got sun in the UK, and B) I thought I’d have my bike helmet on most of the time. But then sun did come out, so up went the hood on my rain jacket. I melt when exposed too long to the sun ;)

wire statuesustower o london1-tower_of_london

We met up with my friend Declan. He invited us to come sailing, and would totally have loved to, but timing just was a little too tight this trip. He and his partner Heather may come biking with us in Wales, which would be most excellent.

IMG_8623

Also met up with two friends off the boat to Antarctica – Clare & Alex. Alex, whom I’m forever indebted to for pointing me to the OSMAnd+ App for Open Street Maps on Android. It’s what we’re using to navigate on the bike, and every single other country we’ve been in! I brought the scones & clotted cream, and Clare cooked up an Iranian cuisine feast. It was lovely to see them again, Clare showed us around her allotment (city vegetable garden). You can get them for a max of 10 years, and you have to look after them or you lose your rights. Clare also took us for a bimble around central London, to Buckhingam Palace and up the mall to Downing street. We also went to comedy in the Leicester Square theatre – I had tears of laughter, brilliant.

nice garden clarenyomshame it's necessaryMaaike and I with Clare and Alexclare is a great cookwhere's queeny?31-IMG_20160706_16550432-IMG_20160706_17180033-IMG_20160706_17482034-IMG_20160706_18043235-IMG_20160706_223705

We had a quick catch up with more cousins in Chelsea, and took the “Boris Bikes” back to Hackney. It was my first time on a city bike scheme, but it worked very well I must say.

where's the sun?weeping angels aboundta borison your bikeparliamentbig ben

Finally a walk across to Highgate to see my Uncle Anthony & family. A really lovely evening there. Anthony cooked mackerel with gooseberry sauce! Apparently a classic English dish. I’ve certainly never had it before, but damn it was tasty! I think we might need to compile a recipe book after this trip – we’ve had some extremely good dishes!

Faaamily

Oh – App tip from my brother Chris. “Moovit“. It’s really amazing! It just seems to know about timetabling and location information for all public transport! At least, it has so far (Dublin, London and Oxford). It was super handy getting back across London at night, knowing which busses to get, how long to take them for etc. Brilliant.

No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.

Harwick through to London

We arrived off the boat at 6am. Full of a nasty head cold. The first day was to Braintree to see my first cousin once removed (Charles Mason) and his wife Harsha. It was a nice start to the ride, little lane ways and quiet roads, at least once we were away from the main heavy traffic from the boat.

03-IMG_20160629_07513704-IMG_20160629_09063706-IMG_20160629_104428

One of the first stops was for coffee, and, my personal favourite, clotted cream and jam. A perfect start to the day. I’m going to have to see if I can source clotted cream in New Zealand.

05-IMG_20160629_094525

Anyway – onwards towards Braintree, and to the scary part of the day – and possibly of the trip. So, the method for navigating was to go to Google, put in points A and B, and then tell it to take you there by bike. Now, Google routed us along the A12. I knew that A roads are main roads (one below motorways), but I thought Google would have better sense. The A12 is like a motorway, in that it has a lot of fast moving heavy traffic, but it is worse than a motorway, in that it doesn’t have a hard shoulder. Dutifully following Google’s instructions (we’ve given our navigation voice a persona – Betty), Betty brought us down onto the A12, and I trusted her. Maaike had better sense and after about 500m on the A12 told me in no uncertain terms that we were getting off this road NOW. Good call. We walked down the A12 for about 2km until we found a field that we were able to exit through and get back onto a sane road. Since then, I get Google to give us the basic route, and then take a close look to see if there are smaller routes / better alternatives.

07-IMG_20160629_11511208-IMG_20160629_11581009-IMG_20160629_132016

Made it to Braintree, and had a lovely evening with Charles & Harsha. Charles does a lot of cycling and gave us excellent route information for getting to London.

squirrel!charles and I

For the trip to London, we hardly saw cars as we were on disused railway lines and canals for most of the way, far nicer than that awful A12 business. We did stop at a pub (the Black Bull), and I must say, Maaike and I were both very disappointed in the level of service. I think we’re just completely spoiled in NZ where there is a really excellent service culture. The owners were pretty grumpy, the filter coffee watery, and they didn’t even hold the heavy double doors while I was carrying the coffee out. I dunno, it sounds trivial or that I’m spoiled, and maybe I am, but in NZ it really feels that wherever you’re stopping the people are generally pleased to see you and happy to help.

10-IMG_20160630_10200211-IMG_20160630_11233312-IMG_20160630_14190913-IMG_20160630_144033

Anyway, ra ra ra, on to London, down alongside the canals of the Lee Valley and in to Hackney central where my cousin Thomas lives. We were able to get about 2km from Thomas before we had to venture onto actual roads. I was surprised and happy to see how far you can get in London on these sneaky cycle routes.

When we got to Thomas’ flat I was a little nervous of where we’d put the bike, even though he said he had somewhere for it! In the event, we did shuffle it into the bike room and it fit perfectly. Very happy to be in Hackney and see Thomas again. Perfect.

14-IMG_20160630_16252715-IMG_20160630_2028431-IMG_20160703_182614

Comments (1)

Herwijnen to Hoek van Holland (the boat)

We ditched the bike at Femke’s, went back to Posterholt for a family party (by train) and then returned to Herwijnen to continue our cycle. Basically it was 132km or something from Femke to Posterholt and I was keen to preserve the integrity of my posterior.

It was a lovely ride actually. Biking in The Netherlands really is such a pleasure. Their separated bike lanes really make life a pleasure.

03-IMG_20160628_14123002-IMG_20160628_13074901-IMG_20160628_114604

It took us past the container port at Rotterdam. We went in a massive tunnel – the Beneluxtunnel, but nicely separated from the cars (so the air was clean).

04-IMG_20160628_14495505-IMG_20160628_14500606-IMG_20160628_14553307-IMG_20160628_15033208-IMG_20160628_15172409-IMG_20160628_15192310-IMG_20160628_151948

Finally the boat was in sight, and time for beer and a Frikandel. This gourmet food is “like a minced-meat hot-dog” and is a thing of unrivalled tastiness.

11-IMG_20160628_17364112-IMG_20160628_17372513-IMG_20160628_17473014-IMG_20160628_18004415-IMG_20160628_19011416-IMG_20160628_20350817-IMG_20160629_073616

Getting on the boat was fine, they had racks to tie the bike up against. The room was very clean, the shower hot. Unfortunately we didn’t turn off the A/C and it gave us both nasty colds. I’m writing this 10 days after the boat trip and still can’t hear out my right ear due to congestion! Still, a very nice cycle. Biking really is such a lovely way to see a country. You really get quite a different feel for the place than you do whizzing by in a car.

Comments (6)

Light-hearted thoughts on Brexit, Climate Change and Population.

So Brexit happened. That is, Britain had a referendum and by 52% to 48% voted to leave the EU. It was an odd thing to wake up to. The markets went a little down, the pound lost a little on the foreign exchanges, but has made most of it up again.

It seems like the leave side was campaigning on a platform of “making Britain great again” (smacks of Trumps idea to make America “great” again). Taking the borders back and keeping immigration down. What it’ll mean for UK workers abroad, or the current workers who are legally working in the UK at the moment I have no idea. Will the city of london move some of their business out into Dublin/Frankfurt/Amsterdam ? A lot of unknowns. Will it ultimately DOOM! the EU? I have no idea.

It’s funny, my family originally came from England, though I was born in Ireland, and consider myself Irish. But I like to think of myself as European too. Do I think of myself more Irish than European? I dunno, honestly probably. But I feel strongly that having Europe around has been great. Travel is easier, ability to work wherever is nice. Maybe it has benefited Germany a bit more than others, as they’re exports are artificially cheaper than they ought to be, but it feels more outward looking and inclusive to be part of Europe, rather than to go back to a lot of little states.

Hey ho. It’s a funny old world. I feel that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us as the Human Race. 7.4 billion of us on the planet. CO2 going up and up – as this chart below from NASA shows.

15_co2_left_061316

We are heading into uncharted waters. I dunno, I’m definitely on the DOOM! end of the scale, but it seems to me that Climate Change & 7.4 Billion people is going to be a lot of stresses on our planet. Crop yields may change / have to move, quite likely. Then the other extremely interesting thing that’s coming along is AI & Automation. You probably haven’t seen it – but here is a wonderful video we watched a while ago in Resolve Digital at one of our learning lunches. Called Sandi Metz tells your future, it’s given by Sandi, and she gives a history of the evolution of printing mainly. You see how there were step changes along the way, where entire swathes of people were made redundant overnight. Like here in the BBC article entitled “Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots'”. How is society going to cope with the massively reduced need for certain types of workers. If you don’t have the skills that are needed what’s going to happen to you? Will we have a Universal Basic Income to help a bit? Will there be a job as a taxi driver within 10 years – or will it all be automated self driving cars?

I have no idea. I really have no idea. I don’t know how we get from where we are, living pretty energy intensive lives to a less energy intensive one. How do you get there when it means that people will probably have to lead less comfortable lives for a while. What right do we have to tell other countries that they have to pollute less, when we’re simply further along the technology curve and have already done all our polluting to allow us to get to where we are? How do you get an electorate to vote in measures which will mean they’re life will get more expensive / less comfortable? What if my country does it, but yours doesn’t and keeps on polluting. And what if climate change will mean actually things might even end up better for me (melting snow so that I can get at resources previously locked away) so I might not even want to change anything?

So yes, lots to think about. I don’t have the answers, please leave a comment if you do ;)

Some pictures from Brexit. It is horrible to see the level of overt racism go up, even a little. Friends here in London have said some of their friends have experienced insults on the street since Brexit.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.50.25 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.49.11 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.48.38 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.47.41 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.45.58 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.41.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.41.39 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.41.11 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.40.51 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.40.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.38.26 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.38.10 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.38.02 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.37.42 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.37.33 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.37.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.36.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.36.31 PM

Comments (2)

Netherlands and the In-Laaaaaaaaaaaaaws

We flew into Eindhoven with Ryanair. Miraculously the tandem had arrived and looked relatively unscathed. Maaike’s parents had borrowed a friends trailer, and the tandem fitted perfectly into it.

01-IMG_20160618_16232402-IMG_20160618_163127

Skipped on back to Posterholt, where Maaike’s parents live, and hung out for a few days, eating lots of yummy food (they’re great cooks), planning a little for our “party” later on in August (not a wedding mind, just a party ;) , eating ice-creams. Good times. Walking around the area, you can see how saturated the ground is, and how full the dykes are. Europe has been having a lot of rain of late.

03-IMG_20160618_20092104-IMG_20160619_17210105-molen

So, we put the tandem back together again, everything seemed to work. The plan was to take it for a spin to Venlo, a town about 40km North, and then get a train the rest of the way to Nijmegen. So we biked to Venlo and my posterior was ready enough to call it quits for the day. Unfortunately we found out that they only take folding tandems on trains!?!? .. leaving us with a further 60km to bike to Nijmegen.

Stayed the night at Sjoerds (Maaike’s brother), then on to Herwijnen to see Femke.

We then opted to leave the tandem there for a few days, back to Posterholt by train for a family gathering, and then returned by train to Femke’s (Maaike’s sister) to continue on our Epic Bike Ride to Ireland.

06-IMG_20160620_13134407-IMG_20160621_13175508-IMG_20160621_14063809-IMG_20160621_15450810-IMG_20160621_16141111-IMG_20160627_192750

Biking in the Netherlands really is wonderful. The separated cycleways are a joy to bike on.. it’s also extremely flat so you can fairly motor along. I was pretty happy with the tactic for navigating.

  1. Go to google maps & find the route you want to take between A and B (choose the little cycling icon to make sure it’s optimizing for biking – more to come on this in a subsequent post, Google doesn’t always get it right
  2. Take the URL for your directions, and paste it into the url box on GPSVisualizer.com, which will then spit back a GPX file
  3. Import said GPX file into the wonderful OSMAND+ app on your phone. The easiest way to do this is to put it into a synced dropbox folder and then double click on the gpx, OSMAND+ will then ask you do you want to import it
  4. Finally, choose the GPX file from within the settings in OSMAND+ and tell it to use the displayed track for navigation.
  5. It really works very nicely. Certainly having GPS helps a lot, as some of the turns can be quite hard to spot. You have to get used to the navigation saying things like “turn left, then in 20m turn right”, when they really mean “go straight over the roundabout”, but, you get the idea.

    No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.

First Stop – Ireland – Faaaamily

After the US we flew to Ireland. Arrived into the usual grey sky. For the following 10 days everyone told us how beautiful the weather had been, right up until we arrived ;) Ahhh well.

01-IMG_20160608_063131

It was lovely being back in Dublin and seeing family. Everyone was looking well and in good health. It can be quite jarring when you come back after a few years and especially parents have become older. Maaike and I went for a few walks, up to the lead chimney, and my first (I think) wander past the “rath” of “Rathmichael”. A rath was a Celtic fort.

02-IMG_20160609_14132403-IMG_20160609_14345704-IMG_20160609_145533

Games of scrabble were played, we had a family party with cousins. I also had a most fun game of bridge with dad (partnering me) and an old (89 years old) friend Raine whom I used to play bridge with when I last lived in Ireland. I do miss playing that game. Dad and I even came out on top, quite satisfactory!

1-P60900362-P6110042walking

We also had a party to celebrate Helene (my brother Matt’s wife) getting her MD (a sort of PhD for doctors). The string of letters after her name goes on for quite a while! Congratulations to her, massive amount of hard work and effort! And yes, I did make some Dr. Dr. jokes. Oh, we also were at Matts when Ireland was having it’s “street party” day. Really good turn out on the street, what a wonderful idea. I think NZ does the same but I’m not quite sure. It’s certainly not countrywide on a specific day, not that I know of anyway.

05-IMG_20160612_171651

Finally, a quick catch up with Domhnall who was in town for a conference. Funnily enough, Declan was also in town too – so Domhnall organised a reunion for climbers, and it was a really really lovely evening. So many friendly faces, it’s amazing how quickly the real conversations flow in Ireland.

06-IMG_20160616_19393607-IMG_20160616_212713

Finally, it was time to pack up in Ireland and head to The Netherlands. My brother Chris very kindly offered us his tandem to bike back from NL to Ireland on. We had planned on buying second hand tour bikes, but the offer of the tandem was too good to pass up.

We butchered a couple of bike boxes into a frankenbox, brought it to Dublin airport and hoped that they’d accept it. They did. Technically a tandem is well outside the size limits, but we got through. Did seem somewhat chancy whether you would be accepted or not. Don’t forget the 60 Euro charge for sporting equipment either.

09-IMG_20160618_10243510-IMG_20160618_121602

No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.

Boundary Waters National Park

My overly generous sister & husband gave Maaike and I a 5 day trip to Boundary Waters National Park. Basically it’s a massive park filled to the brim with lakes and streams.

They only let a certain amount of people in the area at any one time, so you have to book ahead and get your permit. There are designated campsites that you have to stay at, and all have a fire grate and toilet. The first day we didn’t see anyone else, on subsequent days we saw a couple of canoes in the distance, so it really is quite remote, especially for a national park.

Our paddling skills increased a bit, I’m still not sure I’ve got the J-Stroke properly, but we mostly went in straight lines and didn’t have any catastrophes. Did come across beaver dams, which again renewed my absolute hatred of the creatures ;)

31-P604021530-P604020829-P604020527-P603018725-P603017123-P603016221-P603015020-P603014919-P603014618-P603014317-P602013416-P602012911-P602010510-P602010409-P601009107-P531007604-P531006003-P531005602-P5310052

We did have to suspend the pack from the potential of bears being around. In the event we didn’t see any, and I’m not sure the bag was high enough / far enough out from the trunk anyway. Still, it was Maaike’s bag ;)

15-P602012606-P5310072

Mozzies were in plentiful supply, but if you don’t scratch them it didn’t seem to bother that much. Also “biting flies” were around. These guys look like flies, but damn they hurt.

08-P6010079

We saw some wildlife, not heaps, but chipmunks and loons were about.

05-P531006428-P603019724-P6030167

Carrying the boat was easy enough for one person. It weighs in at 20lbs ish, so about 9kg. There are pads for the shoulders at the centrepoint, so you can just carry it easily enough for the portages. Well, at least for the canoes we hired it was like that :). All the distances are given in rods, conveniently about the length of a canoe (16 1/2 feet). The longest portage we did was 150ish rods & yes, I took a break in the middle. Still, at least it wasn’t a metal boat like these other two had to carry…

14-P602012213-P602012001-P531004726-P6030183

I think if we were going to do it again we’d change a few things around.

  1. We now know what distance we can paddle in a day. At least 8 miles or so. We’d have gone for longer days at the start of the trip to get “out there” a bit more
  2. We would learn which fish are good to catch, and how to fillet, as most people go fishing while they’re here

There’s probably more, but that’d be the main things. All in all a great trip. It’s a nice spot up there, certainly one of the more remote areas you can get to in the States, at least easily anyway.

 

p.s we used the http://elyoutfittingcompany.com/ and were very happy with their service. They had great information and talked us through our route with plenty of tips for points we needed to watch out for, nice campsites etc.

Comments (1)

The Cabin

Tim (my sisters husband)’s family has a log cabin, which they built themselves, up in the lakes area of Minnesota. I’ve long wanted to visit. Tim totally downplayed it, but damn it was amazing. Tim’s dad did a week long course, and then over the course of 2 summers, Tim’s eldest brothers built the cabin (as 20 year olds). I definitely didn’t take enough pictures of the place! But it was great to see the old picture book of how they built it. Seeing the clever tools you use. This isn’t about their cabin, but there’s quite a good blog about building a cabin here.

7-IMG_28794-IMG_20160530_1143266-DSC_02632-DSC_02051-DSC_0120

It was a wonderful little retreat. We headed up there on the Friday evening, and spent a lovely long (Memorial Day) weekend fishing, canoeing, eating, playing games and just having a really lovely time. Even got to see pelicans.

5-DSC_02464-DSC_02233-DSC_0216

No comments yet.. click here to add the first one.