A retrospective on 2014

It can be hard writing these things retrospectively. Mostly I cherry-pick a few photos that aren’t completely awful and write a few words around them. While it might be better to just keep up with them a little more regularly, I’d kind of lost interest in blogging for a while.

It starts off back in NZ

As is family tradition, we all head to Auckers for a Dotty Birthday get-together. Love seeing my cousins and all the Aunties & Uncles. We’re not a big family, but it’s still pretty special to manage to get us all in once place at the same time. I flew back to NZ mid January to meet up with everyone.

Family celebrating Dotty's 89th Birthday Family celebrating Dotty’s 89th Birthday

After Grandma’s birthday, I did my traditional hammer around the North Island visiting relatives. Spent time in Tauranga with my cousin’s family. Tauranga is somewhere I’d love to move to one day. It’s a nice size (about 100k population), has great beaches and a decent climate (although a very wet winter) and isn’t that far from Auckland if you do need the big smoke for some reason…

Also went to Morrinsville and spent a bit of time with rallies there. Mostly either playing golf with my Uncle, or doing night photography and just generally chilling with my cousin. Another bonus was my service medal arrived. I’d been waiting for it for a while, but it was worth the wait. It’s a nice little reminder of my time in the Air Force.

My service medal arrived

Then headed down the line to Wellington. Got out for a sail on a mate’s boat which is always fun even when the weather was a bit rough. Spent a bit of time down there with Auntie Joan before heading back up to Auckers.

Investigating Raro

While in NZ, a couple of friends had suggested I hook up with Solar Bob in Raro. With my Engineering background, and the Cook Islands government pushing to get the islands to 100% renewable energy by 2020, there’s the possibilty of getting involved in solar projects.

So I booked my tickets to Raro to check it out. I’d managed to get a reasonable deal on accommodation, as prices in Raro are pretty expensive. Got to the island, rented a bike and started checking the place out.

Bob is a top bloke and showed me around some of the solar installations on Raro, including Muri Beach Resort who’ve done an incredible job with their solar system going completely off-grid. One of the challenges facing the island is storage of renewables. Until electrolytic flow batteries enter the mainstream, they’re probably likely to still need to generate power using diesel (which is how they generate most of their power now) to cover gaps when renewable generation doesn’t supply enough energy.

Bob showing me Muri Beach Resort, one of the hotels who've done an amazing job going completely off-grid Bob showing me Muri Beach Resort, one of the hotels who’ve done an amazing job going completely off-grid

I also managed to explore the island a bit. There’s just one main road around the island, that’s about 32km long. There’s also an inner road, but it doesn’t appear to go the entire way around, covering perhaps two thirds of the island’s circumference. You can get either the clockwise or anti-clockwise bus, but one of the benefits of renting a scooter is the ability to go off-piste a bit. I made the most of it.

One of the most amazing sights to me, was the abandoned Sheraton Resort on the southern part of the island. It was 80% completed when the backers and insurers all pulled out after it’d gone massively overbudget and corruption was exposed (Mafia links and money paid for work that was never completed). But one of the cool tidbits is how the land was ‘cursed’ since 1911 after More Uriatua was shot and killed following an argument about the land’s ownership. Then, when the Hotel project began, the grandson turns up in warlike regalia, reaffirming the curse and with a spear, split the rock that held the plaque that’d just be unveiled by the Prime Minister. Cool story bro!

Sam and Anje, wedding in paradise

Once back in the UK, I quickly reaquainted myself with some things I’d been missing. Great bacon from the Butcher down the road. Cheap Pomelo from the fruit market. Man-dates involving steak and wine at the local gastro-pub. Play time at the airport cafe and water park with my God-son.

But before long, it was another flight, this time off to Bermuda for Sam and Anje’s wedding.

Bermuda is a funny sort of place. Sort of 3rd world in feel, but still kinda pricey. (Maybe I’ve been travelling SE Asia too much) I loved the Bermuda take on suits, which appeared to be a dress shirt with pastel coloured shorts. I don’t think I could pull it off though. Incredible architecture and history, with tons of old forts and cannons. I’d rented a scooter, so I was able to explore the island a bit. I’d also managed to get a deal on a spare room on AirBnB, so I was able to stay just up the hill to the East of Hamilton, which is the main town on the island.

The old fort in Hamilton Fort Hamilton from the late 1800s

As soon as I got to Bermuda my skin started improving. Even before I’d had my first swim. But man, those waters were something else. Your eyes are just assaulted with beauty and colour. I’d never seen anything like it.

Got to admit, I was pretty blown away by how stunning Bermuda was... Got to admit, I was pretty blown away by how stunning Bermuda was…

The pre-wedding preparations were a lot of fun. Anje’s family were so lovely and welcoming, and we all had tons of fun helping prepare the gift bags and stuff for the wedding. One of the coolest experiences was an excursion out to Ports Island. A few of us swam the circumference (I think a few times) which was only about 1.5km, but I loved putting my total immersion technique into action and it was a pretty nice bonding experience with the other guys. Michelle also managed to completely surprise me by arranging a birthday cake on the ferry back to Hamilton.

Also managed to get out for a couple of sails on some Hobie cats we’d found for rent up and H20 sports in the NW corner of the island. I’d really missed sailing and it was great to get back out on the water. Wicked bit was exploring the various King’s point islands, snorkelling and swimming, and sailing super near the cruise ships docked at King’s Wharf.

The wedding was amazing. I loved being a backup photographer for the day. Incredible food (and I finally had ‘smores’ for once). But all good things must come to an end, and I was back on the plane to the UK all too soon.

I didn’t have long in the UK, but spent a little bit of time with mates

Up the Malvern with Hamish flying gliders Up the Malvern with Hamish flying gliders

Didn’t have a huge amount of time in Blighty before I was due to head back down under, but managed to get out for a walk and a gliding session with Hamish.

Farewell to Dotty

Unfortunately I needed to make a trip back to NZ for Grandma’s funeral. It was an appropriately wet day for a somber occasion. The actual service was very Presbyterian. Quite touching to have so many people who used to work for the family business come pay their respects too.

As a bit of an act of homage, my cousin Meika and I decided to take a tour around the Coromandel Peninsula reliving memories of being there as kids with Grandma. Maybe it was just a good excuse for a road trip, but I hadn’t been back to Wangapoua since the bach was sold, so it was a bit special.

The old bach is gone, but the gate still looks like the one I remember from childhood The old bach is gone, but the gate still looks like the one I remember from childhood

While recognisable, things have changed a lot. The old four-car garage bach was demolished, and on the same section stood this two storied, rather massive house. And wandering over the sand dunes, I was pretty taken aback at how much erosion there’s been since the late 80’s. The steps that led up to the dairy down the other end of the beach used to sit on sand, now they hung uselessly in mid-air. Really illustrating how much beachfront has been lost.

Something is brewing

Back in Bendigo, my life was mostly playgrounds and cafes entertaining a 3-year-old while Mum was busy gestating a sibling.

Victorian spring Victorian spring

Work was slow, so mostly spent my days drawing, driving around exploring, or taking photos.

In search of a sail

Part of my skin care regimen is to go somewhere humid for a week or two each year. I’d been to Thailand just the once before (Koh Samui and Koh Tao), but I’d seen a yacht hire place in Phuket that I wanted to check out. And even though it was low season, thought I might still manage to get some sailing in. Only had just over a week here while in transit to the UK, so I had to make the most of it.

Rented a small scooter and explored every part of that island. But nobody was renting out boats. In the end, I hung out at a yacht club that did have training facilities and managed to befriend a young British lad who was a competitive sailer back in the UK and was out here just about to do another visa run. He was patient enough to give me a few pointers and let me muck about on one of their little training dingys until the weather took a nasty turn. My capsize drill got a proper workout that’s for sure!

Bit crazy attempting to sail in this, but it was the only opportunity I had Bit crazy attempting to sail in this, but it was the only opportunity I had

Exhausted, but happy enough to achieve my goal, I spent the rest of my time hunting down the best beaches, Pomelo, Kana Moo Grob and massages I could find while exploring the island on the scooter. All were variable, but I did manage to find a few gems. Favourite beach was Nai Han Beach in the South West. Quiet, but with great surf, so I’d found my base. And I did find the most amazing (and spicy) Kana Moo Grob on Cape Panwa (The Ship Inn). I did have one old lady almost wreck my neck doing some crazy move during a massage. She knew she’d injured me too. So I was a little more hesitant after that, but managed to find another couple of places a few days later that were pretty good.

New projects

Work started to kick off too. I’d been asked to help out on a couple of new projects for a client, and I got to work with a designer who I really enjoy working with, so I jumped at the opportunity. Bit tough at times with connectivity, but managed to get a decent start on things. And surprisingly, connectivity once back in Australia wasn’t much better (if at all). The best connection I could get was really slow ADSL. At least Phuket had fibre everywhere.

Back in the UK I pretty much focused on getting rid of stuff, finishing up some incomplete renovations, and catching up with a couple of friends (and seeing my two godsons) knowing that I’m unlikely to be back much in future now that I’m making Aussie my home.

Once safely back in my new home, there were more cafes to visit, farmers markets to shop at and playgrounds to conquer. I started experimenting with a home-brew sous vide setup (slow cooker and digital thermostat/controller) which worked amazingly. Also, pomelo is crazy expensive here, so started growing a couple of my own plants, as well as collecting other seeds to grow and experiement with.

Tried growing my hair long, until Miss-3 (nearly four) said “Davie, why have you got crazy hair?“. It wasn’t a good look.

Back to the city to catch up with Billie and Gav and to eat some yummy food...

Bought a pushbike and started exploring Bendigo on two wheels. And before I knew it, it was Christmas. Cleaned out the carb (gunked fuel) on Shelle’s motorbike and got that running. Although needed to buy a new battery as the old one wouldn’t hold charge at all. Christmas was the usual Aussie affair of heat and more heat. Then all of a sudden, it was 2015.