15th September 2011
One week into the tour and time for an up-date on what’s been happening
Firstly I will start as to why we are here; having been in Oz in 2003 and England won the world cup, I hope to bring this team good luck.
Now we have now had all the first round games. As we all know by now the England V Argentina game was a lucky escape for us but that is what counts, but on our performance we shouldn’t have won, still we did! Apart from the Namibia V Fiji all the games have been rather dull but all the favourites have got through though their first round pool games with several scares along the way! Many so called under dogs have really raised their game including Wales!!! When they played South Africa (the current world cup champions); all good stuff
We are now in Wellington, capital of New Zealand; we arrived yesterday on the ferry from South Island after two nights in Blenheim, one of the wine centres in New Zealand.
Yesterday we all went on a wine tasting trip and sampled numerous wines, mainly white, some very nice and some not quite so nice but enjoyable none the less. We had lunch at the Marlborough winery, very nice though I found their wine to be rather “plastic”. We also visited the smallest winery in New Zealand which produced really good/nice wines but being so small they are very exclusive, so I had to have a bottle!
After the disappointment of the Argentina game we were pleased to leave Dunedin, though do we return on a further two occasions to play Georgia and Rumania. The last game in our group against Scotland is being played at Eden Park in Auckland.
Whilst in Dunedin we did a bus tour of the town and surrounding area which was very interesting. Dunedin was created by a breakaway bunch of Scottish religious people in the middle of the 19th century and the town today is still very Scottish including the street names, they are the same as many in Edinburgh.
Our flight from Dunedin to Nelson with a change of plane in Christchurch was interesting. The scenery seen from the air was stunning with many snow covered mountains. Etc., but the flight itself was in propeller aeroplanes and over the mountains we suffered turbulence, I think we were all pleased to be back on the ground. We then had a 2 hour drive to Blenheim and again the scenery was stunning as we followed the “scenic” route around the “fiords”, narrow and twisting roads with minimal traffic and different views around each corner.
The Hotel in Blenheim (we stayed two nights here) was excellent, a family run franchised “Copthorne” with an English chef from Ludlow in Shropshire; a superb menu with excellent unusual food though fish and especially the green mussels, are the local “home grown” speciality.
Hotels here in New Zealand have a problem with Wi-Fi, unlike most hotels in UK and Europe, they charge and limit the amount of megabytes one can use. Apparently these limits are applied to ensure guests are not able to, wait for it, down-load pornographic films!!! So there you have it, communications whilst out here will be rather limited, sorry but I do have my UK mobile switched on most of the time if needed.
The RWC coverage is wall-to-wall, where ever you go it is on TV so there is minimal chance of missing any games though the main talking point around, where ever you go is who is going to meet the All blacks in the Finals, well you can imagine the banter because of this, still it is all spoken about in good spirit.
Today we went up the cable car here in Wellington to the botanical garden and had a spectacular view of Wellington though there was rain about: back down and into the New Zealand “Te Papa” museum; decided we needed some culture and a history lesson, very informative! This Museum is huge, to do it properly I suspect we would need a full week, dawn to dusk! Back at our hotel to write this then watch the Russia V USA game later to-night.
We are here in Wellington for three nights then back to Dunedin for the Georgia match on Sunday after which we are off again when I will send out a further update.
Bye for now from a cold New Zealand
22nd September 2011
Another week has gone by and an up-date is called for
Our second and last day in Wellington was spent sightseeing, again! We went on a round town tour which was a quick way to get to know Wellington. I hopped off the bus at the houses of parliament and did the conducted tour; very interesting as though their government is based on the UK system, they have modified it quite a lot. Firstly they have done away with the upper house and they have done away with first past the post but haven’t quite got full blown PR, they have their own unique system! A very interesting visit especially when we were shown the engineering to avoid the building falling down when there is another earthquake.
Following this I went to the Maritime museum where there is a photographic rugby exhibition on and running alongside the exhibition was a video of the interview of the photographer and the stories behind every picture. There were several hundred pictures and if he spoke about each one, I would have missed my plane back to Dunedin! And to watch the Irish take Australia apart, what a great result and how well it went down with the Kiwis, not to mention the Irish. This result will potentially help the northern hemisphere as it could bring Australia and South Africa together in the quarter finals which mean that one of the big guns are out!
Back to the “Scenic” hotel ready for the Sunday match, England V Georgia, but first we have all booked to go onto the Taieri George Railway, the narrow railway that was built in the 19th century for the gold miners etc. This is a well preserved old narrow gauge railway that took us up the gorge and into the mountains; naturally as one would come to expect here we travelled through spectacular scenery; an excellent morning’s excursion waiting for the kick off.
Firstly we watched Wales play and beat Samoa, another exciting game in an Irish bar close to the stadium so that as soon as the final whistle went we could get to the England game. We were all there expecting to see a good attacking game and lots of tries; well we saw the attacking game all right, the Georgians attacking us! Had the Georgians kicked all their penalties we would have been in real trouble and it wasn’t until we were well into the second half that we got going and scored tries; the final score didn’t reflect the true game, still they say a bad win is better than no win, can’t argue with that BUT when we come up against the big boys and probably France in the Quarter finals we will, on current performance, get totally blown out.
Monday we were on the move again this time to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand so have several things on the agenda, we were told one cannot leave Queenstown without doing some adrenalin generating activity.
Tuesday we took the cable car up to the top of a mountain, then a ski lift further up and came down on the (dry) luge run, fairly exciting then out for a fish supper and an early night as we are leaving at 0600hrs Wednesday morning for a coach trip to Milford Sound. Milford sound is a Fiord of spectacular beauty (so we are told!) anyway being a 5 hour drive it had better be. Anyway we arrived after another ever changing countryside drive through amazing mountains and lakes and then boarded a boat. This boat took us to the mouth of the Fiord where we were amazed to see a “Right Whale” apparently we were extremely lucky to see one as the Skipper has been doing this trip for 10 years and this was his first as well (so he says!!!)
Leaving the boat and the prospect of another 5 hour trip was not appealing but lady luck arrived. We met a pilot that had to fly back to Queenstown and had 3 empty seats; It was only a 4 seater so we did a deal and flew straight across the top of the mountains, a journey of only 35 minutes: Being up there in this single engine very small plane was quite daunting as the tops of these mountain ranges are totally desolate and covered in snow but wow, what views, we soon got over the fright and settled down to enjoy the flight.
Tomorrow we are going for a Jet Boat experience, I will report on this next time
The group we are with is very friendly and we are all getting on well and have time to do our own things as well; not herded about. Gareth (Cootch) Chillcot (Ex England prop forward for those who do not know!) is an excellent and funny tour advisor, and naturally with an excellent “take” on the current RWC games
24th September 2011
Just a short note t0 say we are having a great time out here but a little on the chilly side, glad I brought some winter clothes!!!!
We are currently staying in the same hotel as the England squad, I expect they are fed up with us English supporters giving them an ear bashing and hard time for their poor performances against Argentina and Georgia, let’s hope we do the business against Romania and get 100 points, that may give us some confidence.
Keep in touch, though we are 12,000 miles away, e mails work very well (when I can find free broadband!)
27th September 2011
Now where did I leave off on the last update, oh yes I remember, we were going to the Jet Boat. Wow, what an experience and that was just getting to the river and gorge!!!!!!!!!! We were collected by a small coach (which seemed rather strange) and driven for the next ½ hour up to one of the local mountain range, that was only the start, we left the main road, (please bear in mind main roads around here are like wide country roads back in UK!!) onto this dirt track thinking it was just to drop us down the gorge and arrive at the jet boat station on the “Rapid” river. How wrong we were, this track was cut out of the side of the mountains back in eighteen hundred and something for the horse drawn supply wagons taking food and other supplies to all the miners who were all trying to make their fortunes. Anyway this dirt track was about 8/10ft wide, winding its way hugging the mountain sides, round very tight bands and sheer drops down to the valleys. Several people on the coach were terrified and had their eyes shut. This track went for about an hour winding its way to the jet boats we had decided we were going to use. Arriving at the boat jetty we were all kitted up with wet weather gear and life jackets. The funny thing no one in our party was scared, after the drive this was going to be tame, so we thought!!! 10 of us + driver “blasted” off and immediately did a 360 degree spin, wow! We then went up river around 65/70KPH winding round jutting out rocks in a gorge about 80 meters deep, over shallow rapids and a few more spins along the way just to keep us awake!!! The water is the melted snow so was “rather” cold and when travelling the wind generated had a chill factor of minus something but as soon as we stopped, the face thawed out. We turned round about 6 Km up river and the run back, going with the flow was about 85/95KPH, very stimulating.
After drying out we got back into the coach and went even further along the dirt track to a narrow bridge over the gorge where once upon a time they did bungee jumping. This stopped when someone else opened another bungee jump that was a drop of 134 meters!
Some of us walked across this wonky suspension bridge; apparently the English squad went up there last week and only 4 of them had the bottle to go over; perhaps that is why we are not playing well, they don’t have any bottle!
Now for the coach trip back. As we knew what to expect some of us were very relaxed but the ones who were frightened were really freaked and to make things worse we met a couple of other vehicles coming the other way which meant reversing, very scary. Anyway we arrived back safely.
Paul and I wondered out for a bite of lunch then I went back to the cable car up to Bob’s peak (where I went on the luge earlier) as I wanted to have a go at paragliding. You go off the top of the mountain strapped to a professional under the Para sail. Anyway I arrived at the top, ready to pay when I was told there was a weight limit and I was “only” just outside it so wasn’t allowed to do it, so back down the cable car to mooch around the lakeside until the South Africa V Namibia game which we watched in the Hotel Bar.
Up and ready to go Friday via the coach back to Dunedin ready for the England game V Rumania on Saturday.
This evening we were joined by Lea Mears (Bath & England, Hooker) and Ian Robertson (Radio 5 live commentator) for a RWC debate together, a lively debate with no real conclusions only speculation, but interesting anyway. Later we went back to the Hotel bar to watch the Oz V USA but the bar was full and seeing the numerous screens was difficult and for our table made difficult because Martin Johnson came in and just stood in front! Yes you guessed it, I was elected to ask him to move, so I did! Standing right next to him I looked like a dwarf, my my, he is big; I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have him bearing down on me at any time.
This weekend is also the Singapore Grand Prix and it is on Sky Sports 3 and at last we are in a hotel with Sky Sports 3.
Saturday morning spent in the Dunedin museum of New Zealand sporting greats, I didn’t realize how many there have been over the years but the people I was interested in, Bruce McLaren (founder of McLaren F1) Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, Grand Prix drivers in the 60’s only had one small cabinet in the corner of a small room yet the all blacks had a very large room to themselves! Never mind.
Saturday was also what we were here for, to see England play a decent game of rugby and score some tries. Even though they did win and score several tries I fear that if they play to the same standard against the big boys we will be out but I have said that before and again I hope I am right. The stadium was again superb but it rained as we walked there and back. I must say on an evening like Saturday it was nice to be in a covered stadium.
Sunday we went to Moeraki, a small fishing village about 1 hour’s drive to the north, this place is famous for two things. Firstly there are some very round boulders on the beach, apparently these boulders are not only particular to New Zealand, they are unique to a particular beach here next to Moeraki. Secondly “Fleure” Rick Stein’s favourite fish restaurant, here we had our Sunday lunch, excellent, that’s all I will say.
Three games Sunday night but the one we were most interested in was the Scotland V Argentina game, a draw would tacitly be the best result but Argentina beating Scotland, in what was a very exciting game to watch, was the next best result bearing in mind we are playing them next Saturday as the last game in our pool matches. We are defiantly through to the quarters but would be better to go through as the pool winners and if we do go through as winners we will most probably meet France and hopefully we can up our game to sort them out. We beat them in the 6 nations but historically in world cups they have pulled “rabbits” out of the hat!
An early start Monday and three flights later we arrived in the “Bay of Islands” top of the North Island. We were hoping for warmer weather but were disappointed though several of us put our shorts on!
Tuesday we went out sailing. 7 of us chartered a boat, owned and sailed by a husband and wife team, Rick and Robin. It was a 1970’s something or rather, 50ft ocean racing boat, she reminded me of Whitbread. We sailed around the Bay of Islands, didn’t quite realise how big this bay was. It was here that Captain Cooked first landed on his voyage of discovery and whilst charting the area counted 144 different islands and therefore named it the “Bay of Islands” History lesson over! We dropped anchor in a beautiful small bay (too cold to swim!) and the Skipper dropped the dingy, charged off with an empty bucket and returned about 10 minutes later with his bucket full of “Green Lip Mussels” which he had just harvested off the rocks nearby. Our lunch included “very” fresh mussels as well as homemade date bread, homemade Pie (we would call it a quiche) and other homemade things, very good but for me it reminded me of those far off days on Anam Cara anchoring off the various bays in the Caribbean, I was wondering if we had done the right thing selling her; still upwards and onwards, move on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today we are going to visit the Waitangi visitor centre, but more about this on the next update.
I trust you are all well, we are all having a good time and looking forward to the England V Scotland Calcutta match, this will be a decider for Scotland. Win and they will go through, probably as the runner ups, loose they probably get on the next plane home! Argentina have to also got to play Georgia and this result could have some bearing on the final positions of Scotland & Argentina; still we are through so will most probably meet “Les Bleu”, France, if anyone does not know who “Les Blue” are
Well we didn’t get to the Waitangi visitor centre today as I said we would do in my last update. Paul wanted to go on a boat trip and see the Dolphins (and anything else there was to see!) and his starting time didn’t allow us enough time to go, maybe tomorrow. I went to see Paul off on the boat, Christine and I have had the good fortune to enjoy the pleasure of the company of Dolphins playing in the bow wave of Anam Cara whilst sailing north along the western sea board of St Lucia, I don’t think anything else will come anywhere to equalling that sight, hence i elected not to do; so it was off to the cash point (again!) and a bowl full of “green Lip Mussels”; Can’t get enough of them, so fresh compared to those that eventually arrive over to Europe. I then had a mooch around Paihia, this is the place we are staying at the Bay of Islands, then back to the hotel ready for “big” quiz night. We have the Gullivers “Thistle” contingent staying at the same hotel, so some rivalry took place. Our team known as the “Bloody Marys” all the single males thought we had it in the bag especially as Paul thought that what he didn’t know about rugby wasn’t worth knowing. We also had Ian, the post graduate with a degree in Geography, Brendon (Ian’s dad) an ex IT guy from British Airways, Chris, a Dutchman and myself; well we were beaten on the Rugby questions, I think that upset Paul; anyway we came joint 3rd and the table full of school teachers who had been leading the pack right through got beaten at the last minute by the Welsh brigade. The good news was the Thistle contingent from north of the border got the wooden spoon.
Thursday; last day here in the Bay of Islands, it is a beautiful place and I would love to have been here in the summer, it is a little too cold though several of us wore shorts though today is certainly not a shorts day. Leisurely breakfast and this was followed with “Paul” going back to sleep, he says he is completely worn out; still he is the oldest on the tour. During this time I managed some internet time, limited though to maximum 30mins, but less if you use up the mb’s quickly, very awkward and if you elect to pay for 24 hrs, the countdown continues from when you accept their terms, 24 hrs means 24 hrs you can’t use it in tranches of time, very expensive this way. Mind you New Zealand seems very expensive; perhaps it is because there is a world cup going on here.
Walked over to the treaty grounds, had a coffee and then we wondered back to the hotel having decided to join most other people and go out for a “roast” at the local services club, apparently it is supposed to be something special, I doubt it as I already enjoy those special “roasts” at home! Had a few games of Crib and went 7 up when Paul said he couldn’t concentrate as he had a cold and was tired, so he went to bed, again!
I caught up with various things I wanted to do and then off for dinner at the Paihia Services club for the roast everyone was talking about. Arrived but not quite what we expected. After the customary pre dinner drinks we adjourned to the “restaurant” Ha! We had to order what we wanted at the self service counter and they called you when it was ready. When I went to the counter, they had run out of Roast Beef so I had a mixed grill instead and I have to say the steak with it was superb: not quite the sea food place we were originally going to but probably about quarter of the price!
Friday up bright and early to catch the coach to Auckland, stopping along the way to see various sights. I must say by the end of our trip we will probably be “New Zealand’ed out” but great all the same.
Arrived into another “Copthorne” hotel looking right over the Harbour where it all happens at night. Paul and I wandered about in the afternoon finishing up in the “Master Card” club but being 1700hrs when it opened and the SA V Samoa game not on ‘till 2000hrs Paul decided not to stay, I on the other hand didn’t fancy sitting around the hotel bar at inflated prices so stayed and met a couple from Cumbria though actually live in Spain. We were also joined by a mixed “race” couple, He from NZ and she from OZ. The five of us had a great time and the 3 hours waiting for the game went very quickly. Arriving at this “Fanzone” early meant we had a table and seats in prime position. I have to say that this “Fanzone” area must have held about 10,000 people and yet every time you went to the bar, it was straight up and served immediately. They had bar tenders waiting, fantastic service; none of this fighting to get to the bar then struggling to get a drink. Anyway watched the game and eventually arrived back at the hotel about midnight to find Paul already asleep!
Saturday and great expectations for the Game tonight; we are sharing the hotel with loads of “Jocks” you can imagine the banter, great fun. Anyway a mooch around the marina in the morning, saw several boats I had already seen in the Caribbean then off to Eden Park early to be close to the stadium having a Guinness (or two!). We went on the train, “free” to anybody with a match ticket, can’t be bad.
Great excitement in the Stadium when we arrived, then kick off and soon half were still very excited and half were down in the dumps, the Jocks deserved to win but as John Inverdale said to me after the game, “job done”, true but it doesn’t inspire confidence for playing the French in the quarter’s: Still we are not going home, yet anyway!
Sunday was a day of rest and got some washing done first then ready for the last 4 pool games starting at 1330 and the last game starting at 2030hrs wall to wall rugby! Some interesting results but nothing that would cause an upset for the quarters. Once the last whistle went for the end of the Irish V Italy game the speculation has started for the knock-out stages, everyone has their own path to the final and a few arguments have erupted, though all in good spirit. We do have the odd person that has his opinion and everyone else is naturally wrong. This particular person thinks France will be in the final, well you can all imagine we want England to beat them in the quarters to shut him up! Though England will have to up their game mind you the way France are playing we should see them off. I can’t imagine what the French papers are saying about them but the local papers here have written them off and apparently the team is in total disarray with the team going on strike. One day they wouldn’t get out of the coach for training! And on another occasion after their defeat the manager wanted to get them together for a beer and a bonding session, they didn’t turn up! All good for us, hopefully, still as I have said earlier, the “frogs” can always surprise everybody and pull something out of the hat.
The other thing everybody in NZ is “crying” about is that Fly Half Dan Carter of the All Blacks is out with a groin injury and will not be able to play any more in this RWC, oh dear! The press reckon the whole team hinges around him, we will see.
Monday and we away early, again!!! Coach trip to Taupo: Taupo is also the biggest lake in New Zealand and fairly close to Rotorua where all the steam comes out of the ground; looking forward to staying there later in the week.
This Hotel is very spread out and 8 KMs out of town with a taxi costing $30 so Margaret (tour manager) is organising a taxi mini bus (at Gullivers expense) to take us in tomorrow and collect us in the evening. This afternoon I had a swim in their outside pool. Freezing weather but the pool, heated by hot springs, was 38 degrees, a little warmer than I am used to.
The debate still raves; I will put my prediction at the end of this update, perhaps you will send me yours. Incidentally, several of you don’t send me any comments, if you want me to stop sending you my “tour” up-dates, please let me know, I don’t want to clog up your inbox and annoy you!!!
Tuesday; as I said Margaret organised a mini bus into “town” that’s an oxymoran if ever there was one! We had a mooch around then, I had a haircut, and then we went for a two hour boat trip on the lake and saw the old Maori rock carvings, amazing, how they managed that level of detail so long ago I will never know. You would have thought they had angle grinders: then back to the hotel for a swim etc., most of the party got another mini bus and went back into “town” for their dinner, but several of us stayed here, as the food is good for a hotel.
I bought a new shirt today, wore it for diner and one of the buttons fell off, what ever next!
Wednesday a day of rest, I have a filthy cold but not un-expected as it has gone the rounds so will stay in the hotel grounds (which are vast) probably have a few games of crib as Paul also wants a day off! It will also allow me to get this update away.
Our next adventure is tomorrow when we leave for Rotorua, but more about that next week in the mean time don’t forget to let me have your predictions for the knock-out stages and who will win,
My Prediction: RWC Results
England V France England Win
Australia V South Africa Australia to win
Wales V Ireland Wales to Win
Argentina V All Blacks All Black to win
England V Wales England Win
All Blacks V Australia All Blacks Win
All Blacks V England All Blacks win
Our Cruise liner arrived in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty; as named by that good old Captain Cook due to there being all sorts of provisions both on land and in the sea. It is off the beach here that the container ship ran aground and is causing all the trouble with oil seeping out and containers falling off. The weather was not too clear so it was hard to see the ship, though by now it is well submerged. We saw several New Zealand tugs towing containers to port and the beach was littered with “Deer” skins, apparently there was a container full of them, well it was full, now it is empty! There was also a container of wine lost and this was also a disaster to the locals! Joking aside, this is a beautiful beach that has been ruined by this ship; the local economy is dependent on the summer tourists that are due to arrive in the next few weeks. Though Tauranga is small it was a nice place and glad we disembarked here.
We sailed over night back to Auckland and here we stay until the semi’s are over. Friday was a big day for passengers leaving and new ones arriving onto “Pacific Dawn”, our cruise ship, so I stayed on board, watched the re-make of “Arthur” though not as good as the Dudley Moore version I have to say!
Saturday and the first semi final, I have my Welsh Shirt to the ready! After a late lunch on board it was off to the game though Kick Off was not until 2100hrs that night. The times were organised so that European TV could watch without people having to get up extra early, I ask you, whatever next!!!. Anyway several of us met at O’Carroll’s for the customary pints of Guinness, then off to Eden Park to watch what we all thought would be an exciting game with “hopefully” a welsh win but oh dear, a red card against the Welsh Captain destroyed the game. The arguments rage around here about the refs’ decision. If it was a spear tackle well that is banned, “but” in the disciplinary investigation he was not cited for a “spear tackle, but a “tip” tackle, so under those circumstances there is a body of many Rugby Gurus who think a yellow should have been used; either way it destroyed what would have been a very close game: Anyway the debate rages on and no doubt also in the press.
Onward and upward; Sunday arrived and we have the next semi final, Australia V the All Blacks. What a day and what atmosphere around Auckland and especially in the “Fanzone” just below our ship. Black flags with the silver fern everywhere and if you looked closely you would see the golden jerseys of the Wallabies, somewhere!
This was an enjoyable game to watch as an impartial observer, though I was rooting for the Oz’s as we have had the New Zealand “b——t” rammed down our throats so we thought if Oz was to win it would shut them up, but no they failed so we have even more “b——t” None of us think the French will do the job so it looks as if it is “Game Over”.
Monday and off to Fiji but though our flight was not ‘till 1330hrs we had to be off the boat for 0800hrs, so we amused ourselves visiting the Auckland Museum which is also their war memorial, fantastic building and excellent displays; again 3 hours didn’t allow us to do it justice.
Had a good flight to Fiji and left the ‘plane straight into that wall of heat we all enjoy in Spain, ah, good to be back! Shorts and flip flops on and a drink in the bar, it was very dark when we eventually arrived into the hotel, and after an exhausting day of travelling and having to have got up rather early (for us on tour!!!) we were all knackered.
Tuesday and it turns out to be John’s (Bath supporter) 65th Birthday. He tried to keep it quiet but we found out and arranged a suitable surprise get together for the evening otherwise the day was spent swimming, resting and in my case having to buy a new camera.
The one I had I bought for the 2003 world cup so was due for a change, but I think it gave up knowing that England had been knocked out and was only used to them winning!
Dinner tonight was, for a few of us, at the marina; Indian was the majority decision. There was nothing special about tonight’s meal except for the forthright views of Chairman “Paul”, we also have in our party “Mike” a retired RAF Group Captain with very right wing views,( I think I pale into insignificance to him, though he doesn’t’ think so!) anyway they went at each other hammer and tongs, it was the “Cabaret”
for the evening and of course the Bombay Sapphire Gins probably didn’t help. The sad thing was that perhaps several didn’t agree with Mike he didn’t “riel” them up where as poor old Paul had an attitude that just got up their noses, still we had a good evening in the end and that was the main thing.
Wednesday and we went on a sailing cruise (pre-booked by Gullivers), travelling around several islands with lots of snorkelling, fantastic warm clear sea, lots of Coral and great throwing ourselves off the boat. Food and drinks were included whilst on the boat so everybody had a great time arriving back to the hotel for around 1800hrs. A quick swim in the dark followed by a shower and met in the bar before dispersing for dinner to various watering holes.
Tomorrow, Thursday (and our last, sob, sob!!!) so two of us have decided to get out into the Island so we will hire a car and driver, more about that at the next update,
26th October 2001
Brendon and I hired a 4wd car with a driver for half a day and we were taken up to the mountains, off the beaten track and off the tourist route. It was more Fiji than the “Resort” or the “Marina” we are staying in. We visited a typical mountain village, no shops, cafés, and bars etc., only a primary school. This village was about 1 hours drive up a dirt track, hardly a road and had we rented a car, well firstly it wouldn’t have made it and secondly, had it made it would have fallen to pieces by the time we had returned it. Our hotel had advised us so but we thought it was a catch, however it actually turned out to be very wise advice. We were taken to a waterfall that was locked away from normal tourists as this was where the local village piped their water from. The funny thing about the track we went along was seeing a police (station) outpost. This is there to stop the “dwellers” up the mountain bringing down the illegal drugs they grow!
That evening, being our last in Fiji Margaret booked us all into the Asian restaurant in the resort but just before dinner she showed us the ITV program “Come Dine With Me” in which Kieran Bracken, Victor Obogo, Martin Offia and our very own Gareth “Cooch” Chillcot were the four contestants; well I don’t think I have laughed so much for years, well worth watching if you get the chance.
We left early Friday morning to catch the flight back to Auckland, I think I picked up a bug whilst in Fiji as I was shivering badly and on the plane had to cover up in blankets and coats! Arrived into Hotel and took to my bed mid afternoon as I was so cold, I then started the inevitable “Deli Belly” only I hadn’t been to India! I was so “frequent” that I was un-able to go to the ground to watch the Wales V Australia 3rd place play off though managed to watch it in my room; not quite the same though. Saturday morning after 18hrs, yes 18hrs sleep I was feeling great though needed to keep fairly close to you know what! Had a quiet day, went for a light meal, then back to my room. I didn’t want anything to spoil Sunday’s night Final.
Another good night’s sleep and raring to get up and go; on this “final’s” afternoon Gullivers entertained us in a super Italian restaurant and laid on coaches to take us to and from the game back to the restaurant for deserts and night caps; very good.
Now for the final, what an amazing atmosphere much more black than blue of course, in fact “Les Bleu” must have been outnumbered something like 10 to 1! It was a very close run thing with only the one point separating the two teams at the final whistle but, and this is a big but there is a strong “sceptical” view that the French were never going to be allowed to win this one. Firstly, as their main colours, blue and black could be muddled one team had to use their second kit, under those circumstances the home team and in this case New Zealand should have to change but of course they are only known as the “All Blacks” so France were made to change their strip, not the normal way of doing things! Secondly, the South African Ref, though acknowledged as one of the better ones was, at times, lenient towards the “AB’s” but pulled the “frogs” up for every slightest infringement and thirdly, when a French player went down he carried on playing but when Richie McCaw, their Captain and a Kiwi “God”, went down they stopped the game, same when the French Fly half went down they kept playing, when the AB Fly went down they stopped the game: The clock stops automatically when the ref calls time out for an injury, in spite of this it was a great occasion, a far better than expected game and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Had the French managed to pull it off I think the country would be in morning and Graham Henry (AB’s Coach) would have been publicly hung up from his nether regions!
Next world cup is in England 2015 followed by (to be confirmed) Japan in 2019, I will have to start saving!!!
Partying went on all through the night as Monday was a Bank Holiday here in New Zealand.
Monday saw the biggest parade I have ever seen, the team paraded the cup up Queen’s street where according to the newspapers on Tuesday, 100,000 people had crowded into. We were at O’Carroll’s (our favourite Guinness bar up a pedestrian precinct) looking over about 50 deep as the procession went by, fortunately we not only stood in amongst the crowds we had the benefit of Television so could see its progress up Queens Street, the parade took a little over an hour just to pass us!!
After the parade I had a couple of loose hours to spend so went to see the new Rowan Atkinson film, “Johnny English”; His first film was stupid but funny, this one was stupid and not so funny, perhaps because the format was the same and we knew what was coming next.
Incidentally, by this time I was right as rain, in case you wondered!
Monday also saw the departure of some of our party. A few went back to UK direct but most went on to other places such as Australia, China, Singapore and the USA. Paul and I together with the Father & son pairings (Brendan & Ian) went out to a particularly unusual fish restaurant called “Squid Row! And it was set in this magnificent old building with the British Coat of Arms above the door; apparently it was Auckland’s main Post Office years ago.
Tuesday and Brendan and Ian left at some un-godly hour leaving Paul & I in one hotel, Mike and Jenny (another couple) in another hotel and Margaret visiting the west coast. I had a last day of mooching around the town, a last visit to O’Carroll’s!!
With a bit of shopping for good measure thrown in and I met up with Paul in the evening and we popped into “father Ted’s” another Guinness bar but only round the corner to the hotel. Here we met a Kiwi who lived in Fiji, just finished a business trip and was returning the following morning. It also turned out to be quiz night in Father Ted’s so the three of us teamed up and entered. We finished a respectable third but of course what started as a quick “night cap” became a session, anyway, back to the Hotel and bed later than originally planned.
We were very fortunate with this hotel as apparently they do not have twin bedded rooms so both Paul and I are enjoying our separate rooms.
Last full day in New Zealand to-morrow, can’t say I am sorry, I feel as if we have been “New Zealand’ed Out” and After the Final, apart from the euphoria on Monday there is an anti climax around, still last up-date will be upon arrival home!
Wednesday and Paul had a trip booked, He went on a Dolphin watching trip in the Bay of Islands, (my that seems a long time ago), but they didn’t find any so they gave Paul a discount voucher for their sister company running out of Auckland. Well he went and apparently saw about 500, quite remarkable. I didn’t go as Christine and I had a wonderful experience whilst sailing Anam Cara north along the west coast of St Lucia when we had a pod swimming and playing in our bow waves. I spent Wednesday printing off the various vouchers etc., and catching up with the washing, very exciting and packing for the return.
Thursday we had to be out of our hotel rooms by 1000hrs but our flights weren’t until 2230hrs, so decided we would leave for the airport about 1900hrs which meant we had 9 hrs to kill. We couldn’t risk going on a trip somewhere in case it returned late and besides I don’t think there was anything else for us to do in Auckland, having been there on three occasions. We walked to the marina, (this hotel was about 2 miles from it) where we had a coffee and a few games of crib then decided to go to the Cinema. There was a fairly new “I Max” in Auckland so we went to watch 2 films which took care of about 4 hours, and then off to the airport. Because we left a few days after the RWC finished, the airport was very quiet; in fact it was like a ghost town.
We boarded our flight to Los Angles and this time our Air New Zealand premium economy was very comfortable with the new spacious seats with heaps of leg room and space between each seat. These were the seats I expected on the outbound journey; I had seen them on their web site. What I didn’t read was the small print that said these new seats were only on the Pacific route; hence we changed our return flights to get these special seats. This was a good move also as it allowed me to tick another box. I had been to the west coast of the USA and the east coast of Japan but never flown across the pacific, now I have: It also seem very strange as we left New Zealand 2230 on the 27th, and arrived in Los Angles at 1400 hrs also on the 27th, in other words we arrived before we left!!
Los Angles was a palaver, we had to disembark for 2 hrs whilst they re-fuelled, cleaned, changed the crew and stocked up with food and wine etc. That in itself was not an issue but the states are so paranoid that those who hadn’t got a 10 year Visa in their passport had to spend $40 to organise a Visa Waver in New Zealand “Before” they arrived and all we did was go straight into the gate lounge, then past immigration where we had to give electronic finger prints and have a biometric ‘photo taken, then back into the gate lounge where we had just started from!!!!! What was the sense of all that, I could understand d if we had been allowed into the duty free areas or something; unbelievable.
We touched down at Heathrow at 1030hrs, ½ hour early after a comfortable and enjoyable 24 hr flight, good food, good service and very comfortable, what else would one want after such an arduous rugby tour.
Now that it is all over and only memories and loads of ‘photos, I should just like to say that we were extremely lucky with our “Red Rose Tour” organised by Gullivers. Firstly there were 19 of us on tour plus Margaret, our tour Manager and strangely, though we were from all sorts of walks of life, there was hardly any friction; we all seemed to gel very well and Margaret was extremely efficient and attentive and the organisation went like clockwork and though it was not exactly cheap, I think we all got our monies worth. I would certainly recommend “Gullivers” for any future sporting occasions abroad. We were also very lucky to have Gareth “Cooch” Chillcot with us for most of the tour, he certainly brought much laughter with his outspoken views and tales of touring with the England and Lions teams he was involved with during his playing career.
Oh well, as I start the last leg (back to Spain) of this round the world adventure I am signing off as I get back to reality. I am now looking forward to the next adventure, on board a suitable vessel to sail the rivers and canals of Europe with Christine.