Swimming in the lake on the island in the lake on the island . . .

2 03 2013

Mou Waho 2013 swim (8) (1280x960)Fogged up goggles were the only things preventing Wanaka Lake Swimmers from enjoying panoramic views yesterday (Saturday March 2) as they completed the club’s first adventure swim “in the lake on the island in the lake on the island’’ – or Mou Waho 2013.

Eleven swimmers enjoyed the romance of swimming to the island in the Arethusa Pool on top of Mou Waho Island, in the middle of Lake Wanaka, which – as everyone knows – is in the South Island of New Zealand.

Mou Waho 2013 swim (31) (1280x960)We decided to take just 12 swimmers because of limited resources and because the swim was a “test run’’ to see what might be involved in organising an adventure event for a larger number of club members next year. The main issue for the club was the “terrain’’, making safety a key issue, and we had never organised anything like this before. Usually, we just stick to the Roys Bay buoys or the stretch to The Rock, though we have done a few laps of the easily accessible Ruby Island, off the beach at Waterfall Creek.

Everyone who knows something about boating on Lake Wanaka will tell you the stretch of water we chose to swim across on Saturday is the most notorious part of the lake. Nor-west winds blow up fast around Mou Waho, creating massive 2m swells and making sailing and boating dangerous. There have been all manner of strandings on the island, and some unfortunates have had to have unplanned island sleepovers while waiting for conditions to improve. The lake is at its deepest near Mou Waho – some 300m – and if something sinks, it’s gone.

Fortunately, the weather gods approved of our plans and provided a light south-westerly breeze, which did not chop the water. The change to nor-west did not occur until later in the day, when we were long gone.

Mou Waho 2013 swim (40) (1280x960)Initially, there were 16 swimmers keen to be “experimented’’ on and swim under the watch of Coastguard, yacht club and waterways patrol volunteers. When a few swimmers withdrew voluntarily through injury or ill health, the dilemma about turning people down was resolved.

We left Wanaka Marina just after 7.30am for a 20 minute boat ride to a beach on the narrow isthmus connecting Stevenson’s Peninsula to the mainland. The swimmers started just after 8.15am and swam 2km in perfect, millpond conditions (water temperature 16degC) to Mou Waho Island, a Department of Conservation reserve that is home to the rare and inquisitive native bird, the buff weka. (Weka don’t fly but do swim.)

The quickest to complete the crossing were Steve and Logan, in about 25 minutes, although at one point they needed a little shepherding by skipper Johnny Rogers, as they seemed determined to swim to Makarora instead. Everyone had finished by about 9am.

After a short snack, the swimmers took a 15 minute stroll up to the 250m-long Arethusa Pool for another dip. This pool was slightly warmer than the lake and sports three tiny islands, just big enough for small groups to stand on.

Mou Waho 2013 swim (43) (1280x960)There are some of the most beautiful, panoramic views from the pools, and combined with the regenerating native habitat that DOC has been nurturing for many years, it is easy to see why Mou Waho is a popular eco-tourism destination. As we made our way back down the hill, we met tourist operator Chris Riley and a group of visitors carrying native trees to plant somewhere in the forest during their guided tour of the island.

Back at the picnic area, all that needed to be done was to defend our picnic from the wekas. This was easily done: we ate the whole lot ourselves.

One thing we could have done was charge for our double act as strippers for Aidan Butler’s stag do, which was taking place on the island the same morning. However, Aidan and his Wanaka Soccer Club mates missed out on the performance because they were late. The two barbecue chefs who had been sent ahead to prepare the lads’ feast seemed happy to see us though  – and they had a lovely lump of venison on their barbecue too!

As for Mou Waho 2014 – we’ll have a debrief soon, consider the logistics and decide how best to proceed. So watch this space. In the meantime, please send me your feedback.

Thanks  to Johnny and Liz Rogers, Alan McKay, Peter Rhodes, David Knowles (boat safety team); Kevin and Sharyn Gingell-Kent (barbecue), Claire O’Connell, Anna Kate Hutter and Jackie Boyd (baking and pies), and everyone who attended and made it such a pleasant morning.

Mou Waho 2013 were: Claire O’Connell, Sharyn and Kevin Gingell-Kent, Marie Ford, Nicole Meldrum, Dave Crawford, Gwen Hendry, Logan Curtis, Steve Brown, Jackie Boyd, Anna-Kate Hutter, Rachael Beattie, Marjorie Cook (all WLS); Johnny and Liz Rogers, Alan McKay, Peter Rhodes and David Knowles (coastguard/yacht club/waterways patrol).

For more information on Mou Waho:



Italy, underground

11 02 2013

P1010181 (800x600)It seems like a life time ago that I was cycling through Northern Italy. Here is a story about my experiences in mines on the border of Italy and Austria. I arrived in Klausen on July 19 suffering badly from insect bites. I spent a day recovering in the sun, then another day recovering in the rain. On the third day, the sun came out again but I decided to go underground! The Otago Daily Times published this piece today, Tuesday, February 12, 2013. http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/travel/245386/riddles-underground-austria


A blast from the past . . . (six months ago)

16 01 2013

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Above is the link to my travel article (15/01/13) in the Otago Daily Times. Peregrin (snr), Peregrin and Magadalena Pfanzelt host a bed and breakfast and farmers’ market in the village of Langengeisling, near Erding. Contact them at 169 Alte Romenstrasse, Erding 85435 (ph: 08122 892456.)

2012 in review

2 01 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Back in the water

9 12 2012

P1050125 (800x600)I am back in the swim of things in Wanaka. The lake today was cold – probably about 16degC – but it was lovely to be back in fresh, clear water with friends. It was my first lake swim since falling down stairs in Ireland a month ago and as coach Fi put us through some race skills practice, I felt okay. Not great, because Doug Robinson has been doing some training and I now have some catching up to do. One good thing about the swim was it was so cold, I felt no pain in my back. The best part was afterwards when I discovered someone (flatmate Jackie Boyd perhaps) had left a large cake of chocolate on the table near my bag. It was not claimed after 15 minutes so I ate it.

P1050121 (600x800)The other good news is my touring mountain bike is out of its cardboard box. I had a beer with it last night, then reassembled some of it, removed the chain and brake pads and cleaned off a bit of the muck I picked up on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in south west Cork. I’ve got a little bit of work to do on it and I am not sure how talented a bike mechanic I shall prove to be but I am looking forward to giving it a go. Neighbour Eddie Spearing said he would help so I am sure it will still look like a bike by the time I’ve finished (well, that’s the hope). Taking it to the bike shop is plan B.

P1050118 (800x600)Of course, I have also been back to Ritual Café and Chris and Paul have informed me their takings this week have shown a marked improvement. I feel like I have been away five minutes but it is just slightly over six months since I started this blog as a letter home to family and friends. Back in June, Ann Scanlan, Wendy Davison and I had just completed the Cairns half ironman and were on the top of the world. Ann and I went on to compete together in Challenge Roth, then went mountain biking in northern Italy before Ann raced at the world half ironman champs in Las Vegas. Wendy is now seven months pregnant, I have a bad back and Ann, our sweet, “take no prisoners’’ racer, is starting cancer treatment. We three hope to ride out together again this summer and we also hope we can pour Ann into THAT wetsuit (see “Buying a wetsuit is not easy’’ from July 7) on the next stinking hot day.

IMG037 (640x480)I imagine this is the end of this particular set of stories, at least for now. I wanted to get lost on my bicycle and I did that so many times it is difficult to explain where I have been. Don’t hold your breath for the route map! In April, I had just one follower, Wanaka open water swimming identity Claire O’Connell (pic left, with me on the right). Now, I have 28 registered blog followers. The wordpress site statistics reveal there have been 2,492 views from 34 countries so far, of which 1,751 views were from New Zealand, 185 views from Ireland and 123 from Germany. I never knew I would end up with such a large, multicultural family and it is encouraging for me to know you are there. Thank you to those who have helped me, hosted me, travelled with me a little way or have read and responded to my meandering stories. Please continue to keep in touch. I am bound to get lost again soon.

Giving away money

22 11 2012

I have spent the final days of my six month cycle tour of Europe giving away money. After four days supporting Dublin’s homeless on the streets, including a rabbit, I didn’t have very much spare cash left to give away today. But thanks to Dublin businessman and keen cyclist Sean White, I did have a 20 euro note he gave me in Wanaka last year.

The most remarkable thing about Sean’s 20 euro note is that last month, it enabled me to ride my bike for 50km further than would have been possible if I had not had it (see previous blog “Cycling in France on 20 euros’’). So I resolved to give it back.

The 20 euro note is a little worn and torn after its adventure inside a bike tyre but is now in the safe keeping of Dublin cyclists and Loch 6 cafe owners Brian and Niall McDermott until they can pass it on to Sean. I could not return the note personally because Sean was busy but the McDermott brothers assured me he had “flipped’’ with delight when he heard he was getting his 20 euro note back.

I have heard Sean might be a “bit of a tycoon’’ and it could be that he knows “something about infrastructure”. So I am confident he will make good use of his second chance to give away the 20 euro note and hopefully he will find a grander cause than a caffeine-addicted, cycling journalist with little present purpose other than riding her bike to cafés. (Except, with my back injury, I have been using buses and trams). I have noticed Irish folk are particularly good at fundraising and there are at least as many official fundraisers on the streets asking people to dig deep for worthy causes as there are beggars. I imagine Sean is someone who (to use a Kiwi expression) “gets the gorse out of his pocket’’, not the least because the group of 30 Irish cyclists I interviewed for the Otago Daily Times last year raised more than 50,000 euros for the Irish Rugby Football Union Charitable Trust. (The trust supports seriously injured rugby players.) The cyclists, including Brian, Niall and Sean, each cycled 1050km to achieve the fundraising target.

Brian (26, left) and Niall (28, right) are full of beans. Brian was the key organiser of the trust’s 2011 cycle tour of New Zealand and he is now organising (for a separate group) an cycle tour of Argentina. The brothers recently decided to exit a bicycle retail business and in June took over the lease on an old loch keeper’s house by the canal at Charlemont and opened a cafe. They have renovated the building into a cheerful gathering place for coffee and scone addicts and have plans to build a covered outdoor area. So Loch 6 was a good place to hand back the note.

I caught the tram back to town feeling happy to finish that chapter of my life and because it was raining, decided to spend more time in cafes watching people go by on the street. After I left Bewleys (famous for its windows) I was approached by an Irishman, who apologised for his existence and assured me of his nationality. “I’m homeless, I need help, I had a shave this morning in a pub. I’ve got my name down for a flat and I will start looking for jobs after Christmas,’’ he said. I wasn’t sure if I believed him but I gave him the rest of the gorse in my pocket.

Thank you to Andy Hunt of Natural High (Christchurch cycle tour business) for helping me track down the McDermott brothers and Sean White in Dublin. Andy guided the Irish cyclists during their 2011 tour of New Zealand.

The game has changed

15 11 2012

Blogging about my accident has caused me some anguish, not the least because I am not the only person for whom the game has changed. My dear friend Ann Scanlan, with whom I had so much fun earlier this year racing in Cairns and Roth and mountain biking in Italy, has suddenly found she must fight cancer. I have been lying low in Cork, working out a new “what now’’ and the logistics of getting my body and my stuff from A to B. But my heart is already at the other end of the alphabet, in Wanaka, with Ann and her partner Hugh. So here’s to you Ann, with all my love, respect and admiration.

This staircase in a country holiday home near Bantry is my game changer. I think it was the third or fourth step from the bottom that brought me down last Saturday about 10am. Combination of socks on wood, turning on a narrow step, ducking to avoid banging head on beam. I wish I had been wearing shoes and I really wish I could stop going over it in my mind. But it happened.

I am now back in Cork city. My lower back is badly bruised and I have flashes of pain across my back to my left hip but I am feeling much better. Movement is painful but I can walk. I am grateful I didn’t hit my head or do worse. I am in a good space mentally.

Medical advice has been to rest this week, travel next week and expect a six week recovery. It is possible I might have cracked the wing on one of my lumbar vertebrae but there is no point x-raying to find out because this type of injury only gets better through self-healing. My job now is to accept the facts, take the painkillers and follow the doctor’s advice to rest until the swelling and pain subsides. It is a bitter pill to swallow but at least it happened near the end of my cycle tour and not the beginning.

I have enjoyed the last few weeks, travelling slowly in the south west of Ireland and meeting all sorts of hippies, artists, musicians, story tellers and Guinness drinkers. A week ago, in what was to be my last major ride, Jo Williams (from Wanaka) and I spent a fantastic four to five hours riding the Ring of Beara – me on the trusty mountain bike and she on her dad’s reliable “old clonker’’. The Beara peninsula on the border of Cork and Kerry counties is truly lovely countryside and it was a great day out.

Before all the dark stuff happened, my plan had been to continue up Ireland’s west coast by bike and bus, catch the ferry to England from Dublin and cycle the Manchester canal route to arrive in London by December. The bike and I have had a thoroughly good time in Ireland and the conditions have not always been wet so I was backing myself to achieve this goal. But the bike needs a service, a new chain and new sets of tyres and brake pads. Also, my bike shoes and shorts have holes in them. A New Zealand summer with my good friend Ann seems most appealing and I can come back another time to ride into London and start a new adventure.

Working through the “what now’’ scenarios has been difficult for me. Jo Williams and her dad, John, were very kind to me the weekend of the accident, my sister Judy helpfully brainstormed an encyclopaedia of suggestions, my Jersey friends Grant and Tui have invited me back to the couch to renew my alliance with Ted the cat, and Liam and Riana from the “Cork swimming family’’ have also been a great help. Thanks also to Gabriel House B and B staff and to friends and family for Skyping and emailing me.

Yesterday – and yes, I am a bit of geek but I was also high on painkillers when I did this – I googled “how to make a decision’’ on the internet. I researched various decision-making models posted by other geeks before coming up with my own model, which really is an agglomeration of all the others, because I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most.

Although my decision-making model is a bit of a chunky construction and perhaps not as perfectly rational as it could be, I am confident it is quite good and it is for sale, along with my medication. When I told Jackie Boyd about my decision-making model I think I genuinely shocked her. There was a sharp intake of breath. I am quite proud of that. When I told my brother Dave I had spent the day researching and writing a decision-making model and was now applying it to my facts, he looked alarmed and possibly even frightened. When I got to the bit about the pros, cons, costs and benefits of my objective (don’t even ask me what that is and how I came to it) and how they contrasted with all the pros and cons etc of the alternatives (no, don’t go there) and whether I was demonstrating any biases or prejudices (this is quite early on in my model, there is heaps to do after that, like writing an action plan, performance measurement blah blah blah) my sister-in-law Pam pulled a chair up to their computer, butted in and changed the subject.

What was I saying? Can’t remember. Anyway, after several cups of tea and a completely unsuccessful lie down, I am coming home. I hope to be in Wanaka within a couple of weeks. All you guys need to do is provide me with summer! PS: This gentleman here is Barry, the gardener at Gabriel House. He packed my bike and trailer for me today, which was absolutely awesome. Thanks again to Gabriel House. Your people are marvellous.