Monday, 1 October 2012


8th September
The feeling I had when I first left NZ came back to me as I was heading to Gatwick Airport to catch a flight to Vancouver, my Europe trip was over and I was on to another exciting adventure, this time in Canada & the US.
Met 2 young guys from Whistler at the airport and they were telling me all about their past 2 months backpacking around Europe, shared stories and all agreed on Barcelona being an epic place.
Arriving in Vancouver was probably around 10 flights from Asia at the same time, so getting through customs seemed to take forever and all I wanted to do was get on the other side of that border to see Kelly.
Chatted to some people from Northern Carolina who were there to go on a cruise ship, the guy says to me ‘Oh I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand’ and then proceeded to tell me all the things he wanted to see there, however was a little bummed out when I told him that we don’t have kangaroos in New Zealand.
I wasn’t as grilled as much as I thought I would be, was asked why I was in Canada and for how long, when I was heading back home and if I knew people that I was meeting up with. But eventually I was out the other side and Kelly was there, super excited to see him and I met Ron Burgundy (Ronnie B) for the first time, our van that would take us on this road trip.
We hung in Vancouver for a short while, grabbed some lunch, got ourselves a GPS and then got on the road to Whistler.
On the drive to Whistler I began to wonder if perhaps Canada was going to give Switzerland a run for its money in the favourite country I’ve visited stakes.
The place that Kelly lives there is a cabin in the woods on the side of a stunning lake, in a suburb of Whistler called Whistler Creekside about 8 km before the main town of Whistler.

Kelly had put together a bike for me to ride, so that arvo we rode into town and checked out the village, all the while trying to fight the fact that my brain was at 1am.
The village of Whistler seemed a lot smaller than I had first imagined, but its so lovely and the mountains surrounding the village were awesome.
The following day we got our bikes and caught the gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain where I was to be taken into Kellys world for the first time and try to make it down the mountain in once piece. Before embarking on that though, we locked up the bikes and caught another gondola across to a different mountain range on the Peak to Peak. After some cheesy sightseeing, we were back at the bikes and I put on my knee & shin pads, full face helmet and gloves and followed Kelly down.
Yes I fell off, only once though, and not even while riding the bike! I was walking it down a real steep bit and I must have grabbed the brakes too hard and something happened which meant I got completely tangled in the bike and was soon on the ground. All of this of course in front of a bunch of guys doing some photo work, awesome!
Carried on and the burn in my legs was really starting to kick in, but we were soon at the bottom and I was totally keen to go for another ride however I was in some serious need of a rest and a beer.
We didn’t go all the way to the top on the second run, just half way, and I by the end there was no way I could do any more that day. It was just so much fun, the trails are built so well and it’s just a matter of confidence as to how fast you want to take it.
Oz is one of Kellys flatmates, he’s from Norway and flies helicopters for a few weeks to a few months at a time in the bush, so when he gets back from work he likes to enjoy himself.
The first night I was there, I got to see the hilarious side to Oz after a few beverages. We were awoken in the middle of the night by real loud music from upstairs, Oz had been out and brought the party back home with him. He came down the stairs to just outside our room, and was telling a girl all about the chainsaw that was there, after failed attempts to start it Kelly got up and started it for him and Oz runs upstairs. With no chance of being able to sleep, it was a classic ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ moment. We were greeted at the top of the stairs with Oz in the kitchen chopping up tomatos and bread with the chainsaw, also chewing into the wooden bench tops too. It was hilarious, even more so when he looks to Kelly to ask him how to turn the chainsaw off!
After a couple of beers and a heated debate between Oz and the boys about hand washing after using the bathroom, the girls that had come over for the party left and we went back to bed.

One of the nights we headed out to a dub-step club in Whistler called Max Fish. To get there though, we had to walk down the train tracks a few hundred metres and it was pretty cold out, so I wore my sneakers and carried my heels then at the end of the tracks I ditched my trainers in some bushes and changed into heels, sorted.
That day, the boys had told me about a thing that the locals in Whistler do called ‘Hot Tubbing’, where you sneak into someones place that has a hot tub and enjoy their facilities without them knowing. After we left the club and I had changed back into my shoes, I had a bright idea to mention that a hot tub right then would be awesome and Oz knew of a great place to go just along the train tracks on the way home.
Next thing we are bush bashing a little, and then it opens out onto a perfectly manicured lawn in from of a mansion, there were a few lights on and a radio playing outside but Oz knew they had a hot tub across the lawn and under a permanent gazebo thing. So we bolted across the lawn and while I was still trying to pluck up the courage and Oz was busy trying to check out if anyone was home Kelly was already in the hot tub.
Eventually we realised that there wasn’t anyone home, and apparently there hardly is ever anyone at this house but they still keep the spa running, which was great for us!
Well and truly wrinkly, we eventually headed back home to the cabin, what a wicked way to end a fun night out.

We were due to leave and begin our roadtrip on the Thursday, luckily there was another van exactly like our one with a wooden bed frame already inside it and no one was going to be using it while we were away, so we nicked it out of there, extended the legs on it and we instantly had a bed, just needed a mattress.
We picked one up at the second hand shop, just a foamy and we were able to cut it down to fit perfectly.

On our final night in Whistler there was a big party at the cabin, we got a bonfire going and we tried not to think about how we had a massive drive the next day.
The next morning, we packed up Ronnie and the boys fabricated an extension to the bike rack using some wood and rope. We had 4 bikes to take with us and Kelly doesn’t ride the smallest of bikes so the normal bike rack didn’t quite cut it, but with some kiwi ingenuity they were able to get the bikes on board and we were ready to roll.
We were heading East, towards Nelson BC, planning to stop in a place called Christina Lake where Kelly’s friends are working, building a huge house next to the lake which is only accessible by boat.
Fighting hangovers we didn’t leave Whistler till late and with a pretty big drive ahead of us we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to Christina Lake all in one go, especially seeing as they would have had to come pick us up in the boat after dark.
The drive was beautiful across BC, Canada truly is a stunning country. We drove all day and into the night, just figured we would drive as far as we could and then arrive in Christina Lake in the morning, so eventually we found a road off the main drag down by a river where we parked Ronnie B for the night and headed off early the next morning.
Along the way we stopped at a place where you could walk 5 mins to a stunning glacial lake, it was pretty hot and Ronnie B doesn’t have air con so it didn’t take too much convincing for Kelly to jump in, being glacial though it was bloody freezing so he didn’t last long.
I had the best coffee since leaving New Zealand in a tiny country town called Deadwood Junction, they stamped the side of our cups with a thank you message that read ‘Many Thanks, You’re Appreciated, Thank you, Thanks so much’.
At Christina Lake we met a guy from NZ that has been living in Canada for ages and has owned the property where the house is being built for the past 15 years. He owns a company that basically builds houses off their own back and then sells them on, but its high end stuff, like the house is Whistler he is trying to sell at the mo is on the market for around 11 million.
Christina Lake is stunning, a kind of mix between the look of the Marlborough Sounds and the Nelson Lakes. The boat ride took about 10 mins to get to the house and it was there that I met Loran & Mya and Josh, Loran is from Taihape and Mya is from Sweden but has the thickest NZ accent from learning English with Loran.
We were originally only going to stay for 1 night but as soon as we were there we knew we had to at least stay for 2, I could easily stay there for weeks, just such a wonderful place to be.
I tried my hand at stand up paddle boarding, Kelly managed to pick up the smaller of the two boards and once he was up on it, it was barely staying over the water, I had the much bigger one so it was pretty easy to do.
Later on that day we got the speed boat out and had a go at wakeboarding, Kelly is really good and Loran is great on a single ski. I’d always heard how hard it is to get up on a wakeboard so I was a little nervous about giving it a go, but managed to get up on my 3rd go and got the knack of it after that. Definitely takes it out of your arms though, and a muscle in my back was taking a hammering too, but it was such a heap of fun and I was looking forward to doing it again.

We cranked up the fire on the beach and eventually sloped off to bed, waking up to the most amazing view over the lake.
That day we all went to Rylston to go riding on a mountain there, Mya opted to shuttle us so it was Kelly, Loran and me riding down a 15 mile track from the top to the bottom of this mountain. At the top of the mountain, Kelly was recognised by a bunch of riders and had his token photo taken with them before we headed down the mountain.
The tracks weren’t as easy as the ones on Whistler mountain, so there were a few times where I had to get off and walk to save me no doubt losing a heap of skin.
I was stuffed by the time we got to the bottom, had a few hairy moments on the way down, even Kelly nearly went off the edge at one point while walking his bike, so it even happens to the best.
In Rylston there is a dirt jump track so we stopped there for Kelly to ride a bit, and yet again had his photo taken with some kids there.
Later that evening, Josh picked us up in the boat and we headed back to camp, the stars were incredible that night, noticed the big dipper for the first time too.

We headed off early the next day to try and get as much driving in as possible, we were crossing the border into the states so there were a few slight nerves in the car as Kelly has to cross the border so much and tends to get grilled a lot. But it was a tiny border crossing and the guys there were really nice so we just sailed on through and we were heading in the direction of Vegas.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Road Trip with Pia

24.07.2012 to 17.08.2012

Caught the train from Geneva at 8.30am, heading for Hamburg, completely addicted to this TV series Yves put me on to ‘Breaking Bad’, I had the downloaded first season on my laptop plus a movie so I had ample entertainment for the 9 hour train journey North.
Time past pretty quickly and before I knew it I was in Hamburg, with Pia waiting for me on the platform.
Was so wicked to see her again, we then dumped my gear in her car and walked into the city centre to have dinner on the lakeside. Hamburg is a really pretty city with a jet coming out of the lake like in Geneva but not as big, I was looking forward to exploring more of Hamburg when we got back.
We headed back to her family house in Itzahoe (yes it is pronounced ‘Its a hoe’) and had my first experience on an autobahn, Pia said her normal cruising speed on the motorway to her house was around 180km/h and after driving with her in NZ it took a little bit to get used to the idea!
Her family doesn’t speak any English, her Mum apparently speaks a little but she was too nervous to have a go at talking to me.
That evening we got all our gear together ready to leave the next day, Pia had about 30kg in her suitcase and the pile of stuff we had it seemed like we were going for months. It’s funny how I have carried 15kgs on my back for the past 4 months and done just fine and here we were with a car completely packed full of stuff to just go for 2 weeks.

The next day we finished off the packing of the car, we were totally disorganised and it took us 3 go’s to get out the driveway as we kept forgetting something and having to run back inside.
The motorways through Germany and into Holland don’t provide much entertainment, it’s pretty much the same view out the window the whole way so the journey tends to drag quite a bit. However soon enough we were in Amsterdam and started to make our way to the campground.
We wound our way down these country roads that seemed to get narrower as we went along and it seemed like it wasn’t really the place for a campground, there were houses that were more like dumping grounds for junk and we were a little nervous as to where the GPS was taking us.
The campground just popped up out of nowhere and we relaxed a bit when we saw that it was a genuine establishment and not the backyard of some strange hoarders.
Checked in and drove through the campground looking for a spot, we were super lucky in that we managed to find a car par right next to a piece of grass with our name on it, so out came the tent and we staked our claim for the next 2 days.
Instantly the thing that brings so many people to Amsterdam becomes evident, the moment we opened the car doors you are hit in the face with the smell of marijuana, we look around there are a groups of young guys smoking freely everywhere.
After our tent was up, I looked to the skies in hope that it wouldn’t rain cause the tent Pia got was more like the type you would take to the beach for sun protection, and then we headed off into the city.
There was a tram stop just down the road from the campground that took us directly into the city centre, super handy and quick, we jumped off in the main square and soaked in the atmosphere.
I instantly took a great liking to Amsterdam, it’s full of young people, it’s beautiful, and everyone seems to be having a wonderful time, can’t think why ;)
There are bicycles everywhere, whether they are riding down the road or locked to the side of the canals, there are literally thousands and thousands of bicycles and very rarely you will see a car and if you do they seem so out of place and the roads are more like footpaths.
The houses along the canals are beautiful, with flowers hanging from the windows and talking about windows, Pia made a good observation, all the windows of these beautiful homes are spotless. The windows glisten like crystal in the sun they are so clean, and I guess that small detail made these houses that much prettier.
In much need of a beer, we found a bar that looked out onto a park, full of people enjoying the last of the sun for the day. There was a busker next to the monument in the middle of the park with an amp, playing chilled out music for the people there, again everyone just seems to be living life and without a care in the world, the city has just a lovely energy about it.
After paying an exorbitant price for our beer, we headed off for another walk through the city after dark, it takes on a different look at night, the canals are beautifully lit up and the city comes alive.
Before arriving in Amsterdam, even when I was back in New Zealand, I had heard that there was a new law in place which meant that only citizens of Holland were able to take advantage of the famous coffee shops. However we soon realise that this is not the case, there are coffee shops everywhere, and people from all walks of life just casually enjoy a joint outside on the terraces watching the people walk by.
We headed back to the campground and settled in for the first night in the tent, when we undid the zip of the door the next day we were hit with another wall of dope smoke, it was probably about 7.30am, guess the local campers were making the most of their time here!
We caught the tram into the city again, got some lunch then went on a boat tour through the canals. Sharing the canals with us were lots of young people on their own little boats, having beers and a picnic in the sun, such a great idea, if I lived there I would totally get myself a boat.
The sights we saw along the way were Anne Frank House, with a huge queue outside which deterred us from going there for a look, although I would probably go there next time. Also the dancing houses – a group of 4-5 houses next to each other, all leaning on a different angle from each other to make them appear as though they were dancing. We passed the narrowest house in Amsterdam, which was only a couple of metres wide, I’m sure the novelty of living in that place would wear off pretty quick.
You can’t go wrong with Wagamamas for a decent feed, so we dined there for an early dinner then headed to the park to soak up the sun and listen to a busker entertaining everyone.
Both Pia and I fell asleep on the grass in the sun for a good half an hour, and once the sun went down we headed back to the campgrounds to see what was happening at the bar there.
Not much was going on, so we just retired to the tent, we had a big drive the next day and didn’t want to be wrecked for it.
That night at what seemed to be the middle of it, a group of guys started setting up a tent right next to ours, they were loud and obnoxious and took ages! Then a couple of hours later, 2 of them started to have a row right outside our tent, just yelling and just having an argument in a foreign language that I couldn’t pick out. It was about 3am, I was grumpy Sam and wasn’t gonna put up with it for much longer.
I got up, walked up to them and gave them an earful of what was on my mind, told them to bugger off in not so polite words and they looked at me dumbfounded, apologised and went away.

On the road again, Pia still not letting me drive, we make our way towards Paris and with roads in France, comes tolls and lots of them. The first lot of tolls to get from the Belgium border to Paris cost us 25 pounds.
The navigation system takes us to the hotel we booked in at, we decided against the tent seeing as there were thunderstorms forecast and our tent probably wouldn’t handle the jandal on that on.
The tricky thing was though that there wasn’t an easy way to get into the driveway of the hotel, Pia was hypoglycaemic, and wasn’t coping with the situation.
Basically the driveway came off a bus way, and it looked as though only buses were allowed to go down the part of the road where the driveway was, but there were cars parked in the driveway and only one way of getting there so surely we could just go down there but Pia was driving and she didn’t want to go anywhere that we might not be able to go.
So she pulled over and called the hotel to ask how we get in the driveway, turns out we just go down the part of the road where the driveways comes off. So we did and all was well, I guess this was the first time I realised not to let Pia’s blood sugars to drop too far again.
Our hotel room was very average, maybe a little below average, the room smelt terrible and consisted of a room big enough to have 2 single beds (each of different heights), shoved next to each other. The bathroom was similar to the one on the ferry I went on from Split to Ancona, except the one of the boat didn’t smell terrible like this one, the window was unable to be opened too so there was no escaping it.
Looking out the window it didn’t feel like Paris, I wasn’t sure what I expected Paris to feel like, but it wasn’t this, I was unmotivated and disappointed but we decided to put some glad rags on and head into the city to see what we could find. We got Subway for dinner and caught the underground to go see the outside of the Moulin Rouge, there was a show playing at 11pm and we decided off the cuff that we would try and get tickets, so we phoned up and booked in.
Super excited, we went for a drink while we waited for the show, there was a pretty nice bar next to the theatre with very good looking men working serving the drinks so decided it was the perfect place.
At about 10.30pm we headed out to queue up for the show, we thought we found the end of the queue outside the bar we were in but the bouncers pointed down the street, and the line seemed to go on forever. But once it started moving we were in there pretty quick, they have it down to a fine art getting people out from the previous show and the new people in.
The metro on a Friday night closes at 2.15am, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it in time as the show goes for a few hours but if we did miss it then I’m sure Paris could entertain us till they started up again at 5.30am.
Walking through the main doors at the Moulin Rouge, you could feel the energy of the place from all the years of hosting shows there, it was glamorous, beautiful and elegant.
Into the stunning theatre, there are tables everywhere with everyone dressed to the nines, the staff are as busy as bee’s getting everyone seated and delivering their champagne to their tables, the popping of corks cutting through the giggly excited laughter of everyone.
I guess I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the show, I knew it was burlesque but still didn’t have a great idea of what was going to happen.
Firstly the women dancers in the show are just beautiful, they have killer bodies and are all 99% of the time topless. Their dancing skills were less than amazing, however the costume and choreography made up for that and there was a constant array of colour, feathers, sparkles and all things shiny.
There were some animals too, some miniature horses got led around the stage at one point and then out of nowhere a huge swimming pool came up from the centre of the stage with glass walls and full of giants snakes. One of the dancers jumps in with the snakes and swims around with them, grabbing them and wrapping them around her, the crowd thought that was pretty awesome and gave a lot of ooohh’s and ahhh’s.
Another highlight of the show was a couple doing acrobatics and show dance type stuff, lots of incredible and mind boggling lifts and balance acts.
The male dancers were a bit disappointing, they weren’t great dancers and they didn’t get their gear off at all, so they just blended into the background.
After the show, we had missed the last train back so we headed back to the bar next door which was full at that stage and a dance area was now open out the back of the bar.
We grabbed a drink and walked into an area with not many people sitting in there, so we took a seat and then realised that we had managed to just waltz our way into the VIP section of the club. There was a group of guys at a table that we sat near and they invited us over to join them. We hung with them and danced the night away till it was close to 5.30pm and reckoned it was time to head back to the hotel as we had a massive day of whirlwind sightseeing to do around Paris.

We slept until about 12pm then slowly dragged ourselves up and out the door to see how much of Paris we could get through in one day, we started with Basilique de Sacre Coeur. As with most places throughout Europe, at the popular tourist spots, you are also confronted by people trying to sell you stuff but I have not met any that were in my face as much as the ones here.
At the base of the steps up to the church were men trying to tie coloured string around your finger to then make a weave and then make you buy it. I tried my usual tactic of getting past people like this by not making eye contact but when one came up to me stood right up in front of me and began yelling at me to hold out my hand, it got my hackles up. First I said no firmly and kept walking, however when he yelled right in my face and tried to grab my wrist I just lost it with him, I was not going to let him think he could get away with speaking to me like that.
I stood right up to him and yelled in his face to ‘F#$k Off’ and leave me alone, he then swore back at me and as I walked off he spat at me, which thankfully missed me.
It disgusts me that these people think that they can behave that way and get away with it, looking around you could see them treating everyone this way and I wasn’t going to stand by and be treated like that either.
The view from the top of the hill was nice, couldn’t really see anything of interest from up there apart from just another big city and the church at the top of the hill was prettier on the outside however it was free to get in.
Outside there was a guy doing tricks with a basketball to hip hop music, Pia was impressed, but I think I was just over having people ruining scenery and ambiance of places by scabbing for money although at least this guy was a bit of entertainment. The worst of them all are the ones that have an Egyptian pharaoh’s mask and wrapped themselves in a gold piece of fabric, they stand there expecting people to give them money and all they do is stand right in front of stuff that you want to take photos of and completely ruin the photo. Who wants to have an Egyptian pharaoh in the front of a Parisian church, bloody annoying, normal people who get in the way of photos are bad enough!

We caught the metro to the Arc de Triomph, and Pia’s bloody sugar levels began to wane. We took the standard photos there then headed towards the Eiffel Tower, I really wish there was a Starbucks en route cause poor Pia wasn’t coping by the time we got there.
This part of Paris is really quite beautiful, they really made this part well and I was impressed. There were thousands of people everywhere, but the most important thing right now was to get Pia fed, cause there is no point trying to sightsee in Paris with a tired Pia.
We got ourselves an ice-cream and that picked her up and we continued on, we walked under the tower and along the lawns in front of it heading towards the closest metro station for us to catch it to the Louvre.
The ice-cream lasted about 30 mins and then we urgently needed to find a Starbucks and a toilet, a Starbucks was nowhere to be found though and priority went to finding a toilet.
On the way, we found ourselves walking down a very high end street and two very good looking guys in a Mercedes 4wd pulled over next to us, they were from Switzerland and wanted to know if we wanted to hang with them that night as they had just arrived in Paris. They couldn’t stop anywhere and the traffic behind them started beeping until they had to keep going, was a good little ego boost for us though J

We eventually found a loo near the Louvre, which by this stage very urgent, but once all sorted continued on walking through a park towards the glass pyramid.
The sun was just starting to set as we arrived and I got some amazing photographs, the sun sets directly behind the Champs Elysees, so from the Louvre you look up the road and you see the Arc De Triomph, the oblesque and a big fountain, all with the sun setting behind them, it was stunning.
The building of the Louvre is just ginormous, and so beautiful, I was disappointed to know that I wasn’t going to be able to go inside this time, but I know I will be back at some stage so will tackle that one at a later date.
We continued through the complex and out the other side onto Pont des Arts, which was glistening gold in the setting sun with thousands upon thousands of padlocks left by couples with their names engraved or written upon them.
Pia and I were both wrecked by this stage and starving, we found a takeaway pasta place, chowed down and caught the train home.

55 euros in tolls later, we arrived in Carcans, France. A tiny little beach town that you can imagine being on the coast of Australia somewhere, consisting of a small convenience shop, a couple of restaurants and about 5-6 surf shops all sitting directly behind huge sand dunes.
We had no idea where to start looking for the surf camp, so we went into a surf shop thinking they would be able to help. I had heard that the French can on occasion be a little rude, but I figured we aren’t in a big city, this place probably had a population of 100, so surely they would know where it was and it would be easy to find.
We went through about 3-4 different shops, all of them told us they knew nothing and were grumpy in telling us that unhelpful fact. The last shop we tried had a lovely lady in it that directed us towards the main camping grounds and said that the surf camps all stay in there.

Eventually we located the site of our camp, parked up and tried to find some people to talk to about checking in. We were greeted by the lovely Emmy, from Christchurch, the yoga teacher for us for the week.
After we set ourselves up in the tent, we went and chilled out in the ‘Chill out zone’ on the bean bags with the peeps that were there and slowly other joined us as they came back from surfing for the day.
After dinner, a few of us headed down to the beach to watch the sunset and some that had already been there for a week wanted to go for a sunset surf. We got down to the beach but the surf was terrible so the surf boards turned into some great seats, one of the guys had brought some wine with him and we watch the most spectacular sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Our instructor for the week was Al, he was about 23, from England, and a great teacher. We had to carry the boards from the camp to the beach, and they aren’t the smallest things in the world so instead of taking one each we would have the end of one under each arm and share the load.
We got in our wetsuits and the first lesson was all about how to catch a wave, knowing when to paddle and when to stop. It just so happen that that week the surf was a nightmare, and was due to be a nightmare for the first few days of surf camp. Coming from a place where there are no waves and not having much experience swimming in surf, due to my fear of sharks mainly, it was a little shock to the system how strong even the small looking waves can be.
We were taught how to brace our head and neck to protect our upper cervical spine if we fell off the board and smash into the sand, and I really needed it a couple of times, cause man did I nose dive like crazy.
Battling to even get out to a part of the waves that you can get on your board was so difficult, the distance or ‘period’ between the waves was so short so you would get smashed in the face by a wave, clear the super salty water from your eyes, then get smashed in the face again. This would happen until one of the waves completely takes you out and brings you back into shore and all that hard work battling the waves to get to where you did was all for nothing.
Eventually when I would catch a wave, the nose of the board would dig into the water and there is no hope once that happens in those conditions, you just need to brace your head and neck and wait for the water to pop you back up again.
Each lesson went for 2 hours and man, by the end of it I was utterly exhausted, there was no chance of even trying to get up on the board at this stage, I barely had enough time to even just lie on my board!
After our lesson, we peeled off our wetsuits and sat in the sun for the rest of the day working on my tan, thought about going back in the water but figured I should take it easy on the first day, plus the conditions weren’t getting any better.
That night I joined the yoga class, which was a great way to stretch out and relax after the days events, we all had a very quiet evening after dinner but I was really looking forward to tackling the ocean again the next day.

Day 2 was all about how to pop up on the board, of which I found super difficult to do, couldn’t get my front leg through fast enough and with my super short calves I had flash backs of my snowboarding experiences and how hard it is for me and my munted calves.
Al showed us an easier way to get up, which was a bit slower, so I was going to try that one out in the water. The surf was similar to the day before, except the swell was a little bigger, so once again it was 2 hours of taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back when trying to get out. The other thing to battle was the current going sideways along the beach, it was so strong, we had to keep coming out of the water and moving up the beach to get out of it.
I stopped nose diving which was good, as I was starting to get a bit scared of the waves after a few times I was held under for much longer than I was comfortable. And by the end of the lesson I was able to catch waves and knee board the surf board, which was fun and a good feeling to know that at least I was improving and not smashing myself up as much.
Absolutely destroyed again, we sat in the sun for the rest of the day and had another session of yoga before dinner.
Yoga was 5 euros a session, but I managed to barter with Emmy and swapped her a massage for her yoga.

Day 3, Al showed me a new way of trying to get up on the board, where I get up on my knees, slip my left leg through in front of me, then just twisting my body into standing. This seemed to work and I managed to get up on the board, it’s funny how once you get up on the board, all the hard work of getting out there is worth it and it makes you way more motivated to battle the waves.
By the third day we were starting to get a bit sick of the baguettes, every breakfast and lunch was exactly the same, baguettes with ham, cheese & tomato, although after 2 hours in the surf you would just about eat anything.
After dinner Pia and I were all motivated and decided to go for a sunset surf, and after telling everyone where we were going the whole camp ended up coming with us and thank god they did with what happened next.
I was loving the surf, having such a wicked time, I was getting better at getting up and staying up and just wanted to keep going. After catching a great wave in, I was walking back out again when I stood on what seemed to me to be a sharp rock, it didn’t really hurt too much and kinda felt as though I had a stone bruise, nothing worth complaining about or stopping the fun for.
After a couple of minutes, my foot began to feel as though I had cut it open, stinging a little bit, so I lifted up my foot and asked Pia to check if it was cut which is wasn’t so I carried on paddling.
Then all of a sudden it was as if something had just ripped my whole foot completely off my leg, the pain was incredible and I had to get myself back into shore. I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and the pain seemed to get worse with every second that past. I looked at the bottom of my foot and there were two purple spots that looked like bruises so I tried to push through the pain and squeeze my foot to try and stop any further bruising, I realised that they probably weren’t bruises when I let go of my foot. If the pain was at a 9/10 before, it was now at 11, it was excruciating and there seemed to be nothing I could do to stop it.
Pia grabbed Emmy when she came out of the water and it was then that I found out that it was a poisonous fish that I had stood on and I had to get back to camp to do anything about it, but I couldn’t walk and we were a fair hike down the beach from the beach entrance.
Everyone came over to see what the fuss was about and eventually after trying to hop while leaning on two guys without success, one of the guys scooped me up and carried me back from the water to where our stuff was on the beach.
The sand on the beach in Carcans is super soft, and its hard to walk on without carrying someone, so they tried to figure out how to get me back to camp from there and putting me on a surfboard was the solution. I have never felt so heavy in my life! Now I know I’ve put on a couple of kilos in the past couple of months but these guys made me feel like I had put on about 50! There was 4 guys to start with carrying me, then when they weren’t coping another 2 joined in and they were struggling, I was so embarrassed and hated every minute of it.
They eventually got me back to the wooden path that went over the sand dunes, where one of the guys piggy backed me to where a got hold of a bike and I jumped on that and rode my own way back to camp to save any more embarrassment.
Once back at camp, they filled a bucket full of superhot water, nearly boiling, and I had to try and put my foot in it. It was nearly burning me it was so hot but I had to try my hardest to keep my foot in. By the time I was back at camp my foot had swollen so much that I couldn’t move any of my toes, but after an hour in the hot water it had gone down heaps and the pain had subsided.
I later found out that the type of fish I stood on was a Weever Fish, very common off the coast of Portugal, but not very common in Carcans, however I had managed to step on one.

Day 4, my foot was back to normal, a little sore to stand on the ball of my foot where the spike went in but it was totally surfable and it was going to take a lot to keep me out of the water.
Had a great day and great lesson, the swell was huge out back, even the experienced guys were weary about going out in it, so we just played in the white water and it was the best day yet.
The space between the waves was a good 10 seconds, which meant there was heaps of time to get ready on the board, also it was so much easier to get out and I had the best time. I was starting to turn the board and able to ride the wave for ages.
I saw Pia sitting on the edge of the water with Mirna, a girl from Spain, just chilling out and I decided to go for one more wave before going in for a break and some lunch.
Never ever say, ‘I’ll just go out for one more’, this was my demise.
I caught an awesome wave and rode it all the way into the beach, I stepped off the board and my foot went ankle deep into really soft sand, the unexpected sink of my foot caught me off guard and I fell, however my foot stayed put and my body went the opposite direction and I heard and felt a giant crack.
I couldn’t believe it, first the fish and now this, I just hoped that it wasn’t broken, it hurt, big time it hurt, but I never hurt my ankles, they are like steel and it takes a huge amount of force to be able to damage them. I crawled to the edge of the water next to Pia, dragging my board behind me, I sat down and assessed the damage.
It clicked again and I thought that maybe I had just dislocated a bone and I just popped it back in and it would be fine, I could walk on it after that and I told myself that it would be sweet tomorrow.
I even managed to walk back to camp carrying the surfboards, it hurt, but I kept ignoring it and hoped it would just subside cause I didn’t want to think the terrible thought that I might not be able to surf for the rest of the week.
Over the course of the evening, my ankle got progressively worse, until I could barely put weight on it and I knew something was pretty wrong with it, although there was no bruising so I didn’t worry too much.

Day 5 and I could barely walk at all, there was no way I was going to be able to surf and I was gutted, I would have rathered to have stood on another poisonous fish than have this happen. I strapped it up and as I wasn’t about to sit at camp all day while everyone else enjoyed the beach so I started the very painful and slow walk to the beach.
I rode a bike as far as I could, but once I had to walk on the sand I knew it was going to take me a lot longer than I originally thought.
The spot on the beach where Star Surf Camp sets up is about a kilometre down the beach from the beach entrance, so was glad when I finally got there.
It sucked to watch everyone else have a wicked time surfing, but I got a good chance to work on my tan so it wasn’t all bad J
The swell was at about 7ft and one of the guys Phil from Switzerland who had been there for a week already wanted to go out back with the good guys, it provided us with some serious entertainment as some of those waves were just huge but he did really well.
That evening the camp played flunkyball, a drinking game where the winners of the game drink the most. The basic play is this: Three 1.5l water bottles filled half with water are lined up on the half way line of a beach volleyball court, there are 3 players per team and each player has 2 beers each and stand at the serving line of the court. Each team takes turns in throwing another half filled water bottle at the ones in the middle of the court in the aim of knocking down as many as possible. The opposing team have to run and stand up the fallen bottles and collect the thrown one and run back to their line while the throwing team scull as much beer as possible. The first team to finish all their beers win.
I was on a team with Pia & Jess, another kiwi chick who was travelling around Europe surfing with her man Arlo, both from Christchurch and there visiting Emmy. As I was crippled, the other girls were in charge of running and I was in charge of the throwing, we were only just beaten but it was probably a good thing!
That evening we all went out to Lacanau, I was hobbling around but I was determined just to keep going, I wasn’t about to let my ankle stop me doing anything.
We had a great night out on the town, but I hadn’t done my ankle any favours at all.

I decided that it was probably a bad idea to attempt the beach the next day, so I chilled out at camp playing guitar and reading.
Later that evening after dinner, the surf instructors and Arlo headed down for a sunset surf as the swell was at about 7 foot, so I headed down with everyone and we all sat pretty close to the wooden walkway so there wasn’t much sand walking. One of the guys brought his guitar down with him and we chilled out there with a few wines and watched the sun go down.
Not much happened on the last night, everyone was wrecked from the large night before and we had a mcmassive drive ahead of us, it was onto Freiburg.

The drive from Carcans to Frieburg was roughly about 10 hours, that’s without stops, and it felt that long. The scenery out the window didn’t change all that much, we were on a motorway, it was just trees either side and endless road ahead, so there’s not all that much to tell really. But the road eventually ended at Victors house in Freiburg.
We chilled out at his place for a couple of hours and then headed out for some pizza and Victor wanted to take us to the lake to and then to a place where we could get a good view of the city at night.
It started raining while we were out, so the plan for the lake went out the window, so we just parked on the side of the road and ate our pizza in the car.
Victor was driving and he stopped at this building that was under construction but nearly finished, it was the new chemistry building for the medical school that Victor attended. However at night, to get up the building we had to kind of break in through the temporary fencing and climb the fire stairs to the top.
We got to the top and watched a big thunderstorm roll in over the city.
When we got home, Victor gave me a tramadol to help with the pain of my ankle, I didn’t expect it to completely knock me out for that night and the whole of the next day!
When I eventually came to, we decided to head out and see a little of the city, but to be honest there wasn’t really much to see, that we could find anyway.
Victor cooked us dinner and we had an early night, yet another epic drive was due for the next day.

The drive to Berlin was another 10-11 hour drive of nothing really to see along the way, but at least there were no tolls and we could drive really fast.
I had woken up feeling very average, I had a really sore throat and a headache, Pia still wouldn’t let me drive so I slept most of the way and felt more rotten as the day went on.
We arrived at Pia’s sisters apartment and we just stayed in, hoping that I would feel better the next day after some salt water washes.

The following day I was worse, but like my attitude with everything that’s tried to knock me down, I’ve just ignored it and hoped like hell that it’d get better the following day.
We went out and saw some of the sights of Berlin, we went to the top of a tall building overlooking the city and checked out the place where the Berlin wall used to stand and today they have pieces of the wall still up.
The weather was terrible so we just drove around the rest of the city, saw Checkpoint Charlie etc, but I was keen just to go home as I was going downhill fast.
We were hoping to go out that night in Berlin but unfortunately between my poisoned foot, my twisted ankle and what seemed to be tonsillitis there was no hope of that happening.
The next day I needed to see a doctor so we went to a GP who told me that I had tonsillitis and prescribed me antibiotics, I absolutely hated not being able to talk to the doctor in English, well she could speak English but preferred to speak German with Pia which was just awful when its your health they are talking about. That evening we drove back to Hamburg and I went straight to bed.
I wasn’t getting any better over the next couple of days so I went to a doctor there, who took one look at me then had a big discussion with Pia in German, then Pia turns to me and asks if I would like to spend the night in hospital or at home! With slight panic, in not having a clue what they were just discussing, then to ask asked if I wanted to stay in hospital it wasn’t nice at all. He wrote down that he thought I had Mononucleosis Infectiosa, and told me to stop taking antibiotics immediately cause the other doctor was wrong. I realised once I spoke to Dr Google that it was Glandular Fever and I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t want to. If I had that it meant I would need to go home and I would be out for months! I had this feeling that it was another misdiagnosis, I just didn’t feel sick enough, all I wanted was to speak to an English speaking doctor, I was sick of being talked about in a different language, so I booked a ticket to London.

Pia and her family were so wonderful in looking after me while there, bringing me food and drink and just being great, was so lucky to have been there and not in a hostel somewhere in the middle of nowhere!
I flew to London and Conrad picked me up from the airport and straight to the walk in centre doctors to get checked out.
I told the doctor my scenario and he just shook his head and couldn’t believe the diagnosis I was given, he said that I didn’t have GF and that basically my immune system is shot from all my travelling and I had picked up a nasty virus but that I would be sweet in a week or so of rest.
Feeling almost instantly better, Conrad picked me up and I planned to take the rest of the week easy. Conrad and Karen were due to go on holiday to Miami the next day, so I would just chill out at their place and recover.
Callum was at a friends place playing when I arrived, soon after I got there they got a phone call from the mother of the kid where he was playing to say that he had twisted his wrist badly and might need to go to hospital. Conrad and Karen both went to pick him up, and it wasn’t a twisted wrist, he had completely snapped his forearm in half and it was bent at right angles!
Callum had to stay overnight in hospital that night and needless to say they weren’t going to Miami the next day.
Karen ended up going to Miami but only for 4 days for the big competition her studio was attending, but poor Callum couldn’t fly due to his cast.
Over the next few days I just chilled out and recovered, got better and better every day, especially once I started taking immune boosters, my next issue was now trying to figure out where and what I do next!