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Archive for April 14th, 2010|Daily archive page

New Zealand

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 4:10 am

Beautiful land, beautiful peoples.

So many skin tones, Maori, Polynesian, oriental, Caucasian, it feels instantly multicultural, instantly familiar and welcoming. I feel at ease here, even though I still get looks. I’m starting to believe I’ll get looks wherever I go, I think I’ll always be other on my travels, apart from maybe the states, since most people I talk to seem to think I’m American apart from the Americans I speak to, and usually they are Canadian anyway. It’s like black people, to be more specific black males like myself who wear caps at a jaunty angle and t-shirts and trainers can come from nowhere apart from america. It’s like the black diaspora doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s just the overpowering influence of hip hop that makes it that way.

New Zealand has some truly beautiful people, maybe it’s the thick lustrous hair, or the sharply defined and arched eyebrows, big eyes, olive skin, but there is something about it and the way the people carry themselves that make them very attractive.

Been driving from Auckland to Wellington with a stop off in Rotorua. And the scenery here is breathtaking, and I haven’t even got to the west coast of the south island. The road dips and rises, following the curve of the landscape. A single lane which splits into two every so often to allow for overtaking, the countryside lining the road is many different shades of green, new Zealand seems so much more fertile and verdant than Australia. So much more eye catching. Admittedly I only drove to phillip island, but still. When the sun shines on the land it’s like I expect the pacific northwest to be, pretty shacks/wooden houses line the road, this feels like David lynch country, bucolic scenes of pretty treelined streets, but without the dark underbelly. It is actually too pretty for words, like the English countryside at it’s best but more muscular and exciting, less tamed and treated, more wild and untamed. Hills rise vigorously into dark grey clouds, tall trees line a long stretch of road, cows graze as the wind straightens the leaves on the branches, brave men dance on the pedals of their geared bikes as I sweep down the hill and they struggle up it. The peaks and troughs of the path I’m following cause me to try and capture them in my memory and failing that reach for the camera and attempt to take photos through the windscreen whilst making sure I don’t cross the rumble strip.

I curve round and through taupo lake and the blueness of the water and the bending palm trees beneath the weighty hand of the wind reminds me of Barbados and Sardinia, the crisp breeze, the low buildings, the single roads between one town and the next, giving you ample time to examine the beautiful views all around, the small beaches dotting the coast, for those who know.

New Zealand is by far the prettiest place I have ever been to.

The long white cloud after which it is named stretches across the horizon taking up the space between the ground and the sky, only a sliver of blue high above it. Amazingly solid, seeing it from afar it appears to be part of the hills it covers, the snowy peaks you realise are in fact cloud cover, white and pure.

Until the road lifts and heads through it, the desert road, a single route through nothingness, no wonder there is an army base here, it is utterly desolate, reminding me of the Scottish highlands, low shrubs dun and ochre in colour the odd flash and rustle of purple, breeze harsh and hard sweeping across the plain, imagine Daniel craig’s walk out of the Patagonia desert but under a murderous grey cloud that fills the view and shrubs underfoot rather than blood red rock and outcroppings. There is a viewing spot, I wonder who would want to stop and take a picture of such barreness, it saps the will just to look at, what must it be like to live there.

Even on the gps the state highway one (desert road) is a lone green road on a featureless grey background. Even as I am bludgeoned into visual submission by the greyness of cloud, the featurelessness of the place, following one vehicle after another I yearn for the greenness, the fecundity that I have seen before.

Tanuki’s cave

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 4:07 am

A sake and yakitori bar, down the steps into a basement from the sake bar upstairs, rectangular bar, wall mounted tables for two along the outside, stools and the bar top for those on the inside, eating don buri, and garlic prawns, with my ever improving chopstick technique, sipping on sweet plum wine, studio ghibli film (porco rosso I think) on the flat screen at the back of the room, listening to bob over the speakers and the balding thirtysomething man to my right, wearing an interesting t-shirt who is talking the ear off his long haired, bespectacled friend. Reminds me that we are the hero of our own stories. Reminds me that I probably do the same, monopolise conversations to tell you about me. Reminds me that life is about the doing and not the talking. Reminds me that the iconic/ironic t-shirt has replaced the well tailored suit as something that every man must have in his wardrobe. Reminds me that I’m kinda tipsy on one and a bit glasses of plum wine and it’s st patricks day, a time for the oirish and people who like wearing green to drink until they can drink no more. Reminds me that I’ve got to be up early to collect the hire car tomorrow. Reminds me how multicultural I find Auckland, as small as it is.  Reminds me I bought a new cap today, a pin striped Cuban style one, think fidel and che, small peak and squarish top. Reminds me that I need to write the novel. Reminds me how much I’m looking forward to being in south america, even though I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going or who I’ll be staying with. Reminds me how much I love shazam and standing iPhone held high as it records the snippet of music to tell you what this new song that you like is. Reminds me I have to send some postcards out (if you want to be added to the occassional postcard list ping me an email with your address). Reminds me that I still need to see fat freddy’s drop in concert.

Reminds me sitting in tanuki’s cave how much I miss japan/Tokyo.

Sitting in rakino’s

In Kiwi, out and about, travelling on April 14, 2010 at 3:39 am

Fortuitously have found a lovely bar called Rakino’s whose address on their flyer is upstairs on high…

I think this is now the highest accolade I can give to a bar is that it feels like a Melbourne bar, cosy and distinctive, and idiosyncratic, and as individual as you or me, it doesn’t hurt it that it’s played nothing but good tunes since I’ve been here without a Dj in sight, and they have a night labelling itself the funk affair, as well as one called platform biz which has j dilla as it’s poster child.

At the heart of it is a long elliptical bar, coffee machine at one end, circular stand for the spirits behind the bar at the other, Chesterfields are dotted around, as are various palms and large ferns, lighting is low and intimate, and a wide balcony looks out onto a fountain set in the center of curved circular open space.

First impressions of Auckland and bear in mind I’m tired, didn’t get much sleep last night, had to be up early for the shuttle bus from the hostel, which spectacularly failed to be on time, leaving me waiting for another twenty five mins for the next one, and the controller saying he didn’t want to have an argument with me. Can someone have an argument when they are in the wrong and don’t have a leg to stand on? And I wasn’t arguing I was putting out there the fact that no shuttle bus showed up as I’d been waiting out in front of the hostel ten mins before required as the bus hadn’t come to pick up Erin the day before and I wanted to make sure I was there if it did roll up early and then speed away.

The nights sleep was spectacularly unrestful, it felt like I was awake for all of it, even though I was asleep. Not what you need before you head out to a new country. Did manage to have a shower this time round so didn’t honk of sweat and fermented alcohol.

From what I can see Auckland is the smallest and quietest capital city I’ve ever known, walking down queen st on Tuesday night and the streets are practically empty, whaddup with that. It’s night and there are steep hills all around, Auckland’s a tinier version of Sydney. Can’t people just build on flat bits of land ferfuckssakes.

Should be interesting tomorrow, footing it tonight, the town didn’t seem big enough on the map to bother with breaking out the bike, so I left it all bagged and packaged up in my windowless dorm room and headed out before I succumbed to sleep and slept this first night away.

Read the latest of Cog magazine on the flight over, it was good, interesting, gave me some interesting people to possibly contact when I hit the states, need to hit the streets and ride with as many people as possible. Thanks to Kat at sable and argent in Sydney for the magazine as well.

For some reason as sleepy and empty as Auckland is, I’ve already found two or three nice spots, I may have found all the good ones early, but there is something quite endearing about this place, the compactness, the narrow streets, the hills. I think I want a city as bustling and big as London or Tokyo with that intimate lanes of discovery of places like Melbourne or Berlin, where something surprising is around every corner or in every doorway. But this is something that needs to be legislated in, laws need to be freed up so that these places can flourish, and London will never fall hard enough or far enough for that to happen I’m afraid

Partner in crime

In out and about, ozstraylia, travelling on April 14, 2010 at 2:42 am

This journey is taking me to places that I haven’t been, but always wanted to go to, warm places, iconic places. I’m filling my head with experiences and memories, trying to capture them on the camera (two and a half thousand photo’s and counting), but the experiences are diminished if you don’t get to share them, which is why travellers always seem to spend a lot of time regaling each other with what they’ve seen and what they’ve done. To keep the memory fresh and warm, to make it live again in the retelling.

But there is nothing better than sharing the experience with others, of them being there to see the delight/dismay ripple across tour face, and to remind you with the memory for as long as you know each other. There have been many times when I’ve seen something and wanted to turn and tell someone WTF, but there has been no one there, so I take a note on the iPhone, take a snap with the Ricoh and add it to things to blog about when I get to an Internet connection.

So I was delighted when Erin announced she’d be in oz during my travels and that we’d try to meet up one weekend, which eventually ended up being my last weekend in Sydney, actually my last weekend in ozstraylia.

Erin is the sister of Lori who is the girlfriend/other half/old lady of Joe, a senior member of south beers, one of the regulars and a man who I’m glad to call a friend, I’ve cadged many a rollie from him so we’ve been joined at the hip pretty much since south beers started two years ago. Joes also the architect of THE forum track days down at Herne hill velodrome, last remaining venue from the 1948 olympics which is still in use today.

So I’ve l known Erin for a year and seen the change from cycling ingenue to card carrying n+1 member, where n is the number of bikes you already own.

Saturday:

Erin flies in bike in tow, big hair tied up and after breakfast, needed on my part I’d had a big night the night before and needed the sustenance, bike built up it was off for a quick pootle round town, to show Erin what I’d seen and knew about Sydney. Joey of the brazilian drum band had invited us out to Manley to try kangaroo burger (gamey and tender) and hang by the beach and I hadn’t been on the ferry, so decided to head over, and we rode over and down, via a stop at the opera house, which I’d taken a tour through earlier that week. We passed the afternoon, rolling along the beach front of Manley, down the dedicated bike paths, enjoying the scenery, before riding back the way we’d come and sit on the beach to enjoy the weather, which though slightly overcast was still warm, well hot enough for Brisbane raised Erin. Rolling back through central Sydney we headed over to Robocog, to talk bikes with the boys over there. The geezers faces light up when they spy Erin’s Giro, NJS track porn is lusted after over here, and the bike gets looks wherever it goes, a bit like David’s Bridgestone, not for the first time I wish I had a better, sexier bike.

House and the boys at Robocog invite us out for drinks for the birthday of another guy in their group. It’s over in New Town, and it sounds like fun. So that fills  a hole for the Saturday night. The rain which has been coming down intermittently, since we returned to central Sydney stops long enough for us to make a run for it upto the Cricketers Arms, which I’d been taken to by Tui and Adam, friends of Gus’ from old London town, the night before.

I like the Cricketers arms it’s where the Wednesday Night rides start off from, and it feels like a Melbourne bar, quirky, with a nice music selection, and a décor which makes it feel like no place else that I’ve been to here. We swap stories, catch up and generally just bask in not doing anything, whilst beer is consumed, and then head back to the hostel. We get caught in the intermittent rain, but this time it thunders down just after we head uphill. We manage to duck into another bar and wait it out.  With another drink of course.

Later on that evening, we head over to Newtown, and I take Erin to my new favourite hang out in Sydney, Eating World. Where we have don kashiage, gorgeous, and hook up with William, a guy from Taiwan who makes little custom bits and bobs which remind me of Sam’s little furry animals. I’ve seen him at Robocog and he’ was out on the Sunday afternoon ride, that I was on last weekend. He’s going to the same party and takes us on a shorter route than I had planned. But as we ride, it starts to rain, lightly at first, then heavier and heavier, and heavier. I’m not dressed for rain, and neither is Erin and as the rain continues to fall, I’m convinced it won’t stop until its soaked me completely. So I head for an awning, as William keeps on riding through the rain.

The rain slows and after twenty or so minutes stops, enough time to change tops, and wipe the water off my face, and bitch and moan about the weather we’ve been having. I didn’t come to Australia to spend time in the rain.

Finally we head to Newtown, and see William on the way and after much toing and froing, and asking of directions we find the party.

Later we ride back to kings cross. The place is heaving, the streets clogged with people and cars, hands on horns, bodies in the roads, shouting, voices, raised, just mayhem. Imagine all of Soho lumped into one street, one long street, and everyone is trying to get into the same places, and the mixture of sleaze and sex shops, tourists and party goers, drunkards and exhibitionists is an overwhelming one. The  bars are big, and the overflow just gets in the way and I want to take Erin to the place I’ve found round the corner. Tonic. As I want to see what its like on a Saturday night.

It is better than I expected and we dance and drink into the small wee hours. Bikes locked up outside.

Sunday:

We wake late, but it doesn’t matter, today is a lazy day, lots of hanging out, plus the Sunday afternoon ride. We’ve made some friends yesterday and one of them Sophie has told us about the café she works at which we’re going to roll past before stopping in at Robocog, and then over to Polo, and then taking in the Sunday Arvo ride, wherever that decides to take us.

We ride down to the café, but I’ve got the name wrong in my head and as I find out later and am told by Erin, the address as well. Finally we find it. And sit down for coffee and breakfast, well more like lunch. As we sit and chat, Brad, Faz and a couple of other bods who went out on a long run early that morning to a national park, eventually end up at the café as well. Sweating and red faced after their exertions, the lunch turns lazy and extended and before you know it, we’re way behind schedule for our encounter with the polo bods. But its an enjoyable way to spend several hours, so its not something that I’m wanting to cut short.

After a quick drop in on House and the Robocog boys, we spin down to Polo which is out at a court in Redfearn. Find them, which is pretty easy, then it’s a run for beer, which proves to be surprisingly difficult, despite the directions I’ve been given, and a leisurely afternoon of watching polo for me, whilst drinking good cider, and playing polo for Erin.

The sun beats down, and I want to laze around in it forever, no desire to leave the warm embrace of the grass. I’ve got the floor and everything’s just peachy. I’m roused from my lethargy and say goodbye to the polo bods I’ve met as I won’t see them again before I leave, then we roll over to Martin Place for the start of the Sunday Arvo ride. The ride which was long the last time round is short this time, over the iconic harbour bridge to a trick spot on the other side, some lounging around before we’re heading back the way we came and over to Eating World, where the food is oh so good once again, and then its over to Mr B’s for an evening full of drinking, and chatting, and laughing.

Monday:

We wake late, I make breakfast. We roll round to see Sophie, at her café, and as we head down towards Oxford St, we come across Kat a woman we met on Sunday whose managing a bike shop Sable and Argent which is just round the corner from the hostel and knows some of the bods I hung out with in Melbourne.

We drink coffee and chat with Kat and Sophie, before we drop by the skate store 99 degrees that Faz works at, House is there as well. And we shoot the breeze and say our goodbyes, I buy some stickers, and then we head off to the shop, Supply, where t-shirts are bought, for ourselves and friends.

It’s a quiet day, a soft, blurred at the edges day. We ride, we talk, we take things easy. Erin’s flight is in the early evening, and there’s no point in trying to stuff too much into the day.

We head down to Sable and Argent and marvel at the bikes on display, Kat is super excited because they has been a delivery of the latest issue of Cog magazine, and as we look around the pristineness of the shop floor, and the Rapha on display, some Volume Cutters are delivered as well. Which makes Kat very happy.

We say our goodbyes, grab some stickers and mooch back to the hostel. Erin is fiending for sushi, and I grab a burrito from next door and we break down the bike into its constituent components and bag it up.

And just like that the weekend’s over, and I’m getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

But the memory remains, and this one is not just held in my mind, but shared with Erin and that makes it all the sweeter.

Sunday Arvo Ride

In all about the ride, bike, ozstraylia on April 14, 2010 at 12:20 am

So its Sunday afternoon. I am bound and determined to go on this ride. Before I left Melbourne I signed upto the Australian fixed forum Fixed.org.au, and put my name down the three regular weekly rides that happened in Sydney, Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights, apprehensive, but you know why bring a bike if your not going to ride it.

after a massive fail on my part I missed the Saturday morning ride. The hostel I’m staying in has a large rear garden, with a lockable gate, which we the hostel occupants don’t have access to after 10pm, and it isn’t opened again until 9am, when the day shift start. I return from wherever I’ve been, lock up bike out back, set alarm and put my head down, and head off to the land of nod. Alarm goes, its six am, the ride starts at 7am, but want to make sure I get there on time. I wake up, start putting on my clothes. Then remember I can’t get to the bike to 9am. I take off clothes and go back to sleep.

So the Sunday edition rolls around and I’m not going to miss it.

The meet is at Martin’s Place and I don’t know what to expect, I’ve seen a couple of fixed riders around town, but not many so I’m unsure of the numbers that will be gathering, but when I arrive, there is a whirl of riders milling around waiting, sitting on steps, pulling tricks and generally hanging out until the off.

I introduce myself and take some photo’s.

Then we are off and riding, everyone is faster then me (what else is new) and I huff and puff, trying to jump on a wheel inbetween when the pace slows I talk to several of the boys. We ride out to the sight of an old velodrome, and as I swap out a flat front wheel, a splinter group of guys rides the old disused course.

We head back into town and into a headwind, the return is relatively flat, but I’ve not eaten and I’m flagging at this point. I lose the main group, and toil along alone, until I manage to flag down another rider who leads me to where the rest of the pack has finished up. Eating World, a food court on Dixon St round the back of Sydney’s Chinatown. Twelve to Thirteen eateries, Cantonese, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, and nothing more than ten Australian dollars. And just what my stomach needed after that ride. Each one, has an illuminated board behind the counter, with pictures of each dish that they serve. Its great, and I love it. It is my new favourite eaterie.

Then its off to Mr B’s a drinking place round the way, where we sit and drink, and its like I’m back in London, hanging out with the forum bods after a ride. Good times.

Find route map below, it should link to the interactive map, and photo’s below that.