Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ze Germans

Just South west-ish of Munich, there is a small town (slash medium sized city if we use New Zealand standards) called Kaufbeuren. It just so happens that it is the hometown of an upstanding ex - pat German/kiwi clan who go buy the last name of Uhl. For the entire time I have lived in Okere Falls I have had to listen to tales of how amazing Germany is in general and how outstanding Kaufbeuren is in particular.

So I thought I'd finally go and have a look for myself.

I had a wee taste of Kaufbeuren just prior to our Norway adventure and came away with a favourable impression along with a rather large hangover. After Norway, we drove for 24 hours straight to get back to Kaufbeuren to make it to their annual festival. This festvial is called Tanselfest and is roughly (I'm going to get corrected by a pedantic German for this) a celebration of when Kaiser Maximillian visited the city for various reasons back in the day. The cool twist is that it is all the children who dress up and man stalls throughout the town selling traditional food/trinkets/beer. The whole place basically stops and everyone has a massive party for a week. Right up our alley...

Little grommets dressed up from the middle ages. Obviously this was the wurst hut (sausage factory..)

The view out Kat's house window. (Yes it's a pub and yes it is a dangerous place to have as your neighbouring residence. Radler anyone??)
There were more bands than you could count wandering around playing amazing music - as far as I could tell, if they played music outside a pub, they got free beer. Hence there are a lot of people who are very good at playing music and really good at drinking beer...

A first hand view from said pub. Obviously we had to go there to listen to the music - To soak in the atmosphere you understand...  It was also prime seating for the massive parade through the town.

Casual thousand litre tank of beer anyone?

Part of the parade

Some of the flag throwers for one of the drum bands. How cool are their outfits!

It basically goes without saying that because it was a festival, there was obviously a beer tent. Watching people parade around town all day is thirsty work. Naturally we made our way to the tent to partake in some delicious ales.

Lederhosen, check. One litre of beer, check. General hilarity about to occur? Naturally.

Half a bloody chook and a bun anybody? Just like a hangi. Except that the chicken tastes amazing and not like steamed dirt...

Deep conversations ensued. Bit intense this one by the looks. 

Aaand then we went inside... And raged on tables to part english, part German covers of english power ballads - ideal, Jamie Sutton was in heaven.

I'll leave the photos here just before things started to get a bit messy. Mr Sam daddy Sutton and his lovely lady, our host Mrs Katharina Uhl.

As seems to be the theme of my German experiences, I just made it onto a train (literally just. I had to run to catch it and throw my bag on a'la wild west without paying) to Munich to catch a flight to Japan. Hungover. Again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


 After the Voss extreme sports week, pretty much our whole car (except the pregnant lady) came down with a rather savage flu (turns out late nights, lack of sleep and excessive drinking take their toll on the body...) so we hung out at Mikey and Margis's - the coolest people we know, to recuperate and do some life organising before we headed to the next destination. This was set to be Valdall - another festival/race about six hours away. 

 With perfect weather for the drive, what better activity to indulge in than a spot of ice fishing with my new fishing rod...?

 Icy lakey family shot

Jamie Sutton on the other hand, decided to indulge in his favourite activity. 
He then spent the next hour huddled in the van in a hoodie and pants despite the glaring sunshine - "Hey guys, can we turn the air con off please?"

 One of the ferries across the Fiords - note the macca waterfall in the background. We drove right in front of that guy after the ferry it was quite impressive.

The boys having a break (Jamie most likely mid break - "you have to hydrate guys") underneath Jostedal - the biggest glacier in Northern Europe. I know, I know it doesn't look big - this is just the edge. There's heaps more of it up the top. Nitpickers. 

 We found a glorious spot for dinner at the head of Norways deepest lake (something ridiculous like 500m in case you were wondering)

 Arty flowery dinnery shot.

 ...and drove past some more amazing fiords. (This is about as dark as Norway gets during summer. It could have been 10pm or 3am here. Who knows...)

 We were supposed to catch another ferry but we met up with Julian en route and he told us that we had missed the last ferry of the day. Luckily Julian had a friend who had a cabin nearby. We were in semi shock as we got escorted into this amazing cabin and welcomed with a shot of Jagermeister (shudder, try not to vom), and then fed and entertained until the wee hours by an amazing Norwegian family. 

We got to Valdall the next day and it started raining (funny that) and it didn't stop for two weeks, hence the lack of many more photos. Needless to say, Valdall was a bit of a let down. Partly because the race was super expensive, but Mainly, because someone who shall remain unnamed but who is Maori and has a crooked nose broke my fishing rod before we had even caught any fish. Things worked out alright though because we used said broken fishing rod to fix our tent pole which had also broken and ripped the tent. All together now... Gypsys.

 The next stop on tour was the Sjoa (say shoowaa) river festival - another six hours away. To get there you drive up the Rauma valley, home to the infamous lower Rauma section. There was about 150 cumecs pumping down her today though. This didn't stop a certain Maori with a crooked nose trying to convince us that there was a line on Flemmingfossen...

 In Sjoa we had lots of fun kayaking on high rivers and doing some racing and having the mother of all parties. Jamie once again providing us with general hilarity. "I'm going to try sleeping with my face mask. And my mosquito net. What? Why are you guys laughing?" Brilliant. 

 The national park up by the Ulla river (cant actually see the river but it is there) We had a race up here but it was raining so I didn't take any photos...

After Sjoa we were well and truly sick of the rain so as soon as the racing had finished on Saturday it was into the van for the 24 hour haul back to Germany. This was partly so we could get away from the cold but more importantly,  we had a rendezvous with a beer tent... Stand by.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sunny Norway

 Alright. So the last couple of weeks have been fairly action packed. After our stint at rural Swiss living/illegal alien work, Soph, B and myself went our respective ways to the next step of the adventure. My part involved getting myself, my gear and my kayak on a train from Switzerland, (moderately accommodating with regards to kayaks) to Germany (absolutely not accommodating for kayaks.) Having said that, I soon discovered if you are persistant (pushy and belligerent) and have the strongest kiwi accent you can manage ("na bro she'll definitely fit in that little gap no worries sweet as bro na na it's all good....") that the unbending German mentality will give way under this unopposable/unitelligible onslaught.

 The amazing government gardens in the Swiss capitol of Bern where we were definitely not working as illegal migrant workers....

 The last adventure in Switzerland - some cool tunnels from when the Russians had a war with the French. In Switzerland. Ages ago. Aah Europe.


Scouting a rapid from the Via Ferrata (random handholds put all through the mountains so the army (Swiss) could get around more easily for when they were fighting?? in all the wars they have..)

So anyway I made it to Deutschland and got picked up by the brothers Sutton in Kaufbeuren where Jamie and I proceeded to get far to carried away watching the Germans play football and ensured that the 24 hour drive we were about to embark on the next day was as terrible as possible. 
We made said drive - the less said the better in some sort of state and got to Voss to meet up with everyone who has come here for the biggest extreme sports week in Europe?? Needless to say it has been a triumph of lifestyling and the boys firing crazy stuff up constantly.

Straight viking - Anton Immler filming at the big Etsingdal drop (probably spelled that wrong - Norwegian words are tough) The boys did a bunch of laps of this big guy with everyone having nice lines. 
Someone - possibly EG a little black dot in the middle about to go richter

We did some racing - Me doing some not so good racing, the boys however had good showings in the teams race, the downhill and the boatercross which was sweet.
Freakish dinner at the lakefront of Voss for one of the two (or was that three?) sunny days we've had here so far - The 20 Euro gumboots are proving to be one of the better purchases for Voss 2012. (The next best purchase is about to be a fishing rod for the fiords next week.) The worst purchase I hear you ask? Definitely the cheap, imitation pop up tent I brought as a stroke of genius. Had a snapped pole when I got it out of the bag 2000km from the shop I brought it from, dream scenario....

Ladies and Gentlemen. Mr Jens Klatt. Kayak photographer extraordinaire and Voss 2012 phone conversation pose award winner.

Sanga and Neilson having an intimate date. Found some bike taxi drivers to take us up a hill we couldn't be bothered with. Found out halfway that our taxi driver was a staunch Christian. Obviously extreme winding up of the religious chap ensued....  Whoops.

Thus far Norway has been pretty cool - it's cold and rains lots but when the sun does make an appearance it is out of control! The kayaking is sick, I exploded my boat on the second day here which was a bit of a downer but it's fine. When you are a professional lifestyler like myself you just sit back, pour the next rum you brought across the border incredibly illegally even though you don't really like it and shift focus to the next activity. Like fishing. Or Snus.  
Until my next erratic update. Ciao.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


  “Porso avere uno cafĂ© Americano e’ latte per favore?” “Can I please have an Americano coffee with some milk?” This is basically the extent of my Italiano. For everything else I fall back on the tried and true method of pointing, miming and holding up fingers. Then at the end “Grazie, ciao”. Pretty much fluent right?

 My favourite cafe in Ivrea..

 ..and inside
I forget regularly how different the cultures are – Italian people do pretty good double takes when they realize you ARE actually wearing boardies and jandals in a CITY! Ah the horror!  

 Turns out Italians stare

After our first weekend in Italy we had to pick Jamie Sutton up from the airport so we drove from Val Sesia back into Bergamo city, which is east of Milan where we had a friend who is studying there. We had a fairly interesting time navigating our way into the city but we made it with no meltdowns. We spent the next day hanging in a city for once, which was fun but slightly manic – plenty of opportunities to butcher a beautiful language ordering food once again. 
A super cool cathedral in Bergamo. Before the internet, when people were bored, they sculpted stuff...

The inside of said cathedral. Imagine this photo but in 'surround view' as it were. And four hundred times bigger. Impressive I know.  

 Family shot at Hope's apartment in Bergamo. Cute.

Arty alleyway family shot...

We picked Jamie up the next day minus a kayak and all his gear (don’t fly Easyjet) and headed to another valley called the Aosta. We turned up and drove into the mountains again to try and find a place to camp (Everyone here is fairly staunchly anti - camping for free so it’s harder than it sounds) and scored a perfect spot looking out over a beautiful section of river/mountain scenery. The next day we ran a section of the Ajasse (say eye arse) which was super cool and pretty steep (had a casual violent side surf in an innocuous looking but rather retentive hole didn’t I?)

 Camping on the old road where a new tunnel cuts the corner - ideal for concealing your common or garden type kayak gypsies. 

The mad Swiss, Lars Lammler running a hole on the Ajasse

Samuel on a glorious boof

Sam running one of the waterfalls at the bottom of the Ajasse canyon. I wasn't feeling the love this day because it was a tad 'sporty' and I am still harbouring a healthy terror of sticky holes. 

B on the second of the set

 and the third...

  The next item on the itinerary was another competition at yet another mountain valley. We had bolstered the kiwi numbers with the arrival of team Sutton e’ Uhl and we rolled into the campsite (vans only – no tents please) to catch up with more boaters/friends from all over the world** The racing was pretty disappointing with the river (the Chiusella) being ridiculously low and as a result the sections weren’t the same as previous years. Then it was into Ivrea (A city further down the valley) for the rest of the debacle – (whoops! meant to write event there…) on the artificial slalom course. Te kiwis did pretty well with Samuel coming in second overall and some good results in the teams racing (although strangely the Italians still podiumed even though they came in behind our boys both times – go figure….)

The team Sutton whip. 

 Patti not coping with the stress of watching Sam in the boatercross

The reason she didn't really need to stress...

 Mr Severin Haberling ladies and gentlemen. For all you kayakers out there, make sure you are incredibly terrified of sieves. Lars went into this one. Twice. We went to try to pull his boat out and snapped a 1200kg rope in the attempt. This from the sheer pressure of the water. Luckily Larsy boy jettisoned himself just prior to his kayak ending up here...

The upside of me not racing at the Chiusella (apart from the 70 Euro entry swindle) was that I got to go kayaking for fun on a river which actually had water with some of the most hard case Germans I have come across.

As I’m writing this***, I’m sitting in a car on the Motorway out of Italy (which is savage – their freeways are privately owned and they charge you a shitload of cash to drive on them) en route to Switzerland where we’re going to paddle some more rivers then hang at Severin’s parents house and do some work blacksmithing which will be super cool (his house is older than New Zealand – or at least the unified version…)
**One of my favourite parts of traveling this season has been meeting people who are friends of friends. You meet them and hang out and it’s like you have known them for years, it goes to show how similar the people you surround yourself with are no matter where they are from. 
***This was a few days ago but that's ok; you, dear reader, don't know any better. Update from Severin's amazing Hansel and Gretel - esque house to come soon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


 So I left the mighty US of A and got hit with a $400 charge to get my boat on the plane which wasn't ideal but never mind.
Walking through Frankfurt airport my first impressions of Europe were favourable; A guy wandering around the international terminal with a casual bottle of red and a plastic cup strolled past, everyone was nicely dressed (except myself of course - standard Kiwi singlet, jandals and boardies) and there was a bakery in the airport making fresh bread/brezels/delicious other stuff.
I found B, Soph and Severin at the arrivals with minimal fuss and we were off to the Sesia river festival in Val Sesia (Val means Valley in case you were wondering..)
We're staying in an amazing little village called Campertogno which is one of many that you drive through every five minutes on the way up the valley. Beautiful old stone houses line alleyways and the river. A huge church steeple (circa 1595) dominates the village and faithfully tolls every hour which is nice during the day but not so much at 2 am...

 B partaking in the standard Italian breakfast

There are a couple of tiny stores which sell amazing local produce for ridiculously low prices (like a dollar for a hunk of cheese which would cost you $15 in NZ)
The coffee is amazing and is $1 for an espresso which makes it tough to not enhance the already formidable morning habit. 

 Looking across the town bridge. The river sesia flows right next to the road. Just under the bridge was the finish line for the boatercross.

 The campground where we are staying

 Campertogno church

 Closer up
The end of the boater x course.

The racing for this event consisted of a team time trial down a fun but quite long grade 3-4 section and an individual time trial on the same section of which the top 16 qualified for the boatercross head to heads. 
Our team of Myself, Brendan Bayly and Severin Haberling managed to get second in the teams race which was surprising considering we had never even seen the race section let alone paddled it. We all qualified for the boatercross as well and B and Severin managed to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively which was awesome. I then took part in the "throwbag olympics" and with a spot of cheating managed to win that too (thanks to Severin's speedloader bag..) The prize haul was impressive, with Sweet clothing been thrown out haphazardly along with a new Palm lifejacket for my throwbagging efforts. 
We're going to paddle some side valleys today and then pick up Jamie tomorrow and head to the Teva Mountain Games in Ivrea. Might put some kayaking photos up soon but probably not... Lifestyling is the way forward.