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Andi Willsher's Website

In memory of, and dedicated to, Andi Willsher

NZ, Our Latest Challenge - Read On..


New Zealand 2005

Ok, so, what do you do when you have had enough of the UK's work life balance, industry ethics and you are in need of another challenge? Well, some people might just have had a holiday, or changed jobs, not us, we changed countries.  Not just a small move to somewhere in Europe, you might as well get value for your money and fly as far as possible, so we chose New Zealand.  Yes, it might be half way around the World, and as far away from the UK as possible, but we had our reasons......


Last year, we spent three weeks in NZ and we loved every minute.  The country, the people, the lack of everything about the UK we had had enough of, so why not try living there for a while?  We both wanted to try and spend some time in another country, so we started out on our "exit the UK" plan last August.


Our first step was to check residency criteria and see if we could "legally" stay in NZ as anything other than tourists.  luckily for us, they were looking for Food Technologists! So, our long and arduous journey through the corridors of NZ Immigration began....eight months later, with flights booked, house rented out, stuff in storage, essentials already on a ship down under (kayak, MTB, camping stuff, clothes, kitchen stuff) etc, we heard that we had been granted residency, wey hey, we could leave the UK and start a new challenge in "Kiwi" land..... It was great walking through the "Residents" channel at Passport control.........and so started our new life in the land of the long white cloud, not to mention Whales, Pukeko's, Kiwi's, Export Gold, and a few other things.


We arrived here on April 20th 2005, within a week, we had bought a car, rented a house, Wendy had a job, and I had started out on my training for new career, as an egg whisk pilot - Helicopters to you, or Eli's as Si calls them.

Thought I'd add a couple of pictures of my new mode of transport.......

Lego Fire Chopper, the ducks nuts eh?Hotel Victor Yankee, Hughes 300CBi

The one on the left was a pressie from Si, the one on the right costs a few quid more..........


21st July 2005

NZ Winter, well, it's not that different from Winter in Wiltshire, wet (very, very wet, over 116mm fell in 24 hours!) windy and cold, but still a lot warmer than a UK Winter, with temperatures around the 12 C mark.  Did I mention that it's been a bit wet?


Only one big thing has happened over the past few week, last Tuesday, 19th July, I went SOLO..... what a weird feeling it is to go out all on your own in an expensive machine, 1000ft in the sky over a strange country (not as strange as Wales though!) Although all the training is designed to get you here (and much further of course) it is still such a weird feeling when there's no one next to you to watch what you're doing and even stranger to have no one to talk to! took my second solo flight today as well, not as weird this time, and confidence will grow.  You can't repeat the first time experience, or wipe the smile off your face for a few hours, and, of course, in good Kiwi tradition..... it was my shout at the bar! there is always an excuse for you to buy beer for someone.


6th September 2005

The first day of Spring arrived last week, my memories of UK springs are, in the main, cool, often wet, sometimes still frosty and more like Winter than December at times, well here was no different... yeah right.  Spring in Auckland started as a cloudless, 20C day, perfect for, well, just about anything actually. Especially seeing  the Aussies lose at cricket and the Tri Nations, won by NZ of course. As the T Shirt here says, "I support NZ and anyone playing Australia" no love lost there.


The first couple of days of Spring were spent snowboarding on Mt Ruapehu at Turora ski fields, bit bizarre for me this boarding in September lark and knowing that it's almost the end of the season. Clear and sunny days, empty lifts....hated every minute of it!

Mt Ruapehu seen from The Desert Road



We have just spent the last weekend visiting "The Rellies from Welly", or in plain English (with a slightly Kiwi twang by now) my family in Whitby, Wellington, an absolutely fantastic weekend with sunny days, exploring the city by day and night, eating, drinking and getting over the fact that Quantas delayed  us by four and a half hours for a 55 minute flight.... just for beating them at Rugby. We shall return soon (sorry guys) but via Air New Zealand.


15th September 2005

Spring is well and truly here in NZ, warm days, still some rain and some high winds, but most of all, the start of the paddling season ans the first dam release on the Wairoa river.  The river is about 2 1/2 hours from Auckland, so about the same drive as the river Dart was from Wiltshire, but the season here is the Spring and Summer.  With no real access issues, no overcrowding and loads of space for fisherman and boaters, why stick to paddling in the Winter, not that Auckland really has a Winter but paddling in warm (ish) water and actually being "hot" takes some getting used to.  Winter surfing sessions here have been great, shortie cag and a minimum water temperature of about 14C, the warmest Devon ever gets is about 15-16C, where would I rather be I wonder?


The last drop just before the get out, wicked line & a wicked towback...


21st - 25th September 2005

We have just spent the weekend "down south" in Dunedin, Otago.  Dunedin is (supposedly) the Gaelic name for Edinburgh and was founded by Scots sometime back in the 1840's or so, just like the real Edinburgh, it too was infested with American tourists...Wendy had to work all day Friday so I did what was only right when in Dunedin and spent the morning in the Speights brewery, a tour and then a tasting session, followed by lunch and more tasting, the afternoon was then spent trying to stay awake!


Saturday was a fantastic sunny day, spent on the Otago peninsula searching for Royal Albatross and yellow eyed penguins, yes, they do really live here. Earlier that week, the south island had been under snow, the last thing we thought about packing was sun block, so Saturday night we had red faces and needed some cold beers to cool down.  Sunday was spent driving to everywhere we thought we could fit in before we had to get back to the airport to catch the elastic band powered plane back to Dorkland.  Having spent an hour driving north to look at, what we were promised, were the amazing Moeraki boulders, and finding a bunch of rather weird balls on a beach, we headed back to town and "did some culture" in the museum before finding more beer and food to keep us going on the journey back north.....and the wait for Air New Zealand and their always late flights.

Big Bird...Royal Albatross

Yellow eyed penguin


1st/2nd Oct 2005

I just spent the weekend competing in the Day Night Thriller ( 12 hour MTB race with JJ and some of his work buddies. It was 12 hours of a whole world of pain and it feels as though I have been attacked in the nether regions with a cactus for a few hours, but it was great fun.  The event is one of the largest in the world (so we are led to believe!) and pits 750 teams against each other over a 9ish Km course over a 12 hour period with fast changeovers, or not so fast as the night progresses! the final 4 hours are completed in the dark! We managed a respectable 48th position (if I've interpreted the results correctly that is) with a total of 30 laps completed in the 12 hours, the final lap was completed by John "racing snake" Justice who pulled out all the stops to do his best lap time and cross the finish gate just 2 1/2 minutes before the end of the race.  Would we do it again? bring on the Rotarua 24 hour, and maybe some extra padding....


12th November 2005

Well, what's happened since the last erratic update then?


We've been back to Welly again and spent loads of money eating and drinking in the bars, restaurants and wineries, shame..


I've started work...I'm officially a B.U.M....I've been practising for years but at last I've found someone who'll pay me for being a BUM! I'm a Business Unit Manager working for Tip Top ice cream, an iconic Kiwi company who lead the market here and export all over Oz and Japan, it'll be hard but making ice cream through the Summer could be fun, the daily taste panels will be a bit easier than pork pies.


I'm qualified as a PADI open water diver and am working through my Advanced Open Water diver, will finish this off this coming weekend in the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve in "The Winterless North" After talking about doing it for years, the lure of warmer waters and clearer seas finally won.


I spent a day being inducted into the Kiwi was of life as a hunter and gatherer and went deep sea fishing in the Kaipara harbour for the day yesterday.  Spent a day in a 6 foot swell and caught loads of Snapper, Red Gurnard, Blue Moki and a few "strange" fish, I caught (and of course released) a massive sting ray, about 30 lbs, and a rather large Octopus! who decided that he (or she) liked the side of our boat more than the sea bed......hope I see a few of those next weekend whilst diving.


26th / 27th November 2005

Really must start a new page soon, getting a bit full this one!


Have just spent the weekend in Christchurch - The Garden City, with the Mother outlaw, her friend, Gill and Wendy, we spent most of the weekend driving somewhere else! not that we don't like Christchurch, but it happens to be a great place to see other places from, especially when you've already spent time in the city.  Saturday we drove to Kaikoura so that we could watch whales again, we saw two Sperm Whales at very close quarters - awesome, second time we've done this, would do this every time we are in the area, the law of averages says that sooner or later we will see Orcas here (they passed through that morning!) and hopefully a Blue Whale as well, Jan / Feb seem to be the best times for these. Sunday we drove to the coast outside Christchurch to a place called Akaroa, remote (ish) harbour town and as luck would have it, we found loads of good places to eat and drink!

Sleepy local!

Pretty close eh?

16/17/18th December 2005

Well, what do most people do the weekend before Xmas? shop? panic? for us, it was always make pork pies, who did eat all those anyway? Not this year....with the temperatures in the mid 20's C, it's still wrong for Xmas, we headed off for a weekend in the far north, Paihia, the bay of islands. the weather was hot, sunny, clear blue skies etc etc, sorry all you guys stick with wet UK Decembers!


We visited the Waitangi treaty grounds, birthplace of New Zealand, out historical effort this year, and I dived the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior.  After the French (God bless 'em!!!) blew it up in Auckland Harbour, 20 years ago, it was floated again and taken to the Cavelli Islands, just north of the bay of islands, and scuttled in about 26m of water, as a tribute to Greenpeace and to create an artificial reef.  It's been sunk for 18 years (and 5 days to be exact) and is home to thousands of fish and other marine life.  the propeller has been removed and stands on the mainland, over looking the wreck, as a visible tribute for those who can't see the underwater one.  Once again, the water was freezing, only about 20C!!! and the viz was about 12m, fantastic.  We also dived another reef and fed "Ernie" the friendly Sandagers Wrasse, who grows with every dive.


Rainbow Warrior Bow Rainbow Warrior main deck

22nd January 2006

Well, we survived our first hot Xmas, and it was still wrong, very wrong.  Most Kiwi's just enjoy the weather and have a break from work, but there are those that still insist on decorating their houses, no problems with that, but 10ft snowmen in 25C is wrong, get over it guys, you live in the Southern Hemisphere, if you want snow in December, move.....


What have we done since the last update, well, we spent new year in Wellington and John and I used up all our brownie points and rode loads of top trials, excellent! and we shopped, ate, drank, ate, drank and washed it all down with a few beers....great time was had by all, thanks guys.


I have also qualified as a PADI wreck diver, more diving in good visibility and warm water, saw whales, rays, loads of life and not forgetting the wreck as well, how will I cope when I have to dive in the UK Steve??


I have also replaced the full bouncer MTB that was missing from my toy collection since last Winter, it gets it's first race next weekend, 48Km of very steep mountain....with the start and finish from a pub, they know how to lay on a race over here! watch this space for the damage!

Jamis Dakar XC Pro...mmmmmmm.....

12th Feb 2006

Well, the race was the worst one ever....6 km up hill followed by an 18km bike carry through knee deep clay, nice. Hence most of the field didn't complete the second stage, including me, call me strange, but when I go mountain biking, I usually like to ride my bike. Other than that, the weekend was good, diving and drinking, as you do (I had been warned that it might be bad, but not that bad, so the new bike stayed at home and I took the Global Ti, lighter to carry, harder to damage!)


Talking of drinking, my birthday was last week, another year slips by....and we spent the weekend in Hawkes Bay, at the Hawkes Bay Harvest festival.  A weekend where all the wineries lay on music, serve food, offer tastings and loads of wine and there are busses laid on to take you to them all, what forsight the Hawkes Bay Council have eh?


In an attempt to ignore the fact that I'm getting older, I have just spent today competing in the inaugural DHL Corporate Triathlon in Mission Bay, Auckland, three of us from work were the Fonterra Brands (Tip Top) Mango Moritz Sorbet Team (mouthful, and a very nice mouthful at that) 400m open ocean swim, 10km bike and 4 km run, done in a relay so all team members do all events, as most people know, yes, I ride - lots, but swimming, only with a surfboard or when parted from my boat, and running, only when playing hockey, rugby or making last orders, so I maybe fit, but doing all three, one after another was another challenge and great fun as well, once I over came the dead arm syndrome from the swim and the dead leg syndrome from the ride to the run (longest 4km run I have ever done...) our team target was to break the hour, we all did it, my stage time was 57:14, well within the hour with my swim being the slowest by far, need to practice that, But I did enjoy every minute of it - honest.....