Heading Home…

A wonderful time away fly fishing with Dad. We had great companions and superb guides. Unfortunately, time to get back to reality…

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Independence Day

I think President Coolidge’s speech 90 years ago provides one of the best summations of what’s celebrated today. One of the best quotes:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

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Dangers of a GoPro…

Or, to be more specific, the dangers of a GoPro and a dog harness mount. Kompetitive Edge, my bike shop, from Abby’s point of view.

Welcome to KE – Abby's View from Joseph Vrablik on Vimeo.

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Sportsmanship

This past Saturday was the Ironman 70.3 race in Boulder. I haven’t raced it in several years for various reasons, not the least of which being the course. There’s not an inch of shade on the run, and very little on the bike. Come mid-day it can be absolutely brutal. With it hitting the 90s that day, well, you get the picture.

So, instead of racing Steph and I went out and shot some photos for the team. We found a great spot on the bike course where we could get some perspectives you generally don’t see in race photos. At one point, a racer had to pull over due to a flat. Almost immediately after, another racer pulled over to help out.

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This is something I love about the sport. You don’t often see this level of support from other competitors. Sure, the guy helping out may not have been in contention for a podium spot. But for all we know, he could have been on pace for a PR. Rather than go for that, he opted to pull over and help out a fellow racer. That’s a fine example of sportsmanship.

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Snorkeling in Bora Bora…

One of the things Steph and I were most looking forward to was a snorkeling excursion in and around the lagoon surrounding Bora Bora. The boat and our guid, Nani, picked us up at the resort’s dock at about 9:30 that morning. The tour was going to circle the island, with 3 stops to see the life (two on the southern end, one just outside the reef just west of Vaitape) and then a short rest stop for snacks.

To start, we made a stop just past the Intercontinental Resort on the south end of the lagoon. Here we were going to see some stingrays (albeit with the barbs removed). What surprised us was how they started to circle the boat. Apparently they know they’re going to be fed when the boats show up.

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Ray Swim from Joseph Vrablik on Vimeo.

As you can see, one of the other guests on the tour wasn’t so sure about the rays to say the least. After that, we went a little further around the southern end of the lagoon, just south of Matira Point. There we saw coral and other reef life.

The highlight of the excursion had to be the swim we had with a school of black tip and lemon sharks. This was just outside the barrier reef surrounding Bora Bora to the west of Vaitape.

Shark Swim from Joseph Vrablik on Vimeo.

Following the swim with sharks, we made a short stop to relax up north of the island near the airport and had some fruit and coconut. When we got back to the resort in mid afternoon, we just reverted to type and hung out around the pool.

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Touring Bora Bora…

You’d think there isn’t much to see on such a small island. To be honest, with only a single road running along the perimeter, you wouldn’t be far off. Having said that, there are some things worth checking out. So we spent a morning on a tour.

We started off in a small village. It had one of 3 churches on Bora Bora (2 Protestant, 1 Catholic) and one of the few primary schools.

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Interesting side note: they only have up to the equivalent of our middle school on the island (of which there’s only one). For high school, the kids have to take a ferry over to Raiatea. That’s a 2.5 hour trip each way. Suffice it to say, they go for an entire week and come home for weekends. On top of that, parents have to pay for both the ferry and for school: they’re not free, and not cheap.

After some more touring around the island, our guide took us to some relics from World War II. The US Army and Navy built the first air field in French Polynesia on Bora Bora during the war. It’s still in use today. They all installed 4 large gunnery emplacements, 2 each for the cardinal directions, along with bunkers for support.

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The guns were never fired in anger, apparently.

After that, we finished our circle around the island. Along the way, we passed some bungalows that, apparently, Marlon Brando lived in for a time. At the end of our tour, our guide dropped Steph and I off at the main town on Bora Bora, Vaitape. We decided to have some lunch at a small cafe with a decent view.

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Following our lunch, we did a little shopping. We of course had to drop in and see some of the famed Tahitian pearls.

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Once done with wandering Vaitape, it was back to the harbor to catch our boat. While out, we had met a gentleman from the UK who was sailing the Pacific on a “working boat”. This was his ride, as we came to find out.

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Not a bad gig, I suppose. Just not sure I’d pay to go on a “working vacation”, but hey…

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Night Skies in Bora Bora…

As we were walking back from dinner the other night, Steph & I were enjoying looking at the stars. Primarily the Southern Cross, but other constellations as well. At one point, we realized we are able to see the Milky Way, a rare sight anymore back home in the states. When we got back to our bungalow, I broke out the tripod and camera and decided to play with some of the settings, seeing what I might be able to capture. Here’s some of this shots.

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A great photographer I ain’t, but some of these are kinda fun I think.

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More Bora Bora…

We haven’t done much of anything aside from hanging out on the beach. Having said that, Bora Bora and our resort don’t lack for scenes to photograph. Here’s some more:

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Bora Bora…

After leaving Christchurch, we had a bit of flying to do. Stayed a night in Auckland, then hopped to Tahiti. Stayed a night there before taking another short flight (with beautiful views) to our final destination: Bora Bora.

Simply being on Bora Bora is sort of surreal. You hear about it and read about it, but it’s one of those places you dream of going but never really expect to get there. But here we were.

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The airport is rather unique. Like a lot of small airports on an island, there’s no jetway, just a small arrivals building and a short runway. In fact, I don’t think a modern jetliner could get in here. Hence why you have to fly in on a smaller turbo prop. There isn’t even really a baggage claim, just some shelves the local baggage handlers deposit your bags on.

Traveling to the resort is a bit of an experience on its own. For most of the resorts on the island there are staff to meet you at the airport. They then help you get your bags and load you onto a boat to head to the resort. There’s no road from the airport to town as the airport is on its own small island, or motu. There is a water taxi to take you to Vaipate, the main town on Bora Bora, but it is run by the airline. Being an island of only about 9,000 residents, there isn’t any real public transit.

When we got to the resort, there was another staff member there to meet us. She helped us checkin, gave us a short tour and then showed us to our bungalow. Aside from some larger beach-side villas, pretty much all the accommodations are situated over the water at our resort.

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The views from our bungalow certainly did not disappoint. Everything and more than what we hoped. The visit is only getting started but is already a dream come true.

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Christchurch

After visiting the vineyards, we decided to head into Christchurch for a bit. Our first stop was the botanic gardens. Tracy at Melton Estate recommended them, saying they are beautiful and we would probably enjoy shooting some photos there. She was right.

The botanic gardens are part of a much larger park, Hagley Park. Think sort of Christchurch’s version of Central Park. The Avon River flows through the park. People were out and about kayaking on the river, running through the park or playing rugby. (Never found the rugby matches, but you could definitely hear them.)

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While driving around and, later, walking, you really get an appreciation for the devastation the earthquakes wrought in 2010 and 2011. 5 years on and it is still very evident. It will probably be another 10-15 years before they fully recover. But the ways they have adapted are incredible.

For dinner, we really wanted some lamb. Tracy again recommended Pedro’s House of Lamb. Pedro’s was a restaurant that was leveled in the earthquakes. Since then, they have reinvented themselves as a quasi-food truck, operating out a small container in the parking lot of a liquor store. Far and away the best lamb I’ve had. (New Zealand has forever ruined me on lamb.) And a very reasonable price to boot.

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Speaking of containers, those shipping containers that brought in supplies and such have been put to new use. Driving around, we saw several homes being rebuilt (most likely temporarily) using them. Many smaller establishments, such as coffee shops, were doing the same.

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They’ve even gone so far as to use those containers as a basis for an entire retail district. Re:Start Mall is a mix of retail based out of converted shipping containers and smaller vendors operating out of food carts, etc. Really neat concept and actually a lot of fun to visit.

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Christchurch is definitely rebuilding but has a long way to go. It will be interesting to see how it changes in the years to come.

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