A Travellerspoint blog

Battling the fears and exhilerating tramping Part I

January

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View First time round the world on Dani girl's travel map.

Well I'm back...

I began January being glued to my new New Zealand guidebook which my mum had kindly bought me for Christmas. I've met a whole heap of people who never travel with a guidebook and I think I would quite like being one of those 'wherever the wind takes you' kind of people...but I'm still stuck firmly in the 'needing to tick all the essentials from the guidebook' phase..I'm still a novice of course...so I planned my final month in NZ fitting in as many of essentials as possible...

It all started with a diving in the Poor Knights Islands. Voted one of the top dive sites in the world by some famous diver...sounds a bit like Jacques Clouseau for the initiated. Although I'd never heard of this man, it impressed me enough to want to do a PADI openwater course with the result that I would be a certified diver and able to dive all the wonderful places I'm still set to go...Great Barrier Reef, Thailand etc etc. Opting for the course ended up meaning hanging around in Auckland another week. Auckland isn't so popular with travellers but I found it a somewhat underrated destination...there's a whole heap of things to do. You can jump off the skytower (I didn't do that), you can walk from coast to coast, about 20km (I did that..except for the last bit where I got a bus to my favourite veggie cafe instead...best salads I've ever tasted!) and you can even try your hand at a whole range of sports and activities that the city has to offer.

Nicola's family were the most hospitable hosts. They started me off on my adventurous month with a spot of kayaking in one of the bays. Sounds gentile enough you might think..but you'd be wrong...howling winds, horizontal rain and an inexperienced paddler..i.e. me. By some miracle, maybe all the yoga I've been doing, I didn't capsize. As I've already mentioned, however, kiwis are a hardy bunch and kayaking in cyclonic conditions is hardly enough to get their heartrates pumping. I didn't know this at the time however, so when I was asked if I wanted to try sailing next I giggled with delight..I had always imagined sailing to be a truly relaxing activity...sunbathing aboard a luxury yacht, dashing young men serving you cocktails (non-alcoholic in my case of course!) etc etc. It was not so....we sped off at what seemed to be about 100 miles an hour..I did everything possible to hold on but my balance seemed out of sorts and I feared at any moment I would be flung overboard. I looked at Nicola's dad...he seemed to be in full control of the vessel..he proudly informed me it was worth less than $NZ500 around 170 pounds...this is a boat we're talking about here! but I did notice looking down, that his legs were bleeding where the straps he was pulling on the boat to steer it (apologies I don't know the official sailing terms) were crossing his legs...I started to become terrified of the ropes inflicting the same fate on me so I crept even further up the boat and was now balanced even more precariously. Then Nicola's dad informed me that we were turning round and I should jump across the boat...this meant letting go, swinging myself under the sail in a crouching position whilst avoiding the lethal ropes and then finding a new point of balance. This particular exercise was then repeated on a number of occasions before I plucked up the courage to be asked to be let ashore again...all good...I survived my first episode of fear in NZ...but there were more to come...

The second came the week later..I refer you back to the openwater diving course as mentioned earlier! It all started tamely enough with a day in the classroom, however, things toughened up on day two when we had to practice the theory in the local swimming pool. My 'buddy'...you get given a buddy so you can look after each underwater...was a 15 year old kiwi boy...He was still in the stage of being afraid of talking to girls which posed somewhat of a problem but he seemed to warm to me eventually...when I talked to him about his love of sharks he seemed to be just fine. Anyway, my buddy was just brilliant at all the exercises...he had been snorkeling his whole life he informed me...he was horrified to discover that I never had..I can't say it had occurred to me that that would be even faintly relevant...but once I got into water and had to start practising breathing through my mouth and not my nose under any costs, I saw what he meant.

The two days in the pool were spent undertaking a whole host of exercises - taking a giant stride into the water, taking your mask off underwater and putting it back on again...sounds easy but actually you have to clear the water from your mask first which involves tilting your head down and then breathing out through your nose, holding your mask at the right angle and then tipping it up at exactly the right moment...towing a tired diver...also sounds easy but people are heavy and cumbersome wearing big metal tanks, even in water. What else? Oh yes, practising a CESA - controlled emergency swimming ascent...you ascend breathing out saying 'ahhhhh' the whole time and then there was taking your regulator (breathing device) out, filling it with water and then purging it, taking your weight belt on and off underwater, again sounds easy but actually tough because it changes your whole centre of gravity, controlling your buoyancy through your breathing, again sounds easy but it's hard to breathe out slowly enough to change the depth at which you float...basically all these things sound easy but aren't!

At the end of day 3, I was having nightmares about the four openwater dives on days 4 and 5. Thankfully, I was sharing a 12 dorm bed room in a really beautiful holiday park in Tutukaka with a lovely girl from Dublin...a fellow diver but with a fair whack of experience. Not sure what I would have done without her encouraging words! Anyway, day 4 finally came! I felt entirely doomed the moment we climbed aboard the boat and the skipper told us the seas were very rough today. Well he wasn't wrong! As advised, I sat at the back of the boat staring at the horizon..having taken my anti-seasickness ginger tablets and wearing my acupressure bands..I was well prepared after the Cook Strait crossing debacle! Flocks of people started joining me with many of them again making good use of the seasickness bags. Waves were crashing over the side of the boat but the sun was shining and I started chuckling to myself...this was just another of life's many tests I thought to myself...

We reached the dive site, thankfully in sheltered waters, and got kitted out. The seas in New Zealand are pretty cold, 19 degrees, meaning a thick 7mm wetsuit was required. Sounds nice and cozy but it also means you have to wear a lot of weights around your waist to compensate for the extra buoyancy. I was wearing 9kg around my waist..combined with my metal tank and buoyancy control device (BCD) I basically couldn't walk and had to be helped to the side of the boat for the giant stride in. This, thankfully, presented no great problems and I was ready for stage 2, coming down the mooring line. As you let the air out of your BCD, you slowly start to sink but you control the speed of your descent by holding on to the mooring line. Seems easy enough but you have to remember to equalize your ears every metre of descent..if you don't a painful pressure starts to build up in your ears..(akin to the type you sometimes get on flights - I know you'll understand Gersh!). At this stage, you must ascend slightly and make sure you have equalized or you can do yourself serious harm.

At this point it might be worth referring to all the dangers of diving. It required a whole chapter in our textbook. Starting off with lung overexpansion injuries, worst case scenario, death..that's if you forget to breathe at any point, secondly, decompression sickness...if you ascend too quickly nitrogen bubbles can get trapped in your body..also leading to possible death in extreme cases...nitrogen narcosis where you go too deep and start acting as if you're drunk and no longer consider safety to be of importance...i.e. you voluntarily throw away your air supply etc...also leading to possible death from drowning, then there's breathing contaminated air...also possible death from drowning and that's all before you've had the chance of being eaten alive by a great white, stung by a scorpion fish or speared by a stingray..this was just in the weeks after Steve Irwin..

Going back to my descent..I just couldn't equalize...I was the last member of the group still hovering a few metres below the surface. I could see everyone else a few metres down..the water was beautifully clear. My instructor, Michelle was lovely though..she signalled to me to be patient...it's funny how you just know what people mean underwater just from their eyes and some funny hand gestures, even through big plastic goggles, sorry masks! On my third attempt down I realised there was no more pain and I slowly got down to the seabed where I knelt down next to my buddy...he was ordered to grab hold of me tightly. I can report that this he did with great gusto. We had a little swim around and it was wonderful. Hundreds of beautiful, amazingly coloured fish swimming all around us as we weaved in and out of huge kelp forests. Kelp as in that very tall seaweed.

The second dive of the day was a little tougher because we now had to do the exercises we had done in the pool all over again but this time 10 metres down....I was slightly troubled..I thought all those exercises were over, but I managed them thankfully with no great problems. The third dive on day five passed without event...the sea had calmed down greatly overnight and I managed all of the exercises. I felt happy...my happiness was, however, to be short-lived. Michelle informed me that her and I should practice mask clearance and removal in shallow water..my heart sank. This was the exercise I had continually had problems with in the pool. The thought of doing this in the deep filled me with horror. I did what any self-respecting woman would do at this point, I begged. Do I have to do it in order to pass? Yes was the simple, yet brutal reply. So we practiced and I nearly choked from all the saltwater I inhaled. So there I was, so near yet so far. How would I do it?

Michelle agreed to let me do the exercise last of all meaning that I could be safe in the knowledge that we would be ascending soon thereafter. As we got to the dreaded moment, I took a few deep breaths and voluntarily slowly filled my mask with saltwater, remembering to close my eyes and remembering at all costs not to breathe through my nose. I stayed in that position for what seemed like minutes because I could feel my heart pounding so hard even in my wetsuit. I repeated over and over to myself that I could do it. Eventually, I plucked up the nerve, I held my head down and put my fingers on the top, outside of my mask. I breathed out through my nose hard and tilted my head up. I opened my eyes cautiously. 'Shit, still full of saltwater!'. Quickly, shut my eyes again and repeated the same exercise. Opened them again. This time half the saltwater had gone. I looked pleadingly at Michelle, she signalled to me to do it over again. I looked downwards and repeated the exercise for the third time. This time, I had done it!! Michelle smiled a huge smile at me and grabbed my arm and had her fists in the air in a victory sign. Then she showed me her little scribble board, 'congratulations you've passed' she had written on one side. She turned it round, 'I'm so proud of you', she'd written on the back. Then I started to cry....and then I realised where I was...12 metres underwater..and I stopped...

Back on the boat..I can't tell you how I felt..the closest I could describe would be elated....the instructors were all so lovely to me. Telling me they thought I was brave, doing something that so obviously made me feel afraid...Michelle urged me to dive again soon...I couldn't think of diving again at that point though...I just felt such an amazing rush the way you always do when you've faced a fear...learnt about yourself in the process and come through again the other side....

But there was no time to waste with self-congratulating..I jumped straight back on an Intercity bus and headed to Waitomo. I arrived quite early so thought I'd relax awhile. But really there is nothing in Waitomo..once you've booked your caving adventure..which I had done for the following day, the most excitement you'll get is at the local store. Actually on this particular occasion, going to the local shop turned out to be exciting because I met there my one and only yoga student to date, John from San Diego. We spent a bizarre evening together, eating pizza, playing Pool and then deciding that a 11pm yoga class in the stairwell of the hostel was a good idea. Needless to say we attracted a fair bit of attention....I even managed to meet another yoga teacher in the process...although he taught Bikram so thought that my tame Hatha yoga was a bit paltry...Bikram is that crazy fast yoga they do in 40 degree heat..that makes you sweat..a lot...it's taking over california!

The calming effects of the yoga prepared me nicely for the following day when I turned my hand to adventure caving. Recommended, nay beseeched upon me by Mr Mexico and also of course my beloved guidebook. The Lost World epic...it described itself...all I knew was that it involved abseiling 100 metres before spending 4 or 5 hours working your way upstream, clambering over rocks, squeezing through gaps, jumping through holes in the dark (they didn't tell us about that one!) and jumping into and off waterfalls....and that's exactly what we did and it was awesome!!!!!!!!!!! It's a given that I was totally petrified looking 100 metres down into the abyss but once I started propelling myself down really I couldn't think about anything other than the mesmerizing beauty of this huge cavern covered in ferns and shadowed with a fine mist as far as the eye could see...and all the clambering malarkey was just so so much fun...I couldn't believe that I actually wasn't scared..doing the kind of things that I normally would be petrified doing...especially the jumping off rocks into big pools...the clambering ended in an enormous cave lit up by millions of tiny little glowworms...incredible stuff...

From Waitomo I hopped on the train to National Park which would be my base for two days while I walked the Tongariro Crossing, the most famous and popular day hike in New Zealand.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/trackandwalk.aspx?id=36028

I detrained (I heard that verb used on the train in Australia so it must exist, meaning to 'get off the train') and looked around me. The weather was just perfect, the sun was shining not a cloud in the sky. As I booked my transport to the track at the hostel desk, I asked the guy serving me what the weather was like for tomorrow. 'Well, it's meant to drizzle a little bit for the first hour but then it'll brighten up just like today', he said...magic...well when I woke up the next day the weather seemed a little bit worse than just a damp drizzle...it was a quite foggy...'it'll brighten up' we were all reassured...but that was ok...I was well prepared. I had my waterproof jacket...no waterproof trousers but my trousers were made of light synthetics that would dry quickly....I had two changes of clothes in case I got wet....(thanks Ad!)...plenty of food, plenty of water (it would be the first time I would use my platypus that I'd been lugging about with me since I left the UK. I'd wrapped everything in plastic bags in case my bag itself got wet. On the way to the track, I got talking to an Israeli couple who also happened to be on my caving adventure in Waitomo...my first hiking partners!

The track itself is 18.5km and the DOC (Department of Conservation) advise that it takes on average 6-8 hours to complete. The tramp (hike to everyone else but kiwis) itself is described as 'a rugged alpine trek'. i.e. it is the mountains. It is particularly noteworthy and considered especially beautiful because it passes some outstanding volcanic landscapes.

As it had been drizzling on our way up to the track we had all already got kitted out in wet weather gear. Well I say all of us but it was clear there were those that were woefully unprepared...more of that later. Anyway, I started the tramp with the Israelis. The first hour was easy enough. It was mainly all flat but the drizzle never eased up. It was the kind of rain that seems really fine but soaks you in about 5 mins. After 45 mins or so, my trousers were soaked through and sticking to my legs but after an hour or so, oh horror of horrors my jacket was starting to leak (I later learned that gortex can't leak and that it must have been getting soaked by my own sweat which couldn't escape because I'd failed to wash my jacket...nice!). After an hour, I felt thoroughly uncomfortable and I was already starting to feel the cold on account of being wet through. The Israeli boy decided to do an extra detour and the thought of standing around in the cold was too much..I left my first hiking partners and continued solo. This wasn't quite as stupid as it sounds as there were several hundred people tramping the tramp that day....this is no wilderness experience...I reassured myself with the fact that the weather would soon be brightening up.

In the second hour of the tramp the incline increased dramatically and I found myself clambering up rocks. The weather did not show any signs of improving..if anything, the driving rain had worsened. You might have thought at this point that it would have been more sensible to turn back...but this is one of the problems with the crossing...you have to carry on once you've started. You are transported to the beginning by a shuttle bus and then collected at the end...the nearest town is miles away and there would be little hope of flagging down a car as the road up to the crossing only leads to the crossing. So I had no choice but to continue. For the first time in my life, I was incredibly thankful for the fact that I was ascending...the climbing was tough but I didn't even notice...I was so cold that the shear fact that I was working hard meant I was noticing the cold just that little bit less. A guy in nothing but a T-shirt and pair of shorts passed me. I couldn't waste a second being concerned though..at least the weather would surely improve soon..

After another hour, we reached the top of this part of the ascent and I realised that a heavy fog was now drawing in. This was a significant problem. The track is not a clear path but is a route mapped out by markers. It was becoming increasingly difficult to see the next marker. Getting lost was not an option. I kicked myself for not buying a map and bringing a compass. If I lost the track, I would die in the mountains, it was as simple as that. I became more and more focused and increased my speed to keep behind another couple I could see just ahead of me. But increasing my speed was a risky decision in itself. I told myself to focus and not to slip at any costs. Breaking my ankle now would equal certain death. That might sound like I'm exaggerating but no one upon no one would have stopped for you in this weather. It was every man for himself. No one was speaking. There was no camaraderie like there usually is between hikers. By the time the emergency authorities would have been alerted you would have died of exposure. Even if they were informed in time, there was no way a rescue helicopter would have been able to fly or to land on the mountain in this conditions. I had to make sure I kept walking fast enough to stay warm and to keep other people in sight but not too fast as to risk falling.

I kept telling myself that the weather was bound to improve. The fog was so heavy at this point that you would never have known that you were sharing the mountains with a couple of hundred people or that there was stunning volcanic scenery all around...although you could smell the tell-tale sulphorous vapours. We walked along a short stretch of flat before starting another ascent. As we made our way up the mountain, the wind picked up and continued becoming stronger and stronger. I now had to worry about being blown off the top of the mountain. The ridge along the top of the mountain wasn't exactly a knife-edge but it could hardly have been described as wide. I kept to the lee side of the mountain, with the rationale that the wind would have to blow me further to blow me right off.

All this while, I was freezing freezing cold. I realised I was shaking and knew I would have to do a swift change of clothing or I was risking exposure and hypothermia but how without getting totally soaked in the process? I collared the nearest person, a youngish bloke with his girlfriend. More of them later too. I took off my waterproof and asked him to hold it over my head. With no thought for the indignity of it all, I stripped off right down to my bra and put on my dry clothes, but my hands were so cold I couldn't do my waterproof back up again. I had to be helped just like a small child. I felt brief respite. I was no longer wet on top but I was still freezing cold...my trousers were still sticking to my legs and my shoes were so full of water that I was squelching every time I moved. My spirits sunk...

My spirits sunk lower than they may ever have sunk before. The weather wasn't going to improve. I realised I had been in denial. It was time to accept reality. I just couldn't go on. I panicked. I just couldn't do this. I had only walked for 2 hours. I might still have 6 more of hours of this. I was actually terrified. I felt guilt. I thought of my mum, how could I be doing this to her. Why had I been so stupid to do this crossing in such poor weather when I had read all the material saying how treacherous the walk could be? Two women had died of exposure on the track a couple of weeks ago after becoming lost. I started to cry...at this point, a second army officer-style Dani took over. 'This is not the time for crying or to panic', she told me. 'There is no way out of this other than to keep going. If you keep going you will make it but you have to stay absolutely focused and you have to stay positive and believe that you can do it'. I felt almost as if grace had touched me and I felt I had it in me to go on. I carried on climbing up and up, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and moving.

I walked for another 45 minutes when I got to a sign. It said I had done 4 hours worth of the walk and that I only had 4 hours left to go...and I had only been going for 2 and 3/4 hours. For the first time that day I felt genuine happiness. There was a new strut in my step. The fog had also lifted slightly and the wind was easing now that I was starting to make a small descent. I walked for another hour maintaining my constant focus when I saw a trampers' hut in the distance. I continued with renewed vigour and fell into the hut which was chocker with hikers. I can't tell you the relief I felt taking my wet shoes and socks off and changing into my last dry top but it felt like heaven. Everyone in the hut was crammed around the small stove. I found a small gap and joined the party. As I gradually warmed up, I felt my sense of humour returning...although more likely this was hysteria brought on by the conditions...I discovered that other people seemed to be in the same slightly crazed mental state. As I looked around, I spotted some familiar faces. T-shirt and shorts boy had his hand on the stove...ON THE STOVE....at that moment someone smelt burning hair...the boy lifted his hands...'oh my god your hands are totally burnt'..I cried in horror...for it was true..his hands had been scorched by the stove...the red circles of the grate burnt into his palms. He looked at me with a manic smile and just laughed...Standing directly next to me was the girlfriend whose boyfriend I had exposed myself to. She was shaking uncontrollably and when I looked more closely I saw that her lips were totally black..'oh your lips are still blue', said her boyfriend gently as if he were commenting on a new shade of lipstick....we were all clearly delirious..

I spent a good 2 hours in the hut. The shuttle wouldn't be picking us up til 3pm and we had set off around 8:15am. Thankfully, the last 1 1/2 hours of the tramp were only mildly unpleasant. The track was quite well sheltered by trees at this point and although my legs and feet were still cold and wet my body didn't get cold again. We arrived at 2:30pm in time for the 3pm shuttle. So all in all the tramp took me 5 and 1/4 hours. I can honestly say that I have never walked so fast in my whole life. I had terrible blisters by the end but I hadn't even noticed them. I never once noticed getting out of breath or tired. It's amazing how when there is such a pressing need...staying warm and dry...your mind becomes solely focused on this and doesn't get distracted by lesser pains or discomforts....I had done it...I was so so happy...it had been such a tough day with more physical discomfort than I have probably ever experienced before in my life but I had dealt with it and I had come through the other side...I already felt like this could be a life-changing event for me….see part II….

Posted by Dani girl 23:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Battling the fears and exhilerating tramping Part II

End of Jan and early Feb

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View First time round the world on Dani girl's travel map.

Well I have found out that the max word count for any one blog entry is 3,200 and I exceeded it by so much in this entry that I’ve been forced to divide the entry into two. That’s longer than a university essay. If you are still reading this, then truly, thank you, you must love me or else you are very bored at work.

Anyway, my next date with the New Zealand great outdoors would be the Abel Tasman coastal track, a 51km walk over three days in the very north of the South Island. I spent my time in Wellington getting properly geared up. First purchase, waterproof trousers. Indispensable I now realised. I nearly bought a new waterproof jacket being disgusted with my own but the kind man at Kathmandu suggested I try washing mine first and to be fair this did seem to do the trick..I crossed the Cook Strait again for the third time (no problems, phew) and made my way to Nelson where I made some last minute purchases; stove, gas, dehydrated (vegetarian) meals, pack liner, plastic cutlery, crockery, cooking pot (billy). I would have to carry all this on my back along with my sleeping bag, changes of clothes, first aid kit etc etc...

http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/trackandwalk.aspx?id=36215

I took another shuttle to the starting point of the track. This time the weather was just glorious and although I had packed all my wet-weather gear to be on the safe side the beautiful weather held out the hold time I was on the track. This time my problem would be being too hot. As I strode off down the coastal track (a significantly easier tramp than the crossing, though of course much longer) I felt fantastic. Day hikers kept stopping me and marvelling at my skills of being so small yet able to carry such a big pack. I say they kept stopping me but really there were surprisingly few people on this popular track. The definition of 'crowded' to kiwis seems to mean meeting someone ever half an hour.... I felt the calmness and joy of being at one with nature. After about 2 hours, my pack started to feel very heavy though and my back began to ache. I walked along an exposed section of the track..I was baking...but when I made it to my first stop, Anchorage, I knew it was all worthwhile. I walked along a beautiful beach before discovering my little trampers' hut at the end.

Tramper's huts are basically exactly that. Huts that hikers can use to sleep overnight in and cook in while they are on hikes that are over a day long. The sleeping quarters consist of mixed sex bunkrooms and then there is a general kitchen come dining area where you can cook and eat. Kitchen facilities may be glorifying the position somewhat. There is a metal top on which you can set up your gas and stove and cook and then there is one drinking water tap from which you can top up supplies. After dumping my gear, staking a bunk and having a short plunge in the sea, I set about preparing to rehydrate my pasta vegetariano...or in other words I had to boil water for 10mins and then pour it into the food bag...easy...and not entirely disgusting...I was pleasantly surprised. There is such a nice camaraderie in the huts...remember the weather was good...and it was great to meet a mix of people for a change...it can get a bit tiring meeting other backpackers all the time...there were older couples, and younger couples, families, friends and people hiking solo...

I rose at dawn the next day. I had a long hike to get through - over 20km and two tidal crossings to traverse. I would have to get my timings spot on. I reached the first tidal crossing after walking for about 15mins...shit..there was still water in the estuary....I looked about and copied everyone else..i.e. I took my shoes off and stripped down to my pants and just waded through the water. I quickly thought better of walking barefoot..my feet were being shredded by barnacles and the like so I put my flip flops on. After about 20mins I had crossed the water..I felt quite excited and grown up and carried on. By lunchtime I'd nearly reached the halfway point for the day so I was pretty happy...happy that is until I noticed the millions of sandflies which were to become the bane of my existence..they make mosquitoes feel like your best friends! I wolfed down my peanut butter sandwiches and made tracks.

The second half of the day was tough going...I Knew I needed to get to the second tidal crossing before 3 so I pressed on....the track wasn't as flat as it had been earlier..I had some steepish sections to climb but my back was coping with the demands placed upon it surprisingly well. I got to the second crossing around 2:30 so no problem..the rest of the day went surprisingly well until the last half hour which involved tramping across a beach..after 5 and 1/2 hours of walking with a heavy pack, spending half an hour walking through sand feels like a slap in the face...but I made it...and the timing was perfect..no sooner than I had arrived, the heavens opened and we had torrential downpours for the rest of the night. Thankfully I was safe and snug in my second hikers' hut in Awaroa.

I was greeted by a new sea of faces. I had supposedly done two days worth of walking in one so I met a new set of people. I spent a wonderful evening playing cards with two Italians (mother and son) and two kiwi friends...and entertaining two girls 8 and 10 who decided I was their new best friend...but it was so nice and homely! The next day's tramping began with a tidal crossing and so we all had to sit on the steps of the hut until about midday for low tide...but the tide never really went out that much. The poor small girls had to get into swimmers and swim through the crossing while their parents carried their bags for them...yes, these two 8 and 10 year old girls were carrying their own stuff...I took my shoes off again and stripped down once again to pants and waded across.

As I dried myself off on the other side of the estuary I was met with a disturbing sight/sound. A group of lads...that wasn't disturbing in itself but the music blaring out of one of their backpacks was. I dawdled for ages in order to let them get ahead but I caught them up...so I overtook them but then they caught me up...rage...'we seem to be playing cat and mouse' one of them shouted to me...bigger rage....now we were getting into conversation I was bound to get stuck with them.....but actually they were quite a hilarious group of Israelis...they told me that hiking with speakers in your backpack was a big tradition back in Israel...I wasn't so sure...the Israelis I hiked with in Tongariro had not mentioned this nor had the Israeli I hiked with in Yosemite partaken in this activity. Anyway, they were only going as far as Totaranui which is where most people finish the track. We sat down and had lunch together and I bumped into a nice middle-aged lady I had got talking to in Nelson. I started explaining about the music (she looked as confused by this as I was) but smilingly said, 'oh good idea, drowns out the sound of the birds'..the Israelis nodded in serious agreement....I chuckled to myself.....they then lept up to catch their water taxi home. Leaving us their tea as a parting gift...it was presented to us in two halves of a 1 litre water bottle sawn off by a knife in the middle...I made an effort to drink from my serrated drinking vessel without cutting my mouth open...the sweet tea was peculiar but strangely delicious..

I carried on with the hike.....the hike suddenly felt much more isolated..I hadn't seen anyone for hours...but I was going so well for time that I decided to add an hour detour to see a seal colony. I became increasingly fixated by the raw isolation...no one would know if I got murdered and dumped out at sea...I must have got myself on edge because when I heard footsteps behind me I turned around and screamed...but it was only the Italian guy...I sighed a huge sigh of relief and then followed his lead which practically involved running for me. After another hour we made it to our last hut of the tramp, Wharawharangi. Wh is pronounced 'f'. I prepared my last rehydrated meal and got talking to a young French couple who had the exact same meal...I was excited by this opportunity to bond...the girl looked over and smiled and then sighed, 'it's ok for you', she said in complete earnestness, 'you're english so you're used to bad food...we're French and we're not'...she obviously thinks we have not advanced beyond dripping and meat pies..

The final day involved a one hour walk to the point at which I had arranged for the shuttle to pick me up. The scenery on the final descent to Golden Bay had been fabulous. I said goodbye to the Italian who I had promised to look up when I reached Australia. On the journey back to Nelson I reflected on the last 3 to 4 days...I had had such an amazing time....seen some incredibly beautiful scenery (thanks for the tip Marc!) and met some amazing people...I had felt so happy and calm walking alone...but most of all I had pushed out of the comfort zone again and completed another challenge..wahoo!!!!

I had arranged to spend the final 9 days of my time in New Zealand on a camping/hiking and cycling tour. It sounded so much like the Green Tortoise so I was very excited. I met my first fellow tourer, an American whilst we were both waiting for the bus. I liked him instantly. We ended up laughing together for the whole nine days. The tour bus made its way down to Kaikoura. This would be my second attempt at swimming with dolphins. We were booked on the early morning session so had to get up at 4:30am...we dragged ourselves irritably out of our tents but as soon as the sun began to rise, around 5am, our moods improved...to this day I think it is truly the most incredible sunrise I've ever seen. I was totally moved. We were kitted out with wetsuits and then taken out to sea until a pod of dolphins were spotted. We were told to just jump right in and play about...if we swum in circles and duck dived, the dolphins would come to us we were told...and it was the most amazing thing...the dolphins would just swim round and round you in circles maintaining eye contact the whole time...sometimes you could have four or five round you..sometimes you could see them swimming right at you but they never touched you..it was like they were smiling at you the whole time..I loved them...

From there we made our way to Rangitata gorge. We were told we could jump off and cycle the last 20km to the campsite...ahh 20km...a cinch I thought to myself...I was the only girl to get off the bus but the American guy promised to keep me company which was both lucky and very good of him because I lost sight of the other cyclists after about 30 seconds..and we were on a long, straight road. After about 1km..my thighs and butt ached like crazy....crap I thought...this was really not good...I forgot that I hadn't cycled since I was 12 but I cursed my yogic muscles for not being up to the task....I struggled on..and it really was struggling...pushing the bike up hills etc...we had no idea how far the campsite was so I phoned the driver in desperation...I felt pretty pathetic, this was only the second day of the tour..'I'll come and get you', he said....we were saved!! the bus was coming to pick us up...about 20mins later I saw the driver, but not on a bus, he was on a bike..with horror I realised I would have to keep cycling....'only 2kms more', he shouted...at least that was something..we made it to the campsite...

Over the next few days, we hiked around some incredible scenery..Aoraki/Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, the Catlins, Kepler Track, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound via Christchurch and Dunedin. We visited a penguin reserve and were lucky enough not only to see the little baby penguins eagerly awaiting the return of their parents who were out fishing at sea but also the return of one of those parents. It waddled up the beach quite majestically and managed a respectable waddling pace when it spotted a sea lion in the distance...a penguin is to a sea lion, much llike sushi is to me (thanks for the introduction Clare)...In Christchurch, the American guy and I decided to go shopping for some last minute provisions for our upcoming multi-day tramp, the Routeburn Track. We discovered the wonders of merino wool (I just had to make a mention of the amazing Merino, Lenny!) and ate lunch at a yoga cafe...yum..

http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/trackandwalk.aspx?id=36713

The Routeburn track was to be my last tramp in NZ before jetting off to Oz. At 32km it was significantly shorter than the Abel Tasman track but the terrain was much more rugged as the tramp was through the mountains. To make matters more taxing, I had booked late meaning I wouldn't be able to stay at the normal huts and would have to walk 22km on the second day. I knew I would be slower than the other guys (as they were all men bar one German girl who was with her husband) but an aussie guy offered to stick with me as he had an injured knee and knew he wouldn't be able to go too fast. We only had an hour to walk on the first day but it took me nearly 2 hours. It was so so hot, I kept feeling I was going to pass out. By the time I reached the first hut after a mere 4km, I was very worried. I cheered up when I saw the view from the first hut which opened up to a clearing, with a clear blue lake and mountains in the background. I dumped my bag, put my bikini on and jumped into the lake. 'Shit, it was freezing'...I jumped straight back out...in the time it took me to put my towel around me, hundreds of sandflies had descended on me, munching on any part of me they spotted flesh...which was most of me in a bikini...I cursed these nasty creatures..their bites are so unbearably itchy and remain that way for 4-5 days..during which time you really just have to suffer through them...good practice for yogic peace of mind...

The following morning the Aussie and I decided to start walking at 6am but when we woke it was still dark and we could see there was still a lot of fog about so eventually we left around 7am. When I tried to put on my right shoe I realised I had a huge red swelling on the back of my ankle...'shit, that sandfly bite looks nasty', I thought. It crossed my mind that it might be infected but I realised there wasn't much I could do about it right now. By 10am we had reached our first milestone, Lake Mackenzie where the ascent into the mountains would begin. It was already baking hot by this point and as we ascended above the tree line there was no longer any respite of shade. The climb with a heavy bag was tough and I drank a lot of water. We had filled up at the hut at Lake Mackenzie but supplies were dwindling fast. At least we could fill up again at Harris Saddle, the summit of the tramp. Despite the blistering conditions, we were rewarded with some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. So, it was totally worth it. It was so hot though that I had to keep stopping just to try and cool down...I felt I was overheating..then I noticed I was getting sunburnt too. In the end the aussie had to carry on without me.

After about another 3 hours I made it to Harris Saddle. I had run out of water about 10mins ago so the timing was perfect. I looked around for a tap in the shelter. Ok, there wasn't one inside...I looked outside...there wasn't one there either. I frowned. I spotted a sink and a tap in the locked building next door. It appeared to belong to a tour company. I noticed there was a window open right by the tap though...thank god I thought. However, my attempt at water theft was angrily spotted. 'Go and fill up at a stream', I was told. I was given directions to the stream which involved backtracking about 20mins..I dumped my bag and set off. The water looked clear enough but I didn't feel entirely confident about drinking mountain water so I treated it with water purification tablets. Which was fine, except that I would have to wait 30 mins for the Iodine to take effect. I couldn't walk I was so thirsty so I sat for 30mins until I could drink again. When I got back to Harris Saddle, the Aussie, the American and another Swiss guy who had all kindly waited for me said they were going to take a side trip up Conical Hill, the real summit for 360 degree views of the area. I couldn't not go. We dumped our bags and ascended. I almost immediately regretted my decision. It was so steep I was basically rock-climbing. The one hour return trip took us nearly 2 hours. We did spend a good half hour at the top absorbing the incredible mountain scenery. For the first time that day I noticed my ankle again, it was swollen red, blistered and itching like crazy. By this time my knees were also in agony. Every time I stepped, a jolt of pain shot up my body. We still had 3 more hours to go until we would reach the hut.

The final three hours that day were all downhill but I cried practically the whole way. My knees were so sore and the terrain was rugged and rocky and I had become quite weak and was finding it increasingly hard to stay balanced. I kept trying to rest but the Aussie was strict....I harboured a silent resentment towards him but I knew he was right, we had to get off the mountain by twilight. It was already late afternoon. The side trip and my backtracking had cost us. Finally at 8pm we reached the hut, some 13 hours after we had set off. We were greeted by the three others from our trip staying at the same hut. The German couple sat me down and made my dinner for me, rice and vegetables and the English guy made me a nice cup of tea...I felt overwhelmed by the kindness of people. I collapsed into bed.

The following morning we discovered our remaining food had been munched by mice. Lucky we only had another two hours to go to the finish where we would be met by a shuttle taking us to Queenstown. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my knees were absolutely fine. It took me longer to pack up than the boys (of course!) and I didn't end up setting off until 8:15am. It suddenly occurred to me that I was in a bit of a rush so I picked up my pace. I was cruising along practically running at points but I was fine. The terrain had really leveled and I was now basically walking along a forested footpath. After two days of climbing up and downhill, it was easy...but of course I had become complacent, no sooner had I congratulated myself, than I slipped on the side of the rock and went over on my ankle. As I fell the whole weight of my pack fell on top of me. Waves of pain were shooting through my ankle. I had felt that particular pain many times before but never since Gersh massaged my foot about 4 years ago and magically seemed to heal it. I knew that the throbbing would ease off shortly and I would be able to hobble to the end. Once the pain died down I noticed that my left knee was also sore. I looked down and saw that I had cut my knee open and had ripped my trousers. It looked like the kind of injury you get when you're a child..and I realised I hadn't cut myself like that in years...it was full of grit and mud...maybe I just haven't been taking enough risks, I thought to myself..

I hobbled along to the end of the track. A victory photo was taken but I barely raised a smile...As we waited for the bus, I lifted my trousers and attempted to clean my wound but the dirt was really ingrained. I had lifted one trouser leg for barely a couple of minutes but to my horror about another 100 sandflies were biting me all over. I lost it. I was so totally enraged with them..it was the final straw and I sulked for the entire bus journey to Queenstown. Once we got to Queenstown I accepted that my priorities would now not be the multitude of adrenalin-filled adventure activities that Queenstown has to offer but the sorting out of my injuries. I prioritised. I needed ice for my ankle. Then I needed something to get the dirt out of my knee and to disinfect it and then I needed someone to look at my sandfly bite to tell me whether it was infected. My ankle had now turned black and was very blistered so I was a little concerned. I asked at the holiday park, no ice there. Then the cafe over the road. They couldn't spare ice just for an ankle. The pharmacy was next door. I changed my priorities to address injuries 2 and 3. I was given saline solution and antiseptic for my knee. The pharmacist then looked at my ankle. 'That's not a sandfly bite', she said, 'that's a spider bite'....had I heard correctly? I felt a distinct sense of disquiet, 'a spider bite?' I repeated. 'yes, a white-tailed spider bite', she said, not offering any more elaboration on my prognosis. She must have read the anxiety in my face because she then added, 'oh it's ok as long as the infection doesn't spread'..'then you need to get yourself to a doctor immediately'. I went to a second pharmacist for a second opinion but was offered the same diagnosis.

I hobbled into the nearest cafe, thoroughly depressed and still with an uncommonly long-lasting black mood but someone was looking out for me, because I stumbled just into the right place. The guy behind the counter looked incredibly concerned the moment I walked in. He sat me down, got me ice and a free cup of tea and then chatted away to me. He was so kind and good to me that my blackness just evaporated. It was a timely reminder of all the goodness in the world...blah de blah...

Needless to say I spent my final few days in New Zealand (Queenstown) resting up and taking it easy....As for the spider bite...well it continued to turn blacker and eventually I let Lenny pop my two blisters (on the advice of the pharmacist) but thankfully the infection never spread and after about 10 days you would hardly have known it had ever been there. My final month in NZ had certainly be something...so many highs, so many lows but never a dull moment...I felt I was ready to take on Australia...

Posted by Dani girl 03:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

What should I read?

January

sunny 20 °C
View First time round the world on Dani girl's travel map.

It's funny I didn't think I'd end up reading too much while I was away...mainly because I can be super lazy at times and get distracted by things providing more immediate gratification...but somehow all that time spent in a hammock in Mexico pulled me right back into the habit of settling down with a good book....but hey it's fairly easy when the climes and setting are so propitious...and now my love of reading is back to the readathon levels of my youth...remember dad?

Anyway, it's just sort of turned out that I've been reading books that other people have either recommended or sent me (thanks Ad) but I'm nearly out of books again.....

so now for what I was hoping ....

that you wouldn't mind sharing with me your favourite book and/or letting me know of a book that really inspired you particularly if you think it would be good to read on the road......

feel free to just write it in a comment at the bottom of this blog entry....maybe this way SOMEONE will leave a damn comment after one of my entries...sneaky huh?

If the books are good I'll even add some more photos to my blog....now there's an added incentive!

Posted by Dani girl 20:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (4)

A Rastafarian MP, christmas in prison and anxious hoteliers

December

sunny 18 °C
View First time round the world on Dani girl's travel map.

Greetings from month two in New Zealand, Aotearoa, 'Land of the long white cloud'..you might be interested to hear a little about month one..

I arrived at Auckland International Airport feeling ecstatic! That might not be that normal for a) someone who has just disembarked from a long haul flight or b) someone who has just landed in Auckland - many people say that Auckland is the least interesting part of one of the most beautiful and spectacular countries on the planet.....but I was overjoyed knowing that I was in the Southern Hemisphere, on the other side of the globe when I had for so long been convinced I would never make it this far...and I mean that figuratively as well as literally...

So ecstasy or maybe adrenalin brought on by crippling tiredness I felt when I headed to my first New Zealand party (evening of day of arrival) where I had my first experience of the sheer warmth and friendliness of kiwis, met my first (and up to this point only) NZ sheep farmer...(actually he was a dairy farmer but that didn't sound as good in a land of 40 million sheep, outnumbering the human population by 10 to 1) and celebrated, at midnight, 48 hours of being awake ...(flight from Mexico to LA, 12 hour wait in LA, 12 hour flight to NZ, arriving at 6am and staying awake til that night)..

Given the kiwi love of the great outdoors (more of that later)...I was packed off to the Waitakere Ranges on the morning of day two for my first tramp (hike to us English folk)...damnit it those kiwis are fit..running up and down the hills, charging their way through bush (foliage)...bless them they even tried to make me feel better by saying i must not be used to the altitude (hmm we were probably a few hundred metres above sea level) or I must be still tired from my long haul flight...I was willing to go with that excuse for my lameness, in particular my balance...which was shocking...but then I've never had to negotiate tracks that are so muddy and rocky and slippy that you have to swing from tree to tree, Tarzan-style..inevitably I did fall on my arse into the mud and Nicola has a delightful snap of said muddy arse with me in a position about to tip over again..

So Nicola is a girl from my first Green Tortoise trip and I headed down south with her and her friend Sam for a few days before meeting up with my mum in Christchurch...both very lovely people and both JAFAs (Just Another * Aucklander)..first stop Wellington, the capital...and obviously number one on anyone's agenda when visiting a capital city is.....a day out in Parliament!!!! Well what fascinating stuff...I saw my first Tui (on the way in!)...a special bluey NZ bird with a funny-sounding call...reminded myself that NZ was the first country in the world to give women the vote (1894)...so huge numbers of brownie points for that...got involved in a political demonstration, heard a speech from the FEMALE prime minister, Helen Clark (please no comments about Thatcher) and discovered that NZ has both a Rastafarian MP and a Transgender MP...now I just can't imagine that in Westminster..this must be one advanced country!! As for the demonstration...it was pretty exciting...the protesters where fighting a bill that would regulate the selling of dietary supplements...what ensued could only be described as playground antics of the highest calibre with the crowd heckling and booing the NZ First leader, Winston Peters who in turn gave back to individuals in the crowd calling one 'sunshine' and and making remarks like, 'how about asking questions, when I'm finished honey' and saying he needed to present a 'few bloody facts' to counter claims made by the Green MP, Sue Kedgley...John Prescott eat your heart out...Des you would have loved it...I laughed hysterically from the side of the lawn where I was sunning myself under the ferocious sun (more of that later too)...who would have thought political activism would be so alive and well in NZ..

From Wellington it was just a short hop over the Cook Strait to the South Island to check out some of the reputedly wet, Western coasts..and I can confirm that they did indeed live up to their reputation..the sudden decline in fortunes really began with my trip on the Tranzalpine railway to the East Coast to meet my mum in Christchurch...it's meant to be one of the beautiful railway journeys in the world but it was shrouded in rain and fog for the entire journey...actually that wasn't the decline in my fortunes at all...through some strange twist of fate my mum happened to be getting on the train at a stop further down the line so we had an emotional reunion of the platform at Arthur's Pass station before she had to go back to her half of the train and I had to return to mine (the sections were blocked off by a tantalising no entry sign in the middle!)..so a momentary increase in my fortunes occured when I got to stay in my mum's v swanky hotel in Christchurch for a night, complete with pool and spa and sauna...a free 3 course evening meal...if you don't think that is that amazing...then obviously you haven't lived in hostels and on buses for months on end...I exaggerate because actually I've stayed at a lot of people's lovely houses and you can't get more comfort and home from home than that...I even got to meet an Australian nun, new friend of my mother's who invited me to her convent in Sydney...I'll have to check it out for sure given my new found love of all things monastical..

Well as for the decline..it all started innocently enough with constant rain cancelling every activity we had booked..whalewatching, swimming with dolphins...dicing with death while tramping on cliff edges with howling winds and rain around us...a very bad ferry crossing over the Cook Strait up to the North Island...and by bad I mean..the only way to make it through the 3 hour trip was wearing accupressure armbands, taking ginger anti-sea sickness tablets, sitting in one spot at the back of the boat and concentrating on only one spot on the horizon, meditating and not speaking or communicating with others in any way..oh yes and wearing earplugs to drown out the sound of those less fortunate making good use of their sea sickness bags...I've never seen so many people collapsed on the floor on a boat in my life!

Anyway, the next morning all I could hear was screams coming from my mum in the shower...now I thought that I had become a super nice person after doing all the yoga stuff....examining the deep, dark recesses of my mind, flushing out the bad, heralding in the new....but it turns out I'm still a thoughtless, inconsiderate person...for I actually ignored my mother's screams...if there is any defence to my actions..it was because I thought she was having one of those problems with temperature control of the shower...you know when you freeze and then scold your whole body etc etc...but anyway it turned out that she had actually put her back out completely...necessitating assitance in almost every regard..and later that day I realised I was at the beginning of what turned out to be a stinking cold...and then we got jailed on christmas eve...of all days!!!!

Actually, the truth is less exciting but possibly more strange...we did actually choose to go to prison for christmas..I'm unclear as to why two normally sane people would do that but there you go...I think it was something about all other accommodation being booked up in Napier on christmas eve if you try to make the booking on 21st December...http://www.napier-prison-accommodation.com/. The more right wing amongst you will be pleased to learn that prison is still a bit of a shit place to spend christmas eve...lucky we had that whole novelty factor and more hysterical laughter from me combined with scowling at me from my mum to get us through the night...she didn't scowl really...she's not really a scowling mother but i bet mothers in books would have scowled at that precise moment.....so we got shut in our cell for the night..the only concessions afforded us in recognition of our non-incarcerated status were 1. A curtain over the bars on the door to allow for a modicum of privacy...you could still hear everything outside though...esp. the menacing sounds of clanking as people walked down the corridors outside..plus the curtain wasn't long enough meaning one had to undress lying down behind the bed 2. A small wooden frame around the toilet (slop bucket), 3. Two A4 pieces of paper on the wall with photocopied prints at odd angles (obviously attempting to hide something!) 4. Not locking us on even though the huge bolt and padlock remained on the outside..so they could have done and last but not least 5. no ghostly apparitions appeared on that particular night...maybe they were partying with the Germans next door...

But the following morning we woke up and the sun was streaming through the bars of our cell window and I was truly happy...and I even had five presents too..amazing..thanks mum, Des and Evie....and then we had a picnic on the beach...I've always wanted to do that for christmas! If it hadn't been for Des and Evie not being there it might have been the most relaxing and nicest christmas ever...later that day we drove to Tongariro National Park...what a truly beautiful place...before heading on to Rotorua which the guidebook described as being 'smelt before seen'...how true..this is volcano country you see....so sulphery smells pervade the air....Rotorua has a long history of Maori settlement in the area...so what better place than this to enjoy our first Hangi...food steamed to perfection in a traditional Maori earth oven...I think they basically heat some stones to ridiculously high temperatures and the stones then cook the food inside some pit in the ground which is covered with some wet sacks which add to the process by steaming the food - very clever! The tourist package also included a Maori concert complete with performance of the Haka...which was truly spine tingling stuff..and we even got to check out some glowworms in the bush afterwards...what amazing little creatures! oh and eels...more animals to add on to my 'animals seen since commencement of travelling list'..

From there we made our way up to the Coromandel to stay at a B&B where breakfast wasn't included...and that was run by people who panicked about our whereabouts with the result that they called the police...fair enough we were out after 10:20pm.....On the happier side of things we did get to check out a Hot Water beach where you dig a whole in the sand and you can then have a bath in water that is literally scolds you...I know it's all appealing stuff...from there we headed to the Bay of Islands for a relaxing new year's eve...eating fresh New Zealand fish..yum...watching the sunset over Russell harbour (all in your honour Russ!) and new year's day checking out some bottlenose and common dolphins...they've just been promoted to my new favourite animal...and I didn't even have a favourite animal before! From there it was just a brief stop in Waipu in a B&B with the most incredible view from our bedroom...before returning back over the harbour bridge to Auckland...I was a wee bit sad the next day when I had to see my mum off at the airport..she's just flown to Sydney on the next stage of her round the world trip..

The little things that make kiwi land not like Britain

Let's be honest here...New Zealand does have a lot in common with GB..some dramatic mountains (Scotland), lots of sheep (Wales) and Marmite, crunchie bars, meat pies and fish and chips...or rather fush and chips...(England)...ahh us blighties always colonise places and leave the best parts behind.....but that's good because it makes me pay a little bit more attention to things in order to hoke out the real differences...

1. The pronunciation of English - as mentioned above...here we have 'fush' and 'bitter' instead of 'fish' and better' and so forth..

2. Fruits I've never heard of before but are tasty - Fejoa

3. Animals I've never heard of before...Tuatara (one of the oldest reptiles in the world), Kakapo (flightless parrot), Kea, Weka etc..

4. A particular species of bird that plays chicken in the road with oncoming traffic...they don't even fly out of the way when you approach..they sort of scuttle quickly..to give them their due though I never saw a squashed one which cannot be said for possums...mind you kiwis deliberately swerve to hit them..they are a major ecological nuisance here you see...I bet it's still mainly men that do that though....perhaps someone can help by identifying what this bird is? It's brownish with white patches on the under side of its wings.

5. Continuing on the subject of roads..the best anti drink driving signs I've seen...'Catch a drink driver, bloody legend!' and 'drink while driving, bloody idiot!'. I love them...I can't imagine those bureaucrats at the Department for Transport authorising that back at home...Ad I even think it beats 'Don't weekEnd it!'..

6. Forests or bush as they are known here look like tropical rainforests...as I suppose they are...and the giants ferms are truly pretty awe-inspiring..as are the big kauri trees...puts our deciduous collection a little to shame..

7. Kumara - well we have it but under a different name..sweet potato..it's very yummy steamed in Maori earth ovens I discovered!

8. Eating out is a zillion times cheaper..I ate a meal in a pub for two pounds and I got two portions of fish and chips for less than 2 pound 50!

9. Flightless birds..that's what you end up with when you have no native mammals (except for a few miniature bats) and therefore no preditors..not sure kiwis are that cute but there's certainly something about them..

10. Although I compared the mountains here to those in Scotland..the scenery and landscape here does really outclass the UK..

11. Outdoor culture - although they do appear to share our avid love of Corrie! These New Zealanders are so into their great outdoors..that one kiwi mother even told me a tale of a time when she wanted to go surfing so much (the waves were that good) that she tethered her 15 month old baby to the tent further up the beach so baby could explore the area around the tent while mother caught some waves...no weekend is complete without a tramp, kayak, bungee jump...even grannies are doing it...and outdoor shops abound..

12. Everything's the other way round...sun's path, January means summer, and water swirling the other way down the toilet..

13. New Zealand is 268,000 sq km, while UK is a piddling 244,800 sq km..both are smaller than Colorado though!

14. Football here means the All Blacks.

13. Shiny, happy people...they sure are friendly folk..

So to sum up...I like New Zealand...all of me does with the exception of my skin which hates it here..who can blame it..my face is covered in a mixture of constant sun burn (nose), mosquito bites (6 scattered about cheeks which have only faded to the point where they look like huge spots) and a rash on my chin...

Those of you interested in a yoga update will be pleased to learn that I am continuing my daily practice in all manner of places with no regard for personal dignity...

That's all for now..I shall love you and leave you and go and pay the whopping internet cafe bill I've just accrued writing this...if you have made it to the end, well done, thank you and peace be with you...

Posted by Dani girl 18:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Travels with a yoga mat..

December

sunny 20 °C
View First time round the world on Dani girl's travel map.

Yoga is appearing frequently in my entry titles...the sign of things to come? maybe I'll have got it out of my system by the time I return home..I fear not!

One of the distinctive things about travelling, well two of the distinctive things (Davey P, you were right that I would start pontificating at some point..) is that 1. You don't get an awful lot of privacy or time to yourself and 2. You don't really have a set routine......so bearing this in mind, fitting a yoga class into each and every day can sometimes be tricky..

Take yesterday for example...I was at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) for 12 hours (between flights from Guadalajara and to Auckland) and I was determined to fit in some yoga. So I took my mat outside and laid it out on the 2 feet of grass outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal where I partook of two hours of yoga in the sun...the mood was only slightly soured by the constant roar of traffic and the foul, heavily polluted smell of the air...I thought people would be impressed by my antics or at least faintly interested but it turns out that Californians really don't bat an eyelid at anything...all I got was one old janitor walking past me muttering....'ahhh taking some exercise...' and chuckling faintly to himself...

a case in point for having less of an ego methinks..

Posted by Dani girl 21:53 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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