“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Monday, 15 September 2014

It's Just a Swing, Right?

I Have been meaning to share this video with you for a while. I keep thinking about it, and then giggling to myself. It's an inside joke that nobody knows about except for me....which makes it just a lame inside joke. But now you will see!!

Here's the backstory:

While we were in Queenstown, New Zealand, Mike and I knew that we  had to get in on the action that brings people to town - the insane adventure sports! We tried Canyoning again. We took a trip on a jet boat up river. Both easy-peasy on the "WTF have I gotten myself into?" scale. But I knew something bigger was coming. Mike had suggested it weeks earlier, and every day that I woke up in the campervan, I remembered we were one day closer to the thing that I was flipping out about. BUNGEE.

uuugh. Bungee. I flip-flopped endlessly about whether I should have done it. If you don't do it, you'll regret it forever. If you do decide to do it, you might literally shit your pants as they push you off....and the ride back up to the platform won't be pretty. I was having heart palpatations about the whole deal, all the while conflicted because I acknowledged that I already have a weird predilection for thinking about jumping off of high places (but that's another story, better saved for the shrink, I think....)

Anyway, on Go-Day I was faced with the choice. If I paid up (and a steep fee, indeed) but didn't jump I'd be both embarrassed and without a refund. 

And lo, option C came down upon me - The Nevis Swing! Peace of cake! I thought. No free fall, so it'll feel far less dangerous! I assumed.

Oh God. Please just watch the video and see just how "Peace of Cake-y" it was for me. Mike, on the other hand, decided to combo his thrills and tandem with me in addition to jumping off the bungee. He was so chill about it, he nonchalently asked if he could do the swing upside down. Showoff. Transcription below.
00:40 "Why am I doing this?"
00:49 "I can't believe you're doing this upside down"
01:03 "omigod"
01:08 Michael says something about how this should be easy.
01:09 "Shutup"
01:10 Bungee guy (BG) tells me to look at the camera and act like I'm not scared witless
01:19 BG "Come on now, give us a brave face"
01:20 F*%k
01:26 BG gives explanation about how I'm supposed to sit down and let my feet dangle over the edge
01:30 BG: "you can't go anywhere yet, love" Me: "WAIT!"
01:35 BG: "You can do it, just find your way down"
01:38 Me: "Holy F*&k!"
01:40 BG: "You can do it, you're still not going to go anywhere"
01:42 ME: "Sweetie, look at me. Am I going to live?" Mike:" Yes you are....nobody's died yet"
01:55 ME: "Don't say that last word!"
02:00 - explanation of how Mike is going to ride this beast upside down...

I have never screamed so genuinely in my life. I'm pretty sure I was still screaming as we passed the river. We have legit free-fall for FAR longer than I was expecting, and with the weight balanced so high, I went down almost face first.

Mike later said that he'd never seen me so frighetened in his life. I second that.

But watching this video again, I laugh every time I see myself do this. Well worth the loss of a pair of clean pants!


Saturday, 6 September 2014

There's Something in the Wind

My last post seems like an awfully long time ago. Truthfully, I've been meaning to write sooner, but I just really didn't think much interesting has happened. (Of course there has....)

The other day I had a "moment." I realized something that I just didn't 'get' before. Since Michael and I have taken up adventuring, the usual routine when things are ending is for me to be sad the trip is over, but happy that I get to return to the comforts of home. Michael could care less about these things, and usually pines on about just travelling for ever and ever, quite content not to return home at all. "That's so weird!" I would say. "Don't you  miss sleeping in your own bed, and showering in a tub that you know is clean? I love cozying up with a cup of tea and my knitting, and I can't bring those things with me when we're backpacking!" To which Michael would reply "not really. Not as much as I miss getting up every morning and knowing your job is to do only the things you want to do, and see something new and exciting every day!" And in a way, I didn't really get it. Of course I love getting out and seeing great things and trying weird foods and learning new cultures and all that jazz, but I didn't see it the same way Michael does. I could only stand being "uncomfortable" while I knew there would be a soft bed and my comfort things waiting for me later. (like the way you can stand backcountry camping for a while....)

But since I've been back to Sudbury, I've been restless, somehow. Bored. I make a to-list for myself almost every day, mostly to keep myself occupied. Most often, the list has at least a few of the same things on it, every day. Laundry. Clean the kitchen. Go to the gym. Clean something else. I add in "fun" things to keep the list less tedious, but even those things are the same (knitting. reading. watch favourite-tv-show-du-jour.) and I've been feeling rather uninspired. Yes, of course I should probably just put in a few other interesting things on my list, but that's not what I'm getting at. The other day, as I was standing in the gym thinking about the other things on my list that I really wasn't interested in doing, I thought "Man, I would not be having this problem if I was backpacking somewhere." And then I went "OoooOOh! I get it! This is the bit Michael has been getting at!"

So in honour of this lightbulb moment, I will be thankful for all of the adventures I have been on since I returned from Sudbury and fill you in.


I did a whirlwind day trip to Vancouver once I'd returned to Kamloops. Got on a greyhound bus at 3am, started my day in the city at 8 and walked around the city (shopping!), met a good friend at a wonderful café, and then hopped back on the bus at 6pm for the 5 hour return ride. I missed that city.

I took a wonderful friend of mine to Las Vegas for her bachelorette party. Highly memorable, though for obvious reasons I can't tell you much about it...except this picture:
of course Whistler the Gnome came to Vegas. As if!

Michael and I moved into our new apartment! Our landlords are dope and let me plant pumpkins in the backyard. Hardwood floors and a front door, to boot. I still have to bike to work and there's an extra ( as in, extra high) hill between me and my workday, but it's manageable.


In July, I ran away to summer camp. Camp Tanamakoon was wonderful for me last year, and really helped me to love being a nurse again. So how could I say no? Actually, the camp director asked me if I wanted to come back in January. I was sitting in a hotel room in Varanasi, and I had no idea if we were even going to be moving back to Sudbury at all, but even if we didn't I knew I could make it work. It was a good choice. Exhausting, yes. But I have some great memories to show for it!
Just a couple of the stellar young Counsellors and Trippers at camp!
Who wouldn't want to wake up to this every work day?
Mike and I also attended a sweet party in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum. This ain't no dusty-bones fete. It's a strobe-lit-live-band-street-food excellent night. I reccomend you attend if you're in the area. Dinosaurs are so much cooler under black-lights.


This was the grandest of our summer adventures, I'd say. But I'll try and be concise. My wonderful, beautiful friend Michaela was finally getting married in Edmonton and had asked me to be in the wedding party. Michael and I took this as an opportunity to see some friends and conquor the Rockies! Though Michael's plane ticket was mixed up and I had to fly to Edmonton alone, I was easily able to pick up the rental car and drive down to Calgary (with a short stop at the outlet mall en route) just in time for Michael's rescheduled flight to arrive. We met our friends in Banff for a couple of days of sweet hiking and excellent brewskies.
We four hiked to both mountain tea houses at Lake Louise. The 20km trek was rewarded with mint juleps at the castle's lounge.
But after our friends left us, Mike and I continued up the Jasper Parkway, through the mountains. Such excellent mountains! We stayed in "wilderness hostels" along the way, which I would highly reccomend if you're a budget traveller. They're like basic cabins the the woods (and don't have running water), far away from the tourist hoards.

I am demonstrating the gacier bahind me, called "The Claw"
This is pretty much standard fare south of Jasper.
The second half of the week was spent helping to set up Michaela's wedding. The wedding was beautiful, the bride looked fantastic, and we all cried when they said their vows. A highlight was hearing the groom (an accountant) profess "Dear Michaela, I love you very much and I'm so glad that I can finally change our status to 'married' on our tax returns." No joke. This was his opening line. I love these people! I was also in awe of how Michaela kept herself composed when her father took ill and had to leave the wedding just after the ceremony. She was phenomenal, and helped the party go on as if nothing was amiss. (She's very nearly a doctor, and I think that helps).

Later on in the month, I hosted an Indian -themed evening. While we were in Udaipur I was lucky to take in a cooking class and I'd brought home all the recipes. But what fun is that unless you can cook for your friends! Michael made sure to keep everyone entartained with an English-dubbed version of Jai-Ho, the Bollywood film we went to see when we were in Agra. Think: What would it look like if Sylvester Stallone tried to make a serious drama? (also, we decided against taking shots everytime someone went through a pane of glass. Oh God.)


Well, I suppose this chapter is just beginning. On Monday, we leave for a backcountry canoe trip through Killarney Provincial Park. I'm trying to convince Michael that this can be fun, though I'm starting to wonder that the 50km route might be....adventurous? I'm quite sure it'll be manageable, but either way it'll be memorable! Plus, I'm really quite excited to put paddle into water. I haven't done a trip like this in many years and I think of them as a bit of a rite of passage.


Our planned adventure is to finally try WWOOFING. Michael's scouted a farm on Manitoulin Island where we hope to learn hands-on about local and organic farming. So, basically our next two adventures are about learning how to stretch our arms around trees to hug them tighter!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Lion-o, Lord of the Thundercats vs. He-man of Castle Greyskull‏

Since I've returned home, I've spent a little time going through my 
inbox hoping to purge old bits and pieces. I found this. Full credit 
goes to Michael for this piece, which he claims he wrote in 3 hours at work in 2006.
"After painstaking research and much intense deliberation, I henceforth
present my findings on the subject of Lion-o, Lord of the Thundercats vs.
He-man of Castle Greyskull.
To start, I must emphasize the utter ridiculousness of such a proposition; 
everyone knows that these cartoon characters do not exist on the same 
planet.  It is an indisputable fact that Lion-o is an inhabitant of the 
planet Third Earth, a realm existing slightly to the future of ours, and of 
parallel to that of the hobbit.  In fact, it is widely accepted that the 
climate is not unlike that of the Middle-Earthian Shire.  Both have proven 
ideal in supporting hairy anthropomorphic life forms.  For that reason 
alone, Third-Earth shall henceforth be referred to as the wussy planet with 
all the pussycats.
He-man, conversely, valiantly roams Eternia protecting the immense power of 
Castle Greyskull from the forces of evil.  After he has spent the day 
courageously and benevolently shit-kicking all the evil down in the dark 
hemisphere, he resumes the noble role of Prince of Eternia.  Here we also 
see, in contrast to Lion-o, a feline having no complex about the size of his 
manhood.  Battlecat cunningly presumes the meek role of Cringer, where he 
will lull all that is evil into a false security, setting them up for a 
repetition of this day's shit-kicking, tomorrow.
At this point I shall present an objective and balanced critique of their 
powers.  He-man, of Castle Greyskull draws his power from a damn cool 
castle, shaped like a skull.  He also has the ability to talk to the 
Sorceress of Greyskull using only his mind - that's telecommunication, Kyle.
Furthermore, He-man shows undeniable similarity* to MI6 secret agent Sir 
Sean Connery (henceforth reverently referred to as He) who, using a 
combination of multi-variable calculus and a Schrodinger's equation, has 
been mathematically proven to be the coolest guy ever.  Also, and this may 
be the coup de grâce, He-man has a green tiger.  Simply put, by the power of 
Greyskull, He-man is The-man.
*Figure 1:

He-man has Man-at-Arms to develop wicked-cool new weapons     
He-man is a prince in his spare time                                            
He-man is rather muscular, with manly-handsome hair                  
He-man always prevails over evil, and has a pussycat                    
He has Q 
He is a knight
There is no disputing the manly-handsomeness of Him 
He always prevails and ends up with a woman called Octopussy, Pussy Galore, or Holly Goodhead.
Lion-o, for his part, fits the technical definition of freak of nature.  A 
child wandering around in an adult's body, he feels the need to compensate 
for this shortcoming (though most definitely not his only shortcoming) with 
his sword.  According to the world's foremost authority on everything and 
infinitely accurate resource, Wikipedia, “When unused, the sword is no 
larger than a dagger.  But when excited it will extend to full size.  Also, 
by pointing the sword in any direction and using a battle cry of "HO!", the 
sword is able to fire devastating energy blasts.”  This overt phallic 
compensation leads us to the important question of whether the Thundercats 
would cease to exist if not for that sheltered, wussy pussycat world of 
theirs.  To an analytical mind it would seem the driving factor behind this 
team would disappear in a technologically advanced world such as ours, where 
"fast and proven methods of penile-enlargement" and "wet, naughty 
schoolgirls" arrive in our email on a thrice-daily basis.  To the unbiased, 
scientific mind the answer to this conundrum, and possibly the resolution to 
the unending war on Third-Earth, could be gleamed from the wisdom of Dr. 
Phil: “Anger is nothing more than an outward expression of hurt, fear and 
frustration.”  Supplementary to the latter, it is of curious importance to 
note that Lion-o's company seems to be predominately male.  But before we 
start to lose our objectivity, we must finish our scientific look at Lion-o. 
  He seems to always have in his possession a pretty little jewel, to which 
he credits all of his strength.  This, it shall be observed, is not 
necessarily a unique weakness.  It is, in fact, a plight suffered by many of 
history’s great warriors from the likes of Samson, to Golem, to Linus Van 
Pelt.  To sum him up, Lion-o puts the pussy in pussycat.
In conclusion, I propose that if these two forces ever came across each 
other in battle it would look something like a Shamrock-Ortiz fight, 
specifically the second and third editions.  Furthermore, I propose He-man, 
the valiant and just warrior that he is, would not accept battle from an 
anthropomorphic freak of nature.  A statistical analysis of the situation 
reveals the most probable outcome is Battlecat engaging Lion-o in a fight to 
the pain, and finishing said fight in approximately 3 seconds of pure 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Things I have lost.

I lost my wallet in New Zealand.  I have a pretty good idea where it is -- it probably fell out of the van at a remote DOC campsite we stayed at the night before we did the Tongairio crossing (I’m pretty sure one sock also fell out with it).  By the time we realized it wasn't in the van we were 3 hours north and decided it wasn't worth the trip back to look for it.  I find that a little funny.  I used to really worry about losing my wallet, but then Sarah had her pocket picked in NY, and we realized it isn’t that big of a problem.  I was only carrying a credit card and driver’s license.  It hurts, but it had very little effect on our trip.  The biggest downside is without my driver’s license, Sarah is now the designated driver.  The upside is I have an opportunity to take an inspired new driver’s license photo.  I’ll let you know how that goes.
The campsite where I lost my wallet looks nothing like this place.
My phone died a couple weeks ago too.  The USB connector wore out so there’s no way to recharge it.  I looked into getting it fixed, but it’s cheaper to wait a month and get a new contract when we get home.  Crazy.  That was my camera.  Luckily I’d been backing up all my photos on the laptop and online.  We still have Sarah’s camera and, until recently, the green waterproof one.  Turns out that it is no longer waterproof.  Pretty lucky we can afford to lose two cameras and still no worries.  If we lose Sarah’s camera or the laptop, then I’ll be worried. 

The laptop is still working, mostly.  It died in India, which I suspect may be due to some undesirable harmonics in the power system, or maybe spikes when we lost power and the hotel’s generator switched on.  Not the kind of thing you’d ever think about in Canada.  It came back to life in Singapore.  Now the battery has quit again, though it still works plugged in.  Sarah’s phone reboots on its own sometimes, but still works most of the time.  
The top of Diamond Head
We went for a hike to the top of Diamond Head in Oahu.  The original temple on top of it was dedicated to the god of the wind.  It’s pretty obvious why now -- my hat and sunglasses became an offering to the wind god.  The glasses were on top of my hat when a gust of wind caught it and I watched both of them sail over the cliff.  That hurt.  But Sarah bought me shaved ice at the bottom of the hill, which made things a little better.

Sarah has been trying her best to lose her wallet this entire trip, but it keeps coming back to her.  The pockets in her shorts are so shallow that it’s fallen out at least three times, but luckily she’s noticed and run back onto the train to get it, or I’ve picked it up, or someone has found it on the beach and brought it back.  I now carry both her wallet and camera in my pockets, which is pretty ironic.  I’ve informed her they’re mine now.  My precious.  Sarah disagrees. 

The downside to losing my driver’s license is Sarah now has to drive for the rest of the trip.  Good thing the driving-intensive part of our trip is over.  We put just short of 5000 km on the campervan in NZ.  I have a photocopy of my driver’s license and, surprisingly, it was accepted by Avis when we rented our car in Samoa.  Sarah drove from the airport to our B&B on our first night and hit a police roadblock which was checking for licenses.  I figured I’d try driving to the ferry the next day and was pulled over also, for a different reason.  I went straight through an intersection in the left turning lane and, unfortunately, a cop was standing directly on the other side of the intersection.  I suppose they were there to do license checks.  When he pointed it out, I could see a faint arrow painted on the road.  Then I had a few tense minutes explaining about the license.  Fortunately, he let me go but we decided Sarah’s the designated driver now.

This is the closest to driving I've come in the last month.
 Our rental car in Samoa was a 2013 Toyota, which turned a lot of heads there.  I guess they don’t see too many (almost) new vehicles here.  It’s so much of an attention getter, when we parked downtown Apia to check out the market, we had someone waiting for us when we returned, who tried to scam us with a story which is surprisingly similar to one I fell for at home in Vernon 5 years ago.

I’m aware how good life is, in general.  I try not to lose sight of that.  If this isn't nice I don't know what is.  I’d been thinking about this when feeling a little down about losing my wallet and phone and sock.  I don’t need a scare to remind me how lucky we are, but we got one.  We narrowly avoided being T-boned at highway speed in NZ.  We were on a country road, which are all 100 km/h in NZ.   I was turning right (akin to turning left in North America), had the blinker on, slowed down and started to turn when the guy behind us tried to pass on the right.  I stopped and he nearly hit the ditch swerving to avoid us.  I have no idea what he was thinking.  He even came back to give me a piece of his mind, but I still don’t know what he was thinking.  My best guess is, “this can’t possibly be my fault, so it must be yours.”

And that’s everything that’s happened in the last 6 weeks.  Blog updated.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Climb Ev'ry Mountain!

I originally wrote this post almost 2 months ago.

Oh, Tasmanina. You, of cool waters and pointed mountains and sandy beaches and silly looking creatures, I embrace you fully!

I spent a week driving from Hobart (in the south) to Devonport (in the north) and back again with Michael, but we really did need more time. We stayed a couple of nights with a lovely couple that you could say we’re loosely related to…by marriage. (Michael’s uncle’s wife’s brother [Glen] and his wife[Wendy]) They were incredibly gracious not just to let us stay with them, but they took us sailing on their yacht. Their yacht. And on the evening we met them as we’re chatting over drinks, Glen asks “So, how do I know you again?” Tasmanians are obviously extremely welcoming, friendly people.
While in Hobart, we visited an art museum/winery/distillery called MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), which we learnt was built by a wealthy gambler who had lots of art and decided to showcase it to the public, for free. (Unless you’re a foreign tourist like us) Mostly, it was filled with modern art pieces. The piece that –erm – evoked the greatest response out of me was this:

This is a mechanical digestion machine. It’s called Cloaca. The artist adds “food,” and it follows the line through each chamber to break down until it…well, until it turns to shit. “How is this art?” you say? Well, here’s the artists description:

“Cloaca makes the ultimate criticism of modern art – that most of it is crap…that the art world has finally disappeared up its own backside…When I was going to art school, all my family said I was wasting my time, and now I have made a work of art about waste.”

For the record, that piece smelled horrendous. Like, warm curdled milk and vomit. I couldn’t stay to look at it very long.

After that cultural adventure, we drove south to Port Arthur and the penal colony. We missed the daytime tours, so we opted to take a ghost tour after dark. We were able to do a quick walkabout before sunset and gained some insight into the conditions of the colony and some of the more intense areas of lockup (if a prisoner was especially bad), we were primed and ready for ghost stories. The tour was interesting/spooky enough (including  the guide coaching a little old lady – a self proclaimed skeptic – into a cottage from a distance, and then slamming the door on her in the dark to see if she’s spook. The little old lady just muttered “what a crusty old toad” when the guide had her back turned), after we’d already been given our “certificates of bravery,” we had to return to our motel room alone. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. In this instance, though, we’d chosen a motel that had a little gate access to the historic site from the back side. This meant that once the tour dispersed from the interpretive centre at the front, Michael and I were forced to cross the colony campus alone, in the dark and without a flashlight.

We may have sung silly songs out loud to keep from getting spooked by shadows…

We spent a week driving from the south to the north of Tasmania, and took on a few wonderful hikes, including Wineglass Bay...
Lookout to Wineglass Bay.
 ...and Cradle Mountain.
Top of the rock! You can actually hike to that sharp, peaky ridge, too
 We made sure to stop to see the wildllife along the way. There were several very domicile wombats grazing along the Cradle Mountain track.
come here, widdle wombat. Me cuddle you!
 And we decided to visit the Trowunna Wildlife Park. Unlike in the mainland where we were able to see plenty of local fauna in the wild, several of Tasmania's best known animals are quite difficult to find.
Michael getting up close to a 'Roo at the petting-zoo portion of the park.

While here, we most notably visited with some Tasmanian Devils. Devils have been blighted with a very unusual form of facial cancer - a tumor that can be transmitted from one to another through physical contact. And Devils spend a great deal of time defending their territory by biting each others' faces. So several parks have sprouted up to segregate the healthy Devils from those who might be infected, in hopes that once the infected ones have all died off, the island can be repopulated with the remaining healthy ones.

But I think Michael most liked getting to cuddle a baby wombat!
Sort of like a large guinea pig, except with a bony plate at its bum that is incredibly strong, and can be used to kill predators by smashing their skulls up against the walls of its burrow.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Animals (by Michael)

We've seen a lot of new animals in Australia, which I'm super stoked about.  I think we've seen nearly every stereotypical Australian animal, except the elusive platypus.  I hear they're elusive.  We didn't actually go searching for one though.  Here's a recap.  We went swimming with a pelican in Perth.  Admired trees full of colourful loris and galahs.  Saw fields full of roos in Margaret River.  Bumped into black swans all over.  Watched a blue penguin waddle out for a swim in St Kilda.  Hung out with some possums in the park in Melbourne - they were in the trees directly above the metal bands supposed to keep them out.  Had a one-sided chat with a couple koalas in Otway National Park.  Snuck up on some emus at Tower Hill.  Almost slept with a scorpion in Hobart.  Saw Wallabies and Paddymelons all over Tassie.  Pet a wombat at Cradle Mountain.  And were laughed at by a kookaburra.  We managed all this without visiting a zoo, but on our last day in Tassie we still hadn’t seen a Tasmanian Devil, so we decided to go to a wildlife park. 
Possums in downtown Melbourne
 On a side note, there is a whole lot of roadkill in Tassie.  I think this has to do with having mostly small, nocturnal animals, and winding roads with ambitiously high speed limits.  The limit is 100 kmh most places, but the roads are also full of sharp corner caution signs.  The upside is speeding is nearly impossible.  The downside is cars often come around the tight corners hugging or over the centre line.  Back to roadkill -- in one day of driving I counted 4 dozen.  They looked like mostly possums or paddymelons with the odd wallabie mixed in, but I’m assuming there must have been at least one devil in there.  Sarah said that doesn’t count as a sighting though.

This guy did some figure-eight laps of the pen, but unfortunately no tornado spinning.
 The wildlife park we went to, Trowunna, is one of a few devil sanctuaries on the island that are maintaining populations of devils in isolation, while the wild population is being devastated by the recent emergence of devil facial tumor disease (that's a sad looking devil).  Trowunna was one of my highlights of our trip so far.  We didn’t just see devils, we got to pet one, hold a wombat and a ringtail possum, and hand-feed kangaroos.  We also saw an echidna at the park, who was doing his best impression of Papillon pacing back and forth along the wall.

Roos looking pretty casual, until we approached with food
Feeding roos

Echidna pacing back and forth, presumably working on his escape plan.
 Including the camels, stray dogs, and rat temple we saw in India, and the customs beagle that jumped up and sniffed my pack at the Christchurch airport, I’m pretty happy with the amount of animal encounters on this trip so far.  My goal for New Zealand is to see a kiwi.  We have 4 weeks to achieve this.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Half Way Along

This week, Michael and I realized that we had surpassed the half way mark on our adventure. Half way! It seems like a strange time, though. Walking the Great Wall seems both like yesterday, and forever ago. There’s just been so many things happen in between that it’s difficult to measure the time properly. And today we start in on a fresh new adventure. We’ve stepped into our 5th country – New Zealand – and into a 4 week long caravan road trip from Christchurch to the southern tip of the country and all the way up north to Auckland. Michael and I each have goals:


     Hike a tall glacial mountain

     See Hobbiton

     Watch a sheepdog trial

     Find some spectacular NZ wool (even though I truly don’t need any more yarn in my collection)

     Take a Mud Bath at Rotorua






     White Water Rafting


…I’m sure Michael has other goals but when we discuss our New Zealand needs, it mostly sounds like I’d like to be a granny and Michael would like to tempts the Gods of Water, Earth and Air.

There will be a happy medium achieved, I think.

Mostly, I’m really extremely looking forward to our campervan rental. I can’t wait to really set up shop in our traveling “home” (though it’s really just a glorified minivan), and to hit up a grocery store. I can’t wait to cook my own supper.  After all this time, making my own supper feels like a luxury!

Can I tell you about Christchurch? We’ve been here exactly one day, and it is not like anything I’ve ever seen before. After the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch was leveled. I remembered hearing about it on the news and seeing some crumbled buildings on tv, but after seeing this city in the flesh – three years after the earthquake – I certainly underestimated the magnitude of the disaster. Sure, there seems to be constant construction work going on; road work and cranes and support beams. But walking around the downtown core, you’d think you were in a ghost town. “Oh look! A Starbucks!....oh wait. It’s closed.” Most of the buildings are either so visibly damaged that of course there wouldn’t be a shop in it anymore, or else they have enough structural damage that the shopkeeper needed to board up the windows and leave anyway. Most of the tourist spots in downtown are now centred around the post-earthquake life. We visited a shopping district called Re:Start. It’s made up of colourfully painted shipping containers and houses everything from tourist souvenir shops to cafes (we ate breakfast in an upstairs window!) and Lululemon. It’s clearly an area that’s vibrant with locals who want to reclaim their city.We also visited a museum which explained Christchurch’s experiences with the disaster and their drastic (but slow moving) plans for rebuilding. We walked past the crumbled Christchurch Cathedral (amongst others), and found ourselves at a pop-up arts and community centre called the Pallet Pavillion. Hundreds of blue-painted pallets are stacked up tall to form walls, and inside you can get a coffee or a beer and snacks and watch local artists perform, or join an open mic night, or participate in a local dance troupe’s jig! We left just before an activity which would have involved about twenty xlyophones…

Around Christchurch Cathedral
With so many empty spaces where commercial buildings used to be, Christchurch is doing a fairly good job at keeping the city “full.” They insert art pieces or murals. They give restaurant licenses to people who want to open up a burger joint out of a couple of parked city buses. They construct temporary performance spaces and keep plenty of the barricades colourful! It’d be a grey place to live if not for these interesting additions. Though, it does seem like most people have moved away from downtown. Like I said – for the most part, it looks like a ghost town. (I’m told there’s a “new downtown” somewhere, and I assume that’s where most of the shops and restaurants and people have gone to). I definitely think that this will be an excellent place to revisit in 10 years.

Our swanky bus-shaped dinner spot
 But I haven’t written anything about Tasmania yet, have I?!

I’ll put it in another post very soon. I was sadly absent from the interwebs in Tasi as most of our lodging either didn’t have internet or wanted to charge us actual money for the use of the WWW. Pfft. Here’s a teaser: