“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

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.