Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lisa's Place

Well the photos won't upload and Penny is still working away so I might just tell a story. Not one of ours but of someone we met and stayed with, a lovely Danish-Australian lady, Lisa from Tapaktuan.

Ironically it was hot at Air Dingin (water cold). We had read about the waterfall of the seven surges and some bungalows for hire and had peeled out of the minibus at the little village on the outskirts of Tapaktuan where the mountains met the sea.

The lady at the ubiqutous toko selling coke and chippies didn't know anything about bungalows but from what we could gather some autralians had been staying down the road. Penny and Elo went to investigate while I tried to keep the monitor lizards away from the packs. They came back pretty stoked that there was an artist lady staying down the road who had a big room we could stay in.

Lisa has been living in Indonesia for just under 20 years since her marriage broke down and the Egyptian boyfriend didn't work out. She lived first at the tourist and magic mushroom hub of Lake Toba before moving to the soothing waters of the Indian Ocean where she eeks out a living selling the occasional painting and having occasional visitors.

Now days its just tourists that her or her Indonesian friend Ferida spot from the deck, or meet in town where Ferida sells clothes. But back from the late 90's through to the Tsunami her home was often occupied by elements of both government and rebel forces who fancied the western luxuries and elevated position for monitoring the road below. She still recieves regular visits from the police and intel who sit on the deck and stare wistfully out to sea.

Lisa remembers the day the army turned its machine gun on her house and raked it with bullets. She shows us the scar on the wall and tells of Feridas outrage. Then there was the rebel leader, the one who became famous for his disguises, dressing up as a doctor to smuggle his wounded comrade into the Banda Aceh hospital, or as an old man with a hunchback to bypass army checkpoints. The locals reckon he could be at two places at once, Lisa doesn't know where else he was when he called at her house one night to have his photo taken with the foreign lady.

Philip the squirrel has a body double too. He climbs the nearest coconut tree while Philip plays in the nutmeg beside the deck. Philips double chases the lizards but he never catches them. While Philip can jump from one coconut tree to another by sliding down leaves and leaping out he can't glide from trunk to trunk like those freaky lizards. Its a shame we can't ask Philip what he thought of the conflict or indeed the tsunami which brought an end to it.

He would proabably have preferred the tsunami to dodging bullets. In Tapaktuan the tsunami only manifested itself in a high tide compared to the devastation north in Meulaboh and south in Singkil. The people have a theory that they were protected by the giant of Tapaktuan who gave permission to the initial settlers to inhabit the area. Those with keen eyes saw the shaft of his spear protuding from the bottom of the harbour as the tide receded revealing the reefs and coastline before flooding back in.

Ferida headed north when the Tsunami hit to try and find her brother. Travelling with teachers from her village on a fishing boat they sailed into death. What looked like coconuts bobbing in the sea were corpses and when they reached Banda Aceh bodies were stacked in the street. The black water had cooked the victims if the rushing water hadn't drowned them. A terrible detail omitted from the western media.

Before the tsunami the road had been quite, even before the martial law, but now the road was widened and the trucks of aid to the affected areas were continuous once temporary bridges were set up. At this time cellphone towers were set up on all the vantage points and the telcoms moved in changing Aceh forever. Now everyone has a cellphone (very few have landlines) amd the cell phone shops are outnumbered only by the toko's. Then everyone got a scooter and now the traffic is continuous. To escape the noise you must cross the road to the beach and the coarse coral sands of the Indian ocean.

Lisa doesn't leave the house much now, with Feridas cooking you don't need to. we were treated to all sorts of goodies pancakes, cakes, fruit salads, yoghurt, as well as quality fish, coconut and the pungent durian. Scheming how to stay in the country, art and appreciating life now take up all her time, its amazing what you can see from your deck. Visit them for the real story!! Contact nurlisa99@hotmail.com

Tello Bound

Hey, we arrived yesterday in Gunung Sitoli on the island of Nias! Below are the final moments of our journey with the girls on the foredeck where we spent much of the time watching islands fade into the ditance and flying fish skim across the ocean swells

Since the last post we have travelled down the west coast of Sumatra to Singkil then caught some lovely little boats through the Banyak Islands.

The big news today is that Elo left us, catching the ferry to go and check out some more tourist stuff in Sumatra before flying back to NZ in a few days. Heres a photo (maybe) of our celebratory beer last night.

This was our first incidentally since they are not so strictly Muslim over here, and its definitely not as bad as the sharia law we encountered in Blankjeren where Penny was reduced to this...

Elo's leaving prompted a splurge of reading with Penny and I respectively finishing Tim Flannery's Future Eaters and Romeo Dallaire's memoirs of the Rwandan massacre "Shaking Hands with the Devil". The reviews are lined up to be blogged along with Fisks "Great War of Civilisation" which I finished just before we left. Next on the list are Elo's books, one on Benazir Bhutto, the other by John Raulston Saul about reason or something...then we will be reduced to the free downloads I have on my computer...all pre 1920...

The doctor PK is working with has a website www.troppodoc.com He is currently in Burkina Faso which sounds desperate. But we are looking forward to meeting him he seems like quite a dynamic character. A recent adventure of his was rescuing a paralysed surfer from the island of Siberut, this involved flying his little chopper over 50kms of open water twice and dealing with the consequences of it being unlicensed and interesting read.

Will try and sort out some photos and more trip reports now, but if I fail take care aye and have fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Buses, Guides and Orangutans

Penny, Elo and I are now in Blangpidie on the West Coast of Sumatra. We travelled from the highlands of Takengon today down to sea level and passed through the Tsunami affected area near Meulaboh. Apart from the fallow land near the sea and the rows of quickly aging identical houses it was hard to see the devastation that happened there five years ago.

Since the last blog we have spent time travelling through the middle of Aceh, two days each in Berastagi,Ketambe and Kedah then two days travelling with a stopover in the very disappointing highland lake town of Takengon.

The ongoing theme of our travels has been our relationships with the various guides, touts and rip off merchants that we have encountered. The genuine Efan and charismatic Dr Smiley from Berastagi, the driver Marco who drove us to Kutacane eventually after our lights broke down. All the people in Ketambe who tried to guide us and make us pay for stuff we didn't need to, especially Umar who followed us to Kedah and made us miss the roadside hot spring. Mr Jally in Kedah who struggles on trying to resurrect his guiding business shattered by the conflict in Aceh and one suspects the decline of the "hippy trail", not to mention Mr Happy Happy his assistant who walked bare foot through the jungle carrying food for us and got a rash.

Dr Smiley, Marco and Efan

Mr Jally and Mr Happy Happy making us rustic Mie Goreng

The highlight for me has been our independent jungle experience in Ketambe, wandering around finding our way to the bat cave, the hot spring, various monkey feeding trees and swimming spots before finally encountering some real life orangutans.We stayed at Pak Mus guesthouse in Ketambe a steal at 40,000 rupiah per night for a room, an outside bathroom and shower (showers being pouring the scooper over your head instead of into the toilet to flush it).

yes, there are obvious comparisons

Aceh was locked off from Western tourists while the civil conflict was intensified and the effect on the local tourism industry is still obvious, they are desperate for every dollar you have. Better try and post this, the internet is dodgy as, nowhere near good enough for photos which are accumulating....take care.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To Indonesia

Wow Medan, Wow Indonesia.

I had sussed out that if you avoided the taxis in the airport and walked out the gate the transport was half the price, yeah ok, but try finding the gate with 20 or so uniformed taxistas trying to attract your friendship. We did it though, a small victory, a motorised rickshaw to the centre of town for 15,000 rupiah, or approximately $2.50. Penny and I and all our gear managed to weigh the little vehicle down so much that our first experience of Medan traffic was a breeze as we got barely above running pace. No photos unfortunately but here's one of Penny and Elo on the rickshaw getting out of Medan.

That was the last of our little victories for the day. Dropped off in the town centre with no language skills and no ideas our first task was to cross the road. A continuous stream of traffic ranging from bicycle rickshaws to motorised rickshaws to crapped out minibusses to the ubiqutous dark SUV's with tinted windows was peppered with racing super scooters. Two white people with big packs conspicuous on the side of the road, “where you going mister, I take you there” Haha as if we knew!! Beaten we spied that travellers haven, McDonalds, and retreated to make a plan and learn a few words of Bahasa Indonesian.

Judging by our map there were a few hotels just up the road, and armed with a few words like thank you “terima kasih”, berapa “how much” and hebat “great” we set off with some trepidation. The staff at hotel sumatera spoke no english to speak of but given the context managed to work out we wanted a room, the only available been a twin deluxe and an economy the latter no doubt proposed to shock us into taking the deluxe. Imagine their confusion when we booked both as Elo was flying in that evening!

Since it was still only 9.30 in the morning we had to build up the courage to venture back into crazy land We aimed for the tourist information centre a couple of blocks away and eventually found its abandoned shell with a few grimy posters in front of the counter and a wrecked room with the plumbing exposed behind. Ok, we can live with that. We decided to keep wandering and quickly got ourselves lost, or at least geographically challenged by the filthy river grotting its way between the ramshackle homes. The citizens of Fendalton might not be quite so pleased with their riverfront aspects if we turned the Avon into the cesspit witnessed here.

Eventually we found our way to the Sultans Palace which has very little to commend it except that the giant chandiliers use eco-bulbs. Tired and hot we tried to buy some smoothies but totally blew it. We didn't ensure clean water was used, and not knowing either way probably insulted the lady many times trying to find out, to add insult to injury we didn't have any small change to pay..... Beaten again we retreated to the hotel. Our afternoon hibernation broken only by my brief shopping expedition during which I managed to find a nice peaceful supermarket to find some easy food.

Our wills broken we resorted to hotel taxi to get to the airport to pick Elo up. Medan International Airport is something else. A terminal for a city of 2 million people that doesn't have an arrivals board or really a terminal, at least not for those waiting who are left to the merciless pursuit of the taxistas (thats just what I call them, the indonesian equivalent of mafiaso's.) We escaped this time to our first nasi goreng, a reassuringly familiar menu item. Eventually Elo did miraculously appear and we usshered her away from the insistent hordes to the waiting taxi and hotel.

Next morning we rushed out of the hotel and subjected ourselves to the plans of a rickshaw driver to get us to the village of Berastagi on the Karo highlands. His plan involved a scenic cruise to a mysterious taxi stand and a bit of a wait and noodles before what was one of the most amazing little car rides i've been on. From the steaming human infested plains of Medan we wound our way up onto a high plateau, the changes in lifestyle dictated by altitude was fascinating. Here are my thoughts recorded from ym journal, I gave up trying to take photos, as they seldom look good from a car.

“humans are a plague, humanity is a solution...humans fight to occupy every available niche at the fringes of their society, we are predators and parasites and herbivores and viruses”

“the kids came to our window, braving the traffic and sang us a tune, they weren't old enough to go to school yet, it is tempting not to look, we gave them cookies”

“the boy lay on the side of the busy road, covered in filth. He lay in a ditch, an indonesian ditch, his genitals exposed to the world”

“what did the rick little Indonesian boy sitting on his fathers lap think when he saw the boy on the side of the road?”

“dogs in sacks in a pile on a trailer”

“one big massive fat lady in a double rickshaw chases pigs in a basket on the back of a bicycle”

“we're going (through) bananas”

“pungas for sale”

“into the jungle, durians for sale, flying foxes in cages, people swimming in the river”

“everywhere you see the importance these people place on the importance of cleanliness in themselves and their possessions...”

“and then into the lattitude of the basket weavers”

“Green Hill City, themepark and Mikies Funland”

“drag race with a pluttering truck up through a hamlet with a burdened bus bearing down on us”

“people spend a lot of quality time with their friends here”.

We alighted in Berastagi, enjoying the cooler air at altitude (about 1200 I think) and spotted a tourist information centre, where they spoke English! It made it so easy, we booked a volcano tour for the next day

(ok running out of time now chocolate pancakes await. We climbed both the volcanoes around Berastagi, Sibayak and Sin???, now we are about to head off towards Ketambe in Gunung Leuser, a 6 hour ride in local transport we plan to see the jungle, orangutans, Sumatran Rhinoceros etc, although will haveto be on our toes to sight the latter. May not be on internet again for a while, but will try and upload photos etc when possible. J)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Singapore, What we got up to.

I'm sitting in Changi Airport right now, enjoying the free wireless and watching over the gear as Penny sleeps. Two days ago we were in this same viewing mall watching the action on the tarmac, only then it was raining hard and all the little men in yellow vests were working extra hard to service the planes and avoid getting wet. Inside, this is a sheltered corner of the terminal where people come to wait and sleep. At first glance the long room seems empty, but then as your eyes adjust you realise that huddled figures lurk or slump around the periphery of the room. The atmosphere was reminisicent of a cloudy morning once on the summit of Mt Fuji, where I found myself surrounded by a silent circle of Japanese waiting for the sun to rise (which it never did). This time though the silence wasn't broken by the bells of the line of pilgrims nearing the summit but by the snorting, farting, clucking and scratching of a dozen strange men as we tried to doze off. Early yesterday morning we headed off on our mission into Singapore, changing some currency and buying a pass for the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) Train system. Alighting from the MRT at Lavender and being very careful not to fall from the parapet (they use very elegant English in Singapore) we first checked out the ethnic business quarters of Arab Street and Little India. Before heading to the upmarket Orchard Rd shopping district before finally a strolll around the waterfront and Chinatown where our backpackers was located. Actually in the middle there somewhere we popped back out to the airport to have a coffee with Zoe as she came through on the way back from Europe to Darwin, or more particularly the remote aboriginal community of Wamena where she is currently based. The backpackers was an interesting concept, 12 people packed into a room with no windows, a hallway to the outside world in which there was the basics of the kitchen and a small bathroom where as far as I could make out you pulled the shower curtain to stop the toilet getting wet (the toilet being the only thing behind the showe curtain. We met several other travellers including a Canadian couple who have recently been travelling through Indonesia and enjoyed it muchly. The owner was quite a character, but discussion of his stories will have to wait for a future post when I have got my head a bit more around the phenomenon of Singapore. This morning we rose leisurely, as surprisingly did all of the other 10 people in the room, perhaps the lack of windows had something to do with it. Packing and saying our good buys we headed off to find a bus to catch thinking about heading out west and looping back to the zoo. We got a few stops before I espied a cable car strung between a skyscraper and a little hill. A scenic ride was in order, not so much for the scenery but more to get the hell out of the city for a while and try to gain some wider spatial context on the crazy city. Having purchased some tickets we ascended the skyscraper to catch the cable car which looped not only to Mt Faber but also to the resort island of Sentosa.

There was a massive building site on the city side of Sentosa, I had a little google to see what they were up to:

Back on our feet and we decided we better head for the Zoo to make the most of it. When i was a kid my grandparents had visited Singapore Zoo and came away with a souvenir book which we had ended up with. It was a pretty cool book with lots of exotic animals, so I was quite excited to get there. Its a pretty special place, I started writing a list of the animals we saw: mouse deer, siamang (a Sumatran gibbon), a false gharial (like a crocodile thingy), otters, tapir, babiruska (a feral feral pig), white tiger, pygmy hippo, but I tired of that pretty quickly, a couple of the highlights were the baboons, talk about planets of the apes! (I wonder if humans had butts like that when we all lived in Africa and if it was sore! ) and the fragile rainforest dome complex where we could walk through the bush with ringtailed lemurs, 2 toed sloths, tree kangaroos, flying foxes as well as lots of colourful birds and butterflies, giving us various degrees of space.

The final highlight was some real wildlife action. I was watching a dragonfly cruising around and then it got wasted by a leaping lizard, which then posed for a photo. Back into town and the plan was checking out the well regarded Asian civilisations museum, but it was getting a little late to justify the entry fee so that will have to wait for next time. The consolation was the impromptu joining of a running race round the riverfront. Penny wasn't up for it in her sandles but I had a blast running with a whole heap of Singaporean harriers, pretty similar to NZ runners with all the club gear and stuff but mostly way younger. Then it was time to make our way back to the airport via a food court of two and a couple of interesting glasses of juice "bitter gourd, pineapple and honey" and "pearly banbang and soya". The former definitely won the taste and appreciation test. We found a real nice spot to leave Singapore city itself. Raffles station in the evening is full of people sitting around soaking up the atmosphere in the cooling temperatures, listening to music and watching the flashing billboards of the skyscrapers. Tomorrow early we are off to Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia and are expecting a much different world.

Grampians and Beyond

Hey!! We're now in Melbourne airport(well a few days ago) having cruised down from Ballarat today through paddocks of snow. We are waiting for Tiger Air to take us towards the lands of the tiger.

Last blog finished up in Warrnambool at a great little backpackers. We met several fellow tourists “ridesharing” around Australia. Mental note to remember this technique along with “couch surfing” and cheap van hire as affordable ways to travel.

The Warrnambool beach backpackers came with complimentary bike hire, so up we got at sunrise and zoomed around the scenic local headlands and beaches. First up was Thunder point where Penny found her thunder thighs to be goose pimpled in the crisp morning air (foolish girl). Then as the sun rose we headed towards the breakwater. A cool little story is that of Middle island, which has a resident population of Marmena chicken dogs. These golden shaggy dogs originally from Italy have been imported to protect the local population of little penguins from fox predation (neat aye!)

As has become my technique I photographed the sign and interpretative information for later reading, the wonders of the digital age.

Further round the coast, past the towns sandy beach and across the Hopkins river, where we saw a big pelican land with a splash, is the Logans Beach Whale Nursey and viewing platform where you can see Southern Right Whales with their calves throughout the winter months. A mother and her calf were sifting around just out past the breakers, not easily photographed. Awesome to see though and I had a big yarn with the local whale man about the New Zealand Right Whales, including the population that calve in the Auckland Island's Port Ross, which he was interested to learn about.

Back in the car we had a brief look around Tower Hill, a wildlife sanctuary situated just outside of Warrnambool in a massive volcanic crater, pretty cool idea, sort of like jurassic park without the veloco-raptors. The Grampians were north across the plains and it didn't take long to spot them in the distance, sharp teeth rising out of the vast plain. It being a nice day we decided to test our legs on one of the heinous fangs and finding a carpark began a steady climb up through eucalypts and wild flowers of red, white and pink. From the carpark it was a steady 25 minutes to the ridge, then 20 further to the top of Mt Abrupt with its crazily crennellated summit rock formation. A wedge tailed eagle soared off towards the spawling ranges of the Grampians to the north.

The indigenous people of the area, the Jardwadjali, recognise the eagle as Bunjil, a great ancestor spirit. These people have occupied this part of the Grampians (or Gariwerd) for 1600 generations!! Feeling a bit weary after our descent we cruised through to Halls Gap to meet Zane, Lindyl, Scarlett and Charlie at the very plush accomodation we had booked. It was great to see them rock up, a big full family car! A couple of cute little magpies missioning around in their his and hers dressing growns.

The next day I made my first blunder of the holiday, locking the keys in the car :-( Luckily the rental agreement included roadside rescue so an hour or so later the man turned up and sorted it out for me, unfortunately though soon after the rain came and the babies had to be rested, the window of opportunity for sightseeing had been lost, despair, disaster, idiot. We had a go later in the day driving to the Balconies look out in the Grampians mist and howling rain, the kids had their little cheeks tested by the lashing winds and rain as we peered through the clouds, rewarded only by a rainbow. Cabin fever. Flight of the Conchords. Yarning with Zane and Lindyl about old times and new. Trying to define tourism and travellers.

It is hard always catching up with people, sometimes new histories need to be created. But always awesome to see people, and just like the ahi ka with places, to keep those fires burning.

Leaving Halls Gap yesterday we headed west briefly checking out the lovely McKenzie falls.

Then heading to the extreme north of the Grampians we stumbled our way up the bedrock massif of Mt Staplyton, and found chicken rock, it was a great view from the top back towards the misty mountains and out over the neverending plain to the north. The final climb to the summit was through a maze of ledges and as we summitted we disturbed a pair of falcons, who use this rocky throne to wreak havoc on their citizens below.

Then it was back in the white beast and on the way back to Melbourne, passing through showers and long slow undulations of dirt and eucalypts. We decided on Ballarat to stay the evening, splashing out on a backpackers again as Penny is trying to finish an audit for her paediatric course. Ballarat is a town obsessed with its past, maintaining facades (literally) of goldrush glory. Once you see past this it has a distinct dingy feel. Sort of like Dunedin if all you had was the city centre and South Dunedin without the beach. We had a romantic meal of fish and chips on the floor of our room next to the heater.

And to be honest, apart from the paddocks of snow encountered between Ballarat and Melbourne thats about it. Looking forward to the next step of the journey. As I speak Penny has just booked us flights from Singapore to Medan on the 11th (bit of a wuss out compared to my original ferry plan) which means we have two days to explore the history and food of Singapore.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Melbourne Airport

Yo, blog to come, in Melbourne Airpot right now, can't upload stuff. All going good, looking forward to heading to Singapore where we are spending a couple of days.

funny airport moments:

(from ages ago)...to information guy..."where's the checkin?"

...information guy... "chicken?"

(from the other day)....information lady ...."popular airline that one"

...Penny... "did she say popular hairline!"

Sweet, take care

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Great Ocean Road

Great start to our holiday (I know my life is a holiday but this is different!).

We flew into Melbourne yesterday evening and breezed through customs with all our drugs....those being anti-malarial, anti-biotic and anti all sorts of stuff. The plan was to get out of town quickly in our big uly white car we have hired and make tracks towards the northern end of the Great Ocean Road. By 8.30ish Australian we were ready to find somewhere to sleep. For once we played hard, turning down a couple of holiday parks that didn't meet our strict criteria of cheapness and friendliness. We eventually found a great little backpackers in Anglesea.

We woke on New Zealand time and decided to use the opportunity to see a sunrise. Breakfast was fruity bix on a boat ramp gazing out into the Southern Ocean. We couldn't quite work out where the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and for that matter the Indian all merge, but the Aussies seem convinced this is the Southern Ocean. The local headland is known as “Roadknight Point”, perhaps asking for trouble, but an awesome place. A wedge of gummy rocks stretches out into bay. At its point the rock has been worn down flat and the waves crash in flinging spray on the rock that slides off in a series of miniature rapids and waterfalls.

The Great Ocean Road (GOR) was created as a memorial to the soldiers of the first world war, and perhaps also reading between the lines as a project for the unemployed during the Great Depression, ala Milford Road in New Zealand. We headed off down this labour of love which winds between heath covered headlands and lush valleys with beach settlements backing onto rainforest. We had a brochure from the backpackers advertising the attractions of a guided tour in the region so thought we would try our luck “viewing wild koalas at Kennett River”. Our first attempt saw us assessing the villages constructed wetland designed to protect the local estuarine environment, informative but not really what we were after! So it was with some scepticism we headed up a gravel road signposted “koalas”, surely it wouldn't be that easy. But round the first bend two round bundles of fluff were spotted, live koala! Or were they just stuffed ones planted by enterprising locals, they weren't moving and surely koalas don't just sit there like owls put through a dryer? But further exploration revealed another 20 odd koala in the vicinity and the occasional one moving. Pennys favourite was a little cutie, down low enough that she could take a decent photo.

Moving on we paused for hot drinks in Apollo Bay, a pleasant seaside town with a big flat sand beach and lots of shops. The GOR continued in earnest after this but we decided to take a little diversion, to the beech forest, or at least the town called Beech Forest in the middle of the Otways. We stumbled really across a couple of the local tourist attractions Hopetoun and Triplet falls by following our nose through some groovy dirt roads in the rainforest.

Our diversion saw us at the top of a big plateau above the ocean drained by the Aire River. This catchment has one of the highest rainfalls in Victoria and is quite similar in character to native bush say in the Rotorua area except that instead of podocarps it has massive eucalypts towering above the lower canopy. We followed this river back down to the GOR and watched the vegetation change to the dryer, wind battered coastal scrub. I am reading Tim Flannery's Future Eaters at the moments which discusses at some depth the Australian ecosystem, the challenges faced by it and its uniqueness. The amazing insights he has includes the way the bush here operates not on a seasonal cycle but on a random cycle dictated by the El Nino phenomenon, Australia demonstrates the evolution of an ecosystem in a cycle of drought and deluge, and how resource scarce environments can encourage high levels of biodiversity as species specialise in energy deficient niches. Interesting stuff anyway to think about as we go around this first part of our journey.

Back down at the GOR, PK went for a run from Castle Cove towards Johannas while I strolled around taking photos and stopping myself devouring the left over Subway and peanut butter sandwiches which we ate for lunch when she returned. Endorphins released and hunger satiated we set back off along the GOR towards the series of classic coastal erosion examples epitomised by the Twelve Apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge and the Bay of Martyr's. Somehow from the peace and quiet of early in the day the road quickly became a zoo as the tourist buses centred in on the percieved highlight of the GOR. There really is only so much coastal erosion one can handle, its kind of like crappy biscuits the returns diminish quickly, especially when sugar levels are low :-)

But yeah great day, and looking forward to tomorrow which should see us, mtbing around Warrnambool using the complimentary bikes from our backpackers, exploring the local environment and nearby beaches before striking inland to the mighty Grampian mountains where in the hamlet of Halls Gap we should meet with Zane, Lindyl, Charlie and Scarlett, awesome.

Take care, out there.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The time has come...

On the road again starting today! Tonight we will all going well be in the vicinity of Torquay on the great ocean road. Our trip begins with a 5 day visit to Australia centred on some time in the Grampians with Zane, Lindyl, Scarlett and Charlie...can't wait to meet the twins.

The last month or so has been a blur, not through busyness by any means, but trying, largely fruitlessly, to distill some meaning or values from experiences of the last year or so. Penny and I start of this next adventure on a good footing having recently got engaged (after 7 1/2 years it still means a lot to commit privately and publically to living the rest of our lives together). We have managed to sort out the fundamentals of our wedding in January which will be great fun.

Yesterday we had a nice walk up onto the Craigeburn range above Castle Hill, great to be on some steepish country with an amazing view. We had ordered a ring for Penny from a local silversmith which I gave her at the top, almost a second engagement moment!

Although we are lucky to have the opportunity to go away it is sad to be be leaving Christchurch. Although many of our friends are going or gone already it has been great for me living with Lara, Matt and Andy J for the last six months. We look forward to seeing them in Sweden this September. And of course family, Mum, Dad, Sam, and Grandparents all here in Christchurch with Gemma doing a fantastic job teaching over in Westport. The transitory life has its drawbacks.

Nevertheless to the road we go...