Friday, March 31, 2006

What To Choose?

I was reading the SMH last night and I flicked over to the TV section and my eyes wandered onto to Doug Anderson's reviews for the day. First up was Getaway where he took a great swipe at all the "jaded people who have been there and done that - the indulgent drearies" - who would want to watch this show.

This was brilliant Anderson at his best. I love his scathing, bitter reviews, it is almost like he has a personal grudge against all of TV's usual suspects. He didn't disappoint when he went to town on one of the shows featured destinations, Las Vegas - "global capital of inanity, greed and pathetic excuses", "Nevada's neon armpit". I was smiling to myself until I read the last sentence "just the spot if you fancy your chances in the program's $50,000 photo competition". Hang on, now this was something to take notice of.

Looking at the clock, it was 7:30, so I put another Kerry vs Little Johnny debate to one side and flicked over to the indulgent drearies channel. And so I proceeded to sit through Catriona yacking about driving through the Cotwolds (hmm .. I have to admit I have been there and done that), some new bloke driving us around the McClaren Valley (hah haven't done that) and then the garish Las Vegas segment, which I skipped and turned over to the ABC for. Finally at the end of the one hour long advert for Virgin Blue there was the photo competition info, all I had to do was upload any photo I have taken on their website. I should of guessed.

But what photo? Checking the site to see if it had anymore info to help it just says you can enter as many as 5 photos per person. Yeah but of what. What wins a competition like this?

I have a stack of photos from all over the place and now I need to find the best 5 that might win the Getaway muppet's hearts.

Taking a quick sqizz through my collection I am wondering if something like the following might do it? Covering all sorts of bases from awesome nature pics to humanity photos. Whatd'ya reckon?

Tourist Nuns
A nice pic of some nuns outside of Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Gullfoss waterfall
The might of nature at the Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland.

Xian cyclists nap
A humorous pic of a cyclist taking a nap in Xian, China.

Mongolian Yak Herder
Nicely framed dust pic of a yak herder doing his job in Mongolia.

Goroka Show 1
Or another humorous pic of a Goroka man in his sing sing bilas finery and a ciggie hanging out of his mouth.

I have heaps more, but the choice is hard.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lost For A Bit (or how to survive unemployment)

Since being back in the country again I have had a bit of time. What does one do:

a) Plan some future travel.

b) Catch up on some movies you have copied off a mate.

c) Plan some more travelling, buy a guide book.

d) Watch a few episodes of Lost, that you have copied off same mate.

e) Go for long walks through nearby areas.

f) Watch more of Lost.

g) Book some flights abroad.

h) Watch some more again of same TV show .. in fact watch the entire first season .. all 25 episodes @ 42 minutes each .. which = 17.5 hours.

i) Get out to the family farm.

j) Go fishing with your sisters rod down at the river.

k) Catch nothing but some small flappers .. throw them back.

l) Start watching second season of Lost.

m) Go for a hike up a hill on the farm.

n) Take some photos of the countryside you grew up in.

o) Watch some more of the bloody TV show.

p) Finally finish off all the episodes you have on your computer.

q) Be content that you are about six episodes up on the rest of the country and did not have to watch one commercial for it.

r) Contemplate reading a book for the first time in 3 months.

s) Forget book and instead watch a Super 8 movie transfered to DVD of my fathers journey through central Australia in the 60's (complete with him rolling his car in bulldust .. visiting Alice Springs .. climbing Ayres Rocks .. rolling car again and destroying roof .. throwing smashed roof away at the rubbish tip .. driving 800 km back home with no windscreen or roof).

t) Realise where I get some of my adventurous nature from.

u) Think about a trip to Alice Springs and Uluru.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Travel Fix

Oh mama. What a year I have set up for myself. Wandered into a Flight Centre office yesterday and wandered out close to 3,000 bucks lighter. Once they start telling you there are only two seats left on a certain flight you want to take, you start to get a bit cash happy.

These travel agencies have their uses, occasionally. I find it rather daunting heading into one though. Their walls covered in brochures. Set holidays off to beaches or resorts. Pictures of good looking people in fabulous settings. Instead of making me want to head off to these places, it makes me want to head in the other direction.

And so I am off in the wrong direction and you can forget that last post. Buying the SE Asia Lonely Planet was a bad idea. It flipped my travel plans on its head. Once I flicked to the best time to travel section and found out my idea of being mid year through the region was at odds with a certain weather phenomenon called the monsoon. Doh. Being in the rain for a few months can pass until the monsoon finishes at least towards the end of the year.

Sitting in the Flight Centre I scoured the walls of brochures and thankfully couldn't see my now changed destination on any covers. With SE Asia on the back foot in my mind I wanted to head somewhere I had never been or at least with a dash of the familiar to begin with. I was quickly purchasing a three month return trip to Eastern Europe and Turkey with a stopover and option for another three months in SE Asia on the way back.

Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, even Moldova and Ukraine are on the cards. Istanbul is first up though. Somewhere I have been before and loved. The large chunk between that old city and Western Europe was a void I had been wanting to fill. I am now getting round to it.

The previous furthest east I had got was to Vienna. A trip at that time to Budapest was thought about, but back in those days a visa was needed to Hungary and just about everywhere else in the east. Bloody Aus passport. Nowadays though, thank you mr European Union. Everywhere is almost visa free it has all opened up like a tin of beluga caviar.

But my plans are not all Transylvanian castles, tacky Black Sea beach resorts or sipping Turkish tea. Before all that starts in June I am off on another mini adventure. A little round trip for a month through Australia's closest neighbours. I head to East Timor for a week or so and for their independence day in May and then back again through Indonesia to Papua and then back over the border to PNG again.

Yes I am heading back to PNG. I just can't shake the place. There are people to catch up with and a couple of places that I haven't been, to visit.

Until that kicks off though, I need to fill in the next month. A trip to Melbourne will help in a weeks time. And then perhaps some more travel through Oz. I have never seen Uluru. Why not.

I have said previously I am travel junkie. This year should help me get my fix. Stay tuned.

Instanbul Delivery Istanbul Bread Seller
Scenes from Istanbul, 2002

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Got It

Been hanging out for a while for this. Latest hot off the press edition. And I even picked it up today with a 20% off. Nice steal. Although Borders tried to hide it on the floor out of sight behind all the two year old editions stocked on the shelves.

I was a bit surprised to discover it. I checked a few weeks ago on the LP website for the upcoming titles and it wasn't included. But I knew it would be coming out as the old one is two years old and LP are pretty regular on a two rotation .. for their popular titles.

I guess this sort of gives it away as to where I am off to next. It has been planned for a long time .. a really long time .. before I even went to PNG .. and the time is now nigh. Can't wait. But where to first? A couple of people and places I want to catch are throwing spanners in the works. Things will sort themselves out. I just have to wrap my head around all the logistics of the plan first.

There are also a couple of other things I am waiting on .. but they now seem less likely.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Back Home

A couple of great weeks have past. There was the trekking I have already mentioned (sore heels and fantastic views, rain and snow, tents and huts) and then there was a small tour off to the very south of New Zealund to round it out.

We trouped off to Stewart Island for a couple of worthwhile days, passing straight through tarmac loving Invercargill where I had just enough time to pick myself up some new shoes that didn't hurt. The weather, as it always seems in that part of the world, was touch and go. Our first night on the island was just rain .. and some more rain. It didn't stop us wandering around the town trails up until the evening twilight hit around 9pm. We got very wet in the process but it meant that we got a free feed when we ventured into a local pizza shop and got talking to some locals and long termers, a couple of whom were American girls.

(Which brings me to ask, why are there so many yanks travelling around NZ and the majority of them, girls. Out of the two in the pizza place we got talking to one earlier in the day in a shop (who was a friend of the owner of the pizza place .. hence the free feed). But there were also Americans everywhere else we were. On the tracks. In the huts. In the campsites (some Californian girls there whom we cuddled up with on the first very cold night of the Routeburn .. sharing body warmth and all that of course the things you have to do .. photo below). And then there was also our hiking mate from Seattle, who turned out to have exactly the same track itinerary as ours. She was good value, and certainly not your average stereotypical burger munching fat American, in fact the complete opposite. Although she lived up to their ability to be able to talk, we heard all about her impending wedding preparations.)

Our second day on Stewart Island was spent kayaking around the large Paterson Inlet (great name) and taking along the fishing rods. We had originally planned on getting off the ferry from the mainland and kayaking on the first afternoon to a campsite, but the weather prevented that, so instead we made the most of just day tripping on the water.

I never really liked fishing before. Thinking it was particularly boring. It is when you don't get bites at least. But it is actually fun when you can just drop a line and get bites straight away and then just reel in fish after fish. This is what we did. Blue Cod after Blue Cod. It is also handy when you are travelling with someone with a degree and honours in aquaculture. You can get them to kill and fillet the things for you.

We were originally told by the local we hired the kayak off to stab the fish through the head after catching to stop the flap. That's not when you are with my mate, it takes too much time to wait for me to get my Swiss army knife out of my pocket. Just rip the heads half off with your bare hands. Effective. It made me laugh. Poor cod, taste good though. Pan fried with a herb batter and some chips from the local fish and chip shop. It was a good end to the day.

We picked up a car in Invercargill and headed off to have a sticky beak at Dunedin. Nice town. Lots of active people. Everyone seems to jog around and it is one hilly place. A tour of the Cadbury's factory was had. Quite a few samples to keep us awake for a few local brews at a pub to watch some of the Commonwealth games. Poor old Kiwis they try hard at least.

We rounded off the trip heading back to Queenstown to catch up with our Seattle friend and had a monster night out on the town for St Patricks day. What a riot. I haven't been in such a great night in years. In one pub we ended up in there was dancing on tables and on the bars. Guys were hanging from rafters. Everyone was going mad. It was a sore head for the trip home but a great way to round out a great couple of weeks.

Not happy campers Snow day

Alpine on top Fish destroyer

Phots on Flickr. Clockwise. Californian bird and me keeping warm (mother Hubbard look intentional). Third day on the Routeburn in the snow. My mate killing Cod fish. In the Alpine section of the Kepler track, the best hiking of the trip (the track can be seen wandering off like a ribbon on the ridge).

Monday, March 13, 2006

I Love My Boots .. Not

in Te Anau. just finished off another track. they just keep on coming and we keep on knocking them off. this time the Kepler. not too shabby. beautiful views from above the tree line and in the snow. the weather god has been kind this time and we only had a touch of rain on the first day. and then got to tramp (a kiwi term i hear) through the snow in the beautiful sun. to make it more difficult for us we decided to do it backwards to everyone else (or at least 99.5%) of people. those losers do it anti-clockwise so that they don't have to climb up a 900 metre steep incline on the 3rd morning. piece of cake. he says now. it was a tad struggle at the time. coupled with the fact that for some reason my boots have decided to turn into the devil incarnate and try to destroy my Achilles heels. bloody things. now that i have finished they are swollen and worse for wear. lucky i was tramping with a pharmacist to dispense the drugs. new things i have learnt is codine is good and so is ibuprofen. the bits before the drugs kicked in though were a punishing affair. hopping along the track.

about the track itself. 63km long. takes 4 days and 3 nights comfortably. staying in lovely monster sized huts (50+ people - bloody hell) this time. no tent. term-a-rest yet to be repaired. shame that. does mean that we had to put up with steam train snorers. last night was a beauty. my mate attacked our neighbouring peace destroyer with a weighted pillow slip. did the trick. but got the dirty looks this morning. he deserved it though. we should have been giving the looks.

ok next up is Stewart island for a sticky beak. and then back to Queenstown by Friday night for St. Patricks Day in the bars and Saturday fly back. doesn't time fly when you're having fun.

ramble over and out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Note From NZ

in the land of the long white cloud .. sending a quickie on one of these timed jobies. just finished the Routeburn Track this morning after two nights on it. was a great hike but only kinda short (32km) and bloody cold. they have it in for tent users over here. i think they think we are a tad crazy .. and they may be right. my term-a-rest last night blew a puncture and i was basically sleeping on the frozen ground without insulation. get up in the morning and it starts snowing. so we trekked through a wintery scape for the last stage. the previous two days were not snowing at least .. but we did get the wind and rain. and i am on holidays for this. guess it beats sweating like a maniac on the kokoda. we got the short end of the stick the first night on the track. a lovely roaring fire in the nearby hut and when we ventured in for a warm up from the howling rain the ranger kicked us out. 2nd class camper citizen. bastard. i was thinking of ways of revenge for the next day and a half. actually i have just stopped of the revenge. maybe cause i just got out of a hot shower.

currently in milford sound at a backpacker lodge. great spot. and they have laundry. the dirt is being removed from the trousers and the boots are in the drying room. off soon with my mate and a hike pal from the track to go and find the pub. a couple of beers would complete the return to normal. tomorrow a tourist trap venture off to see the fabled "sound" will report back if it is worth raving about and compares to the norway fjords. after that we are off to Te Anau and perhaps a bit more masochism on the Kepler track. it is a 4 day 3 night beast through an alpine terrain. can't wait. i think i will book into the huts though this time.

signing out from the blunt end of hiking and self flagellation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Where The Bloody Hell Am I?

The view from my office at the moment. The view that I have had for the last five and a half weeks. It hasn't been too bad seeing the Town Hall in the morning sun. But it is only for another two days. Yes I am making like a pack of ducks and getting the flock out of here. Again.

In two sleeps I will be winging my way to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Some hiking. Some sight seeing. Some adventure sports (could be a first time for a bungy jump?). And some chilling, will be on the agenda. All good. After that who knows. I will be on a free range.

This job currently about to end was to cover the costs and bills while I have been back in Oz, and allow me to see my new niece and catch up with family and friends. Mission accomplished there. But the next question is, where the bloody hell am I going to be next? Certainly I will be out of contact for a little while at least.

But just in case you care a tad more, you can check out what I have been looking at for the last few months on my flickr account where I have uploaded a stack of random photos, that perhaps or perhaps not mean something.

Take it easy.