Wednesday 4th January 2017
Very excited to be in Paris for the first time. It is a city of wonderment and I am in love.
This time of the year, I am filled with wanderlust - Mulled wine and ham and cheese, in an omelette.
I have been thinking today and overnight due to not being able to sleep about the future and what I want for the year, I absolutely this time of the year. It's my time to decide what to be for the year ahead. A time to have no set plan and to achieve small wins. All I wanted for this trip was to read books, wander, take photos, be warm, write and drink mulled wine, be inspired. Well dreams do come true. This time has been perfect.
It is enough to do what you want and as Tim Ferris reframed today instead of needing to decide what you want o what your purpose is. Instead do something more simple and follow what excites you.
So the theme of this trip is that these things for this time of year are to feed my heart, mind and soul with what excites me.
Sitting in St Germain in central Paris, sitting on the terrace, in a cute outdoor seating, writing and drinking mulled win, all snug with your red ridding hood coat, grey wool-socks, burgundy soft scarf and black leather gloves. Listening to the rain pitter patter the pavement and sirens pierce the air, noise, above the swish of traffic and the rough and husky french of passers by.
Remember this moment as a pure joy and flow state where you had a smile on your face as gluhwein glides silky down your throat and warms your rumbling tummy.
Thursday 5th January 2017.
It is what it is.
Today is a day that you wished to write so here we are, Paris is really blowing my mind. I'm not sure why, atmosphere and energy perhaps.
Walking around I have the notion that perhaps I should learn french. Next comes the part where you can work and live anywhere in the world doing that which you love.
Exploring some of what you want for the year it is to do a lot more writing. The year of 'you are the five people you surround yourself with' - so choose wisely. You are also what you read - so read lots (or little).
Maybe you were designed or destined to live in Paris. You love fashion, red wine, champage and red lips.
Sometimes relationships are hard to figure out. Maybe that's exactly the point and lesson, it is very much something where there is nothing to figure out. It quite simply is what is it. We often think and talk everyday about people. Sometimes we try figure out if that is weird or just fine. Often enjoyable, thinking and talking. Sometimes we are distracted by things and people, and appear to ruminate and dream. Where are the lines, and how do we know when they move? Or if they remain stationary and it is indeed ourselves that change.
Friendships are fulfilling when on the road,
Monday 18th January 2016
When It Rains, It Pours.
Lol when you wade through knee deep water sometimes more for 25 minutes in the pouring rain to get to the bus stop on time to catch your bus to the Atacama desert. What they don't tell you is that when it rains. The taxis don't go. Its pretty much impossible to drive in the street, because the streets become rivers.
Having to go for the last resort I pulled all my hair into a shower cap and dug into my backpack and actually found my cap. That'll keep the rain off my face. Put my gym pants on. First time I've worn pants in about 3 weeks. My trainers, bare arms. The hotel didn't have umbrellas so I got giant plastic rubbish bags and made a make shift rain coat. Put my backpack and small purse on. Put my sack on. Settled the bill and started my walk.
When I was trying to get them to order a taxi I didn't really understand. As soon as I got to the street I got it. It really was a river.
Everyone was stopped. Cars. People.
I just walked. Picking my feet up. Plunging into puddles. Keeping close to the side of buildings so I didn't sprain my ankle as I couldn't see what was underneath the water.
Plonk plonk. I carried my 12kg suit case in my arms. For pretty much the whole way. Lucky I've been working out. For the most part I stayed dry except for my legs and feet. All the technology stayed dry. Minus my watch which I found out is water resistant I think!
I also borrowed a small towel from the hotel, knowing that I was going to be wet.
It was a long journey. Wading. Just wading. I was so excited and exhilarated in the moment. It was really fun. I actually laughed out loud a lot. Especially when a) a car stopped working in the middle of the road and had to be pushed and b) a big ute drove past and sprayed water everywhere. It was like a shower of water.
The other thing that makes you laugh are the waves which come from the cars driving by. They rebound off the side of the buildings. I got a bit of a surprise the first time it happened already knee deep in water and well a wave to contend with. Over the head with the suitcase. Yikes.
Okay so on top of all of this. I have to make it to the bus stop before it leaves. Which involves wading through a shit load of water while carrying a lot of weight from 20kgs (laptop and wine in the back pack). So its raining and hard . There are rivers. And there is also thunder and lightning and its very close because we are in the mountains.
I made it. Very happy. A little wet. And had to find my bus. I got changed. Pleased with myself for my accomplishments and arriving.
Oh did I mention i'm sick? First time in over a year. I have the flu. I was worried about that. Being in the wet and cold with a cold . Hence all the above planning and then being on a bus for 11 hours. I arrived at the station. Found my bus. Went got changed. Wrapping my hat in my shower cap. And donning a another giant plastic bag which now half my belongings is in - wet.
Some of my clothes got wet from my suitcase. But they'll dry. I have dry clothes on.
So now I'm on the bus. Physically very fatigued. You lose your strength when your sick.
I went to the gym today, swam and also carried my suitcase for 25
minutes through puddles. Now couldn't be. Better time to be on a bus for 11 hours. To sleep. Yus.
Fuck yes. That was an adventure.
Thank god for wets wipes.
So the bus ride is quite the adventure. When you get on the bus and you're in a semi-cama make sure you put you seats down as soon as possible as as soon as someone points their bags down behind you you wont be able to get it to go down the full way.
I went to sleep straight away. Only to wake up to find the bus dripping and leaking on me. Haha the debacle continues especially as I'd made some a big effort to be dry.
I slept. Then i woke up. I couldn't breathe being sick and my nose blocked. I started struggling to get oxygen the higher we climbed into the mountains. The Atacama desert is high enough where you can certainly Get altitude sickness. Not to Mention the super windy roads that there are. It also got Super super colds. I didn't really have too much warm stuff because it was all Wet. I did bring my fo-down puffer jacket and had a Marino Wool cardi which I stole from mum. I was also listening to music, I put my phone against my chest. It was warm enough to keep my warm too. And sock. I did have socks. My ears were equalising or trying to the hole time. I feel foggy in general.
Crossing the border is a whole other story in itself. It took 3 hours. You don't really know whats going on the whole time.
Saturday 3rd May 2014
Kiwis and their connections. First impressions of Japan.
I was well ready for Japan when I left Bali, three weeks of sun, studying Bahasa Indonesia and working online had left me craving a place rich in culture and an amazing place that I hadn’t experienced yet.
I did what I usually do when travelling and boarded the plane last, leaving myself some great chances of scoring an entire row to myself, shuteye here I come.
Arriving in Japan was a little shocking. When I say everything is in Japanese and everyone speaks Japanese not English I found this a little surprising, you think of Japan as very very modern, one of the most advanced cities in the world, but the amount of English speakers around would well surprise you, especially if you have traveled through South-east Asia a lot where most people speak a little bit of broken english.
One of the first things I was how unemotional everyone at the airport was, more then usual. Not very friendly, just doing a job, and sticklers for the rules. Everything is by the book.
Your first decision is how to get to your accommodation, once you take a glance at the metro/train map you will quickly decide to taxi due to the sheer complexity of the transport system to foreigners and people with no internet no phones to use google transport as a guide. A taxi to Roppongi Hills from the Haneda Airport will set you back $90 NZ.
Tokyo is like you see on the movies, majestic, very Japanese (obvious) it doesn’t quite feel real until you see it in person. Yellow taxi cabs with automatically opening doors, tall buildings with kanji characters all over them and brightly lit neon signs.
My first outing in Japan was to the John Mayer concert with my friend Nadia who I meet in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam last year in February. It was great to see her again, a fuzzy, beautiful, energetic American-Argentinean princess who’s been living in Japan for about 3 years, is pretty fluent and could be asian if it wasn’t for her long brown hair and Argentinean curves. John Mayer is one of those people whose music you can listen to on repeat, I am actually listening to it right now as a write.
There were tens of thousands of people at the John Mayer concert, it was seated and I found most people there pretty un-emotive compared with my fellow kiwi and Australian counterparts who tend to go a little crazy at concerts. John was amazing, and Nadia was partial to shouting to him in the quiet time, “my body is your wonderland” and so on. I don’t think I’ve been to a better concert, he sounds better then his CD’s and we had great seats, huge thanks to Nadia.
My next experience of that night was to plonk myself in the center of Tokyo in one of the busiest places in the world - Shibuya, at the world’s most famous crossing. You wind down the back streets and look up to find hole in the wall Yakitori places so crammed full that people can’t come in or out, chugging on Asahi or Sapporo and smoking up a cho cho train. Honestly some places are so full of people and smoke you can’t see inside. We went to a little Yakitori place, seated by the window and proceeded to consume plum wine - delicious might I add and eat food on sticks. Yum.
Shopping in Tokyo is amazing, so many shops everything is cheap and well you know what Japanese Fashion is like, admired there many ensembles and how uber chic they look at all times. I’m not sure there are better looking people in the world. The Japanese have perfect features and perfect proportions. I picked up some great pieces and some food so I could finally start eating at the club as well as actually look the part for working for NZ technology companies.
One thing I have learned about Japanese business is that it’s all about who you know and how deep your relationships with those go. That is how business is done here, relationships, forged over 10 or 20 or 30 years. Friendships.
Our next outing took up to an epic roof top restaurants with one of the most impressive views in all of Tokyo. I have always had this thing where I sort of expect people to talk a certain way if they look a certain way, hearing a very Japanese looking man speak like a full blown kiwi blew me out of the water and made me buzz out. Nadia and joined us after our business meeting concluded.
As it turned out the owner of the restaurant we were at were also kiwi Japanese speaking men. Let just say the wine flowed and night went on for a long time, we went from club to club, dancing, drinking, having a blast, stepping outside at 5am to find it full blown daylight outside, reminding me of my youth and evidently making me retreat to our accommodation. We missed our flight to Oita where we had arranged to stay with a monk for a week.
We emerged from the accommodation cave 12 hours later in search of a nice understated feed only to find the best Teppanyaki place I have ever experienced. They didn’t speak any english but we pointed and laughed and expressed what we wanted and then proceeded to experience this amazing food. It was mind blowing. I discovered a new love for mung-bean sprouts.
5am the next morning I experienced my longest earthquake yet, long and hard. It went on for about 30 seconds and was scary. Just kept rumbling.
Thursday 14th January 2013
Vietnam Mountain Tales: I Love Sapa
Girls giving you a secret warm smile as if to say who are you, I'm curious about you. Big innocent eyes, filled with desire to learn. Children giggling at you because your different from most people they see. The insistent tooting of scooters and cars as if they are saying coming through people! Make way! Or just to be as noisy as possible.
I love Sapa.
The street food and bbqs.
The blue handed, black tribally clad hmong people with endless supplies of sugar cane and children. Moving from bbq to bbq to get the best price for different types of skewers.
The rain falling like mist, highlighted by neon-lights almost like its hanging suspended in mid air. The general chatter of people, and the knowing smile that you will never understand.
Laughing to yourself as your evaluated as a foreigner and therefore charged as one until you walk away but sometimes paying that little bit more just because you can, after all your use to paying high prices at home whats another 50 cents?
The mist is everywhere, embracing in you a slightly cold fresh hug. Surrounding you making you feel mysterious and spiritual at the same time.
You don't quite know what your eating anymore, your resulting to the fact that it tastes good, is cheap and observed with very spicy chili.
The hmong children look at you without a smile, you look at them with a smile and blatant curiosity, who are you, why do you walk around everywhere, where are you going, your always eating, you always have blue hands and your surprisingly dirty. It only then occurred to me that they know as little about me as I know about them, therefore the feeling of unknown is mutual. It takes an older hmong women to sell me some things as many as possible, but I'm open to the thought of a possible trade for some information, she tells me of her people, what everyone is doing. That everybody is on holiday, which is why everyone is eating wondering around seeing friends and family eating endless supplies of sugar cane. Such a simple thing for my endless hours of wondering, i came up with that perhaps they live off the land so don't need to work for lots of money they make there clothes which explains the blue hands because of the indigo die. She sold me this musical instrument that the kids play with that I'm determined to master how to use. She also of note spoke perfect english, one day i will visit the tribes in the rice paddies.
As a side note, bbq egg isn't very nice.
They do so many things that you wonder, only to realise that its plainly obvious the answer. Like they fan the bbq so that the coals continue to burn from the wind the to blow away the bbq smoke. They let you try there things, fruit and then giggle when you are surprised and like it, you try pay they giggle some more followed by a stream of language you don't understand.
Your smile at there use of paper to roll rice in to cook in bamboo, paper that you know as refill, you use to use it heavily for school and uni.
The delight of being able to sit on the side of the road pick up some sweet potato which you secretly call Kumara in your head, and munch it whole like an apple. Delicious.
Realising that you've had the same small meal three times in the same day spread over five different locations, but its small and bbq and delicious you like it.
Sitting with a beautiful dog, sticking your hand palm up to let it sniff you and check you out, then once it starts cautiously licking your palm you scratch behind the ears, while he longingly looks at you, the softest fur, you find it hard to leaves, he follows you only to be called upon by his owner.
A baby thinking your so funny that he throws himself out of his mothers arms into yours only to cry when looking at your strange face, you sit and spend time not talking just being comfortable, he grips my pants standing and playing hide and sneak between my legs with his mum. I have carrots in my bag that I bought at the market, he's curious I give him one, its oddly perfect in colour and size, he cries when his mum gives it back. His mum and I have the same pants.
They grow amazing gardens here, they are everywhere and anywhere. Produce is fantastic and abundant. Unlike there houses there gardens are perfectly lined, watered and feed, I think this is where they spend most of there time.
I laugh at how good I'm getting at charades making shapes and gestures to get my message across.
You now smell like a bbq and are dirty like one two.
Next adventure is pealing and slicing the two mangos you have in your room with a bread and butter knife. You manage to get it everywhere but eat it at the same time nawing on the massive stone. The mangos here are sweet, tangy and sour, not earthy like the ones back home. Time for another I think, what a great dessert.
Wednesday 6th July 2017
Deep in the Zambian bush, 368km so far, Buffalo bikes everywhere
Riding a bike for over 300km in such a short amount of time will leave you tired. The only free time we really get is to eat, sleep and fill our water bottles then we are back on the bikes.
I'm very excited to say that I have successfully ridden all of those 368km so far, without walking. It's been really hard going, i'm not a cyclist for starters so riding 100km back to back over many days is a challenge.
Team that with being in Africa, the African heat, and cold cold nights, camping in the bush with wild game around us, and seeing the many families and children that live in very different conditions to what we are use to.
I'm winning though and it feels great.
My only issues at the moment (aside from missing thai food and cheese), is that I have two numb fingers on my left hand which has been taking a lot of pressure from the very bumpy roads that we have been riding on (more on this later) and then some minor chaffing however I'm fearing better then some of the riders who either have bum sores or have actually blistered in there butt as well - apparently this is a common endurance sport thing - you can use butt butter (it's like lubricant to prevent chaffing) to avoid such things.
Safe to say I have learnt ALOT during this trip.
Wow this place, riding, the wild life, the people, the way of life.
Day 1 - June 30 - Transfer to the new camp and meet our comrades
Day 2 - July 1 - Volunteer Day
Day 3 - July 2 - First ride - 65km
Day 4 - July 3 - Second Ride - 110km
Day 5 - July 4 - Third Ride - 125.5km
Day 6 - July 5 - Rest Day
Day 7 - July 6 - Fourth Ride - 68km
Every morning that we ride, we get up at 5:30am, breakfast is at 6am, we stretch at 6:45am and then depart camp on either our bikes or a transfer at 7am sharp. Routines are certainly important when you're doing an endurance event like this. For the most part our entire group goes to bed before 9pm. I've had a few asleep by 8pm nights. My favourite parts of the day and jumping on the bike and the first 20km watching the sunrise while the air is still crisp. And then sunset after we ride back into camp, exhausted but happy to complete the day, to sit in our kaki camp chairs with a beer or wine and watch the sun go down, then be summoned for soup @ 6pm sharp.
Every morning we get an english breakfast of eggs, tomato, bacon, coffee and every night we have soup, followed by a meal (my gluten free dietary requirements have been catered for), and then sometimes if we are lucky we get desert. It's fun eating with 30 people in 3 times a day every day, you're always in line with someone different, you form great relationships with everyone in the group.
I'm doing a lot better at cycling then I thought I initially would, turns out I'm actually really strong physically and mentally and go like the clappers as soon as I hit the hills, I can thank San Francisco for that. So the majority of our riding has actually been on dirt, sand and rock roads.
Think to somewhere super rural with no tarmac that gets washed away whenever there are floods and you get jutterbar like roads stretching for 100's of kilometers. It's incredibly grueling. When we are on the road, we do about 20km per hour, when we are on the dirt/sand/rock roads we average about 8km per hour - you get the picture. You have to really be in the headspace to be able to handle it as it's tough going over bumps for many miles, the hands, wrists, back, legs, knees, all take a hammering.
It's super fun though and mentally exciting.
You learn how to handle a bike in deep sand and on these said bumps, for sand it's drop down 2 gears and pedal like hell. Often on the road you'll also run into a massive heard of cows and bulls that have massive horns, when you are speeding down a hill on rock, rubble and sand and you come to a screeching stop because there is a massive heard in front of you and you don't know if they are going to charge you. Turns out they are pretty placid.
We usually ride for 20-30km at a time then have a water and rest stop for 15-20 minutes, fill up your water, go to the toilet, eat, adjust, apply sunscreen and then learn about the next bit of the ride.
This goes on all day.
In harder sections that are physically tiring, we do shorter distances. You really do need this time to recover. We stop for lunch usually after the 3rd leg because it gets too hot here to cycle.
I got to my limit on day 3, after riding 280km in 3 days and having 20km to go on all sand, dirt an a bumpy road that was the most extreme that we had experienced yet, I was so physically tired I couldn't hold myself
up off my bike so that the impact was distributed across my body so my wrists and back wore the brunt of the impact which was intense, there was also a lot of sand which you just need muscle to get through
especially when its deep and is in 100m stretches.
I made it, but was knackered and was asleep shortly after dinner at 8pm.
Zambians are the loveliest people. We are seeing a lot of the country that most people never will. Many of the roads that we travel on don't exist on a map. But sure enough there are people there and lots of them. They have such a simple way of life it's quite beautiful. If you look at my instagram, you will see an example of the types of shelters that they have. They are so proud of there families and children. It's special. Racism and depression doesn't exist here. Regardless of there situation they are happy and they run from there villages to greet us on the road.
There is never a moment where you don't here a hi hi hi, hello, hello, how are you how are you how are you. A wave, a big grin, everything. It's awesome, we sometimes stop to take photos (asking permission first) and then show them the picture. For many of them it's the first time they have seen themselves in a photo or mirror. Look at the beauty and strength in this lady, I took this photo today, I also shared a tomato with her and her friend, it was delicious.
Sometimes you have to have a bit of a thick skin when you are cycling through the towns by yourself, often I am slightly behind the front pack but ahead of everyone else, which means riding alone. This is fine and perfectly safe, but when riding through a town by yourself, you do get odd looks but only sometimes. When a women hits puberty here they are required to cover there knees as they are considered part of there genitalia. So riding through town alone, without a man and also in tight Lycra (cycling shorts), you are inviting attention. I've embraced it, we are in there country and change happens over time. Although there are some beautiful characteristics in there community that I wouldn't want them to change. there sense of wealth, community, happiness is beautiful and I hope they keep it. I've only had one drunk guy try to pull me off my bike when I was by myself, then try to chase me (goodluck) but that was my only negative experience so far which was about 0.1% of the people that I've meet.
Often you will be surrounded by 10-20 kids, waving and giggling and looking at you, sometimes crying as they are confused, many of them have never seen a white person before. I got off my bike the other day and walked over to a large group they scattered so fast and ran away scared, I then crouched down to there level and beaconed them over, they pulled at my hear touched my jersey, they were so curious, it was special. This is a regular occurrence, ever kilometer you meet similar groups.
They are always hollering even from 100-200m away in there farms you can here them. A wave and holler back is what we often do.
I'm incredibly grateful to my crew. Without them and their support I'm not sure if I would make it, I have riding buddies which alternate through out the day, friends who massage my back and arms in the morning when I'm sore. People who support my quest for knowledge and our guides, chefs, support crew who are always there to take care of us. It's fun being taught how to ride from experienced cyclists.
This is certainly a life changing experience for sure. If you can ride 400 miles in Africa you can do anything :-).
520+ km, Jumping off Victoria falls bridge, Homeward bound...
Day 1 - June 30 - Transfer to the new camp and meet our comrades
Day 2 - July 1 - Volunteer Day
Day 3 - July 2 - First ride - 65km
Day 4 - July 3 - Second Ride - 110km
Day 5 - July 4 - Third Ride - 125.5km
Day 6 - July 5 - Rest Day
Day 7 - July 6 - Fourth Ride - 68km
Day 8 - July 7 - Fifth Ride - 95km - otherwise known as SAND day.
Day 9 - July 8 - Sixth Ride - 65km - into Livingstone
Day 10 - July 9 - Volunteer Day - Grass Roots Soccer
The Grass Roots Organisations
Before we started riding we went to visit the grass roots organisations that are doing great work to make Zambia a better place. We presented two checks of $16,500 & $45,000 to World BicycleRelief and SECT. We went and visited where these people work and the communities where they are present. We got the opportunity to assemble the bikes that World Bicycle Relief give, donateor sell to the Zambian community. It was awesome. These bikes are super strong, they arespecifically engineered for the Zambian conditions and roads. They can also hold over 200kgs ofweight. Bike Zambia has done 5 rides in Zambia now, over this time they have donated 1,000bikes to the community. Just one of these bikes enables a child to get to school to learn, or afarmer to get his milk to the collection center but 5x the volume, and in the same day they cansend there wife to the market with a crate of produce to sell. It enables the livelihood of these people and gets there kids to school. I'll write more about this later but in short they have a veryimpressive wheel of life to make this project super sustainable. There are currently 120,000'buffalo' bikes in Zambia which have all come from World Bicycle Relief. I have so many morestories to share about this organisation they are just awesome, I got quite emotional when I learntabout the impact they were having.
From a community perspective they think about everything - the wheel of life -. It's so important that these projects are sustainable and can fufill themselves. As I always tell people, you have to be the platform that people build on top of, it's so important here. They pick people to train from the local communities that have bikes to be the mechanic and they do all the repairs locally and are linked in to all the spare parts places that are in the World Bicycle Relief network. They also have contracts with the receivers of these bikes so if a girl is given a bike to get to school, herparents can use it, as long as they drop her off at school and pick it up. They can revoke thebicycle privileges if its being abused. It's very well thought out.
They give 70% of there bicycles to girls, as girls have many chores to do in the family includinggetting there brothers or other sibblings ready for school, they are often last to go to school and don't always get the chance, they are trained to be wifes and mothers from early on (culturallythis is just how it is) however if they can do all of there chores and then go to school to get aneducation, there life instantly improves with the use of a bike.
NOTE: We've ridden 368km so far in 4 days, 1 of 8 bikes is a Buffalo bicycle. The impact that this group is having is a game changer. It's so awesome to see buffalo bikes when you are riding along in the middle of no-where and they are carrying a massive load ofmilk or water or charcoal or a goat which is also common.
(Zambian Health Education Communication Trust)
ZHECT is a fanscinating organisation that do a lot of work in the communities with all thingshealth related but mainly with at risk groups, and spearding awareness and education about HIV and AIDS, volunteers are given a bike (from bike zambia mainly) so that they can conduct there work and so speak and share with the community. They spread awareness about HIV and AIDS. The volunteers we meet worked with sex workers in the community, predominately with the'queen mother' which is another word for a pimp. They make people aware of the risks of AIDS and also get them help if they are exposed. There is a lot to this story as well.
Being homosexual/gay in Zambia is illegal and a criminal offence. This group also works withmen who have sex with men (they talk about behaviours here instead of stereotypes which is interesting). To be able to do this kind of work it takes courage. Religion is such a big
The volunteers in the local community that we went to sang us a song about being so grateful for receiving bikes because it helps them so much. Sometimes they will ride 30km a day just to visit people, the further they are able to reach the better the community does.