Tag Archives: buses

Views of cities from above, within and in reflection

Well, I went to Cincinnati and I walked around the block and I walked right in…

to my friend’s house.

And then we walked around the block again (or, uh, had a wild car ride to 4th and Race), hopped on the Megabus and went to Chicago. Took over the whole back row of the top deck with our food, crochet projects and feminist pop culture mags.

The American road looks something like this from the back row of the top deck of the Megabus.

Six hours later, Chicago looks a bit like this. (If it’s dark, you’re on a bus and don’t hold your camera still.)

It looks like a lot of other things too. In January, it can also look very snowy and be a sea of down coats. It can look like this from 96 floors up, at sunset

and like this when reflected in a Bean.

There are many more stories to tell of Chicago.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati, the Queen City, can be seen from above as well, if one wends one’s way through the maze of the Carew Tower to the observation deck. Wear your hat, gloves and scarf, children, it’s still January and we’re still in the Midwest. This is one view from above (49 stories up this time).

And this is one view in reflection.

There are many more stories of Cincinnati, too.

But what I will say for now is

Thanks for the donuts!

(And the ice cream.) See you again one day, and many more stories to come…


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Stories overheard on the bus 1

Woman on Bus: What are they, Masters of the Universe? Look, there’s two Skeletors.

Man on Bus: Yeah, heh heh. I think you’re either people who do fancy dress, or you’re not.

WoB: You know Sophie, for her hen do they all went as fairies

MoB: Oh yeah

WoB: and they had these wands that lit up at the ends when they waved them and they made the sort of magical…fairy noise. They were walking past this restaurant and this little girl, she was like maybe four or five, she was sitting at the table in the window and watching them, really intent on those wands, like they were the most amazing things she’d ever seen. You could tell she really wanted one, yeah?

MoB: Uh huh.

WoB: A few minutes later they walked back past the restaurant again. They were carrying on to another bar or something. And then Sophie turned around and went back and she gave her wand to the little girl.

MoB: Ah yeah, I was hoping you were going to say that, that one of the would go back, the story would end that way.

WoB: Yeah! And she must’ve been like how amazing, there’s this whole group of fairies and one them’s just given me her wand.

AKL – LAX – PHX – LHR

Just catching up with myself here…

My last night in Auckland I met up with my friend Joanna, who had finished her Magic Bus experience. We were both leaving NZ the next day, she being off to Sydney and I of course being LA-bound. We were staying in rival mega-hostels in the city centre but had coordinated our meet-up days earlier from Rotorua. It was more complex an operation than you might think, as her phone didn’t work in NZ. So I had to check in to the Surf ‘n’ Snow then find my way to the Nomads Fat Camel before we could explore the food ‘n’ drink options available. It was nice to have someone to laugh with on this last night.

And the Sky Tower looked kinda cool all lit up at night:

Next morning I had a bit of time to stretch my legs so I wandered into Albert Park and discovered a festival of lanterns.

I also saw some trees that seemed enchanted

and a building society sign that reminded me of the night sky.

Soon enough it was time to collect my trusty backpack from the hostel and once again catch a bus to an airport. On my flight to LA, I had a neighbour who was spending a year travelling the world. I took a few suggestions for my next big trip…

But back to the current trip. I had yet another flight to catch, a short jaunt to Phoenix. (Where my mom and brother were late to pick me up! They had a very good excuse, though. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m only mentioning it to make you cringe! Heh heh… The worst part of the experience was when an evil phone ate all my quarters. But I digress.)

Then had a few lovely days in Tucson with family. Kicked myself that I hadn’t brought my AV cable for the camera with me, as with that I can do beautiful slide shows of my escapades on my grandma’s big TV. And you can’t just go and buy one of these cables. Three words: wild; goose; chase. Watched the Lord of the Rings films instead. (“I was there. And there. Oh yeah, and that bit was pretty. You saw the photo of me with Mt Doom, right?”)

Then, guess what, I got on another bus (shuttle) to the airport and flew from Phoenix to Heathrow. Ah, that old familiar flight. Except this version was delayed by two and half hours, so we departed at 11:30pm and arrived late afternoon the following day. (Flight attendant: “The hours of daylight are approaching rather quite quickly so if those passengers in window seats would close the window shades…”) During the flight the guy at the other end of the row from me (we had two empty seats between us) invaded “my” one of the empty seats with his feet. Grrr, my empty seat, get off! I am normally a really non-irritable person but that foot got some hard stares from me. Yeah, I’d pull up my silk eye mask and everything, just so I could really scowl at it in the dark. But I don’t think it was the foot’s fault really, I just wasn’t going to get much rest on this particular flight.

So then I re-entered the UK. They seem quite used to me by now, I hardly get questioned at all by immigration. But I wasn’t heading onwards to Bristol just yet. I would be staying in London, first in Shepherd’s Bush with a friend, and then in Muswell Hill for a very special weekend workshop.

I was really looking forward to a lot of things. Not least some sleep!

Love letter

Dear NZ,

What can I say, you were fantastic. You provided the perfect setting for me to explore my own sense of adventure. Life will never be the same again after this trip, so thank you for being a part of it. I am more centred than ever before. And my world feels better.

Mt Maunganui was very pretty. I enjoyed that more than central Tauranga. I thought it was hilarious when you sent a horde of insects that looked like sandflies to afflict me as I climbed the mount in the blazing sun, but maybe they weren’t actually sandflies. At any rate, I don’t see any new bites so possibly it was a practical joke?

It amused me to see a local brochure bragging that a ‘leading guidebook’ says that Tauranga is about as Riviera as New Zealand gets. I know for a fact this was Lonely Planet because of course that is the guidebook I am using. What I want to know is: were the LP authors being catty? I initially thought so but Mt M is pretty good, I have to say, and it was nice to see the sea, as always. You know I’m a fan.

Crashing waves
The view from the Mount
Another view from the top
A beautiful tui who was singing as I neared the top!

So onwards to Auckland this afternoon. On the express 4-hour bus with no toilet breaks. (Contrary to popular rumours, I am not obsessed with toilets. I’m just saying.)

Before I go, I just want to say how I adore your public toilets with the flashing lights, and the ones with sliding doors (not obsessed), your roadside signs bearing public service messages such as DRINK DrIvE (it’s a visual thing, that one), the funny vowels and expressions of your people (‘sweet as’), your amazing wildlife of the sea and land, including the sometimes suprisingly loud birds and insects (but not the sandflies, even when they get into my ear so I can hear them buzz)…oh, and so much more.

You’re great.

Lots of love,

tk

And now, uh, I’d like to thank the South Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, Wanaka for being being there for me, the whole South Island for being magical and the North Island for being pretty damn cool (and hot!) too. And thanks to friends new and old, and anyone reading. I know I’m strange but you chose to read this. By the way, this blog doesn’t end here. ‘You’ll never see the end of the road while you’re travelling with me.’ (That’s from a song by Crowded House – I was quoting this at some point in my trip, and then this morning they played it in the cafe where I was sheltering from raindrops…)

Sentimental oddball, pictured in Wellington, NZ

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ (Henry Miller)

Adventures of North Island backpackers

Flight up to Wellington was rather a non-event but it transplanted me nonetheless back to the North Island. Managed to jump off my bus at the right spot for the YHA, then after checking in went for a somewhat mirthless walk in the city (sorry but the weather was bleak and I felt a bit off).

But when I returned to my room I met one of my roommates, from England and a similar age to me, and we got on great. I invited her to share my stir fry (one of about two specialties of my hostel cookery) and then we thought we’d go out for a drink. Now Welly is supposed to be all cool and it is but I felt a bit less than cool as the night continued.

Check us out. We thought somewhere with live music would be good but then the place we thought sounded good wouldn’t let you in if you had a water bottle in your bag. We couldn’t ascertain the reason but moved on and were given vouchers for a free drink at someplace called The Mermaid. We thought this would be a trendy bar but maybe worth it for a free drink (backpacker thinking, you see). We tracked the place down and when we entered were accosted by a heavily made-up woman who looked at us with disdain as she pointed out we’d still need to pay the entry of $20. We removed our backpacker selves, fleeces and all, from there quite quickly and then looked back into the place to see that it contained mostly men, with just one other woman in evidence…and she was wearing basically underwear. Ah. (Though the voucher had come with a flyer advertising a ‘ladies night’, this being illustrated by naked male torsos. Anyway.) I must admit we cool girls finally just settled on a hot chocolate each, which we sipped in the hostel lobby while engaging in a bit more girl talk before bed.

Next stop on the Kramer itinerary was Napier. After a long bus ride, I arrived at was greeted by my friend from the night before and her friend from Scotland (they both are travelling on the Magic bus, a tour company to which they give mixed reviews; I was on the ol’ InterCity). I wiped the sweat from my brow as it was a sultry evening in Napier and headed out the door with them to get some dinner. Napier touts itself as the Art Deco city (because I believe it was flattened by an earthquake and then rebuilt in that style), and there was an Art Deco festival of sorts going on. Lots of old cars and older people prancing about in period costume.

After we ate we felt like a stroll. This walk incorporated a visit to the supermarket (the highlight of every backpacker’s day or night). This may not sound exciting. However, when we exited the supermarket we were suddenly lost. Yes, lost when exiting a supermarket we had just used. Hmm, anyway, the three adults eventually used their combined wits and the map to find the way back to the hostel. Which was just down the road. Ha. We were all tired, ok.

Next stop Taupo, and I shall be here two nights. They have a great big lake and all that. But look at this!

I have booked myself onto the Tongariro Crossing expedition and will be walking my socks off tomorrow. Weather report is good. Just need to get off this computer, make dinner and go to bed so I am bright and shiny for that 5:40 am pick up tomorrow. Ahhh…!

Dunedin and northwards

I stayed at one of the best hostels ever in Dunedin, Chalet Backpackers. The rooms are big and airy and have harbour views and it’s cheap. Big kitchen, big long table in the dining room for chatting with your neighbours. Listing the details doesn’t do it justice, really. The point is it feels like a home from home here and the people who run it are extremely friendly and helpful. (They are not paying me either, this really is a lovely place!) Anyway, this is where I made my home for four nights.

People often say that Dunedin feels very English. It has Scottish roots actually, amongst others, and my understanding is that Dunedin is the Gaelic for Edinburgh. But what you need to know about Dunedin is that it is very, very, very hilly. Like San Francisco hilly. In fact, it boasts the official steepest street in the world. I went up on a hot afternoon. Yeah, pretty steep but I seem to have developed insane walking skills (or just plain insanity) so didn’t bother me!

In fact, after a coffee in the cafe of the botanic garden I found another really steep road and walked that for awhile to try to get to a viewpoint that some people had told me about over dinner the previous evening. I didn’t find the lookout but I did get up high and sweat a lot and get a nice sunburn on my hair parting (that burn’s peeling now, nice and flakey). The botanic garden is very big and a great place to pass some time. One highlight for me was the aviary where I saw various exotic birds including two African grey parrots who have learned to wolf whistle. They demonstrated for me. Nice work, guys.

The day after the hot, climbing day was freezing and rainy. I of course left the hostel wearing summer clothes and proceeded to freeze. I did start to wonder if this was Britain…but the the Kiwis will tell you their weather is changeable too. Luckily, I fancied visiting the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which is a beautiful space to view art. They had some very interesting things indeed, including a Tom Kreisler exhibition which I found intriguing and amusing. Later in the day I put on many more clothes and went on the Elm Wildlife Tour to the Otago Peninsula to get up close with some of the area’s wildlife. We saw royal albatross, some sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins and yet more New Zealand fur seals (always a pleasure), plus various birds including oystercatchers.

My last full day in Dunedin was devoted to getting my arse into gear trip planning-wise. Following much behind-the-scenes drama I had now decided on a rough plan for the final less-than-two-weeks of my trip. I was headed to Oamaru just an hour or two up the east coast to see the blue penguins. Then to Christchurch to fly to Wellington. From there various versions of North Island itineraries float like geographic gumdrops before my eyes. But more of that later.

Sunday was also Chinese New Year, as I am sure all are aware. Dunedin’s Chinese Gardens were open for free that evening and there were lion dances and the like, and to top it all off fireworks. I went along with a Kiwi roommate of mine, where we were initially underwhelmed by the ‘launch of the lanterns’ we’d had advertised to us. But then we had the dances followed by some truly vibrant fireworks! You can’t get tired of fireworks. Happy Year of the Tiger, everyone.

Before catching my afternoon bus the next day I explored the shops a bit and drank some coffee (Dunedin has a very strong cafe culture – now you have many facts about the city; just ask for more, anytime!) and then visited the free Otago Settlers Museum where I learned more about the heritage of the place. My favourites were the room that was set up like the – what do you call it, cabin? – where people who were coming to settle would have slept in bunks and taken their meals on the long sailing voyage to get there, and also the transport gallery. There is a penny farthing bicycle there you can try out by climbing up some steps but I was too chicken to do it without an accomplice. (I felt similarly when sitting in a city park and eyeing up the zip slide and other intriguing equipment. Ah, there are unexpected drawbacks occasionally to travelling solo! And why do we have to be ‘too old’ for certain things anyway?)

I eventually dragged myself away from all these diversions and took the bus to Oamaru. Now the big draw in Oamaru is the blue penguin colony. So first stop was the hostel (another friendly place complete with Tigger the cat), then to the i-site for info, ended up booking tickets for the evening ‘viewing’ of the penguins with a guy from Hong Kong who’d I’d met when we discovered we were both heading to the same hostel. Then we both felt like a walk so followed the ‘skyline walk’ to get some views of the city and harbour. The route also dips into forest, including some native bush. Here’s a view of the harbour and some cabbage trees. They have a lot of those in Otago but I don’t know why it’s called a cabbage tree:

At some point I found a ready-made club (or is it a back scratcher?).

For dinner, I had fish and chips and Tigger tried to charm me into giving him some. No such luck, kitty! Then to see the penguins. Do not expect any photos here as people are not allowed to use cameras within the viewing area, and you can only use one without flash outside of there (in the dark), so use Google image search instead. Blue penguins (also found in southern Australia, where they call them fairy penguins) are the smallest species of penguins. They are also the only ones to have blue and white feathers rather than black and white. The ones who have been out at sea fishing all day band together into ‘rafts’ for safety as it starts to get dark and then arrive on shore together. At the Oamaru colony we watched each raft come up out of the water, preen their feathers and shake the salt out of their faces, and then eventually make their way up to cross over the the nesting areas in groups. They move in the determined way of penguins on land, leaning forward and inducing smiles. I love ’em. They also make a racket as they call to mates and tell off anyone who tries to poke their beak into their nest burrow. As you leave the evening’s viewing you can look out for penguins in the car parking area, as some of them nest out that way in burrows or under buildings. We came across a few and watched them but unfortunately it was far too dark to get a decent photo.

Today I came to Christchurch on a full-up bus with very little leg room. My ipod served me well – so glad I remembered to transfer it from backpack to daypack before I boarded, life saver. The journey had an extra element of excitement as my Travel Companion Extraordinaire was in town as well (I describe him as such, as I know now he’ll be reading, having discovered this to be the idea way to remember all the best bits about our camper van trip – hi there). We found each other and I dumped my stuff at the hostel, then had to feed my flat white addiction. Chocolate fudge cake added itself to the proceedings, but this was not instigated by me. Boys and chocolate, eh! After this the sunny afternoon needed to be honoured further by a walk in the park. We found ourselves in the botanic garden and there was absolutely no silliness at all.

Now time for pizza and a beer. I’ll miss ya, J, you big…thing. But will defeat you in our tennis rematch in Bristol…

End of internet session. Logging out!

Ready to go

The time has absolutely flown since I made the decision to leave my job and go travelling. There has been so much to do to plan such a big trip at such short notice but somehow, and with the patience and wisdom of friends helping me along, I’ve now made it through the vast majority of my To Do List items. I have flights, insurance, a range of currencies (including the surprisingly water resistant Australian dollar), accommodation sorted for Sydney, and as I type this my bags are more or less packed.

It’s been stressful at times and I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time making phone calls about travel stuff. Then there was the threat of the British Airways strikes and things got all the hairier. Now, sitting on my bed in Bristol, surrounded by sheets of paper representing numerous travel tickets and accommodation bookings, and having said ‘farewell, see you in March’ to my friends in Bristol, I think I’m just about ready…

It was my last day at work on Friday. Leaving my job of three years was quite a leap but I feel happy. Change is good. I worked with some people who I really will miss, but we shall meet again!

I wrote the following during my last hours in the office. I think it captures the mood I was in.

It’s my last day at work today. I feel excited, and a bit mischievous. Like I’m plotting to play hooky. And I like it.

Walked to work as usual today. About 45 minutes through the frosty air, making my way round the ice-edged mud puddles. I tend to propel myself to work partly by virtue of the tunes on my ipod,  and today some good ones shuffled their way to my ears. But I could also hear the external sounds around me as I made my way, not feeling like I needed to hurry today, being mindful of my surroundings, taking time to notice.

When I got near the centre, buses were making their hissing, diesely noises in the street. Noises evocative of journeys. When I set off on this adventure from Bristol, those same sounds will inhabit the coach station where I’ll perch, ready to go.

Ah, bless, quite the little writer. But yes, here I am, ready for that journey tomorrow. First stop by air: Arizona.

Where I expect it will be a tad less snowy than it was here in Bristol today!