Tag Archives: journey

Down with sandflies

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but one thing I know is that my general mirth right now could easily fit into a sandfly’s granny’s sewing thimble without running over.

I hate to complain, really, but here goes anyway. I have been suffering from the dreaded bite of the sandfly for some time now. Unfortunately, I am very sensitive to insect bites and, even more unfortunately, in recent times I seem to have become very sensitive indeed. Witness the tedious ankle saga, sigh. During my travels I have had swollen feet several times (each taking it in turns, more or less, how very polite) and the odd bit of swelling around the wrist. Annoying but, you know, wotevah.

Last night we stopped off at a Dept of Conservation (DOC) campsite for the night, a lovely spot near a creek, along the road to Milford Sound, the plan being to rise early and continue on to Milford in the morning before the hordes of tour buses apparently take over the road. The sandflies were ganging up on us humans even more than usual but as bedtime came round I hoped for a peaceful night’s sleep, as one does.

Sometime in the night I awoke and needing the toilet stumbled forth from the van. I noticed my left eye felt a bit odd, a bit swollen. Was that a welt I detected on my eyelid? Nothing to be done so back to bed. Later I awoke again to find the eye more swollen. The best was yet to come however, when I woke to a buzzing in my ear. Right inside my right ear. I did a bit of loud complaining, I thrashed gently, hit my ear, tipped my head from side to side, what a routine. Of course the sandfly stayed put, buzzing away. What a sensation. Inspiration struck me and I took a cup of water and poured it into the afflicted orifice. I tipped it out onto the grass and the buzzing ceased. I vaguely wondered whether I had released the insect or simply left a drowned one inside my ear, but frankly it seemed trivial when I finally got a look at my face. The skin around both eyes was swelling up nicely and I looked, and felt (ish), like I’d been punched in the face.

No, there is no photo. I must preserve my dignity!

So then, plans amended, we headed back to Te Anau in search of medical attention, which I found, and was relieved of more of my money at the health centre and pharmacy. We then found a campsite in town, Te Anau to be our new base for the next couple nights. Since then I’ve been lolling around wearing ice cubes in bags on my eyes and attempting to count my blessings.

On the upside, I took a nice photo last night. And I booked us a cruise on Milford Sound tomorrow so we can at least see this place, with its reputation of sublime beauty. Well, we came all this way and the camper van days are now truly numbered. I’ll be continuing explorations of the South Island from Wanaka perhaps and then head to Dunedin for a few days, sounds nice, and the Otago Peninsula is full of wildlife. Then it’ll be up the east coast from there. Picton, Wellington, up the North Island exploring until it’s time to re-Auckland myself and fly away.

But for now, my photo, taken at Lake Te Anau….uh no, sorry. Just looked at this internet terminal doesn’t have the actual computer bit accessible. Man! Swollen eye girl is thwarted! Man.

Anyway, ignore all this and read my previous entry on paragliding. Much cooler.

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Down to Welly

Train journey was good, got a great view of the north island scenery. I enjoyed spending some time on the open-air viewing platform during the trip, feeling the wind in my hair. Sometimes we were sunk down amongst hills and woodland, at other times we soared above via viaducts and bridges. The crew changed over the course of the journey – I guess my favourite had to be the Wellington crew as the guy who was giving occasional commentary had quite a dry sense of humour which amused me. E.g. at Hamilton, where we could get off for a few minutes for “some fresh air or a toxic cigarette…” (Well, maybe you had to be there. Anyway.)

So Wellington. Met up with Jode, stayed in a hotel for a couple nights which was such a luxury after hauling my stuff from hostel to hostel for the past week or so. Tried out a few cafes and a pub (Wellington apparently has more cafes and bars per capita than New York), visited Te Papa, the national museum, enjoyed nice weather (I brought the warm, dry weather with me I guess, as it had been rainy and windy here before I arrived), and today am taking the cable car up to have a stroll through the botanical gardens before it’s time for the bus to the airport.

So on to Christchurch, where we pick up the camper van tomorrow…

New year, new stuff

So here we are in 2010. On New Year’s Eve Mom and I ventured downtown to ‘First Night Tucson’, taking in music performances at various venues, some improv comedy, even an Ansel Adams exhibition at the museum of art. (Very cultured of us!) That New Year’s blue moon was beautiful. Here it is as it hung over downtown Tucson that night.

One of my early achievements of the year is this genuine crocheted ipod cover, which I fashioned with my very own clumsy hands. The photo makes it look like a giant (it’s not, I didn’t go that wrong.). It’s based on the one here, but with a big old button instead of a bow. Quirky, no?

I am both excited and jittery about my upcoming travels. I have fears, but they are just fears and, really, what a nice alternative to work and winter I face. Besides, I have done far scarier things. Four springs ago I moved to a city where I knew no one. My first days in Bristol were probably some of the hardest of my life. I have nothing to fear from travelling solo. Not jet lag, not loneliness, not the things that will go ‘wrong’. It isn’t that those things won’t be part of my experience – they will. It’s just that it’s worth it for all the other things I’ll experience.

I’ve been reading Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach. She writes about the time she took a year off from her job in America and headed to Europe. She includes the ups and downs of her travels and speaks of the adventure inherent in taking off for parts unknown. I like this quote from the introduction: ‘you are a woman in search of an adventure, said the voice inside. Take the risk. Say “Yes” to life instead of “No.”

So, tomorrow: I fly to southern California, where I will stay with my dad and stepmom. The following evening they will deliver me to LAX where I will board that 14 and a half hour flight to Sydney. Me, a backpack (which I carry with authority, I tell you, you should have seen me parading around the back garden the other day…), and a daypack stuffed with novels, food, a passport and other essentials.

I’ll take my trepidation with me too. But hopefully, like Alice Steinbach, I’ll be ‘guided less by expectations than by curiosity’.

Airhead

I have successfully arrived in the desert – not that I had to do much, aside from move myself from one mode of transport to another. On the other hand, my mom and brother had to brave dust storms to get to the airport to collect me!

The weather in the UK proved no obstacle, thankfully. I had heard one of the National Express coach guys saying all flights were cancelled out of Heathrow, which seemed like complete rubbish (and it was), but then the UK does have a habit of panicking when the weather gets more ‘extreme’ than rain so you never know.

Terminal 5 seems to have become more mainstream than last time I was there. The coach even takes you right to the doors. The convenience, I tell you! It wasn’t long ago they made you get out at T4 and take a city bus service to T5 (for free, granted, but still). After check-in, the next highlight was being specially selected as one of the passengers requiring frisking for sharp objects. They were watching us as we descended an escalator. I think it was the leg stretches I was doing in preparation for the long flight. (‘Stop that one – she’s obviously rearranging her collection of knives inside her trousers.’)

On board, I passed the time watching films and a spot of telly. After I lost interest in the BBC World News (shame) I put on Flight of the Conchords in honour of New Zealand. (It was the one with Jemaine’s Australian girlfriend, if you were wondering.)

So now I’m in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve eaten, I’ve slept, I’ve marvelled and blinked in the sunshine, which I really do think people who live here take for granted. I’ve seen a couple of hummingbirds today, which are always a pleasure. I also booked up some bits of my NZ itinerary for January, including a ticket on the Overlander service between Auckland and Wellington. It is meant to be one of the world’s great rail journeys.

But for now, time to enjoy Christmas with my family. And to try not to lecture anyone on the blessing of winter sunshine! (Nor to debate the meaning of the word ‘cold’…)

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!