Monday, 31 January 2011

The Abel Tasman

I've wanted to do the Abel Tasman walk for years. As gallivanting around the World got in the way, it wasn't until the weekend before last that Tane and I finally got around to it. It was worth the wait - a great walk, excellent company, and the scenery spectacular. We took our tent and camped, walking about four hours of mildly undulating track each day. There is something very relaxing about only having a backpack and a tent, and I came back to Wellington feeling thoroughly refreshed. Describing the walk and the scenery would involve far too many cheesy adjectives, so have decided just to let this photos speak for itself.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Five pics that make me laugh

I was reading my best friend from school's blog just now, and really liked her entry on photos that always make her laugh. Not only were they funny, but got me thinking about my own. Much laughter later (as it was hard to limit this to six) here are my top ones:
At the gazebo from the Sound of Music. Doing that tour in Salzburg was the most hilarious day ever, my abs even got a work out from laughing so much.

The world's most stoned looking owl

Hiding behind a pastry in Germany, 2007

Tane in Turkey

With Stephen in Pompeii 2009. We had no idea until it was taken that it looks like he's shot me in the stomach.

Tane and his twin in Kathmandu, Nepal late 2008

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Shanghai from the books

It's always strange to travel to somewhere I have read a lot about in fiction, especially when the books I'd read were set in the past. On one hand the place is alive in my mind, but on the other hand it doesn't exist anymore, not as I imagined it anyway. When I eventually make it to Russia I expect to be a little surprised by Moscow and St Petersburg, as I've read so many books set there in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. I know on a rational level that Stalin and even the USSR are long gone (which is a good thing), but thanks to the Bronze Horseman Trilogy, Child 44, and Kate Furnivall's books to name a few, the Moscow and St Petersburg in my mind feature the Stalinist system rather than the Putin-sexy-spies-Russian Mafia one.

The Pearl Tower - clearly not around in the 1930s
This was the case with Shanghai, as the only times I had read about Shanghai the book was set in the 1920s and 1930s. For example, Ishiguro's fabulous When We Were Orphans, and in Belinda Alexander's White Gardenia. I knew on a rational level that Shanghai's notable features had morphed from opium dens, a French concession filled with the French, and Russian emigres to skyscrapers, shopping, and more sky scrapers. Going there, though, I still hoped to find some of the Shanghai from my imagination. At first glance, I was out of luck. Shanghai is home to some of the most impressive sky scrapers in the world, some of which Tane blogged about here. The subway is impressive, and the train to the airport reaches over 400 km p/h. The Bund, Shanghai's famous river walkway, was also a million miles away from what I imagined.

Lucky, then, that we happened to get lost. We were trying to find the subway station that took us to the Expo, and took a wrong turn. After walking through some vacant lots and a part of Shanghai that was much like Canary Wharf, we found ourselves, quite by accident, in the old town. It was fabulous - quirky, picturesque, crazy and interesting. Not only that, but with the right amount of imagination, I could also imagine the Shanghai I'd read about.

I'd been told that old Shanghai doesn't exist anymore, but it turns out I was told wrong. It's a lovely city where the new parts are shiny and impressive, and the old places still exist. I just hope that when I do go to Russia I have a similar experience in terms of seeing some historic infrastructure, and catch a glimpse of what I imagined it to be like from the books.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Things I learnt in 2010 #1

That part of me will always miss London. I am very happy back in New Zealand, but still remember London with a lot of fondness, and get disproportionately excited when I see it on TV or in the movies. I'm aware that had I stayed there I would be missing New Zealand even more, but enjoy thinking about having lived there and imagining what I'd do if I was magicked back for a day or two. So far, a day wandering from Soho to St James Park via Whitehall wins, followed by some time in the V&A and a walk along Southbank. It's fun nostalgia rather than real longing, although I was terribly excited when we found an M&S in Shanghai so I was able to stock up on Percy Pigs.

Things I learnt in 2010 #2

That living without flatmates improves quality of life a million fold. No-one to dominate the living room by continuously watching reality TV, use up the hot water, cook smelly food, or randomly fly into an apoplectic rage about the kitchen cupboards being dusty. No-one that you have to ask whenever your friend/sister/parent comes to stay, or if you want to have people over for dinner.
True, I've had some great flatmates over the years, and some good flats. The last year in London in particular though we had some flatmates that left a lot to be desired, and were totally ready for our own space. Now it's me hogging the TV, and I love it.

Things I learnt in 2010 #3

That being injured sucks. I already knew that having a running injury sucks on account of getting injured after my half marathon in 2008, but in 2010 not only did my running injury flare up again but I had back troubles as well. Ug. While I appreciate that in the scheme of injuries mine were relatively minor and that others have it much worse, I still spent much of the winter feeling very frustrated at being unable to bike, run or sit still for longer than an hour. I'm working with weights to try to ensure neither injury returns, and here's hoping that 2011 is the year of no back pain and running more than 5km without getting too sore.

Finishing my half in 2008. Little did I know then that two weeks later I'd hurt my feet so badly I'd still be nursing random injuries over two years later.

Things I learnt in 2010 #4

That I don't think I'll ever be done travelling. Tane and I went to China back in September for what was supposed to be our last big trip before becoming proper grown ups with assetts and what not. As if. If anything, going to China only showed us that travel from New Zealand is relatively convenient and even more special if trips are spaced out. I don't think we'll travel at our UK rate of a trip per month again, but I'd love to go on at least a trip a year if I can. At that rate, I might fit in about 30% of the places I want to see during my lifetime :)

Tane jumps for joy about travel

Things I learnt in 2010 #5

That being an aunt is O for Awesome. Some of my favourite moments of 2010 involved my nieces Chloe (4) and Holly (16 months), and getting to know them has been a highlight of moving back to New Zealand and year ago. I could bore you for hours with stories involving Chloe and Holly, but instead will simply say that they are cool and leave it at that.