Quick overview

I'll update this properly soon but here's a quick run down of what's been going down.

1/2/10 - Kaikoura - Whale watching saw 4, photographed lots of empty sea. BBQ in the evening followed by bullying a 19 year old to run in to the sea

2/2/10 - Bus to Nelson - Saw hundreds of seals

3/2/10 - Walking Abel Tasman National Park, camping next to the beach, possum ran in to my head and ate some of my bread.

4/2/10 - Kayaked down the Abel Tasman coast before hitting the bars of Nelson and dancing the night away in shorts and flip flops

5/2/10 - Bus to Westport. There is nothing in Westport so I got drunk with some odd locals and offended a Mauri by greeting him like an eskimo.

6/2/10 - On to the Poo pub for bbq, watching the sunset at the beach and then a fancy dress party with everyone on the bus. I was Batman.

7/2/10 - Franz Josef, kayaking in the evening on a huge lake that we had to ourselves.

8/2/10 - 9.00am catch the bas to go for a skydive. BEST FEELING EVER, spent the rest of the day floating around and then drinking til early morning.

9/2/10 - Feeling awful I went for an 8 hour hike throught the Franz Josef Glacier, beautiful but stuck with several annoying nobs all day.

10/2/10 -Had to get the bus out of Franz Josef or spend another 3 nights there so I did and moved on to Wanaka, beautiful town next to a lake.

11/2/10 - Walked about 20 miles nearly got up a mountain but ran out of water so turned around then had a great fun night out watching a reggae band and being bought drinks by a local criminal.

12/2/10 - Did a bit of walking around the lake. Two friends from the Kiwi bus then arrived and we spent the evening dancing and drinking.

13/2/10 - Day sat fishing by the side of the lake, didn't see a single fish. Possibly this was all a local joke to get tourists looking like idiots. Still had fun and drunk some wine before an early night.

14/2/10 - Bus to Queenstown via puzzling world which I loved. Night out dancing and catching up with lots of friends who had moved on down the coast earlier in the week.

15/2/10 - Walked 25 miles up to an incredible 360 degree panoramic view 1700m high. Pretended I was Frodo and made friends with a stick.

I do like a travel

Sala Bua Restaurant - Karon Beach

My day job - manager of Sunrise Divers, a PADI dive shop at Karon Beach. The shop is tucked away in a little square called Karon Plaza, about 4 minutes walk to the beach. Next door to our shop is a family run hotel called Karon Place, and they have a restaurant attached called Sala Bua, open only in the high season from about mid October to end of April. Due to the very convenient location I find myself eating lunch there at least a couple of times per week.

Sala Bua restaurant

The prices are not as cheap as the local restaurants nearby, but about on par with Mama Noi, just around the corner. Thai dishes go for between 89 - 129 Baht. They do also serve some pasta, burgers, sandwiches etc. - normal tourist fare. I tend to eat the Thai dishes - and there is a big menu to choose from. Having just eaten a big plate of Penang curry with Tofu, and having taken a few photos of my lunches the last couple of weeks, it's time to blog about Sala Bua!

Sala Bua staff

It's normally quiet at lunchtime, busier at breakfast and in the evening, as the guests at Karon Place will often eat there. Although I do like to eat lunch at cheap local "hole in the wall" type places, I have been eating more at Sala Bua as the food is good quality (the cheap local places do often use cheaper meat cuts especially) and I am yet to get a bad meal there. Curries of all different kinds, salads, noodle dishes.. some of my favourites include those below :



(above) They call this the "Indonesian" salad



(above) chicken with cashew nuts in a noodle basket



(above) Khao Soi with chicken

I mentioned that I had a tofu curry today - there are quite a few vegetarian options on the menu and the owners are adherents to the strict vegetarian diet during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival. I like the variety of their menu, and the staff are always friendly - it's largely a family restaurant and the staff are the same now as 2 years ago.. family run places are often friendly as everyone feels that it's "their" restaurant and they don't employ young waitresses on minimum wage who look like they'd rather be home watching Ching Roy Ching Lan. See you at Sala Bua!

Outlook

"Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success."
-Brian Adams

As of this morning, my outlook is fixed. Finally.


It all began a month and a half ago. It was just about the same time that the place where I live, Seattle, began to live up to its reputation of being one of the greyest, rainiest and most dismal places to be. I wore my rain gear every night after work for my evening walk. Each night I rotated between three pairs of running shoes. One pair was usually dried-out enough to wear; the other two, still by the heater, working their way back to wearable. On top of the rain was the daily deluge of bad news about the economy. Unemployment is at an all-time high. The US deficit is the highest ever and Greece’s economic turmoil is now rippling out to other countries. And, it looks as though we’ll have a jobless recovery.

The commute into work each day has become eerily light and I can actually drive the speed limit on the freeway: the bumper-to-bumper traffic has disappeared.

But, back to my story about my outlook being fixed.

A month and a half ago, I had upgraded my Microsoft Office to the 2007 version. Yes, finally. Everything seemed to be just fine. As the machine was shutting down that first night after the upgrade, I could see that three automatic updates were being installed. "Good news," I thought. "Microsoft is keeping my machine safe from viruses, worms and other nasty internet threats."

The next day, I opened my newly upgraded Microsoft Outlook. Catastrophic Failure. Not just one little pop-up window made that announcement, but seven. I contacted Microsoft. They told me to contact Dell. Dell told me to contact Microsoft. And, on this went for several weeks—each company passing me back to the other. In an effort to get the darn problem fixed, I searched thru the WebPages of notes from others with the same problem and tried, unsuccessfully, to fix it myself. Finally, I contacted Geek Squad where my newly assigned Geek Squad Agent seemed more than delighted to fix my outlook.

I know it sounds silly, but I liked the way my Geek Squad Agent took responsibility for fixing my problem. He seemed confident and even though it took several attempts over the course of a few weeks to get it fixed, he persisted. Patient throughout each step, he would acknowledge each of the problems he resolved. “This problem has been resolved” he’d tell me through my chat window. At one point, when it seemed we hit a roadblock that could not be surpassed, I worried that he would send me back to Microsoft or Dell. But instead, he continued on—persistently, confidently, focused on fixing my outlook. And, as of last night, all problems have been resolved. My outlook is fixed.

As irony would have it, I woke up to a sunny day this morning. Giving my rain gear a break, I put on a dry pair of sneakers and headed down to the lake for a cup of coffee and to read the New York Times. While one economist painted yet another bleak picture of our economic recovery, another pointed to the indications that the economy seems to be improving. While unemployment is the highest it's been in 25 years, the stock market is lifting, retail sales have stabilized, and while still weak, auto sales have improved slightly in February. Houses have been selling in greater numbers and consumer spending appears to have leveled off after plummeting last year. Credit markets have even have even improved.

I know it will take a long time for our economy to recover, but it's important to notice the progress we're making. My condo is still underwater, but, with patience, confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, I know things will turn around. And, before we know it, our economic outlook will be fixed.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards

Potluck


“Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get”. - Forrest Gump

Several years ago and in my mid-thirties, I decided it was time to pack up my little Ford Escort and head west. I’d lived in Iowa for many more years than I had ever planned, and I had decided it was time to make something special of my life. So, I packed up some boxes of my stuff and moved to the biggest city I’d never been to before: Portland, Oregon.

Portland was a big, huge city to me at the time. Lots of fast moving cars, busy roads and super busy people always checking their blackberries and talking on their cell phones. I knew I had moved to an important city and I felt important just to be there witnessing it all.

It took me a while to make friends in Portland. I hadn’t really appreciated the long-standing friends I had in Iowa, so it was a bit of a shock to realize that I had absolutely nothing to do on the weekends. No friends to go for walks with. No mom to watch TV with. No Grandma who needed an errand run. There wasn’t even an Applebee’s or Burger King nearby. Just one not-so-busy Dairy Queen. On a Sunday afternoons and as a special treat to myself, I’d go through the DQ drive-thru and order a hot fudge Sundae with whipped cream and nuts on top. I’d pull over to the parking lot and eat the hot fudge Sundae in my car before I’d drive home. It really took me a while to fit in.

After living there for about nine months with just about 10 boxes of all of my stuff, my mom who lives in Iowa, called to tell me that she’d met a possible friend for me. My mom is a realtor and she was showing houses to a woman in Iowa who had a daughter-in-law living in PORTLAND OREGON!!! What luck.

Here was a woman with connections to my hometown who was living in my new town and just possibly open to a new friend.

I was so excited.

Within days, my possible-new-friend had called to invite me to a potluck at her home. I was elated driving over to her house. A just-out-of-the-oven TaterTot casserole sitting in the passenger seat beside me, I realized that I hadn’t been to a potluck since living in Iowa.

I love potlucks. Everyone brings one of their favorite dishes. Some people bring a fun snack like cream cheese with raspberry jam on top, served up with Wheat Thins. Someone always brings green bean casserole, though everyone’s got their own unique twist to that dish. And, there’s usually some kind of chocolate dessert with lots of chocolate goo inside. You never know what everyone’s going to bring, so it’s always a surprise and there’s lots of recipe-sharing after the evening is over.

After arriving at my new friend’s house, it didn’t take me more than 3 minutes to recognize that the TaterTot casserole was not a sophisticated west coast dish. People had brought things like spreadable roasted garlic cloves and grilled salmon with capers. TatorTot casserole in hand, I was embarrassed to take the tin foil cover off the top to reveal what I had brought to the fancy party.

But, the hostess, my new friend, was gracious and smiled as she slipped my casserole into the oven to be warmed up.

While I was waiting for my dish to be warmed up and served to the guests, I tried to make small talk with my new Portland party friends and noticed that they started to disappear. Soon, there was only one person left in the living room. I asked my new conversation companion where everyone went and he nodded to gesture that I follow him. So, I did. And, in I walked into a smoke-filled second bedroom where all of the guests were inhaling from pipes that bubbled water. It suddenly dawned on me that this was not the potluck I thought I was going to get!

Not wanting to be rude, I went back to the kitchen to take my casserole out of the oven, and served up huge helpings of my TaterTot casserole to my new red-eyed friends. I should have looked at my watch, because they ate my casserole in record time; and, I went home that evening with an empty casserole dish. A good sign at most potlucks.

Disappointed that the new friendship didn’t work out, I went in to work on Monday and told my new co-workers about the potluck. They all roared with laughter, except one of them, the one who I thought was the ‘coolest girl in school’ and who surely would never be my friend. Yet, within a couple of weeks, that cool-girl invited me to a party at her house-- a party without the potluck.

That simple invitation began a long and dear friendship between me and that cool-girl. Since her party-without-the-potluck, she and I have each moved to different cities, not once but a couple of times. And, in spite of the distance, our friendship has grown stronger through career changes, lay-offs, new jobs, boyfriends and break-ups.

Yep, sometimes you don’t get exactly what you think you’re going to get, but if you are lucky, you will get something even better.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards


A-League = Amateur league

31/1/10 - Pint of Pilsner, listening to a band playing covers in the sunshine

Last night I went to the ami stadium in Christchurch for Wellington Phoenix vs Adelaide United. Wellington are New Zealand's only professional club and they play in the Australian league. The ami stadium has been recently expanded to a capacity of 45,000 ready for the 2011 rugby world cup, there were nearly 20,000 watching the Phoenix with me and around 1,000 of those actually understood what was going on. Twice before the game I overheard people saying 'is it 45 minutes a half?', bloody egg chasers.

A-Leaugue football is shit. Very shit. In a pub before kick off an English man got served before the man next to me who then turned to me and said with anger "fucking pommies getting in the way of us drinking" I nodded and kept quiet for a minute but had to order my drinks with him still next to me. "Piynt of beeya pleeaayse" I said. It didn't sound Australian it sounded retarded.

I moved away to a friendlier looking group of Kiwis to ask them what I should expect from the game and they admitted the standard would be about League 1 in England. It was closer to conference football with Wellington winning 1-0 thanks to a terrible goal followed some woeful goal mouth defending.

I sat next to a man who didn't like football but had come because his daughter plays, after 40 minutes he asked me "Is it 45 each way?"

Wellington play 2 home games outside Wellington each year, one in Christchurch and one somewhere else (I wasn't paying attention when I was told) and apparently the Wellington fans quite like the days out so maybe the Premier League's idea of a fixture in Hong Kong or America isn't that ridiculous. 31 game seasons though, stupid. Fact.

The only saving grace for A-League football is that you can take beers in to the stands and the bar is open throughout the game. I bought 6 bottles because every one else queueing seemed to be doing the same. Feeling on my way to a happy level of drunkenness I ran from the stadium back to the hostel, picked up my bottle of wine and headed to the lounge.

(Note to Mum: Skip this paragraph)
There were a few people who had the same idea as me and after a while we moved to the kitchen to play some drinking games. I learned a new Ring of Fire rule called 'Gecko' which allows the 'Gecko master' to pick any time to run at a wall or surface and stick to it, the last person to follow suit drinks. The drinking was fun and I chatted to people about things to do when I get to Asia but once I got in to town I was a mess and I have little recollection of the night except for being taken in to a strip club by two lads I had been drinking with only to get thrown out 5 minutes later for falling asleep at the bar!

I cocked up this morning. Missed my bus to Kaikoura, by a mere 4 hours. I bought an alarm clock today so hopefully it shouldn't happen again.

Although it was a bit of a wasted day if I hadn't missed the bus I wouldn't have got a t-shirt printed with 'I do like a t-shirt' on the front and I wouldn't have seen Mario, queen of the circus - a juggler at the World Buskers Festival who did his act dressed as Freddie Mercury, to the music of Queen!

Next

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
- Albert Einstein

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about the new decade and what I’d like to change. I’m not starting with a list of goals. In fact, I’m not even starting with a single goal.

Instead, I’m starting with a scent.

I used to start the new year with a goal or a single goal and forever failed to realize the change I was looking for. My goals were always dry. Boring. Predictable. Tired. They lacked vision and meaning and emotion and possibility—the very qualities I need to feel sparked and alive.

Having the SMART goal concept cemented into my brain by every success-guru, I’d make my list:
1. Lose 10 pounds by July 15.
2. Make $5,000 more by Nov 15.
3. Buy new living room furniture with my new money by Dec 31.
4. And so on….

Year-after-year, I’d raise my champagne glass to ring in the new year and the fact that I was no closer to my goals. What I had begun to overlook was the fact that in spite of all of the goal-setting, I had become even less clear about what I really, I mean like truly-willing-to-die-for, wanted.

Thanks to a string of failures several years ago, I finally stumbled upon a different approach.

I'd had four miserable jobs in a row and I decided it was time for a career change. Normally, I would have added: #42: Get new career, in The Annual Re-Typing of the List of Goals. But, as I wasn’t entirely clear about what I wanted to do, I struggled to turn it into a perfect SMART goal. So, instead, I closed my eyes and in an effort to summon the specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-oriented goal to my brain, I was unable to con cen trate. My mind wandered, avoiding the stale task at hand and all I could think about was what my new career might smell like.
And what it would sound like.
And what it would taste like.
And what it would feel like to touch it.
And what it would look like.

It wasn’t a smart goal, but it was something.

My new career would smell like escargot and taste like cherry popsicle. It would sound like bees and feel like holding someone’s hand. It would look like a swift moving river.

It felt silly, crazy and impractical, but it was a start.

And, by experimenting, investigating and checking things out during my new career search, I noticed what felt like cherry popsicle and bees, and what didn’t. Everything cherry popsicle stayed in; everything not-cherry-popsicle got deleted. I got more clear about a dream. I could fill in the spaces, adding texture and meaning around the sensations of my dream. It seemed to take forever, but within a year, I landed in a completely new career, new job, new home and in a new city.

Today, and for the first time in my life, everything meshes. I have a rich, fun career in a company where I busily work with caring people. There are ups and downs and it’s exciting and sometimes calm, but always moving forward. My silly, crazy, impractical approach was better than any goal I had.

So, tonight as I think about the new decade and what’s next for me, I’ll shut my eyes tight and follow my nose.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards

Village Farang’s Google Map ...

Felt like doing something different this year.  At the top of the page you will find a link to My Google Map.  Village Farang’s Chiang Rai, is my personal map of Chiang Rai.  Not meant to be all inclusive but rather a glimpse into places we frequent.  Putting too many bike or motorcycle routes gets messy so have removed most.

This is a work in progress so would appreciate feedback, especially on usability.  I have found that with some browsers it may be necessary to reload the page to get things working properly.  Please click away on the list and zoom in on things of interest and let me know if it works.

Elephant Ride in Phuket - Elephant Trekking

I've never actually done an elephant ride. It's never been a thing I really fancied doing though I am sure it would be a fun thing to do and a lot of visitors to Thailand want to do it. There are elephant trekking places all over Phuket. Some are close to the main beaches, others get a bit more off the beaten track (better in my opinion, I don't want to be trekking with a view of Patong or within earshot of a busy road!). And it's good business for sure, riding an elephant is on many tourists "must do" list. My parents have been over here visiting a number of times, and it was on their 2nd visit in 2004 that they went off for an elephant ride. I asked mum to write about the experience.. although it was over 5 years before this post written in 2010 and she forgot a couple of things - can't remember exactly where the place was, but it was between Kata and Naiharn... and she's not sure of the price they paid, but said she did bargain a bit and the price seemed quite reasonable for a new and unique experience.

Some people are against using elephants in this way and say the animals are not treated well. My parents experience was only positive, but just last week there was an incident in Phuket where an elephant went wild, a couple of tourists were injured and the elephant threw a car down a hill. That is of course a very rare occurrence - I've never heard of such a problem before in Phuket, but remember that elephants are wild animals no matter how many years they have been working with people.

If you want to book an elephant ride or any other Phuket tour, contact my friends at Easy Day Thailand.

Update - I asked about elephant rides on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page and got plenty of answers from tourists and animal lovers alike - see Have you done an elephant ride in Phuket?

Update 2016 - The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary will be opening soon!

OK, here's my Mum's words ... Our Elephant Experience in Phuket by Paula Monk.

When I was a child I would look through my books and see pictures of far away, wonderful lands. I was fascinated, but in the 1950s, growing up in post war Britain, it didn't seem possible that I would ever see any of those places for myself. I was filled with wonder at the sights of children riding on elephants and imagined how it would feel. That little dream lay dormant for almost a lifetime. The world has moved on during that life time and people travel far and wide – ordinary people like me.

Now we have family in Thailand (it was called Siam in my childhood) and on one of our visits I was determined to fulfil my childhood dream. I can't now tell you the name of the place where we went for our elephant ride. It was in the rural south of the island, in hilly terrain. I feel there couldn't have been a better place – the elephants were well looked after and so were we – my husband and I. The jungle was thick and lush and the views from the hill tops were superb.

We climbed up onto a platform of wood and bamboo to wait for our elephant and the young man who would guide us through our adventure. The back of the elephant was level with the platform and we climbed onto her back – I wish I could remember her name – and tried to get comfortable in the hard metal howdah. Even before we started to move we felt rather insecure, perched up there. It is high up and the seat is not strapped too tightly to the elephant.

My parents on the elephant ride in Phuket

Slowly we moved off. I was all grins and happiness! At first the ride seemed fairly smooth, but soon we were traversing the slopes of the jungle through narrow pathways. It was like a fair ground ride – I was thrilled and exited and scared stiff at the same time! Going down hill it almost felt like we would be lurched forward and roll over the beautiful elephants head! We hung on tight and enjoyed the thrill. Mostly our elephant strolled slowly along the familiar paths – sometimes she broke into almost a trot, accompanied by gasps and squeals from us.

The mahout

Elephant trekking in Phuket

Our elephant man started the ride sitting on the elephants head, between his ears.
Often we would stop completely when the elephant felt like a nibble at the trees – her trunk swinging to reach the tastiest bits. After a while our elephant man slipped down from the elephant and walked ahead. Oh my! Here we were, my beloved and I riding alone on an elephant though the jungle! Did I ever dream that I would be doing this? Soon our young guide came back and asked for my camera – a moderately simple digital camera. I wondered if he would know how to use it. But he was a superb photographer and we have a collection of fantastic photos of the pair of us on our elephant. The pictures definitely capture the excitement we were experiencing, far more than the fear.

View from the top!

Don't fall off! Hold on tight!

Our ride lasted for a long time – about an hour we recall. As we realised we were coming to the end of the ride we became aware that we felt physically tired. It is hard work to keep the body stiff and alert and to be holding on tight. But above all, we felt exhilaration that in our 60s we had taken the chance to fulfil a dream.

We climbed from the back of our beautiful elephant onto the platform. The world seemed so still and at peace. We climbed down and gave her some bananas. Wow, she looked so big from ground level! Then she was led away for a rest and to wait for the next people to delight in the experience. We fed young elephants before we left and stroked their heads. It was a lovely place to be and has provided us with a treasured memory.

Related Blog Posts

More Things to Do in Phuket
Phang Nga Bay Tour
Phuket Gibbon Rehab Center
Phuket Tours with Easy Day Thailand
Phuket Botanic Garden
30/1/10 - Sat outside a coffee shop near the Christchurch Art Gallery

I'll start with the walk back from Sumner, I cunningly turned the walk into a circular route by coming back on the other side of the road. This was mainly because I thought I was being funny and was amusing myself but it ended up being a great decision because I noticed so much more looking at the villages I was passing instead of out to the estuary and the sea.

I discovered that many of the houses in the hills had no road access and some of them even had their own monorails. I loved these houses and dreamt of owning one but when I considered the practicalities it wasn't as idyllic as it seemed. What if you twist an ankle? You become housebound or stuck out of your house, I still admired the people who lived in the houses and the builders who must have had a tough task building them.

The highlight of the walk was when I spotted a path with a sign saying Mulgan's Track, something that I had missed on the way to Sumner. It was a path up through the near near vertical hill side that served as the only access to 7 or 8 beautiful hillside houses. The view from the top was awesome and I had a little moment with myself before setting off back down the hill.

The whole walk to Sumner and back began at 11 and finished at 6 so by my calculations that's about 20 miles. I was exhausted when I returned to the hostel so I tried to get an hours sleep, not helped by interruptions from my 2 new room-mates (both nobs), one English, one German who looked at me like I'd crawled through sewage when I told them about my walk.

I got up and had a pint in a shit sports bar then watched Jackass in the hostel lounge before going to bed at 11 for a much needed proper night of sleep.

Today I was up at 7 and raring to go, I took a trip to the supermarket to buy some cereal for breakfast and bread for lunch. I met a friendly Canadian who was drinking someone else's wine, we chatted away as I ate my Sugar puffs (I thought I was buying Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes but I like both anyway) (Why did I write that, that's not interesting, sorry) (the apology has made things worse, I should have left it or deleted all this drivel, oh well). We both agreed that a girl who came in to the kitchen stressed was a moron because there should be no reason for stress when you're travelling in New Zealand.

The Canadian finished off the bottle of wine and when his friend came in I learned that he was working today and would be driving there. Later, whilst shaving I learned that he also has no licence in any country but I liked him so I'll allow it.

On the dangerous driver's recommendation, and also because I had planned to go there anyway, I headed for the botanic gardens and Hagley park where I got lost (bliss) watched some cricket and read some signs about trees that were so uninteresting I should have removed them and replaced them with new ones like 'This one gets pretty big' or 'Probably one of these in lord of the rings'.

From the park once I had found my bearings again I went to the Christchurch Art Gallery - Number 6 in 30 things not to miss in New Zealand according to my Rough Guide. The building was impressive and inside was similar to many other art galleries I've visited: the pictures were either boring or I didn't understand them. It was crap but I felt a bit more cultured.

I like travelling.

Christchurch Exploration

29/1/10 - Sat outside a bar in Sumner with a pint of Tui, not quite a lager but tasty nonetheless.

I'm in love, partly with the French girl I met last night but mostly with New Zealand and travelling in general.

Last night was a great night, the only thing missing was some dancing like a mentaler. I was first invited out by two German guys who were staying in the same room as me - Mike and Chris were their names and the first thing they did was to say they were going out later and did I want to join them which straight off makes them pretty good blokes in my book. I was feeling quite nackered after the flight so I said I'd see how I feel later.

After popping to the shop I made myself some pasta and got chatting to a lovely French girl called Astrid and we ended up going out for the evening together. Our first stop was a park to watch some of the World Buskers Festival which, by jolly coincidence is taking place in Christchurch this week. The act was a sort of trapeze, circus, acrobatics number which was nothing spectacular but watching it for free on a summer night with a beautiful stranger can't be bad. Once the swinging, twirling and jumping had finished we avoided donating any money and found a bar where we happily chatted the evening away before heading back to the hostel around 11 to say our goodbyes and exchange names for facebook, then off to bed for some much needed sleep.

Or at least that was the plan until Chris came in to the room and said they were just heading out and again asked if I wanted to join them. I'm not great at saying no to a night out and so I did join them and made lots of one night friendships with: An 18 year old German girl who had been living in a car whilst travelling; a brummy called Dave who was dangerously horny and two English girls who were staying in the same room as me and the Germans who were a bit annoying.

Today I have walked 3 and a half hours, partly in the wrong direction, from Christchurch to Sumner, a small seaside town with a beach and some picturesque rocks with caves in right on the waterfront. The walk was cracking, or at least the second half was, following the river estuary out to the sea past cliffs and caves and some pretty houses. I like travelling.

The Journey

Thursday 28/1/10 - On the plane from Sydney to Christchurch.

So far everything has gone very smoothly, touch wood. It's a long way to New Zealand but the in flight entertainment was excellent, I watched a couple of sit-coms, a bit of Michael McIntyre before he started to irritate me and 4 and a half films (Funny People **, District 9 ****, Julie & Julia ***, Up *** and most of Public Enemies before falling asleep).

On the Singapore to Sydney leg I overheard the woman sat next to me saying she lived near Auckland and I confess that my first thought was that I should befriend her on the off chance that she might offer me a place to stay for a night. I played it cool for the first 5 hours of flight because she had her headphones on and with only a couple of hours to go I started to worry that I might not get my opportunity to persuade this woman that she should start a B&B for me, but then a stroke of luck - she began vomiting with alarming frequency. Fantastic, I had my 'in' because I had to let her out every time she went to dispose of her sick bag and my 'it's no fuss, throw up as many times as you like' face is second to none.

When she turned a healthier shade of green, we got chatting and she was lovely. Her, her husband and several children (I think she mentioned at least 4) had moved to New Zealand from Kent. She had just spent a month with her sister becauase her neice was in Great Ormond Street with a brain... thing, can't remember what it was called but it was the size of a tennis ball and bad for you, if the girl had been older than 3 months then she's be dead but little ones have flexible skulls so hopefully she will recover fully.

Once we had landed Kathy (the friendly green woman) said I was welcome to stay with her family if I wanted (about bloody time) on their dairy farm 2 hours from Auckland and I may well take her up on her offer. I think I quite like travelling.

Memorable blushing moment 1: Looking for an up escalator or stairs back up to the toilets from the departure lounge at Sydney airport, failing to find one and generally walking forwards and backwards in an awkward drunken looking manner watched by a judgemental woman before conceding defeat and getting my phone out to avoid eye contact with judgemental woman.
Memorable blushing moment 2: About 2 minutes after blushing moment 1 I remembered I'd walked past a lift and lifts go up. Now I have a purpose judgemental woman. I strode in to the lift and the doors closed behind me, 'Floor B please' I thought as I pressed button B... nothing happened, I pressed it again and still nothing. Let's try C then... nothing. B & C together... nothing. Bugger. I resigned myself to holding my wee in and pressed A, the doors opened to reveal me to the judgemental lady who stared at me like one might stare at an individual who should not be allowed on a plane without being accompanied by their mental health practitioner. I got my phone out and walked past her with my head down.

Christchurch

I'm here, I made it. Someone let my Mum know!