Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My First Tramp - Welcome Flat

Last weekend I finally went on my first overnight tramp to Welcome Flat Hut on the West Coast, just south of Fox Glacier. For company I had Seth and Justin - two burly men with tonnes of outdoor experience, and Anh - pictured above - my gorgeous medical-student friend. I was pretty well-prepared in terms of the expertise of people with me, but I still felt nervous about how well my unfit body would cope with a 7-hour uphill slog carrying a pack.

Really well apparently! A few hours in, I asked Seth: "I wonder when the uphill bit starts?" and he looked at me like I was stupid, and said "Lei, we've been going uphill this whole time..." The walk up to Welcome Flat Hut is really gradual and easy-going most of the way - only the last few hours are steepish uphill, and involve a lot of scrambling over rocks.

But at the end ... the most stunning 'hut' ever* and ... natural hot pools! See my feet and Mt Gorgeous above (that is it's real name).

* From my mattress I could lie on my back and look out a huge window, up at the mountain ranges encircling us. Bliiiissss.

Hot pools in the rain and red wine!

Justin braving it out in the extra hot part.

And the cheerful stumble back down the mountain, followed by an 8 hour drive home with a space-saver tyre (ergh). At least central Otago is stupidly beautiful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Election Mourning Party

Almost a week ago now, my fine country held it's free and democratic election and the people spoke, as we anticipated they might, to re-elect neo-liberal maniac John Key. Ok. As a good friend of mine said at the time: "that's the price we pay for liberal ideals" - or something.

In any case, Logan, Gigi and I had decided to dress formally for this momentous occasion. Then, without discussing it previously, both Gigi and I had decided this would be a mourning party and we would dress in funeral appropriate garb.

Above: watching the horrendous results roll in, Gigi hiding her grief behind dark glasses and burying her sorrow in champagne. Below: group suicide (although what IS Logan doing? It looks more like murder if you ask me...)

Below: the since departed opposition, Phil Goff. Visibly shaken on the night, I thought. Poor guy. (I've always said I could never, never, never be a politician. Those poor bastards).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Armchair travel

I'm well aware that the secret to greatness is the ability to edit oneself, but I mean "I'm well aware" so as to say - I'm "well aware" I should save money, for instance, but I'm yet to develop the skills to actually carry this action out. According to Aristotle, who did not believe one could 'have' ethics - only those you acted upon count - I certainly do not understand the value of editing. So, it is in this spirit I present you, dear reader, with fifteen photographs of these 1960s American Geographical Society 'Around the World' guides I bought at the Regent book sale positively ages ago. I got them for $1 each and they are taking turns being on display in my bedroom. At the moment: Bermuda.

What I love about these covers is the way the basic, stereotypical little drawings, making spots on the map - as if you could go to that place and indeed see a real life cart being pulled by oxen - show you the changing views people have of other places - of overseas.

Aside from that, I love the fantasy of a place, which only exists in our collective or individual imaginations - and which will never stand-up to the reality once you arrive. People always look at me questionably, as I talk-up a place I've never been, and ask if perhaps I'm worried I might be disappointed with the real place. I always feel wildly flattered by the idea that my pitiful imagination could possibly dream up an actual pulsating, spontaneous and utterly 'Other' place - not to mention that I could, within my controlled imagination, actually ever imagine another person. A real place, and real people, will always be infinitely more than a controlled, you-absorbed fantasy place.

But the fantasy has a lightness and silliness about it which I quite adore also. Which is why you'll find me sometimes, in a bar in Bangkok, reading an old novel set in Burma and day-dreaming about 'Burma.'

These ridiculous images and maps are precisely for people like me. Below: good old Austria.

And back to Bermuda ! Cricket and cucumber sandwiches, exotic fragrances, exploring hidden waterfalls, horse-drawn carts and early morning jets back to New York.

Below: a friendly traffic warden in safari get-up helps a couple of blissed-out, slightly drunk tourists on their way.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steampunk Capital

Oamaru is the the self-proclaimed steampunk headquarters of New Zealand, although I've previously mostly associated it with the famous white Oamaru stone, good cheeses and petrol station stops on the way elsewhere. This is really embarrassing, but I had actually never stopped in the historic Victorian part of town before last week - and as a direct result of my ignorance, never thought of Oamaru as a particularly beautiful or interesting place. Boy was I wrong.

An exceptionally well-dressed and amiable local.

Then we stopped at Annie's Victorian Tea Rooms - a place which would have featured in my fantasies had I ever heard of it before. Just look at that menu! (and those prices)

An elderly woman played equally old music on the piano, without music sheets, and when she got up to leave everyone clapped quietly and thanked her. She didn't work there.

Above: one of the waiters. Below: the best scones of my life. Paradise: Annie's is your name.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crush on a Tory

While Rory Stewart writes about his "uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention", I thought I would write about my own frustrating and ethically admirable battle: my battle against having a crush on a tory. Until Rory Stewart came along, I have been like the Berlusconi of the feminist left - claiming that 'left-wing' men (I know, the 'wings' are stupid political terms) are way hotter than those gross conservatives with their spongey skin, soulless eyes and regularly tweeted private parts (I know, Anthony Weiner is a democrat - but your 'centre-left' is my 'centre-right' America).

But then, this:


Hats off to any feminist babes out there who look at that, watch his ted talk and read his horrifying curriculum vitae, and still feel unmoved by those beautiful, entirely soulful eyes. This may be one of the biggest celebrity crushes of my adult life and it is on someone who supports David Cameron - i.e. not even a smart conservative. The awful kind. The neo-liberal, slash and burn economics, champagne swilling kind.

p.s. his website actually does put me off slightly. SLIGHTLY (Also, only because I find pictures of grown men holding lambs disgusting, not because of the politics).

Anyway, for those of you who can't be bothered reading the ridiculous life story of my political crush or watching his frankly inspirational ted talk, I've prepared an example of what it would be like if Rory and I were dating:

The scene: winding down after a day motorbiking around Sumatra, a romantic dinner in an obscure little restaurant, where Rory orders in Bahasa (because he speaks it fluently).

Rory: (to me, in English) "Boy, I'm so glad Samoa has finally joined the WTO. Free trade is really the only way forward - I can't believe how protectionist some of these states can be, and for what?! Don't these people want development?"

Me: "Rory, we've talked about this so many times and it makes me really upset. I'm so angry I would throw my glass of red wine on you right now, if I wasn't so fond of that shirt you're wearing..."

Rory: "Oh honey, I love it when you're angry! It reminds me of that time I walked across Afghanistan."

Me: ...

Double Rainbows in Doubtful Sound

I'm not sure I've gotten around to bragging about my job yet, but here it is: my job is looking after American exchange students, planning trips for them and taking them on said trips. It is awesome.

Recently we went on an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound - an area of Fiordland inaccessible by road. Below you can see an excerpt from my reactions:

Above: 'Blanket Bay Hotel' - a popular place for fishermen to drop in. Below: the scene of many photographs and paintings, by many idiots hopelessly trying to depict the beauty of Fiordland in two dimensions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mt Cargill with a Smurfette

Most people walk up Mt. Cargill for the spectacular views of Dunedin and the surrounding beaches and peninsula. To break with tradition, my beautiful friend Dr. Gi and I decided to bundle up there on an exceptionally misty day - so the surrounding landscape was nothing but bright white.

To celebrate, Dr. Gi turned up dressed entirely in blue. I loved it.

Ominous foggy scenes.

"This is the part where the Zombies come out..."

Below: the famous radio tower. Squint hard.

Our picnic, courtesy of Crusty Corner (orzo, feta and spinach salad!), Pierre (happy to finally be on a trip again, no matter how small) and below: when the sun came out on our stumble down the hill, during which the smurfette dished out copious gossip I cannot repeat here !