A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

Highlights and Memories Sections Updated! November 3, 2008

Filed under: Round The World Trip — italicana kitchen @ 6:18 pm
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Phew! The last of the highlights and memories are now posted. These are just the tip of the iceberg so if you want to know more about my globetrotting days send me an email at cgswain@gmail.com or a blogpost and I would be happy to tell you more about my adventure, or answer any travel questions you may have! 

My biggest piece of advice to future travellers is not to plan too much of the travelling portion. Definitely get your life together before you leave (contact your bank, cancel your car insurance, make Dr/dentist appts, figure out your budget etc.), but as for the travelling portion, I found it more spontaneous, adventurous and fun to travel on a whim. You could prebook plane tickets like I did, although I ended up changing mine a handful of times and ended up with large change fees, so even those you may want to only plan a few months in advance to keep your options open, as with travelling–things are bound to change. 

When you arrive in a country, your first stop should be at the town’s information office or your hostel counter. You can get flyers, brochures and information on the top things to see, meet other travellers and talk to people who have been there and done that. The only pre-research I would suggest doing before arriving is to read up on the history and current state of the country. By reading a few books about the history of a country you get a broader picture of the countries past, which more often than not, has a direct influence of their current situation. It’ll also help give you some perspective on the country’s language, religions, and customs.  Briefly reading up on the current state of the country is also important to ensure that you are travelling during a safe period. (When I was travelling I missed the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit Chengdu by only a week, was on an island in Thailand when the cyclone hit Burma, and evacuated Srinigar immediately when protests broke out in the city center. Some incidents are unavoidable, like natural disasters or random acts of violence, but others often can be prevented by watching the headlines and making sure that the political situations in the country are deemed safe enough to traveller.) Other than that, just take things as they come and enjoy the ride…not solely the destination!

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India: Highlights and Memories October 29, 2008

1. Arriving in India, and being invited to our travel agents Iffy and Joma’s home for dinner with their family. We sat on the floor, Indian style, eating the most amazing curries, rice, and vegetables with our hands. It still amazing me how hospitable locals are to foreigners.

2. Changing our flight on a whim from Leh to Srinigar with hopes of trekking and fly fishing in the rugged Kashmiri outdoors.

3. Touring Dal Lake by Shiraka, a small row boat. The lake was clear as glass, and dotted with pink lotus flowers. The mountains, trees and houseboats reflected on the lake as though they existed as their own entity and not just a double. I played music through my speakers. It was relaxing and tranquil, the ride as like a unforgettable daydream.

4. Listening into our intuition to leave Srinigar early when news of riots and protests erupted in the city center–leaving one boy dead after being hit (accidentally) by a policeman’s tear gas canister. Shops were closed and protests were suspected to continue due to the lack of support by the government to provide supplies and shelter to the Hindus during their pilgrimages. It was unfortunate to leave, but with this news as well as the upcoming India Independence day, it was not particularly safe to stay as we did not want to be caught in a wrong time-wrong place situation. Beautiful Srinigar, I will be back. One day.

5. Flying from Srinigar to Leh and glimpsing our first views of the Himalaya Mountains!

6. Lazily spending three days in Leh acclimatizing, reading books, trying different Indian cuisine, and wondering the shops and walkways.

7. Hiring a jeep with 2 other travelers and journeying to Nubra Valley, travelling alongside the cliff’s edge on windy roads and crossing the highest motor-able pass in the world.

8. Exploring a handful of monasteries. My favorite, was a giant construction perched atop a hillside cliff 100 feet away from a roaring waterfall. The sound of the rushing water and the isolation of the monastery gave the place a magical feeling.

9. Riding two-humped camels through sand dunes!!!!

10.  Leaving on a trekking trip with Reme and Gabriel, brother and sister from France, and getting a flat tire about a 15 minute walk from our starting point destination. After a hilarious photoshoot, we walked the remainder of the way to our campsite where we met an Italian couple and spent the remainder of the night playing cards and speaking in 3 languages.

11. Reme and Gabriel left after 6 days, but Suz and I signed up for a 14 day trekking trip. We woke up each morning to hot tea outside our tent and a warm breakfast waiting in the cooks tent. We walked 4-8 hours a day through stunning landscape, crossing valleys, rivers, climbing 4 passes-the highest being over 4950meters high and celebrating with swigs of Chang beer (a homebrewed wheat beer made by the locals).

12. Suzanne and I nicknaming our guides, cooks, and ponymen “gangsta names”, there was G-Unit, T-Dawg, Ice Cube, Flava Flav, Diggity, Dr. Dre, Q-Diddy, LL Cool J and Snoop Dawg. Since Indian names were hard for us to pronounce and easy to forgot, we used these nicknames and it was a HUGE hit. They in turn nicked named us Indian names, Reme was Gime, Gaby was Achan, Suz was Zesma and I was nicknamed Padma (meaning flower), and called Pame for short.

13. Helping T-Dawg, our amazing cook, make Momos–a Tibetan pot sticker type dumpling.

14. Witnessing a rainbow in the dark. I would have never imagined this was even possibly, but there it was a beautiful full sized rainbow lit up by the glow of the full moon.

15. Putting together a limbo competition while listening to music from our Ipods.  Our cooks, guides, ponymen–everyone participated. It was so much fun!

16. Watching the mountains change colors, from purple to yellow to green to gold over the course of our 14 day trek.

17. Washing our laundry on rocks in the river with the warm sun on our backs.

18. Taking baths in river streams.

19. Finally developing a taste, and love for tea!

20. Teaching our cook, guide, poneyman and two monks how to play the card game “Spoons” in the tent.

21. Standing less than 50 yards away from a herd of 30-40 Ibex, and after watching them graze in the grass for 20 minutes, I ran after them shouting with a Seagull voice just to see them stampede. It was remarkable watching them run.

22. Skipping rocks on Tsokar Lake with Zesma, G-Unit and T-Dawg.

23. Going to Yoga classes at a meditation center.

24.  Zesma and I renting bicycles and riding out of town with a daypack, and stopping in a small village called Thiksey for the night.

25. Waking up before dawn and hiking to the top room of the monastery. We sat on the floor in a room of 30+ monks who were sitting on cushions, chanting their morning prayers and being served breakfast (tea, water and wheat flour, which they mix together to form a dough-like substance). Most of the monks were young boys and it was quite hilarious watching them play and joke while they were supposed to be chanting.

26. Riding a few hours to another small town, and instead of carrying on in the rain, we convinced a car to strap our bikes to the top of the roof and let us hitchhike back into Leh. This whole conversation was done in hand gestures as they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Ladakhi.

27. Flying to Leh and hiring a driver to take us to Jaipur and Agra.

28. Going to a Bollywood film with our driver and his friend.

29. Walking around he Monkey Temple, a temple outside of Jaipur, and taking a photoshoot with local children and women dressed in beautiful Saris and henna-painted hands and feet.

30. Walking around the Taj Mahal and taking pictures of the white marbled temple at sunset.

31. Being asked to be in photos with an Indian family (grandparents, parents, children etc.) which turned into a 10 minute photo shoot.

32. Witnessing the burning of bodies in Varanasi. 300-400 bodies are burned a day and are ignited from a flame that has supposedly been burning continuously for over 2000 years. The bodies are carried by family members on bamboo poles and weaved grass mats and are wrapped  by scarves each family member gives as a final gift. The body is tipped into the Gange River, the face and body splashed with the holy water. After drying, the scarves are removed and set to the side and the body, now wrapped only in a cotton sheet, is placed on top of the wood and a man in charge places more wood on top of the body and finally ignites the wood from a neighboring fire. The cremation process takes 3 hours, leaving only the collarbone from a man and hipbone from a woman in the pile of ash. After the cremation is finished, the brother or closest relative extracts a bucket of water from the Gange and extinguishes the fire. The workers gather the ashes in a bucket and hand it to a man who is wast deep in the river. He pours the ashes into a weaved basket, filtering the ashes to salvage any pieces of jewelry or bits of gold that were buried with the deceased. These items go into the pocket of the owner of the crematory. The expense of a cremation depends on the type of wood selected, but for Iron Wood (similar to Sandlewood which is used to mask the smell of the burning body) costs roughly 250Rp per Kilo of wood. Each cremation requires an estimated 200 Kilos of wood. For the families who cannot afford this, other families chip in until enough is purchased and the body can be burned. Since Varanasi is deemed one of the holiest cities in India, the majority of people bring their loved ones here to be cremated, as they believe that here the body will be released to Nirvana.  The only bodies they do not burn are pregnant women, children (under the age of 16), animals of any kind, and people with leprosy. Instead they are weighted and dropped in the middle of the river. Despite the cremation process that takes place in and around the Gange River, we rode in a boat at sunrise watching men, women and children bath and wash their clothes in the river, as they deem this water to be holy.

35. Standing on a rooftop over looking the banks of the river, while watching locals perform Puja, a type of blessing.

34. Going to a restaurant recommended by our travel agent, and ordering a South Indian dish that was similar to a crepe. We ordered the one that looked like it has the most variety of stuff in it, but turned out it just meant that it was the biggest. The crepe was bigger that my arm!

 

Laos: Highlights and Memories August 9, 2008

1. Taking the bus from Hanoi to Vientiane. This was a 24 hour non-stop bus ride. You heard correctly, 24 hours. However, at this point in my trip I’m use to 8…10…15 hour bus rides, so really, what’s another few hours?

2. Being spoiled with a “home” and amazing hospitality. Sara’s sister Gemma lives and works in Vientiane, and let us stay with her and her boyfriend Thomo, in their amazing mansion of a house. It was so great to have a “home” for a few days (and a REAL BED!). They absolutely spoiled us. THANK YOU GEMMA AND THOMO!

3. Cooking for a dinner party in a real kitchen. Cooking is one thing I miss on this trip, and it was an absolute treat to get in the kitchen and whip up a meal.

4. Tropical Fruit, muesli and yogurt. Need I say more. This alone is my ultimate favorite food in the world. Well, maybe it runs a tie with Amarena gelato….

5. Working out in a gym! I was “Gemma” for the afternoon and spent 2 glorious hours lifting weights and running on the elliptical machine. I think I could have spent 8 hours easily. It is so hard working out while travelling and in humid heat (trust me, Brian, Suz and I tried to do sit ups on the beach in Thailand and got plenty of stares).

6. Meeting our new friend Joe on the bus ride up to Vang Vien.  Joe is probably one of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met. Suzanne, Joe and I were inseparable for about a week straight and I don’t think we ever ran out of interesting things to dicuss, debate or laugh about.

6. Being stranded on the road twice in one journey. Due to the tarantula downpour from the night before, our bus got stuck going around a corner as we made our way from Vang Vien to Luang Probang. We waited over an hour and watched as the bus/car backup piled to 20+ vehicles in each direction. Luckily after an hour, a tractor came and pulled us out. Later, when we were maybe only a 1/2 hour from our destination, the engine stopped.  Fortunately we were picked up by another bus within an hour. Our 7 hour journey turned into a 10 hour adventure.

7. Sitting quietly on the temple steps, listening to  the monks chanting their afternoon prayers in unison .

8. Learning how to cook Laotian food at the Tamarind Cafe. In an outdoor garden setting along the Mekong River, I learned how to cook gourmet Laotian food. The menu included: fish wrapped in banana leaves, chicken stuffed lemon grass, Buffalo laap, Jeow salsa & sticky rice and a traditional Laos soup. The flavors were incredible and the presentation was impeccable. I have the cookbook and bought a mortal and pestle, so  get ready for a yummy Laos dinner when I get back!

9. Meeting Yev and Isaac, two fellow Americans (which is a rarity, because Americans don’t travel!). Again, traveling is more than just seeing the destination, it is about the people you meet along the way. Yev and Isaac also top the charts on being two of the most fascinating people I’ve met on this trip. Every conversation was stimulating, interesting and educational. I love learning and if this trip does anything at all, it has definitely made me thirst for knowledge.

10. Scaling the walls of a giant waterfall. Probably not the smartest idea, but adventurous indeed.

11. Using the waterfall’s rapid spray as a back massage. 1) it was free and 2) was better that a real massage. Now, how to get that set up in my backyard someday is the question…

12. Watching Yev run and slip-in-slide head first down a muddy trail. Absolutely epic.

13. Painting Yev, Issac, Joe and Suzanne’s faces with mud. It’s fun to be a warrior for a day!

14. Eating a Laos BBQ.  This is not a traditional BBQ, but rather more along the lines of fondue. There is a grill set up in the middle of the table where you put on your own meat (and cook to your personal tenderness)  as well as a bowling pot below the grill where you heat up broth for soup and cook veggies. Delish!

15. Being the instigator in setting up a 100 meter dash in the middle of the street, during pouring rain. Hey, if you’re already wet, might as well play in the rain!

16. Staying up til 5a.m. talking about politics, films, books, inventions, business, travelling and life in general. I can’t remember when I’ve had more interesting  and stimulating conversations than that night hanging out with Joe, Yev, Isaac, David, and Suzanne. It was like we were in university—where we had time to discuss, to be creative, to brainstorm and to share personal knowledge.

17. Riding an elephant through the jungle, over streams, down mud trails and eventually into a lake where I bathed the elephant and got splashed with water.

18. Trying a smorgasbord of food from the local food stalls. It’s so fun to try out all the different type of food. Point and pay is the name of the game.

19. Laotian Pineapple–the BEST pineapple that has ever touched my lips. Unless you’ve tried it, you don’t understand.

20. Relaxing on a boat while we made our way to a cave filled with hundreds of Buddha trinkets.

21. Shopping in the Laos market, one of the most stress-free and relaxing market shopping experiences in all of Southeast Asia.

 

Vietnam: Highlights and Memories: Sapa to Hanoi

1. Trekking through the rice paddy fields of Sapa and spending the night at a home stay.

2. Drinking rice wine with the Lo Chai women and playing card games while laughing and talking candidly.

3. Riding on a moped through the countryside, past small villages and waterfalls.

4. Watching the Water Puppet Show in Hanoi, and marveling over the unique instruments that the band used to create the music.

5. Meeting up with my Australian friend Sara, who I had gone to uni with in Perth. It’s amazing how with some friends, no matter how long time passes, you can always pick up where you left off.

6. Meeting “old friends” along the beaten path. It was great to see David, John and Victoria (friends we met in De lat) while we were in Hanoi. The backpacker community is truly unique in that you are thousands of miles away from your hometown, but run into people that you “know” so the world never seems that large. In fact, it’s small.

7. Hanging out with 7 Spanish guys and being mesmorized by their accents. “Zapatillas”, which simply means “shoes”, is now the sexiest word in my dictionary.

8. Going to the movie, Sex in the City.  I know, “bad tourist”, but after 5 months of traveling, you sometimes need to incorporate a few comforts that remind you of home.

9. Taking a nap in the sun on the roof of a boat overlooking Halong Bay. Waking up and falling asleep to beauty is one of nature’s glorious gifts.

10. Riding a bicyle, around Cat Cat Island.

11. Getting a massage, while sitting outside at a bar drinking a cocktail. Kind of bizarre as the massuse moved from one person to the next in the group, but it still felt amazing!

12. Running through the rain in search of Pho’. With the rain pelting down around us, Sara, Suzanne and I happily ate the most delicious Pho’ under a tarp at a street stall vendor. The cheap and amazing food from street stalls is something that I am going to tragically miss when I go home.

 

Recap: China June 23, 2008

Filed under: China,Round The World Trip — italicana kitchen @ 6:29 pm
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China: Highlights and Memories

1. Waking up to the most beautiful sunrise on my flight from Auckland to Beijing. Black filled the sky, and a perfectly round sphere lay in the horizon with what looked like paint brush strokes of red and yellow streaking across the morning sky.

2. Walking on the crumbling stones of the Great Wall of China, a place that had always seems mythical to me. I was walking on an ancient relic where Chinese warriors had stood thousands of years ago. The thought of this still keeps me in awe.

3. Escaping the smog filled streets of Beijing to explore the Summer Palace. The sky, still a whiteout of smog, disguised itself at the Summer Palace as a comfy down blanket wrapping me in warmth. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom dispersing a sweet aroma as I strolled through the rounds with my new English friend Jan, marveling the vibrant colors and intrinsic designs of Chinese architecture.

4.. Sitting in awe, as a man in tights charged the trampoline gaining momentum with each step until finally making connection with the spring and propelled his body to spiral forward in a flip and land on the shoulders of his fellow performer who was on the top of the four-man stack. Twelve girls in pink leotards and showgirl-like headpieces rode push bikes in a circle, each one exiting at their given cue to pull along side the leading bike and climb aboard. The women gracefully piled on the top of each other and fanned out like peacock feathers as the act came to a finale. These were just two of many extraordinary performances at the Beijing acrobat show.

5. Visiting the Beijing Huiling Community, a center for men and women with learning disabilities ranging in age from18-35. Upon arrival, they excitedly greeted us with huge grins and had prepared for us a lunch of pork dumplings, taught us how to write in calligraphy, and put on an entertaining musical and talent performance.

6. Catching a thief in action. With my backpack strapped to my back, I stood in line waiting to go up the crowded escalator, while talking to my English and Australian friends Jan and Emily. Suddenly, I felt a tug on my back. I instantly turned around to witness a 20 something year old trying to unzip the top of my pack! I slapped his hand that was still suspended in air, and pointed my finer inches away from his face.

“No!” I sternly exclaimed, scolding him like a misbehaving child. He stood there in shock, cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth, eyes startled at being caught. Slowly he drooped his shoulders and walked away.

7. Sauntering around the Terracotta soldiers excavation site and listening to our guide, “Julie”, explain the purpose and history of the underground Mosulium and 8000+ warriors who were built to protect the emperor in his afterlife. I found it interesting that the emperor ordered the massacre of his 300+ concubines so they would follow him into death, and was going to do the same with his entire army, but after the recommendation by his leading general, conceded in creating replicas instead.

8. Patting the fluffy head of a panda bear! I feel so fortunate for this experience as these adorable creatures are on the brink of extinction.

9. Feeling ant-sized as I stood at the toes of the Giant Buddha. The massiveness of this stone statue is simply mind blowing. Pictures do not do justice.

10. Exploring the Wu Yu temple surroundings. After exiting the temple, we traversed through a maze of walkways, bridges, crumbling temples and waterfalls until we passed through a square where women sat at tables selling trinkets while men armed with self-made brooms swept stone steps or whizzed by on bicycles that contained a cage full of chickens harnessed to the back. We walked towards the exit and as we reached the top, the view took my breath away. Before me stood the most beautiful bridge set above still water and green grass that lined the banks. The red bricks lining the two gazeba like peaks on either side of the bridge’s curved walkway were vibrantly reflected in the water creating a mirrored image. It was an view straight out of a fairy tale book.

11. Staying overnight in a monastry on Mt. Emei. I woke up to the sound of beating drums and voices chanting in harmony. Still half asleep I rose from my bed, walked barefooted across the cold tile floor, veared right to descend the stone steps and followed the rhythmic music to the main temple where before me stood 20 some monks dressed in orange robes heads and shoulders bowed as they prayed in unison. One monk yawned, he too was tired.

I sat on the stair steps, transfixed in a curious gaze watching the monks’ every actions until the final beat of the drum signaled the end of the early morning prayer ritual. They exited single file down the staircase, across the courtyard where a trough of incense burned and disappeared through a side door. Somewhere in the distance birds were chirping as I rose from my seated position. I followed the stone steps back to my room as the morning light danced across my feet. My body welcomed the warm comforter as I crawled back into bed. Within moments I was fast asleep. A few hours later my eyes fluttered opened.

“What a wonderful dream I thought to myself.” Then it all came back to me as I saw the proof of dirt still caked on the souls of my feet. The sleepy smile on my face broke into a huge grin, it wasn’t a dream….it wasn’t a dream.

12. Becoming a celebrity. With my 5’8” height, white skin and light eyes, I was a novelty in the mass of dark hair and dark eyes. Babies and small women were shoved in my arms while I walked on the street. Men and women tugged at my sleeves motioning me to look at the camera their friend held. In one instance, my blond hair friend Jan and I partook in a 20 minute photo shoot with about 15 curious Chinese men and women. I finally knew what it was like to be Jennifer Aniston.

13. Painting a picture with a Chinese artist. I helped Dongzuyi with his English and he showed me how to paint. He drew a mountain, I drew the rest of the mountain. I drew a tree, he filled in flowers. It is a simple pice of art with it’s child-like strokes of paint coupled with artistic prescision.

14. Riding a bicycle through rice paddy fields. Images of men and women, some wearing triangular straw hats, crouched down with their pant legs rolled up in ankle deep muddy water and threw blades of rice grass into the earth.

15. Climbing to the top of Moon Mountain. After a muddy walk up a hidden brush path, Jan and I reached the top of one of the most beautiful horizons I’ve ever seen. Tall pinnacles of rock jutted out from the ground in every direction like the points of a king’s crown while green rice patties and orange trees sparkled like jewels in the afternoon sun.

16. Sitting front row at the Youngshou Light Show. Lined behind me were bleachers of seats, in front of me water and pinnacles, the landscape transformed into a grand-scale stage. Powerful music played loudly. Lights danced in every direction and 800-some performers held me memorized throughtout the 2 hour show.

17. Taking a cooking class . With an apron tied around my waste and a cooking hat pinned to my hair, I fashionably learned how to make three Chinese dishes, the pork steam dumplings being my favorite.

18. Joining Vince, Michelle (friends of friends who live in Hong Kong) and 5 other girls for Dim Sum. For an afternoon I was not a backpacker. I was enjoying a mouthwatering Sunday Dim Sum lunch at a fancy club chatting with my new friends as though I have known them for years. It reminded me of my wonderful friends back home.

 

Recap: New Zealand-South Island

New Zealand: South Island Highlights

1. Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com) in Christchurch.

2. Randomly competing in a sushi-making contest. I was the only Caucasian competing against a dozen managers from a sushi-chain restaurant. Although my chopping skills were definitely not up to speed, they found my efforts quite amusing and entertaining. I think they may have even put the video on You Tube…

3. Mark and I discovering our favorite breakfast spot, Oasis. Fresh baked muffins and moccachinos all for 5 NZD. What a steal! Over the course of the following 5 weeks, we greeted any excuse to make it back to Christchurch just for the delicious muffins/coffee. Ironically enough, Gabe, the guy’s couch we surfed on, ended up getting a job at Oasis after we took him there for a farewell-thank-you breakfast.

4. Mark and I buying a 1989 Nissan Prairie, which we named “Prairie Fire”, in honor of our brother Cliff whose cheeky prank on a former co-worker still makes us laugh out loud to this day. ( Cliff, we even toted around Tequila and Tabasco Sauce in the back for 5 weeks!) The best part about the car….it had a SUNROOF. (Revert to a post below about my obsession about convertibles and sunroofs…as you may guess…I was in heaven.)

5. Horseback riding in Kaikoura.

6. Wine tour in Picton.

7. Trail-running the Queen Charlotte Track. They estimate that the hike should take 5 hours. Mark and I did it in an hour and 45 minutes.

8. Sunday morning Church at the Nelson Cathedral. One of the best services I’ve been to.

9. Getting lost on our way to Motueka. We were going to only hike 2 hours into the Abel, spend the day on the beach and hike back out. We (by “we”, I mean “I”…) ended up driving to the end of the Abel track and instead of driving back, we left our car in Totaranui, caught a water taxi to our original campsite destination and then had to hike out the entire track the following day. Most people do the Abel Tasman track in 3-5 days. We did it in one, hiking out in the dark.

10. Missing the low-tide crossing and Mark having to carry his pack, me and my pack across thigh deep water. My brother Mark, the “Sherpa”, is an all out champion.

11. Driving up Golden Bay to Whanganui Beach where Mark and I spent the afternoon walking through rolling green pastures lined with sheep, plunging down sand dunes like rabbits leaping through the air and eating lunch inside a cave while playing ankle deep in the water, tempting the torrent waves to come get us like a boy tormenting a dog on a leash-only this dog was frothing white water like it had rabies and was on the loose!

12. Soaking in the natural rock pools and Japanese bath house at Maruia Springs.

13. Driving through Lewis Pass: U2 blaring through the speakers of the car, feet on the dash, sun warming me through the window, my brother-my sidekick-driving, and my hand stretched high out the opening of the sunroof. Top 5 scenic drives of my life.

14. Picking up Mark’s friend Trevor, a warm-hearted and hilarious guy who added a ton of great memories and fun energy to the trip.

15. Driving through Arthur’s Pass and stopping at Castle Hill to watch a bouldering competition.

16. Thinking I was going to fall and break my skull when Mark forced me to boulder one of the rocks. I shimmied up the rock with great fear but savored the view and the adrenalin rush from the top.

17. Car camping alongside rail road tracks, beach roads, gravel turn outs, parking lots, streets, sports fields, farms and rivers. To save money we would car camp for 2-3 days, staying at hostels only when we needed a shower. True backpacker style!

18. Climbing Avalanche Peak, an 8 hour hike off of Arthur’s Pass.

19. Caving and exploring the pancake rocks at Punakaiki.

20. Meeting up with our 3 Danish friends, Kris, Soren and Morton, every 5-6 days. It was a joyous reunion every time we saw each other. It’s truly remarkable how tight-knit you can become with other travellers in such a short time.

21. Ice Climbing on Franz Joseph Glacier and being stuck in a “rescue mission” when my crampon broke as I was climbing out of a crevasse.

22. Meeting Lou and Ann, one of the most inspirational couples in their 60’s, who retired 15 years prior and have been sailing around the world ever since, breaking their adventure only once or twice a year to visit their children and grandchildren back home in the states.

23. Becoming acquainted with Ed, a Scottish-traveler living and working in Queenstown. We stayed at his place, went out with his friends and experienced a “local” perspective of QT. (Note that “local” virtually means anyone living in QT longer than 3 months as everyone is practically a foreigner.)

24. Eating a Fergburger-one of the most mouth-watering, gourmet and delicious burger ever created.

25. Hiking the Routeburn Track.

26. Kayaking and staying overnight in the Milford Sound. Imagine a bay surrounded by rock, rainforest and hundreds of waterfalls spilling down towards the shoreline.

27. Learning how to Zouk, a type of South American dance, with a Brazilian dance instructor named Rodrigo.

28. Enjoying a picnic and bottle of wine on a blanket with a handful of friends at Screen on the Green, a series of mini-documentaries, played for the public at a park in Queenstown.

29. Canyon Swinging. 109 meters high. 60 meters free fall. 150KPH. 200 meter arc. This is basically set up like bungee jumping but you swing through a gorge at the end instead of bobbing up and down. The great thing about canyon swinging is you also get to pick how you want to jump (backwards, somersault, dive, upside down etc.). I went backwards and upside down–which was an amazing rush.

30. Seeing Mt. Cook while on top of a neighboring mountain.