Saturday, December 31, 2011

sunrise in Wien, sunset in Miami...

The way layovers should be... at South Beach, Florida
today's been pretty cool - waking up at 4.15am in the cold dark of Wien, seeing sunrise running between planes in Dusseldorf airport, missing our connection to New Orleans and being treated to the sunset on Lummus Beach in South Beach Miami, and hopefully making it to sleep in New Orleans on our 11pm flight!

Lummus Beach, South Beach Miami
Getting re-energized and in our beach attire...

Only in Miami... diet pills, energizers, warming magnum condoms, performance enhancers - and all to be had in the 7 Eleven

being in Miami is awesome - i'm reminded how much I've fallen in love with america !! each time I come I seem to be surprised then more enamored with how nice and enthusiastic people are here. you smile at them, they smile back at you, you joke around, they joke back. Not like the slightly colder european attitude... 

it's definitely party time here... perhaps being one day before NYE is partly to blame, but I get the feeling that it's just that sort of place of endless summer.

an absolute treat to be here instead of waiting out the 6 hours in the airport! oh, and the sushi. and beer. oh and oh and .... just happy:)

This is traveling happiness - not quite on the beach but things that make me SMILE

Frohe Weihnachten aus Wien!

Xmas lights in the innerstadt, Wien

after 3 weeks getting to see Wien lit up with its beautiful xmas lights, dressing my first real xmas tree (it was HUGE!) and being treated to wonderful meals from Philipe's mum, I'm finally rolling myself out of town, and continent, on my way to the next foodie destination, New Orleans!

celebrating xmas here was very different from those in Australia or my orphans xmas in Buenos Aires last year... the traditions, the cold weather, the beautiful lights, the food and Philipe's welcoming family and friends all made it a wonderful time. Austria is somehow different - the people are very proud of being Austrian (ahem. and not German), when you walk into a cafe, the entire room says hello (perhaps this was more so out of Wien), and there's little words such as auf wiederschau'n instead of the german wiedersehen and gruss gott for greeting people that somehow make you feel proud being in Austria.

as well as being a tourist, I also got to revel in relaxing in one spot and to be treated like one of the family - Gerlinde - Philipe's mum as well as seemingly continually cooking up big yummy meals was very welcoming, and the having comforts of a wonderful house was a total treat. I don't think I've ever eaten as much lebkuchen, kekse, kuchen, beef, ham, pork, duck, crusty bread roles, salami, and oh.. joy o fjoys.. espresso's ever!

Philipe with his adorable mum Gerlinde and brother, Andreas

some of the memories that made it so wonderful
  • xmas markets - on the first day going to Schonbrunn and eating a pretzel! with Wibke, Ronald, Stefen and Philipe, others in Wolfgangsee (near Salzburg), in the Rathausplatz, also even in the local village - Perchtoldsdorf
  • getting the first real xmas tree - and dressing it on xmas eve morning complete with CANDLES and glass baubles (kugel)
  • attending Bach's Oratorium in Steffansdorm (thank you to Philipe's mum for the treat!)
  • waking up to a white morning in Wolfgangsee
  • being able to have good coffee every morning, afternoon, evening
  • hanging out at the house with Philipe and Gerlinde, preparing and wrapping presents, cooking
  • being treated to endless traditional Austrian dishes from Gerlinde, a Moroccan inspired banquet from Johanna, and home baked xmas cookies from Wibke and Christina
  • going for morning runs in Perchtoldsdorf... through vinyards, forests and all 10mins from the house
  • meeting Philipe's friends - especially Peter and Karin and our night in the very picturesque Modling
  • visiting Hundretwasserhaus and KunsthausWien. The organic forms inspired me as to the power of architecture
  • seeing all the beautiful lights in the centre of Wien
  • seeing a saxaphone quartert busking ... fantastic, young players
ok... i want to rush to get my next post up on the happiness I'm feeling being in Miami, so will leave the post with some pics:)

The xmas market in Wolfgangsee.. so picturesque
Xmas eve dinner
The xmas tree in finished glory!
Getting dressed up
Getting it secured into it's stand... it was so tall and proud - yet so amenable to being bent and holding up baubles
Inpromptu saxaphone concert
Yes - the vinyards I ran through on my morning run.. and the view to Perchtoldsdorf
People playing Eisstockschiesel outside the museum
First day,, first pretzel, first xmas market

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

(was) so happy to be back in london

i noticed that i'd written these exact words 3 times in my diary on the days I was in London... why? along with the bundle of emotions of finally arriving there at 6pm on Friday night, after being in airports since 4am Wednesday morning in Peru, there were things that made me smile, happy feelings of being back somewhere I had enjoyed, and the excitement of seeing friends.

The lead up had been emotional, with delays, long waits, rebooking of flights, and only snatches of sleep. But... sitting on the DLR from london city on my way into Oxford Circus, holding to me my backpack of
worldly goods and just grinning at people in the tube... I was super stoked, in 1 hour I'd be happily crammed into a soho bar with my friends hearing all about what they'd been up to the past year.

Emerging out of the tube at Oxford circus, it took me about 7 bewildered seconds to orientate myself towards Kingley Stret using fcuk and regent street as markers, and then off I went backpack in tow to the bar among the beautiful and well dressed. stories were swapped, g&ts drunk with much laughter, and although feeling just a tad hungover, the following morning walking from Felipe's house to Southfields tube I revelled in how beautiful London can be.

Just some lil moments that came upon me during my 30hours in London...
  • really worrying whether flushing such luxurious thick toilet paper would block the pipes
  • the wonderful cold, crisp air, free of dust
  • bright winter sunshine
  • dogs on leashes
  • no stray dogs hunting for food
  • hearing all the different languages
  • being able to understand the spanish conversations
  • admiring the beautiful boots, handbags and coats worn by londoners going about their daily lives
  • preparing to speak spanish to a cashier, or saying permiso instead of excuse me
  • being able to drink water straight from the tap
  • undertanding all of every announcement
  • seeing every culture of people around me
  • greenery! lush winter greens
  • the xmas cheer especially around Hampstead
  • back in old stomping grounds
  • feeling heart palpitations of being in my favourite clothes shops
  • remembering that it really does take over an hour to get anywhere in london

It was really wonderful to see all you guys again - big hugs to Felipe, Victoria, JP, Mike, Elaine, Dan, Julian, Anna, Yulia, Neil, Catherine and Chris. Bummed I missed seeing Hilga and Gabs, but there's next time

Cheers from a rather greyer but beautiful Wien:)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

on the road for 1 year - pictures and reflections

The day of my first ever riding lesson... when my South American travels changed forever...
the thing is, it's been just over 1 year of travelling. it doesn't feel like it, i wonder whether i've changed or become a more balanced person, how my experiences, who i've met, what i've seen - the good and bad, will shape my future and whether it is all worth it?? in the moment i think, well i'm the same person, i've not changed, but when I remember back over the months of travel, things emerge that start to make me think that yes, it has been worth it and I have/am becoming a better person for it. 

so. time for some reflection. but before I dive into that heavy stuff, i thought in memory of my simon's cat t-shirt given to me at the start of my travels by mike in london (that is now about to be retired due to overuse), I'd mention that i've put together two highlights reels (one of Simon's Cat, other of all highlights) of experiences that have made it so wonderful. The full albums on Picasa have more detailed captions that I didn't reproduce in full in this post.

Chasing South America - 2011
A year with Simon's Cat

Not all the pictures are mine.. so thanks to... Sara and Kim for pics from Buenos Aires, Rick and Shai for pics from Antarctica, Ushuaia and Torres del Paine, Dana for pics from Antarctica and Mendoza, Julia for pics from Bariloche, Fred and Philipe for pics from Bolivia and biking, Mark for pics from Sucre and rafting and Matt for pics from Santiago.

so onto the heavier stuff... for me, the past year of travel has not been like a holiday... i'm not 'taking a break' from the routine of daily life, i'm not resting and getting over a stressful six months or project, i'm not trying to make best use of the little time I have... rather travel IS my routine, I have no time pressure apart from that which I create for myself, there's not really any tickboxes of things to see or do, and it's who you meet that mostly shapes your travels.

for all this, it does sound pretty luxurious, and I'm really thankful that I've had the opportunity to do it, but, (I guess there's often a but) there's times that I crave having a job to put my effort into, regular friends to muse about how shit and wonderful life is over a glass of wine after said job, having my own kitchen, having comforts of books, artwork and creative activities around me that I could dapple into when I felt like it, and the consistency to really get into and enjoy life in one spot. Moving around constantly, or even staying somewhere for a while (like I have done for the past 2 months getting dental treatment or studying spanish) does have a routine, but you get lazy. You stop making efforts to be 'touristic', you become conscious of the money you're spending to just live, you get sick of eating out nearly every meal, you get anxious about moving on, then you stress about finding a suitable hostal or hidden camping spot as dusk falls, and all in all you feel just a little guilty that this is all you really seem to worry about.

goodness, it all sounds like I'm a little down with it all; partly I think it's because of the thrice weekly dental appointments of the past 2 months, partly because after 1 year money is not something I can happily ignore anymore, partly becuase at some point I'm going to have to decide what's next. But I'm going to stop with all that now. It's enough no?!

So... what about the things that make it truly worthwhile? For me they have been...
  • the wonderful experiences of meeting people who work 6 days a year and earn less than $10/day to support their family, yet still welcome you into their home and share their food, or others that invite you to spend a week living in their house and sharing their lives
Stewart in the Bolivian jungle invited us to stay a week at his house
Invited to share beer, chatting and food (and the verandah to pitch our tent on) after being stranded near Rurre, Bolivia.
We camped in Eva's grandparents yard, and even had a delightful orange grove shower in Bolivia.
  • meeting other travellers on similar journeys who are going about it in different ways - like cycling the length of South America up 4500m passes and through the desert, or volunteering at various farms, education, construction and other aid projects
Chase, Urban, Steffan, Ziss, Carmen, Miguel, Jon, xmas orphans Dec 2011 Buenos Aires
Paulus, from Lithuania... pass conquering, cold bearing, chain smoker cyclist!
  • seeing the wonderful colours of indigenous communities who still preserve their way of life (partly for tourism, but partly to retain their cultural identity) I love the top hats worn by Bolivian altiplano women... doesn't seem to have any practical use but matches their gold or purple billowing skirts and tights
Bolivia women in their bowler hats
In the Lares Valley near Cusco... beautiful embroidered hats and colourful ponchos still worn by kids going to school
Ever enterprising... the girl without the hat is 12 years old and weaves before and after school to help support her family. THe little boy is wearing the traditional poncho.

  • learning about practices of indigenous cultures, and the steep learning curve of aid organisations when they try to make improvements (from their eyes) 
  • becoming aware of the person you are in situations - like pushing on extra kms to find water or a safe place to sleep, not being able to sleep because it's too cold and there's ice forming INSIDE your tent on your sleeping bag, how you tell your story for the 176th time to the new traveller you meet, how you deal with feeling alone, away from your family and friends and the isolation of where you've got yourself, how you feel when you're in one fo the most amazing places you've ever been, and you want to remember it forever.
Bundling up against cold camping at 4200m. The evening before ice on sleeping episode
Taking refuge on the altiplano winds in Bolivia
Just a routine chain tightening on the lowlands in Bolivia
  • experiencing things and conquering situations that you never thought you'd be able to deal with - taking 1 step forward for every 4 steps backward in rain on slippery rocks after falling into a river because of the ferocious wind while hiking, swimming in Antarctica, getting just a little lost following pig tracks in the cloud forest, being awed watching your 70 year old parents ascend 1200m in 4 hours at 6am in the morning
Dana and I swimming in Antarctica. Yes. it was bloody freezing.
Perfect day in Torres del Paine after 4 days of rain
Cerro Piltriquitron in El Bolson, Argentina... my first view of the entire expanse of the Andes mountain range
First solo 4700m pass, 1 month after learning to ride a bike
  • challenging yourself to keep going when things are not great - reminding yourself why you got yourself there, and finding a moment to put you back on track again
Near Laguna Colorada, Bolivia. The hardest riding I've ever done.
Trailing after my parents descending into the deepest canyon of the world in the Colca, Peru

  • having the time to think, write, take pictures, draw knowing that's your main activity for the day
Being awed by the Andes yet again, this time from the other side (Chile)
  • and of course.. the beautiful landscapes, inspriring people and moments of pure happieness of being where you are at that moment.

Inpromptu tango with Kim in Buenos Aires
Enjoying finally being in the mountains 2 months after arriving in South America
Jumping with Julia at Nahuel Haupi NP near Bariloche in Argentina
Blimps in Argentina
Bit of salar yoga is good for the soul no?

Trailing after my parents descending into the deepest canyon of the world in the Colca, Peru.
Thinking back over specific memories that make me smile, the following are a start at what I hope will stay with me forever..
  • Riding out of Calama on my small 200cc bike at the head of 3 other big bikes (and big german/swiss men - Fred, Philipe and Kurt) .. about to conquer the Bolivian Altiplano and largest salt flat in the world as part of a very special family
Oh yes, my 200cc bike led this 650, 1100 and 1000cc bike out proudly!
  • The immediate comradry of meeting other bikers, swapping notes on good and bad routes, discussing mechanical issues, the joy of travelling on two wheels, and the feeling of being with people that know what it's like to travel on a bike! 
  • Travelling with my parents in Peru - trekking, camping, visiting Machu Picchu, having wonderful conversations about life
Mum in the Lares Valley near Cusco

Looking down at Machu Picchu
  • Being awed by the light, expanse and majesty of Antarctica, and being introduced by Dana to the luscious but deadly Pisco Sour on the boat in Antarctica

Dana's photo - thanks!

  • Riding out of Santiago on the back of the bike after approximately 2 hours driving experience, and then riding the bike back in, fully loaded with a passenger 2 days later after finding my 'wheels' riding gravel in a quarry in the Cajon del Maipo outside Santiago in Chile. Sure beat doing circles around city parks in Santiago!
Finding my wheels in the Cajon del Maipo.
  • Maneouvering my bike into a run down gatehouse just off Ruta 40 in Argentina and being treated to a beautiful sunset (one of those moments to put things back into perspective and on back on track)
Riding 20kms of muddy road only dropping the bike once, after the 4 drops and 4 hours of travel on the way in. Northern Argentina (Baritu National Park)
  • Being surprised by the natural formations of the Lago Queni hotsprings in Patagonia with Max.. natural pools in a cascading river, then lathering up in mud to have some spa treatment
  • Hiking the full circuit of Torres del Paine in 5 days instead of the normal 9 - for this I have to thank Rick and Shai

  • Seeing the length of the Andes mountain range stretch out before me from Cerro Piltriquitron in El Bolson 
  • Going for dusk runs and morning meditations in the Eco Yoga Park near Buenos Aires.
Remolacha = Beetroot - one of my first words learnt in South America
  • Camping on the floor of a tourist restaurant in isolated southwest Bolivia near the Arbole del Piedra (Rock Tree), and being greeted in the morning by loads tourists bundling out of 4WDs to have their breakfast
  • Having the hot spring next to the restaurant to ourselves after a week of really hard riding and not so hot showers
At the Arbole de Piedra, Bolivia
  • The hot shower in Tarija bolivia after 1 week of bathing in rivers 
  • Being culinaryly creative with Yas and Matt in our hostel kitchen in Santiago, then going for hike with fig and goats cheese tart as a snack!

Easter egg hunting ... 5.45am:)
I'm going to stop now... i'm getting all nostalgic and want to do bits of it again! But the journey continues... I'm now in Arequipa in southern Peru, but I'm about to fly fly fly away.. northwards for a European Xmas. (what!!!) I'm going to Vienna (with a lil side trip to London) to spend xmas with Philipe and his family and friends, and then we will head back via New Orleans (to eat eat eat which I've been dreaming about for a very long time), a 10 day silent (now, don't laugh, i'll see how I go!) meditation seminar in Dallas, and for me a very anticipated reunion with my cousin Lisi. Then its back to Lima first, then down to Arica in Northern Chile where we've left our bikes (Peruvian visa reasons) and back on the road, 2 up on the sidecar, up to Ecuador, Colombia and then who knows?!

My travel is still evolutionary, it's still chasing serendipity... and we will see where the next year takes us all!
Thanks for keeping me company and inspring me to keep on going;)
Lots of love