Thursday, July 19, 2018

Key Summit

 As always in the early days of planning any trip aa well as my trip to New Zealand, I had some rather hefty ideas. Originally I set out to hike three of the nine great walks that NZ had to offer. Again, as in the past, say back in Ireland when I also thought I could hike like 500 miles, I'd plannned and bitten off more than I could chew. On this adventure, in the end, I hiked only one of the trails and sufficed to do day hikes there after. Key Summit was the healing salve for the wound created by having to give in to inclement weather and poor logistical planning which in the end, caused me to give up in hiking those particular trails.
Have you ever read of Mice and Men? Well that was kind of how my trip up Key Summit went, but with a hail Mary pass to win the Super Bowl at the end along with me screaming from the top of the mountain, "I'm going to Disneyland!" The of Mice and Men reference is, "the best laid plans of Mice and men..." which basically just means; the universe has a funny way of mucking up your well laid and well intentioned ideas. My idea was to pick a brillantly, clear day and head up to the summit early in the morning before every person on the planet ended up there with me. And so, away I went all chipper and positive. Go me! Until of course I got out into the mountains and realized; mountain weather is just a tad unpredictable, no matter what the weatherman says.
No matter, I had decided I'm going up that bloody mountian: fog, low clouds, rain or what have you be damned. So there I am hiking poles in hand, weaving my way up through the forest with fog as thick as, well, pea soup. Up the winding path, looking expectantly around each bend as if the blanket of fog would magically disappear, only to discover more fog, more clouds, and absolutely no view. In this I must say I am not easily deterred. After about an hour, I finally cleared the treeline wherein the the view was...nonexistent. However, not all was lost (no pun intended). I may not of had a stellar veiw of the countryside or whatever else was out there that I couldn't see, but now instead of the fog bank being just a nuisance, it turned into an entitey all its own. It became a living, breathing thing. I stood in awe of it. In awe of the way it swooped down across the mountain bog. Without the trees to impede its flow, it brushed past my face, leaving droplets of water in its wake. It smelled of the earth and the loam. You could see the mist heave and sigh as the wind carried it across the plane. I was mesmerized. The clouds drifted across my skin, my eyelashes, my smile; my entire being was engulfed in mother nature herself. I closed my eyes and stood, happy to be in that moment, in that place, on that mountain. When my eyes opened, I gave once last glance at the passing mist, pulled myself away, and headed for the summit. As I made my final approach I had decided. If I had to stay on the top of that damn mountain all day to see SOMETHING I would.
I didn't have to wait long. When it happened, it was as if the wind had finally had enough and came racing down the mountainside like an eagle after its prey. It lifted the clouds in one fell swoop. One singular moment in time I was engulfed in the grey and the next I was staring at vast, gigantic mountains that were so close it seemed as if I could reach out and touch them with my finger tips. Soaring mountain peaks cover in the last snow of the season. Grey, towering rocks jutting out of the surrounding bog. Blue skys and white puffy clouds soared over head. Birds flew higher than the peaks. The sun sparkled, laughed and kissed my cheeks with its warmth. I was enamored. I stood tall, hands on hips, feeling as if the world belonged to only me. I was alone, but not. The company I kept was mother earth and as always she shared with me her energy, her love, her aura, and I was happy.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Water; The Thirsty Traveler

Let's take it back to the basics. Water. This, other than money of course, is to me the most important thing while out traveling. Getting dehydrated can be a major issue whether traveling by plane, bus, train or donkey. So let's talk water shall we? How much and why that much!? Well that depends on how long any particular leg of your journey is. But, let me be clear here; buying water for the budget traveler is taboo. It's expensive, so better to weigh yourself down and lighten the load as you go by drinking it than use your hard earned money buying it. Be sure to hydrate the evening before a long trip as well. So, I carry at all times, no matter where I'm going or for how long (minus a trip to the store or pub etc) at the minimum, 2 litres (approx 1/2 gallon or 64 oz). If I leave to take hike for
several hours or go to catch a train for a several hour ride, that is what I bring. I carry a 1.5 liter bottle in my day pack and a .50 liter bottle in a pocket on the side of my day pack. Using the bigger bottle to refill the smaller one and the smaller one for the convenience of being able to reach it at all times.
Throw away bottle vs reusable

I actually have both. Because my reusable does not fit in the side pocket of my day pack but also doesn't carry enough to be a good back up, I use it for what I call overflow or excess water for longer journeys. While I've been out circumnavigating the globe, I've had some long trips in excess of 20 hrs. In those cases I need to carry more water. My reusable bottle I keep in my Rucksack empty when I don't
need it. It doesn't take up much room and is extremely light when empty. It has been a real life saver on those long legs.Throw away bottles; I buy, at the beginning of my trip, two heavy duty, strong throw away bottles of water. As I said earlier; a big one, say two quarts and a small one of say 16 oz. I've been traveling now for 4 months and still have the same bottles I bought back in New Zealand. They have served me well. Like I said, be sure to buy ones that are made well and are nice and sturdy so they will last you the entire journey. In the event something does come up where you lose them or have to throw them away, then so be it; they can be easily replaced.
Water and Air Travel
You can carry your EMPTY bottles through security. If you've forgotten to do so, just empty them at security and keep them. Then fill them up once you pass security. If you have to go through a secondary security and have already filled your bottles and they want to take them from you, be sure to tell them you want to keep the bottles. Then once you get to your gate they should have a place to refill them...again. This happened to me at the airport in Singapore. I had a secondary security check, forgot to ask for all my bottles back and had an 11 hour flight in front of me. I only had one bottle (my reusable one) for the whole flight. I was flying a no frills airline that did not provide free water. Needless to say, taboo or not, I dropped some cash for water that day. It was that or die of thirst and I wasn't done adventuring just yet.
Is it potable?
I never risk it. Just ask. Every place I've been has always had signs posted for non drinkable water. But it never hurts to ask. And as far as if you're out hiking; again, I rarely risk drinking directly from a river or stream without treating the water first. I just carry small tablets for purification purposes. Better safe than sorry. No telling when some dead animal might be up stream ya know?
So there you have! The why's and why fors of water and travel. Now drink up and have a grand adventure!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Flam; The ins and outs...

For those of you who are considering Flam as a destination I want to be sure you understand what the town of Flam really is.
One does not come to Flam for the town itself. One comes to see the surrounding valley; to use as a jumping off point for other activities along the Fjords. Old Flam, the original village, lies at the south end of the Flam Valley. It consists of an old church and a few homes, farms or local mining business. The new Flam isn't really in my opinion a town. It's more like a station. It was built purely for the tourist industry. Technically it is where all trains, ferries and roads intersect. It doesn't even have streets per say, except little feeder roads to the few house bulit up in the hills. It is, in essence, a parking lot for buses and cars, a small (very small) center for shops, knick knacks, and a few cafes. It has the harbor, the train station and a fairly sizable hotel. Across the road main local road is the Flam campsite/hostel/cabins. I'll go into this at some point but I will say I love it here. It has fantastic veiws, and accommodations for all budgets and is only a three minute walk to Flam station. Now, as I said in the beginning; one doesn't come to Flam for Flam itself. It's a great place for a maiden voyage into the Fjordlands of Norway. Easily accessible by train from
Bergen or Oslo, it's got a few good walks along the the foot/bike path and one up to a magnificent waterfall. You can catch a ride in a ferry out onto the Fjords, take a power boat ride, kayak or just take a walk. One thing you must understand about Flam; you will be sharing the walk with either the road that runs adjacent to it or the railway. One section had a good deal of traffic ( walk early in the morning. The sun rises at 4am take advantage of that) as it's the main road in and out. The other is a local only road that runs with the rail line. While walking that section I maybe saw 20 cars in 6 hours. The train more frequently. But the train is so cool. Be sure to stop and wave at the tourists on board! They get really excited when you do. I'll assume they think you're a local. Now don't let the hoards of people getting off the cruise ship and inundating the town get to you. Very few of them make there way out to the old farmstead, the waterfall or the old town center. In all I saw maybe 20 people all toll on all of my walks outside of town. Also, if you want to get some groceries or go in and look around the station, do it early in the morning or after the tourists have gotten back on board around 4pm. Now having said all that; don't misunderstand how amazing Flam is. Im sitting up on the hillside in camp as I write this watching the buses go to and fro, I can see the cruise ship in the harbor, and I know the train will soon be pulling into town as I hear the train signal and the train horn sounding off in the distance. There's a slight din of vehicles passing up above me as well. But this camp site is like a little Oasis. The veiws spectacular and the vibe calm and serene. The sounds of the station are close, but distance enough to not be bothersome. To be honest, I much prefer it to say hiking in the Cinque Terre district of Italy while being surrounded by hoards of people even in  the off season. Here, off season is pretty quiet compared to off season in say Italy or Greece. I recently discovered that Flam is just the tip of a gigantic area known as the Sognefjord.  It's gonna take some planning, but I'll certainly be back to delve deeper into this amazing area. I've already begun another grand adventure here in my mind. So, in closing; if you have limited time and resources visit Flam. If you've got more time and more money also add a journey out into the national parks and glaciers that lie along Noways spectacular Fjordlands. G

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Italian Job

You would think that hiking up Mt. Vesuvius would be the great story I had to tell from yesterday. In actuality it was the drive down off the volcano that gets all the credit. One, there were so many people making the trek to the top it didn't really feel adventurous. Although it was super cool. The trip down off the mountain is the story that needs telling and I'm happy to say I'm still here to tell it.
The bus driver now, he was a character. He came rolling up the hill, hand on horn and threw open the doors  while chanting a chorus of (with thick Italian accent) Pompei, Pompei, Pompei! Pronounced: Palm-Pay-UHH! Palm-Pay-UHH! Palm-Pay-UHH!!!  Those of us who were waiting scurried over, jumped on the bus, and took our obligatory places. We didn't get the last ass in the seat before he closed the door and began this three point turn in this tiny space with tourists milling about paying no attention to the fact they were about to come face to face with the Dirty Harry of bus drivers. He backed up, pulled forward, and seemingly sideways all the while yelling, Oh! Hey! Oh! Aay!! And making what I gather was the sound a person makes when squished by a bus filled with tourists.This had the back of the bus giggling with laughter, for now. After some expert manuvering, we left them all behind in a cloud of ash, most of them pressed against a wooden railing with a look of terror on their faces. Here's where it gets good. This guy didn't give two shits about anything. Literally, we took out some guys side mirror and missed other cars and buses by mere inches as the bus tossed us to and fro, side to side. At
one point there was an audible gasp from the entire bus as we damn near came up on two wheels around one of the 100 or so bends in the road which switchbacked down the mountain side. The giggling disappeared to be replaced with strong grips on the seat in front of us and a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers. We did finally make it down into the city where he
stopped on occasion to talk to other old Italian guys. There was a lot of hand waving and Ohs and ayhs! It looked as if they were all angry with one another, but he always pulled away smiling, so I'm guessing its just a thing in Italy. Genghis Khan finally dropped us at the station near the square wherein we all filed of the bus thankful to be alive and, whether you were religious or not, crossing ourselves as we passed in front of a cathedral that I'm sure God put there intentionally to gather any lost sheep that made it off bus in one piece...and scene.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Able Tasmen; A Journey to Remember

They say when one makes one's dreams come true one must set their sights on new dreams and then work to make them a reality. And that my dear friends is what I have done. Way back in 2012, I set my sights on hiking 100 miles across the Irish countryside. A dream I eventually turned into a reality. Two years later it was hiking Scotland which I turned my visions too. Again, I worked and scrapped and saved all my money until one day I found myself crossing the Scottish highlands on foot. A moving experience traversing the heart of my ancestral home. As soon as that was done I once again focused my efforts, this time on a long distance hike in New Zealand. It took me almost two years to raise the money and screw up my courgae to embark upon an adventure that would not just take me alone into the temperate rain forest of New Zealand, but beyond into many an unknown. A trip around the world.

I did not know it at the beginning, but the Able Tasman Trail, 50 kilometers through the forests of New Zealand, would just be the begining of something amazing. Of something wonderful. Of something that is currently changing me and my life forever. A journey around the world begins with a simple idea and then blossoms and grows. It then turns into the here and now with those first simple steps into the unknown. And for me that was the Abel Tasmen.

I was told, and had read, that this was a coastal track. That it followed the coast along the beaches never
getting more than 150 meters above sea level. What I wasn't aware of was how often the trail would undulate, how slick the track would be after the rain, and how it would challenge me to once again screw up my courage, strap on my big girl panties, put my head down and just...go. As in the past on my long distance hikes, I certainly found myself
wondering what the hell I was thinking trying to do this shit at my age and physical stature. No matter what anyone said, this was a greuling trail. Once the rain had set in, it became a lesson in caution almost every step of
the way. Basically, the whole trip was me lugging myself and my pack up, and then down, mile after mile of slick muddy trails only to have the forest open up to the most stunning of views, just about the time I would reach the end of my rope. From high atop the forests path one could see tranquil, green waters reaching out into the world beyond. There were waterfalls and rivers; water oozing from the earth itself. There were moonrises on empty beaches, where my tent and I
would lie awake awash with gentle moon beams and
glittering starlight. There were sunrises for the weary of heart that made one forget all else. Forget the sore legs and shoulders, forget the trials and tribulations of the previous day, forget about what lay ahead, forget about all else and live only for that solitary moment; when one holds their breath and waits for the sun to broach the horizon. And in that moment, all else fails you. And life was in that next breath, in that next step, in that next dream of adventure. That was what the Able Tasman gave to me. As freely as the sun gives warmth and the universe gives my endless dreams a place to go. It gave to me that moon, that sunrise, that journey, those steps. And I am forever grateful.

A Blogging I will go...

It has recently come to my attention that my son is about to start to write his very own travel blog. Now you must understand, he was the one who told me, in no uncertain terms, my Facebook post were to long and I should start my very own blog. That was like 6 years ago. And to be honest Ive written some good stuff if I do say so myself. I've recently just began this amazing adventure circumnavigating the globe and I literally haven't written a word, until now. The fact my son is about to out do me in adventures and in writing stirred within me a sense of competition. And so, here I am typing furiously to you and to whomever else who will listen to my first world problem whoas. And to whomever is ready to be entertained by my stories of rainbows, mountains and probably a cute puppy or two for good measure. So get ready folks let the games begin. First up New Zealand and my time hiking four days in a temperate rain forest just to prove to myself that even at the tender age of 55 I still could drag me and my 30 pound pack up and over seemingly endless muddy trails through the heat and humidity only a rain forest can provide. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sandpaper Shoes

Note:Just thought I would share this. I wrote it when I first moved to St Augustine and it is based on    a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
              Sandpaper Shoes                                                March 7, 2012 

 Did you know; that sandpaper is actually MADE out of sand?
Did you know; that if you walk 5 miles on the beach, barefoot, that by mile no. 2.89 it FEELS as if you were walking in shoes made out of sandpaper?
Did you know; that walking in sandpaper shoes will give you blisters on your feet the size of Texas?
Did you know; that walking in sandpaper shoes while curling your toes so that the balls of your feet DON'T touch your sandpaper shoes doesn't really help?
Did you know; that If you park your truck down the beach, ride your bike 5 miles home and then walk back along the beach in your sandpaper shoes you have to make it ALL THE WAY back to your truck or lie starving on the beach until your sandpaper shoes are ripped away by the incoming tide?
Did you know; that a double cheeseburger, super-size fry, and a diet coke make it ALL better?
Did you know; that the cheeseburger and fries COMPLETELY defeats the whole concept of walking 5 miles in your sandpaper shoes?

Did you know; that I have had moments of shear brilliance in my life, so bright that I thought to myself, "YOU, Kristine are a Goddamn genius?”

                     Did you know; this is NOT one of those moments?

                       To all my friends.  From a girl...and her sandpaper shoes.