Monday, March 31, 2008

SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2008

Bright and early I had to be at the ferry to cross to Picton. As usual I took a wrong turn and drove way out of the way trying to turn around. I was the last person on, after being scolded that I was supposed to be there an hour earlier. Ooops! I thought it was like Madeleine Island - drive up and drive on. Noooo - this ship is like the Queen Mary of ferries. It has 10 decks, a food court, a bar, a lounge room that looks like the interior of a 747, a sundeck, a cinema, play area for kids, game machines, a premium room (with food and liquor and good seats), a lounge and 2 outdoor observation decks. The life boats are about 30ft. The trip was 3 hours and fantastic scenery as we cruised between small spits of islands.

Marlborough Country
I made a beeline for the backpackers in Renwick, having decided on a plan on the ferry ride over. The owner looked at me askance - as if I was some sort of refugee from justice because I was alone and asked for a room without a reservation. After inquiring as to my length of stay in NZ and what I did for a living I guess I passed because he offered me a room. I think I got the presidential suite - it has a bath attached and cost $64. Wonder of wonders it also has a mirror, something I have found to be in short supply here. (Remember, I’m a GIRL)

Anyways, I dumped my bags asked for a bike, and off I went to explore the wineries in the area. I didn’t get too far when I thought that perhaps I had forgotten my camera. Back I went to retrieve it, though I couldn’t find it after searching through my bags and in the car and in my purse and in all the d___ pockets I have. Just as I was getting a tad frazzled, worried that somehow I had dropped it on the ferry, the owner came by and asked if I was missing my camera. Sure enough I had somehow dropped it as I pulled out of the driveway on my bike and some kind soul picked it up and turned it in. My guardian angel is about 6’5”, named Jeremy and hails from England where he majored in marine biology. He and his girlfriend are traveling for 9 months, but when they got here they ran out of funds and got jobs working in one of the local vineyards. They are staying in a tent at the backpackers and saving money to continue their travels. They are going next to Australia, then on to Hawaii and Vancouver. He doesn’t know what he is going to do once he returns home, but he doesn’t want to do research in marine biology. He would really like to make acoustic guitars. He was strumming one when I introduced myself to him and thanked him with a local bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from one of the boutique vineyards.

Bikes and Booze
Well it only took one stop at a vineyard and I was riding on the right side of the road - sure way to get knocked off. The views are spectacular - miles of vineyards with the mountains in the background. There are 80 vineyards in Marlborough, with the largest concentration in the Renwick area. I really should have started earlier cause I didn’t even hit a tenth of them. But it was really fun talking about the wines at each stop and tasting the grapes of each varietal. I rode about 13K, the last part with a head wind and a full head. Spectacular! One of the stops was Cloudy Bay where they offer tastings of about 8 wines for free. (Kathleen and Lee, hope you’re reading this - got pictures) I have to say that my favorite of the day was a Voignier from Herzog’s which smells like a bouquet of roses and tastes like a tropical garden. Very tasty! Great way to start off the Southern Island.

The “Old Folks”
I stopped by a grocer and picked up the makings of dinner to go with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from another boutique vintner, Bladen. When I walked into the common kitchen I was very surprised to see a group of older people sitting around while a few of the men made dinner for the group. While chatting with one of the men fixing dinner I discovered this was a tour group designed for those over 60 and that they were going to cross the mountains twice on the trip. Their days were about 60K each. The driver was close to 80! One of the women was a cancer survivor, had a knee replacement, bad hip, God knows what else, and was 77. The man telling me this was a cancer survivor himself who was doing his version of the “Bucket List”. They were all just chatting away, having a grand time surrounded by all the youngins’. Very inspirational I thought.

MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2008

On the road to Kaikoura I passed the largest vineyard in NZ, Montana, which goes by another name in the States. It was only about 10:30AM, but what the heck, I had heard that they have tours so I rolled on in. Indeed, I had a private tour and tasting from Amanda, who is 6 months pregnant. (She did not taste.) It was interesting to compare the process of a large production vineyard vs the small boutique yards nearby and those I toured in France. As the tour began I noticed the bus driver from the “Oldies” Group in the tasting area.

The flat valley soon gave way to the hills with switchbacks and sharp curves but the hills appeared parched and somewhat barren. This was a striking contrast to the vineyard area and most definitely from the tropical northland which was so lush by comparison. Although I keep hearing of sheep, I have seen more cattle so far. Have the tourists eaten all the lambies? I’m hoping they are further south in the plains area.

Just about the time all the barrenness starts to make you thirsty, you turn a corner and view the coastline with inlet beaches where the sea foams up and boulders where waves crash and seagulls perch. So gorgeous it’s tough to keep your eyes on the road. I keep trying to hold my camera out of the car, but I keep getting terrific pictures of the hood and the road. The wind threatens to carry the camera away and it’s tough to aim. Finally there is a pull off and I stop to take a picture only to find out that the reason so many have pulled over is because there is a seal colony on the rocks below. They are so cute just flapping around down there sunning themselves. What a life.

Shortly thereafter I pulled into Kaikoura and ended up stopping at the wale watching expedition center. Whales? Sign me up. All that lovely beach and crashing waves and afternoon sun made me hungry - especially for seafood as I kept seeing signs for crayfish as I entered town. Crayfish? Isn’t that the stuff from the bayou? No it’s NZ rock lobster and it’s expensive - about $60/k. But not today. They have quotas and it wasn’t to be found anywhere until tomorrow when a new month starts. Oh well. I settled for 3 just-cooked prawns - $1 each wrapped in news wrap which I took to the beach with an open bottle of Bladen S.B., some cibatta, blue cheese, an apple fresh picked from the hostel and a squeeze of lemon, also just picked from the hostel. The seagulls were intent upon sharing lunch but stones kept them at bay. It was wonderful. The beaches are not sand but small stones and river rock. Hard on the feet but no sand to dust off. Remnants of large weeds from the sea, which look a bit like giant rubber bands litter the beach. A short nap after all that fresh air was welcome.

Friday, March 28, 2008


The Hotel Hostel
The best way to travel solo as a woman is to stay in a hostel or backpacker hotel. You're the oldest person there and NOBODY will bother you because - well, you are old enough to be their mother and they just don’t know how to deal with you in that environment. Take for example the hotel manager - young (maybe late 20’s). He originally put me in a dorm with a few other youngins’, but a little later he decided to change me into a dorm room with no other people in it. He said that the one room had a few people in it who he thinks likes to party a bit so he thought I’d be more comfortable in the other room. YEAH I WAS!! They were up Waaay past my bedtime, drinking and partying up a storm. And I think he has a little bit of an Oedipus complex.

Patrick, Mary, David and Jenny
I found out why these folks were drinking and partying to the wee hours……….They had just bought $NZ300 of liquor and beer and were intent upon “liquidating” it. As I passed by their room we commenced conversing about their native land, Scotland, and next thing I knew they were passing around a bottle of Glenfiddich as you would pass around a joint - swill and pass. This to them is common scotch, nothing special. They all went to elementary school together but David and Mary went off to University while Patrick and Jenny work in the same factory, he slaying sheep, she cleaning up after. Mary is decidedly the party maker, self-confident and sturdy. David was half-asleep, or rather half passed out. Every other word was an f-word from Jenny, who seemed young and rebellious. Fair-haired Patrick would melt a girl's heart with his smile and follow the group wherever. This was somewhat of a reunion trip for them all, as David and Patrick had just come from India where they had been traveling for about a month. The girls planned on staying for a year, working to earn enough to finance each segment of travel. Yet, in the Bay, other than drinking they hadn’t experienced anything of the area other than walking around. They were going to be leaving to go to the Cape on the far far north coast the next day. I hope they wake up in time to catch the Magic Bus, a tour bus for backpackers.

As I was fixing my breakfast the next morning in the common kitchen I made small talk with Inga, who comes from a small town in Holland. This pretty young lady with long brown hair is traveling alone and enjoying it. As we talked about the relative merits of traveling solo I learned that Inga is traveling to get away from home and clear her head and make a new start of her life. She had been living with a man in a committed relationship for 3 years when she discovered that her partner was seeing someone else. She's financing this trip with money she had planned on using for her wedding. She teaches 4-6 year olds in a small town where this man is also a teacher. Referring to traveling solo she mentioned several times that you “have to make your own party”. She’s taking her party around NZ, then on to Australia and then on home with a rest stop in China and Japan for a few days.


All Things Left

This day was all about driving…on the left. Try buckling the seatbelt - I instinctively reach to the left to grab the belt, but it‘s not there. Look in the mirror…it’s on the left. Gear shift…..on the left. Turnabouts……..go clockwise. There are very few stop signs. At the end of the street on the pavement there is a triangle which makes you think it’s an arrow pointing at you and there’s a moment of panic thinking that you’ve gone down a one way street, but it’s really just a yield sign. If you walk down the street and someone comes at you….stay to the left. Coming into the harbor? It isn’t red right returning…’s red left returning. Hot and cold faucets are often switched and although I’ve been watching, I haven’t seen any toilets that flush counterclockwise….They just seem to go straight down there’s so much force in their flush.

Miracle Cure for Bug Bites - Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
They may not have snakes and spiders, but the sandflies and mosquitoes more than make up for it!!! Something found my legs on the way down here and by the time I went to bed, I couldn’t stop scratching. I’ve always put vinegar on bug bites and it works pretty well, but I didn’t pack any and was desperate for relief so I took some of the wine and just rubbed it on my legs and feet. Much better. I hate to waste good wine, but it would have been an equal shame to waste good sleeping time.


Men In Skirts and Other Cultural Oddities
So I got up a little late today and sauntered down to the restaurant for coffee and a look at the local paper. After a rousing discussion with the locals on the Glue Ear malady that seems to affect native children, I inquired at the reception desk as to which cultural diversions seemed to be the best value. The consensus was Te Puia, a Maori village with a weaving and carving school, geyser, thermal mud pool, and cultural exhibition. Best of all there was a gift shop. Excellent, beam me up. Great the receptionist said….the bus is turning the corner now. And so off I went, without camera or raincoat (It rained all day). I’m just delighted the bus driver knew where I was going and what backpacker I was staying at to bring me back.
The carvings are incredibly detailed, in a pinch and with a few hemp leaves I could weave a skirt (not!), the geysers were steamy, and the mud pools really did look like Middle Earth. The cultural exhibition was well done, but the best part is watching the men do the Haka, the war dance. I mean, seeing men beat their chests, twirl sticks and stick out their tongues is so manly. It’s so typically male to flaunt the plumage. I’m sure it made every woman there feel more secure.

Other Cultural Diversions
After that I thought it time for culture of a different sort. XORBING. Leave it to the Kiwis to invent an extreme sport that involves rolling down a hill inside a giant rubber ball. It’s not at all what it looks like - IT’S TERRIFYING!! Yet, when I first looked at the hill I thought it looked short and boring - sort of like going on the kiddie rollercoaster. First, some background. It was raining all day, constant drizzle and rather chilly. You have to put on a bathing suit and leave all your clothes and shoes and towel and everything down at the bottom of the hill in a changing room. Given the weather, that didn’t make it any more attractive. They take you up to the top of this hill in a van where you are told to dive into the middle of this ball -within- a-ball into which they have put a bit of warm water to make it easier to slide around in. The hole you have to dive through is about 2 feet in diameter and once inside you can’t see out and your voice echoes back at you. Once they zip up the hole you have to stand up and walk, which - pardon the pun - gets the ball rolling. There you are sliding around inside not knowing if you are upside down or going head over heels as the ball rolls down this grass track like a pinball on a raceway. You are tossed about quite a bit in the process, sure all the while you are going to land on your neck and break it, until you come to rest at the bottom and they unzip the hole and have you slide out. I will never ever again contemplate getting in the dryer for a spin!

More Men in Skirts
The men in skirts were so sexy, I had to go back for more, only this time is was a Hangi. We were picked up in a bus and taken to the Matai family's compound. Upon arrival they led us all into a big tent that was laid out for dinner, but that was just to tease us. We wouldn’t eat for another 2 hours. We learned a little song, a few Maori words, and then they led us down to the river where the warriors would be arriving by canoe. Very cool. It was dusk, the pathway was lit and interspersed with Tiki carvings (only they aren’t called tiki but I forget what they’re called) and there were walkways on both sides of the riverbanks. About 6 warriors rode in the canoe singing, holding torches and paddling in rhythm. When they got up to us they backpaddled so everyone could take pictures, all the while chanting, slapping the oars and doing their thing. Finally they got out of the canoe and led the way to the performance area where they danced, sang, explained their culture and taught us a few hand gestures so we could do our own Haka. (Oh boy!) It was very, very well done . And finally, we got to eat. Lamb, chicken, cumadin (?)(a type of sweet potato), cabbage slaw, cauliflower salad, regular potatoes, stuffing, trifle, chocolate roll and a few other things. Before they sent us home they took us back down that dark pathway to see the glowworms that line the path and live on the edge of the riverbank. They have a blueish electric tint that really makes me wonder: How many light bulbs do you think they used to do that? And how do they get some of them to go on and off (The men fade in and out; the ladies are always on. Just like real life.)
Well, it’s late. Hopefully my laundry is dry. I have to get up early to get my glasses repaired. I’ll need all the help I can get on the road to Wellington.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Lime Bush and a Cloudy Bay

After many winding turns from Auckland I arrived at the Bay of Islands - Paihai (pie-hey-ye) to be preicise and only minutes before two insane bikers that I passed while they were going 50-60kph down a hill and around some pretty sharp curves. (Iwas going slower than they were at some curves)

Checking in at a local backpackers, I noticed a lime bush with some luscious looking fresh fruit which made me think of a gin and tonic, which made me realize how thirsty I was and how refreshing a gin and tonic would be- especially with a fresh picked lime. Shortly afterward, while in the liquor store comtemplating at least the tonic water to go with a lime, I noticed a chilled bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a "must try" wine that was highly recommended by friends. Perfect for a cloudy day in the Bay. Later I found a restaurant that was a BYOB, which afforded the opportunity to open the lovely bottle.

As I sat sipping my Cloudy Bay, a gentleman took a table near mine. He ordered a bottle of red wine and appeared to be writing notes. When he ordered dinner, I assumed he was traveling solo, and in a scene straight out of the movies, I asked the hostess (who also was the owner with her chef husband) to ask whether the gentleman was dining alone, and if so, whether he would like to share a table. To my relief he enthusiastically agreed, picked up his wine and joined me. (The hostess had this devilishly delicious smile on her face as he moved to my table and all the other tables were definitely taking note, I observed.)

As we dined, we compared notes on places visited, reasons for being here, and the relative merits of New Zealand. Michael is a 55 year old upstate New Yorker with a significant other who does not care to travel, but who doesn't mind his going off for weeks at a time. He has been traveling NZ for almost 2 months, having arrived with absolutely no itinerary. And this is where background and personality helps the independant traveler when plopped down in the middle of a country not knowing much if anything of where they are. If you are a resourceful person to begin with, then you will fall back on those instincts and do things like: 1) Read travel guides to see what others who have carefully researched the area recommend 2) ask everybody you meet what you should be doing while here and 3) Roll with the punches. It is an experience, both good and bad, and you will learn something from both. Not everything will go well, some things will seem humorous in retrospect and others will just be unpleasant. By asking around and knowing what he wanted to do, he was able to get himself invited on a very private white-water rafting trip with some of the nation's leading outdoor adventure-seekers - reknowned bikers, mountain-climbers, artists, etc. , each tops in their sport or field (but note - NOT in their work field. They choose to work to live, rather than live to work so what they do for a living is, to them, irrelevant. He considers himself the luckiest man alive to be able to live the way he does. He has taken time off to deliver boats for friends to the Caribbean, traveled about Europe, and been to many other exotic destinations. He was off the next day to sail the Bay of Islands for a few days with someone he met, after which he would be heading home.


The weather was blowing and threatening rain so the morning's planned sail onboard the Sydney to Hobart racer, Wild Thing didn't work out, but my backup plan worked out just fine! Parasailing 2100 feet over the water was a blast!!!! Because I was too light, one of the boat handlers had to go with me as ballast to keep the parachute stable, so I had a local tour guide with me pointing out all the sights and letting me know exactly what to expect at each turn. Very reassuring until he decided to clown around and do a header in the harness. The boat handler brought us down just low enought that my feet were in the water and my buddy's head was dunked. He loved it.

He's a local who for many years had said "No way - You have to be crazy to do that" but after he had been working for a while the owner insisted that he try it so he could relate to the customers better. One try and he was hooked. He said that since then he has probably been up over 100 times. Asked how many times the line breaks or accidents happen, he said none that he has seen, although once the line did break (in the U.S.), but the customers just floated down to the water very gently. So he's pretty sure that that is what happens. Oh, that's sooooo reassuring.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

MARCH 23, 2008
I got lucky today! I had signed up to do a match race on an America’s Cup boat in spite of my misgivings that it would be very watered down for the tourists. The main reason I wanted to do it was to see how the boat sails and to have the experience of being on a boat that large (about 75ft.) that was a race boat. Fortunately for me the race was cancelled due to lack of wind, our money was refunded and we were all invited to go out in the harbor on the boat anyways to see what the boat was all about. Very cool. The wind picked up just a tad and we were able to raise the sails, tack a few times, and raise the “jenniker” as they call it. (Basically a kite) I’m happy, now I have money to go sailing in the Bay of Islands.

New Zealand has some strange laws for such a forward thinking country -
After sailing I thought I’d go have a beer and cool off. I walked into a restaurant and sat at the bar, and when I asked for a beer was told that I would have to buy a full meal to have a drink. They also do that on Good Friday, a national holiday. They also charge 15% extra on Good Friday, but not on Easter Sunday. But they do charge 15% extra on Easter Monday, not a holiday for all, but for many. Logical eh?

A.J the Bartender
When I asked for a lemonade instead of beer I was given a glass of soda similar to Sprite, but not as sweet. They don’t know the concept of lemonade as we do. But a thirst quenching comparable would be a bitter lemon lime. (Squeeze a wedge of lemon and one of lime in a glass, add dash of bitters, limonela (sort of like a lemon simple syrup) and top with their lemonade.) Not bad.
A.J. is from South Africa, moved here 11 years ago (he’s about 20-24 I’d guess) and is undertaking citizenship.

Birmingham, England Bloke
Here on a one year visa working as an electrician. He didn’t have a job when he arrived but knew that his skill would be valued here. He explained the fundamentals of cricket , a game I’d never seen before but which was currently on the tele.

Is this the new immigrant pattern in the world? And as the world becomes more global and the population becomes more mobile will countries become the new “suburbs”? Will people migrate to those countries they feel more comfortable in, much the same way that people pick a suburb? Will we, in the U.S., start losing the brightest, most talented and economically stable of our people to other countries as our social problems increase and our economy becomes more strained under the stress?

I hope not, but it would appear that NZ is poaching to world’s youth.
Between the jet lag and all the walking I did on Friday I was a little tired and sore so I took the ferry over to Waiheke Island and took a bus tour. The Island is about 90Km square, very hilly, has beautiful beaches, vineyards and olive groves. Truly lovely and tropical. Most of the wineries are at the far end of the island, requiring either a car or a full day of touring - not my cup of tea. Instead I headed to the local grocery and picked up a few local specialties and then headed to the liquor store for wine. This is where I ran into trouble.

The Problem: One of the biggest obstacles to traveling alone to a place like New Zealand is that there are so many great wines to try and no one to help me drink the bottle. So I’m restricted to trying only as much as I can drink. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few wineries where I can try samples of more than one.

Waiheke Is. Organic whole wheat sourdough bread with pumpkin seeds
Puhoi Valley, NZ Cambert
Waiheke Is. local olive tapenade
Merlot grapes from the Is.
Kiwi berries - they look like overgrown green gooseberries
Passage Rock winery Sisters blend of merlot, cab sauv., and cab franc wine

After the day in the sun it hit the spot!

Mandy from Manchester, England - On the ferry
Mandy is 30 and has been here 4 months doing office work. She came here from Vancouver where she worked for 6 months. Before that she taught English in South China (doesn’t speak Chinese at all) and when she was but 19 taught English in Japan as well ,until she became ill and had to leave. When she returns home she will finish her studies to be a psychological therapist. I think with her experiences she will have a keen understanding of people.
A 29 year old professional squash player and his mother. - On the tour
He played professional squash for Australia, traveling all over the world until a knee injury forced his retirement. Now he teaches squash and takes classes at Auckland U. Been here about 2 weeks. Mother is visiting from Sydney for the holiday.
March 21, 2008
Pockets here, pockets there, I have pockets everywhere! I am my own worst enemy. I picked a suitcase with 8 pockets, a money belt with a pocket, a purse with 4 zippered pockets into which I put a wallet with, yes, a zipper, and a computer backpack that is the Swiss army knife of backpacks - 8 zippered pockets and several divider pockets in each main compartment. That’s at least 21 pockets to look into for, say, chap stick on the airplane. Or better yet, a credit card to pay for a tour. My frazzled brain burnt a few dendrites on that one. I’m so organized I need a master plan for all the pockets. In my infinite wisdom I took my credit cards out of my wallet to separate them from the cash thinking that that would be much safer. I put them someplace so safe I couldn’t find them. That panic attack sent me back to the hotel where I literally dumped the contents of the backpack and purse onto the bed in a search for the missing cards all the while formulating plan B. Fortunately they were tucked into one of the zippered pockets of my purse safe and sound. Thank you St. Anthony. Helpful hint when traveling alone: NEVER buy a new purse and backpack within a week of leaving. It’s like having someone else arrange your kitchen. Does this bespeak an accountant’s personality, that we constantly seek pigeonholes for everything?

Sarah is an 18 year old Canadian traveling in Auckland alone for one week having just finished a 4 month stay as an au pair with a family with 4 children who own a dairy farm near Wellington . This is a job she found over the internet that was just a posting. Yesterday she took “the jump” off the Sky Tower, a more controlled and upright version of bungee jumping. Obviously she thrives on risk. She intends to go to China this summer with her boyfriend. Then she will study in Vancouver to become a nurse.

Friday, March 21, 2008

More Planning
Taking a trip like this takes LOTS of planning. I’ve had to arrange for the Easter Bunny, send the taxes off to the accountants, halt the mail and paper, arrange for nighttime sitters, shop, train (hey - this middle aged body doesn’t move like it’s 20 anymore and having a heart attack biking or hiking just wouldn’t be cool.), shop some more (technical gear like bike shorts, hiking pants, hiking shoes, long underwear etc,) and a million other little details to keep life rolling on the home front side. And the trip planning? Oh……well I have a plane ticket and a place to stay when I arrive, two tours booked and a hotel the day before the first tour. The rest? Well, as the older daughter says “Well that’s the adventure of it!”

D - DAY minus one
Packing, packing, packing. Reject, reject, reject. Why is it that there just never is enough room for all the shoes a girl needs in a suitcase? Thank God I only wear a size 6. But, I mean, I have to have shoes for hiking, shoes for biking, shower sandals, dress shoes, and touring shoes. Someone aught to invent shoe accessories that dress up or down shoes and inflate or deflate the soles depending on the need at the time. I think of poor Aunt M.H. traveling to Europe for a month with one suitcase that was to be carried on. Two hours later of packing and repacking it was the curling iron that ended up as a reject. Case closed and without expanding. Yeah!!! I hope I didn’t accidentally stick the Swiss Army knife in the carry-on backpack. I would never find it!

D - DAY !!!!
GREAT way to start the trip - I spilled coffee down the front of my very white top. No way to hide that one and no time to change.

I don’t know whether I’m jittery from too much coffee, lack of sleep or nerves but as I sit here at the gate it has occurred to me that for the first time in a long time I am totally out of communication! No cell phone here. No last good byes, final instructions, or lifeline to the tech help desk - which I could really use. For some reason I’m not receiving WIFI and I may have to go to an internet café to place this post.

And for all you who were sure that it is a great big wide world - I ended up sitting next to a woman on the plane who is going to take up sailing this summer at the very same club I sail out of and who works with a mutual friend.

I think I’m off to a splendid start, stained shirt notwithstanding.


I am so way ahead of you all - like 17 hours! I have arrived but am unable to access my email address files so you will only know I'm here if you read this. If you email me I can respond. The flight was a little bumpy (which limited sleep) but nothing a glass of wine and a movie didn't cure. Celebrated the morning (really more of middle of the night) with a mimosa and "The Jane Austin Book Club" movie until arrival in Aukland.

I knew I was really here when I heard my first "kreiky" (sp?) at the luggage carousel and couldn't help but think of Steve Irwin. The cookies in my backpack were sniffed by an official beagle looking for drugs so I think I'll rethink eating those. Yuck!

The sun is finally up, I have been to my hotel where I left my bag and now I'm recharging with a latte and laptop. I'm so pleased that I have conquered Vistas super secure virusware to be able to log on that I in all likelihood have simply opened the doors to any and all kinds of horrible and debilitating worms and viruses. Honestly, if they would just make their product less vulnerable I wouldn't need to disarm it when I really could use it.

I can't get over how pleasant it is. Everyone is in shorts and T shirts, sandals, backpacks, kakis. I'm in long back pants, black sweater and coffe. Doors are open to let in the breeze and there is a very casual feel to the atmosphere, most likely because it's a holiday here. (I didn't know NZ was Catholic.) With so much to see and explore I think I'll find a bench in the sunshine down by the water and soak some rays. No need to rush into things.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thirty years ago I ventured to Europe to study for three months and ended up staying a year, traveling around Europe, Israel and Greece, mostly solo. Afterwards, wanderlust and independence gave way to career, marriage, 2 kids, and a mortgage. Now I find myself in a small suburban stay-at-home soccer mom existence- safe, familiar, stultifying. With one child ensconced in college, another waiting in the wings and a husband who travels 5 days a week, it seems that the tornado has left the premises, leaving me to stand on the porch and say "Well, now what?" Years of disuse have rusted my career beyond salvage, friends have started developing debilitating and dangerous illnesses and sooner or later we all catch that dreaded disease - infirmity. This seemed the perfect time to escape my existence while my body still functions somewhat and take a walkabout to reclaim my soul. But 30 years have passed, the world is not as safe, and my naïve sense of adventure has matured to a more conservative, cautious stance. Most women I have talked to have said that they would never undertake such a trip. They would be afraid to travel alone or would miss having someone to share the experience with. So the question then becomes:

Can a 50 something female fly half way around the world to New Zealand and travel solo for a month without reasonable fear? And could she have as fulfilling and adventurous a trip (albeit without overnight train rides and a backpack) that a 20 something fresh out of college would have? And what is the best way for her to meet like-minded individuals and locals while out and about without compromising safety? Is there a misperception on the part of women as to what is expected of them in their interactions with total strangers?

I am hoping to bring back meaningful experiences of a different culture made more special by the people I encounter. And I’m hoping to dispel the myth that traveling solo is scary and lonely.
I’m open to ideas others have tried while traveling alone that don’t involve anything illegal, lewd, unsafe or inappropriate. (Remember, I’m married with 2 children and wouldn’t want to do anything I couldn’t suggest to them to do.) If it’s something I can try and fits in with my travels I’ll post my results.

To give you an idea of the things I enjoy doing with others and would like to do over the month:
Eat - I love to try new foods, especially those found locally.
Drink - Yes, I do. And I hear there are great wineries in NZ.
Hike - I have signed up for a 5 day Milford Sound tramp on the South Island late in
the month.
Bike - I have signed up for a 6 day bike tour of the Southern Alps 3 days after the
Sailing - I love to sail and would enjoy getting out on a boat sometime, so long as
the captain is competent. I don’t like swimming with sharks if you catch my

Well I hope to have some good ideas flowing through this blog. The adventure starts March 19th and until then there are still plenty of plans and preparation still to come.