Archive for the ‘Tales of Travel and Woe’ Category

And one of the cutest creatures on earth.  It has become quite the symbol for New Zealand – indeed the people are referred to as Kiwis. But this is not the sum total of the country.

New Zealand is an infinitely interesting place.  Well, at least the bits I saw in my week-long visit.

Waitomo  – which I was told means water hole.  (Quite coincidentally at that same time, a friend had a flood in their kitchen which lead to a hole in their floor. I felt very worldly to share that they have a tomo in their floor made from wai).

The claim to fame of Waitomo is the glow worms that live in the caves (holes) made by water (wai) over the billions of years the island has existed.  You can’t actually see the worms, but when the caves are dark, a million pin pricks of light give the illusion of a star packed night sky.

Also in Waitomo was the strangest animal farm I’ve ever visited. Upon arrival, and handing over your $22, you receive a little bag of food pellets to feed the animals and asked to not feed them to the young goats because it affects their….output.

This animal farm had deer, ponies, donkeys,

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lamas, horses, strange small pigs with pug faces,

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ducks, rabbits, enormous roosters, cows, and of course the goats (Sean, you’re right. Their eyes are creepy).

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I’m not usually afraid of animals, but feeding things with big teeth with my bare hands is unnerving. It’s amazing but something I was told when I was very small came back to me in the moment – flat hand. Keep your hand completely flat to avoid the animals from accidentally biting your fingers.  That neuron had been dormant for at least 30 years! Walked away with all of my fingers and a freshly flexed neuron.  Good day!

Another destination on my tour was Rotorua. A place known for its natural hot springs, geysers, mineral mud and natural beauty.  And the smell. I’ve heard of many other places described as the asshole of the earth, but this is definitely where she passes gas. The best way I can describe the smell is the day after a pickled egg eating contest. I specifically went to Rotorua to try a mud bath. I wanted to know what it felt like to sit in thick and goopy mud. Turns out they just put a bit of the mud into the hot water. So it felt like a bath.  I know what a bath feels like. I didn’t need to spend $105.  Yes, $105.  I was duped. The highlight of Rotorua was the giant redwood forest. I had no idea that giant redwoods grew here.  It was a thick, lush forest with soft paths of fallen leaves and a thick coating of moss.  Look! It’s a Snufalupatree!!!

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I loved New Zealand and it is a damn shame that I only had a week.  I’ll definitely go back (perhaps not to Rotorua). If for no other reason than I heard an ad on the radio for a dentist that offers a cleaning, check-up and x-ray for $60.  For that price, I can afford the flight!

You are only one.

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Tales of Travel and Woe

Being a solo traveler has it pluses and minuses. There is no one to watch your bags at the airport so there is a bit of toilet Tetris to get you and your bags into the stall. There is no one to turn to and say “Look at that!”. There is no one to tell you when you’ve dropped chocolate topping down your front (I don’t even want to know what the people of Barcelona thought that was). And when you’re on a tour, filled with couples, you definitely feel a bit of a 5th, 7th or 9th wheel.

In July 2012 I went to a conference in South Africa.  I was actually travelling with a colleague and her partner, but because they were a couple, I was still an odd number. We decided to go on safari in the Kruger National Park.  If you ever get the chance, solo or otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend it.  However, if you go in their winter (July) please note. It gets bloody cold at night.

At every turn – checking in, creating a tab, collecting gear, I was questioned “You are only one?”. Yes, I am only one. I was also paying extra to be only one in my own room. This kind of bothers me, but it is better than being stuck sharing with a stranger. Once everyone in the company was aware that I was only one, the question turned to statement. When instructions were given, I often got separate instructions starting with – “You. You are only one”. And then I was told what to do when being eaten by a lion without a buddy to run for help.

I’m kidding of course.

But after a day or so, it became quite the joke, so on our final night when we arrived at our camp out spot laughter ensued with our lovely guide Bernard pointed out that I could tell which platform was mine, because it only had one chair.

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But I had the last laugh on that trip.  Being only one, but staying in rooms designed for two, I had two hot water bottles and twice the bedding that anyone else had. AND on the sleep out, I figured since I am only one, I would like to sleep next to the fire instead of freezing my butt off in tent by myself. There was certainly room for one me.  (That’s not me in the photo).

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When I asked Bernard if I would be allowed to bring my sleeping bag and sleep next to the fire, there may have been a bit of translation lost in his reply – “That is where I sleep. Do you want to sleep with me?”

I can tell you my head almost popped off resisting the urge to say,  “Well, I am only one”.

I had the best and warmest sleep of anyone, except for Bernard who was on the other side of the fire, because I was only one.

Out of My Whitsundays

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Tales of Travel and Woe

It seemed like a good idea. I was going to Airlie Beach on the train (another post) so I needed to find something to do while I was there instead of just turning around and flying home. So I decided a boat tour was just the thing.  I trolled the internet to find just the right one.  Then I found the site that said “No backpackers and no children” and I was sold.

The novelty of it being an old-fashioned wooden sailboat was an added bonus.

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It really is an amazing boat, The Alexander Stuart. There is a book on board explaining how one family along with a family friend hand-built the boat of a 30 year span. The craftsmanship is exceptional.

I had very specific visions for the trip. I wanted a slow, lazy trip involving a lot of sitting, some reading, a bit of scenic panorama viewing, and absolutely no thinking. When I learned that my friend and I were the only guests on this tour I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. Not liking people, I was very glad to be free of small talk and telling people about the dietary habits of the people of Tepozlan (see About page for explanation). However I was acutely aware that as the sole passengers, we would be unable to fly under the radar.  The staff would be focused on us entirely. This created a sinking suspicion that slow and lazy would be off the menu. (By the way, Sinking Suspicion is what I will name my own yacht when I win the lottery).

Upon boarding we were taken to our cabins. Being the only guests we were upgraded from our shared twin bunk room.  Yay!!  The crew referred to the rooms as staterooms.  I’m not entirely sure what distinguishes a cabin from a stateroom, but on size alone, I’ll go with cabin.  I’m not complaining. I was quite in love with the warm wooden coziness of my tiny space, but I imagine staterooms to be much grander.

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As most boats do, it curves to a point in the front, so too did the bed. The bed was also very short. Again, I’m not complaining because I am also very short, and I enjoyed feeling much taller than I am, when my feet were flat against the wall.  I dreamt of life as a supermodel, reaching top shelves and folding bed sheets without dragging them on the ground.

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But I did wonder how on earth anyone over 5’4” could possibly sleep. Even more, how could two people sleep comfortably since these rooms would typically house couples. What about two tall people?!  I mean, people usually choose to mate with their own species. Yes, I’m referring to tall and short people as different species.  Like Hobbits and Elves.

We then went up to the deck for snacks and a debriefing of what to do in the event of an emergency. This mostly centred around what to do if you fall overboard. So what are you meant to do if you fall overboard? Make as much noise as you can.  Barring a lung-full of sea water I assure you, I will sound like a hundred angry cats being bathed. Should someone else go overboard, my job is to point and make a lot of noise. Yep, point and scream.  Kudos to sailing people to go with the instinctive response of most humans.

The weather called for strong winds for the entire trip. Being a sailboat this was probably a good thing, but it did make for some very rocky seas and insane, untamable hair. Despite the headband and hair tie, I continually found my hair whipping my face like an unresponsive mule.  I tried to wear a hat, but the wind actually blew it off my head, and into the sea.  Luckily, one of the bean bags off the deck snapped its tether and also went over, so my hat was saved in the rescue mission. Making the hair situation worse, I was not allowed to wash my long hair in the shower as it would gum up the works. I was, however, allowed to wash it with a hose on deck.

If I thought the cabin was small, the toilet/shower/sink was positively microscopic.

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Someone pointed out to me that this would not be a good bathroom to be seasick in.  But also, there were 4 men on this boat and men aren’t known for their accuracy on steady ground let alone on rocky, turbulent seas.  Maybe the bathroom is this small to limit the distance that someone could tip over?

The rocky seas made for amusing movements. Every time I walked down the hall to my cabin, I essentially pin-balled the entire way.  Near the end of the trip, it became a kind of game, trying to make my last bounce shoot me into my own cabin.  It was a tough shot, but I nailed it a couple of times.

Unfortunately, my initial fears of being the only guests were founded, and for 3 days we were harangued about not taking part in all of the activities. Hiking during march fly season (horse flies to Canadians) is a recipe for disaster. And I can assure you, no one wants to see me in a neoprene dive suit. No one. 

The other problem with being the only guests, we were required to help with raising and lowering the sails. Danger, Will Robinson.  Now, recall my inability to walk down the hall without bouncing off the walls. Now put me on deck with nothing to hold onto except a wiggly rope. Despite my fervent assertions that I had the upper body strength of a kitten, and my obvious inability to stay upright on the rocking boat, day after day I was tasked with helping to raise and lower the sails while the deckhand barked incomprehensible orders at me.  I’m on holiday!!!!

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The crew made my every attempt at perfecting sloth near impossible.  However by the last day they gave up trying to make me into an adventure traveller and we enjoyed a quiet day just sailing around, enjoying the amazing views.

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My favourite picture from the trip. Also illustrating the lilt of the boat.

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All in all? I probably wouldn’t do it again. The focus of these trips appears to be much more on activity than the inactivity I was looking for. And activities that are not particularly appealing to the middle-aged, slightly overweight, book-nerd set. But there were sublime moments of peace and beauty that could only be had from a sailboat.

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The sea will never be my life, my love or my lady, but watching the moonrise through the porthole, then heading to my cabin to be rocked to sleep by the sea herself is something to treasure.

Yes, I am a psychologist. No I will not help you with your problems (but in a pinch I will direct you to someone who can). I have started this blog because I have a lot of ideas and even more opinions and realistically keeping a journal just seems so passé.

It is a curious thing to start a blog.  One presumes that someone will read the entries, but it is quite likely that no one ever will.

I have just spent an agonising hour trying to choose my blog theme and there is a solid chance that no one will ever see it rendering my angst unnecessary.  Funny – the possibility of someone reading this is great enough to compel me to sift through the themes repeatedly, previewing all of the candidates multiple times, but not great enough to compel me to shell out money for a fancy one.

It reminds me of an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Johnny Fever calls on listeners to dump their garbage on the steps of city hall in protest of a garbage removal strike. When hundreds of people do so, it is a shock realisation of how many people who actually listen to him.  Please do not dump your garbage on the steps of city hall. However please feel free to comment and let me know you’re reading.

About the name.  When I was in grad school, and coming to the depressing conclusion that psychology is like a deep, drunk conversation, I dreamed of leaving it all behind, moving to Ireland and opening a pub called The Shrinking Head.  Like psychologists, everyone tells their woes to the bartender. The difference being the bartender doesn’t have to actually do anything.  And most importantly, they can read books for fun and drink beer to be serious.

The entries in this blog are my own opinion. Some may be based on psychological or neurological science, but often it will just be my own ramblings about the absurd.  Please do not take the content as fact.  Indeed in psychology there is no such thing as fact – merely supposition until evidence is found that proves us wrong.