out the back a ways…

Just back from a relaxing weekend in Orange. I even made it into Orange itself this time. Once or twice a year, we head out to my partner’s dad’s family who live on a few acres about half an hour out the back of Orange. Connectivity is interesting…it is possible to get a signal in some spots and it usually involves balancing the phone on a window sill pointing in the right direction. Using this method I was able to download the weekend SMH…though it took about 20 minutes as it kept dropping out.

view of trees and rows of grapes for wine out the back of Orange.

It’s a peaceful place with little else to see, just dry Australian landscape. The photo above shows the view that I looked out on every day. My partner’s dad has a few rows of grapes and produces a nice, drinkable red each year. I gather it may not have been quite so drinkable but every vintage I’ve been lucky enough to try has been tasty. I even helped pick the grapes last year. I failed to help pick the year before as I slept in and they were all done by the time I woke up. Oops.

Normally we don’t get out much and it’s time to chill and read and chat with family. This time we popped up the road yesterday to Mortimer’s Wines for a tasting, having driven past many times. We were the only ones there and it seems the busy period finished the week before. A comfy, generous tasting with a good chat with the chap there talking about the wine. Somewhat unexpectedly, I later realised there was something of a connection with my childhood, growing up in Bankstown…and a sportzing reference at that! The winery was started by and belongs to, one of the Mortimer brothers, who were well known rugby league players with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the 80s. 3 of the brothers played in 4 grand finals together. Peter Mortimer went from footy to wine and I gotta say the wines were rather tasty and we bought several: a decent pinot noir, some tasty shiraz and wonder of wonders, a delicious Chardonnay.

All in all a happy, relaxing weekend.

…a different pace

Trying new things. A different pace. Otherness. But not in the usual sort of way. Nor the usual sort of conversation. Stepping out of my comfort zone. A new thing.

Cruise. Ship.

Eep! That’s a whole other direction for travel. I may be turning 50 this year but I thought cruising and coach tours were still 20 years away. Does a backpack work on a cruise ship? Do I take more stuff…or less stuff…actually I don’t think I can take less stuff as I travel fairly lightly when backpacking. Still. I have realised that I should not stay in hostel dormitories. I personally, am comfy in a dorm: 4 beds, 6 beds, 10, or 12 or so. However I am a world class snorer and have slowly realised that others are less happy about my presence in dorms. Now I book rooms. When tramping, I’m the poor schmuck that needs to sleep in the kitchen at trail huts lest I disturb the bunkhouses.

Anyway, back to cruising. On a boat. I’ve been on a cruise. Once. Many years ago. 2003 or thereabouts. In China. Down the Yangtze River. 2 days. Only 2 days. I think that was pre-flickr or pre-my-digital-photo-stuff…I really must digitise those photos one day. Perhaps when I’m old and bored and decrepit. By the way, I strongly recommend going to China.The food. Oh gawd, the food! Fantastic! Variety and flavour and texture and taste. Oh my. I went with friends on an Intrepid trip and it was fab.  A guided tour yes but lots of public transport, not coaches, and hanging locally. For organised stuff, Intrepid has worked well. I later went to Borneo with Intrepid and those photos are online.

Cruising. It has been suggested that a cruise in Europe might be nice. It might be. For some things I like to think I’m young and sort of hip but even saying “young and hip” suggests a certain age. Others use different phrases. Others. Yet, I’m coming around…Viking has been suggested and I have read bits about Viking and they sound sort of what I’d like. No night clubs but a late bar just in case. Decent food. They handle my usual breakfast. A more intellectual approach…maybe not, it was sounding good until that point :) It is unclear what whiskies they have on board, or craft beers for that matter…I figure I can probably pick up a nice whisky or three duty free. I dunno yet whether Intrepid do cruising but that’s a google away.

Hmmm…a different direction indeed.

 

techie librarian; meatier than a seahorse

 

Tag lines…whatever do you use for your tagline: the subheading of your identity, the punchline by which people establish a connection. Mostly I pay them lip service, smiling occasionally at a clever one. My own tend to refer to variations of: techie, librarian and eclectic, sometimes all 3 at once.

In a rather wayward conversation, spinning down a rabbit hole of curiousity, as things are wont to do when Matt Finch is involved, a recent conversation turned from roasting penguins to eating seahorses.

I participated in a workshop as part of NLS8 and the first activity was for everyone to sketch a scene, in 90 seconds, on a piece of A4 using at least one of three figures on a screen: 2 humans (or human-like) and a penguin. As is my wont, I immediately gave into the dark side and sketched the two humans roasting the penguin. The second half of the activity was for each table to construct a cohesive story using those scenes as panel. They were two quick activities that worked really well as an icebreaker and got you thinking at how easy it was to come up with ideas under pressure.

The seahorses came later…or rather many years earlier:

to which I responded with my “meatier than seahorse” remark and commented elsewhere that while I have never eaten penguin, I have actually eaten seahorse.

Many years ago, 2003 I think (really must upload those photos to flickr), I spent a few weeks on an Intrepid trip in China with friends. We started in Beijing and went to the Beijing night markets, a place where you can eat just about anything including silk worms and even scorpions on a stick. Scorpions were a wee a but scary but we figured had to be ok as noone was dropping dead. As far as we can figure, they’re bred without their stinger.

While trying to order something else, there was a language issue, and I ended up with seahorse on a stick. I think the scorpions were about 20 cents for five whereas the seahorse was a few Oz dollars for one. Our tour guide tried to talk our way out of it but the shopowner insisted. So I paid for it and ate it. There wasn’t much flavour as it was primarily shell with perhaps a tiny morsel of meat.

Matt suggested “meatier than a seahorse” as a bio and it immediately rang the right sort of bells, both physically and metaphorically. I am now using it for all my taglines :-)

documenting snails

I’ve been using the nick of “snail” for a bloody long time now, at least 25 years or so and this year may even be the 30th. My memory of those times is rather hazy but 1987 was my first year of uni and the year I found usenet which became a home of sorts for many years to come. That means I have been calling myself “snail” for around three decades. Now that is scary.

My original life plan had been to go to uni and study computer science for 3 years, graduate, work for  a couple of years then spend a couple of years travelling the world. I did all those things but the timeline was much, much longer. I didn’t officially graduate in compsci though I did complete all 3 years and ended up with a BA with a double major in Philosophy and History & Philosophy of Science. Followed by a Master of Information Management (Librarianship) to celebrate my 10th year, or so, of uni :)

Somewhere along the way, I started collecting snails.

plush snail

I think it was in 1999 when I finally made it overseas for the first time. Not quite a 2 year trip as I originally planned but a decent 4 months at least and made it to the US and Europe. I spent quite a bit of time in London on that first trip and may have overused my sister’s generosity in letting me stay at her place as she’d been living in London for some years. I spent most days out exploring and I happened into a manchester shop as you do. I still vaguely recall that shop and the bin of stuffed toys downstairs. In that bin was this snail and I think it was only a few quid and I had to have it. So I bought it and it has been with me ever since. It normally resides on the bookcase beside my bed. That was my first snail.

For some years now, I’ve been wanting to document all my snails, as I think I have close to 40 now. I’ve taken photos of most of them with a few to go. I used to have an actual, rocking horse snail ie a real rocking snail for toddlers. However it felt a wee bit weird as I don’t have kids myself. Plus it was fairly large and I never did find the right spot for it. Ultimately, when my cousin had a baby, I gave it to them and they assure me their daughter loves it.

a lethargic 5

I’m happy to report that full connectivity was restored to the house a day or two before we were due to fly to NZ. Returning home on Sunday, I was happy to discover that we still had net :) I’ll talk more about the NZ trip and tramping the Kepler Track once I’ve sorted out the photos and loaded them to flickr. I have about 130 photos that I need to weed though that should be relatively quick compared to weeding my photos from the European holiday over Dec/Jan. For the Europe set, I’ve managed to get it down to under 300 from around 700 but it still needs a couple more goes. I should have the Kepler set up this week at least.

While I’m in post NZ recovery, here’s 5 random things I’ve tweeted in recent months:

more tramping

Alrighty…first we booked the huts, then we booked the flights. I am finally getting to tramp the Kepler Track this year. Flights were a wee bit ecky as we’re travelling in the school holidays. On the other hand, we’re doing the Kepler!

I was just re-reading my account of the Routeburn and realised that was 2010 and despite my best intentions, it’s taken 7 years to get round to tramping another of NZ’s Great Walks. Admittedly, I’ve had some pretty good times inbetween, not to mention 6 weeks in Europe over Christmas. This trip is actually for Mr21 who turned 21 last year and we offered him a hike as he loves the bush too. Turns out he’d rather hike with us so the three of us are doing the Kepler together.

I tramped the Routeburn using my ageing Kathmandu travel pack and while it held up ok, I decided that next time I tramped I would get a dedicated pack. For the Europe trip, I bought a new travel pack that had a backpacking harness and wheels. I’ve read a few “best of” lists online and pretty much decided that the Osprey Atmos fits the bill. It’s a good size with a decent harness. I’ve had an Osprey day pack with 3 litre aqualung for several years and that’s been really nice. Getting the Atmos means I can use the aqualung on it too. Just need to go into a store and try one on.

I bought a new pair of Scarpa walking boots a couple of years ago and retired my previous Scarpa so that part is sorted. I remain undecided on walking poles – the germans love them and I have a few friends who are keen. I sort of wonder if my general clumsiness might mean that they’d work well for me too…or at least stop me reaching out for trees that may or may not hold my weight :-)

post holiday thoughts

Flew back into Sydney a couple of weeks ago. 6 weeks in Europe ended up feeling about right and I was happy to return home. We experienced a mild, European winter and winter didn’t seem to set in proper til after we left. Temps were mostly single figure negative eventually making it to positive.

Prior to leaving, we’d booked accommodation for 8 nights out of 42, a return train trip from Paris to London and a couple of shows.  Everything else was discussed, explored and booked as we went. For the most part we were booking trains and accommodation a few days in advance. The broad bones of the trip were necessarily constant but the places inbetween changed, and changed a few times. Alas, no snow. We had a few flecks in Nuremberg and some hail somewhere else but no snow we could play with.

31883039312_f56cf3c2a4_nI recall travelling not dissimilarly a decade or so back, planning each place while in the previous place. Back then, I needed to book into an internet cafe and spend an hour or two working out how to get to the next place and where to stay. This time round, I had a laptop with me, a local sim card with plenty of data, and most places we stayed had wifi. The German train system is fab and and so easy to organise and book, France was a little more challenging and often didn’t recognise our credit card for train bookings so we did a few in person there. We’d discuss plans over dinner or breakfast and then I’d make the required bookings keeping in touch with airbnb hosts via the app or WhatsApp.

Airbnb was really fab. I was reluctant initially but have been converted. There were 3 of us travelling: myself, my partner and her 16 year old daughter, and we were able to book whole apartments so we had space to relax in. Many places we usually had at least one separate bedroom and a sofa bed in the living though occasionally we had 2 bedrooms. Dead simple to book, hosts were flexible in meeting times and friendly and welcoming. We stayed in some amazing places and places were cheaper as there were a lot less folk travelling in winter.

Queues were short or non existent eg a 20 minute queue at the Louvre. I think our worst queues were in Disneyland Paris and even then most ride queues were short. Disneyland Paris was one of those things we managed to add while travelling as we hadn’t planned to go initially however it was dead simple as a day trip from Paris.

Google maps was bloody awesome. I had full data connectivity on my phone though the Spanish SIM I was using never quite managed to make it to 4G and was a wee bit slow at times. But I could use my phone as I would at home for a cost of around 1-2 euros per day. I played plenty of Ingress in all countries and made good use of both google’s and microsoft’s translation software though I think I prefer microsoft’s. Google maps however made moving about dead easy: it worked out appropriate metro stops. bus stops, bits to walk etc. Sometimes it’s nice to get lost and find stuff but not when you’re carrying a pack trying to find your next airbnb.

All I need to do now is cull my photos down to a manageable amount and upload them to flickr. First run through got them down to 622 from 688, so clearly lots more culling required. Oh joy.