enrolling in the gym – fit for travel?

Maheshwar, India.
Maheshwar, India.

Enrolling in the gym is an ego deflating exercise and I have just humiliated myself.

Now there is a man, whom I had never met before, who knows more than he should about my body mass, flexibility and fitness. It was a reality check I’ve been trying to deny, but with only 72 sleeps until I travel, it’s time to review the necessities on my pre-trip checklist.  Once money and tickets have been arranged, fitness is the number one issue. I failed.

Why do I want to be fit to travel? Well I believe that I am better off and less likely to get any bugs if I am fitter, flatter and flexible. By now people who know me will be choking over their morning coffee as they read this: laughing hysterically. Ba-humbug I say to them, just watch this space!

I need put in a disclaimer – this entire column is purely my opinion and backed up by no known medical evidence.  I have gleaned screeds of useful and useless information over the years and stored it away like a pack-rat for when I need it.  Now I give it to you: take what you like, leave the rest, and, like going to the gym, consult your doctor about health issues.

Back to the gym, the first line of fitness defence. “Pull your tummy button to backbone,”. . . “Doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up”  . . . “how does that feel?” Red faced, hot, sweaty and embarrassed at my deep breathing, I ask myself, what has this go to do with travel; what has riding a bike that goes nowhere or rowing a boat that never sees the water, have to do with tourist activities?

All I know is past experiences has taught me that I feel better and am able to do more when I feel healthier.  I asked other travellers what they do for pre-departure health all said walking. So reassured, and my own knowledge to back it up, I’ll continue to work on improving my fitness level. I visualise myself jumping nimbly from boat to wharf, climbing hills to see views and monuments with nary a deep gasping breath to be heard and throwing my backpack onto my back as if it weighed nothing. Remember I said visualise, this is not reality – yet.

What other pre travel checks are needed? Unless you are going to a place absolutely guaranteed not to have any dreaded diseases or bugs it pays talk to your Dr or vaccination clinic to see what shots are needed. Tetanus, typhoid, polio, tetanus and hepatitis are some of the travellers common protection needs. Accurate up to date information about vaccinations is vital.

A couple of years ago I was off to Zimbabwe and it had been recommended that I have a hepatitis A vaccine. As it lasted only six weeks I waited until the very last minute to give myself the injection: I hadn’t intended to wait until just prior to boarding the plane in The Netherlands.

Picture if you will: me inside the toilets – in a city well known for it’s drug use – hunting through my pack for the syringe and contents required to jab myself in my thigh. I am sure my innocence would not have been believed had I been caught on the security cameras.

Apart from indulging in addict-like activities what else can I do to ensure I’m a healthy traveller? I could take multivitamins or drink only bottled water with no ice, become vegetarian while on the road but a hepatitis carrier, often unknown to them, is of greater concern than bad food. So vaccinations and common sense around hand washing is really important – and no sleeping in fowl-houses.

Despite my constant state of good health when I travel I’m not a good role model as I break so many rules. I drink local water, eat from street stalls and remain healthy. Good luck? I guess so. In the meantime I’ll keep going to the gym.

John, next time you test me I’ll remove your heart-rate strap and watch from my body before I go home. Promise.

the buskers are here again!

only three days to go and the world buskers festival 2009 will be here in Christchurch New Zealand yet again .. for something like 20 years our streets have been taken over every January with buskers from around the world.

Just planning my days now around whats happening and where.

on my must see list are Les Vitamines from Canada, the Aussie – Reuban Dot Dot Dot, and Slackwire Sam also from the USA; Swank theatre company from the UK

I feel sorry for the pair from Israel as I suspect they know they will be heckeled at sometime about their goverments actions in Gaza over recent times.

for other things to do in Christchurch/ New Zealand  see some of my stories

for more I’ve written about the world Buskers festival click the link

 

 

Local Busker
Local Busker

And coming up in 2010 …………………………

This summer’s World Buskers Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand is now previewed online for people keen to get the most from the entertainment on Christchurch’s streets during the 11 day event.

The official 2010 World Buskers Festival website has been launched (www.worldbuskersfestival.com) with details of all the performers attending the festival, as well as a schedule of when and where around Christchurch they will be performing.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the World Buskers Festival consistently tops the list of the city’s favourite events.

“Each year, the 10 day festival attracts 300,000 visitors to Christchurch, all keen to experience the daring and hilarious antics of our buskers. The Central City comes to a standstill during the street performances and evening events allow us to secure a seat right next to the action,” he says.

“With 44 acts, 450 live shows and 500 hours of world class entertainment this is a festival you’ve just got to experience,” says festival director Jodi Wright

“An exciting new music pitch has been added to the 2010 festival. Plus the circus, street and comedic talent we’ve assembled for this festival is truly world class. Check out the schedule so you don’t miss seeing any of them perform.”

In its 17th year the World Buskers Festival runs in Christchurch from 21 to 31 January 2010.

For more information go to www.worldbuskersfestival.com.

 

 

 

I want to cry! Writing, blogging & computer problems

I just want to cry. And cry and cry and cry.

Over the past three days I have learnt some valuable life lessons. Most of which could be summed up in those horrible lazy sayings.

Some I already know about but didn’t respond to – ‘if you are in a hole stop digging!” and “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’

The particular hole I was in involved my computer. I used some free web access at an airport and from then on I could not send email! My mail arrived fine but my out box got bigger and bigger.

I tried to fix it ( my ‘little knowledge’ part) I looked up all the things I thought would tell me how all to no avail, I rang my isp and spent an hour on the phone. Still no solution.

In the end I did one more thing and bang – NOW I have no Outlook on my laptop … resulting in having to reinstall Microsoft Outlook – a brand new version with none of my ‘stuff’ on it . I thought it would import my old email – but no.

I now have many emails unanswered and lost. AND I have travel bloggers waiting for me to thank them for (and publish) their responses to my interview question. Mea culpa.

I am sorry but now I don’t know who I wrote to, who responded or what they said … all put into a special folder in my outlook.

I have contact for editors around the world gone, I have copies of contracts gone – could go on and on ………. I also have lost my diary with plans for the year all planned out.

Now you know why I want to cry.

If you know me and I should have your address or other information please email me. If you want to answer a two question interview re travel writing and or blogging also please email me.

The one good thing was something I learnt . in the advanced settings for my ISP is a place to tick and keep all my mail floating around in the ether. I have ticked it and if this ever happens again I will have that record to fall back on.

stoats kill more endangered birds

 

 Brilliant blue body,  green wings and back, combined with sturdy red legs, feet and beak make the takahe a bird not to be forgotten. Territorial,  it lives in pairs and both parents incubate and raise the young. Unfortunately their fertility rate is very low with many of the eggs infertile.takahetakahe - a colourful NZ native

Once found throughout  NZ, the takahe (prounounced  tar car hay )  was thought to be extinct for over fifty years before being rediscovered by Dr. Geoffrey Orbel, in 1948, while he was bush walking. The population of a round 150 continue to live mainly in the marginal environment of the South Islands Murchison  Mountains,  foraging for it’s favourite snow tussocks in competition with introduced herbivores.  

Conservation measures include  the eradication or reduction of the stoat which eat the eggs and the deer which feed on the same tussock. Management of their habitat is vital for their survival. Sadly the 2008 population count have found a large number have been killed by stoats. Read more here

Another measure to save these birds is to hatch eggs artificially. Removing one of the two eggs laid increases the number of chicks born as usually only one hatches in the wild.   Young chicks are then reared;  hand puppets for feeding, an artificial parent to shelter under and taped sounds of various feeding and alarm calls.  This ensures they can be returned to the wild and are not dependent  or imprinted on humans. Chicks are later transferred to Kapati and Maud Islands in the Cook Strait or a fenced area the Murchison valley.

One of my special memories is the time I spent as a Department of Conservation volunteer at the Te Anua Wildlife Centre with these beautiful birds and saw the young being fed with the puppets and knowing the numbers have declined is really upsetting.

Two places to view these birds that cannot fly are Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, and Mt. Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the lower North Island. Mt. Bruce is open all year and is a good place to learn more about the work being done to save these, and other endangered species.

 

 

guests: fish or friends?

Are you a good quest? are you a fish or a friend?

It’s that time of year again when we descend on friends and family, and conversely they descend on us. It seems timely to check ourselves -am I a good house-guest?

I am sure you have heard the old saying – guests and fish are similar, they both go off after three days. In an attempt to ensure they we don’t go off quite so quickly, lets consider how not to be a guest from hell.

First of all what is a guest from hell? .

The lazy one; she thinks it’s a hotel she’s booked into, that you are her mother and find  pleasure in picking up after her. There are males with the same traits. In fact he can be even worse as his gear usually includes smelly, or very smelly, sox and sneakers lying in the middle of the lounge floor. A male will often spend long periods of time in the toilet. When this is in the same room as the shower and you have to go to work and or the kids get to school, well . . . paint your own picture.

The fussy one: they’re similar to the lazy one in that they too think you are their mother, ecstatic at being able to provide all their needs. The fussy-one tells you she is a vegetarian just after you have spent hours producing a meat dish using fashionably long slow-food methods. He tells you he hates tomatoes when the only food left in the cupboard is a packet of dry pasta and a tin of tomato sauce.

The cheap one: spends hundreds on sky diving, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, and expensive bottles of booze, for himself, but fails to even think of a buying you a coffee when you pick him up at 1 15am when his flight, train, or bus arrives. He tells you about his budget and how far he has travelled or an oily rag but never asks about your budget.

The boring one: is often not family but someone met in a bar when your perceptions of people were somewhat distorted. The amusing convivial fellow has turned into a right-wing bore who knows how this country should be run, loves reality TV and channel surfing, sleeping late and mostly, the sound of his monotone voice. Have you met him? Or her. They are hard to get rid of.  

Now, I am absolutely positive you are not like that, nor do I expect my family who are flying in to stay with me over Xmas to be anything like this but, lets review some of the etiquette required to be a good guest. Common sense and courtesy are the key principals. This is a time when the golden rule “do as that you expect done to you” needs upgrading to platinum, “do as your hosts want you to do”. Guess what- it’s their home you are in so their rules rule.

So, to remain on your hosts xmas list, do the opposite of the above examples ( and there are many varieties of hellish guests, this was just skimming the surface, perhaps you could add more from your own experience)

Open your wallet and purse to buy the basics. Toilet paper, coffee, food. Sure its easy to buy, and nice to get, a bottle of wine or box of chocolates, however you will more than likely drink half of it…grand gestures are OK as long as the basics are covered too. Absolutely pay for your phone calls and don’t spend ages on it.

Clean up after yourself. Don’t put it down – put it away. Keep your bed made and all your gear tucked tidily into a corner of the room. Keep the bathroom clean too.

As well as the clean up behind you, an extra task each day will be appreciated by your hosts. For example, water the garden, when you do your washing offer to do the house wash too. Strip your bed, wash the sheets and tidy the room when you leave.

Cook a meal for the family: buy all the ingredients, and do the dishes afterwards.

If it all sounds too much – don’t stay with friends or family. Book into the closest hostel, hotel or bed and breakfast and visit them from there. Both of you will appreciate each other that way and the friendship will continue.

traveller or tourist? what is a backpacker?

Am I a tourist or traveller? What are you? As a backpacker, I belong on one side of the great divide in the world of travel snobbery. The saying that prevails around this group is – tourists know where they are going, but don’t know where they have been, while travellers know where they have been but don’t know where they are going.

web james bond islandOf course, my friends who stay in hotels are horrified at the idea of sleeping on a rooftop in Jerusalem with 29 others, or any of the other shared places I’ve slept in.


I, on the other hand, cannot imagine spending any more than the occasional night in a sterile, albeit luxurious, hotel.

Many of my friends hate to leave home without knowing where they will sleep, what tours have been booked, what times their transport will leave and exactly where they are going. They think I am crazy to have no idea where I am going, where I am staying and what I will see. This is, for me, the difference between a traveller and a tourist, characterised by the freedom of time and attitude. As Hostelling International says in one of their adverts, backpacking is about attitude not age.


However if you have two, three or four weeks to enjoy an annual holiday, or this is your one chance to visit Europe, China, or Australia, and it is important you see all that you can join a tour. Being part of a tour is the only way to fit in the top sites.web beach at indigo pearl Just make sure you are not in a cultural quarantine – returning home untouched by any contact with locals.

As a nomadic wanderer, I often miss many of the ‘must see’ tourist places but leave a country having been to a wedding, had a long coffee and meal with a local school teacher, taught swimming to a group of young Thai boys and on another occasion, spent three weeks on an island cleaning up a marine-reserve after a monsoon. Am I the only person who went to New York and merely stood at the bottom of the Twin Towers?


Conversely, I don’t know any ‘tourist’ who volunteered their time in a soup kitchen in the middle of a New York blizzard. The snobbery evident on both sides of the fence: ‘I can afford to stay somewhere clean and civilised’ versus ‘I can afford the time to spend a long time travelling’. Different strokes for different folks.


web laos polly and iSo what do others have to say about the topic? Larry Krotz (Tourism. 1996) says travel, or going somewhere as a tourist, has become something we do in order to share our culture – like going to an annual sports or cultural event. He discusses the shift over 150 years, from travel for education and knowledge to the enjoyment factor of today, ‘something everyone does’.

WEB naked-front-cover


Mass ability to travel, as things became cheaper and faster, was captured originally by Thomas Cook mid 19th century, making a fascinating topic to read. So, if you want to know about the conveyer belt that tourism has become; how we are a product to be seduced, fed and watered, displayed and then returned home go to the library.

So, if you want to know about the selfishness of people like me who get off the beaten track and then don’t want you to discover it too; if you want to know about the affects of tourists or travellers on the country we travel in, I recommend the whole section on tourism in your local library.

Travel and reading: what do you read?

The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page” according to St Augustine.

I am an avid reader and traveller so want to read and see it all. I wonder how many pages you have read? Maybe you don’t believe the old saint and see the world in different ways. Of course his world was smaller than we know it today, and we all read different types of literature.

Guess that makes the saying true, maybe it is a book – if we use that word it’s widest meaning. Some will go to Rome – for instance – and read a very different book to the one that you or I will read.web passport etc

Maybe you are an encyclopaedic type person and will have read all the history you could before arriving. You will know the dates – or at least the order of – all the various reigns and many historical twists that the city has taken. You will know some of the bloodthirsty events that took place at the Colosseum and all about the Sistine chapel in the Vatican City – the city within a city.

Other will prefer their book to be a comic, perhaps a classic that will give them all the details quickly and in manageable bite-sized portions. Comic readers will be like a couple of Aussie women and me, who, when we had been subjected to more than enough views of cathedrals were saying “ABC.” Translated it meant – another b**** church, or another WEB naked-front-coverboring cathedral. It was as if Europe was throwing pearls before swine- we had lost our appreciation when each day seemed to be dominated by yet more churches, cathedrals and their inevitable pigeons – all beginning to seem the same.

Other books I have read to inform me before, during and after my travels are the travel guides. A plethora of them and these too can range from a full hearty meal, a silver service six course classy event, to some world-wide chain takeaway food on the run, or a get your fingers dirty banana-leaf curry. As always the choice is ours: our tastes change with the weather, venue and hunger.

Travelling through this mosaic-like world – physically and via words – is a wonderful privilege and just recently I read figures that really showed just how privileged this travelling life-style is.

  • While well over 50% of New Zealanders have been overseas – so must have passports – I discovered less than 25% of Americans do; World-wide the figure for people owning passports is 3%. Although I haven’t been able to verify these figures they show a number of things. DO YOU KNOW?
  • We are an island nation so have to have a passport to go anywhere! That passport owning is not a right but a privilege – and sign of our wealth – and that kiwis, despite being flightless birds, really get around.
  • Using St Francis and his saying it seems we New Zealanders are avid readers. But what does it say about the other 97% of the world?

For many, in the poorest countries, the word is not even in their vocabulary as something they could aspire to owning. But what does it say about the world’s richest nation when so few have passports. Is it any wonder we hear words such as insular and naïve credited to them at times. Perhaps it’s because collectively they haven’t read much of the worlds pages that St Francis was talking about. Remember 10 years ago – the disbelief of the Europeans (and us Kiwis) when they found out that ‘Dubya’ – the new head of so many people- had never been to Europe, or so it seemed, ever left the USA!

Once again it makes me wonder, do broad-minded people travel or does travel make people broad-minded? I have always been broad-minded – albeit forced on me by circumstances at times – but travel has made me more so: I will keep reading the pages of this world.

There is nothing more exciting than to be alive with travelling, to not know where you will sleep that night – just the absolute certainty of knowing that it will be somewhere you have never been before.

What a wonderful freedom and richness that living on an affluent island that was peopled by adventurous explorers gives us. The privileged richness of owning a passport and therefore reading so many more pages than other nations can or do.

However, remember that privileges are equally balanced with responsibilities.