Are you a slow traveller? What is slow travel?

interact with the locals

Are you a slow traveller?  What is slow travel?  I’m sure it means different things to different people.

For me, slow travel means pacing my travel, not having every moment accounted for, and therefore leaving time for the unexpected. The unknown and the unplanned for.  Leaving time to sit in the coffee shop and watch how locals live and interact.

Florida – well caught

For me, the difference is about the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I like to think I’m a traveller.  It means going to a country but only visiting one small region, not rushing around so you can take off everything on the must-see or must-do lists.  I like to create my own list with lots of gaps 🙂

A spirit tree in Bangkok
The KiwiTravelWriter checks out the manatee in Florida

So are you a slow traveller?  Tell me, what does it mean to you?  I do understand people taking tours, but I guess I’m selfish and self-centred and really just want to leave when I want to leave, to stay longer when I want to – or to jump on a bus and get the hell out of somewhere. 🙂

In particular, I want to have an early breakfast and get out exploring not waiting for other people to wake up have their breakfast and then join a bus group.  It is easy to see why most of my travels have been solo 🙂

taking off in a hot air balloon – Canterbury, New Zealand

 

 

Hot air ballooning makes me fall in love

hot air balloon over villageI’m reposting this as this is a great way to see the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps. It was originally printed in the Christchurch Press – I hope you enjoy it.

Kiwi Travel Writer talks food, travel, and tips

“When the wind blows in your face, something different is about to happen,” we’re told.It’s true and when the wind blows on our faces we change direction during the best morning I’ve had for ages. Infact it is so good I’m in love – in love with hot air ballooning. It is such fun even clichés fail me.

At 4 30am I was woken with a phone call. “It’s on, the weather is perfect, and your transport will be at your door in 20 minutes.It takes an hour to reach Methven, (1025 ft above sea level) home of Aoraki Balloon Safaris and close to Mt Hutt ski fields – and also on the Lord of the Rings route, a nearly a New Zealand-long-trail.Meeting with others who have driven from Christchurch or stayed overnight, we’re given overshoes, have our names and weights recorded and divided into two…

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Despite rumours, visitors attractions are open in Christchurch, New Zealand

Despite rumours to the contrary, many visitor attractions in Christchurch are open! The International Antarctic Centre, the Tranz-Alpine rail experience, the Air Force Museum, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Hassle-free Tours, Tanks for Everything, Horsepower Experience, Christchurch Casino, Ferrymead Heritage Park and Up, Up and Away ballooning adventures and Beadz Unlimited, are just some of the over 26 Christchurch’s tourism attractions in full operation – and these numbers are increasing as I write.

In September and October many more will be back in action: Canterbury Museum, a central-city  iSITE Centre, and Christchurch Bike Tours to name a few.

I went to the multi-award-winning International Antarctic Centre to see its new movie experience, ‘Ice Voyage’, a 4D movie that involves an all-round total sensory experience: with seals sneezing on me; ice about to pierce us; and a gull that … well go and see! I loved the young penguins with their fluffy highland cow-like scarves and coats! Despite real snow on the ground, outside, we, the audience, felt part of a real Antarctic storm – sort of like coals to Newcastle!  Of course, as usual here, kids of all ages love riding the real Antarctic all-terrain Hagglund vehicle, while I spend ages with the very cute, rescued, penguins in the indoor-outdoor penguin viewing area

Outdoor experiences include visiting Christchurch’s world renown, Botanic Gardens which are open, and with their Caterpillar Garden Tours operating.

Punting on the Avon at the Antigua Boatsheds is a time-old activity for locals and visitors, a leisurely way to see another side of the city – and in cold weather make sure you wrap up with the blankets they offer.

 There’s no-where to stay? Well, that’s not true either! Between Christchurch International Airport and the central city there are 11 hotels, 5 lodges and apartments, 109 motels, 15 holiday parks, 15 backpacker lodges and 68 bed & breakfasts in full operation. There should be something to suit every taste. I stayed in the central city at the 5-star Classic Villa, a handy spot to walk to the new Events Village which has sprung up in North Hagley Park  ( NZs’ largest urban open space -164.637 hectares) to host performances and events in the city for the next six months.

Set up by Christchurch City Council, with support of the Government, a large inflatable dome is the centrepiece of the village.  Two large geodesic domes are also underway for events throughout the year – of course the Rugby World Cup Fanzone will be set in this Events village too. The ever-popular World Buskers Festival will be the last event set in the Events Village, from 19-29 January 2012 and the Ellerslie International Flower Show will be back in Hagley Park in March 2012.

For more information when in Christchurch, a temporary iSITE Visitor Centre is in the foyer of The Chateau on the Park hotel, Deans Avenue, open seven days a week, 8.30am to 5pm.

Hot air ballooning makes me fall in love

“When the wind blows in your face, something different is about to happen,” we’re told. It’s true and when the wind blows on our faces we change direction during the best morning I’ve had for ages. In fact it is so good I’m in love – in love with hot air ballooning. It is such fun even clichés fail me.

At 4 30am I was woken with a phone call. “It’s on, the weather is perfect, and your transport will be at your door in 20 minutes. It takes an hour to reach Methven, (1025 ft above sea level) home of Aoraki Balloon Safaris and close to Mt Hutt ski fields – and also on the Lord of the Rings route, a nearly a New Zealand-long-trail. Meeting with others who have driven from Christchurch or stayed overnight, we’re given overshoes, have our names and weights recorded and divided into two groups. A short bus ride takes us to the Methven Show grounds where we’re to be launched upwards.hot air balloon over village

Already the excitement is building and our group of eight or nine strangers are talking freely with each other. We’re all virgin balloonists and are anticipating a great time. Unlike many tourist ventures, on this we get to assist with the preparations. Some drag the traditional wicker basket (willow cane and rattan) from the trailer while I help unfurl the colourful giant balloon from an impossibly tiny bag: even the basket seems too small for us all. The balloon is now stretched out on the ground, a Kiwi and Swiss traveller hold open its mouth and two huge fans begin blowing. Slowly the multi-coloured nylon takes shape and our excitement continues to grow. We are all taking photos – recording the time for future memories – and finally it’s full – so full in fact that there is around eight tons of air in it. Now to heat it – apparently this is what makes it rise – and guess it’s why they call them hot-air balloons. Our pilot directs the roaring jets of flames into the mouth without burning it and shortly the balloon is moving. It rolls slightly to the right, back to the left, centres itself, then as we let go it leaves the safety of the ground to do what a balloon does best – it flies.

As it hovers above the creaking basket, so evocative of ballooning images, we climb aboard, are given safety instructions for landing (facing forward holding the rope handles and bent knees,) and, after being given the chance to bail out, and no one wants to disembark, the heat is turned up and off we go. Actually it’s up we go. Magic. Cool cool cool. What else can I say? It is at this moment, as the ground falls away below us, that I fall in love. I’m having a natural high and I know I’m addicted with this first rush. Although I watch the other balloon, I am too preoccupied with my own experiences. web hot air ballooonThe world looks very different from up here; it’s quite different to a plane because of the lower altitude and speed. A local is taking a photo of us from her terrace but it seems most of the other 1000 villagers are still asleep on this crisp clear spring day. A dog is barking, magpies are chortling, hares and sheep flee, cattle stare, and the Swiss traveller breaks out some genuine Swiss chocolate to share. Perfect. He, like many of the others flying today, was given the flight as a birthday gift: one couple were celebrating their wedding anniversary.

The South Islands’ snowy-backbone, the Southern Alps, provide a perfect pristine backdrop for our 360°views. New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki-Mt Cook can be seen in the distance along with beautiful braided rivers. Across the productive, but dry Canterbury Plains, the port town of Timaru and the Pacific Ocean are clearly visible. I click my camera frequently: the rest of the time I’m awe-struck. No wonder parts of this scenery was used in the Lord of the Rings ( And, am I the only person in the world not to have seen the movies?)

All too soon the gas is getting low and it’s time to land. We have been watching the chase vehicle following us and our pilot points out the landing spot, and reminds us of the landing position. The lower we get to ground the faster it seems we’re going. Then, cattle staring and even following us, we skim over the final fence, more air is vented and we land in an empty field. One little bump, back up into the air briefly then we land. As if in slow motion the basket gracefully falls on its side and the journey is over. We burst into laughter as we gaze, from our backs, up into the sky that only a moment ago we were floating in. Although we have landed, the adventure is not quite over. The farmer and our chase vehicle are driving towards us and we have a balloon to pack. With more laughter we roll our bodies along it to expel the air, and then squeeze it back into the very small bag. It fits. The traditional ballooning breakfast: a glass of good kiwi bubbly or orange juice, coffee, croissants, jam, cheese and fruit.

The farmer gets a bottle of bubbly to take home. As a child lying on my back, and watching clouds drift by, had whetted my appetite for flying like a bird. This, surely, is as close as one gets.

Facts and figures The balloon is 81 feet in diameter – 93 feet highHolds 245, 000 cubic feet of airThe air is heated with LPGBalloons always fly east to west, the circular direction of the world’s major weather patternsThe balloon and basket were made in South Dakota, USA

now to roll it up
now to roll it up

Brief history of ballooning. Paper-makers Joseph and Etiene Montgolfier, who were looking for new applications for their product, made the first hot air balloon, in France. The brothers made a balloon from paper and fabric and it rose when put over a flame. They first tested it with a rooster, a duck and a sheep – under the orders of Louis XV1. The brothers never flew. The first flight with people was in Paris in front of Louis and Marie Antoinette while outside France the first was ten months later (Sept. 1784), by an Italian in London. Marie Antoinette is on record as having said, “It is the sport of Gods” The traditional bottle of champagne was given to the farmer on whose fields the balloon lands was not so much for the joie de vivre of today, but to stop the farmer attacking these strange and uninvited creatures with pitchforks.

To read more by this writer buy her book: Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad.  Readers reviews are on this website – see above.