Asia, Australia and Oceania · 158 Days · 67 Moments · January 2018

The World

5 days ago

Every day around 8:00 - sometimes earlier, sometimes a little later - Lexi and I go for our walk. We're out for at least 45 min. And more often than not we're at this park near the house, Henley Park. It's big enough to have lots of variety to walk through, wetlands plus a beautiful lake. There's so much bird life that is very entertaining - geese, swans, ducks galore, including Canadian geese! Almost every day toward the end of the walk we pass a small parking lot that many people use as their launch point for dog walks. But it's also a popular place to feed the ducks. So whenever I walk through there, invariably there is one duck who will make that squawk that sounds exactly like someone laughing (wha, wha, wha). I laugh out loud every time I hear it. Lexi loves this place and I love seeing the same people most mornings as they go about their routines.

6 days ago

Castlepoint. Felt like I'd been waiting forever for nice weather. Masterton was in a wet, cold trap for about a week before this gorgeous day. So much fun with Lexi and seeing her enjoy herself so much. I loved the scramble to the point. It was steep, just a bit muddy, and at the top I had to keep a really good hold on Lexi for fear of her launching off the sheer drop on the other side of the grass. Thoroughly enjoyed myself

29 May 2018

Meet the beasties in my care during the housesit. Lexi, Misse, Hoki, Bobo, Shadow and the chooks. There were three chickens to start but one of them died. The owners were great about it, I think I was more upset! Lovely neighbor has a farm and graciously took it's little body there to be burned in their bonfire.

25 May 2018

One day in Wellington and it was so lovely. Started at a great hostel - my first one where I wasn't starting with people I knew. Which is really interesting given I've been on the road for five months. Walked all through downtown on the seawall all the way up the mountain whose name I forget now 😜. This statue was a highlight as was tracking down a friend's old house from when she lived there. Wandered, ate, saw a movie and then caught the train to Masterton to start the housesit. Almost got off at the wrong station! It seemed like everyone in my car was getting off and I knew I was last stop. Oops, good lesson not to be sheep like 😋.

23 May 2018

Some shots from an idle couple of days in and around Waiau.
Fun walk through farmers fields on the Weka Pass walkway to see this Maori rock art that is between 600-1000 years old. Beautiful land that was once forested and is now grazing pasture for cattle and sheep. This limestone outcrop had a massive overhang that the art is under from their temporary camp. Had to negotiate a wide berth around a young cow on the way back who was very scared of me.

19 May 2018

An incredible set of views from the Bealy Spur track in Arthur's Pass. I loved this hike so much.

18 May 2018

Pancake rocks and blowhole near Punakaiki on the west coast. I was like a little kid giggling and goggling at the wave power. Then a mountain drive to get to Arthur's pass.

17 May 2018

Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and some great close up shots!

16 May 2018

Blue Pools outside Wanaka and the view from my campground on the lake.

13 May 2018

First 10km of the Routeburn Track from the Glenorchy side. Cold as hell but a great walk!

11 May 2018

Milford Sound is one unique place.

9 May 2018

Absolutely stunning views on the Lake Marian hike. Three hour return hike. Very technical trail of rocks, roots, some mud and a lot of water. It was like hiking an obstacle course. So much fun!! Picked up a woman hitchhiking leaving the campsite and she was headed to the same hike. Sonja from Austria. She's a photographer and stayed up at the lake overnight to get some night photography in. Pretty cool to have met her.

8 May 2018

I wasn't sure what lessons I sought, but something I've grown to appreciate deeply is the solid, grounding understanding that I can care for myself. Different from taking care of myself, that wording feels more technical and aligns more with how I used to think about the concept - a chore to be checked off the list. But today, and over the last few months, I'm learning that I care for myself. There is a love growing in me, an appreciation of this body, this heart, this unique assemblage of thoughts and feelings that is me. The comfort of that is bold and straight forward, undeniable. Such a subtle shift, but big. In the past I've struggled to connect to my heartmind. Feeling that connection strengthen day by day. And with it comes so much gratitude for the people in my life that I love and who love me back. I feel so lucky and blessed.
Today I am reveling in this gift of space and time I've been able to give myself. Sitting inside my van at a small campsite called Cascade Creek on the road to Milford Sound. There is a strong storm underway. Lightning and thunder all around, lots of wind and wet, wet rain. Here am I parked in the lee of some trees listening to the weather and thinking how lucky I am to be here. It certainly helps to have a hot water bottle adding to the coziness. Made a sweeter experience by virtue of the generosity of the only other campers in the park who gave me matches when I was woefully lacking after breaking 3 of my last 5 without a successful spark! Silly to have worried about how much gas I have vs how I was going to light the stove! The rumble of the thunder is loud and persistent. Helpful in putting my state into perspective. Its just me, by myself. I'm alone but I don't feel lonely. I feel happy, content and also curious.

4 May 2018

Sea lions and a random sheep that let me get close enough!
Definitely feeling the sun on my cheeks after today. Not sure my sunscreen is punching it's weight. - Florence point, Cathedral Cave and Cannibal Bay today.

3 May 2018

Rugged coastline in the Catlins. This is mostly of Nugget point.

2 May 2018

Hooker lake/glacier track. Started at 8:15 after sleeping in the park below, 1° when I woke up and for the walk there. Really easy walk but what a great spot to end up! Nothing like hearing the baritone crack of a glacier calving, when you're standing at one end of the lake and it's at the other. You can just make the glacier out at the far end of the lake in these pics. It looks so tiny here but trust me it's big. It took about two minutes for the waves to hit the shore I was on, first sucking the water out and then gently rolling back in. The lake was completely still before this and there was thin but solid ice right up to the shore. Powerful and spectacular to witness.

1 May 2018

Red Tarns track in Aoraki/Mt Cook village. Met a few nice couples while up there who gave me great hike advice! Good to get the blood flowing!

30 April 2018

Cold and calm at Glentanner on lake pukaki just before Mount Cook. Woke up to glorious sun the next morning though.
My home for the first 3 weeks in New Zealand. Loving this van!

24 April 2018

It's worth recording that not every day is sunshine and roses. Dealing with my first bout of heat exhaustion/stroke (not completely sure which). Amami was steadily 34° day and night. No AC and I wasn't really doing much, just hanging and vegging but mostly in my room. Didn't realize how hot I was until I spent a nauseous and cramped day yesterday. Was able to switch to an AC room and feel better this morning. Keeping my fingers crossed I make it through the boat ride without getting sick!

21 April 2018

Aninuan falls near the hotel. Taken by the lovely Jem who is one of six sisters all with names that start with J and end with Lynn ;) beautifully cold water!

18 April 2018

17 April 2018

My hotel is right across the lake from this very cool volcano. Blistering but short hike up to see the lake in it's crater. Active steam vents all over. Boat ride over and then luscious swim in the lake afterward.

16 April 2018

Mt Batulao in Batangas region of the Philippines. First hike after being sick for a while. That and the heat nearly did me in but I'm glad I did it. It was a beautiful place. Met Editha, Gelo and Kim, they're Filipino teachers on their first hike. They were lovely, got to hang with them all day.

15 April 2018

First views from San Roque resort in Talisay. Tiny place but what a gem of a location! Right on the lake front. Can swim from their front pavilion. The family that runs it are wonderful. Grandmother Lita is the head of the family. Goes to the chapel they built for the community every day to clean it and take care of it. Helped me get a jeepney at 5am for my hike. Her grandson June is 19, studying at University and a lovely young man. Kept wanting to come with me on my excursions but couldn't!

31 March 2018

The time on Bohol in Anda was just beautiful. The falls are Can-umantad Falls, tallest on the island at 30 m. Shallow wading pool beneath. Firefly sighting on an evening cruise through mangroves and palms. That was spectacular, imagine a big tree lit up with thousands of tiny Christmas lights all pulsing in rhythm. Shifting patterns of communication. And the chocolate hills ;)

26 March 2018

Start of my time in the Philippines. Really cool to have company with Sheila and Jen. We started on Cebu, visiting Oslob for whale sharks and a mini hike to Osmena Peak. That one included a cool motorbike ride up the mountain roads, with Sheila and Jen together on one bike with their driver! Then a two hour banca (boat) ride to Panglao on Bohol. Small boat for such a big ocean! All the boats here have a common narrow base that extras are built onto, in this case big outriggers and bench seating. Caked in salt by the time we arrived but a lovely ride, and thankfully protected from the sun. Then a jam packed mini bus to our hippy resort on Anda. Called 1 Peace. Very rustic, great snorkeling and diving right from the beach and really cool family dinners each night, with 16 people at the biggest one. The Filipino people are some of the sweetest I've met so far. And the mix of English with Tagalog or the local dialect makes it so much easier to get around.

21 March 2018

Retreat 3 of 3: Last evening chant. Loved the feeling of the vibrations through my body. Short talk introduced idea of 'leaking energy'. When we meditate, we create energy for mindfulness. In daily life that energy ebbs or feels completely lost. When we're on autopilot or succumbing to myriad stories and versions of our world we are leaking energy. Taking a moment to stop and connect to your body can get some of that energy back or protect it. Same concept as taking a deep breath or counting to ten, getting grounded... so many versions of the medicine but I particularly like this way of expressing the symptom of a lack of mindfulness. What a cool perspective.
Retreat 2 of 3: Moment of intense appreciation for the part of myself that gets described as intense/sensitive in a negative way, by me and others. Rather than stifle a moment of anger, I finally had this moment of acceptance for it because it was very much triggered by that intense/sensitive side of me. But that's me and I love the things it makes me capable of. Haven't had that experience before of being able to distance from my emotion/reaction, not to let myself off the hook, but with true compassion for who I am, not trying to make it be something else or be sad that I'm not someone different. Reflecting on being left behind. People I started the retreat with are gone, replaced by others. Struggling with feelings of loss, like it's no longer my sangha but someone else's. Realizing a tie to unacknowledged feelings of being left by so many at Refinery and not ready to recreate the future with that new alchemy of personalities.
Retreat 1 of 3: I forget that love is what's needed first. Most of all for myself. I'm worthy, just like every single other person. The rules can go to hell, particularly if they twist me up into knots. Sabai sabai... There is wisdom and rightness in relaxation, particularly balanced with effort. Do the work but with less of the suffering type of effort, only the effort that is needed. Feeling the effects of negative emotions as they linger in the body. It was a bit overwhelming to experience that directly and sit with it from start to finish. The toxicity of those experiences, not just in the moment itself, but in the moments that follow, until the poison eventually works its way out of your system. Assuming it does, that is. Buddha Sak uses the term 'balancing' a lot. Like it. Considers the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. None of us are perfect. Belief in a process vs a person, like most other religions.

8 March 2018

Arrived at my retreat centre. Getting ready for the welcome ceremony. No toilet paper here!!

6 March 2018

Magical time at Maerim elephant sanctuary. Only a half day but what a calm, serene morning following and playing with these beautiful beings.

3 March 2018

Monk's trail to Wat Pha Lat this morning with Florence. Easy walk through absolutely beautiful forest. Imagining the monks that still walk this trail. The wat is on the way to the larger doi suthep where my retreat will take place. We sat on the rocks relaxing next to the water for at least an hour. It was so lovely. There is something for me that is immediately serene and in love when I'm on a trail in the forest. Ending at the wat made it even more special.

27 February 2018

15km hike today to Mae Yen waterfall in Pai. Got to hike with the lovely Florence, who I met on the slowboat from Laos. We also had two canine companions for the hike who were just lovely. Veggie samosas and boiled eggs were our trail food. 7 hours total and I am wiped!!

24 February 2018

Mae Hong Son loop day two. Yesterday was all about getting out of Chiang Mai and seeing Doi Inthanon's summit, which was beautiful. It's the highest point in Thailand and has two huge stupas that I believe honor the king and queen. It sits 2150 metres above sea level and while it was mid thirties down below it was only twenty degrees up there in the beautiful expansive sky and wind. I spent half an hour just watching the sky, god beams and all. Then today began with an unexpected adventure losing the last bit of trail on a 1.5 hour loop. It was beautiful until that point, then I had an anxious second hour trying to find my way out of the place. Finally did, a sweaty mess and with very torn pants. But all of that led to this beautiful little glimpse of a pastoral Thailand that I hadn't expected to find or see. It was breathtaking. And the switchback roads!! I've never driven on anything like it and I haven't actually hit the really curvy bit yet!

21 February 2018

Wonderful trip along the Mekong river. Two days on a slow boat from luang prabang to the Thai border. Beautiful moments getting to know the people on the boat. Lovely Sophie from France who has discovered her own insight without having practiced meditation. Ben, the bike courier from Zurich who just finished a 30 day retreat in Myanmar. Gail, an American who only went halfway with us and Florence, also from France, an acupuncturist traveling and volunteering at clinics in Nepal and Vietnam. Shared a room with three of them in huay xi before crossing the border. Cheapest night so far $30,000 Kip ($4.5). Great company and conversations. Oh, and a beautiful puppy running up and down the aisle of the boat.

13 February 2018

11 February 2018

Travel day yesterday and lazy day today. So far I'm struck by the sheer number of wats in Luang Prabang. Almost all with these weird spiky dragon heads featuring prominently. And they play drums and gongs at various points in the day. Very cool vibe here.

10 February 2018

Nong Khiaw in all it's sunny glory. Had dinner tonight with two nice German ladies whose room was next to mine. Never got their names but they were very sweet.
Enjoyed this hike so much and it was tiring! Headlamp hike in the dark starting at 5:15 this morning. To catch this beautiful sunrise in a sea of mountains and cloud.

9 February 2018

Mother nature's staircase - with help from some brilliant local trail builders. This is the Nang None viewpoint hike in Nong Khiaw, Laos. There are two viewpoints, I climbed to the higher one. You can just barely make out the bamboo pavilion of the lower viewpoint in one of these pics. About 400m elevation gain in just over a kilometre. Loved this hike.

8 February 2018

Love the color of the sky at night in Nong Khiaw

7 February 2018

So far very happy to be in Nong Khiaw. Feels different. A little bigger, more variety of people, less sticking close together. Somehow feels more inclusive. Or maybe it's something in me?

6 February 2018

Relaxed exploration yesterday. Beautiful walk to one of the nearby villages. With a local dog keeping me company the whole way. Then a local market today and all the people from neighboring villages come by boat to it, held every 10 days. Seems like all the tourists left this morning, watched about 60 people pile on boats this morning.

4 February 2018

Reflecting on how you can instantly feel if a place is your kind of place or not. At a dinner place and not so much tonight. Not sure yet how I feel being in Muang Ngoi. It's a really cool town, far fewer tourists but different from Vietnam, they're kind of sticking to themselves. Very cool though to see a wider age range here. Many who are 10-15 years older and many 10-15 years younger. Feeling how small my generation really is!
Cool village this Muang Ngoi

3 February 2018

Enjoyed the boat ride from Muang Khua to Muang Ngoi so much despite the cold temps. Delightful to share the boat with one fellow Canadian, an Indian and a Polish family.

1 February 2018

The Journey to Laos. Sleeper bus to Dien Bien Phu. Uneventful but definitely an experience! Arrive at 5:45, less than fifteen minutes to find my next bus, weaving through men wanting to get me on their bus vs the official ticket sellers. Off to the border with multiple little windows each representing a minute step in the visa process and a little additional fee. All the while on the bus through the most corkscrew, windy roads (complete with a very unfortunate vomiting local) to this little village Muang Khua. Love the chickens and all the children :)

29 January 2018

Lovely and chill (in spirit and temp) day boating around Lan Ha and Ha Long Bays. Limestone karsts got me thinking of geo classes in first year. Twenty of us on the trip, a bunch of couples, a group of 8 and myself and one other solo guy. Made for a fun day all the pairs getting to know eachother while the octet stuck together drinking wine, etc. I loved everyone else I met, Niels and Shivani from Sweden, two Belgians whose names I never did get, Raj and Suleman (that's wrong but hopefully close) from India via Kuala Lumpur, and my kayak partner Paul from Germany. I love meeting all these people from all over!! And our Vietnamese guides were really sweet. When things got quiet motoring back to the dock, we got to hear more of their lives, what they care about. It was really lovely.

28 January 2018

Me and my shit eating grin say it all. Joyful hike today at Cat Ba National Park.

26 January 2018

What an awesome day roaming around Hanoi. Saw the water puppet theatre, which was quite cool, watched various aspects of life go by, including two young couples posing for wedding photographs and this young lady. Everyone is decked out in red and gold, gearing up for Tet, huge new year's holiday in Vietnam (it's not for another two weeks!). Visit to the blocks long weekend night market where they shut all the roads down around it. Only hours ago the streets were a chaos of machinery and now they're like a public park. Off to Cat Ba near Ha Long Bay tomorrow.

24 January 2018

What a cool day on the back of a motorbike. Paradise cave first, the entrance to which is 60 m above the cave floor, immense cavern. Then over to Botanic gardens where I randomly met up with two people I met in a different town, so had company for lunch and the three hour jungle trek to a very cool waterfall with rope assisted climb. Thank god we were going up instead of down!
Lazy day yesterday trying to heal my knee. Reading and watching shows

22 January 2018

Loved loved Phong Nha cave today. Boat ride into the cave then 500 stone steps walk to another cave. Great group of Swedes and Scots with me. Fair warning, lots of pics.

21 January 2018

Two buses and a train to get to Phong Nha. Little homestay on a dirt road. Motioned my bus driver to stop right in front of it. Amazing ride with a whole bunch of mothers and fathers with their young kids. This region is known for its caves and jungle trekking. Dinner with the family tonight. Getting excited!

19 January 2018

My Son Temple ruins today. Featuring gajasimha (elephant-lion) and kala mask (god of time) reliefs as well as some original Sanskrit writing circa 9th century. Wet and drizzly and I had the place mostly to myself for about an hour before the tour buses arrived.

17 January 2018

Evening in Hoi An with Shanna and Ed.
First wander in Hoi An - alleys, lanterns and a very tall chicken

15 January 2018

A great little hike to a Ba Ho waterfall after 50 min. motorbike taxi (which was stunning on its own and I refrained from take pictures though sorely tempted - safety first). Little fishies nibbled my toes as I dipped them in the water, odd sensation that had me screeching! Had the place all to myself on a Monday morning. Quite a bit of scrambling on sometimes slippery rock. Was all good until one slip and smashed my knee. Nice big road rash now to show for it :( it was definitely still worth it.

14 January 2018

What a day! Starts with arriving to a new city at 5:30 am from my first overnight train. Then first ride on a motorbike taxi. Two very different and very cool temples - Ponagar (Hindu) & Long Son (Buddhist). Long walk, foot massage, street food. Return to room, do some laundry and discover a nasty ant infestation in the room. They're on my tablet, chargers, phone, yuck. Moved rooms thankfully and now going to sleep!

12 January 2018

Mekong Delta boats
Love this combo of colors, on the tour to the Mekong Delta. This Buddha is easily 3 stories tall.

11 January 2018

First times. On the way back from dinner, this beautiful building materializes out of thin air. I realize it's a temple. The side gate is open, I see a woman sitting inside who welcomes me in with a nod. Large courtyard, beautiful dragon motifs and golden buddhas. I remove my shoes to enter a hall. After exploring I return to the entrance and prepare to leave. I've noticed loud chanting from the floor above. I want to see the service but not sure of a welcome. The same woman gestures I can go upstairs. I walk up stone steps to the most beautiful temple space. Heavy wooden doors open to a terrace with wood benches along the outside. The room inside is big, a twenty foot Buddha at center stage. A hundred people are in the midst of their evening chant. A very old woman gives me a nod to sit on a bench. Meditated for an hour in their presence and then had the gift of walking out to their warm smiles and surprise to see that I'd joined them. Grateful/emotional for that temporary sangha.

9 January 2018

What a way to start this whole trip, and fight the jet lag too!! A 3hr hike covering 600m elevation gain in 2.4k. All. Stairs. Sheesh! Cold and drizzly at Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei today. These pics are from Mt Qixing.