San Francisco

San Francisco

For the first time, I didn’t hand-write notes in my travel diary.  I had just completed a journal article for which I had to spend four solid weeks and weekends writing before I left Australia.   I was all out of writing energy.  Even though I have been thrown back into daily life since I returned, I still feel compelled to write something about San Francisco.

San Francisco needs help, as I guess a lot of large cities in the United States do.   The gods shone on me when I first arrived, providing a sunny Easter weekend.  I got to admire the Golden Gate bridge and potter around in the open top tour bus for a few days.  Sausalito was my favourite stop as it was a quaint village by the harbour with lots of character.  I also enjoyed learning about the hippie history,  photographing the ‘painted ladies’ and visiting eclectic shops.

But, and here is the big BUT…   every day for a week I had to walk to Union Square through streets of homeless people.  There are hundreds of homeless people in a 4-5 block radius.  My lovely hostel was on the edge of this area and let me tell you, it does not make you feel very safe, especially when you get lewd comments as well.  The negativity of seeing some absolutely awful, gut-wrenching sights really got to me.

Yosemite National Park

My saving grace was a day trip out of the city to Yosemite National Park, where again I was blessed with the weather.  I did some fabulous walking to experience some beautiful running waterfalls and stared in awe at the magnificent scenery.  I highly recommend it.

 

Snickety Dickety Doo is going on a road tour!

Snickety Dickety Doo Series OneSnickety Dickety Doo Series Two

Snickety Dickety Doo, my children’s book series is going on an online road tour during the month of March 2018!

As PumpUpYourBook tour co-ordinator Dorothy Thompson says “A virtual book tour is the same as an offline book tour, except you can sit back in your jammies and bed hair, not to mention saving gas, and you will sell just as many, and in most cases, more books than you would at a traditional bricks and mortar bookstore.  Traditional publishers are now realizing the potential virtual book tours have, so let’s not prove them wrong. ;o)”

So I look forward to the potential of this one month tour during which Snickety Dickety Doo will appear on anywhere between 15 and 20 blogs (with 20 being the goal).

For now, here is the Amazon link and reviews so far…

Amazon Link and Reviews

 

Travel – not just about places but the people you meet

Do you take the opportunity when you travel to allow fellow travelers into your life?  If you do, you will enrich your travel experience and theirs.  You will find a helping hand when you need it everywhere you go, and you must also be willing to give one where you can.

For example on these travels so far I first met a retired fellow named Ian who was a ‘neighbour’ at a campsite.  A keen fisherman with his own boat, he enjoyed tinkering with my solar system on my van after I bought a secondhand Waeco fridge that drained it.  There was also a beautiful soul who gave me a massage outside her caravan that she had set up for full privacy with the softest towels and massage bed.  There was Clarry, a brave man who sold his house for a bus and was traveling with severe emphysema but managed to laugh every day.  There was also an angel who helped me after I was involved in a terrifying car fire, and due to my van being out of action and needing a part drove me an hour into Exmouth to get one.  There was a gorgeous Irish girl with a warm heart who was totally interested in what I did.

My helping skills so far have included giving fresh baked goods, cleaning bathrooms, language and directional assistance, and counseling.

Bella my dog has also made many many new friends as she is sooo cuddly and snuggles everyone from very small children to grown men and women.  She has a fan this week called Eric who brings her a treat every day just for a cuddle.

The people you meet while traveling may only be in your life for a very short time in person but then you may develop lifetime friendships kept in touch by Facebook, or if your single you may just meet the love of your life.  How will you know unless you take a chance?

Bullara Station Stay, North West Australia

As I walk along the gravel dusty road towards the generator shed, the smell of fresh woodsmoke lingers behind me.  ‘Damper John’ has been preparing the firepit outside the camp kitchen for the guests to participate in damper bread tasting later on.   Why was I walking to the generator shed?  Because here is where you can pick up a few bars of phone signal, just enough to possibly download your Facebook notifications.

I am at Bullara Station, a working cattle station that also has a campground.  Part of the ritual of coming here is that you have to go to the homestead ‘café’ in the morning for fresh baked scones with jam and cream and your favourite coffee!  The other day my dog was followed around and around by a baby emu, and the pet calf also makes an appearance occasionally.

Speaking of animals, when was the last time a horse came into your kitchen?  I was washing my dishes at the camp kitchen, turned around and there was the old white horse standing watching me.  This one and another old horse roam around as well as about five sheep.  They just go by minding their own business and don’t annoy anyone.  There is also a little sausage dog and a brand new puppy as well!

Part of the character of this place is the various iron features, such as unique bathrooms, old cars and art.  Along with the bower birds it is a fantastic place for photography.  Just an hour to Exmouth and 40mins to Coral Bay, I find Bullara station great for a bit of peace and quiet.  The staff are all very friendly too and happy to stop for a chat.

I was lucky yesterday to be taken to the draughting yards where over 1000 cattle had been mustered by helicopter and were being sorted for further work or sale.  Of course the guests would not be shown the squeamish side of dehorning and ear tagging.  Exciting stuff all the same, with rogue cattle being rounded up by horse and men, just like in a rodeo!

Barn Hill Station Stay

As I sit in my campervan named Mitsy, I look outside through the darkness at three white paper lanterns bobbing back and forth in the breeze.  Inside is a pretty red light on a benchtop and I listen to trance music on my Soundtouch speaker.  My dog Bella sits near my feet on the carpeted floor.

I am here primarily to work, but I feel alive in the midst of this red outback. One can’t help but admire the deep blue view of the ocean and take morning and early evening strolls along the dirt road and down to the beach.  I started my daily yoga practice today and already I had comments on how ‘at peace with the world’ I looked.  I could climb up Barn Hill too if I wanted a challenge, or even walk along the beach and up and over the headland to Echo Beach just to visit their restaurant.

Supplies here are extremely limited so I am creatively cooking with what I have until I absolutely have to drive 90mins into Broome to get fresh fruit and vegetables.  To kind of make up for that you can buy a freshly baked large loaf of white bread (still warm when you pick it up in its paper bag) for $7, available daily.  The shop also gets in frozen home-kill sausages and sells fresh custard squares.  And apart from some long-life milk and ice-creams that’s about it.

Social life here is good if you like bowls, dice and crafts – yes its mainly full of grey nomads but everyone is really friendly and has stories to tell.  There is also a Sunday morning market which I have yet to visit.  The powered section is under shady trees but I am in the unpowered as I have solar and I got to choose my site.  There is a good chance you can get one with fantastic oceanfront sea views.

If you don’t mind having your shower in an open top corrugated cubicle powered by solar, and getting red dirt constantly in your feet, hands and everywhere then this is a perfect location!

New York at midnight

I got to see a lot more of New York than I originally planned, thanks to American Airlines!  Of course I did see some fantastic views of Manhattan from the Weehawken Harbourfront because the conference I went to was based there.  Weehawken is a quiet suburb opposite Manhattan and the quickest way to get there is by ferry or through the Lincoln tunnel.  From Weehawken you can also walk to Hoboken along the waterfront.  I also saw the Statue of Liberty and the landmarks of Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Centre whilst on a luncheon cruise.  But not the suburb of Queens.

Especially not in the misty early hours of the morning with a couple about to get married in 15 hours time, in Bermuda.  That particular day New York experienced one of the worst storms ever, and I was on the way to JFK airport in a very expensive hotel car.  My most expensive ride ever at US$150, because of the storm and the fact that Weehawken is not serviced by regular airport shuttle buses.  NYC Taxis also don’t go there because Weehawken is in the state of New Jersey.

So it was me and the hotel driver in a 4WD for a couple of hours in the extremely slow traffic.  The driver decided to take a detour to get there faster but then we came across a set of traffic lights flashing orange on our side which meant one way was flowing but our side was stuck, culminating in four lanes of frustrated drivers, backed up for who knows how long.  Eventually people barged through slowly with much tooting, and it all looked and sounded like a scene from India.

So I arrived at the airport a little late, then I found out my flight was delayed a couple of hours anyway.  A couple of hours later it was delayed another two hours, from a 5.15pm departure to 9.45pm.  I managed to kill some time by walking up and down the modern airport shopping mall until I got bored of seeing the same branded stores.  The Starbucks hot cuppa was well deserved.

I boarded the plane for Bermuda, put my headphones on and must have dozed off a little.  Half waking I realised we were still on the tarmac and it was about an hour later.  The pilot then announced ‘sorry to announce bad news but there is a maintenance issue which would be fine for national travel but it is not for international’.  We were told it would take five minutes.  Yeah right.  Then we were told they were starting the right engine to test if the issue was fixed.  A small maintenance issue ok for national travel?

Two hours after sitting on the tarmac we were told that the issue was not fixed and that there was another plane waiting for us, and we had to get off and go back into the terminal.  Our luggage was moved to this plane and we got ready to board.  The airport manager then came along and told us that no we could not fly out to Bermuda this evening.  They would arrange taxi vouchers, meal vouchers and hotel vouchers but we would not be on a plane until 1pm the next day.  That would have meant I would only have one day in Bermuda!

Myself and a few others managed to ask very nicely if we could get the few seats left on the 8.15am flight but our baggage would not go with us, they could not take it off the plane outside.  We queued for a very long time to get vouchers and I made friends with a New York couple about to get married.  Their family and friends were already in Bermuda having dinner without them.  They had the wedding dress and suit as hand luggage, but no shoes or anything else.  At least they had the dress!

I was booked into the same hotel and so we all got into the taxi expecting to be there within a few minutes.  Yeah right.  The hotel was at least 20 minutes away from the airport, and we arrived an hour later because the taxi driver went half an hour in the wrong direction using the GPS on his phone.   Now it was 2am from a 5.15pm departure and we had to be back at the airport in four hours time.  It took 45mins for another taxi to arrive and I arrived at the gate just as the flight was boarding.

I made it to Bermuda, my luggage arrived the next day and the New York couple happily married in the sunshine, quite possibly in bare feet and definitely lacking a night’s sleep!

So that is how I came to see the suburb of Queens in the misty early morning hours of New York.

Goodbye Crete and Hello Santorini

Getting the very early bus to Iraklion was no problem, however eating a greasy cheese pie for breakfast at the little outdoor cafe near the boat terminal was.  About an hour after boarding the high speed catamaran bound for Santorini I suddenly felt waves of nausea.  I had to resort to using my one and only nausea tablet that thankfully helped me sleep for the rest of the 2hr journey.  The ferry was extremely modern with three floors and numbered seats, more like an aircraft or theatre really.

Arriving on Santorini I waited patiently to get on a shuttle which eventually got to my hotel in Perissa.  I still had to lug my suitcase down a side road and as a consequence one wheel was now broken!  The hotel was back a little way from the beach, but nice and cheerful with the traditional blue and white facade.  The weather in Perissa however was very windy and dust was blowing everywhere.  In the ten or more years since I last visited this beach it is now covered in sunbeds that the restaurants opposite take care of.  So you don’t pay for the sunbed  but order something from the restaurant instead.   Modernisation and tourism I guess has improved the restaurants and also the public bus service.  The mountainside behind the large Orthodox church makes a great backdrop for the magnificent sunsets here.

It was great to have my own room again, but the luxury was only for two nights!  The next morning I took a luxury public bus to Fira, the hub of Santorini.  I discovered that the backpackers and art gallery where I had stayed and worked for two months on my first trip are both no longer.  The Caldera is still there though with its amazing 180 degree views across the water.  Its as magical a place as ever and still teeming with tourists.  I walked quite a way toward Oia and found the once newly painted rowboat perched on top of the cliff, but it was now battered, broken and weather-beaten.  A stallholder was selling very expensive watermelon pieces and I had to eat once again a traditional kebab with fries inside.  It was nice to stroll among the many tourist shops and then I headed back to Perissa.  A chocolate crepe for dinner was probably not the best choice but very yummy!   Now to pack a separate bag for my very exciting ten day yacht trip tomorrow including the ginger seasick tablets I was recommended by a local pharmacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga on Crete – Womens Workshop with Eugenia and Federica

The transition to another big group was harder than I thought (it was so sad seeing all my new friends leave) so the day before the next session started I took myself on a boat trip.  First stop was the gorgeous village of Loutro for refreshments (fresh OJ and biscuit cake), and then on to Agios Loumeros.  There I watched hikers come out of the famous Samaria Gorge to collapse on sunbeds and into the sea.  I lay on a lounger and listened to UB40 playing in the restaurant behind.  It was a great vibe!

For the next two days I kept to myself a bit as I rested and adjusted to this new lovely group of 12 women, again from many different countries.  This week we concentrated much more on yoga, with a bit of fun included in our body work.  This group had a different energy again compared to last week.  A quieter nurturing energy.

By the third day we were all very connected and my third trip to Sweetwater Beach with them was great.  However the hiking day was my personal breakthrough.  The evening before we had experienced shamanic body work and a few ladies had elected to show their movements and enormous power followed by vocals which included letting out a scream.  The evening was very intense and emotional as the experience of screaming broke them down.  On the morning of the hiking day I received my project management exam result for which I passed but the lower than expected mark had me missing my critical average score of 70% by one mark.  Consequently I was all ‘in my head’ as Lisette and I took the boat to Loutro and started our hike to Mamara beach where we were to meet the others.  They were hiking the gorge I did last week.

I kept stumbling on stones, was very lightheaded and a little dizzy.  Sitting under a tree after a hard, hot climb up a hill, I suddenly felt like I wanted to scream.  I told Lizette and she said ok, so I tried.  A small sound came out of my chest at first.  I took a big breath and tried again. It worked and out came a primal scream in two tones, the second much higher.  Something released inside me!  From then on I sung with Lisette, celebrated with ‘woohoos’ and no longer stumbled or felt lightheaded.  To our surprise though we then got lost looking at splatters of blue paint on rocks all over the hillside.  A couple we had passed earlier said we could walk along a very tricky and dangerous rock path and also that there was a taverna below next to the beach.  We looked at the hill and felt the heat of midday – a no brainer really, to the taverna we went!  Maybe we could ask for a boat ride to Mamara beach we thought.

Winding down carefully amongst the loose stones we came across some signs to the taverna at Akrogiali and were pleasantly surprised when we got there.  Au naturale, a single taverna stood and tables, chairs, hammocks and swing chairs were placed on the beach, just like a Jamaican hideaway!  I tasted the freshest Greek salad I had eaten and felt very alive and suddenly open to all the senses around me.  Something must have died inside I am certain.

We relaxed for a good long while and then walked along then to another more modern taverna and hotel where we could get a boat.  Two gorgeous looking Greek men and an equally gorgeous woman were picking vine leaves off their stems, and two older Greek men were talking (which sounds like shouting) as we stood under a large vine covered pergola. A young man took us to a small outboard boat, and it cost us 15 euro to arrive at Mamaris beach in style!

A few lovely hours there swimming and sunbathing and then four of us decided to get the boat back to Loutro instead of going all the way back to Sfakia.  My shopping had been done in Chania but the girls were keen and I waited patiently as they tried on many scarfs and beach dresses.  A fun dinner followed of club sandwiches and chips (my choice was not to the girls liking unfortunately) overlooking the water.  The little crabs were now coming out onto the rocks in the dusk light.

I ordered a water taxi back using the company I knew and thank goodness this saved my bacon!  The skipper recognised me and joked about having four girls on his boat!  In fact he sailed up to the restaurant where we had been eating and ordered four shots of honey raki which were placed on the bow of the boat, all in a row!  A magical ride back sitting on the bow of the boat with the wind blowing our hair, and much laughter and photos.  The water was glazed over like a lake and the scenery so picturesque, I felt very alive and realised just what I had been missing these last few years!

The rest of the week was very nurturing with a lovely early morning mindful walk to Ilios beach again and some beautiful sharing of stories and dreams.

 

Yoga on Crete – Hatha with Federica (Hora Sfakion, Week Two)

Yesterday 13 people arrived for this weeks retreat.  What a lovely mix – Swedish, Norwegian, Londoners, Scottish, German, Netherlands, Irish and American, and from them came some real characters.  Steven who was animated and adored my wardrobe, Ryo who was ‘out there’, stress-free, and a lover of all women, Claire with her Yorkshire accent and variable facial expressions, and who could forget Anette with her face that lit up a room wherever she went.

We started with an interesting body movement workshop where we found out how we felt about space between people as we walked around getting faster and closer.  The mornings were for yoga and the evenings for various body movement, even including the ‘carwash’ which is usually done in kindergarten!  It involves two lines of people on their knees facing each other, then each person goes through the ‘tunnel’ in turn getting massaged by all along the way.  Such fun!

Our Sweetwater beach excursion was very liberating this week as many of us headed off to the nudie section.  This group has such a different fun vibe to last week and I really think we would have tried almost anything!  So having said that most of us headed off for a gorge hike, to Aradena Gorge which is quite a challenging 3hr walk because it has steep slippery down-slopes and lots of climbing over rocks.  It leaves from an abandoned village and finishes at the most gorgeous beach you have ever seen (Mamara).  A handsome young guide took us through the majestic cliffs and in the midpoint I left some letters for my parents (who passed away recently) under a rock as part of releasing my grief, and it felt very good to do this.  After a week of  yoga and a couple of deep massages everything came bubbling up to the surface, and luckily I had beautiful Monique and Federica helping me with this.

At Mamara beach you can sit in the shade at the a taverna which is perched on top of the hill overlooking the turquoise water, or lie on one of the many loungers on the beach.  We stayed here for four divine hours before catching a water taxi back to Hora Sfakion.  It was a low boat, and as there was quite a bit of swell the skipper got me saturated with saltwater spray!  Other afternoons were spent down at the local village eating cheese pies or swimming.  As we were such a talkative group we got treated to a ‘silent’ day which was very interesting and you really must try it with your other half or family!  At breakfast we were all sitting there very silently and all you could see was various facial expressions that more or less said ‘do we really have to do this?’  Then in the evening we had to share our experiences and it soon turned out that half of us stayed silent and the other half went off to the beach and chatted!

On our last full day we went for a mindful silent slow walk to Iglios beach out of town.  There we did a closing ceremony and each made a piece of art with pebbles to represent this time in our lives.  A lovely play in the water with my yoga gear on (because I didn’t know we were going in the water) made the walk back nice and cool.  In the evening we were treated to a visit from live sound musicians, who used healing sound using gongs and other instruments while we lay down in the ‘corpse’ yoga pose.  It felt really amazing actually and most of us were like zombies at our final dinner afterwards.  We were told that in 3 days we would have lots of energy and who would say no to that.

 

New York!

I will be visiting New York again in May to attend the Inflame Working Group as part of my research.  After 15yrs will New York have changed?  This time it will be summer, so I look forward to walking through Central Park in the sunshine.  Has the subway changed at all, or the fresh bagel stores, or Toys ‘R’ Us and Times Square?

New York is full of high rise apartments and my research is all about apartment living and health.  Here in Perth, Western Australia the photo below shows what is happening in our city.  If you are interested in Biodiversity and Health as I am, then here is a link to my brand new Kickstarter campaign and videos on my work.  I will hear very soon if I will be doing a presentation at the conference.

http://kck.st/2h0Y3RZ

 

Mini Manhattan in South Perth

south-perth-min-manhattan