Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Travel Blogging

My cousin, Andy, is currently backpacking and hitchhiking through New Zealand and beyond. I've been following his blog with envy as he recounts his tales of discovery and wine overseas.

One of his recent entries features the following passage:

"Hurry up and get in brah, I'm not supposed to be stopping along here," he said to me as I contemplated how to fit myself and my backpack into the front seat of his tiny 2-door hatchback. "And watch out for the feathers." Great.

I'd only really hitchhiked once before. I was at a music festival in upstate new york a few years ago and discovered during the second day that I had misplaced my car. The festival "staff" were as puzzled as I was, and suggested that maybe it had been parked incorrectly and towed somewhere. As I walked along the road I got a ride from an older hippie guy who had misplaced the music festival, so working together we drank beer and tracked down what the other was seeking.

Turns out my second ride was also from an older hippie guy on his way to a gypsy festival, although between his heavy accent and the roar of his overworked Japanese engine I could hardly understand anything he was saying. Thinking he was asking where I was from, I confidently replied Oregon, which puzzled him. After explaining where Oregon was he stared at me blankly and pointed to his left hip. "Oh" I said, and buckled my seatbelt.

He went on to tell me how everything in the world is contaminated (or that he had a dog), and gave me a small card with a Buddhist Deity on it. 10 minutes later we had arrived at the festival, and while he graciously offered to allow me to leave my backpack in his car while I went to check it out...I elected to move on. I wandered a bit further down the road, this time making sure there was enough space for a car to pull over safely, and tried my luck again.

People do curious things when they see hitchhikers. Some wave and smile, some pretend they don't see you, some say things (or at least move their lips), and still others make rather curious hand signals. But the nice ones pull over and give you a lift.

My next ride came from an middle-aged guy who had come down for the weekend from Auckland to see his kids in Motueka (a town about 15km from Marahau, where I was headed). After we had covered the usual where from and doing what, the conversation turned to music and beer (funny that). As it turns out he was an avid Radiohead fan (he had even taken up guitar so he could play their songs at local open mic events) and also a homebrewer. We talked hops through Motueka, and before I knew it he was dropping me in Marahau.

Something about the imagery and the characters in this passage just makes me smile. As I read his blog, I'm prompted to encourage him to turn his writings into a more formal travel memoir. And part of me wishes that I, too, had such unique stories to share...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warm Welcome

My apartment has a gorgeous view of the pool. I love relaxing on the futon with a good book within earshot of the pool's fountains, especially on days when all our windows are open and the breeze circulates through each room. The days are getting warmer (this weekend forecasted mid 80s), which means it won't be long before we'll be slaves to the AC and higher energy bills. Until then, I've got all five windows and the sliding porch door wide open, welcoming the warmth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Horseback Therapy

A few weekends ago I went horseback riding at Horse World with my grandparents and their seemingly adopted daughter, Donna. My grandpa treated me, claiming it was my birthday present. My birthday isn't until August, but I didn't have the heart to remind him, and I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. (You loved the pun. Admit it.)

I took horseback riding lessons when I was a kid. I have distinct memories of walking into the stables and combing the horse's mane, waiting for the instructor to come help me with the saddle. I have a few other blurred memories of cantering around the arena, though I can't remember if I ever progressed to the level of a controlled gallop. But I remember the day I had to quit horseback riding: my mom told me that it was becoming too expensive, and I couldn't play soccer and ride horses. So, I chose to become a soccer player, which as I've written about before, laid the foundation for my adolescence.
My grandparents decided to pass on riding the horses once we arrived at the Horse World stables, so Donna and I met our guide and were soon saddled up and ready to ride.

Our guide led the way through the woods at a slow walking pace. Donna followed, and I brought up the rear. Hershey, my horse that afternoon, was a slow, 17 year-old horse, who had clearly been giving guided tours for many moons. She knew the sandy path well. Even when I tried to detour off the path, she pulled me right back on. "Hey now," she implied as she pulled under the reins. "You're breaking the rules."

I enjoyed the hour-long tour, basking in the warm sun and listening to the various bird calls in the woods. Occasionally, the conversation between Donna and our guide floated back to me, but I purposely fell behind to lose myself in nature and the soothing rhythm of Hershey's trit-trot. A simple visit to nature's therapeutic realms always leaves me feeling calm and refreshed.