Tag: passport

Hang the consequences

Hang the consequences

Waiheke Island

I’m afraid there was just no time – no time – to stop to write a blog last week. Soz. It’s just that a trip away with your girlfriends is an entirely different experience to a trip away with anybody else.

What sets these trips apart from others? There is magic in eight confident, intelligent, funny women travelling together. Grand ideas are hatched, empowering stories shared and sound advice given. We listen to and respect everybody’s opinions, at the same time lending lipsticks and complimenting earrings. We build each other up without even having to think about it.

Our New Zealand trip was eating and drinking and hang the consequences. Wine tastings across the length of the island, cocktails, ordering one of everything from the food menus – the crack cheese, the goat, mulled wine, smoked anything. And as we all know, alcohol and good food draw out the big ideas – establishment of the Brisbane girls’ choir and dance troupe, with the Central coast satellite branch, the Sydney affiliate and the Townsville chapter. A new business solutions company with a job for each of us. The advantages of purchasing a wine fridge. Like I said, the big ideas.

Something else? Girlfriends on tour are much better resourced. Multiple puffy jackets, boots a’plenty, earrings, curling wands, Bluetooth speakers, shopping bags, hairdryers, selfie sticks, board games, keep cups, pickles, it was all covered.

But above all there was the music.

Our entire four days played out with its own soundtrack. Every genre, every era represented. The obscure to the popular. Hilltop Hoods, Olivia Newton-John, Bowie, Haim (pronounced HI-im). Club Can’t Handle Me three times. The Big Chill soundtrack whilst making breakfast, a fully choreographed From LA to New York, a straight up Australian rock session. The biggies – Don’t Pay the Ferryman, Africa, Xanadu – all with a little less choreography but the same dance enthusiasm. A night of the best female artists – think Pat Benatar, Lizzo, Aretha, Janelle Monay – found three of us simply unable to go to bed. You cannot leave the room when Linda Ronstadt is singing.

The music was not limited to the living room of the Airbnb. There was a rousing rendition of Robbie Williams Angels with the soloist at our first restaurant (musicians love it when you do that), a top of our lungs in-house music Human League after the dismal Bledisloe cup defeat and a string of Doobie Brothers hits in the van as we tripped around the island.

At some point there may even have been sock puppets.

Drinking, eating, dancing and singing for four days takes an incredible amount of stamina, perseverance and commitment, not to mention poor judgement. Which leads me to some of the other things that the eight seemingly intelligent women said or did this week.

Watching the Bledisloe and asking if that player in the black with the silver fern on his shirt is Australian.

Group selfies that featured a prominent selfie stick and outstretched arm.

Sleeping three hours past your alarm for your international flight.

Talking about the lions that inhabit Russia.

Wearing two contact lenses in one eye all day.

Constantly being left behind in the shop, the garden, the bathroom, the beach…

Very loosely packed bottles of red wine. Very loosely packed.

All in all, a wonderful, hilarious, uplifting celebration for a fabulous friend.

Happy birthday Gab.

You are definitely smarter than a box of rocks.

#gabsissues

#gabsissues

In the way of flights, airports and things going wrong, Don and I have been incredibly lucky in our travels. Well, there was that one time our plane skidded off the runway coming back from Rome, but nothing to worry about, and we got a free flight! No, we’ve been relatively stress free.
Not so my friend Gab.

Gab has had to turn around midway to the airport to go home to fetch her passport on at least three separate occasions.

Gab arrived a day late to my birthday trip to Malaysia, then spent the next three days with no clothes while her suitcase travelled via Tokyo.

Just yesterday Gab and her sister Jen had a passport that wouldn’t work, a bag tag that wouldn’t scan and an Uber driver that wouldn’t…well let’s just say wouldn’t be polite.

Gab has had more flight delays, re-routes, lost luggage, missing passports and shoe blowouts than anyone I know.

And now I am about to embark on a five day girls’ trip to New Zealand to celebrate Gab’s birthday. Gab is already in New Zealand, Madonna and I fly today, so #gabsissues shouldn’t even touch us. #gabsissues are over 2,000km away from us. We even joked that we booked separately to avoid #gabsissues.

As I write this we should be boarding our flight. However, I’m on the couch. Madonna is still in bed. Since last night we’ve had:

  • Our flight to New Zealand cancelled.
  • Madonna booked on a late night flight via Sydney, me with nothing.
  • Madonna rebooked on an early flight via Sydney, me with nothing.
  • Madonna on the flight via Sydney, me on a flight via Melbourne.
  • Madonna on the flight via Sydney, me on a direct flight with China Airlines.
  • A woman on the Qantas helpline who can find no trace of the China Airlines flight that I’m booked on.
  • Finally, after much key tapping by the woman on the Qantas helpline, we are both on the China Airlines flight to Auckland.

    We’re not sitting together. And we’re not entirely sure there isn’t a layover in Shanghai. But what we are sure of is that eventually we’ll get to Gab, the epicentre of #gabsissues.

    Let the fun begin.

    Into the jungle

    Into the jungle

    On this day five years ago I flew to Melbourne. My niece was turning 11 and we were about to embark on an adventure together, just the two of us, to Singapore.

    I’d said to Peppa years ago that when she turned 11 I’d like to take her on an overseas holiday somewhere, just the two of us. Perhaps I should have cleared it with my sister first, but I naively thought Peppa would have forgotten I ever said anything. Ha!

    When she turned 10 we started planning. I set some rules for what would be the first in a series of trips, one with each of my three nieces.

    1. No more than one flight from Australia. This didn’t stop the suggestion from Peppa that we should go to Paris, or the follow up from Goldie three years later that perhaps we could give Brazil a whirl.

    2. The destination had to be somewhere I’d been before. I needed some sort of familiarity given that I was taking my sister’s children out of the country.

    3. It should be a country where people spoke a different language. We were not going to Hawaii to lie on the beach.

    Peppa and my trip to Singapore was filled with miles of walking, cable cars, hawker stalls, Universal studios, dumplings and one terrifying ride on a chairlift. We finished every day at the chocolate shop near our hotel, drinking hot chocolate and sharing some amazing chocolate creation.

    Peppa’s trip was where I learnt the benefits for me. When I came up with this idea, I thought about how interesting it would be for the girls to travel, how much they could learn about another culture, the fun in trying new foods and using different money. But during the six days with my funny, laid back niece (oh, dear God, did I mention funny?), the real value of the trip became apparent. Spending so much time together, getting to really know each other, forming that special Aunty-niece bond; that was priceless.

    Goldie and my trip to Tokyo was a whirlwind of temples, cherry blossoms, sushi, bike rides and 12 non-stop hours at Disneyland. My insightful, independent, stylish niece led the way through the crowded streets, mastering the money, the trains and the souvenir shops far better than me. Another beautiful Aunty-niece bond was cemented over croissants every morning and internet quizzes every night (FYI I know exactly what Harry Potter character, what small dog, and what colour fairy I am).

    Today, five years later, I’m back in Melbourne for the third and final trip. Somehow the rules have stretched a little for my youngest niece Lulu. We need to take three flights to get to final destination, and it’s somewhere I’ve never been before. We’re off to Borneo: into the jungle for a river safari. Orangutans, monkeys and elephants are on our agenda. Lulu is curious and adventurous, so this ought to be one wild ride.

    I’m a little sad that this will be the last trip. But then, this has all been my idea. There’s nothing to stop me coming up with another idea.

    I was thinking I could do a go around as they each turn 18. Or perhaps they could take me.

    Sounds interesting

    Sounds interesting

    Peru

    I don’t really have a bucket list per se. Sure, there are some places that I really want to see, but something we’ve found is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

    Case in point, I’d never hear of the Colca Canyon, or the Cruz del Condòr, but researching where we might visit in Peru, I thought that sounded interesting.

    Interesting is not the word for it.

    This was one of the most amazing things we’ve ever experienced. We watched from the lookout over 1,200 metres above as the condors began catching the thermals, mere specks against the valley below. We were tense with expectation, totally focused on spotting them one by one as they left their nests, gliding back and forth between the canyon walls. Slowly they made their way up, up, up, until they were right there in front of us, and then mere metres above us, their huge wing span and feathery ‘fingers’ sweeping across the sky. It was absolutely incredible, and brought tears to my eyes. Like Machu Picchu, this was a real highlight of our holiday.

    So perhaps what we do have is a sort of ‘post’ list of things we’ve seen and done that have left us awestruck. We may have planned them, or they were somebody’s recommendation or perhaps we never knew they existed and we just stumbled across them. We knew Machu Picchu would be a special experience, but the condors, the Nazca lines and the Neolithic cave paintings were surprise highlights.

    Although I am a little worried about Don. On our final day in Lima today he downloaded his photos onto his iPad, and whilst it’s true he went overboard on condors, cave paintings and Machu Picchu, as far as I can tell, his highlights also included the car park at the Santiago markets, various power lines, people at bus stops and the desert sands around the Nazca lines but not the actual Nazca lines themselves.

    Well camouflaged

    Well camouflaged

    Peru

    We’ve just spent two days in Peru’s canyon country. Salinas Y Aguada Blanca National Reserve to see the native vicuna, alpaca and llamas, passing through small highland villages, marveling at Neolithic rock art and, the highlight, Cruz del Cóndor, at the start of Colca Canyon, where enormous majestic condors glided right in front of us.

    This part of Peru is absolutely beautiful. You can trek this area. Spend days clambering up mountains and wandering throughout the valleys.

    I do not trek.

    Good grief, no. I like to exercise, and I like the outdoors, but the two should never cross. Quite simply I like my exercise to be over and done with quickly, and I don’t want it to be ruining any time I spend enjoying nature.

    But I do get why trekking might appeal to some. Really finding a place by experiencing it up close, and the sense of accomplishment having walked through, up or over it must bring.

    What I don’t get is the trekking dress code. Grey, beige, brown, and khaki seem limited options. Perhaps a pale bitumen blue or a faded watermelon for the more adventurous. I assume this is to do with blending in with the surroundings to hide from the fauna, but a fat lot of good khaki is going to do me if I take a wrong turn and have to wait for search and rescue.

    On our first day in Valle del Colca I wore my bright yellow pants with tiny coloured flowers, a white shirt and my shiny silver Frankies. Sure, I looked a little different to those in beige with their hiking poles and enormous boots, but I had no intention of trekking anywhere, nor any need for camouflage.

    It wasn’t until the end of the day looking back at the photos that I discovered two things:

    1. Somehow I’d dressed to disappear completely into the golds and yellows of the landscape; and

    2. I was perfectly coordinated with Don, who was, ironically, wearing camouflage pants.

    Good grief.

    To market, to market

    To market, to market

    Peru

    We do love a good market. Fruit and veg, craft, exotic food, artisan, we’re not fussy, we’ll visit any or all. The noise and vibrancy of locals and tourists shopping, eating, touting and wandering is often the heart of a city, and is usually our first port of call when we reach a new destination.

    The markets in Peru have been amazing. The stalls are so colourful, the sellers so friendly. There’s been music and food and multitudes of alleyways to explore.

    Markets used to be my downfall. Over the years I’ve been easily swayed by items such as fabrics, earrings, bags, shoes, tablecloths, wall hangings, paintings, carvings, bowls, blouses, socks, belly dancing outfits, necklaces, rings (finger and toe), tea, stuffed animals, beads, scarves, pants, carpets, hats, hair ties and key rings, just to name a few.

    But not anymore, no sir. I have developed a resourceful and effective ‘analyse and discuss’ technique when colourful, glittery objects catch my eye, and I am going to share six real-life examples I have put into practice in Peru so that you too can consider the same strategy whenever you are tempted.

    You’re welcome.

    1. Alpaca wool blankets (also alpaca wool shawl, socks, poncho, scarf) – OMG this is so soft, Don feel this, how good would this blanket be on the couch at night while we’re watching tv? Might be a bit hot, yes, true, we do live in Queensland, there’s no need for an alpaca wool anything, but for that one week of winter it would be so good. Yes? Sì?

    2. Knotted cotton wrist band with a simple but colourful Inca pattern – oh, look, only one sol, I should buy one and have as a laid back decoration knotted around my wrist, where it’ll get wet and dirty and ragged and eventually lose all of its colour, but still, what better way to represent being carefree and on holidays than a knotted cotton wrist band?

    3. Oven mitts with ‘Welcome to Machu Picchu’ embroidered on them – OMG these would be great in our kitchen, not only useful but also a reminder of our time in Peru. I can just see myself removing tamales from the oven, plus the orange matches our wall. Ok, so they’re a bit thin, and yeah, perhaps a little tacky. But they’d be so useful. And nothing says Peru like oven mitts!

    4. Peruvian women’s hat – oh wow, I look great in this hat, don’t I look great in this hat? I’d definitely wear this hat, might be a bit hot in summer, but would be perfect for winter. I know I already have three winter hats and several beanies, but come on, this one is from Peru! Made from alpaca! And I look great in this hat!

    5. Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty – oh look, Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty. Why on earth did I ever get rid of them? I should definitely buy some more, although if I really wanted a new pair I could have bought some at any folk festival over the past twenty odd years. Still, I used to love those earrings.

    6. Red ankle boots (with Peruvian fabric inserts) – ooh, boots. I love boots! Red boots! I don’t have any red ankle boots with Peruvian fabric inserts. And they’re cheap for boots. And they’re leather, except for the Peruvian fabric inserts. I could wear these at least twice a year, maybe three times. So cost per wear isn’t so good, but look at them! They’re awesome!

    See? Just give me a moment and I can completely talk myself out of all manner of purchases.

    Employ this simple technique and you too can enjoy a 35% success rate just like me.

    Inspiration

    Inspiration

    Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu, what an incredible place. So many people talk about wanting to go there; it’s always been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit. We spent over three hours at the site, exploring every nook and cranny, marvelling at the Incan stonework, the buildings and altars, the terraces used for agriculture. While it’s true there’s been a lot of reconstruction, this doesn’t detract from the experience of Machu Picchu.

    If it is on your bucket list, I suggest you make plans. It was a pretty awe-inspiring place.

    You know what else was inspiring? On the train back we sat across from two older women from the United States. I talked with them the entire way to Ollantaytambo.

    They talked about the journey they were on, through Peru and on to Bolivia, and I told them about our trip so far.

    They talked about the USA government, the protests they’d attended, the women’s marches they’d been a part of – the ‘pussy hats’ one of them specialised in knitting! When they return to the states they’re planning their trip to Washington DC for January 2021 – as they see it they’ll be there for either an inauguration celebration or a massive protest.

    We talked about our families, and we compared notes on the places we’d travelled, and the places yet to visit.

    At Machu Picchu they’d hiked to the sun gate. It was a rocky, uphill climb in the hot sun that Don and I had trekked for 45 minutes and had taken these two women at least twice as long. In fact they’d visited Machu Picchu the day before, and had come back just to do that hike.

    ‘I really wanted to do it,” one of them said to me, ” but I’m 65, I was pretty sure it was going to be a hard trek.

    “But then I thought, you know what? It’ll be even harder at 66.”

    And that, my friends, is golden advice.

    Can you see it, can you see it?

    Can you see it, can you see it?

    Peru

    Yesterday we went on a flight over the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Nazca lines, 400 km south of Lima. It was advertised as every person gets a window seat. Yes, that’s because there are only twelve seats in the entire plane. They had to weigh each of the passengers before we boarded so that they could distribute us evenly. Don’t worry, we were told, we won’t tell anybody, your weight will be like the secret of the ancient Nazca lines themselves. Well thanks.

    The Nazca lines were amazing. Enormous, distinct, intricate, mysterious. But what really made our day was our *pilot, Carlos.

    Now I’m sure that Carlos flies this little tourist route at least three times a day, seven days a week. But he is not bored with his job, oh no siree. He is loving his job.

    After taking off we fly for 30 minutes before descending towards Nazca.

    “Now, the first picture we’ll see is the whale,” Carlos announces before suddenly banking.

    “Can you see it, can you see it, can you see it?” he squeals excitedly through the intercom, “can you see the whale?”

    The plane is now banked at an alarming near 90 degrees, with everybody on the left side of the plane facing the earth. We’re circling downwards towards the desert sands, and I am not looking for any drawing of a whale, I’m clutching either side of my seat and praying that we don’t tilt any further.

    It becomes apparent that Carlos will continue to circle sideways until he is assured that all six people on the left side of the plane have seen the whale. He’s paying no attention to the controls, rather he is facing back to us, grinning and waving his hands.

    “Can you see it?” he asks again. And at the last minute I spot it, the perfect drawing of a whale.

    “Sí, sí, sí!” six of us yell over the noise of the engine.

    Carlos gives us the thumbs up, pleased.

    “Ok, and now for the right side,” and suddenly the plane circles in a figure of eight and I am sideways again but looking at clear blue sky while Don is now below me staring down at the sand. Carlos repeats the routine with these right side passengers until all have confirmed seeing the whale, and we straighten up and head towards the next design.

    “And now the astronaut,” announces Carlos, “he is special because he is the only one on the side of a mountain.”

    And thus we begin circling sideways and downwards, in our little tin can plane, towards the side of a mountain.

    “Do you see him? Do you see the astronaut?”

    “Sí, sí,” yell just five people on my side of the plane, as one lady is now quite green and unable to yell anything, “please stop plummeting towards the mountain!”

    Ok, so none of us actually yell this last bit, but you can’t tell me we weren’t all thinking it. Especially the lady who is green.

    And now it’s Don’s turn to face the mountain.

    Through the sky we fly for the next 30 minutes, Carlos banking, circling and plummeting as though he’s piloting a remote controlled aircraft, and all of his passengers yelling sí, sí at the tops of our voices and holding our thumbs up the second we recognise the monkey, the parrot, the hummingbird and the rest of the patterns.

    It’s a good thing these ancient lines are so fascinating. Once I start focusing on looking for the patterns, I forget I’m on a roller coaster ride and the only thing holding me in place is a flimsy seatbelt.

    Although Carlos isn’t helping. He’s delighted at every tilt and turn and every design, laughing with us (or perhaps at us), and finding the Nazca lines and his passengers much more entertaining than the actual controls of his aeroplane. It’s like this is his very first time flying.

    Although thank-you God that I’m only thinking this right now.

    *actually co-pilot

    Hours of entertainment

    Hours of entertainment

    We’re having an absolute ball in South America, however time is becoming extremely difficult to fathom, and sleep is becoming increasingly difficult to schedule.

    You’ll recall our trip started on Saturday at the airport, Don in his jaunty hat, me in my track pants. A short flight to Auckland gained some hours; we then spent the afternoon waiting for our flight to Santiago. Unfortunately this was not to be – the Santiago flight cancelled due to a sick crew member.

    Our new flight was scheduled for 10:30am the next day, we would arrive in Santiago at 7am on the same day, and our walking food tour would start at 10am. On the same day.

    Working out when we should sleep on the plane was a hot mess of mathematics that never added up. By the time we’d been awake for 30 hours, I’d had a coffee with breakfast, a coffee on the plane, a coffee when we reached our Santiago hotel, a Starbucks before the food tour commenced and a super strong coffee at Santiago’s ‘best market cafe’. Don had watched 20 hours of back-to-back Marvel and fortified for the day with aeroplane red wine.

    To add to this mess, I seem to have scheduled all of our activities for arse o’clock in the morning.

    Yesterday we left our hotel in Santiago at the crack of dawn in order to fly to Lima (subtract two hours).

    This morning we were collected for our Nazca flights at 4:20am.

    Tomorrow we’re leaving for the airport at 6:45am.

    We’re yet to be there for breakfast in any of the hotels we’re staying in, and I have no freaking idea what time it is in Australia, nor how many hours we’ve gained, lost, then gained again.

    However our care factor is low, because in the time we’ve been away (however many hours that is) we’ve been on two amazing food tours, walked all over both Santiago and Lima, flown over the Nazca lines, explored Huaca Pucllana pyramid ruins and gone on a boat tour of Ballestas Islands.

    If looking a tad seedy in our photos is the worst thing to happen, we’re doing ok!

    Clothes make the man

    Clothes make the man

    Well our Peru holiday has finally arrived and something has already gone mysteriously wrong.

    It’s like this. I spent the early hours of the morning scurrying around the house throwing last minute things in my bag. Being a shorter holiday I’ve returned to the trusty backpack, squashing last minute items into pockets and dragging out non-essentials until I’m down to the bare minimum. My travelling wardrobe for most trips currently consists of three pairs of tracksuit pants, a super-hero t-shirt and two multi-purpose scarves.

    Upon arrival at the airport I strapped my backpack on, wound my scarf around my neck, untucked my shell necklace and turned to look at Don for the first time since leaving the house.

    And found him sporting a jaunty Panama hat, a beige tailored jacket and brand new jeans. Wheeling his suitcase behind him.

    While I’ve been busy looking for a beanie and cutting down on knickers, he has somehow become the modern man’s style guide to South American travel.

    I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do, but I think if I just leave him be he’ll eventually return to type. Although he’s now discussing purchasing a belt in Santiago.

    And here was me worried he’d come home with an Alpaca wool poncho.