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Adventure Around the World

The Account of a Journey

14 Nov

Well, here we are at the 14 Nov, and here we are, also, at home. Not sure that I fully understand the slippage of the days, bug even flying east they sort of gallop by beneath you!

Not a lot say about getting home….long haul is, well, long haul.

Barbara and Bob met us at the airport in Christchurch and took us to their hone for a great lunch. We got to talking about when we needed to get back to the airport and the hoarding pass, printed in Singapore, suggested an hour before the flight time. That was at that very moment, so I looked at the Air NZ app and it told us that the flight had been delayed and that we thus had plenty of time. Long story short, we got to the gate, spent a few minutes chatting to B+B and then heard that our flight was closing in 3 minutes! Ran and made it ok, mentioning to staff as we did so that we thought the flight had be delayed. They had no knowledge of that, so quickly checked the app again and there was new info that seemed to indicate that not only had the delay notice been taken off, the flight was now five minutes early! Take hone message: app is a great communicator, but full value is gained only by keeping an eye on it!

In the end, it was good to see B+ B and we appreciated both a pleasant meal and their flexibility.

Home to a lovely sunny Dunedin day. The lawns had been cut earlier in the day so looked tidy. Lots of weeds here and there, but generally everything looks fine.

Eleanor and Paul brought Zeta and Esme over and we had a wonderful tea prepared by Paul as we enjoyed time with them all.

Its lovely to be home… The mail can wait another day, the weeds will not smother us. Let’s just ease back into things….

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11 Nov

The day got off to an early start when I woke up at about 3:00 am (when I did the last blog post). It seems obvious to blame the jet lag, although the times did not sort of seem right. Whatever, I had only patchy sleep after that.

Keitha was also awake early and we had a cuppa as we tried to make sense of the TV in the room. Had no success with getting any news. We need to get back up to speed with what is going on in the world. We have been aware of the major issues, however there has also been a sense of detachment as we have been off on a tangent from normal life.

We headed down to breakfast earlyish and had a bit of a feast. It seemed like a long time since we last had food on the plane, and the spread in this nice international hotel seemed mind bogglingly expansive. It also seemed expensive, so we didn’t hold back at the buffet!

We finally got the WiFi to work. It is interesting to note how different parts of the world look at WiFi. Rural Italy surprised us by being the most savvy….there it is simply a given in life and was offered as freely and as easily as any other of life’s essentials, even if sometimes it was a bit slow. Generally speaking, the cities we have been in have been less generous…sure, WiFi has been there, and often good fast WiFi. But often there have been little barriers to connection like needing email address or more. I do not recall having had to actually pay for it anywhere. All this is in some contrast to our experience in NZ as we travelled in both rural and urban areas last summer on the TA. As a nation we seemed to be mean with WiFi, making it an add on rather thana given. It often was charged for in NZ and sometimes at ridiculously high prices for ridiculously little. This was something that was often commented on in the FB group, although as I follow this year’s cohort it does not seem to be getting the same derisive mention…maybe things are changing?

Anyway, we got on and attended to things before heading out.

It was raining hard and very hot. A mall was the obvious thing to do! Singapore seems to be a huge mall and shopping is a major tourist activity here, it seems. There is mall two rainy blocks away and we headed there. The cheap umbrellas we bought in Florence before the walk and have hardly used got a good workout yesterday.

Keitha was keen to visit a UNQLO shop as she has been delighted with purchase made some time ago in the one in Oxford Street, London. Here in Singapore there seem to be 25 branches. Good inexpensive clothing, although the sizing needs careful consideration as it is mainly aiming at the Asian market. Lots of synthetic fabrics, it seems to me, although my level of shopping expertise hardly qualifies me as an expert. In the end Keitha bought a sleeveless puffer jacket at a good price. Why they have these for sale at all here amazes me, not to mention the huge variety and numbers in this particular shop!

After a brief time at the mall I was already shell shocked by the size of the place and limited amount of stuff I found to interest me. I headed back for a lie down while Keitha gamely battled on…

Managed to get the TV to go and caught a French language replay of the AB,s test there. Nice to sit with a cup of tea and my feet up.

Had wee snooze, and then Keitha arrived back, flushed with the sense of shopping success. She had found a dress to wear to Annabel and Johnny’s wedding in a few weeks. Looks good, I must say, and Keitha was delighted with her purchase.

In due course we left the hotel to join said Annabel and Johnny for a few hours. They are teaching here (Annabel is my niece, her family live in Dunedin). We got an Uber to the arranged meeting place, it being both simpler and cheaper to do so, although the end cost was approx twice what the site quoted.

It was really good to see them and there was a lot of catch up chat to be done. They are enjoying teaching in Singapore and are extending their contracts. The upcoming wedding was well canvassed….it will be a lovely occasion .

We moved from the bar and they introduced as to the local underground transport…a very efficient way to move about with some very extensive networks of tunnels and spaces associated with the city stations. It was Sunday, so relatively quiet; no doubt humming during the week!

We proceeded to the hawkers’ food market where there is an endless array of Asian ( mainly) foods at very reasonable prices. Great food to be had in simple surroundings. And fun.

A short distance away there is a bar 33 stories up with a great view. A and J took us up there. Posh bar, but wanted only the view and A seemed to have the right words to enable this so we spent some time admiring the view as the light faded and the lighting came on

Back to the ground, then under it again to head home again on the train. A great evening out!

Christmas is clearly coming, and the standard of decorations is high….lots of bright lights

10 Nov

A lovely fine morning! Up to finish the re packing then out for a walk and brekky.

The West End of Edinburgh seems to undergoing a big rejuvenation. My recollection of thirty ago is that there were many older apartment blocks and it now seems that a lot have been levelled and new blocks with businesses at street level have built. Are being built. And yet to be built judging by a large empty site across from the place we stayed in.

These newer buildings are generally harmonious and some actually quite attractive. This will be high density housing close in to the city, with more living space per sq metre than the buildings they replace due to thinner walls and lower ceilings. There is even a brand new High School with a playing field on the roof.

We managed to get ourselves a bit lost, and then started to recognise places from the past. As we moved up the hill from the Union Canal ( now much cleaner and safer feeling). Then all of a sudden we at the links, having come up via Viewforth Church.

Thirty years ago the Links and the Meadow were important thoroughfares for me as I walked to and from New College. They are a very large green space near the heart of the city.

Lots of twists and turns and finally we popped out into Grassmarket. It was chilly in there with sun not yet high…well as high as it would get which in Scotland is never high! A lovely spot just down from the castle which dominates it. Found a breakfast place which seemed to be a student favourite. Pleasant.

The Castle in the sun while we were in the shade in the Grassmarket

The Vennel. I walked up these steps often on my home from study

A meander back to the apartment and it was time for the 11:00 checkout. Retrieved the car and started a drive further afield

Up Lothian road and past the old house then all the way up, past the surgery, then close to the Pentlands. Morningside was traffic clogged. Seems to be much busier now. Safeway is now a Waitrose. Lots of small cafes. Appears prosperous.

We drove back via some less familiar routes and when we hit Outangs Road we knew we were close to Colinton Road and the old house.

The plan was to park (easier said than done) and have a coffee in what was a garden shop in our time, now a Starbucks. We could see the old house from there, just across the street. Actually, we could see this place from the house as well and once saw a burglary taking place, called the police and also watched the burglars being apprehended.

We lived behind the blue door to the left of the double windows. The peaked roof was above our (W&K) bedroom, the floor below was a large lounge and the street level room was locked and held the owner’s possessions….loads of antique furniture The children slept in rooms on intermediate levels behind.

For us today it was about nostalgia.

Keitha nipped around the corner Everybodys Designs where she often bought cards and stationery in the past. Business now 70 yrs old and same family. I headed back to the car to thwart the officious and numerous traffic wardens.

So, then back out to the bypass road under the Pentlands. This took us around to the outer west of town and close to the airport. We had to go past the airport to fill up with petrol before returning the car, and getting in the wrong lane on a big roundabout meant a 10 mile detour before getting of the M8. Still, we had plenty if time and the check in desk did not open for nearly an hour after got to the terminal. Lufthansa seemed to cut it fine to me, but transpired that nearly all check in is done on line and we would have done likewise except for the advice on my phone. This meant difficult seating on both legs to Singapore. Lesson learnt!

All ok as we got to Frankfurt and had to walk at least a kilometre in the same terminal to get to gate Z32. This a seriously big airport with many, many Lufthansa planes parked nose-in or out in the open.

Good flight although were the two middles in a four seat centre block of an A380. Our respective neighbours were both a bit uncommunicative and both slept a lot, making getting out difficult.

A long bus ride into town, but it cost nothing as drivers changed as we got on and we were hustled to the back of the bus and got forgotten. Managing four suitcases with wheels

in a bus was not easy ( no luggage racks) but it went OK. Used GPS to follow the route, anticipate where it might go and then where to get off. Keitha declared that it would be a miracle if we foynd ourselves at the right place. Such little faith! Perfect navigation. Actually, I was bit relieved myself.

Checked in, went to bed.

I am awake at 3:00 am as I write this, not sure what the date is here, but know that it is Saturday. Oh, that means it must be the 11th. Feels like a big hole in my life over the last 24 hours. Never gone straight to bed after a long haul before!

9 Nov

We drove to Edinburgh today..a good night’s sleep at Ravenscaig (recommended) Guesthouse and a good breakfast set us well for a great day.

We set off at shortly after 8:00 knowing that we had a good three hour or so drive ahead of us. Stopped at ‘services’ for a stretch and a coffee and made a booking at the Staycity in Edinburgh’s West End. Also a good place for our purposes….free secure parking and lots of room to spread out. And we needed the room to repack and ensure that the weight in our four suitcases (2 checked, 2 carry on) was appropriately apportioned ( just as well we did….Lufthansa seem to be very strict about all weights…the guy ahead of us in the queue had to £110 excess weight on one of his bags, having already prepaid for a second piece of luggage thinking he might be ok!)

The drive out of the Highlands was great….the farms, the trees, the early winter feel. All so essentially Scottish.

Some photos that Keitha took as I drove..

An unusual but striking view of the new Queensferry Crossing bridge. Looking up one of the towers. Keitha also did a similar video which is a remarkable changing image ad we approached the supports.

Three bridges over the Firth of Forth

After a bit of packing we headed to Princes Street. Neither of us liked it…too much stuff looking for new homes and general air of ‘buy now for Christmas’ and ‘tourists get your Scottish tat now’. All both tempting yet off-putting at the same time. The part of me that is tempted does not feel good, but I accept that is indeed a part of my being. I dislike the idea of having my ‘want’ buttons pushed in the guise of them being my ‘need’ buttons. I am as susceptible to the marketing tricks as anybody, I guess!

New College from Princes Street

We had a nice meal a Wagamama at the bottom of Lothian Road and headed home for a wine together before early bed.

8 Nov

After sharing in the community meditation we headed south on the A904. This is an attractive road we have driven several times in the past. Trees in their autumn glory, pasture, moorland, hills, mountain in view, a castle..a bit of everything.

Rain threatened all the way to Granton on Spey and into Aviemore and when we got out of the car at Aviemore it was rather cold as an early cold snap passed over. We expected it to snow at anytime for the rest of the day, however it merely drizzled a bit in the evening.

Called at the into centre for material on local walks and to book accommodation for the night. Then coffee at a pleasant cafe run by a Kiwi woman. Very popular. Checked out some of the outdoor gear shops…like Fort William, there are lots, at least half a dozen, and all big and seemingly thriving. This is ‘the capital of the Highlands’. I made an appointment for later in the day to get a wee dental problem attended to. Then we set off for a walk.

What a pleasant walk it was! It turned out to be be very close to Aviemore and Rothiemurchus and we could have walked to the trailhead had we realised that there were suitable routes.

We walked around a wee loch, Loch an Eilean. Through pine trees on a wide and easy path. So pretty with the trees and the carpet of heather beneath them. Some of the heather still flowering, and all of it so exuberant

This chap, although deficient in legs, seemed to enjoy it

The lake has a wee island with a ruined castle dating from the twelve hundreds, once occupied by the Wolf of Badock, a legendary bad boy.

After the tracks running through NZ, this made us laugh…it was a motorway compared to most NZ tracks we experienced on the TA!

We headed up this track planning to circle another smaller lake as a sort of side trip. I guess the lack of maintenance meant no signage, as we missed the wee turn off and headed away from the small lake for quite a distance before suspecting the issue and checking the GPS.

It was a lovely walk in the bracing air of the Highlands. I could happily spend a lot more time here.

We had a quick bite at the Rothiemucus Centre before getting my tooth sorted and then wr checked in to our very pleasant B+B.

Cleaned up our boots and piles for biosecurity in NZ. There is a drying room here so using that. Lots of walking to be done here and people certainly get out and do it, so lots of boots get wet.

Went to the Cairngorm Hotel for a very nice dinner. A big old stone building full of Scottish charm…even down to tweed curtains. Had haggis for the first time this trip…it was a bit fine and bland ( for the sake of first timers?) For my taste. The mussels were good, though. And Keitha enjoyed here trout with capers and shrimps. Walked home in a cold drizzle.

7 Nov

We had a magic day today. First thing, we went meditation. It had rained and blown all night so it was a damp walk over. However, the rain had stopped and stayed stopped, then later on the sun came out. As we waited for the weather to finally clear, we arranged to stay another night here. Our time in the UK is rapidly running out, and we want to get full measure. We did some homework on local places to walk and Findhorn River was a clear winner. The river is a place that people on Introduction Weeks at the community get taken to, so both of us have there before. The myth is that there are fairies there, and there is no doubt that some in the Findhorn Community would sincerely believe this. It is an old local story, and is well believable by anyone who has ever been there. Personally, I have not seen fairies there in the times I have now been, but it would not at all surprise me to meet one there. We headed out to Logie Steading. This is a group of buildings built as model accommodation for farm workers a century ago. Now re- purposed as attractive shops and a cafe. Very nice place to shop, and the secondhand bookshop is as good as I have seen for discrimination in what is displayed and in care and attention to the displaying. A very large Scottish section. We had a coffee before setting off on our walk. Not a big walk, but special. It was special for what it was today,and for the memories it refreshed. These pics might give some idea of the amazing autumn colours And then the river. The rain overnight had made it rise and it was a swirling, seething thing ad it rushed between the rock walls of a gorge.

This close to a very narrow spot called Randolph’s Leap. Actually, Randolph didn’t do the leaping across, it was the chap he was chasing. The river must have been lower that day, as it would not have been possible today. It was certainly lower when I was here last….I swam in the area just below the narrowest bit. It was cold. There was no way that one would consider swimming there today! The video I tried to include would not upload, so no pic of the actual spot, but it look mighty scary today.

6 Nov

Keitha went to the Taize singing and I met her later at the Sanctuary which is a meditation space in the centre of the community. This is special place where the accumulated ‘energy’ of years of meditation by countless individuals has left an indescribable imprint. A bit like the sense of the holy in a church, but also not quite like that. There is a morning and afternoon guided meditation daily, and the space is always open for personal meditation .

My knee was swollen this morning. Not too painful, but that and the chilly weather led us to take it easy for the morning. We are cosy in the caravan and we caught up on final planning, washing, etc.

We drove in to the village of Findhorn…a shorter distance than either of us remembered, and chose a place for lunch. It was on the wild (today, anyway) waterfront and we both ordered soup. K’s was lentil and bacon, mine was cullen skink…a smoked fish soup. Warmed us up nicely, with views of another amazing sky

By this time it was well after two, and we wanted to stroll around the Findhorn Community before it got dark sometime not long after four.

It was great to reconnect with places and spaces we had enjoyed, separately, ten years ago. Much has changed and much has stayed the same. The values held by this community remain the same, and there has been huge residential growth, all eco building. I am unsure of the tie up between the building and the Findhorn Foundation (the organisational arm of the community) but there is a clear synergy there. Obviously, things are in good heart, and that felt encouraging…a wee island where experience of other aspects of being is explored in the midst of what sometimes seems to be a chaotic world.

There is still a touch of hippie about the place as people express themslves, for example, in gates and doors

A building which was getting started ten years ago is still a work in progress….it will be a space for the use of voice and looks rather impressive in its uniqueness. No pics as there are construction safety fence all round it

The Nature Sanctuary, a special place for people who come here remains unchanged

And the Quiet Garden surrounding it is still the refreshing place it was designed to be.

The woodlands at the back of the community are also pleasant places

They have inspired a community initiative to enhance the forest areas of Scotland and a separate company to achieve this operates from here.

This is such a special place. It might be easy to dismiss it as a commune left over from the sixties (which it sort of is) however, it is also a centre of spiritual exploration and development of values which have meaning and real impact in today’s world.

Google it, its fascinating….I lack the skills to include a link.

5 Nov

It was chilly when we woke up…new snow overnight And we could see Ben Nevis We had a great breakfast in the B+B and then set off to find the carpark that is the start of ou planned walk. It is the Braveheart carpark, so named because the movie was shot in Glen Nevis and the film company had to build a space for their support vehicles. We had a bit of trouble finding the track start….simple once we sorted it, but a few bits of info missing. It was very cold at that hour of the morning and we both wished we had gloves on as we headed up a forestry road looking for a turn off onto a steep trail that led up to the loop we wanted to follow. The track was wide and smooth but the grade was very steep. We imagined how it would look in NZ in the bush with our rain…rather more rugged! This little chap showed up and posed for photo’s The track wound around Cow Hill which is behind Fort William it is a big lozenge shaped hill and new views appeared as we circled it. The last pic has a strand of mist pointing into the Great Glen, where drove to Inverness All in all, a most enjoyable couple of hours. We spoke with several locals along the way, which was also nice. We had planned to boil the billy but it was still a bit cool in the carpark. There was a cold patch forecast for today so we wee not too surprised. It should warm up again over the next few days. So we started to drive up the Great Glen. Lovely autumn views, with a few light showers. Pulled into the Commando Memorial. Sobering, as with all war memorials. The pic of the sculpture is not that flash, but the views to the mountains were special. Thence to Glen Garry where a nice homely cafe served us soup in the shadow of some wind turbines. A lot of local resistance to these things: doubt over the benefits as well as appearance, and resentment that the Scottish Parliament has several times overturned local decisions against installing wind farms. All this from the cafe owner as I paid. I love Inverness, but we decided not to tarry there as we were by now headed for Findhorn, which we both love. In the short time we shopped for groceries and had a cruise around a few neighbourhoods in the car. It is a pocket city like Dunedin, and is in a most magnificent part of the world. Strangely, it feels more isolate d from the rest of the world than Dunedin, but maybe that on account of it being smallish-and-close-by-but-hard-to-get- to-from very big cities. I wonder if this makes sense? We headed out to Findhorn. Keitha and I have both spent time here (K 2x) so we feel at home here in this long standing intentional community. There is a holiday park adjacent( although not connected) to the Foundation Village,and we are in a very comfortable static caravan. And we are warm and cosy. Keitha made some enquiries about how we might participate in some Findhorn things….there are opportunities we will pursue. Thats

Ours on the left. Horrible in some ways, but suits us fine.

4 Nov

After a great night’s sleep we had to pack up and get on the ferry. We have really enjoyed Portavadie

View to the south….

A shower of rain a few minutes before we left

The ferry arrived

Looking back…

And looking around

The weather and sky here are simply amazing. Sun one side, rain the other. And then its all different.

We bought a cheap road map book in Tarbert then set off.

The drive to Fort William was punctuated by showers and spectacular views and vistas. We drove by increasingly high hills as we skirted the coastline. Such amazing plays of light and dull on the sea, the trees, the hills, the buildings. There is a magic about this part of the world.

We stopped for bite and looked across at this view

When we reached Fort William it was wet and cold. We bought canister gas for the stove ( there seem to be at least three big flash outdoor outfitters in this small place….a hint at why it calls itself the outdoors capital of the UK), a cheap small backpack for day walks, and arranged accommodation.

Went to our B&B which was hard to find in the rain and dark, and were pleased with its amenities. Warm, clean and comfortable. The Blythdale B&B.

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