Friday, March 26, 2010

the adventures of El Cheapo

There is something that happens after spending a good amount of time in NZ, particularly the South Island. Its no surprise that bungy was invented here, or that tons of people are jumping out of planes or doing whatever the next extreme nature fad is. Nietzsche said (yes I’m quoting Neitzsche---- actually more like paraphrasing) that one doesn’t need to go seeking the world, that all one need to do is do to stay put long enough and the world will come to you: unraveling, opening and reveling at ones feet. New Zealand is a perfect example of this. If you stay long enough, the earth comes right up to your chin, moving like a bellydancer, dancing and undulating all over the place. All you need to do is smile and watch, maybe clap your hands, but you WANT to answer the ecstasy….so you jump out of a plane, you canon down the side of rocks, you ascend glaciers, you walk for days, staying in huts-in effect, You Revel Back. You want to smash your face in the darkest of soils and burrow, seed yourself and come bursting back through the surface, extending toward the sun.
Yep, its pretty much like that. At least for me it is. I spent over a month existing in this pagan drama on the South Island before flying to the North Island, which is where I am now-specifically Raglan: a tiny surf town where the kids run with free license and everyone knows everyone. I’m about to check into Solscape (, an eco-retreat where I’ll be living in a tipi for the next 3 days. We’ll see if I can remember any of my surf skills.
I arrived in Auckland yesterday. Touched down around 4 and after procuring my rental vehicle, was thrown into the insult known as “traffic”. Something that bears mentioning now is that I rented the same car I had on the south island, a Nissan Pulsar—known as the “el cheapo”. Totally adequate car and the cheapest one they offer. However, here on the North Island, they advertise this fact on the side of the car—meaning I’m driving around with the words “El Cheapo” on both sides of my car---Sexy right? You have no idea. Its written in black and put inside a hot pink bubble so its basically impossible not to notice. Its so sexy I can’t wait to park it and get my pedestrian action on, fast.
I could write forever about the rentals here. In fact, I should’ve been keeping a photo journal of all the ones I’ve seen. One company that rents vans is called “Wicked” and they specialize in graffiti plastered pop culture advertising. Thus far on their vans I have seen 1)Turntables and Tags 2) Blondie 3) a caricature of George Bush with the words Buck Fush underneath 3) and Tupac Shakur---that’s right RIP Tupac driving around in the pastoral lengths of the South Island. Wow, right? They also have really beautiful ones that are covered in larger than life tulips of every color imaginable.
Anyway, here I am in my silver El Cheapo sitting in traffic waiting to get into Auckland with ideas of maybe checking out a club, or whatever city inspired something hits me. I should’ve known better. The traffic itself should have been enough of a warning. Or the radio host I’m listening to who after playing the Beastie Boys oh so memorable track “Girls” (for which they have since deeply apologized) says that License to Ill is easily their best album, and that after that and I quote “one became Christian,one became Jewish and one got cancer” and nothing they produced was any good should’ve tipped me off that I need to get off at the nearest exit and flee. I think I lasted a whopping 30 minutes in the city before I high tailed it south. I wasn’t prepared for what an affront the concrete was or for how seriously not ready I was to be in it. I drove 40 minutes and landed in a motel in a town called Papakura. I wake and keep driving till I reach Raglan. Now I’m here, and its time for me get off the computer and head to the beach. The desire to answer the ecstasy freshly renewed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I first heard about biophelia listening to NPR. It was a new diagnosis for kids, kids who had never once in their life stepped foot off of concrete. Crazy, right? Well apparently yes, it does make kids crazy if they don’t get their nature fix. Biophelia translates directly to “call of the wild” and the treatment plan for these not so wild young ones is the simplicity of being bussed the fuck out the city and let to run amok. Kids are the best social-ometer we possess. If there lies a dysfunction within society, look to the behaviour of our cubs and one will surely see its making. I find this diagnosis hopeful. Pharmaceutical companies will not be making money out of this particular “disorder”.
And as I ascend the Franz Joseph glacier (pronounced gla-S-ier, not glashur here) with my hands frozen and my body soaked to the bone from the continual rain, I think to myself that biophelia must be responsible for my current situation. “Why the fuck am I doing?” I ask myself as I slide through a ice crevice which barely and I mean BARELY allows my body full passage—meaning I am sliding between two walls of ice which melt upon contact with my body, soaking me even more. Oh right, biophelia, thats what's making me do this. The fact that this glacier is here, asking to be ascended and because there will come a time when I simply won’t be able to complete such feats.
The real example of biophelia here is Pearl, our guide-the only female guide I’ve seen in the entire organization. Pearl has a low timbered voice, quirky social mannerisms and an awkward, endearing laugh which erupts at odd moments bespeaking to her off center sense of humor. A sense of humor created by the lack of media and the everyday glacier climbing (6 days a week she does full day ice climbing.) “Not a bad office,eh?” she says, looking up toward the mountains.
Pearl may be Maori. She is from the North Island where the Maori presence is larger. Her features are distinctively Pacific Islander. She also may be Samoan. I don’t ask. I want to though. I want to ask her for an interview and get her talking. A video camera would have been handy whilst hiking to capture her glee as she wields her ice pick against the skin of the glacier, cutting out pathways for us to climb. Pearl runs along the edges of ice in her cramp-ons (the “teeth” attached to your boots so you can grab onto the ice) and is fearless and completely in her element. She has been guiding hikes on the glacier for 3 years now. 3 YEARS!
There are moments when we as group have to stop and wait. Either Pearl is seeking out our next route or we are waiting for the group ahead of us to move farther along. I watch her and she’s like an 8 yr old boy, playing warrior, jumping, hitting and making noises. I mean, strange, out of nowhere sounds that if I made them, I would look around, surprised and say “Excuse me” to the existing company. Pearl is unapologetic and for the most part wholly unaware of us in these small moments.
I focus so much on Pearl because the rest of my group is tedious. They are a “crew”, all on the Kiwi experience together, under the age of 24 and you can tell they can’t wait to get off the mountain, post all their photos on Facebook and get really drunk. Now we all know I use facebook, however not to this level. I hear them reference FB multiple times, leaving me the distinct impression that this experience is not fully real and won’t be until their virtual personality has been updated to include their latest “adventure”.
I need to admit that this prognosis is in part influenced by the frontline show I have just seen. The show is investigating the ways in which the internet has become a source of dis-ease for teenagers etc, by illuminating the level to which the net is being utilized by young adults and kids—for ill purposes. How many kid have killed themselves after cyber-bullying? From the looks of this show, more than I would’ve imagined. Taking into account the cruelty of cliques and the fragility of the highschool ego, I do feel glad that this level of exposure wasn’t available when I was younger. Psychologist are saying that we haven’t seen a generation gap between parents and kids like this since Rock n Roll.
So yes, I feel the generation gap between myself and the rest of the group. Or an intoxication gap?--or maybe its just an good ole’fashioned IQ gap. (ha ha)
But back to Pearl. Pearl is speaking to the group about something and I am watching her. Her gaze hits me directly and she stops short of what she is saying. “Gosh, you’ve got amazing eyes”. I smile awkwardly because now the entire group is looking at me. “may I come closer?” she is asking me, like I’m one of the seven wonders of the world. She gets near to my face and stares into my eyes, “I’ve never seen gold eyes before”. And then just like that she changes the subject and we’re moving on. However, for me from this moment on, I begin to wonder whose team Pearl plays for. Is she flirting? Is she trying to light me up? I think about how if she is gay, and by gay I mean butch but butch before butch knew itself…bush butch, the real deal before there was a word for it butch. My musing catch fire as she refers to me as “pretty eyes” for the rest of the descent. I think again about really asking her for an interview. Then I realize I may not really be up for it after this hike. I want immersion in warmth and a strong drink and a deep slumber.
Finally we are done. We have made it down the ice and past the sliding rock mountain. This glacier moves 2-3 meters a day..meaning the while we were grunting and puffing our way through it, it was silently and slowing changing place. The Franz joseph glacier is the third largest of the over 3,000 glacier in NZ. At 32 km across, it’s the size of Auckland. It’s a good glacier to have been your first, and with the cold nipping every single cell of me, I think its also a good one to have as your last. I feel good at the end though, the way one feels when you’ve physically had to commit for an entire day to something. Knowing how the human mind has an amazing capacity for forgetfulness when it comes to pain and discomfort, I’ll probably find myself up on the ice again, sometime in my lifetime. Maybe I’ll come back in a few years, and check and see is Pearl is still wielding her ice pick and running wild on this huge piece of moving ice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


How is it
a sound can
Or a voice find
Within one’s heart?

That a carrying
Or rather a cradling

When one is far
From ones
appointed bed
and soothes.

The hearing of a melody
Over radio waves from
Under the earth

And a transmutation
Of track and earth
No longer gives

To the
Sensual tremor.

So and echoing
A bat’s sense of

All my million senses
Rise from their
Watery caves,


Now in the evening
When down with
The sun,

And my body
Finds it rest,
my bed feels


Like I am
Still floating

And giving
To a force
Which smoothes

The jagged edges
Of a roughly
Hewn rock.

Monday, March 8, 2010

the northeasterly

My last morning in curio bay is a misty one. The fog has moved in the past two days, clearing during the day but coating the bay’s mornings and evenings. It is my last morning to surf and I’m gearing up. Curio Bay, for me, is New Zealand. Outside of Christchurch, this is the only place I’ve been and it been 2 weeks. 14 nights of sleeping in a campervan 10 feet from the ocean with no cell phone, no internet, and no electricity. 14 days of my life being dictated by high or low tide. 14 of being a fixture witnessing the revolving influx of travelers from all over the world,coming and going.
I knew I had left the world of the tourist when I came out of my campervan to find the usual sight of a sea lion laid out on the grass. A lady with her camera next me looks at me with excited eyes and exclaims “Look! Its so close to us!”, and I look over at the sea lion and all the feeling I can conjure up is “yup, its pretty close.” These sea lions which have been named by both Nick and myself are a constant presence in Curio. After the sun has dipped and I’m reading by candles in my camper, I instantly know when the sea lions have come up from the ocean to sleep. I know this because the entire campervan is filled with their scent which is very…very distinct.
Imagine a dank, dark basement populated with long haired dogs, like for instance Saint Bernards. Then fill the entirety of the basement with ocean water and let it sit for an hour or so. (don’t worry, no ones’ drowning saint bernards in this story). Finally drain the basement and voila! Eau de Sea Lion will permeate the whole of the basement. Lucky for me, the winds coming off the ocean keep the smell intermixed with salty air so its not like sleeping huddled next to these "cute" blubbery creatures.
But back to the last morning in Curio. I haven’t written about the Hector Dolphins yet. My first days of surfing introduced me to these, the smallest of dolphins who call Curio Bay their home. They are, of course, really amazing and love being around people, specifically surfers. Dolphins are perhaps the best surfers I’ve ever witnessed. Sea Lions are the second best.
Its 9 am and Nick and I are standing, looking out over the bay. “Ahh, the north easterly” says Nick, referring the wind. Roger had told me about this. How Kiwis know their winds and have dozens of names for all the nuanced ways the air can move around the island. Just like camping is religion to Kiwis, this is another example of a people who are deeply connected to their land. Around 9:30, I headed out into the water with my 10 ft board. The tide was still beginning its slow process of coming in and the waves were quite small. I paddled out through the white water and after getting past the first break, sat up on my board to check out the horizon. 3 minutes into my time in the water, I see the cusping, arched back of the hector’s. This will be the 7th time I’ve surfed with these dolphins but the power they hold keeps one from ever becoming jaded by their presence. Every time my hearts stops for a moment and I get a rush of joy. And so it begins.
For the next 2 hours, I swim and surf with a pod of dolphins, numbering around 20. After taking a wave, and in my usual fashion either wiping out entirely or standing up for around a millisecond, I look behind me to see the next wave breaking. In the water, 5 dolphins take the wave perfectly, then dive to the side right before the wave crashes. I’ve become quite vocal since my surfing stint has begun. Screaming, yelling, hooting, hollering..all of these things you will catch me doing. I seriously can’t help just happens. Every time I see the dolphins take a wave like that, before I know it, I’m yelling “YEAH!!! Or WHOOOO!!!” with a fucking crazy ass grin on my face. The screaming happens when I’ve taken a wave that's too steep and I have a few seconds to look down at my future trip into the washing machine. The washing machine was scary at first, but now, as long as I can keep my head from making contact with the board, its really fun. I’ve been stretched, wrung out and purged when I emerge up from the churning water. This, I’ve decided, is good for the soul.
Manic laughter is also a bi product of being in the water. Its just hits me how insane it is, what humans do, trying over and over to ride this profoundly powerful force. Some evenings we’ve gone over to Nick and Tomo’s and watched surfing videos. (i'm so deep in the lifestyle) That’s where the real wackos are showcased. Paddling out to waves as tall as office buildings. Or tow surfing to (in my opinion) the ocean’s equivalent to a skyscraper. All I can think while I’m watching these surfers catch titan waves is the exclamation of eloquence, “Holy shit, holy shit….” And I shake my head.
The waves start building and are too high for me. I ditch my board and swim out to the smaller inlet nearer to the rocks. For another half hour, I just watch with the stupid grin still on my face. We’ve all seen dolphins do tricks in the water, flipping up and back ward, splashing back into the water. The hectors do this same thing but IN THE WAVES. They’re totally doing tricks in the surf. Man oh man, I’m going to miss this place…..more than I want to admit to myself at this moment. I head back to the campervan and after a grueling fight with my wetsuit and booties, I get all my gear packed up for my departure. It’s time to head up the west coast. It’s time for Fiordland.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Curio Bay

So much has transpired since my last post but I'll attempt a sufficient synopsis.

I have mastered the new driving situation. The first 30 minutes of driving, for my brain, very uncomfortable. I kept fighting the urge to swerve over to the right, my mind going against every driving moment its ever experienced. Finally, like I said, after 30 minutes, my brain sent up the white flag, surrendering to the New Rule and it was all smooth sailing from there (well..almost-you'll hear about it later) I love road trips--the driving with the radio up and we're somewhere between here and there mixing in with the passing of light over the surrounding landscape. Yesterday I almost died when the sun began setting over the hayfields and I passed a herd of deer, lit up like luminescent silouhettes against the hillside...and then the moment was gone. This happens over and over driving south through the world populated by sheep, deer, cows, and horses. There are more livestock than people on the South Island and the only concrete is the road, which gives way to gravel and dirt in many areas. There are of course cities, but these eruptions of density are few, comparatively.
The drive is accompanied by the radio and the radio is all American sounds with the Kiwi accented host saying names like Soundgarden, Megadeath, Metallica--if you haven't heard the Kiwi accent I think of it like this. Imagine the typical US accent saying Megadeath. Now imagine a lasso caught around the word, hog tying it up and cinching the sounds together-so Megadeath sounds more like meegadeth--which is so hilarious to me. Megadeath loses is heavy metal cred fast when caught in the kiwi lasso.
There is something I find priceless when cultures are layered upon themselves like transparencies. There is me, of course, in a Nissan Pulsar sedan, driving through the green, green hills of NZ with Billy Joel's track "My Life" blaring out of my windows. I have, of course, completely forgotten how GREAT this track is and I am fully singing along. I am like this with almost all the tracks coming out of the radio and I blame this on the ectsasy of adventure which transforms every piece of music I hear, flipping it so I see through the kaleidoscope of anthropological psychedelia. Everything is so obvious at home..of course madonna, of course billy joel, of course meegadeth. Its ALL so obvious that most of us turn to irony to create some level of new contextualism. On this adventure though, nothing is taken for granted anymore. Lady GaGa's "bad romance", her voice "Ra ra ra ro ga ga" and the beats are polished by the spit of a new scene. Although, I have to admit, the third time I heard this track on the radio, a far side comic panel flashed through my mind of the one of the hillside sheep turning to its neighbor and saying "Jesus, you'd think the tourists came to escape shit like Lady Gaga." or "you know I liked Lady Gaga for a while but now I just wish she'd just fall off the charts".
Its mind boggling how far the pop cultured hand of the US reaches. I start to wonder what astronauts listen to in the space station. Are they also under the Lady Gaga spell? Are they up there doing anti gravity hip thrusts to Paparazzi? I erase this image quickly and replace it with one more pleasing to me--they listen to Fever Ray and to dreamy electronics. Regardless, all the films showing at the cinema are US made, all the music I've heard thus far is US or UK born, and being in Curio Bay now for a week, I am thankful to be almost completely cut off from it all.
There is someone waiting to use the computer, the only dial up internet access anywhere near by so I need to go.. I didn't get to the surfing, the dolphins, the constant play-fights with the sea lions or to spell check...but next time. XOXOXO

Sunday, February 21, 2010

my nite at the hostel etc

I end my day yesterday nicely with some sushi and head back to Base hostel. It's around 8:30 and I'm planning on reading and drifting off to bed around 10ish. But this is the thing with hostels when your sharing a "dorm" room...other people can influence/dictate how your evening/sleep actually goes. I slide my card into the lock, get the green light and go in. ! Someone is already asleep! in their cot. Fuck. I don't have a flashlight so it looks like I'm turnin in super early as well. I decide this is fine really because the sooner I wake, the sooner to my rental car etc. I quietly shift around and do all the pre-bed necessities and get in. Pretty soon another dorm-mate comes in. I open my eyes just for a few seconds, enough time to see its a guy. I hadn't even thought to ask if this place was co-ed or not and apparently it is. If I had know that, I wouldn't have left my yellow lacey piece of a bra laying out near my luggage. Oh well. Time to sleep. Over the next few hours the rest of the sleeping compatriots come in...and they're all Dudes, every single one of them--a total of 4 I've spotted. Now my mind is really starting to work around this situation. Did my overall vibe of "please Jesus throw me into a den of dashing and muscley men from NZ" put some sort of tech-spell over the booking guy and he accidentally put me in men's dorm room? It sure beginning to look like it.
I begin to feel like an interloper in the space. I shouldn't be here, I think. I should be in the in room with rose wallpaper and lavendar towels and lots of estrogen. All of my nineteenth century sensibilities start to surface, like how they would never put men and women into the same dorm room etc. But really what am I going to do, go complain? No, I'm going to sleep and have a hearty early morning laugh with the 5 men whose dorm room I have infiltrated. As I gaze up at the boards of the bunk above and read the scrawled words "I need sex and weed" in black sharpie, I come to the conclusion that I have crossed over and am now way too old for this. I don't fit into this scene anymore. The real hilarity of this whole "hostel" situation is that the luggage I have is a Fendi knock off monster of a roller I borrowed for the trip, which, when I got onto my flight, weighed a whopping 69 pounds (i packed food etc) So picture this if you will. All the other tenants in this place move around lithely with all their goods placed firmly on their backs, going up and down the stairs at will, the true representation of the globe trotting back packing hostel granola citizen. Then I come in...wheeling this HUGE suitcase..this fancypants knockoff - I wish I was Beyonce and had my own suite- freaking suitcase that i have to lug onto the hardly ever used cobwebbed elevator....well you get the picture. Its pretty hilarious.
I hardly sleep this night. My above bunk mate is a tooth grinder and a sleep talker. French paragraphs emit paroxysmally from his mouth. I spend much of the night thinking thoughts in English but attempting to forget what the words mean and only focus on the succession of vowels and consonants. Does english sound even remotely pretty by ears that don't understand the words? In my mental midnite review, I would have to say no.
The next morning comes and the dorm-mate that was already asleep when i came is up early, gearing up to go. Its a girl. Of course. Now, in the light of day all of my anxieties that came up during the night seem silly. Sigh.

Oh and guess what else...the guy above me who was speaking french in his sleep, loudly and fluently, addressed me in a full on kiwi accent as he leaves to check out. "Cheers" he says.--total twilight zone moment for me.
I should also point out of course that through this event i am having the best time of my life. There is basically nothing, zero, that can spoil my mood.
Next installment will be entitled "Dara gets her car, the El Cheapo, and drives for 6 hours on the left side of the road to a town called Dunedin"

Saturday, February 20, 2010


So I decided just to do it and now I have a bloggo. ..

My third day into NZ and I'm in Christchurch staying at the Base Hostel. Pretty much run of the mill hostel action full of road ragged back packers. For one night, its totally perfect but beyond that i think it might get a slight bit claustrophobic for the older traveler in me. Gone are the days of sleeping in train stations and living by the seat of my naive youthful ideals.
Christchurch reminds of Switzerland, Zurich specifically. Its clean and open, relatively small and easy to navigate. I walk and walk today, dip into a costume/cloth show of a woman who has made costume after costume hell bent on turning humans into flowers, fruits and vegetables. I wish to God I had been able to take photos of the sometimes amazing, sometimes embarrassing adornments the mannequins were dolled up in. Whimsical almost to nausea (Wizard of Oz munchkin stylings), there were some that held up to high fashion spectacle and i fantasized about getting hitched in one these get ups. here's the link to the artists runway show...Jenny Gillies--
Where i am staying, near Cathedral park, is the tourist mecca so you can imagine its full of all the Kiwi bling and NZ authenticity is can peddle and i can't wait to get out of its urban shadow.I have to admit, I am slightly terrified of commencing my driving portion of the trip tomorrow. My host at the beginning of the trip, Roger, fully inundated me with the fear of native kiwi drivers who he says are insane and then of course other tourists like me who often drift back onto the right (meaning wrong) side of the road. My sister in law talked big about the danger and confusion of the "turnabout" of which there are many. My taxi driver, Barry,also laid down the perils noting the frequency of accidents. I of course wonder if I was a dude if i would be bringing in such caution--even if i was a blonde dude. Regardless, I will now be traveling at the overly cautious speed of 20 mph (or 35 klm per hour as it here), and will arrive in Curio Bay in 2 weeks. (Sarah and Rushie, this is for you because i know you think I need 20 warnings to the usual one).

thats all for now..