Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2016 here I come!

With only a mere fortnight or less until the New Year, it's time to sum up the past and look forward to the future. Well that's the way I run anyway…

Aside from one tiny adaptor screw and a new set of skis, I've done all my shopping for gadgets and doodads needed to get me through my next 12 months of adventures. Which are going to be many and varied.

I've 5 weeks until I jet off to Japan for a whole month of skiing. 20 days on Hokkaido, 10 days in Honshu. I've a new ski jacket and pants which I bought in NZ in September and I'll just be taking my powder skis along, so I may manage to get away with just the one bag like last trip. There's no mad train travel involved, so minimal luggage isn't an absolute necessity. Just gotta stay within the baggage limits….

Lambie won't be joining me next year, as I have a new travel mascot. You shall be introduced soon enough...

I've a windsurfing friend house sitting whilst I'm away. He'll have chooks to look after this time as well as the garden. I don't think it's going to be a struggle..

I return late February, in time to drop the passport in to the Indonesian embassy for a 2 month visa, then I'll be jetting off again mid March to go backpacking in Nusa Tenggara. That's the string of islands east of Bali right through to Timor. Aside from a smattering of tourists who take a week or so travelling in Flores from one end of the island to the other, and a few luxury dive resorts, the vast majority of tourism in this area is based around Labuan Bajo and the Komodo region, and Lombok and the Gilis, close to Bali. Since I'm planning on spending an entire 3 months in the region ( I'll be extending my visa in country) I expect I'll be relying on my Indonesian language skills to get by. Even in Java I met few foreigners, so I'm not at all concerned that I'm likely to be the only foreigner most places I go.

As usual, I've been carefully considering what to pack for the trip. I'll be doing lots of walking again, but camping is unlikely, so I've less stuff to put in the bag. Which means just bringing the 33L backpack and well and truly making the 7 kilo baggage limit for carryon. I've also got a lighter camera and have a very nifty lightweight tripod setup which I'll share once that pesky little adaptor screw turns up in the mail.

I return to Australia mid June, and will have 2 weeks to do some cooking and dehydrating and organising meal plans, before I fly out to New Zealand at the end of June. I'll be based in Wanaka again for the full ski season, whilst I train to be a ski instructor. For this, I need new skis.

Currently I am skiing on fairly wide twin tip rockered skis. These make skiing most conditions rather easy, but getting a good edge on piste requires a lot more work, particularly on the ankles, because they just aren't made to do carving on groomed runs. But when you are planning to be a ski instructor, you spend most of your time on piste, and you have to be a competent carver. So proper performance skis for groomers are needed. If I have time I'll go shopping for them in Tokyo, otherwise I'll need to purchase them in NZ. The positive though, is I left my other skis in NZ at Sonja's place, so I won't be needing to carry 2 sets of skis from Australia. I'm not going to bring my powder skis as I probably won't go heliskiing or touring. Just getting the qualifications will be my focus.

Once I'm through that, which should be late September, I'll be flying back to Perth, packaging up food parcels, and then embarking on my end to end Bibbulman Track trek. I've been fine tuning gear for that trip too, purchasing even lighter gear to get my base weight down to around 5kgs. Of course I'll share all that sooner to the time I set out.

That will bring me to December. No concrete plans but I think I'll just set up the camper up at Coronation Beach and go windsurfing!!

I've acquired some great house sitters, through word of mouth, who are very happy to do a long sit as they have local jobs and no plans to go elsewhere. They are both very much into gardening, so they'll also be doing a few garden chores for me whilst I'm away, like cutting down dead trees and branches, and planting fruit trees. I'm not yet ready to relinquish my house and garden to the randomness of tenants, and my ongoing costs on the house are not high anyway. It's nice to have that luxury.

I'm still planning on converting the garage into a self contained granny flat, but that's likely to take a little longer to come to fruition. Particularly since my builder has headed back up to Gnaraloo for Xmas with his partner!

So that's my year planned: windsurfing, skiing, backpacking, skiing, bushwalking, windsurfing. It's gonna be a lot of time outdoors!! Man I'm gonna be so fit!!

Right now I'm trialling recipes that I can make on the trail or on rest days in trail towns along the Bibbulman route. I have been bombarding my Facebook feed with numerous baking, cooking and other food preparation attempts, though I won't be taking papaya ice-cream on the trail, more's the pity. But it is an excellent way to preserve it when you have too many ripening papayas at once. And the dragon fruit have started flowering!!

Not long till Japan, better do a bit more work on those core muscles……..arrrghh!

Merry Christmas everyone, and I hope your 2016 is going to be as fun as mine looks to be.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

6 months in

Recently I've been asked how I'm enjoying my retirement. Have I got enough things to do? Am I bored yet? Am I missing work?
The answers are: It's awesome; you bet; not likely; you gotta be kidding!!

It's just shy of 6 months since I hung up the shingle yet it literally feels like it's been years. That's because I have very deliberately created a change in perspective and state of mind.

For many years I have been a proponent of mindfulness, a state where one tries to be in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Having now made the transition from "planning for retirement" to "actual retirement" there's a lot less of that worry going on. And lucky for me I made the right choice. It's not to say I don't concern myself with my financial future, but I believe I have it covered. Oh this is such a relief!

What I think is the absolutely crucial part of a healthy retirement is letting go. The past is the past. I was a doctor. I'm not one now, I don't ever plan to be one again, and please stop fucking asking! That's my past. Today is my present and future. I won't be defined by what I was, but what I am now. Which is currently: homebody, organic gardener, windsurfer, photographer, skier, world traveller, blogger. That will do for now surely??

An added benefit for me is I no longer need to recover from the stress of work. And I don't mean the stress of making decisions about people's health every 20 minutes, you work out how to deal with that early in your career or you burn out fast buddy! I'm talking about the stress of interacting with others when you're an introvert. Not just introverted, I'm almost a hermit, which is to say I love spending time by myself, doing my own thing, and not having to interact with others. It's not that I don't enjoy the company of others, and I'm hardly shy or unfriendly, but too much interaction and I become emotionally drained. 3 days a week of work left me mentally exhausted and it would take me at least a day to recover. That's no longer a problem...

I'm calmer, less worried, certainly less anxious. I'm particularly enjoying the ability to just be. To work through the chores without any pressure. Tomorrow is just another day.

Of course there's lots of mundane things to do, like shred all those papers I've been hoarding for years. Payslips, bank statements, so much shit sitting around in filing cabinets and folio boxes. It all needs to be sorted and scanned and/or shredded. But even the mundane has a pleasure. I'm listening to all those podcasts I've subscribed to but never got around to listening to, I'm even buying and listening to music again. And there's a great joy in simplifying one's life, even if to the high pitched whine of a shredding machine!!

I am relishing this slow, deliberate, yet mindful, pace.

I'm pottering in the garden. I'm baking, and making soft cheeses. I'm going windsurfing whenever I choose to. I'm working up to having another go attempting forward loops...

I'm planning my next 12 months of travel. I've organised house sitters for the year already, yay!

I'm getting home repairs and minor renovations done. I've painted walls I've been meaning to get around to doing for the last 15 years!

I'm derusting the car, which is 20 years old this year and still going strong. The other week I updated the storage for the windsurfing gear to make it so much easier to access than before.

I'm systematically decluttering all my possessions and getting ready for a massive garage sale in the New Year.

My retirement is awesome!!  Just in case you were asking....

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December in Drummonds - garden notes

I've been home for almost 2 months now, and have been settling in to the gentle flow of a life without a timetable. I'm enjoying the freedom to potter, to not need to overschedule myself, to do a hundred small things in my own sweet time.

Just after getting home I bought 4 new chooks. Unfortunately my 4 from last year got picked off one by one by a predator which got underneath the fence and spirited them away. So far, the new flock have only been allowed up in the top, fully fox proofed, pen and will stay in there until I have done further repairs on the run down the side of the house. There's plenty of shade, and room for sandbaths, so they shall be fine. They are in great shape and have begun to produce eggs more consistently.

Whilst I was away my wonderful house sitters, Jill and Perry, nurtured my garden with great care. They planted many new veges, kept it weed free and even kept the compost making up. Yay, lots of yummy new soil to add to the patch.

When I arrived home the garden looked great. Lots of greenery, tomato plants covered in fruit, marigolds and pansies interplanted with the veg, pumpkin vines spreading all over the place, and many new seedlings showing lots of vigour. And pawpaw ripening and ready to eat. Yum!

Since then, summer has arrived, with blistering hot temperatures which wreak havoc on the patch. All the squash and most of the pumpkins succumbed to powdery mildew, the cucumber seedlings haven't fared much better either. The new snow peas just shrivelled up and died, as did the coriander, both plants I wouldn't have put in at this time of year but when you don't know the climate you can't garden from experience.

The broccoli, however, has been a revelation. Rather than rip it out I've kept it in the patch. It has served two purposes, one as a decoy plant for those pesky white cabbage moths, whose green caterpillars are very hungry indeed! Secondly, it keeps producing small flower heads which I pick regularly and contribute to a meal every few days. This is one of the joys of home gardening, where you can just harvest what you need, as you go. I don't need a whole head of broccoli for a meal, but five or six broccolini stalks is perfect.

I'm about to start harvesting some baby corn which Jill and Perry planted. I'm just waiting for it to ripen. It's under shade cloth, so that may be delaying it a little.

Talking of which, the shade sails are up, including my new, bright red, sail for the house. I'm not sure if red is OK as I know green shade cloth blocks out the light spectrum that the plants need to photosynthesise. The plants all get some direct sunlight at some time during the day, so hopefully that will be enough for their needs. Unfortunately it can sometimes be too much.....

Another sign of summer is dragonfruit. The vines have all grown heaps over winter, and this week they began putting out flower spikes. It's about 7 weeks till I head off to Japan, so hopefully I'll be savouring some before I go.

I'm really happy with my mango tree. It looks like this tree just might be the one that survives. It has lots of new growth and the trunk is beginning to thicken. Looking good for fruit in maybe another 3 or 4 years……

I harvested onions this year. I'm not always that successful with onions, or leeks, though chives grow easily here. I've just planted a variety of Mediterranian onion which can grow during the warmer months, so we'll see how that goes. I also harvested the kumara vine. I ended up with about 5 tubers in total, some small and some huge. Roasted kumara chips are to die for! I've replanted 4 cuttings, and given the rest of the vine away via the local Facebook gardening page. Gotta love social networking..

Remember the eggplants I planted? Well my plant grown from seed has survived and is fruiting, whilst Freddie's seems to have died, and Jill and Perry planted even more seedlings around the garden.

The asparagus continues to push up spears. Some are a fairly solid thickness too, others still matchstick thin. Gardening is a waiting game…

I've been doing a lot more than gardening since my return. I've been decluttering, painting, renovating, windsurfing, and planning more adventures.

More on that next. But I thought I'd finish with a few flowers.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Planning for Nusa Tenggara

Well folks, I've begun the planning stage for my next great Indonesian adventure.

It all started with an email from Air Asia advertising cheap flights to Bali. I'm pretty sure I was still skiing in New Zealand at the time, but I figured a $125 flight from Perth sounded too good to pass up. I'll probably add checked luggage, I'm yet to decide if I want to do the seven kilo challenge again.

On my last trip I was trying to decide whether I would head east from Bali or go back to Java. I went to Java, so this time it's definitely east!

Nusa Tenggara is the provincial name given to a whole line of islands stretching east from Bali to Timor. Those at the very eastern end (Flores,  Alor, Sumba and Timor) are renowned for their traditional villages, animistic beliefs and customs, and beautiful hand woven textiles called ikat. If you know me, you'll know that's ticking a lot of boxes. And then there's volcanoes to climb!!!

Travel isn't quite as easy off the main highways in these far flung places. Whilst Flores gets a fair smattering of western tourists, the rest of the region is considered well off the beaten track. It looks like I'll need to brush up on the Bahasa Indonesia, and expect to do a lot of walking!! My legs should be in pretty good shape, seeing as I'll have come off a summer of windsurfing and a month skiing in Japan. Yeah I know, retired life is the pits....

So I'm back in research mode, which starts with combing old travel guides, because the latest Lonely Planet isn't even worth wiping your bum with (not that I bother carrying paper books anymore, and anyway, I do it the Indonesian way, with water, if you know what I mean), then moving on to various websites and travel forums. There's a lot less information on this region out there in the inter webs than for Java, so I guess I'm going to have to be a little adventurous.

I'll be flying straight out to Maumere, in eastern Flores, then making my way further east to Alor and West Timor before heading back west to Bali. At this stage it's looking like a 3 month trip as there'll be quite a bit of island hopping and I do rather like to explore those wee villages. It seems most people visit a couple of villages, enjoy the snorkelling and diving and beaches, visit Kelimutu crater lakes, and that's about it. I'm looking at doing a helluva lot more than that!

As usual, I don't intend to spend too much time doing the beach thing, but I will be packing the mask and collapsible travel snorkel, plus my scuba certification, because this region really is world class for its underwater delights. I spent 6 days diving Komodo on a live aboard many years ago so I won't be visiting the dragons again, but I may well be tempted further east at Alor.

There's a fair few volcanoes worth climbing too, and most of them can be done in a day. Which means little need to bring camping gear. That's a bonus!

But first I'll be visiting Juffry in Bali. Remember him? My couch surfing host in Surabaya has moved to Bali and is working in a restaurant there. I'm really looking forward to catching up, and sampling his cooking again, especially as Bali is hardly renowned for great Indonesian cuisine.

Can't wait!

Monday, October 26, 2015

2 weeks in the east

After my trip to NZ I planned to spend a couple of weeks over in the east of Australia catching up with family and friends. In the past, with the pressures of getting home to start work, or just the sheer annoyance of having to stopover and schlepp around all my ski gear, I usually just flew straight home. But now I'm retired I can take things a bit slower and easier.

I'd managed to find some good flights ( Christchurch to Sydney for $250, and Sydney to Perth for $185) by keeping an eye on the specials. Yes it can be cheaper to not fly straight through, but you've got to be flexible, and there's a good 18 days between those 2 flights. The domestic flight was originally much cheaper, but I needed to add 35 kg of baggage, plus I purchased the Qantas points for $20, as it was with Jetstar. They aren't my favourite airline, but at that price I was willing to suck it up.

I'd prebooked my car hire at a reasonable rate of $25 a day, and again took advantage of my corporate travel insurance which covers me for interstate domestic travel as well as for international trips up to six months duration. But first I had to get my luggage and self to the car hire pickup bay at the airport. I smilingly squeezed past the aggro stares of fellow passengers queuing for the park and pay buses and found my bay right up the end. I'd forgotten that smiling is a criminal offence in Sydney...

Just as my minibus drove up, a strapping young man, presumably an airport employee passing by, turned up out of nowhere and helped me load my heavy ski bag into the back of the van. I thanked him and went to load my other bag, by which time he'd promptly disappeared. My faith in humanity restored!!

At the car hire place I signed the forms and handed over my credit card, and then we had fun loading a 1.7m long ski bag into a Hyundai i20! Through the gap between the driver and passenger seat seemed the safest option, and then it was off through the night time streets of Sydney to Wollongong. Not much has changed, I've driven that road so many times over the years it came as second nature.

In Wollongong I stayed at my friend Mary's house. I met Mary in my first year as a doctor, and we became firm friends after she sold me her old windsurfer and threw in some lessons as well. We'd lost touch over the years as she'd moved away and had a very controlling (ex) husband who isolated her from her friends and family. Now she's a single mum with just one more child to finish school and getting on with her life. It was so good to catch up with her and it didn't feel like it had been 20 years since we'd last seen each other.

After a day in Wollongong I drove down to Canberra to visit family. Originally I had planned to spend a few days there catching up with mum and teaching her how to use the iPad I'd bought her for her birthday a year ago. But whilst I was in New Zealand she had become critically ill, and before I had a chance to jump on a plane she'd gone from almost dead to rapid recovery. So I'd put off returning immediately, and stuck to my original plan, allowing my brother to take a holiday with his young family and for my older sister and I to do shifts at the hospital with mum whilst she slowly recuperated.

Needless to say, I stayed a lot longer than originally planned, but I did manage to achieve my main objective, which was to teach mum how to use her iPad. There is nothing quite like being bed bound to wear down the resistance of an octogenarian to embracing new technology!! She got to read all the blog posts she'd missed out on whilst being seriously ill, and had a good chuckle at Lambie and Rammy's Grand Adventure. She even got to meet Lambie!

It was also awesome to attend a school reunion. Only a small group of us met up at the old "Boot and Flogger", now renamed and refurbished, our old drinking haunt back in the day. So nice to reconnect and reminisce. Some of the stories....

Having all the family around supporting mum was great. We rarely get to see each other as we are all geographically dispersed, so it was a real treat to spend time with siblings as well as mum. Inputting mum's address book onto the iPad became a grand discussion about all the people in there and who was still around. Lots of crossed out names as mum's friends fall off the perch...

After 10 days with mum it was time to head back to Wollongong, as I had an appointment with my accountant in Sydney. It's been over 10 years since I've visited Peter and Maureen in person as we usually do my tax over the internet. I got some good news and some slightly bad news, discovering I'd made a capital gain on the albatross sale (more tax to pay), but my capital gains tax bill on selling my Sydney property will be a lot less than I was expecting. So, overall, damn fine news indeed!

Then that evening back in the 'gong Mary arranged a surprise dinner for me with 2 other of my Wollongong friends. So good to catch up with Kath and Neen after all, as I'd thought my prolonged trip to Canberra had left me no time to see them.

Then I flew back to Perth, had a couple of days with my awesome little friends in Scarborough then drove home to Geraldton.

It was a wonderful 18 days. Seeing family and reconnecting with old friends and schoolmates, spending some really quality time with mum, and a bonus good piece of news from my accountant.

The garden looks great, nurtured by my wonderful house sitters Jill and Perry, so it's back to eating organic food from the patch.

That's next.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lambie and Rammy's Grand Adventure

Lambie, who was introduced to you all some time ago, arrived in Canberra. There she met a handsome young sheep called Rammy. Rammy comes from New Zealand too, but lives with his friend Liddy in Canberra.

Lambie and Rammy hit it off straight away, and could be seen smooching on the couch while everyone else was jumping on the trampoline.

Then one day they went on a GRAND ADVENTURE!

They drove to a big forest and climbed an enormous tree together.

They watched Liddy and Bella's kites flying in the sky.

Suddenly, a big eagle stole them away and put them in her nest!!

But Rammie climbed out and called to the girls, and they rescued them. Phew!!

The eagle was really angry!! He stole the lambs again and put them in a cage so they wouldn't escape a second time. The girls had gone off to eat ice-cream, so the lambs had to find their own way out.

First they had to climb up.......

and out of the cage......

swing over some big wires....

slide down a gangway....

slip through some pipes....

ooh those lambies are a little chubby, so it was quite a squeeze!!

Finally, they rode on an elephant.....

to a nice safe place where the eagle couldn't get them.

Lambie is so proud of Rammy for looking after her. He's one cool guy!!

This tale is brought to you today with lots of help from Liddy Brooks, Rammy's mum

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pancakes and waves

After a few days touring the west coast of NZ I arrived at Punakaiki.

And decided to stay a while.

There's no mobile phone coverage, the roaring surf lulls me to sleep each night and the sunsets are pretty, if not quite as stunning as those back home.

The road between Greymouth and Westport hugs the coastline. Endless lines of swell crash perfect waves into cute little coves, and every few kilometres there are huge rockstacks emerging just offshore, home to seabirds, seals and blue penguins.

The beaches are comprised mostly of pebbles, with piles of driftwood marking the height of the tides. Hunting for greenstone / pounamu amongst the pebbles is a bit of fun, though most of the locals are busy fishing for whitebait instead.

The main attraction at Punakaiki is the Pancake Rocks and blow hole, which is well worth a visit. A visit at high tide is necessary to see the full effect of the ocean.

Further north, at Westport, is Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony, a pleasant walk along the top of cliffs between the lighthouse and the bay. Binoculars are set up so you can watch the seals playing in a sea pool on the offshore island.

Paparoa National Park also has some nice walks up rivers and through gorges. Over a few days I made some forays into these areas.

Much of the inland route has been closed due to a massive storm that ripped huge ancient trees out of the ground and blocked the track. The part that has been reopened took six men 2 months to chainsaw their way through the 6km trail. It feels more like a forestry site than a lush temperate rainforest.

There's been quite a bit of tragedy on this section of the track, as 20 years ago a platform over a cave collapsed, killing 12 students who were on it at the time. Cave Creek is an otherwise peaceful place, but it's hard to forget so many people lost their lives here. The platform hasn't been rebuilt.

Of course the reason for all this west coast lushness is a very high annual rainfall. Lucky for me I had a week and a half of glorious, mostly sunny weather, and very few pesky sandflies to deal with. It made leaving very difficult, but it looked like the weather was changing anyway, and I had a flight to catch back in Christchurch, so over the Arthurs Pass I went.

After 10 days on the coast it was strange to head through an alpine environment again. I had planned to visit some club fields this trip, but in the end I ran out of friends free to join me. I'm glad I went to the west coast instead: as much as I love skiing I am definitely a salt water person.

Christchurch went by in a whirl. I caught up with Yuri and we did a mutually beneficial currency deal, so I'm all cashed up with Yen for my trip to Japan next year, and she has a bunch of consumables for her new business coming from Australia. I stayed with my mate Sonja and her husband Chris, who have kindly agreed to store a pair of my skis and a few other bits and pieces in their garage until I return next year.

Yes, the ski goddess will be doing a lot more skiing again next year!!

Now off to Sydney!