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and then…

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Since November I have been, and continue to be, happily employed at a scientific institute in Auckland, New Zealand as one of their software developers. It’s a world away from the daily marathons I walked across Japan, struggling to understand and be understood. No more fascinating local customs or idiosyncrasies pick up on (though our team does cover a nicely varied background), no more hunting around for a place to sleep or comparing foods by their calories to Yen ratio. But I just heard about an oppourtunity I couldn’t let pass me by. Queensland Tourism is looking for an island caretake (read: promotional agent/blogwriter etc) to live on Hamilton Island for six months. Applications are done by way of videos and this is mine. I’d appreciate you taking the time to watch it and vote. It’s only 1min long and it’d really change my life in a crazy and most welcome way.

What next?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

   Though I got quite a few queries about what my next adventure will be I didn’t get many suggestions, so I came up with my own. In April I’ll be walking again, this time across Japan. You can find out more on my new site but here’s the basics. It’s shorter than the PCT but there is no trail, I’m making it up as I go along. I know a little Japanese and I hope to learn it all when I’m there. The blog will feature much better Google Maps integration. I’m looking for sponsors because another 6 months without work is a hard way to fund new shoes and a new tent.

   In other news I’m still sorting photos and track logs from last year. I should get back to that now. Wish me luck!

Normal service has resumed

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I think I’ve delayed my final post as long as I can. I’m settled back in New Zealand now and about to begin the mammoth task of sorting over 4000 photos and video clips I took along the way. The journey home took me via LAX. It wasn’t nearly as confusing as I thought it would be. I had plenty of time there to people watch as they went through the usual airport rituals. Hellos, goodbyes and thinking that somehow they deserve to be at the front of queues more than others. For my part I tried to get upgraded or at least secure a seat with leg room. I played the “I just walked across your country” card with zero success. The grumpy lady in San Francisco had already assigned me a seat despite claiming I didn’t get one until LA, and I was glad to exchange it to one by the aisle.
The plane was packed and the large Samoan next to me was taking more than his share of seats. I settled in for several movies but with the schedule of the last week it wasn’t long until I dozed off, almost dropping a cup of water in my lap in the process. Landing in Auckland I went through the duty free shops and I swear the lady behind the counter was having trouble keeping a straight face as she served me. It didn’t bother me. I did look quite a sight with messy long hair and my terrible beard. Passport control, customs, bio-security (who cleaned my tent for me :-) ) and then the walk of fame. I stepped through the gate and into the arms of my awaiting family.
Everything seemed normal. It was normal. Auckland hasn’t changed since I left. My car still steers just as it did before. The house is the same. My little brothers and sister are probably taller but it’s hard to judge. I don’t know what I expected but I was almost let down by everything being the same. Maybe I wanted my view of things to be different. It still could be. Next time I go walking here I’ll be doing the same sums I have been doing along the trail. I met up with friends on Friday night, they all had a good laugh at my mountain man appearance and I got to hear the stories of the last six months.

PCT

Home

The highlight of my return, and the reason I really feel at home, was the party on Saturday night. It was the usual crowd, the usual faces, the people I missed. Tania turned up with a surprise. Roast vegetables just as I had dreamed about back in Oregon. Then more people came. Rachel and Dave (who came up with this idea) brought wiener schnitzel and kumara chips, others brought slushies (actually popsicles run through the blender), big bars of chocolate, bananas and chocolate to dip them in, Memphis Meltdowns and more. A few people were disappointed they hadn’t gotten to see the beard, but I’ve put together a time-lapse of my trip as seen below (it’s a large file so you’ll have a bit of a wait before it loads).


Also available on YouTube

We hit the town, and I was careful not to over do it. My lesson from the night out with Christian is too fresh in my memory to make that mistake again. The sky was getting light when I finally curled up on the couch at my old flat. The same as it ever was.

I did what I set out to and I’m not modest enough to say that I’m not super proud of it. I pushed really hard some times to get it done in the only manner I knew how and I’m glad I did. Reading the blogs of people behind me, and even getting an email from one friend I met at the Kick Off as she bailed out in the last few hundred miles because of avalanches, I’m not sure if I could have finished it at a slower pace. Scout and Frodo are probably out now, their journal is coming through slowly and reporting the snow conditions that most feared. Despite that I almost wish I had experienced that with them. Team Snowplow are bound to have great stories and be a very tight group after facing such adversities. I say almost because I did finish with the people I wanted to and I did finish. Right from the beginning I was worried about snow and that I’d have to give up in the last week of the hike.

So that was my summer. What should I do next? Answers on a postcard to AfterIveHadABurger@stanton.co.nz

P.S. My brother left for England last night. At the airport I saw the cashier that was smirking at my unkempt appearance when I arrived. I went over to introduce myself and to say that I know I looked silly but I’ve smartened myself up a bit. It didn’t go so well. She denied it was her and then said they “they” (the staff) would never laugh at customers. I think she thought she was being rude but I was trying to laugh along with her. Oh well, you can’t charm them all.

The unreal world

Monday, October 1st, 2007

San Francisco has been a blast. I’ve seen a lot of interesting things and had a lot of fun but it’s time to go home. I’ll be starting my journey home less than 12 hours from now, but it will be 36 before I’m there.

I found a hat
I found a hat

I’ve had a few days to adjust to the big city and I’ve really needed it. On Thursday I met up with Christian and he showed me the inside of a few good bars in his district. A great night followed by a terrible day. That’ll teach me a lesson I don’t need repeated. That was a shock to the body and Friday was a shock to the mind. I dropped in on Tyler and Ayumi and it happened to be brother Rowan’s birthday. The traditional American celebration ensued with beer kegs, beer pong, and loud music. I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t going anywhere near the alcohol and the crowd was getting raucous. I ended up sheltering in the kitchen. eating cornflakes and drinking water. I found it much easier to talk to people in that environment, and even if I wasn’t talking being in the mosh pit of the lounge just made me nervous. I think the best moment of the night was Lesley dancing to an imagined song in the kitchen. So carefree and relaxed it made me feel much more at home.

Oh bugger!
“Oh bugger!”

San Francisco is in the middle of a few festivals at the moment. Saturday was Lovefest (some photos) and it was an eye opener for sure. The parade of floats featuring the beautiful people in various revealing costumes all dancing to trance/electro/club/drum-and-bass. I couldn’t have reached of world more separate from the

dancing to her own tune
Dancing to her own tune

cold snowy mountain where I woke up a week before. In the sun of San Francisco, and the weather has been great, the fluffy, glittery, jiggly costumes were a (mostly welcome) shock to the eye. In the square outside the Civic Centre I lay on the grass and closed my eyes. I thought of that snowy mountain and of the woody hills and the sandy desert. I couldn’t quite zone out the rave music coming from the now-parked floats but I was getting close.


Apologies for the poor sound quality. My little camera couldn’t compete with the massive sound systems there

Before the run
Before the run

On Sunday Tyler and his brothers Dylan and Rowan were heading for the Bridge-to-Bridge and invited me along. I suppose if you count five months of walking I should be in pretty good shape and I did manage to knock it out pretty quickly but the pain in my knees and calves during the last few miles was enough to teach me not to do this again for a while. I’d never seen the Golden Gate Bridge like that before, we ran right up to the southern support, and I’ll be forever grateful for the chance.

Ayumi and I try on glasses
Ayumi and I try on glasses

By now you’d probably expect me to have re-entered society pretty well, and I am getting closer to it but there are still things that surprise me. But to be fair The Folsom Street Fair is bound to surprise most people. There was plenty on display there and it was mostly one sided. I was walked around with Ayumi and it was clearly more than she expected so we were both ready to leave before the others that were coming to meet us were even there. “A once in a lifetime experience” she said. That’s for sure. They’re a cool couple and if you’re reading this I want to return the favour so come visit Auckland. Maybe during the Hero parade :-)

Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge
The sun sets on my adventure

My couch surfing continued and I moved across to Berkeley to visit Rick, a Kiwi studying here. Yet another different slice of American life as we cafe hopped, I think we hit five including dinner and dessert. The campus here is amazing. The big important looking buildings and huge underground library, purportedly the largest on the west coast. We had a Brit, an Israeli, a Peruvian and two Kiwis tonight. I am getting better at dealing with groups and though one of them tried their hardest, I wasn’t phased.
It’s now Monday evening and I’m still limping from that run. I can walk 26+ miles per day, but running 7.5 has torn me up. Hi to Blue Sky’s parents Kathy and Paul. They fed me this evening and even showed me some of her art work in the form of a commemorative Lilhammer plate :-)

Cruise control

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I’m becoming more and more removed from the hiking world of the last five months. From Seattle I drove to Ashland. Almost eight hours on one road gave me time to think about things but I didn’t really use it. I was busy surfing the airwaves trying to find a station that actually played music. One end of the dial is all religion all the time, and the other end is dominated by country & western. When I did find something I could put up with I couldn’t help but find some way in which the songs were picked out right for me. “Move Along”, “We are the Champions” and “Highway to Hell” are the ones that stuck in m mind. I found it a lot easier to sing along while driving than while walking uphill so I took the oppourtunity and ignored all the strange looks from passing cars. After an overnight stop in Ashland to visit Claudia and Vic I continued down to Redding to my great Aunt Agnes’ place. The PCT crosses I5 twice and I took a break at Castella to check on the PCT register and try to place myself back in the mood I was in when I reached there on foot two months ago. That was the worst part of the trail for me. The days before were hot, stuffy and exhausting. At that point I was closer to quitting than any other time, and it was there I received the memory card with videos from home and knowing everyone was willing me on gave me the kick in the junk that I needed. So thank you to all that contributed to that, and to all those that are congratulating me. I feel it’s possibly more real to you lot at the moment. I see my time in Southern California as a whole different trip and can only think about the last week in Washington as recent. When I’ve put some time between me and the hike I’ll probably merge it all into one event

PCT

A truck on a truck on a truck on a truck

I met up with Blue Sky, now known by her civilian name of Caitlin, in Davis where she is waiting for college to start. I tagged along to a college party where the plan was, after multiple rounds of Beer Pong, get to the doughnut shop when it opened at 5:30am. None of our little troupe made it but a good time was had by all and I saw a very different side of American culture. We even took a drive by of “Frat Row” and saw all the houses with their greek letters on display. What a change in my life, last week shivering in my tent alone and tired. A week later Nicole is driving me, Caitlin, Kristen and Rebecca at about 85 mph down the highway.

PCT

Ladder ball

PCT

Drinking in Davis

Davis was a blast but I had to leave. I’ve driven in this area before but after following the crest for so long it’s quite a mental shift to be in a valley so wide you can’t see the edges. I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of downtown San Francisco and smiling to myself about the looks I was getting. After I’d returned my rental car I asked the guy (I’ll call him Juan for now) directions to the piers. He said which road to take and asked if I needed a ride organized.
“No, I’ll just walk”
“Really? It’s a long way”
“I can handle it”

As I walked away I heard him tell the next person in line “That guy’s going to walk all the way downtown!” haha.

I got a similar reaction in a book store. After giving me directions to another one he said, with a bit of a sarcastic attitude “enjoy your walk”.

PCT

San Francisco from below

One minor disaster, I lost my PocketMail device. I left it in a phone booth near Pier 40.

I think this is enough for now. I have some socialising to do. My flights are booked, I’ll be back home on Oct 4th and I’m really looking forward to it.