A Travellerspoint blog

Sometimes it takes a good fall to know where you stand.

Sky diving in Kent, UK

sunny 28 °C

Jumping out of a plane should be one of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences of your life. However as my life experiences have consistently demonstrated, my reaction was not only odd, but completely backwards from normal behaviour. Let me explain.

For any of those people who went to school with me, they will know I didn't really pay attention in physics, hell, I even have problems spelling physics. God knows I never attempted to take it as a subject, just the forced Junior science option for me , thank you every much. However the further I have got from my 5th form science classroom, the more I attempt to understand. I still have no clue, but this is what the reaction should be for a person falling from the sky.

As a skydiver falls, they accelerates downwards, gaining speed with each second until they a terminal velocity. Then at certain altitude, the skydivers deploy a parachute so they can land safely. Said skydiver has a physiological reaction to prepare their body for a life threatening situation. Pupils to dilate, heart rate increases, as does blood pressure and respiration, the sweat glands activate and one experiences high levels of adrenaline. Sky diving is described as an adrenaline-charged sport and a thrill seekers pastime. However, even with all that apparently automatic reaction, I have never felt so calm. I have never felt so at peace and so free. It was odd.

As you may have seen on the 'Book of Face', I am off to Africa. Apart from the photo and caption I have so far failed to add any more information. Apologies.

In less than 2 weeks, I leave London for another adventure of the Orsum's. Only thing is there is only 2 weeks of the Orsum Adventures, and then only one Orsum goes to Africa.

Next week Iain and I head to Greece to sail around the islands, we are heading out with a bunch of kiwi's to go island hopping. From there we head from Athens to Rome, head about the sights and then down to the Amalfi Coast. From there Iain flies back to London and I head to Africa via Dubai. I will be heading through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya on a 41 day adventure. For those interested you can see my travel plan on the following link:

https://www.topdeck.travel/tours/cape-town-to-kenya

So as my adventure will not bring me back to London until the end of October, I am leaving ANZUK (my current job) for tree hugging, elephant seeing and drier pastures. Therefore my jumping out of the sky was almost a metaphoric freeing myself from my current role to whatever happens in my future.

Anyone who knows me, (actually you don't need to know me) to know I am aware of too many things. As much as a appreciate situational awareness, however I often feel like I am Mel Gibson in the movie 'What Women Want'. I am constantly thinking about things that are not important, I am listening to other peoples conversations that don't matter and I am always one step ahead of the game because I have thought about every outcome, every possible problem and completely over thought every single situation. I hear all men saying, this is a normal woman. You would think so. But imagine a normal woman on awareness performance enhancing steroids. Then you might get close to the madness I possess.

After much discussion, Iain and I decided this is why sky diving was apparently the most relaxing thing in the world to me. I had no exhilaration, no panic, no fear. Just complete peace and an eerie quietness. Because I have no opportunity to think about anyone or anything else. I am in the moment, I am all engrossed by the experience. There was nothing I could do to control or change the situation. I imagine its the same feeling you get just before you cark it.

We spent the afternoon drinking gin discussing the other times when a I reacted the completely opposite way normal people react, and realise there is quite a long list. I stress at completely unimportant occasions, and don't in very high-stress environments. I imagine people are making individual lists in there heads now of my irrational conduct. But its true, I wish it wasn't but I think it is just the way I was built!

Therefore the decision was made, after a gin, a honey beer and a number of ciders that my life needs to be full of more adrenaline, high risk, potential life ending events. It better for my heart.

T

Posted by kayles 28.07.2014 04:48 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

7's. That denotes the hours of transport to the event right?

London, you are doing it wrong.

overcast 10 °C

Its 3am and here I am writing a blog to you. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be sleeping. I started work at 6.55am yesterday and managed to walk out the door at 6.45pm, and I do it all again tomorrow. But instead I am here tapping away on an illuminated keyboard looking over the Thames as London sleeps on.

We were at the London sevens this weekend. Dressed as Monsters with about 85,000 people, apparently intent on watching rugby. London sevens is a completely different event to Wellington Sevens. Similar in its sporting activity, but generally ruined by public transport.

Of the two people that read this blog, one of you may have been to Twickenham before. However for those who haven’t, let me paint you a picture. Imagine Eden Park. No strike that. Imagine a Eden park with 32,000 more people at it. So basically, Eden Park and the Wellington Cake tin. Then imagine all those people trying to walk from the stadium, down essentially one residential lane and across a pretty major roundabout (the A3) at the pedestrian crossing, only when it turns green of course.

Maybe I am just bitter over the events that strung together my Saturday, who knows. But I’m sorry Twickenham, you are sitting pretty far behind Wellington as the ‘best Seven’s event’.

Saturday started with a 7am start. Normally reserved only for weekdays. In saying that, a 7am start for me is a sleep in. Anyway… 7am, with a hasty cup of tea heading out the door starting our journey across London. We were meeting up with the rest of our Monsters in Putney from 0830. From East London, Putney is a good hour travel. I once heard Londoners describe travel as only having two options, an hour or a good hour. Going out for milk, an hour. Going out for milk to Putney, a good hour. Everything in London is an hour they say. Unless it is a good hour. Then who knows how bloody long it takes.

Relatively uneventful to Putney, then Iain’s navigation was employed. So instead of walking a lovely sunny 7 minute walk from the station to our destination, we walk 15 minutes in the wrong direction, and another 15 minutes to correct ourselves, before the original 7 minutes. Oh well standard. A day can’t be ruined by one mans inability to follow a blue dot.

From there a few beverages, a cheeky kitkat and bag of Kettle Chips for breakfast were enjoyed. Well half a kitkat, I had to share some with Iain. And we were on our way. I would say we started to make a move toward the station about 1045, maybe 11am. It must have been quite a sight to see, all of us wandering through suburbia dressed in purple and blue, sweeping up passers-by, most of which were on their way to their mundane job. This was the most exciting thing they were going to see all day.

On arrival to Putney station, we suddenly realised the challenge ahead of us. A train every 10 or so minutes, absolutely rammed with Monsters already. We started off darting from platform to platform to find that no running up and down stairs really helped. There was no magical empty train for us to all have seats in, chat quietly and generally enjoy our transport adventure to Twickenham. This was war. Survival of the fittest, and the most conniving.

I am apparently not destined to survive the challenges set out by urban life. Picture me standing on a train platform, watching Iain inside a train and trying to mime – ‘you have my phone, 7’s tickets and train tickets – you have left me in Putney with a pair of sun glasses, you… insert-whatever-loving-affectionate-name-you-think-I may-have-used here.’ He has on the third train to come past. I didn’t manage to get on, until about train number 9. Even then mine went around, past Twickenham, and then back toward it as it returned back to central London. A 15 minute journey, was 35.

On arrival to Twickenham, I stupidly think, yeah no problems, I will find 1 person in the sell out crowd that is dressed as a monster like everyone else. Piece of cake. An hour and a half later, I finally ask a police man if I can use his phone. Oh good work Iain, don’t pick up. So here I am leaving a message with a police man listening over my shoulder trying to be as accurate as a possibly can be about my location… all whilst trying to be polite. Very difficult by this stage.

About half an hour later Iain arrives out of the masses and I have to make a very quick decision whether to punch him in the face or burst into tears. I don’t think I really decided. The later happened. Lucky for Iain. By 3pm we finally enter the stadium for the first time.

I would tell you about the epic saga that entailed getting drinks at the bar after this point, but I think you can probably imagine. Just before 4pm, we reach our seats. Ridiculous day.

At this point, we watch some rugby for a while, see people in the same outfits as us, see people we know, see people I went to high school with all very sociable, with some cheering for sport in the background.

After a the final game we start to leave, and I realise the gravity of the journey we have to take just to get home. However, I am beginning to ponder this horrendous thought, I am brought crashing to the ground by a 6 foot 3 man hurtling down the stairs, like the boulder in Indiana Jones. Actually I lie. I didn’t see it. I just all of a sudden hit the concrete stairs with no warning at all. Cheers. How does that concrete taste?

An event filled journey home, meant that we finally arrived in our local pub just before 10pm. A 4 hour journey home. Iain and I had definitely treated ourselves to a day out. At this point, I didn’t really care that I was now 14 miles from the action, and still dressed as a monster. I was starving. And about 10 metres from my home. Maybe I should have dressed as a monster and just watched it there on TV. Probably would have had the same reaction from the local punters, and one less bruise. Next year I am definitely upgrading to West London digs for the night, or a flight home in February for Wellington.

Posted by kayles 12.05.2014 20:02 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Hungry? Me too. I apologise for the profanity.

I have really toned it down from the real words that were going through my head.

overcast

Budapest. Did you know it is Buda and Pest? I didn’t before I arrived. Well I knew 5 fifths of bugger all before I went, so that is not really surprising. Iain and I are taking part in a spontaneity study, so to show it that Iain meant business and we are spontaneous in our own right he decided to push out his business trip to return on Sunday night, and book me a flight to join him in Budapest, on Thursday…. For Friday.

Normally this would not be an issue for the ‘Amazing Race’ travellers that we are. However in a relationship that has worked so well as a functioning team, when it is split up for even a short period of time it all turns to rubbish. I have no one to blame but myself in this situation.

Thursday night: Iain books the tickets, no problems. I research and book train tickets, research and book a hotel, no problems. Skype my mum, do the washing, make some soup, clean the house, pack my bag. Clockwork, no problems at all.

Friday: Manic work day, as usual I guess, not sure why I expected any different. Go to leave the office at 1730 (have been their since 0630), shit. No passport. That’s Iain’s job. Double Shit, Iain’s not here to blame. No problems, I’ve got plenty of time, I will just head home and then go to the airport from there – its almost faster to go on that tube line anyway.

My walk, turns to a brisk walk, then a jog. Get home walk in the door, shit. I haven’t printed out my boarding pass. I am travelling on peasant air. They are definitely going to make me pay more for that. Oh well, fail Kayleigh you’ll learn for next time. Turn on the computer to check in. Shit. Missed the cut off time for check in. 3 hours? Peasant air? Are you kidding me? Who knew there was a cut off time for check in! Oh no, more additional costs. Oh no, here come the tears.

After grabbing my passport and having a very hurried and irate conversation with Iain I run out of the house and head to the train station. As I get out of the tunnel, I check TFL (Transport for London) to see what time I am anticipating getting to St Pancras station to get the train to Luton Airport. Shit. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! All trains to Luton cancelled. Here I am now sitting on the tube balling my eyes out, my makeup is making me look like Alice Cooper, in a sauna and I am in such a state that the man sitting next to me has got up and moved. Cheers.

After a long discussion with the man at the station, he has decided that even a cab called by them is not going to get me there on time. So I call Iain and we decide that I’ll just get into a cab. It’s ok, travel insurance will cover it. The first cabbie I approach, looks at me with surprise and then his eyes light up. ‘It’s going to be £100’ he grins. “£100’!! That’s like $200 NZD, haha hilarious my friend, no really how much? I ring Iain. He confirms, ‘don’t worry babe insurance will definitely cover it’. Ok, go back to the stand, that taxi has gone, so I have to begin the haggle process again. Although the first attempt was more of a look of astonishment, rather than a proper financial negotiation. Second cabbie: It’ll be more than £100.
Me: Well can you do it for £100?
Second cabbie: Why?
Me: Cause it’s a sweet deal, what else are you going to do, sit in traffic all night?
Second cabbie: Cash?
Me: Um… yep… I don’t have any at the moment, but I’m sure I can find some…..
(Note: I didn’t have cash, nor did insurance did not cover it – doh.)

So as I arrived at Luton airport, I was watching the amount of the taxi tick over to £140, and my time tick down, I was close to admitting defeat. I ran inside, and up to the peasant airline man (maybe he worked for Whizz – I cannot confirm or deny), only to be told. Oh that gate closed 2 minutes ago. I burst into tears and in a very ‘I’m in a glass cage of emotion’ manner I waved my £100 taxi fare receipt in his face mumbling nothing in particular in a very unreasonable female way. He rushed me to another counter, who rushed me to another counter, who printed my ticket and checked me in for free (got to have some small wins) and rushed me into the security line. I still hadn’t stopped shaking as I collapsed in my seat on the plane between two gentlemen who were probably wondering why I hadn’t bothered taking off my coat, hat, gloves or scarf before I sat down for the 2 and a half hour flight.

As I arrived in Budapest, I thought, here we go, another joy ride to the hotel, who the heck is going to take me… and as I went to walk out the door there was a man with my name on his little board. Iain Phillips sometimes you out-do yourself. I could have hugged him - my new taxi driver, not Iain. Well he got a hug later, but in the mean time it was the best I could do. George took me home (by this stage it was 1am), he told me about his city and was very disappointed that the lights had all gone out by the time I had arrived, he was very sweet, and very proud of his city. It made me appreciate the effort to get there, like a tough win in a sports game, you feel like it is so much more deserved.

Anyway, I guess I haven’t left myself much room to talk about Budapest. It is awesome, no words that I can write will explain the magic of this city. Iain and I decided that it had to be in the top 5 cities we had been to. Big call, I know. Great architecture, great people, cheap activities, walkable, and so filled with patriotism and depth. There is something for everyone, walking up hills, thermal pools, amazing hotels, cheap cocktails, beautiful sights, river views and I don’t know if it was just because it was winter but hardly any people. Lovely. Majestic. A city for a return trip, maybe with a little less troublesome UK travel experience next time.

Posted by kayles 27.01.2014 12:43 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Brussels sans sprouts.

sunny

We didn’t have Mussels in Brussels. We did have a lot of Belgium beer, and fries and waffles though.

Our recent trip to Brussels was our second trip to Belgium, first being Bruge. I expected a lot of our second trip. Bruge was such an amazing spot, filled with liveliness and history. Although Brussels was awesome and I learnt a lot more about the fine nation of Belgium, it was not as remarkable as the first.

Brussels is what I imagine Europe will become over the next 20 years, a city filled with beautiful buildings, but a place that is at risk of losing its definite culture and becoming a place that shows the power of globalisation. Brussels, if you are not aware is considered the capital of Europe. This seems odd for Kiwi’s to grasp, that there is a capital of a land mass that contains so many cultures and countries. There is no ‘official’ capital, and no plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts the European Commission, council of the European Union and the seat of the European Parliament. Sounds like a lot of dreary city buildings, and you would be right. There is a distinct city dwelling feel about it. But as I read when I was there, your opinion on Brussels is based on which exit of the North Station you come out of.

First there is the sky scrapper district, shiny buildings, office blocks and office people. The same suit wearing people you will find in any business district. Secondly there is the red light district filled with some very odd looking bars (and people) with window displays of real people not mannequins. Then there is the Turkish and Arab quarter, where you can find anything you want, as long as you are willing to haggle for it. This is where you can find shops filled with men smoking cigars and all of this is in a place filled with beautiful buildings that is almost grasping to retain a hold of its cultural heritage.

Iain and I walked around the city, so we ended up in a lot of interesting places, but Brussels is essentially not a city, but a whole lot of suburbs that contain completely different countries. I am writing this at 4 am so that sentence may not have made sense. Belgium’s population is made up of 15% immigrants. You can be in a suburb that feels like a Congolese village, that backs onto a Vietnamese area. Cross the road and you are in Turkey, then Morocco, then China. It is globalisation as I have never seen it before. I don’t think Brussels has lost its identity because of it, I think it may have made it better. Someone said to me, the only reason to go to Brussels is it has a nice train station, use it. But I think if you want to see a city that is a mini world, Brussels is it. In a very weird and semi-functioning way. I’m not sure if it is worth a visit more than once, but I have a feeling that if any city is going to start wearing skin tight white outfits and live like ‘The Island’ Brussels would be the first to jump at the opportunity. I think I need to spend a little more time in the gym before I’ll look good in one of those.

So Brussels, scratch that one off the world map. Lucky it has good food.

Posted by kayles 27.01.2014 12:14 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

I'm dreaming of my first White Christmas...

Sing it. It will get stuck in your head.

rain 11 °C

So we return from the mountains to the London rain, and I don’t even mind because our week in the snow has been fantastic.

Many people wonder what it is like to spend a Christmas away from family, and although it sounds horrible, (sorry mum), it is really an experience everyone should have at least once. Don’t get me wrong, family time is the best, but the Christmas season always brings out the best in humanity. (NB: ignoring things like the Baghdad bombing of Christmas mass.) People are supportive, friendly, caring and compassionate to complete strangers. People are genuine, they throw all caution to the wind and celebrate the season with people they wouldn’t even notice on the street any other time of the year. It is an amazing experience, Christmas outside of your normal family traditions breeds friendships and familiarity far above your run of the mill travel understanding. It really is the first scene in Love Actually. Don’t lie. You know it. And all the words.

For those who don’t know, we have been in a town called Sauze D’Oulx in Italy for the last week. Coincidentally this is the place where Iain’s parents met… cough, um… only a few years ago ☺. As soon as we arrived in our hotel, we immediately made a new Christmas family who looked after us… even when we didn’t necessarily look after them… sorry for taking you off-piste Dave and probably causing your dislocated collarbone.

Even with the 4am start , as soon as I arrived in the mountains I felt refreshed, like a brand new person. Life in the city is tiring. I miss the mountains, the fresh air, the laid back lifestyle, the dependency on mulled wine.

During our stay we had the best weather forecast you could ask for, sunny on the first day (so you could get a grasp on the mountain and its geography), then snow, lots of snow on Christmas day and then sunshine again to appreciate it. Even on day 6, Iain and I were still finding fresh tracks, and bring-me-my-brown-pants tree runs.

With 6 days of riding, Iain and I came out relatively unscathed. But in true ‘peach’ form, I do have a full forearm bruise from a one-sided fight with a tree. I lost. First an icy mogul pushed me, I decided it was Christmas, so I wouldn’t fight back. After a 50 metre slide, off the run into a gully, I stopped by hitting a tree. At full pace. I don’t know if I was more upset about the intense throbbing in my arm, or the fact my button had been ripped of my new snow pants. Probably the button.

Once you feel you have the grasp of a sport like snowboarding, it really puts the fear of god into you, when you realise that no matter how competent you think you are, you are completely at the will of the elements. After a few seasons at this, I don’t often find myself in a position when I cannot control my board. It is an extension of me. I sometimes think I have more control of my board than I have of my own feet. I am sure there are a few people that would agree with that. But to be in a position where you have absolutely no control makes you realise there are always aspects of life that you cannot control. I guess that’s what makes life fun, or at least worth waking up every morning, to see what the days challenge is.

If you are passionate about something, the risks are completely understandable and justifiable. Anyone who competes in high-level events, plays sports, has an obsession for extreme sports, or just has the testicles to bike to work in central London every day will understand the risk vs love checklist that you make to validate your choices. People that push themselves to the limit on a regular basis will not be understood by others, they will be scoffed at, dismissed or passed off as delusional. Be cautious. This only fuels their fire.

Now for my next challenge, finding this passion in London.

Posted by kayles 30.12.2013 05:17 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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