Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Email 2009

Happy Christmas, hope this reaches you safely and the New Year allows you let a little craziness out of your system!

Another long letter covering Tim's 8 months in Australia. (you might want to grab a full beer/beverage before starting to read!)


Tim has successfully worked for the longest time in one place this year!

I spent 7 months in Alice Springs and I still want to go back! I love the place...but not enough to give up the road!

This is what I have been doing to amuse myself in 7 months (ok really only 6months of work)

Running: This has kept me sane...everyone in the territory has an addiction of sorts...most common by far is alcohol, smoking (you can still smoke inside pubs/bars/buildings in the NT) and computers (still don’t understand how World of Warcraft, Wii-fit or TV can amuse people for so long). My addiction is running, not surprisingly I arrived back into Australia and after 2 weeks decided a ½ Marathon was in order... I found out the hard way about the importance of stretching and easing into things slowly as I gave myself a ITB muscle injury...the curse of many a runner! Running went on the backburner as I was limited to 30min per day and instead started stretching and strengthening exercises. They all seem to have worked and now I am again running every morning.

Achievements this year include:

Harts Range Memorial Mile – I came second to a guy wearing jeans! (Preparation of little sleep, beer and bacon/eggs doesn’t help!)

Sydney City to Surf ( many ppl)

18min58sec - 5km (only way to run on boring bitumen is fast)

7hrs17min - 56km Yurrebilla Trail run through Adelaide hills


Finke Desert race – for the motor enthusiast, best part about it was working the week following and trying to figure out how you dress a blister covering the entire palm…serious racing aka stupidity on motorbikes…needless to say I enjoyed it!

Beanie Festival…not an event up my alley, brings out the hippies and they try to take over like knitting jumpers for the tree’s!

Camel Races…may not have seen the Todd flow x3 times but you cant have lived in Alice without attending the camel cup. Apart from the antic’s performed by the camels, the booze flows free (cept when you have to work later that arvo) and it is a regular race day carnival atmosphere. Cant bet on the camels sadly…breucratic licencing and so on…


Harts Range Bush Sports Weekend

200+km from Alice Springs, drawing in a crowd of station owners, families, cowboys, Alice Springs folk.

Weekend of x4 horse races, bull riding & sports events for the Station folk (running, sack races, lolly scramble, cow tail toss...etc) Plus good old fashion bush dance and nightly entertainment.

Australian Music Spectacular

Headlining acts and classics of Australian music...loved the fact was sitting in my own chair under the stars with the music greats entertaining me...where else but Alice! Will never forget singing along with John Williamson and busting a grove to Leo Sayer...

Henley on Todd

Boat race in the DRY Todd River bed. I joined a crew of 4 to make an inflatable rubber ducky and we went as lifesavers. Great fun in the Alice, hot, sandy and sunburnt but successfully took home the 'Lifesaving rescue event"

Alice Marathon

Didn’t race as still on rationed runs but it didn’t stop me from dressing up as a clown for a water stop half way. Made it more fun to hide in the bushes whist the runners ran past and then sprint/overtake them in a clown suit…I got a kick out of it even if they were to puffed to laugh at/with me.


Larapinta Trail

Walked the 220km trail across central Australia’s beautiful West MacDonnell mountain range. Escorted by an enthusiastic but blistered Mr. Butt. We walked early in the mornings, at night and simply sat the shade during the days. AMAZING scenery, photos and memories...must do for anyone with a spare 2 weeks!

Yurrebilla Trail

Here I found a new passion...running longer and rougher tracks! 56km or 7+hrs of running up and down hills could not be more fun and worth the special flight out of Alice and back compete. Call me crazy...


Cat Empire & Jimmy Barnes

Wow…what a concert…300m from my front door it was hard to get to J! The Cat Empire got everyone in the mood and Jimmy just blew us away…he concentrated on Cold Chisel and the older stuff…I think the next day I sounded almost as hoarse as him.

Movie Nights

One of my favourite memories of Alice will always be watching movies on the big screen outside after a fantastic feed. Cant thank the Paul/Suzanne/Renee enough for their hospitality and company.


NZ Jenny Mum came to visit

First she visited Brother Bradley in Armidale and then came out to see the Alice and Timbo. Great to catch up with the old gal aka 'Mum' and have her cook her famous carrot cake (not x1 but x4...she left the freezer full). I sent her on a ‘rock’ tour and enjoyed the post conversation about sleeping in swags and things that go bump in the night (those dangerous dingoes and snakes). Maybe roughing it and swag-ing it isn’t for everyone.

Pharmacies Xmas Party

People were amazed that I simply rung home and got a costume sent up…out of mum’s closet…doesn’t everyone have a closet of 70s - 80s clothes?

The Darwin Pharmacies Christmas Party (December) was also a fun night…great way to meet the crew I will be working with over the next month. I wonder if it was good value for them when I had only worked 3 days prior to the party.

Tim/Tam’s Toga Hoorah

What better way to leave Alice and house mate Tam (Tamasin) than to have a Toga Party. Toga parties are always great then add in 30L of Sangria and make it even better!



I moved to Darwin for work...again call me crazy!...moving to Darwin for the wet season has been interesting. The humidity has not been as bad as I was told, saying that it is interesting going to work in board shorts and another shirt so that you are not sweat sodden all day long. We had an amazing storm…many more to come I hope…lightning and thunder like nothing I have seen. Then a tropical low dumped a months worth of rain over 3 days…wow…rain rain rain…it then moved off and became a cyclone. I must be the only person in Darwin crossing there fingers to experience a cyclone, saying that I wanted an earthquake whilst in NZ and that didn’t happen.

Christmas is at home with the family and grandpa in a vase, New Years will be spent in Darwin/Kakadu/Litchfield and January is working in Darwin. I am going to spend some of Feb working with Brad/Amanda in Armidale NSW before a family hike in late Feb.

Then…6 months holiday!

I have booked tickets to fly into Los Angeles and plan on a trip up the coast to Vancouver with Adrian (school buddy). Once in Canada we will enjoy some of the Winter PARA-olympics. Once finished the plan is to visit Banff, Jasper and then make my way to Anchorage (Alaska) for more hiking and getting chased by bears! Returning home in October!

Keep me posted where you will be, what trips you are going to take and fingers crossed our paths will cross.

Have a great Christmas and New Year

See you soon


Friday, June 5, 2009

Final travel epilogue! Tim's round the world 2008-2009


I spent Carnival due to "prior piss poor planning" not at any of the well known sites across Brazil. Book your carnival accommodation many many months in advance experience tells! Thankfully I met 2 beautiful Brazialian girls whilst traveling Chile and they became like sisters so I organised to spend Carnival in Piracicaba (north of Sau Paulo). The carnival week was the first time I had spent 1 week in the same town/bed since Christmas and that in itself was relaxing...I may not have experienced the Samba-drome of Rio De Janeiro or the massive street party in Salvador but where I was, was a typical Brazilian carnival. It was spent at a hired house, with pool and BBQ (as important for Brazilian life as Australian) and amongst university/ex-school mates. Food and beer was the only expense and at a 600mL bottle costing $1.50AUD, $250 goes a long way! (accom. in well known carnival cities is about $100 per night). The food was the best part, a Brazilian BBQ is...well its been a long time since an Australian BBQ so going to have to say better! and the house keeper also taught me to cook some national dishes...Brazilians love their beans so watchout when I recreate these meals! All towns in Brazil have samba parties so attending these was a great experience...could I samba? or just get drunk enough so that I couldn't see if my feet were doing the correct thing...I cant samba when sober is all that I know!

After Carnival I want to relax on a beach so went to the Island resort of (Illa do Mel) where the Brazilians themselves go...stunning beaches and Argentinians to play with (my Spanish is marginally better than speaking no Portuguese) and Brazilian fruit, I didn't need to relax after carnival but I got it anyway!
Foz do Iguacu is up there with Victoria Falls and Niagra Falls as the biggest in the world. much water and both the Brazilians and Argentinians have great view points across the falls. Better than Victoria Falls? which I saw in Africa...just different! Foz do Iguacu is spread out so you can see the falls better but bear in mind I didn't get to see Vic Falls from the Zimbabwee side! The cloud of mist at Vic Falls is much larger however. Whilst at Foz do Iguacu you must also visit the largest dam in the world (til the one in China finishes being constructed)
The last place I visited in Brazil was the Pantanal. This is a wetland at the south/bottom of the Amazon with supposedly the most bird life in the world. It wasn't the best weather so it is the excuse to why we didn't see many birds but it was a fun experience and other animals seen included (Piranhas, Caymans, Howler Monkeys, Macaws, Tapirs (largest rodent in the world) and anteaters)

Crossing from Brazil to Bolivia you immediately see the poverty difference and things become much, much cheaper (except beer...). To cross from the Pantanal (west) to central Bolivia I took the Death train...not such a big deal now except that it is 24hrs in a train that stops at every station and would do the journey in 1/3 of the time if things didn't happen in Bolivian time!

The Potosi silver mines are famed for the sheer amount and fortune of silver that was removed from inside the mountain and also the number of people that it killed to do so. Today you can do tours into the mountain and it is said conditions haven't changed since the 1600's when it was in peak use. I got up close and personal to asbestos crystals growing on the walls, used scraps of plastic bags as hearing protection and my shirt as a dust mask...conditions were horrible but I didn't see any child miners. They worship the devil to please him (as it is said that he owns the silver), drink 96% alcohol, smoke dirty homemade cigarettes as thick as a cigar and chew enough coca-leaves to numb themselves to the 12hr shift of back breaking labor. Terrible conditions but strangely silicosis (having your lungs cemented full of dust) and rock falls kill less people than the getting drunk and falling down a mine shaft! (Dynamite was 10 Bolivanos a stick to buy off the street. approx $2AUD)

The most amazing landscape on earth would have to be in the Andes mountains of southern Bolivia. The salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) are an expanse of pure white salt as far as you can see. Driving across this very old lake you can stop at a few islands on which grow carton style cactus. The photos look amazing yet still don't do it justice. The altitude was noticeable for the first time here when you would take a couple of quick steps up a slope to a better photo point a find yourself struggling for breath.

La Paz is the capital of Bolivia, apart from offering the normal congestion and chaos a city normally does this city felt safe to walk around, even at night. Street food was delicious and everything except the tours was dirt cheap! At 4000m above sea level, having a room on the 5th floor of the building, no elevator was a great workout. I would forget each time and run up to the top, to arrive at the door see stars and not being able to insert the key as I was so out of breath. You had about 20sec of activity before the body realised that there was not enough oxygen and started to suffer.

I signed onto a tour in La Paz to climb a 6000m mountain. This experience was probably the most fun, challenging and exciting thing I did all trip! Sleeping at 5000+m was an experience, not enough oxygen meant that you could not sleep breathing through your nose so you would end up waking in a pile of drool...sounds fun! Then after sleeping less than 4hrs you wake up at 1am and in the bitter cold (inside) you put on the layers of clothing, waterproofs, harness, heavy mountaineering boots and once outside fit your crampons (fingers loose feeling very quick playing with metal in the snow) Then you start walking uphill...6hrs later needing to breathe every 5-10 steps you arrive at a 70degree ice slope...even in the dark it looks steep and you cant see the top. Calves burning from holding your body weight on the toe points of your crampons and trying not to swing your ice axe too hard into the ice so you can get it out again you crawl up the slope to the ridge where you can walk along a 1 foot wide top...did I mention 200m slope/cliff each side...once at the top it is minus -5C to get very cold very quick and have to time it correctly so that you have 1min of camera battery before it gets to cold also to work. However the sunrise was amazing, the sense of triumph and achievement unbelievable and finally you have 'bagged a peak' worth writing about! Coming down was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done...going downhill is always harder and particularly when you can see the drop you would fall if you place a single foot wrong...not to mention the guide saying that you need to hurry as the sun softens the snow and makes it more dangerous. I was so taken by this guided climb I did another solo climb up a 6300m volcano the next week!
Death Road, similar to the death train in that it killed people regularly through its use. The road drops 3000+m on a mostly single lane dirt road which until 5 years ago traffic went in both directions. Nowdays it is a great mountain bike road, huge 600m cliffs to ride next to and through the lush rain forrest. If i wasnt trying to use my travel insurance I would have enjoyed the scenery a lot more but speed was all the more faster and fun knowing 1m to the left of me was a very large drop!

Lake Titicaca is the centre of Inca and Pre-inca cultures. This mean lots of ruins, stone walls and historic sites where your imagination is required to see the way people would have lived 500 years ago. Unfortunately I will remember the easter weekend all the more after having my wallet cut from the pocket of my shorts whilst standing a church (screw you to god). Not a bad experience as I was super-impressed at the skill required (I didnt feel a thing) and at a total loss of around $20AUD to me and no cards. Avoid crowds, avoid church and wear shirts that have chest pockets...much much safer!

The most memorable experience in Peru is for most people Machu Picchu. These well preserved Inca ruins are stunning, sitting ontop of a steep mountain ridge at the egde of the Amazon jungle but it is smothered in tourists. The walk into Mauchupichu had various routes, I chose the thrill seekers bike & hike trip which was a bit disappointing after Bolivia. My most memorable outing in Peru was hiring a motorbike and offroad riding between the Inca ruins. Remembering to keep RIGHT was only a problem for the first corner, which scared me enough not to forget for the rest of the day. Cuzco is the hot-spot for tourism in Peru but I found a nicer side to Cuzco by aoviding the crowds and in particular eating out at the market and not staying at hostels full of GAP students who never leave the hostel/bar. Foods were amazing from cebiche (raw fish in lemon juice), peruvian chicken soup, fruit juices from the numerous stalls and even cuy (Roast Guinea Pig) which did taste like tough chicken!

For my last week on holidays I went walking solo through Colca canyon, actually deeper than the grand canyon and then did a flight over the Nazca Lines. These were made 500+ years ago by the locals (with no GPS help) and are giant figures (200m-300+m long) marked in the earth and seen best from a plane.

My return flight to Australia was from Lima-Santiago-Aukland-Melbourne 27hrs flying jet lag...probably as I slept better on the plane than the Bolivian-Peruvian buses. Mentioning must travel both the cheapest bus in South America and then the Cama-bus (cama=bed in spanish but it is still cheaper than Australian buses) to see how bad and how good bus travel can be. Stinking locals to a 'meal and alcohol' being served are all possible experiences.

Travel Tips:
Shirts with chest pockets...keeps everythign in your personal space hence safe!
No heavy-thick cotton it takes forever to dry!
Carry as many forms of cash as possible, Visa = Africa, Mastercard = South America, Travellers Cheques, USD, local currency. Sometimes even then it is still hard to access money!
You dont need to carry a pharmacy...most drugs and medical necessities are available from pharmacys in those countries and it is cheaper to buy it there (3rd world) than here...but will it work? (My first aid kit was far to big and to many drugs)
Travel for only 6-7months at a long and you forget how the normal world opperates, banks dont open of weekends, brandnames of drugs, side has been a steep learning curve returning to work! You must also have a week every so often where you dont try to see everything...go to the beach and relax with a good book...travelling it hard work and just sleeping in the same bed is a holiday from you holiday!

Back in Australia I went to visit my Grandpa, enjoyed mums cooking, ate in Victoria St (Melb) and caught up with friends I hadnt seen in a year. A quick trip via Armidale to go walking in Granite country of NSW-Qld border with Brad & Amanda and then back to Alice Springs. Returning to work even if it has been checking masses of webster packs has been good fun and I realise how much I missed Alice whenever I go running in the mornings.

Plans - 6 months in Alice, Darwin for a wet season? then winter paraolympics in Vancouver 2010, ?commonwealth games - india?

Send me lots of emails, update me on your life.

'tchau, tchau I have to go now'


Monday, February 16, 2009

Testing blog page

Prehaps this is a better way to let people know what i have been up to without email warfare!



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scandinavia & Chile

My last email came from the cold of Scandinavia in winter, currently I have shorts/T-shirt and my freckles exposed to the sun are getting darker each day...from one extreme to the other and I love both!

Here is what i have seen in the last 3 months of my 'el mundo' (world) trip


My entry into Scandinavia couldn't have been better timed as it was the first really cold weather of winter hence Stockholm had 5 inches of fresh snow. It is amazing what a layer of fluffy whiteness does to make a place more beautiful. My sister and I spent our first night in Sweden ice skating until ice skates to use with the hostel we choose and x2 skating rinks free in the cities parks. Anneliese didn't have time to be jet Tim took her on a mammoth walk around the city and would have gone on but for concern for his sister (or was it really concern for his own finger tips as you can only walk for so long in minus 5 deg.). To get to Helsinki to meet Mum & Dad (M&D) we went via Tallinn (in Estonia). The boat journey over was an interesting night...due to the high price of booze in the Scandinavia countries the local as soon as they get into duty free zones (including boat trips) buy up big. We partied with about 50 blokes from the Swedish army having just finished their year conscription with the army, we (or perhaps just Anneliese being female) were the life of the party held in the tiny bunk rooms in the bowels of the ship. Tallinn was a BEAUTIFUL I have been to as again it was covered in a fluffy white layer and towns turrets and walls give the old town a really warm feel despite the cold.

Helsinki we caught up with M&D, had a look around the city and jumped on a overnight train to Santa Claus's village. This town sits on the Arctic circle line (snow/ice and cold) and the family had our photos taken with Santa Claus. We watched them prepare for the winter festival (using a normal iron to melt and stick together ice sculptures). The next day and a half was spent train hopping taking in sights from northern Baltic sea (lots of snow), Lulea a town where we spent the time wandering the streets and in the Christmas markets at minus 13C Deg. The highlight of the train journeys in Scandinavia was the Flam railway, this railway drops from the Norway alpine down to the fjords (sea level) over a short distance making the train journey interesting but more so because of the stunning scenery (see picture). A boat ride and bus trip sounded great on paper but we forgot about the day light issues and only the first 30min was visible...should have we seen them the fjords were a lot like Milford Sound NZ but narrower and sprinkled in snow.
Bergen was the departure point for the ship which would take us to Kirkenes, almost on the Russian border and the northern most town of Norway. Bergen was a great city but known for its summer!, we did our fare share of walking though and most interesting was the fish markets containing live salmon, crabs, cod (in its many ways and forms) and best of all whale. I don't hold anything against an animal that has reached pre-commercial whaling populations, after all its a grandiose type of fish and tasted fantastic. (please argue the rights of Minke whales with me at some stage or maybe send me animal rights info...slogans are thought provoking...i.e. Swiss slogan I read ´Eating meat causes climate change´...please explain?)
Anyhow the boat trip...this cruise stemmed from the days when the isolated coastal communities along Norway's coast got their post via ship, its still the same service just the ship now brings tourists, cars and no doubt $$$ to these towns. We called into many towns, the architecture of the houses was most memorable as they were in stark contrast to the snow, red/blue/yellow and with white window frames. Sunlight was more a dull glow illuminating the sky yet the gulf stream water current kept the temperatures on the coast quite balmy...minus 10 the lowest and it was often in the positives, in fact to warm to see the northern lights convincingly. The most impressing feature of the journey was the food served....I'm drooling writing this! The seafood buffet, never ending piles of smoked salmon/trout, spider crabs and then of course a hot buffet. I also had the privileged of trying the rotten fish (loosely translated) a Scandinavian delicacy...yuk!
After the trip we went to Oslo and Stockholm, we managed to enjoy several other boats, these being the Fram (first ever boat to be able survive crushing ice packs in both poles), Viking ships and the Swedish galleon recovered from sea in almost sail-able condition (sank in first 10min of maiden voyage so wouldn't be hard beat that record even 300 years later). The other highlight gastronomy wise were herring fillets...except those preserved in ´sugar, cinnamon and cloves´, cod (persevered in bi-carb soda, dried, fresh), reindeer, a beer (just the one! expensive to drink in Scandi).

Once M&D and Anneliese had flown back to Australia I continued on my way by traveling to Scotland. Edinburgh´s highlights were the castle and finding myself in Glasgow the morning after I went out for just a single pint (hairdressing salon's Christmas party). Then I jumped onto a tour around Scotland with a tour guide that sorted through the huge amount of Scottish history to give us the interesting stories generally about religion* & wars*, drinking and stupidity. What did Scotland offer - x2 distillery tours, Isle of Skye turned on its best weather (horizontal rain), hairy cows, fresh scallops, swimming in Lock Ness, good beer, haggis, castles and lots of fun. I enjoyed the experience of traveling in group again rather than finding my own transport, accom., etc.


"I´ve been dreaming of a white Christmas..." so where do you go? Switzerland...what happens... it snows a week before and a week after! Christmas was great even without a white layer. Family connections and ongoing Christmas letters for the last 20 years I found a Swiss family who were happy to have me stay for Christmas (would they have me back is probably the better question). How do you make a young bloke not miss home for Christmas? Feed him...needless to say I had lots of cheese: Raclette & Fondue and for Christmas day had the Swiss traditional Fondue Chindoise (broth of soup simmering which you cook thin strips of meat in at the table). Apart from recounting past stories about them seeing me last in nappies the family also decided I needed little sunlight so we went to the tops of x2 peaks in the alps. Once above the cloud layer sky was clear and the vista of mountain peak sticking through cotton wool clouds will not be forgotten (see picture). Thanks for giving me such a great Christmas (Inauen family).


For New Years I decided that spending a mega amount of cash to get to and from Hogmanay in Scotland would be silly so chose a more exclusive location and New years party. I found myself catching a train to Speen (thinking it was in London) and got off in a station in the ´woods´ of England. about typical English, just what I needed to see the to contrast London...lane ways with hedgerows, green rolling fields, cottages and folk walking about in gumboots. The party itself was at the local pub of a buddy from the African truck. It was a great night to drink good British ale, good food and dancing to 70s,80s&90s music. New years resolution...not to get kiss another bloke again...happened that Greg didn't invite any British lasses from his univeristy and none were to be had in the village. Auld Lang Syne came on and larkinism was rife so the boys danced together with the older couples including a peek on the cheek. After several days of walking through think English frosts, university educated girls worried that the fish would not be able to breathe because their pond was frozen over. I decide to change my flight to South America sooner than later. I landed on the 3rd Jan to a sunny Chile, cheap beer and my poor Spanish speaking skills.


My first problem in Chile, was from the Brazilians not allowing me to get a visa easily, I should have read a bit more at home to realise I needed one in the first place! Once the visa application was in place I got onto a hop-on/hop-off bus to see the best Chile had to offer in 20 days. Highlights included:
- this poor little aussies first surfing lesson, standing up and realising why people enjoy it...I still hate sand!
- climbing a volcano, listening to it rumble, spew gas but by far the most memorable and most fun was the very quick trip down the ice of the glacier on our backsides...much then same as I imagine bob-sledding would be
- fresh salmon and seafood from the southern districts in Chile
- many types...those next to the sea on the coast and penguins walking between them was odd. The cactus fruit...sour goodness that know one told me was also a laxative...
- Atacama Desert...where this years Dakar motor race was held. Barren dry and reasonably hot (nothing compared to Alice Springs or recent weather at home from what it sounds) BUT the contrast of colours Blue skies, White from snow on the Andes and the salt pans, colours of the rock in the Andes (Green, Red, Purple, Yellow, Pink, Brown, Black...)
- the Salt pans...amazing (see picture)
- experiencing the surface of the moon in Moon close as it comes anyway and all made from salt
- visiting a rain forest hidden amongst the desert...literally seeing Mushroom/fungi/moss only 50m from were I had been looking at a cactus...crazy!
- Pisco Sour's. Pisco being the national drink (distilled wine) mixed with lemon juice, sugar and ice...yummy slurpy with a kick to it
- Train cemetery...bring out the kid in any boy playing with old steam trains

I now fly to Patagonia where I will undertake few weeks walking. Rumors from other travelers give it a great wrap and great scenery (between the clouds like in NZ). From Patagonia I will fly direct to Rio De Janeiro where it is Carnival time. After Carnival I will make my way across South America to Lima (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, North-North Chile, Peru). My Spanish is terrible but my acting skills with a few words seem still to be working...I can eat anyway!

Best wishes to all and I hope you celebrated Australian day in 'true blue fair-dinkum' Aussie style...I had to settle for wearing a bluey, drinking beer and singing John Williamson songs to all that would listen!

Hooroo, Hasta Luego