"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. travel. meet many people. go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. try everything. exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jakobsweg: part one

So its been five days since my dad and I departed Salzburg and took several trains to Rorscach, Switzerland, on the shore of lake Constance.  On our first day, we didnt arrive in Rorscach until 2:30.  We hiked for 8.8 miles to St. Gallen.  We quickly were introduced to Switzerlands hilly terrain, ascending constantly up.  We passed by old women raking hay into lines to dry in the sun and walked through farms and villages.  When we finally arrived in St. Gallen, we were exhausted.
The next morning we had a traditional Swiss feast of good bread, cheese, and a soft boiled egg.After some delightful conversation, we began our trip to Herisau.  This was a fairly flat day weaving in and out of forest trails up to the town.  our host famiky, the Hausers welcomed us to join them at a local music event, which turned out to be several bands including a highschool pep band! We were surprised to hear them start to play Gangnam style, which was very intetesting. 
After another wonderful breakfast the next morning, we began our trio to Wattwill.  We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.  That day we climbed and climbed, reaching 1094m at Sitz, a ski lift followed our path.  Only then did we go down and then back up and down again and up.  Everywhere we looked was an amazing panorama of rolling green hills covered in yellow and purple flowers.  Houses dotted the open stretches of hillside and cow bells were ringing in the air. We made a wrong turn at one pt, adding 1.5mi to our trip.  Once back on the trail, we walked through the small town of St.Peterzell and up a crossing to descend a steep slope into Wattwill.  After 18 mi, we were ready for bed.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find where we were staying and ended up being turned around by poor directions for an hour until finally someone offered to drive us there.  When we get to the house, however, the family wasn't there!  After much help from a friendly neighbor, we found a place to sleep in another house.  The women greeted us with a homemade flower extract drink made from the elder bush that was absolutely amazing.  She said it was her first opportunity to speak English because she had only read it before.  While the day was exhausting, it ended on a highnote.
Our trip to Rapperswill was another18 mi day, but a little more manageable.  There was a steep climb to get out if the city, but after that it was "flat"(at least for the Swiss).  We came into the city with a beautiful sweeping view overlooking Lake Zurich. 
Today we made our way to Einsiendeln ( about ten miles).  We had a very steep climb out of the city (I think there is a trend forming here), followed by sloping meadows and a "plateau" which brought us to Lake Sihl.  From there we made our descent into Eisiendeln, with the large kloster (abbey) looming on the side of a hill.
After only five days on the trail, I've picked up a few things: dehydration can make you do funny things, no matter how much moleskin you wear you will get blisters, I never want to rake hay along the hills these people have (absolutely crazy), its perfectly normal to walk into someones house to ask for water, and there is a littl old lady somewhere between herisau and wattwill who is the nicest woman ever ( she just kept chatting away in German, just happy to talk to someone even if we had no idea what she was saying).
In the next few days we will sleep in straw in Brunnen, then make our way to Stans and Flueli Ranft.  It has been quite the experience so far!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Von Trapp Style

The hills are definitely alive with the sound of music in  Salzburg! I don't have too much time so ill give a brief update on my Austrian adventures.  The first two days were rainy and cloudy, but still turned out quite well! My dad and I walked along the cliff of Monchsberg to the fortress of Salzburg.  We finished our first night at a beer hall, stuffing our faces with a smorgasboard of Austrian cuisine.  We spent the next few days walking along the river, up kapuzinerberg, into a modern museum of art, eating sachertorte, watching the sunset from a roof bar and enjoying the city of Salzburg.  Tomorrow we head to Switzerland via train!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

50 shades of green

I had a great time in Ireland, the land of fifty shades of green as my friend called it.  I explored the city of Dublin: up and down the side of the river, past Molly Malone, through numerous parks, and into the Temple bar.  I spent an evening at the merry ploughboy "having a crack" and "bantering" as well as listening to some good ol' Irish music.  I spent a day exploring Malahide castle, deciding of course that one day I am going to have a great party in an Irish castle.  I also ventured into the Wicklow mountains to see Glendalough.  There is a lake centered in the valley of the mountans, covered in green, a beautiful spot!  Now I am off to the city of Salzburg, Austria!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to get a pilgrim passport for The Way of St. James

Along the The Way of St. James, there are some hostels or other accommodations that require that you are carrying a pilgrim passport or credential.  You can also get stamps from all the different places you have been along the way.  Not only does it get you discounts on your pilgrimage, but it is a cool souvenir to keep.  If you are an American, you can pre-order your credentials for free(or with a small donation) from American Pilgrims on the Camino.  Be sure to order at least two weeks before your departure.  If you would rather get one on route, there on many places along the way in Spain.  In Switzerland, however, I struggled to find where I could obtain a pilgrim passport.  Finally, I found a place in St. Gallen that has credentials for purchase (Pilgrims Sankt Gallen).  So with pilgrim passport in hand, I am ready to start my pilgrimage!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Don't be afraid to walk alone and don't be afraid to like it"-John Mayer

     Once again I find myself on the precipice of a new chapter in my life.  With several months before I head out for medical school, I decided what better to do than walk across a country?  In one week, I will set out for my journey that begins in Rorschach, Switzerland, ending in Geneva.  I will travel an ancient pilgrimage route called The Way of St. James or Jakobsweg.  This route is roughly 430km long and will take me about 25 days to complete.  While I'll have a tent on my back, I am also planning on sleeping in some of the popular "sleep in straw" (schlaf im stroh) locations.  You literally sleep in these families' barns!
      So why did I choose to spend an entire month of my short summer trekking across a country?  People do pilgrimages for many reasons now-a-days.  While in medieval times, this route was steeped in religious tradition, today it is walked by people searching for a challenge, calling upon faith, who appreciate the beautiful scenery, or who just need an escape from their mundane life.  Of course, the religious history is still present with many churches and landmarks scattered along the route (such as shrines to St. Niklaus or the abbey in Einsiendeln).  I chose to do a pilgrimage because I had the time and I wanted to spend it challenging my mind and body.  What better way to do that than a long walk by myself!  The other reason, of course, is due to my itch to travel again. For once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote and I will be happily infected for the rest of my life.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

Sorry for the delay in new posts, but I've been busy doing numerous activities :)

  • Raglan-- We took a weekend trip to the west coast, a little south of Auckland.  Raglan is a small town known for its black sand beaches and surf spots. My friends all had long boards and I was borrowing a short board from my friend.  It took me two days to barely get up on it until I caved and tried the long board, which was much easier.  After a long day battling the waves and getting tossed into the sand, we went to THE pub in town and watched some rugby.  Unfortunately, Ireland lost to wales :(  
  • Waiheke Island-- went to some wineries, walked along beaches, and explored underground tunnels from World War I
  • Coromandel Peninsula--- We hiked the Pinnacles in one day, camped that night, and headed to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach the next day.  The view from the top was sweet as--you could see rolling hills on one side, and the ocean on the other.  At the Hot Water Beach, we dug ourselves a hot-tub in the sand and water from the thermal vents poured in.
  • My parents were here for two weeks.  We tasted kiwi dishes, visited Motuihe Island, and my dad and I tramped through Mordor (Tongariro Crossing).
Sadly, my experience here in New Zealand is coming to a close.  In two days, I'll be getting lost, walking the streets of Sydney.  This semester has been heaps of fun, but it flew by too quickly!  I've made some amazing friends, climbed a lot of mountains, and seen too many sheep.  Hopefully this won't be the last time I step foot on New Zealand soil.  It's not goodbye, it's see you later.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

"We're Domesticated Now"

The Rugby World Cup is in full swing!  Auckland has a new life force pulsing through the city.  Last Saturday, my Irish flatmate convinced us to dress up in Ireland's colors and go skipping down Queen St to the wharf--there are lots of tents set up with live music, large screens playing the matches, and bars.  Ireland was playing Australia that night--Ozzies were favoured to win.  So we went down Queen St, singing "Molly Malone"---people kept cheering "Go Irish!" at us, I of course, played along and pretended I was Irish... We ended up watching the game in an Irish pub, Munster's.  The energy in the pub after the game as all the people who were at Eden Park came flooding into the bar was amazing.  A live band took the stage and started playing Irish melodies all night (Ireland won! If that wasn't clear...).  After that night, we decided we should just dress up as whatever country was playing that night and walk down Queen St :)

On a different note, yesterday I went canyoning about forty minutes outside of Auckland in the Waitakere ranges.  Our program coordinator from Australearn took about ten of us out there on the trip, so it wasn't commercially done.  We were "just a bunch of friends having a good time"...in case the warden asked.  We hiked about 40 minutes up a trail in our wet suits--we got some pretty funny looks.  We walked down the river for a bit, occasionally reaching points chest deep (we had been warned of eels, but no worries, we didn't see one....until the end).  At one point, Gavin, our coordinator, dug out some brush underwater, creating a tunnel we could swim through.  Obstacle one, check.  We slid down rock slides and jumped off several ledges.  The tallest jump was about 10 metres.  You couldn't see the jump until it was your turn and you walked up to the ledge--- I looked down, looked at Gavin said "Are you serious?", he nodded, and so I took the plunge.  Not only did we just jump off a massive ledge, but we landed in a canyon.  We had begun our descent underground.  We stopped and ate Mars Bars, a local favourite, and tried to keep from freezing, as Gavin set up the abseil.  We then repelled down a waterfall, water rushing in our faces as we went down the slippery rocks.  Now, completely underground, we took one last leap off a log protruding out over a ledge. It was a pretty sweet day--although very cold!

While we were driving back to Auckland, Gavin said " You guys are pretty much domesticated now after two months-- regular bunch of kiwis."   I have come to understand and love this kiwi life-style.  Where else in the world do you go swim down a river on a Saturday with a bunch of friends just cause you can?

About to abseil down the waterfall