You Might Just Meet Someone Chapter One

This is chapter one of a novel I have written. Feedback is welcome.

Chapter One

I woke up stiff and achy. I was pretty sure I had the beginnings of jetlag even though I was still in the air. It was that wretched mixture of queasiness and exhaustion. I hate flying long-haul. Let me correct that. I hate flying long-haul in economy. Flying across the world when I’ve been upgraded to business class is awesome. I can highly recommend it. But this wasn’t one of those times.

I checked my watch. I had slept – if you want to call it that – for five hours. That may sound like a lot on a plane, but I’d started counting when I left Sydney 26 hours before. There was still two hours to go before we landed in London, but I knew I had no more sleeping in me. I was annoyingly wide awake. I yawned a big, ugly yawn, the kind I usually reserve for solitary moments. It was one of the few benefits of sitting in a cabin full of people I’d never see again once we landed.

I stretched my neck from side to side and pushed my palms into my eye sockets. My eyes felt like they wanted to be anywhere but inside my head. I dug around in my seat pocket for eye-drops, tipped my head back, and irrigated the poor things with soothing coolness. Resting my head back on the seat I longed to be in a bed – any bed – even a camp cot, and I hate camping. I just wanted to be lying flat so I could stretch out my aching muscles. I certainly did not want to be cooped up with all those strangers in a ridiculously uncomfortable seat, breathing that stale, nasty air.

Yup, I’d definitely woken up on the wrong side of the plane.

Still, crankiness was easier to deal with than the other thing on my mind. I was anxious and I had been for the past few weeks. Not about the flying. I’d flown enough times to treat a patch of turbulence with indifference, but when it came to the thousand and one other things that could go wrong while travelling, I was in full-blown neurotic mode.

To be fair, I had a reason to be anxious. Those thousand and one things – I’d experienced every single one of them – a flight delayed so long I’d had to sleep on the airport floor; flights cancelled altogether; missing hotel reservations; a stolen wallet; a suitcase that disappeared in transit; a suitcase that showed up a mangled mess and spilling its contents on the baggage carousel; malaria! Okay, so it wasn’t actually malaria. It was a slightly less insidious parasite, but it still knocked me on my ass for five days when I was supposed to be hiking the Inca Trail.

I looked out the window at the passing clouds. Whatever was going on, I should have been excited about the amazing trip I was about to embark on. I was on holiday! After an overnight stay in London, I was going to Santorini. That’s right, the Santorini of Greek island fame. So you see, in the big scheme of things, I had very little reason to feel so sucky.

Thank the Greek gods that my sister lived in London. I was thrilled I’d get to see her before I went to Santorini. I’d missed her like crazy. Plus, she’d tell me not to be such a drama queen, which I desperately needed to hear. I really didn’t want to start my holiday with a rash of nervous hives.

Catherine – or Cat, as I called her – had moved to England fifteen years before, aged nineteen. We only saw each other in the flesh every couple of years when she came home to Sydney or I went over to London. I knew that she would ease my worries – real or imagined – with a good hard dose of tough love. It was one of the many, many reasons she was my best friend.

The rest of the flight was uneventful and within a couple of hours of waking up, I’d had my breakfast of congealed eggs and cold toast, washed my face with a moist towelette, cleared immigration, and was waiting at baggage claim for my backpack. I was normally a suitcase kind of a girl, but I’d brought a backpack because the brochure had said to. Apparently, there wasn’t much space inside a yacht.

Oh, did I forget to mention that? The trip would start in Santorini, and then I was sailing around the Greek Islands for nine days. Not by myself – I don’t actually know how to sail a boat. The skipper would be doing the sailing, and there’d be some other people on the boat, but most importantly there would be me – on a yacht!

As I watched bag after bag pop out of the baggage shoot and tumble down onto the carousel, my nerves were replaced by something much better, excitement. I felt it bubble up inside me, as it really hit me that I was going to Santorini! In Greece! And then to a bunch of other Greek islands that I couldn’t remember the names of!

I could see myself on the bow of the yacht wearing my tangerine bikini and duty-free Prada sunglasses – which both looked fantastic on me, by the way – the wind whipping through my hair. I’d be like Leonardo DiCaprio – the king of the world! Well, queen anyway. Princess, at the very least.

Finally after a millennium, my bag appeared. Good thing too, as my yacht fantasy was devolving into something out of an 80s video clip. I grabbed for the handle, fumbled with it a bit, and then lugged it off the carousel. It wasn’t very big, but it was filled to the brim with the perfect Greek Island adventure trousseau: the obligatory summer dresses, the obligatory bikinis, and the obligatory Bermuda shorts, flowing skirts, cute tops, sunhat – all of the obligatories. I was a travelling cliché and I didn’t care. Did I mention I was going to Greece?

I dragged the bag over to one of the airport trolleys, swung it aboard, stacked my handbag on top and headed for the ‘Nothing to Declare’ exit. The only think I had to declare was that I was going sailing in the Aegean, and I didn’t think that the Customs agents gave a crap about that.

Cat was waiting on the other side of the door behind the silver railing. She and I look almost exactly alike, except that I am 5’6” and she’s five foot. She’ll say she’s 5’ ¾” but she’s not. And she got the good hair. Bitch. It’s the only thing I hate about her. While I’m stuck with masses of curls – the really curly ones – she has thick cascading, chestnut waves. Like I said, bitch.

She ducked under the railing, even though I don’t think you’re supposed to do that. “You’re here!” she declared, throwing her little arms around my neck. I stopped pushing the trolley and returned the hug. We stepped back and regarded each other.

“You look fab!” I declared, tears in my eyes.

“You too!” she lied.

“Like hell I do. I just got off a 28-hour flight. I look like crap.”

“You’re right, but that’s nothing a shower and a good night’s sleep won’t cure. Come on.” Then she took over pushing my trolley, which was probably a good thing because Heathrow is busy even at the slowest of times and I wasn’t up to running the gauntlet. I followed obediently as she parted the crowd with a series of slightly-rude, “Excuse me’s.”

Back in her flat, my hair wet from the best shower I’d ever had, a cup of tea in one hand and a chocolate biscuit in the other, I sat on one end of her couch while we caught each other up on the previous two years. Of course, we’d emailed and Facetimed – we weren’t estranged or anything – but those things are just not the same as actually being together.

It was a new flat since the last time I’d last been there. She lived with a guy and a girl, and apparently the guy was never there, always away on business or something. I was immensely grateful for this arrangement, because it meant I could sleep in his bed rather than on the couch. Still, even the couch was better than sleeping in an airplane seat.

The girl, Jane, would be home later, and Cat had planned for the three of us to have dinner in. She said she was cooking and I pretended to be excited about it. Beggars cannot be choosers. Still, after four meals of airplane food, I would have been happy with baked beans on toast, or even just the rest of the chocolate biscuits.

“So, tomorrow you fly to Athens and then what?”

“I pretty much fly straight to Santorini. The lay-over in Athens is a few hours and I thought about sightseeing, but knowing me if I left the airport I’d get caught in a Greek traffic jam on the way back and miss my island-hopper.”


“Thank you so very much,” I replied my voice thick with sisterly sarcasm.

“I’m just agreeing with you. Sometimes you have shitty luck when you travel.” Sometimes. Understatement of the century. Still the excitement won out.

“Cat, can you believe I’m totally going to Santorini tomorrow?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Jealous.

“But listen, when I first decided to go, I read all the brochures and about a zillion online reviews and then I booked it. And I was really excited for a while, but it’s been months since then, so after a while it stopped feeling real, until now, until today. I can’t believe I’m really going!” I grinned at her, and then I stopped. “I’m not being too obnoxious, am I?”

She smiled. “No, I’m happy for you. Really.” Not so jealous after all.

“I wish you could come too.”

“So do I, but there’s no way I could have gotten time off.” Cat was a teacher like me, but while I was on holidays, her school year had just started.

“Probably for the best. As you said, I have shitty luck with this stuff. Maybe you’re escaping a huge disaster of a trip.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, every time I travel somewhere, things go wrong. Look at last time in Peru! Plus I won’t know anyone, and…”

“Sarah, a little bad luck does not a disaster make. And besides, you used to run tours – long ones – for fifty people. You know how to make friends.”

“I know, but…”

“But nothing. The occasional bad luck aside, you’re you. You always manage to come out of whatever life throws at you. You’re a very capable traveller, and you’ve been around –” I threw her a stern look. “You know what I mean, I mean you’ve literally been around. You’ve been practically everywhere. You’ll be fine.”

See? Tough love. Plus, everything she said made sense, but still…

“That’s true, but what if it’s just completely horrible?”

She laughed at me. I probably deserved it. “It’s not going to be horrible. It’s going to be amazing, and you’ll probably meet some really cool people.” Then she hit me with the one thing I didn’t want to hear. “You know, you might just meet someone.” And then she gave me that look.

And in that instant, my sister, my best friend in the entire world, joined the ‘poor Sarah needs a mate’ pity party.

“Did you really just say that?” I asked, shooting what I hoped were fiery daggers from my eyes.

“What?” She feigned innocence.

“You know exactly what!” I didn’t think it was possible, but her eyes got even bigger. “Do you know how many people have said that to me since I booked this bloody trip?”

She shook her head, her eyes like saucers.

“A bazillion!” Okay, so sometimes I tend towards the hyperbole. It was probably more like twelve, but in my world, that’s a lot.

“Oh-kay!” she retaliated. “I didn’t realise it was such a sore point. I hope you don’t meet anyone, especially not anyone who’s good looking and makes you laugh – especially not an all-round great guy. I hope all the men you meet are old and fat and ugly. No! Better yet, I hope there are no men. I hope you sail around the Greek islands with a bunch of middle-aged lesbians! I hope you go to Lesbos, and are surrounded with lesbians!!” She pinned me down with a so-there stare, and after a beat we both fell about laughing. My laughter then turned into a yawn.

“How’re you doing over there?” she asked.

“Good!” I replied with more enthusiasm than I felt. She looked dubious. “Okay, I’m shattered, but I need to stay up and get on European time. I’ll be fine. The tea’s kicking in.”

“Okay, so how about some more tea then?”

“Yes! Definitely more tea.” I drained the last of my mug and handed it to her. She took it into the kitchen and put the kettle on.

With her back to me, she asked “So, as long as you’re staying up for a while, do you want to talk about it now?” She turned to face me, looking mildly uncomfortable, like she was holding in a fart or something.

“About what?” I asked, not really wanting to know.

“Neil.” I was right. I didn’t want to know. Neil was literally the last person on the planet I wanted to talk about. I would have put having a lively conversation about Hitler, or Stalin, or even Idi Amin over talking about the sack of shit I had called my boyfriend for the better part of a year.

“Not really.”

“Oh. Okay.” I could see the disappointment registered on her face. I could also see her mind working. “It’s just that…well, we never talked about it.”

She was right. I hadn’t wanted to talk to anybody about what happened with Neil – not my closest friends – not even Cat. It was just so humiliating.

“True, but…” I hesitated. But what, Sarah? But, please don’t make me relive it all now when I am so exhausted that I would rather stick a fork in my eye? I thought that, but what I said was, “Okay.”

She brought fresh cups of tea back to the couch and pushed the plate of chocolate biscuits towards me. She knew me so well. “So, what happened?” She folded her legs under her and looked at me expectantly.

“Well, Neil was a dickhead and it took me far too long to do anything about it.” I took a bite of a chocolate biscuit.

“But why did you stay with him?” That was a question I’d asked myself a thousand times. I swallowed the hard lump of biscuit.

“I really don’t know. Pretty much from the beginning, there were all these alarm bells going off in my head. And I dismissed them – time and time again. I pretended that it wasn’t weird that he wouldn’t see me during the week, or that he refused to meet my friends, or that he hated me telling him anything good that happened to me.” Cat’s brow furrowed. “You know when I got promoted to head of department?” She nodded. “Well, I told him about it and he said – and I quote – ‘Well, thanks for telling me. Now I feel like shit about myself. Nice one, Sarah.’”

“He did not!”

“He bloody did. And I still didn’t leave him.”

“Jesus. And who was this slapper that he cheated on you with?”

“A friend.”

“Hardly. Do I know her?”

“No, she was a new friend – from yoga – or at least, I thought she was my friend.”

“But, how did they meet?”

“They were both at a barbecue at my place. And I didn’t think anything of them talking to each other most of the night. I was just happy that he was finally meeting my friends. Apparently, it started right after that.”

“How did you find out?”

“I suspected something was up, because he was acting way weirder than usual, so I did something I never thought I would do – something awful.”

“What?” I could see the suspense was killing her, but I had never revealed this detail to anyone before. I sucked in my breath through my teeth. “I hacked into his email account.”

“Oh my God! That’s brilliant. How did you do that?” I laughed. I loved that rather than judging me, she was impressed that I’d done something so sneaky.

“Well, it wasn’t exactly hacking. I tried guessing his password. And I got in.”


“Yep. Second try. It was his footy team.”

“What a stupid idiot.”

“Yep. And there was an email trail of the whole thing. Months it had been going on – and get this, the whole time she was telling me to my face all about this new guy she was seeing.”

“Utter bitch!”

“I know!” I bit into the biscuit and chewed furiously; Cat was literally on the edge of her seat. “So, I confronted him about it, and he lied to my face and told me not to be ridiculous. I just looked at him – straight in the eye – and said, ‘I know for a fact that you’ve been fucking her, you lying cheat. That little slut can’t keep her legs or her mouth shut. So, this is over. Never contact me again. Oh, and I hope you catch her chlamydia.’ Then I left his place and that was it.” I shoved the rest of the biscuit in my mouth.

“That’s like something out of a movie.”

I nodded and swallowed. “Well, I did practice it a few times before I went over there. I knew he would deny it. Some of their emails to each even said how dumb I was for not knowing what was going on.”

“Oh, Sez.”

I started to tear up. I chanced a glance at Cat and she was looking at me as though I was a wounded puppy. I looked away and blinked the tears from my eyes. I wasn’t shedding any more tears for fucking Neil.

“He’s a stupid bastard!” she declared.

“Yes, he is. But I haven’t told you the best part. After I broke up with him, I kept logging into his email so I could watch the aftermath. And boy did it get ugly. He accused her of telling me and she denied it, he asked if she had chlamydia, and she was outraged. He called her names, she called him names back and eventually she told him to fuck right off. So in the end he lost both of us. So, yes, a stupid bastard.”

“And you were with him for what, a year?”

“Close – it was about ten months, but I still can’t believe I stayed as long as I did. I haven’t seen him since, though, so it’s all good. I booked this trip the week we broke up.”

“Well, I’m glad you booked this trip – no matter what drove you to it.” She paused, “Sez, you deserve way better, you know that, right?”

I smiled. I did know that, yes. I knew that I deserved far better than to be cheated on by every man who I had ever called my boyfriend, starting with my high school sweetheart and ending with Neil the dickhead.

“Anyway, I’ve kind of sworn off men since then. I just want to be on my own for a while. I’m not sure how long ‘a while’ is, but for right now, I think that’s best.”

“Oh.” She looked surprised, which after everything I had just told her, surprised me.

“I’m happily single.” I wasn’t sure if I was trying to convince her or me.

“I’m sorry about what I said before – about you meeting someone on the boat.”

“It’s cool. I know that you’re just looking out for me.”

“And your vagina.”

“And my vagina? Well, that’s disturbing.”


“I don’t need my sister worrying about my vagina. I may have sworn off men, but my lady parts are just fine, thank you.”

“You’ve sworn off men? Entirely?”

“Well, not forever, but just until…” Until what, Sarah?

“Until what?” See? Even Cat wanted to know.

The thing was, I didn’t know myself what I was waiting for. I only knew that I wasn’t interested in meeting anyone. In fact, the thought of meeting someone new was utterly exhausting. And I had no idea when I’d be ready – or if I ever would.

A wave of fatigue hit me, sucking up my last ounce of energy. “Hey, would you hate me if I went and laid down for a bit? I can barely keep my eyes open.” I could see Cat mentally noting that I’d dodged her question.

“Of course not,” she said, letting me off the hook for the second time in as many minutes. “I changed the sheets in Justin’s room, so you’re all set. What time’s your flight in the morning?”

“Pft. Stupid o’clock. Six, I think.”

“Well, I’m a hundred percent sure that I’ll still be asleep when you take off, so it’s highly unlikely I’ll be up when you have to leave here. Want me to order you a car to Heathrow?”

“Sure. If I leave here at 4:15, will that give me enough time?”

“Should do. I’ll book it for you. I’m sooooo glad it’s not me.”

“You know, I’m just going to go lie down for an hour or so. I still want to meet Jane and have dinner with you guys.”

She looked at me with a knowing smile. “Sure, Sez.”

And that was the last thing I remembered when my horrid travel alarm intruded on my coma-like sleep at 3:30am London time. It was a good thing that when I went to lie down, I’d set it just in case. I tried to figure out how long I had slept, but I knew it didn’t matter. I felt even worse than when I woke up on the plane the morning before. I needed a hot shower, then a bucket of tea, and I only had forty-five – make that forty-three – minutes until my car arrived. Crap.

I only made the driver wait for five minutes, which I thought was pretty good considering how disoriented I was and how horrendous I felt. We made it to Heathrow in record time, as it seems that sometimes London does sleep and it’s at 4:30 in the morning. The sun was just lightening the sky as I forked over a small fortune in pounds to the cabbie. Then it was just me and my backpack and the behemoth that is terminal one of Heathrow. The nerves were back. I don’t know why on earth people refer to them as butterflies. They felt more like baby elephants to me.

Heatwave in Seattle

by bangladeshihindu

I have a confession to make.  I am one of those women you see at the gym who reads magazines on the cardio equipment.  I have another confession.  I feel superior to other women who read magazines on the cardio equipment, because I am working on level 20 while they are usually on level 4 or 7.

I don’t necessarily think that I am a better person, just that I am getting a better workout.  And something I have discovered about reading while working out, is that once in a while I am endowed with a true ‘ah-hah’ moment.

These are rare while I am reading Hollywood gossip, and really I only read those magazines for the pictures, not the articles.  Sometimes, though, someone leaves an Oprah, or a MORE magazine at the gym and I end up reading something that actually changes me a little.  I return home with a renewed sense of purpose, an inspiration or a fresh perspective.

It was one of these moments that led me to hot yoga.  I was deep in the heart of an Oprah magazine.  “’Adventure’ doesn’t have to mean trekking through the jungle or bungee-jumping.  Being adventurous is to deliberately move outside of your comfort zone,” I read, heart-pounding, face red, and sweat pouring.

That night my girlfriend, Carlie, sent me a text.  The week before we had talked about how she did hot yoga, and how I wanted to try it.  This was the moment of truth, my moment to be adventurous.  “6 tomorrow morning.  Meet you there?”  I replied, “Sure!” before I could talk myself out of it.

So, I took my nearly 41-year-old tight hamstrings to hot yoga.

I loved it.  I loved being hot. I loved stretching myself – both literally and figuratively.  I enjoyed the low candle light and the relaxing, but very hip music (nary a whale call or a raindrop to be heard).  I thoroughly enjoyed a rhythmic and strengthening hour of Vinyasa.

Allow me to interject with the brief (and sporadic) history of “Sandy and Yoga”.

  • I can’t remember when I did my first class.  It was the 90s.
  • I had a crush on a beautiful, sexually-ambiguous Eurasian yoga instructor in Sydney, so I attended his classes each week for a whole month.
  • I do a series of sun salutations before I fly.
  • I lived with a yoga instructor, who chided me about doing weights and running, until I did a perfect jump-back from Crow to Plank, which finally shut her up.
  • I fell in love with ‘Body Balance’ classes, which combined yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates choreographed to music.  Those fed my body and my attention-span-of-a-two-year-old mind, but I moved to America where there are no Body Balance classes.
  • I did no yoga for 18 months, and became stiff and sore more frequently than stretching at the gym could combat.
  • I tried hot yoga and signed up for two months unlimited attendance.
  • I go here three times a week and I feel great.

Thank you, Carlie, for leading me on a new adventure.

I do sometimes question if I love the yoga, or the fact that it is hot in the studio.  Living in Seattle, I am rarely hot.  Showers are hot, of course, but I mean with my clothes on.  Most of the time I am focusing on ‘not being cold’, so the yoga studio offers welcome relief. Still, hot yoga is something I have always wanted to try, but never did ‘til now.

That makes it my adventure du jour.  Next is participating in a flash mob…

When the pieces come together: Part Two

Our accommodation the first night of our weekend was with a lovely lady called Barbara at her B&B in Port Angeles, Ocean Crest.  We arrived just before dinner and she showed us to our room.  It was very comfortable, had its own bathroom, and just next door was a little sitting room for us.  Barbara was thrilled to hear an Australian accent, as her beau is keen to take her to Australia next year and she was full of questions.

She took us through our dining options for the evening, and made reference to ‘Twilight’ several times.  I then noticed the Twilight paraphernalia featured on a bookcase.  Apparently, there is a book out there called Twilight, and quite a few people have read it, and many of those people come to the Olympic Peninsula to see where Bella (the heroine) and her vampire lover, Edward ‘live’.

The story is set in Forks, Washington, and we were 60 miles away, but that didn’t mean that the Twilight business is not thriving in Port Angeles too.  It was our first taste of how far reaching this phenomena is.

We opted not to go to ‘Bella Italian’ – a favorite amongst Twilight devotees, but instead chose a seafood restaurant on the water.  It was a good pick and I had Dungeness crabcakes (Dungeness is just up the road from Port Angeles) and Ben tried razor clams.  Both were delicious, especially the unusual razor clam, which is large and meaty and quite a bit sweeter than crab.  After dinner we discovered a cozy wine bar, and sat down to taste some California reds.  We would have stayed longer, but one of us would have had to play ‘skipper’ and it is just no fun watching your love drink lovely wine while you sip water.

Barbara, a pro in the B&B business for eleven years, not surprisingly made a fabulous breakfast the next morning.  While we enjoyed pancakes, eggs and bacon, we heard more of her story – recently divorced, but seemingly happy – and about her son who runs a resort out near Forks – yes, the Forks of the novel, Twilight.

We  kept a close eye on the weather through breakfast.  That morning we were supposed to be going kayaking on Freshwater Bay.  However, I awoke to a very stiff and sore shoulder, so Ben was going it alone.  Even though check out time was 11am, Barbara had generously offered for me to stay on and ‘chill out’ until Ben got back around 1pm.

As I ate, I looked out at dark clouds and incessant rain, and a niggling thought popped into my head: ‘It’s still officially summer’.  I pushed aside the disheartening thought about the demise of my favorite season.  I needn’t be selfish, as I wasn’t the one who would get very wet.  Luckily when I called the kayaking place to cancel, they said they only had the two of us booked, and it was probably best to call it off all together.  Ben seemed very happy about that.

Instead, we decided to go wine tasting.  (Hooray!)  We said a fond farewell to Barbara, and as we drove out of the driveway saw this little lady:

Doe a deer...

We then went to Camaraderie Cellars and Harbinger Winery.   Both had some lovely wines, which were presented by lovely people.  We killed a couple of hours, and made some dents in the plastic, but you have to when you taste good wine that you can only get at the cellar door.  Wine tasting at cellar doors is a ‘regret-less endeavor’ only if you buy what you like when you’re there.

We were a chatty pair as we drove again past Lake Crescent, and on towards Forks.  We would stay that night at Manitou Lodge, which sits nestled in the coastal rain forest, just west of Forks.  A couple of hours before check in, we pulled up outside Three Rivers Resort and Cafe, also just west of Forks.  We knew that the cafe (owned by Barbara’s son) had its own ‘vampire menu’, but it was at this time that the whole ‘Twilight’ obsession started to hit home.

Inside the cafe is this sign:

Treaty line
Treaty line

which I am sure people thought I was photographing because I am a fan.  I’m not; all I know is that the books – and now a film – exist.

We later learned that next weekend is a huge celebration in Forks to mark Bella’s fictional birthday.  Her birthday part is being held in a church, because, as you all know, vampires can’t go into churches.

It is an intriguing pursuit, this whole Twilight obsession.  It has me more than a little curious, so I have asked Ben to put the film on our Netflix cue.  I am not too keen to read the book, but I will check out the film.  At least we can say ‘We’ve been there”.  We ate our burgers – which were terrific – and played two games of Yahtzee, both of which Ben won – but only just.

After lunch and a short drive we were at the coast at LaPush, Washington.  It was spectacularly beautiful, but the most inhospitable I have ever seen the Pacific.

A storm was raging, waves crashed and the whole scene was of gray debris.

The town itself was not beautiful, rather a lonely, decrepit town I can imagine is only visited because of the views from it shores.

It was time to go to our accommodation, so we headed away from the coast and deeper into the forest.  Manitou Lodge is the sort of place that actually looks like its name.  It is big and rustic, with stone and timber walls.  On entry we were faced with a giant staircase and a grand room with a long dining table, four leather couches and bookshelves lined with old books and games.

It is a place that could be either the scene of a horror movie, or the backdrop for a mini adventure.  I was hoping for the latter.  We were shown to our room, the Lady of Guadalupe:

Both of us were keen for some indoor R&R, because the rain outside was unrelenting.  After I nested for a few minutes, much to Ben’s amusement, I chose to have a hot bath, and he chose to read about Seattle a hundred years ago.  Both of us enjoyed these solitary pursuits, and then we came back together, and headed downstairs to see what we could see.

We scoured the bookshelves for games or interesting books, all while maintaining our library voices.  There were 4 other people in the grand room, and all were reading, so we whispered.  We then hit the jackpot with a 600 piece Star Trek puzzle.

I looked at Ben as though asking, ‘Are you game?’ and he looked at me as though replying, “Okay.”  We cleared some space on the table top, and began our task.  Five hours, one and a half bottles of wine, two cheese croissants, and a bag of popcorn later we called it a night.

There were many pieces missing – we guessed about 50 – and it was too dark in the grand room to discern between dark blue and black, so we left a few patches unfinished, but overall it was a hugely successful and fun endeavor.  Whenever either of us found the place for a tricky black piece with a sliver of color on the side, we earned a ‘well done’ and a kiss from the other.

We grew new-found respect and appreciation for just how clever the other is (keep in mind that we already had heaps of both, so this is saying a lot).  The hours flew by.  I can highly recommend puzzling as a good bonding experience for couples who are rained in on an adventure holiday.

This is how we left the puzzle for anyone keen to finish it:


The rain was still with us the next morning as we bid farewell to Vampire Country.  We had survived!

We were driving the long way home, south, then east, then north up into Seattle.  It would take about 4 hours if we didn’t stop, but of course, we wanted to stop.  We chose Ruby Beach.  It was a fluke, because there are a dozen places to stop and see the ocean on the drive, but we’re both glad we got to see this:

And these examples of natural graffiti art:

We ‘souvenired’ some of these pebbles, and they now sit proudly in our home.  My favorite is the perfectly round stone Ben found.  It is 6 inches across and now sits next to the television.  I should also mention that we got very wet on this excursion.  We both had waterproof jackets, but the rain and wind were in full force – it was wild and woolly – and we spent the next hour of driving, drying off.  (Well worth it though!)

The rest of our drive went by quickly, although we did realize about 2 hours down the road that I had left my perfect pillow in the Lady of Guadalupe (they’re sending it to me).  Lunch was breakfast at Denny’s.  It is kind of a cheesy place to stop, but is always clean, and the breakfast is great.  Good ol’ Denny’s didn’t disappoint, and gave us the energy we needed to get home.

We packed a lot in, but as I said before, the success of the weekend was as much about what we skipped as what we saw.  Wine tasting is a much better way to spend a rainy day than kayaking.

As always, thank you to my darling Ben.  He is the best travel companion (and life’s companion) this girl could ever hope for.

And the boys want to know where we’re all going next…

Tahoe and Squirt are ready to go

When the pieces come together: Part One

What makes a perfect weekend?  What are the essential elements that must come together to create a weekend of ‘Kismet’?

Well, this past Labor Day long weekend we discovered that the perfect weekend can be as much about what is omitted as what is included.

The night before our departure I suffered a night of insomnia.  They come up from time to time, and usually at inopportune moments like this one.  I awoke to a rainy morning, an achy neck, a recurrence of a niggling sore throat I have been fighting for weeks, and a bad mood.

Ben was a trooper.  I was a trooper. We managed our morning like seasoned travelers and were showered, fed and packed without too many snippy words.  We loaded the car in the rain, and made the early ferry (7:55am) with several minutes to spare.  We would ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, then drive across the island and over a bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula.

The boys were excited.


I wanted either coffee or sleep.  I opted for sleep and soon discovered that the fully reclined passenger seat of Ben’s car combined with my awesome pillow (which I take with me everywhere) is the PERFECT way to travel long distances.  I was out like a light.

When I emerged from my coma, we were in Port Townsend, a pretty town on the north-eastern tip of the peninsula.  My friend, Todd, had tipped us off that it is was a great spot, so we detoured off course to fit it in.

Driving in we saw this:


The weather in Port Townsend was what my dad would call ‘wild and woolly’.  [It is an expression I have grown up with, so I know that it means ‘really windy and a lot wet’, but now that I have written it into this post, I am wondering how the ‘woolly’ part comes into play.]  It had stranded these two boats on the shoreline, and when we got out of the car, it threatened to blow us out straight back of town.

We opted for a safe haven in the form of the nearest coffee shop, where we drank tea, and ate American-style scones.  Ben asked for soy milk, but we were informed that they didn’t use soy milk, because it is VERY bad for you.  Sure. Okay.  Whatever you say.

After tea Ben suggested we walk through the town a bit.  For me the day was only just coming in to focus, so I said yes, despite the weather.  I needed to wake up fully.

In Port Townsend

We discovered some gorgeous architecture that has been lovingly restored, and many galleries.  I bought a few little trinkets – gifts mostly – including a giant sand dollar from the curio shop.  It now sits with our African Goddess and our Indian Elephant – three continents represented in one corner of our living room.  The people we met were lovely and chatty, and I know this is a place I would like to go back to sometime soon.

Moving on from the windy town, we made our way south and then west towards Port Angeles.  We would be staying at a B&B there later in the day, but it wasn’t even lunch time yet, so we pressed on towards the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Lunch was an impromptu stop at Granny’s Cafe, an old school diner on the main highway.

Catsup and Creamer

I believe it is solely for this reason that people stop there to eat, and has nothing to do with Granny, the food, or the collections of ‘things’ that fill every horizontal surface.



The food was, at best, passable.

Fed, we hopped back in the car, still on course for Sol Duc Springs, and took a detour to Lake Crescent, where we saw our first glimpse of sun that day.

Driving to Lake Crescent

The Lake is in the Olympic National Park, but holiday homes pepper its shore.  From one angle I could have sworn I saw how it must be at the height of summer, even though the true temperature was closer to 58F (15C).

Lake Crescent

As we left, the rain came again.  After winding around the south side of the lake – a beautiful drive – we turned off the highway and into the central part of the national forest.  We overshot the hot springs and drove instead to a trail head for, among other destinations, Sol Duc Falls.  It was only sprinkling lightly, but had clearly rained heavily at some point, because the trails were dense with mud.

Just as I pointed out a beetle for Ben to avoid stepping on, there was a sharp pain in my hand.  I quickly pulled off my glove, thinking that maybe a spider had nestled in there over the summer, but no.  A yellow jacket hornet had stung me through my glove and it hurt like hell.  A quick detour back to the car to dress my wound, and we retraced our steps back towards the falls.  We were rewarded for our efforts – and my pain – with this spectacular sight.

Ben at Sol Duc Falls

And looking further down river:

So lush

We made our way back to the car while I watched carefully for attack hornets.  Back at the car we met a lovely group of middle aged people who had been stranded by a dead car battery.  Fortuitously for them we happened to be parked right next to them, and could give them a jump start.  “Thank goodness,” said one of the women.  “We were so worried that the people on either side of us were off trekking for days on end.”  She had no way of knowing that trekking for days in the rain is my closest idea to hell, but we all agreed that our car’s proximity to theirs was ‘great luck indeed’.  Sometimes you meet the nicest people.

Feeling good about our small act of kindness, we drove a short distance, grabbed our swimsuits and paid admission to the Sol Duc Springs Resort.

I kind of knew when I saw first the ‘hot springs’ – essentially giant hot tubs stuffed with tourists and their splashing children – and then the filthy change rooms, that it would be a short visit.  I was disappointed for many reasons.  Mostly, I had looked forward to the hot springs because my neck, shoulders and upper back had been chronically sore for days.  It was becoming hard to sit, sleep, stand and move – which pretty much didn’t leave much time when it didn’t hurt.

I had also been to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, Peru, which were beautiful, exceptionally clean, and set into the side of a mountain, so my expectations for the Sol Duc Springs were high.

The stench of sulfur did nothing to ease my aches, and I wished it was a better experience all around – especially for Ben, who was experiencing a hot springs for the first time.  I stayed in as long as I could, but when I saw the 30th strand of hair float by, and then a band-aid, I got out, quickly showered and dressed.  Ben was not too far behind me.  Before leaving I filled in a comment card, and as this post goes to press, I received a lovely email from the management apologizing for the state of the facilities and offering a free pass for us both on our next visit.  Hmm.  Thanks, but we’ll think about it.

It was time to head to our accommodation for the night and I looked forward to getting clean and dry and out of the outdoors.  Sometimes, Adventure Chick.  Sometimes, Princess.  Princess was ready for a bath!

Part Two: Where Vampires Dwell

More photos from the weekend

Geocached up


So, I have landed a new job.

As soon as my work visa is sorted, I will be working for Groundspeak, who run among many other things.

Geocaching, as a recreation, was new to me when I applied for the job.  I researched it, and decided that not only did I want to work with the people at Groundspeak, but that I wanted to become a geocacher.  And so I have.

Ben and I signed up right away – when I was mid interviews.  He has one of the fancy schmancy phones that does everything – including answer the phone – so we were all geared up with GPS technology.  We created an online profile, and searched for caches based on our zip code.

Voila!  Over 500 caches popped up within a 5 miles radius.  Um, yeah, let’s narrow that down a bit.

We chose one and headed out from our apartment towards the Seattle Center.  Unbeknown to us, we had picked the day of a huge festival to find our first cache.  Our first task was to navigate our way through the throngs of people all desperate to get their hands on freebies, corn on the cob, or beer in plastic cups.

We rounded a corner and headed down a ramp, finally easing away from the crowd.  You see, when you participate in geocaching, you want to keep a low profile.  No one wants their cache raided or stolen by ‘muggles’ (they have appropriated the term from the Harry Potter series), so you have to ensure that you are discreet.

Down the end of the ramp, and around the corner, the GPS assessed that we were ‘there’.  Now it was our job to find the cache within a 15-25 foot radius, not knowing exactly what we were looking for, and all the while trying to appear like we weren’t looking for anything at all.

It didn’t take long.  Ben took a chance on venturing a little way into the garden bed and it paid off.  The cache was a sealed Tupperware container, and enclosed was a log book, which we signed, and a few trinkets.  We took nothing, but left a coupon for free yogurt.


We were quite pleased with ourselves, despite the fact that the ratings for difficulty and terrain were both 1/5.  Still, we were no longer non-geocachers.  We went to a film that afternoon, and when we got home, logged onto our profile and shared our success.

Since then we have sought three other caches, two of which were successful.  The third is located in a small nature reserve in West Seattle.  We chose it because we had yet to get out to West Seattle, and it was deemed a 2.5/5 for both difficulty and terrain.  We wanted to kick it up a notch.

We discovered a few things that day.

Firstly, geocaching gets you out of the house, which is a particularly good thing when you realize that you are still in your pajamas at noon on a Sunday.

Secondly, if you choose caches in places you haven’t been to before, then you get to go somewhere new!  This may seem obvious, but it is delightful, nevertheless, to go somewhere  you haven’t been before.

West Seattle gave us this view of our neighborhood.

Queen Anne from West Seattle
Queen Anne from West Seattle

We also discovered the joy of finding a cache that someone else cannot find.  While we were looking for a Rating 1/1 cache close to where I took this photo, we saw other people looking for the same cache.  They were following the readings on their GPS, trying to be surreptitious, and left after they had looked in all the same places we had.  Only we decided to keep trying after they left.

At that moment I looked down and saw a small piece of paper next to my foot.  I picked it up; it was a fortune from a cookie.  It said “Your short-term goal will be realized soon.”  I showed it to Ben, just as he put his hand on the cache.  Cool!

The last thing we discovered that day was that you can try too hard.

We went in search of the 2.5/2.5 cache (that is 2.5/5 for difficulty and terrain).  We had some notes from the previous finders, and we had the location in our GPS, but under the dense canopy of trees, the GPS was rendered next to useless.

It got us in the general vicinity, but we could never seem to get close to the cache, no matter how deep we went into the woods.

At one point I had climbed down a steep incline, fought my way through giant ferns, knocked down about 5o spider webs, and traversed a fallen log that was 8  feet off the ground on its far side.  Nothing.  And the only way out was to repeat all of that in reverse.

After more than an hour we were both dirty, sweaty and a little baffled.  We went back to the main path, and even tried a couple of other small paths.  None of them could get us any closer to the location marked by the GPS.

Ben emerging from a path

We called it a day.

We walked back to the car, drove back across town and when we got home looked up the cache.  One note said, “The position of the cache is visible from the main path.”  We had tried too hard.  We had been searching for a cache that would have been rated much higher than 2.5/5 for either terrain or difficulty.  We had dug holes, looked in trees, and gone WAAAYYYYY off the path.

But we’ll go back.  I want that cache!

So, as I wait for the visa thing to be sorted, I am learning many wonderful and interesting things about all aspects of the geocaching world.

I have learned that in Western Australia there are  1818 caches.  I have learned that most people I know in North America are geocachers themselves, or know someone who is.

I have also activated the Geocoin given to me by one of the founders of Groundspeak during my final interview.  (Thank you Brian).  I have set its course for the UK, and then Australia in the hopes that it will find its way back to me here.  Isn’t that cool?

And, courtesy of my new boss, Jenn, I have my own geocaching profile now under the profile name, Sandy (for those who have accounts too – they’re FREE!) .  At the moment I share all my caching information with Ben and our joint profile.  Perhaps we will always cache together, as we are loving our mini adventures, but this gives us the chance to broaden our individual horizons too.

So, this is a little insight into my new world.  I hope to see you out in it.


Some days you feel like a little kid. You get to play. You laugh a lot. You wonder at the world.

Our second day in Yosemite was like this.

We awakened refreshed and peeked out the curtain to see just what we’d hoped for: blue sky. We feasted at breakfast – isn’t that why you stay at a Bed and Breakfast? – and were out the door before nine. We had so much more to see!

We had decided to drive through the nearby town of Mariposa (Spanish for ‘butterfly’), and up into the park via a different entrance. The drive was even more spectacular than the day before, and we coupled it with a Bill Bryson audio book to keep us company. His take on the world is hilarious. Between laughs I looked out at the ever deepening blue of the sky, and I just knew this was going to be a good day.

There was a little bit of excitement on the drive, when we had to detour around a giant rockslide that had buried about 300 meters of the road. The detour meant crossing the river on a single lane bridge, and then repeating this process when we were passed the rockslide. I made a mental note to pay more attention to those signs. “Rock Slide Area,” they say. Until that detour, I would get a mental image of rounding a bend and seeing little rocks sliding down a playground slide. “Weeeee,” they would cry as they launched off the end. No, this was serious business, and we both wondered aloud if anyone had been caught under it.

A few miles out of the park we pulled over for our first photo opportunity. We had a great view back down the valley we’d just driven, and the river was doing battle with the giant boulders stemming its flow. Impressive. We climbed a big, round, wet rock and looked up and down the valley. We didn’t know then to save our exclamations for the really cool stuff we had yet to see, but we both took in the fresh air and rocky view.
Just inside the park
Then we had to get back down the big, round, wet rock. “You just have to trust your shoes,” said Ben, helpfully. “See?” He demonstrated a little flat-footed shuffle down the VERY STEEP, ROUND, WET rock. I looked down at my trainers, wanting to trust them, but not. When Ben turned around to see how I was doing, and saw I was in the same spot with a look of apprehension plastered on my face, he came back for me (good boyfriend!), taking my hand and encouraging my own little shuffle. It worked. I made it. I am still alive!

“How good are my shoes?!” I asked as though I had done it myself. I made a mental note that I had used my ‘Damsel in Distress’ card for the day, and I would have to get myself out of any further pickles.

We drove a few miles on and into the southeast entrance. This was when the ‘very cool’ stuff started to appear. We actually had to drive through a rock! I should say that the rock had a giant hole blasted out of it, but it was still a rock and we drove through it.

This part of the park was even more beautiful than what I had seen the day before. Because we were entering the valley floor, the road only climbed a few hundred feet, rather than the few thousand we had accomplished the day before. This pleased us both, because Ben had a head cold and the change in altitude had played havoc the day before, causing him great pain on descent. The other advantage of this route was that things got really pretty, pretty quickly, except for the roadworks.

We ignored the roadworks. We would come to consider them ubiquitous in days to come, as after we had spotted the first lot, we realised they were EVERYWHERE. This was the only disadvantage (and in the scheme of things, it is a small hiccup) of travelling during the shoulder season. “It’s October 1st! Quick! We gotta get these roads perfect before the ski season! Hustle!!” Lake Tahoe, we would discover, was far worse (and there is only one road all the way around – when they close a section and say ‘Go Back’, they mean drive 3/4 around the lake instead of 1/4 – nice!).

Disregarding the smell of asphalt, we climbed from the car to begin our playdate with nature. The river bed was down a small slope, and when we stood on the sandy bank, we could see promises of views to come: cliff faces played peekaboo with us behind the tree line. We could only smell good things down there, away from the road, like river water, and damp earth, and things that lived. The air was a little chilly, but we were the only ones there so we took a few minutes to enjoy it and take some photos.
Creek Bed

At the most awe-inspiring photo opportunity yet we learned that the valley floor is essentially flat. Apparently this has to do with the glacier and ancient lakes and sediment, and other scientific stuff. At the risk of sounding a bit dim, I am only slightly interested in that – too many reminders of ninth grade science, which was taught by the dreadfully dull, Mr Lullfitz (He lulled us into fits of boredom – get it?) Back in the valley, I was more interested in the enormous and imposing El Capitan.
El Capitan
Wow. I could not stop looking. It is grand and handsome and I reacted in a similar way when I saw The Coliseum. Just ‘Wow’. It is about 1900feet from the peak to the valley floor and it is a sheer cliff face. People climb it, but it requires sleeping in a sling attached to the cliff face. Um, no thanks! We stopped a few times to see it from different angles, and it became even more imposing. El Capitan dominated the natural skyline, and like Giant Grizzly was in Mariposa Grove, was clearly the patriarch of the Yosemite Valley.
El Capitan
BIKES! We wanted to hire bikes, so we drove to the heart of Yosemite Village, and parked up. The bike hire place was well equipped with many to choose from – all red – and all upright, single gear, back-pedal to brake bikes. Splendid! We suited up in always fetching bike helmets and with slight wobbles, rode through the car park to the nearest bike path. Fortunately, riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike, and within minutes we had the hang of the primitive beasts.

The park has 9 miles of paths for bikes, and they meander along the valley floor through forests, alongside river beds, and over bridges. We stopped intermittently to view the vistas, hike a trail, and even to visit the Ansel Adams gallery. ‘Gallery’ is probably a generous description of what is essentially a gift shop, but the work of Adams and other landscape photographers was incredible, capturing Yosemite in every season, and at all times of the day.

It would be great to go back and see it under snow, or in the bloom of Spring. As it was, the marks of Autumn were everywhere, green giving way to gold and burnt orange. The autumnal changing of the trees is something I haven’t experienced much living in Sydney. But even Ben, who grew up with four distinct seasons each year, commented frequently about how beautiful the leaves and fields were. The colours!
Cathedral Spires
Once passed the gallery, and out of the hub of Yosemite Village, the bike paths opened up, and so did we. We rode with abandon, giddy like kids, in the awkward positions required by the primitive bikes. To get any purchase on the pedals we either had to bend like a ‘C’ over the handle bars, or sit bolt upright, and lean back a little. We laughed at ourselves, but mostly, it just felt good to feel the sun on our skin, the wind rushing passed us, and the muscles working to move us forward.

We took a detour to see Mirror Lake. We had to park the bikes at the bottom of a (mild) hill, because the hire bikes were not allowed any further, and walked the rest of the way. “We’re biking and hiking.” I offered. Ben countered with, “We’re bikers who hike, and hikers who bike.” Oh yeah, we were hard core adventurers. We strutted ahead of a family, young children tugging reluctantly on their parents’ hands as they were pulled up the hill.

Three guys walked towards us, carrying backpacks and camping equipment. They had obviously not showered for a few days, and were a little battered and bruised, but had huge grins on their faces as they talked loudly amongst themselves in a Germanic language. I looked down at my nice, neat ‘sporty’ ensemble. I didn’t even have any dirty smudges yet. So hardcore!

We got to where Mirror Lake should have been, and looked around at other disappointed faces – some of which were red from the exertion of cycling up the hill. We took a little trail, hoping that just on the other side of that huge boulder there would be SOME water. Nope. But there was a fallen log in the sun, and while Ben went for a wander into the dry lake, I sat and snacked on nuts and berries (well, Craisins). Ben returned, camera at the ready, just in time to capture my bonding moments with a little squirrel.

“Hey, Lady, you got any food?” the squirrel boldly asked as he sniffed the air, and me. He jumped up on the log, one paw holding the pine nut he was nibbling, and one paw scratching his rump. If he’s broken out a little can of beer, I would not have been surprised. Now, I have read those signs. I know that you NEVER feed the wildlife. I looked at my bag of raw almonds. Surely, a raw almond would not kill a squirrel. I thought of the monkey in the Perth zoo, who on a field trip in 10th grade, stole my pencil and ate it right in front of me. I had nightmares for weeks about that poor monkey dying from lead poisoning. No news articles appeared in the subsequent weeks, so I had to believe that he had lived.

An almond was definitely closer to the natural diet of a squirrel than a pencil was to that of a monkey. I put the almond about a foot from my body, and the sassy squirrel collected it, stuffed it in his mouth and looked at me expectantly.

What had I expected? Of course he would ask for more. I had to accept that he was smarter than me about these things. I held out another almond. This time he plucked it from my hand, and shoved it into his mouth. I watched as his little cheeks filled up. As someone who lived with the junior high moniker ‘Chipmunk Cheeks’, I started to feel a kinship with this little guy. When it was clear to him that no more almonds would be forthcoming, he popped an almond out of his cheek, and proceeded to peel it with his teeth. Who knew that the skin of an almond was so offensive?

He peeled it as a human bites the kernels from a corn cob. Then he spat out the skin, and took big bites until it was gone. He repeated this with the second almond. I was mesmerised. I had never seen this before, and I have to say that it is far more satisfying to watch than a monkey eating a pencil.
Little Mate
We moved on.

We were pretty much just following signs and playing our day by ear, so we headed towards the lookout for Vernal Falls. We could park and hike as we’d done before, and were keen to see a waterfall, even if it would only be a trickle. The hike along the riverbed sounded promising; we could hear water rushing. We stopped to take a shot of us amongst it all – my favourite shot of the trip – but we didn’t know then that maps are deceptive, and we still had a long way to go – up!
On the hike to view Verbnal Falls
We started on the path to the lookout to Vernal Falls – not even to Vernal Falls itself. It got steep quickly, and it stayed steep – for nearly a mile. We approached it like hardcore adventurers would – with gusto. Neither of us wanted to admit that it was tough, until I slowed a bit. “My calves are on fire,” I confessed. “Really? This isn’t tough for me at all!” replied my boyfriend. He was kidding. It was a strenuous 35% climb, but it was unspoken that we would finish it.

Finally we rounded a bend, and there it was, a decline! Not only did the path dip down towards the bridge from which we would see Vernal Falls, the tree canopy thickened, and we emerged into an oasis. There were dozens of people milling about. This was where (actual) hardcore hikers started their trek to Vernal Falls, which we could see in the distance, trickling down a cliff face.

“Don’t read this,” said Ben covering a giant sign warning against the perils of feeding the wildlife. I thought back to the monkey again, and imagined the fresh headline, “Stupid Australian kills rare Californian squirrel”. I laughed it off.

We took photos, had a snack, and headed back along the track to our bikes. A mile feels a lot shorter when you’re going downhill. On the way down we passed an endless stream of pink-faced people, some of whom were twice my age. We encouraged the few who were close to their destination, and pitied those further down the trail.

When we hit flat ground the couple ahead of us stopped dead in their tracks. Something had run across the path in front of them, and they were watching it. We moved up closer, observing the immediate silence. At first I thought it was a raccoon, but no, it was a bobcat. About one and a half times the size of a house cat, it was stalking something further into the forest. It was aware of us though, as it threw a look back over its shoulder and stared at the four of us. We didn’t move. It’s face was marked like a Tabby cat, but its eyes were far more intense, and its fur fanned out around his face like a mane. He went back to his prey, and skulked away into the forest. We walked on.

Back on our bikes, we rode the long stretch back towards where we’d started. Photo ops abounded, as we flew through dark forest paths and into the bright sunlight of the valley floor. There was one section of the ride where we were the only ones on the path in either direction and we were flying up and down the gently undulating path. We were playing, grinning like kids, and a little breathless when we stopped for a stop sign.
Cool Bike
Royal Arches
“We can do another loop if you like, add a few miles to the ride?” Ben agreed and I led us on paths that criss-crossed the valley floor, through dry fields of grass, and across bridges made of railway sleepers. Eventually, when we’d covered all the paths there were – and some of them twice – we pulled up at the hire place and dropped off our bikes. “That was fun!” Ben agreed – and he is a cyclist with two high tech bikes sitting at home in Seattle. Despite our wobbly start, we made friends with our big, clunky bikes, and they took us on an unexpected adventure.

I drove us out of the park, enjoying the winding roads, and little traffic. We stopped in Mariposa for a late lunch / early dinner at an odd cafe just off the main drag. “What did you guys want?” was our reception. “Uh, food? We came to eat,” was my reply, toned to impart that I thought her question was both stupid and rude. We ordered but they were out of half the menu, so we ordered again. Finally plates of food arrived and we ate ravenously. After ‘dunch’, we stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on delicious treats for later, when we planned to drink a bottle of wine on the deck of the B+B while the sun went down.

Some hours later, when the sun had dipped below the mountains in the distance, and I was starting to feel the cold, we drained our glasses, abandoned the Adirondack chairs, and went inside. We would leave in the morning, driving from there through the park and up to Tahoe. More adventures to come for the hardcore biker/hikers.

Heart pounding

I led a discussion in class yesterday, about ‘youth’. “Am I old or young?” I bravely asked a room full of 13 year olds. Without missing a beat, 27 voices chorused, “Old.” I laughed. We went on to discuss how ‘youthfulness’ can be a state of mind. In my heart and mind I am young. My body sometimes has other ideas, but like my 70-something great aunt, my hope is to live a long life with as many youthful assets as I can retain: a curious mind, a thirst for knowledge, a child-like sense of wonder and joy, and may I never lose the desire to laugh out loud. Most importantly, I want always to have an adventurous spirit.

So here I return to tales of my adventures, those endeavours that have thrilled me, terrified me, challenged me, and taken me far from my usually comfortable, urban life. I get grubby, wet, sweaty, cold, and hot, all while my heart pounds from exertion, fear or excitement. This is me in ‘Adventure Chick’ mode.
At Haleakala Crater, Maui

White Water Rafting Austria. Bali. New Zealand. Scariest: Austria. I was thrown in the water, and had to swim against the current while rapids rapidly approached. Hilarious, apparently, to those on the raft. Most fun: New Zealand. I can hear the guide’s voice in my head: “HOLD ON! GET DOWN!” We did as we were told, and we survived, all while I shrieked with gleeful laughter. Cold, wet, and worth it.

Sea Kayaking Queensland. Double kayaks, paddling out to sea and into the coves of Magnetic Island. I worked those back and arm muscles, while synching with Ben’s paddle strokes. Swam in a bathwater warm bay, breakfasted on white sands, and paddled past a sea turtle on return.

Snorkling Maui. Green Island and Magnetic Island, Queensland. Was little scared – out of my depth, but the fear was forgotten as soon as I saw the fish. In Queensland, I hand fed the fish while they swam around me. Best: Maui. Swam with giant sea turtles. Swam with a kaleidescope of tropical fish. Swam with Ben and laughed because with prescription goggles, I realised that ‘fish aren’t fuzzy!’
Snorkling off Maui

Sailing Whitsunday Islands. Cyclades Islands, Greece (8 days). Magnetic Island. My first few times on a yacht, I nervously clung to the railings, fearing a fall into the depths of the ocean. Now I seek opportunities to get back out onto the water, because I love it. Boomnetting is sitting in a giant net off the side or the back of the boat. It is mad, and scary, and fun. Ben climbed up the net, onto the boat, jumped off the front of the boat and latched onto the net as the boat sped past. Crazy.

Firing a handgun Las Vegas. My heart was pounding – before, during and after. It was thrilling, but I do not feel the need to do it again. I wanted to know what it felt like and now I do.

Glacier Climbing Franz Josef, NZ. We donned spikes and we climbed, up and up. It was cold, I feared falling into an endless crevice or toppling down the ice steps, but the icy landscape was otherworldly, and well worth the climb.
Franz Josef Glacier

Mountain Biking Bali. New Zealand. Austria. The Bali ride was a road trek from Ubud, through villages and rice fields. Highlight: slapping hands with the kids who lined the roads to say ‘hello’. Wanaka, NZ: My first time off road, a 30 km trek along bush paths. Muddy, scary, fun, and a windy ride back along the lake.

Water-skiing Swan River and Waroona Dam, WA. Corfu, Greece. My first time was terrifying, until the boat took off and I skied across the dam. I was hooked, and skied every spring and summer for years. Someday I will dust off my ski and get back behind the boat.

Quad Biking Te Anau, NZ. The most fun I have ever had outdoors. These bikes have gears, and they go! We were on a working farm, so rode amongst the sheep and cows. We climbed a minor mountain, and sludged through the bogs. Muddy from top to toe. Exhilarated.
Quad Bike
Post quad bike ride

Paragliding Corfu, Greece. Terrified of being so high, but all that was forgotten as soon as we lifted into the sky. Peaceful and gentle with a great view.

Abseiling Utah. Western Australia. New South Wales. This still scares the hell out of me. Every time. But I do it, because the adrenalin lasts for hours.

Horse riding Western Australia. Paradise, NZ. I don’t have luck with horses – one tried to roll on top of me, one threw me, and one ran me through low branches. I got back on the horse last year in NZ. Wasn’t (too) scary, even though Seth had a mind of his own. The ride was spectacular, and included locations from The Lord of the Rings.
Paradise Valley

Hiking New South Wales. Peru. Hawaii. California. Austria. Blue Mountains. Switzerland. Most spectacular: Switzerland: Hiked from the last train stop before the summit of Jungfrau to Lauterbrunnen on the valley floor. Snow to start, grass to finish, blue skies the whole way. Yodellay-hee-hoo. AND Maui: From Seven Pools, south of Hana, to Waimoku Falls. Hot, sweaty and totally worth tripping over tree roots to get to the spectacular 400 foot falls. Ben and I ran through the bamboo forest on the way back, like Jack and Kate from LOST.
Waimoku and the Sky
Waimoku Falls

Waterhole swimming Western Australia. Maui. Hiking, climbing, crawling over boulders to get to hidden waterholes. Best: The Three Bears Waterfall on Maui. Ben and I climbed under a bridge, over giant boulders, and through trees to get to it. It was so cold that it was hard to breathe, but we did it.

Skiing Mt Hotham and Mt Buller, Victoria. Breckenridge, Colorado. Whistler, Canada. First time: 17, hated it. Fell down the mountain. Second time: 37, loved it. I am better at it now, but have been very scared on blue runs. Whistler was icy and terrifying. Mt Buller had no visibility, so I was more brave and skied blue runs – I have more guts than style.
At Whistler
Mt Buller

Riding Shotgun Greece. California. Sydney. Peru. This is when I ride on the back of a scooter or a motorcycle. I love it. I rode a scooter when I lived in LA, but it is more fun when someone else is in charge. I fell for Ben a little while I had my arms wrapped around his waist and we followed winding roads around Greek Islands. In Peru, I was brave, as the motorcycle was big and the roads were deadly.
Barely Upright

Skydiving Christchurch, NZ. Ben went first, and watching him get sucked out of the plane made my heart stop. The first 6 seconds when I plummeted to earth, strapped to a tall stranger, were the worst of my life. Freefall was exhilarating. The shoot opening brought me relief, until we started spiraling towards the ground, and the final 100 metres was like paragliding, and I loved it. “How was that,” Ben asked, smiling. “That was horrible,” I replied. And most of it was. Never again. But I did it. Adventure Chick did it.
"Surfing" at Hokitika
Thank you to Ben, who took some of these with his camera.

Fear of Falling

Last post I revealed my desire to skip the nursing home and boldly jettison through older age with a pack on my back, a camera in hand, a grin on my face and guided by my sense of adventure.

In writing my promised list of things I have done on my way to earning my ‘Adventure Chick’ stripes, I found that I wanted to explain. I was excusing some of these feats because to me they represent ‘extreme’, and ‘brave’ and ‘living outside my comfort zone’, but I know that what I deem adventurous is, to some, just ‘fun’. In creating a post of cool things I have done, I realised there is a preface.

I am an adventurous woman. I make bold decisions for my life. I have moved to other the other side of the world – twice – with only a month’s income in the bank, and no promise of a job on the other end. I have taken chances in life that would make others flinch and choose the safe option. These big actions have scared me, but I have been brave; I have indulged my sense of adventure in grand ways. And ultimately, my boldness has rewarded me; my life often surpasses my dreams.

So why is it that I can take on a promotion, move to a new city, take a chance on love, but the thought of climbing onto a horse, or into a raft gives me heart palpitations and sweaty palms?

Because of the fear.

I fear three big things: Water, heights and looking stupid. These are common fears, but the first two are misnamed. I do not fear water – I do shower and bathe regularly, and I will swim laps in a pool. What I fear is drowning – in rapids, in surf, in water where I cannot touch the bottom, and scary things lurk.

‘Fear of heights’ is also a misnomer. I am mostly fine with being up high. I fly frequently, I cross bridges, I can stand on a chair and change a light bulb. I am, however, afraid of plummeting to my death, or even being seriously maimed. My fear is of falling. So much so, that I cannot even watch someone (Ben!) balance precariously on the edge of a cliff and look over the edge.

The last fear is the hardest to overcome. I spent much of my late teens and early 20s refusing to do something if I thought there was the slightest chance I would be bad at it. I figured that if I did not have a natural aptitude for something, I would subsequently look stupid doing it, or trying to do it, or trying to get better at it. I would succumb to the fear, and never try again.

Skiing:17 years old, school ski trip, 3 days in the snow, hundreds of dollars my parents didn’t have. I fell off the ski lift, and then I fell down the mountain (27 times – I counted). When I finally made it to the bottom of the mountain, I literally skied into the crowd waiting for the lift, knocking them over like giant skittles. As I wiped frozen snot and tears from my face with the sleeve of my stupid looking over sized ski jacket, I stomped back to the lodge in my stupid looking ski boots. There I stayed for the next 2 and ½ days, consuming my body weight in hot chocolate. Safe. And, in my opinion, not looking stupid.

And I nearly did not learn to drive. It was only my father’s patience and persistence, that I learned through my tears and refusals to learn.

Fortunately, in the most recent half of my life, I have cultivated the one thing that can fight this fear of falling on my face. It is called ‘laughing at myself’. Laughing at oneself is the foundation that allows us to try new things, to surprise ourselves, and to delight those who love us.

On the last full day Ben and I had together in Seattle, we ended up at a video arcade. There it was: the game Dance, Dance Revolution. It has foot pads and a screen; you watch the screen, and copy the steps onto the foot pads. It is not really dancing, more like the African Anteater Ritual (shameless reference to the 80s classic film Can’t Buy Me Love), a series of ever quickening stomping and stamping.

Ben did not even hesitate, plugging his quarters into the slot and mentally preparing himself for the challenge ahead. Hours of playing this same game in the comfort of his living room meant that he was really good at it. But what I was thinking as I watched my 6’1” boyfriend stamp and stomp to tinny techno, was how brilliantly unself-conscious he was. I felt a welling of, what? Pride, I guess. He was doing this crazy fun, silly thing, right there in public, and I knew there was no way I was going to have a turn when he finished. I knew I would look stupid.

There it was, that fear. It lurks, and pops up when I least expect it. It is a self-centred fear, because it is borne from thinking that ‘everyone is watching and judging me’. Ben would not have judged me had I stood up there and had a go. He would have laughed with me and encouraged me, just as he does when I learn new things on the computer (things he finds really simple), or fall down on a steep ski run (yes, I have gone back, and I love it).

So, that day in the arcade, when that fear bit and niggled at me again, I looked at my cute, funny boyfriend doing something I wasn’t willing to do, and I admired him and loved him all the more for it.

He has his fears too, and when I see him overcome them, when he wins his battles (however large or small) over his fear of the unknown, I am supportive and proud.

I want to banish this stupid fear of looking stupid – forever. So, I will continue to laugh at myself, to willingly be the fool, and to give things a go – even those things I will be bad at.

The other fears – water, heights – are as acute as ever. So when I do tell the cool, scary, adventurous things I have done, keep in mind the stakes, even if for you they’d just be a bit of fun.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.  Right? Absolutely!