Where the winds take you

A year ago, Ben and I were about to embark on a journey back to the Greek Islands, revisiting some of the places we discovered together in 2006 – when we met.

Our skipper from the sailing trip in ’06, Patrick, would be at the helm again. We’d get to see new places, we’d make new friends, and we’d celebrate a decade since we first met on the pier in Santorini.

This is about where the winds take you…

There’s something rather magical about going where the wind takes you, quite literally. The cares and stresses of everyday life ebb away, and the present becomes everything. Briny air, inky blue swells, and a wind that carries you and your fellow sailors to the next port. It’s freeing.

Seven people, one yacht, five Greek islands and one incredible week.

Group pic - sailing trip

Day One

We meet with eager faces at the port of Vlychada on the southern coast of Santorini. The marina is abuzz with energy as dozens of people chatter loudly and mill about between the dock and their vessels, a mixture of pleasure craft and fishing boats. The weather is a perfect 28°C with a warm breeze and only a few clouds in the vibrant blue sky.

Our Skipper, Patrick, shows us to our boat, the Argo, and we take turns to climb aboard and explore below deck, unpacking what we can into cubbies and stowing our luggage. The Argo will be our home for the next week. I take off my watch and stash it away, because I won’t need it today. Time moves differently when you’re on a boat.

Our boat

We are seven, including Patrick, our ages ranging from mid-30s to mid-50s. We are across industries and continents in our everyday lives, but for the next week we will be the Argonauts, as dubbed by our Irish boatmate almost as soon as she is aboard. Both her laugh and instant camaraderie are infectious.

Tonight, we will anchor just off Akrotiri on Santorini, as the winds will be more favourable for our sail up to Ios in the morning. None of us mind. The view is beautiful and we enjoy swimming off the boat in the deep Oxford blue water. Colours, particularly of the water, will be important to the Argonauts, because every day we sail, the Aegean will reveal its vast palette and we will discover that the waters off each island are distinctive.

We watch the sunset over the island, and then break into two groups for a short ride to shore on the tender. I’m in the first group and we pull up at a restaurant where the tables are surrounded by water on three sides. A tall waiter sees us coming and hurries to help us ashore, a task that sounds simpler than it was, with the water line 3-feet below him. Patrick returns to the Argo while four of us get settled and devour the menu with our eyes.

When the others join us, we order practically one of everything and chat amiably over fresh seafood, deep red and delicious tomatoes, and tangy dips with crusty bread. We drink table wine, which is surprisingly drinkable. We don’t finish everything on the table, but we are full and when the sun completely disappears, we make our way back to the Argo. It takes only a few minutes to get used to the gentle rocking as we drift asleep.


Day Two

Sailing through the caldera offers a magnificent view not just of Santorini, but also of Thirasia, the island sitting opposite, and the ever-evolving Palea Kameni which is situated in the caldera’s centre and was site to the cluster’s most recent eruption in 1950. Looking up at Fira and the other towns that cling to the rock faces, you can’t help wondering how they stay there and what feats of engineering got them built in the first place. It’s stunning.

We moor for lunch in a cove just off Thirasia with a perfect view of Oia, the town perched on Santorini’s northernmost point. The water here is cooler than off Akrotiri, but after a simple lunch of tomatoes, bread, tzatziki and cheese, we swim off the boat until we’re called back aboard by our Skipper. For the first time, we will be solely under sail as we begin our trip north to Ios.

Patrick gives orders to his crew of civilians with the ease of someone who has done this many, many times before. With his guidance and good humour we make ourselves useful, raising the sails and setting course for the port of Ios. Once underway, he directs several of us to sit on the windward side of the boat. It will make us sail faster and is also a better spot for those of us with seasickness. Some of us – me included – do not have our sea legs yet.

The undulating sea is mesmerising and the seasickness does recede as we talk about nothing and everything. We will find that we form friendships quickly with so much concentrated time to get to know each other. Every once in a while, as we change tack, there is a burst of energy as we’re all given something important to do.

Ios emerges in front of us through a low haze, and before long we can make out the brilliant white of a church standing guard at the entrance of the port. As we get closer to our destination, we erupt into action as we make ready to dock. The port is crowded, but we ease into a berth between a luxury yacht and another sailboat, its Italian skipper lending a helpful hand as we secure our moorings. I am fascinated by the easy camaraderie of the two skippers despite being strangers and not speaking each other’s language.

Docked in Ios

Ios is bustling. It reminds me of Fira, only the crowd here seems to be mostly of twenty-somethings. We’re here for dinner, then to sleep the night and we will be off after breakfast. In the interim, we must shop for the following four meals, and will be on water rations until we reach another serviced port in two nights’ time. Patrick’s promise of a spectacular and secluded spot to spend our third night has us intrigued.

Dinner that night is close to where we have docked – we can see the Argo from our seats – and we order cheap, traditional food. Once again we don’t clear our plates, because it is so plentiful. Ios is alive. Children play loudly nearby as we eat, adults laugh and toast each other, and there is a thrum of energy. At a time when I would typically be asleep, it seems like Ios is just getting started. After dinner, we seek out the ice cream parlour and wait in a long, but fast-moving line. The ice cream is excellent and more reminiscent of gelato.

I wonder at being able to sleep aboard a boat docked in such a busy marina, but lull of the rocking sends me off peacefully.

Day Three

The supermarket is busy, extremely busy. The narrow aisles are crowded with goods and tourists. We have a long list and four of us are navigating with two trolleys. We need four meals, snacks, bottled water and drinks – wine and beer. One of us knows a bit about Greek wine and is scouring the wine aisle for some good picks. We check out having spent far less than we’re all used to spending in our respective home countries, and the frenzy of the market will prove a vast contrast to the second half of our day.

We are heading towards a secluded bay on the island of Dhespotiko, a spot Patrick found on his last trip. The sail is shorter than yesterday’s and I find that I am acclimating to the rhythms of the Aegean and finding my sea legs.

As promised, the hidden bay is incredibly beautiful. The island rises sharply from the water on either side of the narrow bay and is covered in reddish rocks and tufts of green. We anchor just off a small sandy beach and are the only boat in sight. The water is clear and we can see to the sandy depths. One of us, David, is a diver and he gears up to set our moorings below the water. The rest of us swim or prep for dinner.


It takes a few runs with the tender to ferry all of us, along with the fixings and tools for a BBQ, across to the beach. Tonight, we will eat by moonlight, a selection of meat, seafood and vegetables grilled under the stars. The warm water laps at the tiny shore and we mix cocktails of spirits and juice, sipping from plastic cups as we watch the sun go down. The food is incredible, as is the reflection of the moonlight on the small bay. We laugh and talk and poke sticks into the fire. Late at night, Patrick ferries us back to the boat for a very quiet night’s sleep.

Day Four

We are in no hurry to leave the unnamed bay the next morning, all of us wanting to get the most out of this unique location. Some of us swim, others set off to climb the giant hill that overlooks the beach. Even from only half-way up the vantage points will produce some incredible photos. The Argo is a long white sliver in an arrow head of vibrant blue, both cupped by rugged red earth. After following a goat track back down the hillside, I leave my camera, shoes and clothes in the tender and swim back to the boat from shore. It is exhilarating being in this water. I want to stay all day.


Eventually, it is time to leave and we say goodbye to what our Irish boatmate has now dubbed Artemis Bay, in honour of the moon goddess who provided such great lighting for our beach party the night before. Our next stop is the port of Vathi on Sifnos.

Again we sail with only the power of the wind, four of us taking our places on the windward side. I love this spot on the side of the boat, watching each swell approach. Some of the swells break against the hull and send a wave of cool water over us as we laugh and squeal like children at a water park. We arrive at Vathi salt-crusted, sun-warmed and eager for dinner at the waterside restaurant that Patrick has suggested.

We anchor in the middle of the bay surrounded by calm water, and even though there are a couple dozen other boats, it is peaceful here, a nice contrast to the vibrancy of Ios. Two tender rides from the Argo and we are all onshore. The water laps at a narrow shoreline as we walk – sometimes in the water – around the bay to a lovely restaurant under the trees. It has a perfect view of the setting sun.

We order from across the menu a wide selection of Greek specialities – lamb, octopus, squid, stuffed vegetables, tzatziki and olives. We are particularly impressed with the wine selection, and the first bottle of Assyrtiko is so delicious we order a second bottle almost straight away. Around us, families – many of them Greek – enjoy the serene setting, delicious food, and warm evening breeze. Under the table, I cheekily feed a ginger cat who has hungry kittens in a nearby tree. It’s a lazy, enjoyable meal. We walk even more slowly back to the tender, full from our feast and ready for bed.



Day Five

It will just be a short jaunt today, around the coast of Sifnos to Kamares. Kamares is a larger port than Vathi, with a wide sandy beach of golden, glittery sand and whitewashed buildings that climb up the hillside from the water. We moor in the middle of the bay and Patrick ferries us to shore on the tender for a day of exploring. Not knowing our destination, we follow Patrick onto the local bus where a few Euros each will get us across the island to Platys Gialos.


Sifnos is just beautiful. The roads to Platys Gialos are winding, and the bus rises to the top of hills and dips into the valleys. There are homes, farms, small towns and windmills – some working, some decorative. We share the crowded bus with travellers and locals, and at each stop the passengers manoeuvre up and down the aisle trying to get off or find a seat. I hear “excuse me” in many languages.

When we emerge from the bus the sun is high in the sky and warm on our faces. Collectively, we are parched and hungry. Fortunately, and I am guessing this is by Patrick’s design, we are across from a row of restaurants that back onto the beach. We choose the closest one and from our table we can almost dip our toes in the sand. The beach, unlike Vathi the night before, is brimming with people, mostly Greek families. This is a popular travel destination for Greeks, especially those from the mainland. Our waitress is delightful and the menu offers an array of fresh vegetables and seafood. I cannot resist the fried anchovies, so don’t. They are delicious.

There is a laziness to the afternoon, and we eat leisurely before heading back to the bus stop to catch a bus in the other direction. There is another stop on our itinerary before we will go back to the boat and get changed for dinner. Patrick promises us there will even be time for a swim later that afternoon.

Two busses get us to Kastro, a fortress town perched high on a hill and with views on all sides. We walk the perimeter of the town, Patrick in the lead, and see Roman-built walls too old to fathom, amongst the whitewash and bougainvillea. Stray cats gaze at us lazily from vantage points. As we round a corner, we see a tiny white church balanced on an outcrop of rock far below us and just above the sea line. Waves crash close by, and we can just make out the path that leads to it from the town.


The tour is quick, as it is not a large town, and we await the next bus – more than an hour away – at the Dolci Café. It overlooks farms that dot the valley, and the cocktail list is impressive. So is our waiter, who is rightfully arrogant about speaking five languages fluently, and an entertaining conversationalist. The cocktails are excellent and the time passes quickly.

Two more busses deposit us back in Kamare and Patrick is right, he has left us enough time to swim before changing for dinner. The water is warmer here than anywhere we have swum before and we can see a nearly-full moon rising over the hills before the sun even sets.

Dinner that night is in Apollonas, a gorgeous town in the heart of Sifnos. It is reminiscent of Mykonos, with whitewashed buildings and cobbled pathways leading off the main square in a tangle of walkways and alleys. Families, couples, groups of friends, travellers and local alike, fill the town with an intoxicating energy. The shopfronts boast beautiful wares from artisans and jewellers, and clothes in flowing fabrics and vibrant colours.

The choice of bars, cafes and restaurants is overwhelming, and thankfully we have a reservation where we will sit on a terrace overlooking the excitement. The wine is great, the food is fantastic and collectively, we never seem to run out of things to talk about. We will split up after dinner, some of us to shop, others to grab a drink at a local bar. Late that night we meet back at Kamare to ferry to the boat. It has been our busiest day, and it has been exquisite.


Day Six

A day of sailing to Kythnos where we will moor in a beautiful cove surrounded by jagged rocks and caves called Ormos Kolona. It is a popular spot, but the beauty of sailing is that even with neighbouring boats – big and small – the cove is peaceful and the atmosphere friendly. The water here is so clear we can see straight to the bottom, and several of us swim to shore to indulge in the natural hot springs.

We commute via tender to the only restaurant in the area, a lively place where you can meet your fellow travellers and even dance, if you feel like it. The moon is full now and hovers over the cove, with long milky fingers stretched across the water. It is our last night together and we enjoy a nightcap when we arrive back at the boat after dinner.



Day Seven

To Athens. It is a long day of sailing, but we are well and truly seafarers now, deftly moving about the boat executing the Skipper’s orders. We sail via Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of mainland Greece where the Temple of Poseidon reigns from on high. It’s a perfect spot to stop for lunch sheltered from the strong winds that have carried us back from the islands.


As we get closer to Athens, civilisation emerges in small increments, and soon enough we are sailing past the long beach and apartments blocks of Glyfada. Athens spills out across the valley in front of us, climbing part way up the surrounding hills. Soon we can make out the Acropolis and Mount Lycabettus. The marina that welcomes us is the busiest place we have seen in a week.


We dock, we pack and chat, and when it is time to say goodbye, it feels like we are leaving family. There are hugs and promises of emails and photo-sharing to come. As my partner and I climb into the cab that will take us to the airport, I feel contented. It was an incredible week of exploration, relaxation, adventures and just being. Wonderful.


With thanks to Ben Reierson for some of these images.





A big bite

I live with an amazing person. Yesterday morning, despite a niggling cold, he jumps out of bed and says, “Let’s have tea on the roof.” So, we made mugs of tea, grabbed our books, and headed to the roof of our building to enjoy the morning sun, and our incredible view.

Looking back to the city
Looking back to the city
The Port
The Port

Yes, it is a little gray today (it was sunny yesterday), but we are so close to the city and the water that I love the view no matter the weather. That said, the next time the sun shines – more and more as we head towards Summer – I will take more pics.

Back to the person I live with: yesterday afternoon, suffering a little from cabin fever and too many video games, he says, “Let’s head up to that park we haven’t been to yet.” It is about three blocks from home, and is less like a park and more like a series of paths and trails that traverse the giant Queen Anne hill. The canopy of trees is thick, and the air smells earthy and clean. Walking the trails I could just imagine fairies and princesses doing the same. We climbed the paths to see where they went, and headed back home. The Spring blossoms have spread a carpet of pink over the neighborhood. I stood under a huge tree and jumped up to touch the branches. A rain of petals showered down, “It’s snowing pink stuff!”

Just a little excursion shook off the cabin fever, and the post-flu blues.

This is such a beautiful city, with many wonders – big and small – that we get to encounter every day.

This is on the drive home from Ben’s aunt and uncle’s house.

Woodinville, Washington
Woodinville, Washington

Woodinville is about 30 minutes from the city, and is a semi-rural neighborhood, with white fences, rolling green hills and dozens of types of trees.

Woodinville Christmas Tree Farm
Woodinville Christmas Tree Farm

On the way back from Woodinville, we make this crossing of Lake Washington on the 520 bridge. This was a day when the wind was whipping along the lake, and because the bridge is floating, the water can be rough on one side and calm on the other.


And sometimes we get to share this city with visitors. My mom was here recently, and we took her to Bainbridge Island. We crossed Puget Sound on the ferry on a beautiful Spring day.

Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge
Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge

The main streets of Bainbridge Island are filled with cafes, stores and this church:


And the shores are lined with trees and houses.


For $6 dollar ferry ride, which is spectacular in itself, Bainbridge is a little treasure close to home.

More and more we are enjoying the company of new friends. Last weekend, our lovely friends Matt and Crystal invited us out on their boat, along with Monica and Brian.

Lake Washington
Lake Washington

It was still and peaceful out on the lake, and for some reason we were the only people who thought to get out there. We had the whole lake to ourselves. This blew us away:

Sunset over Lake Washington
Sunset over Lake Washington

Ben and I had our king and queen of the world moment as we headed back to the marina.

On Lake Union
On Lake Union

These are some snippets from our life here in a beautiful city. We are not sure how long we will be here – another year, or maybe more. We just want to be able to say we took a big bite out of this city. Oh, and to our friends here: keep the invitations to those parties coming!

At Gerry's 30th Birthday Party
At Gerry's 30th Birthday Party

And we called her ‘Kylie’…

Our GPS on this trip through California and Nevada had an Australian accent. In a land of chewy ‘R’s and rounded ‘O’s, a flat-tack Aussie accent was incongruous, yet welcome, “Make a roit tuhrn in three quahrtehs of a moile.”

We got used to it, as I am a native Aussie speaker, and Ben is learning the language, even adopting key phrases such as ‘on the mend’, and ‘have a think’.

We called her ‘Kylie’, a quintessential Aussie name. When she got us out of a pickle, or she insisted when we disagreed with her, only to discover that she was right all along, we affectionately called her ‘Kylz’. “Good on ya, Kylz. You did good.”

And even though she was an Aussie in a strange land, she pronounced all the names of towns correctly, and knew that ‘Yosemite’ does not rhyme with ‘Vegemite’, even though it looks like it should. “Yoi-se-mitt-ee,” she declared boldly – and correctly. It was because she had done so well for 4 of the 5 days we were travelling, that her first and only slip up stuck out like dogs balls.

Lake Tahoe, is pronounced with a long soft ‘Tahhhh’, followed by a rounded ‘ho’. Imagine our amusement then, when Kylie announced that we were turn left onto ‘Lake Ta-ho Drive.’ Her version of the lake rhymed with ‘Cat-hoe’. I suppressed a giggle, because I didn’t want to embarrass her. But every time she said it – and she said it a lot, considering we were there for two days – the giggles started to escape. Poor misguided Kylie; someone should have told her. I just didn’t want it to be me.

But you say Ta-ho, I say tomah-to. Regardless, it is a stunning place to visit.

It IS touristy, there is no denying that. The shorelines are lined with places to stay, from 5 star resorts to cheap and cheerful motels. And every fast food restaurant chain on the planet is represented at least once.

The southern end is a hub of activity and the invisible line between Nevada and California is clearly visible in South Tahoe. The casinos blink and dance along the main drag, and then noticeably stop. I am sure if we’d been walking we could identify the line in the sidewalk, and stand with one foot in each state.

The northern end of the lake is a little more subdued, with more wildlife visible from the main highway, and more residences than the south. The western road between the two winds up into a mountain range, and curls past small lakes. At one point in the drive on the second day, we drove along a mountain ridge, with a drop on either side of the road. South of us was Cascade Lake, and north of the road, was Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe. “Every mountain road should be like this,” declared an impressed Ben. “You should always be able to drive on the ridges.” Magic.
From Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay

Our visit fell in the shoulder season between summer sailing and on-the-lake fun, and winter skiing and snowboarding. The locals were storing their quad bikes and jet-skis, and dusting off the snowmobiles. As I mentioned in a previous blog, road-works were in abundance. It was as though the precious few weeks between the summer and winter seasons was the only time that the work could be done. “Quick! The skiers will be here any second now!” Tahoe had more people in hard hats than in sun hats. Worse still,the signs said to expect delays of up to 30 minutes. Fortuitously, we never waited that long, but I felt for locals. They can sigh with relief as the tourists disappear, only to then get stuck in traffic.

We had other things on our mind, however. We had come to eat, see, do and enjoy.

So,we did!

Our first night was at a Marriott resort, where we happily handed our car over to valets, and availed ourselves of the pool. The weather was unseasonably warm, so to throw on my bikini when I was expecting to be wearing jeans and a sweater, was a welcome surprise. Ben got into the pool, and taunted me until I joined him. I am an ‘inch by inch’ girl when it comes to getting in a pool. On a very hot day I will dive in, BUT that day was just ‘warm’. I went with the inching, and then we frolicked a bit, as we do when in the pool together. G-rated, of course. There were children present.

We had armed ourselves with brochures, which we looked through as we dried off on our loungers. We were keen on some sort of sailing excursion, and thought of riding the Zipline at the top of the mountain, but the gondolas to get up the mountain weren’t running the next day. Quad biking! We could go on a quad bike ride, an activity I loved so much in New Zealand last year, I described it as the most fun I had ever had outside.

It was getting on the afternoon, and I really wanted a cocktail. That meant it was time to get dressed in proper clothes and seek out some fun. We got recommendations for two restaurants, both ‘beachside’, and decided to head to the furthest one. The temperature had dropped quite a bit by the time we got there, so I was a little dubious about the offer to sit outside until I saw the outdoor heaters. Sitting practically underneath one, I was toasty warm.
Dinner at sunset
It was 10 minutes before the end of ‘happy hour’ so we asked to see the cocktail menu. They didn’t have one, and if we wanted happy hour cocktails, we had to go inside to the bar. No problem. Only when we got to the bar, happy hour cocktails were beer and an alcoholic slushy. Hmmm. We went back outside, sat at our warm table, and asked for the wine list. Things improved vastly. The wine recommended (an Aussie red) was delicious, and so was the food. Best of all, though, was the sunset over the water, for which we had a ‘ring-side’ seat. Spectacular.
Lakeside Dinner
Without the warmth of the heater, the cold bit into us as we raced back to the car. We decided to stop for more wine, and this was when we became a trio. Next door to the liquor store was a place that sold alpacas (not the actual animals, but stuff made out of their hides). And there amongst the strings of white alpaca bears suspended from the ceiling, was a little dark grey bear. His face was quite extraordinary, and I knew at once that he had to come with us. His name is Tahoe – original, I know.

That night, while I conducted my ablutions, Tahoe got up to all sorts of mischief. He is a very naughty bear, with a wild and crazy Afro.
Tahoe Bear in the kitchen
Ben’s pic of Tahoe
The next day was the day for quad-biking and a sunset cruise on the lake. Only I took one look at my outdoorsy clothes and hiking boots, and had another idea. I broached it before breakfast. “Um, I had a thought.” Ben looked at me, curiously. “Yes?” “How about you go quad-biking, and I stay here and go to the spa?” I tried to sell it with my best smile. He looked crest-fallen. “But you love quad-biking. It was your idea.” I knew that. And I knew that if I went it would be fun, but I sooooo wanted to just relax and be a girl that day. We went for breakfast, and came back to our plans on a full stomach. Ben would wait by the pool with a book while I had my girlie spa fun, and then we would drive to the quad biking. I would then go check in at our cabin, and come back for him. Then we would go on the yacht for the sunset cruise.

The day went to plan, and the drive to the quad bike trail was beautiful. It was there that we rode the crest of that peak, and saw Emerald Bay and Crystal Lake. I dropped him off and headed north. I had Kylie to guide me, even though it was only one turn at a major intersection and impossible to get lost.

I pulled up outside “Rustic Cottages”, and it was my turn to be crest fallen. I thought back to our beautiful little rustic cottage in Hokitika, New Zealand. This place fell short – very short – think Danny DeVito. I checked in, and went to our cottage. It was so small inside that there was literally 18 inches between the bed and the walls. I could hear traffic from the highway, which wasn’t surprising considering it was 12 feet away.

I showered, and grabbed a change of clothes for Ben, in case he was covered head to toe in mud when I collected him. When I walked out to the car I noticed a semi-circle of Adirondack chairs facing the highway. I looked at what would be the view from the chairs: a hotel across the road, and glimpses (I mean specks) of Lake Tahoe water. Sigh.

I stopped for water and snacks, for the ride between the quad bike trail and where we were going was an hour, and my man had been doing manly things. He would need sustenance. I pulled up at the trail, and there he was, cleaner than I thought, but with the smile I knew would be on his face. “Hi, Babe,” he said leaning over to kiss me hello. “Have fun?” “Yeah,” but then he added, “It would have been more fun if you’d been there.” Point taken. I felt a twinge of disappointment in myself, and for him, but I also felt relaxed – and clean – which I liked. I shook the conflicted feelings while Ben told me about his adventure.

We decided on a late lunch/early dinner at the second restaurant recommended the previous day. It was a good call. The view was not as nice as the night before, but the food was even better. Fish tacos take on a whole new meaning when they are served on a soft tortilla, and the fish is spiced just so. Delicious!

We wanted to be sure to get to the pier on time, so made our way with Kylie in charge. 15 minutes later we were there with an hour to kill. Ben ordered a Corona from the bar – in a can, but still served with lime – and we alternated between watching beach volleyballers and their dogs, and two ‘tweenies’ swimming in their jeans while their grandmother tried to call them out of the water.
Corona in cans!
More enticing, however, was the view. The sun was low in the sky, and waves lapped gently at the grey beach.

“Want to go for a walk?” We walked away from the pier, and Ben tossed sticks to two volleyballer’s dogs. I leaped up onto a big rock plonked in the middle of the beach, and tipped my head to the sun. Nice.

With an eye on the time, we wandered back towards the pier, where a crew member introduced himself, the captain and importantly the bartender. He made a few lame jokes about life jackets and then we could get on board. There were bean bags on the deck, and a few people opted for these prime spots. I headed to the back of the boat, and as we pulled away from shore, the wind started to whip through my hair. Ahhh. It felt so good to get out on the water again. It always did. And because Ben and I met on a yacht, any chance we have to sail, we love. It reminds us of a Grecian summer two years ago when our lives changed.
On the dock
We eventually moved forward to the front of the boat, where it was colder, but the view was more magnificent. Large splashes of water came on board soaking a few railing-huggers and their cameras. But we stayed close to the cabin, and snuggled into a beanbag and under a blanket. We sipped our cheap champagne from plastic cups, and munched on pretzels. The sun sank behind the mountains we had driven through – twice – earlier that day, forming a ragged silhouette against a dark blue sky. Planets popped out first, and then the stars. We could hear wind in the sails, and the crash of the hull against the water as it pitched and fell. Tipsy from the champagne, we spent time just listening and looking, and then one would quietly say something to make the other laugh. It was heaven.

As we headed back to shore a couple of hours later, I noticed that my hands were numb. Ben went below for hot chocolate, which is my favourite drink when I am cold. We stayed on deck a while longer and then waited out the rest of the trip below deck. People still queued at the bar for drinks as well pulled up at the dock – they were included in the price, and I guess they wanted to make the most of it – but we were sated. It was a chilly walk back to the car, where Tahoe waited patiently.

What a wonderful day it had been.

I did, however, forewarn Ben about the ‘cottage’. We had a bit of a laugh as we tried to maneuver around each other, eventually deciding that the traffic in the room was better if we both just stayed in bed. 7 hours, a ticking heater, traffic noises, and an intrusive street lamp later, I awoke feeling less than rested, and completely over our rustic experience.

I finished packing as Ben went to settle up. “Uh, he’s got a whole breakfast happening over there.” I looked up from the bags. “He’s making waffles and everything. It’s included.” Homemade waffles! Suddenly, I loved “Rustic Cottages”. We made our way over to the dining room, where we got to make our waffles fresh. I ate two whole waffles, knowing that the sweet sticky goodness would backfire on me later in the day, and not caring. YUM!

Tahoe rode up front with me as we made our way back to lovely Reno (ah-hem). The tiny prop plane that had brought us was there at the gate, waiting to take us home.
Baby Plane
I had more faith in it than the first time I had seen it five days before. “I have been on buses bigger than this plane,” I said before we got on. The engines whined loudly as it took off, as though it was trying with all its might to get off the ground. I ignored it, and played my favourite video game on Ben’s I-pod.

Snow was expected in Tahoe the next day, but that didn’t concern us. We were heading home.

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.