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These are my stories - the reasons why I sometimes have sore feet. I'm not complaining. I'm happy to have sore feet if these travels are the cause. You are most welcome to leave a comment, if you want to. You do not need to register or sign in to do so. 

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Thank you for travelling with me.

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One Great Hike

Posted by mysorefeet on February 22, 2009 at 3:45 AM Comments comments (12)


Great! Just Great! I had a long ass narrative about my experience at the Great Wall and when I clicked Publish, I was redirected to the log in page. OMG! All my hard work just vanished into cyberspace. No matter what I do, I just could not retrieve the page with my text. As such, I think shall migrate to another provider. Bugger.


Anyway - briefly ...


When I was in Beijing last October, I went on a 1-day hike of the Great Wall. We started off at Jinshanling and ended at Simatai (two provinces north east of Beijing). The whole trek was just a little over 10 kilometres, but it took me about 5 hours to navigate.



I had to ride a cable car to get to the Great Wall itself (from the parking lot). The cable car was unlike any I have been on before. (1) It was big enough only for 2; (2) the windshield was cracked and the whole car creaked; and (3) the ride up was unbelievably slow. But - despite all those, I got to the peak in one piece and after walking a few kms more, I finally found myself on one of the greatest wonders of architecture and of the world.



Although parts of the wall - most especially the watchtowers have succumbed to the ravages of time and of the elements, most of the wall at Jinshanling was still intact. It was a really beautiful structure and one that was quite challenging to conquer. Most of the steps were very high and the inclines were ridiculuously steep. At one point, I just said, the hell with it, I'm not going to exhaust myself climbing up to THAT tower (see pic below).



So I took a short cut instead. I walked alongside the Wall - like an invader. I just skipped three towers, so I don't think I really missed out on much. After all, I think I still managed to wheeze myself to about 20 more of those (spread out from Jinshanling to Simatai). When I got to the exit, I just didn't want to walk anymore so I gathered up my courage and paid CNY 40 for a quick zip down the gorge, past Mandarin Lake and onto the parking area where the shuttle back to Beijing was waiting..



Just like the cable car, the zip line was an adventure in itself. Unlike other zip lines (or flying foxes, whichever it is called), I only had my carabiner and rope to hang on to for dear life. No, I didn't have any full body harness that was attached to the overhead cables, or seats, or paddings for that matter  or gloves - there was not even a life vest. The operators just pushed me off the ledge when they saw that I was ready and whoosh! --- I flew down the gorge and straight into the little platform at the far end of Mandarin Lake.


It was an exciting day and yes, I had sore feet afterwards (and sore thighs as well) but it was definitely well worth the agony.


Tag: Weekend Snapshot and Ruby Tuesday  (if only for Sascha's red jumper, and the red roof at the Cable Car depot.

The Bird's Nest (and Beyond)

Posted by mysorefeet on February 9, 2009 at 1:36 PM Comments comments (8)

Beijing's Olympic Stadium


Last year, thanks to Air New Zealand's Grab-a-Seat, I was able to get a really really cheap round trip airplane ticket (read: NZ$508.00 all in) to Beijing, China. So on the Friday before NZ's Labour Day, I left Middle Earth to visit the land of the Imperial Dynasties.


The Tuesday after I arrived (and the day after I walked the Great Wall in Jinshanling and Simatai - worthy of another entry), with the insistence of my backpacker roommates, I braved the horrific Beijing traffic and pedalled my way northwards to the famed Olympic City. A visit to the Olympic City is a MUST considering the Great Games just finished a mere 3 months earlier. Better to visit the site before all the excitement, euphoria and the novelty wears off.


The Bird's Nest, Different Angles


As expected, the site close to the Birds Nest was absolutely TEEMING with people! There were lots of tourist groups (you can recognise them a mile away because they all had the same cap or vest on, and they always had a leader who was waving some sort of flag or banner) and vendors and, of course, security personnel. The Stadium was a magnificient piece of architecture. Because of it's unusual shape, every angle is just different from the next. I think I injured my trigger finger on that day - just taking pictures from ... everywhere!


Inside the Stadium


Entrance to the Olympic Stadium was only Yuan 50. After the routine security check, Mr. Lonely Planet (I forgot to mention, I toured the Bird's Nest with one of my roommates who was always referring to his Lonely Planet guide, thus the name) entered the Birds Nest and wandered around. The whole centre area was open to the public and I believe all the props they used during the opening and closing ceremonies were out on display.


Various Props and Costumes


The full tour didn't take long because there really wasn't much to see apart from the costumes, the props, the blow-up mascots and the cuddly stuffed mascots. We just took heaps of photos and Mr. Lonely Planet spent quite some time at the gift shoppe. Afterwards, we pedalled our way back to the hostel.


The following day, I had a sore bum.


Anyway, the morning of the day I was scheduled to leave China for the less crowded environs of New Zealand, I decided to pay the Bird's Nest one final visit. So I went, on foot this time (so no sore bum afterwards, just sore feet) and since I didn't have two guys (I forgot to mention, Mr. German PhD was with me too, also one of my roommates) arguing about where to go next and what-have-you, I was able to plan my trip to my liking.


Wire Mesh Ladies in fashionable Olympic Coloured Dresses


I took the train to the Olympic City and got off the very last platform - not the one that would lead me directly to the Olympic Stadium. I wanted to see what wasy BEYOND the Bird's Nest and, when I got off the platform, I was pleasantly surprised that there were other more interesting things to see there. There were sculptures, statues, traditional and modern buildings, walkways, arches, eye-catching gates and entrances - there were just heaps of things to appreciate. Some of these are pictured below:


Beyond the Bird's Nest


But what I appreciated the most was the Museum of Olympic History. It's a small building just before the Bird's Nest Block and inside were loads of information on the ... well ... history of the Beijing Olympics. There were a lot of scaled miniature models of every buidling within the Olympic City Complex and accompanying each model were sketches, schematic diagrams, and interesting information on the construction process, design process, cross sections, and environmental / sustainability features present in that building (among others). I suppose it would be safe to say that that building held the heart and soul of the entire complex, yet it was hardly noticed by the tourists. Everyone was so busy oggling at the Bird's Nest.


The Museum of Olympic History


Cross Section of the Watercube (Aquatic Centre)


Oh, and by the way, entrance to this treasure trove of information is free. Tsk!


So ... after that little excursion, I had no other choice but to walk towards the nearest subway station (to the consternation of my already sore feet). I walked passed the Bird's Nest again and tried to take another "reflection picture" similar to the one on top, but it was a wee bit too windy so the water had ripples - not good for reflections.


And, remember the comments about the smog in Beijing? Unfortunately, it's true. The first day I was there, it was quite fine but on my 2nd trip, the whole area was just shrouded by a big brown cloud. It was nearly impossible to take a decent wide angle picture because the 'smog' just made everything look hazy.


Tagging this for: Weekend Snapshot and Ruby Tuesday.

Up up and away ...

Posted by mysorefeet on January 31, 2009 at 6:53 PM Comments comments (4)

After almost two years, I have finally crossed out one more item in my things-I-want-to-do-before-I-die list (or, simply put, my Bucket List). Actually, I really don't have a list-LIST. I just make it up as I go along. Hehehehe.


Hamilton's Balloon being deflated


Anyway, I woke up at the crack of dawn this White Rabbit Day of February (NZ Time, I have yet to figure out how to adjust the time and date settings on webs) because my much anticipated Balloon Ride was finally going to push through. I had to be at the Innes Commons at about 6:00 am because, according to Andrew (who we shall refer to as The Pilot), the best time to fly would be early morning when the breeze is not that strong yet and the wind speed is relatively stable. So, I had to drag my carcass out of the sofa (slept over at mum's because she said she'll take pictures of me going up in the air) at half past 5 and was driving to the Lake with mum at a bit before 6:00.


We got to the lake justa few minutes past 6:00 and they have not yet set the balloon up. I'm not entirely sure what they were waiting for - I hope they weren't waiting for late-comer me. Anyway, when everything was according to The Pilot's standards, they laid the balloon out, brought out an industrial sized fan and started blowing air into the flat balloon. When the balloon had fully inflated, The Pilot then cranked up the furnace and started blowing hot air into the balloon.


Inflating the balloon using regular air


It didn't take long before the big multi-coloured balloon was upright and ready to go. We were all asked to climb in so The Pilot could give us landing instructions and more importantly, so we could finally be on our way. According to The Pilot, the weather (which was obviously not that flash - it was drizzling and a wee bit cloudy) is expected to turn and he wanted to make the most out of that little window of opportunity before things turned for the worst.


Filing the balloon with HOT AIR


Lift off was surprisingly quick. The wind quickly picked up the balloon and before I knew it, we were airborne. The ground was suddenly moving away from us and soon enough, we could see the lovely little city of Hamilton from the sky.


Hamilton City & the Mighty Waikato River


Since the path of the balloon is entirely dependent on the direction of the wind, we flew South. We flew over Hamilton East, the University, Ruakura, and later on, flew over Strawberry farms, paddocks, and lots of cornfields. The Pilot said that our speed was about 23 kph which was good because we covered a lot of ground in a span of 1 hour. He said that the past weeks, they had absolutely no wind whatsoever that some of his flights hardly went out of the city limits. One time, he said they landed at Claudelands and another time, they landed at Innes Commons! Bah! How corny was that?!


After about an hour of flying, The Pilot told us that he would land his 'aircraft' as soon as he finds a good-sized paddock that is free from livestock and free from plantings. When he found a suitable landing field, he told us to go into our landing position (feet together, knees slightly bent, back against the wall of the basket, hands on designated handles - pulling the rope towards us) and prepare for landing.


We landed about 18-20 kms South of Hamilton, in a little town called Tauwhiri (I think, I have to check the map). We covered a sizeable distance considering his past flights barely got out of the city. Landing was not as smooth as take-off, but that's expected. It was a tad bit bumpy - not because our Pilot lacked the skill to maneouver such a big contraption, but primarily because the ground we landed on was uneven, and he had to avoid hitting a tree which stood out like a sore thumb. We were asked not to leave the balloon just yet as the wind might pick it up if there was a change in weight so we stayed there until he gave us permission to disembark.




When we were all settled on the ground, and he had coordinated our location with his ground team, our Pilot, together with some blokes started to pack the balloon up. They deflated the balloon, then rolled it up, then put it in a big bag. The basket was disassembled next and then - when everything was stored safely in the back of his trailer, we went off back to town. We stopped off at Cook's cafe for some drinks and nibbles, and - after exchanging some stories on ballooning, we all parted ways. The whole experience lasted about 4 hours and it was wonderful!


And that's that! I wanted to ride the balloon at Queenstown, but it was so darn expensive! It cost a whole lot more than what I paid for here. It didn't come cheap, but it's worth the experience. I hope to be able to paraglide next time, or maybe skydive. Hah! As if I have the guts to do those. I'm all bark, no bite.


So there, that's the end of my weekend adventure.


Special thanks to Andrew of Kiwiballoon Company for being an excellent Pilot.


Tags: Weekend Snapshot; Ruby Tuesday

Missing Melbourne

Posted by mysorefeet on January 30, 2009 at 4:18 AM Comments comments (0)

Now that the 2009 Australian Open is just about to end, I suddenly realised that I miss Melbourne. I was fortunate enough to have been able to watch the Aussie Open in 2007 and that experience was totally unbelievable.


Sydney Harbour Bridge


I watched the 2007 Australian Open with my younger sister (who we shall call Sisterhood). We flew in from Hamilton and had a brief stop over in Sydney. Mom suggested that we stay in Sydney for a few hours so we could see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. At first, Sisterhood and I were hesitant because we really wanted to be at the tennis grounds and watch the games but -- well, we did stay a while in Sydney and did not regret doing that. I swear, the minute I laid my eyes on the Sydney Opera House, and then later on, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I just wanted to cry. It just felt so surreal. I mean, I've always heard about those and have seen them on film a couple of times (Finding Nemo) and I just never thought that I would be able to actually see both ... Up Close! Those two structures were absolutely beautiful.Yes, I'm shallow like that.


Sydney Opera House


We walked around the little quay and just absorbed the wonder that was Sydney. No, I did not get sore feet at Sydney. I did, however, get Sore Arms! Man it was sooo hot at Sydney - after being exposed to the sun for about ... an hour, my upper arms were as red as lobsters! I think I had a heat stroke afterwards because when we finally arrived at Melbourne, I was feverish and my arms were just so sore! I thought I would die. Seriously! The skin was so tender I felt that I'd just peel like a banana at any minute. Sisterhood and I had to look for a superette just so I could get enough lotion to slather all over my arms. Never again would I walk around unprotected like that!


My Federbear holding the ticket jacket signed by Roger Federer


Anyhu ... Melbourne was amazing.Well ... let me rephrase that because honestly, I can't say Melbourne was amazing because I was only at the tennis arena so here goes ...  The tennis was amazing! The atmosphere was intense yet everyone was so friendly. It was great fun just watching the fans! Some had their faces painted, some came in totally ridiculous attires, some came in droves and some came on their own.


Naturally, the first thing Sisterhood and I did upon entering the whole arena was to watch one of the tennis matches that was being held at the outdoor courts. Our tickets were for the quarters, semis and finals and - at that time, the quarterfinals have not yet started.


Sisterhood and I were busy watching a doubles match between some Russians I do not know when my phone rang. I had to get out to take that call and while I was chatting away outside the outdoor court, I saw someone who looked strangely familiar at the opposite open court. When I returned to my seat, I told Sisterhood that I thought I saw Andy Roddick outside. Sisterhood was a bit doubtful but she went out just the same, with my camera. I knew she struck gold when she didn't return to finish the doubles match.


Sunblocked Andy


Afterwards, we found out through other fans that the players often play or practice in selected outdoor courts - and that lowly fans, such as ourselves, can actually sit there and watch! Somehow, we managed to find out where the courts were and who would be practicing when. Thus ... our lives as pseudo-paparazzi began.


Man, stalking those players for photos and autographs was so much fun! I think that was even more fun than watching the matches itself! I swear, I think we camped out at the courts where Roger Federer was supposed to practice just so we could catch a glimpse of the MASTER in action (and get a photo and of course, an autograph as well). If memory serves me right, we stalked Roger Federer at all of his practice sessions, just so we could get him to sign Federbear.


2007 Australian Open Champion, Roger Federer from Switzerland


We succeeded but his was the last one we secured. He was always so serious during practice sessions and would just sign a few autographs afterwards then go. So whenever our quest for the ever elusive R-Fed signature failed, we would go around the arena and hound other players for their John Hancocks (or just so we could see them). We saw:


2007 Australian Open Runner Up and 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist,

Chilean Fernando Gonzales


At first no one cared about his practice sessions, but when he started to gain momentum and began beating big name players, more and more people started following him around.



Pretty pretty and very friendly Czech Nicole Vaidisova


No, seriously, she was very friendly. I think she recognised Sisterhood (that's half her face in the picture) and I from previous practice sessions because she walked straight towards us and gave us her autograph. She's the complete polar opposite of ...


Former World No. 1 Maria ShriekaSharapova


Garrr! Not only did she come in late for her practice session, she didn't even finish her practice set! And she left in a hurry. Hmpft! Incidentally, that's not our paper she's signing. Close up photo courtesy of my 300mm lens (which were not supposed to be used inside the tennis grounds).



World No. 1 Spaniard Rafael 'Vamos' Nadal


Naku! So hard to squeeze into his practice court! But we managed to do that and Sisterhood was able to take this picture. I was able to get a short video of him (via my phone) where I squeaked a lousy "Good Luck Rafael" as he walked past. Good luck my foot! Of course I didn't want him to win. I was rooting for Roger who, incidentally, looked good without his shirt on.


OOOH! HOT HOT HOT!!!


Yep. Lookit that ripped badeh! Mmmm ...Yummy! However, his physique, beautiful as it was, was no match to that of ...


Germany's Hunkadude, Tommy Haas


Hahahaha! Sisterhood and I got so tired of seeing Tommy Haas and Fernando Gonzales during that 5 days we were at Melbourne! They were everywhere! Everytime we camped out at a practice court waiting for RFed, they would either be at the next court or at that court, just about to finish their session. Tommy has this freaky fan who had about a gazillion photos and magazines of Tommy Haas with him and he actually asked Tommy to sign them ALL! I think that guy was planning on building a shrine of Tommy somewhere in his basement or something. Strange. You really do meet all sorts of people when you go to these things.


Sisterhood was able to get Tommy's autograph on a ball that he actually used during his practice session! We were there, watching him play and when he was done, his coach turned to us and said "would you like his balls?" Hahahaha! Naturally, we said "Yes Please!!!" so he handed over two (or was it one, i don't remember) Tommy's practice balls to us! Darn it! I thought he was referring to another set of balls! Hahahaha! That was funny.


We skipped the Aussie Open in 2008, which was fine because Djokovic won that year. Damn tummy bug! Had it not been for that ailment, Roger would have flown through that tournament as well.


*Sigh* I miss doing all those. I miss the crowd, I miss stalking the players, I miss the cheap t-shirts, the excitement, the adventures, having to squeeze into a tightly packed tram, looking for something decent to eat .. I miss Melbourne. I do not, however, miss the heat. I heard that it was 42oC the other day - when I heard that, I was so glad I wasn't there. Never mind the players, I'd choose being comfy over stalking other people any time.Oh well, at least I was able to experience that - and that's all that matters.

Dunedin

Posted by mysorefeet on January 28, 2009 at 1:53 AM Comments comments (1)



Hah! Who would have thought that barely a month after I flew back in from the South Island, I'd actually fly out again for a weekend getaway? I didn't think I'd be going anywhere for the next who knows how long since I had kinda used up my savings but Air New Zealand came up with this amazing weekend package that was simply too delicious to resist.


Imagine this: 2 round trip airplane tickets from Auckland to Dunedin; accommodation for 2 nights at Living Space Dunedin, free parking at the Auckland Domestic Carpark, and

free Speights Brewery tour for 2 all for just $219.00 (all inclusive and per person)! Who can resist that?!


So on Friday, I drove up to Auckland and spent the night at Ms Kaladkarin's house because the flight on Saturday was quite early. Incidentally, Ms. Kaladkarin* and Travel Companion are just one and the same. She read my blog and requested that I change her 'screen name' to Ms Kaladkarin and well ... who was I to begrudge her request. Obviously, I went to Dunedin with Ms. Kaladkarin. Better to get lost with someone than to get lost on my own.


Anyway, we spent the long weekend (it was Auckland Anniversary Day on Monday, 26th January) at Dunedin. We went to a whole lot of tourist attractions, I think we saw a whole lot more in our 3 day stay in Dunedin than we did in our 12 day jaunt last Christmas! We went to (in no particular order of importance):

  • Larnach Castle - NZ's only surviving castle. It was built by William Larnach in 1871, and is now owned and run by the Barker family, who spent 40 years restoring the Castle (also known as "the Camp") to its former glory. The Castle, though really impressive, has a very sad and tragic history. William Larnach, after experiencing a host of personal and professional disappointments, committed suicide in 1898. His eldest son would later on, unfortunately, follow in his footsteps. Entrance Fee: $25.00 - Garden and Castle; $10.00 Gardens only. Click HERE to view my Larnach Album.

  • Royal Albatross Colony - This is located at the very tip of the Otago Peninsula and about half an hour's drive from Larnach Castle. We wanted to see the Albatrosses but opted against paying $40 for the 'grand tour' - I mean, they're just birds, right?(sour grapes!) We were, however, able to view sealions / seals as they basked under the sun. They were funny. They didn't mind being watched by people, in fact, I think one actually loved the attention! Tour Cost: Ranges from $19.00 to $40.00 depending on the tour inclusions. Fee for looking at the seals: ZERO.


  • The Penguin Place - Just a few kilometers South West of the Albatross Colony, the Penguin Place is the home of the rare yellow-eyed penguin which we didn't see. Again, due to our limited finances, we didn't want to let go of $35.00 to see little flightless birds. I've seen Penguins at Kelly Tarlton's in Auckland, so how different would they be? (sour graping again!) Entrance Fee: $35.00
  • Happy Hens - A quaint little craft shop in Portobello where the main items on display were (guess what) HENS! No entrance fee - just pop in and say hello.


  • The Fletcher House - The very first house James Fletcher, founder of one of NZ's leading construction companies, ever built. We had a guided tour and we found out that James Fletcher started his illustrious career with just a boxful of tools and 12 Pounds in his pocket. YEY! I'm now INSPIRED!!! Entrance Fee: $4.00; Fletcher House Brochure / History: $2.00

  • Moeraki Boulders - These strange spherical boulders are actually not in Dunedin but about an hour's drive north of the city. We missed a couple of turns and found ourselves at the Moeraki township but the small seaside town was so lovely we didn't regret getting lost. No entrance fee.

  • Oamaru - No, we weren't able to visit the Clay Cliffs (WHY?!) because it was too far and we had to be back at Dunedin before dark but - we were able to walk around the centre, take pictures of and thoroughly appreciate the old-worldy charm of NZ's only Victorian town. We also went to Bushy Beach, hoping to see penguins but it was still too early for the birds. We missed them again. 
  • Port Chalmers - Really just a drive-by because we no longer had time to really explore the area. We just drove past the coves, the bays, the beaches and took snapshots along the way. Lovely place. Didn't realise that just a few more kilometers north we would have visited the site of the Aramoana Massacre. I didn't know about this, my officemate just mentioned that little fact to me when I told her we went to Port Chalmers.

Of course we had to go to the world's steepest street and naturally, we walked all the way to the top because we didn't want to risk driving up and getting stuck somewhere in the middle (later on I was so tempted to just roll down the hill to return to the car), the Otago University, and drove past the beautifully preserved buildings in and around the city itself.


We had such a wonderful time and good lordy, we didn't spend that much! Well, I spent a wee bit more that Ms. Kaladkarin because I opted to 'sit' for a victorian photo shoot and I bought a nice top and a cute skirt at Farmers (as if there isn't a Farmers in Hamilton, eh?)!


OH! And despite all that walking and driving, I did not have sore feet! I learned from my previous mistake so I made sure I had proper walking shoes - not just lovely pink jandals - this time around. The boots were quite heavy and cumbersome to put on but they did protect my little feetsies from the elements.


Photos to be uploaded sometime next week, when my laptop has been upgraded. Right now it is in dire need of a new RAM and I am unable to even open photoshop without it warning me about something. Darn it!


~ ~ ~

*Kaladkarin - from the Filipino root word "Kaladkad" meaning, to drag. Term used for someone whom one can easily 'drag' along


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