Tag Archive: travel


whale, whale, whale

DSC_0289-1what have we here?  i’m back at sea!  i’m out on mbari‘s western flyer once more, ready for a week of deep-sea squiddy goodness.  we’re just getting ready to put doc ricketts into the water, but already we’ve seen some spectacular wildlife: the summer-resident humpback whales (plus otters, dolphins, sealions and murres) put on quite a show to send us out to sea!  more soon from far, far below the waves…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

the americas, part 4: brazil

and now we move on to brazil! new country!  new continent!  the ride down was a bit rough—i don’t recommend delta for long-haul flights in general, i have to say, and we had some extra bumps from hurricane sandy as we flew over the caribbean. the elf was only able to be in the bassinet for about half an hour of the whole 11-hour flight.  but we made it in the end, arriving at our hotel in florianopolis about 24 hours after leaving the states (not counting the drive back up to mn from omaha, made the previous day).  initial impressions of a pleasant climate, interesting city and good food were confirmed as we explored over the following week, the pebbles and elf often checking things out while i was conference-bound and then taking me back to the good places later.  i did wish i’d been more motivated in learning portuguese in the preceding weeks, but we managed ok and didn’t end up ordering any meals that were too surprising on arrival.  the conference was great and we had fun taking the elf swimming (her first experience with non-bath-temperature water… but she loved it), and she enjoyed exploring the city with her dad.

we also managed a day trip out of floripa, on hallowe’en, up the coast to a large nature (and partial amusement) park, and to blumenau, where german settlers have left their mark and the largest oktoberfest outside of germany takes place each year (but had mercifully finished three days earlier).  we took a gondola ride up to the park from the seaside town of camboriu, admiring the golden-blooming garapuvu trees along the way (symbol of the state of santa catarina), then walked for a bit among lush greenery to views down to the coast.  the plan was to take the gondola down this side as well, but another option appeared: a zipline, disappearing down into the distance, offering the chance to make the five-minute stately gondola descent in about 40 seconds instead.  while we debated over which of us would have this adventure, leaving the other to carry the elf, our tour guide came up and offered to carry her down for us.  we briefly consulted among ourselves, concluded that the likelihood of him absconding with her was relatively minimal given that the rest of the tour group were also colleagues from the conference, and then abandoned our child with a relative stranger so that we could race through the air on steel cables.  bad parenting?  maybe.  worth it to fly down a brazilian mountainside in the spring sunshine?  totally.

at the bottom we found her completely unfazed, strapped to the guide and as chipper as ever, so we moved on to the beach, where she had her first dip in the ocean.  the pebbles was a little sad that this momentous event didn’t happen at home in new zealand, but i’m not sure how long we’d be waiting before the water there is a suitable temperature for baby swimming.  in any case, she loved it, although not the sandy drying-off part (who does?) and we headed off to blumenau, with a quick stop at a small museum dedicated to early brewing equipment (to the pebbles’ great interest).  lunch was delicious (german–brazilian fusion! sauerkraut and churrascaria!  score!) and then we walked around the near-deserted grounds of oktoberfest central, complete with a mini german village.  a few minutes here were enough to appreciate the architecture before an overwhelming atmosphere of hangover set in, and we started the trip back to floripa.

the remaining days held more conference events and a few forays into the town—along the waterfront and to the older part of the city, to the markets.  the conference dinner was held at a lovely restaurant and involved many tiny courses of delicious things, some vigorous dancing, and parading the elf around in an octopus costume, giving her an early taste of what the paparazzi may be like if she ever becomes famous (it was a conference of ceph enthusiasts, after all).  we decided to call it a night when the brazilian drum/dance troupe came in, though, and woke our exhausted little octopus in her tent in the corner.  that was already the wee hours of the morning, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick sleep before the big re-pack and next journey in the morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

the remaining days held more conference events and a few forays into the town—along the waterfront and to the older part of the city, to the markets.  the conference dinner was held at a lovely restaurant and involved many tiny courses of delicious things, some vigorous dancing, and parading the elf around in an octopus costume, giving her an early taste of what the paparazzi may be like if she ever becomes famous (it was a conference of ceph enthusiasts, after all).  we decided to call it a night when the brazilian drum/dance troupe came in, though, and woke our exhausted little octopus in her tent in the corner.  that was already the wee hours of the morning, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick sleep before the big re-pack and next journey in the morning.

the open road

so, this is the end of california — finished, even though it took nearly seven months!  over those ten days at the start of december 2011, we covered about 2100 miles in our little black rental beast.  it seems only appropriate, therefore, to reflect on all the different roads we traveled.  scrubby desert roads lined with strange joshua trees; long straight highway stretches with mountains looming on one or several sides; snowy gravel roads high in the forest, lined with giant trees; out-of-place-seeming asphalt strips winding through strange rock formations; rolling river-side roads and a spectacular final drive along the coast.  from the car, we saw sunrises, sunsets, and moonrises; lakes, streams, waterfalls, and the ocean; cattle, birds, and coyotes.  it had been a long time since we’d traveled together to somewhere new to both of us (well — technically all three of us, since i was 14 weeks pregnant and also spent a fair amount of the car-time either feeling queasy or eating trail-mix), and we’re so glad we did.  so here are my favorite shots taken of, along or from the road.  thanks, california — we had a great time getting to know you better!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

the california moon

before i write about the life events that overtook us at the end of april — causing the two-month radio silence here among other things — there are two more posts to finish the california trip off.  although i have finished writing about the specific places we visited, i wanted to focus on two specific aspects of our trip.  the first was the moon.

by dint of driving to a new destination each day and exploring when we got there, our walks were necessarily mostly late-afternoon to evening affairs.  as it happened, over those ten days, the moon tended to rise as, or just before, we arrived at our new destinations, and so was a common feature in the landscapes we were discovering.  we saw it perching above desert rocks and looming over mountains.  it added to the other-worldy feel of places like death valley.  and on the penultimate night of our road trip, in the wee hours before we got up to go to anacapa island, our california moon-gazing culminated in a lunar eclipse.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

anacapa island

this was one of my favorite places on the whole CA circuit.  during a previous research trip to santa barbara, i had heard about the channel islands national park, but hadn’t had the time to go there, and so added it to my ‘must do eventually’ list.  and when we realized we would be finishing this trip by driving down the california coast from monterey back to los angeles, i seized the chance.  given our limited time and my somewhat tenuous state of metabolism/stamina, we opted for the smallest and closest island, anacapa (actually made of three islets but visitors are only allowed on east anacapa).

the ferry took us out there from the giggle-inducing town of oxnard, on the morning following a lunar eclipse (more on that shortly).  we had a stunning day for it — sparkling turquoise water, pelicans soaring along just above the surface, misty cliffs ringing kelpy bays where sealions basked and barked.  after an initial steep climb up the cliffs from the ferry (ok, there were stairs, but still steep) we had sweeping panoramic views of the island, with the lighthouse at one end and the craggy humps of the other islands visible off the other.  there were a total of six buildings and not a single tree; just the strange coreopsis plants and extensive swathes of the invasive (if picturesque) ‘iceplant.’  in addition to the pelicans (which breed there — one of only two colonies in the US), the steep cliffs hosted hundreds of smaller nesting seabirds, but very little other wildlife.  the whole place, especially the views to the other islands, reminded me a lot of the cíes islands in spain, but east anacapa was much smaller — about a mile long; all three islets together cover just 1.1 square miles in total area.  so four hours was plenty of time to stroll the cliff-tops (not getting too close, of course), enjoy a picnic lunch, and take about a thousand photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

escape to summer, part 3

after the waldsee reunion and the chipmunk circus, it was time for the next main event of the trip – the family reunion.  every four years, all the descendents of one set of great-grandparents (collectively known as the k’s) get together for a weekend somewhere – over a hundred of us.

on our way, we made a little detour through the twin cities and to st olaf, bumbly’s alma mater.  all was verdant and beautiful outside, and cool and tranquil within.

after a necessary stop for hoagies in northfield, and for the pebbles, who arrived that evening into the cities, we were ready for the reunion.  this year’s gathering was in wisconsin, and it involved a fine montage of s’mores, cricket (kiwi partners represent!), river tubing, family trivia, and a pageant about the life of our great-grandmother.  all set in the middle of beautiful, lush, summery woods.and, of course, there were also long-awaited catch-ups with rarely seen cousins.  in fact, we also organized a smaller reunion for as many of the immediate cousins as could attend – a victorious outing to the twins’ new stadium!the weekend was rounded out by staying with friends, with whom we would shortly disappear into the northern borderland wilderness of voyageurs national park.  we held an overnight planning session and were only mildly distracted by the local fauna.  which was, in turn, only mildly distracted by us.

escape to summer, part 1

this blog’s most consistent theme (recent arachnophilia aside) has been travel, so it seems only fitting that i resurrect it from a long dormancy with chronicles of a new trip.  the pebbles and i have just returned to nz from our near-annual sojourn to the US, and maybe writing about it and sharing some of the photos will stave off some of our longing to still be there in the lovely summer weather among far-too-seldom seen family and friends.  not that we have much time for moping – we move into our new house in ten days and i start a new job (well, new amalgamation of previous jobs) tomorrow.  but the vacation is over, so i will enjoy revisiting it in odd moments during the coming days and weeks.

i headed across the pacific for the 18th time  (i think) in late july, a week before the pebbles.  waldsee was celebrating its 50th birthday the following weekend, an event not to be missed.  bumbly and gizmo traveled across the same day, but because we don’t seem to be able to coordinate group travel to save ourselves (witness the pebbles and i, who did not travel together on a single flight this trip), they came separately and arrived about three hours later than i did – leaving time for IKEA pilgirmage number 1 (of 3) and swedish meatballs for dinner.  mom swooped us all up in good order and we drove like a carful of zombies straight up to the cabin (if zombies ever drive straight up to cabins?), arriving at about 3am.

the next day was a beautiful, perfect lake day with light breezes and calm waters for swimming, adjusting to summer weather and a significant time difference, and the first tentative sun-exposure of pasty winter skin.  everyone spent all day taking deep breaths of the clean northwoods air and breathing deep sighs of delight just to be there.  a fabulous spaghetti dinner rounded out the day and let us know that we were really back.

waldseefest began the following day, with over 200 staff and camper alumnae rumored to be attending, in addition to the ~200 people already on site for the normal program.  i have no idea what the final number was, but many, many old friends and lost acquaintances were there to take part in a perfect mixture of organized activities and general hanging out around the marktplatz.  there were songs, campfires, swims, woodfired pizzas, dedications, speeches by various important figures including the german ambassador, and beautiful cool nights camping on the fussballplatz.  on one night we heard coyotes singing in the woods nearby.  the stars were as spectacular as ever and the only pall cast over the weekend came from some dear friends being stuck in dc due to bad weather.  however, they have hinted that they might come to visit us in new zealand for christmas, so we will hope for that as a possibly even improved plan B.

one of the main discussion themes for the weekend was waldsee’s future – summer camp, as a luxury experience, is of course in decline in the US at the moment, and the nonprofit language villages have had several sobering years of falling enrollments.  but the creation of a new waldseestiftung to help with scholarships looks like a very positive development, and seeing how some of the kids and staff have grown in the years i’ve been away, and the way the program is still nurturing people, suggests that the program does indeed have a strong future.   a new, permanent site for the japanese village is under construction, and the arabic village that opened most recently is doing well, so i am confident that the wonderful learning experiences tucked away in a magical little corner of northern minnesota will continue.

the celebration weekend was the first time i’ve really taken a good camera around waldsee at leisure, and i did my best to capture the essence of some of my favorite spots and memories of the years i worked there.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

sealog 8: welcome to russian camp

i spent many blissful summers at a set of camps in northern minnesota that teach foreign languages to kids through immersion.  the kids come for one, two or four weeks, and do all the usual fun summer camp stuff (swim, play outside, get poison ivy, push food they don’t like around their plates three times a day), but while they’re there, they only hear the target language spoken by the staff.  they are free to speak english among themselves of course, but at the table, and when interacting directly with staff, they are encouraged to use words and phrases in the foreign language, and it works amazingly well.  i learned norwegian this way, two weeks at a time, for six years.  later, when i learned (much more) german, i went back and taught for five years, and that too was incredibly good for my language skills – speaking only german for six weeks a summer was like a mini living-abroad experience, and i loved it.
but it’s been a long time – 21 years, actually – since i had the ‘new villager’ experience and tried to learn a language from absolute zero, just by being immersed in it.  yet here i find myself, listening hard to the ship’s announcements (all in russian), to see whether i can catch anything at all.  by studying a detailed wall chart of the ship with labels in both languages, i refreshed my memory on the cyrillic alphabet, by sounding out words that were similar and extrapolating the letter sounds i didn’t know (‘tweendeck’ is твеендек, ‘tveendek;’ ‘elevator’ is лифт, ‘lift’ (i mean, er… what elevator?  this isn’t a luxury outfit, you know), ‘meteorological laboratory’ is, well, ‘meteorologiski laboratoria’ or something like that).  apart from the really alien characters, like the letters for ‘zh’ (ж), ‘ts’ (ц), and ‘ui’ (ы), i managed to get most of them on my own.  for the rest i entreated help from a friendly kitchen guy, who has also been trading us some informal russian lessons for some english and spanish ones.  embarassingly, while we learn to say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you,’ he (an avid reader of english detective and crime fiction) is perfecting phrases like ‘i won’t answer your questions until i consult my lawyer.’  (we do wonder what his life on land involves.)  he also used the word ‘insalubrious’ in casual conversation the other day.  but lessons in humility are always good for the soul, so i can grit my teeth and soldier on with ‘a little, and very badly’ (my hypothetical answer to the question ‘do you speak russian?’, probably doubly useless in that (1) no in their right mind will ever, EVER think i can speak enough russian to even comprehend that question, and (2) a much safer answer would just be ‘no’). and as my understanding of the letters and sounds improves, he has less and less occasion to laugh at my attempts to render the phrases i learn into intelligible written form, although i think my handwriting will be like a russian five-year-old’s for a good long while yet.
with my newfound skills, i can have such meaningful exchanges as ‘hello / goodbye’ (at any time of day, i hasten to add), ‘thanks / you’re welcome,’ ‘how are you? / well, thanks, and you?’ (this last actually occurred unprompted yesterday with one of the mates in the bridge – apart from the ridiculous look of concentration and 10-second delay between question and answer while i dredged the words out of my brain, i was very proud.  we won’t talk about the fact that my russian experiences must always be cheerful because i can only say that i’m doing well), and i can ask how to say something in russian, probably the phrase i use the most often but with the least effect, since i have to hear the word/phrase at least five times before i can remember it.
yesterday’s other big accomplishment was reading the names of the countries whose flags are stored in wooden cubbies in the bridge, for when the ship is in foreign ports – ‘iapano,’ ‘nova zelandya,’ ‘avstralia,’ ‘urugvaya,’ ‘egyepto.’  look out, next i might actually be able to read the menu in the dining hall!  … although then i would have to decide whether the joyful anticipation of, say, pizza, would cancel out the dread of knowing in advance that we were having liverwurst for breakfast (like this morning).
i don’t think i’ll be turning spy any time soon, or passing myself off as a local if i ever make it to russia, but i’ve always loved foreign languages, and i have to say i’m having fun with this one.  the pleasantly camp-like atmosphere probably helps, although the drawback of being on a shipful of adults is that they dare to serve things like aspic and tongue.  luckily, i can now say, ‘no, thank you’ … assuming our friendly russian teacher hasn’t taught us to unknowingly say ‘my buttocks are on fire’ instead.

the first green flash

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

sealog 7: what luck

every morning (well, those when we aren’t still in the lab at daybreak), we are awakened by an announcement at 7am.  today, it went like this: ‘good morning, everybody.  ship’s time is seven o’clock.  today is friday, the 13th of november.  we are still drifting at the station.’
two things about this announcement struck me, although i didn’t think them related at the time.  first, it’s friday the 13th.  second, we should have had two nekton samples, starting around 4am, and the station should have been finished by now.  yet here i was, still happily in bed.
it turned out there may have been a connection after all, at least to anyone of a superstitious nature.  while reeling in the first nekton trawl, just as the catch was being lifted from the water, the cable holding the net snapped – literally, twang, ends flying and crew on deck ducking for cover. this could have been completely disastrous, but by extreme luck, it wasn’t – no one was injured, and what’s more, the net wasn’t lost.  the seaward end of the snapped cable wrapped itself twice around the top of the gantry used to deploy and retrieve the net, securing itself in place in just about the most unlikely way possible.  so the net dangled, but in relative security, until an additional cable could be secured to reel it in.  (this was all related to me over breakfast, just before i spilled my cup of tea over most of the table – i’d like to say that that was also abnormal bad luck, but i should probably just confess that i’m not the most coordinated person in the morning.)
when the catch was finally brought in, we weren’t sure what it would hold, and what condition it would be in after all the morning’s drama and delay. but we should have predicted that if there was one day of this cruise destined to bring in Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the vampire squid, friday the 13th would be it.  and not one, but two specimens – both small (mantles about the size of a walnut and an almond), but in quite good condition, relatively.  Vampyroteuthis is an ancient order of cephalopods, with a very gelatinous body and thin, delicate skin that ranges in color from brick red to deep purple-black.  it looks like a small octopus, with eight shortish arms and a deep web, but it also has paddle-shaped fins and two photophores (light organs) at the end of the mantle, and two tentacle-like sensory filaments that retract into pouches near the first (dorsal) pair of arms. our larger specimen was in better shape, although its mantle was inside out (we gently rectified this before fixing it in formalin).  the oral face of its arms and web were deep, solid, inky black and the tiny finger-like cirri on the arms could still be seen.  the eyes were perfect and some shreds of delicate skin still clung to the mantle and fins, and both photophores were present.  although Vampyroteuthis is not terribly rare in the oceans, specimens of it are rare, especially in decent condition, so today we consider ourselves lucky indeed.

sealog 7: what luck

This slideshow requires JavaScript.