The Abel Tasman Track: A Great Walk of New Zealand

I’ve just completed a four-day trek through Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, along the stunning Abel Tasman Track. I wasn’t going to go all the way to New Zealand for GeyserCon, where I was an author guest, and not fit in some tramping!

We flew into Auckland, sent our convention luggage (books, costumes, normal clothing, etc.) on to Rotorua, and immediately caught a flight for Nelson, where we stayed in a cozy studio (referral link to save $25 anywhere) hosted by the delightful Kate. It was just upon our arrival to Nelson that Jon informed me our cookstove, meant to give us hot food over our four days of late autumn hiking and chilly wading, had also gone on to Rotorua. Oops. Kate was kind enough to give us a 7 am ride to a local store to pick up a cheapo model before our trailhead pickup.

We got a ride into Marahau, a town at the southern edge of the national park, from Abel Tasman Aquataxi. We confirmed the time and location of our next pickup four days later and crossed the street to pick up a local walkway that would lead to the national park entrance.

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A Vicious Spiral of Niceness

This morning I flew into Tokyo. Okay, it was afternoon by Tokyo standards, and night by my home standards, but I slept on the plane so it was morning. Or something.

By night, sakura blossoms and the moon.
By night, sakura blossoms and the moon.

I know just enough Japanese to make it seem like I know more. I can’t understand much of the airplane announcements, but I know enough of routine airplane announcements to fill in the gaps. I cannot have a conversation about the specifics of a hobby, but I can exchange a rail pass and get directions and be generally civil.

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Travelogue: Argentina & Antarctica! Ice & Islands

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Argentina & Antarctica

I’m so sorry — I wrote this post way back, but got distracted and didn’t realize it didn’t go live. Let’s talk about ice in Antarctica!

Today, let’s sail through the waters of Antarctica and learn a little.

Ice, Ice, Baby

We entered the Southern Ocean and reached the Antarctic peninsula, sailing through the Gerlache Stait into the Schollart Channel. We had an additional ice pilot with us, a former captain of an Argentine icebreaker ship, now retired and assisting summer vessels.

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Traveling with a SIM card (and tool!)

You know that feeling when you arrive at a foreign airport and pull out the SIM card you’ve purchased for your international travels, and you discover that you don’t have a good way to pop open your phone’s SIM card tray? So you curl up in a corner and cycle through paperclips, earring hooks, pen tips, safety pins, and a variety of other improvised tools until you finally force it open?

No? Just me? Okay.

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Travelogue: Argentina & Antarctica! Cape Horn

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Argentina & Antarctica

Today we continue my What I Did On My Winter/Summer Vacation essay, moving south to Cape Horn.

Cape Horn

I’ve known about Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos) for years, the Age of Exploration and how deadly the transit was at the bottom of the world. I’ve read about it so much and always in such a historical context that it was nearly mythical.

And to be fair, it is a place of near legend. One of the, or possibly the, most dangerous ship passages on the planet, the Cape experiences gale force winds nearly 30% of the time in winter, with drifting icebergs and steep waves — including frequent rogue waves of up to 100 feet (30 meters). Winds rushing unchecked across the whole of the Pacific are funneled into the Drake Passage by the Antarctic peninsula and the Andes mountains, just as the massive waves they create come into a shallower stretch of ocean and grow steeper.

At least 800 ships have died here, with over 10,000 mariners. This place did not get its reputation lightly. The Spanish, rather than shipping their gold back to Europe around the Horn, opted instead to carry their extremely heavy loot across the continent through hostile territory, thinking it less difficult and risky.

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Travelogue: Argentina & Antarctica! Ushuaia

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Argentina & Antarctica

I’m sorry this post has been long in coming — for some reason the paying jobs had to take priority over the blog, silly but true — but I hope it’s worth the wait!

For decades, I’ve spoken of Antarctica as the crazy dream destination, exotic and fascinating and unlike anything else you can just hop in a car or plane and go to visit. In 2009, the Antarctic Treaty signatories agreed to update restrictions on tourism — a concept I understand and endorse, because we’ve seen what unchecked and unregulated tourists can do to places less fragile than Antarctica, and yet I decided that if I were going to go, I should do it.

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Travelogue: Iguazú Falls and Buenos Aires

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Argentina & Antarctica

Two years ago, I booked a trip which has now begun, and I’m so excited.

In my last newsletter, I dropped a big hint on where I’d be going:

If I have adequate internet access in February, while traveling, I’ll share some of this first adventure with you on the blog. Hint: Macaroni, Magellanic, Rockhopper, Gentoo.

Sharp-eyed animal lovers will peg those names as several species of penguin. Yes, I’m in Argentina and en route to Antarctica!

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Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary.

(Yes, I was a child bride, or let’s just not do that math.)

Today I celebrate Jon, the man in my life. (I mean, Dad’s pretty cool, too, and I’d pick him for a father if I had a choice. But Jon’s the one I did pick.) He’s a fantastic husband — always up for adventure, always supportive, always a model of how a real man treats a woman in particular and women in general. Skilled and awesome.

Happy anniversary, husband! I look forward to many more such years.

First Day in Ecuador

panaramic view of Quito showing mountains and smog

Quito is a fascinating city, but it’s plagued with air pollution and could really benefit from some electric cars. The gondola lift run is visible to the right.

We made it! We flew in last night and arrived at our Quito hotel, the elegant JW Marriott (yay points!), to find we’d been upgraded to a seriously sweet room. Like, I’ve seen dorm rooms smaller than just this bathroom. So we bathed in luxury prior to setting off into the rural highlands tomorrow.

Jon and me, with the Ruku Pichincha peak behind us

Jon and me, with the Ruku Pichincha peak behind us

Today, however, we decided to do an acclimation hike. Up Pichincha.

Quito itself sits at of elevation of about 9,400 feet (2,850 m), and since we’re coming from a home elevation of about 500 feet (<200 m), we should have taken a couple of days to acclimate. Even if coming from a higher elevation, everything you read says you shouldn’t go up Pichincha on your first day.

We went up Pichincha on our first day. Continue reading

A Winter Hike

narrow snowy track through woods
traversing a slope on the Knobstone Trail

Today the husband and I went for a walk in the woods.

Okay, it wasn’t a walk, it was a hike. We did about 8.5 miles of the Knobstone Trail, with our two dogs. (Yes, on-leash, of course, and of course we packed out all solid waste. We’re responsible people.) It was a chilly 20 degrees or so, and it snowed during part of the hike, which made it even better.

We started alongside a lake with singing ice. I didn’t catch it on video, but this is what I’m talking about:

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