A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about ecotourism

wandern gehen

there are always glaciers

View The Yinzerspielen experience on ctamler's travel map.

our plays opened on thursday (http://yinzerspielen.wordpress.com). then, since the second performance isn't until tomorrow, we headed to garmisch for a long-anticipated camping and tramping trip: me, simon, parag, lauren, basti, christina, vinz, iris, and nora.

we weren't the only ones who'd had this excellent idea, so we hit a bit of traffic heading into the town. once there though it's beautiful, never mind how touristy: dirndl outlets and brezen fade into the background when you look up and see the german alps considering you from above.

we climbed and climbed, and then paid 3 euro each to climb some more. past a great glacier, of course, rained on by melting ice, glad of my accidentally-brought poncho, though it makes me look like frodo. at the hut at the end of the trail we lunched. nora, vinz, simon and i lagged behind on the hike down. basti taught the others a dirty rhyme game. in the car, i taught parag, nora, and simon the "one day as i walked through the woods" song. basti and simon stole wood.

at the campsite, parag terrified a biergarten full of people with his antics in the car. an asthmatic lady asked us not to build a fire. we said we needed to cook our dinner and that was that. later, some kids stole half our beer from the river where it was cooling. we found more wood after a long search, me dragging back two giant pieces of a dismembered fence (the "bastard logs"). no s'mores due to the woeful lack of marshmallows in this country, but steaks and sausages and delicious feta-vegetable foil packets. in spite of the stolen beer we managed well with four bottles of wine (one XXL-sized).

the stars were beyond incredible. simon kept saying he'd found "the horse," "the elephant," "the frog." turned out he was making them up. we tried to sleep four in a tent. we didn't sleep well. but we slept happy. the asthma lady whined. we slept on.

today before our drive back we stopped at a lake. freezing water that we nonetheless swam in, me holding my ground until simon and i spotted a water snake that i thought at first was a stick. sunned, dodged giant bugs. a shirtless sleepy simon drove parag, nora, and i back to augsburg, with sleepy hilarity along the way. we were all in fine fettle. and it had really been a glorious trip.

Posted by ctamler 14:40 Archived in Germany Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

glowing poop

horror film plot #2 in the bag

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

we left wanganui bright and early to make our way through winding roads, back country, and national parks to waitomo. it was a 3.5 hour drive but the twists and turns absorbing enough that i didn't offer to let anyone else drive. we listened to the radio (that song about "sweet home alabama," coldplay's "viva la vida," they're everpresent on the radio at the moment...as well as a couple of other songs that are so annoying that we switched stations every time we heard them -- like the one that starts "i hate this part right here"), and discovered that cody thought lambs and sheep were completely different species.

at waitomo we ate the remnants of our food -- the bread zack, cody and i were sharing made some pretty stupid sandwiches. when we went to check in, we discovered they had raised the price of the black abyss tour by about 20nzd sometime in october -- but we must have looked poor and pathetic, because the receptionist gave us a discount. fifty cents less than we originally thought we were going to pay, actually.

we squeezed ourselves into cold, damp wetsuits, learned how to abseil, and then threw ourselves down a hole that dropped many, many meters down into the mouths of the waiting cave monsters below:


while waiting for my turn to abseil, i concocted yet another brilliant movie plot that will rival ghost twin in its rapid climb to the top of the horror film genre. i don't have a title yet, but it involves a "caving company" that is actually being contracted by cave monsters to supply them with a steady supply of human victims to munch on. the monsters need to do this, of course, because they can't leave the cave...daylight kills them.

our time spent spelunking was a wet wild and cold three hours ziplining through pitchblack cave sky twinkling with glowworms, climbing up waterfalls, and getting thrown off of twenty foot ledges into black water on innertubes.



the guides basically delight in keeping you in the dark the whole time as to what's coming next -- partially as a fear management control tool, partially just because they're dicks. but it was funny. of course, they couldn't refrain from making a descent joke or two.

i won the glowworm game, which means i never need feel shame for my incompetence at the skytower game ever again.

cody drove back to auckland and we all passed out -- but not after kirstin sent me to bed with the promise that she was going to take care of directions to karekare for the next morning. the world should note that carefully.

kirstin and i succeeded at waking up, getting to parnell, and leaving the city right on schedule in the morning. cody even elected to come with us, which was to say the least a (pleasant) surprise. then we got onto the northern motorway and drove for about fifteen minutes.

me: "so do you know how long we're supposed to be on the motorway before the next turn?"

kirstin: "no, i didn't write down the distances, really..." pause. "wait, do you not know where you're going?"

"no why would i? you're in charge of directions."

"yeah but you just seemed so sure of yourself."

"well, where are we supposed to be?"

"i dunno -- the northwestern motorway?"

"we're on the northern motorway...there IS no northwestern motorway..."

cody: "is this beach on the west coast or the east coast?"

us: "the west."

cody: "well, we're definitely heading towards the east coast."

the upshot is we turned around and somehow magically ended up on the northwestern motorway despite the fact that there were no signs for it until many kilometers after it had started. and got to karekare beach, a bit late, but still got there, with the weather shitting all over us, black sand stinging our legs in the wind. we wandered up and down the beach at the foot of soaring cliffs. it's right down the street from piha but i liked it even better. really, really beautiful. seems bigger, and more remote. more tracks you can do. if the weather had been better...

but kirstin and i, being the hardcore motherfuckers we are, found a waterfall that fed into a deep, clear pool, and then --

kirstin: "the water's not that cold."

[laughter. pause. i feel the water.]

me: "you know it's really not." pause. "we should probably swim."


"no. seriously. we should."

"you're right. we should get towels from the car..."

"no. we shouldn't. because this is all about the impulsiveness. which we are already clearly losing by talking about it so much. so i really think we should just shut the fuck up and swim."


"yeah ok."

down to our bathing suits in ten seconds, we slipped and stumbled across the mossy, rocky bed of the pool, then swam, tingling with the cold, to touch the rock beneath the rushing falls. we held our heads under the falling stream, leaned against the mossy wet boulders. a family of ducks quacked disapproval, flaunted its waterproof feathers. cody stood on the shore, arms folded.

the air felt warmer when we emerged. the van of tourists at the trailheads staring at us laughing walking in our dripping togs didn't faze us. shit's real.

Posted by ctamler 16:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)


View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

too early on saturday morning ingrid, alex, a cranky meghan, sarah, abbie, bayan, dan and i climbed into a musty-smelling chinese van with automatic window shades and an expandable roof compartment. what should have been a 45-minute drive stretched a bit longer thanks to getting lost, but your average kiwi biker is nothing if not friendly and helpful. we found our way to piha beach with no other mishap save rain during the last chunk of the drive dampening our spirits. rain? really? not on our parade.

the rain had stopped by the time we pulled up, although it was still overcast and chilly. we wandered down the black sand beach towards lion rock. black sand is really black. but it is also a different consistency than white sand -- at least, this black sand was: almost like mud, but grainier; it would cling together, and we had a sandball fight or two. we ought to have built a sandcastle, it would've made a killer one.

when the sun came out and hit the sand, it glittered. like those sidewalks that i always used to thrill at finding as a kid, the sparkly fairytale sidewalks. there were parts where the sand was so black that it was purple, in painted-on streaks. it held footprints.

we climbed lion rock, which was once a maori pa (fortified settlement) and gave a nice view of the beach. not many surfers that day in the chill and choppiness, but there was still a class or two; apparently it's great for that sort of thing. alex rented a surfboard and ingrid a boogie board later in the day. before that, though, ingrid, abbie, meghan and i went on a short hike that we found. it wound up and around some low hills, and if you slipped down a little side path you found yourself on this big rock jutting out and overlooking a narrow pass between another rock and the shore. at the narrowest bit there was a series of stone ledges, like giant steps, and the waves would crash into them from behind and then the white foam would tumble down, thickly, so that they seemed covered in snow. it was an incredible sight. my camera is broken and so i couldn't take pictures. but incredible.

the sun was out for a while, though there was still too much breeze for real warmth. some of us lay on the beach, others wandered or played in the water (too cold without a wetsuit). we took jumping pictures, which seem to be meghan's new obsession. i always find them annoying when other people take them, but they are really fun to be in, and to look at if you're in them.


i guess by that logic the above picture will be annoying to everyone and not fun to look at for anyone.

it rained on and off throughout the day, always quite suddenly, so there were several dashes to the car. there were also several excursions to the fish and chips stall, which seemed to be the only place to obtain food for miles around -- oddly, considering piha's supposedly a very popular place in the summer. they had all the requisites: toasties, fish, chips, burgers with beets and eggs on them.

we stayed til around sunset at bayan's impassioned request, because he and ingrid wanted to film for their dance and technology project. unfortunately, sunset was less than spectacular, because as the day wore on the sky became more and more insistently overcast.

we returned home to a frustrating fire alarm that chased us to starbucks for a little while. later, cody and zack came to wellesley, and we played cards with kirstin and sam and went to the viaduct. a late night for all. sunday i lazed and half-heartedly did some homework and wrote a bit. now it's monday morning of our last week of school, oh my.

Posted by ctamler 01:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

da cooks

our rarotongan adventures

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

just got back from rarotonga, one of the islands in the group that makes up the cook islands, somewhere between here (auckland) and hawaii. it's our spring break from uni and this is the ies semester-break field trip. we spent six days there and did a lot of stuff, so i'll have to stick to the highlights, but overall, it was awesome.

my favorite adventures:

1. biking around the island. i think it's about 32km in circumference, and quite flat, so not a bad ride; but the day was unbelievably blustery, and about half the group turned around before we got halfway. the rest of us trooped it out, though. there were about 15 minutes when i thought i wouldn't be able to make it: pedaling right into winds of near-cyclone proportions (that's what we found out later! not exaggeration), you literally feel like you're going nowhere. but it was absolutely worth it, especially since we could hop off any time we needed a break and run down to the beach a few meters away for a dip or a coconut.

2. the cross-island hike with pa, our bleach-dreaded tour guide who always referred to himself in the third person. a pathological liar (or a compulsive storyteller), but a good guide. he took us up and over rarotonga, including to the base of the needle, the huge rock somewhere in the center-ish of the island:


it was quite steep a lot of the way, with twisted tree roots forming natural ladders to clamber on. old, old trees with folds in the trunk like cardboard slabs. curled ferns. a clear stream you could drink from. trees with trunks and branches that curved around in slender parabolae, creating a three-dimensional web. beautiful, strenuous, exhilarating.

3. boggle. zack, kirstin, dan b., and others, we played a lot of boggle. it's a rediscovered addiction.

4. the stars. on the few clear nights, they were breathtaking.

Posted by ctamler 17:05 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

putting down roots in aotearoa

rain 12 °C

last sunday, sarah and i volunteered to plant trees on motutapu, a relatively old island connected to the relatively young island of rangitoto (the volcanic one we'd visited weeks before). motutapu used to be a thickly forested island, but the maori deserted it when rangitoto started to appear out of the ocean about 600 years ago, and (more recently) the europeans burnt down the forest to make farmland. only a few ancient trees survived.

now there is a major reforestation project on the island. they hold the current guinness record for most trees planted in one session -- i forget the exact figure, but it's over 5,000, planted by 200-some volunteers. our group, about a quarter of the size, dampened by hours of rain, managed only about 1,200 -- pretty decent, still, i'd have to say.

one group (sarah and me included) went planting in the morning, when the rain was heaviest. we braved it for a couple of hours, taking turns digging and planting the tiny seedlings and a sapling or two. one thing about kiwis, they're used to being shat on by weather with how variable it always is here. so they were staunchly cheerful in the face of the steady wet and cold, and jollily cautioned everyone not to get hypothermia (they were being serious, of course).

we headed down to the shed for lunch, looking a bit like this:


...and while the afternoon group went out to plant, we got a treat: in better conditions we'd all have planted all day, but because of the rain we got to dry off a bit and then keep warm with a hike. i didn't bring my camera, but soon regretted it. we got to see what the fruits of our efforts will look like not long from now. a grove planted five years ago boasted trees taller than me; a grove planted ten or fifteen years past was really beginning to look like a forest.

where we emerged, a road divided the replanted chunk from an unplanted one, and we saw the stark contrast, the empty and sterile farmland dotted by mournful and curious cattle, and the thick, drooping leaves of trees and ferns, birdsong, life renewing itself.

they use seeds from within a 100-meter radius only, and this summer are carrying out a massive pest destruction project to rid the island of its feral cats and stoats and porcupines and so on, so that they can introduce native birds when it's clean.

we were fucking cold and wet by the time the ferry came to take us home. but the end-of-the-day sizzle was hot, the company good, and libby, gael's friend, gave us some fudge cake. and we left some trees for new zealand to remember us by.

Posted by ctamler 23:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]