Australian Pokédex awesomeness!

A very talented Australian animation artist named Paul Robertson has turned his hand to making a uniquely Aussie Pokédex… and it’s just brilliant.  I imagine non-Australians might have some trouble interpreting some of these Pokémon creations – you’ll just have to trust us that it all makes sense!

Saving here for future reference, via @probzz on Twitter.

Twenty years later…

Time seems to pass so quickly and this all feels like it happened just last year, but this story unfurled a little over twenty years ago… starting around the middle of1996, maybe???  I had been single for while, I mean, not very long in the big scheme of things, but I was lamenting the lack of intelligent and refined young gentlemen in my general circle of acquaintance to a friend of mine, Peter.  It was a typical, ‘Where have all the good men gone?’ conversation – I was sick of meeting guys who couldn’t hold up their end in a meaty conversation, guys who didn’t know or care about anything outside their own small world, guys who wanted to get you into bed but who had nothing of any substance to offer you over breakfast.  Peter offered me a some very good advice: ‘You need to separate the wheat from the chaff.’ said Pete, ‘What you need is a good pick up line…’  I had no idea where he was going with this, but he then said to me, ‘Next time you meet someone, ask them what they think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature.’  I laughed in his face – Oh right… how is that going to help me meet an interesting guy?!

But over the next few months, I found Pete’s pick up line was extremely useful: I would be out with the girls at a bar, and a guy would offer to buy me a drink or we’d be playing pool or something, and I’d pull out my conversation starter, ‘So… what do you think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature?’  I got a lot of blank looks, a lot of ‘Huh?’ responses.  I got one, ‘Are you drunk?’, and one guy who literally just turned and walked away.  It turned out that Pete’s one liner was a huge success at getting rid of repetitive conversations about cars or surfing, etc.  So I kept it. And used it to good effect.

Several months after I started applying my pick up line to my all and sundry social interactions at the Alex Hills and Colmslie Taverns, (Yes, I know, in hindsight, there was my problem, right there!), my sister came home from her first Rowany Festival (a large medieval camping event that is held annually near Sydney).  She was full of enthusiastic stories about the tavern, the wars, the wonderful people she’d met, and all the general merrymaking and shenanigans she’d experienced.  She showed me a whole pile of photographs of armoured fighters all decked out for war, and medieval campsites, and costumed people playing games on the green… it all looked like a lot of fun.  She showed me one picture of herself with some friends, and I said to her, ‘Who’s he?’

She replied that his name was ‘William the Admirer’, but that she didn’t know his real name, and then she related a story where ‘William’ was engaged in a flattery competition that involved several guys who were engaged in offering delicate sentiments to compliment the Princess at the time, and how ‘William’ had declared to all that he would henceforth change his name to ‘William the Admirer’ in honour of the Princess and her beauty and accomplishments… or something like that.  I laughed, but at the same time was quite taken by the idea of a young man who could pull off something like that in a social situation, and told my sister that she should invite him to a party that we were hosting soon, so that I could meet him… and so she did.  Several times apparently.  Each time she saw him, she apparently reiterated the invitation and he had promised he would come so that I could meet him.

The party in question was one of our then, annual Tequila Parties (complete with sombreros, ponchos, heavily laced sangria, nachos galore and a pinata filled with alcohol minis and condoms!), and when the night in question rolled around, I kept an eye out to see if the young man in question was going to turn up… but alas, he never did.  So I did what every sensible young woman does when being stood up by a man who didn’t know he had a date – got blind rotten drunk to the point where I was doing tequila shots and thinking, ‘This tequila tastes strange…’ only to double check the bottle and find it was vodka!  After that, I pretty much forgot all about ‘William the Admirer’.

About a month passed, and my sister informed me that she was going to a housewarming party in Annerley and would I like to come? At the time, I wasn’t really all that keen on going a party where I wouldn’t know anyone, so I declined the invitation… and then she said to me, ‘That guy from the photo is going to be there.’  Oh well, in that case, I decided ‘What the hell.’, I’d go.

We went to the party and I met a lot of new people and engaged in a lot of small talk – as you do when you are surrounded by people who know each other very well, but who you know not at all.  They were all laughing and telling stories and I was politely watching the party warm up.  Several hours and several vodkas later, it was obvious that the elusive ‘William the Admirer’ was not going to be making an appearance – yet again.  So much for that!  Unbeknownst to me, he was on a date (Which was going disastrously – that’s what you get for letting your mother set you up on a blind date!), and he was probably delivering his unfortunate date home around the time I was rounding on my sixth or seventh drink*! (*important plot point)

I was sitting outside under the patio when I saw him enter the dining room and thought to myself, ‘Hey there’s that guy from the photo! Finally, I’ll get to meet him!’ This much I do remember… from there though, things get a little hazy and versions of the story start to differ.  🙂  Apparently, while I am thinking this, he claims to have been thinking, ‘Who is that short blonde girl in the pink jumper, outside?’ (Yes, somethings never change).  I’m not sure how we actually met, though I am confident no one made an actual introduction, but HE claims that he was standing in the dining room, talking to Stefano and that *I* came up to him in a very familiar manner and said, ‘Hello’, and put my hand in his pocket!  What a brazen hussy!  As I said, it was getting late, I had more than a few drinks, and my recollection is pretty sketchy but… it is possible that this occurred in this manner. I guess?!  :/  Stefano looks at him, he looks at Stefano, and they go, ‘Okay then.’

Over the next hour or so, I sobered up a quite a bit as we are exchanging pleasantries, and I think to myself, ‘I like him. A lot. He seems smart.’.  Still a little tipsy, I asked him a very important question, ‘So… what do you think of the Chinese Government disbanding the Hong Kong legislature?’ He looks at me for a moment, and then launches into a full-on dissertation on the political climate in China, and how the residents of Hong Kong are going to be affected by the move from English to Chinese rule and… I stop him right there, and confess that I don’t care, but I am won.  He knew what I was talking about and that was more than good enough for me.  🙂

We talked and canoodled until 5am, and three weeks later he declared he was going to marry me – to which I smiled incredulously and verbally patted him on the head by saying, ‘Ahuh, sure.’  But he proved me wrong and two years later we were married.

Mr K, I hunted you down from a photograph, and I am so very glad I did.  Sometimes the last twenty years feel as though they have been filled with more trials than triumphs, but the one constant has been us, and I am so looking forward to the next twenty years  <3

*and doubly glad that your date that night crashed and burned!  😉

Sky Tower Auckland… JUMP!

Back in Auckand for the not-sure-how-many-times, and thanks to our Nookie friend, John, there were seven of us lined up to all go jump off the Sky Tower!  Yep, yale and a bunch of OAPs were suiting up and jumping off the 192m tower!  As you do!

*insert obligatory promotional photos here because they won’t let tourists take their own cameras up*  🙂 I got to go first – and I have to say the most nerve wracking bit about this whole thing was the weigh in before we started!  After three months on a cruise ship I was seriously concerned, but am happy to report that I have actually gone DOWN a few kilos thanks to all my incessant walking around the ship.  I’ve been averaging about 9-11km per day just cracking laps of the corridors and decks and thankfully between that an zumba workouts, I have managed to avoid that dreaded cruise ship phenomena where all your clothes shrink!  I’m quite happy with my wash – it’s not easy to say no to all the delicious food that is constantly (and I mean, CONSTANTLY) in front of you.  Being a stubborn and pigheaded individual isn’t all bad it would seem.

Here’s John our Intrepid Instigator all suited up and read to go!

Mick, John and Terry looking like The Right Stuff… couldn’t get them walking through an airplane hanger, but you get the idea.  🙂  Barry and Sandie all suited up and ready for their big jump.

Anyway we went up the tower, ears popping in the elevator, donned in these delightfully designed jumpsuits and uncomfortable harnesses… and then it was a matter of safety checks, safety check, safety checks, and then 1, 2, 3, Go!

Was over so quickly but what a rush!

yale getting ready to jump – not surprisingly they didn’t have a jumpsuit that fit him… sexy ankles there babe!   😛 

After our adrenaline fuelled the lovely Chantelle/Christine took us to a seedy Irish pub for drinks and laughs all round – all up a great day was had by all.  I’m going to miss all my Nookie friends when we all get off the ship in Sydney… only a few days left.   So we shall have to fit in all the shenanigans before we debark!  🙂

Machu Picchu with Jamie, Patagonia Shorex Day Four

We woke up bright and early this morning and had a lovely breakfast at the San Blas Boutique hotel.  Nearly everyone reported having slept really well after such a long and exhilarating day yesterday… love those hot water bottles, it must have been down to about 8C overnight, which makes a real change from all our coastal destinations.

We were out of the hotel fairly early and off on a walking tour of Cusco.  Cusco is a much bigger city than any of us were expecting, with a population of around 440,000 people.  The city was built on the top of the historic capital of the Inka Empire which lasted from the 13th – 16th centuries, when the Spanish conquest put an end to that.  Most of Cusco, in true South American tradition, has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  It is considered the Historical Capital of Peru (didn’t see much of Lima – but from what did see, it’s not hard to figure out why), and gets about two million tourists every year.

We wandered through quaint winding streets, that are totally not pedestrian friendly – every time a car came down the street, everyone walking had to get up on the narrow, about two foot narrow, ‘footpath’ (and I use the term loosely), to avoid getting your feet run over.

Throughout the streets that we were walking were these puma symbols embedded in brass in the corners of some cobbled footpaths. Some maintain that the city of Cusco was designed in the shape of a puma, which is a sacred animal; but others maintain that it is people’s imagination, (like looking for imagery in clouds), that sees the puma symbol in the lay out of the city. Either way, these symbols are in the footpaths around the city.

A short walk brought us to an amazing Inka wall in the middle of a shopping street.  Luis spoke to us about how the Inka stonework, and specifically how researchers are not really sure how the large stones were quarried and transported to the city.

According to Inca (yes, I know I keep interchanging ‘Inka’ with ‘Inca’ but that is because everywhere we went here you would see either variant used, much like ‘Cusco’ and ‘Cuzco’… seems either are acceptable, and I should be consistent but I haven’t the motivation or inclination for editing at this point!) legends, the city was built by Sapa Inca Pacahacuti (also known as Pacahacutek?), the king who transformed the quiet city state of Cusco into the vast empire called the Tawantinsuyu Empire.  I’m pretty sure there was a lot more to this story, but as per usual Luis was imparting so much information and there’s me without a dictaphone.

We made our way through town to the Plaza des Arma which is also known as the ‘Square of the Warrior’ and was the site of several important historical events, such as Francisco Pizarro proclaiming the conquest of Cusco. The Square is lined with stone arched arcades and the two enormous Catholic churches – the Cathedral Basilican of Our lady of the Assumption (c.1650) and the Church of La Compania de Jesus (c.1570), which are both constructed in the beautiful old colonial baroque architectural style, both open directly onto the plaza.

the Church of La Compania de Jesus… The Square of the Warrior…

Also in the square is a fountain that contains a weird mishmash of cultural iconography – a very French influenced 17thC looking fountain with a statue of Patchacuti perched on top.  Apparently the fountain was a gift from a one time mayor or governor, who had been in the US and had bought back a statue of a native American Indian and had gifted the fountain topped by this inappropriate statue to the city… many, many people hate the statue as having nothing to do with the city and the people of Cusco and according to Luis, one night in the late 60s three drunk journalists threw ropes around the native American Indian statue, tied the rope to a car and ripped it off the top of the fountain.  That statue turned up for a while in a museum, but has since been lost again, and it was replaced by the city’s favourite ancestor, Patchacuti.

The Cathedral Basilica of Our lady of the Assumption…

After leaving the plaza, we went for a bit of a walk, taking in the sights of the city until we reached Qurikancha, or the Golden Place, which was the most important temple dedicated to the Sun God at the time of the Incan Empire.  According to the Spanish chronicles, Quirkancha was said to have had a large solid golden disc that represented the Inca Sun God, Into as well as walls lined in gold, and a Sacred Garden in front of the temple that had a garden of golden plants with leaves of gold, silver and life sized llamas all made in solid gold. 

Naturally the Spanish invaders plundered the city of its wealth and destroyed its idols, altars and shrines.  However, they unusually chose this site to build on top of the semi-destroyed Sun Temple a convent called the Convent de Santo Domingo, which is built in a Renaissance sale, with a single baroque tower and a large cloistered courtyard in the centre.  The building that remains now has strong and noticeable Inka and Spanish sections that show the alterations and renovations the building has undergone.

The Spanish Cusco school of art… The Moon chamber – that was once covered in sheets of gold. Spanish arches evident that were built above the Inka stonework. Niches in the Inca walls are quite common – this temple has these black lines (possibly painted with blood) running across the stonework at about heat height – the origin and purpose of the lines are unknown. When the Spanish plundered Quirkancha, they damaged much of the ancient stonework – this section of split open rock shows how precisely the stones fit together. A replica of the Sun God disc… it is full of symbology representing the beliefs of the Inka people and elements of their world that carried great import.  Sun, Moon, Ocean, Lakes, the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, Pumas, rainbows, the earthly world, man, woman, homes – this item is full of important iconography. The Milky Way with important Inka recontextualizations – images of llamas are evident in this painting. More Spanish archways evident above the Inka stonework. Cusco experienced an earthquake in 1950s and much of the Spanish construction was damaged – but the Inka work survived in tact.
View over Cusco from Quirkancha. The water space Symmetry and alignment in the stonework windows… The tiniest ever found, Inka stonework block – about the size of a 10c piece. The mosaic on the back of the Cusco fountain where the two rivers meet. The first train to take people from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Callientes.

I have had simply the most exhilarating, exciting, exhausting, magical visit to Machu Picchu and Cusco with Jaime and Luis from Patagonia Shorex.  I loved the buzz and atmosphere of Aguas Callientes, and enjoyed the lovely glass dome train rides to and from Ollantaytambo.  The local people were wonderful, the markets were colourful and vibrant and fun, the entire experience is something that I can not recommend highly enough.  I feel like we few, we very fortunate few, who got to experience Machu Picchu and Cusco with Jaime have all had an experience of a lifetime.  While our experience in a few days off a cruise ship is very likely not even remotely comparable to that experienced by those who undertake the trails and trials of walking the Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu… I am certain this is the best way to see Machu Picchu from the ship with a tight time frames.

On the way back to our beautiful Sea Princess, Jaime said to us, “My friends, I am very sorry we will not be going to Tahiti together – your ship, I see her from the plane in the dock, and she is still here waiting for you.”, but not once was I worried we were not going to make it back to our ship – Jaime was so organised and so in control of our group’s schedule and our movements, and I had every confidence that all contingencies were covered, and he could solve any unexpected issue that might arise.

So, do yourself a favour, if you are planning a World Cruise, or doing a Circle South America out of Florida or LA… contact Jaime and book to go to Machu Picchu with him – it is a decision you will never regret, and an experience you will remember forever.