Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I can see whales from here, boyo.

(At last - a picture uploaded! Joy! And look at that pec!!)

Keeping this blog updated while on the move is often pretty challenging. Probably the most difficult time up to now was in South America where I never spent more than a couple of days in one place at any time. And that's why it was so surprising that internet availability and speed were so good.

But now at last I've hit a wall. Though Korea has the highest bandwidth of any country in the world, it hasn't spread to the rest of Asia. Uploading photos here in Nepal is near impossible, which is such a shame as I have such great photos to put on.

Even as I type, they've just switched off most of the computers and the lights in the internet cafe here, as i think they are worried about lightning striking the building!! (Weather is attrocious outside). It's difficult to see anything and the light from the monitor glowing in the darkness is attracting every weird insect in this part of Nepal!!

Whale-watching couldn't have a higher profile in Australia than it does at this exact point in time. The population of whales and interest in the animals has gone up to the point where it is a $100m+ industry for Aus and New Zealand. Even more crucially, the moratorium on whaling has come under increasing pressure in recent years from Iceland, Norway and Japan.

(I can't understand Japan's position on whaling. It killed 4,000 whalers last year, supposedly for 'scientific reasons'. Of course, there are no scientific reasons - it's not clear that any serious study is being done of whales (any research needs to be directed at how the animals migration and behaviour are affected by noise and other pollution in the oceans - not easy research to do with a corpse...). This is so transparently false as to be patronising and engenders great ill feeling among a huge number of people. Iceland and Norway are at least transparently stating a desire to hunt whales for food. But feel free to boycott all three!)

Pro-whaling (of which UK is prominent) and anti-whaling sides are both trying to recruit other nations to help with their voting total this year - Japan just persuaded Laos among others to join the voting plebiscite and vote for whaling. Laos is land-locked...

This meeting also happens to coincide with the start of the whale migration season. My last full-day in Australia was also the first day when Sydney's whale-watching operators offered a 'whales or your money back' guarantee. Luckily, I didn't get my money back.

I can't remember exactly how many whales we spotted - somewhere between ten and twenty. The first two we saw were just a kilometre or so from the mouth of Sydney harbour. These whales were all humpback whales and they migrate from Antartica to the NE coast of Oz and South Pacific islands at the start of the southern hemisphere winter.

This migration takes them past Sydney harbour. Whales have the largest migratory journey of any mammal (up to 5,000 miles!) but they seemed happy to take time out of their journey to interact with the watching boats.
(Curiousity on both sides as a whale approaches our boat)

We saw quite a range of whale 'activity' including blowing, diving, fluke-up dives and most-entertainingly 'pec waves' where the whale seems to wave its pectoral fins (think arms) at watching boats.

Latest news - of the two votes on whaling in the last week, neither went Japan's way. Great news for whales! But Japan are now threatening to leave the organisation and set up their own... Anyway, this is probably a bit partial - for the latest news:

Monday, June 04, 2007

All Over Down Under

Ok. For anyone who likes to tune in to this blog for the travel and adventure side of the blog rather than the emotional rollercoaster and socialising/partying stories, good news! I'm about to be a tourist again. But it would be completely misleading to describe my last week in Sydney without focusing on the huge emotional highs and lows... and erm, the drinking.

(Oh and this isn't a great update for those of you - probably a large majority - who just like the pictures, as I'm in Cambodia now - of which news to follow - and the internet is devastatingly slow at loading pics. In fact, i got a mild electrical shock when i plugged my camera into the pc - maybe that's a hint - so no pics until I'm back in Thailand.) [Ok, since added some photos, but they are pretty random as there's a hefty size limit. Erm, very random...]

There have been some hugely emotional moments in the last 8 moths. It's been continually brought home to me that travelling is about both exporing new places and meeting new people. I've also found out that travelling is also about moving on and leaving behind good friends, new friends and fabulous places.

And that's never been more true than this week.

I made a new friend in the last week that i was gutted to leave behind after just 48 hours of making his acquaintance, and in spite of the fact that I still don't know his name!

Congratulations to Caroline and Chris who on Friday welcomed their new son into the world (that sounds so grown-up for a man who I once witnessed running off with a nuddy-mag under his arm which we had ''acquired' from a Greek... actually, no need to finish that story). On a purely personal point I am absolutely made-up that I got the chance to meet young master Reid as it was looking very likely that my Saturday afternoon flight would arrive before the baby.

So the last 48 hours was full of emotion. Plus, though Chris missed my final final leaving night out (something about labour...), we did manage to wet the baby's head on the Friday night. After a 5am finish the night before I had every good intention of behaving myself and having an early night on the Friday as opposed to going out clubbing, doing jaegar-bombers and getting home at 3am.

Every good intention.

Anyway, I really appreciated the send-off. Thanks to Ed, Smithy, Ness, Willie, Keith and all the usual suspects. I am missing those teapot cocktails already (esp the one with Midori in it).

The last 48 hours was completed by a fantastic trip whale-watching. Normally that's the sort of exciting event that would warrant an update on its own, but it'll just have to get a quick mention for now.

Leaving Sydney has been really tough. Would never have imagined (or hoped) that I'd have so many people here to say goodbye to. I've quit a job, moved out of a flat and said goodbye to friends... all over again.

So it's back to toursit mode now. As exciting as the next part of the big trip is, it seems less worthwhile to be 'just' a travelling vagrant once more. But without jumping ahead, Cambodia has been great so far. Should be some more superb memories to come...