Saturday, November 29, 2008

How can anyone hate mondays?!?

What a monday! First, the loan goes through, then I reserve my ticket, and then my estate broker calls me to tell me he's sold the apartment! Thankfully, I hadn't signed the loan yet :)
I can pay for my own trip! And I save 21.000 DKK on rent while I'm away! And I can buy a motorcycle when I get home! And still have enough money to invest 100.000 in stocks! And I'm 1/4 of a way to being a millionaire! And... WOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!!

On top of that, the mini-laptop (HP Compaq nc4010) and small pair of binoculars I've been waiting for arrived at my home Monday. Both were a real bargain, as they easily exceed my expectations. The pc is slick and fast, with nothing but windows and anti virus installed. Perfect! The binoculars are even smaller than I'd hoped, and even more rugged. (love that word. I think my chest gets more hairy every time I say it. Rugged rugged rugged rugged)

As I said, my ticket is reserved, and the date is set in stone. The route looks like this:

[Copenhagen, Denmark] - [London, UK] - [Hong Kong, Hong Kong] - [Sydney, Australia] - [Christchurch, New Zealand]
Then, after three months in NZ:
[Auckland, New Zealand] - [Melbourne, Australia]
From here, I'll book a plane to Adelaide as the ticket wasn't flexible if I booked Adelaide from the travel company. for some obscure reason.
Then, after three months in Australia:
[Cairns, Australia] - [Singapore, Singapore]
Ten days in Singapore, then:
[Frankfurt, Germany] - [Copenhagen, Denmark]
just in time for the Nakke Festival , unless I decide to extend my ticket.

I'll go into more details about specific times etc. when the date approaches.

Last week I posted a link for the Google map I've made. For more awesomeness, click the link "View in Google Earth" in the top right corner (requires Google Earth ). If you turn on the terrain feature, you can marvel at the digital beauty of the mountains, glaciers, and coastlines of New Zealand.

After viewing my trip in Google Earth the other day, I started wondering how far New Zealand really is from Denmark. It turns out that it's really quite close to being on the other side of the world entirely!

(find your current position in the black map, and the red upside-down map is what's on the other side of the world for you)

It certainly couldn't be much closer. I hadn't realized this since I've only been studying maps, not globes. When viewing my map in Google Earth, try double-clicking the Home placemark. When it's settled, double-click Christchurch and watch it go! It almost feels like those Indiana Jones air-transit scenes.

Click here for a more detailed map of antipodal positions (fancy-talk for other-side-of-the-world positions).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

I believe in my dreams, and lo and behold, working towards those dreams just opened up an abundance of new opportunities!

Flying an airplane has been a long-time dream of mine, and looking through my Lonely Planet guidebook, I found a bunch of people crazy enough to let me do it! The best part? It only costs around 100$ per flight! I think I'll have three.

I registered and posted on the HUBB forum, an adventure-biker website, announcing my trip and asking if anyone wanted to ride with me for part of it. Already, I've spoken with several people interested in helping me. Particularly one guy in Adelaide who's offered to pick me up from the airport, let me stay at his place for a couple of nights, and help buy and fix up a ride. Awesome! What a great way to meet the locals.

But why stop there? Two days ago, a friend suggested looking at the site. This site is a portal which connects travellers who need a place to stay, with people (often travellers themselves) who has a spare couch for a night or two. The site is not just about cheap accommodation, it's about bringing people together, understanding foreign cultures, and building friendships across continents. I looked up Christchurch, a city slightly smaller than Copenhagen, and found no less than 120 people who were offering their couch or bed to travellers. I want to use this site as much as possible on my trip, sleeping at hostels only when couchsurfing isn't possible. It's going to save me a lot of money and, even more importantly, it sounds like a grand adventure in itself! Now that's a great way to meet the locals!

I was a bit concerned about how I would go about about blogging while down there. Sitting at an internet café for 2-3 hours a couple of times a week would be an expensive waste of time. That's why i bought myself a tiny little laptop. It measures only 22*27*3, fitting snugly in my daypack, and I got it for a good price. It's arriving Monday, and I can't wait.

Speaking of Monday, my bank will have finished looking through my papers and will (hopefully, but I'm not really doubting it) greenlight the loan. That means that I buy my ticket Monday!

I soon have all the important stuff I need for the trip. My brother gave me a very nice backpack for my birthday, and I bought myself a very cheap, yet very rugged, rucksack. A cheap set of binoculars await pickup at the post-office, my mini-laptop arrives Monday, and my digital camera arrives sometime next week.

Finally, the route for the first leg of my trip, covering the south island of New Zealand, is done. I've taken the time to make it into a google map as this makes it easier for me to get a good overview during planning, and it's a great way to let you browse the route. Many of the placemarks only have short notes about what I want to see, but I'll try to give them more sense later. Additionally, when I'm down there, I'll update the placemarks with links to blogposts covering that specific part of the route. I love google!

The placemarks are colorcoded:
RED: absolute must see! The cities I arrive in/leave from will also be marked in red.
BLUE: Interesting. I'm going here.
TURQUOISE: Could be interesting. I'll visit here if time permits.
GREEN: Lord of the rings shooting locations. I'm a geek, I know.
The placemarks are arranged chronologycally.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Picking up steam

Compensating for last weeks short post, here's the longest one yet.

Having learned from previous mistakes, I now write my blog drafts in Google Docs, copy pasting the finished post. Docs work great, allowing me to save my documents on the net and pick it up again from any computer I find myself at. and it has autosave.

Now that I know I'm leaving on time, everything's been a lot easier. I'm now spending most of my free time planning my route, and I'm having a blast!

I called up the Australian embassy in Copenhagen yesterday, asking about how to register the bike in my name and if there was anything else I needed to know about bike ownership in Australia. I was fortunate enough to get through to a very enthusiastic young lady who happened to have done the same trip, except she started in New Zealand and did it in a car. She went in January as well, and she adviced me to go to New Zealand first because of the seasons. Starting in New Zealand, I'll have the summer there which is great since NZ can be chilly during winter. Also, I won't get to Cairns and the sub-tropical part of Queensland until AFTER the wet-season, which was always a bit of a worry for me since the prospect of riding in the rain isn't exactly thrilling.

i've decided not to ship the bike, but to sell it in Auckland and buy a new one in Adelaide. There are several reasons:

  1. Shipping it by boat is unreliable, and may take a lot longer than expected
  2. Shipping by plane is very expensive
  3. I'd have to pay a toll for importing it to Australia
  4. Bikes are cheap in fall, which is when I'll hit Adelaide.

Ive found a great forum for adventure riders. I posted about my trip, and already two guys expressed an interest in joining me for small parts of the trip. It would be great with some company, as I suppose it can get a bit lonely out there.
Also, there's a gathering near Christchurch on february 20, 21 and 22, which couldn't be more convenient for me. This is a great opportunity to meet other adventure riders and learn from them! It depends on the cost though, and whether I'll go back to Christchurch or just want to push on.

It's weird. Even with all the planning going on, I very rarely sit down and really think about this trip. How it's going to be, all the adventures, the prospect of six months away from home, all the new people, the alien sorroundings. Once in a while it hits me. I'm doing this! It's really happening! I'm going!
Then I imagine myself stopping my bike in some forest in the tropical part of Queensland. No particular reason. I'm hearing the engine die out. The sounds of the jungle overtakes me. I see the road snaking out of sight in front and behind. I taste the hot, moist air. Feel the softness of the seat. I lean back against my bagage. I'm completely alone. Those moments are some of my most serene. I get goosebumps just writing about it!
Then, I dive right back into the planning. God this is fun!

While planning the trip, I'm working on a personalized map on google maps. I'll post a link here when I feel it's interesting enough. Optimally, I'll be updating it even as I'm riding the trip, linking each placemark to specific blog-posts.
At home I have two big wall maps of Australia and New Zealand where I sketch out my route. It gives me a good sense of the relative distances (except I constantly underestimate them - Tasmania alone is about the same size as my entire home country!). When I leave I'll hand them to my mum so she can follow my trip.

I regrettably realized that I'm going to miss the Roskilde festival next year. It's a shame, but I'm sure I won't feel too bad about it once I'm down under. It would have been perfect though, coming home just in time for the festival, but it would cut my plans short by two to four weeks.

I've always been fascinated by the underwater world, and by Squid and Octopuses in particular.
Octopuses are the most intelligent invertebrates in the world. Remarkably, two thirds of its neurons are positioned, not in the brain, but in the arms.
Also, they're super squishy.
Wikipedia has a great article on octopi, and an entire separate article on cephalopod intelligence, but all the text in the world just can't do them enough credit. Unfortunately, no-one can be... told, how awesome they are. You have to see it for yourself.

And then, of course, there's the mysterious and horrifying Giant Squid. Known to exist for centuries, this elusive and mysterious creature was first photographed alive in 2004, and caught on video in 2006 (a small female). I've known about them for a long time, and I clearly remember my exitement when I heard that they'd been documented alive.
Their distribution is wide, with specimens found in every ocean. Disconcertingly, many have been found off the coasts of New Zealand...

And as if that wasn't enough, the Colossal Squid is even bigger...

PS.: To my complete surprise, I just found out that the largest Colossal Squid ever captured is going on display on the 13th of December at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa! I'm soooo going to see that!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cleared for take-off

Great news! I spoke with the bank yesterday, and they've agreed to lend me 100.000 DKK for the trip. This loan will be easily repaid once the apartment is sold, so no worries. Sponsors or no, I'm going to Australia on the 12th of January!

Thursday I visited a friend of mine who's a fair bit older than me. Around 10 years i think. He wen't to Australia (and many, many other places) when he was around my age, and he lived for practically nothing. This encouraged me, as I've been worried about the budget for the trip. He had a lot of great stories and good (as well as bad) advice. He's always very entertaining, and very inspiring.

I don't remember if I told you, but at the moment I work at the Danish Maritime Safety Administration. I work there as a janitor, which means I get to talk to all the people in all the departments. I have a good rapport with most of them, and one of them had a brilliant idea for transporting the bike to NZ. He suggested talking to Mærsk (a global container shipping company based right here in Copenhagen) to see if I could get some work on a cargo ship going from australia to NZ. I'm very keen about this idea, and the only problem I see is how much NZ customs are gonna charge me, and whether I need an australian work permit.

I've found some pictures of old-time adventure riders. Man, these guys are crazy! I've never heard of anyone else doing jumps on a Harley. Here they are for your entertainment:
Note to parents: Don't worry about my trip, if these guys survived, I'll survive :)  (my father's present for me on my birthday was a first aid kit...)