subzero-o-o-h

I’m not normally one of those brutal bores who only ever discuss the weather… but today, I’m adding wrinkles to my forehead about the radiator liquid in my car.
Ja, today, during the coldest day of the year, it will dip below -40 in most of Finland. Clatter, o clatter, teeth!
Luckily, here in the tropics of Finland [Karis], the thermometer is hovering around the mere mark of -25. Of course, this is still quite enough, thank you very much. I don’t even want to know how much a new Porsche radiator costs.

By the by, if you want to impress someone at a cocktail party, you must know that the coldest it’s ever been in Finland was during the very recent but dark January of 1999, when a cool -51,8 was measured in some cornhole of Lapland.

Is this the last stand of nature, before she buckles under pressure?

khi khi khi

At the other table, a Greek man and an Italian man are arguing about who has the superior culture.

The Greek says, “We have the Parthenon.”

Arching his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders, the Italian replies, “We have the Coliseum.”

The Greek says, “We gave birth to advanced mathematics.”

The Italian, casually nodding in agreement, says, “Sure, but we built the Roman Empire.”

The discussion goes on for awhile.

Finally, the Greek comes up with a point he thinks will shut up the Italian. “We invented sex”, he says, smugly.

“That is true”, the Italian replies, “but it was the Italians who introduced it to women.

I come in peace

The rigorously accurate truth is in here. You always did suspect, didn’t you? Sure you did. And so, after much consideration, the time has come for conclusive confession:
Yes, I am an alien ambassador from another galaxy far far away, and this is my spaceplace that brought me here a long long time ago.

In case you wonder, yeah, I built the pyramids too… and introduced sudoko…

Now take me to your leader!

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another fun-filled day at the airport

Christchurch – Sydney – Bangkok – London – Helsinki. The flight time borders uncomfortably upon 30 hours. In silent stupor I stumble down the stairs. O-ohhghd… it is cold. My lungs nearly collapse. Is it a million degrees minus here? My thin shirt flutters in the murderous wind. Well, if not a million minus, then at least -273,16, I calculate.

I wait for the luggage. Yes, I lost it for a while on the way to NZ, but they actually found it somewhere in orbit around Earth, and it was delivered to me a week later. Fugging fantastic! This time, all is well. I click my heels in happiness as I see the grey Samsonite appear through the magic rubber crack in the wall. Am I catching a break?

I have reason to believe so. See, as I left Christchurch, I was told to expect industrial action in that hellhole called Heathrow. A strike, in other words. Where is Mad Maggie Thatcher when you need her? Yeah, I thought, of course, I said, great, I muttered. This is getting old as oak; can I for once travel without a glitch and a hitch?
Turned up in Heathrow fearing a chaos only Spectre could have devised, asked first person in uniform about the strike. The answer blows me away: apparently the powers-that-be called it off at the very last moment. I can hardly believe my luck!

Back in Helsinki, drag my bag – which is full of maori koruru and stones from Birdlings Flat – onto a carrier, and skate it to P3 where the car has been parked for close to 3 weeks. After a little tired wrestling, I settle down in the driver’s seat. Icicles are forming along the southern ledge of the nose, but it does not matter the least. As soon as I turn this key, I will get warm and cosy. Yes. I turn it.

Not even the faintest promise of a sound…

I turn it again. I repeat procedure. I beg. Turn. Beg more. Turn key. Swear to sell my soul exceptionally cheap. Turn turn turn. Eventually I’m forced to face the facts. The battery is dead.

Only a ghoul can scream harder…

the marriage of mrs water and mr stone

Yesterday, I got back to base from touring the South of the Southern Island of New Zealand, and… well, my neck is still sore from searching the skies for mountains. The two words most commonly used on this road trip were “OOOOOOH” and “AAAAAAH”. Man, what else can you say when Nature takes off all her clothes, and poses for the centrefold?

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Baby, babyblue. Do you get the blues too?

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White, whiter than the whites of your eyes, so white it hurts the blacks of your eyes.

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Mt. Cook, the tallest peak in NZ. Yes, I have sacrificed many a sheep to the weather Gods. The weather is incredibly unpredictable here; on a bad day you see absolutely nothing. Lucky lucky Andy!

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Camera obscura on the way to Fiordland; Mirror Lakes.

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The roaring road to Fiordland is ripped by rioting rivers.

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Our sturdy vessel for the day; The Milford Wanderer. We have arrived in deepest Fiordland, about to sail out through the Milford Sound, possibly the coolest spot in the universe. Of course, it rains more than 300 days a year here, and as you can tell, the weather Gods had turned their backs on me… or so they thought! Because, after heavy rainfall, the cascading waterfalls come out to play all wild and fat, and suddenly you start to believe in heaven. Besides, as the Milford Wanderer set sail, it stopped raining… lucky lucky Andy!

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Heaven? Or the black cliffs of Mordor? Some of the sights are downright scary! Yelp!

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Words can not explain, nor can cameras do justice to the sheer size, stunning steepness, and pure ‘awesomeness’ of the walls of the Milford Sound. But statistics can try: the Mitre Peak at 1692 metres is the tallest mountain in the world to rise straight up from the water.

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A small waterfall high above, which the wind is shattering into drops, onto lens. Tongue out now.

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This snow-level picture is actually taken just before the worst and darkest and bumpiest and narrowest car-tunnel in the world – the claustrophobia-inducing Homer Tunnel – that leads to the other side of the mountain chain, to the Milford Sound.

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I love waterfalls. For once, I got my fill. In bazillions.

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Did I already tell you I love waterfalls? Because I do. I rilly rilly do.

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Here is another futile attempt at clarifying size: check out the other cruise boats ahead of us. They look like tiny toyboats from a dollhouse against these mighty walls of stone, don’t they? And yet the picture is probably not even halfway to the top…

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The captain thought it would be fun to stick his ship underneath the waterfall and take a cold shower. Hide the Sony! Then get wet.

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One more for the road, sweethearts.

Thanks so much for reading the Pyton Geographic.

lyttelton little town long way down

I’ll start by giving you a gentle push into kiwi mind, where sheep and mountain bikers are plentiful, and the people are as laidback as almost horizontal, where all roads cry their hearts out for the thump of a fast fourstroke, and the sun is as sharp as a blowtorch, where surf’s up everyday, and everybody surfs.

These pictures are from around Lyttelton, outside Christchurch, where my lil bro and his girlfriend live and breathe the 50-50 of mountain and ocean air. The place is as cosy as a baby’s butt clad in merino wool.

Come to me, you ample buxom of green green hills!

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Ok, fun’s over. In my next post, there’ll be no more smiling whales. I got motherflippin’ Mordor on my memory card. Prepare to mount challenge to Attenborough, the National Geographic, and anyone who ever took pictures that eventually become postcards… huggah!

lost in transit

I got here in the end… but it would’ve been easier to take the riverboat to hell. I left on Friday afternoon 12th January – arrived Monday morning the 15th. This journey did not include sleeping. My brain was fried, and the rest of the body felt it was only hanging together by chewing gum.

It all started to go wrong from the very beginning. The dirty game airlines play – called overbooking – manifested itself in sitting in the plane for almost five hours in Helsinki airport before even leaving the ground. British Airways, people. I suggest you avoid them like the plague.
Spending five cramped hours in a germ-infested tube of composites that doesn’t even move is much like being a POW in Vietnam – the only thing missing was the bamboo sticks underneath the fingernails.

This is the first domino brick: After a lot of rioting, calculating overweight, choosing 15 volunteers to leave the aircraft for another, returning them because of some dick in Heathrow decided it was a security risk, etc, etc, British Airways finally decided to remove ALL baggage from the plane to get going…

[Yes Virginia, the bags are still missing.]

As the rest of the domino bricks fell, arriving five hours late in London meant missing the connecting flight to Sydney, and so on, and so on. It was hard to invent nice words. The allmighty Heathrow rumba – which was of worse caliber than when I was a rookie in the army – resulted in an overnight stay at a crappy suburban hotel on BA’s expense.
[Actually, just finding the right bus for the hotel was like being a strong contender on The Amazing Race].
Anyway, returned to Heathrow very early in the morning to sort out the details of a quite imaginative re-routing. Instead of London – Sydney – Christchurch with British Airways, it was now London – Los Angeles – Auckland – Christchurch, a la American Airlines, Quantas, Air New Zealand (domestic flight).

When I return to Finland in some weeks, it will mean that I have gone exactly ONE LAP AROUND THE WORLD!

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These days, you don’t want to go via USA unless you really have to. They are freedom nazis, meaning all the forms in the world to fill, fingerprints and eyescans to boot. I was only in transit, dammit! But no-oh, the don’t have transit in the USA, and I queued ’til my ankles bled.
The maggots in uniform could not get it in their heads that I didn’t have any baggage, that it was going another way, straight (supposedly) to New Zealand.

I think the terrorists are winning. At least I’m losing.

By the by, you have to pay for the wine on American Airlines. Five bucks for a tiny bottle. I am not impressed. After five unsweet hours in lousy LAX, Cyndi Lauper on the iPod was the only thing keeping the mood up. California was freezing, too. It felt like it was less than ten outside. It’s never like that in the movies.

If the eleven hour flight from London to LA was shit and babies crying, the twelve hour night flight from LA to Auckland was more of the same. And I had prepared so well, what with the neck pillow, the blinds, and 30g of Opamox. To no avail; I got hardly no sleep. The drugs don’t work. I just don’t have the gift of sleeping.

Apart from NZ customs, Auckland to Christchurch was a piece of pie; one hour of lovely mountain views – a preview of things to come, I guess. Touched down in Christchurch with a bang and bada and a boom, and has not looked back since.

[Except for the baggage, of course.]

Now, the journey can begin. The whining stops, the winning commences. It is true; this place was made in heaven. I’ve seen the tags.

Now wait for the pictures.