Silence

Today I picked up a copy of the free magazine published by Penguin Books, underline, which had a feature on a book called Silence: In the Age of Noise by the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge. I had never heard of Mr Kagge before today, but according to the magazine, he is the first person to walk to the South Pole alone and has also climbed Mt Everest and travelled to the North Pole.

20171126 SilenceI was most fascinated to read that he had explored the underground sewers of New York and he had walked from one end of Los Angeles to the other in four days – slowly, staying in hotels along the way – attracting the attention of the police as he went. In another article I read, he said that the police thought it was really suspicious for someone to be walking around because the only people they saw walking were “crackheads, prostitutes, and crazy people”.

That really blew me away. I cannot imagine a place where walking around was so unusual that the cops would think you were up to something. I love walking and exploring on foot. It’s what I do. It’s part of my identity. A journey like that would have been fascinating. To have taken four days to explore 35 kilometres.

The magazine had an extract from Mr Kagge’s book, which had me captivated from the first word. I need to read this book. I will be going to the bookshop on Monday to see if they have it. The whole extract spoke to me, but two passages really stood out.

“The secret to walking to the South Pole is to put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times. On a purely technical scale this is quite simple. Even a mouse can eat an elephant if it takes small enough bites. The challenge lies in the desire.”

As I was reading, I thought that this summed up exactly the struggle I have every day to try and ingrain the good habits I want to have in my life. Technically, it’s simple. Do the thing enough times, day after day, consistently and you build a habit that sticks. But until you’ve done it enough times to make it stick (and the 21-days theory is complete bullshit in my experience) you have to have the desire. And when the desire for another whisky outweighs the desire for a 10pm bedtime, you’re (I’m) in trouble, and the bad habit, rather than the good one, is reinforced.

“On the 27th day I wrote: ‘Antarctica is still distance and unknown for most people. As I walk along I hope it will remain so. Not because I begrudge many people experiencing it, but because Antartica has a mission as an unknown land.’ I believe that we need places that have not been fully explored and normalised. There is still a continent that is mysterious and practically untouched, ‘that can be a state within one’s fantasy’. This may be the greatest value of Antarctica for my three daughters and generations to come.”

This made me think of the desire within Tasmania to “unlock” more of this precious state to commercial ventures that would allow more people to experience our wild places but at the cost of the pristineness of those places. It’s a practical example of the observer principle. Observing something changes its nature. To open up these places to more people changes the fundamental thing that makes them worth seeing in the first place.

(You know I gave in to the desire for another whisky, right?)

I can’t wait to read the book. Silence is something that I crave, and learning to find it as Mr Kagge did “beneath the cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones and snowploughs” (maybe not snowploughs) is something I would love to explore more.

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What I learned this week

30 days of yoga is going well. I’m now 14 days into the challenge and I haven’t missed a day so far. I’ve had to incorporate my back exercises into my practice, because whatever I did to my back has either stirred up my old injury or resulted in a new one, and it keeps flaring up again.

I’m being Very Careful, especially with the back bends, and I haven’t been game to try any twists. My normal class starts up again this week so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be easier to get back into it after almost three weeks away than it was last time when I didn’t do anything during the holidays.

Now onto what I learned this week.

1. In my drawing lessons, I’ve been learning about two-point perspective. This was fun. Lots of straight lines here!

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2. I read the book The Road to Lower Crackpot by Brian Inder, the Laird of Lower Crackpot. It’s a fascinating read. In the book, Mr Inder says,

“The name Crackpot comes from a real village in Swaledale, Yorkshire. It means ‘a low place where crows gather’. I added ‘Lower’ because we are in the southern hemisphere’.

 

This interested me because my mother’s family emblem is the crow. I asked her if any of her ancestors came from Swaledale, but she doesn’t believe that they did.

3. If you see something in a shop you want, buy it when you see it. It might not be there when you go back to get it.

In the same vein, take photos when you have the chance, because you might not go back that way again. We went to Freycinet National Park on the weekend. I took lots of photos.

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Day 6: Rain, rain go away

Day 6: Rain, rain go away
Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka, New Zealand


Today was a long long day.

The rain that had started late yesterday afternoon was showing no signs of letting up, and we were glad we’d been able to do the helicopter ride yesterday instead of waiting until this morning. We checked out of our motel in Fox Glacier in the morning before breakfast, to set off for Wanaka.

The lady at the motel warned us that some of the waterfalls could overflow and that there could be a lot of water on the road as a result in some places.

Great! More dangerous things!

The trip to Wanaka was about 260 km, and we expected it to take about 3.5 hours. It was another beautifully scenic drive through the mountains, with a glimpse of coastline in some places. Our first stop was Knights Point, which looked out to the sea. Unfortunately the viewing platform had been closed because it had become unstable, so we had to be satisfied with the view from the car park, which was still stunning, even on a wet overcast day.

We continued along Highway 6 to the town of Haast, where we finally turned away from the West Coast for the last time, and continued to Haast Pass. We stopped for coffee in Haast, and discovered we had another two hours drive ahead of us before we got to Wanaka.

We decided not to stop at any of the waterfall walks along the way because it was already a long drive and we had things we wanted to do in Wanaka in the afternoon. We drove along Lake Wanaka for a while and then the road took us over to Lake Hawea before we arrived in Wanaka, four hours after we’d left.

We had a quick lunch, checked into our motel and then headed out to do the things we wanted to do.

First up was Wanaka Beerworks, about nine km out of town. If you’ve ever heard of a stranger combination of businesses than Transport and Toy Museum, Toy Shop, Coffee Shop and Brewery, please let me know. We’d been looking forward to this all trip.

We set Kramstable loose in the toy shop (what could possibly go wrong) and made our way to the bar for a tasting. One of the brewers was available to talk to us for a short time about what they do, and about their beers. Slabs and I both liked the Cardrona Gold, which really did taste like biscuits, and I loved the coffee stout. Very very bitter. Whoever came up with the idea of putting coffee into beer is almost as much of a genius as the person who put salt water and seaweed into beer.

We bought a mixed six pack to take home (not that it will last that long) and also a beer called Here Be Dragons, which has pinot noir grapes in it. A wine maker’s beer? A beer maker’s wine? Who knows. I can’t wait to taste it.

Our final stop for the day was Puzzling World, which Kramstable’s swimming teacher had told us about. It’s full of illusions and trickery, holograms, sculptures and optical illusions. You get tilted, tricked and shrunk, and then you go outside and get lost in the two-storey maze. It was lots of fun. Even the toilets were fun, and I don’t think there’s many other places you can say that about.

We had to admit defeat in the maze and escaped through the emergency exit, much to competitive me’s shame and everyone else’s relief. It’s a tough one! I imagine if we’d stayed in there too much longer they would have had to have come and got us, because it wasn’t far off closing time when we got out.

Relieved at having survived the maze, we headed back into town to our motel room, where we sat on our (almost) lake view balcony with a refreshing beverage to unwind from what had been a very full day.