The Ultimate Guide on How to Fight Climate Change—part 4: Work, Travel, and Everything Else

Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

Table of contents

Part 1: Political Action
Part 2: Food
Part 3: Your Home
Part 4: Work, Travel, and Everything Else

Climate change is one of the biggest threats of our species. Unless we act quickly, there’ll be devastating global consequences.

This article is part of a comprehensive guide on what you can do to help fight global warming. Your contribution counts more than you think — we have incredible strength in numbers, but we’re headed towards oblivion unless we act right now.

This piece focuses on what you can do at work, how you travel, and other miscellaneous suggestions.

Work

Adjust the power settings on your computer

Both Windows and Macs have settings in which your computer will automatically sleep or turn off the monitor after a certain period of inactivity. A University of California study found that office computers are idle 61% of the time¹. That’s a ton of electricity to be saved.

Turn down the brightness

Unless you’re a graphic designer, you probably don’t need to have your monitor’s brightness set to full. A monitor uses double the power when set to the highest setting².

Move closer to work

Commuting is a source of misery for most people. The University of Waterloo in Canada even found a direct link between commute time and well being³. The longer your commute, the more miserable you’ll be, and the more CO2 you’ll be contributing to the atmosphere.

Work from home

Days spent working from home are often incredibly productive, because there’s nobody around to pester you—a selling point when pitching the idea to your manager. You can also wear nothing but your underwear (when working from home, not while pitching). Fewer commutes = less CO2 emissions.

Switch off your computer and monitors at the end of the day

If you’re an office worker, there’s a good chance that you put your computer to sleep at the end of the day, instead of shutting it down. Standby energy is responsible for a ton of annual CO2 released into the Earth’s atmosphere, so turning off your computer and monitors will help to alleviate the problem.

Get a reusable coffee cups

Coffee is the most traded commodity in the world, and for good reason—it’s delicious, and energises us. The polyethylene coating used inside the paper cups themselves means they can’t be recycled, so they end up in gigantic landfill sites. Reusable coffee cups solve this issue, and you can buy some awesome ones.

Don’t print unless you need to

Trees are a formidable weapon in the fight against climate change. The more paper we use, the more trees need to be cut down. Don’t print anything unless you absolutely need to.

Travel

Use your car less

It seems obvious—using your car less will reduce the CO2 emissions that you’re releasing into the atmosphere. Opt for a brisk walk instead—there’s tons of mental health benefits from walking, and you’ll get fitter.

Get a more efficient car

Even though you think your gas-guzzling v8 makes you look cool, most people probably think you’re a douche, and compensating for your deep-seated insecurity. Consider trading in your vehicle for something more economical. You’ll be helping to save the planet, and will have more money in the bank.

Service your vehicle

This is a big one — a poorly tuned car can use up to 50% more fuel¹. By regularly servicing your vehicle, you’ll be saving money, and doing your part for the environment. Every 6 months or every 10,000km is the rule of thumb, and make sure you update the little sticker on your windscreen with the date of the service. A six-monthly calendar reminder on your phone is a good idea too.

Get an electric car

If you live in a country whose national grid is not highly dependent on dirty fossil fuels such as coal, buying an electric car is a great way to reduce your CO2 emissions. Hybrids are good too.

Combine your trips

Multiple errands can often be combined into a single trip, reducing the amount of car usage. There’s really no need to go to the shopping mall on Saturday, and back again on Sunday.

Trains instead of planes

Planes are incredibly bad for the environment. If it’s feasible, consider taking a train instead. They’re more comfortable, with more potentially beautiful views, and increased time for reflection. If you must fly, do the right thing and pay a little extra to offset your carbon emissions.

Use public transportation

There’s tons of benefits to taking the bus or train—you can spend the time reading a captivating book, catching up your latest Netflix show, or just daydreaming. Public transport has none of the stresses of driving: battling your way through traffic jams, trying to find a parking spot, or worrying about a wallet-emptying crash.

Cycle

Cycling is an awesome form of exercise, reducing your risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer, depression, diabetes, and obesity⁴. It feels much easier than running too. The less you use your car, the fewer your carbon emissions.

Car pool

Sharing your trips with others is a great way to reduce CO2 emissions, and saves you money. Live close to a colleague? Consider travelling into work with them. Uber also has a car pool option, and Muve is another taxi service designed specifically with ride sharing in mind.

Drive calmly

Rapid acceleration, excessive braking, and speeding all increase your fuel usage, and release greater amounts of greenhouse gas. You’ll also feel calmer if you drive normally.

Remove roof racks

Roof racks can be heavy, reducing fuel efficiency by up to 5%¹. Remove them if they’re not being used.

Properly inflate your car tyres

Every missing unit of PSI pressure results in 0.4% loss in fuel mileage⁵. This quickly adds up if your tyres are badly underinflated. It’s also dangerous.

Check your tyre pressure every couple of weeks—you can find the recommended tyre pressure for your car on a sticker in the driver’s side door jam, or in the owner’s manual.

Turn off your engine

When waiting to pick someone up, turn off your car’s engine. You’ll save fuel.

Everything else

Divest from polluting companies

If you’re invested in a polluting energy company, a food manufacturer that uses palm oil, or any other company that has a direct impact on our environment, removing your investment is one of the most effective actions you can take. These companies want your investment.

This has its biggest impact when larger entities such as other companies, pension funds, and universities remove their investments—$8 trillion USD have been divested over the last six years, from a joint global effort. Using whatever influence you have to encourage divestment can go a long way.

Invest in renewable energy

Investment can affect a company’s share price, with the potential to increase its capital. Putting your money into the renewable energy sector will allow it to continue growing into the future, when eventually, it might be able to completely replace polluting chemical energy such as coal and oil.

Invest in battery technology

Tesla has been breaking ground with battery technology for years. Might we see a future where batteries power entire villages, negating the need for power plants? Elon Musk believes so. Investing in companies such as Tesla is a good show of support.

Invest in carbon removal technology

Carbon removal technology is a means to capture and remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Though still new on the block, it’s showing a lot of promise as a tool in the fight against climate change.

Donate

There’s tons of charities who are doing great things to fight climate change. Your donation makes a difference. Find a list of charities with a quick Google search.

Become a minimalist

Contrary to popular believe, buying stuff can make us unhappy. The more shit we accumulate, the unhappier we become⁶. It’s also bad for our environment and wallets.

Buy second-hand

There’s some gems to be found in markets, garage sales and thrift shops. Every second hand item that you buy will negate the need for something new to be manufactured, which helps to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into our planet’s atmosphere.

Watch these shows

By using captivating storytelling and vivid imagery, film can be a powerful medium for inspiring change. Check out these awesome documentaries on climate change, and get inspired.

 — 

Millions of tiny actions add up to big changes, and could be the difference between our planet continuing to heat towards devastating temperatures, or reversing the trend and returning to safety. We must keep the climate crisis in the forefront of our mind, and make the right decisions every single day. 

Only we can make the difference, but we must act. Right now.

References

  1. NRDC, How You Can Help Fight Climate Change
  2. Per Christensson, Lower Your Display Brightness
  3. Amy Morin, Want To Be Happier? Change Your Commute Or Change Your Attitude
  4. Better Health, Cycling—Health Benefits
  5. Popular Mechanics, Debunking a Mileage Myth: Can You Really “Pump Up” Your Fuel Economy?
  6. Wikipedia, Economic Materialism

How Your Mother Tongue Changes the Way You See the World

deanna-ritchie-227649-unsplashPhoto by Deanna Ritchie on Unsplash

Imagine a mime performance in London that has an extremely unique audience—every single person in the crowd is the speaker of a unique language, having flown in from far-flung continents to visit the magnificent city. The show commences, advances to a close, and finishes with a triumphantly comical flourish, lighting the viewers’ faces with grinning, satisfied smiles.

Every member of the audience has watched the exact same show, but their differences in language has the potential to affect how they experience it— a phenomenon known as linguistic relativity. This premise states that the structure of a language influences how a person understands and experiences the world, creating the fascinating possibility of the mime performance being interpreted and understood differently to every member of our language-varied audience. Though a language doesn’t determine or restrict your ability to experience the world (a concept known as strong or deterministic linguistic relativity), it does have the power to influence it (weak linguistic relativity).

For the opening of the performance, the mime pulls a golden key from his pocket, using it to open an invisible door that previously refused to budge, despite plenty of zealous exertion. Upon asking an English speaker to describe the key, one might expect neutral terms such as golden, shiny, or tool. But for the German in the audience, the key is described as hard, heavy, jagged, and serratedtypically tough, masculine terms that fit with the male gender assignment for key in the German language. For an olive-skinned Spaniard, the key might be expressed as intricate, little, or lovely, which are generally terms associated with femininity, to match their female assignment for key in Spanish. Conversely, asking the German to describe London’s Tower Bridge, soaring high in the background of the performance, might elicit feminine terms such as beautiful, elegant, pretty and slender, but for the Spaniard, the bridge is experienced as big, dangerous, strong, sturdy and towering.

About halfway through the performance, the mime acts out the illusion of multi-ball juggling, using a single light blue juggling ball, and several invisible ones. If quizzed about the colour of the juggling ball, an English speaker would probably say blue, but a Russian observer—speaking a language that offers greater distinction for blues—would likely offer a more precise answer by declaring that the ball is light blue. Ask a member of the Dani people in New Guinea, and they’d identify the colour as simply dark (mili)due to their language differentiating between only two basic colours—cool/dark shades such as blue, green and black, and warm/light shades like red, yellow and white. This doesn’t mean that they can’t perceive the colour, just that they’d have trouble expressing the difference between two colours from the same group, like green and black. This is odd for us, but perfectly natural for the Dani, who happen to be expert hunters, but abysmal interior decorators.

After the juggling act, the mime lights up an invisible cigarette, accidentally drops it on himself, and starts to frantically run back and forth in panic, due to being on fire. The English speaker would describe his course of direction as right to left, then left to right, but an Australian Aborigine of the north Queensland Guugu Yimithirr tribe would—comically to us—describe the mime as running west to east, then east to west (provided they’re facing north at the time). Spatial awareness is deeply embedded into the Guugu Yimithirr’s language, as a means to better navigate and accurately describe their physical environment, making them skilled at locating and describing objects in an open terrain. If a dangerous spider was on their left leg, they might declare that they have a spider on their south-west leg, before brushing it off. The words left and right have no meaning to a Guugu Yimithirr tribesperson, with directional movement understood in terms of points on a compass. The Thaayorre people—also from Queensland Australia—use similar directional rules in their language. Rather than saying hello, they greet each other by asking “where are you going?”, with a typical response being “north north-east in the far distance”. This constant requirement to state their direction makes them masters of orientation, able to navigate their environment with ease. It also makes their interpretation of the show wonderfully unique.

The mime’s next act includes the selection of ten people from the audience, who he puts into three unique groups—one group with 1 person, another group with 2 people, and another group with 8. As English speakers with a solid number system, we can easily identify the number of people within each group by simply counting, allowing us to quickly make comparisons between groups. For a member of the Pirahã people of Brazil, the groups with 1 and 2 people would both be identified by the single word hoí, but with a difference in tone to distinguish them. The group with 8 people would simply be described as many, because the Pirahã language doesn’t accommodate for numbers higher than 2. They also can’t distinguish between singular and plural. This doesn’t mean that they’re any less intelligent than an English-speaking Westerner, it’s just that up until this point in their history, their culture and language hasn’t required them to count past more than 2, and so anything higher than that naturally falls into the same group. For a member of the Pirahã tribe, there aren’t billions of stars shining in the night sky, there’s simply many of them.

For the mime’s final act, he conjures a 100-ton weight, nonchalantly hoists it into the air, and then accidentally drops it onto his own head, eliciting a burst of applause from the audience. With the concept of responsibility baked into the English language, the English-speaker might declare that the mime killed himself. A Spaniard—whose language tends to use fewer agentive descriptions—might be likelier to say that the mime was killed, removing the need to blame anyone for the deed, and perhaps being a little kinder to the half-witted, deceased mime.

“Learn a new language and get a new soul.”—Czech proverb

It’s incredible to think that despite witnessing the exact same show, every audience member is able to experience it distinctly, due to their languages creating entirely unique cognitive realms. Linguistic relativity causes reality to be defined and categorised in ways that deviate between languages, even with the power to affect how a person feels about something. It seems intuitive to assume that everyone is experiencing everything the same way, but in reality, speaking a different language has the fascinating and awesome effect of diversifying how we encounter the world, painting it with a motley selection of fresh and vibrant colour, and transforming the viewer into a teller of unique and magnificent tales.

New Zealand Trip – Part Seven – Te Anau to Christchurch

< Back to part six

We’d decided to check out the east-coast city of Dunedin on the second-to-last day of our trip, as it had some awesome nearby wildlife spots, but once again we were foiled by persistent, chunky raindrops, so we didn’t get to do much at all. The little ambling that we undertook revealed an old-fashioned, almost run-down city, which seemed in desperate need of some love. The most entertaining thing that happened was a seagull fight over an apparently invaluable black bag of rubbish, waged by a gang of normal-sized seagulls, and one gigantic specimen which looked like it spent all of its spare time pumping seagull iron. You can conclude which side won.

IMG_20181108_184506Arnie gull

We left the city the next day, disappointed at our luck. Our final destination was Christchurch, which we arrived at after another lengthy five-hour drive. As it was our final night we decided to dine somewhere a little classier, and I discovered a wondrous bottle of merlot by a winery called Pegasus Bay, a rouge plonk that delighted all of the senses. We had a quick toxic cocktail after dinner, and because we’re lightweights, went to bed early again.

Our flight home wasn’t until the afternoon, and the elusive sun had revealed itself to us again, so we spent our last few hours exploring the city. Christchurch is the biggest city on New Zealand’s south island, and suffered a series of massive earthquakes between 2010 and 2012, causing 1500 buildings to be demolished. The center of town still has large empty swathes of space where the buildings used to stand, lending an eerie, lifeless feel to those areas. Construction noise filled the air wherever you went, in the continued effort to rebuild what was lost.

Despite this, Christchurch is beautiful in its own way – a mixture of older grey stone and red-brick buildings, and modern stylish designs that seemed to fit well within the city. Anachronistic red and black trams circle the central part of the city, carrying smiling photo-happy tourists to the many sights on offer. We wandered past the severely damaged ChristChurch cathedral, which had a charming austerity despite its crippled state.

clone tag: 1645740101791025541ChristChurch Cathedral

An hour was spent in the natural history museum, with a “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” section housing some absolutely stunning photographs.

_97776042_mediaitem97776041.jpgArctic Treasure by Sergey Gorshkov

Our time was finally up, and we Uber’d our way to the airport, ready to return to our daily routines. The flight home featured an enormous teenager seated in front of me, who spent most of the ride shifting and smashing his sizeable bulk into the gudgeoned seat. I turned to Em out of frustration and asked whether he was retarded or something, and like a skit from a comedy sketch, it turned out that he actually was. I felt the briefest pang of guilt before quickly moving on.

It’s difficult to describe the splendour of south New Zealand without swearing, and in fact I spent much of the holiday involuntarily muttering “fuck” under my breath from sheer disbelief at the environments that we found ourselves in. It’s as though every single gorgeous natural landscape that exists has been collected and deposited in a single place, and in a location so remote that it isn’t spoiled by over-tourism. If this country were in Europe, every improbably blue glacial lake might be festooned with mile-high hotels, and circled by four-lane highways. I’m extremely thankful that it isn’t.

Travelling from one spot to the next usually revealed something completely new, and equally as beautiful. The terrific diversity of the country makes it continually fascinating and endlessly surprising. From the distant, swooping mountain valleys of the south, to the sloping, fertile wine valleys of the north, every part of the island had something amazing to offer. We adored the numerous chunky brown birds that effortlessly bounced their way around, just as we loved the mischievous mountain-parrot Keas who stomped across the tops of convenience stores and yelled at tourists for food.

If you’ve yet to visit New Zealand, what are you waiting for? It’s a destination that is sure to leave you amazed.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed what we shared!

IMG_20181107_142623IMG_20181107_141516

< Back to part six

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help 🙂

 

 

New Zealand Trip – Part Six – Queenstown to Te Anau

< Back to part five | Forward to part seven >

Gone are the days of our youth when litres of alcohol could be drunk with little consequence. These days, a hangover feels like having your stomach replaced with an over-jealous washing machine, and a head that’s being jabbed by a malicious leprechaun. Despite this, we were going out on the town, and we were going to get properly fucked.

We skipped out of the hotel entrance like a couple of excited children, ready to guzzle all of the booze available to us. We hopped from bar to bar, consuming red wine, golden beer, blackened Guinness and rainbow cocktails, with a good measure of cod and potato half way, for that extra fishy boost. At one bar, while Em was in the bathroom, a fellow drinker assumed that I was alone and was kind enough to ask me to join them, such is the friendly comradeship of Queenstown tourists. In another bar, the niceness was relinquished by a gaggle of petulant silver-haired Americans, who felt it necessary to state in no uncertain terms how terrible the service was in this very casual Irish pub. Personally, I’d rather an honest smile than a fake one.

IMG_20181104_204047Drunk in Queenstown

After a few hours of wayward drinking and plodding, we reached our final destination – a club that promised good underground house music. Unfortunately, the excessive alcohol had broken my weary, aged limbs, and I could only dance for half an hour before whining incessantly about going home. No amount of red bull or thumping kick drums could rejuvenate me. We left and purchased some mightily delicious venison puff-pastry pies, gobbling them with glee as we swayed our way back to the hotel.

The hangover was every bit as disgusting as anticipated, so not much was achieved that day. We caught up with my old pal from Ibiza over dinner, who like everyone else my age except me, has settled down into a family life, complete with adorable smiley toddler.

The next morning we undertook our one and only thrill activity of the trip – the famous Shotover Jet. The driver of our boat was an unbelievably handsome bastard; if I’d have thought it possible to blindfold Em for the duration, I would have. He sped down the Shotover river like a bat out of hell, aiming the gunfire red boat as close as physically possible to the sharp canyon rocks without actually hitting them. He described the boat itself as a giant jetski, which sucks water and then savagely spits it out in order to create massive, fear-inducing amounts of thrust. The result was superb fun.

Our next destination was Te Anau, a town that exists purely for the spectacular nearby Milford Sound – the unofficial eighth wonder of the world, which is essentially a gigantic sea-filled fiord carved out by glaciers. It took a couple of hours to get there, with the blasted rain returning once more to spite us. Te Anau also sat on a beautiful far-reaching lake, and I was beginning to wonder whether that was a requirement for a New Zealand settlement. The town was fairly large and seemed to consist mostly of lodges, hostels and hotels. We stayed in a modest hostel because the prices were high due to the remoteness of the town, forking out $120AUD per night for what was basically a crappy, worn-out room. The shower curtain was the kind that wanted to get up close and personal whenever you turned the water on; it wrapped its slimy fabric around my calf more than a few times. The bed was comfortable, at least.

Our Milford Sound boat trip was the following day, a two-hour coach trip from Te Anau. The driver made a pleasing stop at a hidden lake along the way, which on sunnier days acts as a mirror, reflecting the impeccable surroundings. It was splendid regardless.

clone tag: -4262830837674072178Mirror Lakes – Te Anau to Milford Sound

The closer we got to our destination, the more the rain intensified, and as we descended into the fiord we could see nothing aside from blanket fog. No eighth wonder of the world for you today! Haha!

Thankfully, after the boat departed and bobbed closer to the mammoth mountains, they became much clearer. The colossal rock faces were blackened by the steady rain, which caused tens of individual waterfalls to cascade down them, of differing size and intensity. The tails of some smaller waterfalls were being blown in another direction entirely by the wind, creating a delicate fairy-dust mist that clung to our jackets when we braved the top deck.

clone tag: 8015057193320228574

clone tag: -7056128515594891531Milford Sound

As we approached the exit of the fiord, the fog broke in the distance, revealing a delightful water-valley of sloping sierras. Milford Sound was undoubtedly impressive, despite the weather. The captain noted that this was a typical sodden day for them, with the area receiving a jaw-dropping nine metres of rain per year.

clone tag: -3708302892534112610Milford Sound

We returned to our lifeless hostel a few hours later, and prepared ourselves for our final two days in New Zealand.

< Back to part five | Forward to part seven >

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help 🙂

New Zealand Trip – Part Five – Queenstown

< Back to part four | Forward to part six >

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand – almost every pant-soiling activity created by man can be undertaken there, if that’s your thing. The town centre is littered with adventure shops whose staff openly declare that they’ll take pleasure in throwing you out of a moving plane. Their glossy, hungover eyes inspire little confidence.

The town itself is located on the country’s biggest lake – Wakatipu – and homes around 16,000 people. Many of the town’s residential buildings have made their way up the surrounding mountains, which after the sun falls, bathes them in sparkling light. Atop a few of the tallest mountains are patches of snow leftover from winter, with the ranges being prime ski locations during those colder months. Many of the buildings look like they’ve been lifted directly from a Swiss town, giving the entire place a cozy Alpine feel.

We arrived late morning to a town packed with people. The spell of non-rain that we’d been blessed with was continuing, so we decided to ride the town’s gondola before it was due to turn again the next day. It slowly limped and shuddered its way up the mountain, offering spectacular views from the top.

img_20181102_110127~22325817582123119572..jpg

Also on top of the mountain was a winding luge track that was included with the gondola ride, which was basically a low sitting go-kart that used gravity instead of petrol. They moved surprisingly fast considering that you weren’t strapped in, adding to the Kiwi’s apparently nonchalant attitude towards health and safety; a refreshing change to the cotton-wool-wrapping societies of certain places. After we finished our run and were watching from above, a young bespectacled Asian gentleman with a penchant for speed hit a rubber barrier and sprang himself out of the cart like a kangaroo on amphetamine, ending up on a different track entirely.

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the town, finding ourselves in the picturesque Queenstown Gardens, which jutted out onto the lake opposite the town centre.

img_20181102_122413~24715768277497421567..jpg

Like the park in Blenheim, it was adorned with perfectly kept lawns and mirror-like lakes and rivers. Unlike Blenheim, there were lots of people, including an old chap calmly performing a Tai Chi routine in the middle of a public walkway. When we walked back past him later he was being accosted by a rowdy stag party, but was obviously too nice to deftly jab their drunken throats.

img_20181102_1232512871893131649248191.jpg

img_20181102_1229177988403440850890583.jpg

We checked into our hotel and was greeted with a bottle of rose wine to celebrate our arrival, courtesy of an old friend who worked there. That night we went to an awesome place that had the cheapest and probably the tastiest food since we’d been away, called Muskets and Moonshine. In the men’s bathroom was a racing game above the urinal, the car for which could be controlled using your boozy discharge. I crashed multiple times and retired with wet hands.

After a little more wandering about town, we went to bed, ready for another day.

img_20181103_2104163223397294113912357.jpg

It was due to rain again the next morning, so we decided to go for a drive to an old gold mining place called Arrowtown, which seemed an odd mixture of a one-street American town you see in the movies, and an English countryside. Every building was dedicated to selling food or souvenir tat to tourists, but it had a certain charm to it regardless. We bought some fudge from what had to be the busiest shop in the southern hemisphere, and quickly left before an accidental pregnancy occurred.

img_20181103_1129556558300317377474729.jpg

Once back in Queenstown, we queued for a famous Fergburger for 45 minutes in the rain, only to discover that they were about as tasty as most Australian burgers. The Aussies are patty-spoiled it seems.

The next day we woke to gloriously sunny skies, so we hopped into the Mazda and made our way towards Glenorchy, another tourist town that also straddles Lake Wakatipu, to the north. The road followed the lake the entire way, and as usual, the views were stunning.

img_20181105_1135198564599185709947024.jpg

There wasn’t a great deal to do in the town itself, so after a brief amble we drove back to Queenstown, and prepared ourselves for the first rip-roaringly drunken night of the holiday.

< Back to part four | Forward to part six >

 

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help

New Zealand Trip – Part Four – Lake Wanaka and Isthmus Peak

< Back to part three | Forward to part five >

We arrived at Lake Wanaka in the afternoon, and drove to the water front to do a little exploring. The lakefront of Wanaka is a stretch of trendy restaurants and shops, permeated with party-prepared young people, sipping their first vessels of booze for the day. This seemed like a town in which you could satiate your festive tendencies, if you were so inclined. Stretching out into the distance is the navy-blue lake itself, again accosted by picturesque snow-capped mountains. At this point, we expected nothing less than sublimity with every new place we arrived at.

When arriving at our hotel, a young Irish girl who had a sing-song voice like Luna Lovegood checked us in, and assured us that next week’s trip to Milford Sound would be just as dazzling as everything else we’d seen in this fairytale country. Luna seemed a credible source of information.

After a tasty dinner at a lakefront bar, we retired to bed in preparation for the next day’s hike up Isthmus Peak, a merciless 1385-metre mountain about half an hour away.

The drive towards the hike’s starting point took us alongside Lake Hawea, which appeared as a patch of brilliant blue on the horizon, backed by mountain valleys, and flaring with a million glittering sparkles in the morning sun.

img_20181101_083505~21477103888327278976..jpg

Luck was clearly on our side with the weather, and we started the hike in excellent spirits. It started with gentle slopes through lushious green hillsides, with sheep, cow and deer fields surrounding us on each side. A small family of cows eyed us wearily as we scampered through the little verdant patch they called home.

img_20181101_090417~24736021023240295259..jpg

After about half an hour, the gradient gradually increased, with the track looping left and right up the daunting mountain. At certain points, it became so physically exhausting that we had to stop every couple of minutes in order to get some air into our wheezing, asthmatic-like lungs – this hike was breathtaking in more ways than one. I frequently challenged our apparent lack of fitness by declaring that we were making good time compared to the reviewers on Trip Advisor, but as a couple of Germans bounded their way past us halfway up, we cursed their efficient Aryan legs.

img_20181101_103859~35731395178700414521..jpg

As we gained altitude, the flora took on a more stark, yellow look, with spikey porcupine-like bushes scattered all over, and a great deal more bare, dark-grey rock.

The walk was incredibly deceptive – we reached what looked like the peak of the mountain, only to be presented with another horrifying upwards stretch on the other side. This happened three times. At one point we passed a girl who was sat on the side of the path, looking like she was done with this torturous shit, and possibly also done with her boyfriend who was desperately trying to coax her onwards. After three hours of what was undoubtedly the toughest exercise we’d ever endured, we reached the peak’s summit, which offered 360 degree views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, surrounded by snowcapped mountains – a spectacular and rewarding sight.

img_20181101_120126~246556817197053454..jpg

All was exposed to icy winds on the peak, and we hunkered down away from its nippy bite, indulging the views while refuelling with fruit and energy bars. We started to make our way back down, and the descent somehow seemed even steeper; we were amazed that we’d even managed to make it to the top of such a demanding mountain. Tramping downhill puts a lot more pressure on your knees, and by the time we reached the car two hours later it felt like they’d been worked on by a gang of vicious slick-haired Sicilians.

That night we ate at a delicious tapas-style restaurant in Wanaka called Kika, consuming the necessary excessive amount of lamb and duck-fat potatoes. Happy and full, we hobbled back to our toasty hotel room, ready for Queenstown.

< Back to part three | Forward to part five >

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help

New Zealand Trip – Part Three – Arthur’s Pass to Lake Wanaka

< Back to part two | Forward to part four >

The vengeful rain continued to fall as we snaked our way towards the exit of Arthur’s Pass. The mountain tops were shrouded in blotchy grey clouds, lending a mysterious Jurassic Park like aura to the landscape. Sadly, Jeff Goldblum’s mischievous grin was nowhere to be seen.

 

clone tag: -1454186080423638700

Our next stop was Lake Tekapo, and it took us about four hours to get there, the wet weather following us for every kilometre. Glaciers within the headwaters of Tekapo grind down rock and create a fine dust, which when mixed with the lake’s water, colour it a magnificent turquoise blue. Unfortunately for us, the grim sky dampened the effect considerably, and we left the lake cursing the weather.

We continued onto our next stop for the night, a small sugary-treat-sounding town called Twizel, which was originally built in the late 60’s to house construction workers for a local hydroelectric project. Today, as with many south island New Zealand towns, its survival relies on tourism, and it seemed incredibly quiet. Shops and restaurants were concentrated in a small central area, with wide curved roads winding their way around everything. We were checked into our hostel by a man that looked like an offended bulldog, but thankfully didn’t act in accordance with his appearance. The hostel was cheap and crappy, and the heater rattled like an old man with bronchitis. Our room number was 707, which when turned upside down appropriately spelt LOL.

In the morning, we checked out and made our way towards the biggest mountain in the country – Mount Cook – passing Lake Pukaki on the way. Like Tekapo, Pukaki is a glacial-fed lake, and it shimmered lucent blue in the early morning sun. The mountains in the distance looked as though somebody had very carefully ran a white-coated paintbrush along the top of them.

img_20181031_075429868570204917200212.jpg

We drove north along its west bank, the mountains to our left gradually getting taller. Eventually the colossal, 3724-metre Mount Cook appeared, a snow-laden giant in the distance.

img_20181031_082829~26729536247519877368..jpg

Things of such immensity often imbue me with a quiet humbleness, such is their unfathomable size and extensive existence. Every petty, tiny worry that might once have dulled my soul is vanquished in the face of such wondrous natural greatness. All falls away except for the spectacle before my eyes. It’s truly awe-inspiring; one of the most pleasurable emotions to experience.

As we drove deeper into the mountains, the landscape became even more dramatic, with whitewashed mountains soaring high into the cloudless sky. Our destination was a walking track that ended close to the foot of Mount Cook, and as we pulled into the car park, it was clearly a popular attraction. The track led us through Hooker Valley, walled by mountains and criss-crossed by a turquoise blue river, which was overcome by a handful of suspension bridges that could only hold twenty people and bounced as you went across them. Nervous laughter floated through the air as we tentatively trod its wooden planks.

img_20181031_1151293845886165685400127.jpg

img_20181031_100628~29189128748913766954..jpg

The temperature dropped steadily the further we walked, and by the time we reached the end of the track our ears were like strawberry ice-poles. Mount Cook was towering over another beautiful glacial-blue lake, like an eternal watchman.

img_20181031_105538~2960984012871457851..jpg

This is without doubt the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. Trying to describe its magnificence is impossible, and the pictures are equally mediocre compared to the real thing. It has a stark and unerring majesty; an unapologetic perfection, without a shred of ostentation (unlike my writing).

We slowly made our way back to the car, dodging hoards of Chinese tourists who seemed to have the spatial awareness skills of Ray Charles after a hit of brown sugar. Wanaka was our next stop, a bustling alpine town that ran along a southern section of yet another beautiful New Zealand lake.

< Back to part two | Forward to part four >

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help

New Zealand Trip – Part One – Christchurch to Blenheim

Forward to part two >

The necessary airport milling that occurs while waiting to go on holiday is usually tackled with excessive, excitable drinking. The soulless, black and white marble bar that we found ourselves perched against was a picture of commotion, its occupants scrambling to drink as much alcohol as possible in order to ease the discomfort of their upcoming flight. A caramel-skinned Aboriginal lady with eyes like golden orbs was tending to her customers with great ease and effectiveness. About ten minutes in, a hoard of towering grey gentlemen descended upon the tiny area and displaced us with little effort, but with the utmost politeness. We didn’t mind at all; they seemed like lovely old folks. Classic eighties records exited the bar’s speakers and made their way into our receptive ears, which when merged with the effects of the booze, added to our already jovial mood. We were going to New Zealand!

The Jetstar flight was awful beyond measure, due to the inevitable hangover that ensued. There was little chance of beverage service to stave it off, with the neon-clad attendants taking a full hour to make their way down the small plane. A tiny, disturbed nap made things immeasurably worse; my head felt like it was being squeezed by something extraordinary. Croaks for water fell on deaf ears, and every passing minute felt like an hour.

When we arrived at Christchurch Airport, I was fully prepared to fight anyone who got in my way. But only if they weren’t Maori, because those fuckers are huge. The cab driver fitted this description and my dire state was temporarily forced into submission; I did swear at him for charging us $50 for a ten-minute ride, but only when he was out of earshot.

After a decent sleep at our temporary hotel, we picked up our gleaming-black Mazda 6 from the car rental company, and after the fifteen minutes of confusion that usually occurs at such places, we started making our way towards our first stop – Kaikoura. The sky was painted vibrant blue, and a crispness permeated the air; it seemed a perfect day for driving. I was prepared to receive the visual feast that had been promised to me, and after passing the boundaries of the city, was not disappointed. The first part of the drive north was filled with luscious verdant hills, splattered with swathes of blinding yellow flowers, which towered over the road like beautiful, watchful sentinels.

clone tag: 2827919228273258643

As we made our way into Kaikoura – a tiny coastal town famous for its rotund seals and whales – we were met with long, level stretches of gleaming-white serrated rock, as though something gigantic had decided to run its comb through it. This stretched on around the u-shaped peninsula of Kaikoura for miles, including thirty-metre high cliff faces topped by gorgeous, bare-faced greenery. This town was one of the hardest hit by the monstrous earthquake in 2016, with many tourists having to be rescued via helicopter and boat. The coastal roads are still peppered with roadwork traffic stops, with the Kiwi construction workers showing unending politeness by smiling and waving when you they finally allow to continue.

Next stop was Bleheim, in the heart of Marlborough wine country. This region is famed for its Savignon Blanc wines, for which the cold nights are best suited. We wound our way down into the sumptuous valley, abounded with perfectly straight vine rows as far as the eye could see. Every hill glowed with a healthy vibrancy, brilliant hues of green against a perfectly blue sky. This place was absolutely gorgeous.

Our accommodation was a house that had been split into separate guest rooms, and was run by an excitable, fair-haired older lady who enjoyed talking about cyclones and how the weather people just couldn’t seem to predict them. Her large husband stood behind and quietly agreed. He had a red-face and a beaming smile. We liked them both a lot. While checking in a scruffy white-haired pooch pushed his nose through a gap in the wall and identified us with quick, sharp sniffs. It disappeared before we could offer a scratch.

The next day we wandered around Pollard Park, which had the same level of dazzling vividness as everything else in this region. There were tiny bridges arching over cute rivers, and small, long-tailed black birds that ran away in a manner that suggested they’d just stolen something.

clone tag: 3665962082283661971

img_20181027_093101~22226474857175730608..jpg

We reluctantly left the park to wander into the city centre. Blenheim is a hushed town with only 30,000 inhabitants, and has a similar feel to all small towns. Its streets are sleepy and quaint; the center of town is lined with coin-operated parking meters, installed in the 80’s and then forgotten about. The most eye-catching thing in Blenheim is the white-stone war memorial clock tower, the guard of Seymour Park.

img_20181027_100503~26345673437960431..jpg

Later that day we did a wine tour, and when the bus turned up we were greeted by a handful of smiley wrinkly faces – what did we expect? Everyone had a friendliness that usually accompanies older people who like to travel, and it made them a pleasure to spend time with. After a short spell of driving, it became apparent just how beautiful this region was. The wineries themselves were a gorgeously-designed mesh of stone, wood and glass, with a good amount of symmetry thrown in. They looked spectacular against the backdrop of the rolling green landscape. We enjoyed the buildings just as much as the wines themselves.

clone tag: 6019792260111711715

clone tag: -6943031564990616350

One of the winery hosts was an older English chap who reminded me of a quieter version of Michael Palin. His accent was still perfectly English apart from when he answered a question with the typical Kiwi “Yis”. Our guide for the tour itself was an older Maori lady who was nice enough, but had a glint in her eye which suggested that she might quietly murder you if you put a foot wrong. Needless to say, we were all well-behaved.

Tomorrow, we’ll be cutting West across the top of the island, to Punakaiki.

Forward to part two >

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help 🙂

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Australia and Britain

1_tYAKQTbjS9A3UnoTt3ib_APhoto by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Putting aside cultural aspects, Australia and Britain are two wildly different countries. One is an arid, impossibly-sized place, home to only twenty-five million people, and the other is a smallish green area that contains almost three times the number of humans. If a prankster alien gleefully beamed you up and dumped you in the center of Australia, you’re facing two weeks of walking through scorching hot desert to get to the nearest major city. There’ll be little water to saturate your sun-charred body, but you’ll make friends with plenty of kangaroos and brown snakes. If you’re lucky, you might even learn how to box. Finding yourself positioned in the center of the UK would probably mean being in a stranger’s living room, with them politely asking why you’re there. You might even get offered a nice cup of tea. Or you’ll get stabbed.

Modern Australians and Brits are similar in a lot of ways. They look remarkably alike for obvious reasons, enjoy booze perhaps a little too much, and have a sense of humour that is utterly moistureless. You’re not really friends with an Australian or a Brit unless they’ve taken the piss out of you at least once. This kind of jesting is an indication of their developing love for you, and should be welcomed with open arms. Sensitive people probably shouldn’t move to either country. If you’re a Londoner moving to Australia, be prepared to have your chimney-sweep accent roasted hourly, with Dick Van Dyk impressions lumbering painfully through the air. There’s just no escaping it. It’s a small fraction of the joy that comes with living among Australia’s people.

Native Australians – Aborigines – are discussed in either an idiotic racist way, or with a tinge of sadness. As has been the case throughout history across many different continents, white folk with advanced technology have treated the natives in the most appalling and morally corrupt way imaginable, inflicting genocide. For those who are ignorant enough to believe that this happened because they were an inferior race (a suprisingly common viewpoint), you might want to consider reading Jared Diamond’s masterpiece, to learn that there’s many different reasons that Europeans are more advanced, none of them due to genetic superiority. As a result of their ancestors’ treatment, many modern Aborigines find themselves on the lower rungs of society, a position that can be difficult to ascend from. This is perhaps the most depressing part of living in Australia. The faces of Britain are much more diverse, and its people more seemingly tolerant of multicuturalism.

Back to literal sunnier topics – Australian cities receive a rough average of 250 days of sunshine per year, with the United Kingdom getting roughly half of that. You might think that this makes Australia a clear winner, but you quickly adapt to the weather after having been there for a while, and it certainly loses its charm when you’re essentially swimming through the streets in a hundred percent humidity, looking like you’ve just exited a wet t-shirt contest. When it comes to rain, Australian cities vary depending on their location. East-coast Brisbane, for example, gets almost exactly the same amount as the UK – around 1150mm. This usually comes in the form of sudden thunderous downpours though, not incessant, depressing drizzle.

Australia is a land where almost everything seems intent on inflicting damage. Seemingly innocuous birds have spike-tipped wings that they use to slice your head open, if you get close enough to their newly-born chicks. Magpies appear to have flown directly out of hell in order to wreak havoc on skittish cyclists, stalking them for literal kilometers while battering their helmets with their sizeable beaks. Stepping out onto your fresh green lawn in springtime should be undertaken with extreme caution, lest you place your vulnerable foot onto a patch of vengeful bindis. If you’re not sure what a bindi is, think of a small golden sphere armed with a hundred of the sharpest spikes on Earth. They could easily pass as torture weapons. Australia boasts some of the most venomous animals in the world, including the devlish box jellyfish, an invertebrate with a poison so powerful that it sends your body into immediate shock. Most people die before reaching shore. Another noteworthy specimen is the Inland Taipan snake, a danger noodle so ferocious that it can kill an adult in about forty-five minutes. Contrast this with the British fox, a cute bundle of orange fluff that is about as harmless as your arthritic, eighty year-old neighbour Ethel. Or consider the red deer, a regal and majestic be-horned mammal that the Brits allow to run around a London parkland. The most dangerous animal you’re likely to face when wandering around Britain is a local with a drug problem.

On the topic of crime, Australian cities seem to feel much safer than British ones, even though the stats don’t show much difference. Perhaps it’s just the dodgier parts of London that are more dangerous, with their endless high-rise, low income council towers. Adorable stilt-balancing Queenslander houses aren’t quite as menacing. The most upsetting thing to emerge out of one of those is a drunken, maroon-clad rugby fan during State of Origin.

Britain is a clear winner when it comes to overseas holidays, with a huge selection of amazing European destinations just a short flight away. It costs your first-born child to fly somewhere far from Australia, which is why so many Aussies opt for the more economical Bali. On the plus side, New Zealand is closer to Australia than anywhere else, and it happens to be one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places on Earth. Just be prepared for a great deal of confusion whenever a Kiwi opens their mouth to talk to you – if one them tells you that they’re skent, it means they haven’t got any money in their bank account, and they’d like you to purchase them a beer.

The diets of Aussies and Brits are fairly similar, with the former probably taking the trophy for deliciousness. You’ll find chicken “parmy” on most pub menus in Australia – a gigantic chicken breast slathered with tomato sauce and cheese. British pubs usually have a shitty chicken curry that almost certainly hasn’t been prepared by an Indian (you’ll need to go to one of the many superb Indian restaurants for a better version). The seafood in Australia is generally magnificent; prawn lovers should rejoice. Britain conjures up the best Sunday roast dinners, undoubtedly one of the greatest meals of all time. It’s mandatory to stuff an entire gravy-covered Yorkshire pudding into your mouth at once.

Each country is charming in its own way – from the rolling verdant hills of the graceful English countryside, to the impeccably golden and endless beaches of Australia, you’d do well to spend an extended amount of time enjoying the delights of both spectacular places.

**

Enjoy this blog? Please share it using the buttons below, it’s a massive help 🙂