Category Archives: Adventure

At 17:40 I Regret Joining Rideshares

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been in a bizarre rideshare situation from my ride from Paris to Madrid, but this one tops it tenfold. It’s true that one of the greatest aspects of traveling consists of meeting new people, but it’s also true that since traveling puts you in contact with so many different types of people, you are bound to meet a few strange ones.

I spent a few days in Zurich catching up on sleep and rest. Non-stop movement through Switzerland, bad weather, and a nice apartment to stay in made it easy to stay inside and catch up on my journal for a few days with a few ventures out to dinner with my host and her friends… and I even mustered the energy to walk along the lakeside.

My Great Adventure 2013 2084

cavities in gemany

ich mag kein karies

If only they played the gummy bear song

If only they played the gummy bear song

A cute little cafe by the Lakeside.

A cute little cafe by the Lakeside.

I also made a strong attempt to figure out a financial conundrum. Switzerland is insanely expensive – I’ve plopped down $9 USD for a bottle of water at a not-so-fancy restaurant. Trains to Budapest, my next destination, were extremely expensive and flying was simply not an option.

I arranged a rideshare with a Hungarian driver, a Swiss-Jamaican lady, and a German young adult. I stealthily scoped the car quickly for weaponry and drugs, and got in the car feeling alert yet expecting a smooth ride.

That’s the thing about expectations – they are oftentimes very, very wrong.

17:00 I get inside the vehicle and sit in the back seat – behind the German boy and stare out the window. The driver and the German begin talking about cars.

17:30 We pick up Veronica, the Swiss-Jamaican woman.

17:32 The driver mentions that he used to buy cars in Poland and sell them to Russians and Italians.

17:40 The driver recaps a story where one time there was a “misunderstanding” in the car purchasing scheme and he had to escape prison to go find his papers proving the vehicle was his. Eventually, he was caught again and “everything was situated.”

17:40 I regret joining rideshares.

18:00 We are pulled over by the German police. The driver suspects it’s because he looks Romanian.

19:00 We drop off the German and Veronica moves to the front seat.

19:20 The driver asks us if we think “slavery was a little bit of a good idea?”

19:21 I argue with him as politely as possible. Usually extremely stupid questions send me off my rocker, but I did not want to anger a stranger who happened to be driving me.

20:00 The driver goes on a rampage about how the Hungarians will “soak the Hungarian soil with Romanian blood.” The conversation gets increasingly uncomfortable by the minute… he even expresses sympathy for the Nazis.

20:19 “I tried to kill a lobster with my bare hands and I didn’t like how it’s legs tickled my arms when it squirmed, so I don’t think I could kill a human.”

20:32 The seat I am sitting on is literally becoming unraveled at the seams because I’ve been picking at it anxiously for the past two hours.

21:00 We go to a gas station. My phone hasn’t worked because we’ve been out of Switzerland. Veronica begs me to switch seats with her because she hates the crazy driver.

21:30 I take comfort in the fact that this man has a wife and some children (according to his phone background)… so at least they would notice if he came back with a kidnapped American and Swiss-Jamaican… hopefully.

22:00 I close my eyes and just listen to the music. He screams at me that “it’s RUDE to sleep!”

22:30 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

23:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

24:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

01:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

02:00 We stop for a quick food and bathroom break at a run down gas station manned by a bored attendant. The peanuts I get offer me a sort of gluttonous comfort.

03:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant. Whenever I close my eyes, he screams that falling asleep is extremely rude.

04:04 He abruptly pulls over in a rest stop and takes a nap.

04:05 Veronica and I wonder (audibly) if this man is crazy… and if he plans on ever waking up. We are apparently less than an hour from Budapest. I entertain the idea of walking.

04:30 The driver awakens as if he never napped… He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

05:00 We can see signs that promise Budapest is quickly approaching.

05:10 We get gas… nothing seems out of the ordinary. I look forward to getting out.
06:00 The driver realizes that he accidentally STOLE the gas. We turn around and head back to the gas station fifty minutes away just as we were pulling into the front gates of Budapest – he rejects my pleas to drop me off first before going back to the gas station.

06:50 We pay the gas station – who had already notified the police. Luckily he’s let off the hook.

7:45 We arrive in Budapest

8:00 I am dropped off at my hostel with Veronica, who refuses to be alone in the car with him. I don’t blame her, and we share my hostel reservation that I had booked the previous night.

I feel like jumping for joy, but take a nap instead.

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Hike, Gondola, and Scare the Elderly at Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland

I don’t usually make old ladies cry – but when I do, it’s because I’m standing atop a mountain on one leg.

I befriended a lovely Australian girl, Lauren, at a barbecue in Lucerne. We immediately connected on a few levels – we both were in transcontinental relationships, we both loved hiking, and we both loved peanut butter. Thus, plans to hike Mt. Pilatus together were the next logical step in our relationship.

We bought bus tickets and proceeded to take the bus in the completely wrong direction… twice. After finally making it to the right destination, we ascended up Mt. Pilatus for four hours, passing few people. The serenity and beauty of our surroundings overcame us and helped some silent moments between feel simply peaceful.

Treescape trail

Treescape trail

lauren pilatus

Lauren trekking the first part of our climb!

gondola ride switzerland

Guess what I wished for? (a snorkel set)

Guess what I wished for? (a snorkel set)

We were short on time, and took the gondola up the most taxing part of the climb. At first I was apprehensive – after all, I wanted to conquer this mountain with my own two (albeit short) legs! …But I must admit the views from the gondola made my moral compromise completely worth it.

Beautiful view from the gondola

Beautiful view from the gondola

Bobsledding in Pilatus

Bobsledding in Pilatus

gondola pilatus

gondola ride switzerland

Excited to embark on the second leg of our climb!

gondola in the coulds

View from the gondola ascending into the clouds

We got off and watched young children squeal and tourniquet themselves on the rope climbing course. I snickered when they fell… but only because I was jealous. Unfortunately for my short self, the course has an age requirement rather than a height requirement like most child-targeted places.

rope walking pilatus

Unfortunately this section is only set up for small children – else I would have totally been here.

I've got friends in low places... This is why you wear your seatbelt, kids

I’ve got friends in low places… This is why you wear your seatbelt, kids

Atop of the mountain, we witnessed a genuine Swiss alpenhorn player jamming out while clouds passed us by.

Horn blower must be winded pretty easily up here

Horn blower must be winded pretty easily up here

In the background, an announcement played.

“Smith family, please meet your family at the food court.”

Lauren: Did that just say, ‘please feed your family at the food court?’ Isn’t that a bit rude?

Me: Yeah, it is. Some jerk on a megaphone calling out families who have emaciated looking kids…

The announcement droned on. “…Please meet your family at the food court.”

We climbed along every viewpoint of the top of the mountain. Lauren mentioned that she has a small fear of heights but I didn’t think much of her statement.

snow in pilatus

A little bit of snow hanging in there!

pathway pilatus

Lauren had trouble going down this pathway, so we took the gondola instead

lauren and I pilatus bible verse pilatus switzerland chantae pilatus

pilatus

Lauren and I enjoying the view

clouds in pilatus

Clouds rolling over the mountain

I saw the edge of one of the most popular viewpoints as a perfect photo opportunity, and proceeded to climb on top of it.

Old lady: Oh my God!!! Oh my God!!! THAT GIRL!!! THAT GIRL!!!

On top of ledge, I looked around… what girl?

The old lady began crying. “You are going to give me a HEART ATTACK! GET DOWN! GET DOWN!”

Lauren’s own fear of heights kicked in pretty strongly and she asked me to get down as well. I obediently complied.

The old lady wasn’t done. “What if a bee attacked you? You could have fallen!”

Admittedly, I felt really bad for scaring her.

chantae pilatus

…but her tears were still totally worth this picture.

We trekked down in a hurry in a strong attempt to beat the sun setting behind the mountain. Luckily, we made it back on the bus just in time with sore legs and a strong sense of accomplishment. Pilatus was exactly the type of experience I wanted in my Swiss adventure.

Wood Switzerland Lucerne

A rustic cabin stores winter’s wood below the mountain.

Gondola Switzerland

Beautiful gondola scene

dandelion

Obsessed with gargantuan dandelions

switzerland crow

Crow relaxes on top of Mt. Pilatus… not a bad place to rest your wings

Switzerland Pilatus Cross

I Ran Into A Mediterranean Romeo & Juliet in Geneva, Switzerland

After Switzerland handed me a plate of harsh weather, I changed my clothes and dubiously embarked back out into the city. Part of me wished that I invested in a helmet before continuing onward, but I figured that my karma was good enough to a point where hail the size of marbles and golf balls wouldn’t pelt me a second time… at least, not a second time in one day.

And to be honest, I wanted to get out of my couchsurfer’s house because he ended up being somewhat of a Canadian chauvinist with what I interpreted as some form of Napoleon complex. The first few minutes in his home (he had other female roommates) he began telling me about his not-luck in Switzerland. Apparently, “the Swiss chicks are just as intimidated by a real man as the Canadians b*&#$es are when they see one!” Something tells me if you have bad luck with the two out of two national populations you’ve dated, then you’re doing something wrong with females in general.

I caught the tram to the Red Cross Museum. I loved the alone experience of going through it at my own pace, letting information seep into me while I looked over pictures and pamphlets passed out by the Red Cross during major world disasters.

Canopy outside of the Red Cross Museum

Canopy outside of the Red Cross Museum

Red Cross Museum

The mood was ruined only slightly by the fact that a rowdy group of 5th graders were taking their time through the museum as well. I was constantly speeding up in front of them so as to not be inundated by the voices of 10 year olds bickering in French, trying to avoid knocking over any displays in their bouts of cat fighting.

Colombian Safety Poster

Colombian Safety Poster

Chains symbolizing the struggle people have had to escape their dire situations.

Chains symbolizing the struggle people have had to escape their dire situations.

The most impactful sections were first, a display of artwork by people made during times of distress – either as prisoners of war or held in concentration camps. It’s amazing how the need to create perseveres even when the most basic human needs are stripped away. There truly were cases where people created something meaningful out of small scraps of nothing.

Secondly, the photograph’s of hundreds of children’s faces who were documented as unclaimed during the time of the Rwandan genocide. I examined their expressions, attempting to read into their little minds. What were they feeling? Did they trust who was photographing them?

After the Red Cross Museum, I walked a short distance to the United Nations Headquarters and scheduled myself for a tour. As a political science major, I geek out at large governmental buildings, so this was a joy for me despite my own very complex views of the UN itself – in short, I have a love-hate relationship with the UN itself. Still, I felt connected to the rooms that housed the signings of acts against atrocities that are so relevant to the world we live in today.

The UN entrance

The UN entrance

Chantae in front of the UN

An outside perspective from inside of the UN.

An outside perspective from inside of the UN.

One of the many large conference rooms housed in he UN

One of the many large conference rooms housed in he UN

Long ago, Moritz asked me what most people thought of when they thought of Germans. I responded with, “They love things made of metal.” Imagine my joy when I walked through a gallery of artwork given to the headquarters from every nation. From China, a large tapestry hung up on the wall filled with vivid colors. From the US, plaques of text art displaying the civil rights. From Germany, three circles made of metal nails… painted in various shades of grey. They say stereotyping is wrong, but how else can you explain this?

To: the UN, Love: Germany

To: the UN, Love: Germany

I went back to my host’s home and examined his garden that was inevitably destroyed by hail bombardment. “Hibiscus is the most sensual flower…” his voice rang in my head. I remained locked out until one of his roommates let me in.

My host's "sensual hibiscus"

My host’s “sensual hibiscus”

In the evening, my host brought me with him to an outside music festival. I joined some Swiss girls on the dance floor and had an amazingly good time dancing around to the salsa music.

Outdoor music festival

Outdoor music festival

Beautiful set up.

Beautiful set up.

A couple lingered around me for the entirety of the night – a Greek girl and Macedonian boy. For those who don’t know (I didn’t) Greeks and Macedonians are mortal enemies… the boyfriend spout out their Romeo and Julietesque love story to me.

Romeo: After the three date, I tell her that I love her. She say that she does not know me well. I was supposed to move back to Macedonia. So I do. Then after a week in Macedonia, I call her and tell her I love her again. She does not take this well.

Juliet: It’s true. I thought he was crazy.

Romeo: So I showed her I loved her by getting a tattoo of her as an angel on my back. To me, she is my angel. So she says ‘OK we do another date.’ So I move back to Geneva the next day.

He pulled up his shirt revealing a very thin and masculine looking drawing of the girl with angel wings.

I quickly glanced at my couchsurfing host, who also heard the love story, he was stifling a grimace… much like myself. I don’t know if the tattoo was more creepily romantic, or offensive.

He also told me that he taught her how to box. My eyes drifted to her wrist that was wrapped in a cast…

“Yeah, she broke her hand punching me.”

“Hmm…” I awkwardly respond, “love is a battlefield.”

They lovebirds fought the entire night after that, concluding with her drunkenly riding her bike home and him stumbling after her by foot.

My final day was spent with me topping off the rest of the touristy destinations I hadn’t seen yet.

Such as the chocolate isle of the grocery store…

Eenie meenie miney moe...

Eenie meenie miney moe…

The jet stream on the lake…

I did indeed run under this.

I did indeed run under this.

And finally, the flower clock!

geneva flower clock

I also witnessed this poor fellow try to pet a swan, which was painful for us both.

Swan whisperer

Swan whisperer

Bad Times in Barcelona

By day four of my time in Barcelona, a place I previously declared admiration for, only one thought blared in my mind: Get me the hell out of this city.

As I got off of my plane that took me from Perth, Australia to Doha, Qatar and then finally to Barcelona, Spain. I walked through the sun struck streets filled with excitement and butterflies – it was good to be back.

Sunrise over Doha, Qatar on my flight in

Sunrise over Doha, Qatar on my flight in

This is one way to get your passengers to pay attention.

This is one way to get your passengers to pay attention.

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Perth, Western Australia: A Survival Guide

I’ve written about my travels to some of Western Australia’s hidden corners, such as Kalbarri, Margaret River, and Albany. I even gave a shout out to Melbourne. Truth be told, most of my time slipped by in Perth, Western Australia’s biggest city.

It’s a very mellow lifestyle in one of the more deserted states of Australia, and my first impression of Perth was that it’s much like San Diego, minus great Mexican food on every corner.

When we’re not galavanting in the wilderness somewhere or fighting each other with sticks, Moritz generally works on his PhD at his desk by the window while I act as his slave catch up on chores and research PhD programs. Sometimes I throw things at him as a distraction. He models ocean currents — so when people ask, I can say, “you know… he’s just modeling.”

He’s basically a model.

Yeah... he took this of himself.

Yeah… he took this of himself.

The humble abode

The humble abode

 

If you are a first-timer settling down in Perth, be prepared. While this city may seem laid back and calm, it throws curve balls at every corner.

Part I: Domestication

Like most semi civilized couples, the endless amount of laundry is a cause of 99% of our arguments. The washer doesn’t spin dry, so every clothing article comes out completely soaked. It seems more efficient to just throw your basket into the pool… which I sometimes do to Moritz’s shirts. His tactic for washing my clothes is throwing me into the pool while I’m still wearing them, so it evens out. Once in a blue moon, the washer will spin dry for no apparent reason, and the person who loaded it will proclaim themselves as god of the unwashed textiles and force every other person in the house to listen to his or her strategy.

My personal recommendation: only a few items (it works best with two shirts, a towel, and some undies to even out any imbalance – factoring that the towel will be heavier when wet), strategically placed, hot water, medium load and hardly any detergent. If you use too much detergent, don’t be surprised when your clothes to come out a slightly lighter color with a soapy film coating. I’d rather be stinky and bright than soapy and dull, I suppose.

Of course when you hang the laundry, Perth’s unpredictable weather will smite you by causing a rogue downpour after 10 days of cloudless sunshine. This pleases the extra-soap strategists who could use another rinse cycle. On sunny days, wind will blow the clothes all over the backyard… and hundreds of Australia’s many deadly slash poisonous spiders will joyfully and promptly use your bra or sock as a new home.

Might as well just chuck the laundry straight onto the floor instead of wasting time waiting for it to dry

Might as well just chuck the laundry straight onto the floor instead of wasting time waiting for it to dry

The place to go if your clothes could use another rinse cycle

The place to go if your clothes could use another rinse cycle

Lesson: Choose your battles – what is worth more – clean laundry, or your life?

Part II: Street Smarts

My favorite quality of Perth is that it fosters every adventure-type personality. If the waves are bad (which is typical – you need to head an hour either way up the coast for quality surfing), you can kitesurf, hike, swim, explore a deserted beach, or slackline in the beach park area.

Slackline superstars

Slackline superstars

I walk the line

I walk the line

We frequent Scarborough, and every time we go, Moritz hopes to see the “guy with the crazy drums.” However, we hear the drums and approach near the sound… but never actually see the drummer. At all hours of the day, the “famous reggae drummer” can be heard but not seen like a Houdini-Marley superperson. Sometimes, drum man switches up his style from erratic and spastic to a slow thud every couple of minutes.

Turns out, “crazy drummer dude” is usually a three year old banging on the plastic bongos at the children’s park.

Drum show for all

Drum show for all

Crazy Reggae Drummer Dude makes an appearance

Crazy Reggae Drummer Dude makes an appearance

A look of confusion spread over Moritz’s face at this discovery, followed by an expression of epiphany – “I too, can be crazy drummer dude.”

Luckily there were no children in line for the bongos when Moritz went to play them, else the park bully would have probably set him straight.

Lesson: Don’t trust your senses in this town, everything is out there to deceive you.

Part III: Human Interaction

Other humans are very common in Perth, but befriending an actual Australian is rarer than you think. It is much more common for foreigners to intermingle with other foreigners.

It’s essential that you bond with these aliens and consult them in your strategies for survival. Every nationality has something to share, and it’s important that you learn everything you can from those you encounter.

For example, one night Tom (English), Charlotte (also English), Moritz (German), and I (simply awesome) talked about survival in our home countries and life in the future.

Tom: When I was a kid, my friends and I thought it was fun to lob rocks at each other.

Moritz: We did that too! I had a wooden shield and an iron rod. One time another kid threw a rock at my face and I blocked it with my shield… it was awesome.

As strategies taken from battles of the past were revealed, plans for the future unravelled.

Charlotte: What if everyone had to wear a helmet?

Me: You’d definitely have people using them as a status symbol – ugly Louis Vuitton ones would take over Hollywood and rappers would sag them back.

Tom: Someone would find a loophole – the law doesn’t state the thickness of the helmet so somebody invents ones that are paper thin.

Moritz: Mine would be nuclear proof. (He’s still a bit sensitive from the war)

Me: Nuclear proof? Just the head? So your body gets blasted to smithereens but your head is perfectly intact… I sense a design flaw.

Moritz: I’m working on it.

Tom: *Snaps* Natural selection – all of the idiots walk around with nuclear proof helmets… “It’s okay guys! I got my helmet on!”

Lesson: Use social hours as conference time for potential security threats.

Part IV: Surviving Shark Territory

I’ve said it before – sharks are a legitimate problem in Australia. The number of attacks have increased exponentially, and it seems as though there is no method to their man-eating madness. Some believe it’s simply a result of more people entering Australian waters, while others cite a change in currents as a cause of sharks existing closer to shore.

Where the sharks frollick

Where the sharks frollick

Every day that Perth has a ridable wave, Moritz convinces me to slither into a wetsuit and stumble into the water with a board in tow.

Why they make the wetsuits black here is beyond me. Why make us look more like a seal than some of us rotund people already do? In every other relatively sharkless water, it’s stylish and slimming. Here, it makes me feel like a drown prone hunk of shark bait.

I’m not sure exactly when I started googling shark facts before our surfing endeavors, but it’s fair to say it’s become a habit.

“Did you know that some think that sharks attack at dawn and dusk?” I’d inquire as we stepped into the water to the setting sun.

Moritz nodded.

“How come you’re not supposed to pee in your wetsuit?” I’d ask, feeling dehydrated due to not drinking anything all day for this exact reason.

“Because it smells like some chemical found in seals blood, I think.” Moritz would answer.

“Hm, some people think it’s because animals urinate in distress. Do you think that’s a reason? I don’t think that makes any sense because animals urinate all the time – even when they’re not in distress, so wouldn’t the sharks come every time they did that? Do you want to record us singing that camp song I taught you, the one about the baby shark? We could do it on the streets and make some money.”

Moritz became a faster paddler with each passing day that we went surfing. The second we hit the water, he would bolt into the waves without any hesitation.

While I have never had a personal encounter with these beasts, Moritz on the other hand, has. While diving with some of his friends, a great white – four meters long – circled suspiciously around him. I guess it’s understandable he tires of my information bombings and questions easily.

Usually, once I was in the water, I barely thought about my toothy friends. This is because huge waves often came out of nowhere, and the currents kept me in a perpetual state of paddling.

One time, as my body flung over the wave, I heard Moritz let out a high pitched, “bye bye!” It’s a dog eat dog world in the water, so prepare to fend for yourself.

Lesson: Educating yourself on the risks of the wild does nothing except freak out those nearby.
Side note: Sharks, while scary, are amazing creatures that need to stay protected. Find out how to help here.

All of these tips have been acquired within only two months of traveling Australia. Not to brag, but I’ve already picked up on the native tongue quite a bit. With a little bit of luck and common sense, (and of course the help of this guide) you too can survive life in Perth.

If we can live here without dying, anyone can.

If we can live here without dying, anyone can.