Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The photo is from a very busy dog lady securing an Indoor Climbing Hall attached to a Backpacker Hostel in a very small town also in New Zealand. For some reason the dog sensed that I took a photo of her and rolled on her back instantly rising all four legs into the air.
The owner of the climbing hall just said 'Oh, you have to scratch her belly now. That's the deal'.

So I did.

Recently a few friends back home asked me via email or Skype whether I'm already tired and exhausting from traveling.
It wouldn't be unlikely, would it? I am almost three months on the road right now and more or less in the middle of my trip.
Shouldn't I be tired from constantly changing places, from packing my backpack again and again, burnt out from the need to adopt to a new environment every day and from saying good bye to the cool guys I met one or two days before?

I don't know why but never felt that awake in my life.
The only thing I am tired of is living a tired life like being constantly on Valium pills.

The little one in the video is the son of the skipper of a small boat acting as a water taxi in New Zealand. Although the boy acted as the captain he obviously had a hard day and was barely able to stay awake. Almost every wave brought him in real trouble. I loved looking at him and you can even hear some of the passengers laughing because they observed him, too.

Seems as if being tired isn't bad all the time but I prefer to stay awake at the moment, though.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ready for Boarding - A Chalkboard and the World / Part 1

This is one of the most precious postings I ever published because it consists of many many valuable moments of my recent life on the road.

Visiting nice landscapes is only a part of the story when it comes to travelling. At least for me it is about meeting interesting people.
I met such an amazing variety of funny, interesting, smart and inspiring people in the last months and I never expected it to be that way.

There is a little chalk board in my backpack and sometimes I dare to ask my counterpart to write down a word or a phrase on it that reflects his or her day best - a word of the day.
Take it as an attempt to conserve a tiny tiny piece of that human being in my head.

Most of the times it happens after an interesting talk or after spending some time together.
It is very surprising to me that almost everyone I ask is willing to share a word and a photo with me.

There's a little story behind every single photo and the moments with these strangers enriched my life very much.
Of course you don't know the little stories and precious moments behind the photos but you can watch the small movie I created out of the first bunch of chalk board photos, though. Maybe it gives you a idea of what my journey is like. Be prepared - the video is more than six minutes long.

If you have a fast Internet connection you can watch the video in [higher quality], too.

If you recognize yourself in the movie it would be great if you could write a comment to this posting using the 'Comment' link below. If you are not in the video, feel free to comment, too.
Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your life with me - you rock!

More chalk board photos to come in the next months.

Addendum: The still photos contained in this video can be seen on my Flickr account [here...]

Explored Again

Click on photo to view it in different sizes on my Flickr account

Heyyyy, one more of my photos was selected for 'Flickr Explore' on the photo site It is the fourth of my photos and similar to the last times I am very proud.

This time it is not from a far-away-place but of my hometown Bayreuth.

The building on the photo is called the sun temple and the facade is made of thousands of little colored stones - like a mosaic.
The sun temple is in a baroque park called Eremitage in Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany.
I love to walk around in the park after the crowds are gone and I look forward to do it again when I am back home in a few months.

Well, it is a far-away-place right now, though. Actually as far away as possible because I am in New Zealand at the moment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drum Solo Laughter, San Francisco

I am travelling alone this time and I was scared in the beginning about that.

Will I feel depressed all the time?
Will the 150 evenings summarize to a huge pile of loneliness?
Am I an awful pal to accompany myself?

I tell you what: The answer is 'No', 'No' and 'No' so far and I am a bit surprised about that.

The guy on the photo helped me a tiny little bit to realize the answers.

He called himself 'Bucket Man' and he was a street musician I met in San Francisco.

Bucket Man was a percussion genius and his drum kit consisted only of empty plastic buckets.
I strolled Market Street and all of a sudden I was surrounded by noise that shaked my butt - and my inside.
The noise his drum sticks created was mixed with an incredible laughter. Bucket Man laughed like a maniac while playing his 'instruments'.
No one was paying attention to him and he wasn't paying attention to anyone. He was just drumming and laughing. Bucket Man was all that Bucket Man needed to laugh.

During his next break I had a nice talk with him and he told me that his very first CD will be available next week and how proud he is about it.

I saw few people in my life that looked so happy while being on their own or showing so much passion for life.
This crazy bald guy gave me a little hint that as long as I can laugh about and with myself I don't have to fear any pile of loneliness.
Of course it doesn't work all the time and that's good.

I am not as good as Bucket Man yet when it comes to laughing while being alone but I'm already damn good in grinning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MVP - Most Valuable Places, Part 3 - Yosemite, California

Half Dome (click to enlarge)

Achieving lifetime goals is a delicate thing because it might turn out that the actual goal isn't that spectacular as you might have imagined.
A 'goal' is not necessarily a 'big' thing like founding a family or get the high paid job but sometimes only just visiting a special place.

I dreamed many years of being to Yosemite Valley in California. I wanted to see the famous rocks like El Capitan or Half Dome with my own eyes. I adore the photography pioneer Ansel Adams and his fantastic captures from Yosemite made me wanting to see the valley even more.

I was a bit scared that it would be like 'Been there, done that, what's next'. Well, it was quite the opposite.

As I write these lines I can still exactly remember how I felt when driving into the valley with the public bus in the early morning. With me was a guy from Italy that I met the day before. The bus driver was a woman with a sticker saying 'Fast Girl' beside her steering wheel. Luckily she was driving slow though so I had the chance to soak up every second.

We were driving through forest and suddenly I saw some rocks behind the trees. Actually it was a massive wall. I bent down while looking out the window to get a glimpse of the upper end of the wall but I couldn't. Stefano beside me said 'This must be El Capitan' and he was right. It was funny to realize that he lowered his voice. Obviously he was as stunned as I was.
Seeing this rock rising up just vertical for nearly 1 km (3000 ft) made me have goose flesh. The morning sun helped making it perfect by illuminating the rock turning it into the color of the wax of an lit candle. Life can be really kitschy and I loved it.

The whole valley seemed to air calmness and peace and it captured me immediately. The meadows on the valley ground, the trees just turning into a yellow color and the warm autumn sun made my internal battery recharge with full power.

Stefano: 'What Else?"

Yosemite is a very popular national park and full of tourists during spring and summer. Because it was already autumn the valley was almost empty and I was on my own most of the time. Just the valley, myself and my thoughts that I allowed to meander around in my head without barriers - great.

El Capitan on the right side (click to enlarge)

During the next three days I hiked in Yosemite exploring some of the peaks or having lunch on top of a dried waterfall accompanied only by some ravens. Being on my own made the experience even more valuable.

On my last day I had some cream on this big peace of 'life-cake'. After I crawled through the forest to touch the base of El Capitan I found a meadow just in front of the famous climbing route called 'The Nose' and tightened the slackline I bought in Toronto between two huge trees.
While trying to walk on the slackline facing this massive wall I was like 'Udo are you aware that you are just slacklining in front of El Capitan in Yosemite?'
Well, I was very aware of it and it dug deep into my mind.

Slacklining Tourist

In the end my time in Yosemite was not as good as I expected - it was better, much better.

To make an already perfect time even better I stayed in a very cosy hostel called 'The Yosemite Bug' at the rim of the valley. It consisted of a few wooden houses in the forest and the dining room with its fire place was one of the cosiest places I could imaging although it was freezing cold during the nights.

I liked Yosemite so much that I decided to spend two more days there a few weeks later. That's what I appreciate on travelling alone with a rental car - you can decide on very short notice and do whatever you want.

Yosemite is now one of my 'Most Valuable Places' and I am sure that I will come back some day. I wrote a posting about two other of my MVPs in Germany a few months ago [here...] and [here...]. Completely different places but very similar in a kind of way.

By the way: Two famous rock climbers from Germany made a cinema movie about their attempt to speed-climb 'The Nose'. The movie is called 'Am Limit' ('To the Limi'). The documentary is full of amazing footage about El Capitan and Yosemite. Grab the DVD if you have the chance. I loved it.
Here is the [trailer...]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, You Can - Obama and Sticky Rice

So this was election day. As I already wrote in a previous posting it is quite interesting for me to observe the whole thing in the middle of it.
It started for me today with a newspaper in the waiting hall of the airport in Oahu, Hawaii. The headline said in very big letters 'Vote!".
Actually I wasn't aware until today that I am in the middle of Obama-country because Obama was born and raised on Hawaii. The newspaper said that the people from Hawaii are for Obama 4:1.
During the day I saw some handwritten signs saying 'Vote" and the 'o' was written like the 'O' of the Obama-posters. Well, here on Hawaii it looked like an easy race for Obama.

While driving in my rented card I listened to the news in the radio all day long while the first results from the west coast states came in. Kind of funny to listen to voting results under palm trees.

OK, the US are a very big country with several time zones but it was strange for me to realize that the results for the first states where already published while the polling station were still open in the eastern states. I am sure the people in the east weren't influenced. Right?

One of the words used most by the radio speakers was 'historic' and it didn't sound overstated.

A women going to vote in a small village on Maui

I bought a sandwich in a small shop and the owner had a conversation with a customer about going to vote. They greeted each other with 'happy voting'.

Being back in my small hostel most of the folks sat in front of the TV watching the speeches of John McCain and Barack Obama live.

First of all I have to admit that the US is really good in doing stuff like these election things.
McCain did a great job in admitting his defeat in my humble opinion. Well, it was very clear that he lost so maybe it was a bit easier but I couldn't imagine such a respectful behavior in Germany. I still can remember Gerhard Schroeder after his lost the last elections in Germany - yes, I know it was much closer.

I was impressed by the way Obama addressed the crowd in Chicago after his victory. Even if it is his job to speak free and even if someone wrote the speech for him it impressed me.
In Germany such a speech would be far less pathetic but being here in the states it felt really ok - even the chapter about the 106 year old wasn't too much - but it was close.

The last part of the speech consisted of a lot sentences containing the main slogan from Obama's campaign 'yes, we can' and 'yes, I can'.
This wouldn't be that important without me picking up some food for take away from the Thai place across the street.
I asked the waitress 'can I have sticky rice with my tofu' and guess what she said.
'Yes, you can'.

No kidding. I am part of all this change thing even if it's just about sticky rice.

Wish you good luck Mr. Obama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Street for the Pirate Captain / San Francisco

Do you remember Captain Horatio McAllister? The pirate captain from the Simpsons?
Shame on you that you missed my former posting about this honorable guy.
While chatting with an ex-colleague back home via Skype he surfed Google Earth to look for the spot in San Francisco where I was staying. After a while he typed 'Hey there is a McAllister street in San Francisco. You really have to go there and take a photo of the street sign.'

Should there really a street dedicated to the mascot and hero of my former team? Unbelievable.

Of course I walked there - very far and through kind of shabby neighbourhoods for shooting a photo of the street sign together with the portrait of McAllister.

Because I wasn't able to hold the chalkboard and take the photo I asked a random guy for help.
I am pretty sure he thought that I am completely nuts but finally he holded the pirate captain above his head.

Master Brownwood, this posting is dedicated to you (and a little bit to Dr. DICOM, of course.).

@Dr. DICOM: Feel free to add more facts about captain McAllister as comments to this posting.

Perfect Timing / Niagara Falls, Canada

On Top of Niagara Falls

Being in Toronto and not visiting the Niagara Waterfalls would be a sin, wouldn't it?
There's nothing wrong with a little sin from time to time but actually I love waterfalls - so I went to visit the falls.
At the first glance I was very annoyed - not by the falls, they were great and very impressing - but by the stupid Disneyland crap the Canadians built right beside the river.
Several casino towers, a Ferris wheel and stupid restaurants like 'Planet Hollywood' is not what I expect when I visit a wonder of nature. What a difference to the waterfalls in Brazil and Argentina (see also my posting about Foz de Iguacu).

Although the weather was bad, the big white cloud of mist above the falls impressed me so much that I decided to go closer using the famous boat 'Maid of the Mist'. I didn't expect much because it is a really touristy thing but finally I am nothing more than a tourist.
They gave me a big blue plastic coat and clever little Udo even had a plastic bag for his digital camera.
As soon as the boat started a taped voice started blubbering very loud telling facts about the waterfalls through water proof speakers. I didn't pay attention because I was staring at the falls.
The boat came very close to the falls - very close. The falls have the shape of a horse shoe and the 'Maid of the Mist' dared to advance right to the middle so that I had water on 3 sides.

The boat was shaking, it was very wet and I was surrounded by high walls of roaring water. I never experiences something like this. And just in the moment when I bended backwards to look up the white walls the tape voice shouted:
'Ladies and Gentlemen - this is Niagara Falls' with a little pause between every words of the second part of the second part of the sentence.

I wasn't really able to think but my head was like 'hell yeah, you guys are so right'.
In general melodramatic speeches like this don't work for me but the perfect timing of this single sentence blew me away.
You can say what you want about North American folks but they are the masters of good shows.
Kudos to you guys, but you should get of the casino crap!

Blue People Approach the Water Wall

Little 'Maid of the Mist' vs. Niagara Falls