Monday, August 27, 2007

Hellooooo Dolly!

The folks here in New Zealand think they're pretty tough. They like finding new "extreme" ways to enjoy the outdoors and get tourists to pay hefty fees to take their lives into their own hands. Case in point: you can throw on a helmet and a wetsuit and take on some South Island river rapids clutching nothing but a flutter board. They call it River Boarding.

But the Russians are not to be outdone when it comes to completely insane behaviour in the outdoors. And when the Get Outdoors blog had a post about this article in the Daily Mail, I just had to pass it along to my own readers.
No, helmets, no flutter boards, no wetsuits - just a blow-up sex dolly and a river with Class IV rapids! Some people will do anything to add more excitement to their sex lives - even if they don't have a real partner!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hand-made camp furniture!

A while back, while I was researching Sex in a Tent, someone generously gave me her old copy of The New Zealand Camping and Caravanning Guide. This 1981 book didn't really have anything too useful in it, being more than a little outdated, but it was a whole lot of fun to flip through and check out the groovy pictures.

One page I thought was particularly entertaining was this illustration of furniture you can make at your campsite, should you have some time on your hands.
It looks like the chaise lounge would require an awful lot of time. But perhaps the clothes hanger is more practical? So for those of you who like to work with your hands, let me know if you make any of these wonderful item. Just don't go chopping down any trees for your wilderness lounge!

Oh, and there was also this very helpful page about how to make a backpack out of a sugar sack (does anyone walk around with an empty sugar sack?) or a pair of trousers (sure, you'll have a little pack, but you'll be hiking in your undies!).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parental Discretion Advised!

After seeing a post on the Get Outdoors blog about this, I just had to check it out for myself. There's a site that will scan your blog and give it a rating, like at the movies! My blog is apparently rated NC-17.

The rating is based on certain words appearing in your blog, and how often they appear. My offending words were:
sex (25x) - hey, it's in the title of my book!
pain (4x)
dangerous (2x)
shit (1x)

If you want to try this out on your own blog - here's the link.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Cross-Blogging

I've posted another little article on the Home & Abroad website's blog "Here and There". This one's about the things to consider if you are looking into moving to another country. It's loosely connected to the book I'm currently writing: "Moon Living Abroad in New Zealand"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Harry Potter and Wilderness Survival

OK, it had to be done. If you're sick and tired of hearing the name Harry Potter, you might want to skip this post. But since the last book in the series sees our young wizard spending a fair bit of time in the woods, I figured it would be fun to see how the average witch or wizard would cope in the backcountry with nothing but a wand. I will only refer to spells/charms that actually come up in the books, because you could speculate just about anything.

Navigation: Harry does use a spell in "Goblet of Fire" which helps him to find his way through a maze by pointing his wand north. So basically you'd have a compass. Good start.

Warmth: Wands are used for starting fires throughout the books, so given some wood to burn warmth would not be a problem.

Rain Gear: At one point, Hermione puts a spell on Harry's glasses so that they'll repel water during a Quiddich match. If you put the same spell on your clothes, you could theoretically walk in the rain without getting wet.

Food: This is tougher. As far as the books suggest, you can't just conjure food out of thin air. I'd suggest finding a river with fish in it, and then stunning the fish so you can grab them. Or the "impedimentia" jinx would stop them from being able to swim away. Also, you can use an engorgement spell to make things bigger, so a few edible mushrooms or berries found by the trail could be increased in size to make a decent feed.

Water: There are moments when wizards have water spew forth from their wands in the books, so I guess as long as that water is clean there's no need to carry or filter any. Which is good, because I haven't heard of any anti-Giardia spell.

SOS: This one's easy. From their first year in school the young witches and wizards learn to send sparks into the air from their wands to call for help.

Of course, if an adult wizard were lost in the woods, he could simply disapparate and show up back at home. But then, that would be cheating!

OK, I'm done indulging my Harry Potter addiction. I'll get back to reality next post!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Rising to the Occasion

Last week during a grocery shopping excursion, G casually tossed a bag of "bread mix" into our trolley. My quizzical look should not have surprised him. G doesn't particularly like to cook, so why would he want to start making his own bread?

It turns out he was inspired by a story in the newsletter from the Tararua Tramping Club, about a couple who made fresh bread almost daily on their eight-week trek along Australia's Bibbulmun Track. With a bit of off-season practice, he figures we could make bread when we're out tramping next summer.
Making bread on camping trips is nothing new. As a Canadian, I grew up hearing about early traders making bannock over an open fire. I didn't give it much thought, as these were the same people who happily ate pemmican. But bannock is probably the easiest camping bread to make, since it is relatively flat and cooks in a frying pan. Most basic recipes include flour, baking powder, salt and water and/or milk.

Down in California, sourdough evolved as gold prospectors found a way to cook their bread without a fresh supply of yeast, using leftover dough to keep things moving along.Down Under, meanwhile, the locals were making their own campfire bread called damper. The simplest recipes call for just flour, water and salt. Obviously baking powder is a big help if you want the bread to rise, and self-raising flour is now used for most recipes. More elabourate versions use beer or milk, along with butter and sometimes sugar. Traditionally, damper is cooked directly in the ashes of a campfire. Ash is used to cover the top as well, so that it cooks more evenly. So yeah, the end result requires some dusting off.
Of all the recipes I've seen, though, the one this Bibbulmun-walking couple used on their trek definitely takes the longest! They would mix up their dough using pre-made bread mix (for breadmakers) and yeast in the evening, throw it into a stuff sack, and keep it in a sleeping back with them overnight! Then they would re-knead in the morning, put it back into the stuff sack, and carry it in a pot until lunchtime. They cooked it on a rack inside their pot over their stove, with the flame as low as possible. I guess they must have liked the results if they did this daily!

Fresh bread is definitely a nice treat when you're camping, especially if you're on a long trip. It breaks up the monotony of rice and noodles, and it can perk up an otherwise bleak day. It does seem like a lot of work though. I think personally I'd go with the self-raising option, but if G wants to haul around bread mix and yeast, well, I won't say no to eating the results!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cool blog for armchair hikers, and a book review too!

While catching up on other people's outdoors blogs today, I found that I had rated a post on the Best Hikes blog. It's an interesting concept for a blog since the hikes posted there are from all over the US and several other countries. Odds are, you'll never get the chance to do most of them yourself, but it's fun in an armchair travel way to check out other people's favourite hikes.

One of their recent posts recommends a book called South Island Weekend Tramps, which is a guide to 2-3 day trips on New Zealand's South Island. I have the North Island edition (North Island Weekend Tramps) and have used it many times to find a route that works when we just have a couple of days free.
The main drawback to the routes in the book is that many are not loops, but one-way treks. So getting back to your car requires a car shuttle with other trampers, or some kind of commercial shuttle service.

Aside from that pet peeve of mine, the route descriptions have been pretty accurate, including warnings about which places are likely to get crowded over the summer, and which are not to be attempted over winter.
The sad truth is that most of us have to fit the majority of our trips into little, weekend getaways. That makes many of the top trails impossible to complete in the available time. But a book that caters to our pressed-for-time needs should be applauded. Which raises the question: what is the sound of one blogger clapping?