Poker lessons with Chalkmaster Dave

      During a short late night stopover in Winnipeg, (where everything had closed except for a coffee shop). I struck up a conversation with one of my fellow train passengers. And over large cups of green tea we discussed all kinds of nonsense about pets, art, news reporting, festivals, fugitive hitch-hikers and life in general. Oh, and poker. Something which I’d learnt when I was at school (no really) but hadn’t bothered with since.

    All the way from West to East

    On the Canadian - the famous cross-country train from Vancouver to Toronto (with a stop at Jasper)… It’ll take a few days…

    Vancouver – city of two days, London Fog and tiny ferries.

    I only had two days in Vancouver - so, what to do? I had some really great Sushi (but of course). And as mentioned in previous posts, went biking around Stanley Park and visited a Sake Brewery (note: the only Sake brewery in Vancouver). As well as these, a couple more delights are worth more than a brief mention…

    Notes on New Zealand

    Kayaking across the sea at night (and exploring a volcanic island), long beaches and broken trees (and learning to surf), so much sushi (not as good as Hong Kong, except for that amazing Unagidon one lunchtime), Hokey Pokey Squiggles (great name, soso biscuit), personalised signboxes (which I didn’t see in the dark), 12 hours on a train (and reading about Peter Jackson reading on the same train), zombie outbreak (I think we’ll be ok), catching up with family (mine and others), Elven forests (and playing at Lord of the Rings), the Weta museum (and my Hobbit scarf), shortcut to mushrooms (and then finding some), windy Wellington (and more sushi), endless rolling hills (from south to north), flying to Canada…

    Colourful mud and smelly steam at Rotorua

    A short trip south out of Rotorua takes you to the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, a site of intense geo-thermal activity. Here you can walk around a tiny portion of the site on gently cordoned off paths and experience the sights and smells of the demonicly named craters.

    Biking through Stanley Park

      Here’s a fun thing to do of an afternoon in Vancouver. Go to Stanley Park, rent a bike from one of the many shops at the top of Denman street. Take about two hours to cycle round the seawall, with a loop on some of the bike trails inside the park too. I went for Spokes bike rental at Denman and West Georgia, and a 5 speed cruiser. Great fun and about 12.

    The start of a very long train trip indeed.

      For the next 12 hours, I’ll be on New Zealands Overlander train, from Wellington to Auckland. Originally built in 1908 and “covering every kind of scenery there is, from coastline to volcanoes to mountains, from lush green farmland to thick New Zealand bush” (from   Apparently this journey was also the inspiration for a young Peter Jackson to film The Lord of The Rings here - he started reading the

    I surf!

      One of the reasons for going on a trip is to learn new things, to do new things. Pick up a skill, because it’s fun, but you also learn about yourself. How you react to new situations, who you are, and it encourages the feeling side of the brain (rather than the thinking).   Surfing is a curious thing. More lifestyle than sport - but it’s hard to pin down why.

    Black Sands and Rainforests

    Most people come to New Zealand for the amazing scenery, rather than any city pursuits. And it’s not hard to see why - even for this city lover.   So barely an hour out of Auckland you have the Waitakere Ranges for the rainforest environment (it rained while I was there - I felt like I got my moneys worth) and the notoriously dangerous Piha beach (it did look a bit dangerous - but I contented myself with taking photos of seaweed, rather than of people dying).

    Sleeping on the train

      At Raglan, New Zealands surf capital, one of the best places to stay is SolScape ( An eclectic hostel of converted train carriages. Stylish and cost effective - plus close to the beach…   Hey I’m not working for them, but I have been learning to surf here - and surprise surprise, I can actually surf! Another watery accomplishment to add to my portfolio.