Plans for 2012: Snow, Sardines and Slightly more blogging.

Where did the time go?

It only seems like a month or so since I got back from the Indonesian jungle.  But I’ve not posted since I got back, and this place has been bereft of stories and photos since September.  Wow.  Bad blogger.

In my defence, I have 1) moved flat, 2) started a new job and 3) not travelled anywhere since then (unless you count Edinburgh, but I’ve already blogged my love of that fine city).  But it’s not that good an excuse.  I still haven’t done anything with my photos from Indonesia, which is a crime, as there are some gorgeous orang-utans just waiting to get out of my camera and onto my blog page.

So that’s one thing on my travel-related to-do list. The other, and quite frankly, slightly more exciting, is planning the next one(s). Now if you’ve read About the Girl, then you’ll know that travel, for me, is about experience. It’s about seeing as much of this exciting planet as I can. Someone posted this on my Facebook recently, and it sums me up perfectly:

For me, it’s about not having any regrets at any point in my life, about stuff I’ve not done. It’s about never regretting stuff you’ve done, because that’s all experience, even if it’s a bad one. But, while there are certain things I know I definitely want to do, what about the stuff I’m not sure I’ll like until I’ve tried it?

So, this year, 2012 is going to be able two things: 1) doing something I’ve always wanted to do and 2) doing something I never thought I’d want to do.

The Latter: learning something new

For Christmas I received a novel gift : a day’s skiing or snowboarding lessons at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, about an hour’s drive north of London. Now, the gift bearer was only mildily aware of a minor skiing incident that I had at age 14, on an artificial slope in my home town of Sunderland, when after a short lesson on how to turn, I realised the teacher hadn’t yet reached the lesson on how to stop. Why on earth the slope’s designers thought it would be a good idea to put a hard and rather painful fence at the bottom of the slope is anyone’s guess, but from that day forward, I always had a slight aversion to anything ski-related.

But, as it was a gift, and and as the gift-bearer was quite keen to persuade me that a skiing holiday is something I want to try, I gladly accepted and booked our day of learning. Since I was given the choice, I chose snowboarding over skiing. My earlier aversion, plus the fact that, well, it just looks cooler doesn’t it, helped me arrive at that choice. I mean, you don’t get skiing games for the PS3, do you??

And the deal was struck – I’lll try snowy stuff, if he tries watery stuff. And quite frankly, if I get to reciprocate and teach someone to dive later in the year, then I’ll be as happy as a pig in brown muddy stuff. And apparently there are some nice views of mountains and stuff.

Now after a couple of lessons, I’m apparently ready to take on the proper stuff. Well, I say a couple of lessons. the second one was 10% lesson, 90% holding my knee after a bad fall on the first run. And hobbling like a pirate for a week afterwards. But I’m told it’s much better on a mountain, with fresh mountain air, and no 4 year olds to crash into (or alternatively to ski expertly past you with a look of disgust as you struggle to get up from your latest failure. Believe me, they do. Little sods.)

So, 2012 starts with a new hobby, and a new country. Austria, land of strudel and large singing families. I will have to break my Lent alcohol-fast, as I’m told you can’t go on a ski holiday and stay sober apparently, but I don’t think they do Lent in Europe, so I’m ok.

The Former: The Dive of my Life

After my recent dive experiences of whalesharks, and octopus sex, and squadrons of devil rays, and seals and shark feeds, and then rainforest trekking with orangs, I had to have a long think about what the next thing on my “must-do” list was. What about the Barrier Reef? Or Raja Ampt in Indonesia? Both great dive experiences, not to be missed, I’m told. Then I went to the Birmingham Dive Show, and saw a talk by Mark from African Space. It was about the Sardine Run.

For the non divers among you, or if you haven’t seen any Attenborough recently, then let me tell you about the Sardine Run.

The Sardine Run happens (mostly, but not always) once a year in the South Arican winter, around June/July, when warm currents force colder waters up the eastern coast of South Africa. Sardines can’t tolerate water warmer than 19 degrees, so they in turn are forced, in huge numbers, up the coast too. Massive shoals form, millions strong, and along with that concentration of prey, come predators. It culminates in more biomass than the Serengeti migration. That’s a sh*t load of biomass.

Mark said the worst dive he’s done there was six humpbacks. The worst.   The best was twenty six.  Now I don’t usually use text speak, but O.M.F.G.  Twenty six whales in the water with me.  Plus hundreds, possibly thousands of dolphins and sharks and other whales and birds.  Possibly some Orca pods as well.  Oh, and a million sardines.  Don’t forget the sardines.

Now, non divers I know think thats a bit mental to be in the water with stuff that you’re apparently supposed to be scared of.  But, given I don’t look much like a sardine, I’m quite cool with this.  In fact, I’m a little bit less than cool.  I’m the opposite of cool, actually. I’m about as uncool and excited as a very small child waiting for Christmas knowing that Santa is going to bring him quite possibly the bestest present ever.  I’ve traded emails with Mark since the Dive Show, and I’m almost booked.

2012: New and Old

So my plans for 2012 are exciting, nervous, active and fun all rolled in to one.  And I promise to blog more about them too.  I’ll no doubt come back from at least one of my travels black and blue, but bruises heal.  Memories stay longer.

Mark said that if you dive the Sardine Run, you’ll never dive again.  Mainly because everything after it is pants.  I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case, but even if it was, I think I can live with that.  After all, I might have a new favourite hobby this year anyway.

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