A year ago…

Yes, a year ago, we got on a plane that took us far far away, on an amazing journey. I can’t believe how fast time has gone. So, today is the perfect day to announce the creation of an exhibition about this trip around the world and all the myths and tales we heard along the way. It will be shown at the end of September in my hometown in France, and kids from the local school will come see it. I’ll have some time with them to chat about the trip and everything else, I’m so happy!

So, here’s the poster, I hope you’ll like it (even though it’s in French!).

affiche

Kumara.

Do you remember the legend of the potato from the Bolivian stories we’ve heard in La Paz? Yes, this one:

The Sapallas were a peaceful and prosperous people who were invaded by the belligerent Karis, enslaved and reduced to misery. Choque, a young descendant from the last Sapalla cacique refused to acknowledge this state of things and cried out for help from the father of the gods, Pachacamac. He heard young Choque’s petition and showed him some seeds from a plant unknown to men of that time, telling him to plant it and eat its roots, but never touch the sprouts, flowers or leaves, as they were poisonous. The Sapallas did as they were told, but the Karis found the new plantations, confiscated them and ate everything the plants produced, except for the roots. As a consequence, they became ill and debilitated, prompting the former slaves to rebel against them and expel them from their land. The new plant was then considered as a divine gift, and called papa (potato).

SOURCE

Well, it seems like the maoris have one too, to explain the origin of one of their most basic ingredient: the kumara (a kind of sweet potato). This important ingredient is no ordinary food. It is said that the god Rongo-Maui went to heaven to see his brother Wahnui, guardian of the kumara. Rongo-Maui stole the divine food from his brother, hid it in his clothes and came back to earth to his wife, Pani. Very soon after, Pani got pregnant, and one day, she gave birth to Kumara. That’s how the sweet potato, so important for the Pacific people, was given to men on earth.

Hey, when you think of it, this story reminds us a lot of how Prometheus stole the fire, so important for mankind, from the gods, no?

The unexpected.

Yes, I had never thought that one day, I would end up in Malaysia. Until a week ago, all I knew about that country was that the capital city was Kuala Lumpur, and the few things you can learn from The Garden of Evening Mists, a novel by Tan Twan Eng I read back in Bali. Let’s face it, I’m not sure I know much more today, but I’ve now seen a few things here. So, what have I learnt?

– KL is an enjoyable and multicultural city, full of life, with some amazing architecture (the Petronas towers are quite a sight at night), beautiful temples and mosques, quite easy to walk through despite the crazy traffic. The gardens are very relaxing, Chinatown never sleeps, and you can find a theme park in Berjaya Times Square mall. There are so many different types of food due to the mix of cultures you’ll wish to be able to eat every two hours (and it’s cheap). Beer (and alcohol in general) is very expensive though… Germans are very sad here! (Kidding, but there’s a lot of them here – as everywhere else in the world – and I had a lot of fun with a few of them over the past days).

– Taman Negara means “national park” in Malay. And it is the oldest rainforest in the world. And it rains a lot there. But I took a very good walk through the jungle, climbing down rocks, trying not to fall, gripping on slippery ropes … I ended up covered in mud (and leeches, yuk), but it was worth it. I’m happy I followed Dave and Tom’s – whom I met in Bali – advice to go there!

– Nestlé cuts down the trees to grow palm trees. Not good.

– The Batu Caves are incredibly impressive. And normally full of quite aggressive monkeys. I’m glad I only met 4 of them!

– In Malaysian trains, it is forbidden to fly a kite, to kiss in public, and there are coaches exclusively reserved for women.

– if you wanna have a good look at the Petronas towers, don’t go up the KL tower: you only see one of them from the side. I didn’t do it, we went to the roof top bar of the Regency hotel with two Germans, and it’s the same view. Expensive cocktail, but according to them, the best toilets they’ve ever been to!

– And finally, if you want to send packages back home, it’s very cheap, if you can understand how the general post office works. I spent one hour and a half to send two boxes, going up and down and right and left… Maybe I was not really awake. But the girl at the info counter was really nice and helpful.

I’m going back to Singapore tomorrow. I don’t know what I’ll do there, but I’m sure I haven’t seen it all.

20130219-142307.jpg

20130219-142344.jpg

20130219-142416.jpg

20130219-142450.jpg

20130219-142537.jpg

20130219-142619.jpg

20130219-142650.jpg

20130219-142722.jpg

20130219-142745.jpg

20130219-142810.jpg

20130219-142834.jpg

What about sleeping? No? Ok.

Being stuck under the pouring rain, right where the lightning strikes, in Singapore’s botanic gardens, gives you time to think about a new blog post. I’ve been wandering around the city for a week now, mostly by myself, as Erika flew over to Taiwan on Monday. It was sad to split up after five months traveling together, but at the same time, it’s like a new beginning in the trip. Traveling will be different now I’m on my own, but I know I’ll keep on meeting people everywhere I’ll go. That’s one thing you learn on a long term adventure: when you travel alone, you’re never alone.

So, what about Singapore? Well, people say that New York City is the one that never sleeps. I’m glad to let you know this statement applies here too. So many things open 24/7 (mainly for food, this is heaven), people all around in the streets at any hour of the day and night… in a word, a busy city. I can say I enjoy being here, even though I sometimes feel like it is all a bit fake. You know, a bit like Dubai, big fun city all built for your entertainment: shopping, restaurant, shopping, pretty clean streets, shopping, coffee, theater, shopping. Yes, one thing about Singapore, it’s mainly shopping centers one after another. Orchard road is just one big mall.

20130209-121929.jpg

And I am not here to shop. Well, all right, I bought a pair of jeans (welcome to Asia, where everybody is pretty much half my size, half my weight … But I managed to fit my butt in one, so it’s fine): I needed one, I was out of trousers. And it proved itself really useful last night to go out to the Zouk club (one of the best in the world! as would say the Scandinavians I went out with): good venue, great music, but really expensive. I ended up losing my Vikings inside and having a lot of fun with a group of very nice Singaporeans! So yes, going out here costs a lot, but it was a great night. And well I’m sure there are a whole bunch of other clubs less expensive than this one.

20130209-122045.jpg

On a more interesting side: what to see here! Well, the botanic gardens are seriously a must-see (if you can get there on a sunny day), and the orchids garden is beautiful. I’ve never been a huge orchids fan, but some hybrids are amazing.

20130209-122138.jpg

20130209-122159.jpg

20130209-122218.jpg

20130209-123032.jpg

Just wandering around busy Chinatown, colorful Little India, the calm Marina Bay, or the futuristic Gardens by the bay and their awesome greenhouses are a nice way to spend your days.

20130209-122337.jpg

20130209-122406.jpg

20130209-122432.jpg

20130209-122457.jpg

On the culture side, the Singapore Art Museum isn’t big, but holds a pretty good collection of modern art. And I really enjoyed Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick exhibit at the lotus-shaped Artscience Museum: I felt like I was 7 again playing with Legos. Well, with my old high school friend Matthieu (who’s here for a semester), we had fun trying to build a 3D raindrop. Didn’t work out though.

20130209-122820.jpg

20130209-122656.jpg

20130209-122615.jpg

I think I’ve said most of what I had to say … I found a cheap but clean hostel (the main issue is that most of the travelers who stay here are in transit, so it’s a bit hard to meet people); you can eat amazing food in huge and cheap food courts pretty much everywhere (yum, steamed buns, chopped pork, ramen, chicken curry, sugarcane or honeydew juices…); a lot of things are prohibited by the law here (smoking pretty much anywhere, eating in the subway, getting smelly durians inside public buildings, etc.), so, it’s very clean, but god you’re scared to cross the streets the wrong way; I can’t get in touch with a school, unfortunately (tried to, got negative or no returns); and I’m off to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

As the festivities begin tonight, happy Lunar year, and may the year of the snake (hey, I was born under that sign!) bring good things to you!

20130209-123008.jpg

Change of plans

Some news (finally, you could say…)! Erika’s had trouble finding a computer for long enough to write blog posts in the last months, so I’m taking over to let you know we are completely changing our travel plans for the rest of the trip.
We ended up not being keen on what we had first planned, tired of moving around so much… So we won’t see China, India nor Africa (yep, big changes).

In a nutshell, we just spent a month in Bali (I’m putting some pictures up so you can see how pretty it – mostly – is). And now, Erika is in Singapore, heading to Taiwan, Korea and Japan, before spending May in South-East Asia, and then going home.
I will be in Singapore and Malaysia until the end of February, before spending 2 months back in New-Zealand, and my last 3 months across South-East Asia. My flight back home is still booked for July 12th.

We will keep the project on, of course. I am waiting for a reply from the French Alliance in Singapore. And I will work on Maori and Samoan’s mythologies in NZ. And we’ll see what we can do in South-East Asia too.

So, Bali (and the Gili Islands) were a very relaxing and lazy stop … We didn’t do much, but we had a lot of fun, met great people, visited a few temples, saw some Hindu ceremonies, went to the beach (a lot), and had great food. Perfect holidays to get over the tiredness of moving constantly for 5 months. Ready for new adventures now!

20130131-114605.jpg

20130131-114618.jpg

20130131-114640.jpg

20130131-114701.jpg

20130131-114714.jpg

20130131-114730.jpg

Te ao, te ao te aora! (The Long White Cloud)

Well, we have done a long road since the last post! Sorry for being so late, but, surprisingly, it was far more easy and cheaper to get access to fast Internet in Southamerica than in New-Zealand!

However, let’s resume where we left the story… The southern part of Chile was truly amazing : we spent several days jumping, walking in the rainforest of Huerquehue National Park, not very far from Pucon, a charming little bavarian-looking village nested between a lake and a volcano topped up with snow, or trying to overcome a stream on a wet naked trunk at Los Ojos del Caburgua, with charming blue pools and spherical orange mushrooms pending over the birch trees. Of course, in the meanwhile, I fed myself with glorious ice-creams, and Janyce fell in love with the two enormous New Foundland dogs that guarded our pretty cosy hostel. Then we left for Puerto Varas, even more German and charming, as you would see from the wooden houses and their names, where we ate the most gorgeous pecan kuchen ever, before heading toward the windswept, rainbeaten Chiloe, a coarse fishermen’s village full of legends.

Southamerica was just wonderful in its contrasted landscapes and man-kinds, sometimes harsh, sometimes pitiless, yet full of passion, of wild nights, big smiles, pool challenges, andine music, mate and , of course, dulce de leche (oh, I’m going to miss that so much!). It wasn’t always easy and dream-like, though, and you had to be always on your guard : we were wandering in Valparaiso, one city beloved by Neruda, took the wrong turn in Cerro Santo Domingo and were attacked by three young smugglers. They stole Janyce’s bag, but, fortunately, there wasn’t much in it, her diary, El Koalito, a banana and many other little things naturally enclosed in a woman’s bag. Still, that’s annoying. The policemen kindly helped us, and showed us around in their car, pointing out, at each new hill : ÿou see? Tourists! Here, no danger! But here, no, not here! danger, peligroso!

Soon, very soon, we were to leave Santiago, and fly towards the mysterious lands at the antipodes of our respective countries, ready to cry, as the first Polynesian woman did on her pirogue, after sailing for days and days in the Pacific : “Te Ao, Te Ao, Te Ao Te aora!”(A cloud, a Cloud, a Long White Cloud!)

Next episode : New Zealand! Clouds, legends, haka dance, volcanoes, mudpools, rainforest and much, much more!