Backpack with Icebreaker and you will be ready for the unconventional

australia, gear review, se asia

Ko Tao

Overlooked markets for Superfine Merino; assessed by a minimalist backpacker

Recently, while backpacking and volunteering throughout Central Australia and SE Asia, I found myself in some sticky and sweaty circumstances with lots of opportunity and little gear. If you travel minimalist as I do, then versatility of each item in ones’ pack is the name of the game. With this in mind I purchased several pieces of Superfine Merino (SfM) from Ice Breaker for my limited travel wardrobe knowing the obvious pros: light weight, comfortable, breathable, quick drying, no-stink, etc. Through some unpredictable events during my travels, I discovered several unconventional uses for my SfM.

One such situation occurred, when, at the last moment, I was invited to join a snorkeling expedition on the island of Ko Tao in Thailand. Though a rash vest would have been ideal for sun protection and as a barrier between skin and abrasive surfaces. I gave it a go in my SfM Crush Long Sleeve Hoody. Merino proved to be a viable solution when there wasn’t time to locate or funds to purchase ideal gear. Although natural fibers (in this case wool) aren’t quite as durable as closed cell synthetic materials (rash vests are generally made of neoprene), I found the wool held up well for a novice rarely making contact with rock and coral. Needless to say, the 50 UPF rating provided great skin protection against sun exposure. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that SfM, when submerged in water, feels just as comfortable on the skin as when sweating on land. Because the fibers don’t absorb water, the garment tends to move freely in the water and doesn’t weigh the user down.

In a limited wardrobe, having garments which are comfortable when wet or dry also proved to be an advantage while acting as a volunteer pool lifeguard in an Indigenous community out bush. Because conservative dress is of the utmost importance and the job demands frequently getting in and out of the pool, fabrics which dry quickly and are comfortable when wet are important. Garments which move well in water were also desirable while organizing and participating in competitions with children ages 2-14 years. Over long hours in the conditions described, a rash guard can be cumbersome, restricting, and unflattering. I found the Dart Shorts (150 ultralight) and the Zest short Sleeve Crew (150 ultralight) performed remarkably.

When traveling with limited gear, time and again, Icebreaker SfM proved to be a solution to my toughest backpacking predicaments and funds. Weather exposing my SfM garments to extreme ultra-violet rays, salt water, or chlorine in public pools, over the last 6 months these products have demonstrated superior performance in unconventional circumstances. Not to mention there durability; not fading or stretching after 6 months, and coming out cleaner as a result of the adventure at hand. I look forward to seeing how SfM will come through for me on future travel opportunities.

Adventures in SE Asia, take dos

se asia

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I feel so blessed to have visited such a gorgeous country twice in the last few months. Some of the adventures had on this trip included but were not limited to: Kayaking a good few K’s across open ocean to a secret island whos only inhabitants appeared to be monks, forging a track up a cliff face which included several lacerations at the hands of broken bamboo branches (none of which were fatal or slowed me down much), pool side yoga, rub downs/extream partner stretching form the strongest and most thorough female Thai masseuses ever, raging road trips down intensely steep hills and deteriorating dirt roads on scooters, and most special, amazing dinner performances each night by the beloved young Thai man singing Eric Clapton’s greatest hits and a few others over, and over, and over.

I would be absolutely stoked if anyone in my family wanted to visit Thailand with me in the future. I have a Northern Thailand, Loas, Vietnam trip planned out in my head which includes Chainge Mia hill hiking, a two day boat trip across the Loas/Thai boarder on the Mekong River and maybe some climbing in Hanoi Bay to top it off. I am looking forward already to Adventures in SE Asia, take tres.

 

Dramatic suroundings

se asia

The culture in Central Australia was so rich and the landscape so harsh. It is hard for me to think of a time when I have had a more intense experience as a visitor. Here are some finals photos of some Indiginous folks partaking in native dance, most of which are designed to mimic movements of birds like Wag Tail Willy and other fauna.

Post Thailand Blues

se asia

Thailand take two. It was incredible. I have incredible photos, which again I am having terrible technical difficulties with…. So my words will have to suffice.
Whilst exploring the wilds of Central Australia, a friend invited me to Phuket to hangout and participate in the filming of the TV series Boundless, due to air in Canada in March. So, I said what the hell, and made the trek. I would have loved to post while I was SE ASIA, unfortunately internet was scarce, and band width dodgy!
The house we stayed in was absolutely off the hook. It was like MTV cribs X1000. There was a full and gorgious kitchen where I enjoyed cooking the all male fast food eating crew healthy meals. A gorgeous pool with a peaceful leisure sun hut containing those traditional triangle pillows one lays down on in Asia- I am at a loss for words when describing foreign things, obviously. My room had a hot tub and a giant shower with two sinks…. this list goes on. Thank you Canadian TV network, where ever you are.
The house wasn’t even the best part. Nor the Thai massages which cost $16 USD and last 60 minutes, although they were magnificent. The best part was the that the camera crew was short staffed. And because the 4 man camera crew was short staffed they had to bring in a 5th man- a 5th woman. And guess who that 5th woman was….. you got it. Krystal. The best part is, probably the only reason they trusted my camera skills was that I had a camera of my own and had been running a blog. Wow. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Not only is my footage very likely to make it into the show, but I will also have my name in the credits. I hope it doesn’t sound like I am bragging, I just can’t even believe this happened.
Better yet, they had all the posts covered on the ground, they just needed a 5th in the air- I filmed for over an hour from a helicopter with 3 pilots and 2 network TV dudes, all of which were Thai and none of which spoke English.
The first time we went up was the start of the Iron man which was being filmed form the TV series. I got what I hoped was great footage for about a half hour and then came down, landing on the local golf course. Then a few hours later we went back up attempting to film the bike leg from the air but the weather turned on us! When I looked up from trying to steady the camera in an impossible wind and rain, I saw the windshield was totally white and hopped the pilots had significant interments which would allow them to navigate without a visual…. I hoped. In the end we made it back down. I never saw the cyclists on the second trip up…. but I was rolling the whole time and think I got some good footage.
It was scary but it was likely the most incredible experience of my time over seas in the last 7 months. Wow.

The Gorgeous Faces of Siem Reap, Cambodia (and some Irish)

se asia

How many beautiful people can there be on one planet?

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Angkor Wat

se asia

Here are the images that inspired me to write the reflection I presented at the Canberra Unitarian Universalist fellowship, this Sunday just (followed by a copy of the reflection).

Be United in the Reverence of Mountains
By: Krystal Collins
I have always been intrigued by concepts which unite cultures, concepts which abound language and geographic gaps, concepts regarding philosophy, religion, social structure, even everyday life activities such as cooking, building, or medicinal techniques. I believe the feeling of reverence in the presence of mountains is another such culturally uniting concept. And so, inspired by our previous service, in the spirit of Fredrick Henry Hedge, transcendentalism and unity, I would like to explore how as communities and individuals we revere mountains. Just quickly before we begin, I would like to define reverence. In this context, I liked what Wikapedia had to say; a subjective response to something excellent in a personal way. An alternative definition is; a feeling of deep respect and awe.

One story that I want to share today transpired long ago, in a place far away with a culture very nearly forgotten. In the Pacific Northwest, there is a mountain in the state of Washington called Mountain St. Helens though, to the Chinook people of the Columbia River Gorge, it was known as Louwala-Clough (or smoking mountain). I can imagine that to a Native American thousands of years ago, the site of a steaming mountain was something excellent, that begged a creation story…. And so the legend of Loowit was born.

Loowit was a beautiful young girl who held the power of fire and the leaders of two neighbouring tribes separated by the Columbia River Gorge fought over her, the Klickitat to the North and the Wala Wala to the South. Over time, Sahalie, the father of the two rival leaders became so frustrated with the violence; he turned all three parties into Mountains. Klickitat, known as Mt Adams to the North, Wy-east, known as Mt. Hood to the South, and Loowit known as Mt. St. Helens between them. Today remnants of the molten lava and rocks the two rivals have continued to hurl at each other can be seen all over the landscape. Even as a mountain, Loowit still holds fire, continually releasing smoke as a symbol for peace.

I am intrigued by this story and the many other tales and rituals held by cultures across the globe to express reverence for mountains.

At the end of August I had the opportunity to visit the world heritage site: Angkor Wat outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia or as the Khmer people pronounce it, Camboja. As the furthest and most developed city on the spice trade route to India, Angkor reached its prime in the 13thcentury. Looking at Angkor Wat, which means “Temple Mountain” in Khmer, the most central temple in the complex, one can see the elegant lotus structures ascending the columns of the outer gate, the main complex, and the central temple. What I learned from a guide book was that the decorative lotus signified something much greater.

These structures were meant to capture the geometry of a mountain, gradually gaining elevation, the tallest lotus, atop the main temple. The concept of “Temple Mountain” or reproducing a mountain in temple architecture, is a Hindu tradition meant to emulate the layout of the mythical Mount Meru. Residing on one central continent, Mount Meru is where all the gods live including the guardians of each cardinal direction. To access Mount Meru, one must climb each of the surrounding seven mountain chains and with each summit comes a higher level of enlightenment.

To reproduce this kind of imagery in the building most central to their religious practice, the Khumer people display such reverence. Feeling reverence, feeling excellence, in the presence of mountains has been a central theme in my life since childhood. Even in the most immediate sense, I adore Black Mountain, Canberra’s favourite land mark. On my daily bike ride to and from the Dinosaur Museum I often think how blessed I am to view the iconic radio tower from multiple vantage points around Lake Ginnendera. To demonstrate my appreciation for this mountain, I even climbed it in July in the pouring rain.

Soon after I arrived in Canberra, I needed to get a mountain fix and had heard Black Mountain was the one to see. I must have forgotten what season I was in (this is a common syndrome with Americans and can only be attributed to a northern hemisphere with drawl symptom) because as soon as I got to the Botanic Gardens at the base of the climb in began to rain, and it was freezing, I am not sure in Celsius but it couldn’t have been any warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In any even, I found my way up a steep paved trail which was in the earliest stages of decay, being torn up by enormous iron bark and ribbon gum tree roots. The rocks were deeply weathered and I wondered how many millions of years their atoms had been arranged before mine. I heard Magpies teasing each other with their mimicking calls. I smelled the freshness only rain can bring and I felt each drop like a tap on the shoulder from a familiar friend reminding me to enjoy the experience. Although the ambiance was ominous in the fog that enveloped all the vegetation and the tower ahead, my reverence was palpable. It was excellent.

What is it that draws us to mountains? Let’s explore this. If you are willing, close your eyes….

Remember a time when you experienced a mountain. Maybe you climbed or drove to the top. Maybe you saw the most amazing view and your perspective was for miles and miles. Perhaps you were joined by a loved one. Perhaps you were alone and enjoyed the experience in solitude. Maybe you saw a mountain from the valley floor and looked up at it. Remember what it felt like to be small compared to something big. Remember what it felt like to wonder how the mountain came to be? Touch the reverence you had in that moment. Feel the excellence. Recapture the awe. Be inspired.
In closing, I would like to extend an invitation to you:

Invite yourself to be united in the reverence captured by mountains, and other such natural things.

Know that there is a country you might not have ever been to with people you may never meet that feels the same reverence in the presence of mountains as you do. Allow yourself to take that reverence into the world with you. Be inspired by the Khmer and their ability to create a physical manifestation of their reverence: Temple Mountain. Ask yourself: What can I create in the world with my reverence?

Be united in the Reverence of Mountains

se asia



Be United in the Reverence of Mountains
By: Krystal Marie Collins
Date: Sunday October 7
Time: 10:30 am
Location: Australia National University Chaplaincy
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Join us for Tea and Coffee and light refreshments following the service.

Opening reading: (re-printed from Julian Fleetwood’s zine)
Canberra in 1867
By: Edgae George Williams

I stood upon a little rocky hill,
Beneath old Ainsile’s lofty brow
Ans looked out on those rolling plains,
Without a thought of what is now;
For they were mine the gently sloping hills,
The mountians in the distance, calm and blue,
A picture pure and sweet, without a stain,
The box tree’s blossoms and the humming bees,
The clump of trees, an island on the land,
The wealth of little flowers, the chattering birds,
The dear old river, with its silvery band;
All that I saw was mine, or so I felt.
They to me, were a never ending joy;
I know no different, nor wished to know.
For I was just a happy care-free boy.

 

I have always been intrigued by concepts which unite cultures. Concepts which abound language and geographic gaps. Concepts regarding philosophy, religion, social structure, even everyday life activities such as cooking techniques.

And so, inspired by our previous service, in the spirit of Fredrick Henry Hedge and transcendentalism, as defined by John last week, I would like to share a recent culturally uniting experience which pertains to nature.

At the end of August I had the opportunity to visit the world heritage sight: Angkor Wat outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia or as the Khmer people pronounce it, Camboja. As the furthest and most developed city on the spice trade route to India, Angkor reached its prime in the 13th century. Looking at Angkor Wat, which means “Temple Mountain” in Khmer, the most central temple in the complex, one can see the elegant lotus structures accenting the corners of the outer gate, the main complex, and the central temple. What I learned from a guide book was that the decorative lotus signified something much greater.

These structures were ment to capture the geometry of a mountain, gradually gaining elevation until the central peak, which is the tallest, on top of the temple. Reproducing a mountain in temple architecture or “Temple Mountain” is a Hindu tradition ment to emulated the mythical Mount Meru. Residing on one central continent, Mount Meru is where all the gods live including the guardians of each cardinal direction. To access Mount Meru, one must climb each of the seven mountain chains surrounding and with each summit comes a higher level of enlightenment.

I was immediately attracted to the reverence a culture must posses to reproduce this kind of imagery in the building most central to their religious practice. And most of all, I identified with it.

In this context, by reverence I mean, as defined by Wikapedia, a subjective response to something excellent in a personal way or as defined by Dictionary.com, a feeling of deep respect twinged with awe. Feeling reverence in the presence of mountains has been a central theme in my life since childhood. Even in the most immediate sense, I adore Black Mountain, Canberra’s favorite land mark. On my daily bike ride to and from the Dinosaur Museum I often think how blessed I am to view the iconic radio tower from multiple vantage points around Lake Ginnendera. To demonstrate my appreciation for this mountain, I even climbed it in July in the pouring rain.

Soon after I arrived in Canberra, I needed to get a mountain fix and had heard Black Mountain was the one to see. I must have forgotten what season I was in (this is a common syndrome with Americans and can only be attributed to a northern hemisphere with drawl symptom) because as soon as I got to the Botanic Gardens and the base of the climb in began to rain, and it was freezing, I am not sure in Celcius but it couldn’t have been any warmer than 40 degrees Ferenheit. In any even, I found my way up a steep paved trail which was in the earliest stages of decay, being torn up by enormous iron bark and ribbon gum tree roots. The rocks were deeply weathered and I wondered how many millions of years their atoms had been arranged before mine. I heard Magpies teasing each other with their mimicking calls. I smelled the freshness only rain can bring and I felt each drop like a tap on the shoulder from a familiar friend reminding me to enjoy the experience. Although the ambiance was ominous in the fog that enveloped all the vegetation and the tower ahead, my reverence was palpable.

What is it that draws us to mountains? If you are willing, close your eyes….

Remember a time when you experienced a mountain. Maybe you climbed or drove to the top. Maybe you saw the most amazing view and your perspective was for miles and miles. Perhaps you were joined by a loved one. Perhaps you were alone and enjoyed the experience in solitude. Maybe you saw a mountain from the valley floor and looked up at it. Remember what it felt like to be small compared to something big. Remember what it felt like to wonder how the mountain came to be? Touch the reverence you had in that moment. Recapture the awe. Feel the excellence. Be inspired.

In closing, I would like to extend an invitation to you:

Invite yourself to be united in the reverence captured by mountains, and other such natural things. Know that there is a country you might not have ever been to with people you may never meet that feels the same reverence in the presence of mountains as you do. Allow yourself to take that reverence into the world with you. Be inspired by the Khmer and their ability to create a physical manifestation of their reverence: Temple Mountain. Ask yourself: What can I create in the world with my reverence?