Le derniere lat du cowboy

Spend a week on the road with two frogs and you’re bound to pick up a bit of French slang.  My personal favorite is le derniere lat du cowboy, which means the last breath of the cowboy, referring to the final drag on a cigarette. (They also taught me all of the requisiste French curse words, of course!)

Emile had to drive back east to Picton to check on his possum traps, so this post is a tribute to his awesomeness.  All three of us had a great time over the last week, and Victoire took great pleasure in pointing out the fact that despite fishing EVERY NIGHT, we never got a darn thing.  Except the great memories and a few photos. 😉

Pohara rocks – the locals said “great fishing”
but, as Victoire says in a Celine Dion type voice “Where is ze feesh?”
Before we let Emile return home, we had to have one last campfire night. We also picked up a third crew member, Sandrine (also French) and had a great final night.

Breakfast the next morning was great – we treated ourselves to an actual restaurant (as opposed to, ya know, fabulous french food from the back of a van) – and said goodbye.

So Victoire and I will continue on our journey down the west coast. Au revoir, Emile and thanks for one of the best weeks of my entire vacation.  The last breath of the cowboy is for you!

Allons-y, Victoire. The southern alps await our arrival!


2 Frenchies and a freeloading American

I left my tent in Picton.  Or maybe it fell out of the van as all three of us bolted around the northwest coast, who knows?  literally, who knows where I can find my tent?!!  It was last seen in Taupo, and I’d just figured out that I can hang laundry out to dry on its poles.  it was a great system! 

yes, that is dry underwear. such a good system.

 A quick recap: I made my way down to the south island of New Zealand on Saturday, snagged a ride with a camper-vanning Frenchman, then met up with another French girl (also with a van).  We spent the next 5 days fishing on the beach, sleeping in the van, cooking in the van, drinking in the van, and taking it upon ourselves to exclusively camp where in locations where it is strictly forbidden.

I’d rather see a bunch of pictures with captions than a wall of words – and I assume you would, too – so enjoy these shots and I’ll be updating more frequently from now on.  🙂

That's Emile on the left, showing how to cook an amazing french breakfast on a single gas burner.

Victoire and her van, Simone. We are lost at this moment, but smiling!

Both Emile and Victoire smoked like... well, french people. We all got a good laugh out of this tobacco warning, though!

we had lunch on the beach in kaiteriteri and met an israeli girl. She taught me how to make HUMMUS the proper, Haifa way!

Evening on marahau beach, just south of Abel Tasman National Park. Emile was kayaking through here 2 hours before, during high tide, and lost his sunglasses, so we went out to find them. Emile has the best photo poses.

we never found the sunglasses, but - hell - it was still paradise, so we were ok

The next day, we began the Abel Tasman track from Totaranui to Wainui. You can hardly call this hiking - its too beautiful. And we saw maybe 5 people the entire day.


After the "hike" we came back down toward Nelson, and picked up two more hitchikers - twin kiwi girls - heading to Wellington to help their family sell vegetables. Hi Katrina and Liza!

New Zealand is an amazingly small place, especially among the community of travelers.  You’re immediately thrown into a van and hitting the road, meeting folks from all around the world (tons of germans), and having the time of your life.  More to come very soon!


Hitching a ride: it’s how you get around in NZ!

I woke up on a Saturday morning in the north island of New Zealand and decided to bolt. 8 hrs later, I was on the interisland ferry heading to the famous south island. I perched myself at a large table, gazed at the water for a moment, then spread out my map, and set the trap. My prey: fellow ferry patrons ready to burn rubber through the south island. With my nose in a “Lonely Planet: Tramping New Zealand” book, and my eyes peeking over the top of the page, I watched and waited for people to saunter through…

On the ferry

A couple taking pictures of eachother? “Oh, hey! Why don’t you let me get a picture of yall together? Oh, yes I just said yall – I’m from Texas, what about you? Oh, you’re just traveling around? And going west! What a coincidence (points to map), so am I!” And on it went from there. I must have talked to 15 people on the ferry, but not a one was heading in the same direction, or on the same time schedule.

Not all was lost, however. Just as the ferry docked and I folded my map, a French girl walked up – beer in hand – and we got to talking about hiking and Paris, and she’s going west… tomorrow (!!) – perfect match? Ah, no! She’s got this “travel friend” occupying the extra seat in her campervan (but it’s not really working out); regardless, she writes her number on my map next to the town of Nelson, where we can meet up for lunch the next day if I can find a way there. I exited the ferry in good spirits – with a bus schedule to Nelson in hand – and began the hunt for a hostel full of future travel partners.

I settled into a hostel, checked-out the message board, and found an exact match! I read it again to double-check: French guy named Emile… with campervan and an extra seat… heading to Nelson and beyond, tomorrow! I called the number immediately and a sleepy French voice answers (I didn’t even realize it was after 11PM), “ah-lo?”

And so it began. Emile and I chatted a bit to make sure it was a good match – I could tell he had some initial reservations about traveling with an American – and we met the next morning to discuss the route over coffee. Little did I know at the time, but I had just snagged the golden goose of traveling partners: a PROFESSIONAL FRENCH CHEF! (campfire recipes that will blow your mind later)

We hit the road, and the expected panic of “what the hell are we gonna talk about for 5 hours (or 5 days)?” didn’t even enter the picture. We sped off west toward Nelson as I texted Victoire (from the ferry): “Hey Vic, I’ve found a Frenchman and we’re heading your way. Lunch on the beach?”

Her response? “Hey Ryan, lunch and then further west? I bought my traveling friend a bus ticket, so there’s a free seat!”

And that’s how you find a ride in New Zealand (or in this case, two rides).

A relaxing sunset on the beach to finish the day!

The last elephant video – I promise – and some mountain pics

Ok, so maybe it’s just me, but seeing elephants just… arouuunnd towwwnn… is a bit out of the ordinary.

With my recent visit to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, I may have become acclimated to the notion of seeing these large beasts on a daily basis – maybe. Preview: I RODE AN ELEPHANT!

In case you were freaked out by the guy that said there would be “fireworks” surrounding the very close, very tense Sri Lankan presidential election, which takes place next Tuesday – dont worry! I’ll be taking flight for Australia the night of the election (have to get to the airport before curfew goes into effect), catching the LAST HELICOPTER OUT OF VIETNAMMM. (j/k) I mean, the country finished their 26-year civil war 6 months ago – everything is cool now… :-!

After leaving Pinnawela, Ruwan and I headed to the mountainous upcountry areas of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. We got TONS of great video, but unfortunately my card reader failed so that video is gone now. Luckily, we’ve got some pics that I think make up for it:

btw, I wasn’t smoking that plant, it just looked so much like a pipe I had to pose. It’s actually a carnivorous flower that lures flies into its bulb (bowl) with a sweet smell, then traps and starves them. or so I was told by our driver.

Adventures in fast food (and texas hold ’em)

I live in Austin, but my flight to Sri Lanka left from Houston, so – naturally – I grabbed my favorite road trip buddy, Bobby, and headed down to H-Town with one restaurant in mind… KRYSTAL.

Imagine all the hype surrounding White Castle burgers, then imagine a burger that can actually live up to – and surpass – any expectation you could ever have about fast food… KRYSTAL.

I think the video speaks for itself. Mad props to Eric for hosting the “Wife Swap + Busch” session and letting me crash on his couch pre-flight – thanks, man!

Since we’re operating on a fast food theme, I figured I’d add a clip from a visit to Mr Chico TEXAS, Sri Lanka’s take on “not fast food, good food quickly” (Nate Ball, that link is for you!). Included is a video of our recent game of gen-u-wine texas holdem with our friends Arvi and Abi. Enjoy!


After recovering from the Christmas beach excursion, Ruwan and I flew to India (Bangalore) on Dec 28th for a jam-packed week of… relaxation…

Ruwan’s mom also flew into Bangalore, so we decided to share a taxi and drop her off in Puttaparthi for a religious pilgrimage to the ashram (temple/city) of Sathya Sai Baba, a man regarded by his devotees as a living god. While there, we met this really cool gal named Samantha who explained that seeing Sai Baba (the swami) is basically like meeting Jesus. So, naturally, I tried to be respectful and didn’t take any video or pics. Luckily, Sai Baba has his own video blog, with a damn cool name: http://www.saicast.org!

IMO, Sai Baba looks a lot like my friend Jawad, but you can be the judge:

(Dear Jawad, I did my best to scour your facebook profile to find a picture of you – with the fro – striking the pose of a living god. This was the best I could come up with.)

After a day in the ashram, and seeing about 700 pictures of Sai Baba in various entrancing poses, Ruwan and I hit the road for Mysore palace, and the video takes it from there.

– more crazy driving (and lots of it because india is huge – its like driving in a giant texas and takes an entire day to get anywhere)
– house-boating on the Keralan backwaters – Deepu’s home state!
– playing with village kids – the greatest thing in all of India!
– elephant tricks

And another (belated) HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Merry (belated) Christmas!

I’ve been a bit behind on the video updates, and this one is well overdue (by about 2 weeks)!

Ruwan and I decided to kick traditional Christmas to the curb and spend time on the beach, watching fire dancers and playing with baby turtles. Enjoy the video – it really was that fun!

Despite a population that is 80% Buddhist, there’s a remarkable amount of (very tan) Santas and “XMAS SALE!” signs everywhere; plus its a chilly 98 degrees outside, so the whole experience is a bit surreal.

This beach Santa was certainly catering to tourists, charging 400 rupees for a mango (~$3.75), which is nearly 10-times the Sri Lankan price. Ruwan called him out on the gouging, and the mango santa cussed Ruwan out in Sinhalese – Christmas spirit all around! It made for a killer pic, though. 🙂

I found this Santa where all Santas should be: the mall. Merry Christmas, y’all!

Southern Sri Lanka – for the fam

A video for my family while I’m traveling around sri lanka – I gotta keep in touch! Some of the clips are a little long-winded because I knew the fam would enjoy all the content.

with music by bon iver 😉

First week in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Houston -> Dubai