Category Archives: Cyber Gypsy Gear

Glide-Rite Air Suspension

My air suspension is one of the best things on my wagon, it’s like driving cupped in a waterbed, makes cruising along a pleasure. I also have a posh airbed that pumps up in seconds using the 240 volts that fits snugly width ways into the van, so when I’m sleeping on an airbed with air underneath keeping the wagon up it’s like the double cheeseburger of rest, a double air nights sleep. Continue reading Glide-Rite Air Suspension

Paragliding, Tragedy, New year and Refugios

I found a lovely bunch of people running a paragliding hostel a short half an hours walk from town. The welcome was wonderful at the house of Martin and Mariella, there were a few other paragliding folks and Martins’s brother Diego. We all got on well, talked of flying and the freedom it brings, we didn’t even begin to suspect what would happen the next day.

Continue reading Paragliding, Tragedy, New year and Refugios

Brisbane – Surfers Paradise

We drove to Brisbane after leaving O’Reilly’s and were mightily impressed by this compact little ’boutique’ city. It’s easy to get around, full of parks and even sports an artificial beach on the South Bank so you can swim in clean waters whilst looking at the glittering city centre.

If Sydney is a bit rough around the edges due to over use Brisbane is polished like a new penny, the rivers are charming and the city life spills perfectly over to the laid back leisure culture.

Sooner than I wanted we had to set off again and head south to meet some friends that lived near surfers paradise in a place called Robina.

Surfers paradise didn’t impress me much being Australia’s answer to the South of Spain, but the view from the public gallery of the Q1 building, the tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere, was worth a look. From there you could see the canals that snake their way behind the beaches where many people live.

We enjoyed some incredible seafood with piles of ‘Balmain Bugs’, a kind of slipper lobster, scallops and large prawns.

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O’Reilly’s Rainforest Reserve

At O’Reilly’s you get to spend time in the cool mountain rainforests surrounded by gorgeous tropical birds, a free treetop walk through the jungle hammock and a fine wine produced by the O’Reilly vineyard. This made me chuckle as the idea of a good Irish wine is a little bit of an oxymoron – well kind of. I drank a little too much and manged to fall out of my hammock and keep the neighbours awake.

One O’Reilly relative was kind enough to save some plane crash survivors as they clung to life on one of the remote mountain slopes nearby, there is a statue to commemorate this with ‘a great Aussie Story’ written on it as well as something about mateship. I like the idea of mateship, I think it’s all about keeping your buddies beer glass full or something like that, saving your fellow bod from a lonely demise on a mountain is also included along with anything in between these two bookends.

The top thing for me at O’reilly’s had to be the treetop walk. Cleverly constructed so that you walk out over a slope so that it seems as if you have hardly gone up into the canopy of anything at all, you soon find yourself up there with the birds. And what birds they are…

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Byron Bay

Byron Bay is one of those places that has been eaten up by it’s own success, a bit like the Thai islands, or any little idyll that has suffered the spotlight in fact.

Little more than 30 years ago it was just a quiet spot with green rolling hills a stones throw from a gorgeous beach, these days it has that patina of Americana that would scare the purist hippies into the hills.

I don’t have to lament these changes having not visited before so I loved the walk up to the lighthouse to see the views around the vast curving beaches either side. It was also a grand feeling standing on the most easterly point of such a vast continent.

For the night we slung the jongle hammocks up just back from the beach so we heard the rolling surf all night.

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The Big Banana

The east coast of Oz has so many gorgeous places to see, yet one of the most well know crowd pleasers is The Big Banana that sits glaring over the road just outside Coffs Harbour.

Now the problem with having the moniker ‘Big’ before your name is that you expect it to be nothing less than, well, big. The big banana didn’t really live up to it’s bigness in my books, but let’s not get Freudian about that or we’ll be here all day.

Here is a picture of the big banana, admittedly it would fill up your bowl of muesli should you slice it up for breakfast.

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Work Beach River Eat

Well that’s about it right now. I have to prise myself away from this idyll to take a look up country or I’ll have to take up residency here in Bellingen. Now that’s no bad thing and we are considering it as an option, along with half of the rest of the world too. It’s a nice dichotomy to be in, but for now we are up for a trip to the gold coast and some of those little waterfalls with idyllic little pools we have heard about up country.

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Jupiters Travels

I once read this wonderful book by Ted Simon called Jupiter’s Travels about his tour on a Triumph around the globe. But one thing that puzzled me was a big gap in the middle where it seems he was gobbled up by cosy living in the hippy hills of the US Eastern seaboard. Ted hung up his boots and tucked into hippy chicks and corn bread for a good long while.

Bellingen has snaffled me up in a similar fashion, it being a little laid back haven luxuriating in it’s emerald green valley whilst it cups you and runs it’s fingers through your hair. I also am lucky enough to have three sisters (well did have, young Nelly has gone back to the UK) who assist the aforementioned Bellinger valley with the baking of cakes and home made bread.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get out of here alive, it’ll turn into a ‘whicker man’ scenario where some vixen like Britt Ekland will try to tempt me away from my monk like life of abstinence with kinky gyrations. I won’t be as foolish as Edward Woodward and will take up the offer for the good of all involved, I’m ready for you Britt though I may lose my virtue in my escape attempt.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I am catching up on some web work after a negligent Christmas of pies and beer. It’s not all sacrifices in 40 ft tall withy geezers around here y’know.

Sydney

Australia is a bit more smoke and mirrors than I expected it to be. Maybe this is because over in the UK we think we know about Australia, it crops up in conversation and a good deal of it’s population think of London as a second home, so when I arrived I expected it to be familiar. But no, to be honest Hong Kong feels more like home – not only because I lived there for a year, but because more people seem to speak English than they do in Sydney.

Don’t get me wrong here, I know Australia is a melting pot, I just didn’t expect it to be melting quite as much as it is.

On a practical work front it is difficult to get Internet access too. I found it easier in Cambodia than I do here, which I explain to myself as being the result of Australia having a huge infrastructure to support – but this doesn’t compute.

I do love this city though, we went swimming in the Olympic sized harbour side pool today where you can swim lengths while the harbour bridge stretches above you and over the bay. This is such an outdoor place. I am having to adjust my white skin to the outdoors though as it is hot and humid here, in my 6 weeks across S.E.Asia I haven’t come across heat like this yet.

We have walked everywhere – a bicycle would be better and a canoe better than that, but for now we have walked. The markets over at Balmain and Rozelle were a treat – at Rozelle a jazz quartet played whilst I got my aching shoulders massaged, I was enjoying that melting pot right then as well as when we tucked into a Singapore Laksha at the Darling Harbour food circle.

Sydney is going to take a little longer than I imagined to get the hang of and I’m glad for it, it’s those songs you always learn to love the most isn’t it!

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Batman

I went up to the travellers hostel in the evening to see if any old faces were still around and found ‘George’ still living there. George is a  long term tenant of Chung King Mansions who gets very cagey whenever you ask him about his past.  He told me that John the Book had died in March of this year.

John the book was one of the characters I most remembered of my time in Hong Kong. He survived by selling old magazines or hiring neat clothes to travellers wanting to look nice for interviews. He was nocturnal.

But it was Alan who I met that evening that had the most strange tale to tell.

Alan is on remand at the moment. He is on remand because he was stopped by the police on a routine check, they found a knife and a knuckle duster in his pocket and decided, on this basis, to search his room at the hostel. What they found amazed them.

The police found a whole armoury including home made smoke bombs and a batman like outfit.

Alan had taken a disliking to the triads after splitting with his Chinese wife, so he decided to become a vigilante, getting rid of the scum off of the streets. He is handy with his martial arts so he would dress up in a mask and cape and then pounce on people that were up to no good. One trick he told me was to chuck ball bearings down an alleyway to confuse his prey.

Not being a witness to this I am not sure how comedic this effort would have been and indeed in the beginning I thought he was telling porkies so I doubted the validity of his story. But Alan showed me photocopies of the police report. He also has a video of them searching his room and pictures that the police took of every itemised weapon.

It might just be all true.

Apparently the police quite like him but they have to do their job and prosecute him.

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Hong Kong Fuey

The youth hostel at Mount Davis is basic but friendly, but it’s the view that you get which is priceless. I sat until late just enjoying the vista then turned in to crinkly myself to sleep on a thin plastic coated sponge mattress.

In the morning I took a bus to central and joined the throngs breakfasting in McDonalds. Afterwards I took the picture above which is why the sun is so low in the sky.

I then went to visit the place I stayed in upon arrival the first time around. I passed a woman in a lift that spouted ‘you loom, you loom’ at me as if I were deaf and in need of something to do with weaving. I kind of knew she meant room but what association she had with the said looms I couldn’t tell, so she looked dismissive and muttered her way into the lift and was off. That was the owner who speaks little to no English. The hostel itself looked deserted missing even basic furniture. At one time there was a bed near the door where a large black man slept and guarded the door at the same time, no mean feat, but now it seemed full of ghosts.

The travellers hostel was a funny old place where quite a few long termers in Hong Kong stayed as it was one of the few affordable bits of real estate to be found. There were a lot of English teachers and girls working as hostesses that entertained old Chinese men for a fee. I became very close to one of these girls, Jackie, who was the light and soul of the place. We would meet after her shifts and zip around the bars of Hong Kong from one happy hour to the next. One of these bars would pay men to dance on the bar top with no t-shirt on Wednesdays as it was ladies night, we would lean down and take another beer whenever we wished. We had no shame.

A few of the other full time resident of the travellers hostel were elderly Europeans that were not going home for love nor money. One of them, John the book, would rent out books, magazines and clothes, the clothes were for your first interviews that you don’t have anything in your rucksack for.The place was always busy, people gathered in the foyer swapping tips for jobs and the times of the happy hours for the bars around town, it was a lot of fun and felt like home. Now it looked devoid of life and a tad spooky as you can see from the picture below.

And another picture, where is everyone?

I was going to stay in the travellers hostel for old times sake but I decided that it felt a little morbid. I therefore headed over to the YMCA.

Now the Y in Hong Kong seems to be very unchristian. They charge 100 HK$ for Internet access alone so I am making sure I get my moneys worth.  I was also looking forward to a swim but the swimming pool is closed, I guess I’ll have to wait for my swim in Sydney’s harbour side swimming pool that I have been told so much about.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Hong Kong is my favourite place in the world. Nowehere else do you get that blend of the exotic yet with subtle reminders of home, like the fact that the little bins are the same as the litter bins in London, people speak English, the street names are in English and Chinese and have very British names like Nathan Road, The Peak etc. So it feels homey yet it’s as far away from Streatham as you can get.

I arrived in the morning when we were dumped at a bus stop in Shenzen, I thought we were being dropped off at a ferry terminal, but instead we caught a bus to the train station and hopped on a train. What surprised me was the fact that to all intents and purposes Hong Kong is still a separate country. It has it’s ownbcurrency still with many coins having good old Lizzy on the back of them. I thought they would have at least changed to the Chinese Yuan.

So we busied our way through customs and I arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui in good shape, reunited with my lovely Hong Kong.

I had to do that very Hong Kong things as soon as I arrived which is to go into McDonalds, it’s one of the few places to go where it is not a fortune for a meal and all travellers bump into each other in McStodge.

I then caught a star ferry over the harbour, something I could do over and over again like a dog fetching a stick.

Star Ferry
Star Ferry

All of the ferries have lovely names like ‘Solar Star’ ‘Twinkling Star’ etc. There is no ‘Freddy Star’ but that’s probably a good thing now isn’t it.

So I get a number 54 bus from Central and head on up the long walk to the YHA at Mount Davis where the view out of the window is that picture at the beginning of this post. Click on it and you’ll see it close up.

I have planned my time here to make the most use of my few days. I am going to relax today in this mountain idyll, spend tomorrow night in Chung King Mansions on Nathan road where I used to stay over 11 years ago when I first arrived in Hong Kong, then on Tuesday night I will go over to Lantau and visit a few of the places I used to know when I lived there for a year. I might even attempt a swim in the waterfall pools.

I love it here, it’s just everything you could want from a place. It is mostly national parks, it has great footpaths, cycle ways, it is civilised in a very English kind of way and the people are quirky and touchy and the food is to die for. It’s just heaven on earth.

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Hot Gossip

I discovered the Yangshui expat community today which is a hotbed of intrigue and gossip. One feller who is new to the scene is apparently ‘splashing the cash’ around so the lads are keeping an eye on him. One fellow was swaggering around like he owned the place and more alcohol is consumed by this small bunch of English teachers and climbers than is drunk by the whole of the rest of China. I’m not sure if I like this kind of scene or not, it’s a bit like a schoolyard and I never warmed to school very much the first time around.

I managed to find someone that did a traditional kosher massage and nearly missed my bus because of it, but I managed to hop on and find myself a little bunk by the window.

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Lazy Day

It’s lovely here, the Chinese have built a little shangri-la by some of the most eye catching scenery in the world. It’s not perfect and it would be easy to walk around with a critical eye, but it’s a great place to pass the time so today I did my spring cleaning and re-charged my batteries. This consists of cleaning out the rucksack by throwing away the pile of rubbish that accumulates on the road. Everything seems to have a value when you are travelling, even reciepts in languages you cannot fathom, so I have been ruthless and disposed of them all. I then washed my clothes which are drying right now, scrubbed myself, washed my hair, combed out the dreadlocks by dragging my fingers through my barnet and now I feel a good deal lighter.

I bought an expensive local jasmine tea and have been enjoying that all day, for lunch I ventured out to a local chinese eatery and selected from the goodies below…


If you click on the picture you will get a larger image to pop up. This techological  advancement is cone of the many free add ons provided in the wordpress add on library gawd bless em.

I also booked my ticket to Shenzen and hence onwards to Hong Kong. I have planned my time there to take in some of my old haunts from when I lived there over 11 years ago, so that’ll be a trip down memory lane.


Tomorrow I might cycle up country and take a bamboo boat trip up river, my bus isn’t til 8pm and I know the way well enough by now to find the river landings for the bamboo rafts.


So, I’m not going to rabbit on anymore as I am going to get some dins with a German feller called Fred that I met on the way through Guilin. I like yangshuo, but then again I have fallen for quite a few places on this trip on reflection. It’s a wonderful world. (right now a Chinese girl is watching TV in the YHA munching on raw sugar cane, she looks like a panda and reminds me that we are all still animals at heart).

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Batteries ETC

I have a £50 Battery in my vaio and it is working fine. A SONY original 7200 mah original is £270, so for the change I could go on a week’s holiday to Spain, eat 150 kebabs or afford a few tickets to go see Tottenham Hotspurs play at white hart lane.

Sorted!

I’ll report back if my VAIO fries in hell, which is what SONY would have you believe would happen if you use a non standard battery. I reckon the risk of data loss from not having a working battery as a backup power supply is more worrying.

I have been hearing more and more rumours of WiFi networks in London. The square mile is supposed to be switched on soon, which would expand my office somewhat. Nobody knows who will pay for it, and it does not look as if it will be a free network like in Norwich, but it’s a start.

The question is what we’ll do when we have it. In zoo’s the animals often stay put when the cage doors are open, even alerting the zoo keepers to the fact because they feel insecure, so maybe we will take time to adjust to our new found freedom.

We’ll see.

Sony VAIO

I like my Sony VAIO. It has one of the best screens I have ever seen, and it is quieter than a cat stalking a bug on a rug. However, my battery has gone kaput after only one year and I’m not happy about it.

Not least because if I want to get another, it will cost me £139 for the almost useless standard battery, and £279 for the longer life battery that would count as standard on any other laptop (the screens on these things use so much power they sap the batteries, which is an OK trade for me as I want a good monitor on my laptop).

Originally I thought my laptop, which is a VGN FS215B, had daughter board problem as it didn’t register any battery at all. I posted a note on Sony’s award winning online help, and in a week got a message back saying if, after cleaning the battery terminals it still doesn’t work, I should buy another battery.

It took them a week to chew over THAT.

Great.

I have an old jalopy of a Eurocom that lasted three years without a hiccup before this. It may be true that the screen had the luminance of a muddy pond, and it made more noise than a politician, but it still works and lives to this day as my trusty gypsy back up.

At the first available opportunity I am going to check out Panasonic Toughbook technology. This Cyber Gypsy needs something that I can use in my cluttered old wagon, on the road, in the shower, whilst up mountain peak or in that white water raft.

My Sony is cute, but I think it might be a fireside option.

OK. If I am going to make this a review I had better review the damned thing.

Positives;

Great screen.
Quiet, I used to know my old laptop would not be stolen because I’d hear where it was at 50 miles, not this one.
Quite fast.
Look cute.

Negatives;

Seems like the batteries are useless and SONY are making a mint out of replacing them.
Looks cute, the girlfriend prefers checking her email out on this rather than her DELL.
Doesn’t feel solid, it has that ‘sell them pretty so that when they look worn they’ll come back for another’ quality about it.

If anyone has come looking for a review that includes information on how to overclock the damned thing, remember I’m a Cyber Gypsy, and am more interested in how I can run the thing on solar power.

And i’d like the battery to work.

POSTDATE….

This laptop broke not long after the warrenty date. I have a friend who works at Sony, he has a buddy in the parts department, he said DO NOT BUY SONY VAIO LAPTOPS, now that’s coming from the horses mouth.

What apparently happened to this one is the glue that holds the VGA chip to the mother board came unstuck so the screen stopped working. To buy another motherboard is more than a new laptop – I tried getting a second hand motherboard off of eBay but this didn’t work as there are so many different motherboards for the one model.

So do not buy a Sony Vaio, even at Sony they admit that Sony Vaio Laptops are Shit, they are designed to break shortly after the warrenty runs out – I own a Nissan, they are successful because they are well engineered and they last forever, why Sony has decided to go for the old American model of built in obsolescence I do not know, but as they seem to be making a good load of money they really do not seem to care.

Have I made myself clear, DO NOT BUY A SONY VAIO, of you want a SONY VAIO REVIEW then this is it here, the SONY VAIO REVIEW is that SONY VAIO LAPTOPS are a rip off.

There.

Google’s neighbourhood, one big WiFi network!

Last week Google offered to make it’s entire hometown one big WiFi network

Mountain View, California, will then be the biggest community in the US with free WiFi.

About 72,000 people live in Mountain View, an 11 square mile city 35 miles south of San Francisco.

companies like Google and VeriSign are based in Mountainview, so during the day the population can rise above 100,000

Laptop Travel Tips

Laptop Travel Tips
By Elizabeth Lord

Travel laptops require more consideration on top of the usual factors involved in buying a laptop, such as performance, price and warranty. Getting a system that is light is critical. With widescreen models becoming more popular, whilst great for viewing, it just adds weight to the system. If you are not into watching movies or complex graphics, a smaller screen should be fine.

While the price of laptops compared to desktops has shrunk recently, you will still pay slightly more for a laptop. With laptops reasonably difficult to expand or upgrade, it’s a good idea to add more memory or get a bigger hard drive at the time of purchase. Your system should have at least two USB 2.0 ports, as this will be the main way of connecting to external devices.

If you are a frequent traveler and want to use your laptop while flying, there are some other design issues you might want to consider. Widescreen laptops can be a hassle if you are in the coach section, as there is hardly enough room to open the machine. A system with external controls for volume and Wi-Fi can also be good, to avoid annoying other passengers or interfering with the aircrafts navigational system. For really long flights, a second battery is probably the most cost effective way of keeping your system powered up.

As laptops are more likely to be damaged or stolen while on the road, it is a good idea to have a backup plan. Do a regular backup so if something bad does happen, you don’t lose too much data. The easiest way to do this is to buy a laptop with a built in DVD burner. One DVD disc should be more than enough to store your work data. You could also use a CD burner, but you would probably need to carry multiple discs. If you only have a small amount of files you need to backup, a USB flash drive would also do the job.

Laptops that are on the road regularly are more likely to break down. So invest in a good quality carry case to limit any potential damage in transit, and always keep your backups up to date.

Most warranties these days are only twelve months, so if there is a extended warranty available, it may be worth taking up if you are constantly on the road.

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