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Inked in New Zealand

New Plymouth might seem like an unlikely place for an international tattoo exhibition, but in November this hip little coastal town attracts some of the world’s most sought-after artists to the New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival, adding to the country’s already storied history of tattooing.

The Māori moko

For the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the tattoo tradition of the moko is a sacred part of cultural identity. Before the arrival of the Europeans, receiving one’s moko was a significant rite of passage, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood and indicating social status. Traditional Māori tattooers carved intricate designs onto the skin using a tool called the uhi, a chisel that creates the unique scarring effect that sets the moko apart from other styles of Polynesian tattooing.

Historically, moko has been worn by both genders. For men, bold full-face tattoos communicated important aspects of the wearer’s identity – their rank, lineage, and tribe were all represented – and the designs were often memorised and used as signatures. Men also wore puhoro,elaborate, swirling tattoos stretching from the torso to the knees, to enhance physical attractiveness. Women most commonly wore a variation called moko kauae on their lips and chin, which similarly signifies important information about the wearer’s life.

When large numbers of English colonists arrived in the second half of the 19th century, they attempted to oppress Māori culture and practices – people were punished for speaking Māori and moko actively discouraged. However, like other forms of tattooing, moko has experienced a resurgence in popularity; while artists more often complete the designs with a tattoo gun than an uhi, the sacred designs remain an important symbol of Māori cultural identity and resistance.

In 1873, Czech artist Gottfried Lindauer became fascinated by Māori body art, painting over 100 portraits of Māori people. One of the most detailed historic records of moko ever produced, this collection is housed at the Auckland Art Gallery.

Artsy New Plymouth

New Plymouth was already known in New Zealand for its quirky art and festivals scene. It’s host to Womad (womad.co.nz) – arguably New Zealand’s best music festival – every March,  so a tattoo festival seems a natural addition to the local calendar.

Among the city’s other diverse cultural offerings there’s the Len Lye Center, housed in one of New Zealand’s more playfully designed buildings, which gives visitors a crash course in Mr. Lye’s postmodern visions via his collection of experimental films and kinetic sculptures. Neighbouring Govett-Brewster Art Gallery hosts a wide range of contemporary local and international shows.

Activities in Seattle

Often referred to as the ‘Emerald City’ thanks to the lush evergreen forests nearby, Seattle’s sobriquet is no tourist-brochure euphemism. Bears and cougars have been sighted in the city’s rugged Discovery Park, fleece-wearing diners fresh from kayaking trips show up in downtown restaurants, and on clear days from numerous vantage points, Mt Rainier, a 14,411ft glacier-encrusted volcano, appears so close it feels as if you could almost touch it. No wonder such a high proportion of Seattleites choose to ignore manic East Coast work ethics and regularly escape into their ‘backyard’ for a dose of the great outdoors.

On your bike

Cycling in Seattle is one of the most instantaneous ways for visitors to fend off museum claustrophobia and get some fresh gulps of Pacific Northwestern air. Fortunately, with the inauguration of Seattle’s bike-sharing scheme, Pronto (prontocycleshare.com) in 2014, getting about on two wheels has become a lot easier. Intended more as city hoppers than zippy racers, Pronto’s new seven-gear bikes available from 54 city-wide docking stations are adept enough to get you out of downtown and enjoy a brief taste of Seattle’s finest greenway, the Burke Gilman trail. Check out our guide to Pronto for more info.

Stretching 21 miles from the shores of Lake Washington to Puget Sound, the Burke-Gilman follows the course of an old disused railway line. Along the way it meanders past moored houseboats, weird urban sculpture and numerous green oases. If you’ve only got time for one stop, hit the brakes in Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union, a windy promontory popular with kite-flyers where a rusting coal plant was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To enjoy the trail in its entirety, you’ll need to swap your short-loan Pronto bike for a more flexible day-rental. Dutch Bike Co in Ballard rents well-appointed, two-wheeled machines from $45 a day. The shop, which also pedals pastries from an adjacent cafe, is strategically located in Ballard at the west end of the Burke-Gilman trail close to Hiram M Chittenden Locks, where lush botanical gardens overlook the point at which Puget Sound’s seawater meets the freshwater of Lake Union. Here you can watch a merry array of working boats as they negotiate the lock system, or disappear underneath to see salmon wriggling up an ingenious fish ladder. Cycle two miles further west and you’ll end up inGolden Gardens Park, well-known for its Bloody Mary sunsets framed by ghostly silhouettes of the Olympic Mountains.

Wild parks

City parks are usually carefully configured urban playgrounds where well-manicured flower beds vie with lawns, ornamental lakes and rock gardens. Offering a more feral alternative, Seattle’s parks bring pockets of uncultivated Cascade Mountain beauty inside city limits. Forget swings and tennis courts, and prepare instead for old growth forest, interchanging ecosystems and – on occasions – wild animals.

Several years ago, a ‘lost’ black bear and a roaming cougar were spotted in the vicinity of Discovery Park, Seattle’s largest green space that abuts the hilly neighborhood of Magnolia. Spread across 534 acres, Discovery Park is one of North America’s most impressive urban regeneration and was created in 1973 on the grounds of an old military installation. Guarding several miles of Puget Sound coastline, the park’s untended landscapes fold from meadows to woodland to ocean bluffs to beaches. Its biodiversity is accentuated by the presence of an astounding 270 species of bird, including owls, humming birds and grebes.

Another notable green space is 300-acre Seward Park, which inhabits a broad nodule of land that protrudes into Lake Washington. As well as supporting nesting bald eagles and a lakeside perimeter trail, Seward shelters a small but precious tract of old-growth forest. Although its 250-year-old hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs might not be as old as the leafy behemoths on the nearby Olympic peninsula, they’re ancient monuments compared to Seattle’s man-made wonders.

Trivia for travellers

Read on to find out which country inspired the phrase ‘banana republic’, where people consume vodka with gusto to cure all their ills, and what world-class museum relies on a pounce of resident cats to keep its masterpiece-clogged galleries mouse-free…

A

  • Antarctica: Antarctica’s ice sheets contain 90% of the world’s ice – 28 million cu km – holding about 70% of the world’s fresh water.
  • Azerbaijan: ‘Layla’, Eric Clapton’s classic rock song was inspired by the Azeri epic poem Layla and Majnun.

B

  • Bangladesh: The national game of Bangladesh is kabaddi, a group version of tag where players must evade the opposing team while holding a single breath of air.
  • Belarus: Many Belarusian folk-remedies involve vodka: gargle with it to cure a sore throat, wash your hair with it to alleviate dandruff and pour it in your ear to treat an earache.

C

  • Canada: Every year the British Columbian town of Nanaimo holds a bathtub race, where competitors speed across the harbour in boats formed from bathtubs.

Radio telescopes in the Atacama Desert © Ruben Sanchez / Getty Images

  • Chile: The Atacama Desert has the planet’s best star-gazing potential: the Alma Observatory here is the world’s largest astronomic project.

D

  • Denmark: Denmark really does have an extraordinary inventive streak: many innovative creations including the loudspeaker, magnetic storage and Lego have Danish roots.

E

  • Ecuador & The Galápagos Islands: Tiny Ecuador is home to some 300 mammal species and over 1600 bird species – more than Europe and North America combined.
  • Ethiopia: When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front tanks rolled into Addis Ababa in 1991, they were navigating with the map in Lonely Planet’s Africa on a Shoestring.

F

  • Finland: Finns are renowned for being quiet – there’s an old joke that they invented text messaging so they wouldn’t have to speak to each other.

Travel ideas for holiday

unduhan-11Nevertheless, it can be fun to tally up your adventures to appreciate just how far you’ve gone. Inspired by the new edition of The Travel Book, we asked a gaggle of travel-mad Lonely Planet staff to do just that.

I travel because… Away from home, everything – from road signs to what snacks people are eating – suddenly becomes fascinating. It’s so much fun to have every day feel like a series of mini-adventures.

Travel highlight of 2016: I visited the Latvian capital of Riga during the depths of winter when its cobbled streets are dusted with snow. It was absolutely freezing, but one evening I found the best place in the city to warm up. Tucked into a basement in the old town, Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs is a traditional tavern that hosts weekly folk dances. Though I planned only to watch, over beers I got chatting to one of the band members – a charming violinist and former Eurovision star – and she convinced me to take a turn around the floor. It was full of young people who knew all the moves, but they were extremely patient with the mal-coordinated novice in their midst. Mercifully the steps were quite repetitive, and I had more fun than I could have thought possible!

Next on my travel wishlist: Austria and Kenya

I travel because… It frees my mind. The brain shifts into autopilot in a familiar environment; I suppose that’s just the way we’re designed. Travel isn’t the only way to jolt yourself back into manual, but it might well be the most enjoyable method.

Travel highlight of 2016: Island-hopping in Bohuslän, West Sweden, edges out stiff competition to top my list this year. I just adored the laid-back atmosphere of this region, which stretches from Gothenburg up the coast to the border with Norway. It’s a beauty parade of fishing villages cum summer resorts – Lysekil, Smögen and Fjällbacka among them – that share a distinctive look and feel: red wooden huts, pink granite boulders, deep blue sea.

Up near the border, you can catch a ferry to the car-free Koster Islands, which lie at the heart of Kosterhavet, Sweden’s only national marine park. I joined a kayak tour of the archipelago at dusk, which is a magical time of day to explore the tiny islets and secret bays uninterrupted by a single sound apart from your paddle entering the silky, clear water and the occasional sea bird flying home to roost.

Traded a rocking chair

To mark the new edition of The Travel Book – our epic journey through every country on earth – Lonely Planet talked to Debbie Campbell, half of the blogging couple known as the Senior Nomads. Nearly four years ago, Debbie and her husband Michael left their home in the USA for one last great adventure before retirement, and they’ve been travelling ever since.

We caught up with Debbie in Georgia – the 54th country of the Campbells’ never-ending tour – to talk about how it began, where it might lead, and what they’ve learned along the way.

How did this odyssey begin?

Our daughter Mary lives in Paris with her French husband and our three youngest grandchildren. When they were visiting us in Seattleover Christmas almost four years ago, the subject of our retirement came up. We weren’t sure what the next few years would be like, but we knew we had ‘one more big adventure’ ahead of us before settling into our rocking chairs. We just weren’t sure what that might be.

Mary asked if we had ever heard of Airbnb? We had not. She suggested we think about stopping work earlier and travelling full-time, staying in Airbnbs. At first, we couldn’t imagine doing that – but just six months later we had sold most of our possessions, including our cars and our sailboat, rented our house and put what little was left in storage. We’ve been on the road ever since.

Our philosophy is: we are not on vacation – we are living our daily lives in other people’s homes, just as we would have if we’d retired in Seattle.

What do your family and friends think?

No one expected us to be gone this long, that’s for sure. It’s like we went on vacation and forgot to come back. We know our grown children are very proud of us. And in fact, our oldest son was so inspired that he and his wife quit their jobs and took their two young children out of school for a year making a lap around the world, also living in Airbnbs.

Do you have an end in mind?

We like to say we’ll keep doing this as long as we’re learning something new every day, having fun, staying close to our budget and we are still in love. So far, so good.

Aisle or window seat?

That is something non-negotiable. I always get the window seat.

Do you have any travel habits or rituals?

Well, we do have a few things that could qualify. On the days when we break camp and head to our next city, we sing Willie Nelson’s hit On the Road Again throughout what we call ‘Travel Day’.

Another would be keeping our daily journal up to date. Every evening, we recount the day’s activities and total our expenses. Then we tape the receipts in the book along with any ticket stubs or other reminders. We’ve filled over a dozen books so far and counting.

And we travel with our bed pillows – that way, anywhere we lay our heads is home.