Every year as soon as school finishes, I escape to Tiritirimatangi.
This is a time of reflection and an opportunity to recharge my batteries.
Each year is no different. Sometimes too, I escape at other term breaks. 
Tiritirimatangi is an island just out of Auckland and is only accessible by the Tirikat boat.
I usually come by myself as I enjoy the solitude.
I also like to come out on a Sunday and return on a Wednesday as on Monday and Tuesdays no ferries come here so the island is nice and quiet.
Getting ready for the journey is always stressful as I pack and try to ensure I have my togs, snorkel gear, a lavalava, my bedding and decent walking shoes. I take enough food for 3 days and a little extra in case we need to stay longer. I try and keep plastic to a minimum and use old jam jars for storage instead. I pre cut all vegetables except for potatoes. I take clothes in layers. Eg, bike shorts, loose pants, singlet, t,shirt, long sleeve shirt. Rain jacket. I always take a sun hat. The stressful part being, have I got everything? Once on Tiri it’s not like I can pop down the road and pick up milk. We are talking isolation. I stay at the DOC accommodations which is really like glamping. They have bunks, solar electricity, running water, cooking gear, gas stoves and even a microwave. Devices can be charged and sockets are shared. 3G access is a bit naff, unless I climb the hill and balance on one leg with my arm stretched out.
Once leaving Auckland, the ferry travels for 50 minutes and stops at gulf harbour to pick up the next group. Then in another 15 mins we are there.
On arrival the ranger call all arrivals together for a quick debrief and gear is loaded onto the service trucks. Like I said, glamping. I walk straight to the accommodation and unpack my gear, have my lunch then head over to the other side to search out a quiet spot. Accommodation is primarily for staff and volunteer supporters. However if you are really lucky, you can score a spare bed. Don’t forget ear plugs, because you might end up with someone like me who snores. 
I don’t want to share too much regarding the Island as the supporters of Tiri make money by selling maps and general information. It only costs a $1.00, so do buy one. 
In the forest I sit and listen to forest sounds. I sit and listen to the birds calling each other and can identify most of them. I hear the wind passing between the tree branches and in the distant I can hear the waves of the sea as the tide changes. I love seeing the leaves of the trees move gentle in the breeze. If I find a warm spot, then it is a chance for a nana nap. Where else in the world could you do this and not worry about personal safety?
My favourite time of the day in the forest is early morning or early evening as the birds wake up or quieten down. The Tui are always the first up and are the last to sleep.
Sometimes I listen for the wing sounds of the birds and see if I have identified them correctly when they come to my view. My favourite wing sound is the Kereru as it whoomp whoomp past and sounds like a helicopter.
I have many favourite spots on the island and one is the bird baths on Wattle drive where I can sit and watch the Tui dart back and forth to chase of all the birds who try and sneak in for a splash. Every so often one gets in and I watch them having a cooling down session. I also like this part of Tiri because I have seen the Kokako here many times.
As I sit I identify the smells around me and generally it smells like compost. This is a good clean smell. 
If I have woken early for the dawn chorus and as the forest quieten I usually make my way to the beach where I like to have an early morning swim in the area where the Tirikat docks. There I have seen sea horses feeding on seaweed early in the morning. Depending on the season, I love to float on my back and watch the kereru swoop from tree to tree. If I swim near the rocks, I watch the kakariki parrots chattering on the harakeke that grow along the shoreline. If it is December I can look up the shoreline and see the Pohutukawa trees in full flower and I know that summer has arrived. The holidays stretch out in front of me and I sigh blissfully, because I know how fast they pass. 
I have met some interesting people while visiting Tiritirimatangi and most come for the solitude that the island gives. My favourite is when there is a researcher and often they are so excited to share their findings with a complete stranger. I also love finding old timers who have been there since the beginning and they always have fabulous stories. Generally though the usual clientele are Tiri supporters who have come across to help with island maintenance.
Every time I have visited I have managed to see kiwis at night and I always see the kokako. 
I take the same paths and I swim in the same spots. Each visit is different to the last.
I visit the shop and spend a few hours but do not buy much. I just love to see the art work and to see if the local artists have really captured the life on a Tiri and generally they do.
Visiting Tiri allows me to reflect on my place on earth and after each visit I return home with renewed energy to remind others of leaving a legacy for future generations. 
Do you have a favourite escape place? Where is it and why is it special? Do share and tag me. 

My learning in London

I used my ipad to navigate the massive unknown city easily. I felt like I was learning on my feet. I was continually adjusting my expectations and flowing with whatever happened.
I had a goal of meeting some London tweachers and one in Essex but unfortunately to circumstance meeting them did not eventuate. Not to worry as I will catch up another way.
However the greatest learning happened with me. I have booked to be in China for 6 days but if I organised my visa too early, it would no longer be valid when I got there.
So via the Internet I managed to schedule a meeting with the London Chinese Visa Office. I needed a letter of invitation from a contact in China and copies of variety of papers. This was all achieved and I needed to return a few days later to collect my visa and my passport.
I took the opportunity of visiting my dad’s family in Essex and it was exciting to visit the area that his father came from. Using technology I put the cousins together using facetime and to watch the pair chat excitedly to each other was priceless. Face to face communication via video chat is becoming easier to use than a phone and a lot cheaper too.
The closest that I got to a local school was staying right behind one in the town of Maldon.
Maldon is world know for Maldon salt. My second cousin whom I had never met put me up for two nights and spoilt me rotten with her time and hospitality. It was such a lovely experience to meet family and its as though I have known her all my life.
To get to Maldon, I took the National Rail to Chelmsford and then caught the bus to Maldon. On the bus I had a lot of help for some locals who directed me when to disembark. I loved hearing the almost cockney accents.
After doing the reverse trip, I was soon back in London and spent the afternoon travelling to Twickenham and discovered it as the centre place for English rugby. I popped there to visit a brother of an old friend.
The following day I took a full days tour to visit Kensington Palace, Stonehenge and then Bath. All were amazing places of history. I particularly loved Stonehenge and could have easily spent more time in Bath for its fascinating history.
During the trip, I was exhausted and as soon as I got on the bus, I was asleep and only woke to get off and visit these amazing places. My biggest learning is pacing myself and not to stress if things do not eventuate. Use every challenge as learning and try and eat properly and drink my water. Plan time to write and to catch up with family and friends back home. I love using instagram and twitter as a way of micro blogging and sharing photos with my friends and family back home. I have also started to use viddy more with short snippets of video to help visualise my journey. I am challenged with using facebook and think I would like to create a slideshare next from Denmark and include audio to share with the children at Newmarket School.

Tips for London

In London, I rode the buses, the trains and the tube to get around
One great idea is to get the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and from there, you can literally get anywhere in London. The journey takes 15 minutes so well worth the extra. To get to my accommodation I booked a prepaid Heathrow Express online, but this is not really necessary as there are kiosks for buying tickets. The journey took 15 minutes and it was in air-conditioned cabins.
Again Viatorwas most useful for tours. Here are the current deals for London. One tour I took was visiting the Eye. I took this one so that I get a Birdseye view of London. One recommendation is not to visit in the late afternoon and the position of the sun made it challenging to get any decent photos. And get the fast track ticket. The normal queue was a 3 hour wait.
I visited family in Essex and took the National Rail line to get to them. The Train line,  and City Planner and National Rail are great apps to download. It is probably a good idea to zoom out on google and identify the area you choose for accommodation. Most have a local rail link that easily connects to the main tube systems.
For dinner, I recommend finding La Fiama a little Italian restaurant that makes the most amazing and reasonable authentic Italian food. I got to meet Fanco Manco the pizza Chef.
My accommodations included the Crown Plaza and the Best Western to be close to the Chinese visa application. Both I got through last minute deals. If you use any website for cheap accommodation do pop onto Trip Advisor and see what the latest feedback is.
The Crown Plaza was most luxurious but they were going through renovations. Fortunately I was waking really early so construction sounds did not bother me from 8.00am. The Best Western, was great and suited me fine and I think that it is time for New Zealand to consider selling single rooms in stead of just doubles. After returning from Essex I stayed at the Hyde Park Boutique. They put me in a basement room. Again I was happy with the accommodation.
To get around I used the fantastic Oyster Card system.  For ENG 2.50 you can hop on a tube and for Eng 1.50 you can get around on the busses. This was a tip that I received from a coupe of friends who had recently been through London.
So in all using the buses are a cheaper way to getting around the centre, but the tube is definitely faster. Without the oyster card, the trips would be double in price. . There were times too that I used the black cab, but that was usually if I was a little lost. The cabs are constructed in a way that there is heaps of space near seating for luggage. They were always clean and again I felt really safe. The drivers were generally helpful and polite. I only had one cabbie offer to help me with my bags.
Both hotels had free wifi, but both sucked and I was lucky to have purchased a simm card at Paddington station with 2 GB of data. I used 1.5 KB of data during my total time so was able to see that I need about 2 KB per week.
In total I spent six days in London. Having access to the WiFi allowed me to move around easily and flexibly. Two of those e days included visiting Essex and Twickenham. It was a pain sorting out my Chinese visa but yet at the same time the challenge all added up to the adventure.
Being conscious of weight, I off loaded a few clothes and put all the extra books in my back bag. At the airport I came in at 22 Kg and they let me through.
London was fascinating. I loved the massive mix of cultures and languages. There were lots of free stuff to do and by riding the transport system you can get around many places easily.
I sometimes tipped for services or if I was helped with my bag. London highlights included the day tour that visited Kensington Palace, Stonehenge, and Bath. I really wished I could have had extra time, as I was also keen on getting to Dover. I loved people watching, riding the transport systems and eating amazing Fish and Chips at the local pub.
I was fortunate to meet a Finnish girt and her mother and we had an interesting discussion about her schooling. She was 12 years old and fluent in 3x languages. I watched them get online and access all the information they needed in Finnish so again, the children we teach must be digitally literate.  She helped her mum navigate the tourist information and the transport system in Finnish.
It was good to have all my food served on normal plates and to eat with a real knife and fork. I felt safe wherever I went. Maybe next time, I would come back for a longer time and get out of London faster.