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Kerosene Creek

Hot river in the midst of the forest? Not your everyday aquatic discovery, I'd say. Well, people from New Zealand, Iceland or other volcanic areas in the world would probably be bored to death by such an everyday geothermal feature, but at least for us people from a country of solid bedrock encountering a steaming rivulet in the middle of nowhere is certainly an and now for something completely different -moment.

Some 30-35 km south from the city of Rotorua, New Zealand, before the quite closely situated astonishing Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, there is an undistinguished dirt road turning left from the State Highway 5. After a dusty and bumpy couple of kilometers there is a small expanse beside the road where you can park. Signs hanging on trees, if the locals haven't torn them off, tell you you're there. At any rate you can deduce you're at the right place from the other cars that are parked there. Right here you find a footpath that takes you to a little swimming place surrounded by forest.

Before you arrive to the swimming area, the path takes you very close to the brook. It's called Kerosene Creek, a small stream warmed by Mother Nature herself with her geothermal activity. It's amazing to spot the small river that is actually steaming with heat. Follow it for couple of hundred meters and you will arrive at a tiny opening in the forest where the creek makes a little pool under a waterfall. Here's the best place to take a dip. 

The water temperature varies depending the time of the year and amount of water in the creek. When we visited the spot it was clearly warmer than the body temperature. If you dug your feet in the bottom sand under the waterfall, it was almost burning hot. Except for a small ladder at the edge of the pool, there's nothing built here - no changing rooms, no vendors. Just a perfect little nature's own spa in the woods.


The Parking Lot Ladies

Starting point
of the hiking trails
Axamer Lizum. Strange name, even for an Austrian alpine skiing center. We drove our rental car to the sun-baked parking lot of this summery skiing center nearby Innsbruck. The plan was to take a few hour hike on the surrounding mountains. We had arrived in Innsbruck only couple of hours earlier, and because of parking problems, we were able only to book a bed & breakfast but not to unload our luggage yet from the car. We wanted to make the most of the sunny day, so we decided to leave quickly for the mountains and change our car-sitting clothes into mountain-hiking clothes on that Axamer Lizum parking lot. The vast car park was hot, windless and almost empty; maybe a dozen cars were parked neatly on their spaces close to a maintenance building and the spot where the hiking trails begin. Except for the Ladies' car.

Under the canopy of the maintenance building, just a few meters from us, there was parked an old car. Inside were sitting two grim looking elderly ladies. The driver lady had her door open, and the shotgun side lady had opened her window. Neither of them said a word, during the whole episode. The car radio was playing quietly. Both ladies wore huge fly-eye -like sunglasses, and they just sat there. Quiet. And staring.

We hadn't even noticed the car nor the ladies at first, and had opened our suitcases and spread our things here and there quite openly when changing our gear. We had worn our trekking shoes, applied sunblock and I had studied the nearby hiking trail map. Luckily my wife suddenly realised it: One could see we had all our belongings in the car, we were about to be away for several hours, and potential car burglars would be able to work in peace at the almost deserted car park. At first I reckoned that such old ladies can't have malicious thoughts. But the ladies kept staring at our general direction (if I could deduce it despite their big fly-eye sunglasses).

I decided to have 'staring contest' with the shotgun side lady. We were both wearing sunglasses, so neither of us could really see if the other was staring straight into another's eyes. However, suddenly the shotgun lady turned her face away. All this time until now she had stared us. I felt a nasty cramp in my guts - they are really observing us there!

Above Innsbruck
We decided to take every easily enough portable piece of valuables with us: cameras, money, passports, car papers etc. Well, supposedly we would have done that anyway. Besides, that pure evilness emanating pair of ladies were surely after our car, weren't they? They would call a burglar team once they saw us on the mountain slope half a kilometer higher. Or they would steal it themselves.

Then I got a cunning idea: I would take a photograph of my wife so that the ladies, their car and its register plate would be visible in the background of the photo. Wife struck a pose next to our automobile and I positioned myself so that the needed information would get photographed as well. As soon as I lifted the camera in front of my face the car suddenly started and speeded tyres almost screaming away from the picture. The driver lady pulled her door closed while the car was already moving.

At this point the ladies' malevolent intentions didn't seem to be only our paranoid imagination any more. I was too stupefied to actually press the shutter, so the photo ended up to be not taken. The car stopped at the far end of the car park, at the exit. I raised the camera  in front of my face again, and the car quickly drove away.


(Past) Tension in the Airport

My English skills are far from perfect. There are probably many mistakes in this very blog entry that I missed when I proofread the text. So what, I still get along quite well with my English, which is more important than speaking with flawless grammar. Besides, Broken English is the most spoken language in the World.  But sometimes speaking the crucial sentences 100% correct can be very important.

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Quick stopover. We are coming from New York, USA heading back to Finland. My wife is carrying a big camera in its bag. There is an unlabelled desk in the middle of the corridor. I mean, there reads nothing anywhere, just a desk. And two officials, a young man and a senior man, probably from the customs.

- Please step over here, one of them tells us. We were just a couple of people in the passenger flow, by no means everyone was stopped.  
- Do you have a camera in there? the younger man asks, pointing at the camera bag my wife was carrying.
- Yes.
- Could you open the bag, please?
- Of course. We show the camera to the officers. It's only few months old, so it still looks quite new.
- Where did you board this? Asks the younger man, or so we think.
- Um, in New York, we reply, both wondering about the odd question. But hey, that's where we're coming from. In few moments we'll board it into another plane that goes to Finland.
 - Aha! You have to pay duty for the camera then! the man declares triumphantly. The older man starts digging up some forms to fill in.

We are baffled by the turn the conversation just took. We explain that the camera is bought in Finland last November or so, and unfortunately we haven't been carrying a receipt with us in the last few months any more.  

- But you just said you bought it in New York, the man accuses.

After our brains ticking over for couple of seconds we both realise at the same time the young customs officer has used a double past tense, i.e. he asked us: Where did you bought this? where 'bought' sounded like 'board' in our ears. Probably partly because 'boarding' is not very unusual word to hear in an airport context.

My wife tries to explain the man where it all had gone wrong, but he becomes more and more puzzled. I start to dig pen and notebook from my backpack in order to make him understand the mistake by showing him the jumbled words written. Finally the senior officer seems to get what my wife tries to explain because he says it's all ok. We're free to go. We still don't know if that poor younger man ever understood what actually went wrong in that conversation.