Wednesday, December 29, 2010

25 Things I Learned in Costa Rica

1) Even though it happens everyday, it's still nice to watch the sun rise.
2) How to milk goats (pinch the top of the teat shut and squeeze harder than you think you should).
3) How to make lemonade (squeeze lemons, add water and sugar).
4) What it takes to clean out a pig pen.
5) The amount of poo a single horse can produce (a lot).
6) That plantains are ready to pick when the flower at the end of their stalk has fallen away.
7) Putting your hand somewhere you can't see isn't a good idea.
8) That cooking for large groups of people isn't as scary as it may seem.
9) The basics of horse riding are pretty simple to pick up.
10) Billy goats pee on their faces to make themselves more attractive to the ladies.
11) Cockerels will crow before sunrise.
12) If water stops coming out of the tap, you gotta be ready to be thirsty for a while.
13) Some lizards can walk on water.
14) What it's like to be bitten by a dog.
15) How to make a hot compost pile.
16) How to sterilise potting soil.
17) That loofahs grow on vines.
18) Cat skin is really tough, enough to bend a syringe needle.
19) Bot fly larvae do not want to be squeezed out of goats.
20) Germans can have a sense of humour.
21) Power tools have not ceased to be fun.
22) You can embarrass a goose by picking it up.
23) Guava wood is really bendy.
24) Baby goats have legs that look about one joint too long.
25) Toucan beaks feel like plastic.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Costa Rica animals!

A long time since I've written anything but long lines for the internet, a slow connection and lots of other things occupying my time has meant that this is the first I've been able to throw online. Hopefully more to follow.
 Scorpion discovered while taking apart the old goat house to build the new one.
 Speedy, the one-eyed pirate kitty. We're not sure how he lost his eye, but we're glad he survived the ordeal.
 A duck.
 A troupe of toucans, eating the papayas. That one got a little too stuck in and soon dropped it.
 A chick, hatched by a duck, that was laying in a toilet.
 The only duckling to survive from a pretty bad duck mum.
 Toulouse, the toucan rescued as a chick who likes to play with anyone in pecking distance.
 A small Tico horse.
A big Tico horse.
 Rhombus, the lovable boxer.
 Three week old Giant Schnauzer puppy.
 Lucy, the very anxious Weimarianar (sp?).
 Minutes old billy kid.
Younger brother to above goat.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On the way back

Here are a few of the sights on the way to Wisconsin from California:

 A palm tree somewhere in Nevada.
 The Hoover Dam. Also somewhere in Nevada.
 Arches National Park, Utah.
 Delicate Arch. It's the arch on Utah license plates.
 Driving through the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. For a while we weren't sure if our little Honda Civic was going to make it.
 Lake Manawa, Iowa, just over from Nebraska. A fantastic little camping site.
 Wild Cat State Park, Illinois. There were only three other people at this camp site. It was great to see our little fires dotted around the camp site. This was our last night on the road and we were a little surprised that it had all ended so soon.
Sausage, egg, rice and beans for breakfast. A great way to start the day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

10 Tips for Roadtrip Bliss

Taking a road trip is a great way to see a country in your own terms. Driving the Historic Route 66 taught me a few things about how to get the most out of the experience:

1) Get a GPS
With a GPS, you can easily navigate the twists and turns of a new city on your own. If travelling with others, it gives you a third party to shout out when you get lost.
Garmin Nuvi 255

2) Use boxes to organize your stuff
Clearly labelled boxes in the boot of your car make sure that everything is where it should be when you need it. We had four boxes. One for food, one for cooking equipment and two for clothing. Plus rooting through a box is often easier than shuffling through a bag.
Fully packed

3) Check the car, but don't obsess over it
The car we were in had a recent check-up and we had the oil changed and the tires rotated just before we left. Along the way we periodically checked the oil, coolant, and tire pressure.

4) Pack a tent
We had a lot of fun camping along the way. While sleeping in roadside motels is a part of the classic road trip, a tent increases our options. Plus looking out at the stars in the middle of the Mojave desert as you drift off to sleep is a priceless experience.

 5) Stay Hydrated
Staying in a climate controlled, air conditioned car, concentrating on driving and singing along to the radio, it's easy to forgot that you need to keep drinking. Always have water handy, plus keep plenty spare if you're driving through dry regions. If your car breaks down, you'll be glad to have the water there.

6) Eat at least one healthy meal a day
It's easy to get lazy and live out of diners and drive-thru restaurants. Make the effort to have at a healthy meal a day. Your energy levels will be better, as will your health. Also try to have healthy snacks in the car. Snacking is a great way to keep your blood sugar levels constant so long as you're not chowing down on chocolate and twinkies (not tried one of these yet). But by all means, if you want the challenge of eating a 72 oz steak in under an hour, by all means, go for it.

7) Take regular breaks
If you're drinking regularly, you'll have to stop. Plus a short break every two hours makes sure you don't make any silly mistakes and keeps the driving interesting. Plus, there's always some roadside attraction that's sure to grab your interest.

8) Bring music
While the radio offers some fantastic listening (thank you Bob FM) there will be points of the journey when all you get is static. Time to plug in your ipod, insert a CD or roll out a cassette. A variety of tunes is a must. Your 1996 classic Now 34 CD will get old pretty quick.

9) Budget
With regular breaks at expensive petrol stations, curio shops and various unforeseen road tolls (I'm looking at you, Oklahoma) it is easy to let your spending get away from you. I find that it helps to write down exactly how much you spend on what. It's pretty easy to see that if things are getting tight, then spending $5 a day on beef jerky might not be such a good idea.

10) Save fuel
Here's a little sub-list of fuel saving tips:
  • Don't speed: driving slower speeds can increase fuel efficiency by up to 5%.
  • Keep rolling: pulling away from a dead stop uses more fuel, so try to predict when those red lights will turn green.
  • Pack light: a little obvious this one, plus keep it in the car. Roof boxes greatly increase your car's drag.
  • Coast: on empty hills, slip the car into neutral and let gravity do the work, just remember to put it back into gear at the bottom.
If you have any tips of your own, please share!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Route Back

So we've been in LA for a few days now and we've sorted out a way back to Wisconsin. We were considering taking driving Route 66, but then we'd be passing up the opportunity to see more of the country. So here's the way we're going back:

Day 1: LA to Boulder City, Nevada (262 miles)
Day 2: Boulder City to Cedar City, Utah (197 miles)
Day 3: Cedar City to Arches National Park (297 miles)
Day 4: Arches National Park to Denver (354 miles)
Day 5: Denver to Gothenburg (300 miles)
Day 6: Gothenburg to Omaha (241 miles)
Day 7: Omaha to Rock Island (308 miles)
Day 8: Rock Island to Lake Geneva (170 miles)

We'll be camping all the way, seeing the Las Vegas Strip, Zion National Park and the Rocky Mountains, among other things. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me, Jumping in a Variety of Places.

Gateway Arch, Saint Louis, Missouri

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Honolulu Airport, Hawaii

Venice Beach, California
Ever since seeing a group of Chinese students jump for a photo in Tienanmen Square, I've thought it was a great way to improve on the standard 'Here I am in front of x' tourist photo. If your camera has a 'rapid fire' mode have someone give you a countdown and fire off a bunch of shots while you spring into the air. Not only does the sequence look cool, it's easier than trying to get the one shot at the height of the leap.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Long Photos from a Long Drive

Here are three panoramas of my three favourite places that we stopped at during our week-long drive along Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois  to Los Angeles, California.
 Here is Buckingham Fountain in front of the Chicago skyline. It was a bit of chilly day, but not as bad as it can get. In the winter there's a wind the locals call 'the Hawk'. Apparently it can be quite biting. 
Here's a small part of the Painted Desert in Arizona. Nothing quite like it in Europe. For a while I just sat up on a cliff overlooking the hills, listening to the wind. 
The Grand Canyon. 277 miles long, 18 miles wide in places and over a mile deep. Go there, stand as close to the edge you dare to and stare out in wonder at this 17 million year old marvel. Just don't feed the wildlife.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lake Geneva, WI

We flew out of LA last Saturday and into Wisconsin. I had another 'Wow, America is HUGE!' moment flying in over Lake Michigan. Even from 30,000 feet I couldn't see all the way across it. On a good day, you can stand on the white cliffs of Dover and see France. I don't think this would be the case for standing in Chicago and trying to spot whatever lies beyond that expanse of water.
Courtney's mum picked us up at the airport and had with her The Cooler. Courtney told me about The Cooler. A great Dicmas tradition, The Cooler is always filled with yummy snacks to welcome home the weary traveller. In this case, it was us. We were treated to prawn cocktail, cheese and crackers, tiny grapes and pineapple juice. 
 On Sunday I was taken to the Walworth County Show. It's an agricultural show that I'm assured is a very Wisconsin experience. We watched the Draft horse competition, ate some very greasy food, petted some fuzzy farmyard animals and admired the huge pumpkins.
 'Unicorn' formation of three horses
Big pumpkin.

Later in the week we were taken on a boat ride on Lake Geneva itself. Courtney's dad works on the boats that do the cruises. We took the tour on an old steamboat called 'The Louise':

The tour took us around the lake, close to the shore. The main attraction is the plethora of mansions that line the lake shore. The Wrigley family (Wrigley Gum) have several summer homes there on Lake Geneva, some of which are very impressive indeed. Later in the week Courtney and I walked the 20.6 miles across the lake. The shore side path actually cuts across the property of all the shore side houses, so we got a pretty good view of the houses, despite our main interest being the lake itself. After the 20.6 miles we were hobbling along, our hips hurting more than anything else, but after a good nights sleep we felt fine. 
This weekend we went off the the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota. It was a six hour drive there ad served as a test run for the route 66 road trip. The main aim of the trip was for Courtney to renew her drivers licence. We got that done within 20 minutes of the DMV opening. The rest of the day was spent wandering around Courtney's old haunts as her university is in St. Paul. We walked down to the Mississippi, which divides the twin cities, had some great coffee, some not so great coffee and wandered around a sculpture park. 

  Us feeling adventurous by the Mississippi
Claus Oldenberg in the Walker Sculpture Gardens
Now we're back in Lake Geneva and we're putting together the final pieces for the road trip. We've got a GPS, a tent, some sleeping bags and an air mattress. We have places to stay along the way; a mix of camp sites and couches. We still need to sort out food for the trip, but that's about it. More about it later.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Short Hike in the San Gabriels

Courtney and I went for a hike up in the San Gabriel mountains near her sister's home in Arcadia. We packed some snacks, plenty of water and lathered ourselves in sun block. It was a short drive to the start of the mountain road, which is itself a fantastically winding and scenic route. We parked the car near the pack station and headed off uphill.
We didn't know any of the trails but figured that they would be clearly marked so not having a map wouldn't be an issue. At the start of our ascent we passed a small gaggle of Koreans. Easily identified by their twin carbon-fibre hiking poles, belt bags, rucksacks and clothing made from ultra modern materials. Courtney seemed quite thrilled to see them. I however was happy to be away from the winy vowel sounds of Hangul. Still, Courtney shouted out a cheery 'Anyeonghaseyo' (Be at peace) which was warmly received. We sped past them and entered the quiet shade of the mountain side. The trail itself was an evenly tarmacked path, smelling of sweet vanilla thanks to the abundance of Ponderosa pines. As we headed up trail, we sent sleepy lizards sunning themselves scuttling off into the leafy verges.
We came to a fork in the road just as the Koreans behind us caught up. I decided that whichever route they weren't taking looked the best. As it happens the Koreans took the steeper, rockier route, leaving us with the gently sloping paved road on which to explore the mountain.
The warm, still air was perfect for the swarms of insects that were adamant on seeking refuge up our nostrils or in our ears. We quickly learnt that stopping to admire the view gave them ample time to get to know us a little better than we liked. Still, the sights and smells of the mountain made the bugs a tolerable nuisance.
A little further up the path we came across some mountain lion scat. Fortunately, it was very old and dry, filled with the fur of whatever it had eaten last (good to see that it was eating well). Mountain lions tend to poop in open areas like the middle of paths as a way of marking their territory. The reminder that their was a large predator in the area put us a little on edge. I know that mountain lions are nocturnal and avoid human contact, but being from a country whose largest predator is the almost blind badger, it was a potent reminder of my potential position in the food chain.
The rest of our walk was uneventful with regards to large predatory mammals. What did drive us off the mountain happened to be the swarms of insects. On our descent we passed a couple of people who were obviously regular visitors to the range. The clue; overhead mosquito nets. Smart move.
We drove down the mountain road listening to Jack Johnson telling us to slow down. Not bad advise for such a high and winding road. Just as we exited the park we had our closest encounter with a large native mammal: a trio of mule deer. We spied them happily hopping across the road, munching on the cultivated roadside plant life. From our seats in the car, one passed within three meters of us. I managed to snap away oblivious to them until a car came around the bend behind us and we had to move on.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Bed With a Mantis

Our apartment in Korea had no air conditioning and the nights would get pretty warm. We could get a breeze moving through the apartment, but the air in the bedroom always remained quite still. Even with the fan running, the bedroom felt warmer than the rest of the apartment. So in an attempt to get a better night's sleep, we dragged our mattress out into the living room. We'd spent a couple of nights with our little living room 'fort' when one night, we had an unexpected visitor.
Courtney was, as usual, getting chewed on by the local mosquito population (my monkey-like hair protecting me from the worst of it). To quell the itching she rose from the bed during the night to apply some anti-itch cream. On her return, she was flattening out the the sheets in the dark when her hand ran over something unfamiliar. She picked in up, running her fingers over it in the darkness, unable to figure out what it was. It felt like a straw, but spongy to the touch. Then it moved.
Putting it down, Courtney turned on the light. This is what she saw:
A praying mantis. Courtney had a minor freak-out. It had nipped her a couple of times during the night, giving her a large welt on her forearm. I reassured her that the praying mantis is essentially harmless to us. No poisonous stinger, no venomous bite. After some research of her own, Courtney felt bad for manhandling what is a symbol of courage and fearlessness in China, a totem for stillness and contemplation and is said to visit those who need peace, quiet and stillness in their life.
Here are some quick facts about praying mantises:
  •  They've been around since the Cretaceous period (145 - 65 million years ago).
  • Despite their looks, they are more closely related to termites and cockroaches than stick insects or grasshoppers. 
  • They are exclusively predatory, using their spiked forelegs to grasp and hold prey, eating mainly insects but also anything small enough for them to catch.
  • The female is known to devour the male during mating. The reasons are unclear but Wikipedia suggests that cannibalized males enjoy a longer copulation, increasing the chance of fertilization.
For those of you that are wondering, the praying mantis that visited us survived the encounter. It was removed unceremoniously out the window in a small Tupperware container.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Traveling Light

How much do you weigh? A question that isn't often asked, but you don't actually need to tell me. How much luggage do you take when you travel? If you take one carry on and one piece of checked luggage, you're probably carrying about 30 kg. I weigh around 70kg, so 30 kg is about 20% of my body weight. Trust me when I say it's a lot to lug about. Foreign correspondents have an informal rule for how much to bring: nothing you couldn't carry at a dead run for half a mile. I can shuffle along with 30kg hanging off my body, but anything quicker than a stumbling jog is out of the question. So the thought of traveling with nothing more than what's in my pockets is quite appealing to me. This is exactly what Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding (a great book on travel philosophy and tips on long term travel), is doing.
Tim Ferris has the story over on his blog, as well as some tips of his own on how to travel light. Needless to say I was very much inspired by this article and it put me into a bit of self reflection on how to trim the fat from my own luggage. However the kind of travel I'm engaging in hampers my ability to really cut down on my luggage. Unlike Rolf Potts and Tim Ferris, I'm not traveling for just 6 weeks, nor do I have an apartment from which to return from my travels. Each time I move to a new country I am uprooting my entire existence and trying to make a new life for myself there. I have almost 7 kg of camera equipment that I carry (including a beast of lens, the Canon 300mm f2.8). I've also got a recent addition of about a kilo of wood carving tools. So that's my hobbies, plus I have the consideration of finding work while abroad. This means I need several smart outfits, plus a couple of books, a folder of teaching materials and my laptop. I'm pretty much at the max for what I can carry around. I do however have the advantage that I don't often have to lug all 30 kg with me on my travels (except for 2 months in Thailand).
One piece of advice on packing that crops up from time to time is to take half the luggage and twice the cash. Again, this is something I can't apply quite so easily. I'm already taking all my cash as well as all my luggage. While the idea of traveling with just one bag sounds great, I'd rather carry it with me than re-buy things when I arrive in a new place. There are things that I tend to ditch when leaving a place. One is a fluffy bathroom towel. I travel with a Lifeventure travel towel that folds to about the size of a t-shirt, but I find that it doesn't do the job quite as well as a good fluffy cotton towel. These I buy once I'm more settled in. I traveled to Thailand without an umbrella and bought one once I was there. I brought it with me to Korea, but it has since fallen apart. Given the small size and the incredible difficulty in finding an umbrella when you really need one, I'll continue to pack one.
There is something that I want to take away from Tim's advice on packing light, and that is to allocate a certain amount of cash to be used as a settling fund, to buy the things you need once you're sure you'll need them. I think this is a great piece of advice as I'm guilty of buying things in the build-up to a trip that I think I'll need but end up never using. Most things you think you'll need (mosquito netting, personal airline seat cover, hiking boots) either don't see any action or are cheap and readily available at your destination. You might want to do a little research before hand about the availability of certain items in the country you're going to just so you don't get caught out. A surprise for me was despite the massive number of hikers in Korea, decent camping equipment is expensive and not too readily available.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Years, Six Countries

South Korea (August)
Getting ready to leave. I've got flights booked to the US. I'm waiting to sort out a few details for where 'll be in the States in late October before buying tickets to Costa Rica (I need a flight out of the States to be let in). I also need to apply for a 3 month position in Japan sometime this month.
USA (September and October)
Spending a week in L.A., then a week in Lake Geneva, WI before setting out on a road trip across Route 66. We might spend two weeks in the Mojave desert if Courtney gets accepted into an art residency program there.
Costa Rica (November to April)
I'm going to be wwoofing for at least November, maybe December too. In December, the application period for teaching in Spain opens. As it works on a first-come-first-served basis, I want to get my application in as soon as I can. Back in Costa Rica, the main hiring period for teachers is in January, so banking on finding work then. Hopefully I'll be spending my time teaching English, learning Spanish and chasing sloths.
Japan (May to July)
If we get the gig, then it'll be three months pretty hard graft somewhere around Mt. Fuji. Three months is long enough to get a feel for a country but still short enough to feel like a vacation. We hope to be able to put away most of our earnings to help with setting ourselves up in Spain.
UK (August and September)
What will probably be a very welcome visit home, I'll hopefully have the time to meet up with friends I wouldn't have seen for a criminally long time. I also hope to do my parents the favour of moving out and selling as much of my junk as I can that's currently taking up about half their loft.
Spain (October to May)
It'll be nice to be living and working somewhere closer to home. Hopefully six months in Costa Rica will have given me enough basic Spanish to make the transition there a little easier. I'm not 100% confident on getting the job, but apparently most people who apply get an offer. Just have to wait and see on this one. Of course, this isn't the only option for me, but 700 euros a month for a 14 hour week does sound rather appealing.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cicadas, Mosquitoes and Heat, Oh My.

Had a rough night last night. Very little sleep. It was darn hot, so I tried sleeping above the covers, but then I was at the mercy of mosquitoes.
Despite my ludicrously hairy body, I was being feasted upon. So I spent most of the night hiding under the covers until I was uncomfortably hot, then lying on top of them until I was frustrated with having to slap myself wherever I thought I was being bitten.
In the end I went and got my silk sleeping bag liner and climbed into that. Around 3 a.m. I managed to drift off. Until dawn came around 5:30 and the cicadas started up.

Mosquito facts (source):
  • Only the females bite, and they use the blood not as food for themselves, but as protein for their eggs. Mosquitoes actually feed on nectar.
  • Of the 3,000 species of mosquito, only three spread most human diseases.
  • The itchiness is an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva.
  • Rosemary (herb) will deter mosquitoes, as will eating plenty of garlic.
Cicadas facts (source):
  • They can be heard up to 1 mile away.
  • They have a lifespan of up to 17 years (mostly as larvae).
  • They are a powerful symbol of rebirth in ancient Chinese culture.
Tips for sleeping in the heat (source):
  • Wear light clothing. This can be better than wearing less clothing.
  • Take a cool bath or shower before bed. It won't lower your core temperature, but it'll make you feel better.
  • Don't engage in physical activity or exercise too soon to going to bed. This will give your body a chance to lower it's core temperature.
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals near bedtime. Try to eat cool and refreshing foods instead.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Ah, Globalisation

    Over 18 months in Korea and 30 days before I leave, I find muesli. That's just not right. That's about 540 days without the breakfast cereal I pretty much lived off during uni. However,to say that I just found muesli would only be telling half the story. I found a Tesco (cue lights and choir of angels). A huge Tesco Homeplus, comparable in size to the local monstermart: E-Mart, but lacking it's crazy atmosphere. It might have been my Anglo-centric conditioning that stirs in me great pride in seeing a British institution so far from home, but it seemed so much nicer than the E-Marts and Lotte Marts of Korea.
    It did let me down however. I was really hoping for some good cheap tea. Tesco own-brand, Tetley or PG Tips (the pyramid bags, of course). There was Tesco value green tea in abundance, but the only black tea on offer was the Twinings range. Fancy tea, by appointment of the Queen no less. Slightly crestfallen I picked up a pack of English Breakfast Tea. 25 bags for about four quid. Still, the three kilos of Swiss Style Muesli I had newly acquired was more than enough to put me in a great mood. Coupled with an evening of David Attenborough wildlife documentaries I was definitely indulging in my cultural heritage.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    A Quick Update

    Today Courtney and I handed in our 30 day notice. We're flying out on the 27th of August. We're pretty excited about that. We've put a few of our appliances on craigslist, so we're well on the way of cutting our ties with Korea and getting ready to move on. Our main activity in preparing ourselves for leaving, and more importantly, making this month as enjoyable as possible, is eating as much delicious Korean food as possible. Off to have some barbecued meat tonight. 
    I've also been accepted onto a farm in Costa Rica. It's run by an Elizabeth Hawkins and is in the Puriscal region of Costa Rica. More details when I get them.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Another year, another couple of countries

    Things are winding down for me here in Incheon, South Korea. Just one more month of teaching, then I'm off. Hopefully it'll be a quiet month. Regular classes have just finished and just the after school program and a four day morning camp remain. When I finally ship out, I would have spent 18 months in Korea. Quite long for living in a country I'll never fit into.
    While I've thoroughly enjoyed my time in South Korea (split into a one year term and a six month stint with some travel in between) I'm looking forward to a change of pace. During the in between time I was fortunate enough to spend three months in Thailand. The tropical climate and laid back pace of life was very appealing. However the tonal language (five ways of saying ma, each with a different meaning), rampant tourism and continuing to stand out in the crowd has pushed me towards moving out of Asia.
    I've got a trip to the states planned (Route 66 Road Trip!), but getting a work visa was too much red tape for me to untangle. So the rich, green land of Costa Rica seems like a great place to go kick it for me. I'm planning on doing at least a month volunteer work on a farm in Purical to get a feel for the climate and culture, as well as to give myself a chance to establish some connections to find some teaching work.

    There are several reasons I want to volunteer in Costa Rica.
    1. a Latin based language, so much easier for me to learn than anything here in Asia!
    2. amazing biodiversity in such a small country
    3. the chance to work physically, a welcome break from the purely academic requirements of ESL teaching
    4. the opportunity to connect with a culture more similar to my own
    5. learn new skills. Never I have I ever milked a goat. Or picked coffee. Or ridden a horse.
    So my journey to Costa Rica is beginning over 8,000 miles away. Let's hope it's a fun ride!

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Making Cordage

    A few weeks ago I collected some bark to turn into cordage. I'd stripped the rough outer bark and left it to dry. The outer bark is brittle and will weaken the final product, so it needed to be stripped. The inner bark was dried because it shrinks the most the first time it dries, leading to a more tightly woven final product. 
    Since it had been dried, the bark had to be soaked to make it supple enough to work with. About 15 minutes did the job.
    Here are the two strips of bark, ready to be cut into strips.
    I had driven the tip of my knife into a piece of wood so I could cut the bark into strips with greater control.
    However I found that it was much easier to tear the bark into strips.
    In no time at all I had a bundle of suitable fibers.
    I took one of the longer strips and started at a point a third of the way along. This way, when it comes to adding in more material, I wouldn't have to add it to both ends. The process of turning the strips of bark into cordage is remarkably simple. Just twist the fibers.
     Eventually, the twisted fibers will create a kink. This is the beginning of the cordage. I just kept twisting the fibers, encouraging them to twist around each other.
    It progressed pretty quickly, adding in more and more as each strand ran out.
    Pretty soon I had about a meter of cordage. Not very neat but I was pleased with my first effort.
    Once you have some cordage, you can repeat the process on the cord itself to make it thicker and stronger.
    Here are the final fruits of my labor. At the top is the meter length, coiled. In the middle is a finer, more neat section and below it is a doubled up section of cordage. 

    Soon after it had dried I found that the material was quite brittle. If I were to use it, I would either have to tie whatever needed tying while it was still wet, or soak it again before use. Some sections of the cord weren't very neat or uniform. For a while one section was wrapping around the other, rather than them both binding together. I've since been informed that to correct this, I need to twist the section that isn't binding more, to encourage it to 'kink'. 
    Overall I was pretty pleased with my results. I'm definitely going to be giving it another go. Things to improve on:
    1. make more uniform strips of bark to begin with
    2. try to keep the twists even and the thickness the same throughout
    3. practice adding new sections without so many ends poking out.