Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You take your car to work, I'll take my board...

After hanging with Jess and Joel for a few days, I made my way back to Syd to say my good-byes to a few good friends, catch a few more waves, and catch a couple of planes home.

The journey back took about 24 hours with approximately 2 hours of sleep. The past week and a half have been a complete whirlwind and I'm just finding myself now trying to work through being back. Aside of all the emotional and psychological changes, the weather itself is ridiculous! I was getting accustomed to the sun shining until 8 or so, and really loving it. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt all day? Not so bad. It was definitely a luxury to have the extended summer.

Now that I'm home, that adventure is through, and I'm facing my reality. I am nothing but grateful for the experience. Yes, the trip has had it's repercussions and I've had to make some changes in my life but I know, when I'm 87 and sitting in that rocking chair on my porch I will have nothing but fond memories of my time down under. It cost me pretty much every cent I had (I am very articulate when it comes to budgeting) but I feel as if I didn't miss out on anything I wanted to do. I've been asked many many MANY times over if I wish I had stayed to work, or stayed longer, or if I could be travelling now, etc. And the truth is, no. If I had stayed and worked, it would have been a completely different trip. Because I knew I only had so much money, and so much time, I cherished every minute I had and tried to make the best of it. If I had stayed longer I would have had to work, and for me, I feel it was the right time for me to come home. Now, if I had all the money in the world and could travel for the rest of my days flying my family and friends to wherever I was? Yes. I'd like to choose that life.

It's had its challenges being back and realizing it's time to let go of Guelph and move forward, but I feel like I'm in a good place to do so. Travelling is always going to be on my to-do list, and I recognize what a luxury it is. I've now proven to myself and my loved ones, many times, that if there is something/ somewhere I want to go, I'll get there. It's all a matter of time.
As for right now, things are moving forward tickety-boo as my Big Jim likes to say, and I think I'll be alright to hang in Canada for a while.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Canberra and Camping on Pebbly Beach

I was amazed at how well my body had adjusted to the crazy lifestyle of a backpacker. I had never really believed it was in full effect until I was on the plane from Melbourne to Canberra. With an enormous 48 minutes of airtime, my body shut off as soon as we were in the air, and was back to consciousness within minutes of landing. Quite impressive how the body knows when to sleep.

Now for Bek's Fellow-Passenger Rule of Thumb:
After many experiences on planes, trains, buses, boats, and any other mode of transportation you can think of, I would like to suggest a new rule be officially set in place. All passengers are to be freshly showered (or at least deodorized) and provided with some sort of breath freshener. There is hardly anything worse than being stuck in less- than comfortable arrangements next to someone who doesn't know what soap smells like.

Once I landed in Canberra, I was greeted with an excited and friendly Jess and her lovely boyfriend Joel. They showed me around Canberra and we settled in for a quiet night. Sunday we got up and headed 2 hours towards the coast to Pebbly Beach. We set up camp, and as we grabbed a few chips, we noticed a parrot nearby. Jess was brave enough to let it jump to her arm and eat from her hand. Joel suggested that I take a go, and as I stretched out my hand with some level of precaution, a flock of parrots flew from the trees landing on my arms, my head and the ground around us. They were incredibly tame and friendly; becoming our new friends for the weekend. As terrified as I was, I will admit it was pretty cool walking through the forest and outstretching your arm only to have a parrot come and land on it... There was also one parrot that loved to land on my shoulder which I became quite fond of..Yarrgh!

We headed down to the beach where we met many tame kangaroos grazing. As we frolicked into the water, we noticed a beautiful rainbow just behind a cliff as a sea eagle flew over head. We were all in awe of how amazing this place was when we noticed a sting ray and quickly headed back to shore.

The next day we went for an awesome hike where we built an Inukshuck named "Brian". Joel had bought a foam cricket set and we all went down to the beach for an afternoon game. While trying to figure out what to do that night after our BBQ as there was a total fire ban on the National Park, there was only one answer. Glow in the dark Cricket. We attached glow sticks to all of the equipment, as well as creating different pieces for ourselves, and headed back to the beach after dark. Definitely a highlight.

I still can't get over how fortunate I am to have so many amazing people at home as well as so many welcoming and loving friends away. I'm one lucky girl.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Great Ocean Road!

The flight from Christchurch was easy as, but a wee bit emotional. I couldn’t get over how wonderful my time was there, and how quickly it had gone. The sadness quickly disappeared once I stepped off the plane into 31 degree… at 9:15 am. I made my way to the hostel fine and figured I’d make the most of the sun, grabbed my bathing suit and headed to the beach for the afternoon.

The next morning I set off on a 2-day tour of the Ocean Rd. We started at the end and worked backwards towards Melbourne which was great as we missed much of the day-tripping tourists. We started in Warnambool heading across to Port Campbell the first day. After a giant feed on Port Campbell, we headed to the 12 Apostle Rock stacks for the sunset, and to watch the “Little Penguins” (true name) come in from the water. Very cool. When we got back to the hostel, the group grabbed a couple of beers and headed down to the pier to watch a lightening storm roll across the ocean.

We had an early start the next morning heading back across to Torquay with many stops along the way. With a full day of beach, caves and coastal road, I was more than tired when we finally made it back to Melbourne.
My good friend Siobhan was kind enough to offer me a place to sleep for the night as she is off to Vancouver in a few days, and I’m off to Canberra. It’s been great to catch up with her before we say our good-byes.

As for today, I am very excited to be meeting up with another fantastic Canadian, Jess, and her lovely boyfriend before continuing up the coast.

Not long now until I’m back to Canadaland!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't say good-bye I say so long.

Today is my last day in New Zealand. I've had an amazing visit with Abby and Matt over the last couple of days in Christchurch. From the moment I got in the car, Abby and I picked right up where we left off 2 years ago in Ireland; not giving poor Matt a breath to get in the conversation.

On my way to Christchurch from Lake Tekapo, we were given the option to go Whitewater Rafting for the day on the Rangitato River. WAY too much fun. After meeting our crew who had various hair styles of mullets and dreadlocks with incredibly attractive cookie dusters, we were shown the wonderful array of coloured layers we were to try and squeeze into...under our wetsuits. It was great fun as we all looked completely ridiculous topping it off with wildly coloured helmets. When we finally made our way to the river, we were told we would face Class 2 and 3 rapids then class 5. What happened to class 4 you may wonder? I was wondering the same thing. We did great through the first few rapids, and then when we came to "Tsunami" the class 5, we were given the chance to get on shore for a minute and have a look at the fierce beast before we faced it. We were told to paddle as fast and as hard towards the rapid and then everyone was to jump down into the bottom of the boat. This worked for all but the poor girl on the back who was quickly ricocheted into the water as we went through the second stage of rapids. (No, this wasn't me.) She was fine, everyone cheered as we hauled her into the boat and the best part is we got it all on film. Stay tuned for pictures.

Since I've been in Chch, Abby has cooked me the most amazing meals, I was beginning to think I was on death row and each night was my last supper. I think this may also be due to the fact that all I've eaten is pasta, rice and bread since I was staying with Matt's parents house.

On Sunday, Abby and I took out their electric bikes which are the neatest things, and checked out Christchurch stopping off for a beer along the river of course. Monday I met up with my crazy Swedish friend, Amanda, went to the art gallery, and wandered around a bit more before the rain came in. Today, I made my way out to the Gondola, took it to the top of a mountain and mountain biked down. The loop was a total of 20 km which I didn't think was too bad considering the first 6 km were down hill. Now, the thing about New Zealand is when a guide, or info-man tells you something in passing, this piece of advice should be acknowledged and held onto for dear life. The bike rental man happened to mention how steep the road got at points, the fact that the brakes were a little tricky, and oh yes, the road curves around the mountainside...with traffic at times. Hm. This was a moment where I could have REALLY used Reid or Quinnie's guidance.

So, I quickly pulled together some courage, tried to think of a way to attach my camera to my helmet thinking it would make an awesome video to show Quinnie how fast I could go on the decline, quickly dismissing this when I couldn't see and there are no guard rails, and began to pedal my heart out up the first incline. Once I made it down the mountain and was riding along the beachfront I began to think I was going at a good click keeping up with the traffic when a guy with thighs the width of my shoulders blew by me. I may not have a future in cycling, but it was good fun while it lasted.

It has been an amazing experience to travel through New Zealand and I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity. Everyone has been incredibly friendly and kind, and the scenery has brought me to tears more than I'd like to admit. This is definitely one country that is beautiful throughout.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Queenstown: There's no place like home

Once I arrived in Queenstown, I was a little apprehensive and my expectations were low. As much as it had been built up by so many backpackers, those thoughts had been shattered by Wanaka; most people in Wanaka believed it to be the better of the two.

I must say that Queenstown is amazing. It's basically a city filled with some of the best parts of Canada. Some call it a mini Whistler. I will admit that if it was snowing, I could have easily suffered from "snowboardinitis". A condition that many Canadians fall victim to during a winter visit to Queenstown.

After spending hours sitting at the lake, looking at the "Remarkables" (name of the mountain range), and longing for snow to fall under the gondola, I decided to book a trip to Milford Sound. Milford is up for nomination as the "8th Wonder of the World" and yes, it is incredible. We took a long, early morning drive through Te Anau then into the mountains and down through to a port where we boarded a boat to take a 2 hour cruise through the sound out to the edge of the Tasman Sea. Simply Brilliant. We saw plenty of dolphins, penguins and seals.

The next day I wandered around Queenstown, had an infamous "Fergburger" which was the biggest most delicious burger I've ever eaten in my life, followed by a few teapots at the local World Bar.

The following day we took off to Dunedin, had a short stop and continued onto Lake Tekapo. This lake is like nothing you've ever seen in your life. It's the most amazing turquoise! I did a hike today up Mt. John to the observatory where they have nightly viewings. Lake Tekapo has the most beautiful night sky in the Southern Hemisphere; hoping for a clear night tonight!

Off to Christchurch tomorrow to see Matt and Abby! So Excited!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More NZ Pictures!

NZ Takeover: Lahar Farm and Wellington

NZ Takeover: Abel Tasman and Franz Josef Glacier

Greymouth, Franz Josef, and Wanaka

After a quick stopover in Greymouth, I found myself in beautiful Franz Josef with a teaming rainstorm. The hostel was well equipped with a great selection of VHS movies to keep many soaked backpackers occupied.

Once I had walked around the town in between rainstorms I was even more excited to get to the glacier. The next morning I was up early to beat the tour rush and grabbed the first shuttle up to the glacier. The hour walk through the bush was beautiful to open up to a flat land between mountains with the glacier at the far end. Another 45 minutes brought me to the edge of the glacier which was simply breath taking. After I got my fill of this view, I made my way back to the carpark to head out on a few other tracks that ventured through the woods in the surrounding area; most of which have various lookout points of the glacier.

After 5 hours of hiking, I was ready to make my way back into town. I finally was able to do the most stereotypical thing and watch Lord of The Rings in New Zealand...I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am now in Wanaka which is a town that is described as "a less commercialized Queenstown" and I LOVE it. I took a hike around the lake, and sat on the waters edge staring at the mountains for hours. I am off to Queenstown this afternoon and hoping to fit in the Milford Sound in the next couple of days.

I've come to the realization that New Zealand doesn't have any dangerous animals because the climate is too unpredictable for anything to adapt to. The hiking/tramping has been great because I don't have to be afraid of any lizards, spiders, or the most poisonous, miniscule insects attacking me ( yay Australia!) but they are very lax about their safety measures taken on the paths and the weather forecasts are always a guess. *Don't worry Nan, someone always knows where I'm hiking.

The Milford Sound is said to be the "8th Wonder of the World" so I'm very excited to check it out!