Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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
Friday, November 20, 2009
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
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
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
NZ Takeover: Lahar Farm and Wellington
NZ Takeover: Abel Tasman and Franz Josef Glacier
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!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
My friend Anke and I headed out towards the mountain with the beautiful sun shining, excitement and some apprehension of what we were going to face; it didn't look TOO steep from the ground.
The first lag wasn't too bad. It was mostly boardwalk and path over a few streams and through flatland. The next lag was called the "Devil's Staircase" or "Thigh Master". Basically, 1 hour of stairs and mountainous incline. With a brief stop at the top we carried on up to the Red Crater and up the second steep slope of the day. This was covered in Scree which is loose gravelly rock alongside snow and ice. We basically took 2 steps forward and 1 step back slipping on this stuff. Not a very nice 1/2 hour climb. Once we reached the top of this, the sights were unreal and the burning sensation was forgotten. We made our way down to the Emerald Lakes where we sat on rocks naturally warmed by the volcano and ate our lunch.
As we carried on across a snowy plateau, I was especially giddy when it started to lightly snow at the top of the second peak. The scenery drastically changed again to rock and brush on the other side of the mountain as we began our descent.
At the bottom of this mountainside, we wandered through a rainforest for about an hour to find ourselves out by the bus. A great day for an unreal hike! The next day I took it easy thinking my body was going to hate me but it wasn't until a few days later when I could hardly walk.
After Taupo, I went to Turangi for a day, did a short hike and found my way to the lovely "Lahar Farm" to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. I had a fantastic stay with them on their farm playing around with the sheep, cow and deer. I ate like a queen and got to sleep in an actual bed. The first night I was staying there, I was actually quite afraid to sleep on my own as I hadn't slept in a room with less than 4 people in almost 2 months. It felt pretty silly to be 22 and talking myself out of checking for monsters under the bed.
The weather changed drastically while I was there being beautiful and summery one day allowing you to see Mt. Ruehpu from their back window, to a complete blizzard the next.
The one afternoon I decided to take a little walk around the farm on my own. I bundled up, and mentally prepped myself for some fence climbing and bushwalking. Brent had warned me to be cautious when I entered the deer pens because if I cornered them, they may jump the fence which would mean that their livestock just ran away. As I wandered through the fields chasing sheep around and taking pictures, I found myself in a small bushy area and got a little lost. I made my way out to a grassy part which I was familiar with and had to jump over a little 1.5 meter gully. I don't know if I was a little confident from all of the fence hopping I had been doing, but there was a reason why I had always avoided the jumping sports in track and field and jumping this ditch reminded me why.
As I backed away a couple of meters, took a few running steps and launched myself to the other bank with perfectly pointed toes in a jazzy type of way. I thought I had made it when my left foot landed; until my right shin caught the edge throwing my knee into my gut and winding myself. As I rolled onto the grass trying to catch my breath I couldn't help but laugh to myself thinking about how poor I had always done in the running long jump.
After the farm, I made my way to Wellington for 1 night. I would have loved to stay a little longer in this windy city but I was more than ready to carry onto the South Island. I boarded the ferry first thing Saturday morning and travelled across the Cook Strait to Picton and onward to Nelson. We had a fantastic Halloween party Saturday night with everyone dressing up in mismatched costumes.
Sunday morning myself and a friend took off to Abel Tasman National Park to do a day hike. It was easy as compared to the Alpine Crossing but beautiful none the less.
Today I climbed a hill to stand on the "Centre of New Zealand" in the heart of Nelson. Beautiful view, and again, great climb!
Off and running down the coast tomorrow.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
NZ Takeover: Auckland and the North
NZ Takeover: Rotorua and Taupo
NZ Takeover: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Thursday, October 22, 2009
On Wednesday we made our way to Wai-O-Tapu: The Geothermal Wonderland. It is a park that showcases the different pools of minerals and streams that are natural to the area. It was any science nerds' heaven!
That night I made my way to the Polynesian Spa to hang out in a couple of mineral pools that very in temperature all of which are heated from the earth. The temperatures ranged from 38-42 degrees with various minerals believed to aid different ailments. I do have to admit that it was a glorious treat for the scoliosis.
Thursday we were off to Waitomo to go through the caves looking at stalactites, stalagmites, and glow worms! The glow worms were by far my favourite as we drifted through a cave on a river in the pitch black. It looked like the milky way of glow worms as thousands of little blue glow worm butts filled the ceiling.
Today I am in Taupo doing a day hike in preparation for the big one sometime this weekend!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
It was a beautiful drive up the coast and when we got to Paihia, we were given the opportunity to take a boat trip to see "The Hole in the Rock" and told that if you want to see dolphins, the Bay of Islands is where to do it. I had a funny feeling about this, so I opted out as I had seen plenty of dolphins and whales in Aus, and thought I'd save the money and go for a kayak. Sure enough, our beautiful afternoon took a turn for the worse, and the waters were rough and the sky's were terribly dark. When the boat trip returned, they were soaked from the rain, with many unhappy backpackers with pictures lacking dolphins. My tourist-trap sense is tingling!
I took the time to wander around Paihia grab some great photos, and decided to cut my trip short and head back to Auckland the next day. It was a full bus tour across to Hokianga, and down the west coast stopping into Waipoua Forest to see the giant Kauri trees.
Today I hopped on a free city tour to explore the underbelly of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, watch a guy dressed as a dinosaur bungy jump for a music video, tramped around Devonport, up to Mt Victoria to get a great view of Auckland, One Tree Hill, and a whole lot of Maori history thanks to our knowledgeable tour guide!
Off to Rotorua tomorrow!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
After a ridiculous climb down the steepest hill I've ever seen in a city (Yay for 17 kg packs!) I found my hostel. Clean, civilized, and clean. MUCH different from where I was staying in Aus. Did I mention it was clean? The YHA is by far the way to go when it comes to cleanliness standard. The downside, is that they're bloody expensive to stay in in Australia.
*Backpacking Tips and Tricks from Pitts*
It's a good idea to pick up a YHA or any other hosteling card as you'll get great discounts on tours, etc. When booking your hostel be sure to check out www.hostelworld.com before booking through the hostel or the hosteling website. I've done my research and found the same room for $3-4 cheaper online. When I went to book a room through reception, and cringed at the price further explaining I found it cheaper online the girl nodded, and said it is often that way but they obviously don't want to promote it. Furthermore, I've been upgraded to a better room a couple of times because you are able to book one night at a time online, when they often discourage that booking in house :)
Back to the adventure; it was pouring rain the first day I was here so I wandered around with my 2 lovely German roommates. We were later joined that day by another Canadian and had to go out for a celebratory pint. Celebrating what you may ask? Our lives.
Today we made our way to Rangitoto Island which is the youngest volcanic island in Auckland. It was an awesome hike with a fantastic outlook point at the top. We also checked out a couple of the Lava Caves which were exciting and hilarious to navigate through with no torch. Good fun.
I'm off to Paihia tomorrow. Stay posted for pictures!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I was told by many people not to stop here as it was a bit of a sleepy town; perfect for a holiday from my holiday before New Zealand. The hostel, Sands, was one of the nicest I've stayed in yet. ACTUAL mattresses, windows, shower stalls, etc. The whole 9 yards. I met a lovely Aus whom I spent the next couple of days hanging out with. On the Saturday, I decided it was time for me to do something about my lack-of tan as there is hardly any evidence I've been in Australia for over a month. So, I chose to live on the edge and slapped on the SPF 30 instead of my usual 45+ (still wearing SPF 60 on my face...obviously.) and revealed my baby-skin body to the sun. Now, if you were to think of the 3 most inconvenient places to burn I would think this would include a) the bottom of your feet b) your hands and c) your butt. I escaped the first 2, but my butt was so burnt I could hardly sit, and it resulted in me scratching it furiously over the next few days. After many applications of "After Sun", going back to the SPF 45, I would like to proudly introduce;
"Off-White; The New Transparent by Pitts... Get into it."
This would have been a great line for a new tan product if the tan was evenly distributed but at the moment I look like a wall with various shades of white being compared by a couple who can't decide on a colour for their baseboard.
From Coolangatta I made my way to Byron Bay where I met up with another Canadian (WE ARE EVERYWHERE...and we all have Canadian flags on our packs. It's a running joke in the backpacking world.) I experienced my first real rain out in the 6 weeks I've been here which only resulted in meeting some awesome people in my hostel. The next day, I had a surf lesson booked, ate so much sand thanks to the fierce winds and waves that they called the lesson. At this point, I have a ridiculous amount of respect for surfer's and will stick to my snow...until I'm back in Aus next month.
My last night in Byron we pulled a group together, a few of the girls' I'd met while travelling the coast were in town, and headed to the Cheeky Monkey for a few. It was a great way to end my time in Aus.
I'm off to the airport bright and early tomorrow to start my tour of NZ. Sweet as, bro.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I stayed in a lovely hostel that was actually clean, and met some amazing people in my room that were going on tour with me. For those who don't know, I haven't slept in a room with less than 4 people this entire trip; no, it hasn't been "that" kind of trip. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Friday morning we met our crew, organized the camping equipment and got pumped to do our self-drive tour. The group consisted of 8 Americans, 2 French, 2 Dannish, 2 Sweds, 1 Irish, 1 South American, and of course, Miss Canada.
Now, a "self-drive tour" would be great if 1: we all knew how to drive on the left side of the car, and 2: If we were all professional sand-dune drivers. I was in the truck with the Americans who fit the classic stereotype and loved anything that was loud and obnoxious. Our driver was actually very good, and as safe as possible and we didn't get stuck once. Unfortunately, the other guys also fit the American stereotype of having a surplus of testosterone and anyone who we came across who was stuck, the football team unloaded from the back of the truck to flex their muscles only to finish the session with a chestbump and high fives.
The first night we stayed in an Aboriginal camp ground which was awesome, and the second night we camped on the beach. I was so happy to get some legitimate camping in, the South American girl and myself got up bright and early to watch the sunrise on Fraser Island. Very cool. We also watched whales playing while sitting on the beach. Hervey Bay is where whales bring their babies to play with before they take them back down to coast to cooler waters.
On the tour, we visited Lake Mackenzie, which was this unreal fresh water lake in the middle of the island that is surrounded by bright white sand, and has beautful crystal blue water. We also went to Indian Head to see more whales, sting rays, turtles, etc.
After we made it back to Hervey Bay, with sand in places I didn't even know I had, there was time for a washing, quick dinner and bed with an early train down the coast to Brisbane.
I met up with my friend's Siobhan and Pavan in Brisbane to celebrate Pavan's last few days in Aus as she was heading back to Vancouver. Fortunately for me, Pavan was booked into a hotel, and offered for me to pay her whatever I would have paid for a hostel and stay with them. Luxurious! I had forgotten how nice it was to shower without wearing flipflops.
Yesterday we spent at the Australian Zoo...THE IRWIN ZOO! It was AWESOME. Pictures coming soon.
As for right now, I'm heading into Surfer's to meet up with a few friends, visit Coolangata and Byron Bay for maybe a surf lesson or two. Too easy mate, too easy.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday night we slept on the boat just outside of Hayman Island expecting to wake up bright early when we all woke up to a dead engine. It took about 6 hours for them to sort it out at which time we were greeted with a Trimaran, "Avator" coming to our rescue. We were all shuttled onto the boat that was definitely an upgrade and told we were to be put up in a resort because there wasn't enough room to sleep on the boat.
As we were put onto a dingy at 10 o'clock that night we arrived to the "resort"where I classically fell out of the dingy and soaked myself in ankle high water. As I came up to the rest of the group, slightly embarrassed, and moreso simply unimpressed, I was pleasantly surprised to find another girl has fallen in as well. Nothing brings people together faster than humiliation.
As the night went on, the "hot shower" was actually a freezing cold leaky pipe, and the "beds" were tents. Side note: remember, this isn't just camping on the beach, there are spiders the size of my hand, lizards and snakes and any other terrifying creature you can imagine.
Aside from the interesting accommodation, we made it to the unreal Whitehaven Beach, snorkeled the Great Barrier reef everyday, and spent my time sailing on an unbelievable boat.
I'm now carrying on down the coast to Frasier Island; maybe I'll find my new calling is driving a 4x4 on the beach.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I've never had a more frightening experience then this one when it came to bus drivers. As we wound along the coastal road hugging the mountainside, all I could do was stare out the window thinking, "Well, atleast my scene of death was pretty awesome."
We made our way to a wildlife park where I saw my first cassowary, crocs, wallabies and kangaroos. Had a bit of a situation with the kanga's but that's a story for another day. Went to Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation where we could look out and see the part of the reef where Steve Irwin died (RIP).
After a jam packed day, I made it back to Cairns in one piece only to pack and head to the bus for 8:30 the next morning. Arrived in Townsville around 4 and made it to the dodgy hostel. Next morning, grabbed the first ferry over to Magnetic Island where we had the most amazing breakfast, held a koala, pet a croc and fed a cockatoo from my mouth. We were planning on going for a walk, but it was so bloody hot we only made it as far as the pool side bar. Tough life.
Today, I am aiding to my gorgeous backpack tan and revving up to take a trip around the Whitsunday's tomorrow.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Made my way to the hostel which was a hole in the wall across from the Esplanade Lagoon. There is no swimming or beach right on the coast of Cairns as the water is FULL of crocodiles and jelly fish. After meeting another lovely Canadian, Siobhan, we went out for the night, followed by a tough day eating tim tam's and drinking wine by the pool.
Saturday consisted of the coolest thing I have ever done in my life...yet. Siobhan and I began our tour on a "rustic" looking boat, choosing functionality over comfort. All I can say is I started to get my sea legs for about the first 1.5 hour of the trek on the rocky ocean almost losing it the last 1/2 an hour at which point we had to slow down to reach our destination. I'd never been more willing to throw myself into unknown water.
After we got into our wet wetsuits (it's like, trying to put on a second skin that chafes through the entire process) we slapped on our snorkel masks and went for it.
Snorkeling is the most peaceful experience to begin with; floating around and the only thing audible is your breathing. And then, to top it off with unbelievable fish, and coral in every shape, size, colour, design you can think of is breathtaking (Although, this is ok when snorkeling because you have your breathing tube).
Next, it was time for the intro dive. We had a weight belt slapped on, followed by the enormous backpack, horked in our masks, held the breathing piece and were gently shoved in. We learned a few tricks on land about equalizing your ears, getting water out of your mask, and what to do if your "Life" (mouthpiece) falls out.
Sure enough, I was overly excited, able to coordinate the skills on top of the water, and the guy told me to "hold the rope on the way down, don't forget to equalize your ears, and I'll meet you down there mate, once I help these guys." WHAT?! Before I could take my life out of my mouth to object, he pressed the blue button that deflated my jacket and I began to sink. The only thing I could do, was breathe like Luke's father, and pop my ears as frequently as I could remember.
Before I knew it, I was literally sitting on the bottom of the ocean (because the weights were too heavy at this moment) watching the other's come down. So what to do in the mean time? Have a stroll on the ocean floor.
After we were all sorted and I was able to swim, he showed us a few things we could touch, but mostly just look at as close as possible without falling on it. I touched the inside of a clam which made it close, rubbed a few sea cucumbers, saw a school of buffalo fish, maybe saw a shark, but am in denial about it, nemo fish, and way too many other things to describe.
Diving was REALLY fun. I would definitely try it again as this time around it was difficult getting used to breathing underwater, the equipment, etc.
That's all for now as I'm off to book the next destination. Chat ya from Townsville.