Sunday, December 2, 2012

Where I've Been

I was screwing around on the internet today, when I found this html app I had seen a few years back. It lets you see how much of the world you've travelled, in a percentage point. Here's my map:





Create your own travel map - TravBuddy


Only 8%!!! I have more work travelling to do. And it's looking like Turkey in May...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finale

I've been putting off writing this post, and now I figure I'm ready to do it. My trip is over. I arrived home on Saturday night after a day of hiking in Banff with a girl I met in Hawaii, who lives in Calgary. We had beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and a great end to my trip. Prior to that I had been hanging with my good friend Dustin in Revelstoke for a week, hanging out with him and his family, and helping him out a little with his auto detailing business. I learned a little about auto detailing from him, and might even try to do it on the side next summer.

I made the right choice going back to Alaska and finishing my trip. Driving in a car solo is much different than backpacking; I definitely met a lot fewer people. The first week up to the Yukon was pretty lonely, I never really ran into people my age, mostly retired RV people. It was great to reconnect with my friends, Terry and Jessica, in Whitehorse, and definitely made some new friends there. The drive up to the Arctic Ocean, hiking in Denali, and the boat tour in Seward were the highlights for me, and I have some amazing pictures from all of them. The amount of wildlife I saw blew my mind! Grizzly bears, black bears, moose, a wolf, bald eagles, humpback whales, orcas, dall porpoises, dall sheep, stellar sea lions, and harbour seals made this trip the most animal plentiful trip I've ever taken. I apologize if my writing has been mediocre on this one, it was really hard to make it interesting when I'm really doing the same thing over and over. I can describe to you how the mountains look or what animals I saw, but what I was mostly doing was repetitive: camping in the mountains. This trip also gave me exactly what I needed after Australia: my mountain fix.

The number one question I get about my trip is what country was my favourite? My answer is always between three: Nepal, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. All were amazing for different reasons. Nepal had the diverse scenery, jungle lowlands to the nearly nine thousand foot peaks of the Himalayas. The country is literally crumbling, but the people are so friendly and the culture so strong. Never have I been anywhere as interesting as Nepal. The Philippines was a true backpacker country, like something you hear the old hippies talk about the way it was in their day. You can easily get off the beaten track and to amazing beaches, and the people there are some of the friendliest and most hospitable I have ever met. Papua New Guinea was pure adventure; any adventurous traveller should make a pilgrimage there. The country is completely untouched: the reefs are pristine, the jungle unmolested, and the culture unlike anywhere I have seen. The people there can be some of the friendliest people around, but can also be incredibly violent and should not be crossed.

After nearly two years away from home, I'm ready to be back, and feeling good about it. I'm looking forward to expanding my career path and hopefully learning a new skill. I also have plans to develop my photography hobby and hopefully make some money off all these pictures I've snapped on my trip. Also, I was ecstatic to discover the pictures I took from New Britain and New Ireland in PNG are backed up on cd's here, so I'll be working hard to edit and upload those with the thousands of others I still have to go through.

So for the next year I'll be in travel limbo, and you'll be going through Kyle withdrawls. I doubt I'll make it on a trip between now and next summer, but if I do, be sure I'll make a post. The idea is to apply for a scholarship to Indonesia next summer, where I'll get paid to study and live in a tropical paradise, one that I really wanted to visit but wasn't able to. I'll keep posting the odd post on travel tips and whatnot, but the bread and butter of this blog is on hold for now. Thanks for following me on my adventures, and I look forward to entertaining you all next year!

Kyle Werstiuk

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

R&R

The Shuswap Lakes are the perfect place to unwind after three days of hard driving. I arrived at my Aunt and Uncle's trailer lot at Scotch Creek on Wednesday evening. They own a recreational lot inside a gated community called Caravans West, where many families and retired folks own lots they park trailers and RV's on, usually staying for a good portion of the summer. The community is perfect for families, there's an adult and kids swimming pool, a waterpark and playground. It's also a two minute stroll to the lake, and is right next to Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, where there's a decent beach.

The entire time I was there the temperature soared into the mid thirties, and I fiercely worked to even out the horrible farmers tan I acquired in Alaska. I split my afternoons between the beach and the pool. The first day my uncle Maurice took me in his boat up the Seymour Arm of the Shushwap Lake, one of the more remote arms. At the end of it was a small community, complete with a pub where we had a beer in the sun. The water was nice and calm on the way there, making the dead heads (tips of giant logs lying below the surface, dangerous to water skiiers) visible. The flooding they had there this year had washed a lot of the beachside logs back into the lake, posing a risk to water skiing and wakeboarding.

On Sunday my aunt and uncle left to make the trip back home, leaving me there to watch the place for one more night until my cousin arrived the following day. I decided to go out for a beer and shoot some pool at the local pub, and hopefully talk to somebody my age. The problem with Caravans West is the age is quite polarized; in the hut tub you're either talking to someone eighteen or sixty years old. I don a nice shirt and head to the pub, only to find it completely deserted. I wasn't content with driving back and calling it a night, so I said the hell with it, I'm going to Kamloops for a beer. I knew a couple pubs from my time on the railroad, being layed over for the night waiting to take a train back to Revelstoke in the morning. I walk into the pub, grab a beer and shoot a game of pool. Right after my game is finished I happen to look over at the bar and see a guy that looks quite familiar. I walk over and it turns out to be my old friend, Angry Dave, who's brother I lived with in Revelstoke, and who is also a fellow railroader. We call Dave Angry Dave because he is, well, angry. Example, yelling at a crackhead to fuck off when she begs for change. In the spirit of a reunion after four years, we go out and get very drunk. I woke up on his couch at 8am and Dave drove me back to my truck, where I got to watch him tell the same crackhead to again fuck off, this time with a more hangover induced anger. I laughed.

I got back to Scotch Creek at 9am, and thankfully my cousin, Mark, hadn't arrived yet, as I was supposed to be there to help him back his trailer into the tricky, confined lot. His wife Venessa wouldn't have been happy if she had had to do it alone. They arrived at 1:30, we got the trailer in quickly, and took his two young kids, Brayden and Ava, to the pool and splashed around for the afternoon. That night a couple of their friends, Wes and Claudine, came over and we had a few beers and laughs. The next day I said my goodbyes and drove over the Salmon Arm to stay with my Aunt Lynn and Uncle Ralph at their house.

And here I am today! The weather is still beautiful, so I'd imagine we'll walk around the warf a bit and find some other stuff to do.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lazy Days

I'm currently soaking up the sun in the Shuswap Lakes and am too lazy to make a post about it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Going Down

I'm midway through my long journey south through British Columbia. I bailed out of Seward on Friday, driving eight hours and camping overnight at a nice, free campground near the border. On Saturday I made it back to Whitehorse and booked back into the same hostel I was in before. A bit different of a crowd this time, I came back around 1am after drinking with Terry to find a guy passed out snoring on the kitchen floor. 

After Whitehorse I pulled a right turn at the Cassiar Highway, taking me into the heart of the British Columbia Interior. I really liked the drive, it's a paved but unmarked highway that has minimal traffic on it, and great scenery. It makes for a fun ride too, weaving through the winding corners up and down the steep hills that cut through the dense forest. I saw a shit ton of black bears, too. I camped in another free campground (BC Recreation Sites are awesome) for the night and headed out early this morning, pulling a good ten hour shift behind the wheel to get to Prince George. And here I am, tomorrow I'll head to Scotch Creek, on the Shuswap Lakes, to spend some time with my aunt and uncle at their trailer lot. 

It's a good feeling to be back in Canada, where the temperature measurement system makes sense, everything is back to kilometers, the people are far less ignorant and religious, and global warming is an acknowledged issue. The only thing I'm going to miss is the cheap beer and gasoline...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yesterday was an awesome birthday! First off, the weather here has been incredible! On the 25th I hiked to the Harding Icefields, wayyyyy up behind the Exit Glacier, in the alpine. It was a very nice landscape, and I saw a couple black bears in the meadows, but there were a lot of people, making the trail quite crowded.

So yesterday I had booked an ocean tour to go see the Kenai Fords National Park and it's massive glaciers. Normally I am not a fan of tours, I like to go seek and find my own adventure and learn something in the process, but tours are the only way to see these glaciers, so I spoiled myself for my birthday and booked it. It was a beautiful morning in town, with a little fog hanging around in the harbour. I lined up with the plethora of senior citizens and boarded the boat. We departed the harbour and soon were mired in a thick fog and low cloud that would plague us for a couple more hours. Luckily it didn't interfere with our wildlife viewing. We were soon at the side of a cliff face watching various sea birds, including Puffins. We also caught a quick glimpse of a Humpback Whale. The boat captain was very generous when it came to spotting wildlife, he would stop the boat on a dime and call out over the speakers what he was seeing.



Shortly after we were out in the middle of the bay, cruising around a pod of Orcas. This was exactly what I wanted to see in Alaska, and seeing them completed my trip. They truly are magnificent animals. After that we took a long cruise toward the glaciers, stopping briefly to look at colonies of Stellar Sea Lions. As soon as we arrived in the fjord, the fog broke and we had amazing clear skies. This made the view of the Aialik glacier incredible. We sat near the toe of it for a good half an hour, watching a couple large pieces break off and crash into the seas below with a loud thunder-like sound. On the way back we were so lucky: we spotted around nine Humpback Whales! These were just as amazing as the Orcas, and much more amazing as the first. I managed to catch a few complete breaches, when the whales crash up out of the water, becoming completely airborne. All in all, the tour was incredible! I think it would be pretty hard to top that kind of a birthday.

And now I start the long journey back towards home, but first a stop in Salmon Arm to visit family...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last Stop In Alaska

This is it, the last stop in Alaska before I start making the journey back to home and responsible life. I spent my last couple days in Anchorage getting my vehicle repaired, which went by without a hitch. I figured I would have to spend around $400, and that's what I ended up spending. It turns out only a plate inside the struts needed to be replaced, luckily not the whole strut themselves, which would have cost around $700. Due to the neanderthal like Swiss guy I was sharing the dorm room with, who kept snoring and farting in his sleep all night (seriously, it was fucking rank), I tried to pull a late one and went to the late showing of the Dark Knight Rises, which was heinously awesome. Whoever is responsible for the casting of that movie should be given a gold star.

I arrived into Seward today around 1:30, and couldn't check into the hostel right away, so I jumped around downtown a little and checked out some boat tours of the nearby glaciers, and I think I decided on a six hour tour. It's a little pricey, but it's my birthday on Thursday (when I'll do the tour), so I have to spoil myself a little. I went and checked out the Sea Life Centre, which is basically a small aquariam sort of thing. It was decent. Tomorrow I'll go hike up to the Exit Glacier, then boat tour and drinking!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Epic Days In Denali

I just arrived in Anchorage after five awesome days in Denali. After getting my tire fixed, oil changed, and last minute supplies gathered in Fairbanks, I hit the road for Denali and arrived around 5pm. I basically arrived with no plan whatsoever, just flying by the seat of my pants, not knowing what to expect. My only semblance of a plan was to stay a night in the main campground at the gate, since it was too late in the day to head out into the park. Instantly upon arrival I had an obstacle to overcome: campground full. I went to check with the registration attendant anyways, and luck was with me, she had just had a cancellation minutes before my arrival, and I was able to snag the last spot in the campground. Step one, complete.

Next I went to the Backcountry Centre to seek the opinion of a ranger on where I should go in the park. I had thought of setting up a base camp in one of the campgrounds past the gate and doing day hikes from there, but the words "back country passes are free" changed my mind without question. I had all my hiking gear in my truck, anyways. I did the hour long course on back country safety and whatnot, and had my back country pass and bear-proof food canister minutes before the rangers went off duty. The plan was now to spend one night in the Igloo Creek Campground, and then two more in Section 9 of the back country, in the Polychrome Mountains. I went back to my campsite, cooked a much needed dinner, and packed my backpack for the next day.

The next morning I took the last shower I would have for four days, packed my cooler with as much ice as I could to preserve my food during my absence, and headed for the visitor centre to catch my bus. In my haste I nearly left my camera in my truck, which would have been disastrous, but luckily I remembered just before the bus arrived, and I was able to retrieve it.

Denali National Park is very well run. There's one road that leads into the park, and it's closed to public vehicles shortly beyond the park gate. Instead people must take the park campground or tour buses that run along the road and are driven by park staff. It's a great system; you buy one ticket and basically once you're inside the park you can get picked up and dropped off at will in any direction you want to go. I believe Parks Canada should be implementing programs like this in the tourist-bloated Banff and Jasper National Parks. On that bus ride we also happened to spot a Grizzly sow with two cubs!

I arrived in Igloo Campground around 2pm, immediately set up my tent and started hoofing it up Igloo Peak. Parts of it were really steep scrambles along scree slopes, which is always a little nerve racking, looking down a forty five degree slope of loose rock that you could cause to slide if you were sloppy. As I was hiking along the knife ridge, nearing the higher ridge that would lead to the summit, I happened to glance up and see the horned head of a sheep looking at me. Cool, I thought, I'll see a ram up there. I summit the ridge and not only see a ram, but a whole herd of Dall Sheep twenty feet away from me! What a great experience that was, to be that close to them, and not on the side of some highway. They were not habituated to people at all either; they stared at me for a good half an hour out of sheer curiosity, while I snapped pictures of them liberally. I then became engaged in Mexican Standoff with one that was blocking the trail leading to the summit. I wouldn't budge, neither would he. Eventually he recognized and backed off, and I summitted Igloo Peak!



The next day I caught the bus to I Scream Gulch, where I would get off to start my back country trek. On the bus I discovered another positive aspect of the Denali shuttle system: it keeps all the clueless tourists concentrated in one place. Denali is full of tourists from the lower forty-eight states, and a lot of them have never been in or have any clue about the wilderness. A bunch of them were utterly fascinated about my upcoming back country trek, and all the logistics behind it.

I stepped off the bus at I Scream Gulch at noon, and started my descent down a gravel drainage to the Toklat River Valley below. The day was warm and sunny, and I started making good time on the easy footing of the wide, gravel strewn valley. As I got further up the valley, the wind seemed to get more powerful. This was a prelude to my whole stay there; the wind never let up, and was always very strong. About halfway into my walk, I was hiking through some sparse willow groves when I rounded one and was thirty feet away from a male Caribou. Another repeat experience, this one equally as awesome. He watched me for a little while, I snapped photos, he trotted off. I arrived at a large meadow out of sight of the road (one of the rules about where you can camp) and pitched my tent. It was quickly apparent that clean drinking water was going to be a problem: the Toklat river is heavily silted. I didn't have a filter, so I resorted to filtering through a hand cloth, which took a long time.  I had a quick nap and break from the howling wind, then hiked up a ridge directly above my camp. From there I saw the solution to my water problem: a small runoff stream coming from a small waterfall on the cliff face, about a kilometer from my camp. As I was looking at this, I happened to look to the right at a bluff above and noticed something grey. I brought up my camera and it's 200mm lens to have a look, sighting on the grey object. It was a wolf! I scrambled to click my camera on and focus on the animal, but it had turned and disappeared over the crest of the hill before I could snap a photo. Shit! I ran up the hill as fast as I could to get a view of it. I reached a high point over where it had been, gasping for breath, but could see nothing. I searched all over the ridge, moving to every vantage point I could find, but still to no avail. I figure it must have had a den up there, and disappeared into it when it saw me. Unfortunate that I couldn't get a photo, but still awesome to catch a view of those rare animals!



That evening I learned of my first mistake of my trip: both packaged dehydrated meals I brought with me were loaded with beans. Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans, and Mesquite Back Country Chilli. Those nights were the only time I was thankful for the wind to air out my tent. It was a good thing I was alone in there.

The next day I woke up and started trekking further up the valley. I passed the campsite of some other trekkers and waved a brief hello. The valley I was in is very wide, about a kilometer, flanked on both sides by high mountains of beige, red, grey and black rock, many of them crumbling into the valley below. About ten kilometers up the valley the river forks and snakes up to it's feeding glaciers. The clouds were hanging around raining on the glaciers themselves, so I didn't try to hike to them. That wasn't really what I was there for anyways, I've seen many glaciers and have many close to home, I was in Denali for the wildlife. I hiked up to a ridge and had some amazing views of the valleys and the glaciers, and happened to see a Hoary Marmot. By that time the incessant wind was starting to get to my, so I retired to my tent and chilled out there for the evening, killing off a book.

Today I awoke early and collected all my gear up for the trek out. I departed camp and the beautiful valley at 9am. The trip back was a little more complicated; the rain at the glaciers had obviously increased the melt a little, and the rivers were higher, forcing me detour on the high bluffs above, across scree slopes and through thick willow groves. Despite these setbacks, I still arrived back at the road in exactly three hours. I waited about half an hour to catch the bus. During this wait, the driver in a bus heading the opposite way was nice enough to throw me a sucker! The bus ride back was uneventful, except for sighting a Falcon in the distance. I arrived at the parking lot, stowed my gear in my truck, grabbed a quick shower, dropped off my bear proof canister, and hit the road for Anchorage. And here I am, back in the same hostel I stayed at when  I was here last. I'm going to see about getting my shocks fixed on my truck, and go from there. My birthday is in four days, and I hope to spend it on the coast in Seward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Conquest of the Dalton Highway



There it is, the last ocean on Earth, stepped in by me! I decided to pony up and spend the money to get up to Deadhorse, which was a good call considering gas wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be. It was $5.19/gallon in Coldfoot (halfway up the highway), and $5.21/gallon in Deadhorse. Considering this, had I found out that gas was this cheap (considering), I would have been pissed off if I had skipped the Arctic Ocean. Check one more conquest Kyle has beat upon the world!

The Dalton Highway was awesome! Not as rough as I thought it would be, but still rough enough to damage one of my tires, which I'll have to have fixed tomorrow. It was a really good thing I bought that full spare; I was twenty miles out of Coldfoot when I found it nearly deflated, and a doughnut would not cut it on that highway. The scenery was amazing, espeically coming out of the Brooks Range, where the mountains gave way green tundra. I only saw two notable species of wildlife there: an Arctic Owl and misquitos. LOTS of misquitos. LEGIONS of misquitos. The jungles of Asia and Papua New Guinea did not even come close to the amount of misquitos. They were the worst I've ever seen:



Tomorrow I'm going to try to get that tire fixed, and if possible, drive to Denali National Park to spend some time exploring the wildneress there, so don't expect another post for close to a week!

Dalton Highway, Day 1

Here's the video recap of the first day on the Dalton Highway:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Arctic Cirlce, Here I Come!

Today I've been running around, gathering supplies and whatnot for my trip up the Dalton Highway tomorrow. For those of you that don't know about this highway, it runs north from Fairbanks to within a few miles of the Arctic Ocean, at Deadhorse. The highway is basically a gravel road the entire four hundred and fourteen miles, and is mostly used by semi-trucks delivering supplies to the oilfield operations in Deadhorse. It skirts the giant Trans-Alaska Pipeline that delivers oil from Deadhorse to the oil terminal in Valdez.

The definite plan is to drive up to the Brooks Range, which is about fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle. I'm not really sure yet if I'm going to do the entire drive to Deadhorse; gas is expensive (possibly $7 a gallon) at the two stations on the highway, and I'd have to take a tour from Deadhorse to the Arctic Ocean, which is another $45. The goal would be to jump in the Arctic Ocean, thus being able to brag about swimming in every ocean in the world. Whatever I end up doing, it's going to be one hell of an adventure. In front of me I have a four hundred and fourteen mile gravel road running through the arctic tundra, supplied by two gas stations and patrolled by an army of misquitos. Let the games begin...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Odd First Night

Ok, so weird first night at this hostel. There is a guy and his boy, who has to be eleven or so, that were staying in the dorm across from mine. Last night around 3am I here the kid crying, and then knocks on my door. I open the door and he's sobbing, asking me to use my phone to call his dad, because he left at 8:30 and hasn't returned yet. I ask: does he drink? Yes. To calm him down I let him use my Skype account to try and call his loser father. Of course there's no response. I tell him to go to bed, his dad will be back soon. Sure enough, being it was last call, he returned about an hour later. So after reading this I'm sure, like me, you're asking: WHAT KIND OF A DEADBEAT FUCKUP LOSER OF A FATHER WOULD LEAVE HIS BOY AT A HOSTEL WITH A BUNCH OF STRANGERS WHILE HE GOES OUT DRINKING ALL NIGHT!!!???

Now that I'm done ranting about deadbeats, I can tell you about my first afternoon in Fairbanks. I caught up on some much needed sleep, and headed out into the sunny day for Pioneer Park. It's basically an established heritage exhibit that has a few small amusement rides for kids, an old (I think original) pioneer town, and a couple museums from the Frontier times of Alaska and the Yukon. After that I washed the inch of mud off my truck and was almost surprised to find paint underneath. Ten dollars and it still isn't totally clean, but I figure it's not worth totally detailing it since I'll be heading on the Dalton Highway soon, which is guaranteed to mud it up to the same level again. Then I bought a big salmon fillet for five dollars. Mmmmmmm...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the City, the City of Dawson

I'll be brief with Dawson City, because that's what it was. Drove there from Whitehorse with a girl from Quebec that needed a ride. Split a cabin in a hostel with her for a couple nights. Got drunk in Dawson the first night, weather was great. Hostel was rustic but had a wicked wood heated bath house. Weather was absolute shit the next day, cold and rainy. Went to the Jack London Museum, they had his original cabin there, pretty cool. Stayed in that night due to my stomach rebelling after four days of alcohol abuse.


Exit Dawson City. Weather was shit again this morning so I made the call and bailed for Fairbanks. I didn't see much from the "Top of the World" Highway due it being shrouded in fog. I got a wicked stamp in my passport from the border crossing there. I made a quick stop and grabbed some lunch in Chicken, Alaska. I was a little disappointed in it. I had expected a cool little town, but really it was more of a novelty than anything, there were a couple RV parks, a cafe and a tiny tavern. Beyond Chicken was great weather; sunny skies and warmth all the way to Fairbanks. I stopped at a couple places and snapped a few photos like the one above. I rolled into Dawson City and was immediately frustrated by the road construction downtown that ran me through a bunch of crazy detours. Luckily I found the visitor centre and subsequently a hostel. I'm bagged from that drive, the first couple hours were a nerve grind on a shitty, rainy gravel road, so I'm hitting the hay and will figure stuff out tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Heart Music Festivals

Atlin was a total shitshow, but in the best possible way. I had a great time there! Unfortunately most of that ironically does not include music, as the friends I was hanging with didn't want to spend much time in the grounds, but it was still great. I did a lot of partying and met a lot of cool people. Atlin is a beautiful town; the scenery there ranks as one of the most beautiful settings in the world. It's set on the shore of Atlin Lake, which is flanked by beautiful, snow capped peaks that are spread apart by wide valleys. Really a kick ass place to camp, let alone have a music festival. It's a shame it's so remote, though. There's only one highway that leads in from the north, about two hours from Whitehorse.

Before I indulge in the festival too much, I should write a blurb about my ferry ride to Skagway and subsequent drive. I caught the ferry from Haines and 1:45, and was in Skagway an hour later. I had a nice wait at the ferry terminal, watching two Grizzly Bears poking around the shore below. The ride was pretty scenic, but cloudy. Skagway didn't appeal to me. I had heard lots of bad things from a lot of people about how touristy it is, due to the cruise ships, and they appeared to be right. It's literally jewelry shop after jewelry shop after jewelry shop. I was like "no thanks", and booked it right out of town. The Klondike highway was beautiful, but as I was in a hurry to get to Atlin, I didn't take any pictures. Another awesome point of the day was when the border guard let me through without having to pay duty on the beer I bought! I rolled into Atlin around 6pm, and found Terry and Molly right away. They were already drunk, I proceeded to catch up.

The festival was really well set up. It's not huge, I would guess around one thousand people attend, maybe a little more. There's only one stage so you can't miss a band while seeing another one, and the beer garden has a great view of the stage. The camping is set between the lake and the festival grounds, one for RV's and across the street is the tent city. I opted for the simply route and slept in my truck. It was actually pretty comfortable, but I'm sure being drunk helped that a little. I didn't have a program so I can't remember the names of the bands I saw, but most were pretty good. A couple of the bluegrass bands were a little slow paced and boring, but the late night bands were epic! One ripped James Brown until midnight, a great crowd pleaser. After the beer gardens shut down at 1am a party would start in the RV camp ground around a big bonfire, and some of the musicians came out and jammed, which was pretty cool. I ended up hanging out with the guitarist of the band that ripped James Brown, he was a pretty solid guy. The last night I was a machine and ended up partying until 6am and full daylight. I'm now a little under the weather.

So tomorrow I'm off to Dawson City to start another road to Alaska!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Daaaaa Bears!

Ok so apparently brown bears are the new black for this week. I've been seeing them everywhere, including my own campsite! Well, I can't go that far, as I didn't actually see it, but being woke up in the middle of the night by one poking around my stove, then smelling that ultra wet dog garbage dump smell through my tent is enough to confirm it was there. I wouldn't doubt it was the brown bear I saw that evening at Chilkoot Lake near the boat launch, where I saw the most ignorant person in the world (from the Southern States, go figure) try to approach it, and then tear a strip off the guy that told him not to. Then last night I saw two brown bears walking along the highway, and got to watch them for twenty minutes while they grazed through the grass.

Basically I've been wandering around taking pictures until today, Independence Day! I headed into town this morning and watched the parade. It's a small town, around two thousand people, so one couldn't expect anything fancy, but it was still fun, and I got some candy out of it! After that I pigged out at the bbq, watched a spike driving competition, a fire hose competition (two teams opposite each other spray a buoy on a wire to push it past the other team), then headed over to the beer gardens at the music festival. The bands were decent to start, but slowed down as time went on. The thing that drove me out was the MC that did the intermission between then bands. He was fucking terrible! Here's some of his jokes to shed some light on this: Joseph Stalin, end of joke! Here's a joke, Catherine: You on a roof with that guy you like! I can't make this shit up. Seriously, there were maybe five or six out of a hundred people laughing at any given time. I've never seen anyone bomb so bad, it was embarrassing. I was so tempted to shout out, when he said he was from Seattle, you should have followed Cobain!

So tomorrow I'll spend the day here and hopefully get to photograph some more bears and/or eagles, then on Friday I take the ferry to Skagway, then on to Atlin for more music and hopefully no shitty MC's!

Monday, July 2, 2012

That's Right Alaska, I'm Back!

I told you all a few weeks ago, via video, that I would return to Alaska. And I delivered! I blessed the USA with my presence this afternoon through the checkpoint on the Haines Highway, which has also become the most beautiful highway that I've ever driven. You turn off from Highway 1 and head straight south, quickly climbing up into the alpine, which is still full of snow due to the record snowfall this year. The views are incredible! It was cloudy and grey for my drive, so I am envious of anyone who gets to hit that pavement on a clear day.

The past few days I've been hanging in Whitehorse with my friends I traveled with in Laos (Terry and Jessica), meeting new people and drinking lots of beer. Some of the highlights have been staying out at my friends' girlfriend's (Molly) house, out in the country, which is a kick ass place and also has a really cool resident dog, and the other day when we went out to hike to the ridge above the Bonnyville Lakes, which was awesome, but when we went to get back in the car to leave the trailhead, closing the car doors funnelled in about fifty (not exaggerating here) misquitos. It was a slaughter for both sides.

Our Canada Day was really low key; we ended up visiting with Terry and Jessica's family for a few hours, then heading down to Shipyard Park to watch a couple local bands that were playing for the festival. We then headed back to Molly's place and drank copious amounts of beer with some more friends. Whitehorse seems like the typical small town idea, everyone knows each other, gossips a lot, and

So, Haines. I rolled in here today and am impressed. It looks like a quaint, relaxed fishing town. The scenery is incredible! It's located at the end of a long inlet (the longest in Alaska, I think), with towering mountains on either side of the water, and two large rivers close nearby. I'm hoping it's early enough to see the bears doing some salmon fishing. Right now I'm staying at a nice campground outside of town that's run by a nice lady, and is virtually empty. I'm going to stay here until Thursday, and hopefully jump on the ferry to Skagway, stay a night there and then head to Atlin in the morning to meet Terry and Molly at the Atlin Music Festival!

Friday, June 29, 2012

And Behold...I Saw...A Whitehorse

Made it to Whitehorse! I arrived last night, met my friend Terry (we travelled together in Laos) just outside of town and we headed to his girlfriend's place for some dinner and beers. I stayed and will be staying with them for a couple days. They convinced me to alter my plan and go with them to the Atlin Music Festival on July 6th, which sounds like a hell of an idea to me. I think between then and now I'm going to make a run into Alaska and jump on the ferry from Skagway to Sitka, and spend some time in that latter town everyone raves about.

And now for the history! After my last post from Grande Prairie, I hit the road bound for Tumbler Ridge. I took a shortcut through a gravel road to Highway 52, a highway that saved some distance to Tumbler Ridge and looked on the map to be more scenic. It was a piece of shit. The "highway" turned out to be a gravel road that was just starting to be graded this year. It was nothing but a pot-holed washboard that offered views of nothing but trees. About two thirds of the way through, however, the highway turned into a nice paved road that did have some nice views. I ended up heading north of town about twenty minutes and staying at Gwillim Lake Provincial Park, which was a very nice campground. The next day I hiked to Bergeron Falls, which turned out to be pretty nice, but unfortunately I couldn't get to the base of them since the water level was too high.


The day after that I hit the road again, finishing off Highway 52, which turned out to some of the nicest highway I've ever driven. The views of the Peace Valley were incredible, and I had a perfectly sunny day to capture them with my camera. As soon as I hit the Alaska Highway the weather turned to shit, but broke for me when I reached Stone Mountain Provincial Park, where I camped. The campground itself wasn't that great; there were hardly any trees and it was right next to the highway. A crazy highlight of it was when I was sitting by the fire, reading, when I look up and see a moose about twenty feet away, looking straight at me and obviously annoyed. I instantly put the Escape between him and I. The next morning I hiked up the Summit Peak, which offered amazing views of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately booming thunderheads forced me off the lightning prone ridge before I could reach the peak. After I got back down I ate a quick lunch and took off, bound for Liard Hot Springs.

Liard was awesome. Except for the fucking droves, wait, LEGIONS of misquitos that occupied the area. I've never soaked myself with so much repellent in my entire life. I now look like a smallpox victim. The hot springs were pretty awesome though; they're entirely natural, not set in concrete or anything like that. The campground is decent, too; the sites are all separated by forty feet of thick trees. The only downer is the invasion of the American RV retirees in their gigantic tour buses.

And here I am today! The drive to Whitehorse was decent, saw and photographed some buffalo on the road, and listened to some live comedy. Bye.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day Three

The past two days have been awesome! My plan to stay at Rock Lake for two days was foiled when I got to the entrance to the logging road that leads to it, only to find the road and park have been closed due to flooding damage! Not surprising considering the amount of snow and rain this area has had in the past six months.

No harm done though, I moved on and checked out some other campsites. The first one was Big Berland, but was very remote and nobody else was camping there, so I decided against it. I did manage to get some great pictures of a railroad trestle bridge over the Berland River. I camped at Sulphur Gates Provincial Recreation Area, just outside of Grande Cache. It was a pretty decent campsite, and offered free firewood, which is a win with me.

During my two days there I hiked to a waterfall a few kilometers away, then climbed up Mt. Stearn the next day. The Stearn ridgeline was incredible, I had amazing views of Grande Cache, Willmore Wilderness Park, and Lightning Ridge. And as a bonus, I got to watch a flock of Ravens playing along the cliffside. All in all, a great couple of days.

Right now I'm taking a lunch break at Grande Prairie, and I'll be bound for the Tumbler Ridge area!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That's A Sweet Ride

So here's the new chariot that will take me to Alaska, a 2003 Ford Escape: (it's a little dirty, I know)


All the gear and beer



It's been a little bit of a pain in the ass getting this vehicle Alaska Road Trip ready. I had a new Alpine CD Deck installed the other day and connected it to my Walkman Mp3 player, which I mounted on my dash for easy use. The pain in the ass came when I found out my spare tire was a doughnut, which is not a suitable spare for the Alaska Highway, or especially for the Dalton Highway, the road I might take to the very north of Alaska. I quickly called a local tire shop, gave them the vehicle specs and tire size, then went down to pick it up. It wasn't until 6pm and at home that I discovered it's slightly bigger than the other four tires on the vehicle (which isn't too big of a deal, I won't drive on it for long), but it's too big for the spare tire compartment (which is a big deal). Now my whole trunk floor sits an inch higher than it should. Not a disaster, but it looks kind of stupid. Hopefully the return policy is good for more than five weeks.

Whatever though, the truck is gassed and loaded up, and the 42 beers are in the back. Just less than 12 hours and I'll be bound for Alaska!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Alaska, Take 2

It seems my intuition to head home was the right choice, as I got to spend one last week with my Grandpa before he passed away on the 10th of June. As sad as it is, I'm glad I got to see him again and I'm glad he's out of pain and in peace. 

And now I'm free to return to Alaska and finish what I started there. And this time I'll be going with my own transportation! It actually was a great coincidence that my Mom ended up buying a new vehicle and offered to sell me her Ford Escape, which I will now be taking up to Alaska with me! Here is the road plan:


On Wednesday, June 20th I'll be rolling out of Edmonton, bound for Rock Lake Provincial Recreation Area, an old camp site my family and I used to frequent when I was young. It's beautiful country there, and a jumping point to Willmore Wilderness Park, my favourite place to hike. I'll probably spend a couple days there, then head up to Grande Cache, where I'll check out the north end of Willmore Wilderness Park. From there I'm hoping to drive the twelve hours to Stone Mountain Provincial Park, but alone that might be quite a feat, so I'll most likely stop along the way. I'll kick around that area and check out the scenery for a few days, then up to Liard Hot Springs, then to Whitehorse.

And from there, who knows? Maybe up to Dawson City, maybe to Kluane National Park. This is the advantage of having a vehicle; I don't need to plan nearly to the degree I did when I didn't have a car in this area. And I can carry a lot more stuff this time! I bought a new tripod for my camera, so hopefully my shots will turn out a little sharper now.

 Alaska here I come!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Travel Tips

Ok so since I'm on a traveling hiatus at the moment, I thought I would post some travel tips:

1. Universal sink plug. Bring one. Sometimes you might be out of clean underwear and not staying long enough in that place to get your laundry done before leaving on that ten hour, sweaty bus ride filled with locals and animals. You'll be praying you had a way to plug that drain in that old sink just to give your dirty undies a quick hand wash, and you'll be able to if you have a universal sink plug. So do yourself, your ass, and the noses of the people around you a favour and bring this item.

2. Quick dry clothing. Especially underwear, see above. This is handy in Asia, especially in the monsoon, where it could take a long time to dry your clothes on a line. And they keep you cooler, also a plus in tropical monsoon conditions.

3. Protect your passport. I bought a cheap mesh drawstring bag from Canadian Tire, I think it was five dollars for three of them, and put my passport in that. Then I wrapped it around my belt loop and tucked it inside my pants. This is tried, tested, and true. The Cambodian hookers that robbed me didn't even get this bag, which was good because my passport and five hundred American dollars were inside it. I have no doubt in my mind they would have easily found a money belt had I had one.

4. Don't buy clothing at home. I made this mistake. If you're going to a destination in Asia, or somewhere cheap like that, buy clothes when you get there. It's an eight of the price it is in Western nations. Quick dry clothing is dime a dozen in Kathmandu, as well.

5. Bring American money as backup. Sometimes your bank will block your debit or credit card, or you can't find a machine, it happens. Dollars saved me a lot of trouble more than once. And stash your money in different locations in your backpack(s). Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

6. Travel light. Heavy backpacks suck. I was carrying around way too much stuff in India, and my backpack was a total pain in the ass. After I finally shipped home ten pounds of stuff in Goa it was so much more comfortable. And in Southeast Asia, the heavier the pack, the more you'll sweat.

7. Bring a combination lock. This is important, I don't think I need to explain why.

8. Don't carry a wallet. It's a target, and pickpockets can see it. When you go out for the day, carry only what money you'll need. The less you have on you, the less you can lose.

9. When you get directions from someone, ask people as your walking in that direction. I had more than a few times people giving me conflicting directions. Ask as many people as you have to. This is especially important in Asia and India, where they would rather give you wrong directions than lose face by not being able to help.

I'll post more as I can think of them.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Unfortunate Part of Traveling

Is that sometimes people get sick when you're gone. My grandpa has become just that, and doesn't have long. When I left home, and even more so when I left Australia, I knew it was possible that he might pass, as his health was slowly failing him. Prepared for this, I had it in my head that if someone passed, it wouldn't necessarily change my trip. However, it's hard to think like that when it actually goes down, so tomorrow I'm on my way home.

This won't be the end of my trip though, just an interruption. I was about to start seeing the highlights of Alaska tomorrow trekking around Kachemak Park, and knowing that, I must return and finish what I started. I'm not done with Alaska yet, and Alaska isn't done with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On the Spit

Homer, Alaska. I caught a ride here with a middle aged woman (Evelyn) from California yesterday. We split the driving in her rented Jeep, my first time driving on the right side of the road in over a year. The Seward Highway is incredible! Nearly the entire drive is full of head turning scenery, a real view of Alaska's beauty. And it helped that the weather turned out to be clear and sunny. I think on the way back I'm going to try and rent a car one way to Anchorage so I can do things at my own pace and stop for the crazy amount of photo opportunities.

Evelyn was aiming to camp on the Homer Spit in the back of her Jeep, so I tagged along and set up my tent on the on the shore of the Kachemak Bay. The Homer Spit is basically a ten mile or so long naturally formed narrow island that sticks out form the peninsula like a nail, and all along it are seafood restaurants, pubs, hotels, campgrounds, and the harbour. We ended up eating a great seafood dinner and hit the Salty Dog Tavern for what turned out to be quite a few beers.

In the morning Evelyn left early for her flight to Anchorage. I chose to sleep in knowing that checking into an Alaskan hostel at 6am is virtually impossible. I woke up and packed my stuff up around 10:30am, in need of water and with the bad taste of hangover in my mouth. I hoofed it the mile or so into town and grabbed a bottle of water form a cafe, along with directions to the hostel. The girl that worked there told me it would take around twenty minutes to walk there.

So an hour later I arrive at the hostel after walking for about four miles up a long fucking hill that I didn't really need to climb because the girls directions took me the longer way. Fortunately the guy that runs the hostel let me check in early so I could shower and go grab some food. The hostel is pretty comical. It's an old, very oddly designed house that has been converted into a hostel. It's clean, but it's the kind of place where nearly every sliding door, faucet or window is in need of some degree or repair. It's pretty dead here right now too, I'm hoping some people worthy of hanging out with me will show up soon.

So the next couple days I'll be hanging around the Homer Spit, snapping away with my camera at the various Eagles, Otters, Moose, and whatever other creatures I happen to come across.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hanging With the Locals

So far, Anchorage as a city is unimpressive. There's really not much to see or do here, and the weather situation definitely isn't helping. I have managed to keep myself busy, however. I had a plan to pick up some gear for my upcoming hiking and camping, and had even picked out what I had wanted on the REI (basically like Mountain Equipment Co-op) website when I was in Australia. Luck would have it that they were having a sale when I got there! Pretty decent for me, I ended up saving about $75 from what I thought I would spend.

On Friday I headed out with a guy from the hostel to Humpy's Tap House, where I tried several local beers out of their fifty-something they have on tap. After that I ended up at some local dive bar that had $3.50 pints, not too bad for the wallet. I ended up hanging with a local and cruised around to a couple bars. The next day my head hurt. A lot.

Last night I called a couple friends I had met at a hostel in the North Shore who had been on vacation there. We ended up cooking over the fire a wicked shish kabob meal of steak bits and vegetables, kicked off with some rice, salad, and smores. It was awesome having a bonfire again, the second time in almost two years for me, which is very out of the ordinary. This was the first night that the abundance of sunlight had a noticeable effect on me. It was around 1 am when the sun finally set, and up until that point I hadn't really realized what time it was or how tired I was. As soon as that sun went down, it hit me pretty quickly.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back On the Home Continent

I learned a new lesson about taking flights: don't eat greasy Chinese take out at the airport prior to getting on a six hour flight. While you sleep, your muscles will relax, the Chinese food will start brewing evil gases inside your guts, and will proceed to escape your butt, waking you up and making it awkward between you and the two other people sitting next to you.

Other than learning that lesson the hard way, my flight was still shit. I didn't sleep much, and the lady sitting in the isle seat gave me bitchy looks when I wanted to use the toilet. The best part of the flight was the last part. At 4am the sun started rising, giving a great view of the mountains and coastline below, and silhouetting Mt. McKinley in the distance. And when we landed I was greeted by a big misquito banging up against my window, screaming you'll be seeing lots of me!


I arrived at my hostel around 5:30, but was told I wouldn't be able to check in until the afternoon. The guy recommended a cafe fifteen minutes away, so I started to hoof it with breakfast on my mind. Unfortunately the cafe wasn't open until 7am, so I spent over an hour strolling around the parks along the shore of the Cook Inlet. The best part of this was the smell. I never realized how much I missed that fresh, mountain forest smell of North America. That smell hit me the most: I am home. Back on the soil of my home continent. Ironically, Anchorage actually reminds me a lot of Edmonton, but in the mountains.

Today was a write off, I managed to sweet talk the staff into checking me in early, and I spent the afternoon catching up on the sleep I lost on the flight. The weather turned out to be pretty crappy when I woke up, so I strolled to the grocery store, did some Skyping with the fam, cooked dinner, and here I am. Tomorrow I have to hit up REI to purchase some gear, and after that I'll find a few sights to see.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Last Days of Hawaii

I'm writing this from my pimp ass condo in Kona. I normally wouldn't brag about how nice the place I'm staying is (it usually isn't at all), but this place is pretty awesome. I screwed up and didn't book a hostel ahead of time, and consequently they were booked up. I had to settle for a resort condo I booked off of Hotwire.com. I got it for a hell of a deal, $75 for one night, but that's still way ahead of the $60 daily budget I set for myself (which includes food, accommodation and fun). As awesome as this place is, it's not the place to be by yourself. This condo is way too nice to be solo; it's a place to stay with a girlfriend or wife. Therefore it's somewhat lonesome to be in here alone, but fortunately I'm only here for one night. And being that this place is full of old people and couples, it's guaranteed I'll be hanging solo tonight.

Yesterday Isaac and I loaded up his truck with his camping gear and set out for the Kona side of the island, two hours from where he lives in Hilo. The South Coast highway was pretty awesome, taking us through the two hundred years worth of lava flows that have expanded the island. It was a pretty crazy landscape, something between the moon and temperate desert. We ended up camping Ho'Okena beach park, about half and hour south of Kona. It was a really cool camping, just off the beach in the trees. We did some awesome snorkeling (I swam with two sea turtles) drank a lot of beers, had a fire, and hung out with some girls from New Yawk. The next day we went cruised around Kona and checked myself into this pad I'm currently in.

Tomorrow I am bound for Alaska. Kona chose to bled my funds a little more with a $36 shuttle ride, but fuck it, I just found out my Canadian tax refund was WAY more than I thought it would be!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Da Big Island

So I ended up having to take the Loser Cruiser to the airport the other day. It turned out ok though, the trip wasn't too long and the busy was air conditioned and not too busy. I ended up getting to the airport early, and after a sweaty walk from the street to the other end of the terminal, I kicked back with some nachos and a very large beer. I can't really tell you much about the flight; it was the first time I'd ever seen first come, first served seating on an airplane. Other than that, I slept the entire way.


My buddy Isaac picked me up at the airport upon touchdown, and within ten minutes we had beers in hand. We picked up some beers and food and headed to his place, where I met his girlfriend, Emma. The next day we headed out to an unofficial camping spot outside of Hilo, where his friends were camping for the weekend. It was an awesome spot, perched on cliffs of lava rocks about twenty feet above the ocean surf. All of his friends are involved with Marine Biology or related fields, and subsequently are avid free divers and fisherman.

I haven't fished since I was a teenager, so needless to say I was as rusty as old Klondike mining equipment. After a few hours, I was tying special knots and casting my own lines. I ended up only catching one Saddlewrasse, not big enough to be worth keeping, but one is better than none! Isaac caught a few fish, including a Moano that was big enough to keep. It was a great day that I would have never been able to spend had I not had a local connection, which makes having friends around the world all the better. 

Today Isaac had to work at the local Farmer's Market, so I took the time to do a quick workout and walk around town a little. I hoofed it a couple kilometers in the crazy heat to the local YMCA, where the cool staff let me work out for free. It was an open air gym, and I'll tell you that working out in that heat drains you FAST. I did a lot less than I should have, but at least it was progress towards my goal of not repeating my muscle loss that I incurred at the beginning of this trip. After that I walked around town, putting a lot of k's on my feet, and sweating out more than one bucket. Hilo is a pretty bland city; in fact, it reminds me a lot of Kokopo in Papua New Guinea, but much clearer. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Last Day On the Shore

Today was my last day on the North Shore, very unfortunately. This place is awesome, and I would love to have pulled a long term (say month long) stay in this place, but time and money do not warrant it. The last two days have been serious beach days, laying in the sun working on tanning my bod. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to photograph surfers on the pipeline, today being the only day that has had decent waves. However, I am certain this is not the last time I'll be in Hawaii. A wicked piece of good news arrived via email yesterday: my tax rebate from my work in Australia is almost $1700! Should have that wad of cash in six to eight weeks!

Tomorrow I head back to Honolulu to catch my flight to the Big Island, where I'll be staying with my friend Issac, who I met in Thailand just over a year ago. He recently moved to the Big Island to live with his girlfriend who is studying in Hilo. That's one of the best parts of traveling, you make those friends and connections all over the world, and sometimes fate works its magic and schedules a meet for you. I'm hoping the hostel shuttle is running, or else I'll be taking a three hour ride on the loser cruiser (aka the public bus system) bound for Honolulu.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Turtles Turtles Turtles

Ok so turtles are becoming an integral part of this trip, in more than one way.

Yesterday I tried coordinating with a friend, Chris, I was hanging with in Honolulu to meet up on the North Shore. He had planned to drive up in a rental in the early afternoon, so I left a note with the hostel office after I did a short but sweet snorkel in Shark Cove. In the note I told him I would be at Banzai Beach, clearly written on the map as such. I started hoofing it from the hostel, but could not find a sign to tell me what beach I was on. I finally reached a sign that told me what beach it was (I can't remember the name, it's just before Sunset Beach) and walked up to investigate. Clearly confused, I walk up to a lifeguard station and ask him where Banzai Beach his. He tells me there's no Banzai Beach, but there is a Banzai pipeline just back from where I came. At this point the situation is not looking good; it's a massive beach and I'm not in the place I said I'd be. But I was at the entrance to the only parking lot I passed, so I figured it was the best bet. I lay out my towel and wait.

As I'm taking pictures, Chris walks up with two Swedish women. Fate has delivered and then some. We chill out on the beach for another hour, then jump in Chris' rental, which is a convertible (Holy Santa Claus Shit), bound for the Waimea Valley, site of a waterfall where we could take a swim. After a short, scenic walk from the parking lot we dive in the waterfall and get some quick pictures. By the time we leave, it's past 5:00, and the sun is starting to set. What's the best way to enjoy a sunset? With beer, of course! We do a quick Iphone search and jet towards the nearest place.

                

Here's where the next Turtle portion comes in: we crashed the beach bar at the Turtle Bay Resort. Nobody asked us any questions, so we thoroughly enjoyed our beer, the sunset, our meal, and the complimentary Hawaiian Fire Show. And that isn't even the best part of it.....We got to cook smores over a fire. That's right, cook smores over a fire. Chocolate, roasted marshmallows, and graham crackers, all together. How fucking awesome is that?


Today I cruised over to a nearby beach for another turtle related adventure. At Kawaiola Beach, sea turtles will come on shore to rest, giving everyone great photo opportunities. There were about six of them when I was there, and I managed to get some great photos. They truly are magnificent creatures, seemingly even more so when they're out of the sea and in my element. After that I got to photograph some more wildlife on the porch of my cabin. Little green Gecko's run around the wooden telephone pole that sits against the front railing, and make great photo subjects. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

North to the Shore

I definitely made a good call ditching Honolulu for the North Shore. So far I am loving it. I was not looking forward to catching the public bus up here this morning due to a slight hangover, but my situation improved greatly when I called the hostel here and they told me the shuttle was running and would pick me up in just over an hour. By 1:30pm I was checked into my hostel and heading to the beach!

The hostel is basically a row of cabins just off the main highway, six people to a cabin. Pretty basic but all that I need right now. The beach in front of my hostel is eons ahead of Waikiki. The sand is better, the water is clearer, it's not crammed with resort people, and there's a choice of many others if I get bored of this one. And beer is cheaper! There's so many choices of what to do around here that I can't settle on one, but snorkelling in Shark Cove sounds pretty good. Or maybe hiking into the jungle to swim at a waterfall...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mr. Turtle

Yesterday was a chill out day for me. I spent some time on Waikiki beach, soaking up some sun but keeping it off my head due to a bad sunburn I acquired from my time in Pearl. Even today my head is still red. Waikiki beach is not too shabby, but not too great. There's not much in terms of waves, and the sand is kind of dirty. But the water is a great temperature, and there's a lot going on. Later on that day I sat on the end of the pier and took photos of some people surfing against the sunset, which produced some amazing shots (I'll upload one soon). Due to my coming scuba dive the next morning, I just hung around the hostel and traded stories with Aussies and Americans over some beers.

                

Now for my scuba dive: Incredible! I was picked up at 6:30am by a dive shop I had booked with, and we jumped on the boat and were at the dive site at 7:15am. The first dive was a wreck that was sunk years ago to create an artificial reef. I've never dived a wreck before, so I was apprehensive about entering it when the other two did, but after being beckoned in by the dive master, I relented. It was basically a hollow tub of a ship, something similar to an old WWII landing craft. On that dive we saw a three foot White Tip Reef Shark and a Moray Eel.

The next dive was the incredible one. We did a roll in off the boat and immediately went negatively buoyant, free-falling into the depths below. Five minutes in we spotted another four foot White Tip Reef Shark, this one swimming within meters of us. The pinnacle of the dive came when I was drifting along the reef wall towards a protrusion of rock ahead of me. Above it I saw a giant Sea Turtle, the first I've ever seen in the wild. Amazed, I swam towards it, coming up to the crest of the rock protrusion. Just as I peered over the edge, another large Sea Turtle rose out of a well in the rocks right before my eyes, maybe a meter away! It was absolutely breathtaking to see these beautiful creatures so close up. At one point we had eight of them around us! The most intriguing thing about them is their docility. They lumbered by us, not a speck of fear towards us. One of them even lay on the bottom resting while we swam just feet over it's shell. All in all I couldn't be more happy with the way those dives went, and I wish I had the money to do more.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breaking Out the Big Guns

I'll start from the beginning with the flight. I had a preliminary scare when I get to the check in desk. The lady asks me if I had applied for my visa exemption. I reply "huh?". She looks at me with a half oh shit/what do you mean huh? expession. I reply "I'm Canadian". She looks relieved. I did too. Later, I was waiting in the terminal crying from listening to a comedy skit by Doug Stanhope. I then hear my name over the intercom, paging me to come to the bording desk. Uh-oh. I get there and am informed that they are changing my seat, but I still get to keep my isle seat. I instantly imagine being seated next to a four hundred pound alcoholic with a peanut sized bladder, and a woman with a collachy babynext to him. Fortunately, there was no woman or baby, and the guy was only two hundred and fifty pounds, and had to piss twice. Instead he took up the entire fucking armrest the whole flight, and by touchdown my arm was ready to grow legs and rip itself off my body in order to get some movement.

Running on three hours of sleep, I file into the customs line with all the inbound Aussies. The border official was friendly, and processed me quickly. I go to the end of the hall to where another official is collection the customs slips, and upon looking at mine informs me I need to report for bag inspection. Great, I thought. My initial hope that my luck with the American border fuzz was improving was dashed. I go up the kiosk and report to an older female border guard. She checks my passport and asks me to open my bags. And then she proceeds to look through everything. I mean EVERYTHING.

She finds a folder that I keep my documents in (travel documents, tax stuff from Aus, etc.) and starts salivating. Then the questions come. I think she asked me every question in a border pigs reperatoire (note my increasing hostility). Where have you been traveling? How long did you work in Australia for? How long did you work in India for? What were you doing in China? Are you presently employed? What was your employment in Australia? What kind of factory was it? What are these railway documents? Have you worked for a railroad before? 

This woman did not miss a detail. She even found a shipping receipt from a package I'd shipped home from Australia the day before. Who's Doug? Fuck sakes, lady, I thought. The weirdest part of it all was when she found my books. Found is an understatement, she honed in on them like a fat kid on a Smartee. The first one is a book I bought in Papua New Guinea, and is about a British Field Marshall in WWII Burma, and is not a well known piece of literature. What's this? That question was repeated five times throughout the interrogation. The other book was by Dan Brown, a well known author, so she didn't spend so much time on that one. It was very strange though, and not genuine interest (the I'd like to read this sometime sort), but more like she was looking for subversive literature. I hadn't even had that happen when I went to Communist China! It just shows how Orwellian this country is becoming.


The shit ended there, however, and I was permitted to enter America. I get to my hostel at 8:30am, but my hopes of sleep are dashed when I'm informed I can't check in until 4pm. It was a nice day though, so I took advantage of it and made a move for Pearl Harbour, catching the local bus after a giant breakfast and much needed coffee at Denny's. The ride took almost an hour one way, and I arrived at Pearl under the noon sun. I caught a shuttle right away to the Missouri Battleship Monument, and wandered around there for two hours. I am a war buff, and that battleship is the pinnacle of what gets a war buff hard. It was pure awesome seeing the gigantic sixteen inch guns and various Tomahawk and Harpoon missile launchers. My only beef was that I couldn't see the Operations Room. After that I caught the boat over to the Arizona Memorial, which is the sunken ruin of the Battleship USS Arizona, which remains just below the surface to see, after she was sunk by the Japanese in WWII. One other awesome part of that trip was when I got to see a couple of F-22 Raports flying around the harbour.

After that I caught the bus back to Waikiki and checked into my room to catch an hour of sleep. The jet lag was still with me so one hour was all I could manage. I got up, grabbed some food and a twenty four ounce beer for $3.19! I love alcohol prices in the US! I hung around with some people from the hostel for the rest of the night and crashed for eleven hours. Now here I am. I booked a hostel on the North Shore this Saturday for four nights and confirmed a dive for tomorrow. Now to the beach I go!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodbye Australia!

How can I sum up my time here? Australia was like a mediocre date; she was average looking, you took her to Montana's for dinner, got slightly tipsy, didn't get laid, but hey, second base will do. It's obvious to say that things didn't go according to the plan I had prior to arriving here. The railroad job never materialized, and neither did the big amount of money I had counted on for another two years of traveling. Instead, I'm taking lemons and making lemonade. A little less cash, but still armed with a great plan, I'll make my way back home to make a much needed visit to family and friends, and hopefully make some more money to continue my journeys.

The past few days have been quite chaotic, trying to run around and get all my errands done before I left that I didn't really have any time to reflect, and it wasn't until this morning that it really hit me that I'm leaving. I did enjoy most of my time here. I rode in on an emotional high and unfortunately the crash of my plan also crashed that high, but I have since rebounded back and am ready to bring on the good times again. I'm leaving with the same amount of money I arrived with, in good spirits, and the physically strongest I've ever been. I'm sad to be leaving my friends here, but that's life on the road; goodbye's are inevitable.

Australia did have some amazing travels in store for me. Tazmania, Melbourne and the Central Coast of New South Wales were all incredible in terms of scenery and experience. Fortunately for all of those, I had family along with me. I do wish I had a little more time and money to catch a glimpse of the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef, but there's always the future. I didn't really care too much for the culture here, the only real pronounced difference is the heavy emphasis on sports, and being I'm not much of a sports guy, it didn't impact me very hard. I did like the pub culture though, I wish we had as much variety at home as they do here.

Will I return? It is still a possibility that I might head back to Tazmania if that visa issue ever gets resolved and TasRail calls me. How strong a possibility I don't know, from the way things have been I would guess very small, but I can't discount it entirely. For another vacation, Australia will rank very low on my list. I feel there's simply too many other countries on my list that would trump it without a thought. I'm still in the East > West mode, but with the money I have left and my urge to see mountains again, Hawaii and Alaska seem like the best route home.

Next stop: Honolulu!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Last 7

Seven more days to go! I'll be finished work in a day and a half, exactly at the right time, too. One can only stand in one spot and paint shit for so long. I'm so anxious I can barely stand it. I've recently upgraded my camera equipment once again on this trip, the upgrade being a new Canon L 70-200mm telephoto lens, a fine piece of hardware for shooting the multitude of wildlife I'm bound to see in Alaska. The internal flights are booked, one week in Oahu and one week on the Big Island to see an old travel buddy. I've just booked a two tank scuba dive on May 13th in Honolulu, which includes a deep wreck dive! I've booked a hostel, so all that's left as far as Hawaii goes is to fly in and buy a beer.

As far as the next week goes, it's going to be a busy one. I have a few hundred photos of Australia to filter through, edit and upload before I leave. I need to submit my tax return and hopefully get my Australian tax money back, which might turn out to be a good chunk of change. On Saturday I'll have a good going away bash with the roomates, and Friday will include a few after work beers with the workmates. Sunday I'll be recovering my ass from the massive hangover I'm sure to inflict on myself. After all that's done, I have to pack my backpack and leave!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

T-28 Days And Counting

There it is, 28 more days left until I fly off this continent. My flight date is May 9th, which is a Wednesday. I had planned to finish work on the Friday before that, so I the other day I figured why stick around here for a few days when I could be in Hawaii? That plan was dashed when I looked at changing it, only to see that the prices have doubled since I booked it two months ago, so it's fair to say that idea is out of the question. I've been psyching myself up (or out) by looking at pictures of Hawaii, which looks amazing. I wish I had more time there, but the necessity of saving money here and the short summer in Alaska, it's time I don't have.

Another point of good news: my dickhead roomate moved out! Without notice, too. I showed up from work today while he was moving out, and my day instantly was made better. One last negative aspect removed from my last month in Oz.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Focus Of My Attention

Lately due to the lack of new developments in my life, I've shifted my attention from this blog to a new blog I've created: The Voice of Kyle (link). I've tried to keep this blog as un-political as possible, but find it hard to restrain myself due to my heavy interest in economics, politics and social issues. The simple solution was to create a new blog, where I can express my social libertarian viewpoints and commentate on world issues.

I'm not demanding that anyone look at it or agree with me, but my travels have had a direct impact on my life, and have shaped my political viewpoints to become a man of the people (no, not communism). Seeing the extreme poverty of India or Cambodia, being feet away from a cluster bomb munition in Laos, hardly being able to find any homeless people in China, and being involved in the incredibly social environment of village life in Papua New Guinea have introduced my mind into new heights and ideas, allowing me to think critically about aspects of our society that I never had before.

This is why it is important to travel. There is a massive world beyond our own, and the first step to making positive change is to see it and it's people with our own eyes, not through a television.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Power of Christ Compels You!!!!

Well, finally after six months of enduring the constant frustration of a netbook that never works properly, I took that piece of shit to the technician so he can perform an exorcism and take the devil out of it. Hopefully in one week it will be back in my hands and I'll own my own connection to the outside world once again. I almost caved and bought a new ultrabook, but sensibility prevailed and I decided to save my money for the future.

In other news, I received a package from home this week filled with the camping equipment I need to make my Alaskan wildnerness adventure complete. I now have my down sleeping bag, my sleeping pad, my shemagh (to keep the misquitos off my head), and my Ka-Bar knife, which I sharpened so finely that I didn't even notice I had sliced my finger open on it.

Lately I've been in money saving mode, avoiding the bar scene and pissing my money away. Every dollar I save here is one I'm going to enjoy three times as much in Hawaii or Alaska. The weather here has been getting noticebly cooler, especially at night. I think it's safe to say that summer is officially over, if it was ever here in the first place.

On the roomate front, we're losing the two Brazilian girls tomorrow, and do not yet know for sure who's replacing them. One of the Brazilian guys has lately become a total pain in the ass in everyone's eyes here, and we're all hoping he realizes this and leaves soon. I got in a big fight with him yesterday, and have come to the conclusion that it's no longer necessary to hide the fact that I don't like him. Oh well, six more weeks and I'm off to Hawaii!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Destroying My Eardrums

Words cannot begin to describe just how awesome Soundwave was. I'm getting a boner sitting here thinking about it. Here begins the story of Soundwave:

I arrived at my hostel in Melbourne around 10pm the night before the festival. I still had an extra ticket that I'd bought, thinking I'd be able to find a friend that would want to come see this brilliant lineup of bands, but alas none could make it. I walked into the common room of the hostel, where about ten people were watching television. In a magnanimous voice I declared "I have a free ticket for anyone that wants to come to Soundwave tomorrow!" Silence. What the hell, I thought. I repeated the words Soundwave and music festival again. Silence. I sat down in my chair, puzzled. I was going to tackle Soundwave solo, the way I do things best.

After a good nights sleep I ate a hearty breakfast and caught the tram to the Melbourne Show Grounds. Instantly my eyes were pulled to the various band t-shirts, tattoos and facial hair, and I started to wonder the hell I had shaved mine the day before. As the tram grew closer to the show grounds the metal head to civilian ratio started growing in favour of the metal heads. We piled off the tram and into the entrance hall, where bags were searched in a half assed manner. The crowd pressed up against the gates leading into the park, the excitement and anticipation growing by the minute.

At 10am the gates opened and the crowd flowed into the show ground like a tsunami of black shirted destruction. I aimed directly for stage three, my plan to watch the three bands before CKY. The first one, Aitches, wasn't too bad. The second, Break Even, much better (I'll even download some of their music)! After that, the Smoking Hearts, who sucked. Then the objective: CKY. I was within meters of the stage, strategically placed for maximum mosh effect. Bam Margera opened the band when he ran out on stage, stirring up the crowd. After a few songsthey broke out a cover of the GG Allin song Bite It You Scum, and as I was filming it, all hell broke loose. I ended up right in the middle of the mosh pit. The filming stopped, and the hitting began. In a superb tribute to GG, I slammed people around as hard as I could, and they did the same to me. I left that show happy.



After that I wandered around the show grounds for an hour, stopping to sit down for a while and scarf back a surprisingly good hamburger, probably the best one I've had in Australia. I cruised to the merchandise shop and bought a red Bad Religion t-shirt, preparing for my first live Bad Religion experience. Another stop by the beer garden and I headed to the main stages, located right next to each other. After watching Alter Bridge and A Day to Remember, I strategically placed myself for Bush, making sure I was in easy distance to get into the mosh pit gate quickly before Bad Religion started. Bush was amazing, I just wish they had played a longer set. There was bigger fish to fry, however.


I flew into the mosh pit like a bat out of hell, scrambling as close as I could against the already dense crowd packed in to see Bad Religion. I've been listening to these guys dissent for over a decade, and have been wanting to see them live ever since. My dream was being fulfilled. They ripped up 21st Century Digital Boy, the Hills of Los Angeles Are Burning, Social Suicide, among others. Now this is where the only shitty part of the day came into play. The gods of anti-punk rock gathered and decided to make a steel crossbeam from the centre of the stage tear away and start flailing in the wind, threatening to drop into the crowd below. Now I'm sure everyone in the crowd would have been perfectly willing to risk this to keep rocking to Bad Religion, but the event staff thought otherwise, and the band had to quit half an hour into their hour long set. I was very sad, but still riding a high from what I had heard.

It was at this part of the day where it was obvious the weather had blessed us. The skies had been clear all day, and would remain clear until System of a Down, when a thin layer of cloud rolled in and added to the light effects, making it even more awesome. After seeing Bad Religion, I stuck around to see Limp Bizkit bust out a few songs from my youth, and had a couple of their backstage groupies bust out their tits to the crowd. Other than this, Limp Bizkit was a solid O.K.

By this time my back was killing my for standing and jumping for a solid five hours, so I retired to grab another burger, catch a quick Strung Out show, and a couple beers. From the beer gardens I watched Slipknot, too far away to see the stage clearly, but close enough to watch the big screen. This was the biggest mistake of the day on my part. I really haven't listened to much Slipknot before, but what I saw that day blew my mind. They put on the best show of the day. It was fucking intense! The massive combination of their costumes, the amount of band members, fire, and retardedly heavy music made for an incredible show, and I wasn't even in the crowd. You can bet your ass next time Slipknot is playing where I am, I'll be there.

And now for the feature of the post. For years I had been waiting, praying even, for System of a Down to get back together and tour. My prayers were answered and deified. I tried to get as close as I could to the stage, which ended up not being close at all, but fuck it, I was there. The whole stage was blacked out, a huge looming monolith set against the grey, clouded sky. The crowd whistled and cheered in anticipation, eruption when the first chord was struck by Daron Malakian. A series of the next chords revealed the song: Prison Song, lights flashing to the chords. If any of you know System of a Down, you'll know that this song is going to make for the best intro possible. And it did. It blew my fucking mind! After the third series of chords, the momentum of the song erupted and the black curtain dropped, the white strobes kicking in in a chaotic dance across the blazing, bold SYSTEM OF A DOWN letters behind the band. The whole crowd went insane, screaming along to the vocals. For the next hour and a half, our ear canals were blessed by this heavenly metal, even bearing witness to a cover of Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. I won't go into any more details, I'll just say that they played an amazing fucking incredibly awesome godly show, and I left a happy man.

The End.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Soundwave!

I'm finally making a move out of Sydney, something I haven't done for a couple months, which is a new record for me! This Friday is the Soundwave Festival in Melbourne that I bought tickets for back in October. I had expected to be working in Hobart and therefore Melbourne was the closest, but now that I'm in Sydney I'll be taking a flight there. It's a good excuse to get away for the weekend, however, and a few days in Melbourne should be pretty A OK, as is the awesome line up of Soundwave, which includes System of a Down, Bush, CKY, Slipknot, Unwritten Law, and others. Expect a post on Sunday.

I should report on the weight gain goal I set two months ago: I can't exactly saw due to the fact that some fatass at the gym broke the scale two weeks ago, but at the time of it's death I was weighing in at 163 lbs, so I'm going to confidently assume I'm now 165!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The New Journey

The journey to Alaska is finalized:

May 9th Sydney to Honolulu

May 23rd Honolulu to Anchorage

The reality of this has set in, and it's less than three months away! I am so eager to change the scenery from the beach to mountains, something I haven't been around in over a year. Quite a long stretch for this guy, I can't remember a time, if ever, that I've been away from mountains for over a year. They truly are my home.

I'm also long overdue for some time in the wild. I really haven't had any of that in my time in Australia, and I think a couple weeks in the solitude of the snow capped mountains of Alaska will do the soul good. I'm hoping to make it to Whitehorse, where I have some friends, and then back through British Columbia towards home. I'd like to do a through-hike on the way back; right now I'm feeling ambitious and looking at the Jasper North Boundary Trail...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Changing of the Guard

Over the past two weeks five of my room mates have left and been replaced. The apartment now consists of two Brazilian girls, two Brazilian men, one Nigerian guy (who I share the room with), a Polish guy, and Moi. The Brazilians so far seem pretty reserved, spending most of their time in their rooms. I'm hoping this is a phase that ends soon, for it's creating a much less social and therefore less fun environment.

Work is still chugging along. Last week had a civic holiday so I had a day off without pay, but managed to make up for most of it this week with four hours of overtime. I've been filling my head listening to audio books, a privilege my no-brainer job affords me. I've been hitting the gym hard (not really much else to do since it's been raining so damn much), and am up to 160 lbs after a month. The goal is getting closer!

I've been in back and forth contact with TasRail for the past week, discussing the Engineer position further. They obviously recognize my skills, because they seem to want me in their locomotives no matter the cost. They offered to keep pursuing the visa, which I agreed to as long as they understood I might not take it if the visa is approved. Being fine with this, further light was shed on just how long the process is really going to take (delay is no surprise to me anymore): October. They are hoping the position will be added to the skills shortage list in July, a requirement of getting me a visa, then the visa application will be lodged and should take three months to be approved. This further delay might actually work in my benefit, as the job still holds a lucrative salary and might be worth my while to take after a break back in N. America. And the fact that they would pay for the flight to Australia helps too. Alas, I am not holding my breath though, maybe in July it will turn out to be December.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Taking Control

So I took one more step in fulfilling my New Year's Resolution this week. I called TasRail and told them I'm not interested in the position anymore. Basically the past couple months I've felt like I've been in limbo and at the mercy of the Australian government, letting them decide my future. At this point, six months into this country, it's fairly obvious my original plan is shot to pieces, and the prospects of staying here for another year and a half, despite the good money I would be earning, doesn't appeal to me. Declining the position felt like the right thing to do, as does my plan for the next year.

Now I wanted to keep this secret for a while, but I might as well put it out there. The tentative plan for this year is to work hard and save up as much money as possible until May, when I will depart Australia. I found a great and very cheap flight route that seemed like fate when I discovered it. I will fly from Sydney to Hawaii (about $375), stay there for two weeks, then catch another flight to Anchorage, Alaska (about $400). I'll travel and trek around Alaska and the Yukon, then make my way back home. I'm sure I'll end up going to Vancouver to break myself back into Canadian winter, and work for a year, and do this all over again.

Another part of my logic was the thought of being away from home for another two or three years if I kept traveling after Australia seemed like too long, and a stop back home was necessary to visit family and friends, see the mountains I love, and get a dose of the country I'd live in over any other. And this route gives me a chance to see a piece of it that I've never seen.