Saturday, November 3, 2007

wow it's been a long time

This post is looking back a ways: we will probably never have much access to cheap internet, let alone internet. So, every once in a while I'm going to sit down at a computer and type out some of the things I've written in my travel journal in the past week...or month....or, in this case, 2 months...

Starting with:

The West Coast Trail

Amazing. Spectacular. Beautiful. Gigantorific.

Highly Recommended. The pictures say it all.


8 September - Day 126
Sir Sanford Fleming stole a day of my life!

9 September - Day 128
Up early today for work - helping some guy ("Mick") renovate his house. Spent the day cleaning bricks, cleaning gutters, etc. For $18/hr, not too shabby. We might end up staying in Sydney if Caroline gets a job at a restaurant or something.

Things Learned
- there are 4 or 5 different types of spiders in a typical backyard that can, and will, kill you. gloves are important.
- proper shovelling technique. yes, there is one.

10 Sep - Day 129
Work again, this time for the plumber who was doing a job at Micks house. Spent the day digging.

Things Learned (australians...)
- have trees that shed their bark annually
- are just as confused as us about which units of measure to use
- call two-by-four's four-by-two's

12 Sep - Day 131
Still digging, but this time only for the morning. We've found work in Mildura for both of us along with a hostel to stay in long-term Travelling there tomorrow.

Downtown Sydney is really nice. Lots of open air markets, and stores that don't even have a front. Weird, but nice.

Mildura Work

13 Sep - Day 132

Longest train / bus ride ever. And the Aussies are really anal about their bus rules - seatbelts required, no food, no movies, no anything allowed. It's even a finable offence to put your feet on the seat. Crazy.

Finally got here and got picked up by Vicky....not the greatest first impression.
- the "hostel" is a shithole
- the double room she said she would put us in doesn't exist
- the job I was promised doesn't exist
- Caroline has to be up tomorrow to work at 5:30 (we got here at 1am)

One of those nights you can't really fall asleep....of course, that could be the 4 or 5 springs that are poking through the "mattress" into me no matter how I shift.

15 Sep - Day 134
Things are looking up - we both got half a days work at some farm weeding. Boring, but the drive out was wicked - we're actually in the outback here, and are driving by kangaroos, parrots, and very outback-ish terrain. I like it a lot. We also discovered that there is a food store and bank machine within walking distance of our hostel. So this could work. If I get work.

17 Sep - Day 136

I'm so bored I could cry.
Today I:
- went to the bank, and discovered I am not authorized to use our account
- called Sydney hostel for mail, and got disconnected. twice.
- called Tax Office for TFN, they won't give it to me for 28 days
- found a bird book, but didn't buy it
- misread a bus schedule, and missed the bus
- went to Target and an outdoors store, and they were both closed
- did laundry

18 Sep - Day 137

FINALLY have work. This is very good. Spent the day stretching two ropes between survey markers, so we could mark out a grid for vine posts with plastic knives. All those days of treeplanting have finally found an application....
The car also broke down on the way home. Home by 8pm. Up tomorrow at 445am.

[pic - vineyard]

20 Sep - Day 139

Still pegging out. It's a long and dusty job, but not so bad. Lots of time to think, anyways. Working with Pierre, and probably will be for the next while. There's also 2 germans, 2 english guys, and 1 scot on my crew.

Sightings so far:
- galahs
- brown snake / sidewinder snake / strange snake
- scorpion
- hawks

27 Sep - Day 146
Short day today due to the wind - so windy the string wouldn't lie straight, and too dusty to see it anyways.

9 October - Day 158
Van broke down on the way to work again today. It makes for a nice rest, but we don't get paid, so I don't know whether or not I like it. There were probably 20 twisters in the field today, some of them strong enough to carry big debris like cardboard boxes or hats 100 metres up. wicked.
Then the van broke down again on the way home. I love this job.

Things I Love / Hate about Australia:
- Kangaroos / Sandflies
- The Outback / Sandflies
- Wall plugs / the phone system

11 Oct - Day 160
Got promoted today - I've got a sweet new ride. This job's looking up...


19 Oct - Day 168
New wildlife:
- Goanna (like a komodo dragon)
- Crazy huge death spider
- Stub-tailed skink

20 Oct - Day 169

It is unelievably hot. You know how hot your car gets if you leave it in the sun for hours in the middle of summer? So hot you feel like you have to let it air out before getting in or you might die? It's hotter. It feels like I'm breathing out of a dryer vent. The sun on my skin feels like I got too close to a campfire and then someone threw some cardboard on. I'm actually amazed that my arm hair isn't being singed off right now.

And it's only "spring". I'm heading to the mountains.

[pic - never ever mildura again]

Snowy Mountains

What a trip. We arrived in Thredbo in the pouring rain, and discovered there was no place to buy maps in the town. We had to wait till the next day to get one, at which point we realized that North American compasses don't work in the Southern hemisphere. So we waited a bit longer. Finally made it to our campsite late on day 2.
Thredbo - S36d30'54.2" E148d17'51.8"
Dead Horse Gap Camp - S 36d31'27.3" E148d15'44.4" ALT: 1595m (5233ft)

[pic - camp]

Day 3 - Exploring Pilot Wilderness, Brumbie Hunting - rain kept us in camp till about 10am, then we headed south into the Pilot wilderness region. We decided to hike "brindle bull hill". There are almost no trails in the area, so it's all bushwalking, but the land is very open so it's easy. We finally made it to the peak, had lunch, then took out the GPS. After a few minutes of "No, the GPS has to be wrong", we realized that we were actually a few kilometres away from brindle bull hill, and I had been accidentally doubling the effect of the magnetic declination. lucky it's open land.
Brindle Bull Hill (ish) - S36d32'17.7" E148d17'49.0" ALT: 1791m (5874ft)

Day 4 - Hiked Mout Kosciuszko, Australia's peak of the Seven Summits. Wicked walk, even though it was foggy and raining. Ended up being 20 km, 2100 vertical feet, in 6.5 hours. We ended up staying in Thredbo again due to the never-ending rain, our exhaustion, and stove trouble.
Mount Kosciuszko - S36d27'20.9" E148d15'48.6" ALT: 2238m (7341ft)
Highest Bathroom in Australia - S36d27'23.1" E148d16'03.7" ALT: 2134m (7001ft)

[pic - summit]

Day 5 - Breakfast in Thredbo, then back to camp. After lunch we headed back south again, but in a different direction. Lots of brumbie tracks, even following our route. Sadly, no brumbies.
Cascade Trail - S36d33'32.1" E148d15'53.8" ALT: 1774m (5822ft)

[pic - brumbie evidence]

Day 6 - Back to Thredbo, got in an hour before the bus to Canberra was scheduled. So we went into a cafe, ordered some meat pies, and then were told that Australia has a daylight savings... and it was the night before. So we're actually 5 minutes late for the bus. We caught it. Just. Perfect ending to the trip.

Friday, September 21, 2007

from an Internet Cafe in Mildura, Victoria

so it's been a while, and we are in AUSTRALIA! we spent a week in Sydney and now we are in Mildura, Victoria. Pretty much we spent our time in Sydney sleeping, working, and looking for work. Matt found a handy man job helping this guy renovate his house that he worked for for a couple of days while I looked for something more full time. We finally found a place in Mildura that helps people to find jobs in the area. We figured we had nothing to lose and went for it. We arrived in Mildura last Thursday, at about midnight. The lady took us grocery shopping and then told me that I had to be ready for work at 6:10 the next morning. AHHH. It turned out alright though, and the job is pretty good. There is a tea lady that makes tea for everyone during our breaks and the hours are long and the pay is good - i even get overtime. So hopefully I'll rack up some money quick and we will be back to our vacation! I'm currently working in a fruit packing factory. We pack oranges, lemons and avocados. And I get a lot of free fruit which is really awesome. Matt is working on a vineyard that is planting like 2000 acres of new grapes this year. He's basically marking the grid for the new posts. I think its pretty boring, and the guy is talking about them working 12 hour days 7 days a week. Talk about trying to kill yourself! On the other hand, I guess we should be thankful - apparently work is very scarce in Mildura during Sept.

Australia is very beautiful, and SOOOO different than Canada. There is a drought right now and it hasn't rained really since we got here. The air is really dry and when it gets windy there are massive sand storms. Apparently they get so bad that it gets as black as night. Groceries are also really wierd. There is tons of "spreadable" butter, and they don't keep eggs in the fridge section. THey are just on the regular shelves. There is also a lot of milk (long life) that is on the shelf. It's like milk powder, but its liquid. They also don't have frozen concentrated juice. They have cordials - concentrated juice that you mix one part with 4 parts water. It's really awesome and is really cheap. I can't get over the cars driving on the other side of the road either! I'm not looking the wrong way most of the time anymore, but I really have to think hard about which way the cars will be coming from. And I always start to go to the wrong side for the passenger door. Its just weird!

Right now we are living in a "hostel" that is more of a house with about 12 people living in it. It's pretty crummy, but the people are nice and its pretty quick. There are a couple other houses that these people own, but apparently they are party houses and noisy all the time. I'd rather be where we are. We are about an hour walking distance from the centre of town which sucks for shopping and stuff but there is a bus that stops right in front of our house. The people we live with are cool too. There are four Germans (I work with two of them), a guy and girl from Ireland, a guy from France, a Belgian, Matt and I and our friend from Canada Pat (same guy that we planted with and went on the West Coast Trail with). All in all its a pretty good situation - a lot better than we thought it was going to be the first couple of nights there.

Anyways, I'm running out of internet time, tomorrow we are going to try and post some pictures from the WCT and from Australia.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

from the Ocean Inn Backpacker's Hostel in Victoria

so we are off the West Coast Trail... it was AMAZING!!! I was a little nervous starting the trail cuz I'd heard a lot of bad things about it, but it was better than my wildest dreams. We got to walk out on ocean shelves and see star fish and lots of other ocean life, and walk on beaches, and walk through rain forest and ever changing ecosystems. We also got some pretty good weather. The first two days were sunny and after that we got some rain, some fog, and some cloud. Not too bad for the trail that is supposed to pour all the time. It took us 6 days to finish, although we took it really lazy - gave us the opportunity to stop and look at things, measure large trees (the largest one was 10 feet in diameter!), and take lots of pictures that we will be posting here soon.

The bus ride home from the trail was a piece of work - we got back from the trail around noon and the bus home didn't leave 'til 4:30 so we got a shuttle into Port Renfrew to go for lunch (there was no way I was eating the rank cheese sandwiches we had planned for the day). We got an awesome meal at a country kitchen type restaurant. We then went up the hill and got amazing white hot chocolate - then it started to rain, and rain, and rain. Just what we wanted after the trail. So we head back down the hill to catch the bus, and wait, and wait, and wait. It was about 45 min late. Then it went back to the cafe we had been at, and sat for another 30 min waiting for someone who was late. And then the driver told us that the radiator was busted and he had limped down from Bamfield and wasn't sure it was going to make it home, and on top of that, we were all pretty sure he'd had a little to drink. And it was raining. And foggy. And the roads are horrible twisted logging roads. It was fun.

Finally, we made it home. We are in Victoria right now, waiting for our ferry to Vancouver to fly to Australia tomorrow!!! I can't believe that it's already time to leave for AUS. I got really nervous yesterday. We are arriving in a foreign country and have no idea what we are going to do. We'll figure it out. We seem to be getting pretty good at flying by the seat of our pants :)

Next post will be from Australia. See ya later!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I’m allergic to Saskatchewan.

Today we went to see the “Chicago of the North” (a.k.a Moose Jaw, SK).

List of exciting things to see in Moose Jaw:
- the curve in the road on the way from Regina to Moose Jaw
- the red truck on the side of the road on the way to Moose Jaw
- the potash mine on the way to Moose Jaw

There was also a set of “bootlegger tunnels” which were apparently used by Al Capone. The story goes that Scarface would come up to Moose Jaw when times were tough down in Chicago, and had also set up a “boozeline” down the tracks which apparently allowed him to take booze straight from Moose Jaw to Chicago without being found out (prohibition times, remember…). So we got a tour of the tunnels, which turned out to be an interactive experience in which we became bootleggers, and actors took us through trick walls into gun rooms and such.

Kind of hokey…. Especially when you realize that the tunnels don’t actually go anywhere – it’s like someone put up a bunch of trick walls in a stone basement that lead you around in a circle. Also, it turns out that Al Capone was not actually ever seen in Moose Jaw.

Not even once.

So my guess is that some guy started a rumour way back in the day, and that little shithole of a town clung to it like mold to the inside of a Nalgene lid. Don’t go to Moose Jaw.

Other than that, the prairies are pretty cool. “Land of the living skies” is no joke. They’re wicked. Not to live here, but definitely cool to visit.

Regina likes me, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

from Java Express in Regina

Well, we're in Regina. We stayed a couple of nights in a hotel that had an awesome breakfast for free! We met up with my parents on sunday - got to show them pictures of our previous adventures and new people to tell stories to. On an unfortunate note, my horse didn't make the finals for our competition, so I'm done showing. It also means that we have 5 days in Regina to wander around and find things to do. Thus far it has been going to the art gallery (Matt decided he wants to be an architect), seeing some movies, going to the farmers market, and going out to eat. At the art gallery, there was an exhibit about a green buildings, and one of the displays talked about the ILC! what a small world!

The weather has been really bad since we got to Regina too - normally it's bright and hot and sunny all day and cold and clear at night. So far this year its been cloudy and cold every day. I'm starting to lose my tan! The paper does say however that its supposed to get nice tomorrow - i hope they are telling the truth lol.

Matt and I have gone through our gear again in a quest to carry less weight. At the Calgary airport we weighed all our packs... the results were:

Matt's Large Pack: 61 pounds
Matt's Carry-on: 19 pounds
My Large Pack: 59 pounds
My Carry-on: 20 pounds

Just for reference - checked baggage can weigh up to 60 pounds and carry-ons can weigh up to 20 pounds. Spreey!

We also had a duffle bag with us that weighed 28 pounds - containing a bit of gear mike left behind as well as some food etc. Since going through everything, that duffle bag is now almost full of things to send home. We are going to reweigh our packs when we leave Regina - hopefully we'll be doing better because I'm not sure there is much we can cut out at this point lol.

Neways, thats it for now - time to go make dinner and see some of the horse show.

Monday, August 13, 2007

from Schomberg's house in Kamloops

So we're back in Kamloops after picking and sorting cherries for 2 weeks. Such good times. Right. We picked for 5 days and made a grand total of $500 dollars between the two of us. That's less than minimum wage, and we worked 8 hours a day starting at 5 in the morning. Not bad for time off in the afternoon but I'll tell you that the beach does wear thin when you have absolutely no where else to go.

We got $2.25 for a bucket like this.

Matt up a ladder. Unfortunately you can't tell he's actually 8 feet in the air.

After picking we moved to Kelowna to go and sort for Dendy Orchards. We figued that we would give something new a try since picking was the worst paying job on the face of the earth. The camp was about 90% francophone, so I didn't feel that at home for the first few days, and it was really busy because there were a lot of people staying in a very small camp. We had to fight down the weeds and sleep on a pretty big slope to even find a place for our tent. Sorting itself is the most boring, mind numbing, finger numbing job. You stand at this little sorting station and pour a bucket of cherries down the centre sloped part.

The packing house.

You then sort the cherries - perfect ones with no flaws go to the export side on your right, ones with flaws go to the left as domestics, and damaged ones are culls and get thrown into the garbage below at your left. And you do this for ever cherry in every bucket - around 100 buckets a day each containing about 375 cherries. Yes, you sort 40,000 cherries in a day. Oh and did I mention that they refrigerate the cherries and the packing house so I'm standing there for 8 hours wearing a winter hat and three shirts and work boots and my feet are numb and I can't pick up the cherries my hands are so cold. Anyways, it turned out to be a profitable adventure, and as much as I'm complaining, I actually did enjoy it and we made $700 in 4 days. Much, much better than picking.

We were supposed to stay longer sorting, but we decided that we wanted to come back to Kamloops and see Anne and take a little holiday in Banff. Then on to Regina on Friday for the Canadian National horse show. I'm really excited to go back to my other life for a bit!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

from a hotel lobby at 1230 in whitesnort

so....second season planting done.

totals -
trees: 85737
days: 50
crazy italian mobster motel owners: 1
grizzly bears: 0.5

crappy alberta internet won't allow pictures....they're coming soon. promise.

from a sketchy hotel lobby in fightcourt

(with apologies to eric and dan as i stole their email for this post)

I'm in whitecourt alberta right now with matt... waiting for a bus to canmore to meet up with matt's mom and his brother... our bus leaves at 3:20 am. very exciting. note the sarcasm. other than that... i've been planting for the last shift. planted for 5 days, put in about 4500 trees and cleared about 450 bucks after camp costs. it was pretty awesome. i was only hoping to break even. it was a lot of fun! pat, the foreman told me to come back next year so i'm thinking about how to fit it in... would be really awesome. and i'd have a car and get to drive across the country which would be amazing. its a really cool lifestyle out here. the people are really awesome. huge partiers though! i don't know where they get the energy to party after a hard shift planting. the last night of the contract we finished planting at about 2 and went back and showered then went to boston pizza for dinner. drank a bunch there --- (2 team pitchers for 30 bucks) --- and then went to a bar (all 80 people in the camp). we stayed there until about 2:30 and then went back to camp on school buses. i went straight to bed, i was soooooooooo tired i couldn't keep my eyes open but most of the camp stayed up around a camp fire until it was light out... and then stayed up the whole next day without sleep to tear down camp!!!!! seriously.

oh ya, i got to ride in a helicopter too!!! i was soooo excited. i've always wanted to ride in a helicopter and now i've gotten to do it too. i wasn't supposed to be allowed to go to heli blocks (that was the plan coming in) but then one morning they were doing one and pat (foreman) was liike... well y our not really supposed to come but you can. and then he gave me this run down of training. it was aweesome. and we flew out in this really bad storm with all sorts of air pockets and such. good times and a great pilot.

Cutblock... I don't have any pictures of me planting ;(

after canmore matt and i are heading to the okanogan to hopefully go fruit picking. we had a couple other options (spraying herbicides and yard work for the treeplanting company) but we figured this was the best. we're going to go see anne and schomberg too! (well hopefully we haven't really cleared it with them yet lol). after that its off to regina for a week and then we fly into victoria on the 27th to start the WCT on the 28th. then off to AUS on the 6th.

hope all is well

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And I Wait

So not much has happened on my front in the last month... although I'm a lot richer than I was before. I'm pretty much waiting to leave for BC. I've pretty much made the date official: July 17. Although there are things that could change it (and I don't have a ticket booked yet), I'm pretty sure. And I can't wait. I was planting some trees the other day for my dad and it really made me want to get out there. Travel plans are going well... getting down to the wire. I got my flu shot today and I'll get my Yellow Fever shot in a few weeks. Yay...
Ta ta for now.

Friday, April 27, 2007

And it Begins for Matt

Off to the first planting contract:
-fly from Toronto to Edmonton on May 5th
-go to the West Edmonton Mall, watch Spiderman
-sleep on a bench
-take the Greyhound bus to Whitecourt, AB on May 6th
-sleep on a bench
-meet my crew at the greyhound station on May 7th


The Beginning

Post number one of I'm sure many to come in the year to come. Plans are well underway, more just working out the thousands of details. I never would have guessed that the planning would take this much work!

Anyways, stay tuned for future, more interesting posts.

Caroline (and Matt)