Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Merry Christmas beautiful people!
It is really wonderful to be home, catching up with family and friends, re-aquainting myself with good NZ Chardonnay, desperately seeking the sunshine that I know and love and making a plan for some exciting (NZ) based adventures over the coming year.
Today marks Day 12 back in NZ; Day 2 I enjoyed my first BBQ; Day 3 another BBQ (and no, not yet the size of a house!), Day 4 back at Oxygen commencing a 2-3 month contract doing Change Management/Comms work for one of 'our' clients; Day 5 re-aquainted with Champagne and dear friends; Day 10 Christmas!
I hope you all are looking forward to a New Year that will prove to be as fabulous as you are. Thank you to all of you that help me to make 2004 one of my best years ever. You are really special.
Location: Kelowna, Canada
Three more sleeps until I leave the snow and head back to sunny NZ to see you all. I am left this week really wondering WHERE this year has gone?! I am not excited about leaving friends and beautiful Canada but the sunny shores of NZ are definitely very appealing right now.
I am currently snowboarding as much as possible at Big White in Kelowna and there is so much fresh powder and snow which is incredible. Jumps are fast becoming my friend! To the snow...
Location: Toronto, Canada
I am back in the hood after leaving more than two months ago; not a lot appears to have changed but for the appearance of christmas lights, the disappearance of leaves from the trees and a drop in temperature by about 20 degrees!
I am staying with Allison back in The Beaches on a suitably comfortable sofa and, despite mysteriously catching a decent head- cold, am using the opportunity to sit back, unpack the backpack and RELAX. I enjoyed a homecoming dinner with Al at our favourite Japanese restaurant and the rest of the time to date I have been having fun catching up with friends over an occasional Cabernet.
The plan for the next week or so is to lay low, forget the tourist traps and to socialize. I may pick up some work through my the recruitment agency that assisted me to get my three month contract at CIBC, plan to see some Christmas lights, avoid the snowfalls and will pick up some possessions, previously distributed for safekeeping around this town including my beautiful snowboard which I will be riding in Kelowna in less than two weeks time.
I look forward to seeing all you fabulous kiwi friends when I arrive back in three weeks - where DID the year go? I trust you are all warming up nicely into the crazy, fun and alcohol spiked festive season. x
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Flew from LAX to Vancouver on Nov 13. Spent the night in yet another hostel (!) and then travelled by bus/ferry across to beautiful Vancouver Island how magnificent to be back in Canada and on an island in the Pacific Ocean!
I explored the quaint capital city with its board walks, classic architecture in the forms of Empress Hotel, the provincial Parliament Buildings and Craigdarroch Castle, saw the inner harbour, galleries and perused antique shops just what every backpacker needs! After nine-weeks on the road on this stint, I am a little tired of the cities so just enjoyed time out at the cinema with Bridget Jones.
I took a shuttle up to picturesque and rugged Tofino on the west coast of VI in Calyoquot Sound (five hours) and stayed in a great hostel right in the heart of the harbour in a room that afforded amazing views of other islands and snow capped mountains. I thoroughly enjoyed being out of the city amidst this lush rainforest.
Highlights included a visit to Chesterman Beach on a wild, rugged and windy day; it was wonderful to be in my favourite place on such a terrific day, with three-metre waves crashing on the rocks, the wind attempting to kidnap my hat and a smile as big as the absent sun for company!
I went on a fantastic boat trip to the famous Hot Springs Cove about 40km north of Tofino, and was fortunate to see two grey whales, literally tons of sea lions, two bald eagles and a lone sea otter amidst 3-4 metre swells en-route yikes! I walked along a boardwalk in the beautiful rainforest for two kilometers to get to the natural, sulphur springs and soaked in the hot pools until my manicured toes wrinkled! Other highlights included runs along the beach, long quality time with my book and delicious Lattes from Breakers Café. 10/10.
Location: Long Beach, California, USA
Hello from California - I love it here, it is supposedly winter but after Banff, these 20C+ temperatures feel positively balmy! I am staying with the lovely Jodie in Long Beach and have had a great time here over the past week; Disneyland, sipping NZ sauvignon overlooking a sunset along Santa Monica Boulevard from the bar of the beautiful Casa Del Mar; runs along Belmont Shore and Newport beach; dinner at numerous great LA restaurants; a visit to the The Getty Centre (art/museum/architecture) and the best Nicoise salad I have ever eaten at the renown resaturant at the Centre, Rodeo Drive baby (big mistake, huge - for the PW fans out there!); lattes on Balboa Island and more. Tre magnifique!
I head back to Canada tomorrow; a night in Vancouver then a week in Vancouver Island then back to the hood (Toronto!) for a couple of weeks to say goodbyes, collect my snowboard and then ride of into the sunset (Kelowna) for a week or so on my board before returning to the beautiful NZ on December 16 at 7.30am(revised date for those of you who marked the last on your calendar!)
Location: Long Beach, California, USA
Arrived in beautiful, sunny Long Beach California with Jodie - the ocean, lifestyle and people are fantastic!!! Just checking in to let you all know I am still around and having an amazing time. More when life slows down - probably never!!! Miss all your smiling faces. Em x
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Viva Las Vegas! Vegas was quite an experience - people, glammer, gambling and fun with Mitch, Rob and Fleur - the hotels were incredible, the Bellagio was fabulous and the Venetian very cool - we even had a ride on a gondola! Another highlight was the fabulous glitz and glamour of Jubilee!, a magnificent show at Bally hotel - showgirls, costumes - or lack thereof - dancing and jewels - a true highlight!
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Arrived off the ferry in Bellingham and took the Greyhound to Seattle. Looked around this fabulous town, wished I had a bit more time here to enjoy the arts and music scene and caught up with Brent and the lovely Shirley! We sipped martinis, found out what we have all been up to over the last three years (!), had the grand tour of the Hyatt kitchens and drank Steinlager at a true blue Kiwi bar in the heart of Seattle.
Caught Amtrak down to Portland and enjoyed a fun weekend with Martin; met the lovely Michelle, made Halloween costumes (can anyone picture me as Wilma Flinstone at a rave?!!!) - pictorial evidence will follow sometime soon. I got the grand tour of Portland the following day and we went to Timberline ski resort at Mt Hood which was awesome - the only thing missing was my board. I am truly fortunate to have such amazing friends.
Location: Juneau, Alaska, USA
Returned to Anchorage after a great few days in Seward but I don't really enjoy it here; there are a lot of weird and homeless people, and equally strange people running hostels. I have since discovered after leaving the first one that it recieves a grant from the government in order to let vagrants live there - disgusting really and it explains why I disliked it so much; here is one of many examples why. One morning, whilst innocently trying to wake up (despite it being pitch black outside at 9.30am) and attempting to climb out of my rustic top bunk (after spending the night listening to a big, fat old woman (FOW) snoring and hoiking from a cold all night) to have the FOW wake like a beached whale to yell at me, "Wwhat the f%%^% are you doing up there, it isn't a f#$%$# trampoline, cut it out!". Well, I can tell you that after two days of this disgusting hostel (Anchorage Hostel, never stay there) she bore the brunt of my frustration - I can't repeat my response but I can tell you that it was especially colourful, even for that time of morning (ok, I am on vacation!) and being awake for only a number of minutes. FOW apologized to me later and I accepted but wasn't so gracious with my reply. Anyway, thought I would add that we morsel in case some of you were getting the idea that this travelling caper is one lovely, field of roses!! Most of the time it is amazing but the 80/20 rule usually prevails!!
I found Seward to be a really beautiful and picturesque part of Alaska; rivers, mountains, wildlife, lakes, fjords - it has it all. It was great having the luxury of time and a rental car. I stopped off at Explorer Glacier en-route which had a turquoise lake at the base with about 20 trout clearly visible underwater along the shoreline which was incredible - when they realised I didn't have a spear gun (or the capability/inclination to kill them!) they stuck around. It took my breath away. Walked up to Byron Glacier, saw a lake with huge chunks of ice floating in it. The temperatures are sitting around 0 all day here and it is only a matter of days until it begins snowing .
While in Anchorage, I went to an excellent performance at the Alaksa Performing Arts Centre - watched Brazillian dance group, Grupo Corpo which was an explosion of excellent dance (mix of modern, sensual, hip and booty shaking moves coupled with classical ballet), light and music - it was amazing.
As I prepare to depart for the anticipated four day ferry journey down the west coast to Bellingham, I leave you with some interesting points from my trip in Alaksa:
Most men are weird, are either homeless or have beards and think that I find them sexy, which I do not. An example: a man in my hostel in Seward (the only other person) was very talkative, I let him talk as it was the easiest option. When he left, he gave me a gift of a knife - what ever happened to freakin roses?! To top that off, when I recounted this tale to another Alaskan male who ran a hostel in Anchorage this story, his response was: "He probably wanted to marry you", I can't work out which male was wierder.
A good friend who has travelled here said "Alaska is beautiful apart from the inbreds - perhaps they can't see who they are with as it is so dark there all the time" - BINGO!
There are a lot of loners here and people 'running' from something - it wouldn't surprise me if half were wanted by the FBI!
Boonies means outback/backcountry
I will never eat Reindeer
There is no income tax in Alaska
The Alaska Oil Pipeline was completed in 1977 - a fund was established Alaska Permanent Fund that pays every resident/citizen of Alaska an annual dividend of $900-1200. They payment has just gone out for 2004 and it was $920!
I consumed an excellent latte the other day - the catch phrase on the cup was: The Last Legal High (and it was a registered trademark - not from the state of some I have seen in Alaska.
It started snowing here in Alaska a day ago.
It has been fun but bring on Seattle/Portland/Las Vegas and Long Beach!
Location: Seward, Alaska, USA
I went on an amazing boat cruise today in the Kenai Fjords, Seward. The weather was magic and I got to see two elusive bald eagles, sea lions, harbour otters, porpuses (that looked like mini orca whales and swam incredibly fast under the bow of the boat) and some absolute (as in the vodka!) magnificent scenery. BEAUTIFUL.
Location: Seward, Alaska, USA
So, am in the middle of Alaska, there are no tourists - just me the idiot who didn't do her homework! On the upside, everyone is really nice (if a bit creepy and usually bearded) and I am getting the hang of this. Am going to go and see a huge Glacier today (now that the rain has stopped) and hike a trail, in my sneakers and pink polo with diamond earrings (what a freakin princess!).
I am driving a silver rental car with not a hint of dirt (that looks like a lexus/mercedes) which is far too clean and makes me appear rich - which I am definitely not (don't tell the BNZ/Mastercard!) and quite out of place in this hick town - too funny!!!
Staying in a very rustic cabin 16 miles out of town - it is fun. What is getting me through is that in two weeks, I will be playing in Portland for Halloween and partying with Mitch and Rob (and Bree!) in Vegas!!!!
Location: Talkeetna, Alaska, USA
Happy Birthday Kate (one of the fabulous 4 sisters).
Headed north to Talkeetna on the famous Alaska Railroad; was fortunate to catch it as, like most things in Alaska, it runs on a limited schedule in the Fall/Winter months.
The trip was incredibly picturesque with the mountain range on one side, forest/alpen trees, rivers, lakes through the fog - the Conductor even stopped the train on the tracks for us and pulled up the sides of the baggage compartment to afford better photographs. En-route home the following day I was able to sit in the engine with the driver and engineer and chat about nothing much, see the best view (even a moose on the side of the tracks) and get a glimpse of life in Alaska which was awesome.
Talkeetna is a usual haven for extreme adventure seekers, rafting and more commonly mountain climbing - Mt McKinley (or Denaii as the locals call it for it's Indian name) has a higher vertical rise than Everest. Edmund (Sir) is the man around these parts!
I have been chewing the fat (am in the US now!) with the locals, found out that for a mere $20,000 USD you can buy a permit to hunt/kill a bear, I was treated to wolf skins for sale by the cash register in the local grocery store where I bought my banana for lunch (yep, that was it, I kind of lost my appetite for a bit!) and was just offered a delicious steaming hot bowl of reindeer sausage soup (no kidding!) for dinner so may have to give that a whirl! It is likely that the carrots and toast won't distract me and it is highly likely that I won't be getting any Christmas presents this year (with Santa one short and all) but will take my chances - bon appetit!
Had a one night stand with two glasses of locally brewed Ixe Axe beer (aptly named for the hangover it produces!) which weighs in at a cool 9.3% alcohol - they will only serve two and then you have to switch to another beverage - danger!
Location: Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Hi all from the USA,
I can definitely tell the differences between the Canuk and the Yank accent now - say no more!! Arrived here last night from Toronto (felt like a rival to around the world in 80!) after a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with friends in Ontario so hard to say how this will be.
First impressions need to be worked on! Have listened to more bad Alaskan music, seen more beards, cowboy boots and girls applying makeup in washrooms to last me a lifetime in the past 24 hours! I am beginning to suspect that Alaska may be the one place that my LL (Lonely Loser!) title may hold true - this place would be better with a friend and a lot of the sights are now closed for the winter already so may have to rent a car which will be ok! Is a little gloomy weather wise but a balmy 9 degrees C and the hostel is full of men who are residents here but can't get out of the place (eeeww), the men outnumber women in Anchorage it appears about 10/1 so feel objectified which is, to be honest, disgusting and not flattering in the least! You wonder why I appear to have lost my personality? Perhaps jetlag and lack of sleep has something to do with it. Will be back on it with renewed vigour tomorrow!!
Will head north to Talkeetna and south to the beautiful Kenai Peninsula over the next few days so watch this space!
Em x (the salmon hunter!)