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Ecuador

 

I spent the first 5 or so days hanging out with the boys in Quito, exploring the city in both the Old Town and New Town. Having read more things out there shining negative light on Qutio, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a lively and giant city, but it still seems to have a soul and I certainly didn’t feel nervous for my safety or belongings as I had been led to believe I would. On top of that, Qutio had a surprise package in my old friend Harry Menzies appearing randomly, and it was brilliant to see him for the first time in over 4 years.
Mel arrived from Canada and we spent the first few days wandering about the city and seeing lots of his sights, including walking to the top of the Basilica which gives one hell of a view of the beautiful city.

Our first destination out of the hustle and bustle of Qutio was north west to the Mindo cloud forest. On arrival we headed to our accommodation, which I had organised to surprise Mel for her late birthday present; a tree house lodge. It was by far the fanciest place I’ve ever stayed in, overlooking the town and forest from our balcony up in a tree, who would have thunk it. Mindo was a cute town, and offered plenty of things to occupy our time there. Firstly we sampled some zip-lining through the canopy of the forest, followed by a tour of the Mindo Chocolate company (which has apparently well renowned brownies).
The following day we went for a horse ride, which was rather relaxing and took us further up the hills than we had seen before. The afternoon involved attacking the ‘giant swing’ with Scuba Dan and Chloe who had made the trip up from Quito. The swing was pretty damn exhilarating and doing it while it started to rain added to the excitement. Finally for the day we did Mindo tubing. Basically you head down the Mindo River in a group of inflated rings all connected and bounce off rocks and slip down mini rapids. Our 10year old guide knew the ropes well and was one hilarious little fella. However our time in Mindo eventually came to an end and our next destination was Banos.

Banos is about 3.5 hours south of Quito and based in the middle of a truly stunning valley. We arrived and set off exploring around the city to see how it felt, and we both felt comfortable and stoked on our choice. One of our first activities we set off on was rafting. We got driven with our group to the drop off point and told we were going to tackle mostly class 3 rapids and a few class 4s. This was pretty much complete gibberish to me and Mel but we were later informed that class 4s are a decent kind of rapid. Our group, Team Kittens, had me and Mel, two frenchies and a few other ladies from Melbourne. It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in Ecuador and it was a shame to see it end. The next day we shot up to Café de Celio on the top of the valley which overlooks the town for a nice (overpriced) beer and to enjoy the view of this town and the surrounding Andes mountains, not half bad Ecuador.

One of our nights there involved me showing Mel the way of the caipirinha (a cocktail made with sugar cane liqueur), which of course resulted in the following day being a complete right off. We also rented a buggie/4×4 car and drove up to the highly acclaimed volcano swing. Which is basically a swing out of a tree that takes you over a cliff, and gives you views of the famous Volcano. However when we were there we had nothing but clouds hindering our view, but that was okay, it was fun ripping around the hills in the 4×4 and seeing the country side. Banos also has a swing similar to the one we sampled in Mindo, however this one dropped off a bridge with a 75m drop to the raging river below… Mel was feeling a bit under the weather so I tackled this one with Harry and Toby. It’s safe to say that you only shit bricks for the brief moment when you stand on the dodgy platform and look down, and then its mostly yelps of pain as the harness decides to get very aggressive with the space between your legs… But it was a pretty decent rush, and topped off Banos pretty nicely.

Our final destination was the Galapagos Islands. I had mixed feelings about going, being slightly irritated at the cost of entry into the islands ($100 US dollars for us gringos, compared to $6 for locals…), but most of this irritation disappeared once we were there. We landed in San Cristobal Island and spent the first two days there. It was pretty neat having sea lions parading around the streets and the people seemed pretty friendly. We went snorkeling at ‘Kicker Rock’ the following day, and it was just a glimpse into the immense marine life that the Galapagos has to offer. We saw millions of fish, sharks, turtles, Bluefooted Boobies, iguanas, manta rays and even had dolphins swimming next to our boat. We both had the best time and couldn’t wait to do something like this again. However the next morning we ventured to island number 2, Santa Cruz.
After a rough boat ride we arrived in the most touristy island in the Galapagos. We spent our first day wandering about and checked out the Darwin Research Centre which was pretty wicked (and free!). Here we saw breeding grounds for turtles and iguanas as well as learning more about the history of the islands, their discovery and current issues etc.
The next day was sadly the worst day we had on the islands, going on a tour of Pinzon island. It was the most expensive tour we took and I felt more ripped off than I had when forking over $100 to get into the islands. We were driven to the northern port of Santa Cruz and jumped on a boat that would take us to Pinzon. We had been insured our guide spoke English, and after our last tour we assumed the guides and crew would be enthusiastic and knowledgeable of the area. How wrong we were. The guide knew two words in English, “fish” and “shark” was all he had in his vocab. The crew were shifty bastards and gave no fucks about anything. Basically it was shit and everyone on board agreed.
I understand there is a gringo tax applied to me being white like Casper the Ghost when traveling South America but I felt more ripped off than I had for this whole trip, so I kicked up a fuss. The fella we booked through was understanding and got the owner of the boat down so I could tell him how much of a shit time we had (there was some nice parts but they were few and far between) and despite the fact he cared about as much as I do about the success of the Western Bulldogs as he did for my complaints, he refunded us around half the money. Luckily for us our next island, Isabela, was incredible and most likely the highlight of the islands for us.
After another overly awesome 3 hour boat ride bouncing across the ocean we arrived and sorted out some accommodations in Isabela. This town felt like a true surf/beach town with no paved roads, minimal tourism compared to the other two and a really laid back vibe. We headed to the Wall of Tears and took the 2 hour walk back to town which had lovely look outs and some decent wildlife, seeing huge packs of Bluefooted Boobies and more iguanas than the island had people. We discovered a top notch little bar and spent the evening enjoying beers and the sunset. The following day we did a tour of the Lava Tunnels, which was the best tour we took and was such a good way to spend a day. We went in search of some whales as we drove the boat to these tunnels, which is basically old molten lava which has started to decay and created the perfect place for marine and bird life. We saw more Bluefooted Boobies, however these ones had babies around the size of a thumb which was stupidly cute, then we delved into some snorkeling. We swam with turtles, Golden Rays, millions of beautiful fish, and got around half a meter away from a school of White Tipped Sharks. Everyone loved the tour and we left very pleased.
In the next few days we headed back to San Cristobal to fly back to Quito and fitted in a few bits and pieces we wanted to see. This time in SC we stayed further inland, in a residential area. It was interesting to see another part of the town but in a way it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. The main waterfront is so clean it really looked like Ecuador is trying to keep the place in the best condition it possibly can, however five blocks further inland and the town was more reminiscent of somewhere in Bolivia. Every second building was just foundations without any signs of completion, with rubbish and garbage everywhere. If it’s so important that this place needs to be kept in perfect condition for animals then surely they can’t let it be such shambles when out of the majority of the tourists eyes. It just made me think where is that $100 entry fee we paid going, if it’s not for the conservation of this unique place?

The Galapagos was a grand time and it’s a pretty impressive place. But our time to return to Quito had come and off we went. Mel left two days after we arrived and I’ve been killing a few days until I fly back to ‘home’ for another winter in the Canadian Rockies.

Don’t worry, I will come back to Australia soon… maybe.

 

Baltra-Pier2 Banos-View Birds Isabela-Island

 

 

 

 

 

More Peru.

 

Since we left Cusco, Michael, Toby and myself took a cruisey 17 hour bus ride to Ica, which was 15 minutes out from our destination, Huacachina, South America’s only oasis. Literally, it’s an actual oasis. It’s a pretty small town based around one pretty sweet activity; dune buggy rides and sand boarding. It’s a two hour excursion where you shoot off in mad-max looking vehicles into the sand dunes that surround the town, and your driver does not hold back. He shoots the car off the dunes and if you didn’t have the your seatbelt strapped hard as possible, you would not stay inside. So we spent half an hour launching ourselves around and genuinely shitting bricks until we stopped at the top of a sand dune. Out came the sand boards and down we went, bellies first on the big hills. Attempting standing up had its success on hill two but hill three got the better of me and I managed to hurt my shoulder (as per usual). Following our sand boarding we jumped back in our mad-max dune buggies and headed back to the hostel for BBQ night. It was one hell of an adrenaline rush.
Our next destination was Paracas. Now we had heard Paracas described as the ‘poor mans Galapagos’. What we didn’t realise was just how poor these men must be. It was possible one of the worst locations we had been to all trip. The hostel was nice and we ended up spending most of our few days playing pool and foosball on a beachfront setting. Sounds pretty nice yeah? Shame that the beach was in worse shape than St Kilda and the view consisted of around 15,000 fishing boats. We headed out to sea on the towns main attraction to some off shore islands. We spent two hours on a boat looking at islands that every eight years get farmed for the collected bird shit that piles up on top of them. Yeah. That’s what these islands purpose is… so we saw around a million birds, three seals and one penguin. Certainly not worth the 6.30am wake up and two hour boat ride.

So we get the hell out of there quick smart and shooted up to Lima, Peru’s capital. Most people I had met who had been there said it’s only highlight is the food. So we spent two days eating and found a liking for the Peruvian dish ‘Ceviche’. Raw fish cooked by the acidity of lime juice. So after eating our way across Lima we jumped on another 17 hour bus up to Peru’s surf town, Mancora.

Mancora was intense from the get go. I got about half a step out of the bus and had around 10 guys offering me cocaine and weed. After giving them the polite ‘No gracias’ and they heard my aussie accent, they pushed even harder. So I grabbed my bags quick smart and got the fuck out of there and to my hostel. I spent one night away from the boys and got a few beers with my old pal who I ran into, Scuba Dan. The hostel was part of the ‘Loki’ chain and known for partying. So it was a loud and painful evening considering the last thing you want to do after a 17 hour bus ride is hit the beers. So the following day I shot off to ‘Misfit Hostel’ which was a collection of bungalows on the beach far out of the main drag of town. This place was possible the best hostel I’ve had the pleasure of staying at. Run by Adam, a English fella and owner Rodrigo. These laid back guys were great value and the whole hostel would cook group dinners which really led to a positive atmosphere. I would certainly head back there without a doubt.

 

After some time kicking back on that beach, we headed up to Ecuador and to Montanita, the Ecuadorian equivalent of Mancora. This place was far more laid back and had a much nicer vibe, but very overcast weather. We headed 5 minutes out of Montanita in a much less touristy town. Nothing much came about the next few days as we all just kicked it and recharged the batteries. I booked flights back to Canada for next winter, heading out of Ecuador on October 8th. I’ve missed snowboarding beyond belief and it was nice feeling relief having locked in the next 6-8 months in Lake Louise again.

 

Quito is the next stop, and more adventures!

 

 

Mancora Dune-buggies Sand-Dune

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cusco, Salkantay trek and the search for Machu Picchu.

After pit stopping off in Puno to visit the floating islands of lake Titikaka (which was a decent half day trip) we arrived in Cusco, Peru. Starting off we headed to our hostel and was pleasantly surprised to find our pal Toby already held up in the room we had booked.
Following our arrival came my 22nd birthday. We headed to the Loki bar and spent the evening dancing and karaoking into the evening. Cusco is a wonderful city. We all felt really comfortable here and everyone we met had nothing but positive words for it. Being the hub from which most trips to the infamous Machu Picchu take place, the area is pretty well build up for tourists, but not in a way that you feel like a massive gringo.

The next activity we took part in was a day trip to the Sacred Valley. This area of Peru is where many of the famous Inca Ruins are located. The day involved travelling between four of the best ruin sights and one hell of a lunch. It was pretty sweet getting a decent insight into how the Inca’s lived and many of their philosophies on life, and how the effect of the Spanish when the arrived affected their way of life.

Two days later we had booked our trek to Machu Picchu. We had decided on doing the ‘Salkantay 5 day trek’. Salkantay is the biggest mountain in the region, and on day two we would pass around it at 4,600m above sea level. So we set off on day one nice and early at 3am. We met the other 7 members of our group, team Holland, team Germany, team Canada and Mr Italy. We started our ascent and didn’t stop the incline until the end of the day, around 5pm. Day one had us pretty tired and sweaty, but team moral overall was pretty decent. Team Canada had suffered a bit of altitude sickness and held them back but they met us at the finish eventually. After a wicked dinner cooked by Pancho our chef, we hit the hay in preparation for what our guide, Coach, called judgement day.
Rising at 4.50am for breakfast and a briefing, we started what would be probably the hardest day for me on this trip. We covered 23km, half of which was purely uphill to get to Salkantay. We arrived at the glacier where we parked ourselves for an hour as Coach explained a few local rituals and other bits and pieces about the area. However we had to push forward and made it to our lunch point three hours later. During yet another great feed the weather turned against us and hail pelted our tin roof. Being overly excited as I usually am, I tried to make the team as positive about hiking through torrential hail as I could. Most of the group got around it but team Canada couldn’t spot the fun we would have in these conditions. We headed off into the abyss and about an hour in the hail stopped and the only thing wet besides the entire contents of my backpack was the spirits of team Canada. Finally, four hours later we reached the campsite and I attempted to dry my wet clothes.
Day three saw us head into the edge of the Amazon forest. Sporting my wet jocks, wet pants and a wet t-shirt, I pushed through the humid climate. We got off easily this day and arrived at lunch spot around 11.30am where we took part in some football against groups. Following our tournament we shot off to the campsite and then to the Santa Teresa hot springs to relax the muscles.
Day four came and half our group decided to partake in the zip lining while me and Michael decided we were too stingy to, and walked an extra four hours. Well we thought we were until team Germany offered to cover the taxi fare to cut out 2 hours of the trek. So we arrived at Hydroelectric and walked the train line to Aguascalientes. This 3 hours walk was probably one of the nicest we had to encounter, and we arrived in town with high spirits in excitement for Machu Picchu the following day.
We woke up at 3.45am to make the line for the hike to Machu Picchu, which opened at 5am. We managed to get through the gate around 30 people in and started the hike up 1773 steps to the entry point. Michael pushed through and got to the top in 40minutes, and Toby and I coming in 50minutes and 55minutes. Possibly the most demoralising thing about it was getting to the top, sweating more than I have at any point in my entire life to beat people into these sacred ruins, and having a bus rock up 5minutes before me and unload passengers still with their perfect make-up and not a drop of sweat on them. Anyway, I pushed the frustration aside and we got into the world heritage site a few minutes after it opened. It really is an amazing place to be. We spent a full 6 hours wandering about. Coach gave us insight into what happened here many centuries ago, before he had to leave us for good. We all had an emotional goodbye, and I don’t doubt we all were blinking back tears.
We headed back down to town having visited what truly is an incredible place to be. It’s breath taking in both its location, as well as its construction.

Having covered close to 100km of ground in 5 days, seeing some amazing places and spending time with some amazing people, the Salkantay trek sits up there as one of the top three things I’ve done on this trip, without a doubt.

 

Peru is certainly bringing the goods.

 

 

Salkantay _DSF3121 Salkantay2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bolivia.

So over a week ago I landed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I had booked a few nights at a hostel there. On arrival I was pretty taken back by the town. It was hugely quiet town and didn’t seem to be having much going on. Due to the average weather (the worst on record in 9 years) all the tours to the neighbouring sand dunes and other activities had been cancelled for the time being. So basically I had three days of organising things and trying to get my head around my next part of the trip. Still, I met some cool folk here and enjoyed a few good feeds along the way.

Moving on from Santa Cruz I jetted up to La Paz, the (debatably) highest capital city in the world at 3,600m and it’s airport that sits at above 4,000m. After arrival I rested early as I prepared for a day BMXing down ‘Death Road’. After meeting up with the English connection we drove into the country side and began our decent. The first section was on a tarmac road and the scenery was just breath taking. After around two hours we hit the gravel road. This is where I began to shit bricks. A single lane road made of rocks with a 600ft drop a mere 50cm to your left really puts you on edge. After descending this section, which took a fair few hours going through rivers and over some pretty rough terrain we reached the end. Once finished, me and the crew decided to partake in the zip-lining above the forest floor which delivered even more incredible views. This was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had here in South America, following the World Cup of course.
The day after I met up with a few of the lads from back in Melbourne and we ventured up the Cable-Car which drops you in El Alto, a neighbouring city even higher up than La Paz itself. Here we copped an incredible view that showed the true size of this surreal city and at only $1AUD was well worth the ride. Next up came our adventure to La Paz Golf Club. This became possibly one of the funniest moments on my trip to date. Having four gringos dressed pretty shabbily trying to hit the driving range in what was clearly quite a fancy course had the laughter going non stop. After hitting our 40 balls into a giant mountain at the end of the course we headed back to the city pretty wrecked.
Exploring the witches market the next day was quite an experience in itself. This market sells everything from alpaca knitted jumpers to lama foetuses. I shit you not, legit lama foetuses hang from the top of these stalls. So once I took this all in I jumped into the nearest soccer shop and scored myself a Bolivia top and moved on.
Moon Valley came next. This place is basically something straight out of star wars. Giant pillars made of clay and sand shoot up from the ground throughout the whole area. It was a pretty sweet little place to visit and with my photoshop knowledge I turned us all into Star Wars characters in the strange landscape.
Saya Brewery tour came next on my list of La Paz activities. It was an all you can drink tour on one of Bolivia’s premium breweries. After driving out of the city for a good hour or so we arrived in the secluded location and wandered about the brewery. Following this was the unlimited beer and bbq. As per usual, the Americans and Canadians insisted on playing rather odd drinking games while me and the English lads stuck to the usual ‘steady as she goes’ mixed in with the occasional beer bong. Safe to say that day became quite the write off.
The next day some dodgy breakfast saw me cop some decent food poisoning so I became quite well acquainted with the toilet.
My final activity in La Paz was heading up to the El Alto Market. The worlds highest market, and what I would rate as the most crazy market I’ve ever visited. The stalls sell everything. Literally everything. Need one used shoe instead of a pair? How about assorted car parts? This market has you covered.

So far La Paz has been a whole bunch of crazy but there is some charm to its chaotic and strange setting.

Next stop, Peru.

 

_DSF2460 2.03.11 PM Cable Car lookout Death-Road-Pano

 

 

 

 

Rio de Janeiro

So I got into Rio a week ago from Salvador, and I must say it has been an excellent week. I immediately felt far, far safer here than I did in Salvador and life in the suburb of Leblon seemed pretty danm good. Having found a place called ‘Lemon Spirit Hostel’, only a block away from the beach, I must say without a doubt that it was the best find I’ve had on this trip. The place is in such a prime location, has super friendly staff and a wicked atmosphere.

My first day was spent lounging around the area getting acquainted with where I was, and it was such a strange feeling to feel safe enough to leave my iPhone in my pocket rather than down my jocks. Leblon seems like such an ace place to live, close to Rio’s best beach and littered with shops cafes and restaurants.

That evening I made mates with a group of English travellers and we spent the night playing cards and discussing our future travels which turned out to be pretty similar. I spent the next few days hanging out with this crew and we went on a pretty sweet bike ride around the giant lagoon in Leblon and headed to places like Copacabana.

The next big tourist excursion I did was going on a favela tour. The poms, myself and an Iranian fellow staying at the hostel headed off to visit Rio’s biggest (and apparently safest) favela. Basically for those unaware, the favela’s are what Brazilians named their ghetto areas. So anyway, we got out of our taxi at the bottom of this giant hillside filled with house on house on house. The tour guide (basically just a cabbie who spoke English) told us that around 700,000 residents lived here. However I was later told the figure was closer to 250,000… so not too sure where I sit on the numbers but basically this place would be the size of Armadale back home, or the front side of Lake Louise for you Canadians. It’s chaotic and reminded me of India at times with interesting smells and the way that people just appear to add another story on top of their home. Giant open spaces seemed to be a place for people and stores to throw their rubbish into, and a source for local dogs to eat from. Delish.
We made our way higher up the favela and came across some nice views from the higher vantage points and people didn’t seem to sketchy which as nice. It’s interesting the way the people seem to siphon electricity from the closest power line and the government seems to let that slip under the radar. Overall it was an interesting experience but not one I would rush back to do.

Next on my list was heading to the botanical gardens, which was a short bike ride away from the hostel. Me and Rin (my new mate from Iran) headed off and went for a wander about the gardens. It’s a pretty impressive place and theres heaps of different plants and sections to keep you entertained for at least a few hours. We headed back to the hostel and then set off in the arvo on the bus to suss out the area of Santa Teresa. Having understood that this part of Rio had a big bohemian culture, the famous ceramic steps and several decent places to get a bite I was pretty keen to have a gander. We landed right in the middle and opted to go for a wander up the old tram line. The place was pretty cool and the vibe seemed pretty relaxed which had me stoked. However after a few hours wondering about we couldn’t find the famous steps and surrendered ourselves to a bar for a beer.

The next day I had the highlight of my time here so far. I booked an open roof jeep tour of Tijuca forest and set off in the morning. It’s so surreal going straight from an urban environment into the heart of a lush forest. After a bit of time venturing from the main road we came across an area with a waterfall next to the old coffee plantation building, it was so nice being out in the outdoors again like that. The rest of the tour followed a path and we saw the likes of monkeys and lizards on route and our final stop was to a lookout that had the bets view of Rio. It overlooked the Christ Redeemer statue, the giant Lagoon, and much of the city. Just being out in the forest and being away from the urban jungles was such a nice change of pace I would totally do it again!

My final day of activities had me go on a tour covering the main attractions to Rio. We started off heading to see the big man who looms over the city, Jesus Christ. It’s surprisingly small. I guess every time I see it on TV or anything its made out to be huge, and well, it’s big but just not THAT big. Jesus delivered some pretty sweet views though so I guess I can’t complain too much. Our next stop was the arena that hosts Carnival before we headed to Lapa for the Escadaria Selarón, Rio’s world famous mosaic steps. An old pal of mine had a photo taken there a few years back and I knew from the moment I decided to go to Brazil that I was going to visit those steps. Its really quite amazing and bizarre. They just appear in a lane in the area of Lapa with not much else going on around it. I did the walk up and enjoyed the festive locals who try and sell you the standard bracelets and nick nacks but who also play music on drums and other instruments. Lastly we were to head on the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain.

Wow.

The view from sugarloaf tops my man Jesus’s and was without a doubt the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in Brazil. We arrived fifteen minutes before sunset and was not disappointed. Watching the sun set across the mountains surrounding the city was phenomenal and anyone going to brazil needs to do it. The whole group of us on the tour were gobsmacked at the sheer beauty of sunset. To our disappointment though this marked the end of the tour, but it was by far one of the best days I’ve had here in Rio. As a group we headed back to the hostel and started to wet our whistles as it was my last evening in this gorgeous city. We ended up heading into town to witness what we heard was a fun evening out. It was pretty interesting watching locals samba around and have full on dances, not just the bopping and shuffling that’s usual in Melbourne. Made for an interesting evening that’s for sure.
However tonight I depart Brazil and move onto to Bolivia. Santa Cruz is the first stop in a list of many.

 

Adeus Brasil. Você me serviu bem.

 

 

_DSF1985 _DSF2067 _DSF2302

 

 

 

My last day in Salvador.

 

Since my last update a few weeks have passed. Currently, I’m still plodding along here in Salvador. My old man unfortunately left a week ago to head back to the real world in Melbourne and I’ve since been kicking it on the cheap here on the coast.
The Last month has seriously been the best of my life. Having the chance to spend a month in the most football crazy country while they host the biggest sporting event on the planet, and experiencing it with my father, is something that will never leave my mind. We made memories that I will forever cherish. Watching France demolish Switzerland, Germany walk all over Portugal, The Netherlands silence the Spanish, Bosnia toppling Iran, Belgium squeezing out the USA and Costa Rica fall to the Dutch in a penalty shootout, we couldn’t have asked for better games. We saw more goals here in Salvador than any other city in Brazil. I cannot even describe in words what it’s like to witness these games, this tournament even, with my own eyes.
This is passion on a level that I’ve never seen. People from across the globe travelling to one country to support their nation, their sporting heroes, it creates a buzz that you will never find anywhere else. Not to mention the people in this country. When Brazil played, the nation stopped. Don’t get the wrong idea where I mean people dressed up and all that, I mean the nation literally stops. Two hours prior to Brazil playing, every shop closes up and everyone heads home to watch the game. The streets would be deserted at 1pm in the afternoon. School kids get to leave early to watch the game with their families. This is a nation who revolves around these players representing them.
When Brazil scores, or wins for that matter, it’s a flurry of fireworks, explosions of some sort and cheers from each and every apartment. At first I shat bricks not knowing if it was fireworks or shots fired, to find out it’s most likely fireworks (thankfully). The sound, even in the suburbs where I’m staying, is something phenomenal. However the team got put to the slaughter in the semi finals and lost 7-1 to Germany. Safe to say that being white in a predominantly black city, I stayed indoors after this massive loss…
For non-football followers you can skip the next paragraph, it’s mostly about my thoughts on the cup itself and how some of the teams fared.
I must say, Australia did a mighty fine job this world cup. For someone who doesn’t follow football our record of three defeats from three would beg to differ. However we played three of the biggest teams on the current ranking and teams who have been long time players in the world cup. I tip my hat to the lads they did a tremendous service for our country.
France also had a decent run this world cup. They were coming off the back of possibly the worst world cup campaign (South Africa 2010) and made it through to the quarter finals to be knocked out 1-0 by eventual champions Germany.
For those who followed the cup like I did (watching every game that was on TV except one…) Germany deserved this victory. They were the strongest team throughout the tournament and outplayed each opposition with ease.
However, the time has come that I venture on from the little apartment Thierry and I had here in Salvador. Tomorrow I head off to Rio De Janeiro, my final stop in Brazil. I’ve lashed out here and booked a sightly fancier hostel than what my stingy wallet would usually allow, only one road away from the Ipanema beach. I’m set up here for 8 days before I fly to Sao Paulo for a 12 hour lay over at the airport before shooting myself off to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Brazil has hosted one hell of a tournament and the memories I’ve made with my old man, who made this all possible, have made my adventure away from Australia something that will stay with me until the day I die. Thanks dad, Ill never forget it.

Now that I’m back on my feet moving about constantly the updates will hopefully flow so stay tuned for news about my travels as I dive from Brazil up the east coast of South America.

_DSF1811 Ortiz Thierry-Reading

 

 

I’ve been in Salvador a week.
My old man and me arrived just before the start of the World Cup and settled into our apartment in Pituba. The taxi driver from the airport insisted that we were staying in a nice part of Salvador and we didn’t have much to worry about. Perfect we thought! Nice location, nice place to stay, a decent TV to watch some games from. We were sorted.

We spent the first day walking around the neighbourhood and down to the near by beach before the rain set in and we retreated to the local supermarket to buy some supplies (mostly beer). Salvador seemed like a nice place. Well, so we thought…

The following day we decided to go visit the ‘Old Historic Centre’ for the first time. It’s basically where the Portuguese first settled in Brazil and has a very strong influence from the them in both architecture and food. It was a nice afternoon wandering around and taking in what was a very tourist focused area of the city. We headed home and wandered out to a local bar (nothing like the ones of Chapel Street may I add) to watch the opening game with Brazil playing Croatia. It was a lovely evening with some local people that saw the hosts go home victorious.

The next day was our first game. Spain vs Netherlands. Now those who know me will also know that the last thing I want is for Spain to do well in this world cup. They have thrived in the last 6 or so years so I’d personally like to see someone else succeed this tournament. To my utter pleasure we witnessed a demolition. The Netherlands beat the former world champions 5-1 in what was a truly outstanding performance. The atmosphere in the stadium was seriously something un-describable and something I will never forget.

The next few days saw us travel to the suburb of Barra to see the ‘FIFA Fan Fest’ which is basically a massive screen near the beach that plays majority of the games to whoever heads out there. We hit this up twice in the next few days. However they decided not to show the France VS Honduras game so Tez and I bunched around a tiny screen alongside 300 other fans to watch as the Blues took a comfortable 3-0 win. It was a wicked atmosphere for such a small place and we were part of some friendly banter between the French and few Hondurans who came out to watch.

Our next trip to the Arena Fonte Nova saw us witness yet another incredible match; Germany vs Portugal. The Germans went home with a very nice 4-0 victory which saw yet another game that was completely one sided. The noise inside the stadium that day topped anything I had ever heard. There were times where the sound was at the point of deafening. It was truly a magical day.

The next few days passed and it was finally time for Brazil to play again. We had decided to re-visit the Historic Centre earlier in the day to visit a few shops and look around a bit more. We decided to have a nice lunch as Belgium played Algeria. We found a cute little spot in a lane that had about 5 or 6 TVs placed out on the street for lunch goers to watch the game on. We met a few German blokes and decided it was a nice spot and stayed for the next game, Brazil vs Mexico. The match wasn’t the most exciting but the lane was full of fans and people getting into the fixture. 400m down the road was another giant screen showing the match to locals and tourists who had come out in numbers. The game ended 0-0 and we decided to go find a cab. What happened next we had not bargained on.
We ventured towards the main street to find a taxi. This part of town was pretty busy and there was music and people dancing in the streets. The closer we got to the road the more and more people we had to push past. Being in what was regarded as a ‘safe’ area of Salvador we didn’t worry much and pushed on. What a mistake. In the thick of the crowd our first sign of strangeness was when dad had someone offer him a lady to take home. We both looked at each other and laughed and continued on.
We were now in the thick of the crowd and next thing I know I see a hand reaching out to the back of dad’s neck and grab hold of his gold necklace. The next few seconds were a blur to me and the next moment I remember is being in the face of the bloke that hand pulled dads chain off him as I yelled at him to “Fuck off you muppet C***!” and looked down at my left hand, somehow I had managed to retrieve dads chain and pendants, the chain had snapped though. As I looked back up we seemed to be in the middle of a circle of shifty-as-shit locals yelling at us. We attempted to push through the crowd and that’s when it all hit shit creek. I had hands at all my pockets trying to get what was inside. I first had a pair of crappy plastic sunnies nicked out of my left pocket. No problem I can deal with that. Next was my ‘dummy’ wallet in my back pocket. Congratulations I thought, you just stole a $3 wallet with $2 in it. This had all taken place in the 15seconds after the first incident and it was wall-to-wall people. Next I had people grabbing at my iPhone, which I had a tight grip on in my right pocket. The recipient received a few flying elbows as I held on tightly to the phone. Finally I had someone grab the chain around my neck. As the asshole pulled at it I managed to grab the pendant and keep that in my hand, but lost the silver chain. Meanwhile Thierry had problems of his own. I still had his gold chain but people were pulling at his bag, his watch, pretty much anything they could get a hold of. He managed to kick one in the crouch and sent him into the gutter and we pushed on. All the while I had managed to break a thong (flip flop for you Canadians) and been borderline knocking someone the hell out. However things could have gone from bad to worse if myself or Tez had retaliated anymore, so leaving a sketchy situation with a stolen silver chain and a broken gold one was a the best-case scenario for being attacked in a narrow laneway with shoulder to shoulder people.
However it certainly doesn’t leave you with a good feeling. I’ve never felt so threatened in my life, and neither had my dad. We left with a red marks and scratches around our necks and a shake in our bones. I guess we should have figured that something along these lines would happen when going to Brazil, but it’s something different when it does happen. It’s no doubt put a dampener on my time here and will surely affect me while I travel the south, and I know people will say ‘don’t let it ruin your trip’, but seriously, fuck going through that again.

God damn I want to see the Brazilians get knocked out in the group stage now

 

Arena Favella Thierry

 

 

 

New York

 

 

For the last few days i’ve had the pleasure of exploring New York and its surroundings as I pit-stopped my way from Canada to Brazil.
After an amazing final three days at the lake courtesy of Mel and the Canadian family, it was hard to say goodbye and leave a place I had grown to love. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, and continuing my ‘walk about’ to New York and South America is part of that.

So I arrived into JFK in the afternoon of the 3rd and somehow fluked my way to my accommodation in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On arrival I marched up 5 flights of stairs and settled into my room, followed by a late night trek out to Boorklyn to see Emily Southwell and her room mate. It was nice to see a familiar face and have a good old chat about everything going on in our lives. After sleeping like a baby I headed out for my first day of adventure. I headed firstly for the Rockefeller Centre to have a look at where the magic for 30Rock came from. I got a tour of the Rockefeller Plaza and learnt heaps about its history and who and how the Rockefeller family got so damn rich.
Following our tour I headed up to the ‘Top of the Rock’. God damn what a view. One side of the top level showed central park in its huge beauty, and the other was the perfect view of the empire state building and the lower side of Manhattan.
After spending a fair while gawking at the view and taking in the surroundings, I headed back down and immediately found my eyes transfixed on the Lego shop. I had a quick peek in this god like store and continued on to the Museum of Modern Art.
The first exhibit that filled the second floor was one of a German artist named Polke. This was certainly not my cup of tea. So I pushed forward in hopes of seeing something that I would enjoy, and the museum didn’t disappoint. I saw some amazing works from Richard Avedon and Roy Lichtenstein and some other top notch exhibits.
Closing time came and forward I had to move. Being so close to Times Square I decided to go check that out. Now sources had told me it needed to be viewed at night and it was still quite light out, so the only option I had was to sample a pub or two near by to pass the time. When evening fell I headed out into this crazy, over stimulating place to take it in for what it was. Chaos.
I stood there and wondering what the hell was actually going on. Lights flashing and moving images on TVs larger most homes, noises of people and cars and horns and what was some very questionable smells flooded my senses.
Coming from a town that was a similar size to the school I attended at home, through to Times Square was such a shock. It genuinely made me nervous. But I eventually overcame these stresses and headed on through to see what the all the fuss was about. It was interesting, it really was, but certainly one to have ticked off and not be bothered by not visiting again.

The following day I headed to a New York Yankees game. They lined up against the Oakland Athletic’s (the team from Moneyball) and I got comfortable for my first MLB experience. It was pretty sweet I must say. I know a lot of you back home know I played baseball as a lad and still do when I’m in Melbourne, but this is something everyone should get around. It makes for a fun afternoon of noise, cheers, and general support from a stadium full of people! It was great.
The Yankees managed to get up 2-1 and sent the crowd away happy as could be.

That evening Emily and I caught up again for a burger adventure in the financial district. After smashing down what was easily the best burger I’ve had this side of the Canadian border we headed to the World Trade Centre memorial. However it was very, very closed. Construction was going on and you couldn’t catch a glimpse of anything. So we decided to venture on and try find a rooftop bar and there was one an easy 20min walk away. So onwards we headed through little Italy through too China town where this mysterious rooftop bar was. When we found the place we headed up the elevator to what was the bar level and exited into the room that was, the rooftop bar. Now there was a few issues with this place. 1) It wasn’t on a rooftop, 2) we were the youngest people there by at least 25 years, and 3) the price for a sangria was as if it was made with Penfolds greatest grange ever.
So getting the hell out of there was on the agenda. However it isn’t easy to phantom your way out of a room when your waiting 4 minutes for the elevator to arrive. So when we finally got out of this strangely sticky situation we found ourselves going up one more level rather than down to the ground floor. But this worked well, the doors opened and out we stepped onto the REAL rooftop and what appeared to be some sort of private party. Now we would usually turn back but the view that this rooftop had was unreal. Looking back onto the night time skyline of NYC  from 18 floors up was not something that presented itself every day. So we hung about and shot some photos as we started to receive some shitty looks from genuine guests at this party who had dressed in suits as and ties, not in my shorts, thongs and singlet attire…

So after pushing our luck enough we headed back down and home for the evening.
The next day I headed to the Statue of Liberty and took the cheap skate (free) option of the Staten Island Ferry which just floats on past the statue unlike the $40 ‘look at the thing from below’ ferry. It’s pretty damn impressive thats for sure. After fighting some asian guy for my spot on the railing (he started it not me mum) I shot some photos as we passed by, but found the real amazing view was of Lower Manhattan from the water. It’s quite surreal seeing so many monstrous buildings filling every inch of space along Manhattans waterline. It’s so strange to see.

Following this I headed north to the Chelsea Market. What a lovely place that is. Don’t get me wrong its still stupidly busy like everywhere in this city but it was nice and a little bit different. I smashed an Australian pie (which was ahhhhmazing) from a little shop and headed off to meet up with Mitch from my days at RMIT as he has moved over here to work. We caught up as we wondered along the High Line which was an old abandoned train line which has since been converted into a walk way with plants and greenery on it. I liked this place a lot.

Me and Mitch departed each other and I wandered around the Lower East Side a bit as I hadn’t really explored the area I’ve been staying.

The next day I explored Williamsburg and its famous Saturday food market. Once again I was silly to think that it would be a nice quiet market and easy to get too. I started out with taking two wrong trains and ended up on route to Coney Island which was in the complete opposite direction. However my inner Bear Grills came out and I used the tools around me that I had available to get back on track to this market. I first had to venture through the main parts of Williamsburg avoiding vicious hipsters and more yoghurt shops than you could poke a stick at. I was lucky enough to push through this rugged and hostile terrain and eventually find the clearing that was the market. However my inner Bear couldn’t disappear yet as it was shoulder to shoulder people trying to order anything from these small marquees. I eventually got preference against the overly dressed females and picked up my first American serving of Fried Chicken. I held it close as I retreated to the park near by to eat in hopes that the rest of the herd would not catch wind of my terrific find.
Anywho following this I wandered about a bit more and then decided to walk home. Two hours later I arrived back in the Lower East Side and headed for my room to prepare for my final day in the big apple.

Tomorrow, bring on Central Park.

 

Skaters

Empire-State-Building

Brittany

 

 

 

 

Summer is here.

 

 

Today was my last day snowboarding for the season. For me, the last 208 days since I arrived in Canada have been amazing. I came here with the goal of finding work, snowboarding as much as possible, see the beautiful sights that Alberta, Canada has to offer and meet some amazing people. I’ve been lucky enough to tick every box off my list of things i wanted to achieve over here. If anything, I have surpassed what i expected to achieve and do over here.

Chris and I left home for this adventure, and it was the best drunken decision i think we’ve both had. Meeting the likes of the rental team i worked with, the crew over at Sunshine Village, and every other friendly person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, has really made this trip worth while. There are so many people i’ve met here who i know will be friends for life, and I cannot wait for the adventures we all have together in the future, and i appreciate everyone who has supported me through the rough times. I never thought the many goodbyes I had to go through so far would put a lump in my throat like they did, I will miss you all, especially my room mate Matthew Hawkins.

My snowboarding on a whole has improved tenfold. I started out here having just 8 days under my belt up at the snow, and the lines i’ve ridden, the tricks i’ve landed and the gnarly pow i’ve rode have exceeded my expectations of what I would achieve here. Chris helped me so much in improving my riding while i was here, and the confidence that gave me was phenomenal. Every person who has given me pointers or had faith in my ability here has helped me develop as a rider. I would never thought I’d have the skills to hit the finger chutes that Carlo and I did a few weeks back, and his encouragement and faith made me ride the gnarliest line of my life. Jen Ryan has helped me in the park and gave me the confidence and guidance to hit some features and land some tricks that I really thought I was not capable of. Everyone else who has helped me along the way, I thank you dearly.

However this phase of my overseas adventure is coming to a close. In three weeks I ship off to New York City for 6 nights before I jump down to Salvador, Brazil, to experience the Fifa World Cup with my one and only father, Thierry Vauzelle. This part of my trip has really been in the works since the last world cup in 2010. We both had the luck of watching a game in the 2006 Germany World Cup and it drew us to the event again when it was announced to be in Brazil. Following the month long competition, I’ve got 6 months of travel around South America to undertake. I left this part of my trip wide open, with very, very few things locked in as I wanted the chance to do whatever came up, and not be tied down to a strict itinerary. My rough plan involves heading west across Brazil to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia before hopefully shipping myself back up to Lake Louise for the following winter season.

Ill be sure to start updating this blog more regularily as I stretch out and see the many sights that South America has to offer.

I miss you all back home, I hope the winter for you is as amazing as the winter was for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring time

 

Since my last update, we’ve had a few changes over here in Lake Louise.

Almost two weeks ago we bid farewell to my brother, Chris Mark, as he headed back to Melbourne to undertake his first year of university. Chris has been so influential in my personal snowboarding progression. He pushed me to ride things and do things I would never have imagined I would do, and for that I will be forever grateful. To share the times on the mountain we had was just amazing, and I will always remember that stupidly steep run we did at Kicking Horse, and those trees in Ptarmigan Chutes that we did. He better learn heaps for leaving us for university though…
On top of that Emma leaves us in a few days for sunny Fiji. However, she, like Chris, has a decent excuse. One of her sisters is getting married and has to attend the wedding. So fair call Emma. Just.

Spring is upon us here at Lake Louise. The temperatures have risen from our usual -15 – -30 degree through to a warm -5 or so. I know that still sounds cold to all you folk back home but its quite balmy after spending just under six months in well below freezing temperatures. With the warmer weather has come lots, lots more snow. My three days off this week were filled with powder, getting 18cm one night, and 10cm the following night. Emma and I tore around the mountain and on Monday found the deepest pow I have ever ridden. It literally came up to my waist, and we smashed down the run while our new friend Mary Elizabeth swam her way down.

The end of the season is quickly approaching, and with that my excitement for the next phase of my overseas adventure is building. If everything goes according to plan, I’m hoping to score some work after the rental shop closes in our retail store, to tie me over until late May, and try score a few extra pennies before I jet off to America. Next stop is New York. Ill be spending roughly a week at the beginning at June before I fly down to Salvador, Brazil to meet my old man and experience The World Cup in the worlds most football passionate country.

We managed to score tickets to a whole host of top notch games, including Spain vs Netherlands (2010 world cup final rematch), Germany vs Portugal, France vs Switzerland and three other games.

 

So over the next few weeks I’ll continue to work my four day weeks, and snowboard every moment I can, and enjoy living with two of the coolest dudes I know.

 

 

 

 

Serious change

 

 

So the last week has been, well, to put it in one word, mental.

For those who don’t know, I resigned from my position at Sunshine Village. After a long time considering the pros, and cons of sticking with the job until the end of the season, I came to the conclusion that leaving Sunshine would be the only way to come away from this trip with a good impression of Banff, and Canada.

Don’t get me wrong, Sunshine Village is a brilliant place to snowboard. It’s got loads of different terrain, gets some unreal powder, a brilliant park, some very, very awesome drinking holes and some amazing people working there. However, the people I had direct contact with, were such a hindrance to me and my work. Being frustrated daily at work was causing me to not be creative, which was necessary in my role. Trying to push through each day, just wasn’t working, and when my old employer asked if I would be interested in  returning, I knew I had to consider it.

I gave Sunshine another week, but once again, found my boss not listening to me, and another issue with a co-worker(it’s a long story that I wont write about here), was all I needed. I handed my letter in on Friday, not realising what a shit storm it would create. I won’t go into details, but the issue was brought to the higher ups in the business, and is still being looked at.

Anyway, during my final three days, the number of people I had met at Sunshine truly became apparent. People I had only talked to once or twice would come up to me and asked me why I was leaving, and would mention they would miss me. It made my decision hard, but I knew my new job, back in Lake Louise, and Ski Rentals, would be the best thing to do.

So today I cleaned my apartment, jumped on the bus back to Lake Louise and settled back into the apartment with Chris, Carlo and Matt. Starting tomorrow in the ski rentals.

 

Time to learn a new trade.

 

 

 

 

Settling In

 

So i’ve been working at Sunshine Village for just under a month now. As life has started to settle (somewhat) I’ll be mellowing out on posting here, and once the season ends or I move on and travel I’ll kick it back off.
For those who come here to suss out the photographs I’m shooting, my instagram (juniorv92) or my facebook page (www.facebook.com/VauzellePhotography) will be your readily updated place to catch my new shots.

So since getting to Sunshine, I’ve been finding my feet, both in terms of photography and just generally. Living out of home has it’s up’s and down’s. My week pretty much runs its semi-regular course. Working Wednesday through to Sunday, and boarding on my days off. I’ve been lucky enough to hit Lake Louise with the boys over my last two weekends, crashing on their floor and hitting the slopes every day. It’s crazy, the view’s you get from both Sunshine and Lake Louise are just unreal. The Canadian Rockies are one of the most breath taking places I’ve had the luck of visiting. It’s the weekends that help overcome the days at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, the person I work side by side with is truly amazing, and most of the people in our office are the best people on the mountain, but flipping my mind set from coming to Canada and working a non-pressure job, to a stressful one is a feat that I did not expect. However it’s still early days so surely it won’t be long until it’s all gravy.

I also managed to score a free day of snowshoeing two weeks ago which was quite the experience. Basically for those unfamiliar, you strap on tennis racquet type things to your shoes and head out of the boundaries of the resort into the soft powdered hills. I was sent to photograph a group of lovely people who were all neighbours back in Texas several years ago. We were guided out and around through the un-touched snow. It was truly beautiful, and the silence is something i will never forget, and snowshoeing is something I would recommend to everyone.

The weather here, is beyond crazy and everyone back in Melbourne complaining about it getting cold, no. I went to work the other day, and it was -34. It was so cold when we arrived to work that we had to wait until mid day before it was warm enough to operate our Gondola which takes guests from our base to the village where all our lifts operate from.
However our average weather here is usually between -12 through to around -20, which is somewhat deal-able.

It’s so rewarding seeing my close mates here getting better on the slopes. Apart from myself noticing a great improvement in my own skills on the board, everyone I ride with have leaped forward in their skills, and it’s still only early days. Those days getting a crew together and charging down a hill or just drifting down and enjoying being outside in some beautiful conditions, its the best. I had someone the other day say to me while we were at the top of Divide chair, “Shit, I come here so often but I forget to take in this view. This is the best place on earth.”

He’s pretty close I’d say.

 

 

 

 

Long time no post

 

My sincere apologies to everyone, its been far too long since I have posted an update, but i swear i have good excuses.
The last week or more has been pretty full on for myself. I spent last weekend making turns up on Lake Louise with Chris. They opened up one chair, and what a run it was. Don’t get me wrong, it got fairly icy after a few hours, but it was stella to get a few runs in. Following our arrival on the slopes, we moved our location as we crash couches at our friend’s apartment at Fairmont in Lake Louise.  Mat, Mat and Carlo were more than welcoming in letting Chris and I crash on the couch and spare bed.

Following the weekend of ‘shredding the gnar’, I received a call from Sunshine Village, another ski resort between Lake Louise and Banff. The job as Multi-Media Coordinator was mine. Basically this was a fancy name for photographer and videographer.

This had to be up there with one of the toughest decision I’ve had to make in recent times. Give up a good job at Fairmont, with a great crew and perks, or spend my day’s photographing boarders and skiers, then in the office to photoshop or produce video clips. After long thought, and some words of wisdom from people close, Sunshine it was. Dropping the news to the lads was harder than trying to flatline it down the run at Lake Louise. As much as i wanted to keep the crew together, some opportunities you just can’t say no too.

So following the news of me getting the job, I was rushed to Sunshine by Wednesday morning to get my files and contracts etc filled out and ready for a Thursday Start, and stuffed in my staff accom, which was essentially a bare apartment, with a couch, and a roll of toilet paper.
Thursday saw the ‘Ski Before We Open’ event take place. My role: video the event.
So basically its a day where 10 lucky winners from a twitter contest got to hit the slopes and their untouched powder, and a few local media types get their way on the mountain.

Having never touched knee deep powder on my snowboard, moving down the mountain was tricky, and quite the work out. However despite the difficulties of  this unknown substance under my board, i managed to handle the lesser parts, and grab some great footage.

The next day saw opening day to the general public. My role: grab more footage, and shoot stills, followed by a good 4 hour session in the office editing and cutting everything captured over the last two days. Working alongside Amie, the mountain’s social media specialist, we comprised a rather decent looking video, and shot out 10 images to instagram, facebook and twitter.

So, well, there goes my cruisey time in Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Turns

 

Sunday was brilliant.

Sunday marked the first day that Chris, the Mathew’s, Emma and myself got our first turns on the slopes in.
Mt Norquay, a nearby ski hill, opened on the friday with the promise of one chairlift operating. Despite the locals telling us that it would be better to wait until the 8th when Lake Louise had its opening day, we were all far too keen to finally get a few runs under our belts.

So hitting the bus at 6.30am we travelled back towards Banff to catch a shuttle up the Norquay ski area. Arriving an hour before the chair opened we passed time snowballing each other and just gawking at the beauty of the snow covered hill. Once the time finally came, we caught the first chair up and cut the first lines on the run. Chris and the other boys hammered on down while Emma and myself got our slow and steady on. Having destroyed my shoulder 25 minutes into my first day in Australia this year, putting myself in the Alfred Hospital and three months of rehab, my confidence on the slopes was at an all time low. However, after a few runs and some useful pointers from Chris, I started to get my flow back.

As the day progressed and the run became pretty rough an icy, we decided to hike up some untouched back country to hit a little jump which had been made the previous day. Having told myself i was going to take it easy in hitting the hills this year, 20minutes of watching Chris hammer that jump and I was all for it. A few bails alter and I managed to stick a land and left it at that.

However, having not thrown myself down a hill in a long while, the next two days have been some of my sorest on record.
Fingers crossed tomorrow I can move again…
Hopefully..

 

 

 

 

Renee

 

So getting back to Lake Louise from Banff saw the worst part of the trip for myself personally.
On our return I received some  horrible news, my grandmother Renee had passed away. I can’t express how beautiful of a woman Renee was and how much this news saddened me, and my love goes out to Ken, Mum, Deb and the entire family. Being so far away I feel fairly useless but you are all in my thoughts.  In her honour, Chris and I toasted to her life having a Canadian Molson beer up at Lake Louise. May she rest in peace.

 

Following a rough few days with the news, we decided to hit the hostel bar for Karaoke night which we had been told gets pretty nuts. Rocking up right at the start and blaring out some Boston – More Than a Feeling saw it fall on a empty room, which was probably for the best. However when myself and Courtney hit our duet the place started to flood with people. It was seriously chockers, I’ve never seen karaoke lift off that much. Following an eventful evening, the next day was set aside for recovery.

Yesterday we decided to head off on another hike, this time up past Lake Louise and along the Plain Of Six Glaciers trail. As we edged around the lake towards the mountain path, snow fell, and lots of it. Having seen flurries in the morning we thought our runners would suffice, but boy could we have been more wrong about that. Getting about half way and we appeared to be walking along ice and light trails of snow, which was dealable. However once we got half way, the light snow began to become ankle deep fluffy powder snow. Chris and I had not seen anything like it before and was in awe of how different Canadian snow really is. Reaching the peak of the trail, we decided while we were at it why don’t we go and see Lake Agnes, which we had heard was already frozen over. Well i must say, my legs and toes regretted that one. This was by far the steepest hike we had yet to encounter, and having my runners covered in snow did anything but good. Once we reached the peak, we decided to head even higher to the Big Beehive Lookout. Running into some other hikers, who were astounded we did the trek in runners, couldn’t recommend the beehive more, and they were spot on. The view from up there was beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Literally above clouds. Sitting atop the 2270m mountain was something I will recommend to anyone, but just make sure you take proper boots, because at the pinnacle we were shin deep in snow.
So on our return to the hostel, we had covered over 21km and spent 8 hours hiking. But following a feed in the hostel, we made some persuasive french friends who talked us into heading out for Halloween, something I’ve never celebrated. After totally underestimating the gravity of the holiday over here, we tried to make excuses for our lack of costume (seriously who travels across the ocean with costumes in their luggage?!).

Looking ahead, this weekend is meant to be some of the coldest weather yet with a low of -16 on Sunday, and the forecast offering the promise of some fresh snow.
Thank god I have my doona-boots, courtesy of Georgia, otherwise toes would probably be lost.

 

 

 

Back to Lake Louise

 

We’ve finally made it back to Lake Louise.
Having initially planned to head back here on saturday, due to hostel bookings and our high lack of effort we opted to stay in Banff a few more days.   We spent the good part of saturday getting a few more hikes under our belts before the forecasted snow and freezing temperatures hit the town. We hiked up Tunnel Mountain, which is on the edge of town. Categorised as one of the easier hikes going around. We headed off from our hostel and hit the summit about 3 hours in.
The view from this was astonishing. Here lay the town, which appeared far larger from above than it did when down below. Proceeding the buildings was a congestion of rivers and mountains,  the sort you would never see back home in Victoria. Atop its peak of 1,692m I snapped off image after image on what was a beautiful day.

After our decent down we decided to bust our daily budget (not for the first time) and get to the top of Sulphur Mountain(at 2,451m, that’s 646m higher than Mt Buller), a near by mountain with gondola access. My attempts at reason with the receptionist for claims of me being a child were ineffective and we made our way up in the gondola paying full price. If we thought Tunnel Mountain was a great view, this was next level.

We made the walk across the ridge to the highest point, where we read up on the history of the mountain and its century old weather station. Here I shot  a 20 frame panorama which I’ll pop below, along with loads of other mountain scenes.

Having already blown the budget, we headed into town that evening with a few lads from the hostel to get a beer or two in us and see what the night had to offer in Banff. After successfully blowing our wallets out of the water we headed back to the hostel to catch some Z’s before our last full day in Banff.

Waking up to the faint sight of snow outside the next morning, was, well, just ace. Canada had yet to deliver snow and despite the fact it wasn’t enough to line the streets, it kept our spirits going as we played the waiting game for Lake Louise to open its runs. Chris nurtured his hangover throughout the day and I managed to get some time outside in the freezing cold kicking the soccer ball we’d picked up.

Monday came around and we headed back to Lake Louise in an attempt to save some money. The only big spending we do in Lake Louise is our regular bagel stops at the bakery ($1.25) and their overly delicious hot chocolate.

I can certainly deal with this for the next two weeks while we wait to start work.

Hikes, below freezing temperatures, bagels, and hot chocolate. Tops.

 

 

 

 

Banff Bound

 

So Banff.
We rocked in Tuesday on the Brewster Bus to the town of Banff, our temp home for the next part of our trip. Leaving Lake Louise bright and early, we arrived around mid-day to Banff to the news of a job interview, back in Lake Louise, the following day. Brilliant.
So we enjoyed some of the hiking trails offered around the area of our hostel, which was followed by myself heading for the job interview at Deer Lodge in the arvo. After nailing the interview and being offered the job, I met back up with Chris in town as we decided to discover our newest location.

The following day, we jumped back on the bus to Lake Louise for our interview at ski rentals in Fairmont-Lake Louise. Running into a few mates along the way who were also in line for the positions available we took the hike up to the Chateaux yet again in hopes of scoring this gig. The ride back to Banff following our interviews was both a new and hilarious event for us. Hitch Hiking. And what a catch we got. A retired lawyer picked us up and offered to take us the 45 minute trip to the edge of Banff. Having never hitched before Chris and I were sceptical at first, but majorly stoked with the result. We managed to chat about the spiritual nature of the Canadian Rockies, the current form of the US government, and even rocked out to Baba O’Riley by The Who, saving ourselves $20CAD in the process. Super winning.

Over the next few days we discovered Banff more, from the Banff Ave Brewing Co with their large, brewed in house beer, selection to the gorgeous surrounding mountains. Our hostel’s bar and their ‘Happy Rums’ which cost bugger all but were more lethal than anything we had yet to encounter, and not to mention their snowboard shops which saw a hefty chuck of our wallets drop fairly easily into their registers.
To make matters worse, I had now been offered a job at Deer Lodge as a dishpig, had interviewed at Fairmont for rentals, interviews at the Lake Louise Ski Area for a line prep cook, and ontop of that been offered a job in lift operations at Castle Mountain. Decisions decisions decisions…
Today was D-day in terms of my job opportunities. Deer Lodge’s offer expired at 5.30pm, yet I was banking on a result from the Rentals at Fairmont, as it would mean more days on the slopes (with 4 days on and 3 days off) and the possibility of working with Chris and a few others we had met who scored the same gig.

1pm came around and I was beginning to fret. I needed to make a decision and I was yet to hear from Fairmont.
Then finally we got the call, and on speaker phone in the middle of Banff Ave we got the great news that we had been picked for the role in Rentals, starting mid November. As celebatory drinks were in order we got onboard what some locals recommended, the Rabid Bulldog. A mexican concoction with double shots of something, and a few other bits mixed together and a corona flipped upside down inside it all.
We had managed to score a part time job, with loads of time on mountain, with a mad group of lads. You couldnt wipe the smile from our faces if you tried.

Banff, we enjoyed you but Lake Louise is where the heart is.

 

 

 

 

Lake Louise

 


So we arrived into Lake Louise bright and early Saturday morning after a rough 13 hour overnight bus ride from Vancouver.
What a beautiful town. Like I’m sure people say that about a lot of quaint little places, but this is it. Number 1.
Saturday we dumped our gear at the hostel, and geez what a gorgeous hostel, and headed for the Ski Area to acquaint ourselves with what will hopefully become our local ski hill. After wandering around the ghost-town building and base area (still snow free) we headed back into town.

The following day we did the resume drop at all 6 places in town, with very limited success. Being shoulder season, its still about a month out until they employ their seasonal staff. However I managed to get a response from Deer Lodge for a gig as a Dishwasher and only time will tell if that eventuates into anything.

After all the resume drops we hiked from town up to Lake Louise itself, and after a breathtaking walk and some world class views, we reached the lake itself. For anyone who has visited the lake it’s beyond postcard-esque. Images will never make justice for this heaven on earth. It was that good we did it again today.

Tomorrow Chris and I head for Banff in search of work still, and for my job interview. Hopefully something eventuates soon… but if not a least I can deal with the scenery.

Just a few quick shots from Lake Louise below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver, second last day

 

So it’s already our second last day in Vancouver. Chris and I have cut our trip short due to the Lake Louise hiring fair in hopes to get a gig somewhere in LL over the winter.
We’ve met up with a bunch of good guys and gals who are doing the same thing we are and were overtaking the greyhound bus up through the rockies in time to try impress the employers on the mountain.

Today saw us explore some uncharted territory in Vancouver as well as going through some of our loved places like Gastown. Along with our trek to sort out the bus fares for tomorrow, we went through an even seedier part of Vancouver than yesterday. Most of us just kept our heads down and powered through where a few of the girls who decided to chance the possibility of making eye contact witnessed some god awful things.

However with a smile-on-our-diles we pushed through and got where we needed, followed by another shop down at the snowboard clearance centre.
Following a decent shop for most, me and a new mate wandered back to the hostel through some of our first canadian fog. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal but its pretty heavy and quite the experience.

Here’s some shots from today.


 

 

 

 

 

Let the journey begin.

 

For all of my friends out there who have been involved in my life over the last 12 months, you’ve known that through all the copious hours i’ve put into working the multitude of jobs i’ve carried, was in fact for my Canadian and South American adventure, and despite having seen so many of you all going off on your own trips, mine has finally arrived.

The 80+ hour weeks, have been worth it, with just over two weeks until  I depart.

My man Chris Mark is joining me for my Canadian position. This top notch young man is far superior in the realm of snowboarding, something in which i hope to progess (quickly may i add), and we will endevour to update all our family, friends and anyone interested in the life and progress/process of getting work on the Canadian Slopes.

Keep this blog tabbed, as i plan on bringing you images of everything i encounter on this year long adventure, along with the occasional video and everything in between.