Monthly Archives: September 2016

Just The Two Of Us

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I’ve never had a twin, but I’m learning.

Since this trip began, my friend Warren and I have lived near-identical lives: we wear the same clothes, eat the same meals, and do the same things. If a song pops into my head one minute, he’s humming it the next. We joke about how many times we’re going to hear each other explain what we do for a living to everyone we meet.

(Having long ago been hammered with the broadcast rule of saying more with less, I’ve told him he can shorten his story to three words: “I design apps.” Warren being Warren, he hasn’t taken me up on the suggestion yet. I like to think this says a lot about both of our conversation habits.)

It’s been said that traveling together can make or break a friendship. Two weeks in, we’re doing just fine. What’s more remarkable is that we’re on this trip together in the first place, given, for a time, we were sworn enemies in elementary school: he, an English muffin; I, a French fry. It would have been unthinkable to our Grade 6 selves.

Talk of the trip started two summers ago, with the two of us sharing our hopes of making it to Australia one day soon. The conversation came and went, but the dream never faded.

Lo and behold, that day came soon enough indeed.

Tales from the road:

1. Kangaroos are the best. We saw at least half a dozen of them hopping around the edge of Canberra.
2. One thing about Australia: alcohol is expensive. It’s not uncommon to see pints selling for $13 at the bar. Goon, however, seems to operate under a different set of rules: you can buy five litres of box wine for $10. A deal being a deal, we thought it’d be a good idea. The truth? Nobody needs five litres of wine. We’re still lugging the unfinished box around.
3. One thing about pasta: there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing it. We made the worst pasta I’ve ever had: mushed tomatoes, half-sauteed peppers and fennel, and a heap of olives to add flavour. It’s sort of like England’s soccer team: the individual components are perfectly fine, but put them together and it falls apart.
4. Two weeks into our time in Australia, it’s nice to finally go to the beach. We spent the better part of our last day in Sydney at Manly Beach, surrounded by other sun-seekers. It was magnificent.
5. If I ever run for office, I’m campaigning on one issue and one issue alone: a hefty fine for anyone who reclines their seat on public transportation when someone’s sitting behind them.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Sydney Harbour.

It’s world-renowned for a reason — the harbour is absolutely beautiful. Rounding the bend near Mrs. Macquarie’s Point and seeing the Opera House for the first time was a treat.

Sydney Harbour. #sydney #australia #travel

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2. Coogee Bay to Bondi Beach.

One of the best things we’ve done since being in Australia. We linked up with two Swedes from our hostel and headed for the trail: a six-kilometre walk along the coast, ending at one of the country’s most famous beaches.

Bronte Beach, Sydney, Australia

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Bondi Beach, Australia. #sydney #australia #travel #bondi

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3. The Blue Mountains and Three Sisters.

In my opinion, the best thing we’ve done since being in Australia. We went with a German and another Canadian to Katoomba by train, then hiked all day along the clifftop and right down to the forest floor.

One of the Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

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Three Sisters. #bluemountains #australia #travel

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(Header photo by Warren Jones)

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38 Hours In Transit

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“Last night, can’t remember where I slept/ One city at a time, then it’s on to the next.” – Fashawn

Want to know what it feels like to exist outside of space and time?

Fly to Australia.

Somewhere over the Pacific, you enter a Twilight Zone where any hope of your body orienting itself to its surroundings flies out the window. If it’s 4am in Toronto (where you first set off), 1am in Los Angeles (where you most recently touched the ground), 8pm in Auckland (where you’re due to land next), and 6pm in Melbourne (where you’ll touch down for good), then what time is it?

It’s enough to make one’s head spin — even without the sleep deprivation.

Some say it takes a week to get over the jet lag. Others swear a good night’s sleep is all you need.

Thankfully, there has been plenty to distract me from any lingering exhaustion.

Stories from the road:

1. I’m gone for the next five months: first, to Australia, then onward to Fiji, New Zealand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. It took awhile for it sink in that I’m in Australia, though: in no small part because it’s colder and wetter in Melbourne than it is back home. Oddly enough, my “Welcome to Australia” moment involved penguins — not kangaroos or koalas. A whole population of little penguins nests in the breakwater off St. Kilda Beach.
2. Australian football is pure pandemonium: I’m fairly certain I witnessed at least two concussions in the span of 20 minutes. Watching the AFL semifinal in a bar full of Aussie Rules fanatics was an experience of a lifetime.
3. An embarrassing confession: I brought a combo lock with me for the trip, but I have no idea what the combination is. Instead, I kindasorta have the combination down pat — sometimes it takes one or two tries to open; other times (read: most times) it takes dozens of tries, reducing me to a withering, emasculated mess. I should probably just get a new lock.

Things I’ve seen:

1. The Great Ocean Road.

My other “Welcome to Australia” moment. My friend and I joined a full-day tour of the famed road, and with views like these, it’s easy to see where the reputation comes from.

Twelve Apostles, Australia. #greatoceanroad #australia #travel

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Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

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2. Street art aplenty.

Melbourne is known for two things: coffee and street art. Often, you’ll find both in the same place: the city centre is filled with colourful laneways where cafes spill into the street.

Spotted in Melbourne. #melbourne #australia #travel #streetart

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The Day We Hit The Coast

“The jam was fly; oh my, now it’s over.” – Souls of Mischief

Memories. What wonderful and precious things.

Over three months ago, I boarded a flight for Vancouver, bicycle in tow, intent on making a few more. Now, over 7,000 kilometres later, as I sit and watch the boats come and go from St. John’s Harbour, memories of the past year come to me like the tide greets the shore: the climb through the Rockies, camping in Fort Qu’Appelle, bike breakdowns in Mattawa. It all seems so long ago.

I think back to my first visit to St. John’s, the place where Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean and became a hero. A plaque reads, “I just wish people would realize that anything is possible if you try; dreams are made if people try.” Although he died before I ever lived, Terry’s story captivated me at a young age. I sat and lingered at the monument, wondering what was going through his head as he set off across the country. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before I had an understanding.

I’m transported back to Vancouver’s English Bay Beach, minutes from setting off on my own journey. The morning sun shone hot, as the ocean waves lapped against the shore. My sole possessions — bike, panniers, and dry bag — sat next to me. I thought of Terry then, too. I was nervous, excited, but most of all, alive.

I think of the long days and cold nights, the hot meals and warm beds, and the people all along the way. I think of the evenings spent wolfing down everything in sight, gorging on all the food I could find. I think of the prayers made by strangers on my behalf, and the instant bond forged with fellow cyclists on the road.

I think of family, friends, and neighbours who wished me well before I set off, offering donations, camping supplies, and encouragement. It takes a village, they say. I think of surprise visits and joyful reunions along the way. I think of how good it will feel to see everyone again.

I won’t have to wait long. Today, I’m heading home.

A few stories from the past while:

  1. Newfoundland has a certain magic to it — the kind that draws you in, pours you a drink, and begs you to stay for another song or two. My cousin and her then-boyfriend, now-husband cycled from Ontario to St. John’s four years ago, with plans of staying no longer than a month or two. They’re still here.
  2. To spend time on The Rock is to be engaged in a bit of myth-making. Perhaps the most popular one revolves around the green, white, and pink flag, otherwise known as the Newfoundland Tricolour. Legend has it the flag was created in the early 1800s as a symbol of peace between the Protestants (green) and the Catholics (rose). Later, it found favour as a symbol of independence. Some would even have you believe it was the inspiration for Ireland’s flag. In truth, historians say the flag comes from a Catholic Church society. Sometimes the myth is better than the truth.
  3. “Indeed I is, me old Cock, and long may your big jib draw.” Those words were all it took, along with kissing a cod and downing some screech, to be dubbed an honourary Newfoundlander, certificate and all. There was even Newfie steak to celebrate, although it’s less exciting than it sounds — you might say it’s a bunch of baloney.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Stunning shorelines, part 1.

You don’t have to venture far outside of St. John’s to find beauty. Topsail Beach is just a short drive away, with a beautiful backdrop of Bell Island’s steep cliffs.

Views from Day 83: Topsail Beach, NL. #KeepPushing — #Newfoundland #Canada

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2. One colourful city.

In truth, you don’t have to leave St. John’s at all to find beauty — it’s everywhere. This being my second time in the city, I enjoyed seeing familiar sights (Jellybean Row, Signal Hill, Quidi Vidi) and found a special joy in discovering new gems, like this view of town.

Views from St. John's. — #Newfoundland #Canada

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3. Stunning shorelines, part 2.

What words could possibly do this justice? Not mine. Some things are better experienced than described.

Mad Rock, NL. — #Newfoundland #Canada

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Distance travelled: 7,045 km
Time zones crossed: 6
Flat tires: 0

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