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A Casualty in Canada

sunny 25 °C

We can hardly believe how fast time is flying here!! We're almost half way through our time in Canada.

Canada Day was July 1st and lots of people were out and about watching the parade and having a Kokanee afterwards. Whistler's parade was fairly controversial this year because the organising committee decided to make it a 'green' parade, meaning non-motorised floats only which apparently halved the size of the parade and made the locals unhappy. Still, plenty of fun was had by all, Canadian or otherwise.

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Canada Day Kids

Every Wednesday here the mountain runs a social bike race called the Phat Wednesday bike race, which usually involves about 200 riders riding down the mountain and drinking free beer afterwards. Glenn crashed his bike before the start of the last race, so instead of the 'I'm finished, meet you at the Longhorn for drinks in ten minutes' phone call, Bec received the 'I've crashed my bike and am at the hospital' phone call. Accumulating more good-wife points, Bec dutifully put down her wine, abondoned her icecream and turned off the real estate channel and went to the hospital where she found Glenn having nine stitches put in his knee in the Paediatric Trauma Room (hehehe about the paediatric part). Five hours, nine stitches and a considerable amount of money later we left the hospital. The follwing day Bec went down to the second hand store and bought a pair of crutches (from a selection of no less than 9 pairs, there's clearly a huge market for crutches in this town) to replace the modified vacuum cleaner pole we found in the house.

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Casualty in Canada

The knee isn't healing as well as we'd hoped in terms of regaining movement so Glenn hasn't been on the bike in about three weeks, which is fairy gutting given it's rather the point of being here. So we've taken to wandering around town with the camera and walking the valley trails. There's a few more bikers on the hill now in preparation for Crankworx so the action is more hardcore and lends itself to great photography.

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Hardcore bikeboy

We've received our schedules for Crankworx which will see us both on the mountain showing the pro's where to go. Bec volunteered the other day for the BC Bike Race and found herself at the bottom of three flights of stairs, wearing a high-vis vest and screaming 'Get off your bike, take it up the stairs and cross the bridge at the top!' at more than 400 cyclists and three guys on dirtbikes who chose to take the lift instead of the stairs. We're immersing ourselves into Whistler life and took ourselves out clubbing the other night which prompted us to think of the last time we'd had nightclub stamps on our wrists and decided we must have been about 21 years old which, incidently, was about the average age of the people we went clubbing with!! Riding home through the woods in the dark proved challenging but fun. On Wednesday night we took our warm clothes and went to Lost Lake and watched a movie under the stars.

Bec is in her element avoiding all things related to her upcoming birthday and planning the upcoming travel to Iowa. Glenn became slightly less enthused in the planning when he learnt it the trip would still take three days to get there even if we fly!!

Posted by TDL 19:11 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Canada Again

Where have all the trout gone?

17 °C

Well, Whistler life seems to suit us and we've settled in to our (not very taxing and completely void of any responsibility) jobs and the one bedroom unit that goes with it. Our days usually consist of rolling out of bed at about 9am and then Glenn will ride in the bike park for a few hours while Bec plays with her cameras. We then usually head to work after lunch and get home at about 10pm while it's still daylight.

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Bikeboy

On our days off we try and go hiking or bike riding together. A couple of weeks ago we took a ride along a trail that had some black diamond (second-most hard-core kind of trail) descents full of rocks and tree roots. Bec can now say that she's ridden black diamond at Whistler (even though it wasn't on purpose and she carried the bike most of the way). The woods around here are beautiful, though we're still a little afraid of bears even though popular opinion is that bear attacks are very rare. Glenn reports regular sightings of triplet bear cubs under the bike chairlift on the mountain.

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Trail riders!!

Last weekend we parted with a stupid amount of money (such is Whistler life) and hired a car for two days and drove north to a tiny town called Lillooet about three hours out of Whistler. After losing each other at a waterfall on the way, we borrowed a couple of fishing rods from some guys in a sports store in Pemberton to try and realise Bec's life long dream to go trout fishing (and wear the wading pants, especially the wading pants) in a river in Canada. The guys weren't so forthcoming with their trout pants but we took the rods anyway, bought ourselves each a British Columbia fishing license and set off to catch us some trout. With no input from Glenn, and not having fished for at least ten years (Norway excluded), Bec was chuffed with herself for remembering how to thread and cast a fishing line. To no avail though. Our total haul for the weekend equalled two sticks, one large leaf and one piece of miscellaneous lake scum.

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Catcher of sticks

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Trout fishing

In Lillooet we ate ourselves silly at Dina's Greek Taverna (which, incidently, stocked no Greek beer) and then headed across the road to the local pub where we were soon befriended by some very generous, intoxicated, karaoke-singing, middle-aged locals who insisted on buying us drinks 'because we talk funny'. We had to beat a hasty retreat so as to be in a fit driving state the next day. Glenn did very well in his first foray into driving on the wrong side of the road and was only mildly sick of Bec chanting 'lefty loosey, righty tighty' every time we neared a corner. We drove through some spectacular mountain and lakeside scenery and finished up our road trip at Wal-Mart in Squamish just for funnies.

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Canadian barn

We've both volunteered for Crankworx, which is the hard-core mountain bike tournament held in Whistler, and we're awaiting our jobs there so we can mix it with the mountain biking elite here (not that Bec would know anyone remotely famous in the mountain biking fraternity if they were to slap her in the face) and get free stuff.

Posted by TDL 19:45 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Canada

Bikes, bears and beers.

semi-overcast 20 °C

After much planning and procrastination we both arrived in Vancouver safely, albeit 24 hours apart. We pushed through the jetlag to do a bit of sightseeing around Vancouver (including ten consecutive hours at no less than twelve bike shops where Bec earned some serious good-wife points and after which Glenn was still bikeless) and stuck with the original plan of getting to Whistler ASAP for a summer of mountain biking.

We took the bus up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler and took ourselves into the Village to find jobs.

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Whistler Village

Glenn's dream job is to work in a bike store and Bec's dream job is to work anywhere there's food and where no one dies. And so Bec headed to the local Supermarket to relive her Franklins days:
Bec: Do you have any jobs?
Them: Do you have any fastfood experience?
Bec: I worked at Maccas for three years
Them: You're hired. Can you start tomorrow?
And that is how Bec arrived at spending 40 hours a week serving icecream cones and making mini pizzas at Whistler Supermarket. As for Glenn, bikeshop jobs are proving elusive so he too has joined the ranks of the Supermarket and can be found stacking rice bran oil and the like into shelves. Which is handy given that the cost of living here will most likely bankrupt us. Someone needs to be keeping an eye on the weekly specials!!

So with jobs sorted, we set about scoping out the Village. It's quite pretty and there's still some snow on the mountains where the snowboarders are getting the last out of the season. Weekdays are pretty quiet, but the weekends are full of bikeboys and bikebitches.

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Whistler Bikeboy

Glenn eventually bought a bike and is keen to get onto the mountain. Bec is none too confident that she won't be removing stitches from Glenn before the end of the summer. Bec has invested a lot of time into finding a good vantage point close to decaf coffee in the mornings and beer in the afternoons

We're currently living in a lodge about 4km from the Village. Yesterday there was a bear rummaging around in the neighbours backyard. Cute little fella, though ready to rip my brains out through my nose at the blink of an eye I'm sure. Bear-proof bins are the done thing here and also proved to be Bec-and-Glenn-proof initially.

Posted by TDL 14:29 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan. (Brunei, not Dubai).

overcast 26 °C

A forty minute flight took us from KK to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), capital of Brunei, where the wealth of the country is immediately obvious - flash cars and new roads.

Checked into the PALATIAL 6* Empire Hotel and Country Club. The whole place is an exercise in the grandiose and the contradictory. In the foyer is a mini-mosque (5m tall) under a massive chandelier and everything is of the highest quality marble, yet no one bats an eyelid at Bec in her daggy Billabong hat or Glenn in his faded zip-off trousers. The place can hold 5000 people, yet we wouldn't have seen more than 200 people in total the whole time we were there. There's badminton, squash and tennis courts, an 18 hole golf course, a bowling alley and a movie cinema as well as a spectacular pool complex. Breakfasts were massive and we didn't open a single door for ourselves the whole time we were there. Completely out of our backpacking comfort zone. Settled into our room, had a few games of ten pin and then set off to Jerudong Park Playground.

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The Empire Hotel

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The foyer of the Empire Hotel

Jerudong Park is Brunei's equivalent to Disneyland or Dreamworld. It was given to the people of Brunei as a gift from one of its previous Sultans. We took the shuttle (A Class Mercedes) to the park to find that most of the rides were closed for maintenance (possibly forever), hence we got a reduced entry fee of $5. The place was virtually deserted, with the exception of a few teenagers canoodling in the darkness. The whole place had quite an eerie feel to it, semi-dark and overgrown. We did manage to find the log flume ride (the only ride not closed for maintenance) and went around four times without getting off. Plenty of bored park employees.

Got up early the following morning, breakfasted (too much choice!!), then took the shuttle into BSB city centre. Headed immediately to the very beautiful Omar Ali Sarfuddien Mosque for a look inside and out. Quite stark really but quite beautiful.

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The mosque by day

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The mosque by night

Went on then to the tourist information centre and booked a trip up the river to see the Proboscis monkey (nose-monkey, not bum-monkey). We were *lucky* enought to get the 'special weekend rate'. Wandered around town for a bit, bought a few cheap (and later found to be nasty) DVDs, then met our boatie for our monkey spotting trip. There was a German guy and a French guy in our boat who were disappointed to learn that they'd not gotten the 'special weekend rate'. Donned bright orange life jackets and off in search of the elusive proboscis monkey. It wasn't long before we'd parked the boat along the very dirty riverbank and were spotting the little critters swinging through the trees. Not close enough for a good photo though....... Back to shore, then off in search of dinner. Ended up in a market stall restaurant with no English menu so ordered randomly off the menu. Glenn took the Soto Claypot Special (chicken, beef, noodle and vegie soup) and Bec had the Chicken Chop (chicken in spicy sauce with chips!?!?). Watched the water taxis fly by with only a handheld torch for light.

Up late-ish the next day to take advantage of the pool and the beach before heading into town again, this time to hire a boat to take us through the stilt villages. Haggled (unsuccesfully) with the boatie and ended up paying $20 for what turned into about a 45 minute trip through the brightly painted houses, schools, mosques, police and fire stations that make up the stilt village that houses about 30 000 people. Our driver dropped us off at a village pier so we could wander around. As soon as we arrived,a young fellow ran the length of the village ringing a bell which seemed to be the cue for all the village children to race out and wave hello to us!! Wandered past schools and mosques and shops. Had to hail another taxi boat to take us back to the other side of the river. Another encounter with the tourist price/ local price phenomena, although Glenn did manage to bargain him down.

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Stilt villages

Took a bus then to another, more beautiful, mosque. The bus stalled three times along the way, once on top of a very busy overpass. Walked then to the Mall Shopping Centre. Easier said than done with a massive, no-pedestrians round-a-bout in the way. Some creative jay-walking got us to the Mall Shopping Centre and then on to the Gadong Food Market where we bought a few things for dinner and then ate by the manky river in the company of some feral cats and young locals.

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Gadong markets

Shuttled back to the hotel and off to the cinema to watch Barnyard. We were the only people in the cinema and yet they made us select our seats on a computer screen. And no we know where the dodgy DVDs are filmed.

Got up early on our last day for some pool time and some mocktails by the pool. Mmmmm mocktails at 8am. A final breakfast (eat like we're never going to eat again), then a golf buggy to the lobbly to check out. Off to the airport where our plane was delayed for an hour before heading home to Brisbane.

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Mocktails at the Empire

Posted by TDL 02:27 Archived in Brunei Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Sabah (Borneo)

Two years and one wedding after our first trip and we're off again at last. Glenn always knew there would never be a half-baked honeymoon.

25 °C
View Sabah on TDL's travel map.

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu (via Brunei for two hours) late in the evening and crashed out in our hotel. Awoke early the next morning and looked out the window to expansive (though somewhat hazy) views across the South China to the Bornean islands. Stir-fry for breakfast, then off to explore the town.

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View across the South China Sea

Kota Kinabalu is easily seen on foot and we legged it to the State Mosque, the Sabah Museum and the Heritage Centre (collection of stilt houses), as well as to the tourist bureau to book a hire car for a trip to Poring Hot Springs for the end of the week. Glenn bought some corn juice from a local market (Bec gags and races to nearest garden bed on tasting) and insisted on drinking the entire thing on principle. Dinner the first night was at a food market along the edge of the South China Sea. A very spicy crab curry for Glenn put paid to any plans Bec had for an extended shopping night.

Up early the following day for a day of white-water rafting. We drove for an hour or two through the rainforest, our driver successfully avoiding random water buffallo and mangey dogs along the way. Arrived at our drop off point and got in a boat with three young Japanese girls. The river was pretty tame and Glenn was a bit disappointed that it wasn't more hard-core, although we did manage to tip out one of the Japanese girls. Glenn was careful to buy the 'Ride the Waves, then the Babes!' t-shirt, rather than the 'Surf the Waves, then the Dudes!' version.

Did a bit of shopping. Note to self: Twisties in Borneo are not the same as Twisties in Australia and Green Pea flavoured crisps are passable if desperate.

Set off reasonably late the following day to check out one of the neighbouring islands. Walked to the ferry terminal and chartered a boat with another Japanese couple out to Sapi Island. Hired snorkel gear at a grossly over-inflated price ('You hire snorkel from me. No snorkel on beach') and arrived at the island where snorkel hire stores abound and the park entrance fee left us destitute. No lunch for us. Walked around the island but the mud and mozzies made it more arduous than pleasant so we headed back to the beach for a spot of snorkelling and a game of 'spot the worst swimwear'. The beach was soon evacuated though as a huge wind sprang up and the clouds rolled in. Found our Japanese friends and left the island early, never having used the over-priced snorkel gear. The boat ride back was harrowing. Glenn spent the trip assessing the structural integrity of the boat while Bec mentally listed the pros and cons of staying with the boat versus swimming to the nearest island in the event of capsize. Made it back to the boat terminal fairly saturated. Back to the hotel for a quick tidy up and then out again in search of a head-hunter statue.

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Sapi Island

Up early the next day, more stir-fry for breakfast, then legged it down to pick up our rental car for a trip to Poring Hot Springs. In true Malaysian style, no one seemed to know what was going on when we arrived and we had to wait 45 minutes for our car to arrive (45minutes for them to find someone willing to lend their car to a pair of foreigners for the day for a fee). Finally our car arrived and we found ourselves the proud temporary owners of an ageing Proton, complete with broken tacko and back-of-dashboard noises. Drove out of town along the same route we took rafting so at least we were familiar with how to get out of town. It took us about two hours to drive the 100km to Poring to find the outdoor thermal pools were closed. Probably a good thing given Bec's last experience with sulphur thermal pools in Bolivia and the ensuing allergic reaction. Hired an indoor thermal pool (read big bath tub) and soaked in there for a while and congratulated ourselves on surviving the death-defying, OH&S-defying tree-top canopy walk. Made our way back to KK, all the while on the lookout for the elusive Rafflesia flower but to no avail. Likewise no luck in finding and random water buffallo to photograph, though we did find a few picturesque rice paddies. Dinner for Glenn that night was the most enormous whole fish obviously just dragged fresh from the ocean. Note to self: always choose your own fish.

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Rice Paddies

Posted by TDL 16:51 Archived in Malaysia Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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