Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Our Home and Native Land

Travel is without a doubt an incredible thing. Yet the more I see of the world, the more grateful I am of where I'm from. I've been to quite a few countries on four continents but I strongly believe Canada (the West Coast in particular!) is still one of the best, and it's not hard to explain why.
I have never been to another country that puts as much emphasis on celebrating diversity and multiculturalism as Canada does; with a geography that includes everything from extensive coastlines, to lush rainforests, rolling plains and vast mountain ranges; whose national dish is an ingenious combination of three foods (gravy, cheese and french fries) that are each delicious on their own but when smothered together literally taste magical; whose hundred dollar notes smell of maple (seriously, they do!) and where you never need to buy bottled water because the stuff from the tap tastes so damn good.

Whistler, BC

Crescent Beach, BC

Vancouver, BC

White Rock, BC

Tofino, BC

Everywhere is still on my list of places to see but Canada will always be the country whose beauty never ceases to amaze me, and that I'm proud to call home.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Deep Blue Sea

I fell in love with diving back in December when I got both my open water and advanced certifications. With my brand new GoPro in hand I couldn't wait to explore Fiji's underwater world. I'd only ever dived in Thailand so I didn't have much to compare with but exploring the crystal clear waters 20 meters below the Yasawa Island's sandy shores was nothing short of magical.

Although I would have been happy diving all day everyday, it's unfortunately not a cheap activity. In an attempt to stick to my budget I did lots of snorkeling as well which, although not quite as thrilling as diving, still allowed me to see various colourful creatures in Fiji's deep blue sea.

P.S. My underwater photography skills are a work in progress... need to practice with my new GoPro!


Contrary to popular belief, Australia is not hot and sunny all year round. After experiencing our first winter in the southern hemisphere, Ben and I were more than ready to spend some time a little closer to the equator, so off to the South Pacific we went. Apart from beautiful beaches we weren't too sure what to expect from this part of the world but we didn't stay uncertain for long; As soon as we stepped off the plane we were greeted with a warm 'bula' (the most common Fijian word of greeting) accompanied by an enthusiastic string band (who all seemed genuinely happy to be playing music at an airport at 6 AM.) We knew instantly that we were going to love it there.

Something you should know about Fiji: it's made up of more than 300 islands. If you are like us and have a limited budget/time frame, this makes choosing where to go a tad tricky (not that I'm expecting any sympathy here; I realize picking which tropical island to visit isn't such a bad problem to have.) We ended up choosing two islands in the Yasawa Island chain, Tavewa and Waya.

Unless you have beaucoup bucks and can afford to fly, the only way to access the Yasawas is via this big yellow catamaran right here:

The Yasawa Flyer

The trip out to the islands was highly enjoyable as we got to take in all of the great views the Yasawas have to offer.

The tiny South Sea Island

Our first stop was the tiny island of Tavewa where we stayed at a small, no-frills place called Otto and Fanny's. It was definitely basic compared to a lot of accommodation you'll find in the Yasawas but it had everything we were looking for: friendly staff, a white sand beach and several loyal dogs (though this last point may have excited me slightly more than Ben.) Plus, for a couple of nights we were the only people staying there
. As in, we had the place all to ourselves. How often does that happen?! We spent an amazing few days swimming, scuba diving, exploring and just relaxing.

A beautifully decorated bed

One of our canine friends, Midnight

Our 'bure' (Fijian hut/structure)


Pretty much our own private beach, just a few steps from our bure



Taking it all in

Midnight was a fixture on our porch

A coconut plant?!

Local boy spear-fishing


Postcard worthy?

Washed-up teacup

The perfect chair

After four nights on Tavewa Island we headed to Waya, where we spent one night at Octopus Resort.

Waiting for our boat

Octopus could not have been more different from Otto and Fanny's. It was definitely a proper 'resort': people were sipping cocktails by the pool, there was organized entertainment/activities and (by my standards anyway) the accommodation was pretty
luxurious. Although it was lacking the personal feel of Otto and Fanny's, Octopus had more of an atmosphere and gave us the chance to meet some other travelers.

Waya Island

Another beautiful beach, albeit a bit more crowded!

Octopus Resort

After leaving the Yasawas (something I was not happy to do) we headed to the village of Namatakula, located on the southern coast of Fiji's main island. We spent two nights at Danny's Homestay which was run by a local Fijian couple, Danny and Tupou, who were as lovely and accommodating as could be. We stayed in a wonderfully rustic cabin, ate plenty of tasty home-cooked meals and thoroughly enjoyed the family feel of the place. While the islands had been nothing short of paradise, they didn't give me the impression that we had seen any of the 'real' Fiji; the homestay allowed us to do just that.

Playing games with the local village kids

Enjoying a big family dinner

Note the headlamp... there were no outdoor lights in the village!

While at the homestay we also had the chance to try kava, a traditional (and mildly narcotic) Fijian drink that's made from a pepper plant and drunk from the half-shell of a coconut. You have to drink a lot to feel its full effects but it only takes a sip for your tongue to go numb. It looked like dirty dish water but surprisingly it didn't taste too bad!

The awesome Fijian guys we drank kava with

Not only was Fiji probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen in real life but our time spent there made it clear why the Fijian greeting of bula directly translates to life; the people of this country are simply full of it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

364 to Home

Right, 24 hours of travel spanning three time zones has left my internal clock a bit dazed and confused so I'm going to keep this short and sweet (Fiji blogs are coming soon!).

After 364 days of volunteering, working and traveling through 10 different countries - I'm home. I'll be honest, I was feeling pretty anxious yesterday morning (or was it this morning? The time travel situation still has me baffled) as I was leaving Fiji, bound for Vancouver. At first my anxiety puzzled me. Home implies a place that's familiar, constant - nothing to be nervous about, right? But then it hit me: while traveling I've grown so accustomed to the unfamiliar that the idea of being somewhere I know so well had me kind of freaked out. 

Whatever the cause, my nerves dissipated the minute I saw my parents at the airport. Seeing them, riding in the car, sitting on the couch in our living room enjoying one of my Dad's famous chocolate milkshakes... it's like I never left. And while I plan on returning to Australia in about a month to continue my working holiday visa (and probably keep traveling after that) I plan on savoring every moment of this familiarity that can only come from being home.

Greeted with roses from my lovely parents at YVR!

My dad had this printed at work. Actually awesome.