Leahton Park

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“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind”.

-Albert Einstein

Today, I got to experience another little bit of real Australia. Mandy (Bryan’s sister) had asked him and I to accompany her to a cattle farm, about 7  kilometers away from Charters Towers. She is getting married on the 4th of August and has decided to rent a horse and carriage for the grand day. I thought it was a beautiful idea, very fairy-tale and a thought that, I am almost positive, most young women have thought of at some point in their lives. Thanks Disney.

We were welcomed to this farm with two massive white  swinging gates. At the top, it wrote “Leahton Park.” The farm was clean kept, beautifully white and had at least 5 different buildings on the property.  The one building we entered into was where they took bookings for horses. It was also a gift store. There were shelves upon shelves of mugs, homemade leather belts, wallets, and saddles. This place wasn’t just a farm, but a tourist destination. What I later found out was that this farm was home to the “Long Hornbull with the longest horns.” This bull had been in the Guinness World Book of Records and no bull has beat it since. Now, I have never been fond of horses or even classified myself as a farm kinda gal, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by all this farm had to offer. I have though been spotted at a couple country bars back in Edmonton, doing two-step on the dance floor…

A man walked in, the crafter, the artist of the entire farm. I first saw him through a doorway from the gift store. Behind the store was his workshop. As Mandy organized and corrected details for her special day. The man in the workshop came out and introduced himself. We began to have a small conversation about farms. He asked where I was from, and related to me by saying that he had a Canadian girl and father from Ontario, who owned Longhorned bulls themselves, visited for a couple weeks to check out the farm. He took me into his workshop. I wasn’t sure if this was something he did  for all visitors, but I got a bit of a thrill as I felt this wasn’t a place where visitors went most often. Bryan and I checked out where all the leather merchandise was crafted.  He had saddles finished and unfinished lined up on horse back molds. Layers upon layers of unused leather on the shelf behind his work station, a plastic bucket full of his tools used to indent designs into the leather, and a spray bottle for wetting the leather.

He showed us the basic steps of designing the leather:

First: Cut the leather to the size and shape that you want

Second: Smooth all the corners/edges/ curves of the leather with water and a finger so they are smooth

Third: Spray the leather. If the leather is not wet, then the leather does not keep the design imprint

Fourth: Make your design. You need a small design chisel and a another tool (hammer-like) to help drive the tool into the leather

Fifth: Make sure the leather stays wet, when the leather starts to become a light color, that means that it is drying and will not keep the design.

There were other steps involved in this. But I’m sure that if he told everyone how he perfected his craft, he may or may not lose a slight bit of business because it would no longer become a unique craft. He made it look so easy. He was so patient and delicate with the leather. Very careful, intricate and gentle. I asked him how long it took to make a saddle. He replied with five days. I couldn’t even imagine having the patience to complete such an amazing piece of work. A virtue that I must work on in the next year.

I have always found leather crafting to be an incredibly amazing hobby. Ever since I started my obsession with hemp bracelets and wooden beads, I been wanting to add leather strapping to it. I have been obsessed with the idea. Not to mention my favourite movie and adventure novel of all time “Into the Wild by John Krakauer,” Christopher McCandless spends time with a man he met on the road, making a belt of all the places he had been in the last two years of his life. The man had made it a hobby of his as well to make these bracelets, and the man at Leahton Park strongly reminded me of the man in the most inspiring novel I have ever read.

I left the farm feeling more enlightened, cultured, and… country I suppose. Maybe I will start making more bracelets and have this moment be the backbone of my new designs.

Song of the Day: Jono McCleery – Wonderful Life

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River Moments

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“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”

— Cindy Ross.

At this point of my journey, this is the longest I have ever been away from home. I am at 73 days being away from the nest.

Since my last post, I have moved northwards. Currently situated an hour and a half away from Townsville in a place called Charters Towers. It is a small rural town but with some amazing scenery and national parks nearby. I am staying with my friend Bryan and his family. Where we make homemade lunches and dinner, go to parties, prep for a wedding and enjoy each others company. It feels nice to be apart of a family when travelling alone. Nice to feel the stability, feel familiar comforts.

As this event occured yesterday, the was how I spent the day that marked the longest amount of time I have ever been away from home. Yesterday I was taken to “The River” In a place called Lolworth. Bryan and the rest of the family had spent a significant amount of time in the area camping, waterskiing, having barbeques,  and motorcross biking (an activity I chose to risk and try as my adrenaline levels were booming). The River is unlike anything I have ever seen. This river, like most of them in the area, are prone to flooding. the more flood water in the river, the warmer it becomes. Trees are located in the middle of the river, water goes up past there trunks and carves its on trail. The current is strong and the water levels are always different. The river was high, but there were flat parts of the land that allowed us to pitch and tent, set up the chairs and start up the bar-b at the back of the Yute. It started raining, but the rain didn’t dampen the day. We stayed there for hours listening to the rain pound down on the tent as we talked about the most dangerous animals in the world, national parks in Australia, and childhood memories. We had a delicious steak (which has not been had in three months) and vegetable salad. Food which I appreciated since being in Australia, the same meal just didn’t quite taste the same in Tanzania. The food and the general atmosphere where people meet nature made me strongly miss home.

I thought about all the camping trips I used to go on when I was at home. Staying at my trailer at Seba Beach, Alberta where morning kayaks on the calm lake would be the highlight of the day. The hikes my energetic father would take me on where I would complain endlessly  but appreciated when they were finished. The May and September long weekends where old friends of my mothers would get together for camp fires and kebabs. Travelling to Long Lake and tubing for hours until my arms hurt with some of the best childhood friends a kid could ever imagine. Reading the new release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the beach until the book was finished and you were burnt. Camping and drinking with my girls on the beach until the alcohol was done. Opening and cutting a mini cereal boxes for breakfast and pouring the milk until you realized there was a hole in the bottom. Playing cards in an old camper van while listening to the same song on repeat into all hours of the night. Building twigged tee-pees in the back of the camp grounds theatres. Bike rides to the store for an afternoon treat. These were some of the best moments I have ever had in my life.

Moments like being on the river makes me miss my family and makes me think of all the times yet to come when my journey in Australia ends and the next one in Canada begins. I am so thankful that my family has introduced me to such an amazing thing such as camping and hiking as it has completed changed my world and who I am.

Missing and loving my friends and family at moments like these.

 

Song of the Day – Lordy May by Boy and Bear

The Name Twin

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Surfers Pardise. the place to be and where city meets sea. Everything is well kept, neat and in the words of a good friend “sparkly.” You become instantly addicted upon arriving. I know I was utterly speechless. The buildings to unique with there architecture, the city lights, the surf and the people… guess the name is suiting for the place.

 

I arrived at my hostel and checking into a 20 person mixed dorm. I argued this fact because out of the 20 people there, I was the only female. in the morning at around 10am, another girls showed up. She looked about my age and had a thick accent. She was a 20 year old Animal Sciences major from Auckland, New Zealand travelling around with her sister whom she has recently parted with. We talked, she spoke of her banking troubles and how she was unable to book a flight home because she had left her debit card back home. I offered to walk around downtown Surfers Paradise with her until we found a pay phone. As we walked, we talked about simple things. The conversation was easy. We were kindred spirits, like long lost sisters. I told her a story and used my name in it, she turned to me and said “My name is Jess too!” We burst into laughter, we were meant to meet. 

After walking around for quite sometime, I told her she could use my phone over a chai latte at a place called “The Coffee Club.” She paid for my coffee in exchange for the use of my phone. Another kind coffee session with a stranger this was. I gave her my phone and she dialled the number. The person on the other end gave her some information and it required a pen. I sifted through my wallet for an old receipt to write on and a pen from the women beside me. Jess finished writing a couple numbers and was focused as she starred at my wallet. They then asked her for her first and middle name, she said “Jessica Marie.” At the exact moment she said it, I looked up at her and she unglued her eyes from my wallet, where she too realized what I just had. We were name twins. What were the chances that the only girl in my room would have the same name that I did (disregarding last name). I found the situation beyond bizarre. We burst out laughing. But introducing ourselves to the new comers in the room was certainly easy.

Murwillumbah and Mt Warning

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Murwillumbah… Try saying that ten times fast. Been here for 24 + hours and still can’t pronounce it properly. Since stepping off the bus it has been an adventure… Wait, bloody nightmare. You know those places you just instantly receive the ” goosebumps” from? well, this was it. Haunted, eerie, a town that is located in the center of a crater and seems as though they have been cut off from the rest of civilization. Here is where the weirdness began, I proceeded to a travel information center and asked where the YHA hostel was. They stood there and just laughed at me. I asked what was so funny and to my own amusement, I had a massive gob of gum attached to the back of my new blue jeans on my back right calf. The slight awkward tension was broken by a women who immediately started helping me pick the gum off my jeans. I was surprised by the fact that she was picking strangers gum off some strangers pants. She looked at me and said “I have kids”. Couldn’t help but laugh. I tried to imagine what mouth the gum came out of, I was disgusted at myself for the thought. This women clearly felt so sorry for me and it was obvious because she then offered to drive me to the hostel. We got into her gold hatchback (I’m bad with cars) and she drove while I tried to pick the remnants of gum off my jeans withouth leaving any of the pieces on the seat.

Once arrived into the hostel, the manager, Tazi, was an old man with gung ho spirit and a zest for life. He showed me to my room. He talked about the women that would be in my room with me, he told me that she had a face abnormality that caused her skin to change drastic colour. Apparently she had been there for three nights and her two previous roommates were so uncomfortable they either left the hostel or switched into another room. Now, if you know me well enough, I am always up for a challenge and decided to reside in the room. You know the moment where you walk into a hostel room and immediately inspect the people in it to make sure they don’t look criminally insane? She looked normal, hippie style, but to this moment I can’t recall what her face actually looked like. I tried to avoid it, avoid it at all costs to not be scared away. I remember it being sad, perhaps…post-sulking…She made a couple weird comments, I shrugged them off because I was NOT leaving that room no matter what she said or did.

After a few passing hours to my sweet relief, someone else arrived. A new roommate. Her name was Ramona, a 19 year old civil engineering student from Woolongong. She has been on winter break from school and decided to explore the land. As she walked in to the room, the other roommate said “Hey, I’m pretty sure I saw you on the streets of Byron.” Little did this women know that Ramona was only been in Byron for the one day, so there was no physical way that this women could of seen her. The women walked out of the room, and Ramona and I burst into hysterics.

A couple hours later, the women came back, shuffling her feet on the wood floors. Like a horror movie…Like nails on a chalkboard. Weird as all get out. Ramoma was creeped out and immediately requested a change of rooms. I, let down my stubborn nature and decided to share a bunk in a separate room with Ramona as well. I felt that if so many people had left this room, maybe this was a sign that I should too.  As I packed up my things to move from room 2 to room 4, there was a power cord in the corner. Since there as only two outlets in my room, I took it, thinking that I could charge all my things and at Ramona could do the same. The weird women burst in, screamed at me, and ran to Tazi to tell on me. That was  it, a huge kill for the night. Ramona and I decided to go to bed, she went to go lock the door. The key didn’t work. Are you kidding me? There’s no way in hell, I will sleep with this door unlocked while there is a crazy walking around, unsupervised, in the corridors. We demanded a proper key. What an epic and excitingly weird evening, too much excitement for one to handle. It was bedtime. Finally.

My plan in coming to Murwillumbah ( every time I say it, it cracks me up), was to climb Mount Warning, the highest mountain in New South Wales. Ramona’s goal as well was to climb this mountain. She told me she could give me a lift to the head of the trail and we could hike the trail together. We had planned to be up at 3:30 am so we could summit at the 6:38 am sunrise and to beat the crowds. We were so worried about the shuffling women, we barely had any sleep. Early morning rolled around and we were just not motivated to get out of bed. The room light had come on, it was 7:30 am, it was time to hike. Jumped into her white Toyota Yute with all the gear and head out for the hike.

The car park was nearly empty and the sky was clear. It was 8:45 am. This would be my first hike in Australia. This would be my first hike in Murwillumbah. This would be my first hike in a rainforest. It was beautiful, so humid, palm trees everywhere and a brand new vegetation to look at. I slowly stopped appreciating some of the splendid things moving past me because of the never ending staircase to the summit. Step after step after step. An hour and a half past, quickly, 4km had been completed. We were nearly at the summit. We came to a sharp cliff, classified as a scramble. A series of chains had been suspended to logs that were put in the earth for additional help climbing. What a slog that was. So much different then anything I had ever conquered before, I was finally starting to appreciate this unique mountain. The summit was amazing. Spectacular views with a circucular board walk. Had a quick lunch and descended as quick as we could, the storms were coming in. As soon as we jumped back into the Yute, it began to poor. We finished the hike with perfect timing.

We were hungry. Went to a restaurant for some chips. One of her last sentences to went like this ” I will never forget this place, but I will never come back,”. Made me think that not everywhere can be spectacular or even exceptional. Every place has something unique but it is what you make it with the time in that area. She set off on her next avdnture and I set off on mine, bound for the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. While I currently wait for my bus, I found refuge in a cafe where I am enjoying warmth and a good cup of English tea.

For future recommendation, I say that no one should ever stay the night in this place. Try to make a day trip out of and stay somewhere outside this krazy krater. There is nothing to do here besides two things: Mount Warning and the toilet mural tour…only one of which was completed….obviously.

Coffee with a Stranger

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“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

-Cesare Pevase

There are some quotes that fit particular moments, and I thought this one fit for today’s event. I have always been intrigued by the way people start conversations with one another. On many account, a groundbreaker would be the weather. It would typically start like this “aren’t you cold in your black tank top?” or “why are you wearing shorts in this weather?”. My answer is always the same, “I’m from Canada, this is warm”. BUT, the stranger I met today commented on greenness of my apple, a completly random comment. I was expecting him to comment on how much junk I was carrying on my back, on my accent, where I was from. He went on about why I would eat such a gross tasting thing. I told him that for the last two months I was in Africa, my sole comfort food was an apple, that is was the only thing I found to taste the same back home as it did here. I felt… Safe, I suppose, eating it. It was organic, nutritious and incredibly filling. What could be better? We got talking in the common room of Main Beach Hostel in Byron Bay. This stranger was a 35 year old man from Cork, Ireland. He had been living in Australia for 12 years in Melbourne, loving life. He was insightful, scruffy, wise, and completely charismatic. He asked if I wanted to go for coffee, as the title goes, I accepted and we walked across the road, where he proceeded to buy me a Mocha.

There was a lot to talk about for two hours. We started by talking about our wwoofing experiences on farms and about travelling to Cork, we seemed to have many things in common. He took interest in the things I had to say, wrote down the word tattooed on my back with translation and the conversation took off. We talked about where we had travelled in the world, how long we had been travelling for, our families back home, and potential future plans. You know, the typical conversation for travellers. Other conversations included hallucinogenic drugs, partying, hippie lifestyles, money budgeting, a term he called “emotion debt”, and our favorite words and there definitions. I didn’t just find this conversation typical though, I felt it sorely inspiring. Talked about literature, and about the books “War and Peace”, “On the Road”, “Into the Wild”, “Middlemarch” and so on. We also discussed the feeling of opening a good book, rather than reading on an IPad and how good quotes from books deserved to be remembered and need to be recorded in a journal. He showed me his journal, which was completely full. Full of moments, ideas, quotes, and to do’s. He gave me a brief lesson on how to organize a journal with an index and page numbers, and how journals should not just be used for recording everyday adventures but for random thoughts, even if they don’t make much sense at the time, they can come back and play significant roles in an entry.

About three days ago I bought a package of three notebooks from a store, two were in use out of three. The least I could do for this man who had a full journal, inspired me and bought me a coffee was to give him the last journal. I handed it to him, thanked him and gave him a hug as I said goodbye.

From this conversation, I have found that it is essential for me to have a journal and that I couldn’t go without. It will keep me from forgetting, help me to remember, give me comfort when I am alone, plan my journeys, and cherish these strangers by writing down everything they have taught me. Absolute highlight of my day. Thanks Kieran.

2/14 Months

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Well here it is, the first post since being away from home, exactly 66 days ago. In a short sum up, I have travelled from Edmonton to Moshi to do volunteering work in an orphange but as soon as it became apparent to me that none of the money I spent trying to help the other side of the world was being used, I decided to change my itinerary. Continued travel to Machame, Arusha, Dar es Salaam (capital of Tanzania), Dar to Stone town ( Zanzibar), Nungwi Beach (north island), Jambiani Beach (southeast island),  Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoru Crater, Lake Manyara to Karatu and back to small town Moshi. Included in this journey, 7 nights and 8 days were taken to summit Kilimanjaro on the Lemosho route and another four days to soak in the sun from the open top 4×4 safari vehicle to search for wild animals. Within travelling to these places my friend Bryan and I met some people with some big stories, such as the oldest north american man to climb everest and Marty Schmidt, the owner of MSIG trekking. After Tanzania, I had decided and planned to come to Australia for a year on a working holiday visa and visit Bryan. It’s been a whirlwind adventure with much culture shock, money wasted, friends met and sore limbs. I couldn’t be more excited for what the next year has in store for me.

So…where have I been since I have arrived? I flew into Melbourne Airport and stayed at Habitat HQ hostel. In it were young people like myself struggling to save/ make money. But, in the big scheme of things, none of this mattered. They were all here to have fun. It brought about so much peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t alone in all this. Spent five days with some of the most down to earth people I have ever met. Oddly enough, most of them were from the United Kingdom, I felt strangely at home. Spent a night at O’Reilys Irish pub just off St. Kilda, went to the second largest casino in the world in Melbourne. If you don’t like Melbourne as soon as your arrive, give it a couple days, you’ll come around…

When talking to a friend of mine about travelling Australia while I was in Africa, he highly recommended a program called wwoofing (willing workers on organic farms). With this program, you volunteer on the farm in order to receive three meals a day paid for plus free accommodation. Now I said, “well I don’t know a thing about farm work”, it doesn’t matter to many farm hosts as long as you have a willingness to learn and get a little dirty. So where did I chose? A chili chocolate farm, about 25 mins from Toowoomba. I really wanted to understand the ” real Australia”, and wow! Was that ever a treat. Chopping wood, eating chocolate, piling the wood, eating chocolate, label chocolate and dinner parties with chocolate being the topic of choice. My first night on this farm I had the incredible privelage of meeting a couple bound to go down in history, Vickie and Richard. Richard is currently running the Bicentennial National Trail. It runs from the south to the north of Australia and is the longest marked trail in the world at 5330 km. The chilli  farm was there halfway mark and it just so happened that on their one night there, I happened to be there as well. Felt amazing meeting people actually working for a cause. Interested in wwoofing? Go to wwoof.com.au You won’t be disappointed and you can save a couple bucks while your at it.

From Toowoomba, I was craving a bit of city life and decided to spent the night in Brisbane. I met a guy named Eloi who has travelled back to Australia three times. He showed me the entire city by night. People do not mention Brisbane as much as it deserves. So much to do, beautiful architecture, foot paths that connect the entire city  located on the ocean front, South bank lagoon, Kanagaroo Cliffs ( no kangaroos have actually been found) and botanical gardens. Spent the night partying with a Frenchmen, an Estonian, a Belgian hippie, and a Brazilian at city backpackers pub. The detour was unexpected to this beautiful city, but sometimes the most unexpected places reward you with the best moments.

Next, visited a dear friend located in Coffs Harbour. Met Lauren in beautiful Dublin, Ireland in November of 2011 in a hostel located by the Liffey River. She was an incredible host. Spent the days visiting the Big Banana in Coffs Harbor, walking to the top of Muttonbird Island by Coffs Marina, driving to Dangar Falls in Dorrigo National Park, driving to Byron Bay to visit the most easterly part of Australia/ lighthouse, visiting world heritage sites around the area, sitting on the banks overlooking the Gold Coast and driving into Surfers Paradise and a bottle of white wine at the Byron Bay Hotel to end the journey.

Where abouts am I now? I returned to Byron Bay and have completely fallen in love with the atmosphere of this popular tourist destination town on the east coast. Local cafes, surf lessons, diving in reefs, hippie trends, perfect waves, good food, vibrant sun… Can I stay a second year? Could I be in paradise?

Next adventure is completely undecided, just as adventure should be….