Travel: Kauai

Kauai. The island that greets with you a sense of serenity and beauty, even if your plane lands in the dark.

Where the locals are so friendly, you’re not sure if they’ve mistaken you for someone they’ve met before.

And  where 80% of the tiny island is uninhabited / inaccessible, yet eight days was not nearly long enough to explore it all.

My mother, sister, and I left our men at home and indulged ourselves in a week of tropical splendor. We rented a Jeep and drove around the island, visiting beaches, perusing shops, eating fish tacos. I had the most relaxing and restorative stay on the island. And, why wouldn’t I? Kauai (and Hawaii in general) is known for its healing powers, after all.

A few of my favourite moments included a helicopter tour of the island (we flew with Safari Helicopters and they have the most amazing crew!):

Waipoo Falls
Waipoo Falls, Waimea Canyon

…hiking the Kalalau Trail:

Kalalau Trail
Kalalau Trail, along the Na Pali Coast

…spotting a rare Hawaiian monk seal on Poipu Beach:

Hawaiian monk seal
Protected Hawaiian Monk seal

…and waking up every morning in our Princeville condo, to skies like this:

Kauai sunrise
Kauai sunrise



A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, probably ’cause we’re all so full of gin

December 24 – 26, 2011

My very first Christmas away from home.

Santa cruising on by Immigration hahaha…haha…?

Of course I knew that being away from family and friends for my most favorite time of year was not going to be easy by any means. But I think the sadness of it was alleviated by two things:

1) It didn’t feel like Christmas. At all. It was warm and sunny out and there was absolutely no snow (or chance of snow, for that matter).
2) My sister and I were surrounded by wonderful people that went out of their way to make sure  we had the best time possible without being with our Canadian loved ones.

On Christmas Eve, we ventured over to Mary’s parents’ place for an afternoon of suntanning, swimming, great company and delicious food (Mary and her father were part of the Tongariro Crossing expedition). Marjo and I brought citronfrommage – a Danish dessert that is part of our Christmas family tradition. We hid an almond in it and the person to find it wins a prize.

What is going on here? Marjo is photo-bombing without ANY enthusiasm and I’m not sure what’s going on with my Mr. Burns’ hand…?

Mary’s dad won the prize – which was a gargantuan, novelty-sized gift bag (you could seriously house a family of possums in it), filled with the most random stuff. Glowsticks. A light bulb. Truffles. Baby food. A ruler. Which could have been used to measure the french baguette – hilariously enough, it had gone limp in transit.

Mary and her parents spoiled us. I could not have imagined this Christmas without our surrogate Kiwi family.

On Christmas morning, Marjo and I drank mimosas, Skyped with our family, exchanged presents, made crepes (served with the pure maple syrup my Frenchman had sent over with me from Montreal, which I had been hoarding for that “special occasion”), then suntanned in our backyard before heading over to Mary’s for the orphan’s Christmas bbq. I got sunburnt and smashed on Christmas Day. Believe it or not, both were firsts for me!

From the Skype cam

Left to Right: Germany, New Zealand and Canada x 2

I still have yet to experience the chaos of Boxing Day shopping (in any country). We decided to forgo it again this year in exchange for some downtime on the beach.

Takapuna beach looking towards Mount Rangitoto – the red pohutukawa trees  bloom in December (aka Christmas trees!)

Scammy Jerks at Concerts Who Don’t Follow the Rules. Or, How I Maximized My Foo Experience

December 13, 2011

Back home on Canadian soil, as soon as someone said the words “So-and-so is coming to town on [insert date], do you want to go?!” I would immediately be all wishy-washy and uncertain and apprehensive and the like. Why would someone who has proclaimed to loooove live music for so many years be so hesitant to go to a concert put on by a super awesome artist or band?

(Especially when I have a tendency to dress like the lead singer. This was kind of an embarassing discovery. I have a magazine article where he was wearing something very similar. Lookimee, I’m Dave Grohl!)

Anyway, I figure it’s because of the typical concert experience I’ve endured time and time again. Unfortunately for me, going to see one of my favorite bands means that in order to get an awesome view, I need to be right up there in the mob of jumpy, shovey, drunky people. I don’t like that. I haven’t liked that since I was 19 and tore my ACL in a mosh pit (hahahahaha to all those people I totally lied to about how I tore my ACL. Ten years later and I come clean!….Ten years? Ugh, gross. I mean like five).

The Foo Fighters show in Auckland was probably one of the greatest shows I’ve been to. I’ve been to the Foo a few times before and I know they always put on a good show, but Auckland was a completely different experience. First of all, seeing the Foo in Canada meant the venue was most likely in an arena. In Auckland, it meant being outdoors in a field, bordered by an embankment. A natural amphitheatre.

Marjo and I were supposed to have Embankment tickets (read: spectate the show from about a quarter mile away on a slippery slope – it rained all day – with thousands of other people). The rest of the people we were with had Field tickets. So, we did something I would not have normally considered doing – we shamelessly scammed our way to better seating.

The Field ticket scanner machines were a cachophony of “beep BEEP…beep BEEP!” Then I go through, and the guys’ scanner goes “Bleep do bloop bloop” and my face froze and my mind raced and I figured I could at least suggest that his batteries were dying, but he didn’t even look at me, just thrust my ticket back at me and I rushed through, hoping Marjo had the same sort of luck, which she did, so BAM! So easy, I felt almost guilty. ALMOST.

We also managed to find ourselves at the front of the merchandise line, as well as the beer line. Believe it or not, I did feel guilty but that’s the beauty of it here – everyone jumps the line! And there’s no sour, snarky comments. Such a chill vibe – everyone is so laid back and just wants to have a good time. And I figure it was karma repayment because I let a not-so-inconspicuous beer-line-jumper in front of me during the World Rugby Cup festivities. Yep, a true philanthropist over here.

Everyone rocked hard in the rain…so hard, that the 50,000 concert goers caused tremors the whole time the Foo Fighters were on stage!

So, three Kiwis, two Canadians and a Scotsman were scrambling up a volcano…

…Kinda sounds like I’m prefacing a punchline, non?
However, the truth of the matter is – hiking up Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings fame) was definitely not a joke.

Well, except for maybe this part, but this was fairly early in the hike, when we we had enough energy for frivolous things like joking and shenanigans and the like. (I had told my sister to get on my shoulders and be a scary Orc and this is what she came up with.)

Anyway, moving to New Zealand has presented me with many challenges to date. Mostly emotional and mental challenges. Like missing all my loved ones.  Or battling a borer infestation (which are essentially termites that I think look like wee baby cockroaches). Or having my credit card scammed. Or coming to terms with the fact that there are NO GAIN DRYER SHEETS HERE (or dryer sheets of any kind!…Yep, really roughing it over here).

The Tongariro Crossing has proven to be the most physical challenge so far. (Close second – running after a carload of kids that tried to egg Leila-dog and me while we were out for a run. Ha!).

It took us almost 9.5 hours total. The Half Dome hike in Yosemite still holds the title for the longest hike I’ve done (roughly 10 hours), but scrambling to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe was far more grueling (even though I had tackled the Half Dome with some stretched ankle ligaments from a snowboarding snafu). Those hobbitses made it look so easy.

It was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in quite some time. And this was the amazing group that I had the privilege of sharing it with:

And this is an aerial shot of our accomplishment (the mountain in the middle!) – it looks a little less forgiving from this angle ;).