Monday, January 28, 2008

Bermuda - the life

I know, I've been naughty- I promised I'd write this time, and I've been horribly neglectful. But with good reason!
I arrived in Bermuda on Saturday the 20th, and immediately got attacked by customs, who dinged me for having electronics (no one warned me about this) so I coughed up $405 in duty. My company is fighting to get it back for me.
But the 2 hour flight delay and the customs argument had me late to meet my new boss and colleagues who were giving me an office tour and taking me out for dinner.

Finally the taxi driver took me to my place at "Dawkins Manor" - the room wasnt as bad as what I had read reviews about, but it wasnt the Shangri-La either. Got showered in less than 15 minutes was out the door.

I met up with 3 work colleagues, 2 of which were also staying at Dawkins and the guy who hired me. We all went for dinner and drank wine, and just generally got to know eachother.

I was exhausted, so off home to bed- but of course it was a sleepless night since jetlag has a horrid effect on me.

The next day Dan, one of my colleagues who lives with me took me to get my moped rental. Interesting experience, being called "babygirl" and godknows what else by an obese bermudian who felt the need to sing Beyonce's song "to the left, to the left" in order to remind me that i was driving on the wrong side of the road. (More on that later).

Met up with Mark and Ashton, and we all went out for lunch. Then I just chilled out and got organized, watched some t.v. as it was Sunday night and work was monday!

Got to work EARLY, because Dan was showing me how to get there, so i was there by 7:50.. talk about a keener when you dont have to be in till 8:30!

Learned LOTS, but generaly felt a bit neglected as no one was taking the time to really show me what to do, so after i had read all they gave me to read, i was sitting at my desk doing nothing. I bought some food on the way home and cooked for myself and Dan, who doesnt know how to cook and is missing his wife's handyness in the kitchen.

Day 2 of work was a lot busier, lots of work, lots of learning. Home and cooking with dan. That's pretty much how the week went: work all day, come home and cook with Dan, watch t.v., and in bed by 10.

Friday night I went out with Dan and Joel, and a bunch of other expats. Good night out, though I didnt really drink much since I got a call telling me I had to get back to the office before 10am Sat morning to help them with something! Working on a saturday on my first week there!

Instead, after drinking I went back to the office and sorted it out at 1am, so I could sleep in.

Saturday Dan and I tried to bike out to St.George, which is supposed to be beautiful and picturesque. It was a gorgeous beach day, so warm and everything- i even packed my snorkle. We had 6.4 KM to go before the rain started, and it was so cold and miserable we had to wait it out under a big palm tree for shelter!

Came back and watched t.v. to warm up.

Sunday went into the office to do some work bright and early (9am!) and then went out to St.George in the afternoon (this time properly bundled up). It's like a little colonial town, really pretty!

I love the fact that the water is crystal clear, you can see right down and watch the fish.

Anyways.. tummy is growling, so further updates I hope will be more frequent.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blow me to.. BERMUDA!??!?!?!?!?!?!

How Appropriate: that nearing the anniversary of my return from my adventures abroad I am told that I have landed a job I applied for, which involves spending a few months training where the company is based.. in bermuda.

And now the new adventure begins: stay tuned for everything from tax evasion to "how to ride a scooter in tropical rain".

And fear for me: I'm not crazy about seafood.

Out with the old, in with the new?

Out of lazyness, neglect, and the sheer cost of internet time in Raratonga, I failed to continue with the updates.. My Apologies, more to myself than anyone else, since only I know too well how much my memory can fail me, so this blog is all I have as concrete evidence of my experiences. To sum up from recollection:

After New Zealand I flew to Raratonga and spent a week and a half enjoying the small island. I found it to be overpriced, and rather dull.. particularly because the weather wasnt awesome which made laying on the beach kind of impossible. On the upside, I met some lovely people, had a great laugh out with them, and found the most expensive internet cafe yet: $9 NZD/20 mins!

After the gig was up, I got on my little plain back to Canada.. but sadly the fates had other plans. My flight was cancelled, and I ended up stranded in LAX on Dec.23, being told I probably wouldn't make it home for christmas. Several fits and bouts later, and spending a night in LAX freezing my ass off talking to a random old man by the McDonalds about hunting, and I was on a plane back to Vancouver.

End of.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Taupo to Christchurch (17hour journey), Christchurch to Akaora (the dolphins!)

Okay, so I finally decided to get out of Taupo and see the south island.. I caught the bus leaving at 1:00am in a rather deserted bus terminal:

that LUMP is my bag. yes, admire it in its midnight glory. do you feel the power?

the bus was late, I was bored, and stuck outside in the cold :(

The bus took me down to Wellington, where I arrived at 630am, to catch the ferry that got me into Picton at around 11:00am, where i had to wait till 1 to catch my "shuttle" to christchurch. I slept most of this journey. 17hours of painful bussing and ferrying. But the view on the way down was gorgeous..

i still havent mastered photography out of a moving vehicle. Pooh.

Christchurch: Arrived at 7pm, and went to find a backpackers. The next morning at around 9:35 I wandered over to a travel agent and asked about dolphin swimming. There was a shuttle leaving for akaora at 10:00, and I was going to be on it. Mad dash, all my stuff together, and off we went.

The shuttle to Akaora was a lovely scenic drive with a nice man who did the tour telling us all the info. We stopped off at a beach filled with rocks that were the kind that if you polished them they'd shimmer, they were all smooth. You couldnt go into the water because the surf was so strong, but the waves crashing were quite a sight against the black stone beach..

driving along the canterbury country, it looked all "lord of the rings" and "narnia" to me.. lovely, you can see why they chose to film there. The hills almost reminded me of scotland, though these were obviously nicer!

We arrived to Akaora harbour village (a french settlement) at around noon, giving me half an hour to eat and wander before having to be at the docks at 1 to suit up and get ready for my dolphin swimming.

The day was the warmest so far in new zealand, and beautifully sunny..

Wish you were here..

Got on the boat with my wetsuit only halfway up, and went dolphin hunting..

It didnt take even 20 minutes before we spotted our first dolphin (hector dolphins, the smallest dolphin species in existance and native to New Zealand) who was feeding.
Eventually we spotted a few more who approached the boat and were curious, so we jumped in to hang out with them asap before they lost interest.

Gorgeous creatures, notable by their round "mickeymouse ear" dorsal fin..

there was only four of us, the water was freezing, and i was knocking two stones together underwater to get the dolphins' attention. It worked, because we ended up with about 14 dolphins at one point hanging all around us, swimming under our feet, coming up touching distance and then swimming past. It was amazing.

that's me and the dolphin.. well, one of the many. It was pretty euphoric, with the boat guides calling out to us 'on your left!', "turn around, they're behind you", "there's one right there, look!"
They were everywhere, and they just came up, swum in circles around us for a while, and left just as quickly.
We waited around for them, but they only came back when they saw us preparing to get out of the water. It seems they were playing hard to get and the mass movement attracted them.

The dolphins all of a sudden, all 14 of them, disappeared. We found out over the radio that there were killer whales hanging around nearbye. So we got out of the water, knowing we werent going to see any more hector dolphins with the orcas in such close proximity, and went hunting for them instead..

As luck would have it, there was a pod of at least 7 orcas, with a MASSIVE bull hanging about. You could see his dorsal fin from miles away!

The orcas seemed to be in a playful family outing mood, since they had a calf with them. They swam alongside our boat.. literally, right along side, could have reached out and touched them!

Camera always at the ready, i managed a few shots..

the little smiley thing with his head out of the water is junior, the calf.

Shuttle back and chilled in Christchurch.
The next day was spent doing absolutely NOTHING. I was feeling lazy and i needed to just relax.
Today I wanted to look into seeing the rest of the south island, but it looks like i wont make it back intime to catch my flights, not to mention running SERIOUSLY low on money (my credit card got declined today. how fun for everyone)

So i'm laying low here, tomorrow going to the natural thermal pools for a swim, and just waiting till my flight on the night of the 16th to Raratonga.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Taupo (and the kill thrill club)

So today i was meant to skydive at 11am. Weathercheck at 10:45 and I have to wait some more. Then at 11:30 told that i'd be rebooked for 1pm because of weather. 1pm comes, weathercheck: no go, 2pm. 2pm weathercheck, no go, so 3pm. 3:15 they pick me up, and some waiting, more waiting and waiting and waiting.

the next thing I know I'm putting on a red jump suit and a pilots hat, and i'm stupidly calm. The good thing about travelling alone is there' s no one there to psych you out or to complain about your terror to, thus no terror is had.
Yeah, I wasnt even shaking, just did as I was told, got into the plane with the nice man (my Tandem Master, Steve, who was just a bit taller than me) and off we went to jump out of a perfectly functional aeroplane at the height of 12,000 feet. That's a 45second freefall for those wondering, and with a drog that SLOWS us down to 200km/h.

And here, without anyfurther ado, I give you: the flying argentine.

that's my name on the load board, that's me written to go up in the aeroplane.

Steve and I on our way to the aeroplane, which we shared with 4 other tandems.

the calm before the storm. On my left is Steve the tandem master, and on my right is Jason the cameraman following me down the jump. Neither of them look sane enough to be wanting to jump out of aplane with.

right about HERE is where reality descends and I realize the gravity of what i'm about to do. I also committed the error of looking down. I'm shitting a brick for a bout a split second before its too late to think because i'm flying.

...and god does it feel good.

"look ma, no hands!"

me, steve, and .. the earth. and we're spiralling towards it. Yes, spiralling. You cant see it, but we're actually spinning as we're falling. I have a dvd of it too, as proof. I was spinning.

dont ask me why i'm doing the "bunny rabbit" with my hands. At this point i was trying hard to breathe. You cant breathe up there. I mean, i was GASPING for breath because the wind was so strong that i couldnt inhale. So all effort was put into that instead of mantaining an air of photographic grace- forgive me.

"... and i'm free...........

.... free fallin'..."

I've put this here to dispell any opinions of my vanity. Lets face it, i look horrific. But there's reason behind it: i was literally gasping to have a breath, my eyes were tearing, we were spinning and falling at 200km/h, and well, i admit it, i'm a pansy.

by the way, did you not notice that i'm also shaking my cameraman's hand? yes, look at the glove, there's another hand there. in mid air. now you see why the fear?

Eventually though, it subsided..

and inside my head "please deploy parachute, please deploy parachute.."

its a bird, its a plane, its.. two people who'se parachute hasnt deployed yet.. ahem.

THANK FUCK FOR THAT, and as soon as it deployed, steve says to me all calmly, "welcome to my office".

I got out of there at 7pm, after wanting to jump at 11am. What a day of suspense and freewheeling.

Thankyou ladies and gentlemen, and goodnight.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Aukland to Taupo, New Zealand

New Zealand has been anticlimatic from the get go.

Aside from being on the plane with the girl Derek reffered to as "californication", nothing too amusing has happened since i've arrived. Mundanely found a hostel, and heard that the buses going south the next day were early in the morning, which I woke up too late to sort out. So i wandered, and tried sorting out my flights, which had me in furies calling Air Newzealand, STA Travel, Luthansa, and crying to some poor travel agent who wanted to sell me flights to christchurch.
The rest of the time has been spent on the internet just out of sheer laziness, sad i know.

But, but, last night I was in the supermarket buying food for my dinner when i heard.. "pero che, boludo, que me estas diciendo?"
i laughed, but thought, nawwwwww.. cant be.. then "pero negro, que queres?"

immediately, I had to know: so in spanish I asked "any chance you're argentinean?"

((for my anglophiles, the deduction was based on two slang words that argies are known for and no one else in hispanic society really uses as terms of endearment: Boludo (meaning literally: large balled one) and Negro (meaning literally: black one.. not racist.. just endearing).
Sure enough, it was an Argentine and a Uruguyan who were working in NZ.
They invited me to a bottle of wine after dinner, so more people cracking jokes about my horrific argentine/but-not-quite-argentine accent ensued. Great.
I can honestly say that was my first time EVER socializing with a guy around my age who is not a member of my immediate family from Argentina. Now coupled with Marina, the argie I met in Africa I can almost say I have friends in argentina *oh the bliss*

In that night of wine drinking other people were about the hostel and one such lad mentioned he was driving back south with his mates who had all come to aukland for a concert. I asked if they were hitting taupo on the way down, and managed to snag a ride.

It was only when I got into the large van full of young looking boys that I realized i was travelling with a group in which the oldest person aside from me was 17. Yes, a van full of angsty teenagers: my dad would have loved it, as they were dressed in my old manner which he loved so dearly. (ha. Ha. HA)

They were lovely, dropping me off at a backpacker's and carrying my bags up for me.
Unfortunately, it couldnt make up for the torrential downpour going on in Taupo, which made going out and seeing anything impossible, so I stayed in watching SHREK.

Tomorrow I'm skydiving.. this should be interesting. (dont worry mom, it'll be fine. If you dont hear from me in a couple days, then you can worry)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The New Itinerary of Glory

Okay. so another day wasted, as I was bounced from STA TRAVEL to Air New Zealand, to Luthansa, back to Air Newzealand.. but new itinerary sorted as follows:

Flying out of Christchurch on 17th of Dec (12:45 am) and arriving to
Raratonga (yes, instead of Fiji I'll be goingto the cook islands) on the 16th at 6:25am. Hurrah, an extra day!

Then flying out of Raratonga on the 21st and arriving to Vancouver on the 22nd at 11:10pm.

I have an 8 hour stopover in LA.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Townsville: From Backpacker to Flashpacker.

I went in the morning early to have my injection so I could catch the 930 bus to Townsville. While waiting for the nurse I went to get breakfast at the supermarket: just some fruit that i was goingo to make into fruit salad and have with yoghurt.. when some boy came up to me and asked if that was my breakfast.

"can I join you?"

"no, sorry, my hostel doesnt allow strangers"

"that's okay, we can go and eat at the lagoon"

"oh, but I need a knife to cut things and what not"

"dont worry, I have all that".

So I couldnt get out of anymore, and I sat and ate breakfast of fruit salad and yoghurt with a frenchman who had been sleeping on the beach for the last week because he didnt like hostels. Bizaar.

Lucky I had a good escape, since i needed to get my injection. I swear I'm getting better. The Irish Rockstar came to hold my hand, and it was over and we were off on the bus. Irish Rockstar came with me, he wanted us to go to magnetic island. The only way i could think of ditching him (since I had already expressed NO INTEREST in seeing magnetic island) was to get Derek to come pick me up (since he was already in townsville) and have it seem like I was meeting up with him and the irish lads from the boat (who had actually all gone their seperate ways). He got the hint eventually, and I parted with mr.Rockstar, and his stories of meeting Damien Rice and Gwen Stefani, and all the tales of sex, drugs and rockandroll you'd expect from such a character.

Derek took me to the hostel he was kipping at, and we decided to be flashpackers for the day, living it up beyond our means (or at least mine, anyway!).

We wandered around townsville, which hasnt got much, other than a picturesque marina..

and a waterfall in the middle of nowhere.

Spending the afternoon wandering we headed to the bar for a drink (early afternoon really) and sat out on the patio watching the people go by and just chatting.
Derek gave me carte blanche to choose where we were having our flashy dinner, so naturally I went for the tapas bar.

Gorgeous food! Empanadas (well, not really, but close enough), Chorizo, Breaded Salmon, Morrocan Barracuda, Garlic Chicken wings, and Savoury Beef.. not to mention all washed down with a yummy merlot. We definitely enjoyed the food, and since Derek was kind enough to get dinner, I bought us the Chocolate Fondue for dessert. By the end of the extravegant eating affair that my body was completely not used to, i was knackered, so home and tucked in by at least 9:30pm!

The next morning I spent fighting with airline company after airline company who kept trying to send me elsewhere to change my flights to Fiji. Fiji, now in military unrest due to a cou, is no longer a desirable vacation spot, so I need to go elsewhere.. but the assholes want to charge me for it, even though STA TRAVEL has told me that I should not be penalized for changing those tickets since I have no choice due to advice from all foreign affairs offices in any decent country.

After all that hassle and no success, Derek and I went for breakfast and a wander before he got his boat to magnetic Island and me my bus to Cairns.

I arrived in Cairns at around 8pm and bumped into Colin, who had been on my bus but i was too asleep to realize!
We went to his hostel and I immediately was grabbed into the conversation of three lads who were completely wrecked. I ate my meal humouring them, and ended up in a poker match (only a $5 buy in, and since i wasnt drinking its the cost of the drink, no loss). I did eventually lose, though later we played pool doubles my team one. Hurrah.

Early to bed though, since I had to catch my flight to new zealand in the morning.

Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands Sailing trip

So after an overnight bus to Airlie Beach, I sorted myself out and spent the morning lazing around and figuring out how to get my next rabies jab, which was due that day. Surprise surprise, they'd have to courier over the vaccine so it wouldnt be immediate..

So i'd have to get on my sailboat and hope that it was all okay and delay the vaccine for three days. UGH.

Was at the meetingpoint at the marina with my little backpack and realized everyone was carrying copious amounts of alcohol. I saw two boys who had each of them a case of beer and a box of wine. I jokingly suggested that any onlooker might think they had a problem, but was reassured in finding that one was scottish and the other irish: no problems there.

Boat stocked and us ready, we set sail- or rather, we didnt, we used the motor most of the time. 23 passengers and three crew, comprising of a fat boy named Jimmy, an immature idiot named Eddie and a lazy girl named Sarah.

Due to the crew's lack of involvment or effort to create a good social atmosphere, everyone sort of grouped off into their natural language. The french spoke with themselves, the germans as well, and of course, I hung out with the four irishmen and one scotsman, who by the end of the trip swore i had an irish accent stronger than their own. Who knew.

The sun set on our first day of sailing as we headed out to a bay and dropped anchor, everyone drinking in their little cliques and waiting to be fed. I imagined some sort of social activities would be organized by the "hostess", sarah,but apparently she didnt recieve the briefing on what a hostess actually does.

The Lads: Thomas (left), Derek (white cowboy hat staring fondly at his drink), Cathal (middle) and Danny (right). Collin had run amuck at this point as he seemed determined that with so many woman stranded on a boat he would for sure be able to manage to convince one to give him the time of day!

our mast..

"Fat Jimmy", our skipper. An all around asshole.
No, really, i'm not just annoyed because the entire sailing trip was dependent on having a sociable crew and him being the leader of that was majorly lacking. But on the first night, everyone wanted to hear music. So music was played, but HIS music. Some of the irish boys wanted to hear something OTHER than EMINEM whilst sailing peacefully through, and he kicked up a fuss so much that the deckhand, Eddy, scolded the PASSENGERS telling them no music would be played if fighting continued. Funny, seeing as the only one kicking up the fight was Fat Jimmy, our "skipper".

That night was spent just having a few drinks (someone gave me some wine so i wouldnt feel so unsociable) and then sleeping above deck. But since it was destined to rain, I found a covered area under the sail. Others werent so lucky and got a nice wakeup. Serves them right for having gone to bed so early (8pm) and not realized the weather's likeliness for a negative turn.

The next morning we were taken to a beautiful beach to enjoy. But the catch: you'd have to wear a stingsuit, so that none of the icky sea creatures would sting you to death. It really does take the pleasure away from swimming. Feeling the water all over your body whilst you lay starfish style floating doesnt quite feel the same when you're bundled up in a allover body suit. NEXT PLEASE!

Eddy, the horny deckhand, spent most of his time wearing either a halo, or a boa or something else rather extraordinarily strange. Luckily he wasnt much bother, as he dedicated most of his persuits to the attentions of one girl. Unfortunately, the same girl that the skipper was interested in... so essentially both our crucial crew abandoned any form of social interaction (as is their job) to try and chase after the same girl for three days. Talk about professionalism.

the view from the lookout point on the island with the beautiful beach.

I gave up on the stinger suit for this one, the water was about two inches deep, I was fine.

more views from the beach.

After the beach we did some snorkelling, seeing some pretty cool underwater creatures. Though I think it wasnt as good as thailand, I still did get a fright when I bumped into a fish that was in all seriousness 225cm, and looking grumpy.

The reef was nice and so the rest of the day was spent in and out of the water snorkelling, sunbathing, and as for the lads: drinking.

Derek and I coming above deck with our stellar cowboy hats. (yes, I am now the proud owner of a cow boy hat.)

That night again, people went to bed early, despite the suggestion by the crew that a party was afoot. The party ended up being the three crew members putting on various strange costumes and huddling round the target girl (who the two male crewmen were going for).
The rest of us mere mortals just sat there watching the night get colder and wondering why we ended up on the boat that had no fun.

Sleep came soon, even though Collin spent so much of the night snoring that it was farely restless, and ended with me and a frenchman throwing wine, bottles of sunscreen and even poking him with a large stick to shut him up.

The next day we were taken to a rocky beach to snorkel some more... but the snorkelling was crap and the beach was unwalkable due to all the broken coral that was on there. We all sat on a rock waiting to be picked up again.
At least it had a nice view..

Another snorkel spot where the tide was in so visibility was shit, plus little jelly things were stingin us had us all less impressed with the trip, sincethe crew just taxied us out in a dinghi to that beach and left us there while they got about their business on the boat.

Finally we headed back, onto tierra firma and away from the crew. The whitsundays really were beautiful, but they would have been a million times better if we had actually SEEN them, rather than being taken to a few beaches and left for dead while the crew hung out and socialized amongst themselves instead of making any effort whatsover. It was a waste of money, more could have been done in a dinghy, though at least I got to meet some friendly lads.

Found my hostel in Airlie beach and the creepy manager, Doug, who couldnt stop talking even if you paid him told me he was giving me a "free upgrade" because of my bad sailing experience. That landed me in HIS room, sharing with him and a few others, including an a guy who used to be the bassist for an irish band who was pretty big but left it all because things had gone sour.

Hurrah, I dropped my stuff and met up with the lads for a night of drinking, as Derek's birthday was hitting at midnight. We went to the boat's afterparty, despite having reservations that the party would be shit. Yes, it was. Reservations confirmed. We got out of there on the first taxi possible, and continued the festivities, while giving a little break for me to slip into mcdonalds and buy derek a slice of chocolate cake for his birthday, the big 2-8.

Me and Colin (Dublin Irishman)

Me and Derek (Glasgie Scotsman)

Me and Fran (probably the nicest german I have met to date..and so ungermanlike!)

and Derek managed to get all the ladies to give him a hug and a kiss for the camera, here's my turn.

so by the end of the sailing experience, I could be summed up in a slogan:

After leaving the drunkards I headedback to my hostel for sleeps.
The next day I went for breakfast with the Irish Rockstar and realized he was a bit off in the head. Stereotypical for someone who's lived that kind of life, he was talking about himself like he was narrating some dramatic autobiographical tragedy, and living his life like a video camera was following him. Too much melodrama for me, so I went for the internet cafe to chill.
Bought and cooked dinner, giving an impromptu cooking lesson on how to make my Chicken in Basil, Wine and Tomato
sauce with Garlic and Lemon Mashed Potatoes to a boy in the hostel who was heading off to be a chef on a sailboat and had never cooked a thing in his life.

Stayed in that night watching "Big Daddy" and chilling before my bus to Townsville, but was rudely awoken at 4am by the Irish Rockstar, who seemed to think he had had some sort of epiphany and wanted me to go and sit on the beach with him at 4am so we could "talk about life philosophies". FUCK OFF, IM SLEEPING. (okay, i was more polite because I pitied him. But seriously, what the fuck?)