Sunday, 29 November 2015

Road Trippin

Day 120- We arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in the early afternoon with anticipation in our hearts. Cue theme music of your own choice as we re-entered the first world. It was a bit sureal to land in Australia. We experienced a degree of culture shock as we arrived at the airport, grabbed our bags and quickly hopped on the train to downtown Brisbane. Everyone around us was speaking english, garbage didn't flood the sidewalks, they HAD sidewalks, the air smelt clean and fresh and we had just paid an outrageous price for a 30 minute train ride. I also immediately hated my entire wardrobe and it seemed as though Mike wasn't as tall as I remembered him. We jumped off the train at the Central Station in downtown Brisbane and walked 2 minutes to our Base Backpackers Hostel.  Things were noticeably different here and we swallowed hard as we passed $45 CAD across the counter to pay for 2 bunk beds in a shared dorm room. We enjoyed a pub meal in the hostel for a whopping $25 dollars, a sharp contrast to the $6 dollar meals we were used to. We cheersed to our new destination before heading to bed. 

Day 121- After doing some laundry, we set off to explore our new city. Our hostel was in a great location and most shops and eateries were within walking distance. We quickly discovered how much things really were in Australia when we went to McDonalds. You can always gauge how expensive a country is by visiting a McDonalds. We bought two breakfast sandwiches with a coffee and hashbrown for $18 dollars, which is approximately $9 dollars more than we'd spend in Calgary, on the same meal. From here on out we would have to make our own meals if this trip was going to last. I guess we'd also have to be less picky and eat all of the colors of the rainbow. "Yea Mike I know, weird right? Skittles totally ripped us off!".


I made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish before I left for this trip and one of those things was to learn how to longboard in Australia. Part of this bucket list item would require us to buy longboards. Therefore we made it a task for our day to shop for some skateboards! A bus ride and a 5 minute walk later we arrived at a skateboard store. Mike was in heaven and told the sales clerk of his glory days riding his electric skate board to and from work, wind in his hair, over mountains and highways, crossing gravel roads, grass fields and sometimes even ice, waving at cyclists as he passed them on the cycle track. The sales clerk was impressed and offered us helpful information while picking a board. For Mike, he recommended a surf board longboard. It is literally a surf board on wheels. For me as a beginner skateboarder, he suggested a drop down longboard. We test drove a few until we each picked the perfect one for us. Mike left the store with one of the biggest smiles on his face that he's had so far on the trip. I too was smiling as I was excited to be that much closer to checking off another bucket list item.

The sales clerk also told us about a skate meet up that happens on the first thursday of every month and we figured it would be a good time to play with our boards as well as meet other friends. Oh yea and there was a free BBQ... We were interested. 

Day 121- The day had come. After months of research and hundreds of reviews, we were going to see our new home in person and we hoped all our research paid off.  We had booked a campervan for a month and a half of our stay in Australia and this was the day we got to meet JP (that is the name of our van).  We rented a Awesome campervan. You may be thinking "well thats great but what company did you use?... To which we would reply, it's Awesome... and you must be thinking "yes you said that, but who did you rent the campervan from?". Awesome Campers.. look, I could do this all day, so I think we should move along. We rented our Awesome Campervan for $52 CAD a day and it even had a little fridge on the inside, so if we commited to cooking most of our meals, we would be able to afford Australia. How AWESOME. 

Don't look now but I think I can see the car Mike sold for this trip in the background. Eyes this way MK, no crying while driving. 

After Mike meticulously read over all of the van rental documents we were on the road. First we stopped at a mall to pick up anything we felt we were missing from the campervan, which were only a few small items such as mosquito coils and propane tanks. Next, we went to the grocery store and purchased all of the food we'd need for the next few days. With that we were off, ready to find our first free rest area to sleep at. I purchased an app called Wiki Camps that offers users an easy way to find campsites, rest areas, information stops and points of interest. It has great info and allows you to filter specific items, such as sites with toilets and showers. It is the best app available and I would highly recommend it. 


We found a free rest area 40 minutes outside of the city and arrived just as the sun had set. It was a dark and quiet pull over area just beside the highway and there was only one other car parked at the end of the grass area. As soon as we got out of our car, a large, dark shadow with Albert Einstein type hair approched us and said "Oy"... This is a story best saved for our return home, over a drink in our home with locked doors. If you ever want to hear it just ask about Charlie. 

Day 121- We woke up after a very long night with little sleep and were excited to unpack and organize our campervan. It was really fun to pick a home for our clothes, miscellaneous items and a food pantry. Once this important organizing was complete, we headed back into Brisbane. We stopped at the grocery store for a few forgotten items and took the opportunity to make our first lunch in JP(the van). The beauty of our campervan is that we had the freedom to pull over anywhere and cook up a quick meal or make a couple coffees. Our first lunch was a tuna salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing and dorito chips on the side. 

After our lunch we went for a quick skate and packed up to make tracks towards the skate board meet up. We were so tired from the night before that we took this opportunity to close the blinds and catch a NAP ATTACK before the meet up began at 6:30.

As the sun fell we grabbed our new boards and hit the paths while we waited for fellow skaters to arrive. Slowly but surely, kids and adults either rode in on their boards, drove themselves or got dropped off by their parents. Soon, there were a bunch of skateboarders testing their limits by racing downhill on the path, with helmets and padded slide gloves. Mike and I watched these skilled individuals fly past us down the hill and carve each corner with grace. Mike went for a few runs on the downhill portion while I used the beautifully paved pathways to practice my skills on my longboard. 

It was a great feeling for me and I felt like I had control of my movements. Way safer than that crazy mini skateboard Mike had me practicing on in Calgary. I knew right then that I would be able to put a check on my bucket list. FUN!!!


While we watched the more skilled skaters drift around corners, we were welcomed by the crew and many took the time to say hello and ask us where we were from. Some tested out Mikes board and others gave me tips on where to hold my weight while on my board. We soon learnt that the people who organize this meet up were two of the friendly people we'd chatted with, Ana and Michael. As part of the meet up, they cooked up sausages and we were offered a free dinner with some Australian passion fruit pop. 

We spoke more with Ana and Michael and told them of our first night in our campervan, as well as of our other travels.  Ana told us of her recent travels as well as her amazing efforts in Vietnam to develop community downhill skateboarding programs. Ana and Michael's commitment to running the skateboarding meet up is inspirational and truly selfless. So many kids and others have a safe, fun and exciting way to spend their time and I think similar programs in Calgary would be a huge benefit to our youth. They were so kind, that they offered us, who were nothing more than two strangers to them, a place to stay for the night. We couldn't refuse the offer and spent the night with our new friends in their Brisbane home, enjoyed a hot shower and slept Charlie free for the entire wonderful night. 

Day 122- Michael was off to work in the morning (Ana's Michael, not my Michael) and Ana fed us some delicious homemade coffee. We felt like we were deprived of good coffee since we only had instant coffee in the campervan but realistically we had only spent one night in the van, so I don't know why Ana's coffee seemed so good. We said our goodbyes and thanked our gracious host before hitting the road to Mike's old stomping grounds on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. 

Mike was excited to show me his old hood in Surfers Paradise and I was hoping we would run in to some of his old flings from his younger days. As soon as we arrived, we parked the van and took our boards to the streets. First stop was the pub Mike worked at as a glassy (also known as a bus boy), when he was 18. 

Next we went for a roll on the boarwalk. When Mike and I bought the skateboards, it was for moments like these. 


While we were cruising, we watched as a girl wipe out on her Segway. She fell hard and she was really lucky she wasn't hurt. After we helped her up and sent her on her way, Mike and I couldn't help but laugh much to hard. Yes we are bad people but please don't judge us until after you have seen someone go down on a segway. It's like a slowmotion spinning, flailing symphony of bikini. Don't worry, we learnt our lesson shortly afterwards when we had a fall of our own... How embarassing. 😔 

I guess that's what we get for laughing at someone elses misfortune. We took this as our cue to leave and drove to a spot to make some lunch. 

After lunch Mike took me to his old house. We even knocked on the door of his old neighbours home to see if she still lived there. Unfortunately she had moved, along with her 4 boys. This however did not   stop Mike from telling me about all the shenanigans from "back in the day" in their beautiful flat.


Next we drove out of town to our campsite at Bochow Park for the night. It was a nice little parking lot with clean bathrooms and a large amount of bugs. The flies were intolerable. Birds flew all around us from tree to tree. They looked like a cross between a parrot and a pigeon. 

I tried everything I could to keep the biting flies off of me. For some reason they always fly by your ears, eyes and nose. So so frustrating. Luckily I found a solution. 

After we cooked a delicious pasta dinner, we followed another couple in their campervan to the Springbrook Natural Bridge, with hopes of seeing the glow worms in the dark. 

We arrived at the National Park after the sun had set and the sky was pitch black. We used torches to get down the small trail. We only knew we'd reached the cave by the sound of rushing water and the bright reflection on the walls from the glow worms. The picture below doesn't even come close to capturing how bright the glow worms were. Without the sound of the water and the echo from the cave, you would be sure that you were just looking up at the stars on a clear night. It was pretty rad. The photo doesn't do it justice but here it is anyhow.

We drove back to our parking lot, ahem I mean campsite and tucked in for the night. 

Lisa's Log, Day 1 with no shower: The breeze in the air helped to cool us down although my skateboarding efforts forced a large amount of sweat to build on my skin. No odor is present. Skin is slightly oily. The addition of mosquito repellent has addded a new layer to the skin. Hair is still in tack, curls are slightly frizzy. Hair needed to go into a pony tail mid day. 

Day 123- After some delicious muesli and milk for breakfast, we went back to the Natural Bridge at the National Park to do the hike in the daytime and to see what the waterfall and cave actually looked like.

Mike was feeling pretty tired and I needed to work on the blog so we went back to Surfers Paradise and sat at a cafe for a while. We also stopped at a few hardware stores hoping to find a solution to our bug problem. We bought some netting and hit the road again in search for a place to sleep. We found a nice little rest area with few bugs and many other campers around. Mike got working on our new netting and I started dinner. 


Mike had triped a few days prior and his elbow was progressively getting more and more swollen. It was quite painful to the touch so I started nagging him that we needed to get it checked out the next morning. For the time being, he took some advil to help with the inflamation and wrapped a tenser bandage around the elbow.

Lisa's Log, Day 2 with no shower:  The fan at the cafe helped with the heat. A storm passing through also kept the temperature down. Mike's beard appears to have tangles. A minor odor has presented itself by Mike's underarms. My skin appears to be glowing but not as a womans skin glows when pregnant. There appears to be no shower in sight. A small fragment of concern may be begining in my stomach. The search continues. 

Day 124- I woke up early and made some coffee and breakfast while Mike tried to catch a few more zzz's. His elbow had disrupted his sleep and he was already lacking energy. 


After we sent the picture above to Mike's family, his brother Phil was quick to tease us about our "campervan". He argued that we were not in fact living in a campervan but instead living in a minivan. He wanted to see a photo of the whole rig so Mike took it upon himself to model it for us. Eat your hearts out ladies.. don't forget, he's all mine!

By the way Phil you made us like our van less after your comments.... you took that away from us. And for that, we will GET YOU BACK! :(

After taking off the tenser bandage and inspecting Mike's injury, we quickly realized how far the swelling had spread. He had also developed a red color around the bump and his arm was hot to the touch. I insisted that we see a doctor to make sure nothing was broken even though Mike assured me his elbow was still intact. As we are foreigners in Australia, we had to pay the upfront costs to see the doctor and any additional fees would be submitted by the hospital through our insurance company. The initial fee was over $450.00. 


After some blood tests and xrays the doctors determined that Mike's elbow was not broken. Although, he did have an infection. The major concern was for the metal plate in Mike's arm and the lack of blood flow in that area. If the infection were to reach that area it would mean removing the plate. It was not a risk the doctors were going to take and with that, Mike was admitted to the hospital. We were very surprised to hear these results and very glad we went in. The alternative would have been surgery to remove Mike's plate, which would have been a whole new experience overseas.

He's doing better now I swear.


After 10 hours and two rounds of IV antibiotics, some free food and coffee, Mike was discharged with a round of oral antibiotics and strict instructions to watch the elbows progress to make sure it didn't move up his arm. As we left the hospital after 10 o'clock at night, we wouldn't have time to drive to a rest area. So instead we found a quaint little industrial park and set up camp for the night. No one bothered us and we both slept quite peacefully. 

Lisa's Log, Day 3 with no shower: My feet smell like salt and vinegar chips. Dirt has begun to form in the cracks and wrinkles of our skin. When I rub my chest or neck, little balls of dirt and oil roll off my skin. A new hospital odor has taken over Mike's body. The lack of showers is becoming a problem.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Rags to Riche$

Day 117- It was an early start to our day as we headed to the Coron airport with Mark. We flew to Manila together before saying farewell and heading off to our next destination. 

Just a quick delivery to our plane before our flight could take off though. 

We arrived to Singapore late at night and the city was alive with energy. We checked in to our hostel and grabbed a cup-of-noodles soup to satisfy our hunger before heading to bed for a less than restful sleep with our multiple roommates.


We awoke with a new pep to our step as we checked out of our hostel and hailed a taxi to our next location. Every christmas Mike's parents get him a gift certificate to the Fairmont Hotels. It has become somewhat of a tradition for Mike to receive this gift. Usually we make a ski weekend out of it and head to Banff or Lake Louise but this year he decided to hold on to it. Well, Singapore just so happens to have a Fairmont Hotel. Did we know this before we booked our flight here? Yes, yes we did! So off we went to our next location, excited to see what was in store for us. 

When we arrived, we were greeted like royalty and with such respect. This was a surprise as we looked liked wet rats with backpacks. But this didn't stop them from treating us with exceptional customer service. Then, we arrived at our room.

It was beautiful...and clean...with no roomates... and it had a fantastic view.

and it had a desk?!

and... last but not least... it had a large, spacious, THREE piece bathroom!!!!

Originally, Mike and I had big plans to maximize our short two night stay in Signapore. However, after a FaceTime with my sister and her shocked reaction to my abysmal state of aesthetic affairs, Mike and I decided that immediate measures needed to be taken. I needed to turn my one eyebrow back in to two and Mike needed to vacate any new inhabitants from his beard... so we cleared our schedule and the Fairmont became our activity for the day. We had a lot of items to make use of for this activity and Mike wisely collected them together in order to take inventory.


After we plucked, scrubbed, washed, exfoliated, brushed, combed, tweezed, clipped, flossed and showered for over two hours, we were back baby! Hold on.... did I say in the last blog "how unnecessary showers seemed when we were in paradise!"?  I must have been intoxicated by the ocean air, because on this day, the shower was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Here we are looking fresh and clean. 



After our showers and hours of mindless television, two luxuries that we have missed so much, we went to the cocktail party that we were invited to as guests on the executive floor. We were told that from the hours of 5 to 7:30, we could enjoy appetizers and drinks for free. Well, they didn't mention that the appetizers consisted of a salad bar, a pasta bar, a great selection of hors d'oeuvres and deserts! We quickly turned appetizers into dinner... is this faux pas? I don't think the Fairmont knew what they were getting into when they allowed two broke backpackers into their hotel and offered us free stuff. 

Once we had enjoyed some delicious wine to the last drop, we went back to our room to relax and catch up on phone calls to our in-laws, our nieces and nephews, as well as catch up on emails and other clerical items. It also happened to be Halloween in Singapore, which they don't celebrate to the same calibre that we do back in Canada. We had bought Mike a costume while on our travels in Vietnam, unsure of where we'd end up for the holiday. We knew we didn't want to go out, as the hotel was just too goooood, but we also didn't want his costume to go to waste. So we dressed Mike up as the famous Star Wars character that he is so often told he looks like, Ewan McGregor also known as Obi Wan Kenobi. 



We settled in for a movie and slept in the most comfortable bed my body has ever had the pleasure of laying on. 

Day 119- We became very accustomed to waking up early with the rising sun while on our trip in the Philippines and not even our ultra comfy bed could keep us asleep when the sun rose, around 6:30 am. Breakfast at one of the many restaurants at the Fairmont was also included with our stay. We chose the one with the biggest buffet and began enjoying every selection of egg, bacon, sausage, muesli, yogurt, bagels, pastries, pancakes, fruit shakes, juice, coffee, toast and even signapore specialties. I ate way to much and was full until after lunch, which was just another win for our backpackers budget! 

After breakfast we went to the famous Willow Stream spa to enjoy the free hot and cold pools offered to guests. It was nice to relax and feel like we were getting pampered, even if we weren't getting treatments. Then, it was time... sadly, after 28 hours of being within the hotel walls, it was time to check out. This left us with one afternoon to see as much of Singapore as possible. It was GO TIME!!

Mike and I always find ourselves at a zoo on every trip we've ever been on and this one would be no different. We had heard that the Singapore Zoo was worth the trip, so off we went. 

We bought two tickets for $32 each and it would take us around 3 to 4 hours to get through it. The parks estimate was quite accurate and with the exception of a few rain showers to slow us down, it took us about 3 hours. 

We saw many beautiful animals at the zoo but I thought we'd share some of our favorites. Below is a gorgeous white tiger.

Cute little monkeys during feeding time.

The King in his den.

My favorite animal, the gentle giant. The elephant. 

Our visit was cut short by heavy rain fall but it was ok because we had more to see before catching our flight that evening. Our next destination was Garden By The Bay. An incredible display of plants and flowers perfectly landscaped into two architectural skyscrapers. We had the choice between the two exhibits and thanks to the advice from a man in line, we chose Cloud Forest. Had we more time we would have visited both but we were bound by the clock. Two tickets to Cloud Forest cost us $30 dollars. When we wallked in, it was as if we entered a futuristic world ruled by nature. 

I would live in that world.

I don't know much about flowers, but what I do know is that I like this one a lot. 

A flower garden built from LEGO! I wonder if my little Kenadee could build this?

Color was everywhere.

And then the mist came to feed these wild inhabitants. 

They even had a floor dedicated to crystals and rock formations. That's Mike in the Yellow.

Phil, Becky, what makes a georock?...


The structures on the outside of the building light up by night and apparently make for quite the show but we couldn't wait to see it as we had a 10pm flight to catch. The Fairmont provides guests with a room to shower and freshen up in before their departure. We took advantage of a few more shampoos and conditioners before we headed on our way to the airport. Singapore was good to us, it gave me my eyebrows back and Mike's beard no longer whispered sweet nothings to me at night. The asia portion of our trip was over, we were ready for the next chapter of our adventure.