Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We Live And We Learn

I can't believe we have been here over one week and I have no discernible tan lines to show off. Even Pete's first-day farmer burn has disappeared, and we both look as pasty white as we did when we got off the plane. I had expected to already have my name carved into a shady palm tree, marking my spot on a beach for the months to come. I had visions of spending Christmas Day under said palm tree, a fruity drink in hand and the sound of waves permanently ringing in my ears.

It was not to be. Such is life on an island paradise during the tail end of rainy season. There have been more days of cloud and rain then there have been of sun and shine. We have been somewhat house bound, not wanting to get caught out in a torrential downpour. Couple that with the fact that my leg prevents me from much adventuring or exploring, and we are a pretty boring pair indeed.

One of our few ventures out is definitely worth noting though. We were very pleased to be invited to a beautiful Christmas Eve party held by virtual strangers. It all began a couple of months ago with my perusal of the website islandfriendsroatan.com in search of volunteer opportunities. I sent an inquiry to the main contact, Judith - that email was returned with scores of information about what we can do, and later a generous invite to attend a combination Christmas/Birthday shindig at Judith's amazing beachfront house.

Island friends, indeed! We were spoiled with meeting interesting people, enjoying delightful live music, and of course, a Christmas feast. We got our turkey, stuffing and candied yam fix for the festive season, washed down with some potent margaritas! It served as a wonderful introduction to the generosity and friendliness of people in this small island community, of which we are very happy to be a part of.

This is me *trying* to get dressed up for such an occasion. Does the boot match my dress?

Aside from a fabulous party and a few casual road trips to become familiar with the island, we have been entertaining ourselves with games, movies and research on this new place we call home. Having not even known that this island existed prior to being contacted about the house sitting job, the discovery of facts about it's history and diversity has been quite interesting.

Thus, I thought I would take this occasion of uneventful travel reporting to post some lessons in geography and history, so that we all can be enlightened.

Yay! Learning!

Roatán is one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras (circled in red). It is a small island, roughly 33 miles long, and only 4 miles across at it's widest point. It is near the Mesoamerican barrier reef system (second largest in the world next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), making it an important vacation destination for scuba divers. Since cruise ships began stopping on the island, tourism has been boosted to the primary economic industry, followed by fishing.

It inhabits roughly 30,000 people who are quite varied in their ancestry, including: Garifunas (descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people), Caracoles (European and British-Afro-Caribbean descent), spanish speaking Mestizo people from the mainland, and of course the numerous people from more modern countries (US, Canada, Britain, etc.) that have moved to the island and helped lay the tourist infrastructure. We expected to be using and improving our Spanish on a regular basis as it is the official language of Honduras, but we have been shocked by the amount of English that is spoken here.

This island has housed quite a "mixed bag" of people throughout time. After the Spanish invaded to capture slaves, they more devastatingly killed off all of the indigenous locals with their Eurasian diseases, to which the indigenous had no immunity. Since then, the Bay Islands were visited by traders, pirates, various individual settlers, and even military forces involved in the colonizing struggle between mostly Britain and Spain. Roatán was under British rule off-and-on between 1550 and 1700, but as it was largely unprotected, English, Dutch and French pirates used it as a base to raid cargo ships being shipped to Spain with goodies from the "New World".

Through the early 1800s, Roatán became the new home of the defeated and deported Black Carib people as well as settlers from the Cayman Islands following the British abolition of slavery there. For a short while mid-century, Britain declared all of the Bay Islands to be its colony. Within ten years, they formally gave it back to Honduras. In the latter half of the century, settlers came from all over the world and began shaping Roatán's future by developing a successful fruit trading company.

Population growth continued in the 20th century, largely from an influx of Spanish speaking migrants form mainland Honduras. In the last few decades, this influx tripled the resident population. This large movement in people, however, does not compare to the overwhelming flow of the tourists in most recent years. While this new industry has brought some obvious economic benefit to the residents of Roatán, it does not come without its obvious challenges, both culturally and environmentally. Time will tell if this little island and its inhabitants are up for the challenge.

So. Now you know.

Friday, December 24, 2010

House Sitting Resources

You too can be a professional homeless bum! Check out these three websites to get you started:

www.housecarers.com - This website has the most extensive list of opportunities that I've seen. However, the website itself is hard to use.

www.mindmyhouse.com - Much better functionality, but fewer listings. This is the website where we got both of our jobs from.

www.trustedhousesitters.com - Brand new website, and it looks very easy to use, even though I have no experience with it yet.

I have been asked for this information so many times that I thought I should post it for all to see. Just don't go stealing our next job! =)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

¡Bienvenidos a Roatán!

It is awfully hard to believe that just a week ago we were saying goodbye to one home, and braving the icy mountain roads to begin our journey to another. Our few days in between driving and flying south were jam packed with quick goodbyes, long car rides, and a whole lot of swelling in my bum leg. It was a painful journey - to say goodbye once again to our beloved family and friends, and rush rush rush (as fast as my leg would allow) to pull it all together in time.

Once at the airport, the bum leg was actually a bit of a blessing! Being in a wheelchair got us through the airport faster; we were bumped up in security and got to use the fast lane at customs. We were even so lucky as to get better seats on the plane to Houston, thanks to our friend Rina who just happened to be working the counter for our flight. Incompatible flight times meant spending a night in Houston, which actually turned out to be a good thing - it gave my swollen leg a much needed break. All in all, our migration was less excruciating then it probably could have been, and is making me consider keeping the walking cast to whiz through airports for future flights!

Waiting for us at the airport in Roatán was the home owner, Michael. After so much back-and-forth over email the past few months, it felt like meeting an old friend. And like any good old friend would do, he ensured that our first moments on the island were as they should be - sitting on the beach with a fruity, slushy drink in hand! We enjoyed the cool drinks and breeze in the shade while watching a german shepherd play fetch with a coconut in the sand.

Yup. We're not in Canada anymore. Goodbye piles of snow and cuddling by a fire to keep warm. Hello pristine sand and tank tops!

After that initial few moments of island bliss, we spent a lot of the next two days driving around. Michael showed us the ins and outs of the west side of the island - where to find the best beach, the best grocery store, the best gym, and much more. We also experienced many of our
Roatán firsts - our first bug bites (me, of course), our first sun burn (Pete, of course), and our first pasteles (similar to an empanada, but a slightly different Honduran treat). With all our time spent exploring, soaking up all the ambiance and bright sun that this little island has to offer, we developed our first impression as well.

That being: Umm, yeah. This will do nicely. Whether we are spending our time relaxing on a white sand beach or ambling around the gorgeous property Michael has entrusted to us, we can definitely think of worse ways to spend the next six months. It is surreal to think of this tropical paradise as "home", when we were previously only ever exposed to such a place in 1 or 2 week breaks from work - yet always vowing to one day experience day-to-day life as a tropical-islander. What was once seen as an unattainable dream many years ago is now reality. We are living the dream!

Did I mention the ocean views? This is what we will see every morning as we rise from bed:

The next few days will be spent lounging with the above view in order to give my leg a rest - all of this activity has caused a lot of soreness and swelling. It has been agonizing for me to not run and jump in every stretch of blue water we get close to, or explore what view is around the next corner, but I must continue to show restraint in favour of healing. I have begun walking in the house in just shoes, and while this is a big step (pun intended!), being in the unstable outdoors still requires me to wear the walking cast to protect it. Thus, there will be no such running and jumping yet - even casual strolls on soft beaches must be delayed. I am already pushing the limits of what my doctor said was allowable (don't tell him!), and I really don't want to risk re-rupturing and starting over.

So instead, we will enjoy most of our Christmas stretched out on the patio of our new home, in view of the expansive green jungle and crystal blue ocean. Tomorrow we are going to venture into town to find a hotel pool to lounge at, and on Friday we have accepted an invitation to a holiday party by some generous gringo's living on the island. We are excited to make new friends and really begin to enjoy everything that this island has to offer!

Feliz Naviad a todos! We love and miss you all, thanks again for opening your doors to these homeless bums in the past year! xoxo

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ready To Go!

And just like that! Our two months of exploration in the British Columbian wilderness are coming to an end.

Unfortunately, it has included less exploration then we originally hoped, being that I was laid up for more than half of it. The last few weeks have been filled with monotonous days of reading, writing, movie watching, gaming and crafting. Pete has been doing double duty, jamming his days with cooking, cleaning, snow shoveling, and looking after me. I am (very gratefully) one spoiled chica!

I am finally mobile though, and have been walking in an air cast for the past week. It is still slow going, and painful when I push it too much, but I am very thankful to be using both legs again. While I have met my goal of being able to walk on to the plane to Honduras without crutches, I will be stuck in this big, grey, clunky boot for at least another three weeks. My fantasy of casual strolls down the beach and feeling the warm ocean water rush over my toes will have to wait a little while longer.

On Wednesday we make the trek back to Alberta, and board our southbound plane on Saturday. It is with great sadness that we are leaving our cozy existence in the mountains. We have loved every minute of it - the absolute silence, watching deer cross through the backyard almost daily, and getting to know some of the people that live nearby. Most importantly, it has provided us with the stability we needed to recover from our year of wandering.

It has given us our "mojo" back. Estamos listos para ir! We are ready to go!

One important thing that Pete and I have both discovered is that we are not ready to settle down yet. Our desire to explore and experience different locations and cultures is revived and raring to go. Good thing, then, that our next step is allowing us to do just that! While Honduras will be very similar in many ways to what we experienced throughout South America, we are excited to discover what makes it unique. We are anxious to meet new people, do more volunteer work, and continue to improve our Spanish.

It also doesn't hurt that we are trading blustery weather for tropical living! For those of our Canadian friends that loathe living through the dark days of winter, we will try not to rub it in too much.

(Oh wait, how did this forecast get in here?)

(And this? Oops!)

Adios beautiful British Columbia! And thank you, D&V, for this opportunity. We know we will be back.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Part of the appeal of living in the remote wilderness of the Kootenay's is the frequency and variety of wildlife that can be seen. Our only disappointment so far is that we never got to see the teenage black bear living in the area. We suspect it was him that knocked our BBQ over one night early in our stay (unless Pete has taken up sleep walking). And with the cold and snow having set in, we're guessing he's nesting somewhere in the mountains and not to be seen until spring. Dang!

Oh well, here are some pictures of what we have seen!

We see at least one of these white tails through here every few days. We've had as many as four holding caucus in the back yard at once.

Never have I seen these before up close, and suddenly, we see them almost every time we drive to town. Amazing!

Look at the size of that thing! Our good friends the Schwieger's brought their boat and took Pete fishing for three days on Kootenay Lake. They caught this 23lb rainbow trout! Unfortunately, it was 24 hours before the start of a local fishing derby, wherein this catch would have been in contention for the win. Their next two days on the lake saw nothing near this big.

This ball of fur is the home owner's outside kitty, Lojzik. While she looks all cute and cuddly, don't be fooled. She plays a fierce game of staring-until-I-go-outside-to-pet-her. I haven't won once.

Not pictured here is me. I can be bumped from the category of "human" to "animal" when I get up in the morning and my foot aches. Luckily for Pete, I easily return to my human form with doses of codeine and dill pickle potato chips.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!? #$%@!&!!

Who wrote that bloody awful song anyways? I'm going to find him and give him a face wash.

Snow is not supposed to come to this area until around Christmas, but we have been getting it in buckets. Maybe it's not such a bad thing to be laid up with a bad ankle, watching all the snow fall while sitting by a warm fireplace. But you can bet that we will both be cursing tomorrow as we drive to Vernon to get my cast changed.

Only 27 more sleeps until we trade white snow for white sand! I guess we can handle it. =)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pop Goes the Ankle

It always amazes me how in just one quick second, things can completely change from good to bad, and the best laid plans can be completely wiped out due to a wrong turn or a misstep.

It especially annoys me when I am the subject of said misstep.

All of my plans for hiking, kayaking, biking and otherwise just getting out to enjoy my beautiful surroundings were wiped out in one fell swoop on Tuesday evening. More specifically, they were wiped out in one loud POP, which was the sound of my achilles tendon rupturing as I dove to get a volleyball during one of our rousing community games.

I thought something had fallen on the back of my ankle, or that some madman had just taken a swipe at me with a crowbar. I crumbled instantly, let out a string of expletives (to the delight of the young children on the bench beside me who had come to watch their parents play), and was finally drug to the sidelines by Pete and another player where I winced in pain while Pete ran to get the stuff we needed before we made the half hour drive to the hospital in Nakusp.

The doctor immediately called ahead to the Vernon hospital to get me an appointment with a specialist the following morning (Nakusp, being only a town of ~1,500 people, has very little to offer in terms of medical services). Pete and I were up at 5:30 in order to make the first ferry and the two and a half hour drive to Vernon the next day. After then waiting two hours to get in, two doctors looked at my ankle and declared my achilles to be a mess. They then also gave me two options: surgery or not. Historically, most doctors would recommend immediate surgery to stitch it back up, but recent studies show that surgery is no more effective then progressive casting for healing. So I opted to stay out from under the knife; I don't want to risk any complications with having a surgical wound when I am meant to be on a plane to a third world country in six weeks.

And so now, here I am, laid up in my first of three casts. This pretty purple one will last three weeks, then it will be replaced with another that will have my ankle adjusted to different angle. Finally, the last one will hopefully be a walking cast, so that I will be walking onto my Honduras-bound plane without crutches.

In one instant, everything is gone. My dreams of kayaking every week - gone. My plans to do several outstanding hikes in the area - gone. My goal of making an effort to be more swimsuit-ready for Honduras, gone. Everything is also infinitely more difficult, especially given that this house has many stairs. I am living in one of the most beautiful places in this country, and I am forced to only enjoy it as far as my crutches will take me. I am sad, bitter, and a bit of a downer these days.

I know, I know, there are definitely worse things in the world that can happen, and there are people that are much worse off then I am; whining and lamenting of my situation is pretty pathetic.

But it's my blog, and I'll whine if I want to!

(Ok. I think I'm done now.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Enjoy the Silence

We have gotten a few people ask the same question over the last week: "So, are you really bored yet?"

The answer: a booming and resounding, NO!

There has been no other point in our lives where we have been in this situation of total and utter nothingness. No commitments, no work, no mortgage, no scheduled activity, no deadlines, no expectations, and only a far distant end in sight. It is a very beautiful thing, and something we have only ever had in small 7 or 14 day increments in the past, as far as our work allotted vacation would allow. And while we were in traveling around South America and our own country, there was a constant requirement to keep moving, keep exploring and keep finding things to write to you about!

So now we are very thrilled to just sit. Or stand, or kayak, or walk, or bike, or nap...whatever we feel like doing. We are relishing in the beauty of our situation, and making the most of every second of it, however we see fit. There has not been one single moment that we have wished we were some other place doing something else. And we are so extremely fortunate to live in this pristine and beautiful piece of the world, withdrawn into nature and truly nourishing our minds, bodies and souls.

We have been keeping ourselves busy, and in my case, a wee bit too busy at times. While we came into this with no deadlines or other commitments imposed on us, I have somehow managed to rope myself into some. Excited to put this inspiring setting to work through my writing, I searched online for some opportunities to stretch my fingers and maybe make a few dollars doing it at the same time. Well, I found some, and then some more. I applied for a few different jobs and managed to get offered and accepted for everything I put my name to! It has been a little overwhelming to get organized for all these tasks, but I have managed to get a rhythm going for it and I am sure I will be able to do it all in time. While none of these jobs pay very much, I am enjoying the challenges, and getting a chance to try different kinds of writing. Watch for me soon on timepostoffice.com and suite101.com, and others that are to come!

When I'm not pounding on the keys, Pete and I have been cooking up a storm. Buns, cinnamon buns, perogies, hummus, granola mix, coconut cream pie, carrot cake, and cookies so far. We are scouring every online recipe resource to try to come up with "best ever" of whatever we are making. I can't explain this inner "Martha" that seems to be bursting out, but I guess this is just our form of "nesting" that is emerging now, seeing as this is the first place that has really felt like a home in a year and a half. (Thank goodness for the friends that are coming to see us soon, and can help us eat all this food!)


Thank goodness, also, for the grand outdoors, and the perpetual autumn of this area that is encouraging us to get outside and get active. The yellow leaves still hang beautifully from the trees, and when it is not raining we have rushed outside to enjoy them. There is no fresher are then what we have here, literally. There are types of lichens and mosses that grow only where there is completely pure air quality, and they grow here, in abundance. There is no industry to emit poisons nearby, no cell phone towers to give off radiation, there is only the pure mountain air. And we try to ingest it every chance we get, and in very big gulps.

Lichen and mosses = clean air!

And then there' s the Tuesday evening drop-in volleyball league! This small town of Burton is home to just a handful of people (similar to where I grew up), and the whole town seems to show up every week for volleyball. The games actually get quite competitive (for us novices, anyways) and it is a lot of fun.

So, as you can see, you don't need to worry about us and boredom. Stop conjuring up images of ax murderers driven insane by the remoteness and silence of our situation. We are busy, we are productive, and we are likely still in our pajamas as you read this.

We have never been happier!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Good" Boredom

“I’m bored” said Peter, as he bounced down on the bed beside me, disturbing my nap.

Uh oh. At that point, we were only 2 hours into our ~1,440 hour house sitting assignment. We had assured ourselves before accepting this assignment of caring for a house in the middle of nowhere that we would find plenty to keep us occupied. We loaded up on books, movies, craft projects, Spanish assignments and exercise goals. And here he was, on day one, hour two, complaining about boredom.

I guess I could understand his sentiment, a little bit. The house was eerily quiet, with the home owners having left that day. We had just had two full days with them in their beautiful home – they showed us the area and introduced us around. A pair of fellow travelers, there was much to talk about and many stories shared. We were excited that this “job” had introduced us to two new good friends, and we were sad to see them go.

But still, a declaration of boredom only 2 hours in was concerning! Until I looked over, and saw that Pete said it with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s a good boredom. I have lots to do, but nothing that has to be done.” That’s better.

That is precisely the point of our stay here. After more than a year of running around from place to place and activity to activity, we now have 2 full months to sit still and enjoy ourselves and our surroundings, while also taking some time to “plan” (hate that word) for our future. We have no obligations beyond caring for the home – we don’t need to be anywhere specific at anytime. And our first week here has encompassed just the pure enjoyment of these facts (we’ll worry about the “pl@%ning” later).

We’ve had long walks in the pristine fresh air with nothing but the sound of the creek beside us. We’ve spent hours rotating between reading, writing, and watching the leaves fall outside. I’ve baked buns. We’ve watched the entire seventh season of Entourage. I’ve fed my new addiction of making jewelry (and created a forum to sell it! Check it out!)

Most enjoyably, we’ve gotten to do our number one favourite thing of kayaking on nearby Upper Arrow Lake. We spent one beautiful morning on the water with the entire lake to ourselves. For both of us, this is the definition of a small piece of “heaven”, and is one thing we hope to do quite regularly while we are here.

And so while officially we have nothing we “need” to do, we have a long list of everything we “want” to do. This might be boring to you as a reader, but to us, the good boredom is the best part.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sittin' on houses

From the frigid mountains of British Columbia to the scorching beaches of Honduras - Peter and I are about to take our roles of "homeless vagabonds" to a whole new level.

I will credit our family and friends for encouraging this behaviour. Since returning home from South America, we have been completely spoiled with shelter, food, drinks, entertainment...you name it, we got it...from our very generous benefactors. Who needs a home when we have such an amazing network of people to take care of us?

Realizing that we do not want to rely on this generosity forever (in case it should run out!), but knowing that we are not yet ready to "settle" and be committed to anything that cannot fit into a backpack, we began to explore new options. We debated another bout of backpack slinging, and researched the continent of Africa as our next destination. We sketched out a route of eastern Africa to the Middle East to Eastern Europe to Russia across Siberia to China. Yeah...we got tired just thinking about it. Our desire for a full-fledged traveling adventure is currently outweighed by our exhaustion after almost a year of such travel in South America. We need some more downtime to allow our full spirit of adventure to return.

And so our new plan (and career?) is born. It encompasses our desire to explore without the weariness of continuous travel. It allows for enjoying the comforts of a home without the roots of owning it. We have become professional homeless bums. We are house sitters!

For at least the next 8 months, we are committed to easing the minds of home owners who need to be away from their home for some time. We will begin with a 2 month "job" in the Kootenay's of British Columbia at this beautiful house.

No TV, sketchy internet, and we will be 30 minutes from the nearest town. We have loaded up on books, movies on our laptop, craft projects and more to keep us occupied during our stay at what some friends have dubbed The Overlook Hotel. We couldn't be more excited for this downtime, and to explore the surrounding natural beauty strapped into our hiking shoes or via kayak.

But wait - we COULD be more excited! After our 2 months in the beautiful mountains of BC, we will have just a few days to put away our sweaters and load up our bathing suits. Our second house sitting job is going to take us to the picturesque island of Roatan, just off the coast of Honduras. While the home owners wait patiently in the US for this house to sell, we will ensure that it is well cared for and maintained. We will have the opportunity to improve our Spanish, continue our passion of volunteering, and...well...live in PARADISE! Because the home is up for sale, we could be in Honduras anywhere from one month to indefinitely, but are committed for 6 months if it remains unsold.

Does life get much better than this? These are obviously once-in-a-lifetime opportunities which we are again excited to grab hold of and enjoy to the fullest.

Homeless vagabonds, we be! And it ain't such a bad thing.

O Canada!

I returned from South America August 13, 2010 with a real mix of emotions. I was super excited to be reunited with Dalene, yet after a night layover in Miami and then being back in Calgary, I was overwhelmed with North American culture. Thankfully, we did not stay in Calgary for long and we whisked away to the Crowsnest Pass to enjoy a weekend alone together in the wilderness.

This was the start of our road trip in Western Canada. A friend of ours mentioned that we probably know more about South American countries then we do about our own country. She was right. Traveling in South America for a year has opened our eyes to beauty around us, and it has also gave us a new appreciation for the beauty in our own country. We were very excited to explore it.

For those who don't know Crowsnest Pass (CNP) is situated about 180km south-west of Calgary. A series of small towns situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains is a little haven for hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, golfing, rafting and pretty much any outdoor activity you can think of. All of this without the tourist influx of Banff and Jasper, and much more reasonably priced. We think this little known secret won't be a secret too much longer.

Also, the CNP is known for the Frank Slide. In 1903 the small mining town of Frank was obliterated by a mountain collapsing and the rock covering the whole town in the middle of the night. The slide killed 90 people and it is now a national historic site.

Remnants of Frank's Slide

After the few days of unwinding in the Crowsnest and a quick family visit in Lethbridge, we made our way up north to Grimshaw to visit Dalene's extended family. We stayed for 6 days with Dalene's Gram and enjoyed what Northern Alberta had to offer. In fact, one day trip to visit a cousin in Hawk Hills was the furthest north in Alberta that I have ever been. We were only a few hundred kilometers to the border of the Northwest Territories.

We were lucky that one of Dalene's uncles wanted to get out on the lake with his new boat and do some fishing. So off to Lake Atikameg we went for a day full of fishing. What a day it was! The rookies (me and Dalene) out-caught Uncle Ken and Uncle Calvin, but lucky for us they did the dirty work of cleaning the fish after. We (less Dalene) enjoyed our feast of fresh pike and pickerel the next evening with the family.

One of Dalene's big catches


After northern Alberta we ventured to Edmonton for my brother's wedding (the main reason we came home from South America). A great week topped off with a beautiful wedding in nearby Wetaskawin. We left Wetaskawin and headed for Vancouver Island.

This was not a quick little drive by any means, but the drive alone through the Rocky Mountains, the Okanagan, and then finally to the coast was stunning. After stops with friends in Bragg Creek, Kelowna, and Abbotsford, we got enough great advice (while indulging in countless glasses of wine) about what to do once we got to the Island.

The 2 hour ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo was the first leg, and on the way we were treated to a pod of killer whales swimming just in front of the ferry - first time we had ever seen them!
We got to shore and headed for our first camp. Just outside of Parksville is Rathtrevor Provincial Park. We were treated to great walks on the beach, admired the jelly fish and birds, and enjoyed a stunning sunset. A good start I'd say! The next day we went over to Qualicum Beach to check out the beaches because the tides seem to go out for killometers. Some truly remarkable sights.

Tide out, humans in


We spent 2 nights here at Rathtrevor, and unfortunately the weather was highly uncooperative and we got soaked. Seeing as it rains on Vancouver Island about 200 days a year, this was no surprise. But as we were tenting it, it was very frustrating to be so wet, cold, and to have to put away a wet tent - we decided to put the camping gear away and splurge a little and get a bed and breakfast for the remaining nights on the island.

Off to Tofino we went for 3 nights and days exploring the Pacific Rim National Park. Along the way we stopped at one of our favourite spots on the whole Island - Cathedral Grove. It is an old forest of trees up to 800 years old. The trees are covered in green moss, giving the forest a very mystical and enchanting quality. Not to mention, some of them are really huge, one is even bigger then the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy.

Tofino is on the southwest part of the island, and is known for its surf and laid back lifestyle in a stunning locale. Lucky for us we came at the end of tourist season and so didn't have to combat the large crowds that exist during the summer months. In Tofino we took in many hikes in the National Park, watched the surfers from the beach while enjoying some good books, and also got to do some great sea kayaking to enjoy the sights of wildlife that this area had to offer.

Surfers on Chesterman Beach

Long Beach



Victoria was our next destination. We packed up the car and drove the 5 hours to meet Dalene's famous hairstyling cousin for a few days. David was a very generous host, he was our guide in this beautiful city. We took a walk down to the harbour, a stroll through China town, and of course found some time to sit and have a pint. And one of the best things about the city is how environmentally conscious it is - a nice breath of fresh air (literally) in comparison with that of truck saturated Alberta.

After Victoria we had to start making our way back to Alberta first for an Arcade Fire concert, and for a short 10 day house/cat sitting stint for Dalene's Mom. We quickly stopped back in Abbotsford to surprise a friend for her birthday, and then the next morning we were back to being eastward bound.
A long drive again, but we took our time through the Crowsnest Pass highway. We were treated to many different terrains of geography. The coast, to tall tree forests, the desert of Osoyoos, back to pine forest in the Rocky Mountains, and then back to the Plains in Alberta. We made it to the concert (barely after a flat tire), but it was a great way to cap off our road trip in Western Canada.

What lies next?
Dalene answers that in the next blog, as we have *just* answered that question ourselves. I keep seeing a savings plan commercial on TV that has someone singing "If I only had a plan..." So far, our life of non-planning has been working out quite well. What do they know??? =)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Pete's Dad made a wonderful surprise for us - our last year of travel in South America is now available in a book! Go to www.lulu.com and search on Hecktic Travels to find it online.

More adventures await! We will keep you posted...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wrappin' up

Another good stretch of time since the last post and I have to admit that this keeping up the blog is not easy with all other things going on. Here we go....


Recently the BIB hosted a number of fundraising events which some were successful and others not so much. First on July 31, the BIB held another garage sale. Take any garage sale I have been to at home and multiply it by 100. There were crazy lineups outside the foundation before we even opened the doors. And when we did open, holy shit, it was like Black Friday at a Walmart. There was shoving, and running, and someone even put their baby down to go and find the bargains. Jessi (the BIB librarian) had to rescue the child and ask who the mother of the year responsible for the child was! Regardless, the garage sale raised nearly $800 which set a record for most money earned, and we had a BLAST running the show.

Preparing for the mad rush

We got to fashion some of the clothes prior to the sale opening

We had a great team and a lot of fun!!

The next day was not as successful as anticipated. The BIB put on a fundraising concert held at the Posada del Arte, a local hotel. After days of pounding the street and handing out flyers, only 10 people (excluding volunteers) showed up. I can definitely say that I have heard a lot, and I mean a lot, of better folk bands than these guys. But, the day was fun regardless getting to share it with the other volunteers.

We are truly lucky to have found such a beautiful country. Both Dalene and I had no expectations for Ecuador, but Ecuador, you captured our hearts. I think that somehow the sky is more blue and the trees are more green. I truly believe it has some of the most stunning scenery and offers so much in terms of natural beauty. From volcanoes to rain forest, the magnificent Galapagos to stunning waterfalls. Here are some adventures I have had over the past several weeks:

My only taste of the Amazon (this trip..)
View of the Amazon Rain Forest from Puyo, Ecuador

Waterfalls on the outskirts of Baños

A view from the top

A tree house on top of the mountain overlooking Baños

The treehouse had a swing over the valley

One of the many beautiful views on our hikes

Baños from atop the mountain
Teleferico in Quito, Ecuador

We were treated to this sunset overlooking Volcan Cotopaxi

The Foundation (La Biblioteca Interactiva de Los Niños)

What can I say? The reward of working with these kids is the reason I didn't go home with Dalene when she left. From the moment I started at the BIB until the day I have to leave I have felt I made an impact. The smiles on their faces, the hugs I get when they see me walking in the street, and always getting pulled in 16 different directions by a separate child to go and play a game or draw with them...it is all priceless. They have truly stolen my heart away and it won't be easy to leave them. In fact my favorite has asked me if I could put her in my suitcase and take her home. Don't know how I would get that passed customs....

Me and Vero

Naelli and Me and storytime

Cecilia and her Niños

Reading time

Face painting day for Christian, Dayanara supervises the work of Sam

A tearful farewell to Sam and Chris

Amy has taken on the very popular music class

Yoga is always packed

Friends and Fun
The people both Dalene and I have met through La BIB, friends of the BIB or local Bañenos have made this whole experience that much more enjoyable. We have both learned so much from other people about their travels, culture etc. We now have everlasting friendships (and a couch to sleep on if need be in the future). There were many a good time and laughs shared.

The nightly ice cream run

A little Karaoke with Susana from Bolivia and Santiago, a bañeno

And after Mocambos and Karaoke, the club

Dinners at the BIB were a common thing, so many great chefs!

The new crew, and our fearless leader Karlito during a hike

Boby and the Bibi

Jody and Boby, the minds behind the BIB

Ok, if you haven't realized it by now, things are quite different here. Some good friends keep repeating a key phrase "El Ecuador man, El Ecuador". Here are some examples of what I have seen and what I see everyday which makes you look twice.
Baños de Cajon - they pump steam into a eucalyptus filled cedar box that has you in it only with your head exposed. Genius concept and will cure the nastiest hangover, but boy do they look funny with you in them.

Pelileo - Blue jean retail capital of Ecuador. I can understand the half mannequins for the jeans, but this one was a little on the strange side....
Branding and Copyright - well in South America anything flies. It seems that any copyright or branding law is thrown out the window. If you want jeans with an Armani tag on them, you just have to ask and they will put it on for you. You also get patches and sayings on clothes that are ridiculous, but worth a good laugh.

We are starting the SWSE club
I have not seen a retail DVD for sale in 12 months, and have had numerous reference books photocopied without even a hesitation. Have to say it is nice paying $1 for any movie to own versus the $6 you have to pay to keep it for only 1 night...

Zoos and animals-
actually this one I thought was pretty cool. They allow some of the animals to just roam around the zoo. We found this thing just having a nap. One of the other people standing around said it was ok for us to get close. Hmmm, strategy to off-the-gringo or just being nice..... (it was the latter)

We also got to go to a monkey sanctuary. This was one of mine and Dalene's favorite experiences. I got a chance to go again, and wasn't missing my opportunity. Nowhere do I know of in North America you can walk through jungle and have the monkeys climb all over you and play around. Strange but awesome!!!

I am le tired

Efficiency - ok, lesson 1 to learn when coming to South America is to be flexible and patient. Things will not get done the same way as back home. Efficiency, throw that concept out the window. Once you get into the routine, you don't want to get out. Life just seems to become easier. We had a good laugh at this sign which was posted for the operating hours. Yep, the hours are the same for everyday, but they for some reason they needed to split it up. Well done.

Adverts etc.
- ok, well I have to hand it to whoever thought of this one. What better way to advertise your teleferico experience!

This was the strangest store name I came across. It translates to "We are not Chinese, but we are cheap". Wow.

Food - ok, I know we all have our customs, but eating Cuy (Guinea Pig) just didn't sit well. Neither did the idea of eating slugs that this guy was selling... I'm sure they are really healthy, but pass.

Need a broom? How about a tv antenna? You can't go anywhere here without hearing somebody and their mobile business. From traveling fruit stands, juices, ice cream, and even a traveling broom salesman.

Chi-Chiva Leche!! This guy takes his goats around town and sells fresh goat milk to anyone who wants to buy. We partook and got a glass. Have to say it was pretty tasty. To wrap up the South America experience I am going to make a little list of what we will miss the most, and will not miss in the least.

  • The children here at the BIB. I can't say more than I wish I could bring you all home with me!!
  • The amazing people we have met along our travels and were able to get to know.
  • Teaching English was such a rewarding opportunity. It has opened a door that now I want to get my certification to teach English so next time I have a little more structure to know what I am doing.
  • Culture, such an opposite from North American lifestyle. Things get done when they get done. Meetings usually start 15 minutes later than anticipated. PS, to all who make plans to see us, please take this into account that we will probably be late.
  • The views every morning of a mountain, volcano, and waterfall staring at you
  • The buses have been surprisingly efficient and convenient. I have not driven a car in over 9 months and do not miss it at all.
  • Speaking Spanish - we worked so hard to get to the level where we are, it would be a shame to lose it. (we have vowed to inter-cambio with our friends on the net and to keep studying)
  • Visiting the local market for fresh fruit and vegetables has become a steady part of my daily routine. The fact you can a full bag of fruit and veg for less than $3 where in Canada I don't think you can even buy a pineapple for that price.
  • Noise pollution - this will the biggest one for me. I will not miss the big diesel engines with no exhaust muffle devices, the chiva buses driving by at all hours of the morning blaring their reggaeton music, and finally the car rigged up with megaphones and speakers blaring what they have for sale
  • Bugs - This affected Dalene the most as she was the one with the delicious blood. Still it will be nice to be in a place for a while without bugs to worry about.
  • Getting stared at. People can't help but to just lock eyes on the foreigner and not blink. I now have resorted to either making a funny face, or talking to them. The stares usually disappear after that...
  • Gringo prices - getting taken advantage in terms of pricing will not be missed. Speaking Spanish adds a lot of benefit when you are able to successfully negotiate and tell them they are charging you WAY too much
  • Finally the biggest thing I will not miss is the feeling of security. No, not the homeland security bullshit, but just the being careful with all your valuables and documents. You always have to be on your guard with your things. You can't leave your bag 2 feet from you unattended or put your luggage in an overhead compartment. You have to be on your watch always, otherwise if not, eventually something will happen to you.
So that's it. This chapter of the Hecktic Travels is coming to a close. What an amazing year. Thank you to all of our dedicated readers for sharing our adventures. Our next step is undetermined at this point. I am going home and we are going to rest for a few months. Most importantly spend some quality time with Dalene before we embark on our next adventure. Rest assured, we will have our backpacks on again before we know it. Stay tuned...