Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Eastward Ho!


Its revival time.  Not talking clearwater here.


View Halifax in a larger map


View Charlottetown in a larger map

Annnnd HERE!

View Maggies in a larger map

As always, I am very interested in keeping this journal alive during the trip, and this time around I have The Shadow travelling with me.  She chose the name, not me.

After weeks and weeks of planning, it all goes down tonight!

Will I manage to keep this blogging tradition alive, or will procrastination claim my soul!?

Will my exhaustive time spent training for the bike part of the trip sustain me, or will I crash and burn since I didn’t actually train at all?

Will I meet someone named Will?

Will Will will me to write Will’s will?

FIND OUT: NEXT TIME on this very blog!  See you in Halifax!

Australia: MetaReview

There’s no way I’m organizing this.


Sand: Superior quantity of this substance is present in Australia.  Quality varies.  High points overall for having some that you can brush your teeth with.  Negative points for ruining digital cameras.  Positive points for being sneaky enough to accompany tourists back home with then whether they like it or not.

Final score: 4.8/5.0

People: Australia is a very white country by my inaccurate sampling.  Its really only Whitefellas (Crackers) and Blackfellas (Aboriginies).  Oh and throw in some fistfuls of Asian tourists.  Positive points for being a gigantic country yet still somehow retaining a small town feel, even across cities far away.  Its really a common thing to meet someone you know by chance even if you’re not from the city you’re currently in.  I’ve never seen this happen as much anywhere else.  Negative points for Sydneysiders at Kings Cross because they’re so seedy.  Positive points for the accent, which I still haven’t got down and don’t think I ever will.  But I did practice…

Something very endearing Australians do is say “You’re allright” when they mean “No problem” or “You’re welcome”.  Its not much but it feels much more personal than the latter.  That’s going on the plus side.  I haven’t yet met an Australian that I didn’t like… just wanted to run away from.

Final score: 4.8/5.0

Internet Access:  Seriously.  Get with the program.  At the very least get the stupid coffee shops to offer it.  And give it for free to the people in the stupid airport where its really important! Stop gouging for an essential service!  Only positive is that it is fast when you pay for it…

Final score: 1.0/5.0

Water: I’m convinced water at Yulara near Uluru which was supposed to be safe to drink poisoned half the bus.  For a country with as much desert as Australia I’m willing to be lenient, but there are many places where you need to wash up with undrinkable stuff.  Its tough not to swallow any.

As far as natural water goes, its quite beautiful to see billabongs where the land supports it.  And there’s no beating lake Mackenzie, ever.  What it does have, it does it well.

Final score (Desert Adjusted Score): 4.0/5.0

Beer: They like their light beer in Australia.  But its not what they call light, which they think means low carb.  To me it just means a colour that’s not dark.  Most of the beers here taste pretty much the same, which was very disappointing… and some of it just tastes absolutely terrible.  Think Labatt 50.  That’s better than VB, which is present in almost every bar or pub that you go to.  Its tolerable enough when first served because the cold numbs the taste, but its downhill from there.  You have about 2 minutes to finish your drink or it becomes terrible while it warms.  Maybe that’s why Aussies get drunk so fast..

Another beer: XXXX Gold.  I had trouble with this one at first because I thought people were saying “Forett’s” when they were really saying “Four X”.  Damn accents.  Many confused bartenders thought I had a speech impediment.  Anyways, this one tastes pretty good!  However there’s a catch! One day to my dismay I read the back and found that the alcohol content is a staggering 3.5%!  So really, when you dink four x you’re really just drinking funny tasting water….

Best beer in Australia: Toohey’s Old, a dark amber ale that no one seems to have on tap.

Final Score: 3.8/5.0 only because of the Old.

Food: Meat country likes meat.  Vegetarians need not apply, because a veggy meal to most Australians is lettuce, tomato and beets.  I’m fairly sure I might have had a mild case of malnutrition in the first two weeks before I caved.

Breakfasts seem to exist only in tasteless, cookie cutter form across the entire continent.  Toast, eggs, sausages, beans, bacon.  And that’s only if you’re allowed the hot breakfast option.  All this accompanied by canned melons and honeydew that have rubber texture and nothing else.  Oh yeah, hash browns too (sometimes).  I never thought cereal would look so good to me – I couldn’t have any because there was never any soy milk.

Lunches were generally self-bought, so you got what you paid for where you paid for it.  Best lunch I had was at a famous stop called Daly Waters where I had the local Barramundi.  That shit just melted in my mouth.

Dinners…honestly nothing particular comes to mind save my last one, but that’s probably because it was yesterday.  What does that say about dining in Australia? :(

Final Score: 2.5/5.0

S*** to see: Ok, there’s a lot of stuff here.  And most of it is pretty astounding.  The coastal cities are predictable but it doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful, because they really are.  The Northern Territories are a lot more fun to travel around and look at, but its not easy going.  The coast has some really great stuff up north, and most cities have a good nightlife.  Pick your poison.

Final Score: 5.0/5.0

TimTams:  Truly excellent.

Final Score: 5.0/5.0

Bugs: They are persnickety, just like my Tilley hat.  They are also the most annoying things invented on the planet.  Blow flies can blow me.  I was debating how to score these, but I think I’ll just grade them on their annoyance effort.

Final Score: 10.0/5.0

The Sea: Lots of things can kill you in the water.  I was fortunate not to encounter any of them, although the surfboard almost did me in.  There are islands with the name “Shark Island” and lets just say Australians aren’t the most imaginative bunch.  Snorkling the reef was a life experience I won’t forget.  But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not really a water sports kind of guy.  But I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t tried all these things!  So good on ya!

Final Score: 4.0/5.0

The Flight Over: Easy one – it sucks ass. 22 hours going, 18 return.  World is too damn big.

Final score: 0.0/5.0

Lamp: I love lamp.

Final Score: 5.0/5.0

AFL: I also call it “Easy Rugby”.  But the pitch is completely round, therefore an appropriate score…

Final Score: 3.1415/5.0

Money: Australians like to say that they’ve got rid of the useless penny, so their change system is superior.  However, they fail to mention the monster 50 cent coins that feel like they’re made of lead.  And the two-dollar coin is almost the smallest coin they have, so you’re always fishing for it amongst the change.  My original wallet broke and I had to buy a new one because of that damn change. When you walk you feel like you’re always veering towards the right due to the weight.

The only redeeming feature of this mass of metal in your pocket is the incredibly satisfying feeling you get when you pay for a $9 drink using a fistful of metal and dump it all in the barkeep’s hands.

Final Score: 1.0/5.0

Weather:  Barring one of the most miserable days of my life, and one night where the humidity was very close to if not actually 100%, the weather while I was there was some of the best I’ve ever seen on a vacation.  And this was a month’s worth of weather across many different climate zones.  Maybe I just got lucky, but places like the Gold Coast aren’t named that because of their mining deposits.  Three cheers for Australian weather!  Although the sun is pretty brutal if you’re not prepared for it.  Just buy yourself a Tilley hat and you’ll be fine…

Final Score: 5.0/5.0

Conclusion: 59.0415/75 = 64%

What the hell.. this review sucks.  Disregard.


Australia was a trip of a lifetime where I was constantly surprised at the diversity and excitement every day brought.  But that also has a lot to do with the tour group’s credit as well.  But with a country as vast and diverse as Australia its just a manner of logistics and personality that they need to bring to the table, which was done well enough in the end, especially the Northern Territory part (which was my favorite).

If you want to go I highly suggest the NT portion above the other if you need to choose.  The east coast tour is nice but there aren’t many surprises really and the partying part can really be done in any other metropolitan city, save for the location near the coast.

The tour’s highlights almost exclusively include the optional activities that are offered along the way.  The bus is there to take you from place to place but its the optionals that make the memories.  Plan to spend extra cash (upwards of $1500 or more just for about 10 of them) after you get there in your budget.

I also recommend going alone.  You’ll just be much more open to meeting new people, which is important on a bus full of people.  Or if you do go with a friend make sure you don’t bubble yourselves off.  You meet tons of interesting people on a trip like this and it would be a shame to miss out on it.  You’re spending a significant amount of time with them anyways, might as well be friendly.

Go to Australia.  The sand there is breathtaking.

Sydney the Third

A chill last day to round off the trip.  Just because I obviously have not had enough of buses, I decided that it would be a really great idea to spend the majority of the day on one for one, last, day.  By now, my ass must be square, and slightly dipping towards the back.

No worries.  Hop on/Hop off is a proud tradition in many cities and takes way too long to say aloud and has the strange property of being unable to be shortened in any understandable form.  It is also a service in Sydney/Bondi that has a very long loop which makes it hard to actually hop off at more than a couple of places because otherwise you’ll miss the last hoppy bus back.

We made it to Bondi beach.  Which seemed to have frozen over sometime in the afternoon.  Yeah, its round and pretty.  But in comparison to some of the places I’ve already been on this trip… it just can’t measure up.  Best thing out of Bondi: I finally found a pair of boarders that were less than $80.  And they have spaceships on them.  Word.

The final dinner in Bondi was some of the best Indian food I have ever tasted.  A some point during the meal I had to just stop for a second because my tongue and brain couldn’t handle the flavor overload.  It was like wham! Wham! Wham! Holy shit!

The best part about dinner was that it was overlooking Darling Harbour, which is just effing darling.  Its a slick little spit of water that is big enough to call a harbour but small enough so that it doesn’t smell like there’s a fish rotting somewhere.  And it doesn’t hurt that the whole damn thing is surrounded by hotels and restaurants and an aquarium and the biggest IMAX screen in the world (and no one wanted to go see the new Star Trek on that screen with me!).

Yes yes, everything is wonderful. And now for some complaining.

Hotel Internet
You know, for a Marriott the internet service really does blow quite a bit.  I’m not sure what was up with my specific pc but every time I tried to access the default sign up page I got cryptic messages.  The tech support was generally useless too, and the first one I talked to had to put my on hold six times because he kept asking his supervisor answers to my questions that he wasn’t understanding anyways. OK, vent over.  But seriously.  Internet is so backwards in that country, they don’t treat it as a right, its a privilege that needs to be charged very high amounts for.  Get a clue, free internet is good for business because people can find out about you when they are in the city and searching!

Hotel Phone
Should have f***ing read the fine print more.  I thought that if I used a calling card then I wouldn’t get charged for calls.  Nope! $1.25 every time that I lifted the phone.  Fuck you, you cheap pieces of s***.  Its a stupid PHONE. We are in 2009! Why do you charge for something that’s ubiquitous anyways?!  Oh, and I also realized that $0.50 (pay phone price) only lasts a grand total of 1 minute for a local phone call.  I don’t understand how anyone could stand this for any length of time.  OK, next!

Vacation Over
Its been a month but it feels like years.  Its horrible to say but I have a little trouble remembering what I did in the first two weeks until I look at the pictures on my camera.  Or re-read these posts! Thank goodness for this :).  But the trip is over and so is the tour.  That’s something to complain about.  Next post: Danny reviews Australia!

Sydney Again

The beauty of the hotel’s location soon became apparent, because everything ends up or leaves from at Circular Quay station in Sydney, and if I fell out my room’s window the blood squirting out upon impact would probably make it to the station.

The Jet Boating that I had signed up for also left from the Quay.  My first walk around there was impressive.  So many people!  The city also uses it as a hub for all types of transportation – Bus, Train and Ferry!  How interesting it is that you all know this now.

Anyways I was heading to a different part of the Quay.  That’s pronounced “Key”, but that may just be the Aussie tendency to replace all “a” sounds with e’s.  My actual name is “Denny” by the way.

I met some Contikians by the Jet boat and we watched the previous group come in completely soaked.  We all agreed that this was most excellent.  As the best (i.e. wettest) spot was in the back, I went there.  It was wicked fun – we got lots of airtimes and the pilot kept whipping out 180’s and crashing into waves, soaking us.  We all wore ponchos, but all they really do is funnel everything through the neck, down your chest and into your underwear.  Comfy.  Got the necessary photos of course as well…

Next on the Sydney menu was an authentic AFL (Australian Football League) match played at the Sydney olympic park!  You know, where they had the olympics!?  It was massive!  Thirty four thousand people there and it wasn’t even half full.  But wait, I have to explain Aussie Rules football first.

  • Guy gets ball
  • 18 players try to kill him
  • Guy freaks out and kicks or punches the ball away
  • Repeat until scoring distance
  • Aim at one of three goals
  • Kick

However! If any any point someone catches a ball that has been kicked without touching the ground, then everyone backs off and cannot touch them for around 20 seconds.  So they can really control where they want it to go.  That’s usually how goals are set up, because someone catches a kick pass near enough to the goal.

But that’s not all! I haven’t even told you about the OTHER guys on the pitch…

OK, so 18 per side on the pitch, two different teams and uniforms.  By the way the uniforms don’t have sleeves.  Seems to be a standard thing.  Maybe there’s a polyester shortage in Australia.  Anyways, digressing.  There are seven umpires on the pitch in green as well.  And these guys are the goofiest thing ever.  When the ball goes out of play, one of the umps takes the ball to the side, turns his back to the field, and then launches the ball back up over his head into play.  Try to picture what a giraffe would look like if it did this, and you’ll get the general idea here.

But wait! That’s not all!  What other colours can we throw around?  Yellow!  Who are those yellow guys!?  Why, they’re Runners of course! They what? They get a telephone call from the coach and then run on the field to go talk to the players to tell them what to do?  Seriously?  OK, seriously.  Wow.

Its really quite the sight.  They can’t be part of the play so they usually spend about 10 minutes working their way across the field running the hell away from everything until they find their man.

But WAIT! That’s not all!  We’re forgetting something!  That’s right, waterboys!  Every time there’s a goal attempt (after someone has caught a kick near the goal) waterboys swarm the field.  Its like an invasion of white.

So, with all these positions available to aspiring AFL players, I have developed the following table for role assignment:

Skill Position
Athletic AFL player
Crappy Athlete AFL Umpire
Crappier Athlete AFL Runner
Fatboy Waterboy

Using this easy to understand chart we can crush children’s dreams faster and point them in the right direction at an earlier age.

This is a long post already so I’ll keep the rest fairly brief.  After the game we went out to that famous World Bar once again, and long story short, I only bought one beer there before jetting, and there was a cover, so essentially it cost me $22 for one beer.  And I ask myself where the cash goes.

One last thing for the Kings Cross tourists: Someone got shot twice in the leg that night outside of the hotel that most of the Contiki people were staying at.  Like I said, Sydney has dirty underwear.  But now with streak marks.


The first memorable glimpse of Sydney that I have is crossing the Harbour Bridge to the City core.  At first I thought that Sydney was a peninsula sticking out to the north proper, but the entire land mass area is more of a very spiky letter “E” if you can imagine it.  The different inlets to the shorelines make up the various bays, and the City core is just a bay that happened to be big enough and calm enough to make a decent quay. 

While entering the city we passed by my hotel (more on that later) and I sighed as I was taken further and further away from where I eventually needed to go.  But the group photo must be taken!  Couldn’t miss that :).  We headed to a peninsula of the Botanic Gardens that had a fantastic view of both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in the background, and a photographer named Dave took our picture.  He told us to say “Moneyyyy!” instead of the standard “cheese”.  I thought it was appropriate considering the rate at which cash has been dissolving in my wallet along the east coast part of the trip.  You would think, for example, that $150 would be enough for my last two days in Sydney, considering my credit card was also available.  But poof! One night later and hellooo ATM.

But I digress.  Back to happenings.  We were brought the hotel that many of the group booked with Contiki (it was full when I booked my trip) and left to our devices from there, the tour (not-a-vacation) was officially over!  How sad… but incorrect-sad for most of us.  Because most had planned to stay in the city for a few nights after the trip like I had.  But, we’re all pretty sad sentimental stupid people anyways and said goodbye in any case.

I shared a cab to my hotel and took a breath, because the Marriott entrance was just fantastic.  It was pricey but after the lack of privacy and truly good sleep for the previous month, it was absolutely worth it.

After doing a little jig after seeing my king-sized bed with six, count ‘em, six, pillows (who actually needs six?), I ventured out for the first time in my life into a brand new city, alone.  I stared at the inside of my room door for a little bit steeling myself for it too.  It was trivial, but there you go.  I didn’t even end up spending too long by myself, I got some dinner and then headed out to meet up with the rest of the contikites that were still in town.  By extreme chance I met up with a whole group of them on the train platform that I was taking to get there – and its strange, but that sort of thing kept happening over the following days.  Even in a large city like Sydney, you can still bump into people you know.  I’ve been living in Montreal for a very long time and stuff like that happens, but not often.  It probably has something to do with how dense the city center is, which is very.  Traffic is a nightmare…

Speaking of dense… so, let me paint the picture: Kings Cross area of the city.  This is the party district, and I mean that in every sense of the word.  Lots of clubs, adult stores, red light corners, bars, everything.  All the girls wear as little as possible and all the guys wear whatever will get them laid most often.  Drinks are a reasonable (!) $9 or more for anything and the floors have superb gripping action due to the sugary cocktails that get spilled on them.  Barkeepers wear rain boots while they thrash around behind the counter.  The density of nightlife is staggering with everything that comes with it.

Got it?  So you’ll have to admit that it was pretty stupid of me to try and ask someone directions to a bar.  The best possible answer in that situation would have been a “fuck off”.  Unfortunately I got something else.

Me: “Do you know where World Bar is?”
Dude looks over, his eyes are unfocused
Dude: “No man, but you gotta have some of this!”
Dude has small blue pill in his hand
Dude approaches hand with pill to my mouth
Me: “Uh, no thanks, I’m good.”
I back away
Dude stumbles towards me, pill extended
Dude tries to put pill in my mouth
Dude: “Its fucking amazing man! Try it!”
I move further away and Dude turns back to his buddies 

Ahh, Sydney.  You’ve got some dirty underwear on.