24 hours in Harrison

In where you say? Harrison. A very small lakeside town an easy one and a half hour drive from Vancouver, and the perfect day trip or overnight getaway. Why is that? Honestly, because there’s just the right amount of not much to do. Make the most of your city escape with this 24 hour guide.

Eat

img_4865

Dinner has to be a pub affair. There’s nothing quite like the charm of small town pubs, and Harrison’s Old Settler Pub is no exception. Friendly service, decent beer and plenty of pub grub.

After dinner, wander the short distance back to Harrison’s main lakeside strip for dessert. For a place with limited options, you’re never short of choice with five ice-cream parlours.

img_4968

When you wake up in the morning (or frankly even if you sleep in), head over to the clear town favourite, Muddy Waters. Serving brunch, lunch and dinner with local ingredients and a London Fog that deserves the name. There is absolutely nothing wrong with views of the surrounding mountains and lagoon from its patio area either.

img_4912

Lunch you should pack yourself (fair warning, bring your groceries with you or make do from the one, limited, convenience store in town) and take it with you to enjoy at the top of the mountain you’re going to hike, right?

Party

There is one club in Harrison, and she’s a beaut. She doesn’t have the glamour or crowds of other clubs, she’s only ever open three hours once a week, but there is more fun in her simplicity than in anything city clubs have to offer.

Tourists to the are tend to be found families or elderly adults, so there will always be plenty of room on the dance floor, and most likely the crowd all know each other. So it’s the perfect place to practice those big, sweaty dance moves to bangers from the early 00s.

Adventure

img_4944

I’m obviously a little biased towards hiking, and Harrison offers some decent challenges to sweat out last nights toxins. With your 24 hours I strongly recommend the Harrison Grind (or the Campbell Lake Trail, as Ben the Barman pointed out to me, only posers call it the grind). It’s steep, but the five kilometres up this mountain reward you with sweeping views of Harrison Lake and the forested mountains surrounding it. Walk an extra 20 minutes to Campbell Lake to enjoy a picnic lunch before starting the trek back down again.

If you’re not a hiker, never fear. There’s a myriad of water activities on the lake, from paddle boarding to boat tours, to make sure all levels can get a great day adventure!

Swim

Ok, so there’s a great big lake in the centre of town. The thing about Canadian lakes is, they’re freezing, even if they’re not glacier fed like this one. Only Canadians are crazy enough to swim in these. Luckily, Harrison is most famous for its not-quite-natural hot springs. Go get a whiff of sulphur and relax those muscles. You deserved it, you hiked the Grind after all.

Shop

img_4966

Fun fact: Harrison is a place that has embraced Sasquatch sightings from the 60s. They’re so into it, its difficult to tell if it’s even a joke anymore. So while Harrison is not really a place to buy much other than dinner, you should definitely head to Harrison Village Gift Shop and buy yourself a Sasquatch memento.

 

My 13-year journey to Kurt Cobain’s Seattle memorial

Kurt Cobain’s unofficial memorial is a surprisingly peaceful place. The hour long pilgrimage of my morning saw city bustle and high-rise exchanged for families and their cosy homes.

Unlike the day before, the sun was shining bright and warm on on this small patch of grassy hill in the middle of typical suburbia. As I look out to a beautiful view of the water, birds chirp their appreciation for the day. The only other sounds are of the occasional car and passers-by.

There are only two park benches in this tiny space, and it’s obvious right away which is more important. A tree stands tall and strong behind it, the last home of Kurt Cobain (and yes, the place in which he ended his life) is visible off to the right but mostly obscured by a wall of tree and bush. On it are offerings: picks, coins from around the world, flowers and words.

His words.

“I hope you found Nirvana Kurt”
“Today I found my friends”
“One more special message to go. Now you’re done, and you can go home”
“Come as a friend”
“Come as you are, Kurt”

My own contribution? Your scent is still in my place of recovery. Because it is. Because his music shaped me. It made me write, it made me form a high school rock band, it showed me how to turn pain into beauty. My teenage angst might be gone but listening to these songs in good times or bad will always leave a smile on my soul.

I sit on the other bench. An overflow of respects have started to be written here too. An ache in my heart that began earlier in the morning has intensified now, thinking of the tragedy that too many people could be in so much turmoil, even amidst the beauty. Despite this however I was surprisingly calm, especially given I had been waiting 13 years to have this moment.

I have finally come.
I have come with dirty hair and no makeup.
I have come with the memories of intense self-loathing.
I have come with only love in my present.

I have come exactly as I am.

6 Bucketlist Views From Around The World

Not all views are equal. Some hit you so hard they take your breath away and stay with you forever. Some are easy to come by and some you appreciate all the more for the hard work that went into finding them. Here are six natural sights that couldn’t be more different, but should all be on your bucket list:

1. Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

I can’t go passed the pure joy I felt looking out onto the South African desert in Madikwe Game Reserve. Sure there’s no hiking here (those are real lions out there guys), but I’ve never felt more of a rush then gazing upon scenes right out of a David Attenborough documentary. Sure it’s smaller than the more popular Kruger, but that means there’s more chance of spotting the animals, plus safari leaders do an amazing job of not overcrowding the animals which is better for the animal and for your view of it.

4. Stop anywhere that sounds interesting, even if it turns out not to be. You never know unless you go!

Read the rest here.

Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are a hikers paradise, particularly for summit chasers. With Canada opening the gates to its’ National Parks in 2017, now is the time to start planning. You can live there for months (six, in my case) and still not even come close to hiking them all, so I’m here to help you narrow it down.

Sulphur Skyline1-sulphur-skyline

Few hikes end with panoramic mountain views that rival this one. The trail is steep, but the path is well defined, which makes the one and a half hour climb far easier to manage. The best part? The trailhead starts right next to Miette Hotsprings so once you’re back from soaking in the view, you can relax your tired muscles

2-berg-lake-trailBerg Lake Trail

Hands down, this was my favourite trail. It’s got everything: crystal-blue glacier fed lakes, dense forest, majestic waterfalls. Not only that, you can make it suit you. Are you a day tripper? Great! Make it to Kinney Lake (think Lake Louise without the crowds) or if you’re up for a challenge, to Emperor Falls. Love to camp? Perfect! Camp overnight, or two, and get all the way to Berg Lake. More of a mountain biker? Fantastic! Bikes are allowed along the first 7.2km, just passed Kinney Lake.

3-beauty-creekBeauty Creek

If you’re trying to shake other tourists, this one is for you. It’s just off the Icefields Parkway about 15 minutes drive south of Sunwapta Falls, but still pretty hard to find. The small roadside parking area is marked only by a small wooden post with a smaller picture of a hiking man on it, but when you do find it you won’t be disappointed. The path takes you beside a series of cataracts providing beauty every step of the way, until about an hour later it opens onto Stanley Falls.

 

Read more here.

11 reasons you should add Noumea to your bucket list

Published on Travelettes.net 

 

Who said there was nothing to do in Noumea? Well, just about everyone I spoke to before I left actually. They were the same people who told me what it was also too expensive. But on a recent trip to New Caledonia I have discovered 11 myth-busting reasons why they were wrong and why you should add Noumea to your bucket list asap!

1. The Beautiful Bays

IMG_5628

The city streets might be a bit narrow and steep to welcome cyclists, but bike lanes make the coast perfect to explore on two wheels. Start in the city, passing the ports and marinas full of colourful small boats and great white yachts, continue around to the Baie de Citrons with its coconut tree-lined roads, come out to L’Anse Vata with its bright blue water, paddle boarders and locals playing bocce along the boardwalk. Next, stop under the shadow of Ouen Toro mountain to watch fishermen wade into the water with nothing but a rod.

The whole trip will take only a couple of hours, but why not make a day of it and test out all the beaches along your way?

2. The Colonial Suburbs

IMG_5501

Ok so it’s just one suburb, and it won’t take you long, but these cute colonial houses and buildings from the late 1800s to 1930s along the Heritage Trail in the Faubourg Blanchot area are worth checking out.

3. Fresh Food from the Noumea Markets

Ignore the rumours that these markets are far more expensive than the supermarkets. There’s sometimes a slight increase, but nothing that’s going to break the bank, and just the sight of all this fresh, locally sourced fruit and seafood is worth the extra few cents.

4. Picnic Heaven

IMG_5462

Restaurants and bars here can be expensive and, frankly, a little sub-par. This is the only part of the myth I did find to hold some truth. But does it at all hinder your enjoyment or quality of eating? Nope! Pack up all that delicious local produce you just bought from the markets, add a baguette and dessert from a bakery and you have yourself a top-notch picnic. Just don’t forget the wine and cheese, this is a French settlement after all!

Read the other 7 reasons here.

9 steps to a perfect road trip

We Aussies are road-trippers. I grew up roading tripping up and down the East coast of Australia, and loved it so much I couldn’t wait to be the one behind the wheel. But if you’re a car trip newbie and the thought of weeks on the road makes you shudder, start small. Start at home, start with one day, start by yourself and follow these 9 steps:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

A guide to using your butt as a toboggan down Mt Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park

“Ok, I’m just going to stay squatting and push myself along as a penguin,” I called out, mortified at how ridiculous I looked, but also kind of having fun with my first accidental tobogganing experience.

“You do you,” he called back with a cheeky grin on his face. This was not how I pictured this going…

Of all the hikes and beautiful places hiding in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, open to  travellers with even tiniest bit of adventure in their blood, Mount Edith Cavell is one of the most coveted. And one of the few I hadn’t made it to yet.

Named in 1916 for an English nurse executed by the Germans in WWI for helping allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium, an easy 15 minute walk would get you to a lookout providing a close-up view of Angel Glacier, hanging between two mountains over a relatively small lake that remained frozen even in the middle of summer (not unlike myself). Another 1.5 hours along the meadow trail would take you the mountains’ peak.

img_9614

When a dashing local suggested the hike, I obviously wasn’t going to say no. If it didn’t live up to the hype I’d still have something pretty to look at, but I’d seen colleagues’ photos of wildflowers covering the mountainside and panoramic views from the peak, so I didn’t really think that would be a problem. I threw on my worn but trusty runners, glanced at the hiking poles I’d picked up from lost and found and almost immediately vetoed them, then bounced out the door.

I should have taken more time.

What I failed to grasp was the rest of my workmates had done the hike in July, when Jasper is at its (not very warm) warmest. This was September. Having joined my hiking buddy and been concentrating more on the conversation then where I was going, looking up was a shock.

Mt Edith Cavell

There was more snow covering this mountain than I had ever seen in my life. The pure, untouched brightness of the white clinging to green pine trees and covering the ground like a thick, fluffy blanket was straight out of a storybook. The small pockets of dark earth poking through was a stunning contrast. Thick cloud blocking a wider view only added to the mystical effect. Then I noticed the other hikers.

Every one had hiking boots, winter coats and hiking poles. Unlike my thickly padded one, their backpacks were meant for long walks and lots of sweating. All this I had been noticing all through summer, and, if I’m honest, had simply scoffed because my far cheaper gear was doing just fine. But now there was snow, and with snow there was ice, and I was slightly screwed.

Never one to back down from a challenge, and if I’m honest, still trying to be a little impressive, turning back was never an option. Getting up there is never that hard anyway, and coming back down was future Kassia’s problem. Plus, the further up we made it, the more the cloud began to clear, opening up to literally breathtaking views (or was that the altitude?) of the glacier below and mountains around us.

About an hour later, we made it to the peak. As the queen of under preparation, I had brought two apples and a small bottle of water. Luckily my hiking companion had a whole picnic in his backpack; he even used his waterproof jacket as a picnic blanket for us. Who says chivalry is dead?

I won’t lie, it’s cold up the top, but food or no food you’ll want to spend a while up there. If you start early in the day to avoid the crowds, there’s an added peacefulness, if not you’ll still enjoy soaking up the beauty in the presence of like-minded people. And then, if there is snow, and like me you’ve never before made a snowman, and especially if you have a Canadian with you to impart the secrets of perfect snowman making, obviously you’ll want to build a snowman. And the snowman will want you to build him, because what a view!

img_9605

Eventually though you will have to head back down. In mid-summer that won’t be a problem because you will be surrounded by wildflowers. Come Autumn, just hope you have hiking boots, or an extremely padded butt. I was now future Kassia and I had a problem.

Concentrating hard, I followed my companion back down the mountain trail, letting him and his sensible hiking boots go first while my very inadequate runners lost their grip again and again. I could no longer take part in the conversation, no matter how much I wanted to. For his part, he kindly took over talking and patiently waited for me to try and find my feet. Eventually there was no other choice, I was on my butt so much I may as well make use of it.

And that was how I ended up making like a penguin, surrounded by experienced and prepared hikers, up the top of Mt Edith Cavell. I have to admit, I was still having fun. My hiking buddy (and everyone else on the mountain) seemed to find the situation as funny as I did, and I’ve always wanted to toboggan; I had just imagined there’d be some sort of sled between me and the snow. Sure there was one particularly hairy bit where I slid down about 5 metres before I was able to dig my feet in to stop myself, but hey, I’m still alive!

I’d also still 100% recommend this hike. If you make it to the top and you see a pretty stylish snowman, give Edgar a hug for me.

Honkey-tonking through Calgary Stampede

Before last weekend I had never seen a rodeo, joined in a line dance, two-stepped with a cowboy or even particularly enjoyed country music. Now I’ve done them all.

Calgary’s yearly Stampede, a two-week festival of all things country, puts the whole city into party mode. You can feel it even as you’re driving in. Large tents are set up all over the city, cowboy hats, plaid and denim are everywhere you look and there’s an ever constant buzz of country music floating to your ears from one corner or another. Not even the ever-pouring rain can dampen these spirits, or ours for that matter.

And it all starts with free breakfast events over the whole two weeks. Seriously, just follow the sounds of root in’ tooting’ and you’ll end up finding free pancakes, live music and cowboys on stilts who will lasso you while your innocently devouring all the pancakes, then try and sell you off to the highest bidder.

The only way I could add more excitement to this morning was to buy my first ever car…so I did. I call her Butt-roof Bessie.

Hearing tell of $5 Stampede entry after 5pm, we decided to celebrate the car purchase and kill time with a pub lunch. Besides, what could get you ready for beer better than beer? As 5pm drew closer the number of cowboy hats in the pub started to make it difficult to move. We figured it was time.

Did we go to any shows? Or see any animals? Or at least jump on a ride? Nope. The mood was set and we were soaked to the bone by the bucketing rain so we headed straight for Nashville North, the most popular drinking tent without a bucking bull.

CS Nashville North

As two live country bands took turns playing covers on stage, we jumped in the shortest lines for Budweiser and those pre made shots that come in sealed containers. Then we talked to other groups of people, most country folk from around the world. Then we lined up for more drinks. Then met cowboys who taught the two-step for a living. Then we lined up for more drinks, and decided a genius idea would be to buy 4 rounds of shots each at one time. Chat, drink, dance, repeat.

I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun. This is a large group of people who love to meet a stranger and who ACTUALLY dance with other; no bump and grind, no notion that one thing will lead to another. Nothing but pure, inclusive fun. No-one even minds when you join in a line dance but can’t quite get it right to the detriment of many toes around you. I’m blaming the endless shots for that one!

Crawling back home through the city is really the only problem you’re going to have here.

5 Things I’m loving

Ok sure, mostly I love travel because of the experiences and people…but I also have a weakness for travel gadgets. Sometimes, it’s like people reach into my brain, find the thing I’ve been complaining about, and invented a way to fix it. These are some of those things:

1. Fold-up travel day pack

travel backpack

This is a functioning day pack, WITH space for your water bladder (you know, for those times you get lost and accidentally turn a 2 hour hike into an 8 hour one in the middle of the desert?). So what makes it so unique? IT FOLDS DOWN TO A NEAT LITTLE PACKAGE! Yet it’s still strong enough to hold all your day stuff! How cool is that? The fact that it’s Fair Trade and recycled materials friendly just adds to my love.

2. Scratch Map

scratch map

Ok so it’s not practical to carry around with you, but when I actually have a home again you’d better believe one of these bad boys will get a feature wall.

3. Sim-card holder

sim holder

Long-term travellers know the easiest way to stay in contact is to buy a local sim card. The long-term traveller who visits many localities knows how hard it is to keep track of each of these sim cards. And you loved that country, right? You’ll probably be back, right? So why would you throw the sim card away? You wouldn’t, you’d just buy one of these cheap sim card holders instead and throw it in your backpack.

4. The Travel bra

You probably wear a bra when you travel, or you at least wear undies. If you don’t then you’ll want to start because Australian company, The Travel Bra, has turned your comfy undergarments into handy-dandy, super secure, valuables holders. No more passport in the cleavage ladies, now there’s a pocket for it.

5. Canadian Rockies Trail Guide

IMG_8819

As you probably know I’m spending my summer at Sunwapta Falls in the middle of the largest National Park in The Canadian Rockies, Jasper. Honestly even with a full 6 months here I wasn’t sure how to fit all the trails in, but this brilliant guide is helping me narrow it down…now if only I had a car!

Perfect camping moments at Honeymoon Lake

We’ve abandoned the fire to sit by the lake, watching as the June full moon makes its way across the universe and the mountains reflecting in the mirror-like lake surface become shadows against the bright night sky. Jasper National Park is one of the largest Dark Sky reserves in the world, so there is nothing between us and the stars.

It feels magic.

The night is cold, but the body heat from our back-to-back cuddle huddle is keeping me warm enough. It’s only been a month, but already these people who share my home, my work, my laughter and my Game of Thrones obsession feel like family.

Our newest member plays slow, soulful songs on his acoustic guitar and the rest of us have fallen into an appreciative silence after finally controlling the giggle fit that was the undignified way we dealt with the pure shock that one of us had this much talent. To be honest, these kid has a voice to rival Bieber.

 

IMG_8619

Maybe it is magic. For the first time in what feels like a long time, past demons don’t matter.Thoughts I’ve been processing for months subside. They might be back tomorrow, but right now a little voice tells me if I made it here, then everything must be ok.

One of the group breaks our silence.

“Can I just say, when I’m 60, it’s going to be memories of moments like this that will make me so happy. You’re all pretty swell.”

Usually, I’d tease the hell out of him for being so cheese. But right now all I can think is how I couldn’t agree more.