The house is coming along well... We have a new foundation poured and re-framed a number of sections. The big news these days though is that I'm getting married at the end of the week (November 27th) which is extremely exciting.
My time estimates may have been a bit optimistic. I may not have accounted for having a full time job at this time as well, which severely limits my available time to work on the place. There is only a bit of shingling left before we can start working on the foundation and siding.
(Photos: Views from the roof of the building, a shot from my car as I was heading home one evening, Shingling... a lot of angles...)
Holly and I purchased a nice little piece of land a couple weeks ago. It's located right off the Northumberland Straight in the Canoe Cove/Argyle Shore area. There is a bit of an old house on the lot that we are working on fixing up. As you can well tell from the photos, there is a lot of fixing up to do, but we do see potential. The sunsets I see there almost every evening as I'm doing work on the place are incredible. (Photos: Looking down at the straight from the building, The beach down along the shore, The waterfront side of the building, Josh working on a new set of trusses for the front section of the building)
Other than a few snow days the planting this year has been going well. One thing I am noticing more and more over the years is that I'm not as young as I once was out here. I remember back in my early years when I was planting with eighth year vets and wondering how and why they were still out here. Well at least now I know. Thankfully somehow over the years I have yet to injure myself. It seems all to common for planters to have tendinitis, blisters, bad cuts/sores, twisted ankles, bad backs, bummed knees....
Good 'ol Days
One other think I have noticed out here planting this year is people falling into the good 'ol days mindset. Just remembering the best land, best cooks, best crew bosses, best pilots, best prices and so on and wishing those days were now. In reality things do change, it simply is a part of life. Thankfully it keeps life new and exciting. Even if the change is not wanted at the moment. Well in another 5 days planting will be only in the good 'ol days in my books... well if I get a job at least...
Another season has come yet again... Thankfully I only plan on being out here until the end of the month before I head home to continue my full time employment search. The first two weeks out here have been somewhat typical for a planting season. Some sun, some snow, some rain and lots of COLD... I just moved to my tent from a motel yesterday which of course meant it had to snow overnight... only another 10 days of planting and I'm done.
After upwards of 60,000 km of travel Holly and I have made it back to our Island. We both had an incredible journey and wish that more people would have the opportunity to do a journey such as this. For me reality is starting to settle in... I need to put together a resume and start begging for work... We would like to thank you all for your support and prayers as we have been off traveling. We truly have appreciated it all.
Holly and I have been making a quick pass through Europe the past few days. Trying to make the most of the little time we have left. From Frankfurt we made our way south to Salzburg where we were able to quickly check out the city. Following that we made it to Venice for a day of exploring this unique spot. After an overnight train last night we spent today in Rome checking out the sights. Tomorrow we fly from Milano back to London then fly home from there the next morning.
Holly and I have now completed our Africa portion of our trip. It's hard to believe how time moves along. Although it feels like we have been gone a long while, it is also hard to believe that our trip is already coming to a close. At the moment we are on a layover in the Doha airport in Qatar on our way to Frankfurt, Germany. From there we plan on spending a few days training around Europe before making our journey home. It's too bad our time is quickly running out.
From Southern Namibia, we were able to hitch a ride on a truck heading to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is a scenic city situated on the coast with mountains surrounding it. After spending some time hiking Table Mountain and browsing the craft markets, we are getting ready to head to Johannesburg to catch our Friday flight back to Europe (Germany).
Namibia is a large country with a small population and therefore does not have an extensive public transit system. Hitch hiking is very common and safe in this area so we decided to try our luck from Maun, Botswana to Windhoek, Namibia. Surprisingly, we were able to make the journey in only one day as a number of people picked us up. We had rides from a government employee and son, a rancher (cattle & game farm), peace core volunteers, and Zimbabweans driving to the coast to pick up used tires they shipped from Europe. We really enjoyed this mode of travel and learned a lot from the people who picked us up. After spending some time in Windhoek, the modern capital, and Swakomund, where the Kalahari desert meets the Atlantic Ocean, we headed south by minibus to Keetmanshoop where we would continue to South Africa. Holly
After crossing the Botswana border, we stopped in Kasane, a modern city and gateway into Chobe National Park. Accommodations were not cheap so we opted for camping at a nice lodge instead. From the lodge we were able to organise a afternoon boat cruise on the Zambezi River. Since the river level was so high (7 metres higher than normal) we were able to get quite close to the bank and saw many elephants and hippos, as well as various antelope, Buffalo, monitor lizards, crocodiles, giraffes and birds. According to the guide the park contains about 150,000 elephants however the park can only sustain 60,000. They moved some to another park in Botswana, but they all walked back to Chobe. From Kasane, we headed to Maun where we spent a day on the Okavanga Delta. A motor boat took us into the Delta, past some hippos (where I fell backwards in the boat due to the acceleration), where we switched to a Mokoro (a dugout canoe). We spent the day poling through the wetlands, swimming, and searching for animals in the grasslands. Unfortunately, we didn't see any more animals (except birds) but we had enjoyed travelling by Mokoro through the narrow channels abundant with waterlilies.
Zimbabwe has been an interesting experience today. Upon walking across the Victoria Falls bridge between borders we found out that for Canadians the visa fee was raised to $75USD versus the $30USD we were expecting. I guess we look like poor travelers because once we displayed this surprise and asked if there was any way we could get a cheaper transit visa they hummed and hawed then only made us pay $50USD each for the visas since they said they need tourists. Now in Zimbabwe the main currency is US dollars or South African Rands. This can be easily seen as the Zimbabwe dollar is worthless. We picked up a few 100 trillion dollar bills for 20 cents Canadian. We also had a chance to visit this side of Victoria Falls which was also beautiful. Again the water was high so there was a lot of mist which hindered the views. In the morning we hope to head on to Chobe National Park in Botswana. (photos: 100 Trillion Zibabwe dollars and Danger Point, Victoria Falls, Zibabwe)
Holly and I were able to visit the Zambia side of Victoria Falls today. This side of the falls gives an up close and personal experience with the falls... and all the "mist" (more like torrential downpours) that it produces. Needless to say we got soaked to the bone. In the morning we hope to visit the Zimbabwe side of the falls which is said to offer a bit more of an overview of the falls from further back. Although I'm not sure how as there seemed to be a huge amount of mist blanketing the entire falls. We were told that this is mainly due to the current wet season and the particularly high water levels at the moment creating this thick mist.
After arriving in Malawi, we made our way to Nkhata Bay on the beautiful Lake Malawi. Nkhata Bay is a small and quiet backpacker town, with little to do other than relax and enjoy the lake. While there we had a chance to get in some freshwater snorkeling, where we saw lots of chiclids, swimming on an incredible beach, bargaining at the local market and trying out the local dugout canoe - which is much more difficult than it looks. From there we made our way to Lilongwe where we were able to meet up with Owen, a long term EWB volunteer we know from UNB, he did the same EWB JF program with Holly in 2007, but was placed in Zambia. We had a good morning together letting him show us around town and hearing about some of the work being done in Malawi- along with eating many delicious guavas... From Lilongwe I had one of the worst bus rides of my life to the Zambian border- you think I would learn and not take the cheapest option. We are now in Lusaka, Zambia catching some rest before heading south to Victoria falls in the morning.
From Dar the train schedule worked out for us so we were able to travel inland via rail. The ride was a very rough, bumpy and noisy, but enjoyable 28 hours. We took 2nd class sleepers which consisted of 6 fold down bunks. Personally I slept great in my cabin with just two other guys, however Holly had a tougher time getting to sleep in her cabin because of noisy roommates, ie crying babies and chatty women. There was a lot of jolting stops and commotion of people getting off and on throughout the night. Most of the daytime hours we spent in the cafeteria cart eating, playing cards, chatting with fellow travelers and working out further travel plans. For the extra $6 we were glad we upgraded and did not take the economy class, which consisted of benches, crowds and general chaos. From Mbeya, Southwestern Tanzania, where we hopped off the train, we made our way to Malawi.
After enjoying some snorkeling/beach time on the Kenyan coast we headed to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to catch a pricey ferry to Zanzibar. Despite the higher prices, particularly for accommodation, we are having a great time. The island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and we continue to get lost in the winding, narrow streets of Stone Town. We spent a couple nights in Jambiani (right on the beach) where we made a boat trip to snorkel with Dolphins and other sea life. We have also eaten some interesting sea life.....octopus, barracuda, shark, etc. Over the next couple days we plan to head to Malawi (hopefully by train) to do some hiking and hanging out on Lake Malawi.
After a lot of time in a Safari vehicle we have now made our way to the coast to kick back and relax a bit. In the morning we hope to make it out to the Malindi National Marine Park to go snorkeling on the coral reef. In hopes to see some whale/nurse sharks in addition to other marine life. If only we had an underwater camera/case we could show how great the marine life here is.
The first three days of safari in Masai Mara were incredible. The wildlife... unbelievable and in concentrations that were never expected. Once we get some good internet we will try to upload a few photos. Lions (10), Zebras (uncountable), Elephants (uncountable), Giraffes (uncountable), Buffalo (uncountable), hippos (~50), Leopard (1), Cheetah (1), Warthogs (~50), Mini Dik-Diks (2), Impalas (uncountable), Gazelles (uncountable), Wildebeest (~100), Hartbeest (~50), Topi (uncountable), Alligator (1) and so on and so on... (Photos will be better to explain...) Tomorrow we spend time in another park (Lake Nakuru NP) where we expect to see rhinos, flamingos and who knows what else.
After a few days kicking it back on the Sinai, Holly and I have now moved on to Nairobi, Kenya. Tomorrow morning we head off on a four day Safari to Masai Mara game reserve and Nakuru National Park. This one safari may have to be the extent of our organized safari adventures as they are dreadfully expensive. Reportedly they are even more expensive in Tanzania so we are going for it now while we can. On a sad note for myself I broke my camera back in Dahab so we are relying exclusively on Holly's camera for the moment (I do have extended warranty, but that does not do me much good here). So hopefully we will have some great wildlife shots to upload when we arrive back on Tuesday (although the Internet is slow...)
Holly and I decided to do a hike to Mount Sinai in order to experience the sunrise on the mountain. This required us to start out at 11:00 pm last night in order to drive to the base of the mountain about 2 hours away. We then hiked up the camel trail to the top, which took us about three hours taking it easy with lots of stops to catch our breath and warm up. It was a beautiful, clear, bright (close to full moon) and cold night. We reached just short of the top by about 4:00 am where we were able to warm up in a hut and rent a blanket. By 5:30 we made it to the summit and found a great spot to watch the sunrise. It was cold... very cold... waiting for the sun to come over the horizon. The sun did finally come just after 6:00 to the relief and light cheer of the people on the mountain as most people where freezing and wanted to descend. By 9:00 we were back at the base to check out St. Catherine's Monastery (supposed location of the burning bush) before heading back to catch up on a missed night of sleep.