On the road in New Zealand

Leaving Australia early in the morning, it didn’t even occur to us to check our flight status and it’s only when we made it to the airport that we were informed that our flight was delayed because of the heavy fog in Christchurch. At that point, they weren’t even sure if we could fly at all as they indicated that the flight was delayed with no real estimated departure time. Noel and I just kicked back for a while at the airport drinking some overpriced coffee until they announced that we would finally fly around mid day meaning that we would most likely miss our connection flight to Queenstown. Not to worry they said, someone would have a plan once we made it to Christchurch. The plan was to fly us from Christchurch to Invercargill which is the most southern town in New Zealand. From there they put us in a van and drove us for 3 hours to Queenstown. What a journey! When we finally made it to our B&B that night, our heads were still spinning.

After being in tropical places for the last 5 months, waking up in Queenstown was like stepping into an industrial freezer, which we did in Australia when we visited our friend Andrew’s refrigerated storage business. When Andrew invited Noel and I to take a tour of his massive refrigerated installations, I only took one step inside before I decided to turn around to wait outside until they returned. My toes instantly curled into a ball and my feet were cramped. That’s about how I felt when I woke up that morning in Queenstown. I thought it was nice and romantic that we had a stove right next to the bed, but it turns out to be an absolute necessity, rather than a mood setter. A funny thing that we noticed is that most houses here in New Zealand are not insulated the way houses are in Canada and most of them don’t have central heating systems. Suddenly, wearing pants, socks and shoes became a necessity. I even purchased a puffy jacket & gloves. Luckily I asked Orb to send me a toque with my last shipment of clothes which has come in super handy.

Queenstown is a gorgeous little ski town right on a lake and surrounded by stunning mountains. The ski season hasn’t started yet, but you can tell that this little town becomes quite busy during peak season. I would love to return in the Winter time to snowboard and see how it compares to Whistler.

Picking up our van from the rental place was fast and easy and for about $35/day, we got this sweet camperized van that has everything you need for a great road trip. It comes with a mini fridge, a sink, a mini gas stove, dish ware, cookware, a double bed, bedding, nice little benches to hang out and a kitchen table that folds down to unveil a map on the wall to help you plan your route. The only extra things that we requested were a GPS and a mini heater since I am always cold! We loaded up our two suitcases and our surfboard bag and off we went exploring.

Not too far from Queenstown, there is a super cute old mining town called Arrowtown that we stopped by for a nice lunch. The next day we headed out toward Milford Sound, making it as far as Te Anau where we spent a chilly night sleeping in the van. Even the little heater didn’t quite keep us warm that night. The next day we drove from Te Anau to Milford Sound which to me is the most stunning drive on the South Island. The sun started to shine amplifying the Fall colours and making for great photos along the way. We stopped at the Divide to hike part of the Routeburn Track leading us to a great view point of the Valley. I would have loved to do the whole track which takes about 3-4 days, but unfortunately it was really cold and we didn’t have the necessary camping gear for such conditions. I really don’t like being cold!

Not to far past the Divide, we came to a long one way tunnel that goes under a huge mountain. When the light went green we drove into this cold rocky hole that’s blasted through the mountain. I was a bit scared at first because instead of going straight, it winds and turns left and right. I was wondering when we would finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! A few minutes later we came out on the other side and witnessed even more amazing views all the way to Milford Sound. There is something hard to describe about being in the mountains where the sun filters it’s way in a multitude of layers as it shines through the fog and bounces off the sides of the mountains creating this mysterious and magnificent scenery.

The only down side about going all the way to Milford Sound is that you have to back track all the way to Queenstown in order to go North along the coastal highway along the West Coast of Southern New Zealand.

Snacks, coffee and singing should entertain us for a while!

Good Living in Sydney Australia

Coming back to Sydney was like coming home for me. Between 1995 and 1996 I spent a year living in Australia with Mike Cowie, Foozeball Dave and my brother Jed. We were young and mostly what I remember doing was surfing and skateboarding. I spent most of my time in the little beach community called Manly which is just north and a short ferry ride from Sydney’s downtown. It’s a mix between Vancouver and San Diego in that the vibe is super chill and everyone is really nice, the upside being that there are no junkies or bums asking for change here in Manly. Living in Vancouver, Kits to be specific, I guess I have become somewhat used to the sketchy drugged out dudes asking for change every time I go to Whole Foods to pick up groceries. 20 years ago this was never a problem in Canada. North American society, specifically me I guess, is becoming desensitized and such things have become the norm. What happened to people’s values and self respect that such things are accepted as normal?

The beachside community of Manly, and from what we have seen of Sydney, is somewhat void of such things. Much like Kits, everyone is super fit, stylish, happy and are loving life. The culture somewhat revolves around the surf and all of the healthy living that goes with being by the ocean. Cafes line the beach front and every second person is carrying a surfboard, riding skateboards, or riding bikes. The waves out front are somewhat crowded, but even I was able to get more waves as I could count on the best of the 7 days that we were here. Some of the surfers were only wearing board shorts, but I was happy to have a shorty as the water was a little cool due to it being fall now. To my surprise, the waves were really great with lots of overhead peaks firing down the line. I had a blast!

Best of all is that the day after we arrived my good friends Andy and Nick, who I knew from when I worked at Manly Blades, took us camping about 4 hours south of Sydney. The plan was to surf heaps, but a massive storm that dumped 200mm of rain in 24 hours made the surf less than perfect. It was so great connecting with them and meeting their new families. Even though it has been 17 years since I have seen them, it was like we had been hanging out non stop without missing a beat.

We camped at a small beach community called North Durras and the place was teaming with Kangaroos. They were absolutely everywhere and it was pretty cool to see them bouncing all over the place. It wouldn’t be Australia without a spider or snake story. While camping there was a HUGE Huntsman spider about a foot from my head. Josi spotted it and screamed and I jumped. Andy told me that it was a “friendly” spider and that it is Ok to pick it up. He hinted a few times that I should, but I thought skip that, I can’t stand spiders! The next day he tells me that one of the same spiders bit his daughter not too long ago and he decided not to send her to school that day to keep an eye on her. Apparently it’s only poisonous if you react funny to it and regardless they can pack a mean bite. My rule of thumb, never pick up a spider. Luckily it didn’t rain the whole time and we were able to enjoy a big open flame BBQ and lots of stories by the fire.

Back in Manly, we stayed at a little guest house/hotel a couple of blocks from where I used to work and a half block from the beach. I loved living here because I was able to fit surfing into my daily routine. The pic above is Andrew catching a early morning wave just before we went for breakfast.

We toured Sydney and some of it’s many beaches with Josi’s friend Stephen, who lives in Manly as well. He is a member of the Manly LIfesaving Club and prefers to surf on a lifesaving board. It’s big and he rides it on his knees and to my surprise he was able to control it pretty efficiently. When we fly out to New Zealand Steven has offered for us to stay at this house right on the beach which is really great.

It was also really great to catch up with Bill and his wife Barb. Bill was my my boss when I worked here at Manly Blades (now called Skater HQ), and it was such a great place to work. Bill was great because he was good with business, and a the same time super laid back and all good times. We also connected with Josi’s Ausi friend Chris from back in Whistler who also lives in Manly. So many friends are now living in the same area!

On one of the days without much surf we took the harbour ferry into the city. SItting on deck and and seeing the famous Sydney Opera House from the water with the city skyline behind it is always a cool sight. We checked out the Museum of Art, which is free, and the art exhibits were all really great. We also had fun passing the time by taking photos for Orb Clothing. Had we had more time here we would have liked to check out a lot more of the sights, but on this trip surfing took priority and we made the most of it.

While there aren’t many, the few downsides to Australia are the distance from home back in Canada and the cost of living. Eating out and buying groceries seems to be about 35% higher than Vancouver. Real estate in the most desirable beach side locations is also hyper inflated. I guess if you are living and working here you don’t notice it as much as we do being tourists. It doesn’t help that we just came from Bali where things are so crazy cheep.

The upsides here in Australia far outweigh the cost of living that’s for sure. It’s nice here because when walking down the street people smile at you and say “good day” and the overall vibe is super friendly. There are loads of cool cafe’s and shops and the surf is right there. I could easily move back to Australia as it’s such good living and to my surprise, Josi totally loves it here as well.

Our next stop is to visit our friend Juliet and her son Ben who live in Melbourne for a week of checking out the city and cold water surfing.

Loving Life in Beautiful Bali

While we had a great time in Vietnam, Noel and I were more than ready to trade the pho soup for some delicious Gado Gado and satays. Noel’s mom who has been travelling in Borneo for the last little while, decided to come to Bali a little earlier than planned, so as soon as we heard we did the same. A phone call later and we had our new tickets in hand and we were Bali bound. The first leg of our flight was only available in coach and we were ok with it, knowing that Bali’s tropical waters were around the corner. What worked perfectly was that the second leg of our flight was still business class meaning that we were able to enjoy our 3 hour lay over in the Singapore Air first class lounge. Of all the lounges that we visited this one was absolutely awesome and the best that we have experienced so far. The food and drink selection is over the top and the nice ambiance gave Noel and I a chance to catch up on a few emails.

Even though we are mostly visiting places where we had never been before, Bali is an exception. Both Noel and I had been before on separate occasions and we both loved the thought of experiencing this beautiful island together. Last time I was here was nearly 4 years ago when I did my yoga teacher training up in Ubud. Noel’s mom had gotten to Bali before us and had set up camp in Ubud so Noel and I headed straight there once we landed. I was expecting Ubud to be unchanged from when I last left it, but like most thriving tourist destinations in this part of the world, it had grew a little too much for my liking. The are definitely too many fancy shops and way too many taxi drivers harassing you for their business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still lovely and I would recommend going for a visit, it’s just that it has lost a bit of it’s Balinese character. What I miss the most is that four years ago the Balinese would all great you using Indonesia Bahasa and now they all speak English. Even though it’s convenient, I think that it’s a bit of shame.

Noel and I are determined to get back into our yoga routine and with two magnificent studios in town, it’s perfect to get back into the grove. Our hotel is really close to The Yoga Barn which has a great yoga pavilion overlooking the rice fields and offers tons of different classes. Another studio is Radiantly Alive which is where I did my teacher training. They have since expanded and have a stunning studio right the heart of Ubud, just across from Bali Buddha for those who know the area. It was great to reconnect with one of my teachers, Daniel Aaron and take one of his perfectly challenging classes. Noel and I are hoping that a few classes will be a good kick start for our upcoming week long yoga retreat here in Bali with our good friends Eoin Finn and Insiya Rasiwala-Finn. They are friends from back in Vancouver and they now travel the world with their yoga company which they aptly named Blissology.

One thing that remains unchanged in Ubud is the Monkey Forest that’s in the middle of town. For only a couple of dollars per person, you get to explore this beautiful park that’s absolutely filled with cheeky little monkeys, really neat statues and walkways. These monkeys are not shy at all, allowing you to snap great photos and witness their cheekiness as they jump on tourists backpacks and steal their sunglasses and what ever else they can get their hands on. The babies are definitely the cutest of all, especially when they hang from the mom’s belly while she runs through the trees. It was all fun and games to watch until one the monkeys climbed on a girl and accidentally scratched and cut her back. Noel’s mom and I immediately started thinking about rabies which the monkeys have been know to have and we decided that it was time to go!

While in Ubud, we went to see a traditional Balinese show involving live music and dancing. What was particularly neat about this show was that all of the talent were local women. All of the musicians except for one man who we assume was filling in for his wife had been practicing together for several years and were proud to perform in their bright blue and pink traditional outfits. There was also a troop of great dancers who entertained us for nearly an hour and a half. It was impressive to see all the gestures they incorporated in their dances as well as the facial expressions and movement of the eyes bringing a cartoon like feel to their characters.

After a few fun days in Ubud, we are off to the little car free island of Nusa Lembongan for a week of peace, relaxation and surfing.

Buenos Aires – Argentina

Even though I was excited to be going to Argentina, I knew that I was going to miss the laid back and healthy lifestyle that we had in Costa Rica. There is something very cool about being able to wake up and go for a surf in tropical warm water every day and eating unlimited fresh fruits and seafood for next to nothing. But it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if we just stayed in Costa for six and a half months would it? Having never been to Argentina I was exited to see what fun and cool things we would get up to.

Getting from Mal Pais to Buenos Aries was an adventure in itself. We started in a small twin prop from Tambor to San Jose where we stayed the night before departing early the next morning to Panama City. Our Panama to Costa and back leg of our adventures wasn’t a part of our around the world ticket so we weren’t flying business class. Luckily I’m always nice (and Josi is even nicer) when checking in and this time it paid in full as we got a free upgrade to first class.

Josi found us a great hotel/apartment in Recoletta right beside the old graveyard. I’m not a fan of grave yards, but this one is over the top with huge statues, cool carvings and it has a real tourist draw. Our apartment was on the top floor, had a full kitchen (that we never used), a huge patio, great views and a really comfortable bed. When we go back we will either stay in Recoletta again, or we will stay in Palermo Soho which is a little more out of the way, but is a lot hipper and a less touristy part of town.

Buenos Aries is a city for lovers. There always seemed to be a warm breeze to cool the hot summer sun as it’s soft light fell onto couples making out on park benches. The people are friendly and often comical when talking to them on the streets or in their shops. From what I can tell Argentinians have a real pride in who they are and in no way seem threatening or menacing like many of the other Latin American countries that I have been to. The one thing that I don’t like so much is that most of them love to smoke cigarettes. We felt very safe in Buenos Aires, but I’m guessing that there is a darker side that we thankfully haven’t seen. Once while having a coffee on a patio close to our hotel in an affluent area and another time while shopping in Palermo Soho people came up to me and told me to be careful with my camera as they were worried that someone might steal it from me. Everyone was so friendly and everything seems so safe that I wouldn’t have believe it to be possible, but when looking up at the apartments all of the second floor units, and even many of the 5th floor units, have their balconies fully gated off so no one can get in. I wouldn’t expect that anyone would choose to live in a cage, especially on the 5th floor, unless break in’s were somewhat common.

On the weekends there are several markets selling all sorts of cool hand made things, food, and junk. There are people playing music and dancing tango and lots of tourists and locals alike experiencing the beautiful summer days. We were hoping that all of the stories of really cheep leather shoes, clothes and restaurants were all true, but we have yet to discover any great deals. A nice pair of men’s shoes costs about $160 and a main course for dinner goes for about $20. Not overly expensive, just not as cheep as it was a few years ago I guess.

I’m sure you could do it, but being a vegetarian or a vegan would be less than easy because they really love their meat. The food courts in the mall even have open grills where they cook huge steaks. I went full on meat for dinner one night and I felt full and a little funny for days. After a month in Costa Rica of eating seafood, and a lifetime of hardly eating red meat, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. What I do love here is their Chimmy Churry sauce. Every restaurant has their own unique version of it and I put it on absolutely everything.

In my next blog post I will tell you about our 22 hour bus trip to Bariloche and all of our hiking and fishing adventures in Patagonia.

Too Relaxing of a Layover

Noel and I stayed in San Jose for a night before starting our Argentinian Adventure. The price was right so we chose one of the big box hotels by the SJO airport which was characterless, and nice and easy at the same time. We were up early the next day on our way to Panama and then onto Argentina. The flight from SJO to Panama was one we purchased as it was not a part of our scheduled around the world ticket. What was great is that they upgraded us to first class which surprised Noel considering we were wearing flip flops, shorts and TShirts.

Our 5 hour layover in Panama didn’t seem so bad knowing we had access to the first class lounge and could catch up on emails and work. We got comfy, drank coffee, did a bit of work and watched planes take off. At some point, we got tired of eating Copa’s prepackaged lounge snacks so we went to grab a quick bite downstairs in the airport. After eating lunch I took my phone off of Airplane Mode to check my emails and the local time adjusted itself. We thought that we knew what time it was, but we must have had it wrong. We spent way longer than we thought in the lounge and rather than having over an hour left we were about to miss our flight to Buenos Aires. After a long run through the airport we made our flight with only a few minutes to spare. I am so glad that we didn’t miss our flight to Argentina as I didn’t want to spend the night in Panama.

Our next flight was about 6 hours and for the first time it felt like what I always imagined First Class to be… It was very comfortable. The seats reclined to a level that made it more than easy to sleep, the food was surprisingly delicious and the landing as smooth as it gets. We landed at 1am and after a quick cab ride we checked in to our hotel in Recoleta, a nice neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. Since then we have spent our days discovering this super cool city, taking it in as much as we can before leaving to the mountains of Patagonia. I absolutely love Buenos Aires and could easily see myself spending a much longer period of time here. The weather is about 32 degrees everyday with a mix of sun and clouds and a nice breeze which makes it very enjoyable for walking around. The sun stays up until about 8:30pm and the humidity level has been very tolerable. I haven’t bought many things as of yet, but the shopping here is amazing and I’m in bikini and purse heaven!

Buenos Aires has a very romantic vibe and I witnessed a lot of people kissing passionately at restaurants and in the parks, which makes for a great stop for our honeymoon. The three neighbourhoods where we hug out the most: Palermo, Palermo Soho and Recoleta remind me of New York in a less busy way. The fact that there is not much traffic makes it possible to steel a quick kiss from your lover in the middle of the street as you are crossing. More photos of Buenos Aires to come real soon!

Loving the Adventure of Life

Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Being here has provided a great opportunity to shut my brain off and to relax after working so much during the last six months prior to the trip. I find it amazing what one is able to put them self through with regards to long long hours of non stop work, and what one is able to accomplish, when you are working toward a goal. With out something to look forward to I could have never put in the hours that I did.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 22 days since we left home, crazy how time flies. Our days have been going something like this. Wake up really early and surf for two or three hours. Shower and go for breakfast. Come home and check emails and then possibly do a bit of work. Eat a light lunch. Go fly fishing in the surf or adventure around a little and check things out. Then go for an evening surf, shower up again, go for dinner and go to bed early.

The Surf:
The waves have been smallish, but have been consistent and the mornings have been a lot of fun. My late takeoff on my backside drop in’s have been touch and go. I got totally rocked today on a wave that I normally would have caught with out much problem. I’m happy that I’m working it out a mellow beach break rather than on the razor sharp reefs of Indonesia. My goal for this trip is to get back into shape and to catch airs on my surfboard again. In truth, I have only ever landed a few and that was years back. I’m confident that I will be sticking them by the end of this trip. I was stoked the other day to ride out of a little frontside barrel which is always a good start to a surf trip. For the most part there haven’t been much in the way of barrels to be had, but there have been lots of fun waves. The water is crazy warm and I could stay in it all day with out getting even the slightest of a chill. I’m also stoked that Josi is getting the hang of her new board and is catching lots of waves. I keep hoping that the swell is going to pick up a bunch so that we can surf some of the many great point breaks in the area, but I din’t think that that’s going to happen. Not to worry, lots of opportunity for great waves over the next 6 months.

The Food:
Lets just say that as long as you love delicious seafood, or chicken for that matter, then you will love Costa Rica. For dinner, a huge main course consisting of a protean like fish (mahi mahi, yellow fin tuna, snapper), chicken, or beef with rice, beans and a salad costs about $10 to $14. It’s a lot of food and it tastes really great. For breakfast we have a traditional Costa Rican meal consisting of eggs, rice and beans, a corn tortilla and a protein (Josi usually has the fried local cheese and I usually have bacon). Breakfast is about $5, but when you add in coffee and fresh fruit smoothy it costs a little less than $20 for both of us including a decent tip.

Fly Fishing:
There have been huge amounts of sea birds diving into the surf every day as they feast on small silver bait fish. The locals are fishing from the shore every day using two hand lines, one for catching bait and another for catching the larger fish eating the bait. As the pounding surf comes at them they throw their line over the wave and then quickly duck under it. Normally on surf trips I bring a casting rod but because we are spending a month in Argentina and I plan on doing a lot of fly fishing in Patagonia I only brought a 6 weight, 4 piece Sage rod. i have had a less then easy time learning to cast through the surf as it pounds you over again and again. Prior to yesterday, the closest I got to catching a fish was seeing some fish chase my fly as I retrieved it in quickly. I haven’t seem many locals actually catch fish, but I have seen a few which is enough to keep me coming back again and again. I keep experimenting with new flies and yesterday was the first day that I used a fly that looks like a white minnow. I still didn’t catch anything, but I had one one which is a start in the right direction. I saw the fish come out of the water as it hit the fly and I think that had I not been worked around by the surf I would have set the hook sooner and would have had caught it. I’m not sure what they are called, but I have seen them as big as 8 pounds and the locals say they taste great. Hopefully in my next blog post I will be able to tell you first hand how it taste.

Our Adventures:
I’m not sure that I mentioned it in my first blog post, but the adventure starts even before you land in Tambour. As you are flying in you see a tinny little gravel airstrip that drops into the ocean. Coming in you are thinking to yourself, are we really going to land here? It’s the type of air strip I imagine being used by drug lords rather than tourists. When you take off out of San Jose you fly over some pretty poor neighbourhoods with all of the houses having bars on all of the windows and old tin roofs. Makes me glad for what I have and for how blessed I have been in my life. I like to think that if I were really poor I would live by the sea and not in a city.

Having been to Mal Pais so many times in the past we have seen pretty much all of the sights, but this is Josi’s parents first time so we are seeing it all again which is great. With every corner you turn there is another beautiful beach, lush tropical jungles, beach side restaurants serving up fresh food and delicious blended fruit drinks, huge lizards scurrying across hot and dusty roads, and all sorts of other cool and wild things. The other day we watched as they released endangered baby turtles into the sea. It’s super cute watching them scurry across the sand as they make their way into the surf to live a life at sea. We collected clay rocks on the beach that we took home and crushed up in warm water to make a mud paste. Josi, her mom and her dad and I went down to the beach and we all gave ourself’s a home made luxury mud bath. It was pretty funny as we caked it on ourself, face and all, which made for some great photos. After it dried in the hot sun we washed it off in the open ocean. The end result was perhaps the softest my skin has ever been.

Most of the locals wear Jobbies hats and shirts that I designed for his surf shop. It’s neat traveling so far from home and into a remote beach side community where everyone is wearing creative that you created. I’m hoping to be able to take photos of some of my new creative that is at the print shop now. I’m expecting that it will be done before the new year, but it is Costa Rica so who’s to say?

This is only that third Christmas I have ever spent away from home. Once I was in Tokyo, once I was surfing in Australia and this year I’m going to be here. Lets start by saying that I have always loved Christmas. While it won’t be the same as being at home, people have put lights up in cactus’s and there are a few fake Christmas Trees up so it feels just a little like the holidays. It’s also great that Josi’s parents are here. Family, even if they are my new family, are great to have around over the holidays. And I think that I would much rather the sun and a surf than snow and a toboggan ride on Christmas morning.

Happy Holidays and I look forward to updating you again soon.

Mal Pais, Costa Rica

We flew out of Bocas Del Toro to San Jose Costa Rica and then connected to Tambor which is an airport with a super sketchy little small gravel airstrip on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. On the plane we sat in front of a guy who lives in Santa Teressa who knows Jobbie so we shared a cab with him to Mal Pais with saved us a couple of bucks which was nice. Having spent a lot of time in Mal Pais over the years it felt as though we were back to our home away from home. While there is always swell here, it’s not the waves that keep us coming back, it’s the people and the laid back vibe. It’s super chill with great food, decent surf most of the time, and lots of fun things to do.

Our good friend Jobbie, a fellow Canadian who I met down here 12 years ago, has a surf shop and surf school in Mal Pais. http://www.jobbieslongboards.com. If you are looking for the perfect get away from the winter rains and want to learn how to surf, relax, and have a blast, be sure to look him up. And if you are wondering why his logo and all of his apparel graphics are so dam cool, it’s because I have been doing all of his creative since day one. A little ruthless self promotion. What’s cool is that yesterday I also designed up some shirt and ball cap designs for Product C, a local fish market and restaurant that totally rocks in exchange for free meals.

Josi had caught a cold in Vancouver just before we left and it never quite left. Over the last week she was hit pretty hard and she even had to take a couple of days out of the surf. She has been riding her now short board and was stoked to find out that she can now duck dive, something that she always wanted to do. Now that she is starting to feel better I’m sure that she will be in the surf every day. I have been waking up between 6 and 7am for an early morning surf but today I took the morning off because I paddled through some jellyfish yesterday and my arms are marked up pretty good. It hurts a bit when you first get stung, then feels like a mild burn and the next day it swells up and gets itchy. Your only defence once you have been stung is to pee on it right away, then pour vinegar on it when you get home and after that to scrape it with a credit card. The scraping is meant to get out the stingers. It doesn’t help that I’m more susceptible to jellyfish stings than some and because of it seem to get stung more than most.

Jobbie hooked us up with a killer apartment right by the beach which is so great. Two bedrooms, AC, full kitchen and 24 hour security so you don’t have to worry too much about things getting stolen which is good. While it’s super beautiful here and the locals are all super nice, you hear stories of things going missing all the time.

Josi’s parents have joined us here from Montreal and are staying through Christmas which is really great. For them this is a big adventure as they have only been out of Canada a few times and usually it’s at an all inclusive. It’s pretty rustic here with only gravel roads and the restaurants are often open walled huts where they cook on open fires. They are great sports and I think that they have been having a good time so far.

Yesterday we went fishing with our friend and local fisherman, Dougie (https://www.facebook.com/douglas.castrillo.14). $150 gets you a boat that can sit 6 people out on the open ocean for 4 hours. Dougie is a great guy and as far as the local fisherman go he is the best. If you are ever down here I highly recommend that you send him a message and have him take you out. Josi caught a big Amber Jack, Luke caught a huge Mahi Mahi (Dougie is holding it up in the photo below, I caught a super tasty Yellow Fin Tuna and the rest of the team caught nice size Amber Jacks as well. We saw dolphins, huge sea turtles and lots of fish. Needless to say, we are all going to be eating lots of fresh seafood for the next few days!

Well, it’s hot and I’m itching to go for a surf so I’m out of here. At some point I will pull out my good camera and will take some nicer photos. And if the surf gets big then we will be sure to get some surf photos as well.

On the road

The world adventure has begun! It was more than a year ago that Noel and I decided to embark on trip around the world. For a while, we weren’t sure of the exact date of our departure and since the summer is so nice in beautiful British Columbia, we decided to stick around and enjoy the sunshine. It was perfect really since it gave us time to go to Mexico for two weeks for a swimwear photo shoot/ surf trip, and prepare for this trip. It took a lot more preparation that I had envisioned, so we both ended up working a lot more than expected and the trip, even though it was coming quickly, seemed like it was never going to happen.

Noel’s mom drove us to the airport and it is only when we sat down on the plane that it felt real!

We have been gone for 4 days now and it seems like it’s already been forever. Vegas was a blast! Staying awake all night was definitely the call and it made for a sleepy plane ride on our way to Panama.

It is the first time for both of us here and we didn’t know what to expect at all. I was surprised to see how many high rises there are in the city and how tall they are. My guess is that the tallest is around 80 floors and the crazy thing is that it is right next to the ocean. The architecture of some of these new buildings is impressive.

The old part of the city: Casco Antiguo is beautiful and great fun to walk through. The old buildings now house government offices, churches, restaurants, stores and hotels. It definitely has a tourist vibe and at the same time it is vibrant with the locals presence. Casco Antiguo is on the other side of the bay from the downtown area and it makes for a bit of a clashing scenery. While most of the government buildings are revamped and quite charming, the rest of the area is surrounded by dilapidated buildings and rough neighbourhoods.

Unfortunately, there is no real surfing right in the city, so after two days, we decided that it is time for us to move to our next destination: Bocas del Toro.

We could have flown there easily within 45 minutes and we decided that saving a few bucks by taking the bus was a great idea. It is an 11h bus ride! Ouch! In fact this is where I am writing this post at this very moment. I love going on bus rides in tropical places because it gives you time to reflect on what you’ve seen so far and plan your next adventure. That being said, the real reason why I like bus rides is that you get to bring snacks! And shopping for snacks in tropical places is the best!

First you get as much local food as you can: empenadas and locally made ham and cheese croissants are the best! Second you get to choose between all the sugary snack from your youth and some that you never even heard from before! The labels are usually pretty awesome too, in a non American kind of way! Third is the drinking yogurt! I don’t know why we don’t carry more in our grocery stores back home in Canada, because it’s are purely delicious and they have all the fruit flavours that you can imagine. I have to say that the mango and passion fruit mix is my favourite so far.

My sugar rush is finally coming to an end so I will put my headphones on, listen to a audio book and pray for the bus driver’s assistant to find the key to for the bathroom which has been locked since we left the bus terminal a couple of hours ago:)

Vegas & Panama City


We landed in Vegas at 4:45pm and our flight to Panama didn’t leave until 4:45am. Rather than get a room and sleep we decided to gamble, drink and eat a greasy late night breakfast. Our first stop was the United Lounge which was underwhelming, but not totally disappointing. We had enough time to check our emails, do a quick blog post and down a couple of stiff drinks. Vegas is a town best served with a buzz.

My observation of Vegas is that it’s made up of 70% waisted dudes looking for action that they will never find, 20% women who are dressed like really dirty hookers and 10% old people smoking darts and playing slots.

We didn’t gamble much, just enough to win enough to pay for our cab fairs to and from the airport to the strip. As long as I leave Vegas up just a little I’m always happy. I credit my luck to doubling down when ever I get a chance and to only drinking Jack and Coke when gambling. I don’t drink it back home, but when I’m in Vegas it’s the only thing that seems to make things right.

When we finally got back to the airport to check in we were beat tired so we curled up on the floor next to where we checked in. I have crashed on way too many airport floors in my time, but this time was different because when we woke up we skipped the line and dove into our first class seats.

Flying with Copa was like flying in the 70’s, but the plane is now old and without the hip and stylish flight attendants. We slept hard most of the flight.

As a photographer, I found Panama City is rich with vibrant ageing textures and colour which made for some fun photos.

We stayed for 2 nights and would have likely only stayed just one had we know that it had little to offer us other than a few great photo opportunities. We stayed at the The Hard Rock Hotel which came with first world prices and third world service. The longer are in Panama the it seems as though that many of the workers can’t be bothered. Of course there are some great exceptions, including the taxi driver who took us to the bus depot and then lead us deep within it’s masses to the ticket booth that we would have never found otherwise.

Every day has had a mix of little sun in the morning and then hard core thunder showers in the afternoons that sneak up on you from out of no where.

We did enjoy our Pacific Ocean facing 34th floor suite (they gave us a free upgrade) because it offered a great view of the huge cargo ships as they either entered or departed from the Panama Canal.

In sharp contrast to flying first class and staying at the Hard Rock, Josi and I are now on an overnight bus trip ($27 each) to a small group of islands on the Caribbean called Bocas Del Torro. It’s meant to have a cool hippy vibe and great surf which is well needed after 3 days of travel, a night in Vegas and a 3 days in Panama City.


Let the Adventures Begin!

A rainy day is always a good day to leave Vancouver.

My goal of only half filling my big wheely bag fell a couple of items short of success, but with the amount of Coppertone Sport sunscreen that I rip through in the first month of surfing, not to mention the multiple bars of surf wax I plan on giving away to local kids along the way, my bag is only going to get lighter for the first month and a half. In case you are wondering, I’m dong my best to pack my bag only half full because I plan on buying cool things along the way.

Our first flight of the trip is on Air Canada and for the first time ever I was amazed by how friendly the check in lady was to us. Like all of the people who work for Air Canada, she was old and I was expecting a carbon copy of the multitude of bitter unionized lazy Air Canada staff that we have all encountered over the years. Why didn’t Canadian survive and Air Canada disappear into the memories yesteryear? But this isn’t a want about bad, but rather a praise about great because the lady who checked us in, aged and all, was something special. She had a sparkle in her eye, she was super helpful, she was happily married for 27 years and she joked around with us by making fun of me which Josi LOVED. Was she nice because we were flying business class? Or perhaps she was nice because I’m now overly nice when checking in to any and every flight I take… Yes, I once made the mistake of not being so nice by arguing with a young lady at check in about who was responsible if the airline were to break my surfboard which ended dreadfully. She must have put a big red X beside my name and when the perfect opportunity struck, she chose to have a 300lbs lady sit in the seat beside me on a totally full flight. At least she was very nice and pretty funny so it wasn’t all bad. Still, this lady was so big her food tray wouldn’t go down more than a few inches, her seatbelt was perhaps 20″ short of being able to close, and when the movie came on it was me who had to fish deep into the side of her many folds in hopes of finding the plug for her headphones. Elbow deep in a scene better suited to a bad comedy, I succeeded in supplying her with the needed audio for her movie and have felt slightly damaged ever since.

I’m writing this post from our double wide, second row, business class seats with more room than I know what to do with. Usually when we fly we fly coach and for us coach is great. What is really really fricken great is that for the next six months we are flying business class.

What I still love about coach is how if you are smart you can get three seats between the two of you if you request it when checking in and when we do Josi and I spread out and sit super close to each other. In case you don’t know us all that well, we love to sit close to each other and we cuddle a lot. If I were reading this and I didn’t know us I would throw up in my own mouth and then my internal voice would mistakingly slip out and saying for everyone to hear, “Get a room”, but for what ever reason it’s not that bad at all with us. I’m guessing it’s because Josi is so dam cute and at the same time classy so she can get away with pretty much everything. Anywho, in business class there’s a big divider/ table/ arm rest between us so she doesn’t get to sleep on my lap, but they are keeping us occupied with the kind of things those in coach only dream about. Warm cloths to clean our hands, hot meals (C-), Baileys/ Coffee, very pleasant red wine (served in glasses made of real glass), and more leg room we know what to do with. Not to mention being whisked straight through the security lines which meant that we had more time in the first class lounge while waiting for our departure.

Did I mention that they didn’t charge us for our surf boards? Once again I’m not sure if it was because we are flying business class, if we just got lucky, or if she believed me when I told her that the surfboard bag was a snowboard bag? Regardless, it’s always a good day if you manage to fly with out paying for your boards. The lady checking us in was so nice I felt a little guilty but the dam airlines have broken way more boards than I have when actually surfing and they always overcharge you like crazy. I never understood why, but when flying snowboards are free while surfboards usually cost between $50 and $200 per flight. Our board bag is only 6’6″, looks almost like a snowboard bag, and is a little lighter. My goal was to stencil the words “SNOWBOARD TEAM” in big bold letters on both sides of our new double board surfboard bag, but time got the better of us and I didn’t get around to it. Surf De Neige is French for snowboard, and it would make a great snowboard bag, so the line between truth and untruth is slightly fuzzy. Regardless, I’m calking this up as a immoral win and any money that I may have saved is my small reward for having to sit beside the 300lb lady all those years ago.

Luckily, our bags are being directed through to Panama so we will be free to spend 13 hours adventuring around Vegas luggage free. Vegas is a funny place that has very little love in my heart, but I’m pretty excited about checking it out given we are only there for such a short time. We will hit the strip checking out a few casinos, eat dinner and then sneak back into the safety of the first class lounge in the wee hours of the night while we wait for our 4:48am flight to Panama City.