As many of my friends and family are well aware, and tired of hearing about. Erin and I took a trip to both Fiji and New Zealand in 2011 and I am still telling stories about it. Occasionally in the wee hours of the morning, when night shift has a firm pull on my eyelids, my gaze finds its way to my computer screen saver, and I am reminded why I subject my body and my sanity to this job. One word: Adventure.
Erin and I, in our ramblings across Fiji, found ourselves at a small hostel in a town who’s name I cannot remember. In fact I remember very few details about the hostel we were at, but here they are:
1. There were a lot of cats and dogs, especially cats that had suffered some form of trauma, I vividly remember at least one cat with only three legs. I remember one of the workers there telling me he had rescued several of the dogs from kids who kidnap stray dogs in the city and sell them to rural villages to use as bait for boars. One can only imagine the story behind the cats.
2. I was amazed by the pool table, the balls were about half the size of the ones I was used to. Using it was a bit of a pain because it required Australian quarters which were sold (or possibly given, I dont fully recall) to us by the front desk. When travelling I am always interested in the different types of electrical outlets, light switches, placement and organization of bathroom fixtures, and other small details of daily life… look I rarely claim to be an interesting guy.
3. They had a room filled with dozens of bikes for rent.
One of the few days we had spent there, we had heard from the staff that there was a hot spring and mud spa a few miles down the road. Being on vacation and having nothing else occupying our time, we decided to go check it out. We rented the bikes for a very minimal fee, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 Fijian per bike for the day, I’m not sure the conversion rates to Canadian or US dollars but trust me that’s not much.
The bikes were nothing special, which was clearly reflected in the price and honestly I often find myself drawn to old banged up modes of transportation anyway (as my car ownership history will show). We grabbed our bikes and headed down the typical rough and potholed Fijian road. After a short, and very pleasant, ride we found our destination. It was a small fenced in area that to my rural Albertan eyes looked an awful lot like two dugouts and an old barnyard shed. All at once, in that moment, looking at what was in front of me. I felt I was home, on a warm summer day, looking out at an old farmyard that time seemed to have forgotten. I had spent so much of my youth rummaging through and admiring the old books and rusted tools, all the while hoping to find something that resembled treasure…but I’m getting off topic now.
We paid our $2 each and wandered into the structurally questionable shed to get changed. I was glad to see they partitioned off separate sides for guys and girls but I was a little concerned that you could see daylight between, literally, every plank on the sides. As I was changing out of my shorts and into my… swimming shorts, three Japanese men struck up a conversation with me. Well it was more of them talking at me and asking some questions.
“you’re so tall!”
“wow you have green eyes! what color are your mothers?”
“umm blue?… I think”
“and your fathers?”
“kind of grey… maybe”
“Whats your name?”
“ooooo big strong american name! Twyason! Like the boxer!”
“Well I’m Canadian, but, yeah I guess”
“What about your girlfriend? how tall is she?”
I raised my hand to just above my eye level.
“oooOOOOoooo. And what colour are her eyes?”
“well I’m done changing so I’m going to head out, you guys have a good day”
A lot of big smiles and hand shakes etc. Erin had overheard a bit of the conversation through the “walls”, and thought it was hysterical but she was kind enough to not laugh about the adorable grown men until later in the day.
We then were escorted to the first station at the “spa”, a mud bath, again… essentially a muddy hole in the grass about the size of a good swimming pool. The hole was about five feet deep with about three feet of muddy water in it with a very muddy bottom. We climbed in, and so did the person working there, he dunked a bucket in and scraped a pile of muck off the bottom and told us to rub it on ourselves. It seemed kinda hokey to me, but what ever, I rubbed some on my arms etc and so did Erin, of course our guide tried to help Erin rub some mud on her arms and other places but she was quick to politely refuse his help. I then realized that this is probably a sweet job for that guy, helping (mostly female) tourists in bathing suits coat themselves in mud. We then, via the assistance of our guide and a nearby tree root, made the difficult and slippery climb out of the mud hole. The guide then showed us the outdoor shower where we could rinse the mud off before climbing into the hot spring hole. He offered to snap some pictures of us covered in mud. We got some funny shots of us with mud mustaches and other funny face “paint”, showered off and then headed into the hot spring.
From the showers we walked across the grounds to a smaller slightly cleaner pool fed by a little spring. We swam around a bit and tried to wash the last bits of mud off, I didn’t really feel clean until I was back at the hostel and able to have a more thorough shower, but that’s besides the point.
After what felt like the necessary lengths of time, we pulled ourselves out of the pool, dried off and got changed. We biked back to the hostel, I honestly preferred the bike ride over the mud baths. It was a long time ago now so I dont fully recall what happened to the rest of the day but its a pretty safe guess that we showered off, played some miniature pool and petted a bunch of formerly stray dogs…. but that’s just an educated guess based on my personality and our circumstances.
When looking at old pictures of my various adventures I often like to ask myself “what would I have done then, if I was the person I am now?” Try it sometime, it can illicit all kinds of emotions. In this instance what stands out to me are the bikes and just how much fun I had on them that day, and how much I enjoy cycling now. It makes me think that I may have missed a golden opportunity for us to buy a couple of cheap bikes and pedal our way around that little island. Maybe someday I’ll get another chance to, or maybe I’ll someday find myself on another small island nation and have the ambition to see how far my legs can take me. Worst case I can still tell myself that I did technically go biking in Fiji.
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If you don’t feel like getting the full story, click here to jump straight to the video on youtube.
Erin and I are slowly starting to plan a trip that will take us across (or maybe around?) South America. So currently this means me reading through the guide book trying to get a vague overview of where I would like to go. I’ve noticed a pattern, its seems that most South American towns offer; ruins, churches, mountain biking, and depending on proximity to water, surfing. I intend to see a lot of the ruins, some of the churches, and attempt to surf. Trust me, you’ll hear all about it on the blog. I also want to try mountain biking. I figure, since I live in a great part of the world for mountain biking, I may as well try my hand at learning it here so as to make it more fun when I go there. Also I Just wanted to start mountain biking, so I’m going to use the trip as an excuse to take it up. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there are no surfing opportunities in Alberta, so that’ll have to wait until I get there.
So I set off looking at various mountain bikes, their styles, and types of riding. I also watched a lot of youtube. When it was all said and done I walked into the local bike shop and asked for the cheapest model I could get away with. I had the option of grey or orange. I went with orange, and for about $600 I was out the door with a new bike and a helmet… always wear a helmet!
The first day I had it, a friend and I went for a ride in the Edmonton River Valley me on my new fancy bike and him on the old mountain bike I received as a birthday gift almost a decade ago. I was quickly made aware that this bike was superior to any other bikes I had owned, of course for that price it better be. I was also reminded that I am rather out of shape. After a few hours we decided to call it a day and head home. A few hours rest later, I decided to go out for another ride, this time to my dads shop for a visit, about half hour each way. Erin accompanied me since I am hesitant to ride on the roads.
For nearly a week I have been riding my bike every day, for about two hours a day. Often just to visit my dad but also a time or two to the river valley again, I was quite surprised at how many trails are actually down there.
A few days ago my brother and I decided to go to my dad’s house for some fishing. I decided to bring my new mountain bike because there are a lot of quad trails around his house and I know at least one of them would be a lot of excitement on a mountain bike, especially for an amateur. So we loaded our fishing gear and my bike and headed off.
The first day we were there I talked my dad and brother into giving me a ride to the top of the trail I had in mind, its just barely out of my riding distance. They had some audible doubts about how much fun it would be for me to ride it, and naturally had some suggestions “Buddy, you want us to build a jump at the bottom?” I wish they were kidding. I eventually got there, got the camera rolling, and hurled myself down the trail as best I could. I quickly learned that mountain biking is more fun than I had thought and also that mud is way harder to deal with than I had expected. If you watch you can see me almost crash on a few of the wet spots. You can see the video HERE on my youtube channel. I look forward to honing my skills and seeing more trails, then maybe once I’ve gotten better at it I can do another video of the run and see how much of a difference skill and experience make, my guess is a lot.
The next day was filled with fishing. My brother was on fire, catching more walleye than I had seen in the past year. I on the other hand was having an off day, and only wrangled in two small pike. I did however witness, the biggest pike I’ve seen in that lake, follow my hook through the crystal clear water. Unfortunately for me, he didn’t bite that floating hook and everyone else was on the other side of the boat. No catch and no witnesses means only one thing… I have to go back and catch it. No, I will not tell you where on the lake I spotted it, but dont worry I’ll post a lot of pictures when I get it. The only photo I managed to take on the second day of our trip to the lake was of my dad determining whether or not his cat likes the kayak.
Shortly after this photo was taken the cat jumped off the kayak and swam the 10 feet to shore. This also adds to my theory that: the shortest distance between two points is a swimming cat.
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