Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fraser River Rafting

Yale (where I'm now based) and the Fraser River

Jacqui and I have been in Canada for close to a month now. Jacs is well into her first NOLS expedition and I haven't heard a peep from the young lady since she headed off into the Yukon Wilderness. I've been hanging out in British Columbia since she left and have found myself a saweet summer job in the Fraser Canyon, about 2 hours west of Vancouver. Daily duties here vary from safety kayaking during rafting trips to building rafts to cooking gourmet meals for the B&B here. Its a pretty cruisey deal, I live on site with the family that owns the place and another kiwi couple. The property is in a magic location with lots of hills to go hike up all around us when there's nothing else to do.

The view from my tent during a job we did on the Thompson River.

Shaun Safety Kayaking on the Nahatlatch River

Once we get further into summer here I'll also be driving "J rigs" down the Fraser River. A J rig is a boat, made of either 2 or 4 inflatable tubes. The tubes are ex-army from about 30 years ago and were initially designed to be used as quick inflatable bridge floats to enable tanks / vehicles and troops to cross rivers by lashing them together. The guy I work for has made some big steel frames to hold the tubes and we attach a 40hp motor to them and power through some MASSIVE rapids, waves and whirlpools with a bunch of tourists onboard. Sounds dodgy as I know but he's been doing it for like 25 years and it's actually quite safe once you learn the places on the river not to go...

A J Rig on the Fraser River last year

Thats about it though, life is good and work is not really much like work which is nice. I'm likely going to hang here at least until Jacs is done with her work in the Yukon which will be mid august.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Farewell USA!

Where has the time gone? The past 2 weeks has flown by with many stories to tell.

Visit #1: Helmo; Glenwood Springs, Colorado

We stayed with Helmo for a few days and he gave us a great taste of stuff to do in Glenwood springs. Including visiting Aspen “where the billionaires are kicking out the millionaires”, some secret local climbing, and some paddling on the Colorado River (where Shaun got a bit too much of a taste!)

(Yhe put in for the Colorado, hows the serenity!)

(Helmo dominating the Colorado)

Visit #2: James and Melissa; Denver, Colorado

We then headed onto Denver to catch up with an old high school friend James, who is now living in the US with his wife Melissa. They gave us a great all round American / Denver experience. We went to some awesome lookouts which overlooked Denver. We tried to visit an outdoor amphitheatre which holds concerts with some big names, unfortunately for us there was a “band” called Insane Clown Possie who was scheduled to perform that evening and people had already started to arrive and drink from there cars (these people weren’t the friendliest bunch!). So we continued to an Indian pow wow, where there were markets and an Indian dance off. That night on a belly full of Spaghetti, we went to a baseball game, but on the way we decided to get ice cream…bad idea, after cookie dough, snickers bars, caramel, fudge, and brownies smashed into ice cream were sent to the ball game never wanting ice cream again! But the game was great I finally got to experience the “HOT DOGS, who wants a HOT DOG!”

(Dance off at the Pow-pow, I pick they guy with the feathers!)

(Shaun taking it all in at the baseball game)

The next day we went hiking, to an awesome 360 overlook…

On Monday James and Melissa had to go to work so Melissa’s parents Gary and Marie took us out and about. We saw some dinosaur prints, went to a free brewery tour, with free beer tasting. Yes you heard me right, turns out all the breweries do free tours – wow!

We then finally got to visit that amphitheatre I was talking about too…

Visit #3: Renee; Buena Vista, Colorado

We waved good bye to the whole family in Denver and headed our way South, to visit another friend who was just starting work with a rafting company in Buena Vista. Turns out there’s about 15 different companys in this area who raft on the Arkansas river. The night we arrive we were welcomed into Renees works’ campsite, where we met a friendly bunch of raft guides and a cat named Neil with opposing thumbs. Later on that night after a few beers and some whiskey, I look across the fire to see a familiar face…Alice? Yup there she was, a girl I had spent 30 days hiking with in NZ for my NOLS instructor course, and to find her here in this private campsite in the middle of Colorado. Turns out she used to work for this same company and she was stopping by on her way up to the NOLS base in Lander (where we were heading too). So it was great to catch up with Alice as well as Renee. It also turns out that the following night was the party of the season, where all raft guides in the area join and celebrate the start of the season. With some kayaking and rafting on the side they called it “pimp and hoes rodeo disco” so we stayed to join in on the festivities, dressed in the finest selection of party shirts of course…

(Shaun back in fine form at the local play wave)

(Us all in fine form for the pimp and hoes rodeo disco)

(Neil...check out his thumbs!)

Visit #4 NOLS HQ; Lander, Wyoming

We woke early the following morning for a big drive, we decided to convoy with Alice. We had two choices to go a more direct but backroad style route, or the interstate which was longer but the same time to travel. We chose the backroads, and lucky we did because as we arrived in Lander we heard over the radio that the interstate area had tornadoes going through and ripping up houses! We did however go through a snow storm but we just made it through before the roads closed phew!

We managed to get a free feed and a place to sleep (thanks NOLS and Alice). After some paper work accomplished at the HQ we were back on the road. Next stop…

Visit #5 Derek, Jackson, Wyoming

Derek is a friend of mine from North Carolina, it was awesome to catch up with him. Being close to the Tetons it made a great place to stop, however it rained every day while we were in Wyoming. Apparently it never rains in Jackson it only snows, we just had bad luck. Talking about bad luck, I also managed to throw our camera in the river too, it managed to smash on a rock before immersing itself, thankfully the strainer managed to catch it (not the batteries though). It didn’t stop us though we made the most of it exploring some hikes and even hiked up this mountain:

And rode down on our snowboards; 1 hour hiking up,10 mins to get down. It was well worth the hike.

(Jacqui hiking up Mt Glory, glorious!)

(Hiking in the Tetons)

(The peaks of the Tetons finally poked out through the clouds)

Our first hike in the Tetons was short but rather exciting; we saw our first Elk, Marmot, Moose and Brown bear. There is so much wild life around this park, you know when there is something close to the road because you have to try and dodge all the tourists on the side of the road taking photos…

(The Tetons National Park)

Visit #6 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We waved goodbye to Derek and headed on our way to Yellowstone, which is directly North of the Tetons. This park is so big, it was the first national park in the world. Full of Geysers, waterfalls and wild buffalo it was quite spectacular…

So in no time at we ran out of time to play, two full days driving, a day in the big smoke of Seattle, and an hour in the customs office we made it across the boarder! And to top it all off we were greeted with a 2 year working visa, instead of the expected 1 year we thought we were going to get!

Hello Canada! or should I say Bonjour!