Friday, December 4, 2009

After a decade you'd need a holiday too...

Shaun back from the Island, Jacqui back from her frolickings, we were finally reunited and we realised it was our 10 year anniversary so a holiday was in order. We wanted warm, we wanted dry, tickets to Vegas were on special so Vegas it was! Watch out Vegas here we come again...
Vegas by night - The Strip

Splashing out on a new climbing rack, we were ready to break it in. We spent 3 nights in Las Vegas, by day we dominated the climbing scene at Red Rocks. Night time events included catching up with Hadley (a friend from uni), going to a Cirque du Soleil show and winning a total $50 on the pokies! No we did not hit up the chapels – maybe next time!

Next stop Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave desert, California. Jumping in our Mazda 3 hire car we hit the road south into the desert. After a 4 hour drive we arrived in the park and set up camp. Days were warm evenings cold and the climbing was excellent (just as we had heard). We spent 4 days exploring the parks monzogranite boulders and fields of Joshua trees (which isn't actually a tree but a family of the yucca plant).


Mazda 3 - Mojave Desert

Joshua Tree National Park
Jac's - J Tree
Jac's dominating the roof
Shaun - J Tree
Lots of boulders
Blue skies all round

What a star

After flying back from Vegas we headed down South to catch up with Chris. He'd organised a sweet long weekend away for thanksgiving in a backcountry hut with a whole bunch of good people. We hauled in 2 kegs of beer, 3 turkeys, a turkey deep fryer, lots of vege's, a couple of pumpkin pies, 32 party shirts and good smiles all round. We were ready for action.

The walk in usually takes 2-3 hours, towing our 'sleds', it took us 6 brutal hours
Once at the hut, the first job was to ensure everyone had a party shirt

Next on the agenda, 3 turkeys to cook
Team Xtreme, supervising the turkey cooking process

The hut we stayed in, seriously cool.

By day, the skiing was also fantastic. We were super lucky with the weather, snow by night - sun by day.
Shaun climbing up through the forest
The entertainment was superb as well. A mandolin and harmonica duet was entirely appropriate.

The entire weekend was super good fun. 28 great people hanging out in the hills with great food beer & wine. We're back at work now, Jac's up at the ski hill and Shaun at the office. We're waiting for a big dump of snow now!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Calf Muscle sharpening in Croatia

So I was getting to the end of my unbearable holidays. I returned to France after the Alaskan trip and enjoyed two weeks of solid family time, catch up conversations, good food, time with the little ones, which proved to be very regenerating.
But my calf muscles were not getting anything out of all the cheese and delicious meat I was ingesting. More and more frustrated, they started to bother my dreams, penetrate my thoughts, turning my life into a restless exitless mare. I faced the issue and borrowed my parents car to hit the road and visit friends in the alps (yes I visited Frank who has remained an accurate version of himself. We even went boating) southern part of France and Italy, where my cal muscle ordeal was to find an end.
In Trieste, I met Angus, and quickly after a few vinos in town, a plan was set, gear, good mood and refined conversations were packed. We were going for a few days of cyclo-touring in Istria, Croatia

The weather forecast was saying poos and wees, but having brought enlightenment and luck with us, we care for none of that. Instead we enjoyed warm windless autumnal days.
Here Angus enjoying Gothic remains under the protective shade of an old-friend-oak.

The first day consisted in cruising gently through colourful windy roads on the hillside, crossing small villages full of character
Nights camping in the country were interesting with nosy noisy dogs giving us personal serenades more than once a night. It is good to know that farmers start their day at 5am in the dark and sing alone for their animals in the paddocks in Croatia. That also helps with sleep. Here Gus's freeby bike front break's cable decided to dislodge itself, which inevitably forced him into a straighter trajectory that wanted in the following turn. I was struggling to not piss my pants when recording the moment.

in Labin, enjoying a monster lunch under the impressive ruins of the roman coliseum.
Reaching the more touristy shore, we follow coastal tracks for some time.

Cute colourful villages refurbished for the German tourists.
Limsky Fjord
Looking for campsites in the dark darkness

Last day, on our way out of Istria, at the step of the finally climb to the border. Determined not to take the risk to take booze with us through the border we agree to part with our bottle o rum in the most honourable manner. After finding a romantic location (you would have recognized a building site, that even had a smoky fire), we do what we have to do.
Things are a little harder than before on the bike after this interlude, more particularly when Gus tries to find his passport at the border and drops both his wallet and bike before displaying a barely excusing smile on his face...
We return Trieste and quickly apply firm discipline to our lives by keeping it moving as timely and effectively as possible on our way to the first apero bar, then resto, then other bar...anyway we return victorious and singing.
The next morning see me with a lot of road to do to Switzerland and a schedule to keep to, but no car keys....
After two hours of fucking around making plans, Gus took over my brain and put it right. The keys were found where they were last put and joy comes back to my life.
I can take anyone on the calf muscle now. I have no fear. you gotta do what you gotta do.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Project Now #3 - CANADA BC!

Em made a quick arrival in style and we went straight to making a plan...

PHASE 1: Place Glacier
After a warm welcome at the airport with party suits and afros we were quickly on our way, truck loaded driving north to Pemberton. One would never expect to fall asleep gazing at the clear star filled night, and wake up to a thunder bolt crashing down and setting the bush on fire at 6am, but it did!!
After our intense and intrusive wake up call we hit the trail (well we had to find it first). Taking us straight up the guts of an awesome waterfall we ended up surrounded by alpine lakes and large granite boulders. Finding a two man hut and a weather station we were quite content sitting back watching the sunset and mountain goats passing by.

PHASE 2: Rocky Mountains
Upon returning to Vancouver we made a quick turn around switching out the truck to the van and acquiring an additional party member: Gareth, The G Shizzle, Giraffe, Bubba G, however you chose to call him.

And then there were 4........

Driving East, Kelowna was our first stop: Dave Aubreys (Thanks for the dinner Dave it was awesome) to share some past time stories and good food. We continued on our way past Revelstoke and searched for a campsite at 1am. Never ideal, especially when you hit a massive rock and get a flattie and then proceed to throw a toad in the mix - Thanks Chris!!

Our first destination was originally Glacier National Park (Canadian not American) but they sent us to Yoho National Park, who then sent us onto Kootenay National Park..... because of the long weekend things were getting booked up. We decide to make the most of the Gong show of tourists and do what we do best, PARTY SHIRTS....

Doing a day hike from Moraine Lake to Paradise Valley. We prepared adequately so that we wouldn't loose each other (in the crowds rather than the bush)

What do ya reckon Em?....I think she concers

Kootneys National Park was well worth the stop. Doing an overnight hike on the Rockwall trail once we decided to take the long way out which proved to be quite spectacular. Waking up to 20cm of snow made it more exciting and hiking through the blustry winds and climbing over 2 alpine passes...

Next stop Banff hot springs to thaw out...which is where we met up with some dodgy raft guides from Canmore one named Si the other named Reefton.

Si and Reefton then showed us what was what in Canmore. Float trip down the Bow river, moose tours, climbing and a good old catch up.

A float trip down the Bow river prooved to be quite entertaining

Well the jump shot seemed like a good idea at the time

Stop looking - we found the moose on the moose tour

Jacs and Em climbing at Grassi Lakes, Canmore

Align Center
After getting what we called "stuck in a eddy" it was time to eddy out and hit what we have been waiting for...Bugaboos Provincial Park. The place everyone keeps raving on about - and so they should it was such a magical place!

Em showing us where to go - Bugaboos Provincial Park

Porcupine proofing your car is essential to keep the little critters chewing on ya brake hoses

A pretty magical spot

To give you a perspective this is our campsite

After the Bugaboss we needed to make our way back out to the coast. Mapping out our route we planned a way to see more of the province. However with an unfortunate mishap reagrding Emmas undies and a massive U turn our plans changed some what and some more hours driving through the night had to be done. We still managed to explore Golden through to Revekstoke and up to Lillooet down through Squamish, to check out the Ashlu river which is currently getting dammed.

After a good feed of sushi it was time for Chris to move on out and get some shoulder surgery. Me and Em unpacked and repacked the van to head into Phase 3...

speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil - Actually Em was just hiding the spinach in her teeth, Shaun was proving he was clear.

PHASE 3: Vancouver Island
Time to go visit the man himself Mr McCracken. Heading up to the top of the Island Shaun was working up in Port McNeil. Making the most of a roof over our heads we cooked up some good food (including Blackberry choc mud cake!) and soaking up the cultural atmosphere in the area.

This is a first nations cemetry, totem poles instead of gravestones

After a few days catching up on sleep and keeping clean - it was time to get back out amoungst it! So we hired some sea kayaks in Telegraph Cove and paddle down Johnstone Strait - where the largest population of orca whales lives (well apparently orcas are dolphins not whales so we now refer to them as killer dolphins). Wild life was abundant seals, dolphins, birds on a log and of course we got to see the orcas!
"What do ya reckon about Russia?" " Sounds like a plan - there are some more birds on a log!"

Ems bed with a view, watching the orcas swim by while waking up has got some bonuses about it

After the seakayaking it was then time for Phase 4...what we have been waiting for!

Phase 4: Climbing: Squamish and Seattle styles

Heading back down to Vancouver we made our hastiest turn around yet, and aquiring a man who goes by the name of Tim Sikma (another kiwi friend who "happens" to be in the area). Hoping to have ems shiny new rack delivered by now we had had big plans to climb in Squamish for a week. However due to the failure a successful delivery we were unable to break in the new gear and were limited in our options - but we still made the most of an awesome couple of days.

After a few days of soaking up the sun and scrambling around the granite we headed on down to Seattle for a rescue mission of Ems gear. Catching up with some of Ems friends we had a great time of eating good food, drinking good beer, meeting awesome people and even got in some climbing at a place called Index to break in Ems new gear.

cough cough Em this is where you put in some photos cough

After Index it was time for Em to catch a plane back we finished off with a spectacular farewell lunch next to the water in Vancouver and sent her on her way. It was a great month exploring the province and as usual making plans for the next adventure..Project 4 will be here before you know it, were thinking Russia! So until then....