A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: wilsonprawdzik

Aloha!

Last stop.

Hard to believe that Hawaii was the last stop on the tour. It was bittersweet touching down in Honolulu, but hard to think of a more beautiful place to end. It was especially nice having Grandma and Grandpa there to enjoy it with us.

We spent a couple of days in Honolulu, as Mac wanted to spend a day at Pearl Harbour. Considering our slack approach to homeschooling, we could hardly say no to such an educational opportunity. As usual, I probably learned the most (because I knew the least)

Megan on top of the USS Bowfin
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We then headed to Kauai, where we did a dive
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At this reef
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Where we swam through lava tubes
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And saw lots of turtles
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Meg and Grandma went to a lei making class
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Mike and Grandpa went on a helicopter tour
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We then headed to the beaches of Maui for our second week.
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The amazing banyan tree
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Banana pod
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It's hard to put into words how wonderful this year has been. To say it's been the trip of a lifetime would be an understatement, and untrue, because as soon as I get home, I'm going to start planning the next one!

Posted by wilsonprawdzik 19:58 Comments (0)

New Zealand - Living like we're poor...

What's the first thing every family does when they land in New Zealand? Go to the grocery store and walk up and down the isles drooling over all of the familiar food of course! We were in heaven - sometimes it doesn't take much.

Anyone who has been to New Zealand would surely agree that it is like all of Canada squished onto two small islands. Geographically speaking, it has everything: mountains, prairies, lakes, rivers, oceans, farmland, forests, volcanoes, .... it's beautiful. A lot like being at home in many ways.

We started our NZ holiday with a week at a resort on Lake Taupo, which is in the center of the North Island. It was a beautiful little town, and we all fell in love with it. We had a condo with a kitchen, and spent a lot of the week cooking and eating all the foods that we had been missing. We also spent a couple days visiting with some fellow Yukoners. Megan had been keeping in touch with a friend of hers from home, whose family had spent the winter touring New Zealand. As luck would have it, they were house-sitting in a town about an hour away from Taupo. We had a great time hanging out with Yolan, Richard, Claire, and Remie and sharing stories of our winters worth of adventures.
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We spent time in Auckland at the beginning and end of our tour, with our brother-in-law Shane's family. They are unquestionably the best hosts in New Zealand. We completely took over their house, ate all their food, and managed to keep them all from work and school! They showed us around Auckland, took us to beaches, parks and mountain tops, arranged tours of a dairy farm and a winery, took the boys 'torpedo fishing' and quading, took the girls shopping....they just couldn't seem to do enough.
Mac and Jordan eel fishing
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We then rented an old wreck of a motorhome, and went on tour. 5 weeks of camping, fishing, sightseeing, relaxing, hiking...
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Meg and I did a "Great Walk" in Fiordland National Park. I'll tell ya, Kiwi's know how to hike. No tent? No problem. In NZ, they have heated huts with beds & mattresses, flush toilets, gas cook tops, and woodstoves! Sure you have to sleep with 30 or 40 other people, 8 of whom snore, but it sure keeps the pack light. The scenery was stunning, and we all enjoyed 4 days of having the kids separated :)
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And at long last, the coup-de-gras - paragliding!
Meg first...
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Followed by myself, and then Mac. The experience was right up there with SCUBA diving, and not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.
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Our final drive up the East Coast of the South Island turned out to be rich with wildlife. We were thrilled to see....
Yellow Eyed penguins
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Loads of Seals
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And one day we were entertained by dozens of dolphins diving and doing back flips for us. (sadly no good pics, you'll just have to take my word for it)

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And now, we're off to Hawaii for a two week holiday with Grandma and Grandpa. We leave tomorrow and arrive tonight - isn't the international date line cool!

Posted by wilsonprawdzik 01:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Bali

Now boasting 160 ATMs nation wide.

Jane: What do you mean the nearest ATM is an hour away?
Guy: Madam, this is a village, the ATMs are in the cities.
Jane: But I need money.
Guy: Don't worry, my cousin has a taxi :)
Jane: Of course he does....

Bali - our last stop on the Asian leg of our tour. It was a short visit, just a week, and it was rainy! I'm starting to think that I should be googling 'rainy seasons' before booking plane tickets. Ah well, the people were great, accommodation was cheap, food was cheaper, and we managed to get in a couple dive days, so it was well worth it.

We spent the first couple of days at a village named Padang Bai, where women carry everything on their heads. Their balance is amazing. We arrived during some kind of religious festival so everyone was all dressed up as well. It was beautiful to see.
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This woman is carrying two diving BCDs (vests) and air tanks. To put this into perspective, when I have my BCD and airtank on my back, I start to stagger. This woman has 2 of them - on her head! It was painful to watch, particularly because one of them was mine. I could almost feel her spine being compressed.
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The highlight of the dives in Padang Bai, was the white tipped reef sharks. My children seemed to think they were in the same category as puppies, and that the closer you got the better. Even my daughter, who after the elephant experience in Borneo, is afraid of nature (as her dad puts it), practically tried to kiss the sharks. I was yelling "YOU'RE TOO CLOSE, BACK UP" into my regulator. Fortunately the sharks seemed to have been listening, because they swam away.
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We dove off of one of these cute little guys.
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We then traveled a little further up the coast to a village called Tulamben. It was a gorgeous drive through small villages, forest, and terraced rice paddies. It was nice to see that unlike Borneo, they hadn't replaced all of their forests with palm plantations.
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While there, we dove a US Navy wreck called the USS Liberty. It was a big 'ol ship that was covered in coral and swarming with fish.
Here's Meg with the biggest bump-head parrot fish I've ever seen.
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It was a bittersweet farewell to Bali. We were sad to be ending a fabulous five month stint in SE Asia, but excited to be heading off on the next leg which takes us to New Zealand.
Oh ya, and I just found out that it rains a lot in New Zealand!

Posted by wilsonprawdzik 01:47 Comments (0)

Borneo

The rainforest in the rainy season

rain 30 °C

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We were either outside doing and seeing super cool stuff, or in our room waiting for the rain to stop. Some people might say that the rainy season is [i]not[i] the best time to visit a rainforest, but we say "hey, no line-ups".

Our first stop was at 'Scuba Junkies', an awesome dive resort on Mabul Island. As a family, we managed to log 56 dives in 5 days. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs. And man did we see some fascinating aquatic life. From giant grupers to miniscule sea shrimp, funky little nudibranches, octopus, ultra camouflaged crocodile and scorpion fish, deadly poisonous banded sea snakes, tons of turtles, big ugly eels, sunken boats, the fastest star fish in the ocean,....the list goes no.
Can you spot the sting ray?
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A nearby island where we dove and stopped for lunch
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Just enough time over lunch for some good old hermit crab races.
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As with all of SE Asia, there is another side to life here on the tiny island of Mabul. Namely the locals. As we walked down the resort's private pier, we could look to the right for a view of our modest, but lovely resort, or to the left to see the impoverished village that housed the 'sea gypsies'. This was a group of people who traditionally lived in floating villages on the sea. Recently however, they decided to set up a more permanent village on the island. There must have been 10 children to every adult, and they lived in the water!
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They may not have had $$ for decent houses, but they had some fancy boats
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A little further along the beach and you'd come to a village of Filipino refugees. About 20 years ago, the Malaysian gov't gave them permission to live on the island, however they were not granted citizenship and therefor have no access to health care or education. A local dive shop owner built them a school and hired a teacher. Today, there are 80 kids in the class - but still only 1 teacher! It was crazy. Meg and I went there one day to meet the kids and teacher.
School of Hope
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I'll be posting a picture in the staffroom at Selkirk School when I get back to keep all of us whiners in check. And of course, I'll be taking up a collection to hire another teacher.
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This storeroom held most of the teaching supplies. Much of the material had been donated by well meaning foreigners trying to help, however all too much of it was inappropriate and virtually impossible to put to use.
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After leaving Mabul, we headed to the heart of the rainforest, the Kinabatangan River. Life at the nature resort consisted of morning and afternoon boat rides in the rain, morning and evening nature walks in the rain, and crummy food. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We saw....
Proboscus monkeys. The male's nose continues to grow for his entire life, because everybody knows that there is nothing more appealing to a female than a big honk'in nose.
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Kingfishers
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Hornbills
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Crocodiles, lizards, macaques, and orangutans that were too high up for our zoom. The most spectacular of all however, was the herd of about 15 pigmy elephants. These were a highlight to everyone but Meg who thought that 5 meters was way too close to get to a bunch of elephants, pigmy or not. I must admit that being in the front of the boat, thus the closest to the herd, was a little unnerving for the rest of us as well, but boy was it worth it.
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When the driver pulled up on shore and shut off the engine, it just about put Meg over the edge. The only thing keeping her in the boat was the thought of jumping into the crocodile infested river.
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If you look very closely, you can see a baby elephant hiding underneath his mama. It was so tiny, only coming up to his mother's knees.
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After leaving the river, we went to Sepilok where they have an amazing orangutan rehab facility and sanctuary. With 70% of Borneo's rainforest logged and replanted as palm oil plantations, the orangutans are quickly running out of habitat. The Sepilok Sanctuary is built on the edge of some of the only remaining old growth rain forest. The orangutans are rehabilitated if necessary and then set free in the sanctuary. They are then free to return to the jungle, or hang out closer to the rehab centre where their diets are supplemented at designated feeding stations a couple of times a day. One of the feeding stations is accessable to tourists via a catwalk. If you're lucky, and you usually are, a handful of gingers will show up for a snack. On the day we went, a mom and baby, along with another single,dropped in for a bite.
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Admittedly, after 2+ weeks of rain, we were ready to move on. We all agree though, that Borneo has definitely left us with some of our favorite memories.

Bali or bust...

Posted by wilsonprawdzik 04:18 Archived in Malaysia Comments (5)

Kicking Back in Thailand

sunny 34 °C

Another blissful month relaxing in Thailand. I don't know what it is about this country, but I find myself settled in within a couple of days, and struggling to haul my butt off the lounger. To make matters worse (in a better kind of way), we spent almost the entire month with the Sarin-Toews from Whitehorse. The kids were so happy to have each other for company, that we spent many days hanging out by the pool drinking fruit shakes, and before we knew it, the month was over.
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Our first stop was at the island Koh Lanta. This is where we really lost track of time. 3 weeks flew by in the blink of an eye.

We did a few customary boat trips to snorkel, dive,
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and see bats? they were so much bigger than at home. More like flying rats rather than flying mice. So creepy!
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Mac and Manas working on fish I.D.
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We also took a couple of great cooking classes. If you're really lucky, Mac and Meg might cook you up some pad thai when we get home!
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The southern tip of the island is a stunning national park. On our hike through the jungle, Meg and Solstice surprised a monkey who took out his anger on Mac. Mike Toews who will forever been known as the monkey-whisperer helped Mac fend off the angry little monkey, and thankfully no blood was shed. Mac however has a hate-on for monkeys and has vowed to steer clear of all jungle walks in the future. Aside from the near attack, we spent a beautiful day hiking, snorkeling, and trying to keep our food out of the hands of the devils themselves. Who knew the cheeky little buggers could open zippers?
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Mike, Mike, Solstice and I did some 'caving'.
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Our next stop was the party capital of Thailand, maybe even the world, Koh Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee). I have never seen a town so full of twenty- somethings partying. It was like being on the set of a Fort Lauderdale spring break movie. It's also one of the islands that was devastated by the tsunami, and it's easy to see why. Koh Phi Phi is like two islands joined by a very low lying spit of land. Almost all of the hotels, restaurants etc are on this spit of land. When the tsunami hit, the wave first crashed over from one direction and then swept around the island and crashed over from the other direction. As you can imagine, the majority of people were in the direct line of fire.
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Our final Thai boat trip was the most exciting of all, because while we were on Lanta, Mike and Manas Toews joined the ranks of PADI open water divers, and while on Phi Phi, MIke, Megan and Solstice did the same. We are officially a diving family. Travelling is about to get very expensive!!
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Next up - Borneo.

Posted by wilsonprawdzik 23:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

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