Niagara Falls

Hi followers,

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls City right on the American/Canadian border. It was a 3hr bus trip from Oswego but I was well worth the time.

As the falls are located right on the border, you had the choice of seeing them from either country. My group of friends and I spent most of our time on the Canadian side mainly because there was a Rainforest Café (somewhere I highly suggest eating in the USA, Google it!) and other rides and attractions. The best part however, was catching the ‘Maid of the Mist’, a boat that takes u right up to the falls. It was like being in a thunderstorm, it felt very refreshing. I was happy that entry included a free poncho.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!!

S

trip to Whistler and surrounding waterholes

West Coast and Rocky Mountain Tour

Hi again,

This blog is seriously delayed. Apologies. And it’s really long – enjoy!

After landing in Regina, I moved in to my home for the next 7 months. I’m living in an apartment which is located in downtown Regina about a 5 minute drive from the university campus.

I only spent a week here before I packed my bag once again and headed off on my tour of the West Coast of Canada with a tour company called Moose Travel Network. I chose a tour called the Pacific which is the most extensive tour they offer in the west.

Moose Bus

My tour began in Vancouver, this is where I met my guide and the people I would spend the next 15 days with. Day one was a journey from Vancouver to Tofino, which is a small fishing town located on Vancouver Island. Along the way, we all began to get to know each other, and I quickly found out I was traveling with another Australian. As well as two Brits, who were brother and sister and two Dutch guys. This leg of the trip involved viewing a couple of waterfalls as well as jumping in a very cold lake. A BBQ steak dinner, and some drinks on a rock wall right by the ocean topped off the day.

Sunset in Tofino

The following day whale watching and a relaxing dip in some hot springs were on the cards. Grey whales were spotted and bodies were soaked before the 2 hour boat ride back to Tofino once again.

Hot Springs in Tofino

Our journey to Victoria began bright and early with a stroll through an old growth forest and then along Long Beach. The bus ride continued through some very scenic areas with stops at more lakes and old growth forests. Just before arriving in Victoria out guide made a stop at a glacier fed waterfall. She assured us that all of her tour groups jumped in. A few of us stepped up to the challenge and jumped into the 6 degree plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Needless to say, the jump was breath taking- not the good kind either. After we all scrambled out and attempted to regain feeling, we found out that only one other person had ever jumped in. And I can understand why!

The night in Victoria involved many different things including but not limited to dinner at the Sticky Wicket, drinks at Big Bad Johns, dancing the night away in club 9one9 finishing with, of course, a stop at McDonalds.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and has a very big British influence. I spent my free afternoon wandering the streets, exploring the bug zoo and talking a walk around the harbor to a place called Fisherman’s Wharf, where there is a population on harbor seals that take advantage of the fact that people can buy a plate of herring and feed them. It shows in the seals waterline how much they enjoy those herring!

That afternoon we jumped back on the bus and began our journey back to Vancouver. The only way from the British Columbia mainland to Vancouver island is via boat. We caught the ferry and it takes about an hour and a half. We had a quite night in Vancouver enjoying the sunset whilst sitting on a beach with the Vancouver skyline in the distance.

Our next day involved jumping back on the Moose bus and heading off alone the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. Whistler is where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held, so the Sea to Sky highway was upgraded only 2 years ago. Along the way we stopped at another gorgeous waterfall, had a glimpse of the golf course where Happy Gilmore was filmed and passed what is known as the Stawamus Chief. The Chief as it is affectionately know is the second largest granite monolith in the world and also a very popular hiking and rock climbing location.
As it was another hot day the group has the option of going to a lake in the area for lunch and a swim or going for a flight in a small plane. I took option b along with three others, flying over The Chief, Howe Sound and Shannon Falls was breathtaking and to top it off the pilot let me fly the plane for a short while whilst we were heading back to the aerodrome.
After arriving in Whistler that evening and taking a dip in a lake and eating supper it was time for another night on the town.

Shannon Falls from the Air

We had a free day in Whistler the next day so I chose to take the Gondola to the peak of Whistler mountain, which proved to be a beautiful view. This is where Iseen my first bear ever! It was a mummy black bear with a cub, scary and exciting at the same time!

Black Bear

That afternoon I decided to go Bungee Jumping! I had never bungee jumped before, so to say I was a little nervous was certainly an understatement. I’d kept my intentions of bungee jumping secret from my family as I knees they would freak out! The jump I did was about 50m over a river about 15 minutes out of Whistler, and was the most exhilarating thing I’ve done in my life so far. It’s such a weird thing to just jump off a bridge, but just incredible!
We stayed in Vancouver once again and had another quite night.

Inukshuk in Whistler

On the edge of the Bungee Bridge

The next two days were filled with travels as we were en route to the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately about 2 hours out of Vancouver the bus broke down. This left us stranded on the side of the highway about 3 kilometers from a town called Hope – kinda ironic really. It was a super hot day, and after multiple attempts to get the bus going with no success, most of the group decided that they would bite the bullet and pay for taxis into Hope to get lunch and a drink. After what felt like an extremely long three hours, a new bus arrived and we were back on the road.
Due to our delay we unfortunately missed out on the houseboat ride that was planned for us. Instead we went bowling, which turned out to be quite fun! The next day involved nothing but a very long and hot drive to Banff.

The next leg of our trip involved two nights in wilderness hostels. Rampart Creek was out next destination, on the way we stopped at Moraine lake and Lake Louise, two of the most beautiful lakes you may ever set eyes on. They have striking blue/green color due to the rock flour suspended in the water. The rock flour comes from the rock beds of glaciers, the glaciers grind down the rock bed with their movement and deposit the rock flour in the lake at the bottom.

Moraine Lake

Due to the remoteness of these hostels there is no running water or electricity. Also being this far into the mountains the risk of crossing paths with bears, this meant no deodorant, hair washing and no toothpaste near the sleeping quarters.

Mumma and Baby Grizzly Bears

The hostel in Rampart Creek had a sauna which provided the entertainment for the evening. Running from the steaming sauna and then jumping in the glacier fed creek was certainly a shock to the system, but so fun!
Edith Cavell was our next destination, we drove along the Icefields Parkway, which is up there with one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Columbia Icefield is located about halfway between Banff and Jasper and is big enough that everyone in North America can stand on it with one square meter each!

Athabasca Glacier

On the Athabasca Glacier

Ice Explorer

The bus stopped at the Athabasca Glacier, where we boarded Ice Explorers which drove out to the middle of the glacier, you can really begin to appreciate the incredible size of not only the Icefields but the glacier itself whilst you are out there. It was a breathtaking experience, and you stand on 400 year old ice when you are in the middle!
For lunch, our tour guide let us climb a waterfall and look over the ice fields and the mountains. It was amazing to just have the sound of the water and nothing else, such a relaxing peaceful experience.

Waterfall where we ate Lunch

Edith Cavell is a mountain that the Native American people called ‘White Ghost’, this is because of its eerie appearance at sunset and into the night. The snow capped mountain almost glows. The hostel once once again a wilderness hostel with limited power and no flushing toilets. After a BBQ Dinner it was bed time because the mozzies were just so bad! The following day we spent the night in Jasper, and then we were back to Banff. A couple of my tour mates and I decided to go white water rafting on the Kicking Horse River. Another great experience!

Angel Glacier at Edith Cavell

Mt Edith Cavell

White Water Rafting

The last three days of our tour involved a lot of traveling all the way back to Vancouver. It was really sad to say goodbye to the people that I bonded with over the two weeks, but it’s a bonus that now I have friends in more countries around the world, and an excuse to travel there!

I apologies for how long winded and overdue this is, I promise I’ll get better at this!

Sarah

Ps: All the photos on this page are all photos I took whilst on the tour

settled in and travelling around!

So I’m just entering into week three of classes. I only have four classes, one for each subject, but the classes are three hours long, and two of them go from 7-10pm! I struggle to stay awake in class that late at night, but oh well. The classes are really interesting, and I am amazed at some of the differences between Australian and Canadian laws etc. Having the border between Canada and America definitely gives me another perspective on border control as well. Apparently 90% of the Canadian population is located within 100miles of the Canadian/American border.

There is an amazing uni life here, with events on several times a week every week. There is a big emphasis on alcohol not being involved in the uni atmosphere. We have a bar on campus, but it’s only open until 7pm, and we’re only allowed to drink in our units – not in any of the common areas. There is a pub right next to us though and it’s open til after my 10pm classes – hahaha. It’s just very different from living in MTG where we had pre-drinks parties going on at least once per week in the common rooms.

Back to the academics side of things, my lecturers have amazing backgrounds wich are very relevant to the subjects they teach, and one of them even co-wrote the text book we use (as well as the FBI etc!). They have amazing practical and theoretical knowledge of what they teach. I thought about applying for a job here, but to be honest I don’t think I’m anywhere near as qualified coming out of uni as the graduates here would be. They stay in the course an extra year or two, with three semesters per year and do subjects like Problem Management Skills and Criminal Justice Interventions, which is part one of a practical subject about problem management as a police officer! I’m stoked with the execution of the subjects I chose!

Now on to the fun stuff! A group of 8 of us international exchange students hired two cars and went to Whistler for the weekend. My group of four went on the Monkido Aerial Adventure course and the ATVs (quad-bikes) and then we all did the Zip-lines yesterday. It was an amazing way to see the area in the summer! Here’s a photo 😀 and just to think – it’s only the third week in!

xx ro

Why I like stopovers.

This globe on the Amstel makes us look very isolated.

Coming from Australia, there are not many places you can go to that involve spending less than 5 hrs in a plane. Even to get from one side of our country to another takes around four hours. And northern Europe is just about as far as you can get from my home. In fact, the question I get asked the most when people find out I am Australian is “How long did it take you to get here?”. <This is frequently followed by a question about kangaroos – people are genuinely surprised that they are not just bounding around our major cities, and rather horrified to find out we actually eat them.>

So, over the years I have become a bit fussy about how I plan my long haul flights. I am rather particular about the times I leave and arrive in cities, and, consequently, the times I spend in the planes themselves. For example, I like to make sure my longest leg is a night time leg, and try and sleep as much as possible. Aside from the take-off part, which is *awesome*, planes are not particularly interesting – there are only so many movies you can watch, or books you can read, or games you can play.

As a strategy to try and get as much night-time flying as possible, I now try to pick flights which have extended day-time stopovers. This is especially good when the stopover is in the central part of your journey. And as most major cities have frequent train connections from their airports, and visas are (generally) not required for a 24hr transit, there is little organisation involved.

The rainforest boardwalk at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

This time I had two stopovers. The first was for two hours at Kuala Lumpur airport. I got here about 8pm local time and flew out around 10pm local time, which was just enough time to have a bit of a stretch and a beer. It was actually quite a nice little airport to have a walk around – it is arranged in a cross formation with a different type of entertainment at each end of the cross (eg – movies, sport, news) – they even have a mini rainforest!

I was rather happy that I had a couple of beers at Kuala Lumpur as my flight was delayed an hour on the tarmac before takeoff – part of the plane was damaged when they disengaged the Jet bridge, and they needed to get the engineers down to assess if we were safe to fly. The beers, combined with the long day and the little sleep I had had before leaving Australia, meant I was able to sleep through this, takeoff, and most of the flight. I was especially thankful for this as I had a woman next to me who was trying to keep herself as drunk as possible throughout the flight. Unfortunately this made her a little belligerent and unreasonable, especially with the cabin crew, and not the most congenial of travel companions. <In the morning I chatted with her a bit, and it ends up she was returning from a horror trip in a South East Asian country in which she had all her money and documents stolen and her life was threatened, and was now returning home after having to go to her embassy for help to get out of there. No doubt I would have wanted to be suitably sloshed if I was in her position!>

Everywhere you looked there were bikes – parked or being ridden. I think the bikes outnumbered both the people and the cars easily!

One of the many peaceful canals running through the city

My long stopover this trip was in Amsterdam. This was a city I had been interested in seeing for quite some time, both because of its reported beauty and its reported “atmosphere”. When I arrived there it was early morning, probably about 9am, and the first thing that struck me was how *quiet* it was. It did not feel like a city of 2.2 million people at all! So I decided to spend the morning strolling along the canals, and chilling out. The second thing that struck me was all the bikes. This was definitely an awesome thing for me – where I come from bicycles are most definitely considered second class to cars and drivers – I was loving seeing so many two-wheelers around. Maybe this was why Amsterdam was so quiet? Was it the car noise that was lacking?

So after spending a lovely morning walking around checking out the sites, I decided that Amsterdam was definitely a beautiful city, but I was still not sure about where the atmosphere was. I mean, it was *nice* but I was sort of expecting something more. Maybe I was not looking in the right places? I decided to take a canal cruise to fill in some time, and get a different perspective on the city. This took about an hour, and when I got off things had changed. There were people everywhere! So it wasn’t that Amsterdam was quiet – I had just caught her too early in the day. Like the day after a big night out, she doesn’t start to function properly until after lunch. 🙂

Before catching the train back to the airport I grabbed a quick bite to eat at one of Amsterdam’s famous “cafés”. The guy at the counter was rather bemused when, in response to his question “Do you want marijuana?”, I responded with “Nah, just food thanks”. <I think food was the *safer* choice when I had to be on an international flight in a couple of hours!> It ends up the most substantial thing they had to eat was toasted cheese sandwiches – most food was snack-oriented, which was not too surprising considering the clientele. 😉 So, toasted cheese it was.

After lunch, I decided to finish my day with a stroll through the famous “red light district” of the city, although I didn’t really expect there to be too much activity there in the early afternoon. Actually, in hindsight, I didn’t really know what to expect at all, because when I walked past a glass-doored alcove in which there was a woman clad only in lingerie I was rather taken aback. My first thought was she had just quickly ducked downstairs, and was hoping no-one would see her, but then it clicked – she definitely wanted people to see her – this was *advertising*.

When the initial culture shock had started to dissipate, I was able to begin to take it all in. I am definitely not prudish, but it is not a normal thing to see women walking around wearing next to nothing – except at some particularly wild parties I have been to, and then it is likely that I am one of them! The red light district is in a rather pretty area of Amsterdam and is centred around a church, and in front of the church is a statue called Belle – Belle is there as a symbol of protection for the local sex workers. Although much of this may appear contradictory on the surface, in the end it all seemed so very, very right. I loved the openness of it, and the dichotomy, and the peacefulness. It didn’t feel sleazy at all. It felt like the way it was meant to be.

The statue of Belle in front of the church in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. The whole area felt remarkably clean and safe.

And this is why I love stopovers – used well they give you a chance to get a taste of a place and see if it is somewhere you would like to come back to. Amsterdam is definitely a place I would like to spend some more time in – but I think next time I would like to see what she looks like at night. 😉

Life @ SUNY Oswego

Hi followers!!!

Since my last blog I have been very busy living the American college life. Class officially started 2 weeks ago and it has been fairly intense. I’ve quickly found that American culture entails an incredibly strong work ethic. Students study sooo much. It’s not uncommon to walk through the halls at 3am and find students studying and working on assessments. I have gained a considerable amount of respect for American students, and now understand why Australian’s have such laid-back image to foreigners.

I have had a birthday since my last post. It was celebrated with a night out on the town, then the NY State Fair in Syracuse the next day – bad mixture. The State Fair is very similar the Sydney Royal Easter show. There were rides, markets, monster trucks and most importantly food! The variety of food was hefty and quirky. For example, you could buy chocolate covered bacon, deep fried Oreo’s, deep fried Twinkee’s and hot beef sundae just to name a few. I tried a deep fried Oreo; it didn’t taste too bad!

S

Introduction

Hi everyone!

I’m Mel and am currently studying Public Relations/Business at the Bathurst campus. This semester I’m doing exchange at Oregon State University in Corvallis, about an hour and half away from Portland (Oregon, USA). I’ve been travelling around Europe for the past 3 months (which has been AMAZING), and fly into San Francisco next Tuesday (Sept 11th – all flights to the states being significantly cheaper that day…), where I’m meeting Issy, Henry and Eliza (3 other Bathurst students) before we head up to Corvallis together.

I have absolutely no idea of what to expect, but am super excited and can not wait to finally not have to live out of a backpack (thank god!). Anyway, I hope you all enjoy reading about my American adventures!

Mel