We made it back to NZ after an amazing, jam-packed, super special visit to Canada!
Here's my report on Canada. (Please read in your best Canadian accent).
I spend a lot of time talking about how awesome NZ is, but Canada is pretty fantastic itself. Being away has made me really appreciate the spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife (especially the mammals) and most of all, the people that have touched our lives.
While in Canada, we spent a lot of time packing up the house for sale, working locally and remotely, and getting ready to wed. It was super to visit Gatineau Park, commute along the Ottawa River bike trail to work, celebrate Dale and Ariana's nuptials, and catch up with everyone. Best of all, we still had some time to explore…
Newfoundland - Hiking the Long Range Traverse
Newfoundland is a giant island on the east coast of Canada (roughly 4 times the area of the North Island of tiny New Zealand) and particularly special to me because that's where I was conceived. Information I perhaps didn't need to know, but I'm sentimental about it nonetheless. When my friend, Ariana, was young, her family visited Gros Morne National Park and took the ferry through the freshwater fjord of Western Brook Pond. The boat stopped at a platform on the other side to let off some Long Range Traverse hikers and she was awed, "One day, I'm going to do that, too." Inspired by her tale and I added it to my bucket list, too.
Jack and I flew into Deer Lake and headed to Rocky Harbour where we met up with our avid tramping friends Ariana, Dale, Sacha, and Mark. After passing the forest ranger’s navigational test, a tour boat dropped us off on the other side of the "pond." With the help of maps and compasses, we navigated our way up Pissing Mare Falls, past lakes, and through bogs, stopping to eat on the top of rocky peaks, making our way towards Gros Morne over the next five days. We saw moose, caribou, arctic ptarmigan, a pitcher plant (Newfoundland’s official flower), and organic evidence of bears. Because of the swarms of mosquitoes, black flies, and horseflies, we needed to wear full netting face masks when we stopped to pitched our tents at night, lifting the net up only for a moment as we shovelled in mouthfuls of dinner to nourish our hungry bodies.
Newfoundland has a reputation for rain, a lot of rain. In un-Newfoundland like fashion, we had 5 days of sun and hot weather, which we hadn't counted on or packed for. We struggled to convert our useless rain gear into sun protection. It was so hot, we swam in a waterfall in our merinos to give them a refreshing rinse. On our last night, we were awoken from our slumber and on high alert as a moose stomped by, inches from our tent. Moose don't necessarily go around anything, so we were quickly making our crush-prevention escape plan. The next morning the moose drank in the pond next to us as we ate breakfast. The grand finale of the trip was the walk to the top of Gros Morne, 807 metres above sea level, and 35 rugged kilometres from our starting point. This document describes the hike in more detail. In fact, it didn’t rain until we were on our way to the ferry to Nova Scotia. In Cape Breton, Ariana’s parents, Sam and Aura prepared a hero’s dinner and breakfast for Jack’s birthday and our long drive back to Ottawa.
Canoe-camping in Ontario - Bon Echo Provincial Park and North Frontenac Parklands
Our next adventure was a canoe trip from Bon Echo Lake to Crotch Lake over the August long weekend with 11 of our friends. We were especially glad to have a long weekend in August since NZ doesn’t have any long weekends all winter between June and November! This means summer in NZ has a lot of super summer holidays, but winter can seem even longer. Fingers crossed they’ll introduce a family day. Compared to Gros Morne, the bugs were not noteworthy, though we did find them more annoying than NZ sandflies. It was odd needing to filter our drinking water. Spoiled in with the rainwater tanks at NZ huts and other clean sources of water, we've never had to use our pump filter in NZ.
Soon we were picking up our Kiwi friend, Dee, from the airport in Toronto and showering her in Canadiana with mandatory visits to Niagara falls and a cottage on Lake Huron. Her full immersion meals included Tim Horton’s, ice wine, bubble tea (not strictly Canadian, but new to her), and maple syrup. And we taught her to say toque and helped her to smell a skunk. We are saving bears, raccoons, chipmunks and “eh” training for her next visit.
The wedding was perfect, of course! It definitely made me feel very sentimental about Canada and all our friends and family. Jack and I will have to come home from NZ someday, maybe.
Back in New Zealand
We’ve planned a year long honeymoon of weekend adventures with dreams for a bigger trip soon. Our first honeymoon trip was Tough Guy Tough Gal, a 12km obstacle course through the mud in Rotorua. Being our honeymoon, we stayed together crawling under wires, scurrying across rope bridges, hoping fences and scaling slopes. In some spots, the mud was over waist high on me.
The following weekend's honeymoon adventure involved Jack confronting his fear of horses as we trotted through the hills of Whakatane. He was so nervous, he didn’t even take a picture for the first hour of riding! By the end, he and his horse, Tookie, were bonded and the Jack with horse selfies began. That night we camped on the empty beach in Ohiwa and studied the unfamiliar southern hemisphere constellations beaming in the dark night sky. It was winter in NZ so it’s cold and the sun sets early. This provided unavoidable temptation for committing a terrible camping sin; we watched a movie, the very romantic Before Sunrise, in the tent. The next day we stumble upon a deserted pillow trampoline. It was Jack’s first time on a trampoline, but he figured it out and loved it! And took pictures, of course.
September 1st is considered to be the first day of spring in NZ. A good day to shave your head. My husband proved, once again, his unconditional love and support as he chopped off my braids, clippered the shag, then shaved off the rest with a bic razor and shaving cream. I sent the braids off to be made into a wig for someone who needs it and now find myself wearing a toque to counter the chills. On warm days, I go bald, but I have to be careful not to get a sunburn. The grow-back phases are going to be interesting. First it was smooth and itchy and now it’s soft and fuzzy. Maybe there will be curls by Christmas? Jack calls me toilet brush head and we both like to pet my furry scalp.
September has been a month of post-excitement sickness and lots of sleeping. I’d just about recovered when I passed it along to my new husband. Jacek has settled back into work and has some new projects he’s pumped about. I’m back to a mixed up work schedule at different sites with different tasks. Speech therapy nerdy specifics: I’m doing infants 0-2 feeding and communication, aphasia groups and policy development.
We’re back at our old flat, enjoying the ocean views from our windows and have been spending lots of time biking, running, swimming, climbing, and walking on the beach. I was out for lunch yesterday at a café on the water. Throughout our hour-long lunch, dolphins swam, dove and jumped through the harbour past where we were sitting. They must have found some lunch, too.