So, it is already one month into my trip and man, time is flying!
This month has been as much about re-visiting places I love as it has been about exploring new horizons and despite a couple of less than fun moments, all in all it has been an awesome ride so far.
I started my year of travels with a four day stopover on the Hawaiian island of Oahu where I spent time in crazy busy Waikiki as well as the chilled out North Shore, one of my favourite places in the world. After the humid heat of Hawaii I was looking forward to the cooler Pacific North West but ended up arriving in Seattle in the midst of a heat wave.
My two days in Seattle flew by way too fast but I finally found myself in love with the city after hanging out with new friends, eating delicious pie and pho, visiting an awesome market and doing a bit of hiking- I guess third time’s a charm.
My next destination was my favourite city in the world, Vancouver! I spent a steamy week in the city catching up with friends, swimming at the beach to escape the crazy heat, eating out A LOT, visiting Granville Island market and walking everywhere including Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. I even fit in a 19km hike to the stunning Garibaldi Lakes near Squamish where we swam in a glacial lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
I was sad to say goodbye to Vancouver but my next stop was an island I had wanted to visit for a while: Hornby Island. It’s a lovely place but my time there didn’t turn out to be what I expected (see lowlights below) so I hightailed it to Denman Island, my favourite Canadian island, to visit my former Help X host and friend David. It was great catching up with him and the dogs and my short time there re-affirmed my love for that special place.
From Denman it was a long bus ride down to Victoria after spending a couple of hours checking out Courtenay and Cumberland. I couchsurfed with an awesome artist and traveller and spent long hours talking travel while also exploring the rugged and beautiful waterfront, Oak Bay Village, the harbourfront, British Columbia’s Parliament buildings and Fishermen’s Wharf. My last stop in Victoria was Beacon Hill Park where I watched the goat stampede then petted them (and tried to stop them eating my clothes) in the petting zoo. I love goats almost as much as I love cats so it was a great farewell to the city.
It was back to Vancouver for the night where my friend Nicole spoilt me with a home cooked meal and Victoria Sponge then it was time to start exploring new places. I caught the bus back down to Seattle then flew to Anchorage, Alaska!
The last ten days I have been living my dream of finally visiting Alaska and it has been incredible so far. I liked Anchorage although it is pretty much just a big city. I spent the three days there wandering the downtown, eating awesome food at Snow City Cafe and Humpy’s and taking a shuttle out to Flat top mountain for a hike with incredible views.
It may have rained on my train ride down to the small seaside community of Seward but I loved it anyway. Luckily the weather cleared and the next three days I had perfect weather to explore the Kenai Fjords and the amazing animals that live there, hike above a glacier and go out for drinks with new friends from the hostel.
Seward was incredible but it was time to head up to my last stop of the month, and possibly the place I have been looking forward to seeing the most in Alaska: Denali National Park.
The last day of my first month was spent on a day long shuttle trip into the park where I saw my first wild grizzly bears and loads of caribou and arctic squirrels. I also fit in a short but steep hike up a mountain for views of the moonlike landscape around the Eielson Visitors Centre. A great introduction to Denali.
Here’s the Stats:
Countries visited: USA (Washington State, Hawaii, Alaska), Canada (British Columbia)
Places visited: Waikiki, Haliewa, Waimea Bay, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Denman Island, Quadra Island, Anchorage, Seward, Denali National Park
Islands visited: Oahu, Denman Island, Hornby Island
Best meal: It’s a tie between the Kodiak King Crab Eggs Benedict I had at Snow City Cafe in Anchorage and the Garlic King Crab dinner with sautéed potatoes and vegetables with Alaskan seafood chowder that I had at the Gold Rush in Seward
Worst meal: Peanut butter and jam sandwiches – so sick of them. I think I would throw up if I even smelt another one
Best craft beer: Broken Tooth Raspberry Ale in Anchorage
- Garibaldi Lakes Trail near Squamish – 19km
- Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver – 8km
- Flat top Mountain near Anchorage – 5.5km
- Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park – 13km
- Alpine Trail – 3.5km and Savage River Loop – 3.2km in Denali National Park
Interesting person of the month: Well I have met a lot of cool and interesting people over the past month including a lot more female solo travellers than I ever expected. A Vietnamese/American lady called Mary definitely wins the interesting person award though. She must be in her late 70’s yet she is budget travelling around Alaska by herself, even camping on the deck of the Alaska ferries. She is a strong willed lady and told me off for not cooking my rice properly, showing me how I should be doing it. She also convinced a local fishermen to give her some of his catch and he came around to the hostel specially to drop it off for her. That lady could talk a person into doing anything.
Reading: I have hardly read in the last month at all apart from articles and blog posts online but I am currently reading a book that has been at the top of my reading list for the past two years: The Golden Spruce: A true story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Valliant. It is about the cutting down of an extremely rare Golden Spruce tree that was sacred to the Haida people of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and is excellent so far. There is a lot of background history about forestry in the Pacific North West and the early relations between the Haida and the white man. A great book to read before I head to Haida Gwaii at the end of August.
Revisiting the lovely north shore of Oahu
Another of my favourite places, the north shore of Oahu is paradise to me and so different than hectic Waikiki. It felt so good to be walking the beachside trail that first got me into hiking back in 2009 and snorkelling with a turtle on one of my favourite beaches in the world: Waimea Bay.
Finally falling for Seattle
This one took me by surprise. After two previous visits I never expected to fall so hard for Seattle this time around, but it happened. I think it was the combination of beautiful sunshine and good company. Or maybe I just finally clicked with it. I’m not exactly sure of the reason but all I know is that I will be returning for my fourth visit in a couple of months. I can’t wait.
Being back in Vancouver
I am always happy to be back in my favourite city in the world and despite the heat wave, this time wasn’t any different. It always feels like a homecoming and no matter how long I spend there it never feels like enough.
Hiking Garibaldi Lakes
I have wanted to do this hike north of Vancouver for a couple of years and it ended up being even more amazing than I had imagined. My friend Jasmine and two of her nursing friends went up for the day. The drive along the Sea to Sky highway was so scenic and beautiful but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the lakes at the top: Turquoise and magnificent with snow covered mountains in the background. It was a hot day and we swam in the cool waters. It was bliss.
Re-visiting Denman Island
This little island cast its spell on my back in Autumn 2012 when Trav and I did a Help X placement with a local, David. Despite the rain I thought it was beautiful and I loved the strong sense of community there. Re-visiting David and his dogs this time around was just so wonderful. We caught up over lunch and a beer then went swimming with the dogs at a beautiful lake that I didn’t see the first time around. I know it is somewhere that I will continue to return to for the rest of my life.
Finally making it to Alaska
Alaska is a place I have always dreamt about going so finally actually being here feels surreal and I have to keep pinching myself. I feel so lucky to be here and I am so happy that I finally made it happen.
Kenai Fjords Boat Tour
This tour left me with my jaw hanging open as I saw fin whales, humpbacks, orcas, puffins, sea otters, seals and sea lions against a back drop of stunning fjords. I even got to see glaciers calving into the sea with a deafening roar and seals floating on icebergs near the Northwestern Glacier. Simply incredible and one of the best tours I have ever done.
New friends and a fun night out in Seward
Everything just came together so well in Seward. After the initial rainy welcome, the skies cleared for three days of perfect weather. I loved the Moby Dick Hostel and there were so many cool people staying there and we all ended up hiking together, going out for drinks and even cooking and sharing a load of fresh fish that a fishing guide that was also staying at the hostel gave us.
Hiking Harding Icefield trail
Definitely one of the best hikes I have ever done. We rose through beautiful forest above the massive Exit Glacier then hiked past marmots and over snow to reach a rocky mountain top with views of a vast field of ice. You could not wipe the smile off my face.
Seeing the mountain two days in a row
I didn’t know this until sometime told me in Seward, but only 30% of people that visit Denali National Park get to see Denali itself, the tallest mountain in North America, as most of the time it is covered in clouds. I saw it on my first try. It loomed in the distance when we were driving up from Seward and I was wowed by it’s sheer size and the fact that it is completely covered in snow. I got to see it again the next day when I took the shuttle bus into the park. How lucky is that!?
Bed bug scare
I noticed a number of large itchy bites on my arms and legs when I was in Hawaii but thought it must be from mosquitoes or sandflies, although they don’t usually bite me. Then a cluster of smaller bites appeared on my stomach and when I mentioned them to my friend Jasmine, she was pretty sure they were bed bugs. I was staying at her place in Vancouver at the time and as she has had to deal with a bed bug infestation before, we looked through all my stuff for signs of them. After finding what looked like a dead bed bug and a few orange marks which are their tracks I washed everything including my bags and hoped for the best. Luckily there were no further bites or any sign of any live ones but I was freaking out for a while there as it could have cost me potentially a couple of thousand dollars to get an exterminator and for all Jasmine’s furniture to be steamed clean. Very stressful, more so for poor Jasmine than for me and I felt so bad that I caused her so much worry.
Wildfires and Heat wave in British Columbia
Arriving in Vancouver during a heat wave wasn’t fun. On the first day I felt like I was going to pass out from the heat and it just didn’t look it’s normal beautiful self as the grass everywhere was brown and dead. A couple of days before I left a couple of nearby wildfires started effecting the air quality in Vancouver and on my last day it was so bad that the air was burning my throat and stinging my eyes because the smoke was so thick. Not nice at all.
Hitting the wall on Hornby Island
I wasn’t feeling my self on the way to Hornby Island, I think it was the hazy wildfire sky that cast a pall over everything, including my mood. It was a long day getting there that included two buses, three ferries and two lots of hitching. I was exhausted when I went to set up my tent and then I realised that one of the poles was broken. Then the other pole broke when I tried to bend it into shape. I put it up the best I could then I just cried. On and off for the rest of the evening and most of the night. I missed Trav like crazy and I felt like the only person in the world despite there being people all around me. It felt like I was having a mini breakdown. It was really horrible and I have not felt that sad in a long, long time.
I don’t have a hard and fast budget for the trip but I was wanting to spend about $65-$70 per day after buying new clothes so I’m not doing too bad at all. My accommodation costs are low because I spent the first three weeks couch surfing and staying with friends a lot which helped to counter the expensiveness of Alaska. I am definitely counting on spending very little during the time I will be spending doing Help X placements in Haines and Haida Gwaii in August/September.
Not bad at all thanks to my lovely friends and couch surfing hosts that put me up during the time I spent in Seattle, Vancouver, Denman Island and Victoria. I also had three nights on planes and two nights of complimentary press stays at the Tribune Bay Camping ground on Hornby Island, and the Moby Dick hostel in Seward. All of my accommodation spending has been on dorm beds in hostels except for one night in a basic private cabin on Denman Island.
Food and Drink $741
Ouch, this is a lot! I think I went a bit crazy in Vancouver which pushed this right up there but now that I am paying for Accommodation again I am trying to rein back on the eating out. This amount includes groceries as well.
- Three tops $81
- One dress $25
- One pair of sneakers $67
- One Wooly jumper $22
All things I needed and had planned to buy for this trip. There shouldn’t be any more spending on clothing for the rest of the time I am in North America unless I lose something that needs to be replaced. I don’t have any more room in my bag!
- Flight from Seattle to Anchorage $100
- Greyhound buses from Seattle to Vancouver, Nanaimo to Buckley Bay, Courtenay to Victoria and Vancouver to Seattle $67
- Petrol money for Garibaldi Lakes Hike $10
- Ferries across to Vancouver Island then Denman and Hornby Islands $53
- City transport in Victoria, Vancouver, Waikiki and Seattle $58
- Airport shuttles and taxis in Honolulu and Anchorage $45
- Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward $89
- Park Connection bus from Seward to Denali $155
I wasn’t going too badly with my transport spend until I got to Alaska. Transport is so expensive here! There’s not really a lot I can do about it as there is no way I am hitching by myself here.
- Flat top mountain shuttle $23
- Exit Glacier shuttle $11
- Park bus in Denali $45
- Kenai Fjords Tour $161
- Courtenay Museum $3
A lot of the activities I have been doing have been free like swimming, hiking and urban exploration. I will have a couple more expensive activities coming up in the next couple of weeks so this will definitely be higher next month.
- $50 Hawaii treats for friends
- $13 earrings
- $28 canvas print
- $8 Denali Poster
- $22 Book
Not too much random spending. I would NEVER usually spend so much on a book but it was one that I have wanted to read for ages and I don’t think you can get it outside of British Columbia.
What’s in store for next month:
The next month will see me still in Alaska, travelling back down to Anchorage via Talkeetna then flying to Juneau where I will be spending a few days. I will then be based in Haines doing a Help X placement with a local lady for about 2 1/2 weeks before travelling through to Sitka. I’m looking forward to staying still for a bit in Haines, I think I need a bit of a break.
Month one was even better than I could have imagined and I only hope that the coming months will be even half as awesome.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here