Hi! I’m Richard Maxwell,
You might remember me from such films as “Max does handstands”, or “Hanging up the phone in three easy steps”. I’m here today to explain my exploits to date, and I hope that you enjoy my ramblings.
Anyway, I know how boring reading a big long letter can be, so Ill try and split it into easily digestible parts.
Geri (my Girlfriend) and I left New Zealand on the 18th of May. We flew Air NZ, via Tonga, to Hawaii. We stayed there overnight before departing for Vancouver, where we met Geraldine’s sister Francine who took us to Edmonton, which is where we are staying at the moment.
That’s about it. So have fun.
See you later!
Hahaha, me make bad funny.
Ok, long letter folks. Well, its huge actually, you might want to print this out and read it, or just put it into the “bah, ill read it later when I can’t think of anything else to do” pile. Its up to you. Sorry, I just got carried away, no one is going to read my letters after this one. He he.
Story goes like this:
Stuff about Edmonton
Note: when taking flights, ALWAYS ask if you could be upgraded when you check in, sometimes you can get upgraded to 1st class for FREE!
The last time I was on an international flight I was 12, therefore I didn’t get the chance to appreciate the full services available to passengers. FREE ALCOHOL! Not that I’m a drunk or anything. We left NZ at around 6pm. On the way to Tonga the flight was pretty empty, so we could stretch out in the middle row of the 737 and have a snooze. The flight was quite uneventful, no wings fell off, and there wasn’t a case of food poisoning the pilots or anything. We spent around 1 hour waiting in transit at Tonga before finally taking off for Hawaii. The only thing of note was the Green Gremlin outside the plane quite happily munching away at the wing superstructure.
Once we got to Hawaii, the first thing that hit me was the temperature, it was like walking into a big hot suffocating pillow. It was 6am and already around 25 degrees, with some nice humidity to boot. The next thing that got me was the strong accents of the airport staff. After clearing customs (hey! Put that rubber glove AWAY!), we got outside and started to wonder how the heck we were going to get to our hostel. We quickly found out that we can’t take a bus, because they don’t let you get on with luggage. It was then that we bumped into this French-Canadian guy who just happened to be going to the same hostel as us. We all decided to catch a cab to the hostel and split the cost (ended up costing us $8USD each). BTW Cars are BIG, really big. This big infact (makes hand gestures).
The hostel we stayed at was only 3 blocks from Waikiki beach, it was a peppermint green to the drab gray that surrounded it, had a kitchen and day room (whoop! Cable!), as well as private rooms ($40USD each for private room with double bed). After locking up our stuff we headed off to the beach!
Whoa! Waikiki beach was packed! There were bulk hotels right on the beachfront, as well as people scalping surfing lessons. The beach had a weird feeling that took a while to figure out, there were NO SHELLS, it was all sand. Geri reckoned that the sand was artificial, which I tend to agree with. The waves there were pretty perfect, most probably an artificial reef as well. It wasn’t too uncommon to see people having there first lesson hanging 10 after 1 hour of trying to surf. Other things that came as a shock was people putting on COOKING OIL instead of sun block. That and all the skimpy bikinis that the young girls had on, ok, just a few, and there were plenty of normal girls in bikinis as well, infact near everyone was wearing a bikini. Heck, even I wanted to try one on.
Geri and I spent most of the day on Waikiki beach, had a swim in the waves, took a few photos, fell asleep, and looked at all the strange people. Finally we got the munchies, so we decided to go hunting for food.
Downtown Waikiki is a tourist trap, and because of this finding cheap food was a mission. The first thing we discovered was that there is an ABC store on EVERY GODDAM CORNER. These stores sell tourist knick-knacks, snacks, alcohol and bad clothes. These stores were everywhere dammit! Hate hate hate! Ok, we were lucky enough to find a subway store for our lunch ($3.99USD for a 6 inch meatball sub, and you have to add tax on top of that, cheap eh? Not!) But were having no such luck for dinner. Finally we ended up buying pot noodles from a mini-mart store near the hostel, which we heated up and ate in the hostel day room.
Oh, we also bumped into 3 New Zealanders (taking the same flight as us), an Aussie, 3 Swedes, some Canadians, some Yanks, and an Irish girl at the hostel. Hostels are cool.
Come the next day we decided to take a tour around the Island. The Aussie we met up with said that we could catch a bus for $1USD and get a transfer all around the island (busses #52 and #55). We did this, it was good. Its weird hearing people refer to the “North Shore”, when talking about the island. The North shore beaches were not cluttered like Waikiki, and were a lot like our own beaches. The Famous Bonzai Pipeline was the infamous Bonzai Glassy Water when we got there. Ho hum. Also on our trek we passed the Dole pineapple plantations (bushes, NOT trees), where the biggest maze in the world is apparently. Finally, we took a paddle between transfers and then went back home (via the mall).
Oh yea, there is a big mall on Waikiki called “Ala Moana”, our first American mall. Yawn. They have a Disney and WB store there; otherwise most of the stuff was beyond our budget of $5. He he, We then had to pay another $1USD to get back to downtown, where we had a shower, grabbed our stuff from storage, and waited to get our shuttle to the Airport for our 12:40 am flight to Vancouver.
We had stored our winter baggage at the airport storage locker ($4USD/Day for a lockable locker, or $2/item/day for general storage), however on arriving to get our stuff from the locker we couldn’t find our ticket. AAAAAARGH! NOOOO! Geri yells at me to check my pockets, I yell at her saying that I have already cleared my pockets, and that the ticket isn’t there. She yelled, I yelled. Then Geri checks her wallet again. TADA! Next time don’t be so eager to blame me eh? He he.
The flight was delayed, however we did get window seats this time. Whoop! Did I mention that nothing beats the acceleration that you feel when taking off? 0-100kph in 4 seconds? PAH! Try 0-400kph in 6 seconds!
Ok, Vancouver is considerably colder than Hawaii.
Got through customs, saw Geraldine’s Sister Francine doing the chicken dance or something trying to get our attention from the other side of the arrival’s glass wall. She had decided to meet us at Vancouver to take us personally to Edmonton. I also found out that Vancouver is on the west side and not the east side of Canada. Ok, so I failed geography, sue me!
Since Francine flys a lot, she has lots of air points and associated perks. So she took us into the Canada lounge, where there is FREE ALCOHOL, he he, as well as free food, magazines and other rich people 1st class stuff. At this point I realised that snot was dripping down my throat, the first sign of the dreaded cold. Great!
Edmonton is arranged in a basic grid, with Avenues going across, and Streets going down. I just thought you would like to know that.
No sooner we get unpacked, were off shopping. Off to the camping co-op to buy some nice Tramping boots and stuff for our hike in Spain. $215CAN later Geri and I have a brand new pair of tramping boots. Which to this day give me a new blister in a different place every time I wear them. I guess I’m still in the wear in period of these leather-hiking boots. Hmph.
In exchange for letting us stay at her place, Geri and I have to help out at the new house she is building in the wop-wops (i.e. yonks away from the central city). It’s this cool place amongst a poplar forest (sort of like what’s in the Blair Witch Project, it was fun doing BW impressions in her back yard). Anyway, the work mainly involves carrying logs from A to B (where A is in the way, while B is not). I expect to be a big muscly man once I’ve finished helping them here. The building styles here are quite different, you have a choice between either stucco or a false wood finish for your exterior, and you need council approval on that as well. Central heating is a must, as well as laying pipes and stuff so that things don’t bust in the winter (where it snows, and gets @^*#ing cold).
Stuff about Edmonton
When not working we are traveling. The busses here are great. Which makes me realize how much NZ’s public transport system sucks. First of all, its exact fare only, second, you pay only 1 fair, and you can get a transfer to any other bus for 90 minutes after paying the fair. Finally, there is only one fare, and that’s $1.65CAN.
Its also flat and concrete here, so we can roller blade around the place as well. There are also parks surrounding the river that runs through the middle of Edmonton, which there are plenty of walks and biking paths for the tramper and cyclist.
That reminds me, while walking in one of the various river parks, Geri was looking out for squirrels, Camera in hand. But alas she couldn’t see any. I said to her
“The harder you look, the less likely you’ll see one”
No sooner I said that than Geri goes
“OOOOH! OOOH! Look! Squirrel!”
Geri then proceeds to take lots of photos of this cute squirrel. Ha ha, I suck.
One thing of note in Edmonton is the Muttart conservatory. The conservatory is made of four glass pyramids, each containing different ecosystems. The four pyramids contain spring, arid, temperate and tropical climates. With associated plant life (and sometimes, wildlife). It’s good value, been only $3.33CAN plus tax for YHA hostel members.
In the weekends Francine and Peter take us to the neighboring parks for Tramping excursions.
The first weekend we went to Elk Island Park (apparently it’s the largest fenced park in Canada). Parks normally cost money (about $35CAN/car), however Francine had an all park year pass, so we got in for free. We took two walks and saw plenty of wildlife, including frogs, beavers, Canadian geese, hawks and birds. However no Elk or Moose were to be seen. Mind you, while driving between tramps we did see A LOT of buffalo. Man these things are big! They were also hairy.
Anyway, on our way out, to go home, Geri goes
“OOOH! OOH! I saw an Moose!”
Peter nearly crashes the 4wd due to the surprise (dirt roads), And Geri gets here photo of a female moose.
The next weekend, Peter and Francine took us to Jasper National park. The drive took four hours, and both Geri and I took naps on the way there. For the first day we took a tramp to Fiddler’s Pass. It took us past the old hot spring pools (opened sometime around 1914, shut due to rock falls and a new complex in 1984) and into the mountains. We saw some mountain goats in the distance, but no bears (whew!). There were also a couple of squirrels in the car park, been all cute and untamed and stuff. Lots of photos taken, because they were just so damn cute!
Oops, I forgot to mention that on our way into the park we saw lots of Elk (like deer), just standing there, on the side of the road, all casual like. So we took lots of photos. We then came across these goats on the side of a cliff face next to the road. Man these goats are crazy mother-fathers! Just jumping down sheer rock to the next ledge, without a care in the world. Man, these guys were just plain heart attack inducing. So yea, photos taken.
We stayed in Jasper for the night. The next morning we packed up and headed off to Whistler’s mountain. Once there we got dressed up like we were going to go skiing, and got sardined into the gondola (the SkyTram) along with 15 other people (in a 1.5×2.5×2 meter space), we then got whisked up to just below the peak of the mountain about 2km above. Phoar! The view was spectacular; hence plenty a photo was taken.
We were lucky enough to catch the guided tour to the peak of the mountain, and therefore learnt about tons of cool stuff about the peak. Stuff like the plants that grow on the mountain (plants that are 12cm in diameter are around 25 years old, and that the moss dissolves the rock its growing on to get its nitrogen), and info about the mountains itself (they are middle aged mountains, and were created when a few islands crashed into the mainland a few million years ago). We then walked to the summit (hot, cold, windy, snow, rocks, up, down, but mostly hard yakka).
Of all things to see on a mountain, we saw a ground squirrel. I have no idea where it would find nuts up here, stupid little thing, but it was there. We also spotted a “heart-attack” bird. These Grouse (I think it was a Grouse, don’t know for sure), keep themselves insulated from the cold by dive-bombing into the snow, hence burying themselves. So when a hapless mountaineer is tramping along the snow, all of a sudden this flock of birds appears right in front of the person and fly away, giving the poor sod the fright of their life.
On the way down we decided to make big snowballs, it was lots of fun, and in the end Francine, Geri and I had 3 different sized snowballs. So we decided to make a snowman! After putting together the snowman (0.5m diameter snowballs are HEAVY) we decided it was a snowwoman due to its shape. It think it is going be weird tramping this distance to the top of whistler’s mountain, only to be confronted by a snow woman.
We also bumped into this crazy couple that tramped all the way up the mountain without taking the gondola, took them 3 hours. Weird people!
On the way down we found some deep snow, and it was so funny we couldn’t get out of it due to the fact that we were laughing so hard at each other we couldn’t move.
Long drive back, all tired.
After we got back we noticed that our camera was fully of specks and stuff. So we cleaned the lens front and back (very carefully), however some dust managed to get inside the camera itself, and land on the reflector plate and focus plate. So, going against everything that Rochelle, Francine, and any cameraperson we spoke to told us, we decided to “clean” the inside of the camera. Whoops.
Luckily for me, I had only scratched the focus plate and not the reflector plate, so its only a $55CAN to replace and fix the camera, however it means we are without our nice camera for 2-3 weeks. That’ll teach us for been really stupid.
And that’s about it. This goddam letter took me 5 hours to write, so you better have read it dammit!
Feel free to mail me guys, but please hold off the joke emails, as soon my net time will be limited, and I won’t have the time to sift through jokes to get to the real emails.
Next time I promise my emails wont be this big – promise!