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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Ch Ch Changes…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (this is where you nod your head, yes) you may have read my itinerary post way back in January where I laid out a list of countries in Asia I plan to visit on my upcoming RTW trip. Although Asia is still in my plans, I have made a few changes in recent weeks. As I prepare for my trip different factors have come into play, money being one and my Dad’s upcoming 75th birthday being the other. I hate the idea of being half way around the world on his birthday and thoughts of flying home for the weekend to surprise him were squashed when I looked at the price of flights. So, I’ve come up with a compromise, Central & South Americas.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Living in Canada makes Central and South America very accessible and getting there is cheap! Flying from Calgary to Bangkok will cost $1,600-$2,200 however I can take a bus down to Mexico for $270, travel throughout Central & South Americas, take a bus home to surprise my Dad for his birthday and then fly from L.A. to New Zealand and on to Asia. It’s the perfect plan- okay maybe it’s not “perfect”, but it is better.

So here is my new itinerary…

After arriving in Morelia, MX by bus, I’ll be spending about a month traveling through southern Mexico before moving on to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama (I’m not sure about Belize). I’ll then fly to Bogota, Colombia and travel through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil before making my way towards LA to catch a flight to New Zealand.

Depending on my funds at the time, I may spend up to 6 months working and traveling through New Zealand before flying to Asia where my original itinerary still stands. This is an open-ended RTW trip and to date I have roughly 30 countries on my list of places to go. I’ll be spending a lot of time in some countries and only a few weeks in others. But either way I’m going to be embarking on an amazing adventure. Is it August yet?

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Flamingo in Cayo Coco, Cuba

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Porcupine Hills- one of the many hunting sites in Alberta

Taking in Alberta’s enormous cattle ranches and hector upon hector of cornfields, it’s hard for me to grasp how richly the area is soaked in history. In fact, it never dawned on me at all when I first moved back here in 2003. (I was born in northern Alberta, but my family left when I was just 3.) As it turns out, the province has very strong Native American roots and bragging rights to the largest deposit of dinosaur remains in the world. Discovering these layers of history has become an intriguing way of learning about a world I thought I’d left behind at a very young age. The thrilling Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is just the beginning.

The aboriginal people of the North American Plains were experts in topography and the behaviour of buffalo, and their method of using both for their own survival was ingenious. For nearly 6,000 years, the native people chased the herds of buffalo throughout the Porcupine Hills, southern Alberta and beyond. Why? For food! But catching the ox-like animals, which travel in tight herds led by dominant females, wasn’t easy. Although buffalo have poor eyesight, they have an amazing sense of smell. This made hunting them a challenge; the clever method they developed explains the odd “head-smashed-in” name of the place.

A model of how camps were set-up

“Drive lanes” were decorated with stone cairns, and below the cliffs, camps buzzed with the sounds of boiling pits and the carving of weapons and other tools needed to prepare a buffalo to eat. Once the wind started to blow over the cliffs, towards the basin, it was time. The winds made it virtually impossible for the buffalo to smell the danger ahead, so the North American Plains people skillfully drove them right to the edge of the cliffs – and then off the sides, to their dramatic deaths.

I began my tour of the area with a short walk outside to the very cliff tops where herds of buffalo once met their dramatic endings. The wind up there was insane, and I was the only person out there at the time, which I loved.  After a few minutes of being whipped around by the powerful gusts, I walked back to the interpretative centre to walk through the exhibits. I was taking notes about Napi (more on that later) when Little Leaf, an anthropologist and former teacher, approached me. Within minutes, my experience at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump shot from a standard museum/art gallery type visit to an enthralling educational experience that lasted more than two hours.

During our time together, Little Leaf was kind enough to share some Blackfoot history he had recorded on a video. If you have some time, take a look. He’s a wonderful storyteller, and I could have listened to him for hours and hours. Before you click play, think of something Little Leaf said to me before filming: when talking about Native Americans “… It is more than feathers and beads”.

Little Leaf was an entertaining man who took time to speak with me about the Blackfoot people. He talked at length about the difference between today’s Native American children and their ancestors. I found it fascinating, and a little scary, that only 2-3% of modern Native American children know and practice their traditional beliefs. As time has progressed, more and more Native American children are forsaking their own customs in an effort to fit into the Western culture. The result? Native American languages and traditions are dying.  This cultural genocide is a horrifying thought. There are so few full-blooded Native Americans still around, and even less who know and speak their language and are familiar with their legends. Theirs is no longer a co-operative environment; things have become more individualistic, more Western. Oh, how I could talk and talk about this topic, but I think it’s best to leave it for another post.

In 1981, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump became a World Heritage Site, and its Interpretive Centre opened its doors in December 1986. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the centre is designed for visitors to start at the top and work their way back down, which I found an exciting break from the norm. After viewing the hunting sites outside, I hiked up to Level 1, where visitors learn about Napi, the mythical creator of the Blackfoot people. A series of boards illustrate the creation of life and the nature and habits of buffalo: “After Napi had the earth all made, he took up some mud and made the shape of a buffalo…”

An oversized tipi reigns over the second level, Napi’s People, which boasts various artifacts, like buffalo hide, which visitors are encouraged to touch. Level 3 brings visitors to the Hunt, where one learns about the drives, and Level 4 is Cultures in Contact. There, visitors learn about the Europeans’ affect on native buffalo culture when they arrived in the early 18th century, toting unforeseen wonders like guns and horses. It’s at that time in history that the traditions and culture of the North American Plains people began to change and, in my opinion, started to decline, as they strove to adapt to Western ways.

At the beginning of Level 5 is a small 80-seat theatre, which shows a 15 min re-enactment video about the hunts. (It’s actually suggested that visitors watch the video first, before beginning their tour, so they can picture how the hunts worked.) The remainder of Level 5 focuses on the archeological aspects of the site, with boards on more modern tools, maps and how discoveries were made.

Head-Smashed-In is not just another stop to make on your tourist list; in fact if you’re planning to visit for the sake of saying you were there, don’t bother. You’re cheating yourself if you do. This site is rich in Native American culture and has powerful spiritual ties to its people. If you plan on having an “experience,” you’ve picked the right spot! Go with excitement and an open mind. If Little Leaf is walking around, stop and talk with him, as he’s a wealth of knowledge. The purpose of the centre is to share knowledge and culture, and the staff are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Who knows, maybe you’ll encounter one of the spirits Little Leaf talked to me about!

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and The Interpretative Centre are located about 16kms northwest of Fort Macleod, Alberta.  Admission fees:  Adults $9, Seniors $8, Youth 7-17 $5, Family $22 and children under 7 are FREE.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Conrad (the name the government gave him) Little Leaf for speaking with me about the site and Blackfoot and Native culture. If you’d like to learn more about the current struggles of Native American people, refer to the Indian Act here: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/I-5/.

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Illegally Leaving London


After 2 sparkling days in Paris, London left me slightly disappointed. I was staying at St. Christopher’s in Camden Town- which wasn’t bad, but the neighbourhood was dirty. In fact I felt like I needed a HAZMAT suite as I slide into a phone booth to phone home. After walking the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, Buckingham Palace looked like a big white box with a flag (sorry, I’m really not trying to be offensive). The best part about my time in London was that the Tube was under maintenance and major downtown lines were closed while I was there, which often rendered me completely lost!

After 2 days in London I was more than ready to board a plane and fly home. I was also seriously low on funds as the GBP is so damn expensive! On the day that I was to fly home I walked into the Camden Tube station and bought a 2 zone ticket. If you’re at all familiar with the London Tube, you’ll know that in order the get to Heathrow I needed a 6 zone ticket.

I sat on the train enjoying the scenery until we left the downtown core, then I was looking for cops at every station who would likely come aboard, discover my ticket was no good, and either kick me off or give me some insanely expensive ticket. It was a nervous ride to Heathrow, but when the train finally stopped I was relieved. I had made it all the way to the airport without incident. Until I reached the top of the stairs, saw the transit guys and the turnstiles.

Crap! I knew my ticket would just pop back out of the machine and I wouldn’t be able to pass. I had very little change in my pocket, and no way to pay for a proper ticket. I decided to hold back a little as it was busy and I didn’t want to have some huge embarrassing scene that would result in my crying, being ticketed or yelled at. So I walked towards a wall with my backpack and pretended to look for something while the crowd dissipated.

It was while standing at the wall that I notice a gate with a guard that’s used for passengers with large luggage. But he would stop me as well and ask to see my ticket. I had almost gathered my nerves when two women started asking the transit dude some questions. I hesitated for only a minute before swallowing hard, grabbing my pack and walking towards the gate. I smiled, looked straight ahead and walked right through without him noticing, and I kept walking! In fact I was too nervous to look back in case somebody had clued in!

Yep, I know what you’re thinking… “Oooo some rebel you are!” as you sarcastically whistle. But I’ll have you know that although I have never been inside some Turkish prison, I do have a problem with confrontation and sneaking past some transit dude who could cause some seriously embarrassing moments for me makes me a rebel. So raspberries to you!! ☺

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My apologies for not posting Blog Crawl Monday last week. There are weeks when work becomes so involved, that blogging suffers a little. However I’m back this week!

When I first started my blog crawling, I would crawl most of the day and list around 10 sites. However as the weeks have progressed I’ve discovered that the world of travel blogging is a very small one, and finding/stumbling new content is more challenging. For this reason I’ve decided to cut down the number of blogs I stumble to 5.

This week I decided to started with She’s In Love With the World – I’ve followed this blog for a little while now and thoroughly enjoy reading it. Be sure to follow Sarah and her friend Andrea as they travel through Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe!

Fox Nomad – We’ve heard about working smarter, not harder. FoXnoMad is geared towards traveling smarter and who doesn’t want to travel smarter? If you have a few minutes take some time to read “Are Poor Places Any More Real Than Rich Ones?” (Also, he has a wonderfully long links page and totally saved this weeks Blog Crawl!! haha )

Runaway Jane–  Jane is a fellow #rtwsoon traveler and therefore a kindred spirit. She has a wonderful eye for photography and I love the idea of posting pages from her sketchbook. I really enjoyed her post- “My Top Travel Films”.

New Adventures in Backpacking– A great blog with recent posts on travel in Asia. I like the idea of posts on the actual costs of travel in various cities/countires. There’s a lot of great content on this blog, so be sure to set aside some time on a comfy chair.

Gap Year Escape– I love Amar’s blog. He’s another traveler pursuing sustainable travel. His videos are entertaining and his posts are even better! I was so excited when I managed to crawl to this blog today. Truth be told, I had stumbled on it a month (or more) ago and liked what I read, but soon forgot the name!! Sorry Amar! However it’s firmly embedded in my brain and soon to be on my Links page as well. haha

**I know, there is a sudden theme to the blogs I’m crawling- I swear its not on purpose! If you have a blog you’d like to have included on a Blog Crawl, comment below with a link.

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You may remember my post a couple weeks ago entitled Day One of No-Social-Life-In-Order-To-Save-Money-To-Travel-In-August has begun, where I explain my theory about having no social life in order to save money for travel. Until yesterday it’s been going pretty good. I’ve still buckled and bought my lunch occasionally, but that’s okay. I’ve been working or hanging at home, but lately I’ve started to feel a little worn out and tired. In all honesty, I haven’t thought much about it. I’ve chalked it up to eating too much sugar, diet soda and general crap and I’ve sworn to get healthy a.s.a.p.

As I sat on my sofa early yesterday morning I contemplated as to whether I should go out and do something for St. Patrick’s Day or stay home and rest. If you’ve already read my previous post, you know I decided to go out and see what the city of Calgary had to offer, and I had a great time. I didn’t think about money or budgets. I thought about living in the moment, enjoying myself and looking for ways to share my days activities with my blog readers. In fact I wrote yesterdays post with a slight Guinness and Kilkenny induced buzz.

Now, you may be asking yourself what the common denominator might be between the above paragraphs and I don’t blame you. Allow me to explain. Are you ready?? I woke up this morning and didn’t dread the thought of crawling out of bed. I started the day by putting my tights on backwards (it’s been like 3 years since I’ve worn tights, I forgot the rules, okay!), then after a quick correction I headed to work, where I found my head to be clear and my mood cheery. I didn’t feel the midday energy drop and I wasn’t watching the clock to see when I could go home. Simply put, I was happy and relaxed.

I cannot be a hermit. I’ve tried and it makes me miserable and very, very tired! I need to be able to go out every once in awhile and enjoy myself. I’m not talking about spending loads of money, but spending some money to give myself a break is worth it in my books. As it is I now have plans to celebrate a staffs’ birthday on the 24th at the Ship & Anchor and then going to Dicken’s Pub April 17th to watch a co-workers’ cousins’ band (The Rose Alarm- check them out on iTunes).

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