The Summer – 2016

Wow I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since I last posted! But in a way I can, as it’s been such a busy Spring and Summer. Lots has happened, and it will probably take me a few posts to catch up!

First, it took me a while to get over my Dad’s death. I was tired, drained, and sick with a never-ending virus for some time after I arrived back in Canada. And although I feel much more like myself now, in another 6 months’ time I will probably look back to today and realise that I still am going through the motions of grief and acceptance. I find if I hear certain songs it can still really hit me, but sometimes it strikes at completely random times… sitting in a restaurant absent-mindedly watching the sport on the TV, or driving along the highway. While walking my dogs, or paddling in the lake. I just suddenly realise that he’s not coming back and it’s almost suffocating. Grief is a funny old thing! But I know it’s fine, I’m fine, and this is all perfectly normal. All in all we’re doing well.

But some amazing things have happened these past few months, in spite of grief. 

My mother (very understandably) was feeling deflated in the new year, after everything that had occurred in the months before, and – rather spontaneously for someone usually so cautious! – booked flights from the UK to Vancouver Island to come stay for a couple of weeks!

We had a fantastic time together and completely made the most of what Vancouver Island, and BC, has to offer. Although, there is still plenty more to go for her next visit! This blog post is all about her trip over here, which happened in June this year.

She arrived on a Sunday night, and the first few days were spent here in Victoria, with Mum getting to know Rex and Tilly (they had never met before!), recovering from jetlag, and generally exploring around the golf course trails close to where we live, and downtown. 

Next, I’d arranged a 3 night stay in… You guessed it… Tofino!! The jewel of the west coast and one of the most relaxing, reflective, restful places on Earth. As I have mentioned before, with its wild seas and rugged coastline, it’s somewhere that my Dad would have adored and I knew Mum would find it just as healing as I did when I visited back in December. I booked us all in at The Pacific Sands Resort, in a luxury Oceanside (pet friendly!) villa. The weather wasn’t always on our side, but it doesn’t matter in a place like Tofino. In fact the wild weather just makes it even more special somehow. 

Not much more to say except that Tofino, as always, worked her magic and we left feeling calm and restored. Back in Victoria, we took in Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate chowder (a first for Mum!) and where the (slightly overweight) harbour seals didn’t let us down with their ‘feed me fish!’ displays.

Next up? No first trip (well, it’s her second technically as she was here for the wedding, but didn’t get a chance to ‘tourist’) to Victoria is complete without afternoon tea, and a trip to the beautiful Butchart Gardens! We combined the two and had afternoon tea at Butchart Gardens. It’s the best afternoon tea I’ve ever had, although I admit to not yet trying the apparently delectable (but incredibly expensive) version at The Empress – something I soon hope to rectify! 

Next on the punch list? A whale watching trip of course! Now, I’ve done 2 other trips from Victoria harbour with different companies but this one, with The Prince of Whales, was hands down THE BEST!! Partly because the conditions were perfect, partly because the boat we were on had the perfect combination of size and speed, partly because we saw such a wonderful plethora of wild marine life, but mostly because the crew/guides were just wonderful! So knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I truly believe it was one of the most pleasurable, interesting 3 hours of my life. 

Normally the whale watching boats go east as they come out of the harbour, to catch a glimpse of our resident Killer whales. But we got word of some transient Killer whales in the west, out towards Sooke, so this is where we headed. We were treated to a fascinating display of the transient whales in action, stalking a seal, and then spent time hanging out with several humpbacks, before turning back to circle Race Rocks and watching two different types of seals and sealions basking in the sun next to the lighthouse. En route, we even spotted an incredibly rare Tufted Puffin! Such an awesome site for a self-proclaimed twitcher like myself.

Amazing.

We of course also checked out some of the local lakes and beaches, Murchie’s Tearooms, and Oak Bay, and I introduced Mum to Beavertails and Tim’s donuts! But after all of that site-seeing we needed to relax… So we headed over to the mainland for some Harrison Hot Springs action! I booked a cottage for the 2 nights before Mum had to fly home from Vancouver. I’ve never stayed in the cottages before and, although they are looking a little tired and dilapidated, the one we stayed in was comfy, warm, cosy, and fit 3 of us perfectly thanks to the pull-out sofa bed. I would recommend them as they are also super close to the pools and away from the bustle of the main hotel. Also pet friendly! Although we left the furballs in day care for these few days to hang out with their own species for a while!

Overall, a fabulous time, and hopefully a trip that Mum can look back on with fond memories for years to come. We can’t wait to have her back!

Advertisements
Posted in lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Salt Spring Island Escapade

Last September I turned the grand old age of 33. To celebrate this “Master number of numerology” and also the fact that I still felt so young and adventurous despite being a fully-fledged adult, team paprika ventured to Salt Spring Island for a spot of camping. Salt Spring is one of the Gulf Islands along the Strait of Georgia, nestled in between Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. One of the highlights for us is that it only takes half an hour on a ferry to get there from Sidney harbour on Vancouver Island, and once there, it’s just a 20 minute drive to get to Ruckle Provincial Park, which is adjacent to Ruckle Farm (owned by the Ruckle family since the 1870’s and still farmed by them today). Many would consider the park one of the most beautiful camping spots in the Pacific Northwest.

Team Paprika en route to Salt Spring

The whole team came to Salt Spring Island. It was Tilly’s first ever ferry ride and she was ever so cute while we were on the boat!

Cruising up to Fulford Harbour on BC Ferry’s Skeena Queen, we catch our first glimpse of what Salt Spring Island is all about; a dreadlocked new age hippy is playing guitar by the quaint harbour coffee shop, and a couple of mucky relaxed dogs sit patiently outside the tie-dye clothing store, panting and happy from an outdoor adventure no doubt, next to an eclectic assortment of push bikes from travellers who have left their cars (and their worries) behind. There is an aura of complete relaxation and you know that the people of Salt Spring are not about to judge you, no matter your look, lifestyle, or background.

With a sigh of happiness, we leave the harbour and make our way to Ruckle Park to set up camp.

On every trip I’ve taken to Salt Spring, the sun has been shining, lending a “CSI Miami” hue to my memories of the place. The greens and oranges of the fir and arbutus trees on the way to Ruckle Park are vivid. They contrast beautifully with the yellow of the trail leading to the park. I feel like I’m Judy Garland in a re-make of the Wizard of Oz. But I most certainly don’t feel the need to tap my heels together to leave.

On arrival at the park, which is just a short drive from the harbour to the south east, other smiling campers leave the handy wheelbarrows with us, for carrying our gear into the expansive beach front camping grounds. We wonder if we left too late in the day and there won’t be any good spots left (it is a long weekend after all, we worry). But our worries disappear as we venture deeper into the campsite and find a perfect spot just metres from the sea.

16

All set up, it’s time to explore! There are 15 km of trails in Ruckle Park. A nice hike runs through the campsite, along the shoreline, all the way from the Ruckle Farm to Yeo Point. We set off, dogs on leash (as they should always be in this area) and see what we can find.

One thing we do miss this year are the red and purple sea stars, which we normally find nestled in rocks and tide pools on the coasts of all of the Gulf Islands that we’ve ever visited. They were ubiquitous in the same area just a few years ago: These are pictures taken in Ruckle Provincial Park just over 5 years ago, when we stumbled across too much sea life to count!

The lack of these bright creatures is a sad reminder of the ongoing battle they are having against the wasting virus, densovirus, that seems to be killing them from the inside out, reducing the stars to a sorrowful pile of goop. Other sea dwellers such as urchins have also been affected, all along the Pacific coast reaching as far as California in the south, and Alaska in the north. There’s nothing we can do to overcome this death but thankfully there’s evidence that the epidemic is winding down – we can only hope that the population re-builds itself over the next decade and we are once again blessed with a blanket of stars on our ocean floors.

As we continued our hike, a huge sea lion came up to the shore to say hello! I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to snap a picture but it definitely put a smile on our faces. A couple sitting on the rocks nearby, staring too intently at their phones missed this spectacle. A reminder that sometimes it’s best to leave the gadgets behind once in while and look up at the world around us, I guess.

 

Hours later, exhausted and pink from the sun, we settled in to our campsite for the first night, only to be stirred from our daze by the last BC ferry of the night on its way to Vancouver from Victoria, blasting Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” as loudly as possible out of its loudspeakers!! It caused quite the stir at the campsite and laughter rippled through along the shoreline. The next night we were treated to another ’80s classic, “Livin’ on Prayer” by Bon Jovi. The captain of the ship was no doubt having a bit of fun. Although I did feel sorry for the couple with the 6 month old kid in the campsite next to ours! I wonder if this is a nightly occurrence, or was just a long-weekend treat for us happy campers?!

Days two and three on Salt Spring saw us take more coastal hikes, erect a tarp for our cooking area (which came in handy during night two’s torrential downpour!) and take a drive to Ganges village, where there always seems to be a farmer’s market taking place (although officially it’s just on Saturday mornings if you interested). At Ganges we ate fish n’ chips and explored the shops selling trinkets and treats. On the day of my actual birthday, the hubs bought me a chocolate cake, which we took back to the campsite and scoffed in front of the communal campfires. You meet some interesting people at these group campfire spots. One couple had recently retired and we found out that Salt Spring was one of their last stops of a 3 month journey taking them from Calgary, across the Rockies, over to Vancouver Island. Another family were local to Victoria, and were enjoying some ‘medicinal herbs’ by the fire before leaving in the morning to get ready for their kid’s first day at school. An eclectic bunch indeed!

We left Salt Spring on the afternoon of our third day. Not being in a rush to leave, we didn’t get back home until well after 5pm. Relaxed and sunkissed, we got take out that night and enjoyed a beer in the back yard to try to extend the mini vacation some more. A successful birthday? I think so.

 

 

Posted in dog's life, hobbies, lifestyle, science, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Recovery & Tranquility in Tofino

“I know there will only be slim pickings left for this time of year, but let’s just see if anywhere has any dog-friendly rooms left for the days between Christmas and New Year” I said to the hubs, a couple of days before Xmas. I was drained, full of bronchitis, and still feeling rather sad and contemplative at the death of my father the month before. I kept having urges to go and stare at the sea, feel the wind in my face and breathe in the cold, salty air. In other words, Tofino was calling my name, and I wasn’t about to ignore her.

I grew up near the water. My childhood home was just outside of the naval town of Portsmouth, England, which is also where Dad died. He loved the sea.

So, I phoned around, thinking we’d probably end up in a motel, roadside dive, or somewhere far away from the beach. Little did I know that we’d be lucky enough to end up with reservations for the best digs in the area: The heavenly Wickaninnish Inn!

NIK_4720

The Wickaninnish Inn, on Chesterman Beach, Tofino

I’d wanted to go there for years, but was never able to find the right time of year when the stars aligned and I had time off at the same time as the hotel having dog-friendly rooms available. We were determined to take the dogs with us, as we’d had to leave them in kennels while we’d been back in the UK for 5 weeks — We didn’t want to leave them again. The Wick’ had one dog-friendly room left from the 26th – 29th December, which were exactly the days we wanted to go. It must have been fate.

Our journey there on Boxing Day was fairly treacherous. Even with AWD and snow and mountain tyres, we had a slide in the snow on the icy roads going through Sutton Pass. The hubs controlled it well and I’m happy to report that we did NOT end up in a ditch. The drive took 5.5 hours, which is still pretty good going for the conditions. We snacked on leftover homemade Beef Wellington on the journey and sipped on coffee from the hubs’s giant Stanley-brand thermos (as a side note: this coffee was still hot 2 days later!! I’d highly recommend this thermos for the man in your life!). Still, I’d recommend using full snow tyres and carrying chains, blankets, and emergency supplies with you if you are Tofino-bound this winter.

On arrival, we were welcomed into the hotel like long-awaited house guests, feeling like royalty as we settled into our room overlooking the ocean. The staff went out of their way to also welcome the dogs, who were both treated to cookies and nice comfy beds. It was black, windy and stormy on our first night; we couldn’t see just how breath-takingly beautiful the view from the huge picture window was until we awoke from a great night’s sleep the next morning:

Wickaninnish Inn - View of Chesterman Beach

View of Chesterman Beach from our room at the Wickaninnish Inn

We spent a large amount of time staring at this view over the next 3 days. Sometimes with a glass of wine, sometimes with a cup of tea and a croissant. Occasionally I tried to read a book, sat in a chair by the window, but ultimately my eyes kept getting drawn back to the ever-changing picture of tranquility just next to me. Bald headed eagles soared above us, occasionally breaking up the greys and whites of the clouds. Surfers danced on the waves in the distance.

NIK_4636

Chesterman beach is a haven for beginner and experienced surfers alike

In between these open-mouthed staring sessions, we of course took long walks along Chesterman Beach, reaching as far as Frank Island when the tide was out. The dogs thought they’d landed in heaven, and were completely tuckered out each afternoon after our 3-hour morning walks.

NIK_4904

Rex and Tilly in action

NIK_4681

Rex on the beach

NIK_4858

Frank Island, only accessible at low tide

NIK_4644

Tilly is free like the wind!

NIK_4881

How rude!

The sunsets in Tofino, for me, always seem like they last 3 times longer than anywhere else on Vancouver Island. Is it because the light reflects so luminescently from the glistening beaches? Is it due to the fact that the Pacific ocean stretches as far as the eye can see, making the world seem flat and infinite? Regardless, I revelled in them each evening, taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. Shimmering silhouettes of black and orange, now enduring in my mind. Dad’s spirit can definitely be found here, I know it; I think he was delighting in the fresh air, watching the waves with me.

NIK_4787

A Tofino sunset

NIK_4677

My loves at dusk

NIK_4745

Me and the hobbits, Chesterman beach

With a relaxed body, a warmed heart, and a restored mind, I left Tofino after 3 days. I left my anger there along with a good deal of my sorrow. On the way home, the snow had cleared over Sutton pass; we were treated to yet more beautiful scenery and a winter wonderland that was hidden in the dark to us on the journey there.

NIK_4921

Wintery wonderland of Sutton pass in the snow

We’re already booked up again for our next Tofino adventure. Next time we’ll be renting a 2-bedroom cottage at the Pacific Sands Resort… We went for a 2-bedroom as we’ll have an extra guest with us this time — My mother is coming to visit! Very excited to show her the sites. I want her to relax as much as possible and feel as serene as I did on this trip. I have a feeling that it won’t be too difficult.

Tofino – Yet again, you stole my heart…

 

Posted in dog's life, hobbies, lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, Dad

I felt your presence in the room first, standing over me, watching me sleep. “See you later, sweetheart” you whispered, as you kissed me goodbye on the cheek that morning. I felt the bristles from your moustache and the scratches from your stubble as I lay in bed, eyes closed, pretending to sleep. I was 15 years old, and just about to set off on my first big adventure — A trip around South Africa, with nan, your mother, as my guardian and travelling companion. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this trip would be a defining moment in my life — the first great yell of adventure to the cliffs, which would echo back to me in the years to come — so no wonder the moment sticks in my mind. I laid there that morning holding in tears: Of nervousness about the long flight; of knowing that I’d be homesick for the first few days; and of the thought of not seeing my parents for 3 weeks, which at the time felt like an eternity. I couldn’t turn and face you, Dad, because I knew that I’d burst into tears with the feeling of love that had just spread over me.

This is one of my most treasured memories of you. A simple kiss goodbye that made me feel so loved and protected, as any child should when they are about to set off on a big adventure. I knew that everything would be okay after that goodbye kiss, and I went on to have one of the best experiences of my life.

2010 08 22 16 00_Bec wedding Kath_0059

My father, aged 58, one year after his cancer diagnosis, on my sister’s wedding day

He was 57 when he got the news. It was stage 4, and it had already metastasized into his lymph nodes. But even then it didn’t seem too serious. “People die with prostate cancer, not from prostate cancer,” so they said. In fact most of the time, people don’t even know they have it until they are well into their retirement and have used up most of their pension. But after a six year battle, of which I was so enormously proud of him, in November 2015, at the age of only 63, my dad breathed his last breath. Could it have been prevented? Was it just bad luck? Nobody knows. Regardless, there’s nothing that can be done now, so why ask the questions.

In my eyes, Dad was a legend, capable of fixing anything. I always trusted his advice. He wasn’t one for big displays of affection. But he was so deeply caring and loving in his ways. I used to marvel at the way he listened to my mum talking to him about a hard day at work; he never brushed her off, and only ever provided support and encouragement. They were married for almost 42 years, and I know their marriage, an uncomplicated and happy union, would have lasted a lot longer, if it weren’t for the cancer taking him away too soon. What a great example of a good relationship to aspire to! I’m lucky to have been witness to such an unbreakable bond.

I’ve had a lot of anger since Dad’s diagnosis. Not at people. Certainly not at the doctors, nurses, hospice workers and other healthcare professionals that treated him. In fact, for these people I have only thanks and the greatest respect. No, not at people, but anger at the cancer itself. Thanks to cancer, the children that I hope to have (and was so desperately trying to create before he died, unbeknownst to my father) will never have a grandfather. It didn’t let Dad make it to my wedding day. It took away his ability to travel, and he couldn’t make my graduation. He’ll never see the house that we’re working on, using many of the skills that I learned from him. It sapped him of his energy and ability to do the things he wanted, years before it took his actual life. But most of all, I’m angry that it’s taken him from my mother. She is strong; I know she’ll get through it. But it’s heartbreaking to think that she will live out their shared dreams for the next 25 years alone.

People that really knew Dad also knew that he carried anger with him; However, this anger was never seemingly about his diagnosis, which I struggled to understand. He accepted the cancer diagnosis and followed advice from doctors without questioning, which was a miracle in itself, if you knew how much he hated needles and hospitals. Dad’s anger, throughout his life, was for people or circumstances that hurt his family or people less fortunate than him. Owing to his protective nature, he was never angry at us, his family, but angry for us if things weren’t going our way. This emotional streak seems to be present in all of his children — although I don’t think any of us could muster even half the amount of road rage that Dad did! Despite this trait, he was a gentle and non-violent man, and was able to move on quickly from distressing situations and swiftly go back to whistling his way through life.

Having no interest in belongings, bar from his beloved car and perhaps the tools — that no one was allowed to touch — in his garage, Dad lived in the same blue vest for about 30 years. Since he’s been gone, I’ve really been trying to take this example to heart, being more mindful of my own belongings, and have recently whittled my wardrobe down to only the clothes that I really wear. It’s a life lesson that we all need reminding of I think, in this age of throwaway possessions. However, despite how thrifty dad was, we all know that he’d have spent his last penny on his family if we needed it. Generous to a fault, both with his time and skills, we honoured him by playing the theme from “Local Hero” at his funeral.

When he first got the diagnosis, I tried desperately to take action in the only way I knew how — by raising money for prostate cancer charities, through racing triathlons and other road races. Looking back, I think I just needed to be doing something that might potentially help. Now he’s gone, I don’t quite know what to do with myself, but I also know that feeling this way, sad and slightly helpless, is a normal part of the grieving and healing process, so I’m doing my best to accept it. I know I’ll be doing more charity work for cancer research in the years to come, but the time doesn’t seem right, just yet. I want to spread the word to the men left in my life: Get checked out by your doctor, take charge of your health, and, the old cliche, “don’t take life for granted”. But, all of these things can wait until the initial pain of loss has dissipated. For now, I think I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and appreciate and give love and support to and from my wonderful friends and family. The grief really has helped bring family and friends together — a silver lining to this heavy cloud.

You taught me so much, Dad. How to deal with money. How to drive a car (a white-knuckle experience!). You showed me how to feel music and taught me not to be afraid of dancing like a maniac at weddings and parties. You warned me about the boys in my life that were probably going to end up hurting me (…and did). And you accepted the one that didn’t. You went out of your way to help us renovate our first flat — I know you would have helped with our house here too, if you could. You encouraged and supported me in my travels and adventures. I will never forget the pride in your eyes and lump in your throat that day at Heathrow airport when, with my didgeridoo strapped to the side of my backpack, you greeted me with a hug and a peck on the cheek in the arrivals hall, and drove me back home. I know you were proud of me, as you were of all of us, for “turning out alright”. I don’t feel guilt about not seeing you as much as I probably could have, because I know you wanted me to take opportunities in life wherever I could get them. I hope that I can continue to do so, and be the woman you’d want me to be. The time we did spend together felt like quality time.

We sung together to the radio; I know that our last song, while you drove me home from a train station last summer, was Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Which seems fitting now. One of the last things you said to me, 10 days before you left us, was “you have to just let things go at the end of the day, really”. I’m not sure, but I think you were thinking about your relationship with your own father, who had passed away just 3 years before, and the struggle you’d had for many years in communicating with him. I try to hold onto this thought when I feel my own sadness and rage build inside of me. Life passes too quickly to be angry.

I was so lucky to fly home in time, have that last hug, and tell you that I love you. “I’m just so happy to see you again” you said. I couldn’t describe how happy I was to see you too. I’m sorry I cried on you, when I was trying not to let my emotions show. I’m sorry you won’t physically get to visit us here in Canada or see the work we’ve put into the house. “I’m still hoping to get over there and visit one day”, you told me — you didn’t know then, or perhaps you just couldn’t accept, that the end was in sight. But you know I carry you with me wherever I go. I see you in the mornings when I talk to the birds outside my window. I sense you sitting next to me when I gaze out to the sea from the beach. I hear you telling me how to do things properly when I’m in the garden, pruning the bushes or cutting the grass. I picture you singing alongside me when I’m singing my heart out to REM. You know I’ll always be your Lisa Simpson, Dad.

“This isn’t what you think it is, it’s not the end” you kept saying in those days leading up to your last night. So, perhaps, after all, this isn’t a “Goodbye”, Dad, but rather a “See you later”. I hope wherever you are that the chair you’re sitting on is comfy, the view you have is of the sea, and that the Grand Prix is playing on the TV.

Love and Kisses,

Kath

XXXX

For information about prostate cancer and to donate to prostate cancer research in the UK, please visit: Prostate Cancer UK

I also encourage any readers to support their local hospice. We don’t know what we’d have done without The Rowans Hospice “hospice at home” nurses during dad’s final journey. An incredible group of people.

If you have just lost someone, remember that grief takes time. Be kind to yourself.

 

Posted in lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Carefree in Kaua’i

At the beginning of May, the Hubs and I decided to treat ourselves to a long-awaited honeymoon — Destination, Hawaii!!

After hours of research, we came to the conclusion that Kaua’i was the island for us, due to it being smaller, quieter, and “less touristy” than some of the other islands (according to the wonderful users of TripAdvisor!). There is also an abundance of wildlife and various hiking trails that we knew we’d like to check out.

The Details

Length of trip – 15 days of adventure!

Accommodation – We opted to stay on the East coast rather than the more popular South coast area of Poipu, since we had booked a car (well… less of a car, and more of a a bit of fun, as you’ll find out next!), and it looked like a good base for exploring the entire island.

After MUCH consideration, and some failed visits to the travel agency for help, I booked online with the Kauai Beach Resort. I’ll admit, I was nervous about it… It was half the price of some of the other hotels that we’d been looking at on the South coast, it looked close to the airport so I was worried about noise from aeroplanes, and I knew that the sea would likely be ‘unswimmable’ thanks to the trade winds and strong currents. But, we had nothing to worry about…!! Five pools, two outdoor Jacuzzis, an upgrade to an oceanview room on arrival and the food in the bar, Shutter’s lounge, in the evenings that we did eat there was to die for (I had the crab/ginger cakes at least 5 times I think!). Probably the best food that we had on Kauai!

IMG_0549 IMG_0846

We even checked out some of the other resorts that we were thinking about while we were there, and decided that we’d most definitely made the right choice. The Poipu area was touristy, had lots of construction work going on, and was somewhat noisy and dirty compared to our little slice of paradise on the east coast.

Transport – Something we’d wanted to rent for a very long time… A Jeep Wrangler!! It was silver and the roof came off and we felt like we were in Indiana Jones…

IMG_0378

Chosen Guidebook – I thoroughly researched the guidebook that we should buy. I only wanted to buy one guidebook, so I had a few prerequisites: It had to have lots of pictures, it had to cover the whole of the island, it had to include hikes and kayaking recommendations, and include useful maps for driving.

IMG_20150818_180157In the end I went with The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, by Andrew Doughty, which ticked all the boxes plus had excellent reviews on Amazon. However, second on my list was the Fodor’s Kauai, which also has some great reviews (and I know it also had all the information that I needed, as I checked it out in the bookstore). The author of my chosen guidebook, Andrew Doughty, has lived in and been writing about Hawaii for many years – We found his Kauai book to be a Godsend while we were there, so I would definitely recommend his Hawaii Revealed books for your next Hawaiian vacation!

The Adventure!

What an amazing time we had! We spent our days snorkelling, hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and driving off-road around the island, testing the local delicacies, and trying to find new reefs and beaches to explore every day. We made it a mission to sight a Green Sea Turtle – it took a while, but when we did come across one it was one of the most wondrous, exhilarating experiences – one I know that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. We took care not to go to close to the turtle, and just watched for from a distance with our snorkels for 10 minutes while it explored amongst the reefs.

Other snorkelling outings brought us sea slugs, beautiful coral, a fantastically coloured lobster, and more fish than I could possibly count.

Another fantastic day was spent hiking part of the Kalalau trail. The Kalalau Trail is an 11 mile trail that leads from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Na Pali Coast at the northern tip of Kaua’i. Permits are required to camp at either Hanakoa or Kalalau beach, but as of December 2015 it is possible to hike as much of the trail as you like without a permit. We started too late in the day to do the whole trip (and it’s really a multi-day hike unless you’re an extreme trail runner!) but we did the first 2 miles and took in some of the stunning, jurassic scenery of the Na Pali Coast.

Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail

View of Ke'e beach from trail

View of Ke’e beach from trail

 

By far the most scenic day of our trip was spent on a helicopter tour. We opted for the 1 hour trip, in a helicopter that had open doors, so we could really feel nature on our skin! If you do this trip, DO remember to bring a sweater or jacket and long trousers or combats, because despite the intense heat at ground level, it does get rather chilly when you’re in the air for an hour! We took too many photos to show them all here, but here’s a few snippets to whet your tastebuds.

One of our most memorable days, and not something that many people would consider as part of a ‘vacation’ I suppose, was spent volunteering with the Kauai Humane Society with their Shelter Dogs on Field Trips program. Anybody can do this to get a quick animal fix while they’re away and it really helps out the dogs – increasing socialization skills, leash walking skills, and of course they may meet potential adopters. We took 2 larger dogs out that hadn’t been walked for a while — Meet Emmet and Summer!!

Summer and Emmet!

Summer and Emmet!

Wildlife – Kaua’i has a rich array of wildlife. From monk seals, dolphins (we saw both bottle-nose and spinners), turtles, sharks, tropical fish, lizards, geckos, and birds galore –there’s something for everyone. As a bird fan, I spent a lot of time staring at the beautiful cardinals, which I don’t normally see here on the west coast of Canada. I was also rather taken by the chickens and roosters that ran free all over the island — even on the beach! The vibrantly decorated feral chickens are an introduced species that have no natural predator, besides the stray cats and dogs of the island, and they are apparently multiplying at an alarming rate!

Food – We enjoyed the local food. As as I mentioned above, the food at our resort was of a very high quality and served a huge selection of Pu Pu (small plates or platters of a mixture of food and snacks, much like Tapas) which helped, as there weren’t too many restaurants close by. I think we must have had an shaved ice cone every day we were there, and I also got a taste for Taro root, which can be made into vegetarian burgers or chips, or is sometimes boiled down to make Poi – a purple-ish coloured goop with porridge-like consistency, often served alongside pulled pork or given to weaning babies. We also had lots of lychees at the fresh fruit stands that are set up at roadsides. I enjoyed them and found them to be a refreshing snack on a hot afternoon, but the Hubs wasn’t such a fan, comparing the texture of them to eyeballs…!

Waimea Canyon and Other Highlights – Another stop that is a must if you are visiting Kaua’i is the Waimea Canyon. There are several ways to see the canyon – by helicopter, as I mentioned above, by driving up to the summit and stopping at the many viewpoints along the way, or by hiking into it from one of the various trailheads. We actually did all of the above and saw the canyon by helicopter, car, and a few short hikes. Hikes vary in length, and the guidebook I recommended above has some great maps of the area and  – you can chose to do shorter 1 or 2 hour hikes (as we did) or take on much longer hikes of 12 hours or more – it’s even possible to hike right down into the Kalalau bowl.

Kalalau Lookout - Most Amazing View in the World

Kalalau Lookout – Most Amazing View in the World

There are lots of good views and waterfalls in the Waimea region:

Another day was spent cruising along the Na Pali Coast on a luxury yacht where we were wined and dined and got to snorkel off the side of the boat. Yet more of our time was spent at the Waimea River — We kayaked it, Paddle-boarded along it, and hiked along its banks to a Secret Waterfall, where we swam and bathed and snacked on Taro chips.

Towards the end of the vacation we rented surfboards and had a very good chuckle at each other trying to stand up, while being knocked over time after time after time by the unusually strong waves! What a trip. I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the highlights:

 

Posted in hobbies, lifestyle, photography, travel | Leave a comment

Veggie Moussaka

I recently made a very successful moussaka full of aubergines (eggplants), courgette (zucchini), chick peas and tomatoes – well, I am calling it moussaka but it was actually a veggie moussaka/lasagna hybrid!

Here are the ingredients:
– 2 medium aubergines (eggplants)
– 1 courgette (zucchini)
– 1 small can tomato puree
– 1 large can diced tomatoes
– 1 large can chick peas
– 3-4 shallots
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 2 cups of milk for a white sauce
– grated cheese (I used mature cheddar) for topping

Directions:
1) Slice 1 aubergine, dice the other. Cover in salt to draw out the bitter juices and set aside for 20 mins.
2) Slice shallots, garlic, courgette, and fry on medium heat until soft.
3) Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chick peas, and simmer until aubergines are ready.
4) Rinse salt from aubergines. In a separate pan, lightly fry diced aubergine. At the same time, grill the sliced aubergine (approx. 4 mins each side), and set aside.

image

5) Add diced aubergine to the rest of the tomato-based sauce and simmer for 5 mins. Salt sauce to taste. Set tomato-based sauce aside while you make white sauce.

image

6) Make simple white sauce with butter, flour, milk.
7) Add cooked tomato-based sauce as a layer in the bottom of a casserole dish.
8) Add layer of grilled aubergine.
9) Add layer of white sauce.

image

image

10) Repeat steps 7 to 9, adding another layer of veggies/aubergines/white sauce.
11) Top with grated cheese.

image

image

12) Cook in oven at 400F for 30 mins.
13) Tuck in and enjoy! I served with a side of sweet peppers and half an avocado. I also made a simple tzatziki with Greek yogurt, capers, and dill, which went fantastically with this dish! But a simple green salad would work well too.

image

image

Posted in food, lifestyle | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

So much space, so little time!

Almost exactly this time last year, the hubs and I had just had our offer accepted on the house! I can’t get over how quickly the last year has gone!

image

I also can’t believe that I was wearing a hat a coat then, as it’s been positively balmy for the past few weeks this year! But I digress.

We had to wait for more than 6 weeks to get possession, and another 2 or 3  months to get the yard in order and fences built, so the dogs really didn’t have free roam of the place until mid summer.

This year is a different story entirely… They have been able to run around to their heart’s content every morning and every evening since January, and the difference it’s made to their health and well-being has well and truly made up for the thousands of dollars spent to get here.

Rex, at 5 years old, is running and playing like a puppy again, and Tilly is healthy, trim, and exhausted by 7pm every night 🙂 No more ripped up pillows in this house!

image

image

image

image

Mag-bloody-nificent!!

Posted in lifestyle | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment