The reality of holidays is no matter how long they are; they soon become a distant memory once one returns to reality. So it was with my recent Mexican + Cuban adventure. However, a positive of being slow on processing my photos is reliving the joy and remembering the fun I had. I’ll slowly post each stop on my trip over the coming weeks with a few thoughts/reflections. Feel free to read or just ignore, it’s largely so I have a record of my trip. (Ie. Like this one from my first solo adventure back in 2011). We all know that some of us plan things more than others. Me? Well, I think we all know which category I fall into…even if I’m a Microsoft Excel hater. But the thing about life, and travel, is things don’t always go to plan. I lost count of the number of times friends, colleagues and family said “be safe” in the weeks prior to jet setting. It usually came after I revealed I was largely travelling around Latin America alone with pocolito Español. I’m a planner but also a realist. “Things will go wrong,” I told them. Heck, last time I solo travelled I managed a hurricane, tornado warnings, an earthquake, a lockdown on my university campus and a stolen bag on a North Carolinian beach leaving 3 Australian girls stranded in bikinis for a few hours. In the trips that have followed with my hermana we’ve had lost passports, ran through our fair share of airports and locked ourselves out of our accommodation after leaving the key in the returned hire car. (She’ll tell you all of those were my fault…and she’d be 100% correct). But travelling is great because it throws you out of your comfort zone. We don’t want to live comfortable lives. Travel forces you to solve problems without your standard security net. Throw in a language barrier and you’re really in for a good time. I was recently chatting with someone who has had similar experiences and we joked our prayer life had a marked improvement when travelling. It’s not a good thing. Travelling makes me more aware of my tendency to think I can do things on my own, and it’s only when things leave my control that I turn to God. Dracula’s holiday home, Malecon Mazatlan Carpa Olivera, an ocean pool + slide built in 1914 in Olas Altas Airconditioning comes au natural in Mazatlan’s taxis aka pulmonias Four days into this trip I was acutely reminded of this once again. Crying on the floor of my dear friend’s shower in Mazatlan, Mexico. Already nursing a cut up face, an egg on my head and a collection of bruises on various limbs from an oh so dramatic (and not unsual) fainting episode. I now had pain shooting down my leg and across my lower back. Absolute agony. Although I had Internet, I had no contact email or number for my friend. Facetime audio wasn’t working for my sister (back in Brisbane…at 6am). I tried a Skype call. No credit. I managed to track down a number of the YWAM base on the inter webs and punched it into Skype again. Cue: dial tone. Praise God. With each ring, I prayed harder my friend would answer. Finally she picks up. If my initial mid-lunch prep fainting episode in the middle of the kitchen weren’t enough to scare everyone, my phone call would have. I’ll skip to the end because within 2 hours of being in complete air gasping, back clutching distress, it was 90% gone. The ‘international consultation’ with my sister diagnosed it as a muscle spasm likely caused from my collapse. I have no doubt in my mind God answered the prayers of many that Tuesday afternoon. (I’ll note, although I say ‘crying’, there were no tears. I’m pretty sure I’m unable to cry real tears. Crying is more akin to screaming.) I flew out the following morning at 6am to Mexico City. Thankfully that was the end of the disasters and beyond an actual breakdown when I was too short to lock the gate of my casa in Havana. For the obvious reasons, let it be known photos of me are limited from hereafter. Before: Cutting 50+ avocados After: A few cuts + bruises  Huge shout out to Danica and Yosef for being amazing hosts. And the team at YWAM Mazatlan. Check out their awesome worship session – in Spanish + English. (Your’s truly features at 3:49) Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Chatting to people week-to-week I have to remind myself to be thankful for an awesome job that allows me to get out and appreciate our creator God. I’ve been fortunate to cover a fair of Queensland’s ground in my nine months, learning more and more about this northern land.  And slowly i’m building my fun facts collection, so the longer you wait to visit me, the better your personalised tour will be. Scenic Rim Mount Tamborine, is not famous for tamborines but rather being Queensland’s first national park declared in 1908. Brisbane Brisbane came about after needing more space for felons in the Sydney Colony. It was original named Edenglassie but renamed Brisbane after a governor of New South Wales Sir Thomas Brisbane. Brisbane received the first contingent of US soldiers in WW2 14 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Within 12 months, sleepy Brisbane’s population of 300 000 had become 600 000. The well-paid soldiers made themselves at home in Fortitude Valley and with the Australian women. It didn’t go down so well and the little-known  Battle of Brisbane broke out among 5000 soldiers on Thanksgiving in 1942. North Stradbroke Island Rainbow Beach Lady Musgrave Island The tiny coral cay is literally made of bird poo and crushed coral. It’s a stopping ground for thousands of migrant birds. Thankfully it was pretty from the air, its neighbouring Fairfax Islands were almost obliterated during WW2 target practice. Bundaberg Famous for rum, sugar and ginger beer. Also, the home of my own family heritage. Town of 1770 Considered the birthplace of Queensland after Lieutenant Cook made his second landing in later known Australia, the first in Queensland. Rockhampton, Great Keppel Island Rocky is the beef capital of Australia with the ratio of people to cattle 1:4. Magnetic Island Affectionately called Maggie, it was named after Lieutenant Cook’s compass apparently went haywire while passing by. Substantial research has been undertaken to counter his claims. Townsville It’s 2 most notable landmarks are quite unfortunate. Firstly, Castle Hill that stands out from the rest of the geography is only a few metres short of mountain status. And second, the tallest building in town is the hideous but much loved sugar shaker building, currently the Holiday Inn. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 I’m a pretty intentional person. I generally know what I’m doing, where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. But for a long time I didn’t leave enough space in my life for spontaneity. I missed out on things because I scheduled life so tightly – also a challenge for someone who likes to say “yes” to everything. Moving to Queensland has been great for creating space. I don’t have that many friends here so there are less social engagements and I also have fewer weekly commitments. Further, moving to Queensland has opened up a new patch of Australia to explore. And I’ve been waiting months for the weather to cool down enough to start hiking the hinterland areas. Yesterday morning I looked at the forecast and saw it was going to be sunny for the next 2 days. And coming off a 3 day work trip I had intentionally not made plans on Friday night to recover from the tiredness. (I know, who have I become?!) So a few quick texts to my friends and we made plans to hike to Mt Warning or Wollumbin just over the border in NSW on Saturday morning. Wollumbin meaning patriarch of mountains, or later named Mount Warning by Lieutenant Cook on his first sail past in May 1770, is an 1157m ancient volcanic plug. It’s also the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by sunlight, a popular sunrise hike. And to do it properly, we set out from Brisbane at 2am (!) arriving at 4am (!) to start the 4.5km, +650m gain climb to the top for first light and sunrise. It’s been years since I’ve done a hike by torchlight and it was fun to charge up the mountain only ever seeing 2 steps ahead. We overtook a number of people and made it to the top in 1hr30m only to be greeted by 2.5 degree temps and 30km/hr gusts. It was the Catch 22 of the clear sky and close to full moon. And there we stood for an hour waiting for sunrise on a platform wedged at the top of the mountain. And slowly the light appeared, the distant lights of Surfers Paradise, Tweed Heads and down to Cabarita fading as the largest light crept up and poked its head over the Pacific Ocean horizon. And suddenly the faces of those around us were clear and vastness of our surroundings made known.  Unfortunately there were 50 or so others, many much taller than me, so although I wasn’t the first to see sunrise… (#dadjoke) it was pretty amazing to take in the 360 views. And within an hour or so after sunrise, the visibility became more than 100km with the Brisbane CBD visible in the distance. And then finally the wind and cold became unbearable to we headed back, to discover all that we’d passed in the darkness.     Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
In the application cover letter for my current job, I facetiously said Sydney was the best city in Australia but if they took a New South Welshman aside they’d admit Queensland’s beaches are some of Australia’s best and they happily holiday above the border at any opportunity. It was a way of retaining my blue dignity in the chance I got the role and had to move into maroon territory. It seems my backhanded compliment was received well and four months later I’ve sunk my toes in at least 15 of Queensland’s beaches. The verdict? Australia (not just Queensland) is beautiful and I’m proud to live in this land of sweeping plains, ragged mountain ranges, droughts and flooding rains. I cherish the far horizons and her jewel sea. But after 20+ years of New South Wales coastline and inland regions, I’ve enjoyed familiarising myself with the Goldie, Brissie, Straddie, Sunny and Bundy. It seems Queenslanders like their abbrevs as much as their southern neighbours. Queensland is a big place and I’m keen to keep exploring however long this sunscreen dependant and beaded upper lip adventure lasts. A few months ago the sun woke me at an ungodly hour. Usually cursing the early northern sunrise, that morning I sat up from the air mattress atop a catamaran roof and looked out across the coral cay and lagoon. I considered the series of events that led me there. I was being paid to stay on the Great Barrier Reef in order to photograph the crystal waters of Nemo, Squirt and his all his buddies. The end goal being for more people to enjoy hopefully more than I did in my very brief trip. What a huge blessing. And it goes without saying that each time I look out from the expanse separating the water from water, I consider the work of God’s fingertips and am truly thankful. We have a creator God who blessed us abundantly with a beautiful world to take care of. Despite the curse that now lays across the land, we can continue to take rest from work and enjoy his creation. This is Queensland, well just a small selection of snapshots from Southeast Queensland. It seems it’s a whole larger than I realised! Burleigh heads Broadbeach Surfers Paradise Mount Tamborine Curtis Falls Mount Coot-tha Brisbane North Stradbroke Island Town of 1770 Agnes Water Lady Musgrave Island  Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen this picture. It’s on bucket lists everywhere. Haʻikū stairs, otherwise known as the ‘Stairway to heaven’ – a 3922 step vertical climb up the side of a mountain.  Sounds awesome, right? As soon as this trip was booked I began researching. Blogs, forums, hiking websites; I was there. I found out it was illegal as it involved trespassing on government land. Since 2013 a guard patrolled the bottom of the stairs issuing infringement notices of $300. Still not deterred. I knew the times the guard was posted and the times they changes shift.  But then two weeks ago it happened. A landslide. It took out the stairs in three places! I was devastated. I began researching alternative routes up to the WW2 radio tower at the top. Where this hike has stairs to the top, the alternative ridge lines only had ropes. Not heaps safe. My dream died. (Second photo: That’s the tower at the top of the ridge line on the right near the edge of the could. Epic!) On Saturday Laura and I did a tour to kayak out to Mokoliʻi, a conical shaped island fondly named ‘Chinaman’s Hat’. After some research in to the tour company, I suspected we may be the only ones on the tour. And right on cue a beat up red truck with only three kayaks on the trailer pulled into the beach park. The driver? Why of course, a 24 year old guy student, working in a food truck and doing tours on the side. Awesome! The tour was great and relaxed (bar a foot injury for Laura and a nice gash on my shin!). After mentioning we were keen for some hiking and finding out the Haiku stairs post-landslide now come with a $600 infringement notice and 30 days jail time, he started suggesting alternatives. Although he never strayed from his keen-ness and intention to go hiking tomorrow too. Fast forward a day and we found ourselves in Ka’a’awa waiting for our new friend Dave and his mate – Trey. The crouching lion or Pu’u Manamana was our chosen challenge.  The 6km track with 600m elevation almost immediately. “Pu’u Manamana is a popular but challenging ridge hike that tests your nerves and tolerance of dangerous situations. It is mostly known on the island as being “one of the most dangerous hikes on the island”. It is pretty intense but the views up there were some of the best on the island.” Source Forgetting island time and growing impatience for our 30-minute late hiking buddies, Laura and I set off as per the blogs instructed. “The trail head is between the ‘do not pass’ sign and the telegraph pole.” Sound legit? More legit then these legit trail markers. Signs? Pfft, no. Pink ribbon is how tracks are marked in Hawai’i. Under some trees, over a few others and we were off. Until Dave called within five minutes and we backtracked 100m of elevation and restarted the hike at a different track head – as questionable as the previous. And within a few minutes we had expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. Not pictured: our 150+ BPM heart rates.  We were pretty thankful for Dave and Trey at this point after commandeering our backpacks, becoming our personal photographers and safety extraordinaires. By that, I mean, they assured us we’d be fine as we scaled over and around rocks with drops on either side…   Another ridge line, another rock climb. Almost at the top just in time for the cloud cover to be burning off! The various peaks we scaled up and over. The top! Woo! I couldn’t get over how awesome the mountains were. So green. So jagged. The ridge lines so narrow. Good thing there was little wind! The water, well, it’s just so clear! Once at the top we enjoyed the views and recorded some Snapchat vids for Dave and Trey’s mates. It seems young men are the same irrespective of the continent they live on. The walk back down was pretty cool with views of Kawa’a’wa and Kahana Bay. You can see almost up to Laie on the North Shore. See personal tour guide! Apparently another illegal hike is tucked in the Kahana Valley, ‘Sacred Falls.’ Trey was unlucky to get caught recently and issued with a court date and $300 infringement notice.  It seems an island full of mountains invites exploration! (Note: the extreme descent!) Can you see the crouching lion? Looks a little like Bella… Keen to get into some caves, Laura and Dave did some climbing. Spot Laura on the rocks just left of the breaking waves. Ignore the awkward perch. The rock was super spiky. It seems lycra provides no padding. Go figure. One of the best views of the walk. We went about a third of the way along the top ridge line before heading back.   A few standard mountain top photos. And yes, that is Laura jumping on a rock about 30cm diameter with 250m falls on both sides. Then down again! We made friends with the plants after a few slips and slides and then out through some long (!) grass and on to the main road around Oahu. And a final happy snap with our new friends Dave and Trey. It was so good hiking with people who knew the area and made the sketchy rock climbs seem a little less, ah, sketchy.   Mahalo! Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)