Dog Beaches & Parks in Newcastle

When I have my two best friends with me, my day is complete.

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The one thing that attracted me the most to Newcastle are the beaches. Growing up in the country, it’s incredible to live so close to this much water and sand. Whenever I drive along the coast line to the city, the walking track is always filled with people and their puppies so it’s obvious that I am not the only one who feels this way. The views are spectacular so it’s really nice to be able to share this with my boys; Texta (black & white) and Sunni (wheaten).

When I first moved here, I wasn’t too sure on where my pups were allowed to go so I thought I’d make it a little easier for anyone who wants more information before driving or walking around.

OUR PICK:
The four of us (Alec included) love the doggy beaches at:
* Redhead Beach– This is our go to beach. It is so spread out which makes it great for running along the water. There are always other dogs for the pups to play with and big waves that help tucker them out (Especially Texta). There is also a small lagoon that helps calm them down and wash the sand off before getting back into the van. I’m not kidding when I say that they sleep well that night.
* Horseshoe Beach– This is the only beach in the Newcastle city that allows your pups to run free off a leash. When we come here, my boys will disappear in the water, playing with all the other happy pups for hours. I chill out and only need to get up to throw a stick here and there. Texta is crazy for sticks but usually adopts random kids to throw them to him in the water! Sunni loves other dogs so this is a really good beach for him to mingle.

If you’re interested in more than beaches, then I have included all the parks that are all doggie friendly too.

In Newcastle:
* Nesca Park (Just off Bar Beach and Darby Street in Newcastle)
* Braye Park Waratah (Timed- Sunrise to 9am then 5pm to sunset)
* Carrington Foreshore
* King Edward Park Newcastle– This is a great place! I love walking the dogs along the paths, grab a coffee then head over to the off leash section.
* Islington Park
* Maryland Drive Reserve
* Elermore Vale Park (Timed- Sunrise to 9am then 5pm to sunset)
* Dixon Park Reserve Mereweather (Timed- Sunrise to 9am then 5pm to sunset)
* Acacia Avenue Reserve in North Lambton
* Upper Reserve Wallsend
* Michael St Reserve Lambton
* Ballast Ground and Pitt Street Reserve – Stockton Dog Parks – My uncle and cousins took us to both of these parks not too long ago. They’re right on the water and have plenty  of space to run around so perfect for the puppies.
* Purdue Park Mayfield
* Tarro Recreation Area

In Lake Macquarie:
I live in Lake Macquarie and take the puppies for walks along the water all the time. Lake Macquarie is very well designed for fitness and pets, with parks all along the water front, walking tracks and specially designed areas for the dogs to run wild. A few are:
* Speers Point and on to Warners Bay (This walking track follows the Lake almost right around. It’s perfect for sight seeing while walking the dogs and stopping along the way to let them play. I take my boys here all the time.
* Thomas H Halton Park & Croudace Bay Park
* Booragul Foreshore Reserve

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I think it’s really wonderful to have so many areas for the pups to run and I believe it’s important to continue opening up more animal friendly areas. As long as the owners take responsibility for their dogs; have control of their pups, make sure they’re friendly with other dogs before letting them off the leash and pick up after them, then there wont be any issue. I know that personally my pups encourage me to stay fit as I want to walk them to keep them happy and I know a lot of people are in the same situation.

I hope this helps you all! Now, get your buddies and head off to your closest dog beach or park and have some fun!!

 

How To Stay Motivated Without The Gym

Want to quit the gym but worried about making yourself motivated to workout without it? You are where I was four weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, gym’s are great but they are also costly. If you added up the $70 month then think about what you could use that money for if you weren’t paying for the rent of the building and equipment. I’m sure you’d start reconsidering your membership.

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I was a gym member for three years (Wow, that’s a lot of coin). My main reason for using the gym was, of course to get fit and toned, but to use it’s motivation benefits. The payments coming out each week was a big motivational tool but also the wonderful atmosphere I found from my first step into my local gym. The trainers there are always encouraging which made me feel bad if I missed a day- because I believed they’d notice.

I was a little afraid to quit the gym a month ago. I went in there really nervously and said; “I need to quit”. To my surprise, there was actually no pressure. He got the paper work out and told me that they would be sad for me to leave but he understood and that I can always come back. That made the whole process really easy.

My next struggle was trying to motivate myself without the gym. I had no one who was going to give me a dirty look for missing a couple of days. I had no encouragement and I had no money to make me feel bad for loosing if I didn’t workout. It was hard BUT I started.

Here are the steps I took:

STEP 1:
My first step was clearing out the cupboards of junk food, making lots of healthy meals to freeze and focusing on my diet. I do have my cheat food (Honey, Caramel, Macedonian ice cream) but it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. I always start every meal with a glass of water. I am also obsessed with teas so each day, I’ll have a different one- whether it’s green tea, herbal tea, flavored flower teas. They’re all great.
My main issue is the snacking so I searched it and found out that it’s best to have three good meals-lunch being the biggest and a couple of small healthy snacks in between like fruit, a handful of nuts of a boiled egg.

STEP 2:
Make a goal. My goal is just to stay fit and toned so a little junkiness in moderation is acceptable in my routine- as long as I jog a little longer the next day. Yours may be that you want to stop all sugar cravings. There are some pretty cool websites that explain what your body is lacking when you crave something specific so that may be helpful. http://eatwiseteens.org/food-cravings-what-your-body-is-telling-you/
I also take photos weekly to see my process which is encouraging to myself.

STEP 3:
A few days into my routine, I started using trusty Google to search for 30 minute workouts to do at home and I did them while I was watching TV. They would still make me sweat and I’d want to give up half way through but the more I did it, the more I’d hold that stance a little longer. I find that I am beginning to become tougher on myself like I was when I was at the gym. Challenges are exciting.

STEP 4. 
Plan your workout. I wake up each morning and walk outside to check the weather. I can’t afford to get sick as I perform each weekend so I ensure the weather is sunny before I plan to do a workout outside. I have two border collies so they need to be walked which is a big motivation advantage. I have a few different tracks I can take them on.
*CHILLED OUT- I live 20 minutes to the beach and the dogs love it so I try to take them there weekly. They play while I get a good arm exercise by throwing the ball to them. We will also go for a jog along the water. I can make this an easy or difficult exercise.
*EASY- 40 minutes- I am a block away from the beautiful Lake Macquarie so if I want to do a short/easy walk then I take them down to the lake and walk around and back.
*MEDIUM- 1- 1 /12 hrs- I like to explore my neighborhood so I will time myself to make sure I’ve walked minimum an hr around different suburbs.
*DIFFICULT- 2 hrs- If I want to do a big workout, then I’ll mix up a walk and jog from home to Marmong Point and back. This trip takes me on roads, dirt roads, grass and the lake so it’s a really good leg workout. It is also very hilly so we are all buggered afterwards.

Having the meals already made up make it so much better to just zap it in the microwave for a few minutes rather than having to make something up after a workout.

STEP 5:
Plan fun workouts with your friends. Working out with other people will give you friendly competition to achieve your goals and motivate you to get out and do a workout. I have two friends who both like to exercise so I have teed up days with both of them to workout. One of my friends likes to jog along the lake so we have planned to do a ground workout then go for a jog afterwards. My other friend is big into sports and fun fitness exercises so we are planning on doing surfing lessons, paddle boarding and hiking. This will all kick off in three weeks (when I get home from QLD) so I’ll be sure to write about each of those too.

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If you read through my stories (Canada, snowboarding etc) then you can get some other ideas for workouts. A few months ago, I tried my hand at dancing. That was a great and very enjoyable workout! If you’ve got some moves, check out your local dance scene. Big W also has some brilliant workout from home equipment so it’ll be worth to go have a look at.

The best way to motivate yourself is to get off you bum, put some workout clothes on, get some tunes pumping and just do it. The only thing holding you back is yourself.

Good luck everyone!!

Snowboarding in Thredbo

Taking my first step out of the car in the Thredbo resort, it was pure magic to look up at the heavy white clouds and watch the delicate snow flakes fall. I don’t think we could have raced across the car park to the check in area quick enough!

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More people than you can imagine have never experienced the rush of making their way to the white mountain; bodies covered from head to toe in layers of clothes, feet in bulky boots, snowboard on their hip. The exhilaration you get when the snowboard is strapped onto your feet and you take your first ride. It’s a feeling like no other.

What Is Thredbo?
Thredbo is an alpine village and ski resort in the Snowy Mountains of southeastern Australia. Thredbo offers the best skiing and snowboarding in Australia. The mountain is perfect for all ages and ability. Beginners will love the purpose built area designed to progress skills in a safe environment. Intermediates can enjoy Australia’s longest runs and the wide variety of terrain on offer. The Advanced will find endless on and off piste challenges, powder bowls and natural features.
https://www.thredbo.com.au/

Our First Day in Thredbo
My partner Alec and I went with our close friends Jesse and Tehla to celebrate Alec’s 23rd birthday. Myself and Tehla had never been snowboarding before but the boys went the year earlier so they were very confident! Te and I started the first day with lessons to learn how to stand up and not fall over- well just not as much as we would have without lessons.

Granted, after the first day, we sat around the fire exchanges stories and examining bruises but it was worth it! We were all so tired that we crashed early. That worked well as we all woke up bright and early the next day and quickly prepared ourselves for the new adventure that awaited us on the snow fields.

A Little Trick
For those who need a little extra hit of confidence, We all started our mornings around 10 am with either a shot of Tequila, Fireball, A Schnapps made in the local brewery Wild Brumby http://www.wildbrumby.com/, or a warm Apple Cider. It made us not worry too much about falling over- which is one of the tricks to snowboarding.

Our Second Day in Thredbo
When us girls got the courage on the second day, we caught up with the boys again. They decided that it was time for us to move from the beginners section to the intermediate section by taking a new chairlift up to the top of another mountain. The view was indescribably beautiful. We took it all in over a couple of Steins and over sized pretzels.

There was nothing better than finishing the three days the way it began with snow. It was the perfect time for us to leave- before the roads got too slippery and still watch the snow fall. We have all agreed that every year, we’ll be teaming up and going snow boarding together.

Some Advice
If you have some amazing friends, gather them up, book a motel room together and go snowboarding. It is expensive but if you save up over the year or months then you’ll be fine. The best way to find deals is by booking early. So grab your friends, pack your jacket, gloves and googles, and next year, make your winter a snowy one!
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Relaxation on the Sunshine Coast

There is nothing better than packing one bag, finding the cheapest and earliest flight, and heading up to the Sunshine Coast for five days.

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As I write this, I am sitting back home on my little couch, laptop resting on my lap, tele quietly on, the pups asleep on the floor, reminiscing about my previous week spent in one of the most beautiful areas on the Australian East Coast; Coolum Beach.

To kick off:
It was an early start for me, especially not being a morning person but I was lucky to have a great friend of mine; Bobby, make me a smooth, creamy porridge for breakfast and rush me to the Newcastle airport at 4:30 in the morning. I thought I’d surely sleep on the plane but there is nothing more indescribable than being above the clouds at 6am, watching the sun rise, revealing the beauty that is down below. I was captivated. (Featured image)

With my eyes fixated out the window, the flight went very quickly. I found it generally relaxing to have an hour and a half without technology; just my thoughts and the view. After I took this photo, I switched my phone back off.

Arrival:
I arrived in Brisbane, with very little knowledge about the distance from Brisbane to Coolum Beach but I was inevitably about to find out. Growing up in the country, I am not very familiar with trains and how to read their schedules so I really felt like a tourist as I walked around the station asking people which train goes where. I caught my train then didn’t know I had to get off it to board another one when I hit Caboolture. I must have looked ridiculous as everyone got off the train while I stayed on the stationary train for a good 20 minutes. It wasn’t until the conductor finally announced that this particular train was heading back to Brisbane, when I got the message and realised I was waiting on the wrong train. I quickly raced across the bridge to the other terminal where my train was 2 minutes away. Lucky!!

The last time I was driving through this area was in 2014 when I lived on the road with my Mum for ten months, touring the Eastern Coast of Australia. I really enjoy living out of a suitcase, traveling full time but getting paid for it through my gigs. It was the best year of my life!

I sat on that train for another hour and a half, reminiscing about the times that we were in these areas. When we went past the impressive Glasshouse Mountains, I remembered this time that I was on the way to a gig but my NavMan took us the complete wrong way and we ended up in the middle of a pineapple farm only ks away from the mountains.

When I finally got off the train, I was met by two of the most beautiful people; my partner Alec and his Nan; Jan. It had only been three days since I saw Alec but it always makes my heart smile when I see him again. He works in WA as a drillers offsider so I am very used to him being away but I much prefer him being with me.

We drove around sight seeing a little on the way to the apartment we were staying at, right across the road from the crystal blue Coolum Beach. Here, I was met with the rest of the family.

While we were there:
Have you ever had a time where you literally shut your mind off. You focus on the company around you, the view in front of you and that’s it. I scrapped my money worries, my work thoughts and just relaxed. We all hung out here, listening to some great tunes; Eagles, Creedence, Beatles, Jimmy etc, eating incredible food, drinking, overlooking the ocean waiting for dolphins and whales to make an appearance, and just catching up with each other.

There was one day when we all decided to separate as the boys went out on an early fishing charter and us girls went sight seeing and shopping in Mooloolaba. This was a really fun day. We all met back at the apartment around the same time. One of Alec’s cousins; Corey, is a chef at a hotel just down the road so when the boys all got home, he cooked up a storm with the fresh fish, salt and pepper squid and salad. Top that off with some of Alec’s Uncle Terry’s home brew and that was perfect.

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Time to leave:
As the old saying goes; “Time flies when you’re having fun”, it really happened. I felt like we were only there for a day or two.

My advice:
If you’re in need of a good break, or you want to catch up with family but you’re not sure where to go or not sure of a nice central place… I would highly recommend to rent an apartment or two at one of the blocks right across the road from the beach, over looking the ocean. You have enough room for the family, you have an incredible view and you feel like you’re at home as you still can cook, watch tv, sleep in, etc. Plus, you can never do better than relaxing each morning and afternoon on the deck watching the water.

The best six weeks of my life… Part 2

Before you begin reading this section, make sure you have read Part 1.

After spending four days in the Okanagan Valley, it was time for us to start up that ’76 Chevy and travel on to my next gig in Sicamous BC. It was my brother Mitchel’s 23rd birthday in Australian on the 24th June and then again in Canada on the 24th June. He was so lucky as he did get two birthdays due to the time differences in both countries! We decided to make the whole weekend a party for him, so over the weekend, we let each person we met know it was his birthday. Obviously, he didn’t feel much like hiking on the Monday!!

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On that Friday, I performed at the Family Tree RV Park in Sicamous, then on the Saturday we headed off to the Rockwater Pub in Golden. There was a blackout that covered the entire town of Golden so we weren’t sure what to do in terms of my gig that night. While we were pondering over a couple pints of beer with the chefs, the owner Pat made a sarcastic remark about acoustically performing on the deck to the patrons. Before he could say anything else, I popped my ukulele out of it’s case and began singing. To this day, it was probably one of the most fun nights I had in Canada. Everyone really appreciated the effort and actually sang along with me to songs they knew. We had a great night there and made some wonderful friends.

We woke up the next morning in excitement as this was the day that I was performing on a Buffalo ranch! Mitch had never seen Buffaloes before so we couldn’t get ready fast enough. We arrived only a short time later at the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch just out of Golden.
This place has only one word that can be used to describe it: MAGICAL.
Everything about it is magical.
Mum and I met Leo H. Downey last year when we stumbled across the most exciting

20170625_125116thing yet- a buffalo ranch. Mum, having an advanced knowledge of the history of buffalo and indigenous people, was attracted to this incredibly. Meeting and talking to Leo, we were quickly inspired by his life story and the adventures he has had so far and every day living on the ranch. After also discovering that he was a musician, we all hit it off quickly. This year, I was honored to be given the opportunity to perform as part of the 6 hour concert ‘Buffapolooza’ at his ranch on Sunday 25th June. Myself, Leo, Duane, Ryan, David and a few other brilliant musicians performed throughout the day. There wasn’t just music though, we were also treated with buffalo burgers, a meet and greet with the buffaloes and even a demonstration on how Leo learnt about making fires out of the environment around him. Do yourselves a favor and grab a copy of his book and give it a read. Very inspiring. We made some great friends (Shout out to Sven, Marcail and Belinda) and our skin felt amazing the next day after a mud bath and swim in such a special river. You can see lots of pictures on my Facebook page. Thank you Leo for this experience that we’ll never forget! FB_IMG_1498578261356.jpg

We were sad to move on from our little piece of paradise but more adventures awaited us. This new day bringing another gig, this time in a great little town called Radium Hot Springs. I performed that night at the Horse Thief Creek Pub which is renowned for it’s live music. I was the 159th person to perform on that stage this year so I must have been somewhere in the early 100’s when I performed there last year in July.  This venue is a musicians best friend as not only did I have a brilliant sound man; Larry, but the audience were there to listen to me which I loved. Mitch and I were also surprised by our friends from Banff who drove out to spend the night in Spur Valley and to watch my show. We had a great night with them, and continued on by golfing the next day in Spur Valley. Dad would be jealous and proud. Mitch and I have some work to do to get to their levels but it was such a fun and relaxing day.

The following night, I was performing back in Calgary in a rustic pub called The Brass Monkey. When Mum and I stumbled across open mic night they held last year, we made a great entrance by driving under a tree in the RV. Of course, such incidents don’t disappear from people’s minds so even a year later, I was welcomed as the one who drove into the tree! Besides that, we were also greeted by Parker (The owner), Shaun, Cory and a tray of shots. That Was A Fun Night. I was hosting an open mic night with assistance by a brilliant local musician; Gil Tougas. We kicked off at 7:30pm and the night didn’t end til close to 1am. It was amazing. There is nothing more that I love than actually meeting, listening and jamming with musicians and Calgary is full of them!

The next night, I was really close to where I played the night before- a block away to be exact. I performed at this lovely cafe called the Cornerstone Music Cafe. This place was really cool as out the back were many rooms, completed with pianos, where people get music lessons in and out the front was all vegetarian and gluten free meals with Canadian wines and beers to compliment. Compared to the pub shows I had mainly performed, this was really special as the place held a capacity of around 20 people. It was booked out and everyone was there completely to watch my show. Everyone was so lovely and I even was lucky enough to find two singers and a guitar player to perform a few tunes for us all. Mitch and I were spoiled with home made mac and cheese and I was spoiled with a lot of kind words by everyone there.

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Since we had a couple of days left in Calgary, we decided to spend one whole day sightseeing the stunning city and the other day getting tattoos together thanks to the great team at Barron Tattoo in Calgary. Our time in Canada was unforgettable and we felt completely reconnected as siblings so we wanted to capture our time by meaningful tats. Mitch got a stunning world map and compass on his forearm and I got a Mandela inspired lotus flower on the back of my neck. Mine was over and done with within a matter of 20 minutes but Mitch’s took much longer. So long, the tattooist even ducked across to the bottle-lo (liquor store) to grab some grog (Alcohol) to ease the pain. They were a cool bunch of people so we chilled with them for the afternoon til Mitch was finished.

A BIT OFF TOPIC:
Mitch was my translator while in Canada- Hence the above brackets. I would get excited about fairy floss and he’d turn to the Canadian friend and explain that fairy floss is cotton candy! This happened a lot. Most days while we were in Canada, we completely forgot we were in a different country as we felt so much at home but some times it was just fun to confuse people.

 

CANADA DAY!!
Our Calgary friend Dave James took us out on Canada Day to explore a few more things in the city like the Music Museum. It was amazing and so fascinating. We were shown how sound works, how the body reacts to different sounds, how the brain is wired for musicians and differently for listeners, and even had in depth information about famous Canadian artists. I love Shania Twain, so I just HAD to get a photo with her.

That night, we drove out to the Balzac Campground where i performed to everyone inside the office while they were cooking burgers on the bbq outside in the pouring rain! When it rains in Canada, it really rains. I love performing at this RV Park. Everyone is so supportive and kind. After my show, we all ducked down to do some karaoke when the weather cleared up and celebrated Canada Day with a bottle of Maple Whiskey at the bomb fire while watching the fireworks.

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Our time in Canada was coming to an end and we were really not wanting to go back home. Mitch has planned to go back in April to work and live and I will be finally taking my boyfriend Alec for his first Canadian adventure in September 2018. During our last two days in Canada, we dropped off our lovely RV to the storage place. A big shout out to Gills Auto for repairing it each year for us and to Dee Sinkler for having it look amazing when we arrive by giving it a nice clean. We had a hard time letting Maple go and Mitch even teared up while we were cleaning her out. 20170703_132151.jpg

Our friend Doug Shields also took us to a rodeo on our very last day. This was in Airdrie (A little town on the way from Didsbury to Calgary) and our friend Morgan Grant was competing. Morgan and his wife Gillian Grant (Doug’s daughter) are quite well known in Canada and the states for their lives in the Rodeo world. Gillian was Miss Rodeo Canada and Morgan has won quite a number of rodeos including the Calgary Stampede. Both are HUGE achievements. It’s pretty cool to know royalty! Morgan and his mother were competing this day and they both were incredible! Gillian now organises events and rodeos, and has even offered me a spot in one when I return to Canada next year in September. More will be announced then.

When Dougie dropped us off a the Calgary airport on Monday 3rd July, our hearts were heavy so we checked our bags in, sat at the bar with a few cocktails and went through some photos and videos together of our last six weeks.
Thank you Canada for welcoming the Cooke’s into your country. I feel like it is now my second home and I can’t wait to return ❤20170703_214748.jpg

 

 

 

The best 6 weeks of my life! Part 1

After traveling to Canada for my very first international tour last year in July, I got bitten by the international travel bug. Sure I’ve lived on the road for a year in Australia, and I have traveled 60 per cent of my country (And LOVED it), but the feeling I got by being on top of the world at one of the highest peaks in Banff, Alberta Canada, at Sulfur Mountain lookout (Elevation of 2,451m) is just so indescribable, I longed to go back for my second Canadian Tour.FB_IMG_1496795014022

For this tour, I performed 17 shows in 38 days from Didsbury, Alberta, across to Chilliwack, British Columbia. (Shown on poster below- Plus Peachland Markets Sunday 18th June)Canadian tour.jpg

On the 29th May 2017, My Brother; Mitchel and I  boarded the train from Newcastle to Sydney, then caught the long 14 hour flight from the Sydney International Airport to Vancouver International. We were thrilled to have an eight hour lay over before our flight to Calgary Alberta as we had time to walk through the famous Stanley Park, and lay on the grass with our music pumping from Mitchel’s Bluetooth speaker while overlooking the sea planes take off from the shore. On our way back to the airport, we acted like true Aussies by stopping in to ‘check out’ the Irish Pub. After quite a few Canadian beers and myself flogging Mitchel at pool, we had to go back.

When we arrived in Calgary, we were met by not only our friend Doug Shields but also quite a large amount of Country decorations as the town was only one month away from the biggest festival seen in Canada; The Calgary Stampede. We unfortunately were flying home one week before the festival began but I did attend last year and was blown away with amazement. If you get your chance to go the Canada, you don’t want to miss it.

For the first week of our trip, we were staying with our friend Doug on his farm in Didsbury, Alberta. Doug has a very successful property growing peas, canola, hay and barley. Here’s some interesting information for agriculture enthusiasts- Unlike Australia, Canada only has around 5-6 months per year to plough their crops and harvest them.
I know, It doesn’t sound possible right?…. Wrong!!
Their sun rises at 5:30am and doesn’t set until 10pm. In that 16 1/2 hours of sunlight each day, the crops grow very quickly. They do have the issues with hail and frost in the summer but they’re all covered with insurances for those cases. Overall, the crops grow so quickly and are cut and sold before the first snow. Pretty cool eh?

After my first performance at the Didsbury Motel for their grand opening with new owners; Ang and Shane, We jumped in my 1976 Chevy Van RV ‘Maple’ and hit the road to our favourite Alberta town; Banff. I performed at the Banff Legions Club and was joined by some good friends; Hugh Pettigrew on Harmonica and Shane Curtis on Bass Guitar. After some good jam sessions, we were grabbed by some locals to taste the best pizza in town and drink the biggest sangria glass ever! If you have never tried pizza topped with honey and sweet chili sauce- you must. It’s life changing.

Mitch and I stayed in Banff for four days. During that time, we figured out that half the town are Aussies, we went hiking at Sulur Mountain and Tunnel Mountain, saw our first Elk and made lifelong friends (Katie, Shane, Gary Beatty; I’m talking about you). Mitch loved the town so much that he is already planning to get his visa and live there for six months in May 2018. Look out Canada!

We were sad to leave Banff but excited to be on the road again, this time traveling to the town of Kamloops. I love this town, it honestly reminds me of Mildura, VIC with it’s dry landscape, salt bush forestry and the whole town built around the Thompson River. We stayed with our friend Brittanie Alcantara and caught up with more friends; Angel Easton and Richard Baker when I was performing at the Kamloops Casino. A little secret to all those cheese cake lovers- this place is incredible!

We moved along further into the state of BC and closer to the beautiful city of Vancouver as I was performing in Chilliwack at Rosedale Roadhouse and Bob’s Bar and Grill in Aldergrove. It was amazing to spend the day with our other Canadian friends who went to Uni in Canberra back in 2014/15; Brandi, Gaby and Delowsky. My favorite thing about Rosedale is their berries. The blackberries alone are the size of 1/2 a golf ball and are so juicy that you’d want to wear a napkin!

The Okanagan Valley is a stunning area of BC, known for it’s abundance of wineries and orchards. We traveled through the area and I performed at the Woodlake RV Park in Lake Country, Todd’s RV Park in Peachland, the Canyon Farms RV Park in Kelowna and the Farmers Markets in Peachland (Thanks to Papa Thom for inviting me). While we were here, we again made some incredible friends; Debbie Loker and Patrick. Mitch and I also took advantage of my days off by hiking up the peaks of the mountains. In Peachland, we walked up Pincushion Mountain (815m) and in Lake Country we struggled up Spion Kop Mountain (875m). We must have lost our way numerous times off the walking track because on some parts, we literally were on our hands and knees as it was too steep and slippery with the rocks. It was so much fun! When we got back down, we did discover a map with five different trails for every levels. Both of these summits held the most spectacular views showing the lakes and the cities.

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FUN FACT
Every few months in Peachland, the information center have a bat count. What’s that you say? Well, believe it or not, the historic primary school building was not being used but when it was discovered that there were thousands of bats occupying the attic, they turned it into the information center and are protecting the Yuma Bat colony.

CUTE!!!!
Our friend Debbie decided to make Mitch and I feel at home by taking us to Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country. Cute is an understatement. I was lucky enough to hold an albino joey and a Mumma sugar glider. We got selfies with emus, wallabies and miniature horses. Oh and I can’t forget about the Cockatoo that does the world’s BEST Donald Trump impression….. You can view that on my Facebook page.
Definitely a place you need to visit.

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ALRIGHT… I am going to stop right here so you can catch your breath and make sure you have your passports ready…

Love SAMI xxx

P.s Be sure to look back for Part 2 which includes Mitch and my trip from Sicamous to Didsbury. (This is the good part you don’t want to miss). I will also be writing a couple of blogs that will be extremely useful for the next trip you take so make sure you subscribe.

Escape from Reality

Have you ever needed to escape from your everyday life? Is the thought of relaxing in a tropical paradise drumming in your mind or are you longing for new experiences like a different culture? Well I have the perfect place for you.

As the new year brings happiness and excitement, it also brings along quite a bit of stress- whether it be due to money or work. I knew for a while that I wanted to take a trip to unwind and also to travel for the first time overseas with my partner Alec. It was all quite a rushed process as we weren’t sure where to go however within four weeks, we had planned, purchased and packed ready for our week away at the Naviti Resort on the Coral Coast of Fiji.

The trip was a little painful with a three-hour train trip at three in the morning, followed by a three hour wait at the airport then a five-hour plane ride, however, when we arrived at the Nadi airport, we were welcomed with ‘Bula’, shell necklaces and smiling faces of the locals, which made us feel like it was going to be a great holiday. ‘Bula’ is the Fijian way of saying ‘Hello’ but it can also mean ‘Welcome’ and ‘Love’. We caught on quite quickly as it is hard to say the word without a smile escaping from your lips.

Even though it is thought of as a small country, Fiji consists of 332 islands (106 islands being inhabited) with 14 provinces in Fiji and over one hundred dialogues spaced across the islands.

The Fijian people are the most inviting culture I have met. People will do anything for you, expecting no profit, except to know that they have helped you in some way. They love to teach about their culture and traditions and show people the way they live as it is very different to our way of life. Within our short stay, Alec and I experienced and learnt a lot of their culture by talking to numerous locals and hearing historic stories about their different villages. We were even lucky enough to be invited to several villages across the Coral Coast by the locals.

While on a jet boat on the Navua River, we saw over fifty incredible waterfalls and even had the opportunity to swim in one that would have reached above a three-story building. The pressure from it was so intense which made the experience that much more exciting. Our guide; William was so informative about his community’s history and was the reason we got to spend time in the Korowakawa Village where we had lunch, drank Kava and sang songs together. We have been invited to stay in the village next time we come which will be a real treat to experience more of their local way of life.

Kava is a traditional drink in Fiji and can be used for both; ceremonies (where it is used to unite two groups of people together) and in a casual situation. A large amount of Fijians drink Kava on a daily basis which might help explain the popular saying ‘Fiji Time’ as each day is relaxed and not rushed. Kava is made from crushing the root of a pepper plant (yaqona bush or piper methysticum) then mixing the powder with water. People tend to think that Kava is intended to give you hallucinations but it’s effects are mild; one or two cups will tingle your lips and a large amount will make you feel relaxed and sleepy- falling asleep is the amount of its affect. Alec and I drank Kava at the Korowakawa Village and I enjoyed it however as good as its reputation is; it did taste a little like dirty water but when in Fiji, I highly recommend trying it.

With our all-inclusive package at the Naviti Resort, we were given a beautiful garden view room, three meals a day, three bars including one swim-up pool bar where we were spoiled by our favourite staff members; Minnie and Tema with tropical alcoholic beverages from local beers and wines, house spirits and a variety of cocktails. We took advantage of the included activities plus we were given a exotic guided snorkelling trip, a beautiful sunset bay cruise and a stunning coral viewing cruise just out from the resort by Noah. Noah had a rope tied to the back of the boat so when we reached a great area, we all jumped out, holding onto the rope as he dragged us slowly above the coral reef. It was such a magical experience, we had to do it again the next morning.

Every day in the restaurant we were all serenaded by men singing in beautiful harmony, performing a range of traditional Fijian songs through to everyday pop with a Fijian twist. Performing acoustically, they accompanied themselves with guitars and ukuleles. It was simply beautiful.

As Alec puts it; I went full tourist and took so many photos of literally everything! On our second day there, I even got my hair braided by three ladies in a local village but come on- that’s what happens when you’re on holidays!

To top this all off, on my 21st birthday, we ordered room service and I was spoiled by Alec with not only pizza, not only champagne, not only the world’s largest mouth-watering chocolate and dark berry cake but also a beautiful song by six Fijian’s and a big ‘Happy 21st Birthday’ sign on my bed. It’s easy to say that this was the best holiday I’ve ever had. Regrettably we had to say ‘Goodbye’ or ‘Moce’ to Fiji but we are already planning our next return.

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