Blog 2017-06-07T22:05:26+00:00

The Injury I Didn’t Know I Needed

The start of my second overseas professional basketball season didn’t quite go as I had envisioned it. I got here on the morning of August 25th and everything was going smoothly. I had a whole weekend to adjust before training on Monday. I got settled into my new apartment, life was good – and exciting.

Monday morning rolled around and I went to my first training session. We began with some physical testing just to get a baseline for our fitness and then hopped straight into training.

Within the first ten minutes of drills I went to jump stop and pivot and slipped on the floor (the floor was very slippery). I wound up in an unintentional version of the splits. I was able to walk it off and hopped straight into the next drill, but my knee ached throughout practice. Right after training I iced it before bed because I knew something wasn’t quite right.

I didn’t sleep very well that night as every time I went to move my knee was met with a sharp pain. When I woke up in the morning my knee was really stiff and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to practice that day. I explained it to our assistant coach and went and saw our team’s physio after practice.

He diagnosed it as a Grade 1 MCL sprain. I was relieved it wasn’t worse (knees are a scary subject for basketball players), but it meant I would be out for a few days while it settled down. It was kind of frustrating.

So I did my due diligence and Thursday morning was cleared for some straight line running and shooting. I was excited to be able to join my teammate for an early morning shooting session.

Within the first ten minutes of the workout I went up to shoot a reverse layup and came down wrong.

My ankle rolled over the side of my foot.

Overcome with that initial rush of pain, a side of frustration, and a teaspoon of anger I hobbled to the side of the court.

I sat there with my foot elevated and a shameful bag of ice as my teammate completed her shooting session. Scenarios of the repercussions of my ankle roll flooded my mind as I waited. The initial pain was quite severe so of course my brain imagined the worst possible scenarios at first. I could barely climb the stairs out of the gym that morning. I was beside myself with frustration.

It was right then and there when I was sitting in the car waiting for our next session, as tears tried to leak out of the corners of my eyes, that my heart was convicted.

You see, just a few days earlier I had read an article about a man who had just lost everything and despite his earthly trials was still praising God. And he even mentioned that he wasn’t just praising God in the storm but rather he was praising God because of the storm. 

In that moment it all came together for me. I was in a storm. And while I was far from losing everything, I did feel like I was losing. And the last thing my heart wanted to do was praise God for this storm. Not only I had let my earthly dreams and goals briefly overshadow why I am really here in the first place, but I also forgot that I’m not actually the one in control.

And that’s where I was wrong.

I am not in control. God is. I’m not here because I deserve to be. I’m here because God has placed me here and is using me for His plan and glory.

How could I let a swollen ankle overshadow my value in God’s kingdom?

Without Him my ankle may seem like a key aspect of my value. I wouldn’t be a very good professional basketball player without it. But through knowing Him I understand that my value isn’t something that can be reduced or tampered with. I am a daughter of the King of the Universe. The king who sent his only son to die for us so we could be saved. Nothing on this earth, physical or non-physical, can take that from me.

As it turns out, it’s just a minor ankle sprain. I should be back training by Monday, and feeling 100% by the end of the week. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. And as weird as it sounds, I’m also thankful it all happened. I’m thankful I had this opportunity to check my heart before it slid deeper down the slippery slope of control and worldly values.

As I continue to be reminded of my weaknesses I am also reminded that He is my strength – and that His power is made perfect in my weakness. How amazing is that?

Praise God for the sun.

Praise God for the rain.

He is good.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  Isaiah 43:2

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2 

AmeriCup Champs

Exactly a week ago I came home. The left water bottle pouch on my backpack was filled with a handful of confetti.

And somewhere amidst that confetti there was a gold medal.


I was returning from Buenos Aires where I was a member of the Canadian National team for the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup. We had just won the tournament. If you’re wondering, this tournament is where teams from North, South, and Central America earn their bids to the FIBA World Championship which will be held in Spain next fall. Only the top three teams from this tournament qualify.

One of those teams was us.

It was a gruelling 8 day tournament that began with 4 rounds of group play and finished with semi-finals and finals. 6 games in 8 days.

We went undefeated in pool play, experiencing many different tests and growing as a team along the way. After pool play we had to face our long time South American rival, Brazil, in the semi final game. Our pieces came together at just the right time. We played tough and together and handily won that game.

It was time for the grand final. Our opponent: home team Argentina. We knew it was going to be far from easy. They, like us were also undefeated. This was their home court. The stands would be filled with passionate…flag waving…yelling…whistling Argentinians.

We got booed as we ran onto the court before warm-ups.

Tip off came and Argentina jumped to a 8-0 run before we were able to get on the board. The first half was a battle and we weren’t quite able to settle in. The crowd roared when Argentina did anything good. They clapped and shouted to distract us. The environment left our ears ringing. At halftime we regrouped, we were only down by 7 but it felt like it could’ve been more than that. We battled for the first few minutes and then things started to go our way. We drew some key fouls, and made some crucial shots.

The game was tied.

Click up Sports Photography

We didn’t look back for the rest of the quarter as our lead grew to 9 points. That momentum kept going into the fourth quarter as we tallied up a 12 point lead.

Then Argentina started to draw fouls and they clawed their way back.

With two and a half minutes left they took a one point lead.

Our point guard hit a shot with just over a minute left and that was the game. They were forced to foul in the final minute to get possession of the ball back. Their talented point guard got off a final 3 point shot (that would’ve won them the game) with two seconds remaining, but it was not to be.

WE WON!

Celebration ensued. There was running and jumping and hugging and dancing. It was a whole lot of fun. We belted out the national anthem with our raspy voices (from cheering/yelling so loudly during the final game) and accepted our gold medals. It was a moment to remember forever.

And just when I thought the moment couldn’t get any better.

They showered us in confetti.

As per (OSU) tradition both Jamie and I got down and made some confetti angels as it fluttered  down from the sky.

Simply magical.

When we got back to the hotel that night we had some pizza and champagne to celebrate. The pizza was a nice mix up from the chicken, pasta, and lentils we had been eating for the past two weeks.

The next morning we began our trek home. It was a 14+ hour flight from Buenos Aires to Toronto with a quick stopover in Chile. Once we landed in Toronto most people were home, but my day was just beginning. It took another 13 hours before I flew across Canada and then up North to my lovely little hometown of Houston.

Looking back on the summer I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to represent my country at the highest level. I feel like I made the right decision to take the whole summer and commit to the team fully. I had the chance to get to know my teammates on a deeper level and learn from them. I grew as a person, athlete, and player with the help of so many great coaches and staff. Oh, and not to mention I travelled to four different countries to simply chase an orange ball around (okay, there may be little more to it than that 😉 ).

I’ve been at home just under a week, and it’s almost time to leave. I fly back to the land down under – this time trading the west coast for the south-east coast where I will play my second professional season for the Adelaide Lightning.

I’m excited for what’s ahead, but until then I’m just soaking up my time with my family here at home. It seems to fly by all too fast, but then again what doesn’t?

The Whirlwind Continues

Summers for me have always been whirlwinds, and this summer has been no different.

We finished our last three games in China with two wins and one loss. The final loss came from Team China once again but we held on a lot longer the second time and it went right down to the final minutes. Overall it was a great trip and we grew a lot as a team and made some very important strides forward.

After the last day of competition it was time to head home.

We flew into Shanghai and didn’t have to leave our hotel until 12:30pm of the following day as that was when our to Toronto departed.

That morning before our flight my roommate, Abi, and I decided to go for an adventure in downtown Shanghai. I mean, how many times are you just casually in Shanghai for a morning? We had to make the most of it. So the night before we scoured Trip Advisor for something that was decently close to us, and was worth the the trip. After our research we ended up deciding to take the subway to The Bund (which is actually rated the #1 place to visit in Shanghai).

We woke up early the next morning and headed downtown for some adventures. We found the subway pretty easily and thankfully all the maps had English versions so we got on the right train and headed for The Bund. When we got to our station to get off we didn’t really know which way to head for The Bund but we did our best. There was probably about 40 minutes of wandering around lost before we found what we had been looking for. We walked crossed over the river on a footbridge and immediately knew we were in the right place. The Shanghai skyline was unmistakable.

The riverwalk stretched on with seemingly endless clean paths with flowers and benches to sit on. It was beautiful. Abi and I walked down it for quite some time, snapping pictures and just taking in the views.

We then decided to venture into the streets to hopefully find some fun souvenirs to take home. We didn’t find much but we did find a place to buy water as the humidity and warmth of the day was finally setting in, that was clutch.

We found a different subway station and figured out our route back to the hotel. We made it back with time to spare, and were quite satisfied with our spontaneous morning adventure. We showered, zipped our suitcases one final time and then it was time to head to the airport.

The flight back was smooth. I got an exit row so I had no complaints. I think after all my flights to and from Australia, and now China, I am just getting accustomed to flights that take 11+ hours.

I spent the night in Toronto and then flew to Seattle the next morning. I could have gone home during this break, but I really wanted to go visit one of my best friends from college who was home in-between her internships at NASA and grad school. The timing was perfect, and I figured I would be able to train as well anywhere as I would in Houston.

We decided to go on a road trip during this small break.

And of course, if you know me at all, you know I like to go big or go home.

So what did we do? We planned a 10 day road trip, through 6 national parks of the Northwestern United States. Yolo right?

I landed in Seattle on the 11th of July. We spent this whole day packing and finalizing our plans for the trip. We packed our sleeping bags, tent, food, and clothes into Sadie’s grandma’s Prius that she had graciously lent to us for the trip. The next morning, after a quick stop at Olympia Coffee Roasters, we were off like a herd of turtles.

We stopped in Portland to make a couple important stops. The first one was Salt n Straw, the famous gourmet ice cream shop. The second stop was at the Nike store so I could get some gear before I head to Australia in August. We got stuck in Portland traffic so it took us longer than planned to get to our first National Park stop, Crater Lake. It was past 11pm when we finally drove into the park. Our Prius’ (not so powerful) headlights were illuminating banks of snow along the road as we tried to find the campground. A sign on the side of the road read “Falling will cause injury or death, stay back from edges”. That terrified us as it was pitch black so we couldn’t see past the 10 feet of road in front of us. As we tried to go further we found that the road to our campground was closed. At this point we were also far out of cell service range.

Luckily I remembered there was a campground less than 10 miles from where we were in a surrounding park called Diamond Lake. We turned around (very carefully) headed towards it.

We found an empty campsite. In fact, all of the campsites seemed empty, but fortunately there was an RV parked nearby so we didn’t feel completely isolated in the middle of nowhere. We quickly set up the tent while being eaten alive by mosquitoes and then scrambled in for some sleep.

It turned out we set up the tent on a minor slope and it was really hard to sleep all night because I kept having to brace my body against the gravity that was pulling it down. It was also very cold that night, and the first night of sleeping on the ground after comfy mattresses is always a shock to the system.

After waking up the next morning we made some breakfast and while we ate our eggs and hash browns we also provided the mosquitoes with a nice snack.

After breakfast we headed out to explore what Crater Lake had to offer. We drove around the rim road, stopping at viewpoints and the visitor centre to get a map. We continued driving as far as we could (a lot of the road was still closed due to snow), and did a short hike to a lookout of the lake. After that we headed back to the east side and hiked down to the lake itself.

One thing about Crater Lake is the colour of the water. It’s so blue. And not just an average blue, but a deep cobalt blue that looks almost electric. It’s absolutely beautiful.

We scoped out the cliff near the area where people were swimming. We both wanted to cliff jump but we also didn’t want to do anything stupid so we waited until we saw some other people jump. Once we knew it was safe we barrelled in the cobalt waters ourselves.

It was a blast!

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Yes, you are right. The water was absolutely freezing. Thankfully it was a hot day so after even just a minute of sitting on the rocks after swimming to shore you were ready to do it all over again.

After diving until our hearts were content we headed back to Diamond Lake to find a different campground (turned out the ones at Crater Lake were either all booked or closed). We found a beautiful spot right on the lake and set up camp. We did a quick bodyweight workout and then jumped in the lake to refresh ourselves before dinner. Right before dinnertime our friend from college, Dylan, popped over to hangout with us for the evening. We cooked some dinner, jumped in the lake once again (yes it was cold), made s’mores over the fire and then after it got dark we all went down to the dock and talked while we watched the stars until we got tired. It was the perfect way to end a great day.

The second night of sleeping on the ground was a lot better. Granted I had taken some NyQuil because I came down with a bit of a cold on the flight home and that also knocked me right out.

The next morning we woke up, made some more eggs and hash browns for breakfast, and then packed up camp and headed East. Our original plan was to get to eastern Nevada that night but we decided it would make the next day too rushed so we drove all the way from Crater Lake to Salt Lake City, Utah that day. It was a really long day but we jammed out to practically every song we had in our libraries and the unique landscapes we drove through also really helped keep it interesting as the miles piled up on our odometer.

We made it to Sadie’s friend’s place in Salt Lake and crashed there for the night. A hot shower and mattress felt really good after being crammed into the Prius all day.

The next morning we had breakfast with her friend and then headed to a local community centre so I could get my workout for the day in. Sadie helped rebound for me as I did some skill work and then we both lifted and got some cardio in before we loaded up into the Prius (newly nicknamed Pri Pri at this point) for another day of adventures.

We did a quick hike just south of Salt Lake on a trail to what is known as Donut Falls. It was labelled as a ‘easy hike with shallow elevation gain’, so perfect for what we needed that afternoon.

Well I don’t know who gave that hike a rating of ‘easy’ but after about 2 miles of fair hiking we found ourselves literally scaling a waterfall. Our shoes were soaked with water as we clambered up to see the donut falls themselves.

It was beautiful, except the fact that we had to weave through 104835 young children who were also hiking the same path as us. But once we got there it was worth it. The Donut Falls consisted of a donut shaped hole at the top of a waterfall where water streamed down into a small cavern before continuing it’s journey down the rocky gradient.

After taking in the beauty of the waterfall, and refreshing ourselves in its cool water, we headed back down the trail to our car. Our goal was to make it to Arches National Park before sunset. It was just over a four hour drive and our only stops were for fuel and a quick dinner at Sadie’s favourite taco spot in Green River. We made it to the park just before sunset but didn’t factor in for how long it would take us to drive through the park. We passed a lot a beautiful viewpoints where we could’ve stopped and watched the sunset from but we really wanted to watch it from the most famous viewpoint, Delicate Arch. We continued on until we finally found the parking lot at its trailhead. We jumped out of the car with only cameras, headlamps, and water in hand. The sun was pretty much set at that point leaving the sky illuminated brilliantly. We had come this far so we figured we may as well see the delicate arch anyways.

Most everyone was coming back by now. They looked like little ants walking up the hillsides into the horizon. It took us about half an hour to get to the delicate arch, and we considered turning around multiple times (as we didn’t see people anymore and it was getting very dark). Our hearts pounded through our chests as we walked the final path to the arch, which wrapped around a cliffside and dropped a few hundred feet below to the ground level.

As we turned the corner to the arch we could see over a dozen people admiring it’s beauty and that immediately settled our hearts. We stood in awe for a few moments and then tried to take a picture or two, despite how dark it already was.

Some of the starts were becoming visible as we packed up to leave and we paused to admire them for a second. It was pretty much pitch black as we hiked back to the trailhead where Pri Pri waited for us. Thankfully Sadie’s  headlamp seemed to harness the power of 1000 suns, so we had no issue finding the trail.

And while finding the trail was no issue, finding a campsite was a whole other ball game. The campground in Arches was closed for construction so we headed into Moab to try and find a place to lay our heads. We tried a few RV parks but they cost upward of $40 dollars and we really couldn’t justify that cost for a mere rental of 20 square feet for 7 hours, so we kept looking. Exhaustion was starting to kick in as we drove around state campgrounds only to find them brimming with RV’s and tents already. Just before midnight we gave in a set up our tent by a picnic area because didn’t know what else to do and just needed sleep at that point. We got bombarded by strange bugs that seemed a hybrid of a moth and mosquito while we set our tent up. And while the tent protected us from those savage little creatures there was one thing it couldn’t keep out. The heat. It was so darn hot we barely slept at all that night. We even chatted for a few minutes at 3am and considered just packing up and heading for the Rockies right then and there. Thankfully, just after then it cooled down past 100 degrees F we were able to get a few short winks of sleep before our 5am alarm went off.

We hiked up to the windows and watched the sunrise through the north window arches. It was a beautiful sunrise and the way that the first rays of daylight illuminated the arches was unreal.

We walked around the loop and took a few fun pictures in the windows.

We then refilled our water canteens at the visitor centre, bought some postcards, and were on our way North!

It was another long day of driving but once again the diversity of the land we passed through was absolutely incredible. We left the red canyons of eastern Utah and traded them for a stretch of light green plains as we entered Colorado. The plains continued to grow until we found ourselves weaving through jagged mountain cliffs with clear rivers racing us alongside the highway.

Finally, as the mountains became a natural sight to our eyes, we found ourselves just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped at a little store just outside the entrance to pick up some firewood, and more importantly… some ice cream.

We stopped at the visitor centre and asked for a recommended hike and place to camp. We drove straight to our campground as all but one were already filled by that time. We quickly set up our tent before we ventured out to our hike. Some clouds were beginning to cover the sky and a few drops of rain began to drizzle down. Unfazed by the impending storm we hopped back into the car and drove to the trailhead. We were set to hike just over 3.5 miles up to Cascade Falls.

There were a few cracks of thunder behind us but we decided that we wouldn’t turn around unless we saw lightning. The dark clouds followed us for the first few miles but then it actually ended up clearing and turned into a beautiful evening. It took us just over an hour to get to the top of the falls. Whenever we were on the trail alone we sang out loud in order to deter any bears that may have been passing through the area. It worked, and the only wildlife we saw was a momma deer nursing twin fawns and a baby moose calf off in the distance, along with numerous squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots.

We made it to the top of the falls and were treated with spectacular views at the water plummeted down the alpine cliffside.

On our hike back we continued to sing as we walked, until two other travellers joined our path for a bit. These two travellers weren’t people though, they were two young moose! We stayed a decent distance behind them and just marvelled at their beauty at they meandered along our trail, grazing as they went. They were so casual, even after they saw us – I guess they must see people on their trails all the time.

They went off into the woods after about ten minutes and we continued on our journey back to the car. We were exhausted. Seven+ miles of hiking after driving all day was no joke.

We stopped at Grand Lake on our way back to our campsite and took a plunge off a boat dock. The water was super shallow so it was a good thing we had decided to just slip into the water rather than jump in. It was refreshing and freezing at the same time. We cranked the heat in Pri Pri as we drove back to the campsite.

Our dinner consisted of soup and sausages and after we sat around the fire for a while to warm our chilled bones from our post hike plunge in Grand Lake. It was so peaceful to just sit there surrounded by crisp mountain air, sipping hot chocolate, wrapped in a blanket, with the warming crackle of the campfire between us. The stars, once again, were amazing. The clouds had mostly cleared by now and they illuminated the night sky in a way that made one understand infinity if only for a brief moment.

We got a good sleep and packed up bright and early the next morning. We drove through the north side of the park to head into Boulder for a workout and to do laundry. Poor little Pri Pri really struggled to get up some of the elevation gains that the park road took us through. The view, however, was breathtaking. At one point we were at over 10,000 ft of elevation and still climbing. We stopped at a few lookouts to simply take it in and so I could snap some pictures. We saw a herd of Elk and some deer along the way too. The mountains spread out as far as the eye could see and the hillsides were painted with green.

We made it to Boulder and once again got a good workout in at the Community Centre before heading to the laundromat. We re-packed and re-organized the car while our laundry finished and then grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local BBQ spot. It was the perfect fuel for another long day of driving. This time we were headed up through Wyoming and into the tip of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This countryside was vastly different from the jagged mountains of Northern Colorado. The plains of Wyoming rolled into the horizon. It was very empty and we didn’t pass through much civilization for most of the day, but there was a certain beauty about the uninhabited Wyoming hillsides.

We drove through a spectacular sunset.

It was dark and we were about an hour from our destination when the “Check Engine” light came on. I was sleeping at the time so Sadie woke me up after she pulled over and we popped open the hood. It appeared we were beginning to run low on oil so we noted to stop at a Totoya dealership when we passed through southern Montana in a days time. We made it to our intended campsite only to find it, and every campsite within 30 miles was full. We called every single hotel in the area too and not a single one of them had a room. So once again we were stuck between a rock and a hard place. It was past midnight already so we did the only logical thing and set our tent up in a truck rest stop alongside the highway.

You should’ve seen the looks on people faces as they drove past us the next morning as we took our tent down just after 7am. What a sight we must’ve been.

We headed into Grand Teton National Park to begin our adventures for the day. We found a picnic area and made our breakfast before heading to the visitor centre to figure out our ideal hike for the morning.

The ranger suggested a hike around Jenny lake to a waterfall and then down to the waterfront where we could ride the ferry back across the lake. The hike was a couple hours and it took us up to a beautiful overlook of the lake before taking us back down to the waterfront with the jagged mountains shadowing in the background.

After coming back across Jenny Lake we went out to a little peninsula where we jumped into the water to cool off from the heat of the day. The glacier-fed lake water did just that and we played in the water until we got too cold and decided to head to our next stop.

On our way out we stopped at the ferry ticket booth because they had these awesome trucker hats that said “Wyoming Surf Co.” and had a picture of a buffalo on a surfboard. Of course we had to get them.

With our new hats on our heads we headed out of Grand Teton and headed into it’s big brother National Park, Yellowstone. We drove up the west side of the loop stopping at the places we decided would be the most important. Old Faithful was of course one of the highlights, and we even arrived just 15 minutes before she blew for the third time that day. It was incredible to see hundreds of people gathered around this ancient geyser as over a hundred feet of boiling water blew out of the ground like clockwork. I definitely understand how she got her name.

We stopped at a few more geysers and walked around the boardwalks of the perfectly aqua coloured pools as they steamed amidst the crisp mountain air. My favourite was the Grand Prismatic geyser because of the rainbow of colours it offered to those standing on its edges. The furthest edges were a deep auburn orange eventually fading into the perfect aqua blue of the water it held.

We finished our route through the park with a final walk through the Mammoth Hot Springs and then drove through Roosevelt’s Arch. The arch was constructed during the early years of Yellowstone National Park and greets the visitor with the words “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”. I think it’s a beautiful statement and emphasizes the importance of National Parks as I truly believe that all people can benefit from spending time in nature.

We drove to Bozeman that evening and stayed in a hotel for the night. We both really needed showers and also a good night’s sleep was overdue by that point too.

The next morning I worked out, and then once the Toyota dealership opened we took the car in to get the oil changed. Thankfully they were able to squeeze us in and we only had to wait about an hour for the car to be ready. We wrote on our postcards while we waited.

Finally, we were off to our final park. It was only about five hours to Glacier National Park from Bozeman. We made it there in the late afternoon. Of course, there wasn’t a empty campsite to be found within the park, but thankfully a ranger pointed us in the direction of a campground on a lakeside reservation just east of the park. It turned out to be in a beautiful field that was right in front of a lake that overlooked Glacier.

We set up our tent and relaxed for a little bit and then Sadie and I ran some sprint intervals before we jumped straight into the lake to cool down. We tied our hammocks by the lake and just sat there in perfect peace as we listened to the audiobook we had started the day before while watching the sun melt into the distant mountains.

After that we made a campfire and cooked some delicious tin foil veggie and potato packets for dinner. The night finished with s’mores and then we sat around the fire under the stars before finally giving into the exhaustion. It was probably my favourite evening of the whole trip.

We got early start the next morning (I’m sure you’re sensing this is a common theme by now #TeamNoSleep). We packed up and left our lovely little campground to venture into Glacier. We knew that most campsites filled before 9am so we intended to finally get to camp in a National Park on the last night of our road trip. The first two campsites were already lining up with campers so we decided to go deeper into the park. It took us over an hour to simply get to the next closest campsite, Avalanche campground. After four laps of the campground itself some lovely older gentlemen let us clip our reservation coupon on the campsite’s pole, and put down two chairs to mark our territory while they packed up. Relieved that we finally had a campsite locked down we headed back across the park to find a picnic area to make some breakfast.

We made our breakfast at the Sun Point trail head and just as we were cleaning up a ranger came over to let us know he was starting a guided hike in 20 minutes. It was perfect! We finished cleaning up, got our water bottles, snacks, and bathing suits into our backpacks and headed off for another adventure. It was only a 0.85 mile hike but it took over an hour with the ranger guiding it and telling us history along the way. It was awesome. When we got to the waterfall at the end of the trail we decided to keep going to the next waterfalls along with a group of two older couples we had met on the guided hike. We chatted with them as we walked along the trails decorated with fireweed and Saskatoon bushes. They were lovely people and it was fun getting to know them.

When we got to the first waterfall we decided to jump off the cliff into it (are you really surprised?). It was awesome. It was also very cold, but was very refreshing after hiking for a couple miles.

We kept going to the next waterfall which was another mile away, but it was worth the hike.

We walked back with our new friends but we parted ways at the St. Mary’s Lake viewpoint as they were headed a different direction. Sadie and I made it back to Pri Pri, which may I add was also very dirty by this point. We headed back along the Going to the Sun Road, this time bound for Lake McDonald. 

We passed a waterfall that was alongside the road. When we had passed it earlier that day and I told Sadie we should totally stand underneath it. Well this was our opportunity. We parked in the pullout and ran alongside the cliff edge to the waterfall and stood under it like it was a giant shower. It was awesome! Oh and did I mention that the sun was in the perfect place at this time that there was even a rainbow shining on the waterfall at that very moment!? Yeah I’m serious…

We then headed to Lake McDonald with the intentions of renting paddle boards and enjoying the sunset from the lake, but it was too windy so they wouldn’t let us rent the paddle boards. So we opted to get some ice cream and just side alongside the shore. They even had Huckleberry ice cream (I love huckleberries!) and we just sat there in pure contentment. It was actually still a bit warm by the time we finished out ice cream so we decided we should jump off the dock. The water was so clear it was beautiful. We then dried on the dock for a bit before we headed back to our car.

When we got back to our car there was a little girl (maybe like 5 or 6 years old) and her mom getting out of the truck next to Pri Pri. Now let me preface this story with the fact that Sadie is 5’2″ and I am 6’7″, so this whole trip we were used to causing a bit of a scene wherever we went. Sadie was about to get into the driver’s seat when this little girl stopped me to ask.

“Excuse me, are you her mom?”

I couldn’t keep a straight face.

“No, We’re just friends. We’re the same age actually”

“But she seems pretty small”

“No I’m just super tall so I make her look small”

“Oh, she’s still a little bit little though right?”

At this point we were both dying of laughter.

“Yeah, I guess she is”

When we got into the car Sadie asked me, “Did I just get asked if I’m a little person?”. The laughter continued.

We got back to camp and cooked a quick dinner. We set up the tent but I also decided that I wanted to try sleeping in my hammock that night too. I convinced Sadie to join me and both started the night in our hammocks and had the tent there incase that plan didn’t work out. I was worried about getting cold in my hammock but it turns out they actually hold in the heat quite well. I managed to last the whole night sleeping in my hammock, although my back was a little sore from being at a slight curve all night. Sadie had to get up in the middle of the night so she ended up just sleeping in the tent after that as it was a simpler entrance plan than jumping into a hammock, in a sleeping bag, in the dark.

In the morning we packed up and headed home.

11 hours later we drove into the driveway of Sadie’s house in Olympia.

We did it.

What a trip that was.

We definitely barely skimmed the surface of each park we went to, but even the surface of those parks was incredible. I know that I hope to get back to each one and dig deeper into their trails and hidden gems. It never ceases to amaze me how much of the world is out there to explore!

Anyways the next day Sadie and I cleaned out the car and got things reorganized. I had to repack all my gear into my suitcase because I was going to fly out for Edmonton the following day.

It was hard to say goodbye to Sadie because I knew how much I would miss her. I am so happy that we were able to take this time and spent it with each other though. She made for a great road trip buddy as she would always talk sense into me as I tried to fill the days with more than what was humanly possible, and we were both always up for an new adventure. She was willing to take the extra time to ensure I got my workouts in despite it cutting into ‘holiday time’, but she never complained just understood that it had to be done. We shared many laughs and made new memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you for joining me on this adventure Sadie!

On Sunday I flew back to Edmonton for the last phase of Team Canada for the summer. We had four days straight of practice as we prepared for competition and the coaches determined the final roster that will compete in the FIBA AmeriCup in Argentina this August.

Thursday after practice we had meetings with the coaches and that’s when I first learned that I had finally made the Senior National Team!

After four years of “almost” making it, I had finally reached my goal. To say I was really excited would be an understatement.

We had the next day off and then it’s straight back to practice today for our final four practices before we fly south to Argentina. It’s an exciting and very focused time as competition draws near. This year it is the qualifying tournament for next year’s World Cup in Spain so it’s very important that we do well as a team.

So yes, the whirlwind of a summer continues. But to be honest with you, I like it this way.

It certainly keeps life interesting.

 

Letter from Liupanshui

It seems hard to believe that we’ve been in China for over a week now. Here’s a quick update on what’s happened so far!

We made it to Beijing after our 11 hour flight from Vancouver. Our next flight didn’t connect until the next morning so we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to bed by 7pm. Thankfully we were so exhausted by then that falling asleep wasn’t an issue at all.

The next morning came all too fast as we had to have the bus loaded and ready to roll by 3:15am. We made it to the airport and connected on our flight to our first destination, Xilinhot, China which is in the autonomous province of Inner Mongolia. It was a very different first impression from most of the other cities in China I’ve been to so far. It was very flat and the land seemed cultivated. The housing developments were quite spread out, a stark difference from the skyscrapers of Beijing. It looked very new and young, as if most of the development has happened in the last 20 years or so. We got to out hotel, which overlooked what seemed to be an old horse racing track. I would’ve been so excited if it hadn’t been abandoned.

After we unloaded our bags we went on a quick team walk to get our legs moving. We walked down the street to the town square where there was a pretty neat fountain sort of thing that was incorporated right into the street. If I hadn’t been holding my new camera I would’ve for sure ran right though it.

We practiced that night and twice the next day in preparation for our upcoming games. They were only one hour practices each but the gym had absolutely no AC so we probably sweat the same amount in that one hour as we would’ve in a normal three hour practice. It felt good to get our bodies moving again, and with each ticking hour the excitement and anticipation of the games was building.

We played Lithuania first and managed to scrap out a win in that game, although it wasn’t pretty. It did feel good to finally play another opponent after over a week of competing against ourselves and we knew we would only get better as each game progressed.

The next morning, before our team film review of Belarus, a few of us headed to the morning market that was right around the corner from our hotel. It was a lot to take in. They had literally everything a person could ever need there (along with a few things a person really doesn’t need…). There were trinkets, clothing, household goods, fresh food, live fish… and so much more. There were so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables, but I looked past the piles of melons and carrots; there was only one thing I wanted. Mangosteens.

Mangosteens were introduced to me by the amazing woman behind the scenes for Canada Basketball, Elaine. They’re her favourite fruit ever and I had to try one the last time I was in China (back in 2015) just to make her proud. I still remember peeling off the thick, waxy purple skin and questioning how the fruit inside could possibly be appetizing. It took me by surprise when out popped a perfectly formed opaque fruit that resembled a peeled mandarin but tastes like the sweet nectar of heaven.

So yes, of course I wanted to find some more Mangosteens. We finally ran across a woman who was selling them and did our best at bartering (which apparently everyone there does) but it really ended up in us paying full price of 23 yuan after awkwardly trying to pay only 20 yuan. We finished walking through the market. The final section was a full meat section with tables full of beef, pork, and lamb cuts (including heads) just sitting (and if lucky, covered by a fly net) ready to be sold.

We went back to the hotel and got ready for our game vs. Belarus. We jumped out to a strong start but they fought hard to come back and made it a close game through four quarters which was a good learning experience for us all. We ended up winning that game 55-48. A 2-0 start to the tournament felt pretty good despite the fact that we hadn’t been playing our best basketball yet.

The next day we played the home team, China. We started out strong once again but they were relentless in the way they attacked our defence and they ended up holding a pretty steady lead throughout the second half. They had some strong centres that I was matched up against and I really enjoyed the challenge that was presented to me and my fellow Canadian posts. It wasn’t fun to lose but I think we grew a lot during that game. At the end of the game we challenged ourselves to keep growing because we knew we would have the awesome opportunity to play them once again before we left China.

The next morning we packed up our bags once again and headed to the airport. We flew to Beijing and had the afternoon off before we travelled to our next city the following day. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to go visit the Forbidden City in Tia’namen Square, which served as the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420 to 1912. Today its complex of over 980 buildings and 180 acres serves as an art museum to 14 million visitors annually, now including the 21 of us.

We took the subway to the square and passed through about four levels of security and ID checks before we were actually in the palace. It was huge. The path we walked ended up being pretty much a b-line through the middle, missing all the side buildings and rooms (many of which you could not access), and it still took us over an hour to walk through the whole thing. There was immaculate detail everywhere you looked, from the limestone pillar carvings to the line of golden animal statues perched on every roof corner.

It was amazing to simply wander though a place where so much history had happened.

Lots of people also took pictures of and with us as we wandered through. One fun moment I had was when a father was taking a picture of his daughter doing some sort of tai chi pose on a wall. I jokingly posed like her as I walked by and her dad thought it was awesome and signalled for me to hop in his picture. I joined excitedly, however his daughter was not having any of it as she shyly just stood there refusing to do the pose with this weird foreign giant girl. Thankfully the father didn’t leave me hanging and hopped into position and we shared a moment of laughter that broke down any language barrier that existed in that moment. Thankfully the joy that was shared in that moment was still captured, despite the woman who walked in front of the camera at the wrong time. This will forever be one of my favourite pictures.

After walking through multiple courtyards and peering into palaces we came into the Imperial Garden, which was definitely my favourite places. There were amazing trees and flowers scattered among beautifully designed gazebos and temples.

Once we made it to the end we regrouped with the rest of the team and tried to catch some cabs back to the hotel. We ran into some issued because it only cost the coaches 26 yuan to get to the square but the drivers wanted over 100 yuan to take us back to our hotel. That wasn’t going to happen. For about 20 minutes we tried to hail a taxi while almost getting run over by vehicles. The little bike taxis tried to pick us up but they also wanted 100 yuan and only two people could fit in those. We finally gave up and walked all the way around the square (about 2 miles) to where we started and took the subway back. When we finally got back to our hotel we were exhausted but it ended up working well because we all crashed after dinner and ended up sleeping really well that night.

The next morning our plans changed a bit as our original flight was cancelled but it ended up allowing us to sleep in a bit. Laura, my roommate, and I went to McDonald’s for breakfast to get some wifi and do some reading before the day began. The bus left the hotel at 10:30 and we were off for the day. The flight to Guiyang was about 2 hours, 45 minutes. That was the short leg of our travel for the day however. Our bus met us at the airport and we loaded up for a 3.5 hour bus ride that weaved through the most unique and amazing mountain formations I’ve ever seen.

Our bus was a top decker so Abi and I hopped in the front seat of the top deck and were treated to the most incredible view for that whole bus ride. Our team liaison, Mike, came up front too for a while and we fired questions about the geography and culture of the area. It was fascinating to learn from him. There were terraced rice patties, water buffalo, and corn fields up the mountains. Every corner our bus took there was a next sight to behold.

A lot of the communities we passed looked very desolate. Hollow skyscrapers and houses framed the hillsides. It was kind of eerie sometimes.

During this bus ride we couldn’t help but imagine what our destination city, Liupanshui, would be like. Would it be a village? How is there even a basketball arena up here? So many questions flooded our minds.

But then, after the sun had set our headlights turned a corner and we were greeted by bright city lights! Not even just bright lights, but bright neon lights! The trees had lights on them, buildings were flashing. I felt like I was in Vegas all over again. We were dazed and excited. How this incredible city came to be inside of these mountains didn’t make sense to me but I was already a fan!

And that brings us to where I am today. In this incredible city known as Liupanshui tucked within the South Western Chinese mountains. We play Lithuania today to kick off our final leg of three games. I’m excited to see how much we’ve improved since last week when we played them!

Go Canada!

 

Summer Check In

This summer has been a whirlwind so far. I can hardly believe it’s already the end of June!

Anyways, just to update you all on what’s been going on.

I got back from Australia on April 12th. Just in time for Easter weekend with the family. My brother and his family (who live on Vancouver Island) were even able to make it up to Houston marking it as the first time our whole family had been together in over two years!

I spent the next month at home, training and just soaking up family time. It was by far the longest I had been in Houston since the day I graduated high school. In some ways it felt weird. As if so much had changed and yet everything was the same. Nonetheless, it was a great time. I got to ride my horses, play with my nephew, and catch up with old friends.

During that time I was also training in preparation for Team Canada training camp, which began May 12th. And so time flew, as it usually does, and once again I found myself packing up my bags for the summer and boarding a flight to Edmonton. The training camp itself was ten days where we implemented our system and prepared for the games ahead. The competition part of the first phase for team Canada was a European tour which involved a total of five games played within eight days in Spain and France.

Our first destination was a town in Northern Spain called Torrelavega. We arrived there on May 24th after a few long flights across both the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, ultimately ending with a 5 hour bus ride through the Spanish countryside.

We had a day before our games began so we got two practices in, it felt good to get the legs moving again after those long days of travel.

We played Spain first and Japan second. It was fun to finally get out there after working so hard during training camp and get to have some new competition. We lost our first game to Spain, it was a close one for most of the time but in the final quarter they were able to pull away as fouls and missed free throws really caught up to us. The game vs. Japan was very different from the night before as they were a very fast paced team and could shoot the three from the 1-5 positions. We battled it out and got our first win of the Quad in a close game, despite being up by 20 during parts of the game.

We had a day in Spain before we headed to France. Japan and Spain played each other that day so we practiced in the morning, had the afternoon off, and then went to watch their game in the evening. My adventurous side kicked in when I found of we had the afternoon off, so of course I tried to find some way to explore this cute Spanish town we were staying in.

I found a bike hire business about 20 minutes from where we were staying, and it turns out he was able to deliver the bikes right to our front door! It cost 18 Euros for a whole day bike hire, and was totally worth it. I asked Jamie if she was down for an adventure, and to no surprise she was, so we grabbed a quick lunch after practice and then headed off on our bikes. To guide our ways I had a vague map from the hotel concierge and the directions she gave us to find this trail that would take us straight to the ocean (which was about 10km from our hotel).

We biked to the river as she directed but we couldn’t find the bridge we were supposed to cross. We biked down a little bit further and eventually found a bridge and crossed it. From there it was supposed to be a trail that led straight to the ocean. We were excited. That was… until the trail ended after like 500m and left us along the edge of a highway. We tried a few different paths, and got lost each time as they all came to abrupt endings. We ended up spending over an hour just biking around until we decided to just bike back along the river and go the opposite way we came as it seemed to be a nice trail there.

After biking down the path past the first bridge we crossed, we found another bridge. It turned out be the bridge we were supposed to take initially. It was also there that we found the sign to a trail, clear as daylight, that would lead us to the ocean. We looked at the clock. We had just over two hours before we had to return the bikes and get on the bus to the Spain/Japan game. We decided to just go for an hour and see how far we could get. Lance Armstrong mode was activated as we booked it down the beautiful path. It wasn’t long before it started pouring rain, but it just made our journey all the more epic. So there Jamie and I were, in the middle of Spain, zooming down this bike trail that led across the hillsides, streets, and backcountry of Torrelavega. In this moment I also realized I was actually witnessing the rain in Spain falling mainly on the plain. As a long time Audrey Hepburn fan, I thought that was pretty cool.

The rain didn’t slow us down, we passed through the countryside, and eventually around some type of sewage plant (at least it smelled like a sewage plant..). We were finally biking along the edges of the canal that led into the ocean by the town of Suances. We were probably less than a kilometre from the ocean itself but we had already used up our hour of time so we snapped a few quick pictures and raced back to our hotel.

Despite our legs getting pretty tired by the time we made it back to town, and the fact that the rain had started again, we pushed through and made it back with two minutes to spare. Sergio was already waiting to pick up our bikes and probably thought we were absolutely crazy for biking in the pouring rain, but we had no regrets.

We changed out of our sopping wet clothes and loaded up onto the bus to watch the Spain vs. Japan game. It was a good game but Spain pulled out the win after making big plays down the home stretch.

The next day we all loaded up on the bus to head to Bordeaux, France. It was a scheduled 4.5 hour bus ride, but we all made predictions on our arrival time because most of us know those predictions aren’t always accurate. I guesstimated 6 hours and 9 minutes of travel time. We made it there in 6 hours and 17 minutes, giving Shay the win on that mini bet.

We practiced the next day to prepare for our first game vs. Montenegro. We knew it was going to be a battle as they are known for playing with a ton of passion and pride.

When it came around to game time it was exactly that, a battle. We fought but fouls caught up to us in the end as we found ourselves in bonus far too early, giving them too many free points to seal their one point win in the end.

The next day we played the home team, France. It was another great game and we were in it for 38 minutes but they got the necessary rebounds and made the plays down the stretch to seal our fate.

Photo Credit: Romain Chaib

Our final game was vs. Ukraine, a pretty unpredictable team but with a couple athletes that could score a lot of points fairly easily. We jumped out to a strong start and they made their runs as us but we kept our pressure up and eventually won by almost 20.

Photo Credit: Romain Chaib

And that marked the end of the first Phase of the 2020 Olympic quad. We learned a lot of valuable lessons and got better each game. It was now time to head ‘home’ and rest up before Phase two began.

That night we were able to go adventure around downtown Bordeaux. We all took the train to the city centre and then split off into groups. I was with Saicha, Shay, and Leticia and we all set off on the mission to find some sort of ice cream or crêpes (ideally.. both). Unfortunately all the crêperies were already closed but we managed to find a nice little Gelateria to satisfy our sweet tooth.

The buildings we passed along the way weren’t too shabby either…

We flew out of Bordeaux, had an extremely tight connection in Paris and ultimately made it to Toronto. On landing in Toronto, after hearing each of our names called over the PA system, we became aware that every single one of our bags had been lost.

It took almost an hour to figure out how to deal with the bags and fill out the necessary claim forms. Many of us had also checked in team bags which further complicated the process compared to if we had only checked in our personal bags.

I had to spend the night in Toronto anyways so I took the shuttle to my hotel for the night, had a quick shower, put on a clean outfit I luckily had packed in my carry-on, and then decided to head into downtown to explore a bit.

I met up with a friend and we took the UP Express into downtown where I finally got to go up in the CN tower despite how many times I’d been in Toronto and never done that.

It was a pretty decent view of the sunset from up top.

After that we went to check out a Ramen bar that my brother recommended to me, and oh my goodness it was delicious!

I then headed back to my hotel for a short night’s sleep before I left for the airport at 4am to catch my flight back to BC.

Unlike many of my teammates, I chose not to go home during this break but instead to make a trip over to Vancouver Island to visit my brother and his family!

It was an awesome time, just getting to catch up with them and I think the main highlight (sorry Gavin and Dawn) was my 10 month old nephew, Emmett.

What. A. Heartbreaker

Yes, my heart just melts every time I look into his big brown eyes.

I relaxed a fair bit during my visit with them. I would get my workout in and then either play with Em, or work on my to-do list, or just kick back. Once Gavin got home from work it was time to make an amazing dinner. We had some pretty epic homemade meals, from chicken curry, fish and chips,  to crab and prawns. We also had two beach picnics where we had hot dogs one time and a full on steak dinner the next. We even spent a few evenings playing their favourite new board game, Caverna. Sadly my board game losing streak continued (In my defence, I only get to play once a year when I’m with my family and they play practically year round) Life was good.

I also had the opportunity to get a few workouts with a trainer I knew from Nanaimo, Avneet Brar. It was awesome to not have to workout alone in the gym every day and also receive some feedback and coaching to help me improve as well.

And just as time does when you’re having fun, it flies. And before I knew it I was repacking my suitcase (which finally showed up after a week) and heading back to Edmonton for Phase two of Team Canada. My emotions felt mixed as it’s always hard to say goodbye to ones you love (especially when you have no idea when you’ll see them next) but I also felt a flood of excitement to get back with my team and continue our journey together.

And, after a week of training camp that brings us to today. This morning we loaded up extra early to fly to China where we play a series of six exhibition games vs. Lithuania, China, and Belarus. We’ve had a solid week of training camp and it will be fun to get to test out our hard work against some strong international competition.

Here’s to hoping I have an exit row for this 11 hour flight.

 

Thirty Years

Thirty Years.

A lot can happen in thirty years. From falling in love, to starting a family, to making babies and settling down. It all seems so magical. But like I said, a lot can happen in thirty years. A pregnancy can go wrong, a family can fall apart, a business can fail, a dream can come crashing down.

Thirty Years.

A lot of decisions get made in those thirty years, from big decisions like career moves to the seemingly trivial like what colour of lights to put on the Christmas tree. But the most important one, the decision to never give up on each other. The decision to stand side by side on the mountain peaks and walk together through the darkest valleys. You chose each other every day. You chose to let God hold you together even when you were too weak to do so. You chose love.

Thirty Years.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for loving each other for thirty years. For the tough conversations you chose to have; for the sacrifices you made for each other. Thank you for letting God be your first priority and for showing me what it truly means to serve. Your steadfast love and commitment to each other is inspiring to those around you.

Here’s to the next.

Thirty Years.

Chapter 1: The Great WA Road Trip Begins {Australian Adventures Part 3}

During my first week in Perth, while asking everyone what their favourite place in the area was, somebody mentioned Karijini. They told of magical waterfalls and endless gorges and I already knew I had to go.

I later searched for it in Google maps, and much to my dismay, saw it was a short 18 hour drive from Perth.

I knew it would have to be a multi day trip, so I circled it twice on my bucket list and tucked those dreams away during the season.

As our season began to wind down and I started to arrange my plans to travel home I decided that I needed to see a bit more a Australia before I left. I tossed around going Sydney or Melbourne but after looking at all the amazing places in WA (Western Australia) that had accumulated on my bucket list I realized that a road trip up the coast of WA needed to happen.

Step one was to find a road trip buddy. That part was easy. I had become good friends with my teammate Ash throughout the season and she was always up for a good adventure. So I simply asked her if she wanted to join and it was a done deal.

We spent months planning our route and making lists of all the places we needed to see. We had 12 days to fit in what seemed to be a never ending list of destinations and hotspots. We texted each other links from Pinterest and Instagram as the excitement of the date drew closer and we narrowed down our final route for the trip.

Then, the day finally came. Our little Rav 4, newly christened “Rupert”, was packed to the brim with the tent, sleeping bags, cooking supplies, towels, clothes, photography gear, and most importantly, snacks.

The clock glowed 6:02am as we pulled out of the dark driveway of Ash’s house. The adventure of a lifetime had begun.

Before hitting the freeway we filled the car with petrol and bought some ice for our esky (aka: a cooler). The contents of our small esky, now including the brick of ice, fit like a jigsaw puzzle. This definitely was cause for the high five that was then shared, and we were on our way.

We drove north and before we knew it we were out of the city. The sprawling Australian outback greeted us as Rupert cruised along the smooth pavement.

Our first stop was the Pinnacles Desert, just under three hours from Perth. It was incredible as we approached it on the highway because you could see the sand dunes approaching from the horizon but it seemed to just start and end so abruptly, as if God simply dropped a desert in the middle of the outback and didn’t come back to pick it up.

We drove into what would be the first of many National Parks we would see along the way, each with its own complete unique wonders to see. The main attraction of the Pinnacles Desert is it’s strange looking rock formations that sprinkle across the desert leaving the observer wondering how they came to be.

We drove around the park, stopping practically at every turn to admire and take pictures. An Emu even peeked out to say hello.

We stopped for some breakfast at the visitor centre before heading back out on the road. And by breakfast I mean we slabbed together some peanut butter and banana sandwiches on the hood of the car.

It was another 400km north before we got to Kalbarri. We stopped at a few of the sights on the way into town. First stop, castle cove and natural bridge.

Watching the rugged coastlines meet the swirling turquoise water is something I could never get bored of.

One thing you never really hear about at these coastal locations is the wind. Maybe it’s because the locals just understand it’s going to be super windy so nobody mentions it. Well, let me be the first to tell you. It was super windy. So much so that when I was just standing at the edge admiring the view my lovely burgundy trucker hat that I had just bought at K-Mart for three dollars and was super excited about, flew off my head and joined the shrubs on the cliffs below. It was pretty devastating. Not only because I just lost my new favourite hat, but also because it was the only hat I brought on the trip… and that Aussie sun is no joke. Yikes.

After this we drove further into town and headed to the visitor centre. We collected a bunch of brochures of places to see and then headed to the campground to set up for the night.

We got a nice shady little camping spot in the park and began to set up our tent for the first time of many. We figured it out. Our windbreaker was a little lopsided in the end but it added character to our little homestead for the night so we just left it.

After this we made a gourmet dinner of 2-minute noodles, baked beans, and toast. A camping classic. That put us at a perfect time to walk across the street to sit on the beach to watch the sunset. This would mark the first sunset of the deal we made before the trip began, which was to watch every sunset and sunrise on our epic journey.

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The first sunset did not disappoint as the golden hues melted into the horizon.

We headed back to our tent and got ready for bed. It got dark very quickly after the sun set so our torches (yes, Australian slang for flashlights) illuminated our tent as we uploaded pictures from day one, set our devices to charge, and hit the hay before the clock rang 7:30pm.

The sun rose just before 6am and we rolled out of the tent to observe. We admired the edges of the clouds, dusted with pinks and purples. Excitement for the day’s adventures was building.

Right after sunrise we hopped into our bathers, started up Rupert and rolled out of the campground to see the wonders Kalbarri had to offer.

We began the day with a stop at the Red Bluff coastal area. We walked around the rock face snapping pictures at every step. We were in awe. The power of the water striking the rocks was incredible. That combined with the contrast between the bright blue water and the Australian red cliffs was a sight I’ll never forget.

We finished taking that in just in time to head to the shorefront for the 8:45am pelican feeding. The morning routine is a Kalbarri tradition that was started by a local man many years ago and to this day people (and pelicans) gather every morning for a little flying fish interaction.

Next we headed out to the Blue Holes, noted as a favourite snorkelling spot of many. It was an unusually windy morning and the water looked a bit choppy but we slipped our masks and flippers on anyways. It didn’t take up long to realize that it was too windy to swim in this water, let alone snorkel so we awkwardly backed out of the water – as one does when attempting to walk with giant snorkel flippers on.

We waded for a few minutes before heading back to camp for a quick breakfast. Then we were back on the road. This time heading into Kalbarri National Park itself.

It wasn’t too far down the Ajana-Kalbarri road before we noticed a sign that told us the roads to two of the main lookouts were closed. We were devastated. None of the websites we had searched had warned us about this. We turned around to read the sign closer. Apparently there was one tour operator that was allowed to take people up there, but that was it. We were both bummed and out of cell service by this point so we decided to go check out what we could, and then after that we would drive back into town and see if there was a way to get a spot on this exclusive tour bus.

We first headed to the Ross Graham lookout where we climbed down to dip our toes in the river. This was all while being eaten alive by flies despite the fact that we had already suffocated ourselves in a cloud of bug spray.

The river felt so refreshing amidst the heat beaming down that what was intended to be simply a toe dipping quickly turned into a full body submersion.

After maximizing our refreshment in the river we headed to Hawk’s Head lookout, where it was a short walk to an incredible lookout over the gorges.

The lookout got its name because one of it’s cliffs resembles a hawk’s head. Pretty straightforward. I must say, it really does give you the bird’s eye view of the gorge.

This was the last of the stops that we could get to from the road’s that were open, so Ash and I headed back into town. We called the visitor centre and managed to get a spot on the last tour of the day to both Nature’s Window and the Z Bend Lookout, it was perfect. While we waited for our tour bus to leave we made some lunch and got a coffee to help us power through the second half of our day’s adventures.

Side note, iced coffees in Australia have scoops of ice cream in them. Not quite sure why the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to this yet, but they really should…

We waited by the highway for our tour bus to pick us up. We were anxious to get going and ended up awkwardly approaching at least four white vans (most of the tour vans in Australia were white) only to find they weren’t the one we were waiting for. Whoops.

By the time our van arrived we were relieved they hadn’t forgotten us and happily hopped on. It was a packed tour. Apparently we weren’t the only ones disappointed the road entrances were under construction.

The first stop of our tour was the Z Bend Lookout. When the tour bus parked Ash and I hopped off and used our long legs to power to the front of the group and head down the trail towards our lookout. We had to walk a few kilometres down the path before we reached the Z Bend Lookout, but it was worth every step we took to get there.

We were the first ones down to the lookout, and the last ones up. We were just soaking it all in. Snapping pictures, admiring the view, along with throwing rocks into the gorge. I admit the first time I tried to get a video of myself throwing a rock into the gully I was so focused on not dropping my camera that I accidentaly threw my rock straight into the tree that was just below the lookout… it gave cause for a few good chuckles as I embarrassed myself in front of the group. The tour guide eventually came to tell us to come back up, we hadn’t even noticed that everyone had already left we were having so much fun.

The second stop of our tour took us to The Loop which featured one of the most famous lookouts in Kalbarri, Nature’s Window. And it’s basically just that, a natural window that overlooks the gorge and frames the Murchison River in a way that no architect could compete with.

Okay, yes, that’s framing me currently… not the river. But, hey I think the glowing tan I had at this time was a moment worth framing. Fine… if you insist… here is the river, framed as it should be.

After the window there was a trail which you could walk around the top of the gorge that looped around for about 8km. We knew we wouldn’t have time to go all the way around on this tour so we decided to just go as far as we could before the tour guide told us to come back.

Eventually a group of us were walking down the Loop and the tour guide started yelling at us to come back. I guess we had reached our limit for the day. We sauntered back to the tour bus and our adventures in Kalbarri came to a close. Ash and I had a quick snack back at camp and headed straight to the beach by Blue Holes to watch the sun set. We even brought our bathers just in case the waves had settled so we could end the day with a nice refreshing dip. It was exactly as we had hoped, and we dove into the warm blue waves as the sun bid us farewell for the second time.

Safe to say, we slept very well that night. Thoroughly exhausted from the many hikes of the day while our minds dreamt of the adventures still to come.

[to be continued…]

My Solo Yolo {Australian Adventures Part 2}

If you follow me on social media you may have noticed I did some road tripping during my final weeks in Australia. This is the re-telling of the first road trip I took. It was appropriately named the Solo Yolo because I went alone (everyone else was busy) and if you know me, you know I say YOLO more than any 22-year-old  ever should in the year of 2017, but I’m not too concerned.

It all began shortly after noon on the 14th of March. I worked out, finished up my required end of season meetings, showered, and hit the road. My SUV was packed, the back seat was flattened into a bed, I had a cooler bag of snacks, and all my necessary photography gear. It was time to go. I hit the highway heading southwest from Perth. It didn’t take long to get out of the city. Within half an hour I was in the land of red dirt and funny looking, crooked trees.  The first stop was Wave Rock, in Hyden. It took about 4 hours to get there, but that time was well spent jamming out to music so both time and my car were flying as I trekked down the Australian Outback.

When I got to Wave Rock I stopped at the park and made the quick walk to the incredible rock formation that looks just as you would expect, like a wave.

After taking due time to appreciate it’s beauty, I hopped back into my car, had a quick snack, and got back on the road.

I made it to Esperance shortly after 8pm. It was pitch black already.  I fuelled up my car so it was ready for an early morning of adventures the next day, and found a ‘safe’ place to park for the night. It was a little strange to sleep in my car, but I felt mildly comforted that there was a camper van parked a few stalls down from me so I knew I wasn’t all alone.

Hotel Ruth. A 1 star classic. Featuring a 4′ x 3.5′ cozy sleeping enclosure and not much else.

I woke up at 5:30 the next morning to watch the sunrise over the beach. It wasn’t super great due to the cloud cover but it still was nice to just simply welcome the morning. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a very warm day, clouds covered the sky and rain was on the way. But I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I made a peanut butter and banana sandwich and was on the road to Cape Le Grand National Park. It was about a 45 minute drive east from Esperance. I passed some really amazing trees before I made it to the park itself. And yes, of course I had to stop for a picture.

My first stop in the National Park was Lucky Bay, and boy oh boy was it a highlight. From the moment I could see it’s crisp white shores and turquoise water I was in love. I parked as fast as I could and barrelled out of the car onto the beach. The first thing I noticed was how windy it was. The second thing I noticed was the “Beach Closed – Shark Warning” sign. Ugh. What a bummer. Here I was at probably one of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen and I couldn’t even swim. Nonetheless the breaks looked incredibly powerful so I settled for walking along the squeaky white sand (yes, it’s really so fine it actually squeaks when you walk on it) with the wind blowing through my hair and watched the prettiest shades of blue do their ceremonial dance along the shore.

After being mesmerized by the water for quite a while it was time to hit the next stop. I got to Rossiter Bay, Thistle Cove, Hellfire Bay, and Le Grand beach. Each bay had its own feel. None of them were quite as pristine as Lucky Bay but they were all beautiful nonetheless. I climbed around some rock cliffs and watched the waves crash into their unforgiving edges. The power of the ocean was undeniable. I couldn’t help but feel awe for God’s incredible creation. I was overwhelmed with how peaceful and beautiful the ocean was despite its terrifying waves.

After finishing in Cape Le Grand I headed back into Esperance to see some of the famous beaches there. I began my trek around what they call “The Great Ocean Drive”, which is basically a loop around Esperance that connects the most amazing beaches and drives along its stunning coastline and up and around the Pink Lake. I didn’t quite understand how to get to some of the beaches at first because my google maps would say I arrived, however there was a huge cliff between the road and the beach with no visible parking spots. But I somehow acquired a map and was able to find the backroad entrances to the beach roads and made my way to the sandy havens.

I stopped at Twilight Beach first. It was still pretty windy at this time but the sun was peeking through a little bit. Still, nobody else was swimming in the water so I was mildly scared to just dive in. My mind jumped to unreasonable conclusions at to why nobody was swimming, like a shark spotting or jellyfish, or… However, I also knew most WA residents know to swim in the mornings because it’s too windy in the afternoon, so what if that was the reason nobody was swimming? Well I stripped down to my bathers (yes – that’s what Aussies call swimsuits) and waded in the water for a bit. There were a few dark spots rolling in the waves and they were definitely just seaweed but my imagination of course wanted to think they were sharks or jellies (jellyfish – yet another Aussie abbreviation). I waded for a bit, but the wind was making me pretty cold by this time so I just went along with the theme of my trip and said, what the heck – YOLO. I dove under a wave.

Yes.

I love wave diving so much. I mean I’ve literally spent hours just diving under waves and having a blast. And the moment I came up from under the water at Twilight Cove I had to dive again.

So there I was. Alone on a beach in Esperance, wave diving. and having the time of my life.

After satisfying my itch to wave dive I waded back onto the shore, dried off and headed to the next beach. I worked my way around the loop stopping at Ten mile lagoon, Blue Haven, Salmon Beach, and ending at Pink Lake.

I was really, really excited to see Pink Lake. In fact when I originally signed with Perth I googled the natural wonders near it and Pink Lake was the first one I found. It became the #1 item on my bucket list.

However one must understand that pink lakes turn pink due to a combination of weather conditions, algae, and bacteria levels; meaning – pink lakes aren’t always pink.

Yup. So I took a few minutes to appreciate that I made it to my #1 bucket list checkpoint. The only problem is that it just looked like a normal lake. So I decided to come back and watch the sunset from the lookout, just in the small chance the sunset would somehow change the light conditions and at least reflect a pink hue.

I went back into the town centre and grabbed a bite to eat. It felt good to eat some food that wasn’t bread, granola bars, or fruit cups. I charged all my devices using the outlet in the cafe and uploaded my first two day’s worth of photos onto my laptop.

Shortly after 5:30pm it was time to head back to the pink lake for the sunset. I staked out my spot and set up my cameras. No pink ended up magically appearing, but it was still a nice sunset. It was now time to hit the road.

It got dark pretty fast once the sun had set and I was a little nervous about driving in the dark with all the wild kangaroos about, but I pushed on because I wanted to get far enough so I could see the sun rise over the Stirling Ranges the next morning. My plan was to drive somewhere about an hour out from the National Park so I wouldn’t have to drive very far the next morning. It was supposed to be a nice straight shot following Highway 1 the whole way. Those plans got quickly derailed when I hit my first closed road. I had no cell service at this point and it was pitch black, so I had no choice but to follow the one little orange detour sign onto some side road. Wild thoughts about how I was going to die out here in the Australian outback raced though my mind as I sped down the red dirt road, despite the many potholes, turns, and warnings of water on the road. I was going to get back to the main road as fast as I could. Eventually, after adding about 45 minutes to my drive, I found my way back to the main highway. It was a relief to be on a marked road again. It only took about 20 more kilometres for me to reach the next part of where Highway 1 was closed. Good.

I found the next detour sign and followed it. It led me quite a ways north before I turned onto yet another ‘sketchy’ Australian backroad (‘road’ would be a compliment to these paths I drove). So I followed the sporadic detour signs through the outback. Time was adding to my ETA by the minute. My phone GPS was going crazy and trying desperately to find a marked road, but despite all its efforts, it failed miserably.

It was just me, the red dirt road, and Jesus.

2.5 hours later I finally turned onto a road that my phone approved as a ‘road’. It was a great feeling. Every good feeling I had vanished immediately as my GPS recalculated my route, giving me an ETA that was still three hours away. I was dead, but luckily I had some snacks with caffeine that I consumed at this point and pushed onward.

I rolled into the most civilization I had seen in hours just before midnight. It was a little town called, Jerramungup. Yeah… my thoughts exactly. I parked my car, notified my mom I was alive with my one bar of cell service, and curled up in my 1 star hotel (aka my car).

My 3:30am alarm came all too fast.

Ugh how good will the sunrise be anyways?

I snoozed for 15 minutes.

No Ruth, get up. This sunrise will be worth it. You may never see this again.

With Willie Nelson blasting, I rolled out of Jerramungup at 4:15am.

On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again…

Thank you Willie.

Day three of my Solo Yolo was beginning. I made it to the Stirling Ranges before 6am. The pre-sunrise light was spreading a purple haze across the mountains. It was beautiful.

I waited in the Bluff Knoll parking lot to watch the sunrise, which was coming a bit later than forecasted because of the close mountain ranges. I cleaned out my car while I waited, made a gourmet peanut butter and banana sandwich to fuel my impending hike, and put adventure braids into my hair of course!

Meanwhile the sun finally came out of hiding.

I was off like a herd of turtles. Except I was totally alone, mildly terrified, and walking as fast as I could to avoid deadly Australian creatures. I was walking directly in the middle of the trail to avoid the lurking creatures in the bushes on either side of me. I jumped every time I heard a rustle or a thumping noise. In my mind all the snakes knew I was coming and were conspiring to attack me at the moment I least expected it. So, to combat that, I stayed ‘on edge’ for the first kilometre or so. Multiple occasions of pointlessly jumping and running from bushes rustling from what turned out to simply be birds began to dull my senses. I just kept telling myself the same thing that all Australians told me when I asked them why they weren’t scared of their creatures. “Our wildlife is just as scared of us as we are of them”. So I finally decided to just relax, and simply enjoy my hike.

It took me about an hour and a half to scale the 3.3km trail and 650m prominence of the Bluff itself. That included many photo stops along the way, because the view just kept getting better and better with every turn.

I worked up a solid sweat during my trip up the mountain. I went through a cycle of taking off layers as it warmed up into the day but once I reached a certain elevation it was time to start putting the layers back on as the air became thinner and crisper. It was worth it though. It was so amazing to conquer this mountain alone as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re on your own and outside your comfort zone.

I practically ran down the mountain in less than an hour. I piled back into my car and headed to my next stop for the day. It was only 10am at this point so I had plenty of time for all the adventures I had planned for the day.

Next stop, the Porongurups, which was only about an hour drive from Bluff Knoll. I did a hike to what was called the ‘Granite Skywalk’ which was a 2.2km walk up a mountain consisting of a forest type ecosystem. I saw a lot of little lizards on this hike and was a lot more on edge for snakes. There was even some tall grass that I had to wade through (aka a perfect hiding spot for snakes) – I was definitely outside of my comfort zone.

I carried on though, and eventually made it to the interesting part of the hike, the Granite skywalk itself. It involved climbing up some large rocks to get to a tall ladder where you can climb to a walkway along the rocks and have a great lookout over the valley.

I made it back out without a snake bite, developed a light sweat sheen, and a refreshed perspective. It was once again time to hit the road. This time I was headed to Albany, which was less than an hour from where I already was. The highway seemed so smooth after the treacherous backroads I had driven the night before. When I got to Albany I had to fuel up first thing. I also used the windshield wiper fluid to try and wash at least a few of the 1,000,000 bugs that were decorating my windshield and headlights. They were really glued on there so my efforts were largely in vain.

I first went to a beach near where I was, Middleton Beach. I was planning on swimming but the breeze had picked up quite a bit and it was too cold to hit the water, so I just laid in the sun and took a nap.

After recharging from a refreshing power nap and Vitamin D infusion session it was time to explore some of the sights around Albany. I went to the blowholes first. They were pretty cool. I even stood over them, as suggested by a friend, and it was the craziest feeling when the air gushed up through the crevices of rock beneath me.

I then went to the Gap and the Natural Bridge. Both were such amazing sights. I was completely mesmerized by the unfathomable power of the waves crashing against the rocks. Words cannot do it justice.

I got some dinner and went back to the beach where earlier I took my nap. It was getting dark but I knew I had to get a quick workout in. I did a light bodyweight workout by the picnic area there, generating some funny looks from the people passing by. After that I did some running on the beach just to maintain my cardio. There was an outdoor shower by the beach so I took full advantage of that to cleanse my sweaty body before hitting the road again. So there I was, alone in a dark beach parking lot taking a freezing cold outdoor shower in my bathers. My sight was guided only by the .0005 lumens of light coming from my small LED lamp, but somehow I managed. I got back into my adventure wagon, cranked the heat and the jams and I was back in action.

Tonight’s planned pit stop was a little campsite in the West Cape Howe National Park. It was completely dark when I drove down the windy dirt road for about 30 minutes off the highway. Once again my mind was coming up with fun scenarios of how I would likely die here. Just as I was coming up with scenario 32 the welcoming dim light of a few fellow campers welcomed me as I turned into the campground itself.

It was time to rest my eyes and wrap up the adventures of day 3.

I woke up to watch the sunrise over the beach at the campground the next morning. Shelly beach, as it was appropriately named, worked its way into my heart as I sat on the white sand and watched the turquoise water greet the morning sun.

When I was walking back from the beach I met the Park Ranger, David, who was just having his morning coffee. We chatted for a bit, and he offered me some coffee too. I welcomed it, as the three full days of adventure along with minor sleep deprivation were beginning to set in. We had a really nice chat and I loved to hear some of the wisdom he had to offer. He had been living at, and maintaining this specific campground for four months and was eager to share his perspectives on life. He really valued the simple life, just enjoying nature and living off the land. I resonated with that a lot and we talked for quite a bit. After I finished my coffee I said goodbye to David and headed back to my car to hit the highway once again.

I couldn’t help but stop at the lookout on my way out. I had missed this incredible view the night before. Which means that, while my mind was creating irrational horror stories about what was in the darkness around me when I drove in, what was really there was simply a beautiful and serene parcel of God’s creation.

My first stop of the day was Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks in Denmark. When I got there I grabbed my camera and headed down the beach staircase. Midway down I saw the welcome sign and noticed there was a snorkel symbol on it. I was intrigued. I hand’t planned on swimming at this point but now it was a possibility. I kept walking down the stairs until I saw it.

Wow.

Below the staircase was an immaculate water cove protected by large rocks off in the horizon. The water was so still and crystal clear.

In that moment, what I originally planned as a 20 minute stop became a magical 2 hour adventure.

I turned around and ran back to my car to put on my bathers and grabbed my snorkel.

I couldn’t dive into the water fast enough.


It was a piece of heaven.

I swam. I dove. I snorkelled. I climbed on and jumped off rocks. I sun bathed on the rock face. I was so caught up in the moment I didn’t even think to put on sunscreen until it was time to go, thankfully I had built up enough of a base tan that I didn’t even burn but still – I was a little nervous for a while there. I didn’t even want to leave, but I knew I had lots to do that day so I eventually forced myself to pack up after I exhausted myself from playing around.

I checked out Elephant Rocks on my way out. They were basically a group of rounded rocks that vaguely resembled elephants standing in water. It was a cool hike to see them, I had to even take off my shoes at one point and wade through a water walkway before coming to the enclosed beach where the rocks were.

Next up: The Valley of the Giants. I began my drive through the towering forests of Tingle and Karri trees. And if you’ve ever used the word ‘towering’ to describe me, you are in the wrong.

Here’s the proof.

I did the Tree Top Walk in Walpole, which was totally worth it. I actually went around it three times, just to make sure I got my money’s worth. It was so cool to be walking around on the metal platform over 20 metres suspended in the trees.

And while I was in the Valley of the Giants I stopped by to say “hi” to some relatives.

The final two checkpoints for the day were two of the historic fire lookout trees. Naturally the two trees I chose to climb were also the tallest ones  – the Gloucester Tree (58m) and the Dave Evans (Bicentennial) Tree (75m). These trees used to serve as fire lookouts before spotter planes were instituted but now they’ve been remade into attractions for thrill seekers around the world by inserting steel bars spiralling around their trunks and platforms at the top with an incredible view of the surrounding forest waiting for those who dare to try.

Of course I tried it.

And it was terrifying.

First of all, you have no harness, no safety net. It’s just you and your hands and feet climbing up pegs of steel, one step at a time. My motto was: three points of contact at all times. I climbed up the first one in about seven and a half minutes, it was exhilarating. It was awesome.

The second tree was a 15 minute drive away. The Dave Evans tree, towering at 75m tall, over seven stories. This one made me a little more nervous, only because there was nobody in sight. At least at the Gloucester tree there were a few people walking around, and even climbing it. But here I was, all alone in this forest, about to climb a massive tree. YOLO – right? I grabbed the first peg.

It only took me 6 minutes to climb this one, my confidence grew with each step as I scampered up the tree.

As you probably already imagined, the view from the top was… breathtaking.

I mean the climb itself probably took most of my breath away, but what remained surely was lost in this view.

I did it. I conquered my fears. I felt alive.

I got back into my car and, as per the suggestion of my friend Dave from Shelly Beach, headed down a scenic drive called the ‘Heart Break Trail’. I got to the lookout there just in time for sunset. It was incredible.

After the sun set, I headed back to the highway en route to my rest stop for the night, the town of Augustus.

Day five. It came all too soon, the final day of my Solo Yolo.

It began in a cafe in Augustus as I waited for things to open. After a nice coffee and a bit of time to charge my cameras I started off the day’s adventures with a tour of the Cape Leeuwen Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands on the most southwesterly point of continental Australia in WA. It is also actually the place where the Indian Ocean meets the South Ocean.

This lighthouse, standing at 39m,  is the tallest lighthouse on continental Australia. From the top you can overlook the Cape and even see where the oceans meet, as the currents crash into each other.

The white wave breaks in the middle of the picture show where the two oceans collide

After the lighthouse tour I went over to Hamelin Bay where I brought a bag of small fish from the bait store to feed the famous stingrays that live there.

It was a pretty windy day, which meant the bay wasn’t it’s usual calm place. Waves crashed into the shore violently and I was so sad because I worried I would miss out on feeding the amazing creatures.

But, thankfully, after approaching a few blobs of seaweed thinking it was a stingray, I finally found one, and then there were three.

I was completely terrified the whole time but I did it. I wiggled my little fish in the water and there came the stingray as if he was trained to do so. I mustered up all my courage as he swam right up to my hand and grabbed the fish. I even took a second to pet his back, his weird slimy back. It was so cool.

After I ticked that box it was off to tour some caves. I choose to tour both Jewel Cave and Lake Cave, each so unique and so beautiful in their own way.

Jewel Cave was the largest of the two, but it was a dry cave unlike Lake Cave. In both tours we climbed stairs deep into the heart of the underground to see various ancient stalactites and stalagmites. It was absolutely amazing.

The end of the second tour marked the end of my adventures, well, despite the three hour drive back. The grand solo yolo came to a close. In hindsight I think it should’ve been been named the Soul-o Yolo, because there’s nothing like travelling alone in a beautiful country that really makes one aware of state of their soul.

It was an adventure of a lifetime and I’m so grateful I was able to experience all that I did. Every detail was perfect, from the potholes in the dark, to the endless shores of turquoise water. I conquered fears. I embraced the moment. I explored this beautiful world God made.

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Vicki’s Trip {Australian Adventures Part 1}

As some of you may have noticed, my blog crashed about two months ago. Of course it was the worst possible timing as I was busy wrapping up my my season in Perth along with travelling around Australia. Well, thanks to the help of my brother I have my site back up and running and it’s time for a few throwback blog posts of my adventures in Australia. With that being said, lets get started on Part One.


Vicki’s Trip Down Under

My sister and I are very close, despite the fact that she is three years older than me. So you can imagine how excited I was for her to come visit me in Perth.

She landed in Perth around 7am where I was waiting by the gate with flowers and a sign with her name on it. This was just me simply being cheesy and wanting to give her the warmest welcome I could think of. I took her back to my apartment where we unloaded her stuff and then headed out for our first day’s shenanigans.

We started with breakfast at one of my favourite places called Bib & Tucker where we ate some delicious food while overlooking the beautiful Leighton beach just south of Perth city. After that we headed to the closest beach to truly welcome her to the land down under. I brought my inflatable pegasus along for the ride for some added fun. We slathered on some sunscreen (spoiler alert: it was definitely not enough) and hit the turquoise blue water where we spent almost three hours just soaking it all in. We hopped in the car and headed down into Fremantle to the famous Freo Markets for some lunch and sightseeing. About five minutes into the car ride I noticed Vicki’s skin was starting to mimic that of a tomato… usually not a good sign, but we went to the markets anyways and had some delicious lunch (after all they were indoor).

I had practice the next day so Vicki stayed home and applied a new layer of aloe vera every five minutes to combat the painful tomato skin she had received as a welcoming present the previous day. After training she made us a delicious dinner and we headed to Kings park to watch the sunset and have a picnic on the grass.

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The next day was game day for me so we slept in a bit, had a good breakfast and headed to the gym. We were playing the Canberra Capitals that day. After a good win I had to do recovery with my team and then we grabbed some dinner at my favourite burger place in Freo, Short Order at the Mantle. After that we watched the sunset over South Beach and then met up with some of my friends and hung out for a little bit. It was so special to be able to share some of the friends I’d made down under with her.

Monday was the big surprise day. I gave her an early birthday card that enclosed the events for the day within. It told her that today she would get to tick off one of her biggest bucket list items, and swim with wild dolphins. She was so excited!

We hopped in the car and headed about an hour south to the city of Rockingham. We met our tour on the jetty and hopped on the boat with excitement buzzing through the air. They briefed us on how the day would work and split us into four teams. We had belts that we wrapped around our waists so we could form a human chain after our tour guide when we were in the water, allowing us to just float behind and admire the scenery below.

After about 20 minutes of boating we found our first ‘party’ of dolphins. The call them dolphin parties because they’re a branch of a dolphin pod. Our team got to go in the water first. We scurried up to the back of the boat, got our snorkel gearing position, and waited patiently while we moved to the location of the dolphins. The skipper called “Go go go!” and we all plunged into the salty water one after another. I spent the first few moments in the water trying to not choke on the salt water through my snorkel and get my bearings, but then I saw them. A group of six or so dolphins swam below us. Their streamlined bodies glided effortlessly through the turquoise water. I was in total awe. They were so beautiful.

After the dolphins were out of sight we hopped back into the boat and waited for our next turn. We spent the next few hours repeating this process of hopping in the water, swimming alongside the dolphins, and cruising to our next dolphin party. It was the perfect day for it. The sky was blue, the water was crystal clear, and we saw so many dolphins.

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After the tour ended we chilled on Rockingham beach for a bit before heading home where we got dinner at one of my favourite dinner spots, Six Senses Thai.

The next day was pretty busy for me. I had a team promotion in the morning and training after so I was pretty much out all day. We made some dinner at home and watched a movie to finish off the day.

Our second big adventure came that Wednesday. We loaded up in the car once again to head south. This time only about 30 minutes from my place to meet the ferry at B-Shed in Freo. We hopped on the Rottnest Express and headed to “Western Australia’s Favourite Holiday Island” for a fun day of adventures!

We took the first ferry over so we arrived just after 8am. It was still quite windy and cold so we grabbed a coffee and snack before we took off around the island. We hired some bikes (side note: these bikes were well maintained and equipped with some great brakes), mapped our route, and set off for a grand adventure. We were having a great time, just cruising around and stopping at each little bay to admire the sights. It was about an hour and a half into our travels that we had a little incident.

Do you remember how good I mentioned our bike brakes were?

Well… I was about 10 meters in front of Vicki at the time, just looking around at all the scenery when suddenly a brown snake (only one of WA’s most poisonous snakes) slithered on the road in front of me about 10 meters and paused to look at me. I panicked. My instant-dont-think-just-survive instinct said “HIT THE BRAKES”. Without consulting my brain, my hands did just that. These brakes, being in such excellent condition, did their job flawlessly. My bike came to a complete standstill. However, if you understand physics and the laws of momentum at all you already know what happened next. My body continued travelling at the speed of the bike, causing me to quite literally fly over the handlebars of my bike. My knees caught on the handlebars and the bike toppled over and fell onto me as my hands and knees sacrificed their dignity, and skin, across the pavement to create enough friction to allow my body to come to a standstill.

The snake, still paused, was only about two meters from me at this point. He looked at me, and I at him for what felt like an hour, but then he slithered away into the bushes. I was so alarmed by everything that just happened I just sat there for a second before I even realized I was bleeding.

Vicki, who hadn’t even seen the snake because she was so far behind me, came rushing up to me thinking my bike had just malfunctioned. My left knee had a serious gash in it and my palms were peppered with gravel. But we were in the middle of nowhere so I just got on my bike and we continued our journey. We found some toilets at the next stop and I tried to wash out my wound in the sink as best as I could, although it was far from ideal. We eventually came across the first lighthouse on the island and decided to go on a tour of that. A couple people pointed out to me that my knee was bleeding as if I wasn’t aware, but thankfully the tour guides at the lighthouse actually had a small med kit and were able to lend me some saline and a bandaid and I was practically good as new.

We biked around the island for a few more hours, eventually landing in our planned snorkel spot, The Basin. We snorkelled for a while until hunger hit us full on and we decided to head back to the Settlement for a nice lunch by the jetty.

We capped the day with some ice cream and then found some of the famous Quokkas that were roaming around to take a few pictures. For those of you who don’t know, Quokkas are a primary marsupial that inhabits this island, they look kind of like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.

For the next few days I had training that took up most of the day but Friday afternoon we headed south to Freo once again, but this time for a tour of the famous Fremantle Prison. We went on what was called the “Tunnels Tour” where we had to get geared into overalls, gumboots, hard hats, and harnesses to prepare us for our 20m descent into the depths of the tunnels and waterways that provided for the early colonies of Perth. We learned the history of the tunnels as we trekked through their dark passages, sometimes only coming to just over a meter high (I was practically crawling at this point). It was crazy to be able to imagine the darkness and solitude the convicts felt as they created and worked in these tunnels over a hundred and fifty years ago. Our tour eventually led us to small row boats where we were paired off and rowed down the channels of water. We rowed around a few of the channels while hearing more stories from the prison’s days. They even had us all turn our headlamps off for a brief minute where we sat in complete darkness, what a feeling that was!

The next day we just hung out after I finished training. It was the day before a game for me too so I wanted to rest up and make sure I was ready to go the next day.

We had a crazy overtime win the next day vs. the Melbourne Boomers. This win clenched us a spot in the playoffs so we were all very excited to have pulled out with a W. It was so fun to have Vicki in the crowd once again and get a big post game hug from her.

And, despite how much I wished it would never come, the final day of Vicki’s visit finally came. We decided it would be best to spend it at the zoo – after all, you can’t just come to Australia and not see a kangaroo or koala!

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We enjoyed wandering around the exhibits and seeing all the different animals. The fairy penguins and red pandas were probably two of my favourites – how could you not love them?

After the zoo we went to the Monday night Beaufort Street Markets and tried some different types of food as our time together was dwindling down. The next stop was Terminal 1 of the Perth Airport were I helped to make sure she was all checked in and sent her on her way, but not before I got one last hug in.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I knew she had to go back to her family, back to her home. It was a wonderful trip and we made memories that will last us a lifetime. I’m just so glad she was able to come and share my Australian experience with me. 10 days isn’t long but the bond between sister lasts for a lifetime.

This is where I put the story in story teller. My blog is where I share my journey with you all. The adventures, the struggles, the deep thoughts – they’re all here.

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