Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life | Home | Travel : Reboot

Hi All,

Well after a long hiatus I am going to attempt to revive this blog.

Such a lot has happened since my last entry back in 2008!

I’ll bring you up to speed in subsequent posts but for now let’s just say I’m in a very different place than I thought I’d be – but like everyone as time passes you get older, wiser, more mature.

Stay happy!

The Muzzman

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome Back

Hi Everyone!

Hope everyone had a happy holiday!

Sorry it's taken a bit longer to get back to this blog - after all the snow and excitement of Christmas and New Years I just lost track of time...

So Barack Obama is president! A lot of people very happy about that.

Is anyone else thinking how similar his campaign and election has been to that of Matt Santos from the last couple of seasons of the "West Wing"?

Also I saw a biography of Obama on TV last night - very impressive. After becoming a state Senator in 1996, he tried to become a congressman in 2000 and failed, then got elected a US Senator in 2004. He was only a US Senator for 2 years before running for president, and then won the presidency - that is incredible!

Only time will tell whether he is the candidate that everyone hopes he is.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas and Stuff


I was going to try and get a post going every day, but the last few days have been a bit of write off due to the snow here in Victoria. It's the biggest snowfall in at least ten years and we have had to shovel the road (yes, the whole road because the snow plough can't get up the hill) on more than one occassion - the car was snowed in as well, so that combined with having to do all our christmas shopping in one day means I've barely had a chance to get my real work done let alone anything else.

So, let's call it a day until the new year.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Safe travel, don't get too stressed and say g'day for me.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The World Is An Amazing Place

I'm only 27 years old and already I've experienced what some people can only dream about...
  • I've been scuba diving with giant clams in Fiji, and my first diving experience was to a WWII shipwreck in PNG
  • I've been awestruck while flying over the many attolls of the Great Barrier Reef, and the breathtaking snow-capped Rocky Mountains
  • I've stood under the Northern Lights while gazing across the eerily beautiful wastelands of the arctic
  • I've been pike fishing in the Great Slave Lake
  • I've watched the sun set over the sunburnt outback of central Queensland at 30,000 feet
  • I've walked through the rugged wilderness of Tasmania
  • I've driven across the ever-changing scenery of New Zealand
  • I've watched the first sun-rise of a new year
  • I've walked through an 800 year old forest on Vancouver Island
  • I've watched as hundreds of monkeys were playing in the jungles of the island of Borneo in Indonesia

I feel so lucky and blessed that I've done all this, and I've still got so much to look forward to.

Above all though, I'm amazed that through all the different cultures and traditions, beliefs, races and languages, every single human being is the same. We all smile, we all bleed, we all feel pain and emotion, we all live, and we all die.

Through all this, how can I possibly think that there is no god; that this all happened somehow by chance?

I can't.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


This was meant to be my previous post, but that somehow turned into "Be a Traveller, not a Tourist" so let's try take two.

While working at MinVu over the last 5 years I have had many opportunities to travel, for both business and pleasure, so I thought I'd just show off where I've been. Working in mining means you get to go to some pretty remote places, and similarly I feel very blessed that I've been able to afford to do some of the pleasure trips as well. I should point out too that a lot of my personal trips have been church related - going to camps and conventions and such.

So without further ado here is a summary of all my trips so far...
  • Fiji four times - for 6 months in 1991, family holiday in 2003 for 10 days, honeymoon in 2006 for 1 week, and we stopped there for 10 days on our way to Canada
  • Indonesia three times - all for work, spending all of my time at Balikpapan, Sangatta and the Kaltim Prima Coal mine on the island of Borneo
  • Papua New Guinea twice for work (at Tabubil and the Ok Tedi mine, near the border of Indonesia)
  • PNG for a missionary type trip with a couple of guys from my church. We went to a Pastor's conference in Lae, then a couple of us went down to a place called Apahuhuna, down on the eastern tip of the country and spent some time with our church down there - a truly life changing experience for me.
  • New Zealand twice - once for a church convention in Christchurch (no sightseeing this time) and once when a group of us guys went on a boys week away where we started in Wellington for a church convention then hired a motorhome and drove from Wellington to Auckland, stopping everywhere in between.
  • More trips than I can remember in Australia - so much so that I have been all up and down the east coast - from Cairns in northern Queensland right down to the Grampians in western Victoria, and also Tasmania as well (Launceston to Hobart, Hobart to the Freycinet peninsula)
  • Spent more time than I care to admit at the Ekati Diamond mine and in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada
  • Currently living in Victoria, BC, Canada as part of a 12 month world trip (and so have seen some of the sights of Vancouver Island)
  • Also been to many places on stopovers (from a couple of hours to overnight) - Singapore, LA, San Francisco, Honolulu, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle...

I have mentioned a few times that DW and I are currently on a 12 month world trip. The main purpose of this trip was to help out our church in Victoria, Canada, so that is where we are spending most of our time. But it would be a waste if that is all we did - so we spent 10 days in Fiji on the way here and on the way home in July 09 we will be having a 6 week holiday. We are planning on doing a week in New York, a week in London, spend three weeks driving from Paris to Rome, then spend a week or two in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong - with possibly (if there's enough time) a side trip to an orangutan sanctuary on Borneo in Indonesia.

There are so many other places I want to go as well but of course that depends on finance and how and when my family grows (no kids yet but you never know). I want to do a missionary trip to Africa (our church has over 7,000 members in Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique), I want to swim with the jellyfish in Palau, I want to go to the islands of Tristan De Cunha (the most remote in the world), Easter Island (because of the statues) and Socrota (an amazing diversity of plant and animal life), I want to spend some time in what I think are the most beautiful places on earth - Niue, the Seychelles and the Maldives - before they disappear forever under the rising sea, I want to spend time in the middle east talking to people on both sides of the conflicts (Palestinians, Israelis, Iranians, Shiites, Sunnis - everyone), above all, I want to experience life everywhere :-)

And when all is said and done, I want to retire to Fiji to run a little cafe on a beach in the middle of nowhere, where both travellers and locals can come and relax.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Be a Traveller, Not a Tourist

While working at MinVu over the last 5 years I have had many opportunities to travel, for both business and pleasure.

I am a very firm believer in being a traveller instead of a tourist - experiences like being part of a tour group has no attraction for me whatsoever. Right from the beginning I have always felt that wherever I am is where I am - that once I am in a place, then that is home and there is no other. I will always try to experience the local culture and people rather than the place - though there are some very beautiful cities and environments all across the world.

I guess a lot of this stems from the fact that my family and I lived in Fiji for 6 months when I was about 9 or 10. I don't remember a lot from that time, but my parents tell me that even then I was able to fit right in with the local kids and even the adults. I know though that it did open my eyes and thoughts to being more tolerant and accepting of other cultures, and if you can ever give your own children the same opportunity then I implore you to do so.

In this modern age, the internet has certainly made the world a smaller place, and there is more focus on people trying to find the lesser known travel path, with many websites dedicated to this. This is a good thing, but only if you a traveller, not a tourist. How do you do that? Here are my thoughts...
  • Above all, be respectful of the people and places around you
  • Learn some of the language of your destination
  • Don't assume that just because someone doesn't speak your language that they are stupid
  • Talk to the locals - not just to ask questions, but find out what their dreams and aspirations are, find out what they like about living where they do
  • Accept that things like the standards of service will not be the same as where you live (it might be higher, might be lower)
  • Accept that just because you are a visitor does not mean that you are entitled to better service than the locals
  • Be sensitive to the 'speed' of the culture. You may have to be patient (some cultures may not have the same sense of urgency as you), or you may have to step it up a notch (some cultures expect things to be done now)
  • Enjoy wherever you are, whether it be the airport, the middle of a city or a beach where you are the only person
  • It's ok to take photos, but try not to be too snap-happy. By that I mean don't get in people's way, don't focus on taking photos so much that you don't enjoy where you are, don't draw attention to yourself etc.. Always try to ask before you take a photo of someone, and be aware that it may be illegal to take photos of children or certain buildings.
  • Read up on the culture where you are going and be aware of the little idiosynchrasies that can happen e.g. in Fiji it's considered offensive to touch someone else's hair; in Canada you can turn right anytime, even if it's a red light; if you play golf with someone in Japan and get a hole in one you are expected to buy expensive gifts for the other players etc.

There's almost certainly things I have forgot to mention, but you get the idea.

UPDATE: This article from Vagabondish explains what I've tried to above but in a much better way... http://www.vagabondish.com/4-ways-to-be-a-traveler-not-a-tourist/

As long as you are happy, tolerant, respectful and at least look like you are trying to make an effort, while there will always be some people who will look down on you, most will go out of their way to help you, and who knows, may even become a new lifelong friend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Today I thought I'd write a little bit about Yellowknife, seeing as I have spent quite a bit of time here over the last couple of years.

Yellowknife is the capital of the North West Territories, a province of Canada. It is a strange little town, quite literally in the middle of nowhere, and only about 500km's south of the Arctic Circle. It has a population of only about 20,000, but still manages to retain the feeling of a bigger city. The official website (www.yellowknife.ca) provides a good summary - "built on gold, nurtured by government and growing with diamonds". An alternative view however is the one that I saw on a sign at one of the local restaurants - "a small drinking town with a big government problem"

The government is the biggest employer of the town, with the diamond industry a close second. The NWT is a territory, which means it is primary controlled by the federal government. I have heard it said that Yellowknife would not have the facilites (and not be able to survive) if it didn't have the continuous injection of funds provided by the federal goverment. You do notice it though that there is a LOT of government departments/sections/offices.

It has a fully functioning airport capable of handling Boeing 737's, quite a few high-rises, all the major fast food chains and quite a few restaurants and bars, a number of full-service hotels and all the required shopping stores (Wall-Mart, Extra Foods, Shoppers etc.)

It can be a very beautiful place - both in the summer and winter. As I write this I am looking out the window from the 9th floor of one of the office towers. It is -32 degrees celsius outside (-40 when I got here a couple of days ago), but the sun is shining, there is snow on the trees, the wind is still and honestly it looks like the magical Christmas winter wonderland that you find on postcards of Sweden or the Swiss Alps. There are lakes everywhere, as is common in this part of Canada, (I can see at least three from my window, and Yellowknife has been built on the Great Slave Lake, one of North Americas biggest), and in the summertime, when the temperature gets up to the high 20's and the lakes have all melted, and everyone is outside enjoying themeselves, you can really see why people love to live here. The fall, when all the leaves change and drop off the trees, is something else again. Of course it's not always like this - the fall also brings out the a fierce wind though, and it snows for a few weeks at the start of winter, and it can be dreary, especially when fog closes the airport for days at a time.

Aeroplanes are more often than not the only way to get to a lot of the places in Alaska and Northern Canada, so the airport really is the lifeblood of the town. It takes the workers (and supplies) up to the mines, provides food and emergency access for all the little settlements around, and drops the tourists off.

Tourism is also a major part of Yellowknife. In the summer there are all sorts of water sports out on the Great Slave (including pike fishing, which I've done), game hunting and spotting (caribou, elk, muskox, bison, buffalo), and other wildlife viewing (eagles, foxes, wolverines etc.). In the winter you can go and look at the Aurora Borealis (northern lights), go winter camping, cross country skiing/snowmobiling, take an air charter to a remote log cabin, etc etc.

Here are my recommendations if you ever need to come here...

The best hotel by far is the Explorer. It has it's own restaurant and lounge (food is better in the lounge but restaurant is great for breakfast), most of the rooms have been newly renovated (with plans to do the rest), the rooms are big and clean and it also has an extensive set of conference rooms. They have a laundry service but it is next business day return. If you can't get into the Explorer (and if you don't book early there is a big risk of this), try the Super 8 (on the other side of town and restaurant is only open for breakfast), Chateau Nova (rooms are clean but getting a bit old, restaurant was closed and looking for a new owner when I stayed there last month) or the Fraser Tower (again rooms were big but old and smelled musty - used to be apartment suites, restaurant was closed and no laundry service).

There are a few good pubs - being a Christian I don't drink but these have been recommended by others - The Black Knight, followed by Surly Bob's Sports Bar, and the Monkey Tree on the other side of town near the Super 8 motel.

My favourite restaurant is Diamante's which is attached to the Monkey Tree pub. It has the best food with prices that are not outrageous, is quiet, and has great service. The other two great options are Bullocks (bad service but some of the best fish anywhere which makes up for it) and the WildCat cafe but I think both of these are closed in the winter. For a more upper class option you can try Le Frolic, Our Place or Fuegos but in my opinion are all a bit over priced for what you get. There are also a couple of chinese+little bit of everything else type restaurants, some of which I've tried, some I haven't - these are cheap but you get what you pay for. If you are in the mood for vietnamese next to Fuegos is a good one called A Taste of Saigon. There are also the usual chains - Boston Pizza, Pizza Hut, Subway, McD's, KFC, A&W etc. etc.

I recommend you give Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures a call for anything adventurous - from photography walks to unique aircraft charters, Carlos, the owner, can do it all (or if he can't has been in Yellowknife long enough to know who can). He took my boss and I out pike fishing on the Great Slave lake and it was awesome - see my review on TripAdvisor.

Well, I think that's enough for now. I tell you though, it's bizarre seeing a busling city and airport going about their daily business as normal in -40 degrees!