Tag Archives: Travel

Adventures in Transportation

8 Jun

Apparently you can have adventures in transportation.
Oh, you thought that going from point A to point B is an easy and straightforward thing?
Not in the Rupununi.
If you’re still confused, please refer to my previous post for some enlightenment.

This short story is about the trip back to Shulinab from Aishalton.
Problem: No available vehicles in Aishalton to pick the team up to transport them to the Rupununi River crossing.
Solution: Motorcycles – they’re always the next best thing. 12 people, 6 motorcycles.

Adventures in Rupununi Transportation

And the following events:

  1. 2 bike falls because of mud (a major hazard on the Rupununi roads)
  2. sunburnt faces (and peeling foreheads as a result)
  3. wet feet/socks from riding through puddles and creeks
  4. countless mosquito and kaboura fly bites from waiting at the Rupununi River crossing
  5. two row-boat crossings with motorcycles and all (since the bridge has been out for 1+ years)
  6. physical exertion from pulling the boat through shallow banks of sand
  7. a water whirlwind on the Rupununi River…and near heart-attacks

It’s kind of hard to capture a water whirlwind on camera when you’re panicking but I got one while the boat was swaying from side-to-side.

Water Whirlwind

I swear it whispered “I’m coming for you”.

In-the-moment thoughts went like this:
“That’s a nice breeze”
“Oh, it’s getting really windy”
“Cool…a small water tornado over there”
“Holy sh…it’s a big water whirlwind”
“Oh my god! It’s heading toward us!”
Men in the boat: “PADDLE!!! PADDLE!!! PADDLE!!”
(When the men in charge begin to panic, it is time to start panicking along with them)
*unbuckles heavy backpack* in case we capsize and I have to swim
*screams along with the other girls* as we realize that we are also about to run into a tree
Water whirlwind makes a sharp turn away from us. Capsizing avoided.
*collective sighs of relief*

So I call this phenomenon a water whirlwind, but the Amerindians say that it was a Potari (giant stingray). A Potari is supposed to be H U G E and it’s also a water spirit. Some Amerindians at the same crossing (a couple days after us) swear that they saw ab Potari in the water.
A Potari has a blow hole (kind of like a whale’s). This can explain the water shooting up in the air to an insanely high height. It can also explain why the whirlwind moved so quickly towards us (giant stingrays move fast!).

Whatever it was, it was scary. And I never want to see/experience a water whirlwind/Potari ever again…especially if I’m in a aluminium boat powered by men with oars.

The scariest thing so far…

9 Apr


  • the many cockroaches that invaded my bathroom (past-tense since I got my place sprayed!)
  • the lizards scurrying around my bathroom. In fact, they eat the cockroaches so I like ‘em
  • the spider that stung me as I finished taking a shower
  • the scorpions that have decided they like to hang out in my place
  • drinking creek water – I did it and am living to write about it
  • the fear of one big unexpected/unseen bump in the road that would throw me off the back of a motorcycle

The scariest thing I’ve experienced so far is…riding down a rocky mountain on a small horse.

The horses here are significantly smaller than the ones back home; this doesn’t inspire much confidence. Although I have a lot of experience with horses, nothing prepared me for a bush-trekking-mountain-climbing adventure on horseback.

Going up the mountain was no problem so I was ill prepared for the journey down…which was terrifying. Especially when your horse stumbles and you imagine yourself and the animal tumbling down the mountain side against all those jagged rocks.

But don’t worry. That didn’t happen. I survived (phew!) and will probably be climbing down the mountain on foot next time.

Don’t let my words convince you that the horses aren’t fit for the job though…they are actually quite good at navigating rocky mountain terrain and jumping over dried creek beds. I just felt like a terrible person who only added dead weight onto the horse’s back.

So why the adventure into “the Bush”? So I could put my big red boots to good use of course…oh and to see all this:

Worth the terrifying climb down the mountain, right?

Out-of-town Daytrippin’

15 Feb

VSO Guyana took us on a mini trip to get away from the office for one day. We headed to Madewini Gardens for a swim in a pool and the blackwater creek (a very literal name). It wasn’t all play – we had to do some learning first on the status of disability in Guyana. VSO programs dedicated to improving the status, and about common vegetables. I know, that last topic doesn’t seem like it belongs but it was a necessary lesson!

Because they don’t call an eggplant an eggplant…they don’t even call it an aubergine. They actually call it a “Boulanger” or a “Baigan”. huh.

A Guyanese saying is that if you eat labba and drink black water while visiting Guyana, you are bound to return.

  • Labba is a small agouti or South American rodent that can be eaten in a dark stew called “pepper pot”
  • “Black water” is the water of muddy streams…it’s self-explanatory, really.

No, I did not drink black water, but I guess I don’t need to since I’ll be living in Guyana for at least a year. I’ll let you know if/when I try labba.

Hello Guyana, Goodbye Canada (soon!)

26 Jan

Okay, so I haven’t updated this blog in awhile; and it’s not because I haven’t had spectacular things happen to me. It’s because I’m a bit busy and lazy. So here’s a quick recap:

  1. In the dead of winter (Feb 2011), I changed jobs. It was an exciting and much needed change and I met some great people and learned a lot because of it (I am no longer at this position).
  2. In the summer, I travelled to London for an amazing Indian wedding with people I’d consider family. I went to Paris to explore and hang out with a girl-friend. I fell in love with Copenhagen and their bike lanes while visiting a family-friend studying there.
  3. In the fall, I got to help plan and execute the TEDxToronto After Party. I met some inspiring artists and performers and had a lot of fun doing it.
  4. Around the end of 2011, I got together with two brilliant girl-friends and launched helloberry bracelets. Through the stresses of brainstorming, set-up, long meetings, and many late nights, we always had fun. I never thought I could do anything entrepreneurial, but I can’t say that any more. We’ve been well-received and our fans are fan-tastic! (see what I did there?)

And now….

I am moving to Guyana.

I will be there starting on February 9, 2012 for a one year placement in Shulinab, Guyana (located about 1-2 hours south of Lethem in the Interior) as a Women’s Enterprise Development Advisor. I applied to Cuso International and was selected by them along with VSO Guyana to work with the South Central People Development Association (SCPDA) .

I will be dedicated to working with and among various communities in the Rupununi region to assist with finance, accounting, and a bit of marketing and product development. I will mostly be working with Amerindian women who have enterprises in agriculture and craft-making. Although it seems that I will be teaching them business skills, I know I will learn lots from them as well.

A big question is


The simple answer: Why not?
The detailed explanation: I’ve always been an advocate of volunteering. I’ve always wanted to work for a non-profit organization; volunteering with one is the first step to working for one.
Many of you know that I love to travel. My travel has always been short-term because of time constraints. Now that I have the opportunity and freedom to do something long-term, I don’t want to just walk about the earth and see things. I want to do things – meaningful things.
And that’s why I’m doing this.

Now to answer the “Where exactly…?” questions, here’s a map to help you visualize where I’ll be located (click to enlarge):

By clicking that map I bet some of you just learned that Guyana isn’t an island (although it’s associated with the West Indies which include island nations), and that it’s situated in South America, above Brazil and to the east of Venezuela.

Guyana was colonized by the Brits (so they speak English). To the east, there is Suriname (colonized by the Dutch) and French Guiana (colonized by the French). These three countries are the only ones in South America that don’t speak either Spanish or Portuguese as first languages.

Okay, that’s enough geography and history for now.

Here’s where I ask you to support me and Cuso International.
Cuso International sends volunteers abroad to work on collaborative development projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. They are one of North America’s largest international development non-profits that works through volunteers like me.

Here’s the great thing about donating – every dollar you donate is multiplied by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to help fund Cuso International’s efforts to support global development, environmental sustainability and social justice.


Donate now!

Thank you in advance for your donations; without your generosity, Cuso International wouldn’t be able to send volunteers overseas to pass on their knowledge and expertise.

Notes on Vietnam

17 Nov

1) The most dangerous thing you can do is walk across a huge intersection or through a roundabout. If you don’t get hit by a motorcycle, bicycle, or car, you’ve won the real life Frogger game you’ve been thrust into.

2) Things here are relatively cheap – from a Western world view. You can stay in a decent hotel for $20-$30 USD a night – and that’s talking mid-range price. A meal with a drink will be $5 average in a regular non-fancy restaurant. A bowl of Pho is $2. You get the point.

3) Halong Bay is a beautiful place – a must-see even if you hate “touristy” places. Be prepared to line-up to see some caves and eat a lot of fried food, the fare of choice for boat-cooks for some reason.

4) The level of harassment to buy things is pretty low compared to other countries (e.g. Egypt). Win!

5) “Line-ups” are just crowds of people invading each others’ personal space so they can be first to get checked-in, to get on a bus, to get on a plane, to annoy people, etc.

6) Everyone’s a millionaire in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Dongs

Vietnamese Dongs

Dancing Matt

21 Apr

Dance. And the whole world will dance with you.

Enter Matt.

The World is…

16 Apr

Truth about the world


9 Apr

Kinda looks like they’re doing Tai Chi…
Tourists (Leaning Tower of Pisa)
Via digg.com

Adventures in LA – Horseback Riding

30 Mar

Location: Zuma Canyon, Malibu – Los Angeles, California
Zuma Canyon

It’s a habit of mine to find horseback riding opportunities wherever I am – whether I’m in Cuba, Egypt, or Los Angeles. And if you’re traveling with me, I will try my best to convince you to join me. I always encourage people to try new things, especially things I love! :)

Malibu Riders provided us with some trusty steeds for our 3-mile ride through Zuma Canyon.

They have horses for all levels of riders from novice to advanced. I was assigned to a quick little bay mare named Honna (at least that’s how it was pronounced). My friend’s never been on a horse before so our guide gave him a really experienced gray mare, Nay-Nay.
Too bad she was the one horse who wanted to kick every other horse that tried to pass her that day (apparently she doesn’t usually do this). It’s a little scary trying to get your horse away from the one that kicks when you’re on a narrow mountain trail with a wall to your left and a cliff to your right. At least it made for an interesting ride.

Other than that, the ride went smoothly. Our guide made sure that the riders were doing okay during the entire ride and we got to do a little trot and canter at the end of it when everyone felt comfortable enough to try a faster pace. Oh, and the friend that’s never been on a horse before? He enjoyed it a lot! (I’d prefer he love it, but I won’t put words in his mouth)

Riding in Zuma CanyonMalibu View

Okay so I’m not a riding instructor or anything close to being qualified as one, but here are some things you might want to keep in mind before you decide to horseback ride and during the ride:

  • Don’t wear open-toed shoes.
  • Don’t wear shorts. You can get saddle burn, and it ain’t pretty.
  • Relax. Breathe. Try not to let fear or nerves get to you. Horses can feel if you’re tense through the saddle and may take advantage of this.
  • Make sure your stirrups (the things you put your feet in) are even in length or you’ll feel lopsided and off-balance.
  • Your horse WILL try to eat. Just pull your reins a bit and nudge your horse on by squeezing/kicking your legs.
  • If your horse tries to kick another horse, nudge him on. When they’re moving, they can’t kick out as effectively.
  • If another horse is going to kick yours, move your horse ASAP. You don’t want to be in the way of a kick because those suckers hurt!
  • Don’t worry about steering too much. Trail horses are trained to follow each other – nose to tail – but never let go of your reins; you need them for control.
  • You can always hold onto the pommel (front of the saddle) if you need something extra to grab.
  • If you don’t want to go faster than a walk, make sure to let your guide know so s/he sets a comfortable pace for everyone.
  • Relax, relax, and relax. Have fun!

Malibu Riders operates in Malibu (Zuma Canyon), and Agoura Hills (Paramount Ranch and Malibu Creek) in Los Angeles, CA. They also offer 2-person picnic rides and riding lessons.

Malibu Riders Promo Video:

Past Photos – Teotihuacan

24 Mar

Location: Teotihuacan Pyramids, Mexico (just a little outside of Mexico City)
Taken in July 2009

All my photos are taken with a regular digital camera. No fancy schmancy equipment was used (which is pretty obvious)

Pyramid of the Sun
Platform - Avenue of the Dead