Wednesday, July 29, 2009

!! CCT !!

45 exchange students + a common bond + a month = AN UNFORGETTABLE MONTH OF TRAVEL! ive been talking about my tour for a little while and now that its over, i now have to blog the ENTIRE thing! wooo! Talk about bringing up memories... The Cross Canada Tour was simply amazing. I made so many friends that I will miss from a range of countries; speaking of which, there was 15 countries on the tour (list as follows- in NO particular order...)


There were so many places we visited and I loved every minute of it so i think its only fair that I write about everything!

22nd June

It was an early start, leaving Guelph at 10am for Hamilton for the 1pm flight to Moncton. Slowly people started to filter into the airport filled with anticipation of a month of partying like exchange students. We flew to Moncton and were met by 'Uncle Mike', the head chaperone of the tour. We then drove to Shediac and were greeted by the other exchange students who spent their time in Nova Scotia, New Foundland and New Brunswick.

23rd June

Today was the day where we got onto the bus and headed for Confederation bridge that takes to PEI- an Island which is actually a province of Canada. We were hosted by the Rotary Club of Summerside for lunch which was (surprise surprise) Seafood. After lunch we headed ro the wharf and met with Capt. Peter Pigeon who catches Lobster for a living! We all went out Lobster fishing whoch was a neat experience. Again, we had Seafood for dinner, Lobster of course, then headed back to Shediac for the evening.

24th June

Another early start this morning! We headed off to a soap factory at 9am, which to my surprise was actually interesting. This was amazing- hearing about what you can use with natural soaps and how theyre better than all the chemically based stuff, and how BAD the chemicals actually are! We then headed to Buctouche, for a tour of the Sandspit that is known for its constant reshaping and wildlife. After that we went to the sight were the worlds largest Lobster is. We were addressed by the Mayor of Shediac and posed for photos infront of the giant structure. We then went back to Shediac to pack for the over-night train to Quebec City the next day.

25th June

Up at 6am......we had breakfast, packed the bus and left Shediac. We stopped at the Bay Of Fundy to see the famous Hopewell Rocks and to witness the highest tides in the world. The tides fluxuate with the seasons due to the tilt of the earth. In the winter, theyre only about 36 feet high, whereas in summer they can be up to 45 feet! We went for a cruise around the muddy rucks and tried to hold onto loose footware- please note, i do stress the 'TRIED' part. After a fight with trying to stay clean and get my Jandle out from the mud, we headed into the Mall in Moncton until it was boarding time for the train to Quebec City.

26th June

After the 14-hour train ride we were in the heart of French-Canada. This place was one of my favourites on the tour. We got there and met mike, and were given a challenge; to find our way to our hostel, in groups, whilst holding a peice of rope that we all had to hold at all times, and when that wasnt enough, try to ask for directions on French! Even the French exchangers couldnt understand the accent sometimes! Once we got to our hostel and had a much needed shower we had free time to explore the city within the old Quebec walls.

27th June

This morning wee went to a Crepe breakfast, which was unbelieveable! Myself and Julian from Austria posed for a fully canadian picture- we picked up the Maple Syrup bottles and made it look as if we were skulling it! After our breakfast we went to the Chateau Frontenac for a tour of the hotel and also a little history on the hotel itself. After the tour we had free time for a few hours; again just exploring, taking photos- all the good touristy stuff. We then dressed up and went out for dinner which was fully paid by a Gentleman who isnt a Rotarian, who's kids werent exchangers, just a guy who is really generous. After dinner, we were lucky enough to go go-karting!! Which again was paid for by the same guy!! Man, did i miss driving! I was in the hot seat for about 15 minutes and averaged 32seconds for a 400metre loop...beating EVERY Aussie....We got back farely late, around 10pm and were given time to go out and experience old Quebec at night. It was a completley different scene at night. There were people playing classical Jazz music, just for peoples entertainment, which was so cool to see! It was spectactular- dancing and having laughs right outside the Chateau Frontenac at night which was lit up...amazing.

28th June

After a week of traveling the east coast we landed in Montreal. It was an early start to get the train from Quebec. It was not an over nighter again, but it still wasnt the highlight of the day. The highlight was easily the part when we caught the subway to the Olympic Tower and Biodome! We got to the top of the Tower and saw where the Olympics were held- and also where Dick Quax won his silver medal for NZ! The view was amazing from the top; we could see the entire Montreal area! In the evening, a group of us went for a walk and found where the city was preparing for the International Jazz Festival, which was happening a few days AFTER we had left Montreal!

29th June

Mike's Magical Mystery Tour today!! PUMPED!! all for walking in the rain! Today we got into groups and had a walking tour of Montreal which was optional, to participate in the tour set by Unc. Mike. I managed to muster up enough enthusiam to walk around in a pink poncho for hours whilst completing tasks- again in French. My group won, of course...Kiwis, 2 - Auz,0 .... One task was to do something crazy, and it could be anything! So just before we finished we walked into the fire department and took pictures with the fire fighters with their gear on. We were almost about to leave and they got a call out; so we caught the whole thing on camera! The intensity of the fighters getting ready was nuts! Runnning, yelling....we were all amazed! On the way home, we walked past another station, and told them the situation about our make a long story, all the girls in the group, which was 75% of the group got a kiss on the cheek from a Fire Fighter. We got back to the youth hostel at mid-afternoon so for the rest of the day I walked around with Opal, another kiwi for the rest of the day, just cruising around downtown Montreal.

June 30th

This morning we caught an early train to Canada's capital- Ottawa! When we arrived in the train station in Ottawa, our bus had broken down, so after an hour and a half wait for another bus, we managed to cram all our bags into the tiny school bus that had become our replacement. We arrived at out somewhat, infamous hostel which had some...we'll say 'rich' history- the youth hostel was once a PRISON! We setteled into our cells and eventually got used to the fact that sound travelled, which was due to the drum shaped ceilings which carried almost every word; even when you whispered! In the evening we had a guided tour of the hostel/prison; which revealed many dark pasts of the prison, which was, to my surprise, interesting to hear. The part which I found the most scary is that there is a working noose, still in the Prison! There was believed to be only 2 offical hangings throughout the prisons history, but a beam at the top of a staircase, which wasnt fitted with any anti-suicidal cages showed signs of a rope rubbing against the top of the beam- so there is a theory thats suggests there were many unoffical hangings. I also learnt that the prison is Ottawa's most haunted building!

1st July

After a sleepless night, we dressed up for the nation's day- CANADA DAY! Being in the capital city for the day of the year was a huge highlight- especially when the group I was in made the front page of Ottawa's premier newspaper the day after! We walked around for the day, all dressed up in red, just enjoying the atmosphere of whoch was really giant party. We managed to find these red plastic trumpets for $5 which made soo much noise, it was unreal! Later in the evening we wandered up to parliment hill and watched live performances which were amazing! One song which all of the students loved was a song called "wavin' flag", and it became the tour song! Also, that was the day when many of the other students from my district and a few others started theirs, which only took them from Ottawa and up the east coast; so i had the fortune to see the othr kiwi girl whom I had not herd from in 5 months! So the three kiwis stood together, talking the slang that only us knew. The best thing was to hear a similair accent! It made me realize how lillte kiwi accent I had left- opps!

2nd July

Today we caught ANOTHER train and headed for Toronto and stayed in a....wait for it....A 4 STAR HOTEL LADIES AND GENTS!! The hotel was built by the same people who built Chateau Frontenac in Quebec. I had already been to Toronto a few times and Guelph isnt too far from Toronto, so it was almost like coming home. We got there and went on a bus that could go into water, so we had an 'aqua tour'. This was fun as it was a new experience for almost all of the exchangers on the tour. After that we had some dinner which we had to pay for, which wasnt a problem as most days we were given money for food, then queitly nesteled into our HUGE beds!

3rd July

After a great and much needed nights sleep, we headed for the great Niagara Falls; but before we even saw the falls, we went jet-boating through white water rapids! This was amazing! I was lucky enough to sit in the second row from the front, so by the end I was soaked! After an hour of non stop fear filled rapid riding, we piled onto the bus again and headed for Niagara Falls. We got there and were greeted by the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-lake who kindly paid for a lunch which was just superb! It was easily one of the top supported lunches. We had some time to look in the super expensive gift shop...then head down to the lady of the mist ferry which took us right to the base of the falls. The power of the falling water was imense! We were also told of how a young boy survived going over the falls and how it had changed his life. We headed back to Toronto for our final night in a bed before the epic train journey that will take us to Edmonton in Alberta, but before bedtime we visited the CN Tower at night, which was breathtaking. The panorama of the city was amazing!

4th July

Today we had a mild sleep in, and visited the Hockey Hall Of Fame where we posed for photos with the Original Stanley cup. So much history in that building. I even saw skates from a stand out performer in the finals from Stanley Cup winners, Pittsburgh Penguins! Even just looking through the glass and seeing something that has been worn by a hero gives a sense of acomplishment. After that, we went food shopping for the train, looked around some more and went to the Hard Rock Cafe' for dinner which looked straight into the Rogers Centre, which is where the Toronto Blue Jays play. We had a good meal where I ate typical kiwi style- 2 plates! We then headed off to the train station and boarded for a 56 hour train ride across the most part of Canada.

5th & 6th July

The train ride for 3 nights wasn't all that bad. Although there wasnt a whole lot to do, there was a dome cart where you could sit and look outside for a better view; which most of the time was the same thing as Manitoba and Saskatchewon are flat and full of canola. Sleeping in the train was brutal. Because we cut down on costs by opting not to use sleeper cars, we slept on the same chairs we sat on all day; and because all we did was eat followed by a whole lot of sitting, I think majority of us said we gained some weight over 3 nights.

7th July

After the final night on the train we headed to the largest shopping mall in North America- West Edmonton Mall. To be completley honest, nobody really wanted to walk around for the day as we were all exhausted; although for myself, I needed the excercise! The mall was huuuge! There was a water park, rollercoasters and a skating rink in the mall! After the mall excursion we were hosted by the Rotary club of Edmonton for dinner; then headed back to our hotel for a real sleep in a bed!

8th July

This morning we went to the top of our hotel and went to a Rotary meeting! Sweeet! We had a pretty generous breakfast with the rotarians of the West Edmonton, again. After our breakfast we headed for Calgary via Drumheller where we visited the largest museam of Dinosaur bones! It was amazing to see how big Dinosaurs actually were. We then headed for the Fairview Hutterite Colony for dinner. These people came to Canada from Russia and Germany to escape religious persecution. We had dinner with them and had a tour of where they live and their day-to-day life. It really hit home how much we rely on technology on a day to day basis to have fun; as their fun was 'taking walks' and 'feeding ducks'. We then headed right into Calgary to see the world renound Stampede!

9th July

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! This morning I caught up with my Uncle Graeme who I have now met twice- once in NZ and now once in Canada! (Hi Uncle if youre reading this) We headed off the watch the stampede which was nuts! It was exactly the same as you see on T.V. We saw some of the riders get fully kicked off! It was crazy! Later in the day we walked back to the arena to watch the chuck wagon races, which was insane! The horses ran so fast; I was amazed! Later in the evening we watched live entertainment which was really cool to watch. We were in fits of laughter when the comedian came out! He did such a good impression of the British accent! Priceless!

10th July

After a delayed start to the day we were in Banff and this was the place which reminded me of home the most. The mountains were just breathtaking and this was why I was reminded of home. To be honest it made me a little homesick. We got to out hostel and had a little dance party type thing- it pretty much turned out to be Brazillia night; which was lots of fun!

11th July

This morning the people who payed to go white water rafting did so and left at 8am! I was left at the hostel with a few others as I saved some money for Ziplining in Vancouver. Myself and a few others went canoeing and saw the most amazing view. It was almost like staring into a screensaver photo you find on the internet. The type of photo you see on a calender. It was breathtaking. We canoed for several hours and by the end we were all farely peckish, so myself and Natalia from Brazil went and got a feed at Subway which was easily the best subway ive ever had. We then went back to the hostel and chilled until the evening as we went to the thermal hot spring pools! This was farely crowded; even more so when 45 exchange students jump in!

12th Juy

This morning was when my fitness was called upon- a 4 hour hike up Fairview Mountain which was right next to the beautiful Lake Louise. We split into groups and decided which walk we wanted to do. Before we even got to Lake Louise, the 'fit' people of the group started their 9 hour hike which they saw a Bear! It took 2.5 hours to get up Fairview Mountain, and only 30 minutes to get down! Crazy! At the top, the view was phenominal. We could see right out to the horizon and right down to the glacier which is the cause of the freezing water of Lake Louise, which is a milky blue colour. We went back to our hostel for a good night sleep after that, as we ALL needed it!

13th July

Today we traveled to Jasper via: Crowfoot Glacier, Mistaya Canyon, Athabascan Glacier, Columbia Ice Field, Sunwapta Falls, Mt. Edith Cavell. The place which parts which I enjoyed the most was the scenary. I remember looking out the window of our bus and seeing so many Glaciers! They were spectacular. Also, the Athabascan Glacier was imense. From afar the Glacier itself didnt look too big, but we went onto it and I was stunned. For the middle of summer, this place was freezing! Of course as a typical kiwi, I started the trend of taking peices of colthing off and posed (shirts only) and with a little help from Simon-Tim from Switzerland, we had almost the entire group shirtless! Even the tourists took photos of us! Hilarious! We arrived in Jasper and were met by the Rotary Club of Hinton for a BBQ and a game of Football. (Hinton is a small town 20 minutes out of Jasper).

14th July

Today we left our hotel and headed downtown for a wander around before we got on our final over-night train ride to Vancouver. The trains at this point didnt really seem all that long. We were on again for a lengthy 14 hours but cause everyone was so familair with everyone, we all made our own fun.

15th July

We arrived in Vancouver early in the morning, around 7am- so breakfast was Macdonalds in the train station, again... We got to our hostel, had a shower, got changed and went to the ferry where we went to Granville Island, which was known for its fresh food market. We walked around for a few hours and went back for a tour of Gas Town and China Town, but today I went Viplining! Whilst everyone went to Gas and China Town, myself and a few others went to Grouse Mountain to go Viplining. We got to the mountain where they have all the lines, and again, the view was great! Ziplining took around 2 hours to do and it was such a great rush! The top speed we went was about 60-70km and we were so high off the ground. I would do this again any day! We got back to dinner with the rest if the group at the Mongolian Grill which tasted so good, as you could make your own meal out of what was on offer. I even ate with chopsticks for the first time since I had got back from my trip to Japan in year 7.

16th July

Today was another day where our cardio was needed as we went for a nice bike ride around stanley park, which is the same guy who is named after the NHL's top prize- the Stanley Cup. We rode for 2 hours, swapping from tandem to single rides often which gave everyone the chace to get to know everyone better. We stopped at a beach for a little while, which was fun; although the beach wasnt nearly as good as a NZ beach! We got creative and posed for photos with our countries' names drawn in the sand and again, the kiwis started the trend! We got back and had free time until late in the evening. A few of us went down to a different beach this time and had a mini party, which didnt last too long as the beach 'closed'....

17th July

Today we caught the ferry to Salt Spring Island which took a few hours, and it actually was very relaxing. We just sat around on the top deck enjoying the sun and eachothers company. We got there and were greeted by our host families which we would stay with for 2 nights. I stayed with a hilarious family where their daughter was getting married to a British guy who had all the slang that I understood; it was awesome. Once we settled in we went to a Rotarians house and had a BBQ. This dinner was a highlight as once again we had so much fun, but the Rotarian who hosted us had to retire from being a school principal as he suffered a stroke. His house backed onto a lake, which was amazing. We got back to our host families for the night to wrap up a good day.

18th July

Today, myself, 3 Thai guys and a Swiss went got up at 10am......had breakfast and went downtown Salt Spring and checked out the local markets and had a look around. This was interesting as there was so much atmosphere for such a little town. At around 2 we got picked up and went back to our host families and spent the afternoon there. That afternoon was full of fun! Now, the Thai guys are known for their ability to make fun, and today was no exception. 3 Thai guys + a plastic tractor + hills.....go figure. We had a blast! Not to mention coming close to death a few times (joking). We had a BBQ in the evening and had some more fun with the plastic tractor, but in pitch black darkness! Good times....

19th July

We left early for the ferry to Victoria to join the rest of the group who went to Butchart Gardens. When we got there we joined the rest of the group and today was all about soaking in the city sights. Victoria reminded me of Quebec City, except an English version of it. A group of us walked pretty much all day, visiting the harbour where the whale watching departs. We also saw the parliment buildings and took photos of the Totem Poles, which were huuge! In the evening, we re-grouped and sat in the park that looked over the river towards the lit up parliment building, which was not only spectacular but a great way to wind down for the evening.

20th July

Today was the day of the final banquet as we all flew back to our host districts or native countries. The morning was used as a good opportunity to sleep, while others went whale watching. We all got together for lunch which was one of the last opportunities to be together as a group. Myself and a few others headed to the mall for a final look before we got ready for our final dinner. The final dinner was good fun. We ate in at an Italian restaurant which was so good! After we went back to the hostel and just sat around, as we all knew we had to say goodbye which wasnt easy at all. We all signed flags, wrote in others' books and shared some of the good times we've spent together over the last month.

21st July

This morning we all headed to Victoria airport for our emotional goodbyes. I was on the last flight which also had a stopover in Calgary for 2 hours. I landed in Hamilton at midnight and had an hours commute back to Guelph. It was so weird to think, everyone was somewhere else. 2 Swedish girls were somewhere on their way back home. It was so hard to say goodbye, especially when you spend an entire month travelling with the same people.

Its the summer holidays now which means lots of spare time. Ive been to my counsellors' brother's cottage which was wicked fun! We went tubing and got air of the waves! This was insane. Ive also been to a different rotarians cottage for 3 nights, and learnt to water ski! Its actually such a good feeling to fly across the top of the water.

The CCT was the highlight of my year to date. Ive seen majority of Canada now, and I've made friends from all over the world, which was the best thing about the trip. Hopefully I've told enough about my tour which will make you want to travel Canada.

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