Tag Archives: travel

Road Tips for Racing on Unfamiliar Ground


One of my races in Montreal, Qc – Defi Boreal Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue 5k


Hitting the road in unfamiliar territory is both daunting and exciting. On one hand it’s an excuse to visit a place you’ve never been before. On the other hand you can face a new climate or different elevation that takes some getting used to, especially when you’re there for a race.

I’m a novice runner, so let’s be clear that there are so many people who have more experience under their belts than me, but I want to provide general observations and lessons I learned in my races. What affects me might affect you, too. That said, these tips might not apply to everyone. Some people are awesome and can run under any condition and, if that’s the case, kudos (and curses) to you.

Choose a Destination

Pick a place, then look for a race. Or vice versa. My first destination race was a 5k in Montreal, which is roughly a six-hour drive from Toronto (longer depending on the weekend, what’s happening, and good ol’ traffic). Pick a place you’d like to visit for the weekend and see if there are any races that pique your interest. Likewise, if you hear about a fun race, plan a trip around the race….

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Fun indoor adventures when the rain washes you out

Australia (54)

Part of Sea Life’s walk-through tunnel.

There’s nothing worse when visiting a different country to discover the all-loving Mother Nature has decided to slot rain into your schedule. Activities, hikes, and all manners of outdoor trips have to be rescheduled and you find you suddenly have a whole day available for your leisure. As such, here are some fun, though not necessarily free, activities you can do by yourself or with friends and family. I’m one of those people who don’t find it weird to eat lunch or see a movie by myself, so let’s have at it!

Note: I haven’t quite managed to figure out how to transfer my photos from my camera to my tablet quite yet without going through various stages of transferring more than once (especially since I left my card reader back home), so pictures to come!

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium:
Located near Darling Harbor, the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium offers a variety of sea creatures that will appeal to young and old. Broken down into themed sections, from streams and billabongs to rocky shores, to the shark walk and valley, the multiple displays offer educational and interesting facts through signage and interactive screens.

One of my favourite portions of the aquarium was walking through the shark tunnel, which is essential a huge glass tunnel that allows you to see the underbelly of sharks and other aquatic life. The glass floor was also fun, if not slighty disturbing when young children decide to jump all at once in the same spot. Shark feed, here we come!

For those less keen on crowds, I’d advise against going to the aquarium on the weekends as there are many families and tourists equalling interested in keeping dry. There were some points where I felt rushed and was merely following the tides of the crowds rather than appreciating the smaller aquatic displays. It would have been nice to read the corresponding information and take in the underwater wonders that was offered.

Australian Museum:
There is currently a Tyrannosaurs exhibit (inner kid: wohoo!) occurring at the Australian Museum, which I found as amazing as any five-year-old kid. The exhibit is filled with Tyrannosaurs species that take a look at all related types, from big to small, including Tyrannosaurus Rex himself. Along with interactive and digital displays, one of the more interesting displays was a test to see how strong your hand grip is in comparison to that of T-Rex. The only downside was that it had to cycle through a long loop where it compared your strength to other creatures in the world as well, which caused quite a long line-up as we couldn’t skip the information. For the curious, the average human grip is 85 kg, where as a T-Rex was around 3,000 kg. There are, of course, other dinosaurs available to be viewed.

There are various sections as with any museum dedicated to birds and insects, rocks and minerals, as well as mammals and critters; those displays in itself are quite a sight to see (though I can sincerely do without the spiders and creepy crawlies). Parents with little children can also enjoy the Kid Zone, which has educational toys and games to keep them entertained.

Paddy’s Market:
Found in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s Market is a great place to find cheap souvenirs for friends and family. Though there is a lot of repetition of similar products and stalls, keep your eyes open for the best deals and interesting finds. The market place also sells fresh produce and delicious Chinese snacks at a decent price. Another place to visit (if you’re a morning person) is the Sydney Flower Market for super cheap deals for fresh flowers to keep your room smelling sweet. There is a wonderful selection of cut and potted flowers for any occasion.


For art lovers, there are quite a few free art exhibits located around Sydney, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Arthouse Hotel. I have yet had a chance to go to either, but there is still rain in the forecast for me so it may just happen. Another place of interest on my list is the Sydney Observatory, which offers a spectacular view of our solar system’s planets (pending time of year and date) and neighbouring stars. Keep in mind, a clear night is ideal for a visit to observatory. There is also the PowerHouse Museum for those keen on the sciences and things that move. 

As mentioned before, the Sydney Opera House is also excellent for a night a frivolity and laughs.

I’m still on the hunt for other places to visit on a rainy day, but that’s my list for now.

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Hiking in Sydney: Scenic World Blue Mountains


Australia (84)

The Three Sisters at Blue Mountain in New South Wales, Australia.

The trails range from easy to hard, but the views are spectacular at Blue Mountain’s Scenic World.

Difficulty: Range from easy to hard
Time: The shortest trail is around an hour, the longest six. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take all day covering all the trails
Length: 10 minutes to a full day
Conditions: Some paved/wooden paths, others using nature’s rocks

Sydney’s Blue Mountains Scenic World is a tad out of a way but it’s definitely worth the trip up north in New South Wales. There’s a trail for every level from easy to hard, but make sure you keep a map with you or know where you’re going, or you may end up taking a harder trail then expected. The Furber Steps, for example, is much easier going down than it is going up – much, much easier. As friendly as the trails are, some sections of the walkway aren’t wheelchair accessible and it’s recommended to speak to staff before hitting the trails.

There are various starting points that all interconnect with one another, but once you are at the bottom you can either hike your way back up or go take either the railway, skyway, or cableway back up to the top…

For more, visit BreakingMordern here.

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Adventures abound


The 12 Apostles, one of the many stops along the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

All adventures begin as soon as you step out the door, not when you arrive at your preferred destination. That being said, whenever one intends to travel to a location taking multiple airlines and stopovers, it’s bound to create a few stories.

Long story short: the first flight was delayed which resulted into a mad rush to catch the second flight, in which one of the passengers had a medical emergency that resulted with all the other passengers stuck on board when we landed until the paramedics attended to said passenger, followed by a second attempt at becoming the Flash to catch our third flight that was 14 hours in duration. The third flight had an adorable baby on board, and for an overnight flight of that length, the idea of having a baby on board is cringe-worthy in itself. Needles to say, I was quite surprised when said infant remained quiet for most of the flight, only letting out a mild protest once when being moved, but was otherwise a happy little fellow. If only all children who travel can be that well-behaved! I am also happy to say all the flight attendants were a pleasure to associate with and happy to assist with any questions, which is not always the case.

Customs is as it always is: long and tedious, coupled with interesting folk and stifled laughter, while baggage was less of a nightmare than usual.  However, it’s walking through the gates and seeing family again after a prolonged period that makes the length of any trip worthwhile. Ok, that and the warm weather after an unusually cold winter on the other side of the hemisphere. Shorts and tees, here I come!

As with any trip down under, and that’s where I am if you haven’t gathered from picture above, there will be lots of outdoor activities (more of the hiking sort than beach lounging), eating, committing to the mandatory tourist ploys before heading off the beaten tracks, along with training in between with some senseis that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a previous trip, and catching up with family.

I currently train under an Okinawan-based martial arts known as Koryu Uchinadi, and will have the immense pleasure of learning from several senseis in Australia, including Hanshi Patrick McCarthy himself. If nothing else comes of this trip, I am looking forward to soaking up whatever knowledge I can from them, corrections and all.

Enough said for now, except allons-y!

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Field Notes: Adverturous Spirit

From tornado chasing to cave spelunking, director and producer Peter Rowe has faced his share of dangers. But his next adventure may be his greatest.

It was nothing more than a rusted fishing boat with one of two engines working. The vessel rocked and rolled through unforgiving waves and pouring rain. Crew members used buckets to empty the sinking hulk of metal, while swell after swell continued to fill it—an ongoing battle that seemed to be a lost fight.

Gusts of wind spraying saltwater made the long journey slow and treacherous. The typically four-hour trip took well over 10, and precious time was spent backtracking to retrieve a lost dinghy. But Angry Planet (OLN) director and producer Peter Rowe, the show’s host and the crew members were steadfast. They wanted to be among the first people to set foot on newly created land off the shores of Tonga, the Hunga Ha’apai. Making it ashore proved a difficult challenge: there was nowhere to anchor the boat. The land, created out of the slowly cooling ash caused by an underwater volcano that had recently exploded, was still unstable and rocky. The kayak that was used to transport equipment from boat to land was just as futile, capsizing in the shark-infested waters. “We had to stuff our equipment into dry bags and swim ashore,” chuckles Rowe. “One of the bags leaked, ruining two cameras and a microphone. But we had to make do.”

Feeling the ashen ground beneath his feet was a blessing, but with the sun setting and the volcano still active, Rowe and his team only had a few hours to spare on Hunga Ha’apai—just enough to time to film his segment and cement his claim as one of the island’s first visitors. (A team of four had visited earlier.) “It was still hot to touch,” says Rowe. “You could still see the steam coming off of the phosphoric land and newly created crater lake.”

As both a natural-born explorer and producer of Angry Planet, Rowe spends most of his time travelling the world looking for “extreme forces of nature.” On previous trips, the adrenalin junkie had crossed Baffin Island (mid-winter), climbed active volcanoes (Semeru, Indonesia; Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Stromboli, Aeolian Islands), and chased tornados and hurricanes throughout North America—all of which were broadcast on television networks around the world. The Winnipeg native has also created feature documentaries, including the controversial Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of Falun Gong, an edited version of which was aired on CBC in 2007.

That was then. What Rowe wants to talk about now is his recent trip to northern Mexico where he was given permission to enter the Cueva de los Cristales, or Cave of Crystals. And this time, Rowe carried the Explorers Club flag while exploring this extreme environment.

The trip to the remote village of Naica took Rowe and a team into a blisteringly hot cave, about 300 metres underground, surrounded with some of the world’s largest crystals. Unlike other caves, where the temperature generally gets cooler as you descend, the Cueva de los Cristales is situated a mile above a magma flow. Within the central cave, the temperature can reach up to 50 degrees C, with 90 to 100 percent humidity. Each trip has the potential for a heat stroke and for this expedition, Rowe trained in a gruelling 65 degree C sauna for half an hour each day.

His training paid off. Rowe didn’t want to end up like the mummified miner of Cueva de los Cristales lore. “He wanted to strike it rich by stealing some crystals from the cave,” says Rowe. “He went in with no more than a garbage bag filled with cooled air. A couple of days later when workers entered the cave again, they found a dried out husk.” The environment in the large cavern of crystals is such that it took only a few days to mummify the miner.

Created over hundreds of thousands of years, the cave was discovered by a pair of brothers in 2000. Massive pumping to bring water above ground for mining purposes in 1985 had lowered the water level in the cavern. Scientists say that as the magma cooled over the thousands of years and eventually stabilized to 58 degrees C, the groundwater, infused with calcium sulfate, began to convert to selenite, slowly forming tiny bricks and then crystals. The unchanged temperature within the cave allowed the sizable crystals to grow, making these ones mammoth compared to the relatively minuscule crystals found in neighbouring caves.

Behemoth in size, the width and length of the crystals (some are as long as 11 metres and weigh up to 55 tons easily consume the expanse of the buried room.  Preserving and studying (not to mention filming) the crystals is a massive undertaking. Sharp crystals pose deadly obstacles and visiting teams must wear specialized cooling suits that allow for 20-minute visitations.

But television equipment wasn’t all Rowe’s team packed on this trip. As a member of the Explorers Club, Rowe carried an Explorers Club flag on this Mexican expedition. Of 202 flags, some retired or lost, this particular flag has been taken 12,000 feet underwater into the depths of the ocean, through the overgrown forest of the Amazon and was once aboard a ship chased by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War. Rowe was attended by a Mexican team, an Australian adventurer and the host of Angry Planet, George Kourounis. We’re going to see what we can find out about some earthquakes that hit the cave at one time. It’s always interesting to find these miracles of nature. And it’s a privilege to continue to do this.”

Admitted into the Explorers Club in March 2008, Peter Rowe’s show, Angry Planet, is now in its third season on OLN, with the first and second seasons available in DVD boxed sets. This is Rowe’s first flag expedition for the Explorers Club. For more information on the Explorers Club, visit its website, explorersclub.ca

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