CN Tower: A Walk on the Edge

I had just arrived in Toronto by train and had five hours to kill before my flight back to Alberta so I decided to head downtown to see what adventures I could find. It had been seven years since my last visit to Toronto and my first visit as a solo traveler, so I did what any tourist does when in the capital city of Toronto: I hit up the CN Tower.

The landmark isn’t hard to find, standing over 1815 feet high. It was built in 1976 and became the world’s tallest tower, holding it’s record until 2010. It is now listed as the third tallest tower in the world and continues to hold the record for the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere.
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Many tourists head up the CN Tower to the observation deck where through a glass floor they can spy on those going about their daily business below. I had done this once before so I opted to take things one step further, literally. I signed up for a little something called the EdgeWalk.

Listed as the “World’s highest full circle hands-free walk”, I had to add this to my bucket list just to check it off right away. There were many people in line ahead of me but most were signing up as groups of two or three. With only six people per EdgeWalk group I was able to sneak into the last spot on the next group to leave as the couples ahead of me had to sign up hours in advance to be able to walk together. There are pros solo travel!

I signed my forms and was let into the briefing room where the rest of the group was already suiting up. I was handed a bright red jumpsuit and a harness as soon as I entered, dressed quickly, and got in line with my five fellow walkers. We were then taken in a private elevator up to the roof of the restaurant, 1168 feet in the air.

In the little room atop the restaurant we were clipped into the safety line above us before being led outdoors. The wind wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Despite being a beautiful summer day, the air was cool so high up however the jumpsuits provided enough warmth for the half hour we were outside.

We began by toeing our way to the edge of the walkway. Our guide nonchalantly then pushed himself over the edge, relying only on his harness to keep him in place. He walked at an angle in front of us, displaying his trust in the equipment and hoping to give confidence to the few whose nerves were shown blatantly on their faces.
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As we each gained the courage our guide had us each dangle our toes over the edge. Then turn around and balance only on our toes. The brave ones leaned back in their harness, balancing the arches of their feet on the edge of the walk, as if reclining in a lounge chair. That part wasn’t so bad.

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We walked around part of the tower as our guide pointed out different landmarks and areas of Toronto. We were given permission to walk as close or as farm from the edge of the ramp as we felt comfortable. Only one stayed near the inside, keeping close to the security of the wall as the rest of us ventured a little closer to the wild side. I was probably a little closer tan I should have been when my balance and grace is taken into consideration. I only tripped once and my harness was secure enough that I wasn’t going to go anywhere if I did fall. This was very reassuring.
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We played around again on the edge, leaning back, reaching out, then we leaned forward. With the guideline pressed up against my shoulder, I slowly rolled towards my toes which were dangling high above Toronto. I looked down at the cars which appeared the size of ants. It was a long way down and my adrenaline was a long way up.
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The experience was a lot of fun and I never felt my safety was at risk. The edgewalk wasn’t as terrifying as a bungy jump but would still be rattling for someone scared of heights. The great thing about this adventure is that you can choose your comfort level. If you would rather stick close to the inside walkway and have the security of the wall , no one will hold it against you. As you gain confidence and are feeling like taking a risk you can go as far as you are comfortable whether it’t having a look over the edge or dangling your body off the side.

After the EdgeWalk we were each given a photo and video DVD which was included in the $195 cost. This was a bonus as many of these types of activities love to charge and extra $20-$30 for these. The EdgeWalk ticket also gave me a fast pass to the observation deck so I didn’t have to wait in the long and winding trail of visitors. I was surprised by that fact as I had just been told I had a pass to the observation deck, I had no idea it meant I would get to skip on the long wait time. This was a great bonus!

If you’re looking for a way to get out of your comfort zone but aren’t ready to jump off a bridge or out of a plane just yet, the EdgeWalk is a great place to start if you find yourself in Toronto. Despite having done three Bungy jumps and a Skydive prior to my visit I still had a great time at the CN Tower. If you visit on a clear day you can sometimes see the skylines of New York State and Niagara Falls 160 kms in the distance.

How Australia Broke My Heart

When I first left home for New Zealand in 2011 I never could have guessed the path my life would take. I absolutely loved my time in New Zealand and would go back in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t live there though. Australia on the other hand- that’s a different story.

While I was in NZ people would ask me if I intended to travel to Australia, my answer was very non-committal. I didn’t like the idea of Australia. I’m not a beach person and I was never a big fan of the heat. I can think of a hundred things I would prefer to do over laying on a gritty bed and baking myself like a pizza. I didn’t know much else about Australia apart from the fact that it was a country with a lot of beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru, which I had only known as Ayres Rock. My response to peoples queries about my future travels was that I may spend a couple weeks across the ditch to do a bit of diving on the reef, but that was all I had interest in. It’s funny how things change. Read more

A Christmas In Clermont

Christmas carols constantly played through my head as I stood at my gate in the 38 degree heat.

“Across!” Darcy shouted.

I pulled open the gate to my left, to let a couple cows through. Sweat and dust caked my face, but I didn’t mind.

“Behind!”

I took a few steps back and out of the way as I opened my gate to let cattle into the pen with me. I shut the gate again, still singing carols in my mind.

Sure, it was just another work day, but it was one day closer to Christmas, and boy, was I excited! December had arrived and was progressing with a lot of sun, and still no rain. And DEFINITELY no snow. With it being my third Christmas down under, I thought I would be used to it. Wrong. I was the most homesick I have been since I started travelling over two years ago. Read more

Diary of a Drover

Cattle everywhere! Spending the past two weeks watching over nearly one thousand head of cattle has certainly been a change of pace for me. I arrived at the farmhouse on a Monday evening. No lights were on, no one was around. The two German girls I now work with were down at the paddock, watering the cattle. John and his wife, Karen, were away for a couple days.
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Darcy and I finally met Ian, the landowner, who helped me get settled at the house I was to be staying in, he was very chatty and seems to have travelled many places.When Hannah and Tammy returned a bit later and made me feel at home. We headed to bed while the night was still young, in preparation for an early morning start.

The first day on the job was very laid back. John and Karen didn’t get back until the evening, so the three of us girls spent the day picking around, doing odd jobs. We watered the cattle, pumping water into the troughs. We had to keep an eye out for cattle falling in. They sometimes get so thirsty the cattle will push and shove other cows into the troughs. The bottom is just plastic and has no grip for the cow to stand back up again. We either have to pull her out, tow her out, or tip the trough and dump her out. While the cow is in the trough we have to have someone holding her head above water so she doesn’t drown. Luckily, we had no problems with that on my first day. We spent the rest of the day taking down an electric fence that we no longer needed.

The next day, once John had returned, we rounded up the cattle and prepared to head off to the next stop. We all hopped onto our four-wheelers, making sure they were fueled up, then hit the road. There were a couple new born calves that were too small to walk the seven kilometres we had to go, so we left them in the paddock for the day. When evening rolled around we picked them up and drove them to the new camp.
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It was a fairly easy day, zipping up and down along the side of the highway, keeping cattle off the road. The odd cow would sneak out, in search of greener grass, bringing traffic to a halt while we brought her back to the mob. For the most part though, the cattle all stuck together and caused no issues. We walked and they grazed as we went. We would stop, and they would graze some more. At the end of the day, although we moved seven kilometres from out previous camp, I had clocked over fifty kilometres on the bike.

John’s cattle are very quiet. Even Bob, the bull, never stirs up trouble. Most days are spent sitting on the bike, watching the cattle eat away and making sure they stay in a certain area. From time to time we will muster the cattle together to move to a different area, but it tends to be fairly calm. We have been lucky with people in the area offering paddocks up where we can take the cattle to feed off what is left for grass. We haven’t walked the cattle far since I have been here.

While we were staying on someone’s property, our cattle chewing down their paddocks, John had me try out the motorbike. Apart from in April, when I tried one at Star of Hope, I haven’t driven one. I decided it was time I learn so that if need be, I can ride the two wheeler. I was a little nervous getting on it, as I knew I struggled with my right turns, however the direction I was going I would have to turn right fairly soon. I decided to give it a go anyway. I swung onto the seat, put up the kickstand, and got my balance. I gave the throttle a bit of a twist and let go of the clutch. The bike took off, not too fast, but not slow enough either. With a crash I ran into the back of the trailer, falling over sideways onto one of John’s work dogs. So much for that right turn. The poor dog was yelping and I fought to get the bike off the dog, she ran and hid under the trailer as soon as she was free. John came over to examine the damage done to the bike. The plastic casing was popped off in a couple spots, but I put it all back together that evening. Luckily, the dog was okay. I ran over her paw a bit, but after a couple days she was set to go again. I think I will work on my right turns a bit more before I get back on a motorbike with obstacles in the area.

While on the property the next day, I was sat watching the cattle graze. The granddaughter of the property owner came and sat with me on my bike. She’s about five years old and is a chatty little thing. She told me story after story, but the last one made me a little nervous. She began the story with “I went to a graveyard once”. If that isn’t a great start to a story by a five year old, I don’t know what it. Next she said, “There were dead people under the ground everywhere. I remember one man, his name was Thomas”, then came the best part. In a whisper she finished her tale with “He died with the rest of them”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. It was a rather shocking tale to hear from someone so young.

We are now camped out at a crop farm. The crops have all been cleared and we were invited to bring the cattle here to feed off what is left of the chickpeas and oats. The cattle are all having a good daily feed, and there is plenty of water for them. There is a little dam off one of the fields where we tried to keep the cattle out of. Unfortunately, when there is green feed, and water, the cattle go nuts for it. One cow would sneak down to the waters edge, and as you turned to shoo her away, another would come down from behind. Before you know it, all the cattle were in the dam. We ended up with thirteen cattle bogged (Australian term for stuck in mud) in one day. I ended up chest deep in water and mud, trying to pull cattle out of the dam, and send them back out to the paddock. At least I was putting my lifeguard training to use.
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We put up an electric fence around the whole dam after that. No need for more cattle to get stuck. I have touched electric fences before and you do get a slight shock, this one though, was a bit different. I was placing a bottle on the ground beside one of the fence posts an all of a sudden I was on my hands and knees on the ground. my first thought was that I had been kicked by a cow. It took me a moment to realize that I had leaned into the electric fence and the shock was so strong it had completely knocked me down. At least the cattle stay out of the dam now.

One Evening after work, Tammy, Hannah, and I returned to the station we had been on previously. We still had a few calves there, as they were too weak to join the rest. The five little calves are locked up in the cattle yards. We carried over a bag of calf pellets to put into their trough and made sure they had plenty of hay to eat. Then Tammy and I got a brilliant plan. “Let’s pet one”, we said. That was not the best of plans. We cornered the calves and cut out the four bigger ones. The smallest little one was left, he was a sandy colour, with white patches around each eye. He was a bit on the fluffy side and he walked painfully slow, always the last cow on the tail of the mob. I guess he isn’t always so slow. The little calf took off away from us and ran to the other corner of the yard where he managed to squeeze through the cable fencing and disappear into the night. Tammy and I were both completely shocked at how fast he went, at least we know he can move now. We searched and searched for the calf, but it was dark and we never found him. Confession time. We confessed to the landowners, who said they would keep an eye out and put him back in the yards if they saw him. Then we confessed to John. It was just such an innocent mistake. Two girls just wanting to pet the fluffy, little calf.

Some days on the job are quite full on, where others are very quiet. I have even gotten to take a nap in the shade when the cattle were particularly quiet one day, then on a different day, have driven my bike back and fourth after cattle so much I have run my bike completely dry of fuel, then refilled it, and run it nearly dry again.

The job does not consist of moving the cattle from place to place as I had thought it would be. I am still enjoying myself though and have gotten myself a fancy new farmer’s tan. I wear Wrangler jeans and R M Williams work shirts, and even have myself a cowboy hat. I’m pretty much Australian now.
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Australia to Canada, and Back Again

I have now been back in Australia for three weeks since my visit home. It’s much warmer than when I left, but I don’t even mind. I acclimatized much quicker than I thought I would have. My brother and cousin, who came to Australia with me this time, are having a much more difficult time dealing with the heat. Within a week of being here they had already experienced days as hot as thirty-eight degrees. It was a bit of a shock to the system, coming from the eighteen degree days we were having in Canada!
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My visit home was lovely, it was great to see everyone again- once my flights FINALLY landed. It was a bit of a hassle getting home. My flight from Brisbane was turned around after forty minutes as someone was too ill to fly. We departed Brisbane for the second time more than two hours past out planned departure.

Unfortunately, because of this delay, I missed my connecting flight from Auckland to San Francisco. Many other travellers had also missed connecting flights to different locations so it was a bit of a wild show upon arrival in Auckland. The Air New Zealand agents worked hard to find other flights and spare seats to check the different travellers into. Some people were more distraught than others. One poor girl missed her fathers funeral because on her missed connection. I was not too stressed over the situation, however I was hoping I wouldn’t have to spend a night at the Auckland Airport.

Luckily, I was placed on a flight to Los Angeles departing shortly after I received my new boarding pass. I headed down and caught my flight. Once on board, I could not complain at all that I had missed my flight so San Francisco, as I had been places in a seat by the emergency exit. I may not be very tall, but I still loved the extra leg room! I couldn’t stretch my legs enough on that flight.
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I had a couple hours to kill after arriving in L.A., so I messaged a former hostel mate from Sydney. I knew he was currently in the city, but it’s a huge city so I didn’t expect to see him. It turned out Andy was living just a short way off from the airport! he drove straight down to see me, leaving the house in such a rush he even forgot his wallet! I didn’t have long to chat before heading to catch my flight, but it certainly was great to see him again. A Canadian and an Irishman, who lives in Australia together, reunited in America. That’s the cool thing about travelling.
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After our lovely visit I rushed back through security, hoping I wouldn’t be late for my flight. It ended up being delayed, so I could have drawn out our catch-up. I guess the airlines just didn’t want to take my home just yet. I believe the weather was working with them too, to keep me away.

I finally boarded my flight to Vancouver, an hour late. It was only supposed to be a short flight, but due to a lightening storm over Vancouver, we were unable to land. We circled Vancouver for close to an hour. I continuously watched the little screen telling me my distance from home; 14kms, 9kms, 4kms, 11kms, 21kms, 17kms, 8kms, 12kms… Around and around we went.

The storm eventually cleared enough for the plane to land, but we then had to sit on the runway for another half hour or so, waiting for the ground crew to be approved to head out on the tarmac. After much delay, we pulled into the gate.

It was a relief to have finally made it to home. Too bad I still had to go through customs.

I had filled out my customs form as a Canadian citizen and taken it to the customs officer. He then bombed me with question after question about my travels and my return to the country. I was then made to change my details on the customs form to that of a visitor. Apparently Canada doesn’t want me as a citizen any more.

After having my customs form returned I then proceed to the inspection area to have the contents of my bag checked. I was bringing Kangaroo, Alligator, and Emu jerky back into Canada and it just had to be looked over. Thankfully, it was fine to bring in with me, my family all tried it. The Alligator was the best, the emu made me sad as it reminded me of my poor baby emu, Edward, that didn’t survive, and well the kangaroo, was just fun to say you were eating.
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I got the final okay and headed off down the hallway to the arrivals area where my parents were there to surprise me. It was after one in the morning and I was exhausted. I stayed at the airport a few minutes to chat with one of my good friends who had come to the airport to meet me as well. It was a nice way to come home, to people I love.

I had a good nights rest at the hotel before catching the ferry to the island. The fist thing I did in the morning was have my parents pull up at Tim Hortons, a Canadian favourite. They even had a “Welcome Home” sticker in the window (I like to believe it was meant for me). For breakfast I had a bagel B.E.L.T. on an everything bagel, a hot chocolate, and a dozen donuts.
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My fist day back was a little overwhelming. Especially driving back on the right side of the road. I went around town, visiting friends at their various jobs, surprising them. A lot had changed in the town while I had been gone, but I was more bothered by how much the same so many things were. It was hard to believe that I had left for two years, seen so many amazing things, gone on so many wild adventures, and really learned more than I had in my thirteen years of school, yet the town really was not that different. It almost felt as though I had stepped through a time warp, I had been out living life and the rest of the world had just stopped while I had been gone.

My fist day at the mall with a friend was a lot to handle. We had planned to grab lunch from the food court but there were so many people, so much noise, and so many decisions I was on the verge of a meltdown. There were more people in the food court than at largest event I had attended in the previous six months!

I spent my days visiting friends, spending time with family, and relaxing. It was a strange feeling to be able to sprawl out across the couch and not have to worry about finding a job, going to work, being the hostel couch hog, or being too comfortable in someone else’s home. It was my home, and I could relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. It was only then that I realized how full on and non-stop the past two years have been.

I didn’t relax the whole time though. I took my open water dive course, spent my twentieth birthday diving with my family, attempted paddle boarding my best friend, went mini putting with another close friend, had a large barbecue for a chance to catch up with friends, went to a Zac Brown Band concert, and of course, had the infamous Canadian birthday shot (I was in N.Z. for my nineteenth birthday, so we were making up for that).
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When my three weeks were up, it was time to catch another long flight back to Australia. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone again, but I was excited to get back to my adventures, this time, with family in tow. My cousin, Ethan, and younger brother, Jared, joined me this time.

It was a little odd catching a flight with other people. Talking to someone on the plane that wasn’t a total stranger. Guiding them through the airports and showing them how it’s done.
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We flew into Brisbane without a problem, where we caught the train into the city. Our hostel was just across the road from the train station. I had stayed at the same hostel before I had flown home, so I knew it was a great location. Sadly, Ina, a German backpacker who I had lived with in Sydney was no longer at the hostel. Luckily, I had gotten to see her the first time I had stayed there.
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The three of us Canadians spent a couple days wandering Brisbane before catching a flight to Gladstone, where we would pick up and pay for our new car. My boss at the cattle station had arranged the whole thing, as it was her brother who was selling us the vehicle. It is an old Toyota Sahara Landcruiser, a top notch four wheel drive vehicle. The car just passed a road inspection and we put a brand new registration on it. We are all happy with our purchase!
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When the final paper work was settles, and the final fixes on the wagon complete, we packed up and headed back to Clermont. It was drawing close to the Twin Hills rodeo and races weekend, and I didn’t want to miss it!

It was a great few days spent in the bush, camped up with a lot of friends. I introduced Jared and Ethan to everyone I knew then disappeared to co catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a bit. I didn’t end up watching many of the actual events as I was so busy socializing, but I still had a wonderful time! The boys, who found the whole situations a little wild, enjoyed themselves too.

The days after Twin Hills were well spent. We visited the Theresa Creek Dam where we had a picnic and went for a swim. Jared spent time at picnic table, luring a lorikeet into his hand.
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We spent a day in the Gemfields where we fossicked for sapphires. The three of us each came out with a nice little bag of gems. I had been there with Darcy in August and we had a wonderful time. When I had gone with Darcy we had taken the tour through the mine at Miner’s Heritage. It was a neat little tour, but the two boys decided not to do it, so we just sifted through dirt in search of gems.
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Before we left Darcy’s house, where we had been staying, he took us out to look for pigs. He had seen one while working earlier that day, so we just went for a look to see what we could find. It took us two tries.

Unfortunately Darcy’s ute broke down as we were heading up hill in a paddock. We tried to get the vehicle going again, but had no luck. It was just a short three kilometre walk back to pick up the other ute.

The sun was just setting when the dogs perked up. We pulled up to see if they would jump and have a look. That’s when Jared spotted a small mob of pigs in the distance. We all jumped up and went running, the dogs taking the lead. Pigs are a bit of a nuisance in the area, and hunting them is legal, so it’s a good way to get your adrenalin pumping. We all raced up over a hill, then down the other side. The dogs had caught a pig by that time and we were all stumbling down the hill to catch up to time. Darcy got there first and grabbed the pig. He knew I had been out a few times but had never stuck a pig, and it was something I wanted to have a go at. he handed me the knife and I jumped right into it. She was only a small sow, but I was still proud of my first pig.
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We all had a bit of a workout with the sprint. Our hearts were all racing and the sun had set by the time we made it back to the ute. With that, we headed home for dinner. Just another adventure for the books.

Jared, Ethan, and I, are now back out on the cattle property. My bosses offered us a few days work, painting a building that had just been redone as accommodation. We have been painting for three days now and have a day and a half left. I think I ended up with more paint on myself than the walls though. That’s what I call coordination!
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The day after tomorrow we will head back into Clermont for the night. Jared and Ethan will head north to Cairns on Sunday, and I will head south to Emerald. My trip home cost me a little more than I had hoped, so I need to work again. I found a neat job though, working as a drover.

If you have seen the movie “Australia”, you may know what I am talking about here. No, I didn’t misspell “driver”. A drover is someone who drives a herd, in this case, of cattle. Because it has been so dry this year, many farmers are struggling to keep cattle alive as there is not much for water or grass. There is a stock route where cattle can be walked along the side of the road in hopes of fresher feed.

We will be walking the cattle around 10 kilometres a day, letting them eat as they go. the plan is to start out on four wheelers, and possibly switching to horseback if the country becomes to rough. Droving has not been common in Australia for years now, but because of the lack of rain, more and more people are resorting to this. I am looking forward to this work, a new day, a new adventure!