Touring Vitu Levu

After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas, we headed back to the mainland to enjoy a luxury resort and the Feejee Experience, or the Big Green Bus.
Before our Yasawa trip, we'd booked a night to Sonisali Resort which is a rather lovely and rather posh resort – somewhat of a contrast to the places we'd been staying in. The deal was that we got a ocean side bure at less than half the usual price by booking it through the backpackers hostel we were staying at. However we'd decided to go on the Feejee Experience bus tour which only left certain days of the week – Wednesday being one of them and that of course was when we booked at Sonisali. After some faff sorting our the tickets for the Feejee Experience and a transfer the next day to meet up with the bus, we headed out to Sonisali in the rain. We were greeted with a gift of a shell necklace and a fruit juice while checking in and a golf buggy ride – well you couldn't walk in the rain could you! Our bure was beautiful with a bath and seating area, a great place to luxuriate while the weather was so damp. We decided against jumping in the pool and worked out that it was almost cheaper to have room service than to head to the restaurant, so we did. It was fabulous, definitely somewhere we'd both like to head back to one day. Unfortunately because of our transfer the next day, we couldn't have a lie in. Instead we were up at 5:45 to grab breakfast – there was a great selection of continental style breakfast but the real treat would've been the cooked breakfast that started after we left.

The driver for our transfer was actually the bus driver for the rest of our trip so at least we didn't have to worry about missing the bus, even though he turned up a little later than expected. We met the bus and the rest of the group at a resort called Mango Bay and headed up to the Namosi Highlands. Here we went on a trek which is usually 8km long, but the rain had meant the truck couldn't get us up to the start of the trail and so we had an extra 3km to walk. The trek was muddy and slippery, though the rain was refreshing to walk through. There were some steep parts and when the sun shone, it felt quite hard work. Miriam (our guide) wasn't sure if we would be able to get past one obstacle – the trail led up a shallow river which we had to walk through for about 20 minutes, and she was concerned it may have risen too much. However when we got there, it was fine – the river was of varying depths so it made it more interesting but a definite change from the mud we had been squelching through before. The trail led down to the Navua river where a longboat met us with our lunch and those who didn't want to do the walk. After lunch, we headed downstream on rubber tubes and stopped at a waterfall where we jumped into the pool. I guess this is all much more appreciated in warmer weather, I was definitely ready for a hot cup of tea after being in the water! A long boat took us back to the river and down some more interesting rapids, well they were certainly more interesting in a heavily loaded, what felt not that stable a boat! After heading towards Suva and the hostel we were staying in that night, we warmed up with showers and got ready to head out to the capital city for a meal and drinks. It was good, but after a long tiring day, David and I were certainly ready to head back earlier with the bus – we heard the girls get back at half 4…

Friday found us heading to a village where we visited the local school. It was funny to hear all the kids ask the same questions – they'd obviously been prepped well by the teachers! The digital camera was very popular with nearly every child wanting their photo taken and loving being able to see it afterwards. When we first arrived, each of us were chosen by a child to be guided around, and the little girl who chose me stuck with me the whole time, to my surprise. It made me smile when she took me to see the “really little kids” who were 4 and 5 (she was only about 7 herself) and when she asked me if I had a wife. At the end, we watched a Fijian dance performed by the boys and signed the guest book. Our next stop was at another village where we took part in the traditional Kava ceremony. There were two lads on our bus, so Tristan was our chief and David was our spokesman. This meant that while the girls only had to take part in two drinks, the boys had to keep drinking until the bowl was finished. In the meantime the girls got to take part in weaving with the local ladies, though a few of us decided to help the guys out in finishing the kava – luckily we timed it so there was only one more drink left each. Sadly we weren't able to do the Bilibili (bamboo) rafting since the river had risen too much and a little surprisingly there was no alternative activity available. This was a particular shame as we'd missed the tour around Suva because we'd been late getting back from our hike, but I guess we'd had to been at the school according to schedule, We stayed at Voli voli and took some kayaks out – the first time we've been in kayaks in Fiji! We had hoped to paddle some whitewater since there is a little over here, however the logistics weren't going to be too easy and it had been very handy to leave our kayaks at the hostel in Nadi rather than lug them around.

Voli voli has a dive centre where you can do a Introduction to Scuba dive for 75 Fijian dollars. Now Scuba diving is something I didn't think I'd ever get to do because of my diabetes – the current recommendation (I believe) is that you should have 12months of no hypos before you go diving and as anyone who has contact with the condition probably knows, this is pretty much nigh on impossible. The problem with Scuba diving for diabetics is that a hypo underwater is a problem, since you may not be able to rise back to the surface straight away to eat, and symptoms may be very different underwater. When I've researched this before, common sense is recommended, as in making sure blood sugars aren't low before dives, and eating snacks before to ensure a hypo won't happen. Scuba diving is something David has done before and wanted to do again, and is something that I really wanted to try, so we asked at the dive centre whether they would be happy to take me diving. They said they wouldn't take anyone who has been newly diagnosed, which isn't a problem for me since I was diagnosed 15 years ago! The introductory dive goes down to 12m and lasts about half an hour, and so they said they would take me. Tristan and Bianca, who were also on the Feejee experience, decided they wanted to try and so the next day we headed down to the beach. In the shallows, we practised clearing our mask if it filled up with water and replacing our regulator if it got knocked out. For some reason the clearing of the mask ability alluded me for a while but I eventually sussed it! The time came for us to head out to the reef, but because there was only one instructor, the four of us couldn't all go down together, so the other two went first. I think with hindsight, this wasn't such a good thing for me since the sea was somewhat choppy and I was feeling pretty rough as our boat rolled with the waves. However our time came to dive, my sugars had been checked and glucose eaten, and it was reassuringly non-choppy as we headed down! Scuba diving is a very strange experience at first, especially as you become very aware of your breathing and the bubbles created as you breath out. The underwater world is particularly stunning and I was struck by how the only time I'd experienced anything close to this before was at an Imax cinema! We saw lots and lots of fish, there was a school of silver fish who were swimming nearly on their sides close to the coral, plus bright colourful fish, I love seeing the big bright fish surrounded by miniature clones. We headed down to swim through coral archways, at which point I kept very close to our instructor! It was amazing, but very tiring with so much to take in. I'd love to do another dive to take in whats around me more and be more relaxed about the equipment I'm using. I don't know if I'll get the chance but it was incredible to experience something I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to.

The Feejee Experience took us to an Indo-Fijian town where we had lunch, and then to some mud and hot pools before returning to Nadi. We're staying at a place that was recommended to us but had a visitor this morning. As I was dozing, I could hear something coming from one of David's bags. He went outside to empty it and found a mouse nibbling at our bread for lunch! That, I guess, will teach us for not sealing up the bag…

We have two days here before flying to New Zealand which we're both so very excited about. Fiji's a lovely place that has grown on me, but New Zealand is somewhere I've been looking forward to heading back to since I was there five years ago. David hasn't been before so I'm looking forward to showing him some of the places that I visited and loved before. It seems so far that the people we've met who are doing their world tour that way round, all have many wonderful memories and things to say about Kiwi Land.After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas and headed back to the mainland.

Operation Hammock

Our week long tour of the some of the smaller islands in Fiji took us to picture perfect tropical islands, where we ejoyed 'Fiji time'.

I'm writing this sat on a beach on a small mountainous island connected to a neighbouring island by a sandbar only exposed at low tide. It was across this sandbar that the resort staff walked at midnight last night to the next village, where they have a TV that was showing the all important rugby world cup. We didn't see the match since we were already asleep in our woven walled, thatched roof 'Bure' (traditional house) under a mosquito net after a hard day of sitting in hammocks doing nothing.

We're on the island of Waya, our 6th day and 5th beautiful island on our tour of the Yasawa group. The Yasawas are a group of islands towards the Western edge of Fiji, they're only a small part of the 333 islands that make up Fiji, but it's here that most tourists seem to spend their time. Transport between the islands and Viti Levu (the main island with Suva, the capital, and Nadi, the airport) is aboard the Yasawa Flyer, a large yellow catamaran with a purple starfish and 'Awesome Adventures' painted on the side. Awesome Adventures run package trips and sell multi-use passes allowing you to create your own itinerary and hop at will among the islands, which is what we're doing. As the Flyer passes each island a host of smaller boats come out to meet it, pick up supplies and ferry passengers to and from the resorts. Most of the resorts are owned and run by the villages on the islands which is a great boost for the economy of villages that would probably struggle otherwise, but it does mean that the standards vary considerably between resorts. The one common theme between all the resorts we stayed at, even more than the 'Fiji time' concept and the friendly staff, has been the hammocks.

Placed in the shade of coconut palms and often suspended above a white sand beach, the large double hammocks are great – I've finished four books in the last few days as a result of sitting in one. It's been idyllic – lying there listening to the lapping waves and singing birds, rocking gently in the breeze. 'Fiji time' is a concept where you take your time about everything, where you relax rather than rush – I'm sure in a less laid-back country this would be labelled 'faff', but here it's embraced. Everything seems relaxed here, quite a contrast to the 'mainland' as Viti Levu is called, with the exception of the rugby it seems completely cut off from the rest of the world. The current political turmoil resulting form the latest in a string of military coups in Fiji is largely irrelevant outside of the capital and has apparently not affected life on the the islands very much.

Our first stop in the Yasawas was Coral View resort, where we went for a walk up the mountain, following a sunset trail. We decided not to wait and watch the sunset, since the path was steep, not very well defined and we didn't want to get lost in the jungle. The views from the top were still stunning. That evening we had a great buffet meal and were treated to a local dance by the staff, which was followed by the Haka (the Kiwi war dance) and the very similar Fijian counterpart.

I slept very lightly that night, due to the heat, but it did mean that I got to see an awesome sun rise through the dorm window that over-lookied the beach. Once the sun has fully woken itself, and us, up we had a continental breakfast and went snorkeling. The reef wasn't great and we had to share a mask, but we still saw lots of fish. After snorkeling we showered to try and wash the salt off, but since these small islands generally use well water from sources below sea level, the shower was slightly salty too. Slightly cleaner, we jumped back on the boat and then caught another small boat to Gold Coast, our next resort. We were initially booked in there for two nights, but after the staff ignored us and we didn't sleep well, we quickly changed that and headed off to Long Beach as soon as we'd visited the Blue Lagoon.

Long Beach was great and we stayed here two nights. Afternoon tea was run by a lady in the village who baked fresh cakes daily, she had some crazy kids and a equally crazy dog. The dog followed everyone, it walked with us when we walked the length of the long beach and also followed us to church. We were planning on a village visit, but the whole of Fiji has taken to Christianity very well, so everything stops on Sunday and we weren't allowed to go to the village. We were allowed to sit in on their church service (complete with four christenings). It was very similar to a normal church service at home, except it was in Fijian and we couldn't understand it. The singing was great and we were taken around the school after. Despite the fact that the Fijians used their native tongue in church and their daily life, the schooling is in English. It was also interesting to note that the school, along with lots of others, is helped by EU funding.

As we were waiting to leave Long Beach, the weather turned. When we arrived on the islands we tried to hide form the sun but now the tables had turned and the sun was hiding from us.

(Written in the morning of the 24th Sept.)

While I was writing the first part of this update, a local woman was massaging Sharon's back and we were sitting in the shade of coconut palm trees, but soon after that it started raining and continued raining on and off until nightfall, when it started raining on and on.

(Written in the evening of the 24th Sept.)

The next morning, with clear skies, we headed out on a boat ride for some reef snorkeling, this was the highlight of the Yasawas trip. One of the first things we saw after jumping in was a white tipped reef shark – these small sharks are safe to swim with an were fed by the guides. The best fish find came on a deep coral wall we swam along side, there were huge shoals of fish: zebra patterned, bright blue and yellow, large and small, all swimming along happily amongst the sharks and large coral.

We've now arrived back on the mainland and are planning the next few days travel, trying to fend of 'help' from the guys running the hostel who are all independently trying to sell us the tours that make them personally the most commission. We're spending tonight (our 4 year, 5 month anniversary) in some posh accommodation and then we're off to see the rest of the island.

(Written in the evening of the 25th Sept.)

Now in Fiji

We've now arrived in Fiji, and it's very hot. It was mid twenties (C) this morning when we landed, and that was before sunrise. This afternoon there was a storm and it rained lots, but it stayed hot. We're off island hopping for a week from tomorrow morning and the islands being small tropical ones it'll be beautiful, but we won't be able to tell you about it because they've not got phones or internet. So don't worry if you don't hear from us, we'll just be on a beach somewhere away from technology.

Leaving North America

So, this'll be our last post from North America for a while – tomorrow we hop on a flight to LA, and then wait around for 5 hours and hop on another to Nadi, in Fiji. We start our first flight at 2:20 tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon and arrive at 5:10 on Tuesday morning in Fiji (all local times). We'll loose all of Monday as we cross the date line.

We've spent the past few days in cities, Seattle first and now Vancouver. Since our last blog we've been on Concord and Air Force One, sat in the cockpit of a fighter jet, seen a Spitfire fighting a Messerschmit, seen one of the Wright brothers making the first flight and sat at space shuttle misson command. These were all in the museum of flight at the original Boeing building just outside of Seattle. We hired a car for the day, as this was the easiest and most cost effective way to get all our kit up to Vancouver airport. We missed Macy.

Before dropping the car back, we put our kayaks and rucksacks in left luggage at the airport, meaning we didn't have to carry them around town with us. I picked up a great device for transporting my boat – it's a set of wheels that designed for strapping to sea kayaks and making them easier to move. It's called a portage trolly and works great for creek boats in airports too. I think Sharon will be buying one soon.

Vancouver was cool, but we wouldn't recommend our hostel to anyone, it's in an awful area and is filled with noisy people. In a strange twist of logic, they've also taken the noisiest kitchen appliance and stuck it in the room. The fridge kept us awake lots of last night. But today was good. We just wandered around town.

As our last meal out on this continent (hemisphere?) for a few months, we headed to Granville Island and a very nice restaurant, called Dockside. overlooking the docks. It also brewed it's own beer, something lots of places seem to do here. We then caught the water taxi most of the way back.

Next update will be from Fiji, if we can get online there.

Seattle and saying goodbye to Macy

Our (brief) explorations of Seattle, lots of animals and a farewell to a faithful friend.

The plan was to head to Seattle to sell Macy and on Tuesday evening, the Ebay auction for her ended. She didn't sell for that much money but she has gone to a new home where we hope she'll be happy. It was somewhat strange to see her being driven off, and a little sad as she has been the closest we've had to a home for the last few months. It also brings home the fact that we'll be leaving North America very soon. I'm hoping that she'll be known as Macy still!

In the meantime, we've been making the most of our time in Seattle and the handy downtown location of our hotel – its the Moore Hotel and definitely recommended for being friendly and pretty good value, plus they didn't bat an eyelid when we brought in our kayaks to leave in their left luggage area.

We've wandered around the Pike Place Market, which is the oldest farmers market in the USA, and is filled with fresh produce, fragrant flowers, colourful arts and crafts, and fish. Close by is the first coffee shop opened by Starbucks, but by no means is it the only one in the city! Seattle has an interesting history in terms of its structure, and was wiped out by a fire in the late 19th century. This gave rise to a two tiered city, due to the sidewalks and shops being developed at one level by private owners, and the roads being built at another by the city. As bizarre as it sounds, it means there is an underground system that we took a tour down to see parts of which was pretty entertaining, though certainly odd to be stood under a skylight that people were walking above!

One of the best deals we found was the CityPass which gave us entrance to 5 attractions for $39 (about

National Parks in Washington

Our last few days in the beautiful National Parks of the North Cascades and the Olympic Peninsular.

On our way up to Canada, we didn't have time to visit some of the National Parks in Washington, so we headed back to the North Cascades, where we took a walk up Thunder Knob (as described in one of David's blogs), and then to the Olumpic Peninsular. We'd been recommended to take a ferry and were lucky enough to see a sealion through the mists.

The Olympic Peninsular is a particularly special National Park, since it consists of three different environments – mountain, temperate rainforest and beach. We headed up the Hurricane Ridge where we saw the sun set while we cooked our tea. A young stag wandered down the path and stopped to smell the flowers – something we should all take heed of – then carried on along seemingly without a care in the world. Our first walk took us along from Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Rock. The views were amazing across the sea, and we got to see the tide pools with lots of colourful star fish. There was lots of drift wood along the beach, and a small stream that we had to jump over to cross. The smell of the sea and the sounds of the waves crashing are always striking about the beach and with the peace and quiet of the area, there was no exception here.

We headed to the Hoh rainforest, where we took a Park Ranger led walk that was simply excellent – the ranger was so entertaining and yet we learned so much about the way the forest works and the links in the ecosystems here, I was quite in awe. This should definitely be the way people learn about the environment! It was so inspiring, we made the decision to head out to the Wilderness overnight, which we'd been toying with for a while.

The Olympic Peninsular contains more wilderness than any other national park in the lower 48 states, and so this seemed the perfect place to go enjoy that. We went to get our backcountry permits and were recommended a 20mile route that sounded incredible, which climbed quite a height, but where there was a high chance we may get to see our elusive bear.

Our start the next day was a little delayed due to Macy needing fuel and the road atlas being a little vague, but we eventually got off on our walk through the forest. The gradient soon increased and the path got rougher, however this was easy compared to what was coming! Along the way we saw snakes basking in the sunshine, crossed over a river and then headed up a tougher incline. As the day pressed on, exhaustion threatened to take over – this was the toughest walk I've done before! We nearly stopped at the campsite before the one we'd planned, but pressed on to Heart Lake and were rewarded with some simply stunning views. Heart Lake is named because that is exactly what th elake looks like. After dinner and cleaning teeth, we made sure all the smelly things we had with us were placed in dry bags which we then attached to the bear wires to ensure we didn't have any unwelcome visitors during the night! Education to the treatment of bears is a key issue over here – trying to make sure the bears don't get used to humans and food being related, helps prevent bears causing problems in their search for their food and having to be shot – a fed bear is a dead bear, as they say over here. However as we headed back to the tent, we saw Roosevelt Elk running across the hill.

It was incredibly windy overnight, and our delaminating Thermarests didn't help ensure a good night's sleep, but it was all good in the end. With porridge for breakfast, we broke camp and set out on to what was another climb leading to a ridge with awesome views, but not before seeing a chipmunk at the campsite. Some of the highlights included the view of Olympus Moutain, which seemd to sprong up on us, and clearly showed two of the glaciers. The ridge led to a surprisingly tough peak (we were at around 5000ft now) which we had our lunch nearby. The walk continued downwards from here, with many beautiful alpine flowers and views to take your breath away. I kept my eyes open in the hope to see a bear but we figured they must have headed down to the rivers to feed on the returning salmon, before hibernation. Then at one point, I smelled an animally scent (or so I thought) and was turning to mention this to David, when I realised the big black thing sat on the path a little way ahead was our elusive bear. He obviously heard us as he stopped picking the berries and ran off. We later heard a woman from Seattle describe the Washington bears as “polite” which did seem to be pretty accurate!

The walk took us past lakes and more stunning scenery, and was still tough as we headed down – we met several people who were doing the walk in one day – one couple certainly put us to shame with their age and fitness! However we also met others who were doing it over 4/5 days which seemed a lovely way to make the most of it.

The trek ended by a waterfall and impressive canyon, with a curious chipmunk sat on the bridge. It had been very tiring but completely amazing – if anyone is in the area, I'd definitely recommend heading out the the beautiful wilderness and appreciating the fact it has been protected. The feeling of achievement was comparable to little, it has been one of the highlights of my trip so far. Definitely something we'll be planning more of!

Photos will be up soon, for those who can't just step out there and appreciate it right now!

Last few days in Canada

The last few days we had in Canada before heading back south across the border were great and filled with lots of animal encounters of the friendly type. The first animal viewings were on Vancouver Island in Stamp Park on the Stamp river. Just upstream of the park is prime Salmon spawning ground and around this time of year (late August/Early Autumn) the Salmon run upstream and if you're patient you can see them jumping up a couple of small (to human sized things, but huge if you happen to be Salmon sized) drops. We stood for ages just watching the fish and enjoying the tranquility of the area. We had hoped to do lots of walking on Vancouver Island, but with the exception of the couple of days we were in Victoria and when we were watching the Salmon, it rained. Summer truly has ended.

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Leaving Vancouver Island behind us, we headed back on to the mainland, met up with Sarah in Squamish again and had the luxury of cooking inside on a proper stove. The next morning we headed into Downtown Vancouver for the first of two days in the city. Day one was to be spent at the Pacific National Expo – we were expecting a county fair type thing with lots of animals, but got a whole lot more. The expo site is huge and right next door to a theme park/static fun fair. After paying for parking and for entry we didn't fancy paying for the rides, so we headed to the free stuff first in an attempt to see how long it could occupy us for. We weren't disappointed by the range of free activities and spent all day wandering around and seeing shows.

Our first port of call after entering the Expo was the Barn with loads of farm animals. The honey bee hive they had caught our attention followed quickly by the rabbits and then everything else became eclipsed by the baby chicks. The chick enclosure had two sections, one containing little chicks and their food/water and the other contained eggs. Some of the egg shells were empty and lying next to them were even littler chicks, still with wet feathers from having just hatched them selves. Lots of other eggs had small holes in them where the chicks were trying to enter the world, we saw one cracking it's shell, but we didn't see one emerge from an egg, despite the amount of times we returned to watch. These were the cutest animals they had, but they also had pretty cute piglets (playing piggy in the middle when they snuggled up to sleep), ducklings and goats. (Sharon says: the piglets were cuter than the chicks and the dexter calf was pretty cool too) They had a Mooternity area where we learnt how to milk a cow and saw a calf only a few hours old.

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We thought the funniest thing of the day would be the pig racing and it was very funny watching ducks and then pigs race around a small track trying to beat their piggy friends to the donut at the end of the course, but the most laughs came during the Superdog show. I've watched dog shows on TV before and never expected this one to be so much fun, it's hard to explain on the blog, but watching dogs play musical chairs and seeing a St. Bernard race a lap dog around an obstacle course was hilarious. We saw some horse show jumping, racing and parading which was more serious, a high diving pantomime and the best sand castle competition I've ever seen and ever expect to see. We also saw a Wheels of Steel show with young kids doing silly tricks on motorbikes high in the air and not so young kids doing equally silly tricks on ski's and snowboards on a jump ramp. The pyrotechnic finale was a pretty cheesy country rock show involving several artic. trucks, pickup trucks, lots of lights, fire and loud music. I think we spent over 12 hours there and still didn't do everything.

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Despite a busy and tiring day, we were still up early the next day and waiting at the front of the line for the Vancouver Aquarium to open. We'd preordered our tickets and booked ourselves on a Sea Otter training tour at around lunchtime. The first thing we did was go and check out the sea otters – they really are as cute as they seem in photos and video. The aquarium has this great video on their website, shot by a visitor a few years ago:


After seeing them, and promising to return, we headed inside and saw all their local coastal tanks – there's a huge variety of ecosystems right off the BC coast line – more than I would have expected. We then saw the jelly fish and learnt how one jelly baby clones itself to make lots of jelly babies. Heading back out side we saw some Beluga whales – they're pure white and come from the Arctic. Brrrr. They did lots of tricks and splashed people (but not us). The Vancouver Aquarium seems to be the leader in whale noise research (belugas and orcas, but they didn't have any orcas on display) and have recently discovered that whales have different sounds and they use this to recognise family members and that they are attracted to whales with the most different sounding voices, to prevent inbreeding. The dolphins were able to perform better tricks than the whales and threw somersaults and stood up and looked as though they were walking on the water.

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Then it was finally time for our exciting sea otter training tour, where we learnt loads about sea otters and even got to feed one. The eat loads (about 1/4 of their body weight – the same as me eating 150 hamburgers) and need to because they live in freezing cold water. Their fur is amazing and works like a dry suit – it's so thick that they can blow into it and trap a layer of air in it that helps insulate them. They're one of the few species that have so profound effects on their habitat that they're called a keystone species, when man was silly and hunted them almost to extinction the kelp forests (which are like underwater rain forests) they lived in died because the sea urchins came and ate the kelp. Now the sea otter population is on the rise, they're eating lots of sea urchins and the kelp forests are recovering and lots of other fish populations are returning too. They're some of the most playful animals we've ever seen and are really clever too – in order to break the hard shells on some of their food they swim on their back and place a rock on it and then grab their favourite rock (from a special pocket in their armpit) and squash the shell between the two rocks and eat the yummy food inside.

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After the sea otters we watched the dolphins some more, and the belugas more, saw the seals and sea lions and walked around the tropical fish section (they have huge fish in the Amazon and gold splattered piranhas) and then returned to watch the sea otters some more before heading out of Vancouver and saying good bye (for now) to Canada.

At the border we had a bit of a nerve racking moment when the US official didn't believe that we weren't working. Extended stay visas come in two types, tourist and business – had we been working we'd have violated our visa terms, the border control guy thought it highly unlikely that we would actually be on holiday for 6 months (which is the maximum length of time we're allowed in the US) without working and assumed that we'd got a job illegally. It didn't help when he found out I was a web developer and could work anywhere with a laptop and that we were actually on a 12 month work free trip. Fortunately just when we thought we were going to have to get our plane tickets out and prove that we weren't intending on out staying our welcome, he tried to explain the situation to his supervisor. Luckily his supervisor couldn't see his point either and let us through with no problems.

Since then we've had a couple of relaxed days in the North Cascades taking a few hikes and being horrified by the scale of the hydro project that they've got (three large dams, drowning large amounts of the valley under artificial lakes just so Seattle can light itself up at night), and also at how early hydro electricity was being used (first one came online in the early 1920's.)

As our stay here is nearing an end we've put Macy for sale on Ebay . Fingers crossed, she'll find some lovely new owners who'll continue to take her on exciting adventures.