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    Carrying my bags I left the hostel at around 9pm, and headed back towards Union Station to take The Canadian all the way to Vancouver. Originally, I had planned stops in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Jasper, but really, I was out of time and decided that I would have to head all the way to Van in 3 days. I boarded the train and took the best window seat I could find, trying to consider what I would see out of the train. As we travelled through the night, I ventured around the train and hung out in the viewing room before eventually falling asleep in my chair. Awaking the next morning, I wandered around the train and eventually jumped out at Winnipeg for a quick wander. Originally I would have had the best part of a morning there, though, the train was delayed and I had an hour, even less, to take a quick look. Soon we were off again, stopping along the way over the next few days in Saskatoon, Edmonton and eventually Jasper. During this time, I thought about Christmas and decided to ask my family in Texas if I could visit. With a resounding yes, I soon booked a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth for two days after I reached Vancouver. For the rest of the trip, I interchanged my time in my seat listening to music and also in the viewing room chatting to a variety of travellers and people heading to see their families for Christmas, and spending late evenings in the quiet listening to the rattling train tracks writing some of his blog and contemplating my plans for Vancouver, and how far I had come since I left Brisbane months before.

    I bundled out of the train in Vancouver after 3 days of being on the road. I had travelled over 5000 Kilometers in 3 weeks and had made it to where I planned to settle. I walked out of Pacific Central Station and headed to the Skytrain, and wandered down for the first time, a street I would walk (and still do) many, many times - Granville Street. Overwhelmed by the neon signs and the homeless, and a longing for the fun times I had had in the east of Canada, I checked into the Hostelling International hostel on Granville Street. I checked out the Capilano Suspension Bridge to see the Christmas lights, which was a quite spectacular, and some of the bars along Granville Street. Soon it was time to head back across the continent, to Dallas-Fort Worth.

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    Arriving from Kingston, I hopped off at Union Station in downtown Toronto and crunched my way through the icy snow and headed towards the Hostelling International hostel. I dropped my bags and went for a wander around downtown, checking out the main square and a getting a general feel for the city. Taking it easy, I bought some new headphones and had fun kicking around in the freshly falling snow. Deciding I needed to buy a new camera to replace my existing Canon camera, a Canon G1x, I headed to a camera store and saw a bunch of guys promoting Fuji products. Curious, I looked at a few cameras and ended up buying a fixed lens Fuji x20. I ended up heading out later for own mini pub crawl around downtown.

    The next morning I woke early, and with my new Fuji x20, I headed down to Niagara Falls by train. What a great way to break in a new camera. The heavy snowfall from the previous day proved to decorate the falls and the area around Niagara. I walked down the main strip and headed to the falls, and then wandered back to the lookout over the falls. I couldn't resist walking through a haunted house, well, sprint through!

     

    I headed back to Toronto, and bumped into a friend I had made in Ottawa, Mitch, from Winnipeg. We decided to hang out the next day and wander around Toronto, including Chinatown, checked out some graffiti art and the CN Tower for a lookout over Toronto. A day or two later, I caught up with Andrew, whom I previously met in New York and Halifax, before another wander around Toronto before my 3 day, 10pm train out of Toronto to Vancouver.

     

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    I disembarked from the train in Ottawa after a short train ride from Montreal. I gathered my bags and began the wander downtown to the hostel I was to be staying at for the next night, the Hostelling International, which was formally a jail! Quite an interesting experience. After walking the wrong direction, I found the hostel on a very chilly night, probably a mild -10 or so, as i crunched through the now frozen snow. Dropping my bags for my (initial) two nights, I asked the hostel staff for food recommendations and a good walking track around town for the day tomorrow.

    On a recommendation of tacos that I absolutely had to try and a great bar, I headed out from the hostel and down Elgin Street towards El Camino. Busy and packed, I managed to find a seat on my own at the bar and tried a fish, chicken and beef taco. They were all amazing, with the beef taco being hands down my favourite beef taco I have ever had.

    Afterwards, I wandered down to Union, which used to be an old Speak-easy. I had a ridiculous desert and a good chat with someone at the bar about my travel experiences so far. Full and getting tired, I decided to take a look at Parliament at night time. A beautifully structured building lit up majestically in the night. Getting late, I decided it best to get back to the hostel and to crash out for the night, for an early start looking at museums across the river from downtown. One thing was for sure though, I had already started to like Ottawa a lot, and it definitely has some amazing food!

    The following morning I arose early and rugged up, and headed for a loop from the hostel, through Gatineau to the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature. After a full day I wandered back over the bridge downtown to find somewhere for dinner. Later than night I partook in a ghost tour of the hostel and had a late night adventure downtown at the Elgin Street Diner. The following night I decided to move into an actual jail cell for then night, quite an experience - the bed took up the entire cell with just enough room for my bags, I was even able to lock myself up in the cell for the night! I caught up with Tim, my friend Chris' brother from Brisbane and talked Canada an Australia for a good few hours downtown.


    The next day I decided to head to Kingston on my way to Toronto to catch up with a friend.

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    December 2013

    I arrived on a chilly winters morning into Quebec City at 5am after a restless night on the train from Moncton. I grabbed a taxi and headed to the Hi Hostel in Quebec City hoping to crash on a couch there until a 3pm to check in. Testing out one of my French phrases I had learnt in Moncton, parlez-vous anglais ("Do you speak English?"). Receiving a "oui" back and a smile, I was able to crash in my bed for the morning, excellent. Sleeping until about 10 or 11, I decided to have a shower and take a look around the city. Upon looking under my bed, I noticed a friend I had made in Halifax, Jacob (previously he was above my bed in Halifax). Catching up, I headed out to wander the inner city of Quebec City. About -7 was the temperature, and with enough layers on, I found it surprisingly tolerable for a Queenslander, and dare I say, enjoyable. I trudged the snow and wandered aimlessly through streets and the old town. With Christmas so close, the lower Old Town was covered in Christmas decorations. A beautiful city, stunningly French and at times I had to tell myself I was in Canada and not in France!

    I returned back in the afternoon to be invited out for a few drinks before heading out on a pub crawl later in that evening. The next day I wandered Quebec City more and ended up getting an early night's sleep before a 2 hour train ride to Montreal.

    Bundling out into the train station, I caught up with another traveller who was living in Kingston who I'd met in Quebec City and then wandered down to the hostel to meet Jacob and settle in for the night. Wandering around Rue St Catherine we ended up at a hostel bar not to far away, and decided to stay there the following night. I even extended my stay for a another night to catch MGMT for only $40.

    The next few days I visited Parc du Mont-Royal, found some great coffee in a coffee shop called Melbourne, went to the Olympic Park Tower and the Old Port.

    With Jacob heading north to learn to snowboard, I left the hostel and after another wander through Montreal, I boarded another 2 hour train to Ontario with my first stop the nations capital, Ottawa.

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    December 2013

    Flying back into Halifax early on the 1st December I sat at the airport in St John's planning my train adventure across from Halifax to Vancouver. Circling trains and routes and timeframes, I soon realised I really needed a good plan to link across trains to Vancouver.

    Landing in Halifax, I caught the local bus into town and immediately went directly to the train station. Canadians being friendly as always, helped me decide on the first half of the journey to Toronto. With the train leaving at 12, I bundled on and headed to my first stop that evening, Moncton in New Brunswick. Rolling into town, I wandered around to find a hostel and was able to check in for the night, and then catch an early bus to Prince Edward Island for the evening. Arriving in Charlottetown, I grabbed a taxi and asked for the cheapest place in town, the taxi driver called another and asked around (the hostel was closed for the winter) and I soon had a hotel for the night. Hitting the footpath and walking the town, I soon found a really great bar, The Gahan and then wandered around the town itself. There is a distinctly English feel to Charlottetown, and it is the place where the idea of a nation was formed, and an agreement signed, quite historical.

    The next morning I caught the bus back to Moncton for a connecting overnight train to Quebec City.

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    November 2013

    Returning to Halifax, I was asked a number of questions by the border patrol asking why I went to New York so suddenly. My simple reply was that, I just decided to go on the day. Still, my bags were searched and my phone swabbed and I passed through border security.

    I was again greeted with fantastic Nova Scotian hospitality - a local from Dartmouth offered to split a cab with me to downtown Halifax and even paid for most of the entire trip, a $60 cab fare was suddenly only $20. With a note and a key, I was checked into the hostel for the 2nd time. I promptly fell asleep to awake the next day (a Thursday morning) to work out when the train leaves west and to meet a friend I made in New York. Thinking I might catch the Friday 12.15 train west, I decided to wait till the Sunday. Recovering Friday I wandered across the road to a pub called Henry House where I would inevitably visit numerous times over the next few weeks. Here I met another local who kindly showed me several pubs and bars in the city. Soon another late night was over.

    Waking up Saturday afternoon sometime and deciding that another night was a good decision, I decided to delay my train trip to the Tuesday, nearly a week after arriving in Halifax. Wandering, I met another local in bar and was asked to join her friend for more drinks elsewhere. Leaving that bar, I walked past a group of people and was soon spending time with some Newfoundlanders (Newfies). Again, another great night with local hospitality.

    Waking up late on the Sunday morning, most likely the afternoon and missing the train, I couldn't help but feel excited about heading out again. Sitting in a coffee shop, I met some more Halidonians who invited me out to the Lower Deck. Soon, I was meeting more people and providing advice on my hometown of Brisbane. Later that night, well, morning, I was offered a couch and I then walked home to the hostel in the morning.

    Feeling at home and comfortable in Halifax, I started to think that this is place to spend my Birthday on Friday. Booking more nights, I had a stroke of luck and was able to find a ticket to see the Doctor Who 50th special in Halifax, the day after my birthday. Perfect. The next few days, I caught up on films and even looked at work and living opportunities in Halifax. I also visited Point Pleasant Park. On Friday, I headed out of Halifax to Peggy's Cove via a quick tour of Halifax. We went to the historic Titanic site and bumped into an English actor who has extensively studied the Titantic disaster. He was able to even tell us information on the unknown graves just by the grave stone numbers, and even who he thought they might be. Incredible.

    Later that night, I went to Henry House for my birthday dinner with Chris who I previously met in Iceland, and some of his other friends.

    Being whimsical and listening to fellow travellers, I hatched the idea to head to the Rock, Newfoundland as I didn't expect to return to the east coast anytime soon. Delaying my train trip for the second or third time, I booked a flight to St John's departing Halifax on the Tuesday morning and departing St John's the following Sunday morning, where I would finally catch a train or trains west to Vancouver.

    Arriving in St John's, I knew I had made a great decision to visit this part of Canada. Covered in snow and all sorts of wild colours, I descended into the capital and was amazed by the snowy covered cliffs of 'The Rock'. I landed and caught a taxi to the hostel. I immediately went out to walk the streets of St John's and to find the famous George Street. Meeting some fellow hostel staff, I was soon invited to a birthday party for the Thursday night for another traveller, Mark.

    I walked the Cabot Head trail to Signal Hill which was open for a more days, I was able to hike to Signal Hill and down to Qidi Vidi. 

    Tumbling out of the trail, and slightly lost, and looking for the brewery to try the famous Iceberg beer, a local by the name of John, asked if I needed lift. I said sure, hearing previously of the good nature of Newfies, I was soon offered a drive out to Cape Spear, the most easterly point of Canada. Soon we were walking along the point and chatting like we had known each other for years.

     

    After a few more days of wandering St John's, and seeing a fantastic exhibition on the Titanic, it was soon time to catch that flight back to Halifax.

    Waiting at the airport in St John's, I decided to plan my adventures across the continent. I arrived from the airport in Halifax for the 3rd time, and took a bus downtown to pay for my ticket and catch the train, with my first stop Moncton in New Brunswick.

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    USA - New York (Part 2)

    11/08/2014 3:37:00 pm

    November 2013

    Deciding to stay on longer in New York was a pretty easy decision, I had plenty of things left to see like the Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, and Liberty Island, The highline and the Chelsea Market and an NFL game.

    The following week I spent my time visiting the MNH, MET and MoMA.

    The MNH has a stunning collection of dioramas:

    The MET is a lot more contemporary which didn't appeal to me a great deal, I spent a few hours there and then headed off to MoMA. MoMa has stunning collection of art, particularly that of Vincent Van Gough's Starry Night, Andy Warhol art and several Monet's.

    Later on in the week, I visited Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It was stunning being able to visit this incredible statue.

    On the way back from Liberty and Ellis Island, I stopped by Wall Street.

    In the next few days, I wandered New York catching a few things I hadn't seen yet, two Broadway shows, Newsies and Big Fish, and of course, an NFL game in New Jersey - the New York Giants vs Oakland Raiders.

    Grand Central Railway Station:

    As my adventures in New York came to a close, I boarded my flight back to Nova Scotia to commence my Canadian adventures.

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    USA - New York (Part 1)

    08/08/2014 7:19:00 am

    November 2013

    After a stop over in Philadelphia, I arrived in New York. Unsure of public transport or shuttles, I found a flyer indicating costs of a taxi to Upper Manhattan. Relatively inexpensive, I was asked an address, I replied with, "624 Amsterdam Avenue", to which the driver said, "What is the crossroad?". Puzzled, I soon realised, from thinking about the movies and television shows (such as How i Met Your Mother) you usually refer to where two streets cross in American cities, I realised and told the taxi driver, 103rd and Amsterdam. Arriving at the hostel, I quickly dropped my bags and promptly booked a walking tour for the next day to Central Park and decided it was time to sleep. Little did I know it was the final game of the World Series that night in which Boston took out the title.

    The next morning I awoke to commence the walking tour. Our tour guide, a local New Yorker took us on the subway to downtown Manhattan. Here we walked past the hotel where John Lennon was shot and onwards to Central Park. A perfect time of the year to visit as the Autumn (Fall) season was still in full swing, and the leaves on the trees were a rich red and orange. As the tour ended, a group formed and we wandered down 5th Avenue to Times Square. Billboards and flashing signs surrounding me from all sides.

     

    I decided to return to the hostel, and have a sleep, and get ready for the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, one of the main reasons I decided to visit New York. The parade commenced from 7pm and featured an eclectic mix of floats, puppets and people in costume. Shortly after I departed to head to the Halloween Pub Crawl run by the hostel which was a fun late night in New York.

    Waking the following day, I had a feeling of being very overwhelmed of the size of the city, and what I wanted to do and see. I decided I needed to plan my day and work out how I was going to spend my time in New York. With a plan in place and places written on a map, I headed straight to the Train Station to organise a 7 day pass on the subway.

    Being aware that I needed to be ready to meet a friend for the basketball in Brooklyn (Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat), I decided that today I was going to go to the Empire State Building in lower Manhattan. Skipping the line by buying a City Pass, I went up to see the amazing views of New York in all directions. I then caught a stunning sunset from downtown Manhattan.

    I returned back to the hostel after buying a new hoodie and headed out to the Barclay's Center. My first American sporting game was amazing, such a spectacle.

    Waking up on Saturday morning, I headed back to Brooklyn on a walking tour with the hostel. On the walk, I wandered around chatting to friends I had made and found out about a New York Rangers hockey game that was on. Booking tickets once at Madison Square Gardens, I headed downtown for some late lunch to Appleby's in Times Square and finally off to meet everyone for the game. Amazing. Hockey is incredible to watch. One of the Rangers' played scored 3 goals resulting in much of the crowd throwing their hats onto the ice for a 'hat-trick'.

    The night after the game was a long night out and I decided the next day to sleep in a little. Deciding to head to the Top of the Rock for sunset I discovered it was sold out and decided to head downtown for a wander and then out with the hostel for a Sunday night pub crawl.

    On Monday morning I decided to head to the 9/11 Memorial. Very touching and very upsetting. I first saw the church close to Ground Zero where many of the firefighters and police slept, and then wandered to the memorial for my scheduled visit.

    On Monday evening, I headed to the Top of the Rock. An amazing viewpoint of New York, particularly that of the Empire State Building.

    Deciding that New York required much more, I then decided stay around for another week.

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    Canada - Halifax, Nova Scotia

    27/06/2014 12:56:00 pm

    My plane landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the end of October 2013. With no plan but to hop on a train and go from one side of the country to the other, to my intended destination of Vancouver on the west coast, I could never have imagined where I was going to go in North America or what I would I see or who I would meet. I purposely travel with no set agenda but with an idea of places I want to see. I walked off the plane onto Canadian soil and saw the national flag waving in the wind - I knew I'd finally made it Canada and I was where I had to be. I walked through customs and was greeted politely and given directions on where to obtain my visa. Arriving around 10pm was great, as there was only a few people ahead of me. I had my visa in time to see the baggage coming out to a greatly surprised Chris. I picked up my bags with the biggest smile on my face, here I was, in Canada!

    I hopped in the car with Chris and his family, and headed first to Dartmouth to drop everything off. It was awesome to see houses decked out in Halloween decorations and to see beautiful North American houses, very different to those in Brisbane. Chris took me across the bridge that separates Dartmouth and Halifax, and gave me a quick tour of Halifax. We stopped outside my hostel, exchanged numbers and I thanked him for the lift into town. I dropped off my bags at the hostel and decided I was hungry and needed to go for a walk around Halifax. I found a grocery store, an ATM for some Canadian currency and an open pizza shop. With the further realisation that it was Halloween later in the week, I thought to myself, where would be the best place to go? The idea of New York crept into my head, and I just couldn't shake it. I decided to head back to the hostel and get some sleep.

    The next morning, I woke reasonably early and decided to think about New York later on that night after I'd spent time wandering around Halifax. I left the hostel and wandered into a cemetery, where people from the Titanic where buried. Interesting, I didn't know Halifax played a part in the rescue. Next I headed towards the Citadel with a coffee on the way.

    Rich with history on World War II and the War of 1812, the Citadel acted as a crucial point to protect Halifax from incoming enemy forces. A few hours later and I wandered down the hill towards the Museum of Natural History. Being a Tuesday, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic stayed open late and was free, perfect. After a few hours at the MNH, I wandered towards the waterfront to the MMA, stopping at some maple leaves along the way.

    Cutting through the Halifax Public Gardens on the way back to the centre of town, I had a look around downtown Halifax a little more and headed to the Maritime Museum at the waterfront. Here I learned about the Titanic and the rich maritime history of this part of Canada. Spent from looking at museums all day, I decided to catch the ferry over to Dartmouth to go to a Haunted House. Lots of fun. Upon returning back to Halifax, I headed for a drink and some late dinner, and to make a decision on if I should head to New York for Halloween.

     

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    Iceland - Selfoss to Reykjavik

    22/06/2014 6:05:43 am

    Awaking from our hostel after a decent nights sleep, we departed from Selfoss after cleaning the ice off the car and headed back to the hot springs with new advice in hand as where to find the hot river in Hveragerði.

    Upon finding the carpark, we grabbed our boardshorts and towels and walked the 3kms through the snow.

    Eventually we stumbled across the boiling springs. After a long hike, it was time to jump in the water. Finding a pool of water that was warm, but not too warm was a challenge. I would walk in to my shins before running out from the heat. Deciding we needed to head down stream and feeling not very keen to change clothes again, we ran bare foot through the snow. Too cold to stay in longer than 5 seconds, we would jump in the hot water, only to find that it was too hot - we did this process of too hot, too cold, as we ran down the river for about 50 metres. Reaching a point where another stream of cold water was mixing with the warm water, we found the right spot.

    After a good soak in the hot springs and a 3km walk back to the car, we hit the road to see Geysir and Gulfoss, part of the Golden Triangle.

    Backtracking a little we headed towards Geysir first via Kerið, a beautiful crater lake.

    On the way to Geysir we stopped at another waterfall.

    As the name states, a large geyser of water explodes into the sky.

    Afterwards, with the light fading for the day, we headed towards Gulfoss. Just catching the last minutes of the daylight for the day, we saw the stunning waterfall Gulfoss, a multi-tier waterfall.

    With the light faded and darkness settling, we made the trek back to Reykjavik with the idea to try and spot the northern lights. With it being an uneventful evening, we retired to the KEX Hostel for the evening and to enjoy some of the Reykjavik nightlife.

    Waking mid-morning, we tried to find a place to rent snorkelling gear to snorkel the gap between the tectonic plates that cut through Þingvellir National Park (turns out you can only do guided tours anyway). Unable to find anything, we headed back anyway to have a look at the area anyway. It's very interesting to know that the North American and European tectonic plates merge together right through the middle of Iceland creating the ridges seen below.

    Returning the car in the late afternoon, tired still, we spent the evening exploring Reykjavik and booking a guided snorkelling tour.

    The next morning we headed for a snorkel between tectonic plates in the beautiful calm clear waters of the Þingvellir National Park. Cold, windy and few snowflakes tumbling to the ground, we put on our drysuit and headed into the water. With thermals underneath, I was toasty warm. We let the current carry us down and we stumbled back to the van for some hot chocolate, where we changed and headed back to Reykjavik to spend the afternoon in some hot baths and an evening tour for myself to see the Northern Lights. Hopping on a bus, with a good chance of seeing the light, we headed south for two hours. Waiting and waiting. Eventually, the lights started to appear faintly along the horizon, and very light green. Unfortunately, the light didn't improve. Yet, I can say I have seen the northern lights, just faintly. Heading back to the hostel, I met up with Ryan and we hit the hay for an early morning. Packing up and saying bye, I took the bus to the Blue Lagoon for a relaxing morning in the famous heated lagoon. Bumping into Chris and his family, a Canadian from Halifax whom I'd met snorkelling, he kindly offered to give me a lift from the airport into Halifax.

    I boarded the plane and headed to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada - I couldn't wait.