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Back to main page Me on my boat, the Whimsey

Photo by Barry Pomeroy
The Cook Islands and Fiji
Life on the Water
How to get to Bangkok
Going Back to Bangkok
Changed: Thailand 2019
South America by RV
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Logbooks and Journals

My original foray into journaling was tentative and tardy. I have no excuse for not keeping a journal in my early life, for pen and paper were easily accessible, and although my writing skills were minimal and I was busy with tasks of hand, I could have made an effort. Likewise, when I first went to university I had many experiences which would be a pleasure and a pain to recall, although having them committed to paper would arouse some interest, at least on my behalf.

Thirty years have passed since I went to the Cook Islands and Fiji, and although the original record of my voyage has long been lost, when I sifted through my memories of that most seminal time in my life, the entire trip was still there waiting for me. My first time overseas, teaching, and living with a family, I found that what I'd been taught about people from other countries was vague and largely untrue. Instead, the tapestry of the Islanders' way of life was much more complex, subtle, and even when I left I discovered aspects of their culture that surprised me.

I lived in the Cook Islands for four months, landing in Rarotonga where I found a placement in the northern Cooks, and then teaching high school on Manihiki. I travelled to the north by ship, by way of Aitutaki, Palmerston and Suwarrow, and visited the neighbouring island of Rakahanga while I lived in the northern Cooks. Traditional Maori culture still peeked out from under its colonial blanketing, and everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome. When my placement was done I flew to Fiji where I met other travellers, learned something of Fijian history and culture, and dreamed of floating a bamboo raft down the Sigatoka River.

Life on the Water: Logbooks and Journals

Life on the Water is meant to collect the accounts I've kept of living in the South Pacific, in 1991, and the voyages I made with the Whimsey, a wooden sailboat I built in 2003 so I could sail around the Strait of Georgia. I kept an account of tide and points of sail, as well as what it was like to sail when I knew so little about living in that way. I sailed off Vancouver for three summers and these logbooks find a place here.

Likewise, in the summer of 2004, I canoed down the St John River in New Brunswick and kept a record of what it was like on the river and who I met along the trip.

Come learn along with me as I discovered, by times slowly and always with delight, what a life on the water entailed.

How to Get to Bangkok: A South East Asian Travelogue 2005 - 2006

How to Get to Bangkok details the more than six months I spent in South East Asia. I traveled with several people, met dozens of locals in different countries and under different circumstances, and observed both fantastical behaviour and solemn rituals, indiscriminate malice and profound kindness.

I kept a record of that journey and now that it has receded into the near past and I can be honest about the challenges, the embarrassing revelations, and the troubling conclusions, I've revitalized it here. My friend and I went to Thailand and traveled into the north and floated down the river in Laos on a boat loaded with tourists, went over the mountains to the capital, Vientiane, and then by train to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Once my friend left, I went south through the contested regions of Thailand on the Malay border, and then into Malaysia and to Sumatra in Indonesia by boat across the Malacca Strait. I returned along the same route only to meander into the north of Thailand at the height of dry season. There I traveled by motorcycle through the backcountry, crossed the border into Myanmar or Burma a few times, and went south to join friends who wanted me to show them the Thailand I'd found on my trek.

Going Back to Bangkok: A Return to South East Asia - 2011

Going Back to Bangkok tells the story of traveling with my girlfriend in South East Asia. In many ways it follows from the more than six months I spent in South East Asia five years earlier which I detail in How to Get to Bangkok. She and I traveled up and down the country of Thailand and into Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and went as far afield as Malaysia.

Like my earlier trip, I kept a record of that journey which in part details changes since I'd been there before, and also how much more I learned about the countries, myself, and what it was like to travel with someone else.

This journal begins with leaving Winnipeg for western Canada where we caught a belated flight to Bangkok, and then outlines the train north into the mountains and across the border into Laos where we floated down the Mekong River. From there we bus across the hinterland to a new border crossing, north for a jaunt into the mountains by motorcycle, and into Burma, and then south to Cambodia to explore Angkor Wat. From there we re-enter Thailand, travel south to cross into Burma and then Malaysia where we explore Penang and Georgetown before we made our reluctant way back to Bangkok and a flight home.

My latest trip to South East Asia differed from other trips in that I was older, my traveling companion was younger, and Thailand had changed. I didn't plan to return to the country, but my friend had taken a teaching practicum in Bangkok, and we both thought we would enjoy exploring the north of the country before her term began. We laid our plans a few months in advance, but like most trips, it didn't turn out exactly as we had planned. We learned to manage each other's foibles and annoyances, negotiated how people viewed our relationship, and saw a Thailand transformed both by an explosion in Chinese tourism as well as our position in the country as we traveled.

We went from Bangkok to Lopburi, the monkey city, almost immediately upon arrival, and then, trying to escape the humidity of the near rainy season, we went to Phitsanulok, Old Sukothai, and Chiang Mai. We floundered around in the stifling heat, and I belatedly realized I had never visited Thailand in midsummer.

Finally, we caught the train back to Bangkok, where we embraced the rainy season. I lived downtown and my friend began to settle into teaching and although at first we had the impression we wouldn't be meeting again, despite being in the same city, we met up quite often. We met to see what each other's experience was like in the city which would be her home for eight months, and the city where I visited my professor friend, helped another friend whose daughter was fighting her mental illness, and in other ways waited on a flight to take me back to Canada.

South America by RV: Chile, Peru, and Argentina

My latest trip to South America resulted from a collision between my schedule and the timing of my friend Silvio's latest project. I flew to Santiago, Chile to travel in the RV he has spent two years building on the frame of a Mercedes truck.

Perhaps because we didn't have a firm destination in mind, we ended up waiting for a ghost in an abandoned saltpeter town in the Atacama Desert, visiting hospitable strangers in their homes on the Chilean coast, crossing into the high altitude ranges of Peru to Machu Picchu where we helped the Argentinian government search for a missing Argentine national, and finally daring the snow-choked Paso de Jama into gaucho country in Northern Argentina. We crashed country fairs, clambered through the ruins with tourists high on selfies, salvaged goods from a truck that had gone over a bridge, and negotiated for prices with village people.

On the entire trip we were conscious that the motorhome was never far away, with its shower and bathroom, water tanks and refrigerator, and cooking stove and furnace. This is not so much about the hardships of traveling as it is a report from the hidden corners of countries that are only accessible when you travel by RV.

South America by RV: Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina

My latest trip to South America was meant to be much more than just a return to the continent. Silvio had readied his RV for the three-country excursion, and more importantly, planned particularly enticing meetings with alligators and presidents.

After arriving in Buenos Aires we almost immediately crossed to Uruguay where we spent an hour with José "Pepe" Mujica and enjoyed the beach. Then we drove north into Brazil where Silvio had promised tropical swamps and alligators. After hundreds of kilometres crossing rich farmland and marveling at the country's infrastructure, we came to the pantanal region. The vast swamps of the pantanal were rich with life, and although the tourist trade had slowed to a trickle, we spent our time watching for the sudden animal through the trees and listening for the prehistoric calls of birds.

Between an abortive attempt to cross the Bolivian border and an equally effective attempt at Paraguay, we photographed butterflies and coatis in the world famous Iguazú Falls area, talked to locals and learned about police corruption and cross-border smuggling. Back in northern Argentina we went against the advice of nearly everyone, and set out to explore the poverty-stricken and forgotten provinces of Formosa and Chaco before we turned south to Cordova and Sante Fe. There we spent long days in the mountains before seeing the cousins on our way back to Buenos Aires.

Travelling by motorhome meant that we were more versatile than most tourists. We could pull over at remote vistas and extend a conversation that otherwise a set schedule might cut short. We didn't require anything other than the truck's shower and bathroom, water tanks and refrigerator, and cooking stove and furnace. This is not so much a story about the hardships of traveling as it is a report from the hidden corners of countries that are only accessible when you travel by RV.

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