Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kinney Lake Trail, Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

At the start of October, Martin's mother, uncle and brother visited us and the Rockies. Apart from showing them some of my favourite hikes around Banff & Canmore, we were lucky enough to join them up north in Jasper for a few days. On our last day we visited the Kinney Lake Trail in Mt. Robson Provincial Park, just across the border to British Columbia. It was a totally different world to the hikes I'd been doing further south—full of lush forest, moss, large toadstools and mushrooms and maple leaves growing in wild abandon.

The Kinney Lake trail forms the start of the Berg Lake trail, one of the most iconic multi-day hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies. I look forward to returning to this next summer for my first multi-day adventure.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Celine & Carl in Canada.

Living in this transient mountain town, we are no longer strangers to saying goodbye to friends. In the short time we have been here, nearly every new friend we have made, we have also farewelled. However, having to drop my sister and brother off at the airport a month ago today opened up a well of homesickness that, up until then, I had been good at avoiding. Their departure coincided with the transition between fall and winter; the start of a slower season, of strange grey weather days, of cold and snow. I had the summer to keep busy; hours of daylight to spend outdoors. Sitting here now, as the festive season approaches and people get ready to spend time with their families, I can't help but feel glum at the thought of our first orphan's Christmas, despite the more exciting prospect of our first white Christmas, our first real tree, and perhaps making our first successful gingerbread house where the butter in the dough won't melt from the heat before we even get a chance to put it together.

Let me give you a little background to my siblings' visit. I had always known my sister was coming to see me. She forwarded me her flight details, and I began imagining all the places I'd take her and all that we'd see together. “It's a shame Carl won't get to be here too”, I'd said to my family at the time. The time came and, as planned, I flew to Vancouver to meet my sister as her flight arrived, expecting to wait for her plane to land ten minutes after mine. Checking my messages I saw she arrived early, so I called my aunt, who sent my uncle to find me. We chatted on the way to the international terminal and then I saw my aunt and my sister waving at me at a distance. I tried not to walk too fast. I hugged them, and after a pause, my sister said, “I have another present for you”. Confused, I stared at her hands and down at her suitcase. That's when my brother appeared from the pillar he was hiding behind. I had no words, really—only exclamations of disbelief and the involuntary & unexplained tears that came spilling from my eyes (and perhaps no explanation was required). Everyone had been in on the secret for months, even Martin and his family. I was complete, and happy, but already dreading the goodbye I knew was coming. “This means the goodbye will be twice as hard”, I said.

My brother, 21.

21 years ago I sat with my 3-year-old sister in the waiting room of a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. I would be late going to school if this was going to take a long time, I thought. I fell asleep. Upon waking I panicked, first checking that my sister was still with me. Not knowing how much time had passed, I thought our father had forgotten about us, abandoned us in the hospital while he and my mother had taken our new baby brother home. I proceeded to knock desperately on every door in the maternity ward looking for my parents (I was 6).

Whatever happened next is no longer clear in my memory, but I do know the next few years involved nappy-changing, being mesmerised by how small you were and how you fell asleep in my lap, learning to tell you off effectively, trying to discourage you from throwing things (the side of my forehead will never unlearn the lesson brought about from flying scissors), laughing hysterically at your wit, bewildered at how such a young boy could already be so intelligent and funny. You’ve grown up to be somehow so exceedingly talented at many random things, from ice skating backwards to learning a song on the piano merely by listening to the sound, to skipping stones and being obsessed with wanting to unicycle (unsure how this project is going).

Growing up with a sister with depression, you would sometimes come into my room on a day you somehow knew was a bad one, lie down and just talk to me even if you didn’t understand. You were only 8. It was often the memory of leaving you behind that would prevent me from doing anything incredibly stupid. Your sweet nature remains, and I am lucky you are still unafraid to kiss and hug your sisters goodnight and tell us that you love us.

Your hilarity never fails to send me into belly laughs so deep, I’m surprised I don’t have an 8 pack of abs. Whenever we are all together everything falls into place; I am three parts made whole; and that is how I know for sure, you were always meant to be the final member of our family—the missing piece to complete us. I wish I was there to celebrate all that you are and all that you will be. Happy birthday, mon frère. Until we are reunited again.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A summer & fall in the mountains.

It's going to be hard for me to put into words the depth of my love for the mountains. The unexplained affinity I have for these tall piles of ancient rock and how it is that I'm drawn to them in the first place, as a woman born in an archipelago of 7,000 islands who spent her entire life in countries surrounded by the ocean (amongst zero mountains). During this first summer in Canada I chased after them like they were going to disappear tomorrow, and so, this is what most weekends looked like.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tent Ridge, Kananaskis.

Every week in summer had me asking the same question: “which trail should I try this weekend?”. Cue messaging all my friends to see who was free to join, and behold, a plan would emerge. Tent Ridge in Kananaskis Country will forever remain one of the best hikes I've ever done. At first, you're taken through the forest before the trail opens up into a lush valley, where the green contrasts with stone and stubborn patches of remaining snow. Look up and ahead and you're surrounded by what's to come: a wall of rock that is the ridge you'll be traversing.

I love trails that have a variety of scenery, some scrambling, and just enough ascending to make you work for it, but not so much that you are simply miserable. On this hike, there are three “peaks” to ascend and descend, providing you worthy points at which you can stop to enjoy the view, admiring the valley below you before you work to make it to the next peak. It was truly rewarding, and I look forward to doing this again next season.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Annie in Canada.

Summer brought us a string of visitors from Australia; one of whom was my dear friend Annie. An incredibly talented photographer, I'd been quietly following Annie's work since she was 16, and even then she was blowing my mind. We were lucky enough to have her stop by and stay with us during her travels around the U.S. & Canada. Having just returned from my trip to the Maldives, Mauritius & Reunion, I was hungry to get back into Canadian life and make the most of the summer—so we packed in as many adventures as we could, camping for a few nights in Banff National Park with our friends, showing her some of my favourite spots and visiting places I also hadn't been before.

It's hard to believe we only met in person in May last year, but our friendship feels as if it's existed all my life. I cherish deep soul connections, meaningful conversations and the ability to be both whimsical and sincere, heartfelt and boisterous, quiet and loud; to be able to look into another just as you look into yourself and know that they too are seeing you as you are. Annie is truly a light that many of us adore, even those that have only met her briefly, and my life is all the better for knowing her. I hope this is only the start of many years of adventures together.

Photos of me by Anwyn Howarth.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Two days in Paris.

Ordinarily, I like to steer well clear of travelling in big cities. The beeping of car horns and obnoxious blaring of stereos (what do you have to prove?); stressed, tense faces on the sidewalk; shiny shopping centres set against monotonous clumps of office buildings; the smell of rubbish, cigarette smoke and goodness-knows-what-else—if you already live in a city, it makes you wonder why you left the hustle and bustle of your own life simply to contemplate your existence in a similarly drab atmosphere somewhere else.

However—there are some cities in the world I know I definitely want to see before I fall asleep forever, and Paris is one of those. Paris was one of the first cities I had been excited to go to when I was younger, and French is the language I was drawn to learn in high school (for reasons I couldn't and still cannot explain).

So, when I received my original flight itinerary from LUX* Resorts and saw that I was scheduled for a 6 hour layover in Paris (departing Mauritius on the way back to Canada), I couldn't help but ask to be put on a different flight for two days later. I then planned to meet up with my friend Ashleigh, who I hadn't seen in over a year since she moved to Amsterdam from Brisbane. I knew that I wasn't ever going to be able to see all of Paris in two days, so I concentrated simply on doing less with intention. All I wanted was to roam our neighbourhood; sit in the Champs du Mars with a small picnic of croissants or a baguette, strawberries, cheese and a small bottle of wine; visit just one art gallery, and the rest we'd leave to unfold on its own. And unfold it did. We visited a market just down our street and marvelled at old photographs; came across a beautiful and kind stranger who let me take her photograph; spontaneously decided to see the sunrise over the Canal St. Martin; stumbled into a free live music concert in the middle of the street when walking home on our last night. I left Paris tired, but content, knowing there would be plenty left to explore whenever I return.

Monday, September 25, 2017

LUX* Saint Gilles, La Réunion.

My final trip with LUX* Resorts was at LUX* Saint Gilles, Île-de-La-Reunion. Unlike Mauritius, where the official language is English but the locals also speak French and Mauritian Creole, Réunion is one of France's “overseas departments”, therefore making their official language French, with the locals also speaking Réunion Creole. It was the 3 days I spent on this little island where I was able to truly had to exercise what little French I knew/could remember from school.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Emmanuelle, Loïc + Gael: La Reunion Family

A family session by the Indian Ocean. While I was running my photography workshops in La Reunion, I met with Emmanuelle, her husband and her son. Soon this sweet family of three will become four, and they wanted to have a little session to capture them as they are now, before the next chapter.

Their love for each other wasn't hard to capture, and it made golden hour all the sweeter watching them together. Their son, naturally playful and happy, made it extra enjoyable, but even he had his moments (as we all would if we were a toddler asked to look at a camera instead of putting a seashell in our mouth—“ne pas manger le coquillage!” was a phrase frequently uttered during the hour).

Fine one minute, imminent devastation the next are simply the hallmarks of parenting. Those little not-so-glamorous, impatient, cranky family moments are, to me, just as important to capture as the loving, playful and joyous ones. For those flawed moments are natural, honest and real. It's how you get through them that makes you family.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

LUX* Le Morne, Mauritius.

After the Maldives, I travelled to Mauritius, running my workshops at Belle Mare & Le Morne. LUX* Le Morne was the last of the two resorts I visited, and was a beautiful way to end my stay in the country. In the car from the island's north-east to south-west, I was captivated by the changing landscape as we drove closer and closer to the mountains. This is what makes LUX* Le Morne unique—it's a resort that sits by the sea whilst having a mountain as its backdrop. Le Morne Brabant is a baby in comparison to the mountains of the Rockies, with its summit being 556m, but it certainly has a backstory (and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site):

The peninsula was notorious in the early 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, on 1 February 1835 a police expedition was despatched there ostensibly to inform the slaves that they had been freed. At the time the slaves had been using Le Morne summit for many years as a look-out point to spot military despatches from Port Louis being sent to re-capture them. On previous occasions when these attempts had been carried out they had been spotted by the look-outs, the warning issued to the rest of the slaves who chose to leap to their deaths from the rock, (into the area now known as 'The Valley of Bones'), rather than be recaptured back into slavery.—Le Morne Brabant, Wikipedia

The warmer weather here in comparison to the north of the island meant I felt more inclined to be outside. There was so much to do, and none of it was anything I'd be able to do in the Rockies. So I snorkelled amongst coral and tropical fish, learnt to sail (and sailed poorly, but there's a first time for everything), kayaked across crystal clear water, and most memorable of all—I swam with dolphins for the first time. I look forward to the day being waterproof is just a standard feature of DSLRs, because using a GoPro simply didn't do it justice for me.

Beyond being a collection of new experiences, there were new connections to treasure as well. Conversations on sand after snorkelling and exploring the local reef. Photographing new friends as they taste freshly caught sea urchin (but none for this vegetarian, thanks). Walking by floating bonfires and listening to live saxophone. Sitting on a beanbag on the sand while enjoying the Mauritian version of a mulled wine while a woman sings and plays acoustic guitar. Talking about our lives back home and people-watching. What better way to form new friendships than in a setting where you're experiencing something new?

As always, more imagery below.