The Edge of the World

March 2016

Back in Riyadh again…

The Edge of the World… one of the major “tourist”attractions near Riyadh… a must see for any expat in Saudi Arabia. Check out Blue Abaya’s Guide to the Edge of the World as well… http://www.blueabaya.com/2012/08/guide-to-edge-of-world.html

Not too far outside Riyadh, the Tuwaiq escarpment drops away to nothing but hazy desert for miles and miles as far as one can see. The cliffs are magnificent and terrifying… but so breathtakingly beautiful.

We rode out across the desert in strong, sturdy 4×4 vehicles… across soft sand and rocky desert… through a small flat plain with scrabbly bushes and many camels…

…Up steep hills to the top of the escarpment.

The world just seemed to drop away. It did really seem like the “Edge of the World!”

In the bright sunlight, (thank goodness for the cool breeze!),  we climbed up loose rock covered hills, and down another steep rocky hill and over to a narrow point, protruding far above the desert floor below…

Heart pounding I stepped out onto the mandatory precipice for a quick photo… hoping the unruly wind wouldn’t suddenly push against me, as I felt quite feeble and insignificant so high up there on that rocky ledge…

A friend climbed up to a small cave at the top of an even higher rock formation… and dropped his sunglasses. We watched them free fall for what seemed like hours until they disappeared from view and smashed at the bottom of the cliff…

Ummm yeah… now I’ll definitely be even more cautious around that edge!!! :/

It was absolutely worth the bit of anxiety climbing over the rocks and standing on those rock Ledges… the view was just so stunning…

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So, If you’re not living in Saudi Arabia or have never had the chance to live in Saudi Arabia… I hope you do get the chance to go and visit this beautiful country  and experience its culture and unique natural beauty for yourself someday!

Climbing Mountains

Sometime in September 2015

Hiking… seriously the most significantly challenging workout out there! Well… maybe an exaggeration. But nothing tests your heart strength and health and your endurance like a proper hike!

I’d done a couple little hikes with my little brother and my sisters… but they don’t really count as a proper hike. Get’s your heart rate up no doubt, but we were hiking Teapot hill… which is definitely uphill but there’s only one significantly steep hill that gets your heart freaking out. It’s a lovely 45minute walk/hike that gets out you outdoors in nature and in the forest though. And it’s a nice start to a weekend morning.. followed by breakfast somewhere.. like Cookie’s grill! My sisters and I did that one morning and it was great!!

After nearly 2.5 months of vacationing with not nearly as much intensely physical activity as I’d hoped… my heart and the rest of me, was a little out of shape.

I learned this when I hiked Elk Mountain with my aunt and uncle one day. For the first time in a very long time, I nearly felt like vomiting while doing physical exercise!!! I was short of breath and huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf (accept I’m not so big and bad although I sure had the huffing and puffing down pat) after only a few minutes into the hike. By the time we’d been hiking at a pretty decent pace and up a rather significant incline for about 20-30 minutes I was just praying we were nearly at the top because my vision was starting to blur and I thought my chest was going to explode my heart was beating so fast… and then the nausea started… and I seriously regretted the weeks of slothing on the couch at my moms house or my sisters house!!

Of course, this is slightly dramatized… but it was pretty miserable for a bit. Worse for that fact that my aunt and uncle were kicking my butt… and they’ve got a couple years on me… we won’t say how many cuz it doesn’t matter cuz they’re probably one of the fittest couples I know!

Anyways… as miserable as hiking can be when you’re not in particularly good shape… I know why people love it. The views. The views are absolutely worth the pain and suffering you go through to get the view. And obviously if one stays fit enough and hikes more regularly… it’s not so painful and the payoff is just incredible!!! Not just physical health like heart health, increased endurance and strength, but also better mental and emotional health because the mountains and forests are absolutely so serene and peaceful and calming… and who doesn’t love a good endorphin rush??!!!

So now lets talk about the view… actually let me just show you some pictures!

IMG_1034IMG_1030IMG_1055(Cultus lake in the background in the picture directly above… the cloest lake to my home for watersports 🙂 )

The hike to the first major lookout point took about 45minutes to an hour… it was intense but the view from that lookout was breathtaking! (literally I was breathless. hahahaha).

It was a bit of a cool and misty start that day… but it warmed up quickly when we were out of the tree cover and out in the open sunlight… it was early fall and leaves were starting to change colours…especially the berry bushes on the side of the tree whose leaves turned the most beautiful burgundy red colour! The sky was so blue with just a little haze in the distance. We could see the rivers running through the valley below and layers and mountains shielding the valley…

We decided to carry on though through a little meadow and then over the ridge-line that led to another mountain peak and lookout. That ridge-line was amazing as it was so much more open and the view was gorgeous the whole way! As much as I love the serenity of walking through the trees… it’s amazing to be out in the open with a view too!

It was such a beautiful day…. I wish I had time to repeat it… but my time at home was coming to an end and within a week or two I’d be headed back to the desert. My one major regret: not spending more time hiking while I was home! Oh well.. something to look forward to when I get back home I guess!!! And I love spending the time with my aunt and uncle… they’re amazing people and what better way to spend a day with family?!!

 

To Illustrate why I love Vancouver and Whistler…

August 2015

Obviously I’m biased, but I believe I live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Every place has it’s own beauty in it’s own way… but Vancouver and Whistler are especially gorgeous…

So, this post is just going to be a whole lot of pictures to help you visualize it all…

Quick note… this was at the beginning of August, just days after my brothers wedding when I took a cousin and my youngest brother to the city and up to Whistler to experience a little of our gorgeous home… the parts we don’t always have time to stop and appreciate!

First up… a day in Whistler, a resort town, Whistler Blackcomb being North America’s #1 Ski Resort… 2 gorgeous mountains with a beautiful village nestled between the two mountains. Walking around the village… taking a gondola up to the top of one mountain… and the Peak 2 Peak gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains… a little hike at the top when we finished the peak 2 peak experience… It was absolutely amazing up there! I love Whistler village… so much to see and do even in the summertime… lots of bars and pubs and restaurants… and plenty of shopping too. Mountain biking for the brave hearts… hiking for all the nature/fitness lovers… and the Peak 2 Peak for those of us who just want the view with minimal effort.

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…and then Summit chair to the highest point reachable by ski lift… (and it was COLD up there!!!!!)

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End beautiful day #1.

Day 2… a day in Vancouver… wandering around Gastown, Vancouver’s historic heart, to see the steamclock and do a bit of window shopping…

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we did the Fly Over Canada experience at Canada Place, (the cruise ship terminal, and an events center that looks a lot like a giant sailboat) which you should definitely do if you’re a first timer in Vancouver. It shows just a few of the highlights of Canada’s absolutely gorgeous natural and cultural beauty… Highly recommend.

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Vancouver Convention Center… building with a green roof!!

lunch in Coal Harbor by the Olympic cauldron… Vancouver was the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics and throughout the city and through Whistler also are things to remember the Olympics… our Olympic legacy.

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…and finally, a bike ride around the Stanley Park seawall in the glorious sunshine and fresh ocean air! The Stanley Park seawall was voted #1 park in the world according to TripAdvisor… even over Central Park in New York!! It is definitely my favorite thing to do when in Vancouver in the summertime… or actually almost any time of year! You can easily rent bikes in the park or at one of the many bike shops in the downtown area just before entering the park… and leisurely or speedily make your way around the 10ish km of seawall biking path.

And freedom… The boats in the harbor… bobbing gently on deep blue water… the smell of pine and berry bushes… and the salty sea air… puffy white clouds in a bright blue sky… zipping around the park on a bike… (There’s just something about being active outdoors that especially emphasizes the feeling of freedom for a girl who just spent the last year in Saudi Arabia, generally not feeling particularly restricted… until I come back to North America and really recognize how restricted I actually was!)

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And that… is the end of a couple gorgeous days on the very South West coast of Canada… in our gorgeous mountains and along the water…

Honeys, I’m Home!!

Home.

The feelings, the memories, the emotions that that word brings.

And I can finally say I’m home!

After a year of living this crazy, amazing, totally unique life in Saudi Arabia, I’m home!!! Potentially indefinitely. Although I still say I’m returning to Saudi.

Hugging my momma and little brother at the airport. Lunch on the way back. Wondering how we even begin to catch up and trying to get back to normal.

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IMG_4516The fresh, green, clean air as I walked out of the airport… smelling of the evergreen trees and ocean… and only a small amount of dust and car exhaust.

The sunshine that warms but doesn’t melt you… So that a morning cup of coffee with this view and that sun… is quite possibly one of the best experiences that let me know I’m really home again!

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My niece calling Ammiee… Where Ammiee while I tried to nap off some of the jetlag… running to me and giving me a big hug… the little darling!! She’s just so excited she’s got someone else to go play ring-around-the-rosie on the trampoline with her!!!

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Getting to see how really pregnant my sister actually is… Due in a few weeks! FaceTime definitely doesn’t show that well enough!

And family. Just being around my family again. I really don’t have words to describe it.

Pool time.

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Good drinks.

IMG_4474-0 The green.

I just can’t get over the green. And it’s even a dry year at home!!! All the trees… the grass… the blue sky… The forested mountains… It’s almost completely opposite to Saudi. Saudi is brown and grey everywhere with bits of green and blue. British Columbia is green and blue everywhere with bits of brown and grey!!

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My favourite river paths… a late afternoon jog… Bumping into old friends along the way… And other acquaintances… I forget how much of a small town Chilliwack really is!!

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A little hike with my youngest brother… just smelling the forest and discovering things I’d never ever seen before… like all the little teapots hidden on Teapot hill… so cool!

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A morning jog through my country neighbourhood… Nothing but fresh air and farm smells everywhere…

IMG_4503 Followed by a solid bike ride along the river and through the forest with baby bro…

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And I love every minute of this. Being surrounded by the people I love most in the world. I just want to spend all my time at home with them and the thought of leaving them again crushes me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it again…



Once a waterfall…

Once a waterfall… now a gorgeous desert experience…

Another hash run… again out in to the desolate desert outside of Riyadh…

Along the outskirts of Riyadh lies a long escarpment, the Tuwaiq escarpment. We went to a part of this where once a waterfall and river flowed down the escarpment and through the valley below.

Now it is just sharp, jutting rocks and flat, sandy riverbed. But it is absolutely gorgeous!!!

This hike reminds me again how incredibly breathtaking the desert is.

So dry, dusty and desolate. Remote and rugged. But quiet and peaceful. Only the sound of the wind and my footsteps crunching on the sand and gravel. Occasionally chatter and laughter from my fellow harriers. And the air is fresh and only slightly dusty…

The hash started with the typical hash traditions… welcoming new harriers to the group… gunging (aka punishing) the ones who misbehaved on the last hash and didn’t follow the rules… They got drenched with water. (Not such a bad punishment in the hot desert!!)

So we started the hash by walking along a bit of a wadi over towards the hills…

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After crossing the bit of a valley, we entered the climbing phase of the hash… some gentle hills first…

Check out the beautiful striations and markings on the rocks below… incredible!!

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And then some much more intense hill climbing!! We scrambled over rocks and ledges as we made our way up the former waterfall…

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Above… looking down the waterfall from high above…

Trecking past beautiful rock formations…

imageimageimageWe traced our way along a narrow path winding through a small valley between the escarpment and another hill.

imageimageimageimageAnd then up a narrow path that lead up over the crest of a couple hills…

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In the distance, just flat, empty desert for miles…

But behind us… steep cliffs and dangerous looking rocks!!

After hiking upwards for some time and maneuvering our way through treacherous looking hills and valleys… we walked back down into the wadi… the valley that once contained a river… and traced our way along the dry riverbed back to the start…

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It was another absolutely remarkable experience.  One of those beautiful days that make this experience of living in Saudi Arabia such a unique and special experience!

This hike was particularly fun as a friend of a friend was visiting Riyadh for the week and we were showing him a bit of Riyadh life… this being a typical Friday afternoon experience. And you can’t really show someone a full Saudi Arabian experience if you don’t get to go out and really see the beauty of the desert! I wish that I could take my family and friends from home through this beautiful desert… the bits n pieces I’ve seen… and show them how stunning it is… Inshallah one day. But for now… here’s just a lot of pictures for you all!

My desert camping experience to come next maybe?! Or soon… anyways!!!

That’s all for now…

xo