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Friday, December 28, 2018

How to Really Get Mugged in Mexico!

Not The Way You Think


You've seen the headlines, and you've heard the warnings. Mexico isn't safe! Don't venture outside the resort. People will trick you, skim your credit card, empty your bank account and shake you down.  It is easy to get mugged in Mexico, and some even end up dead. Stay in the resort people say - they will look after you.

We haven't experienced much of the above during our travels so far to this fantastic country. The truth is, we cannot get enough of Mexico, and we are looking for reasons to spend more and more time there. It is one of our favourite destinations. 

Mexico has only served us with pleasant surprises. We love their food, rich culture, natural beauty, and friendly people. We've discovered that the real gems are outside the resorts in popular tourist destinations of Cancun, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Porto Vallarta and others. If you go where people can only speak Spanish, you've arrived at authentic Mexico. That's where you want to be. Then the real adventure begins.

Our most recent and unpleasant experience in Los Cabos confirmed this again for us.

Leave the resort!

If you want to be tricked, have your credit card skimmed and your bank account emptied, all you have to do is accept a "Gift Certificate" from a prestigious Mexican holiday resort, and make the trip as an unsuspecting tourist. They will "take care of you".

We stepped right into this one. Instead of the horror crime stories you read in the news, we discovered that the typical Mexican holiday resort has a much more subtle and civil approach to shaking you down. Here's what happened to us at The Grand Mayan at Vidanta Los Cabos.

Our timeshare company dished out the annual "gift certificates," and we were the lucky recipients of two this year. For around US$300/week and change, plus a nominal daily resort fee, and an exchange fee, we get a week in the off-season with an available holiday resort of our choice. A good deal isn't it? Yes and no. It all adds up once your annual levies and fees come into play and your cost of funds for buying the timeshare in the first place is added in. But, that is a sad story for another time.

Shaken Down


This is how we booked two weeks at The Grand Mayan at Vidanta Los Cabos in early December of this year. We couldn't wait for the welcome break and landed on a sunny winters day after a reasonably pleasant flight with Westjet in San Jose del Cabo.

While we checked in at the resort, we made the disturbing discovery that what is usually a nominal daily resort fee (generally around $15/day) turned into US$60/day per person expense (US$120/day for my wife and I, which translated roughly into CAD$165/day or CAD$1,155 for a week). Luckily we've sent the other Cowboy home to South Africa for Christmas and left the kids at home, or this would really have turned into an even more expensive holiday since the fee is a per-person fee.

However, all is not lost we were assured by the reception that it is not as bad as it sounds. We have the opportunity to get 75% of our resort fee "back" if we spend the money at the resort's spa, restaurant and shops. Oh yes, and then there is the small matter of going to a complimentary breakfast and a short presentation as well. It will not take more than 2 hours of our valuable vacation time we were assured. Yeah, right! We know about these things.

Heck, the prospect of getting back some of the exorbitant resort fee, which we are now paying in a fast sinking CAD$ made me jump at the chance to attend a short presentation and get some of my money back. After five years of dodging the despised breakfast and presentations in these resorts, I was finally outwitted into one. I was a sitting duck.

As you know, the presentation was not just for two hours. It was an almost three-hour highly unpleasant battering to shake us down for a "Vidanta Holiday Club" membership. During this time the price came down from USD$120,000 to below USD$10,000 for a week, and an on-the-spot nominal deposit of USD$900 for something I still cannot comprehend and don't care to understand. We were not in the market for it. We made it clear every step of the way.

What I do know was that when the fourth and final "handler" couldn't get me to agree to the purchase, she finally threw our "client assessment forms" at us across the table while telling us to take our documents to reception and check out. I was ready for war, and my wife had a micro melt-down. She oscillated between disgust for the way in which we were treated, scolded me for losing my temper, and fearing that our holiday just came to an end. All that remained was for someone to escort us off the premises.

No one came. Instead, we dutifully handed over the extorted loot of a resort fee every day on Tacos and breakfasts at the resort's overly priced restaurants. We paid five times the going rate. Drinks at the pool bar made our eyes water when we saw the bill. Let's just say the price of a couple of beers can buy you a case at the local grocery store. You can purchase a small coconut plantation for the fee of a single pina colada.

We changed our flights. We shoved the second week up Vidanta's arse to return prematurely to a snowy Canada, while vowing never to set foot at their facilities again. More importantly, to never fall again for this cleverly disguised and very civil scheme of extortion and skimming. It cannot be good for business and definitely not for the people of Mexico!

From this day onwards we will only spend our Pesos with a local property owner, buy our tacos and beer like locals and invest in Mexico - the real Mexico. Viva la Mexico and Vidanta be damned!

Hendrik
Taco Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos


Local Beer

Local Taqueria

"Traditional" Resort

Dead Cow

Bliss!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Two Cowboys are Getting Lost in the Boundary Country of British Columbia

Boundary Where?


When you tell someone that you are from the Boundary Country, they have no idea where it is. Where? The Boundary Country is in British Columbia. It is the strip of country nestled between the Okanagan and Kootenay Valleys that is hugging the US Border to the South of Canada.

It is understandable that people don't know much about the area. It dates from a different era. American miners poured across the border in 1859 during the Rock Creek Gold Rush. In subsequent years they were followed by the discovery and industrialization of the area's abundant mineral resources. 


DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS FEATURED?


Copper provided the industrial base for development in the region, with many large mines and smelters, and associated mining camps and communities. At one time these settlements were large enough that there were two provincial electoral seats in the area - Greenwood and Grand Forks. At one time, Greenwood was even in contention for the Capital of the Province.

The communities of Boundary had three major railways connecting them to the rest of the world. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail and the Columbia and Western Rail Trail now form part of The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail). Another trail, the Dewdney Trail ventures east from Christina Lake.

Several towns from this era have since disappeared or vanished beyond recognition. Among them are Eholt, Deadwood, Cascade Falls and Phoenix. Many more are following in their footsteps. When you drive through, it seems the rest of Canada forgot about the Boundary. Names like Phoenix, Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Westbridge and Bridesville means nothing to folks that are not from there. If you mention Big White, Grand Forks and Christina Lake, there may be a flickering of recognition.

Observations


Why bother with the Boundary Country?

We are not giving you a fluffy destination tourism pitch of nice weather, clean air, and great tasting water. It has all of that by the bucket load, coupled with a good dollop of history and natural variety. On the tourism front, it has the potential to outcompete with many destinations in Western Canada, even its closest cousin - Kelowna (yes, we know we are pushing it - hear us out).

Here is another angle. We think it is a place caught in a twilight zone between the end of industrialization and the potentialities of the neo-digital revolution. It combines affordable living and lifestyle, with digital reach and old-school faculty. Heck, the second busiest highway in BC runs through it, and it borders agricultural breadbaskets to the West, East and the South!

It is bound to be discovered by digital road warriors and the feck-this-9-5-life, time-to-become-an-artisan folk. It is similar to places like Revelstoke and Canmore. Only, it is still affordable. It offers the potential of natural living to highly educated people that are looking to break out of mad-rush city careers and cutthroat mortgages in favour of artesian lifestyles and meaningful lives.

Boundary Country offers plenty more space, affordability, quality living, good infrastructure, and all the possibilities to make a living working online, blowing glass, weaving, building furniture, spinning pots, brewing beer, blacksmithing, raising goats, roasting coffee, chocolateering, planting stuff, or running a butcher shop or deli on the side.

It offers a digital future with 18th-century charm - without breaking the bank.

You can still buy a plot of land for under $50,000, and build a nice little house for less than $250,000 in one of the many typical small towns. They all have the requisite infrastructure, lack restrictive and overbearing zoning, and are within striking distance by road and air to the leading centres in BC, Washington, Idaho, Montana and the world.

It is a transport corridor and a tourism destination without bounds, that offers nature trails, history, lakes, mountains, skiing, hiking, biking, boating, swimming, etcetera. It has the best weather and water in Canada - milder winters and balmy summers.

The only thing the Boundary Country needs is to be discovered by people looking for a better way of living. We think it has the potential. That is why we are here, and why we are telling the world about it. Prepare to hear a lot more about it from the Two Cowboys. Get in touch if you, like us, want to visit or relocate to this newfound affordable little paradise. Come and build something new here where it is still possible, where people once thrived, we can do it again.

Together with those that are already here, we look forward to welcoming you.

Merry Christmas. See you in 2019!

Hendrik
Boundary Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Photos


Passing Through

The View

Town Hall Greenwood

Golden Mornings 
Living Wood


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

When Travel Gets Real: Getting Lucky DownUnder in a Typical Kiwi Camper

Lucky VanLife in New Zealand


The Kiwi Camper holiday dream is out of reach for most people on a budget. Once the flights, rental, fuel, insurance and camping fees are added, you are better off to rent a little clunker and stay in motels. It is not ideal. At least you will be able to say you were there.

New Zealand is probably one of the most popular destinations to explore by camper. The weather is good (mostly), the roads are safe (mostly), camping spots are everywhere and many of them free or at a nominal fee. How does the term "freedom camping" sound? New Zealand may not have invented the concept, but they are working on perfecting it. You freedom camp and they actually encourage you to do it (mostly).


Lucky 1



Lucky 2


Lucky 3


Final lucky

DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS FEATURED?


Unfortunately, parking a camper by the ocean or on the beach comes at a price. It is in high demand with the retired older folk and affluent German tourists. A few large operators dominate the market. And as it goes with a service in demand, it usually comes at a higher price.

The alternative, for younger people, is to buy a cheap Van, fit it out with the necessary amenities when you arrive, and build more into it as you explore the country over several months. You are looking at the cost of around $5,000 to $10,000 for a reasonably conditioned Japanese imported passenger or trade van. The rest is for inexpensive planks to build a bed and some shelving, cooking gear, portapotty, mattress and bedding and water tanks. Budget around $2,000 for that. Give it a good mechanical service when you set out. Insurance is cheap from the AA. A warrant of fitness (WOF) will last you the duration of your trip. The good thing is, when you are done you will be able to sell it to the next eager student explorer at the same or even better price.

There is another choice if you want to dip your toe into the water of budget camping travel NZ-style. You can get Lucky. Seriously, Lucky Rentals arrived in NZ. If you are on a budget and want to give Vanlife DownUnder a try, you can get into a Lucky Van (or camper) and see what the great land of the Long White Could have to offer for a short 2-3 week explorative journey. It won't break the bank, thanks to Lucky. If you go longer, then it is better to buy a van.

The name Lucky Rentals rings more accurate than we thought. Look at their nice website. Make a reservation, and you cannot believe your luck to get such a sweet little camper for less than the hire of a small passenger car. The pictures conjure visions of adventure, comfort, utility and confidence. In their own words, "This 4 sleeper boasts a cooker, a fridge and a kitchen. That’s pretty much everything you’d ever need from a camper. Trust us, this thing is the goods."

Lucky Rentals squeeze the last of the life left out of end-of-life Ozzie Lucy rental campers, for what appears to be a song if you are willing to put up with all the "luckiness" that comes with it. Don't get me wrong. We think it is an excellent concept, if only they can pull it off (a little better). It operates in a market sector where there is a big demand. However, you need to know what you are getting into when you rent a Lucky.

Observations


In our three weeks during November we rented three vans from Lucky Rentals and ended up with four. Our experience started with friendly staff at 08:00 in Christchurch on a typically miserable rainy Canterbury morning.

Our reservation was for 08:00. At 09:10 we were informed that the unit we were to get had some electrical troubles. They were looking into it. Two hours later, and terribly late for our appointment in Dunedin, we finally were on the road with our 566,000 km, 20-year old Lucky Roadie that looks like it's seen the Outback! The condition of the vehicle is a shock. But hey, it is an adventure, isn't it?

Credit where it is due. Everything worked, sort off, except for the air conditioner, and we couldn't get above 80km/hour. Truth be told. We didn't want a higher speed given the risk. We were surprised by the damage security hold of $2,500, which we thought a little excessive considering that the vehicle was probably not even wort that. Less is available if you are prepared to bump the insurance to almost the daily rental fee, which doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, we persevered and after a few days actually fell in love with our Van. Yes, it was slow, noisy, dirty, damaged and full of character. It worked. Thankfully!

Our next Lucky rental was in Auckland. Same routine. Booked for 10:00. Got it passed 12:00. By now, we were into Island time and knew what to expect. This one needed tyres apparently, which they only discovered when we arrived. It also needed more diesel tax. This was also quickly arranged while the hours ticked by. Finally, on the road, we discovered that the unit overheats in the hills of the Coromandel and there is funny hissing sound from the right rear tyre.

Seemed the new tire also acquired a brand new nail as we left the Lucky parking lot. It caused a slow puncture. We made it to Whangamata to get the tire fixed (our cost) and found that there were almost no oil or coolant in the engine. Topped her up. The overheating continued. Spent the weekend and took her back the next Monday to Lucky in Auckland.

Let's just say we had to remind Lucky of their customer service obligations under the consumer protection act of New Zealand. We managed to get a replacement "upgraded" Rover unit with a portapotty for the remainder of our journey. A few days later we also picked up a Rookie with a leaking sunroof and bald tyres. (The other Cowboy refused to continue bunking in the same Van - that's a story for another time.) By now, I think you get the Lucky picture.

We were Lucky to get a van from Lucky that is in a reasonable working condition, for the money we paid. Are they safe on the road? Hell no! After all our good luck we asked ourselves if it is worth the risk and trouble to get a Lucky van again. We think not.

Stay longer in New Zealand, buy an older model passenger or trade van. Fit it out during the first few days. Hit the road and sell it when you leave. At least then you know it is your own good luck that makes your adventures possible in New Zealand, and you can only blame yourself. Enjoy the ride!

P.S. Should you do VanLife in New Zealand. Hell, Yeah!! We cannot get enough of it. So, if there is an entrepreneur out there in Kiwiland that can make the business case work and provides a decent vehicle at a fair price. Let us know. We will jump at the opportunity.

Hendrik
VanLife Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos

Camper

Getting Lucky!

Waiting for Lucky 
More Waiting for Lucky



Really Lucky

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Foam In Our Seats Please Air New Zealand - It is a Travel Safety Issue for the Two Cowboys

Hard Landings


Sitting on planks for fourteen hours straight should be classified as cruel and unreasonable torture and be illegal. If it is not felonious, it is immoral.

Air New Zealand squanders thousands of dollars on pc-perfect hard-to-follow and frankly, ludicrous rap safety videos, while they fail to recognize a growing disgrunt amongst their most loyal long-distance economy-class customer hoard. 

We want foam in our seats, please!

People like me, who are trapped in Air New Zealand’s reigning monopoly on long-distance direct routes from places like Vancouver to Auckland are fed up with our seats. Air New Zealand appears to be distracted (as usual) by the sizzle of flight and is completely oblivious to a simple crucial detail required for reasonable fourteen-hour travel bearability - the padding in a seat.

In their case there is none!

Observations


It is gone. Taken by the arse-grinding of the masses that frequent the aeroplanes every day. Fuel is restocked, food loaded and staff refreshed. What about the seat cushions? When do we get those serviced and replaced?

We are budget travellers like normal people. Like normal people, we have a simple expectation to depart and arrive relatively intact from point A to point B. That is our first priority. This means that before the beef bourguignon is served with croutons and freshly ground (at the hanger back in Welli.) pepper, and the latest Villa Maria chablis is broken out, we expect the simple good fortune of at least having a reasonably adequate seat.

Note, I didn't say comfortable, large, spacious, plush or feature loaded. I simply used the word "adequate seat". After hour three we've crossed the line of all comfort anyway with the Asia-standard seat dimensions that are prevailing on their long-haul flights.

I mentioned seat and not bench or stool, which usually comes with a wooden platform for your behind. Fourteen hours of endurance on the plank should be something relegated to the torture chambers of the Middle Ages. Guess what! It's back!

A seat, one would reasonably expect, has some level of padding that helps you endure fourteen hours of wedged cramped vibration and shaking. Did I mention fourteen hours of agony?

Come on Air New Zealand. Fly and seat, then food and drink. We are not asking for much. You can do it. Our horse hardened foundations will be eternally grateful.

Hendrik
Flying Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. Air New Zealand need not call.

Torture Tube!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

May the Wors be With You in the Land of the Long White Cloud, South African Shop, Auckland, NZ

Wors Immigration Proliferation


Warning: "A Boerewors is like no other wors (sausage). Once you've had one, all others fail your expectations." The best Smokie, Bratwurst or Vienna doesn't come close to this South African Boere delicacy.

New Zealanders (Kiwis) are quite liberal and progressive in their outlook. They've generously accommodated immigrants, cultures, dispositions and wors preferences from all walks of life, and corners of the globe.




DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


They tolerated one group in particular - the South Afrikaners. Despite a fierce and violent (rugby) history between them, this group has been singled out above others to the degree that some may consider it unjustified favouritism. We believe it is for one, and only one reason. It is because of the wors. South Africans came to New Zealand with their Boerewors, and the New Zealand wors palate expanded, never to be the same ever again.

This is where it gets tricky. With its famed history of apartheid and segregation, wors families have taken great care to keep their particular version of wors pure, perfect and dare we say it, segregated. Even today, years after liberation, recipes remain fiercely guarded and kept confidential within families. You have to be part of the inner circle of Afrikanerdom. Even then, you may still end up with inferior wors.

The Boere avoided cultural and culinary contamination to claim wors flavour supremacy. The implication is that while you can get many attempts at the great wors, not all are born equal. Some are, dare we say it, better than others'.

Observations


We have our favourites because we don't have time to make our own (yeah, right). When we are in New Zealand, we get our Boerewors from Oom Kallie at the South African Shop in Howick. Until we find something better, Oom Kallie will be assured of our undivided loyalty and devotion. We forgave him for inbreeding sosatie. As long as he keeps our wors separate and fresh, we will be back for more wors supremacy, every time we are in Auckland New Zealand.

Long may the good wors live in the land of the white (cloud) and may the wors be with you.

Hendrik
Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos

Boerewors!

Springbok

Friday, November 23, 2018

Outperforming Craft Brewers with New Zealand's Best Concentrated Wort - Black Rock Brewing

Beer Liberation, Rebooted


You can see New Zealand's phenomenal standard of home-brewed beer side-by-side with some of the best craft brews on offer at the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. Frankly, it is hard to know the difference. Thanks to Black Rock Brewing's concentrated wort ingredients a lot of people are discovering that they can now brew their own beer.

We had to know more about these homebrewers, and a food festival half-way around the world was as good an excuse as any for the Two Cowboys to make the trip.



DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


If you've been following our travels, you will know that we are on a mission to free our beer from the mystery of brewing, excessive regulation, and over taxation. In Canada, the Federal Government even sneaked in an automatic annual tax escalation for beer. We are feeling violently prohibited all over again as we get de-ja-vu flashbacks of the 1920's prohibition movement that swept the continent. In some instances in Canada, eighty cents on the dollar of beer goes for compliance, excise, tariffs, distribution and taxation.

We love beer, and we've realized that short of adopting or investing in our own craft brewery (which implies that you become a de facto public servant and tax farmer), the best way for us to have a freshly brewed beer at a reasonable price, is to take charge and do our own brew.

We are no weird scientists and don't have the time to tinker with the complex chemistry of sugars and yeasts. That is why we've been on a mission during the last two years, to find out how we can make the best beer in the simplest possible way.

Before long we, like everyone venturing into the art of brewing, we were lured by equipment manufacturers claiming their device is the next fool-proof solution to revolutionize the making of our own fresh beer. Not so fast. There is more to the story.

The real discovery is that brewing beer is no different than frying a sausage or making a good cup of tea. It takes a little longer, but there is a simple method behind it all. As with your sausage sizzle or a cup of tea, the equipment makes it easier. However, if you start with a bad raw sausage or a no-good flat and old tea, no amount of gear and gadgetry will save you from an undesired result. It is all about the ingredients.

Start With Good Ingredients


Here comes the old value chain conversation. If you want to bake a cake, where do you start in the value chain? Do you start by planting your own wheat? Maybe, you buy grain and start by milling it. Most people start by buying a good quality flour from a reputable supplier and build their prize-winning creation from there with added ingredients and a fool-proof process, combined with some talent. The same goes for any consumable item that requires a substantial amount of value to be added before the end product can be created. The value chain should be your friend or you will take a long time to make it, coupled with all the risks along the way.

Beer is no different. You can grow your own barley, malt it, mill it, sparge, mash, boil and ferment it, or you can start with a quality wort (in the middle of the value chain) that guarantees a reliable outcome. You can work your beer magic from that point onwards by flavouring it, fermenting it, and serving.

Commercial breweries are no longer farmers and maltsters. They too are now entering higher up in the value chain. Instead, for their foundation ingredient, they rely on the maltsters to provide them with base malts. Base malts are blended (like flour) to provide a consistent foundation for every style of brew. The brewer can trust that it meets quality and consistency expectations. Specialty malts are then added for character and flavour with hops (also sourced) and the required type of yeast (also sourced) for fermentation.

The homebrewer can purchase base malts, hops and yeasts like his professional counterpart and he will still have to contend with the small variations of how the malt sugars will behave through the brewing process. The alternative is to leave it to the wort manufacturer and trust that the base wort meets expectations. This is only one more value-added step in the process entrusted to someone else.

There are people like Black Rock Brewing that are manufacturing base worts for brewing at home or commercially. The homebrewer, and increasingly the craft brewers are sourcing wort and adding value to it as a base ingredient through specialty malts, hops, fermentation techniques and maturation.

The beer value chain is fragmenting with the explosion of craft brewing. It opened up an opportunity for wort manufacturing, and we as beer lovers and budding brewers are better off as a result. We can now source the best wort and make our own fresh beer fairly simply with basic equipment like a fermenting bucket and recycled glass bottles.

It the Beer Any Good?


We've seen time and again that when anyone, homebrewer, microbrewer, craft brewer, and even large-scale commercial brewers start with a solid foundation for their beer, like a well-manufactured base ingredient of wort, one cannot tell the difference between a beer fermented in a bucket and one done in a commercial brewery.

Professional brewers and craft brewers don't like us telling you this. If you don't believe us, then you should save some money and make the trip to New Zealand with us. We will show you. Kiwis know how to do it Downunder, and we are lucky to break the news and be able to show you what we've discovered.

Enjoy our feature from the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. Thank you for Black Rock that made it possible for us to be there and to brew our own fresh (New Zealand) beer - even in Canada!

Hendrik
Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos

The Range

The Creations

The Crew

Fermentation

Filming


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

When Travel Gets Real: The Two Cowboys - New Zealand Beer and Culinary Experience 2018

Parking the Elusion


Here are some big numbers to keep in mind: Travel & Tourism constitutes ten percent of the world's GDP. The GDP contribution of travel touched $8 trillion in 2015 and is set to be rising to almost $12 trillion a decade from now. It is also one of the most fragmented, complex and misrepresented industries in the world!

Yet, for a small country like New Zealand, international visitors deliver $40 million in foreign exchange to the economy each day of the year. This is one in five export Dollars earned by the country. Domestic tourism contributes another $59 million in economic activity every day. Tourism generated a direct contribution to GDP of $14.7 billion, or 5.9% of GDP in 2017. Why is New Zealand so prosperous in their tourism campaign?


DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


We have our views about why New Zealand is punching above its weight in this sector. Firstly, the New Zealand landscape is unique. It has an incredibly diverse natural beauty from the North Island to the South. You don't have to go far to be in awe with the shades of greens, blacks, blues and whites that are dished up to your camera lens, all hours of the day and night. It is a nature photographer's paradise.

New Zealand has a rich and diverse cultural landscape too. It blends Pacific, European and Asian into a beautiful tapestry of people and community. It is probably one of the only places where you wash down a lamb dim sum donburi with limoncello, and have a creampuff with your kumara madras.

Speaking of food, it is an absolute culinary paradise. Everything grows and thrives in the fertile New Zealand climate. Agriculture has been the backbone of the economy since the country's inception. It was only in 2013 that Tourism took over from dairy as the dominating export of the nation. New Zealand attracts great culinary talent with all this beautiful produce, that is locally grown and innovatively cultivated. There is no shortage of food celebrations, shows and festivals which, together with sports, make the country an event magnet.

Getting Real Marketing Done Deep Downunder


Here is the real reason why we love New Zealand: Small businesses thrive! Competition is healthy, and people are innovative when they bring products and services to market. The tourism product is good, and it keeps growing. They know to celebrate their successes and tell their stories. Marketing is a crucial foundation for everyone involved in New Zealand's tourism businesses.

Our Canadian Provinces are missing this crucial point. It doesn't matter how many Dollars you throw at the not-for-profit staff-bloated destination supposed marketing organizations, if the product is not solidly good, even they cannot put lipstick on a pig. There must be an incentive for tourism and travel operators to market themselves. Like so many other matters, leaving a government in charge of this crucial business task is courting disaster.

Canada has a lot of natural splendour, but its entrepreneurs have lost their motivation. What should be a help to develop the tourism product of Canada has become like so many things in the country, just another destination marketing gravy train for tenure incentivized bureaucrats. What remains to be marketed then is... natural splendour. If only we - the Two Cowboys - can get a more significant chance to highlight Canada's tourism product and related businesses, then we may just be able to light the flame again of entrepreneurship and blow it stronger for Canada, our other home country.

In the meantime, while we sit out the cold winter months, we cannot get enough of exploring this great little country of New Zealand. We can call it our village because we also carry a Kiwi Passport. We are and remain committed to its success!

Enjoy our travels deep Downunder and we hope you can make the journey with us in person, one day. See you back in Canada again, soon.

Hendrik
Kiwi Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Episodes



Episode 2: Flying from Kelowna, BC to Auckland, NZ


Episode 3: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival


Episode Next: Cooking in the Coromandel


Getting Lucky with Lucky Rentals


The Best Cafe in Dunedin


Wanaka, New Zealand



Lucky 2

Hosed for a Handpulled Beer


Lekker Man!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Two Cowboys: Clean and Healthy Cowboys with Chem Free Cleaning and Essential Oils in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada

Staying Clean On the Road


We travel a lot. We do it in our motorhome or campervans. We often "Boondock", or as it is known Downunder, "Freedom Camp".

We like to save on camping fees so that we have more money for beer, cooking, bbq, fresh produce, and great adventures. This comes with a few challenges. For example, staying clean on the road and keeping clean cooking utensils requires innovation. We don't want a man down with the runs during the journey. Things need to be sanitary.

Life on the road is a little different because, while we boondock, we don't always have ready access to water for washing dishes, knives and cutting boards. We have water. Just not a lot. We have to invent and use alternative ways to keep our cooking materials clean and sanitary and save on our precious water.




DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


Antibacterial soap may be the go-to for anyone doing dishes at home where water is plentiful. Every good cook should follow the standard operating procedure of soap, scrub, rinse and sanitize. It keeps things clean and safe to use around the home and during food preparation.

We've discovered that there is another way to do it when access to water is limited. People have been using vinegar as a cleaning solution for a long, long time. More and more people are also returning to it for a greener and safer cleaning option.

Through our trials and research, we've found that vinegar worked really well for certain things. For example, de-greasing, cleaning mould and mildew, cleaning and descaling a coffee maker, as a replacement for rinse aid in the dishwasher (not that we have dishwashers when we are on the road). It also sanitizes while it cleans. We've turned to our own self-made vinegar concoction to keep our gear clean and sanitized. The more we used it the more it made sense to have one go-to spray bottle that is cheap and easy to use.

There is a little problem with using vinegar, though. Everything smells like vinegar!! Lemon juice may be an alternative, but we'd rather keep that for seasoning our pork and chicken.

Charlotte Lomenda from Chem Free Cleaning made a call to us and offered us an alternative. She's done a fair amount of cleaning in her life and have experimented with combining vinegar and essential oils for an even better way to clean and sanitize. She launched her business in Okotoks and offers ready to use, alternative cleaning products that work, are safe, and that smells a lot better than we can make.

It is in fact only one product. It is the right formulation of Vinegar, but with different flavours (scents) of essential oils. She took the guesswork out of our own mixology and she made it smell nice. It is made with the antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning properties essential oils provide. It is also food-grade safe! What does that mean? It means that it is so safe that it can be used to sanitize around food, in restaurant kitchens and dining areas, as well as in your own home. She even tested it for accidental human consumption. So did we!

Observations


We trust the ingredients that Charlotte uses in her Chem Free Cleaning products.

We've trusted it even before we met her. The nice part now is that she's made it a little easier for us to have something we can use to clean with, on the road, and at home. She's taken the guesswork out of the formulation and she made it smell nicer.

Our cooking expeditions are now cleaner, we stay healthier and some have remarked that we smell better ;-) Give it a try and while doing it you know you are supporting a local entrepreneur that truly cares about her products and her customers. We are proud to know Charlotte.

Hendrik van Wyk 
Fresh Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos

Chem Free

Cooking Cowboy

Two Cooking Cowboys

Safe Mellon Cleaning

Life on the Road


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Gold Mine at Deadwood Junction and Tarnish Turkey Cappuccino in Greenwood, BC, Canada

An Ounce of Gold


Bruce Jepsen, the latest custodian of Deadwood Junction and Tarnished Turkey Cappuccino, acknowledges that he has a gold mine.

He makes a very valid point though, about his mine, "How much effort do you think is required to get an ounce of gold out of the mine?" In the case of Deadwood Junction, a surprising amount of effort is required to operate the small coffee shop, tourism stop, bakery, and summer BBQ joint on BC's Highway 3.


DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


Deadwood Junction is in a place most people, and some would say time itself, has long gone forgotten. Greenwood, British Columbia and the Boundary Country south of the Okanagan, on the US Border may be the last holdout where small businesses can still stand a chance to mine an ounce of gold.

Ask most small business owner-operators in Canada today, and many will admit that it may not be worth the effort anymore. Many have mines that are abandoned, shut down, or the miners are on strike hoping for another time where small business owners and entrepreneurs will be allowed to succeed again without hindrance from overbearing bureaucracies.

Many, like us, strive to live and work in a Utopia where rules, taxes and operating costs are not an issue. Where entrepreneurs are allowed to hang on to more than half of their profits. Where people can be employed, skills can be developed, where they can create value and can focus on making great products and delivering services that are appreciated by the people around them, their community.

If this is you, then maybe this part of Canada with its rich history, simple pleasures and great weather may have a place for your business. Life here is easier. Much slower and a dollar goes a lot further.

Be prepared to hear more about the Boundary Country in BC from the Two Cowboys.

Deadwood Junction was founded in 2009. It is located in the beautiful City of Greenwood right off Highway 3. It is a must stop and comes highly recommended by the Cowboys. Bruce and Katie Jepsen are the current owners of a business that looks like it pre-dated Canada. Knowing the fascinating history of the area, it probably does date from a couple of centuries ago.

They make great coffee. Bruce has been baking all his life and cannot wait to get out of bed at 03:00 in the morning to get your cinnamon bun hot, sweet, sticky, and ready. He and Katy also make a prize-winning Beef Chilli. That is a story for another time.

Their little store also sells antiques and local artisan work. As small businesses do, they support local small town talent where they can!

Observations


Once a baker, always a baker. Bruce claims that he was born a baker. Nothing can replace the joy he gets from seeing you appreciate his baking and his coffee (which he takes great care to do custom for every one of his favourite clients (you know if you are one ;-))

We are proud to feature Bruce's buns this time and hope to have many more stories for you from Deadwood Junction and Tarnished Turkey Cappuccino and the small communities and entrepreneurs in this fantastic part of British Columbia, Canada.

Hendrik van Wyk 
Cinnamon Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Photos


Deadwood

Two Cowboys Flatwhite

The Junction

The Team


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Two Cowboys: Getting Back to Beer Basics with Glacier Hops Ranch in Whitefish, Montana, USA

The Original

Sometimes, the way it's always been done is not necessarily the best way. Maybe, it is better to do it the way it was intended. For example, perhaps, our brewers are flavouring our beer wrong. There may be a better way. The way it used to be done, with fresh hops.

Heritage and culture are vital ingredients in identity. Communities are built around identities. Acceptable behaviours, a shared set of values, the types of food people eat, their behaviours, mannerisms, and the beverages they drink, are all part of what makes a community different from the next.



DO YOU WANT YOUR DESTINATION OR BUSINESS FEATURED?


Over the last few years, the craft brewing industry, the world over, has been challenging traditional norms in brewing and beer. Rules that may not be as traditional as many would have us think. Partly, because some of the true heritage of brewing was destroyed during the last century through market consolidation, over the top "identity" positioning, and through excessive regulation and prohibition movements.

The activity of brewing and drinking beer has gone from being in disrepute or simply being outlawed and over-regulated with a few providers of generally produced "bland" beverages, to becoming part of a cultural reawakening with a loyal community and following. The good news is that people are brewing again and drinking more craft beer. We are now benefitting from flavour experiences denied to most of us until quite recently here in Alberta. Unfortunately, not all are good. Many are getting better, which is encouraging. It can get much better.

This poses an interesting question. What was the intended flavour of beer before it all went wonky in the western world? If we should step back in time, one or two centuries, what would beer have tasted like, and if we could have tasted it, would we have like it?

As with all "old" and traditional recipes of a beverage, baking or dish preparation, the quality and state of the ingredients are essentially what determines its character. The method holds the key to success. You should not really mess with either. As far as technique goes, it can take a lifetime to perfect.

Here in lies the challenge. Can we brew beer with fresh ingredients? Yes, we can. Not many people have had the privilege to have tasted fresh beer, brewed with fresh malt and fresh hops. It is possible. We had it. It is amazing! Beer, as we know, has a limited lifespan. It is essentially liquid bread that goes stale over time, accelerated by exposure to light, oxygen. Some styles require maturation. Even in these cases, fresh ingredients make all the difference.

So, just how fresh can we get with ingredients for our beer.? We are brewing today with malt and hops that both went through preservation procedures that are of the oldest and most trusted methods in the world. Both are dried and shipped to brewers all over. In the case of hops, it fundamentally alters the characteristics of the ingredient, as we've learned from Tom Britz at Glacier Hops Farms. He's been on a mission to find another way to keep hops "pure" for the brewing process.

He's developed a non-destructive way to extract the hops parts we use for brewing through distillation. It opens up all kinds of possibilities that holds the promise of fresher and more authentic tasting beer. The question we were left with was, "does it taste better?".

The verdict: "For sure!" We are a fan, and we are so much a fan that we think it is going to change the beer world - for the next century, maybe. For next year, for sure!

Observations


Hops Oil (the way it is done by Glacier Hops Ranch under the brand name Hopzoil) is a pure essential oil made from fresh hops, steam-distilled right out of the field at harvest time. They are using a proprietary process to capture all of the fresh, intense, essential oils found only in fresh hops - the good stuff that is mostly destroyed through drying - and leaving all the biomass behind.

As we know, dry-hopping can be frustrating and expensive during the brewing process. Brewers that tried Tom's oil have learned that by using Hopzoil, they can reduce filtration losses, along with reduced labour, freight, and storage costs, and increase yield and aroma, leading to more profit out of every batch of beer brewed. This means it makes good business sense.

Does it make the beer better? Hopzoil™ provides an intense freshness that cannot be replicated with dried processed hops. The result captures the complex “fresh hop” aroma and flavour. This means that you can get a year-round freshly hopped beer taste for your beer. A taste that lasts longer than when you would have dry-hopped.

We tried it. It is a beautiful product, and in the Two Cowboys opinion, you need to buckle-up. This is going to change the (beer) world. We are glad to be part of the story.

Hendrik van Wyk 
Hops Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.



Photos

Hops Prair

Hops Cowboy!

Many Cowboys

Beer Mobile

Better Beer

Nice Beer. Yeah,  Right!