Girl’s trip to Fernie 2018

I have always wanted to ski Fernie. I know a few people who skied there last season and we had considered, at one point, settling there for our second winter season in Canada.Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia and is accessed from Banff via Radium and Cranbrook.

I had to work in the morning so at 3:30 Layla arrived at work to collect me. We loaded up the car with bags and ski gear and filled up in Banff before heading off around 4pm.

We headed up the Trans Canada and turned off onto the 93 at Castle Junction. This is another stunning drive through the mountains to BC, this one littered with the remains of wildfires that have scorched the land over the years leaving hundreds of acres of charred forests.We passed Vermillion Crossing and into Kootenay National Park and drove alongside The Kootenay river for a while before heading West towards Radium. The last kilometres before entering Radium are very impressive. Steep, rocky cliffs line both sides of the road for a few corners before you hit the town and the flat river valley.After a toilet break we turned left onto the 95 towards Invermere. We were travelling along past the Columbia river, Lake Windermere and just past Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and ski hill we crossed the valley and travelled down the side of Columbia Lake. Stopped at a lookout and got an amazing view down the valley to the frozen lake, the surrounding peaks and the flatlands beyond the lake. We turned off onto the 95a and headed to Kimberley.Kimberley is a small town situated on rolling hills below Kimberley ski resort. It must be a pretty wee town in Summer but the day we passed through it was pretty grim and we saw more Elk and Deer wandering around town than people which was a bit odd. We carried on down the Kimberley highway with the mountains to our left beyond the flatlands and the St Mary River to our right. We stopped in Cranbrook which is the largest town in the area with around 20,000 people to collect the $50 lift ticket I had bought on Kijiji. Even though we were at Tim Hortons we decided to carry on to get dinner in Fernie as it was nearing dusk.

We turned off and headed South East onto the Crowsnest highway and passed some oddly named towns such as Bull river and Jaffray. The sun was beginning to set over the mountain ranges behind us and the sky became a beautiful rainbow of yellow, orange and red as we travelled up and into the pass. The road got a lot narrower as we climbed, there were steep cliffs to out left and the river to our right.1After a narrow and windy road through the pass to Fernie, (made worse by a lorry right up our arse) we found our way to A&W for a bite to eat before heading to The Raging Elk Hostel. On check in we were happy to find out that due to our general manager knowing the hostel owners we had been upgraded to a private family room. Sweet!23We headed to the hostel bar after settling in for a few drinks and some pool. Disappointingly, the bar was really quiet and apart from a really annoying drunk Canadian guy and a couple of know-alls we beat in pool and who thought ‘Banff is so overrated’ there wasn’t anyone there worth talking to except each other.1.jpg

Day 2

Fernie isn’t as big as Sunshine or Lake Louise but to me it felt really big. The hill consists of 5 bowls all facing towards town. Cedar, Lizard, Currie, Timber and Siberia bowls. (Polar Peak was unfortunately closed due to avalanche danger).2.jpg2.jpgAfter a breakfast of pancakes for Layla and noodles for me we caught the little ski shuttle from outside the hostel for the 5 kilometre journey to the ski hill.

We began our day on the Elk Quad followed by the Boomerang Triple chair that took us over to Cedar Bowl on the far right of the mountain. We thought it would be best to follow the sun and Cedar was full of morning sunshine. We were really lucky with the weather. The day before we arrived had been a white-out and the day we left it was raining and horrible. The one day we skied was a bluebird day.12.jpgCedar Bowl was big, powdery and sunny. We took a blue run all the way down to the bottom where we took the Haul Back T-bar over the ridge back into Lizard Bowl. 4Lizard Bowl was my favourite. At the top was a huge steep face between Grizzly Peak and Polar Peak. It towers over the bowl and is quite imposing but beautiful as well. From the top of the T-bar we skied down to the Boomerang chair then to The Great Bear Express Quad which took us to the top of Lizard Bowl. 12.jpgFrom the top we took a cat track that stretched from one side of the bowl to the other. You could drop in at any time into the deep powder. We did a couple of runs in Lizard then headed down to the base for a drink at The Griz.1.jpgHad a couple of well earn’t Coronas and sat on the deck in the sun.1Next we headed up The Timber Bowl Express Quad which takes you to the top of Timber and Siberia Bowls to the Lost Boys Cafe. Decided to have our lunch up there and it was a bit pricy but the views were worth it. I had a bacon and cheese bagel and Layla had potato and bacon soup. 13Did a couple of great runs down Currie Bowl (Layla’s favourite) and took the Timber Express back up to the cafe before heading up The White Pass Quad to the top of Timber and Currie Bowls. This was the highest we were able to get with the Polar Peak chairlift closed and the views were amazing! 124.jpgSpent a bit of time posing for photos at the various signs up the top before dropping in behind the Currie Bowl sign, tearing down a steep black then down the blue run aptly named Currie Powder. 2.jpgShared a couple of Ciders while travelling up the Timber Bowl chair then did a run down Siberia Bowl. Siberia bowl had a few black runs running down the ridge but they looked hard to get to so we took the long blue all the way down. We lost each other for ages, I was way in front of Layla for a change but she eventually found me and we headed up the top for one more run. Went and got some free stickers from the ticket office before jumping on the shuttle and heading back to the hostel for a nap and a shower. We were very tired girls!

That night we opted to have dinner at a lovely restaurant called The Loaf on the main street. It was a wet and quiet weeknight so not a lot was open and it was very quiet compared to Banff on any night of the week. The restaurant was quiet but we happily chatted together about our fantastic day skiing. I had the Fettuccine Chicken Alfredo and Layla had the special Ravioli. Mine was great and very filling, Layla found a hair in hers so sent it back but enjoyed the second lot she received.1 After dinner we headed to the Pub Bar & Grill where I think the rest of the town was. The place was absolutely packed! There was a pub quiz in progress so we at down and ordered some dessert. It was quite funny trying to guess the answers to the pub quiz questions and even offering another team some answers (that turned out to be wrong! How embarrassing!) I had some chocolate moose which was pretty nice.

Day 3

The following morning we had breakfast at Big Bang Bagels which was really nice, great coffee and even better bagels. I felt like I was in a trendy Shoreditch cafe in London.12.jpgThe trip home was nice but once we got past Radium the heavens opened and it rained and snowed heavily all the way home. It was nice to see the snow covered trees once more but it was hard going for Layla driving with very low visibility. 345I couldn’t have asked for a better last ski trip away during my 2 years in Canada. The weather was perfect the day we skied and we had a lot of laughs!

 

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5 important things to know when doing a season in Banff.

Housing / Work / Discounts & Freebees / Banff Ambassador / Leaving Banff

I did a heap of research after deciding on Banff as the base for my 2 year Canadian working holiday visa.

We travelled in the States and Eastern & Western Canada for a couple of months before arriving in Banff in September ready for our first Winter season.

Come June of the following year we left Banff and drove across the country to St John’s, spent a month in the UK and drove back to Banff ready for our second Winter in September 2017.

So all in all we have spent close to 20 months living in Banff in total, I must say it feels a lot longer than that.

There isn’t a town on Earth, even my own hometown of Dunedin, or London, that I feel I know as much about. This is partly due to working on a hotel front desk and having to know and advise guests, but also because I wanted to cram as much in to these last 20 months that I possibly could.

Living in Banff isn’t easy, whether you are fresh out of collage and on your first big overseas trip or, like me, you are a bit older, have travelled and lived in multiple countries and have been on good money. It’s hard for everyone.

So for people looking to make this beautiful piece of the world their home, I offer the following advice;

1. Housing

Finding a home in Banff isn’t an easy feat, or so I’ve been told.  We only looked at about 4 houses before finding one so it was very easy for us. The second time around we got right back into the same house. Easy peesy.

But, a lot of people are forced to stay at hostels and even hotels for months on end while trying to secure a place to live.  Arriving at the right time of year definitely helps. Late May to June is good because a lot of the Winter seasonaires leave, and equally, September to late October due to the Summer workers departing. 

Most workplaces offer staff accommodation at great rates, they have to, being in a National Park, Banff has very limited housing and new buildings rarely go up, if they do it’s because something else has been torn down. Staff accommodation is great but if you are arriving as a couple and work at different places it won’t work. Most staff accom is for a single person, in either a shared bedroom or an apartment shared with a colleague.

For couples, you’ll need to go private and there are a lot of options, just not a lot of rooms.

Don’t be fooled into going to a real estate agent looking for a place, they will probably laugh in your face. Most accommodation is either owned by a local or rented by a local and sublet to travellers.

The best places to look are on the Facebook page, Bow Valley Home Finders or Kijiji which is Canada’s Craigslist or Gumtree. Also knowing the right people helps and word of mouth goes a long way.

We got our room through a couple we noticed were replying to the same adverts on Facebook as we were. We teamed up and tried to help them find a room and vice versa, in the end we ended up living with them and made lifelong friends.

2. Work

There is tonnes of work in Banff, absolutely tonnes, if you arrive at the right time.

As each season starts, help wanted signs appear in all the store and restaurant windows and this is a great way to find work. Make sure you have a lot of hard copy resumes and get walking.

I work in recruitment and tried to get a role doing that but unfortunately the well paid, non-hospitality jobs go to locals. Early on I made the mistake of applying for professional roles I could do standing on my head but they probably knew I would expect too much money or roles that only locals would get due to visa restrictions. I understand this because I know the cost of the recruitment cycle and to hire someone who will only leave to travel after a few months is not productive for any company.

So I had to go back to my roots and get something in hospitality. I didn’t want to do serving as I had done that for years and didn’t want to constantly work nights. I didn’t think it would look good on my resume either. 12 Years of corporate recruitment work to only go back to what I’d done 15 years earlier. No.

Also suffering a broken arm only a year ago I didn’t want to be lifting heavy trays all night.

But serving is actually where the big money is in Banff. Tips are huge and depending on where you work can be a lot, lot more than your wages.  I know people who worked 3-4 nights a week, did 5 hours shifts and made twice as much as I do.

It’s different here in Canada as well. The host seats you and gives you your menu then the server takes your order, the runner brings you your meal and the server gives you the bill. Back in Australia, when I worked in restaurants, I did all of that and barely made $10 a night in tips! And that is working in a fine dining restaurant! Yes, if you want to make money in Banff, work in a restaurant.Anyhoo, I ended up working at the Front Desk of a hotel in town, I love it and I get commission for ski rental, selling tours and the occasional tips. It pays the bills, enables me to ski 3-4 times a week and also save a bit of money.

My boyfriend managed to get gardening work during the few months there wasn’t snow covering the ground and labouring work during Winter and he was on great money.

Again Kijiji is a great place to look and also the Banff Resource Centre is a great help.

I know resumes, I look at them all day but I still had to tweak mine a lot for Canada. The resource centre will help you to understand how to do this and what employers are looking for.

Additional to this, most large companies such as the Fairmont, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Caribou Properties have job fairs at the beginning of each season. Go to their websites; see what’s available and pop along. Meeting you face-to-face is a great start and a lot of people get jobs this way.

3. Discounts and Freebees

As a Banff local, you get treated rather well. Yes, it’s an expensive place to live but the town knows that and looks after the dedicated people who choose to live here.

Many retail outlets and restaurants will offer you a ‘locals discount’ and you will get to know these places in time and only shop there.

Banff Food Rescue is a godsend for people who are struggling and those who want to help the community. Alanna Pettigrew, the founder, started just before we arrived and her and her team of volunteers now give out free food to over 50 people a night. They collect food from local stores that cannot be given to the food banks and give it out to anyone who lines up at her door. It’s perfectly fine and their motto is ‘keeps good Food from becoming Food Waste’, Just amazing!

Snowtips/Backtrax, a rental place in town was voted the locals favourite and give great discounts on ski & bike rental and purchases for locals.A lot of places offer discounts if you have a seasons pass for the ski hills, this is all on the Big 3 website, take advantage.

Discover Banff Tours offer a big discount to locals on their tours, 45% I believe.

The Taxi Mike website and brochure is the locals bible. Taxi Mike provides an up to date list of all food and drink offers all week, all season. Save it to your favourites and grab a brochure, you will refer to it the whole time you are here, believe me!

Nesters is a place you will frequent a lot. It’s a supermarket in town and they offer a points card that is actually very good. Each time you visit you get points which accumulate and can then be used to buy groceries. Get one as soon as you arrive in town!

If you are lucky enough to work on the front desk of a hotel, you’ll also be offered FAM tours, I’ve been skiing, snowmobiling, ice walking, snowshoeing and horse riding, all for free!

4. Banff Ambassador

I touched on this in a previous post but it’s a MUST do when you first get to Banff!

1. Go to the library, upstairs in the conference room, you don’t need to book, just turn up. Here, you’ll sit down with a bunch of other newbies for an interesting talk from the Discover Banff Tours representatives about the town, history, housing, wildlife, jobs and other fun stuff for an hour.

2.You get a discounted Discover Banff and its Wildlife 3 hour tour to some of Banff’s hotspots, learn a heap and have lots of fun.3.You then get a discount card, valid for a year with over $500 worth of discounts. This includes Canoeing at Lake Louise (worth $105), gondola tickets, hot spring tickets an heaps of other cool stuff.

They do this so you are all set to advise on tours and attractions, whatever your job may be. It’s a fantastic introduction to Banff and you’ll met some fab people along the way.

4. Leave Banff sometimes

When you arrive, you’ll think ‘I’m never leaving this place!’, well I did anyway.

But it’s important to leave once and a while. You will get into a little bubble of work, home, partying and the places you frequent with your mates and it’s easy to get into a routine. That’s what you came here to get away from though.

There are so many amazing places to visit not too far away.During the ski season do a road-trip to Fernie, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Panorama or Marmot Basin.  They are all amazing ski hills and quaint little towns with heaps to offer. You can get a discount with your Big 3 Pass or buy cheap tickets on kijiji. Have a look before you go, I never paid full price for ski tickets!

Calgary is also only 1.5 hours away and loads of big bands go there. I saw Kings of Leon, The Arkells and Frank Turner at the Saddledome. And don’t forget Hockey, you HAVE to go and see a few games, it’s so amazing!If you are a gambler, take the free shuttle to the Stoney Nakoda Casino, loose all your tips or go to the $30 Lobster & Steak buffet. Yum!

When you arrive back in Banff you are thankful, you feel like you are returning from a great mini holiday into another. Life is great. Until work starts!

Two more groups you need to join on Facebook are Banff Buy and Sell, everyone buys and sells their stuff on here! And Banff Lost and Found, Banff is the town of disappearing jackets, phones and keys. If you loose of find something, join this group!

So, that’s it. Come to Banff, have an amazing time, live your dreams and make lifelong friends.The writing below used to be written on the wall of the ladies toilets in Mels before it was painted over and I think whoever wrote it is spot on.

‘Banff Life is a good life, never forget this place’

Revelstoke 2018 – Part 1

Our annual ski trip away was a bit smaller this year and despite inviting all 9 people in the house only Kurt, Zeke, Tate, Fergus and myself were able to go.

This year we chose Revelstoke Mountain Resort which is located on Mount Mackenzie, just outside the town of Revelstoke in British Columbia. We chose to go there not only because its an amazing mountain but also because with our Big 3 passes we get a whopping 50% off lift passes!

Revelstoke impressively, has the longest vertical drop of any ski hill in North America and at 5620ft, you really notice this when skiing all the way from the very top to the base. It`s just huge! The mountain has 3 lifts, The Revelation Gondola, The Stoke chair and The Ripper chair and has 1214 hectares of skiable terrain.Our trip started on a sunny Friday around noon and after packing the car up with gear and attaching skis and boards on the roof (and after quick stops for fuel and Tim Hortons) we were off!We drove North up the Trans Canada highway and turned West just after Lake Louise township to enter British Columbia and Yoho National Park. The road between Lake Louise and Golden is beautiful but in Winter it`s constantly closing for avalanches and its quite scary in places, especially the final 10km into Golden. It begins with a flat section with Mt Ogden on your right and Pope`s Peak to your left.  As you drive into BC and past The Great Divide Lodge and over The Kicking Horse Pass the motorway swoops down into the valley quite steeply. The amazing spiral tunnels are on your left as well as the turnoffs to Takkakaw Falls, the small town of Field, Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge.

We stopped at Natural Bridge last year on our way to Panorama during the Winter. The boys all walked around the frozen river and into the cave but Fergus and I didn’t as we thought it looked a bit dodgy and I wasn`t keen to slip into ice-cold water. This year however, the river had frozen much more so Zeke, Tate and I clambered down the snowy slope and walked over the middle of the river to the cave. Inside a couple of guys were taking photos of the incredible frozen waterfall and the odd shaped rocks the current had carved out. It was just amazing to see, especially as we had last been there at the end of Summer and the water really gushes through there fast. Its hard to imaging that it gets cold enough for it to completely freeze.We carried on down the Kicking Horse River Valley, the trainline moving parallel to the road almost all the way and headed North West to the Kicking Horse Canyon. This part of the road is scary and is the part that closes for avalanches during the Winter. The Kicking Horse Canyon project says `The engineering and construction challenges in the Kicking Horse Canyon are immense. The area is subject to many rockslides, debris torrents and avalanches’ That says it all really. On the left is a `huge drop down to the river below and on the right, more frightening to me is cliffs and rocky outcrops rising metres and metres above you. These are covered in snow and loose rocks that fall all throughout the year. They are held back by huge areas of concrete barriers and metal fences. All quite foreboding as we drove down the windy road. Once out of the canyon we saw the industrial town of Golden sprawled out below and the cloud covered Kicking Horse Mountain rising above the town. From Golden we headed North towards Donald then turned West towards Glacier National Park. This part of the drive, Rodgers Pass through the Selkirk Mountains in particular, was absolutely breathtaking. The road follows the river South then turns West and flows in between Mt MacDonald and The Camels before heading South again past the Rogers Pass National Historical site. (this as well as the other short hikes were wanting to do along the road were all closed for the Winter) This stretch of road was at the base of some huge mountains that towered up into the clouds, there were multiple snow sheds along the road to prevent vehicles getting caught up in avalanches which clearly had been roaring down the mountains before we drove through as most of the snow sheds were covered in tonnes of snow, one had at least 3-4 metres of snow on the top of it. Insane! To keep the highway and railway open during the winter, the Royal Canadian Artillery uses 105 mm howitzers (cannons) to knock down the avalanches under controlled circumstances so traffic is not caught unexpectedly. It was pretty cool singing along to CCR and other old music while travelling through this beautiful area.Drove around the side of Mount Revelstoke National Park and into the town of Revelstoke. I checked us in at out accommodation, The Gateway Inn and we unpacked the car. The room consisted of 3 double beds, all along one wall facing the TV, a large bathroom, fridge, coffee making facilities and a nice big window with a mountain view. It wasn’t luxury but it was comfortable.After we relaxed for a bit and had a couple of beers in the room w headed into town for dinner. It was about 20 minutes into town on foot and I couldn’t believe the height of the snowbanks we passed. Outside every house and business were piles of snow almost taller that me. Even the build up on the lawns was nearly shoulder height in places. Revelstoke makes Banff look like it only has a dusting. I don’t know how the town copes with all the snow, it was definitely an eye-opener!Town was very quiet for a Friday night, but we soon found out where everyone was! I had been told about a place called The Village Idiot by some guys who had stayed at my hotel a few weeks ago and they said we had to go there. When we opened the front door, the place was packed! And I mean packed, the tables all full, bar seating full and more people waiting.

We popped over to a nearby Irish bar, The Last Drop for a few beers and some pool before heading back about an hour later.

Had to wait at the bar for a table but as soon as we ordered our drinks a booth in the back became free.

The Village Idiot is your typical rowdy ski bar. The walls and furniture are decorated with old skis and snowboards, there is sports memorabilia on the ceiling and walls (we aptly sat in amongst Calgary Flames stuff), big windows, brightly coloured walls and wooden tables and chairs and a happy buzz about the place.The menu is also very good with lots of quirky named yummy dishes. We started with a plate of Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls to share which were lovely and made us all more excited to see what our mains would be like. I ordered the HOW TO LOSE A CHICK IN TEN BITES GARLIC PESTO CHICKEN CLUB. This masterpiece starts with a grilled chicken breast sandwiched between two pieces of garlic ciabatta toast, with its dear friends bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and, of course, cheddar cheese. Finished with a hefty smear of our pesto garlic aioli. Wipe your chin, you’re drooling at a fancy meal! It was nice and filling after all the beer we had already consumed.

The boys all got the BRILLIANT BURGER – The chef’s love affair with burgers is complete. This homemade patty is topped with a generous chunk of back bacon, smoked corn, cheddar cheese, garlic aioli and our very own special sauce. They all raved about it, especially Tate who claimed it was one of the best burgers he has ever eaten! I’d recommend The Village Idiot to anyone, what a fun place!

Next, we moved on to The River City Pub, which had a band playing according to our waitress at The Village Idiot. It was a big, English style pub and reminded me of a Wetherspoons but with music. Double Gin & Tonics were on special, so we had a few rounds and chatted before moving to another table once the band set up and the dancefloor was cleared.  Tate started the dancing off for the night and eventually Fergus and I joined in. I was rubbish as always but the band were quite good, a mix of country and rock, very Canadian.When the band was close to finishing we headed back to the Inn in a cab. Things got a little out of hand at that stage, tiredness, drunkenness and 4 lads which resulted in a bit of a scuffle. By about 3am we were all tucked up safely in bed. Overall it was a pretty fun night of good food, pool, beers, dancing and laughs.

It’s looking like a great season so far!

It’s been a brilliant start to the ski season, rumour has it ‘it’s the best since sometime in the 50’s’ but I have also been told they say that every year.

I’ve skied 15 days so far and am well on my way to beating last year’s total of 50 days on the hill.

Sunshine Village has had a heap of powder days already this season and although it’s challenging for me to ski in powder, I have been getting a lot of practice in and am starting to enjoy floating through the champagne snow which is a foot deep in places. At least if I do fall over, it’s not painful, its just hard work to dig yourself out. I can see why snowboarders love it! Powder day at Sunshine

The weather hasn’t been great in terms of sunshine. Up until this week there has been a lot of ‘white-outs’, snowy days and visibility has been very poor. But, this week the sun came out and is staying out for the next few days. Skiing on a ‘bluebird’ day is just amazing! The snow glistens, the views are amazing, and you can see exactly where you are going. There really is nothing like it.Powder day at Sunshine=happy girls!

Lake Louise hosted the FIS World cup early in the season and the crews who got it all ready did a fantastic job. The hours of snowmaking and putting in fences took an army and the event was a tremendous success, even on the day where a fallen tree caused the power to go out in the resort, so the athletes had to be taken up to the starting gates by other means, snowplough, helicopter and snowmobile I believe.Layla, Selina and I at the World Cup

Skiing in the early part of November was different, the snow in places was quite space and my skis took a bit of a beating due to rocks that were not quite covered. I actually don’t mind this too much as it makes you a more technical skier and able to manage difficult terrain to find the best snow. One day we even came across a sign advising us to ‘take off your skis/board and walk around this corner’, sod that! I went straight over the rocks, no problem!

Now the resort has had a fair bit more snow the conditions are fantastic, I like to spend most of my time over the back bowls and on Larch where the runs are long and less busy that on the frontside.

Even though Norquay is a lot smaller I have been up twice this season and really enjoyed it. The views over Banff from Cascade chair are just stunning. Its so exhilarating seeing the mighty Mount Rundle in the distance as you climb the hill and whizz back down.

Mount Rundle seen from Mt Norquay

Spirit chair opened this week, and it was great to be able to explore the runs around there. Their runs are quite a bit steeper compared to other ski hills so more of a challenge. I look forward to exploring Norquay more and their French fries are the best in Banff so its always a nice reward after a few hard runs.Selina and I at Norquay

Watch this space for more exciting tales of powder, bluebird days and mountain fun!

Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

North Sydney – Edmundston – Ottawa

The trip across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wasn’t too interesting, we are pretty much gunning it over to Lake Superior to do some kayaking and hiking. 

I did however get a very unexpected gift in my back account a couple of days after getting back to Canada. I checked my account to see how much I didn’t have and to my surprise it had shot up quite a lot due to a ‘credit memo’. After Googling that I was none the wiser and planned to visit a branch the following day to tell them how evil they were for mistakenly putting money in my bank at a time I needed it most. Maybe they might let me keep it? Hardly. It turns out my wonderful Mother and Stepfather had given me some cash as a gift. Mum said it’s for all the Christmas and Birthday presents I haven’t received in the 17 or so years I’ve been away from NZ. I’ll take that, thank you kindly. That wil pay for the remainder of this trip, my season’s ski pass and my first month’s rent. So very handy. Love you guys xoxoIn Edmundston we stayed in the Walmart and my was it busy! There must have been 20 campers three that night. I always feel a lot safer knowing there are plenty of fellow campers in the parking lot. Met a nice lady from BC, late 50s perhaps, in the washrooms the following morning who was a 1st time Walmart camper and as a veteran I was able to give her the ‘lowdown’, I basically told her we have done it a few times and haven’t had any issues. It’s a great way to travel. The drive through Quebec was long and boring, we bypassed Quebec City but went through Montreal which made things a lot slower. Quebecwans are bad drivers, much like France and Italy (probably most of Europe) they are a bit reckless and impatient, and indicating? Hell no! Drove across long plains of wheat fields with the occasional silo or factory of some sort, a Fromagerie here and there and glimpses of the Ottawa River.In Ottawa we stayed in an Air B&B, we needed to do a load of washing and have a proper shower so we stayed with Helen in Kanata. Had dinner in a local pub, The Brew Table, I had the liquria Chicken salad, it was great! The stay was pleasant and we got breakfast in the morning. The bed wasn’t as comfortable as our car bed is though. Our Woods Mattress is the best!

Day 5 – Deer Lake to Port aux Basques

I made breakfast again and served it to Fergus in bed, again. Lucky boy! It was a cold morning but the clouds were clearing and I had been told it was going to be a nice day by the campsite lady. We entered Gros Morne National Park around 10am and it was quite a stunning drive in. The road twisted and turned up and down through heavily forested high valleys and beside dark blue lakes and small coastal townships before turning onto the West coast and heading North where it was flat until the landscape dramatically turned to high sided glacial tablelands.   

Our first stop was Western Brook Pond which is a huge fiord like formation with a lake at the base. It’s basically a fiord that doesn’t make it out to sea. The cliffs above the lake are taller that the CN tower in Toronto in parts and it’s a magnificent sight from the motorway. You walk 45 minutes from the car park through forested paths and boardwalks over boggy ponds to get to the boatlaunch and cafe beside the lake. There is a boat cruise but it was $60 each, unfortunately too expensive for us this time. We had a look around the souvineer shop and cafe and surrounding area before walking back to the car. I was a bit dissappoimted with Western Brook Pond really, when you Google the images of it you are met with people overlooking the lake from up high not photos of the boatlaunch which is on the opposite end of the fiord! I assumed this would be the place we would see but that is a 8 hour long hike from another part of the park. Gutted!Carried on up the coast to Shallow Bay which my Lonely Planet described as ‘seems out of place as if transported from the Carribean’, but annoyingly both the roads leading to the bay were on the map but didn’t actually exist….bugger.

We turned around, headed South again and stopped briefly at the wreck of the S.S Ethie a ship that ran ashore in 1919. There isn’t much you can see above the water but it’s a good photo spot and a nice pebbly beach. Drove around Lobster Cove where we visited a lighthouse briefly and looked for a lookout in Norris Point, another recommendation from the Lonely Planet we were unable to find. It was lovely seeing all the small bays as we headed inland and joined the motorway again via the blue waters of the East Arm and Lomond. Passed the ski hill again and followed the setting sun all the way to Port aux basques. Still didn’t see any Moose. There are no Moose in Canada, I’m sure of it! Had some dinner before lining up to get on the overnight Ferry. It was a quick boarding compared to our trip over to Newfoundland and by 10:30pm we were relaxed in front of the big TVs on board watching The Discouvery Channel. 

Day 4 – Fogo to Deer Lake

Woke up to a very dreary, rainy and windy morning, a total contrast to the day before which I was slightly relieved of as I had gotten a little sunburnt on our afternoon hike. Sorry Mum! 

I made breakfast on the stage to get away from the howling wind and to let Fergus sleep for a while longer before taking him his breakfast of egg, sausage & mushroom roll in bed. Stopped by the big church in Fogo (there were about 4 churches in town) to see the plaque high on the back wall dedicated to the Slade family. There was also a Slade tombstone in the nearby cemetary. One thing I did notice about the Island is the amount of churches and cemeteries. It seems there is a church for every denomination plus a cemetary! I’ve never seen so many in one small area of land!Visited the F.U Trading Co Museum in Seldom-Gone-By and went on a short tour run by a local teenager who worked there. A lady from London, ON we had chatted to earlier that morning at the campsite was also there. Her blankets had gotten wet due to the storm the previous night so she was using the dryer at the museum. They had a laundromat on site, odd I know! She joined our tour but kept asking loads of questions about why the Island’s fisheries were in decline and what could be done to make it thrive again. Learnt a bit of history about the shop before going onto the shop floor and managers office. Went for a coffee and a nosey around the ‘Museum of the Flat Earth‘, an interesting place with a weird and wonderful collection of Flat Earth bits and bobs including old photographs of the island’s Flat Earth society members and their membership certificates. 
Went for a takeaway lunch of Chicken Nuggets and chips at Vanessa’s Take out & convenience and headed down to the 2:00 ferry back to Newfoundland. Another very quick trip on a calm sea, thankfully the wind from earlier had disappeared. 

Headed back down the peninsula on the 331 which was full of potholes and made for a very bumpy and nervous trip. Passed coves, bays and small coastal towns containing multicoloured wooden houses, craft shops and roadside veggie stalls during which time the rain fell and large trucks passing sprayed a barrage of water onto our windscreen. 

Once back on the Trans Canada the potholes receded and we were able to make some leeway. Passed a big concert in progress in Grand Falls-Windsor and more roadworks dotted about the place.

Arrived in Deer Lake just outside of Gros Morne National Park and due to not having any accomodation booked we went to Tim Hortons to use the wifi, also had a cheeky burger. Fergus found a campground on the lake for $25 so we booked in there. 

On arrival at our lakeside site I wasn’t too happy, the internet was only available near the office and we were at least 15 minutes walk from there so no internet. Also, the one and only washroom/shower block was a 5 minute walk away. It doesn’t sound a lot but if you frequently go in the middle of the night like me you don’t want to be walking for 5 minutes in the cold, wet, pitch black night! 

Fogo Island – isolation at it’s best

We left St John’s and after topping up on supplies (food, petrol & water) we headed West towards the hilariously named coastal town of ‘Dildo’. Stopped briefly for a look around the town but there was nothing much there unfortunately, took some photos of the town sign before carrying on. Passed through Terra Nova NP where we had to wait repeatedly at roadworks which increased our journey by over an hour frustratingly, I was keeping my eye out for Moose the whole journey but they still managed to avoid my gaze. Listened to The Dreadnaughts, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel and Frank Turner, a bit of an eclectic mix of feelgood songs. Arrived at the small ferry terminal in Farewell around 5:20 and joined the queues of cars, RV’s and lorries waiting to board. The ferry left just after 6pm and after a look around the 3 decks we shared some chips, attempted a crossword and before we knew it we had arrived in Stag Harbour. Only an hours trip and relatively calm too.Drove 25 minutes to Fogo on the North Side of the Island and found the Brimstone Head RV park and after paying the very nice man $15 we settled in for the night. 

The RV park is located at Banks Cove, the impressive Brimstone Head towers above the cove on one side and on the other side is a smaller headland separating the cove from the next bay. There are showers, toilets, a stage, various snack bars (closed during our stay), a playground and the local Lions club at the top of the park. There is a festival held in the Park in mid August so I’d image all the extra amenities are here for that. It’s a beautiful spot.We watched an amazing sunset on the beach before having some dinner. It was great to be back cooking on our camping stove, I really enjoy it for some reason, I think it takes me back to my childhood and Mum cooking on her wee stove while tramping. Great memories. 

Day 2

Made scrambled egg and frankfurter rolls for breakfast before hiking up Brimstone Heads. The trail starts at the RV park and heads up into a grassy, boggy plain via a series boardwalks before you hit the steep stairs leading up the cliff. The views as you climb the headland are stunning and you can see bays, islands and sea for miles.Once up the stairs you walk over the moss covered rocks out to the very top of the headland where there is a large wooden viewing platform. Brimstone Heads is believed to be one of the corners of the world by the Flat Earth Society and when standing up there, looking out to the vast expanse of Iceberg Alley in the North Atlantic Ocean, I can see where they are coming from. We met some people from Southern Newfoundland up there and had a chat and took photos. Everyone we have met has been so friendly. The man who runs the RV park who’s wife may be a distant relative of Fergus, The French/Canadian man travelling around Newfoundland in his car with all the stickers who we also met on the Ferry back to NF, the lady from London, ON and her 2 dogs, who we met again at the Museaum who also reminds me of Lyn Cameron. They all asked about our accents and our trip and were happy to give us any travel advice and knowledge they had gained.

We then went to visit Bleak House Museam which is one of the original homes on the Island. It was built for the Slade family who ran a shipping company in the area. The Slades are distant relatives of Fergus’s. We had a guided tour of the house from a local lad with a strange accent. I also asked him a lot of questions about the Island and growing up on it. From what I gather most people graduate high school, go away to university and never return. Quite sad. We wandered through the old house following the tour guide while he told us about the rooms and their contents, much of which was original. He was clearly reading from a memorised script, if we asked about anything outside of what was on the tour he was unsure, he was only about 20 I’d say but he did a good job.

We headed over to Tilting for a look around then on to Joe Batts Arm, another of the Island’s larger villages on the North side. It’s named after a crew member of Captain Cook and is now famous for its very modern and very expensive Inn. Not my cup of tea as it sticks out like a sore thumb but it has provided the town with lots of jobs so the locals are happy. 

On the entrance to the Joe Batts Point Trail we met a lovely local lady who came out to get her little fluffy white dog that had run out to greet us. We spoke for quite a while about life on the island and our travels before heading off on the stony path towards the point. The trail meanders along the coast past vege patches, ponds, geological dig sites, little bays, streams and at one point a huge black box of an artists residence. These are common on the island and have been popular for tourists and artists alike. We saw 3 on our travels around. They are all modern, boxy and all accessed by walking trail. 

We passed a little green hut and over the next ridge we found the trail end and the large, green, iron bird sculpture that marks the end. Lay on the large flat rocks below the sculpture and had a rest. It was a very muggy day and we were both wearing jeans so had sweated a lot and we were hungry. The return journey didn’t feel as long and we were lucky to see the local heard of Caribou grazing. They were smaller that I thought they would be, a lot smaller that Elk but they may have been young males. They didn’t seem too bothered by us and it was nice to add another animal to our list, we hadn’t seen any Caribou as they don’t live in Banff NP.Returned to the camp for dinner of noodles, fried spam, mushrooms, boiled egg and spring onions. Watched another stunning sunset before retiring to bed to watch a movie. 

Return journey – Day 1 – London to St John’s

The month in London flew by. At times it didn’t but when we arrived back at Gatwick  Airport after saying goodbye to Fergus’s Mum Alison at Croyden train station it seemed as if it were only yesterday we arrived. I guess any trip home seems short when you have been away so long. 

After the obligatory breakfast of Eggs Benedict at the Wetherspoons and a bit of shopping in the North Terminal we boarded our Westjet flight an hour and a half late.The flight was fine except for a 10 minute bout of what the stewardess described as ‘moderate turbulence’. During this time I was on the verge of tears/heart attack and gripping the seat as if my life depended on it, I even yelped aloud at one point, everyone around me wasn’t bothered in the slightest.  Pussy….

We landed in St John’s just after 1pm, luckily we had no trouble at immigration and got a cab straight to Ben & Philippa’s. A key was left in the letterbox for us but Ockre (their dog) barked and growled every time we tried to openthe door, afraid of getting eaten alive on our very first day back in Canada we dumped our bags at the back door and headed into town for some lunch. Double pussy….Found a street full of bars in town and went to a pub called Green Sleeves, had a couple of pints and a burger each. They were lovely burgers but the bill came to $80! For a pub lunch! We had forgotten how expensive Canada was so were a little shocked, in London you could get the same for £15 in Wetherspoons. 

Wandered down to Eastern Edge Gallery where Philippa is the Director and got a ride home with her. Freshened up and repacked our bags and enjoyed an afternoon beer on their patio.  

Walked up and down the steep roads into town and went to The Gypsy Tea Room and had a bite to eat. Set in a large, open courtyard, this restaurant is just so cute, with its white buildings, trees, outdoor bar and lights I felt like I was back in South Africa enjoying wine in a Franschhoek Winery. Fergus and I shared Chicken Wings and fries and had a glass of Chardonnay. Chatted about Weddings, babies, house prices, life in Canada compared to London, our trip and lots of other stuff. They are such a lovely couple and it was great to spend more time with them. If we  do manage to get PR and stay in Canada I’d love to come and visit again. St John’s is a beautiful place. Went for a drink at The Black Sheep where it was Jazz jam night, saw some really talented musicians, especially Philippa’s friend who played the Banjo and sang. St John’s has a healthy music scene and a lot of people follow local bands which is really great. The music scene is so important in any town and I’ve always been a big supporter of local bands as my father was a misition for over 40 years. Big thanks to Ben and Philippa. Even though they are so far away it’s comforting knowing you have good friends from the UK living in the same country. They have been so good to us and we thoroughly enjoyed our 2 very short trips to St John’s. I hope we can return someday.