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’

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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.

Grotto Canyon FAM Tour

Layla and I were lucky enough to get to do another FAM tour with Discover Banff Tours in mid December. This time it was Grotto Canyon.

Grotto Canyon is located just outside Canmore in Exshaw, an area made up of a number of plants and a small hamlet. 1The group was made up of around 25 of us and 2 guides, one of which also took us on the snowshoe tour of the Paint Pots.

We put on our snow cleats and walked through a stunted pine forest before coming to a viewpoint at the edge of the forest overlooking The Bow Valley. 23On entering the canyon the path changed from packed snow to ice and in places the ice wasn’t very thick. People’s feet were disappearing through the ice all over the place but thankfully the creek we were walking on was only 10cm or so deep.

Once deeper inside the canyon and more sheltered from the sun the creek became hard with layers of ice and footing was much stabler.  The canyon walls slowly became higher as we progressed and soon the walls rose high above us and trees clung onto the sides, the snow hanging off their branches.56At one point we were shown ancient pictographs on the canyon walls which were likely created by Hopi visitors from the Arizona region. The ochre used to paint the designs was most likely collected from the Paint Pots.811We stopped for lunch in a lovely area containing frozen waterfalls people were climbing. We ate Maple cookies, had hot Chocolates and watched the folks climbing, the squirrels foraging for food and took lots of photos. What a lovely spot for a break.10791213After our break we headed back through the canyon just as the sun came out and lit up the ice and the snow covered sides. It was just beautiful.1314

More info:

Who: DiscoverBanff Tours

Where: Grotto Canyon, Banff National Park

What: Hotel Pick up & Drop off, Ice cleats & hiking poles, refreshments

Difficulty: 4.2km, 100m elevation gain

Duration: 4 hours

Price: $74 Adult / $42 Child

 

 

 

Hike to the ‘Lakes in the Clouds’

Winter is nearly here and a lot of the Summer activities are closing for the season. Sunday was the last day the Lake Agnes Tea House was open so my colleague Layla and I went for a hike up there in the morning. Layla is British so loves a cuppa. Funnily enough she grew up in Basingstoke, just over the hill from Newbury where I lived for many years, it’s a small world indeed!

We left my house around 8am and drive up to Lake Louise and managed to park in the first parking lot due to it being so early in the day. Even the lakeshore wasn’t that crowded which made a pleasant change.The trail starts just past the Chateau and quickly rises steeply up through the forest zigzagging all the way up to Mirror Lake. The path is well worn and wide and mainly consists of dirt at the beginning but gets a lot rockier as you ascend upwards towards the treeline.  
There is not a lot to see most of the journey up, the forest is beautiful and sheltered from the weather and you do get the odd glimpse of the bright blue lake in places and views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Big Beehive.Once we got 2/3 of the way up we came across Mirror Lake, a small frozen lake at the foot of the Big Beehive. It’s a pretty spot for a rest and a sit down before you head up the steepest bit of trail up to the Teahouse and Lake Agnes. Up here the trees thin out and you start to get views over the valley to the Lake Louise ski resort and down the Bow Valley towards Banff. It’s impressive and a nice reward for the hard slog up.After 15 minutes or so you turn a corner and come across a small waterfall and a flight of stairs. Sitting atop these stairs is the Lake Agnes Teahouse. The building is a small log cabin with a large, covered verandah that houses the kitchen and tearooms on the lower level and the staff accommodation in the loft. Staff stay there over the Summer and hike up with fresh supplies 2-3 times a week, they also do 20-30 trips by helicopter at the start of the Summer to bring up the majority of the supplies. All the garbage is carried down by staff and guests who wish to help. (We carried down a bag of rubbish)It’s a quirky little place, we sat inside and had a pot of tea and a Mars bar while we chatted to a young couple from California who had hiked up with their 2-month-old baby, and what a happy wee thing he was, all rugged up and smiley.

We walked past the Teahouse along the lake for a better view of the surrounding mountains, Mt Whyte, Mt Niblock and Devil’s Thumb. The trail continues from Lake Agnes up to the Big Beehive and I would have loved to go up there but Layla had to work at 3 so we didn’t have enough time. You can also hike a further hour on to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House which looks amazing too.The way back down probably took us longer than it did to get up as the weather turned while we were up there and it was snowing quite heavily on our decent. The path had become extremely icy due to footfall and snow so we were slipping and sliding all over the place. Layla was first to slip over in a style that can only be described as cartoon like, she was on her back in a flash as both feet went out from under her, it looked very sore.  In one particular spot we were joined by a guide from the Chateau and 2 of his guests who had ice cleats on so they offered a steady arm for each of us to grip onto to prevent us sliding down the path. There were a lot of other hikers slipping over and the guide was warning people about the hazards. Apparently, a woman had been airlifted to hospital after slipping over on the trail the day before! They helped us down until the path became less icy and we chatted quite a bit. They were lovely, very helpful people.Once down on Lake level we walked around the end of Lake Louise, past the Chateau and the 1000s of visitors that had now descended on the place and back to the carpark. A great day with more than a few laughs along the way.

• Time: half-day hike (1-2hrs one way)

• Distance: 7 km (4.5 miles) return or 3.5 km from Lake Louise

• Elevation Gain: 400 m (1300 ft)

• Altitude: 2135 m (7005 ft)

 

 

Sunshine Meadows – Fall Hiking

The first time I visited a ski resort in summer was when I was about 13 and my Mum, my cousin and I went up to Coronet Peak in Queenstown, NZ for a walk. It was hot and dry and I wore a vest top and a mini skirt. (Hey, it was the 90s!) I remember the main building being open but apart from hiking there wasn’t much more to do apart from enjoy the views over Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.The next time was Whistler Blackcomb in 2016. This time the mountain was geared up for the Summer with mountain biking trails, hiking, the Peak to Peak gondola, lots of restaurants and bars and concerts going on all the time. I admit Whistler is a much bigger resort but I think ski resorts these days offer much more in the way of Summer activities.This week Fergus, our flatmate Kurt and I visited Sunshine Meadows. After skiing all season at Sunshine Village, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the ski area in the off season. It was the beginning of Fall when we visited so there was plenty of snow covering the ground but the trails were mainly snow free and we were able to enjoy the Autumn colours and warmth on the last open day of the hiking season.

Upon arrival, we bought our discounted tickets (due to having a season pass last ski season) for the shuttle bus and Standish chair from guest services. We got on the old yellow school bus along with a swarm of tourists and started up the ski out to the main village.

Travelling up the ski out in a bus made it look a lot steeper than it looks and feels when skiing down it at high speeds after a long day on the slopes. It was also a lot bumpier and at some points I was concerned the old bus would burst a tyre or stop altogether and slide back down the mountain. It was an enjoyable ride despite this and it was great to be up high and look down onto the Black Middle and Lower Canyon runs and of course see the waterfalls and mountain streams, without snow cover.

We hopped on Standish chair which felt a bit odd without skis strapped to our feet but it was great to be heading up the familiar slope again, seeing the ski area to the left of us and the mountain ranges in front of us stretching out as far as the eye could see. It was a tad chilly going up but once at the top the wind died down as we headed out towards the Standish Viewing Deck. This is a large wooden deck situated on the ridge about 400 metres from the top of the Standish chair, the view from the deck is just incredible. You lookout over the whole of Sunshine Meadows, including Rock Isle, Laryx and Grizzly lakes, Simpson River Valley, various mountain ranges and peaks including the impressive Monarch and famous Mount Assiniboine. To the left, the Angel and Divide chairs rise up Lookout mountain with their empty chairs dangling, waiting for the Winter crowds. Its just breathtaking.We quickly started to descend the steep and slippery trail down to Twin Cairns Junction to avoid the crowds, most tourists are not used to walking in snow and we were just as bad, Fergus and Kurt wore Vans, not so good in the snow, I had my North Face Hiking boots on but still managed to slip over onto my knees at one point but that’s just incoordination on my part I think. The view over the Valleys below The Monarch were very autumnal indeed, the oranges and yellows of the Larch trees and the dark green of the evergreens contrasted with the bright white snow covering the ground.We arrived at Rock Isle Junction and carried onto the Grizzly/Laryx Loop trail. En route we passed the beautiful Rock Isle Lake, the most well known and largest Lake at Sunshine Meadows. The lake gets its name from the rocky island in the centre of it where a few trees call home. Behind the Lake, Lookout mountain towered above the meadows and you could clearly see the Divide chair and most of the runs coming off it. They looked much steeper from way down in the valley. Some of the mountain was covered in snow but it was patchy and hard to imaging opening day is only a month and a half away.We carried on down the hill to Grizzly Lake where we were happy to find a few hikers enjoying their lunch. We hadn’t seen anyone for a while and arriving at a lake named after the most feared animal in the Rockies we were a little relieved to see people. Grizzly lake was a different colour than Rock Isle. Rock Isle is bluer and is more out in the open whereas Grizzly is quite sheltered by steep banks and forest. On the far side and head of the lake you could see where the recent forest fires had burnt away the trees in huge areas. The Verdant Creek fire had come very close to the ski resort and during the Summer the lodge was used as a base for the firefighters who were working on fighting the huge fire.Continuing past the lake the trail rose up onto a cliff face and we came upon Simpson Viewpoint. This lookout was probable the highlight of the day for me, the huge Simpson River Valley spreads out before you far into the distance, the different shades of greens in the hills, cliffs and mountains make the valley look even deeper and I was sure I could see all the way to Radium. The most interesting yet sad feature of the valley was the amount of burnt forest there was on both sides of the valley. I’m so glad we had some snow recently so the fires were able to be put out and we were able to visit Sunshine Meadows, it was closed for hiking for a lot of the summer.We walked down the hill to Laryx Lake, the 3rd lake in the Meadows. We were able to walk almost the entire way around Laryx on the stony trail, across narrow log bridges and over the grassy plains. Laryx was quite calm and was sheltered from the wind so we were able to see the reflections of the surrounding mountain peaks in its shallow water which was beautiful. Sat down for a bit and watched a young Chipmunk scurry about looking for dropped food.After a short rest we climbed back up to Rock Isle Lake and at Rock Isle Junction we turned onto the Village to Lake Trail and headed up towards Divide Chair and the runs that come off Stawberry. After stopping at the Rock Isle viewpoint we continued down the path beside the Rock Isle Road green run back to the village. It was nice to actually walk along a ski run we had all been down many times. Being back at the Village when there was no snow was odd, we saw stairs that are usually buried under the snow and paths, roads and signposts that are not normally there, the place looked quite different. Waited for the shuttle bus for around 30 minutes before being informed it had broken down on the way up so we were driven back to the base in a small van. 

It was a great but tiring day and I’m glad I got to experience it before we leave Canada. 

 

 

Day 26 – Sydney to Port aux Basques

Slept in again and made bacon butties for breakfast….again. Wandered into central Sydney to find the library so I could print out my boarding passes for my return flight to Canada should I have any issues on my arrival at Gatwick. It was closed on Mondays, typical of a small town and very annoying. Walked along the boardwalk beside the inlet to the Big Fiddle, I’m not sure why Sydney has a big fiddle, I guess it’s due to the Celtic culture of the island but the town doesn’t offer much else so why not build a ‘big thing’ to attract people? It has been done many times before in other towns around the globe.Spoke to a lovely lady in a gift shop beside the information centre and Fergus bought some soap, out of guilt for being in there so long chatting to her I think. I don’t think many people visited the store so we were happy to chat. 

Wandered through town which was not the nicest, yet another high street with boarded up shops, restaurants with nobody in them and office buildings, ruined due to cheaper chain supermarkets and fast food restaurants built on the outskirts of town. We had seen a lot of this in small town Canada.

Headed back to our Air B&B house. Our host, Will had gone to work so didn’t get to say goodbye, he was a very nice chap. Grabbed our gear and headed up towards North Sydney. Left Sydney at 2pm and our ferry didn’t leave until 11:45pm so we had hours to fill in. Drove the coast route past small villages, inlets and small lakes. Stopped briefly for a walk around Petersfield Provincial Park. Walked along the stony beach and through forest for about an hour and a half. Carried on to North Sydney and printed out my boarding passes and ferry ticket at the library, visited the information centre and Tim Hortons to use the wi-fi.

Drove up the coast to waste time and as we were going through Sydney Mines we could see some sort of concrete structure out on the point. We had already noticed some battlements on the cliffs below us so got as close as we could to it and parked the car.

Walked down to the large structure which turned out to be part of the Chapel Point Battery Site. The main building was 4 stories high but you weren’t able to get above the ground floor which was just a series of graffitied, littered, dark rooms. A few meters from it, towards the cliff edge were 2 identical gun battlements and you could see where a gun of some sort once sat. The rails it would have sat upon were still there and there were various rooms and cubbies around it i’m guessing were used to store ammunition and other defensive material.There was one more area that was a large, very dark room that had steps from both ends leading to a lower level and then a second pair of staircases leading down to what looked like a door or doorway to another room. It was pitch black down there and even though I really wanted to go down the steps to investigate, I didn’t and chickened out. I will always wonder what is down that dark, dirty staircase….Decided to go to the ferry terminal and check in and leave the car in the queue while we went to get dinner. The man in the kiosk took the printout of our tickets, cave us real tickets and told us to go in row 9. There were about 15 rows full of cars, campervans, lorries and motorbikes all waiting patiently to board the huge ferry.Went to a local pizza shop and ordered a pizza and garlic bread and ate slowly while chatting and trying to pass the time. Sat in the terminal for a while, I bought a travel pillow then sat in the car for the last hour and a half. 

It didn’t take us long to get on the ferry once boarding began, we boarded from the back and parked on the 3rd level, right at the front. Went and got a comfy seat in front of 3 large tv screens on level 8. It wasn’t overly busy, a few seats were taken but most people slept on the carpet between the seats, although the safety video had mentioned this was frowned upon, I guess they do the journey often.It took at least an hour to actually start moving and by then it was dark so I could only watch the lights of North Sydney pass as we left the inlet when I ventured up onto the sun deck. Watched a bit of The History Channel and the News before heading off the sleep. 

Couchsurfing – the best way to travel!

‘The website provides a platform for members to stay as a guest at someone’s home (homestay), host travellers, meet other members, or join an event. Unlike many hospitality services, Couchsurfing is an example of the gift economy; there is no monetary exchange between members and there is no expectation by hosts for future rewards’ – Wikipedia

Couchsurfing is a great way to travel, to some the only way.

I’ve spent years travelling since I left my hometown in 1999 and have been to 25 countries and lived in 4. I have stayed in 5 star hotels, motels, hostels, B&Bs, camping grounds, AirB&Bs and Walmart parking lots but I think Couchsurfing is the best. My 20th birthday at Dougies Backpackers in Port Douglas in 2000. Who are these people? 

Yes, you get to see the city/town you came to visit and in hostels you normally meet some fun people but it takes a local to show you their hometown for it to be an extra special experience. A treasured memory. Folks jamming at out host Chris’s mother’s birthday BBQ in Port Alberti. 2016

The local ‘hole on the wall’ eateries you would probably otherwise walk straight past but if you are in the know you will go in and experience the city’s most amazing cuisine. The secret local’s lookouts most tourists never view the city from, getting into attractions cheap or free because your host knows someone who works there, a tour driver, a dinner companion, a kareoke partner, a friend. Couchsurfing photos on my profile

We have couchsurfed in the following places so far, Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Sudbury, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City and all of them have been great experiences. Some lived alone, some had other couchsurfes and family staying at the same time, many had cats, some had dogs, some had children, some partied with us, some took us for dinner, some were hardly there and some were always there. Each and every experience has been different. A friendly cat in Montreal

You really have to go in with an open mind though, you never know what the host’s expectations may be despite what it says on their profile. If you just feel like chilling and being alone, don’t book a place on Couchsurfing as the host may well have plans to take you to dinner or show you around their town.

So go to https://www.couchsurfing.com/ today and sign up. It’s £13 per year to join but it’s so worth it, you save money after the very first time you stay with someone.

If you go in with an open mind anything is possible, that’s why we travel right?

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