COMPETITION TIME!

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World Tourism Day 2017

Today is World Tourism Day and I have thousands of photos of my travels throughout the 26 countries I’ve visited but can’t pick a favourite or one that represents all travel. So here is a picture of the view from my Mum’s house in Dunedin, NZ. It’s home. The place I seem to spend the least time but think about the most. This was taken in 2011 when I was last home. 

Travelling is the best thing I have ever done and the experiences I’ve had are unforgettable and the people I’ve met incredible, there is a downside though and that is missing my family. 

I only see them once every few years which is sad but I speak to them regularly which is good. Thanks to things like Skype and Facebook they don’t seem as far away.

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. 

 

 

Bankhead – coal, trains & amazing views

Bankhead is an old, abandoned coal mining town just out of Banff on the road to Lake Minnewanka. I had know it was there and this week, finally got around to visiting. It’s still very smoky here in Banff due to the wildfires in BC so the views of Rundle, Cascade and the surrounding mountains were limited but it was a great visit all the same. Lower Bankhead is where the industrial area of town was while the residential area was located in Upper Bankhead.

From the Lower Bankhead carpark you descend some stairs to the entrance of the mining shafts that went into Cascade mountain, there were 3, the other 2 being further up the mountain. The entrance was covered when the mine closed in 1922 so you can’t really see where it was but an information board, (these are dotted around everywhere) explains it all for you. 

First you pass the old Lamp House where the miners would collect and store their lamps. If a lamp was missing at the end of the day, there would be a search party sent out for that miner. Following the coal path you pass other structures, machinery, piles of coal deposits and building foundations. Most of the buildings were wooden so only the foundations remain but they looked absolutely huge. The town was bigger than Banff itself in its heyday. The views of Cascade mountain are pretty good from Bankhead, There is so much more coal in the mountain but because it’s in the National Park it’s protected. Some of the concrete building such as the Briquette building are still intact in parts. The compressed air locomotive was used to haul the coal deposits out of the mines. 

The trail is a 1km interpretive loop with adjoining trails that venture off to Cascade Ponds and the lakes. You can find more information about the town, the mine and the other mining towns in the Bow Valley at Ghosttowns.com.

We also went for a stroll around Cascade Ponds, a picnic area at the base of Cascade Mountain. A pretty walk around the ponds gives you stunning views and the water is a pretty green hue due to the weeds, apparently people do swim in there but it was too cold for me. 

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

Moose Jaw – Banff

The very last day of our 2 month long trip wasn’t the most interesting. 90% of the journey was long, straight, flat roads along the prairies. Silos, hay bales, farmers tending to their crops on huge machines, oil drilling sites, small isolated towns, electricity pylons, and the train track were the only sights to see. I think the land has its own beauty though, the colour of the grass and wheat, the patterns and stripes and the contrast of the blue sky is beautiful. There is so much of it. The sky is amazing our here, it reminds me of the song ‘Little Fluffy Clouds‘ by Orb. Have a listen or download it if you are crossing soon. The huge expanse of blue makes you feel really small, it was a cloudless day when we drove through but I can imaging watching a storm brewing out here would be epic.When we finally approached Calgary we felt relieved, the outline of the city skyscrapers in the distance with the Rockies towering up behind it was a welcome sight, not only did it mean the long flats were ending but I meant were were nearly home. We were both tired.we stopped at Walmart do do some grocery shopping and headed West. The weather had taken a turn upon entering Calgary and the Rockies and a bit of rain fell but it was mostly just overcast. We wondered if we would see or smell any of the smoke from the nearby forest fires that had been burning since just after we left. Arrived in a very busy Banff and it immediately felt like we had never left, it was hustle and bustle and full of tourists (it’s a bank holiday weekend so this was to be expected) and it must have taken us close to an hour to get some beers, get our rent from the bank and drop it off at our landlord, Mercy’s place in Otter street and get over the bridge to Lougheed Circle. On arrival we were greeted by our wonderful flatmates who we had missed dearly. They had been preparing a lovely dinner of Meatballs, Pasta sauce, pasta, salad and bread for us as a welcome home dinner, it was just delicious, and great to all sit around the dinner table and catch up.Unpacked the car into our new room which is huge! We have a walk through wardrobe which is twice the size of our old wardrobe and a big ensuite bathroom. We love it! 

Had some drinks, chatted, laughed and watched Wonder Woman. It’s great to be back. 

Agawa Bay – Dryden – Moose Jaw

Left Agawa Bay and headed around the North shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. Stopped briefly but decided to carry on as we were making good time. Took motorway 17, the Northern Route through Upsala, Ignase and Dryden, an area best know for its remote fishing and hunting. There wasn’t much about but the landsacape was beautiful. Mostly flat with rolling hills in places, large lakes and rivers, and lots of thick forest. The last hour to Dryden was driven in the dark and with lots of Moose warning signs and heavy rain it was a tad scary, luckily there was a lot of traffic so we stuck behind 2 other cars. 

Stopped in Dryden and it was raining heavily, had a very basic dinner at Husky, a diner attached to a garage. Parked in Walmart and had to organise the car in a thunderstorm which ensures us and some of our gear got wet. It was a shitty night.

The West of Ontario was hilly, there were lots of lakes, big and small and rocky outcrops that had been carved out to make way for the road. The first inklings of Autumn were starting to show with some of the trees bright red, yellow and orange, It must look amazing in full blown Autumn. We listened to the last part of the audiobook ‘Crack House’ by Harry Keeble, a very interesting book about an ex policeman’s time in the Harringay drug squad. I had no idea crack was such a problem in London, I am glad I don’t live anywhere near the scummy areas of North London featured in the book. It is hell. We then went on to listen to the autobiography of Kevin Bridges. Another very funny tale. I love his Scottish accent. Audiobooks really do seem to make the time go faster. 

We have travelled a long way in the last 2 days, we are ready to be home now. The fun, exciting and interesting journey has ended and we are on the prairies. They are still beautiful in their own way but they get boring very quickly.  Passed the town’s of Winnipeg, Brandon Moosomin, Indian Head and Regina, all places we had passed on our outward journey 2 months ago, much of the roadworks we had sat in on the way over were now finished and are shiny, black, flat roads, good job fellas. Decided to stay our last night in Moose Jaw ant Capones Hideaway Motel. A basic motel in the centre of town. The room wasn’t bad, the air conditioner made a slight noise and the bath was slippery but overall it was good. It was a lovely balmy night and after a well needed shower I enjoyed a couple of Palm Bays and spoke to Dad. It was Father’s Day in Australia and we chatted for a while before he had to leave to take Jena to see her Dad. Fergus and I headed to a Scottish pub called Bobby’s Place and had a couple of drinks and shared some nibbles, sausage rolls and breaded mushrooms before heading off to the Casino. I stupidly blew some money on the pokies but Fergus won $250 on the Roulette table so we came out on top. Yippee! Had an Aperol Spritz at another very empty bar then went back to the motel to bed. 

One day to go.

Ottawa – Sault Ste Marie

Tonight we saw Moose! Moose! We saw 2 Moose in fact, 2 Moose with big antlers like you see in the photos! Amazing!

As you know in previous posts I have, until now, thought Moose were a myth, like the Moa in NZ or the Jump Bear in Australia, they are a made up beasts to scare tourists. (I didn’t really think this but was wondering why the hell we hadn’t seen one yet) Especially in Newfoundland, a small island with some 250,000 Moose, people were saying ‘oh you’ll surely see a Moose up there’, well no, we didn’t. 

We did however see 2 Moose about 5 minutes out of Sault Ste Marie, on the side of the motorway. One was awkwardly walking down the verge towards the road and the other standing proudly atop it looking out into the distance. It would have made a great photo but we were past them in such a flash. They were big but not as big as some of the road signs suggest, I don’t doubt that they do get huge, big enough to total a car in fact but these 2 were probably young males, they could have done plenty of damage had we hit them though! They were beautiful,  dark brown with impressive furry antlers. We were very lucky the weather had cleared as most of the journey had been heavy rain, that is a recipe for disaster! 

As we came across the animals, a big 1500L Ute was passing us so we couldn’t even change lanes to try to avoid them. Luckily Fergus was quick thinking and slowed down as he saw them then sped up as we passed so they would have plenty of time to get onto the road if in fact that’s where they wanted to go. Apparently they are a bit silly and just wander about anywhere. You just have to be so careful.We saw in our rear view mirrors that they had made it onto the road so the traffic had to stop. What a shame we were not a little slower, I could have had a great shot of them, instead I have a pic off the net, it’s kind of what happened.I’m so glad we can now add Moose to the list of animals we have seen. For me, Grizzly Bears and Orcas are the ones I most want to see. Where are the Orcas?

That evening we went to Boston Pizza for a late dinner before staying at another very busy Walmart car park. Yaaay Moose!

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.