Mar 21 2009
Sometimes it does matter.
Mar 21 2009
After spending two days in Victoria we rent a car to explore the rest of Vancouver Island. It’s raining cats and dogs but halfway on our way to Tofino, in the middle of nowhere, I really have to pee. I pull off at the first parking and luck is with me. It’s not raining as hard anymore and there is even a real composting toilet. But hey, the trees surrounding me are really big… I accidently stopped at a major tourist attraction, one of the few remaining stands of century-old Douglas fir.
I go back to the car and tell A. that even though it is raining she has to put on her shoes and coat and get out of the car. We walk around in the rain in a rainforest and it is great.
Mar 17 2009
It’s our first day in Vancouver and we wander a little around the city. Visit a nice garden in Chinatown, try to avoid the junkies and homeless people on Hastings street, accidently find ourselves in front of the Vancouver office of A.’s company. On our way back to A.’s sister’s house, where we’re staying, we pass long lines in front of all Irish pubs since it’s Saint Patrick’s day.
(Lines also in front of the English pubs which is kind of funny historically speaking; I guess if one wants to make money religion is not important.)
Mar 15 2009
A train trip through the scenic Rockies is considered very romantic. It’s also very expensive. It’s the only part of our journey that I paid and even with a 35% reduction coupon this 18 hour stretch from Jasper to Vancouver cost me 500$. Almost just as much as the 3 day ride from Toronto to Jasper.
Since we were new on the train after or short stay in Jasper, we felt a bit (and were treated) like we were intruders in a closely knit social circle. The dome observation deck in the Park car in the back of the train was completely “reserved” so I went to the other dome, the one used by the Comfort Class passengers. There it wasn’t crowded at all and I had a front row seat and some nice conversations with ordinary people.
I made the following video of travelling through the Rocky Mountains. We lucked out on the weather. The high peak is Mount Robson, one of the highest mountains of Canada. It’s not as high as the mountains in Switzerland, but it comes close.
Mar 14 2009
After yesterday’s walk during which we saw the elks Alison wanted to get some crampons because the trail was quite icy at times from melted snow. So we rented very sturdy crampons for her. Of course she didn’t need them at all today because we were walking on firm snow at much higher altitudes near Medicine lake in the Maligne valley, a valley south of Jasper. This lake is called that way because the natives thought it was magic. The lake has no visible outlet yet in the winter it drains completely. Now we know it drains through a underground system of caves and surfaces again 10 kilometres later in the Maligne Canyon.
When we drove back to Jasper after that walk we passed a sign advertising said Maligne Canyon and I had to check it out. We looked at the 50 metre deep canyon from above but the trails here were extremely slippery again. I couldn’t go any further while Alison was happily trotting around on her crampons. I couldn’t stand that so I tackled her, stole the crampons from her feet, and sent her back to the car to read the Internet on my iPhone. And then I descended into the canyon.
Even though the ice in the canyon floor was at places covered with 10 cm of water it was very nice. The canyon was very narrow and in the summer the water must go through it with extreme force and over time it formed very nice rock formations. And there are also a couple of ice pillars that are used for ice climbing. I documented the site by taking a lot of pictures so I could show Alison what she had missed.
Mar 13 2009
When the trains are gone the elk take over.
Jasper is in the middle of a national park and the animals are very tame. A park ranger told us she had bear in the house on numerous occasions, once even over the crib of her baby. She didn’t want to call this a close call though. But the elk apparently are far more dangerous. At least twice a year people are hospitalized because they got attacked by elk. Not only the males with their big antlers can do serious damage, the females like here on this photo can be very aggressive as well. I didn’t know that when I took this picture, we had freshly arrived, so I went quite close. Or more precisely they came close, as they were walking towards us. Curious and not at all wary. We were just humans and not wolves or bears. Nothing to fear here.
Anyway, I survided this close encounter without damage.
Mar 12 2009
We arrived late in Winnipeg so our scheduled 4 hour stop was cut short to one hour. I didn’t care too much since I’ve visited Winnipeg before ( Read here and the next posts about that trip).
We went on a short stroll through the Forks, where we saw the worlds longest skating rink, a cool bridge with ice on it so you could skate over it, and had a chat with a guy that ran a sound recording studio right in the middle of a shopping mall.
When I told people we were going on this trip everybody warned me that the part of the trip through Manitoba and Saskatchewan would be very boring because the landscape was all flat. So I feared the worst, especially because I hate the flat Dutch landscape.
So when we left Winnipeg I prepared myself for some boring hours and even thought of doing some work on my current programming project. But the landscape was actually quite pleasant. We travelled between rolling hills, covered with snow (although in Montreal there was more snow that in Winnipeg) all the way towards Saskatchewan when it got too dark to distinguish much outside our always moving picture window.
So don’t believe people when they say Canada’s prairie provinces are all flat. It’s a big flat lie.
Mar 12 2009
Now I’m officially Canadian we thought it was a good idea for me to find out how big this new country of mine (Mine!) really is. So we waited until a good deal came by and booked a trip on the train to Vancouver.
Alison is used to travelling by train. She does this trip actually for the second time, the first time was when she was a teenager together with her mother. But the last couple of years she has travelled so often between Montreal and Toronto that she collected enough points to almost pay for the train fare of two of us. And our flight back from Vancouver will also be on points. I’ve never travelled on points before and I like it.
Tuesday we left, first with the ‘normal’ train to Toronto where we changed onto the “Canadian“. We are lucky and have a tiny bedroom in the Park car, the special car with a bar and a panoramic observation deck on top that is located at the rear end of the train. Our trip to Vancouver will be more than five thousand kilometre, and it will take more than 4 days. No, that doesn’t make for a good average speed, but the train is old and it runs on tracks that are owned by a freight train company (CN or Canada National) so we have to wait fairly often for the numerous passing and upcoming freight trains, often loaded with hundreds of containers. And it also stops in a couple of places so we can stretch our legs and breath in some fresh air. The photo above is taken in Hornepayne. Google it and you’ll see it is in the middle of nowhere. We’re in general travelling in the middle of nowhere. No mobile phone access for almost 30 hours now, so no twittering and mobile Internet either. I’m having redrawel symptons.
On board are about sixty people (the train is not even half full) of very different backgrounds. We get to meet them when we have breakfast, lunch or supper. So there’s the woman with fear of flying who went to a business trip to Montreal from Vancouver who was now returning home. I didn’t dare to ask if her company was paying for it. And the 14 people from the UK and Ireland that got a “Do Canada in 10 days” package deal including visits to Niagara Falls (with optional helicopter ride), Jasper (dogsledding) and Vancouver. They paid a suprisingly low price, which reminded me of the time I tried to book a flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver with a stop in Montreal. Flights to Vancouver were only 100 euro more than to Montreal, but if you wanted to combine things then the price went up to triple the amount. So I never did it. I might have done a package tour like theirs though since it was quite affordable.
There are also a lot of retirees who, after years of working hard, explore Canada the slow way. Some can hardly bridge the snowy landings between the cars to reach the dining car.
this morning I spoke to a German man who was going to visit his niece in Vancouver and whose command of English was very limited so he was very happy he could speak German with me. In the meantime Alison had a conversation with a native trapper who just got on the train on a whistle stop and was going to the next town to take a plane. But the details of her conversation I unfortunately missed.
As I write this we’re 40 minutes away from Winnipeg, our first civilisation in almost two days. But we’re 3 hours late, caused by those freight trains, so our time in Winnipeg will be cut short to one hour. Not that it matters much, I’ve been there before. After that I’ll be entering new territory. I’ve never been more Western in Canada before. I’ve been to Seattle and the West coast of the US, but never to the Canadian West coast. We’ve another day of rail over the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and then into the Rocky Mountains. We will be pausing our journey for two days in Jasper and then continue on the next train to Vancouver. More soon.
Nov 28 2008
Black Friday, white snow and a loaner dog.
On Black Friday, when you are suposed to support the US economy by buying things you don’t really need, we managed to sneak away with Aliosn’s uncle’s dog Alias for a hike. It was cut short because the dog was tired and fed up with the snow accumulating between his toes after an hour. He should have worn doggy boots, but uncle Sean didn’t have any available.