"bLog means boring-Log"
day 22 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
so this is our last day
in canada for this trip. during the usual check-out procedure we talked to our host about what to do here in calgary. he recommended the bass pro shop in a big mall, as it was nearby, and we could get to the airport then quick. also a mall is always a good place to spend some time. the bass pro shop we had already seen in a documentary, so we knew what to find there; a huge shop for hunting, fishing, camping, and outdoor activity that was turned into some sort of amusement shopping park.
although this sounded very tempting, we still wanted to see some wildlife. and so we decided otherwise, and put our luggage into the trunk. in daylight we saw the mosquito massacre  from the evening before - all the cleaning from yesterday was in vain. but a mosquito graveyard like this was pretty common; a lot of cars had that, as we found out.
as this was our last chance to see some wildlife, we booked the ultimate wildlife experience trip, that guaranteed a 100% chance of seeing rare and shy animals. yop, that would be a good way to end this wonderful trip to canada.
and in calgary we found all this - isn't that amazing? after a 15 minutes drive we parked our car. the weather was sunny, windy, and hot.
and so we started our trip exploring the wildlife of canada, at the calgary zoo[002-214]. we started with the mountain goat[003-005,007] we had not spotted on our trip; just like the big horn sheep. next was a big aviary with all kinds of cute and fluffy owls[008-029]. one could really get very close to those little birds of prey. most of them were sitting around sleepy and resting.
and we also got to see the woodland caribou - finally we saw a real one. next came the wood bison[031-033], which would be more indigenous to the bad lands and prairie.
same with the muskox[042-043], which we did not expect to find on our trip. a river otter[034-036] on the other hand, we might have spotted if we would have been lucky.
and then there he was - the black bear[050-064], right next to a fake spirit bear[065-068] (which in fact was a black bear with white fur). we guessed those were the only two bears in west canada - the rest might be hidden in some other zoos.
same applied to the cute and elegant cougar[069-076]. such a lovely big cat, too bad we did not spot one in the woods.
next we entered the tropical section of the zoo, showing loads of plants[077-081] and butterflies[082-089] in a glass house. while it was already hot outside, inside the glass house it was even hotter, so after a while we left again to get out into the cool air again.
then we saw more big cats we were so eager to spot on our hikes through the woods - the eurasian lynx[090-100] and the snow leopard[101-103]. aaaaaaaw, so cute, the both of them. we wished we could have cuddled them. while the lynx was rather awake, the snow leopard was dozing. so all we saw was tail and paws.
the same level of lethargy had the two amur tigers[104-132]. in the beginning they only raised their heads when a loud motorcycle drove by. then they lay down again. after that, they raised their heads, and later they even got up and moved - just to swap places and fall asleep again. well... a cat is a cat.
the red pandas[133-146] had a rather big enclosure, compared to the one in vienna zoo. they also seemed way more active and agile. but they were just as cute as the ones we know. they also got very close to the glass wall - we were not used to that, so we had troubles taking pictures of them as the red pandas got closer to us than the minimal distance of our lenses required it to focus.
we went back to the snow leopard[147-148] enclosure to see if the kitty already had woken up. well, it had not, but at least it had shifted its sleeping position, so we could now see its fluffy head.
another bunch of cuties were the alpacas, accompanied by a blue peafowl[149-151]. then came the rock hyrax[152-154], a rodent we have never seen before. cute little porcupines[155-156] were there too, unfortunately they were inside a big hall that housed the red river hog[157-159], with their lovely ears, and the hippopotamus[160-162] too, and it was pretty dark in there, so almost all pictures were out of focus or had motion blur - too bad, the porcupines were really super cuddly.
unusually and unexpectedly active were the african lions[163-168]. surprisingly there were two male lions in the enclosure along with several females. still, they all seemed pretty relaxed and calm - maybe they were brothers.
a single crowned crane[169-177] was doing the mating ritual and jumped around in the big enclosure. a great performance, too bad there was no other cranes around to join the dance. we were sure they would have been impressed.
a few zebra[178-183] were also there, and a little crocodile[184-186] clinging his jaws around a dead rabbit. the crocodile did not move at all, just lying there with the dead prey, staring at us, with a very intense "that's mine"-look on its face.
the zoo was soon about to close, so our last stop was at the big group of gorillas[187-209]. their enclosure was partly outside and partly inside, and very big. we first spotted the group outside and took some pictures, when suddenly the eldest and biggest of them decided it is time to move indoors. so he bullied the others to do as he wanted. the big aggressive male gorilla was pretty scary to watch. we followed the group inside, where the alpha male just lay down and enjoyed being admired by the visitors. the others kept their distance to him - i would have done the same.
then we headed back all the way to the exit which was on the other side of the island, where the zoo is located on.
right at the exit we saw some cute little mongoose lemurs[210-212], just above our heads, within my arms reach.
we returned to our car on the now empty huge parking lot of the zoo. we decided not to wash the car again because of all the dead mosquitoes on the grill and bonnet. we drove back to the airport and searched the garage where to return our car.
the guy there told us that we drove about 3400 kilometres on our trip - not bad for three weeks. then we still had some time and money left on the airport, thus we decided to spend it for food, and souvenirs. we bought all kinds of maple stuff, like maple biscuits, coffee, tea, and of course syrup. the lady at the shop put it all in a plastic bag and gave it to us. we asked if it is not better to put it into one of those duty-free sealed bags for later security inspections. she said that would not be necessary. hm... but we have a transit flight via london, heathrow. no no, don't worry, that will be fine, she assured us. well, she works at the airport, so we trusted her - she should know best, right?
so, a few hours later, we got on the airplane and left canada. and, of course, we should have known better, it is not okay to carry liquids in a non-sealed bag when boarding the plane in london. what a nuisance. well, at least we did not get bored in london, while arguing for a long time with security personnel whether we can take the bottle with us or not.
and although this was not a very nice way to end our trip, all the stuff we have seen and experienced before was really awesome and amazing. what a great country (at least the small part that we got to see), we can really recommend going there. thanks nina for these great holidays - it was, as always, a great pleasure to travel a foreign country with you.
kilometres driven with car: 3400
usable pics taken on trip: 3356
track for day 22
day 21 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we left banff early. after having packed our stuff, booked our next room at a b&b in calgary, and having a small breakfast from our groceries, we got in the car and left banff. on our way through and out of town we saw the banff triathlon, which was through the whole city. it was wonderful to all watch the people and the age-range was from kids to really old people - that was quite impressive.
while driving out of the rocky mountains i got a little sad and depressed, as with 20 kilometres, there was a drastic change in scenery, colour, and temperature. from densely wooded mountains to plains of fields, from bright and rich colours, to brownish and rather pale. i definitely liked it better in the rockies.
in calgary[001-002] we had a little break to grab something to bite and a coffee and took an hour to clean our car thoroughly. this means throwing out all the liter, vacuuming the car passenger compartment, and having it washed in the car wash. not something that is a lot of fun, but it has to be done, as we will return the car tomorrow, and we thought it's better to have it done right away.
so, with our shiny car we were heading to the horseshoe[003-026] canyon where the temperature climbed up to 30 degrees celsius. puh, we were not used to that anymore. also people had short trousers and t-shirts only again. we soon adjusted to that way of dressing as it really was hot and the sun beat down.
horseshoe canyon is a weird landscape with strange stone formations. one can see the sedimentary layers, containing shale, sandstone, and coal; all from the cretaceous age, when this area used to be a swamp. the shapes were then later formed by creeks. a lot of fossil material was found here in this area too, like dinosaur bones.
which then led us to drumheller, where they have the world's largest dinosaur. so the entire city is about dinosaurs. they are basically everywhere, and from where we parked the car to the biggest dinosaur we spotted more dinosaurs[027-029,031-032,045-046] than humans. the ones on the streets are really cute, and it takes away the feeling of being in a ghost town. also they are friendly looking, bright spots in this otherwise dull surrounding.
the largest dinosaur in the world reminded me a bit of "dinky the dinosaur" in the game "fallout - new vegas". in both dinos one can walk up the stairs and enjoy the view from the mouth of the ancient life form, but in the real one, i refrained from climbing, as it was too hot for the both of us. at the visitor center right next to the dinosaur we asked a nice lady what else there is around to see, and she happily gave us a map and directions how to get to the local sights.
first one was a little church[049-053] they had there, and when i entered i almost bumped my head on the ceiling. so i walked in ducking my head. two rows of seats on each side, a small pulpit, music coming via a land line telephon - marvellous, i really liked that. i think i might have even attended a mess in that little thing just for the fun of it.
back into the canadian badlands, we drove to a group of hoodoos nearby. hoodoos[054-089] are created by a hard stone that protects its underlying softer stone ground from being washed out and eroded. so what's left after millions of years is a pillar with a rock on top of it, being several metres tall. really bizarre and fascinating.
it is said that they have their names from the word "voodoo", as it was believed that hoodoos are petrified giants who come alive in the dark. to protect the hoodoos, iron walkways were constructed around the hoodoos, so they can be easily accessed and are safe from destruction by people.
then we tried to find the ghost town of wayne[090-091], a former coal miner town. but all we found were a few houses with gardens and trailers, and a saloon. not really what we were expecting, so we drove back the dusty road, crossing the eleven one-lane bridges, each with a wooden plank bed, again. too bad, i would have loved to see a ghost town here in the badlands.
we started heading back to calgary, as the sun began to set. on our way back, we had a little break at the well hidden and quiet orkneys viewpoint[095-110].
then we drove on westward, with the sun setting in front of us. while this made it hard to see the road for nina who was driving, it made a wonderful photo opportunity for me.
we took highway 9 and made a few stops to take pictures, while driving on a straight road, framed with endless fields to both sides.
it seemed the later it got, the more mosquitoes were out. at one spot[160-162], where we stopped, it was especially bad, so we did not stay out of the car for longer than a minute. now we knew that there can be a mosquito problem in canada. this was always mentioned by our guide book, people we told about our canada trip, and we read that quite often while doing travel research. but so far we haven't had any nuisance of this kind.
lucky us, i guess.
it was already too dark for the camera, when we saw a badger crossing the road. aaaaaw, exotic wildlife, isn't that wonderful - so cute.
and so there's only one day left in canada...
track for day 21
day 20 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
for us in the banff area, and thus in the rocky mountains. so time for some more trails and falls before leaving here.
while driving to our first goal, we passed through the sawback prescribed fire area[003-009], where 1993 a fire was intentionally started here to burn down the trees and restart the floral live cycle. and after more than 20 years there were only a few new trees, short grass, and the burnt tree trunks still lying around not decayed or devoured by maggots and fungi? hm... seemed pretty strange to me, but that is what the nearby sign said.
nearby, while driving further up the bow parkway, there was a meadow with loads of red flowers[010-026], and a single burnt tree trunk[011-013,023,025-026], still standing. the colours and the size of this field of flowers were really impressive.
a little further up the highway we reached the parking lot from where we started the johnston canyon trail[027-096]. there is a paved walkway with bridges going right through the canyon. and it has two water falls, an upper, and a lower one. we started with the trail to the upper one[027-084].
the walk was nice, not too steep or strenuous, and had all the stuff we liked about the trails so far; cute squirrels, awesome trees, and thunderous waterfalls. and we noticed some strange coloured trees[041,043] that were bright yellow, like being covered in sulphur. we guessed it was some kind of fungal disease.
although signs encourage people to stay on the paved walkway, we left it to get right down to the river[065-068] and have a little picnic there, as the ground seemed save enough to climb down safely. there we also spotted the yellow stone wall[066,069-070,077,079] on the other side of the water. it looked like some sort of sedimentation.
after having reached the upper falls, we went back again, took a turn and reached the lower fall[085-096], where one can enter a small cave that was eroded by the lower fall, before it fell back to its current position. pretty astonishing and impressive.
back at the johnston canyon resort we had a delicious and tasty burger. nomnom, just the right thing after a little hike.
although it was already late in the afternoon we thought there is still time for another trail and some more falls. so we drove on to do the silverton falls trail[100-110].
in contrast to the rather crowded johnston canyon trail, here we were on our own again (and really just us, no bears, cougars, or other animals to be spotted. buhuuuu, too sad). after about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the fall[105,107-108]. we carved "N+N" into the rocks, and went back to the parking lot.
on our drive home to banff, we stopped at a rest place next to the moose meadows[111-118] (of course without a single moose).
we had another stop at the bow river rest place[120-128], that was rather hidden, and besides two lovebirds that were just leaving when we had arrived, we were the only ones there. the view was awesome, and at the foot of the hill, there were railroad tracks and a river. it was totally silent there, another site that will be added to the tons of memorable places here in canada.
after a last shot of banff's landmark mountain with its unique shape, and then we drove back to spend the last night in the canadian rocky mountains. oh, i will miss them. very much.
so very very much.
track for day 20
day 19 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
extending our stay here in banff for another night was the first thing we did today
. fortunately the room was available, so we did not have to move. so that was good news, and also that the weather got better actually. thus we happily got in the car, and drove northwards.
after a few short stops to enjoy the great scenery and landscapes, we soon arrived at a lookout over peyto lake[008-017]. the colour of the water was turquoise, the surrounding mountain looked amazing.
also, several days ago, i have noticed that some trees along the street were having their needles[005-006] and branches only on one side. my assumption that it is the cold wind freezing the sap and thus killing the branches and needles was confirmed a few days ago at the icefield glacier when our guide explained that phenomenon. so far i have not been close enough to such a tree to take good pictures of it, but now i have.
on our way to to the next lake, we saw two cars that just had an accident; a passenger was still penned in. it was a horrifying sight, but there were already loads of people there to help. still, it took more than 30 minutes until we heard the sirens of the ambulance car heading to place of the accident.
but at this time, we already were at the bow lake[018-035]. another reminder that we are deeper in the wilderness than we might think.
from the lake one can also see parts of the glacier snout of bow glacier[037-039] up in the mountains. we walked a little along the lakeside, took some pictures, enjoyed the view and the pure water of the lake (we spotted loads of fish), and then took a short coffee break at the num-ti-jah lodge.
there we had a little snack and tea for nina, and coffee for me. then we decided to have a little hike at lake helena, but a big red sign said it was closed because of grizzlies in this area. yeah, sure, like anyone would believe that there are actually bears around here...
ok, to be polite tourists and keep up the myth that there are bears around, we did not take this trail, but instead we went to lake louise[041-065] and took the lake agnes trail[041-120]. this trail runs past a little ground squirrel[046-048], the huge and rather ugly fairmont chateau[051-052,113] hotel, and a little statue of a happy swiss hiking guide, that showed people round long before it was so touristy as it is now.
while right at the shore loads of people took strolls along the lake, they were getting less and less the further away from the lake and up the mountain we walked. also it was already a bit late, and we were not sure if we would make it to our destination - a teahouse in the mountains - in time. quite a few people were on the descent, and some had encouraging words for us, that we can make it, and that it is not so far to the teahouse anymore. that was really nice, because the trail was really really steep and i think we looked quite exhausted (and actually we were exhausted).
at two third of our way up we took a short break at the small, but wonderful mirror lake[066-068,104]. we were the only ones, and it was very quiet and peaceful there. a really nice break. according to all the prints in the mud, this must be a rather busy spot during the day.
but we had to march on, to get to the teahouse in time, because by now, we really were longing for a hot beverage and something to eat.
after one and a half hour walking, and about 500 metres of elevation gain, we arrived at the teahouse[081-082,086,119-120], and fortunately it was still open. they had several blends of tea, but one of the guys working there told us, that the kitchen was already closed, and there was no food left. so nina had a herbal tea, i had a hot chocolate. and although they were the most expensive beverages we had so far on our trip, they were also the best ones we ever had. the high prices are due to the fact, that the five young people working there have to carry all the stuff themselves from the valley up to the house. they do so once a week.
also they have two small cabins where all the five of them sleep. they hardly have any electricity, and no hot water. they cook themselves, and have to carry down all the garbage too. but basically, they all seemed to enjoy the stay (although one girl had a fight with one of the boys about something concerning the earth toilets, and seemed pretty pissed). still, the guy we talked with assured us, on the whole they get along together pretty well, and they like the work they are doing here.
warmed up again, we started our descend and took a different route[090-104] down. at the mirror lake we got back to the route we have been taking uphill.
soon we got back to our car, and drove back to our accommodation, when suddenly i noticed in the rear view mirror a wonderfully lit mountain peak and clouds. so we stopped the car, got our camera gear and took some pictures. it really looked amazing, and the colours were quite intense.
but within 20 minutes the sun was gone, and darkness started to surround us. time to get back in the car and call it a day.
at home we were happy to take a shower, have a cup of tea, eat some of our groceries and get to bed.
track for day 19
day 18 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
the morning on this day
was rainy, cloudy, gray, and cold. so we decided to stay in bed, to get a little extra rest after the last few strenuous days. also it was a good opportunity to do the laundry again (as the hotel had laundry and dryer machines in the basement), sort out hundreds of megabytes of pictures, update the bLog and all the rest one does when the weather is not that promising.
while changing bills for coins at the reception the guy told me that the weather here in banff has been like this for over three weeks - rainy, cloudy, no sunshine. uh-oh... well, so far we have been really lucky with the weather and could not complain. also we were quite happy about the little break we got today.
but just as we had brought rain to the dried out regions in the west, we brought sunshine to alberta, because in the afternoon the sun came out. yippieh, lucky us.
so, we went out to explore the city of banff and sights nearby, such as the bow falls[003-010], that are right in the center of banff. if you started your canada trip in the west and came to banff now like we did, this is not really what you would call a fall, after all you have seen so far. but a little further down the river we got to get a beautiful view.
in the meantime it started to heavily rain again, so we decided to walk up to the banff springs hotel[002,012-028]. once there, it had stopped to rain again - strange weather. the hotel reminded me a little bit of the hotel in "the shining", but way more busy and crowded and no snow. still the stone walls were quite beautiful, and the view on the mountains was also wonderful.
still, we were not yet used to those masses of people, so we went for another trail nearby, namely the fenland trail[029-069]. beside one japanese woman who crossed our way, asking if there is an exit for this trail, we were alone. since she came from the same direction as we did, we could not answer her question.
the trail led through lush green meadows and awesome forests, and followed the river for most parts. the water was, as usual, of wonderful colour and pureness, with little bugs[053-055] and fishes in it.
then we drove on to the vermillion lakes[070-133], a series of lakes right next to the highway, from which we had already seen them the day we came to banff. and although right next to the highway, it was very quiet and calm, and there was traffic noise only once in a while. by now the sky was clear again, and almost no wind, so again perfect conditions for taking pictures.
we had wonderful reflections, easy access to the lakes, as they all were right next to the small road going from one lake to the next, and only a few people, most of them photographers looking for the same things as we did. all of them looked pretty happy with what they caught on camera, and so were we. sceneries like taken from a traveller catalogue or a glossy magazine. but as always, no picture can capture the real beauty there was.
once the sun has started to set, it got too dark for any more pictures without a tripod, and as we had already arrived at the last lake and thus the end of the street, we decided to call it a day, and drive back to banff.
shopping food in banff turned out to be tremendously expensive again, but this did not surprise us anymore. also we ran out of cash and could not find an ATM nearby or in the shop, so we reduced our groceries to a minimum. thus we had cup noodles this evening, also for the lack of motivation to search a decent restaurant.
track for day 18
day 17 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
there is no better way to start the day
than to go to a lake. at least in canada. so after having booked our next accommodation, we headed to horseshoe lake[001-019], a rather small lake that seems to be popular in summer for swimming and cliff jumping.
but today we were all alone. also there was no wind, so the reflections were wonderful on the water. the colour, purity, and cleanness of the water was stunning too; we could even see little trouts.
but then it started to drizzle, and we went back to our car to drive to the athabasca falls[020-038]. they are not famous for its height - which is only 22 metres - but for the huge amount of water running down the waterfall. according to an information sign there the colour of the water is greyish because it is full of "rock flour" - small and tiny rock particles - grinding and smoothing the stone, and making potholes[021,025-029] over thousands of years. it also provided information about how the water fall has moved over time, abandoning the riverbed and finding new ways around hard rocks, and how the edge of the waterfall has moved up the river because the riverbed got flushed and hollowed out.
it started to heavily rain, so we got back to the car and drove to a restaurant to have a little bite and a coffee. we had buried ourselves in our guide books to decide what to do next, so we did not notice that a guy had come to our table to warn us about a little thief scouting around from table to table to pocket crumbs and other loose stuff to eat. and just as the guy was talking to us, the cute little ground squirrel was already on nina's shoulder inspecting what our table offered. swiftly he got on the table, grabbed a small piece of my muffin, and then got out at the exit.
this all happened so fast, we didn't even have time to get our cameras out. aaaaaaw, so cute. the guy then told us, that a few days ago he managed to steal cookies and other sweets. brave little rascal.
although highly enraptured by the little creature, we had to go on and drove to the next falls, namely the sunwapta falls[044-055]. "sunwapta" means turbulent water, and nomen est omen. the thundering of the falls here was not as loud as the athabasca falls, but still very powerful and impressive.
while we were driving on, the clouds grew darker again, and the weather was changeable - rain, drizzle, sunlight. so far we managed to flee from the dark clouds that were following us all the way since morning. near our next destination we stopped at a viewpoint[060-072] to enjoy the magnificent landscape, with mountain peaks hidden in rain clouds.
and then there was this lovely raven[067-072] at the parking lot too, trying to find food dropped by tourists. this bird seemed less shy than all the other ravens i have spotted so far, so i gave him small pieces of our cookies, decreasing the distance between the car and the cookie crumbs steadily. and soon the raven was as close as two metres. but getting any more closer than that he did not dare. and yes, i know i should not have fed any wildlife. shame on me, but i just love to see them up close. i just really love those intelligent big birds.
driving further up the mountains we finally reached the icefield centre[092-144]. from here loads of tourist attractions start, thus the place is really crowded with hordes of tourists.
we decided to do the "icefield glacier adventure tour"[094-140], which will bring us right onto the columbia icefield. although there would have also been a guided hiking tour going up from the end of the glacier to the same spot were the huge truck brought us, this way was the faster one, although we actually would have preferred the former one. and so we drove there in the ice explorer vehicle, with wheels almost as tall as me.
this vehicle can also go up and down really steep terrain[134,136], but doing so it is very slow. good for us, as we got a good look around from inside the bus.
the truck let us get off right on the glacier on a straightened out area, so it somehow was walking on the glacier, but not as authentic as it was on the helicopter glacier tour we did in new zealand three years ago (oh man, that was so awesome) where we really set foot on the untreated ice. also we were a group of about eight people, where here we were around 45 people. per bus. and at one time, there were a total of three buses there. so, it gets pretty crowded up there. in summer, we were told, there's even more people. puh...
but, we are tourists too after all, so no complaining about touristy things, right? so we made the best out of it, wandered around, doing a little snowball fight, and drank the pure melt water, which really tasted very pure and good. it is also said, that women (only) will look about ten years younger, once they drank the water. i wonder what nina will look like tomorrow...
one and a half hour later the tour was done and we were back to the icefield center, had another hot beverage there for warming up again after being exposed to ice and cold wind. we got on the car and drove on, when we realized we almost ran out of fuel. actually our smart car told us in the morning we would have no problems driving the distance to our next accommodation, but i guess all the time driving up the mountains cost more gasoline than the average calculation had predicted. so there was this big blinking icon warning us that we should get some fuel soon.
and most likely - with the proverbial last drop - we made it to a small gas station, which turned out to be the most expensive gas station we have come by so far; even more expensive than any filling station in british columbia with their higher taxes. grrrrr... so we only filled up as much to get to the next city to buy cheaper gasoline.
which we than did, but before that we stopped at some more beautiful lakes, like, for example, the waterfowl lake[185-201], and bow lake[203-209] a little later. both again had a striking turquoise and greenish colour.
last lake for today was herbert lake[212-221], another lake we had to ourselves only sharing with a ground squirrel[212-216]. almost no wind meant good conditions for reflections on the water, but unfortunately it was already late, so the light was already diminishing. also, the rain has caught up with us again.
so we kept on driving and had no further stops on our way to banff, where we will stay the next nights in the "tunnel mount resort". it was already dark when we came to banff, so we have not seen much of it, but we noticed they have the street named after animals. so there is a beaver street, otter street, and a cougar and lynx street. we liked that - unfortunately our hotel is a little outside of banff, so the street did not get an animal name - too sad.
dinner (or rather almost a midnight snack) was sushi from a delivery service, since all the restaurants near by had already closed, and we were lazy and hungry, so we did not drive back to town to search for a restaurant that was still opened. after eating, we got to bed as we were sooooooo tired. another exciting and wonderful day in canada.
track for day 17
day 16 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we booked another night in jasper, and when telling our host that we saw caribous the day before, we were very disappointed to hear that there are no caribous around at this time of the year, and those few that had survived all the wolves so far, are rarely spotted. sad us. but our host also told us her husband has spotted a wolf these days on a certain road. so we will go there today in the afternoon - maybe we get to see a wolf (assuming they are not a legend and lie just as the rest of all the wildlife here in canada, because by now we are very certain the bear is a lie. such as the cougar. and the moose. and the lynx).
although the weather did not look very promising, clouds covered the gray sky and from time to time there were light rainfalls, we still wanted to go up the whistler's mountain[001-067] with the jasper cable car[062,063], which is the lengthiest of its kind in canada and takes you from 1300 to 2300 metres altitude in approximately seven minutes. the ride itself was turned into an event; while we are used to having transported as many people up the hill as possible, so they can do their sports activities there, here you get a ticket with an assigned number and time.
then there are loudspeaker announcements telling people to prepare for preboarding (yes, really), and then a few minutes later there is the final call for boarding. this repeats itself every 15 minutes. since it was quite early when we got there, and the weather didn't look so good, we only had to wait for one car to board the cabin. on board there was infotainment by a guy handling the doors. he did a good job actually, and told us what lakes and mountains we could see from up there. well, at least the guy still seemed to have fun and enjoy his job.
up on the mountain it was cold, very windy, and clouds and fog were climbing up on one side of the mountain. still we wanted to hike the few hundred metres to the summit. on the steep way up we took some breaks - low oxygen levels and such forced us to - and we spotted a rainbow[018-019], a gentian, and a little ground squirrel[033-036].
at 12:00 sharp, we made it to the peak[039-050] at 2450 metres, and built our own stone man, called "inuksuk"[047-048] - isn't it lovely? not as big as the other ones[039-041] built there, but still our lasting mark on whistler's peak.
back at the upper station of the cable car we had a coffee and tea to warm up again. from the little restaurant we spotted another one of those seemingly endless trains. also we saw jasper[062,064-067], that looks like a big "J". and we found a little souvenir magnet, with a bear on a spring in a canoe, an oar in his paws. actually, super ugly and kitschy; but we liked the wobbling bear, so we kept it and placed it on the dashboard of our car for fun and wobble.
next we did a little hike again, but this time in the plains. the trail is called "the valley of the five lakes"[066-139], is about 10 kilometres long, and takes in - as the name implies - five lakes, each with its own distinct colour.
it took us quite a while until we got to the first lake[094-103]. there are two loop trails; a short one, which covers some lakes, and a long one, which covers all of them, and includes the short one. and the longer one is the one we did. and while we walked a few hours, we only met a few living beings. one of them being a blue grouse[096-097] in camouflage plumage, which did not move all the time while we were staring at it and taking pictures. the second one was a human being with a dog. i wanted to ask him if the dog has sensed any wildlife, but he was passing by too quick; but then again, he most likely would have warned us anyway.
heading on, we soon came to the second lake[104-114], followed by the third lake[115-124]. there we found a pair of bright red chairs[115,121], which are part of the "jasper red chair program". there is a total of six of these chairs "placed in quiet, scenic locations carefully selected by parks canada staff because these places inspire the truest sense of 'awe'", as it said. and the place chosen for the chairs we found, really offered an awe-inspiring sight. so we did as suggested, and sat there quietly and discovered.
next, you might have guessed it, were the fourth lake[125-133], and the fifth lake. the colour of each lake was really wonderful, from a lush green to a shiny cyan, really impressive.
while hiking we found out something quite interesting. chipmunks have this unique alert sound when you come close to them. to me it sounded like a rattlesnake's rattle sound made by a bird. at least, that's how i would describe it. anyhow, as soon as one of those cute little rodents starts with this sound, you can hear it for a very very long time, even if you have already left the area where the chipmunk spotted you. but one time we greeted the chipmunk, and were waving in its direction. and suddenly... it had stopped.
coincidence we thought at first, but then it was like that in over 75% of our encounters. funny thing. so from now on, we will always greet the chipmunks and wave. being polite is the least we can do when intruding into their homes we thought.
it was about 18:00 o'clock when we got back to jasper, so we decided to give the place a shot where our host's husband has seen the wolf a few days ago. we thought this might be a good time for the animals to wander around. so we drove up the marmot basin road, that would lead to an alpine resort, but since the season is not opened yet, the road is hardly used, thus the animals will not get scared away. we parked our car on a long straight segment of the road, to easier spot animals crossing the street.
but no animals came. no bear, no lynx, no cougar, no moose, nothing. after about 20 minutes we gave up, and drove back on the road, when suddenly i spotted something on the side of the road. it turned out it was a big (but skinny) black wolf[140-152]. i jammed on the brakes, and kept distance to the wolf to not scare it. but the longer we followed the wolf, the more obvious it got, that he did not care at all what were doing. so i got closer, and even drove a short distance right next to him.
then he branched off into the woods, but i guess not because of us, but rather because that was his route. how awesome is that, we got as close as about three or four metres to a wild wolf - lucky us. and we also were quite happy that we were safe in the car all the time.
we thought it could not get any better, so, after calming down again (we were soooo happy and excited), we drove down the road, when suddenly we crossed the path of the wolf[154-157] again. he must have taken the straight way, while we were meandering down the mountain road, so the timing was perfect; by happenstance.
back in jasper we spotted some more elks[158-159], it seems they are so used to cars and humans, they do not even seem to notice them while grazing on the roadside.
by now it was already pretty late and getting too dark for the camera, still we went to lake pyramid[160-166], where one can walk to a small island, called mckibbin island. the loop trail is only a few metres long, so we decided to add this one to our odometer.
and one last stop at lake patricia, since it was on our way home. but it was already too dark, so we just hopped off the car, looked around, and hopped on again.
back in jasper we both were pretty tired and exhausted, so we did not want to put too much effort into deciding which food to get. across our accommodation there is a big gas station with a family restaurant right next to it, with a big neon-light sign saying "pizza". and that is exactly what we had; a big american style pizza, as seen on tv commercials. thick, cheesy, and surprisingly delicious - and it was good we ordered one to share, because we both were totally stuffed.
fortunately we only had to cross the street to get to our beds, because that was just the place we wanted to be then. what a great day.
track for day 16
day 15 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
in the morning we started with a breakfast in a cafe in jasper, and by this and a little window shopping our suspicion that this little town really is expensive was more than confirmed. but then again, this is not really surprising for a tourist town. the breakfast though was awesome, delicious, and worth every pence - i had pancakes with fruit, maple syrup and whipped cream. i would call that a good start to the day.
and it was also necessary for we started with a several kilometre long hike, the maligne canyon[001-080] hike, that runs alongside of the maligne river.
several bridges cross the canyon, and each provides a good look down into the canyons that have been carved into the rock by the water over thousands of years. sometimes the glacier fed water, has also eroded pools[016-018,026,028,035,] into the rock.
venturing of the trail, one can even get right down to the river bed, which we did several times (though it actually is not advised to so) and enjoyed the crystal clear turquoise water from close up. little waterfalls can also be found along the trail, and underground springs[048,059], feeding the river with more water.
the way back we choose a different path, leading more up the mountain[070-075], and soon one could not hear the river anymore.
our next stop was for medicine lake[085-136], which actually is not a lake in the usual sense. it is actually all sinkholes and caves in the ground, overflowing with melt waters. so during late summer there is a lake, while in winter, there is only a river. it also is considered the biggest underground (and inaccessible) cave system in the world.
besides that interesting fact, we also found interesting little creatures running around between the rocks. they look like hamsters, but actually are rabbits, although they don't look like that. they are called pika[090,094-099,104-108], and they are super cute, and make cute warning sounds, and run around with tufts of grass in their mouth, and they are extremely fast. we also believe, they might somehow be related with pikachu, the electro pokemon.
then it was time for the next lake, called maligne lake[137-185], which is more than 20 kilometres long, so a trip around the lake was beyond question. instead we did the 3.2km long mary schaeffer loop trail, which covers only a small part of the lake in the north west. here we noticed for the first time that autumn seems to be draining the green colours from the deciduous trees and paints them in brownish, reddish, and yellowish colours. we also thought how beautiful it must be here in late autumn, with all the different colours of the trees. hmmmm.... it definitely might be worth coming back here again to see that.
after this little hike we had a short coffee break with the very friendly mounty bear, and continued our journey through the jasper national park to a lake where there were less tourists as there were at lake maligne, the tourist magnet.
and so we landed at lake annette[193-217]. here, there were no people, no wind, the wonderful light from sun set. perfect conditions for nice photos. and so we did some with the beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains. that was really awesome, and we enjoyed that very much.
then suddenly there's smoke[203-204] around everywhere, and at first we were afraid it might be a wildfire, but then it turned out people were using the public huts nearby, which also have a built-in stove to keep them warm and cooking.
soon we came to an open rest area where a couple was feeding a fluffy tiny squirrel[218-232]. this guy was stuffing tons of food into his stash in the trees. we also added some grams to that. aaaaaaaw, so cute.
next... tadaaaa, surprise, another lake, namely lake edith[233-249]. but to be fair, those two lakes are right next to each other, with a pathway, only a few metres wide dividing them. and then there is also the ochre lake[233-234], which is actually a huge quicksand area, surrounded by a fence. but since there was a little puddle we guess it's called a lake.
right next to the public fireplace hut mentioned earlier, there's also a small playground for children, and there i spotted the biggest raven i have ever seen. the bird was also pretty shy, so he flew away when i wanted to get closer to take a picture. but that one was really really big. actually all the ravens here are bigger than the crows and ravens at home - such lovely creatures.
then we called it a day, our lake quota for today definitely fulfilled. also it got late, so we wanted to get home and rest. just before returning to jasper town we spotted a group of caribous[250-255] grazing along the road. yay, wildlife.
track for day 15
day 14 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we decided to sleep a little longer, to get a good rest after all the driving from yesterday, and the driving that will follow today. we planned to get to jasper national park today, which means another 375km (or four hours) ride today
. which also means sitting in the car most of the time again.
but before we hit the road, we needed to book an accommodation for tonight in jasper. in our tradition to the last few holidays, when we always ignored unfavourable circumstances like the day of the booking falling on a weekend, or our target being a tourist magnet, we once more had a really hard time to get a room. jasper seemed to be fully booked, no site we visited on the internet showed any vacancies.
then we found one last room, and tried to call, but on the telephone we got an automated message that this number belongs to some fraudulent blah blah, or something like that. hm? the only room available and we cannot book it, because the telephone provider says no? luckily we were at a cafe (because they have internet) and asked one of the girls working there where the next public phone is, and we explained our situation to her. thankfully she allowed us to use the cafe's telephone for this long-distance call, and this time the phone was answered - yippieh, we could book.
funny fact: gloria, the owner of the place where we will sleep tonight said she just updated the information for the free room on the internet, as a couple has just cancelled five minutes earlier.
woah, super lucky us. i wonder if we ever will learn our lesson when it comes to booking on weekends or holidays.
now we were way more relaxed, and finally started our long journey through the wonderful landscapes and breathtaking sceneries that canada has to offer. on this trip there was also a tremendous change in the terrain as we slowly, but steadily entered the canadian rocky mountains. notice the pictures taken during the ride[001-011,077-084,089-094,099,124-135,152-158], as more and more mountain peaks appear. it was really amazing to watch the change in the environment. also the temperature dropped for at least 10 degrees celsius.
but lets start with our first break we had, which was at the ancient tree trail[011-076] (which was a small stage of the driscoll ridge trail, which we did not take, as it would have been too time consuming).
although it was raining, and it looked like it would get worse soon, we decided to walk the trail, and it was good we had done so. because once more we were in an awesome wood with so many shadings of green, and such an intense colour saturation. stunning, as usual.
besides a couple, that we met at the end of the trail, we were all alone in this wood (alone as in no people, no bears, no cougars, no lynx, no moose, etc). we were pretty glad that parts of the trail provided wood-planked bridges and paths, so we would not slip on the muddy ground. also nina's ankle wouldn't have been fit for that yet.
some of the trees are over several thousand years old, and get pretty big[022-023,044,060], in height and diameter. it's really an amazing wood and sight if you stand in front of such a giant.
the rain didn't get as much worse as expected, yet it was still raining a lot, so we got in the car again, dried our cameras and lenses, and drove on. and then we spotted three deer in the wood through which the yellowhead highway passes. wohooo, wildlife encounter.
then we had a coffee break at mcbride[085-088], a small cafe that also seems like a little museum, with all the different oddities standing, lying and hanging around. also they had excellent home-made pumpkin pie. nomnomnom, so delicious. behind the house was the rail track that had a train parked there. the number of wagons in each direction was uncountable. and each wagon had two containers stacked. so the total amount of goods being trans- ported by that single one train must be enormous. we already saw some of these endlessly seeming trains. quite impressive what a railway engine can pull (or push).
then comes driving, driving, driving, and a short break at the tete jaune rest area[095-098]. why the naming suddenly switches to french (it's "yellowhead" in french), i have no idea, but it seems the closer we get to alberta and jasper, the more french people are starting to gather around us.
next stop were the rearguard falls[100-123]. all the noise, the spray, the power to grind stone, falls never cease to amaze me, no matter how many of them i visit. the rearguard falls are one of two falls on fraser river, and it is said, that one can see salmon here. only the strongest of the pacific salmon species is able to make the 1200km migration from the ocean to this place. we weren't really sure if what we saw was really salmon or just reflections in or on the water.
hard to tell, but simply just assume we have seen salmon (we think in slide , the silvery line on the left over the stones is a fish), so we can add one more animal to our feeble wildlife spotting list.
further up the yellowhead highway we came by the pretty long moose lake[136-151], but of course - as always so far - nomen non est omen. so no moose, just lake. but actually a pretty fine lake, to be honest. the sky has cleared a bit, there was hardly any wind, so ideal circumstances for nice pics with reflections on the water. unfortunately it was already a bit too dark, so the light meter of our cameras had a hard time.
and so it was time to leave the wonderful, very british, and lovely british columbia. the last stop there was at little portal lake[159-163], which is only a few metres from the border to alberta away on the yellowhead pass. here it was definitely too dark by now to take good pictures, but we decided to take some anyway, as in real it just looked wonderful.
back on the road we left british columbia, and entered alberta and finally the jasper national park. we knew that it requires a parking ticket to be allowed to stay in the park area, but so far we didn't know where to get it and if a pass for multiple days would be better, and so on. at the toll gate, all these questions were cleared and answered within one question by a really super friendly guy. after an initial "bon jour, hello" (which was absolutely not what i had expected and left me confused for a few seconds - that was too much french for me), he asked us how long we plan to stay in national parks.
fortunately we already had planned that in advance, so we gave him the number of days, and instantly he recommended to by a weekly pass, which we did. we really liked this friendly, charming guy.
jasper was ... a bit of a surprise to us. or... not. well, it was both actually. it very much reminded us of kitzbuehel, or st. moritz. a little touristy town, full of touristy shops, and more touristy tourists, with one main street, and one bar and restaurant next to the other. and jasper is supposedly the more quiet, smaller, and less touristy park compared to banff. we expected something like this from our guide books, but seeing it in reality was another thing.
after shopping some groceries, which are much more expensive here then back in british columbia (which actually has higher taxes than alberta, which has none at all), we finally made it to the "mountain memories" accommodation, where the last available room from this morning in jasper awaited us.
track for day 14
day 13 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
was a day full of driving. approximately 750km from prince rupert to prince george, or "about nine hours" as the canadians would measure it. we only had a few stops, the weather was rather changeable and capricious. so, good weather for driving. and good for you, as there's not much text to be read, but also not many pictures, with most of them being drive-by photo shots.
one longer stop was at sealy lake[02-07] to have a break and some fresh air.
next stop was at the irrigation (or dunalter) lake[17-29] (yes, that is really the official name). a really nice place with tables and benches there and a changing cubicle, so we assumed people really go there for swimming. but definitely not today. at first only a small bulldozer was there doing some repair work on the gravel road that led there. but his work was done about ten minutes after we have arrived, so in the end we were all alone there, having our lunch break. really a tranquil, beautiful spot we picked.
a warning sign for moose crossing was also there, but as we by now believe, bears and moose are a lie here in west canada. the signs are just to make tourists believe those extinct animals are still there.
almost at the end of our trip we were rewarded with a wonderful double rainbow.
ah, and my gps tracker works again - yippieh. thus, here it is, the...
track for day 13
day 12 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
uaaah, getting up at 04:30 today
was horrible. but our host at the back packers was so nice and really got up with us to wake us in case we would ignore our alarm clock. he said so the day before, but i wasn't sure if he really meant it. so, four zombies were walking the halls of the hostel, the host, a girl (who has already booked a shuttle to the ferry, as she's traveling on foot), and us - all of them tired and not in the mood for much talking. a cyclist has already left 30 minutes earlier to get to the terminal in time. all of them made it.
as written on our confirmation we were at the terminal two hours before departure, but then had to wait, and wait, and wait. all those lost precious minutes we could have slept longer - what a pity, what a waste. but finally we were boarded, and on schedule the ferry left port hardy to take us to prince rupert.
soon we saw two humpback whales[16-17] in the distance, and some dolphins too, also far off in the distance. pretty cool.
it is said that the "inside passage", the route our ferry goes, is a beautiful trip, or, as some even put it, an experience of a lifetime, full of magnificent fjords, islands, inlets, breathtaking landscapes, and blah blah blah ... admittedly, the trip definitely is beautiful, stunning, and all, but... only in the beginning. soon you discover, that it is always the same sight, more or less. considering the trip takes about 16 hours, this is hardly surprising.
also in summer time, the ferry trip goes during the day and has stops at some terminals. which one, depends on the day of the trip. ours was the lovely little bay of bella bella[30-39], where we had a one hour stop. so we were watching the fishermen (and fisherwomen), loads of salmon jumping out of the water (in slide  all the white spots on the surface are fish), and some more eagles[33-39]. in winter time the trip is during the night hours. also, the ferry just goes every second day.
we also booked a little outside two berth cabin and had some sleep during the hours where no sight was announced. there was a map in the hallways with the distance in hours from port hardy when to see the next sight, so we could time that quite good. except of course for wildlife sightings, which was announced by the crew, like "our captain would like to inform you, that we have spotted some on the side of the ship
a few hundred metres ahead". so the rest of the passengers hunting wildlife with their camera gears were watching the back of the ship. that's also were we spotted the whales and dolphins.
once every two hours passengers were also allowed to return to their cars for 15 minutes to get stuff from or to the car. since it was colder and more windy on deck than i had expected, i once used that time frame to get my thicker jacket from the car. that is when i spotted an old man with his little cat sitting in the animal's cargo hold. the cat in his arm, he was talking to the tiny kitten, and petting it, so it wont get too nervous. aaaaaw, so cute. to keep the cat from more stress i did not enter the hold, but watched, unnoticed by the man, through the porthole. so cute, so tiny, ooooh, i so wanted to touch it. unfortunately i did not bring my camera with me to the parking level, so there is no picture of the two of them.
as i erroneously wrote in yesterday's bLog entry, it was not yesterday our last day at the coast, but of course today. you cannot get much closer to the sea than on a ferry. still, this does not change the fact that we will miss all the sea stuff.
also there still hasn't been a bear sighting so far, which also makes us rather sad. furthermore no cougars, no beavers, no moose, no mountain goats (ok, we have not been in the mountains yet, so that's actually okay), no lynx, no bobcats, no sea otters.
when we got to our bed & breakfast, the "java lodge bed & breakfast" in prince rupert the owner was already waiting for us. she brought us upstairs to our room, where we heard a cat crying. turns out there's a cat right next door to where we are sleeping - yippieh.
as every evening, i did all the follow up tasks of the day in the hostel. this includes stuff like transferring the pictures and notes from during the day to the computer, making backups of the pictures to an external usb hard disk, and copying the GPS track to my computer and feed it to my photo rendering software. that is when i found out that today's track was totally broken and useless - i have no idea why. the signal was excellent while being on board, a little weak while being in the cabin, but that should not have been a problem. so i did a dump of all the data that was on the tracker so far, which goes back to our taiwan holidays back in 2012. although the space was still about 59 per cent free, i deleted all the data. hopefully tomorrow it will work fine again.
the track used for the pictures is a reconstructed one, so it probably is pretty inaccurate, but should do as to get a hint where the pictures where taken.
track for day 12 (reconstructed).
day 11 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we were woken up at around 01:00 o'clock, as at that time the power went back on again, and the lights in our room were switched on. yay, electricity was back again.
that means a hot shower in the morning, a breakfast at the near-by bakery, and working washing and drying machines at the local laundry, which was really really necessary as we both ran out of fresh clothes. once this necessity was done, we were heading to port hardy, where our ferry back to the main land will leave tomorrow, earliest in the morning.
on our way to port hardy we hardly made any stops, if we did, i was ordered to park the car in a way that nina does not have to get out of the car for taking pictures. while this was usually the way most tourists (read: american tourists) did take their pictures, i granted her wish, as a special exception, as she was still handicapped with her ankle.
hehe, naaah, just kidding, nina was simply just lazy, and i shouldn't support that. so, i took a picture to let everyone know how lazy she was that day.
we arrived near port hardy in the afternoon, and went to see the quatse loop trail[03-47], before checking in at our hostel for the night. the loop trail led us through another wonderful wood. oh man, i love those trees and woods.
then we spotted another eagle[13-15,17] from a bridge. we actually surprised the bird when walking over the bridge, as he was sitting right under it. so he flew a few metres to safety and landed on the nearby tree next to the pretty dried out river.
remember the picture with the droppings from day_08? i caught another one doing it, see slide . eagles are really graceful, and awe-inspiring animals (besides the droppings stuff). we really like to watch them.
then we drove to the stories beach road[48-78] in port hardy, because we read about it in our guide books and it was nearby and easy to access. oh, and we saw a rainbow[51-54] there - aaaaaaaaw, how beautiful.
then we found a restaurant right at the beach in the centre of port hardy, where we had sushi[79-81], as this would be our last chance for fresh caught fish directly from the coast, and our last day so close to the sea. ownoez, we will miss the salty breeze, the seagulls, the driftwood, the sound of the waves, the corpses of various sea creatures, algae, bull kelp... and all the rest.
ah, and then it started to rain[82-85] - according to the locals this was the first time since july. glad we brought rain with us as there are fire hazard signs everywhere, with a five level dial ranging from green (no hazard) to red (no open fires allowed), and whenever we spotted one, it was set to red, so no BBQ or any open campfires allowed. also all the meadows, the woods, moss, and lichen, though lush, were extremely dried out - so rain, even if it's just a little, will be good.
also it is our last day in the area with the highest bear population in canada, and we haven't even seen one so far. we were also told there's a mother bear with two cubs running around. latest sighting of them was yesterday. why haven't we seen them? poor, unfortunate us.
we soon went to bed at the "C&N back packers hostel", as our ferry will be - as already mentioned - leaving early in the morning. early, as in really early. we have to get up at 04:30. brrrr....
track for day 11
day 10 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
, day ten, started with a breakfast in the bed & breakfast. we talked with rocco, an italian guy running it. he told us, that years ago in this area there were purple starfish all over the beach - that's why he has chosen the name for the b&b. but nowadays the starfish have almost disappeared or you can only find parts of the starfish, as if they are dissolved or fallen apart.
too bad, as we wanted to see some. yet, despite the bad news, we tried our luck at the miracle beach[01-27] provincial park, that is near campbell river. and besides tiny crabs, mussels, shells of dead crabs, a heron, loads of seagulls, large bull kelps, and much more, we really did not find a single purple starfish. too sad.
after a little bit of driving we decided to take a break at the hoomak lake[27-38] rest area, where we spotted a cute steller's jay[34-38].
then a little more driving, until we finally arrived at port mc-neill, where we checked in at the dalewood inn. the homepage of the hotel promised a nice sushi restaurant right next to it, and that is what we were longing for the whole drive long - fresh fish. but port mcneill seemed like a ghost town - reason was, that there was no electricity in town. actually, there was no electricity in the whole northern part of vancouver islands. wow, now that was surprising.
no electricity meant no restaurant, no shops, no credit card machine to pay the hotel, no hot water, no coffee, no tv, no internet. one of those moments that remind you how much you depend on electricity. but the guy at the reception said it was a transformer change, scheduled until 20:00 o'clock. so we took a long stroll to the nearby harbour park[39-94] and watched the sun set, while loads of seagulls and ravens[50-73] were loudly fighting over gutted fish that the local fishers dumped there. since there was not much to see besides the birds, we returned to the hotel.
by 20:30 o'clock there was still no electricity, and it started to get dark. and darker. and even darker. and finally it was totally dark. at around 22:00 o'clock we decided to call it a day, get some sleep, and hoped that it might be fixed until tomorrow morning, since there was not much we could do about it anyway.
track for day 10
day 09 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we had breakfast with the other guests again, then checked out of the hotel, bought a bandage for nina's ankle, and finished our "wild pacific trail" hike on the other end of the trail, the lighthouse[001-008]. it's easily accessible by car, and the lighthouse is not far from the parking lot, as nina's foot didn't get significantly better over night, and still hurt. but at least with the help of the bandage she was able to walk short distances without too much suffering.
then we drove to the ucluelet aquarium[009-069], as we thought it's more like a big attraction in ucluelet. but the place itself is very small, but, it has some very cool features. first of all, you can touch most of the animals, so for the first time we touched all kind of star fish[010,013], sea anemone[023-026], sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. really fascinating and surprising, how some of those fellas feel like.
and then there's this community thing going on with the pupils of ucluelet and the aquarium. each year, around october, every kid gets one animal, and will release it back into the sea. so the guys there expect a big fight over who will be allowed to release the kraken.
i think that's a really wonderful thing, as children get to know what is going on in the sea, and get to touch the animals. also every display tank was donated and sponsored by a local company (like the fish&chips guy had one too). another thing we really liked about the little ucluelet aquarium.
then we started heading north, and soon drove on the pacific rim highway[070-114], where we took a short break to explore a place that people used for cooling down and swim in a cold river. so we also stopped and saw some nice rocks shaped by the river in thousands of years, and crystal clear water. absolutely beautiful.
a little later we stopped at the little qualicum falls[115-188], that were surrounded by woods full of lichen, moss, and again so many shades of green - i totally like the woods here, especially in the warm afternoon and evening sun, then all the colours get even more intense. very carefully and even slower than usual we walked along the trail, trying not to put too great a strain on nina's ankle.
a few hours later we finally arrived at campbell river[189-204], just as the sun began to set. again tremendously beautiful.
then it was time to drive the last few hundred metres to the bed & breakfast, where we had booked our stay for the night at the "purple starfish b&b", like the one we had touched in the morning at the aquarium.
track for day 09
day 08 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we got up very early (for our standards, which is around 07:30 o'clock) to have a wonderful breakfast prepared by sue, our nice host. her husband stew, and malcolm their dog, also showed up from time to time, though malcolm actually wasn't allowed in the guest area of the house, but... well, he's so damn cute, who could have been mad at him. most of the other guests were here for playing golf it turned out, as in canada a lot of people seem to love it.
we, on the other hand, were more into hiking for today, so we did the "wild pacific trail"[001-140] hike that goes along the western shoreline of the ucluelet peninsula.
aside from driftwood, dead and living sea creatures, awesome trees, and cute colourful flowers, we also spotted all kinds of animals.
and among those were two eagles. we were very very lucky as once they landed at a tree that could be observed from a viewing point that even had a bench, so we both could sit down, relax, and wait for the eagles to do... well, what eagles usually do. it turns out they sit around a lot. and do nothing. and sit. and watch. and sit. and ... do nothing. oh, and from time to time they drop stuff. see slide  where the thing flies between the first and the third branch from bottom on the right side.
yes, that's what they do.
soon both eagles were gone, and we continued our hike, when nina suddenly twisted her ankle badly, when she slipped on driftwood. at first she still could walk, but soon the pain got worse, and so we went to the next parking lot, where she sat down to rest, and i went home to get the car to fetch her the last few kilometres back to our inn.
we are really worried now with nina's ankle sprain as we had planned some more hiking on our canada trip. sue gave us some ice packs, and she seemed to be an expert in ankle sprains, as she told me that she hurts herself all the time, and cooling and putting up the foot will help. i hope she's right about that...
to get something to eat i hoped in the car, drove to the town centre of ucluelet and got us some delicious burgers with fries from a restaurant.
after dinner i was nursing nina a little, positioned her chair towards the tv set, and then explored the beach right in the back of the inn on my own a little as it is such a wonderful place.
when i went down i heard the lonesome fog horn blow (remember the first sentence spoken in "twin peaks"?), and within a few minutes the little islands close to the bay was covered in fog[141-148] - pretty impressive, and i liked the atmosphere.
the fog horn continued to blow every 20 seconds the whole night long, accompanied by the sound of a buoy every few seconds (by changing it's pitch to determine the height of the waves). i felt like in the movie "the fog" (not the remake, no, the original one from 1980 by john carpenter).
i really hope nina's foot gets better until tomorrow - poor her.
track for day 08
day 07 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
started with an awesome breakfast from our host darleen containing coffee, a platter of various fruits, and delicious self-made scones, toast, butter, and jam.
after checking out we drove to a small electronic shop named "the source" to get an cable to connect the headphone jacks of our mobile phones with the car's auxiliary in, so we don't rely on radio signal anymore to have a little entertainment while driving the long distances.
our first stop should have been the old country market in coombs, famous for its goats on roofs, but we ended up at the wrong market in errington at first. but soon we found the actual market in coombs. after spotting the goats on the roof[002,012], we walked around the market, found loads of pottery[004-010], and shops with souvenir stuff. we also found a shop with good looking fruits and vegetables, where we bought some stuff.
after a touristy overload at coombs we were heading on to the cathedral grove[027-085], a forest that seemed like an enchanted place. all the moss, the lichen, the trees with strangely formed branches and twigs, and the huge amount of shades of green was overwhelming.
some trees were older than 800 years. the largest tree is a douglas fir, 76 metres in height. this place was really impressive, awe-inspiring, and had a special atmosphere and mood.
on our drive to ucluelet[086-099] we had several stops at places that looked interesting or worth stopping, like that place where they did zip-lining[086-093] (but unfortunately we just missed the last group zip-lining through the canyons). actually there would have been so many more, and we really did a good job at reducing the stops to an acceptable amount and still get some mileage.
finally we arrived at our place to sleep for this night, a snug harbour inn[100-156] that has a cute dog named malcolm, and an exceptional view over the inn's very own beach. there we spotted a deer that suddenly emerged out of nowhere, and reminded us that we are actually surrounded by wildlife - wildlife such as bears too. a little more cautious we proceeded to explore the beach and spotted eagles[124-125,128-131] - how awesome is that? i have never seen one of the big ones outside of a zoo so far.
then it slowly got darker and we were hungry, so we asked sue, our very nice and lovely host, what the good spots in ucluelet are to grab a bite. among all kinds of restaurants she also recommended jigger's fish & chips. after a short drive to the town centre and a short stroll[156-163] we found the truck, that only stops at this specific place in the evening to sell the food, then disappear again, just to come back the next day again. the fish & chips were really delicious.
wohooo, we have seen eagles - awesome.
track for day 07.
day 06 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
dear reader, i really really hope you like ... no, you _love_ butterflies and flowers (maybe even as much as nina does?), because if not, you better skip this day's entry right after the next paragraph - because butterflies and flowers is what it's all about today
usually "nomen est omen" we assumed, when stopping at the "beaver lake" with the adjoining "elk lake", because i would have been fine with either one of them. but no, neither elk nor beaver was there - so disappointing, so sad. and so we drove on to the butterfly gardens.
well butterfly gardens[006-102] is - of course - all about butterflies. and there are lots of them. approximately 4000 butterflies are living in this ca. 1000 square km big glass house. so there's movement everywhere, and you have to tread carefully, as the butterflies are even on the ground.
while some of them sit and rest so one can easily take pictures, others never seem to rest. and of course those ones are the most beautiful ones. but there's also more than 200 plants for the butterflies to land on, eat from, and lay their eggs on. they even had carnivorous plants.
once you get used to the humidity and temperature inside, it is really a nice place full of lovely colourful butterflies, bizarre looking caterpillars, loud parrots, cute tortoises and geckos, and even more cute, colourful and poisonous frogs and toads.
next stop, after having a burger in a family restaurant right opposite of the butterfly gardens, was the national historic site of the butchart gardens[103-222], a huge garden built in 1920, after the site was used as a limestone quarry by the butchart family. then, step by step more and more themed garden segments, like a rose garden, a japanese, garden, an italian garden, etc., were added. then, every few decades new stuff was added, like lights for night illumination, or a huge fountain, or totem poles, and more...
the sun already started to set, when we came to an open area where a concert (by ruth moody and band) was about to take place soon. so we sat down, rested a bit, and listened to the music.
we did not notice it got already pretty late, and this night we had booked a bed & breakfast, which usually means the people hosting, have to stay up until the guest arrives. so we gave a call, and headed to nanaimo, which is a two hours drive (125km) to the "island view b&b".
that is where we spotted some deer running around in the gardens, and a dead racoon. poor little procyon.
track for day 06
day 05 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
first thing today
in the morning was taking the bus to victoria china town[001-035], where even the lamp posts have a chinese design. victoria's chinatown is the oldest in canada, and second oldest in the world. it is also the home of the narrowest street in canada, namely "fan tan alley"[008-020], which has actually a lot of shop entrances, that lead to pretty big stores[010-012] with all kind of exotic stuff (notice the awesome feng shui compass).
we also spotted an alley cat[014-015], and two more cats[017-020] in a furniture shop, sleeping on rugs. so cute.
next we walked through dragon alley[023-033], and came out on fisgard street[034-036]. a few more minutes of walking and we got to the victoria public market[039-053] at the hudson, where we saw all kinds of delicious food. we ordered a lunch box containing beef, rice and salad, and later fish and chips.
after our lunch we walked through the streets towards the harbour area[054-064] where we booked a whale watching tour. the loyal reader of my bLog might remember that we had no luck so far with our whale watching tours. we tried it in iceland, and new zealand and never saw a whale. so we were hoping that this time we might spot some of the big fellows. the "B.C. Whale Tour Ltd." promised a 100% whale sighting guarantee.
and this time we were really lucky - we spotted some dolphins (but we were too slow with our cameras, so no pictures of them), and a group of orcas[089-090,093-094,097,099-101,103-112,114,116-122,124-129] swimming along the shore line out to the open sea. wohooo, finally we did it - so cool. whales are really cute creatures.
nina also got to america for the first time, and - clever her - without the procedure of taking finger prints, filling out millions of forms, getting the ESTA and APIS stuff done, etc...
all it took her was booking a whale watching tour in canada.
back on land we headed for some more victoria sights, such as "the empress" hotel[139-140,142], the oldest (and most likely also the most expensive) one in victoria. on belleville street we saw the BC parliament building[144,148-149,151,153-163], with the statue of queen victoria[148-149,151] in the foreground.
the royal BC museum[165-169] was already closed by now, and so was the victoria bug zoo[172-173] on douglas street - too bad, i really would have liked to see that (although nina did not - i have no idea why).
we were tired, exhausted, and hungry, and finding a restaurant that was not too pricey and had something for the both of us, became a challenge. so we soon gave up, and went to the next bigger mall, the bay centre[176-179], and had some taco. not very fancy, but quite okay. after a 30 minute ride on the bus back to our hotel we fell asleep instantly. what a great day.
track for day 05
day 04 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
started with checking out of the hotel, having a nice breakfast, and finding a parking lot for our car. then we went to granville street[001-029]. along the street are beautiful old houses[001-013] with nice facades. we went there to get to the "future shop" to get myself a new compact flash usb card reader, since mine does not work properly anymore.
seems like there are no usb-3 card readers, and also they all have the old mini usb connectors - not what i had expected, but better than nothing, as my card usually gets full within two days of shooting, so i urgently needed the reader to erase old pictures from the card.
next shop was a clothes shop for nina called "millenium", with a nice mixture of gothic and steam punk stuff. at the "rock shop" i found a cute grumpy cat t-shirt that i bought.
to get to the granville public market we had to cross a long bridge[016-030]. but getting of the bridge was not that easy, as there was no exit, so we had to follow it way past our goal, and we had to take a detour.
thus we decided to take a little break, have a coffee and then get on to the market we found a little cafe with a friendly owner. we got to talk and he told us about the real estate business and all real assets being bought by asian people. also we learned that a few years ago the government of british columbia closed all mental asylums because of funding problems, and they released all the patients. many of them seem to have stopped taking their medicines and are now on the streets of vancouver.
in fact, we were already wondering since our first day why there were so many... hm... "different" people.
soon we got to the public market[039-094] and enjoyed all the vegetables, fish, spices, sweets, fruits, etc. we bought small bites of fish and seafood, each of them super delicious and fresh.
to get back we took a boat taxi[024,042,094] to "hornby" station, which is just on the other side of the "false creek" inlet, and a walk back to our car to get to the ferry from tsawassen terminal to swartz bay on vancouver islands. this meant a 34km drive and then a 1.5 hours ride on the ferry[102-134]. check-in time for the ferry would be half an hour before leaving the harbour, and we actually got there too late, so our reservation was cancelled, but fortunately it was not a very busy day, so we still got on the ferry with the non-reserved vehicles.
on our trip we didn't see any whales - too sad. in victoria we checked in to the "robin hood" motel, and spent our first night on vancouver island, where we will stay for the next few days.
track for day 04
day 03 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
we started our third day
with booking a hotel in victoria, where we will be going tomorrow, followed by a decent breakfast at a cafe right across the street of our hotel, named "fillobar". i was surprised of the amount of fruits included in my muesli.
full of energy we decided to rent a bike and ride through stanley park[003-072], a huge park that starts at the beach right in front of our hotel. the biking trail - one way only - is about ten kilometres long and goes right along the shore.
on our round trip we came by some totem poles[005-008], the skyline[003-004,009-010], a chinese musician, and a girl in a wet suite[013-014] sitting on a stone. we also found a path that lead us right to "beaver lake"[019-028], although we didn't spot a single beaver. too sad.
lionsgate bridge[029-033] was next, then beaches[034-050], and siwash rock[039-044], third beach[045-050] (yop, that is its name), and a coffee break with hungry ravens[051-052,054-056] that were eager for a few bites from our muffins. on our last section of our ride we rode down the lovers walk and down the bridle path[057-072], both with big old trees[057-068].
then we spotted a little mouse[069-070] running along our path. we got off our bikes, unpacked our cameras, and it was still there, not running away. so cute, so tiny.
before returning our bike we drove by the lost lagoon[071-072]. as there was still time to be killed, we took another stroll along the beach[073-081].
at 18:30 it was finally time to board the aircraft for our "vancouver panorama classic" flight[082-172]. the flight lasted about 30 minutes (though it was announced as a 20 minutes trip), with a breathtaking view over vancouver. that flight will really leave a memorable impression.
back at our hotel we had a nice view on a shop on the opposite site of the street called "kimprints". since it looks like there's loads of nice stuff in there, we went there and found really awesome stuff. besides several horseman-items[183-187], like masks and figurines, i also found a little cat keyring that perfectly fits the bicycle light that is of the same producer and also has the shape of a cat head. awesome, and so cute.
another thing we spotted from our hotel room was "vera's burger shack" - a burger restaurant that looks rather shabby from the outside, but we decided to give it a chance. and we were right to do so - the burgers[188-189] were totally awesome. never judge a book by its cover they say, right?
what a wonderful day - we really love canada.
track for day 03
day 02 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
in canada, vancouver. the weather is almost hot, sunny, a blue sky, and friendly people all over. on all occasions like breakfast, riding a bus and being unsure when to get off, or queuing in line, people start to chat with you. canadians really tend to be very friendly - we were really surprised and a little impressed. we even had fun on our first bus-trip[002,004] as people discussed where we should best get off to get to our first destination, china town[005-036].
there we headed to the "dr. sun yatsen gardens"[006-034] and came just in time for a guided tour which provided loads of information on the chinese garden, the background of the china town, chi and yin and yang. the tour was really nice.
walking through china town we came by the "millenium gate", and ended in gas town[037-058], an area with loads of wonderful, old houses, the statue of "gassy jack" (a celebrity founding the first bar in the 18th century). right next to it is the famous steam clock[050-056]. we arrived there right at noon, and heard the whistled tunes from it's steam driven pipes.
the rest of the clock is actually plain mechanical, as our guidebook revealed, but the steam looks really lovely.
time for a coffee break, so we rested in the "trees organic" cafe, where i had an americano coffee with a fantastic cheese-cake ("voted the best cheesecake in vancouver" it said, though it did not state who voted, and how many participants there were).
after a while we came to the harbour area[050-156], where we found a japadog[062,067] stand - a mixture of japanese cuisine with the good old hot-dogs. strange but really delicious. yet it is not enough for two people, so we had some dim sum to get us stuffed.
a landmark in the harbour area is the"canada place"[050-111], and right next to it, "the drop"[110-111], a piece of artwork to remind us of the importance of water, thus the shape of a water drop.
announced as a new attraction was the 4D "fly over canada". we thought it sounds promising and bought two tickets for the show. the first part was a big screen presentation of canada and its people, combined with stunning wildlife and nature impressions.
the second part was the flight over canada, where you are positioned right in the centre of a half-sphere. sitting in seats that can slightly be rotated you "fly" over various regions of canada, starting from vancouver over to - what we thought - the northern regions, ranging from spring to winter. a really amazing ride, highly recommendable. unfortunately it only lasts about ten minutes, but it were breathtaking ten minutes.
this made us hungry for more, and for the real thing. so we booked a "classic panorama tour" flight over vancouver for the following day. woah, we're so looking forward to that.
after this day full of wonderful impressions we began our stroll home, encountering seals[137-141], seagulls[142,144-145], loads of plants[148-149] and other animals[150-156].
when it got dark we even spotted two cats and in a garden even a skunk - unfortunately it was way too dark to take a picture of it.
vancouver is a green city - there's trees and parks all over the town, and loads of flowers. every lamp post is decorated with hanging flower pots, and most balconies have plants too. really beautiful and colourful.
track for day 02
day 01 in mountie-land, (0 comments)
so we wanted to go to canada this year, and i wanted to have a little bit of alaska included in that trip too, but as it turned out, this is a mission impossible with the requirements we had. renting the car in vancouver, returning the car in anchorage? no way - there's no way you can rent the car in canada and return it in america. renting the car in seattle, crossing the border to canada, crossing the border again and returning the car in anchorage? no way, no car rental allows that. going by car to the canadian border, cross over to america, rent a car there, return it in anchorage? no way - too expensive, too complicated.
so i was quite disappointed and agreed to omitting the alaska part. but that still didn't solve all problems. all the fares for renting the car in the south, and returning it in the north meant spending vast sums of money.
but finally we found a trip that allowed us to return the car at a different spot than where we rented it and pay no fare at all: a trip from vancouver to calgary - wohooo.
after booking two ferries, one from vancouver main land to vancouver islands, and one from vancouver islands back to the mainland, we also booked hotels for our first days in vancouver city and hotels at the both ferry terminals for our second ferry ride, since the trip will take us about 15 hours, starts at 07:30 and ends at 22:30 o'clock.
and after all these preparations we finally landed in vancouver after a twelve hour flight (02:25 to london heathrow, 09:25 to the final destination), picked up our car, got some cash from an ATM, and drove to our first hotel, the "english bay hotel" in vancouver downtown, on day 01
as we were pretty tired, and it was already late, we took a short stroll[1-6] around in the area, got some food from the 7-eleven store nearby, and ate it across the street from a jazz-concert. so far vancouver looks nice, let's see what it looks like in daylight tomorrow.
track for day 01