Summer is having second thoughts about being in Washington State at this time of year. After discussions with winter they decided to share the day. The first half until midday belonged to Winter and the second half of the day is then shared between spring and summer.
Linda, Donnis, the children Jaxson and Emma and I went to Olympic Game Farm https://olygamefarm.com/ in Sequim (Skwim) a bit over an hour away along some very scenic countryside with occasional lakes and views of the ocean. It began to rain and got colder but somehow by the time we arrived it remained fine and even turned into a near nice day.
This place looks a bit run down and cheap and nasty but somehow it all seems to work. Basically the grazing animals are free to roam throughout most of the park and you can feed them slices of bread purchased at the gate. You drive around the park in your own car. There are signs reminding you to keep doors and sunroofs closed and to keep fingers inside.
You are also reminded not to stop at the bisons.
There is a reason for that as bison will stop in front of the car while another sidles up from the side or even the rear.
Their horns rub against the side view mirrors and their heads brush along the side of the car. Any fingers silly enough to be outside the window could get badly injured. Yeah, lots of signs to remind us the rules but it is not as if as if the bison can read. They know how to set up a roadblock and ambush you. We got mobbed by llama,
peacocks – yes peacocks –
and a bunch of other animals we are still trying to identify. The larger animals all managed to place their heads inside the open windows to the delight of Jaxson.
Emma felt terrified when one large elk licked her and slobbered over Linda’s arm as she yelled at me to go, go, go.
The park speed limit is 10MPH but the animals can easily maintain that speed and will happily walk beside the car with their head in the window.
Bears, which are also sort of grazers are in open grassed pens with the addition of a short wire fence and an electrified fence.
You can also throw bread to them but do not get out of the car.
The other animals classed as animals of prey are kept in small enclosures. Lions, tigers, more bears,
wolves, cougars, lynx and a bunch of others appear bored and pace around their small enclosures or simply sleep. Of the entire experience we really felt badly about these animals and their small enclosures with nothing to keep them occupied. Each enclosure is about half the size of an average house block. I would be bored walking around that all day. It was certainly a good rule you did not leave the car as technically the animals could escape but strangely the front gate was not a gate at all. An escaped animal could run straight through the open entrance.
In the afternoon we stopped at a wolf enclosure which also had a black bear pacing. Other wolf enclosures had groups of wolves nearby. The lone wolf climbed onto a high point and started a wolf howl. Soon the howl was taken up by the other wolves. This went on for some time then stopped suddenly.
This entire area was once owned by Walt Disney Studios and many adventure type movies were filmed here on sound stages and within animal enclosures. In a large barn are some of the sets of wilderness cabins used in various movies are still in place along with posters and other memorabilia.
A small petting area which included a few billie goats and a very fat pig had children chasing animals to pet them.
There was also a fresh water aquarium and a reptile room.
Over all it was an interesting experience but honestly it gave the impression of being run down, short of money and not enough staff and certainly not enough room for some of the animals and not enough activities to keep those animals busy.
The amazing low entry fee…in our case $13 each…entitled us to an all day pass. We drove back through the grazing area but by now the animals were laying around sleeping except for a few who still wanted bread.
Even the bears were no longer interested in the bread except to dunk a slice in water.
It was an interesting experience.
On our way home we stopped briefly at a small pretty town called Port Gamble. It seems to be a typical American town of the 1950’s era. Complete with the usual USA flags and white picket fences.
Friday 22nd June
Today we drove back to Vancouver. Donnis has been unwell since yesterday morning. In fact I seem to have similar symptoms but she is not well at all. We brought Silver and Jaxson with us. Somehow Jaxsons passport was left behind and we had Emmas passport instead. The Canadian Border officer asked a lot of questions and it looked like we were facing a long drive back to Poulsbo for the passport. He directed us into a side holding area and instructed us to leave the car unlocked and walk inside the border control offices and wait to be called. We wondered about what might be the outcome but were pleasantly surprised when they told us to continue our journey. Perhaps Jason, at age 4 does not need a passport.
Wednesday 20th June 2018.Somehow I missed writing and photographs from one half of this day.
Later in the day we drove with Ruth (Johns Mother) to Silverdale.
Once we arrived I realised we had been here in 2015 but today saw it from another perspective. That is, summer is here and Silverdale is classed as a beach. Beach??? Yes a pebble and shell and oyster and rock and oyster and seaweed and mussel and other dead crustaceans, beach.
All the lovely sharp and slippery stuff you really enjoy when you go to the beach. Tender teenage feet hobbled carefully into the water to at least knee deep before frigid water drove them, hobbling, ashore.
The real brave teenagers were at the end of a jetty where some unfortunates were pushed into the salty hypothermic h2o.
From here I chose, at random, a place on the map, for our next visit. Brownsville was not far away and was a real picturesque location based around a marina and lots of houses built on the hillsides overlooking Port Orchard Channel.
We were on a tight schedule expecting to have to be at Point No Point Lighthouse Park for a family BBQ dinner. We received a call to say the children had received shots today and were not well enough to go out. Instead a party for Jaxson was planned at home. That gave us a little extra exploring time.
I saw an interesting older boat that would be wonderful for exploring all the bays and coves and peninsulas and islands around Puget Sound. The entire area would be around the same size as the entire Whitsunday and Cumberland Islands group and just as spectacular in a different way. Yeah, dream on. Only around CAN$1,000,000 would get us something like that plus $1,000 to fill the fuel tanks or $1,000 a day rental.
Although I enjoyed wandering around this cute marina and sheltered bay, I also wanted to see as much as I can.
Next stop, chosen at random on the map is, Key Port. As it turns out we did not see much of the town as it is a US Navy Department and located right next door is US Naval Undersea Museum. AS we arrived at the Museum we could hear a siren, very loud and scary enough to make us think WWIII was happening. Eventually a voice announced situation OK and personell should return to their normal duties. It was only a drill. It worked for us! We had only a brief few minutes to explore the museum before they kicked us out at closing time.
As we were leaving the Museum we joined the queue of cars leaving the base. It was after 4pm and the military here are like the military in OZ. Time to finish fr the day and head home.
I enjoyed our time looking at just a few coastal locations.
So begins our last week away from home and we have finally found summer.
I got a bit agitated at a bank where we wanted to exchange Canadian dollars for US dollars. The teller was totally confused as to how to proceed so she called on her supervisor/manager to help out. He looked at our Canadian dollars Visa card and declared he could not help as it is not recognised by the Canadian Banking system. WTF! WTF! I told him we have used the same card all over Canada at ATM’s, shops, Banks, trains, airlines, WalMart and Costco without problems. He insisted that the card has a little symbol on the back and that tells him it cannot be used in an ATM – anywhere. I then asked if I went to an ATM and got cash would he organise US dollars for us. NO! We are not customers. The ATM is inside the banking chamber and in his view so I walked over, drew out cash using my card which according to him would not work. I waved the cash at him as I left. Linda is a customer of this bank so I gave her the cash and she got our US dollars. I have some strong words I would like to use about this bank branch and manager but this is a family blog.
Why did I need US dollars and where did I find summer? We drove to Poulsbo near Seattle in the USA to visit Linda’s daughter Jessica. It was summer weather when we arrived and everyone is struggling with the under 30° heat.
Going through US Customs at the border was painless. The officer asked me to take off my sunglasses and if I still lived in Australia and then we were on our way. Instead of driving in afternoon peak hour traffic to Seattle then catching the car ferry across the bay we turned off to Annacortes, then Coupeville and finally arriving at Fort Casey for the car ferry to Port Townsend . Along the way we passed the Whidbey Island Naval Air Base and the nearby town of Oak Harbour is a busy place servicing the base.
This is a really scenic drive and unfortunately we were on a tight timetable and unable to stop and take photos. Constant road works and even an accident caused delays. As it was, we arrived at the ferry terminal with only minutes to spare.
Not long after leaving the ferry we reach Highway 101. Turn right to Port Angeles and follow the Olympic Mountains or turn left to Puget Sound and Poulsbo. We turned left.
We arrived in Poulsbo in time to see John before he left for work. After dinner we sat around talking and getting to know the children, Silver, Jaxson and Emma.
Although I was not driving, I think I used my foot all the way on a phantom clutch and brake pedal. It’s hard to be a passenger sometimes.
I am tired.
Our bedroom has half- life size figures of a Star Wars Storm Trooper
and Darth Vader beside the bed.
I am not sure if I have to call on “The Force” before I go to bed. I like the Star Wars movies but John is a real fan. Tomorrow I will get to see the rest of his collection.
Tuesday 19th June
It is young Jaxsons 4th birthday.
He was able to celebrate with a playgroup at Battle Point Park.
After singing Happy Birthday and blowing out the candle on the cup cakes, I had a look around the park. It is called Battle Point, neither because of a Civil War battle nor any other US military battle. It was from a native American battle, around 1900, between the local Suquamish Tribe and a marauding tribe from Canada seeking women. History does not tell us about the outcome. It just records there was a battle. The area was once owned by the US Military and Fort Ward was created as a super secret radio installation. It was here that a decoded message about Japans plans to attack Pearl Harbour was handed up the line but sat on an officials desk over the weekend. History tells us the message was never acted upon. Or acted upon too late.
Some of the original buildings have been retained and put to new useful purposes. For example the radio transmitter building complex is now used for a planetarium and celestial telescope and has regular information and viewing sessions for the public.
Another building is now used as a gymnastics auditorium.
Along the road we saw several places selling fireworks. Not small shops but huge solid timber buildings with counters 40 mtrs long. Yes, they sell fireworks in the USA. Some of the stores also sold marijuana or cannabis. Imagine. Let’s have a fun weekend. Buy a load of weed and fireworks, smoke the weed and set off the fireworks.
In the afternoon Donnis and I took John’s Ford Mustang Convertible for a spin to Poulsbo.
The city, yes city of Poulsbo (despite only having a population of 9,200 persons at the last census) was originally inhabited by the Suquamish nation for somewhere around 5,000 years.
Poulsbo was more recently settled by Scandinavian settlers (Norwegians) around 1880.
Locals still claim a strong relationship with the Vikings. Many of the original buildings along the shores of Liberty Bay on Puget Sound have been maintained in a quaint representation of a Norwegian Village of a century ago.
Even the sign, “Velkommen til Poulsbo” is in a nice Norwegian twang.
Although we like the City of Poulsbo we liked driving the Mustang even more. We would have enjoyed following a coast road around Puget Sound for a few hours but regretably John wanted the car to go to work.
Wednesday 20th June
One of Jessica and Johns employees was badly injured in a car accident early yesterday morning. It seems he started through an intersection on the green light. An Audi travelling at 100MPH in a 40 MPH area drove through a red light and ploughed into his car, rolling it and trapping him half out the window and his car burst into flames. Meanwhile the other car also rolled and the 18 year old driver managed to crawl clear while the car owner was trapped as his Audi also burst into flames. We know from eye witnesses at the scene, Sheriff’s report and drivers of both cars he was screaming for help as he was incinerated. At the time of writing John has visited his employee who was airlifted to Seattle but was unable to speak as he is now in an induced coma and scheduled for several operations. Both drivers are still in a critical condition and we will not know the outcome for several days. We know that Gerard has been conscious once since arriving at the hospital but has been kept in an induced coma ever since. He is scheduled for several operations but miraculously was not burned.
Now for something different. Emboldened by yesterday’s excursion on bus and train we decided to leave Linda and Doug at home while we went exploring by bus. We hopped off the bus at Kitsilano Beach or as it is more affectionately known, Kits Beach.
We saw it at 1pm and thought it was crowded but 4 hours later it was more crowded. The amount of white skins leads me to be concerned how many redskins there will be tonight.
The number of logs does not really give any idea of the number of people who will sit on or beside those logs.
The sand is the colour of cement powder and there is no surf. Not even a ripple. As the tide goes out the sand is replaced by weed covered rocks, logs, pipelines, oysters and other shellfish.
Venturing further than ankle deep is putting your foot health at risk. The beach is for playing not swimming. Playing? There are about 20 beach volley ball courts all in use while people are practising between courts and on nearby grass. The basketball courts also get a workout .
We followed the coastal pathway past Vancouver Maritime Museum and Vancouver Science Museum. We had considered going to one or two of Vancouvers several museums. They all have an entry fee of around $26 on average. We compared that to all the FREE museums and Art Galleries in Brisbane and decided to pass on the museums.
We passed under the Burrard Street Bridge. The bridge has some interesting decorative sculptural work on the bridge superstructure above the roadway. One is a bust of Captain George Vancouver while the other is Sir Harry Burrard-Neale.
We continued walking past what I thought were a wonderful set of units built around a man- made lagoon and overlooking False Creek and the vast expanse of marina. Later Doug and Linda explained the units have a great outlook but are very expensive, in the CAN$2,000,000 range, are small inside and are a leasehold with a 99 year lease.
So? What’s the problem? (Apart from the price tag) There are only two of us and we do not need a vast unit and at age 70 is a 99 year lease going to bother us? No we are not thinking of buying. Just saying.
This tiny hole in the wall café has limited seating of about 12 tables, does not have a view and the only way to get a table is to put your name on a list outside, detailing how many in your party and then, wait. An earlier Fish and Chip place with a view over the marina had a 90 minute wait. Soon 4 people left the café but there was no party of 4 waiting. The waitress called us and another couple , pushed the tables apart and we had only waited 5 minutes. Not so the Chinese family of 6 who waited with patience until shortly before we finished and until the waitress was able to cobble a table for 6 together. One waitress, 4 kitchen staff and they were all busy, great food and great service. Well worth the effort of finding the café.
We walked to the food hall, bought yoghurt ice cream and began the walk back to Kits Beach to catch a bus back to the house.
In all we walked around 6 Klms today.
We arrived just on 6pm in time for dinner.
So ends our seventh week away from home.
Only another week before we fly home to the GC in OZ.
Tomorrow we drive to Seattle, USA via a scenic route and after that will be a mystery. Linda has some plans.
Lots of photos. lots of information covering Monday to Saturday.
Monday 11th June 2018
While Linda and Doug had dental appointments, Donnis and I took Poppy the French Bulldog for a walk along the seafront at Jericho Beach. The beach has the snow capped mountains as a backdrop in one direction and downtown Vancouver in another. Across Burrard Inlet, which is littered with container and cargo ships waiting on being loaded, is Point Atkinson Lighthouse in north Vancouver.
The beach area here is also littered with logs which are continually being found floating in the bay. Those logs are dragged ashore onto the beaches and used as convenient backrests, seats and tables by locals having a day at the beach on the gray sands. All along the coastline are piles of logs which have been washed ashore over the years.
An interesting fact about what is known as Vancouver Harbour and the shipping lanes leading into it. From Burrard Inlet to the USA Border roughly 25 Klms by road is over 365 Klms of coastline. Like most coastlines it weaves in and out, twists and turns and creates little bays, headlands and inlets.
Dental appointments completed, Doug and Linda joined us for fish and chips at Spanish Banks East Concession.
It is described by Google Maps as a snack bar. This is a little shop which sells fish and chips and hamburgers, ice creams, sandwiches and amazingly, real espresso coffee. The young lady who served us took the orders, made the coffee, fish and chips and burgers, serving other customers and single handed running the impressive little shop.
Tuesday 12th June
Today we dropped Linda at a doctors appointment in downtown Vancouver while we walked to the waterfront. The day was overcast, threatening rain and rather chilly. After Linda joined us we walked to Granville Island Markets.
Regular readers will recall that I am not a fan of markets and that we also visited these same markets when we first arrived in Vancouver at the beginning of May. The markets are huge with the advantage of an enclosed foodie hall with lots of seating outside on the banks of False Creek which has some wonderful views of three bridges and the little water taxi’s taking passengers to various locations in the city.
Also from here we can see the dozens of float planes taking off and landing. The bridges are, Burrard St Bridge, Granville St Bridge and Cambie St Bridge. False Creek also has a large marina and the creek itself drains into Vancouver Harbour.
For me the saving grace is the food outlets which are always crowded. I just love the sights, the smells, the sounds and the crowds – even on a Tuesday.
We all wanted something different to eat so went our separate ways agreeing to meet on the dock outside. The hand -made chocolate outlets are always busy. Luckily I did not feel like chocolate today. The walk back to the car was pleasant although cool with a few drops of rain.
Wednesday 13th June
Last night as we snuggled beneath the blankets we could hear the rain beginning to drum against the roof and windows. This morning I woke to a weak daylight and heard the constant drum of the rain.
Oh well, this is, after all, Vancouver, which reportedly has the best climate in Canada but also has the most rain.
In the afternoon Donnis and I took a walk, mostly just to clear the cobwebs out of our brains and also to avoid cabin fever. The weather seems to be deteriorating.
Thursday 14th June.
Another wet day and therefore we did not do any exploring. Earlier this week we discussed flying to Mexico for a week. It seemed like a good idea except that Hurricane Bud, a category 4 system was threatening the Mexican west coast and Californian south coast. Even if the hurricane moves back to sea and does not cross the coast it will dump lots of rain and quite frankly we have had enough of the rain. No sense in flying to Mexico and possibly spending 7 days in unpleasant conditions.
Friday 15th June
For some crazy reason I was wide awake at 5.30am. Looking out the window from our room high on the westside hill I could see a cruise ship slowly moving up the Burrard Channel. It is the Royal Caribbean owned Radience of the Seas. It will pass under the Lions Gate Bridge into Vancouver Harbour and dock at Canada Place to discharge passengers. By midday it will start taking on passengers before heading off at 4pm on a 7 day cruise to Seward, (known as Port of Anchorage) Alaska in the evening.
It is overcast and quite chilly at 12°. Some rain fell overnight. The rest of the day may be another lay day waiting for better weather.
Saturday 16th June.
The good weather arrived and we are in shorts and Tshirts today
Along with Linda and Doug we caught a bus into downtown Vancouver then caught the SkyTrain to New Westminster on the right bank of the Fraser River.
New Westminster was settled in 1858 and was considered the capital of the new Province, British Columbia. The original reason for the settlement was Gold. Like gold rush locations around the world the gold finally gave out. The plan by Major-General Richard Moody was to establish “a city of beauty in the wilderness”. By 1860 the population of nearby Vancouver exceeded that of New Westminster. As well, Vancouver was a more accessible coastal port and not subject to the vagaries of a river system which had raging snowmelt in summer and barely a trickle in winter as well as legions of mudflats, sandbars and floating logs. By 1866 the mainland and nearby islands were brought together as a united Province, British Columbia with even better harbour facilities at Victoria the capital of Vancouver Island. Despite lots of arguments by both New Westminster and Vancouver residents, Victoria became the capital of British Columbia.
Today watching the swift flowing Fraser River we saw dozens of floating logs and other debris and can understand the difficulties of boating in this tidal, mudflat, sandbar and obstacle studded river.
We walked around the waterside to look at various market stalls and food out lets.
We decided to have an early dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory http://www.oldspaghettifactory.ca/#menu one of a dozen in a chain stretching through several Provinces in Canada. Generally they advertise that all meals are complete. That is, an entrée or a soup, sourdough bread, main course, ice cream and a cup of tea is included in the price. I chose Seafood Fettucine Alfredo which included scallops and prawns. To accompany the main I had a sourdough roll, minestrone soup, Spumoni ice cream and a cup of tea. Cost? $16.95. Great meal, great service great atmosphere but gee it was noisy. We sat in what was once an old trolley car in NW.
Afterwards it was SkyTrain and bus home and very tired.
This post is back to the usual format of a full week but next week may be daily posts. It depends on what adventures come our way.
This is still a long post with lots of photos.
Monday 4th June 2018
So begins a new week here in Calgary. Donnis will be spending most of her days with her mum in the nursing home.
I am struggling with the tail end of the head cold and because of the dry climate when I blow my nose there is some blood. Yuk. Yes I know. Perhaps I did not need to tell you that. Just be aware that a dry climate can be disruptive to your sinuses. Joan has a humidifier which we need to put into our bedroom. Fingers crossed it helps me. I had no problems in Vancouver or PEI as they both have some humidity closer to what I am used to. Each morning when I wake, my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. Donnis also has the same problem.
Any light exertion here in Calgary does not bother me as we are 1,045 m above sea level. However in the mountains around Golden and Kicking Horse the average height above sea level is 1,627 metres. Normal walking was OK but once there was an incline my breathing became laboured.
It is the beginning of summer but the nights and early mornings are cool to cold. When the sun does appear there is little warmth until almost midday.
Road workers carrying out maintenance as well as new projects are in full swing and there are barriers and Stop Slow people everywhere. Alberta is the corporate centre of the sand oil extraction industry. Alberta Province and particularly Calgary is in a financially healthy condition. There is an abundance of money. New buildings, new roads, new housing projects are very evident. All this work going on does contribute to traffic problems. That said, there is a bust side to the boom. Many sand oil jobs have been cut in recent months. The cost of a barrel of oil is around $60 at present. At one stage in 2016 it was as low as $26 a barrel. The loss of about 20,000 jobs in the last 12 months has meant the bottom has fallen out of the real estate market. Houses are sitting, For Sale for 12 months with no buyers. Part of the problem has been the boom when houses in new estates were being offered at the same or lesser price than an established house. (Hmmm. Sounds like the Airlie Beach real estate market)
The Province of Alberta is rich in a natural resource – sand oil. At present the oil is exported to other Provinces and more particularly to the USA. That oil is sent to market in BC and the port of Vancouver by miles and miles of railway tankers. Alberta wants to build a CAN$7.4 billion pipeline through the Province of British Columbia to Vancouver. The pipeline would deliver many benefits to BC including reduced fuel costs. Today a litre of unleaded in Alberta is on average $1.20.3. In BC that same litre of fuel is $1.57.7 on average. So BC residents are paying roughly an additional 30 cents per litre for fuel. The BC Government has voted NO to the pipeline but demanded the oil be landed in Vancouver for the same price as Alberta despite having to be shipped hundreds of Klms by rail. Not surprisingly, there is a heated two Province disagreement which does not appear will be resolved easily. Jobs and economic benefit versus environmental concerns is no different here than it is in Australia where the argument is about coal extraction and shipping. Two sides with equally good arguments with no winners.
Today I accompanied Joan on a shopping excursion to Costco. That was an experience, sort of like watching Walmart people videos. Costco people are different. It seems going to Costco is a family event. Mum, Dad and three kids, at least one in a pram. Family groups are everywhere. After shopping they all gather at the food court area where you can have lots of food for only a few dollars (plus tax). Most of the food is high carbs, high cheese content, deep fried and highly processed. Hot dogs, giant size, sell for $1.50 while a large coffee is $1.99. Coffee comes in one size – large. A slice of pizza, as large as a regular pizza is $1.99. Mostly, it seems, the people eating here are overweight.
In the food department everything is in wholesale lots. If you want a can of mushroom soup you need to buy a carton of 12. Want cereal? It is only available in a box of a minimum of two bags. A kilo of minced meat, you have to buy a package which contains 2 x 1 kg bags.
A single person or a couple would probably spend more than they save.
However there are some items which are well priced. A pre- packaged Caesar salad at least three times larger than you can buy at Woollies or Coles in Australia for $5 at Costco is $8.99. (later when we opened the salad I changed my opinion. The Costco salad was terrible. There were no bacon pieces and the lettuce leaves were all stems.)
Shopping at Costco, especially the one we visited at Heritage Gate, which is the busiest store in Canada, is organised chaos. Staff, and there is lots of staff, are friendly and helpful. They are constantly picking up things like clothing which customers just drop on the floor. For those who do not shop at Costco be aware you need to be a member with a photo id card to gain entry. Guests must be accompanied by the member and guests cannot buy under their own name.
Tuesday 5th June
Another lay day for me, while it was a look after mum day for Donnis. After dinner we drove to the airport to meet Alecia who has flown in from the oil fields for a few days.
Wednesday 6th June
Tonight I fired up the BBQ and we invited Simone and Lazar for dinner. Joan had bought some Short Loin Lamb Chops from…Costco…imported from Australia (lamb is an expensive luxury in Canada). Alecia made a rub of butter and Rosemary. I cooked some huge sweet potatoes on the BBQ until the skin blackened and juices began to seep out and veggie kebabs on the BBQ and set them aside while I quickly seared the chops in the flames created by the melting butter. I reduced the heat and slowly cooked the chops until juices began to flow. I let them rest until the table was set. All were impressed at how the meat was pink, juicy and tender and the sweet potato just slipped out of the blackened skin. Better than throwing a shrimp on the barbie any day.
The church and grounds are very well maintained, almost picture perfect. Compared to most other churches it really stands out as an example of wealth.
Afterwards we joined Simone, Andrea, baby Evan and young Miles for a day at Calgary Zoo.
Initially I was somewhat disappointed in what I thought was a small number of animals. The enclosures are large and roomy and many are set up to take into account the climactic conditions the animals would encounter.
Photography was often difficult as viewing chambers were partitioned with glass which is often scratched, smudged, dirty and reflects other images.
The zoo is divided in various themes such as Canadian, African, Asia, South America and even Dinosaurs. The Canadian section includes both Grizzly
and Black bears,
Moose, Bison, Mountain Sheep
and goats of various species and even a Rocky Mountain Cougar.
Some animals, such as the Lemurs have a large almost interactive enclosure.
Entry is gained via a heavily gated enclosure and a bridge. An area is loosely roped off but the Lemurs are free to walk amongst visitors although crouching down to their head height or trying to pat them is actively discouraged. Wisely the Lemurs keep their distance from humans.
About 5 years ago I visited the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo NSW and one of the animals which fascinated me was the Hippopotamus.
There they had a large enclosure including areas of a couple of hectares to waddle around and a huge waterhole to do what Hippos do best. I was able to photograph a Hippo with its mouth wide open. Here the Hippos seemed to want to sleep a little and swim a little. Their water hole was not all that large but was enclosed on one side by a glass wall. I guess the idea is to see the Hippo underwater although in this case the glass was covered with algae on the inside. Hippos defecate in the water and their little tail acts like a propeller to break up the solid matter in the water. The water here is murky, I guess there is a lot of fecal matter in suspension.
The butterfly atrium was a sort of habitat for butterflies as well as a display of mostly tropical plants. The high glass domed green house had misters set in the roof as well as around the walls. It certainly gave the display a real humid tropical feel.
These plants are at least a metre in diameter and the spikey side walls remind me of the spikes on pitcher plants.
Although the butterflies live in a protected environment they still have mishaps and still only have a limited life span. Often their fragile wings are damaged yet they still fly around with grace.
The Panda enclosure was large, roofed and noisy with hundreds of kids squealing at the sleeping Pandas. Honestly that is all they did…sleep. Even 4 year old Miles wanted to leave the Panda enclosure because of the noise of other children.
Late in the day we went into the Gorilla complex although the large male Silverback died two years ago. A young male has now been placed in the enclosure
and I was fortunate to see a mother with a baby clutched in her arms as she lay in a den like shelter under a large fallen tree.
Nearby was the African Mandrill the largest monkey species and considered Old World Monkeys. Their large sharp teeth look threatening although, apparently showing the teeth is a welcoming gesture. I am not willing to give that theory a try. Mandrills look both threatening and majestic at the same time.
Saturday 9th June
A final BBQ hosted by Andrea and Brett at their home in, coincidentally, Queensland Street.
Sunday 10th June
We flew from Calgary on a wet and cold, miserable, grey day, to sunny Vancouver. The original plan was Doug and Linda would pick us up from the airport and drive to the marina where we would meet Fred and Peggy and take a cruise up the Fraser River in Fred’s recently re-furbished motor cruiser. Imagine our surprise when we were met by Fred standing inside the airport. It seems Linda had rushed Doug to the hospital with Atrial Fibrillation. Peggy was waiting a few blocks away with the car. Fred and Peggy had driven all the way from White Rock, almost 50 Klms away. An hour later we were further surprised when Doug and Linda walked in the front door. Doug had had his tests, was feeling fine and would have the results in a few days.
Even after only a few hours my sinuses are already responding to the higher humidity, sea level and even some sea spray. My breathing is much better.
Overnight clouds and rain had rolled in making us re-assess what to do today as we are leaving late in the afternoon.
Once decided, the plan is to catch the Gondola to the top of the 7,700 feet (2350 mtrs) Kicking Horse Mountain.
Travelling up the mountain in the Gondola was quite exciting as the misty, wet clouds drifted in and out across the slopes obscuring and then revealing the sights.
Impressive is the first word which came to mind on this steep shale exposed slope. Somewhere below, 10 year old grizzly bear Boo is patrolling his 20 acre enclosure. We can see the bear den he has created out of sticks and branches.
At the top of the mountain we step from the gondola and gasp. We gasp in the cold air and gasp for the view. Parts of the view become almost routinely obliterated then peek-a-boo visible as cloud wafts in and out of the crests, crags and vales at the top of the world.
We can no longer see the world below us. Mostly it is underneath the cloud cover. Only the distant snow covered peaks are visible from here.
Amid the snow and shale peaks and hollows only two buildings stand out.
These two buildings are a lonely outpost to only a few staff and especially in winter, hordes of mostly skiers or snowboarders. In summer the hordes are crazy mountain bikers and equally crazy hikers.
Oh, and of course the people, like us who came here for the dining and vista experience.
Some hikers use a swaying suspension bridge between two peaks.
At the moment the most important building is the restaurant, The Eagles Eye.
The other building which is also important to us is the turn -around for the gondola.
Lunch at the Eagles Eye Restaurant was quite a fancy affair. Considering all food and drink plus chef, kitchen staff and wait people all arrive at the summit via the gondola the prices are reasonable. We did notice a narrow track winding its way up the mountain but in places it was covered in snow.
The best part of lunch was the view – when it was visible of course. I also acknowledge they have a barista who knows how to make a good cup of coffee. All he/she needs to learn now is how to serve it hot.
There are hiking tracks, downhill mountain bike tracks and the remnants of ski trails all around the summit. We can see a suspension type bridge between two peaks. This is a different type of hiking to what I have experienced. At this height any exertion will bring laboured breathing.
It is all breathtakingly beautiful in a stark and cold sort of way.
The return journey on the gondola gave us a bonus. Boo the grizzly was out and about. We managed one photo through the rain covered perspex window. Boo looks kind of diminutive from up here.
The story of Boo is that his mother, near Caribou, Alberta, Canada, was killed while he and his brother survived and were taken to a zoo. They were named Kari and Boo. Kari did not survive for long but Boo, if not thriving was in good health. It was decided to place him in a 20 acre enclosure below the gondola footprint where he has all he needs to survive. Boo likes to play. Have a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J93-w4ppi48
We had planned to take the chair lift as far as it would go. It has a bear interpretive centre and access to Boo’s enclosure. The last chair was at 3pm as the bear centre closes at 4pm so they can clear the mountain and shut down the lift. It was 3.15pm so we missed out on a close up grizzly encounter.
Back at the chateau we packed our belongings and began the three hour drive back to Calgary.
Thank you to our hosts, Ivan and Maia Velev for their hospitality. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I would especially like to thank Ivan for spending a day driving me to places to see and explore. We are also thankful to their son Lazar and wife Simone for their also driving us around to explore the area. We have only scratched the surface of places to see…some in winter, some in summer. We are also grateful to Lazar for his generosity in taking us to the top of the mountain and lunch.
Once again we were busy and lots of photos means a post just for these two days.
Friday 1st June was basically a lay day. Ivan and Maia went shopping in downtown Golden while I rested at home watching movies. Actually I am nursing the head cold. High up in the mountains the air pressure is different than at sea level. It is also much drier than I am used to at home on the Gold Coast. In the same way that visitors from the dry parts of Canada notice the higher humidity on the Gold Coast. In different ways we suffer from nasal retaliation. The last few days I have been surviving on adrenalin and really needed today to recharge the batteries.
In the afternoon I took a walk along Whispering Pines Road to look at the area where we are located.
The villa or chalet, I am not sure what we should call our wonderful lodgings and the generosity of our hosts Ivan and Maia Velev.
In my walk I photographed scenery from many viewpoints, mostly as it would be seen from the chalet windows or balcony. One photo which I thought cute at the time would become significant within 24 hours.
Also significant is the photo of Mount 7. It is called Mount 7 due to the thawing snow which leaves a distinctive 7 showing on the face of the mountain for months after the thaw.
Donnis, Lazar and Simone arrived in time for us to have dinner at 9pm.
Saturday 2nd June
A long and busy day.
Lazar, Simone, Donnis and I drove almost to the town of Field and turned off to see Natural Bridge.
Wow! What a huge powerful volume of water of the Kicking Horse River narrowing to an area only a few metres across then suddenly drops underground through the limestone rock.
The abrasive action of a rushing huge volume of water plus grit and gravel and dissolved limestone wore through a thinner layer of rock, creating the tunnel. Once upon a time in the dim geological past this rock was once a waterfall.
The surrounding mountains made an impressive backdrop. Also amazing were the number of tourists here to see all this meltwater rushing to force its way under the rock. A little further downstream the Amiskwi River and Emerald River merge with the Kicking Horse River.
Continuing along the road we arrived at Emerald Lake.
This lake has the reputation of freezing during winter and staying frozen even in the early part of summer. Locals mentioned there was still ice in the middle of the lake last week. Alas all the ice was gone when we arrived. People were paddling in rental canoes…at $70 per hour somebody was making money.
The ice may have been missing but the amazing circular bowl like Emerald Lake was still impressive. The lake is fed by meltwater from a glacier further up the valley.
Emerald Lake is one of seven glacially fed lakes in the Province of British Columbia.
Emerald Lake itself empties into the short distanced Emerald River which joins the Kicking Horse River a few Klms downriver.
Although the lake was disappointingly unfrozen, the residue of an avalanche which recently cascaded down the hill and covered the walking track beside the lake was a concessional attraction.
Just looking at the volume of snow still in place is enough to make you gasp and understand how very few people survive an avalanche.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch prepared by Simone and Donnis.
Next up was the huge monolith known as Mount 7 which looms over the Kicking Horse Valley and the town of Golden.
The mountain got its name, according to legend, because the remaining snow always forms into the shape of a 7 when seen from Golden or Kicking Horse Mountain.
The summit is reached by a narrow, steep and winding gravel road with frightening drops. I kept imagining how far a car could roll before being stopped by the pine tree line. Thank goodness we never had to put that to the test.
Mount 7 is well known world- wide for skiers who want a late season, as late as July, powder snow ski experience.
It is also used as a launching area for those daring young people on their mountain bikes.
The tracks to the bottom are up to 12 Klms long. A lot of the mountain area and the tracks are of loose shale a treacherous material under tyres.
Finally the peak is also home to a launch ramp for paragliders and hang gliders. I was getting nervous just standing on the flat part of the launch ramp.
From here we can see the town of Golden, Kicking Horse Ski Resort and the Kicking Horse and Colombia Rivers where they merge.
The internet calls Mount 7 a place where you can ski, bike and fly all in the one day during summer.
On our way back down the mountain we talked about how fortunate it was that I saw a big male bear two days ago. We rounded a bend and suddenly beside the road was a mother with 2 cubs.
I wanted to take photos but Lazar noticed the female was making signs of aggression and thought discretion was the better part of valour and drove slowly past. The mother was surprisingly small compared to the big fella I saw on Thursday. The excitement levels in the car at sighting a mother with 2 cubs was quite palpable. Less than a Klm further another bear was on the road and this one had an injured paw so he was already as cranky as a bear with an umm err sore paw. He ran a short distance then turned and made aggression signs. Again Lazar took the cautious option and moved on. Damn! I wanted some photos.
We arrived back at the villa and were just changing our shoes when the shout went up. There was a bear a few metres away and Bodhi the Huskie was still outside. We sprang into action. Lazar grabbed the bear spray and ran outside while I grabbed the camera and ran outside. You have to get your priorities right. Lazar wanted to make sure Bodhi was safe and I wanted to take photos. Unfortunately Maia was calling to Bodhi and by the time I got the camera turned on, the bear was making a hasty retreat. Damn missed another bear photo opportunity.
Today I was left all alone in the house. I have a head cold waging war in my umm err head. Donnis did not want me to go to her mums nursing home and spread germs. Joan went to work and I just stayed inside trying to keep warm and sleeping often. During those coldish waking moments I thought about the train trip with which we commenced our US and Canada journey. The trip began in Seattle, we changed trains in Chicago and again in Buffalo before arriving in Niagara Falls Canada. Originally the trip was scheduled for 4 days and ended being of 5 days duration.
I always had this want or need to go on a long train journey. A train with an overnight sleeper car and a dining car. Previous train trips were on suburban trains to go to work. Once when I was transferred for work I took a trip from Sydney Central Railway to Wyong a journey of only a few hours. Some years ago I went on a train from Taree to Sydney Central Railway. Although the journey was a few hours longer the train had a café bar. You ordered and paid for a meal from a limited menu and were given a coloured tag. When they called your colour you made your way to the café car to collect your meal which was in a foil container and you are given plastic cutlery. You take that back your seat and eat automatically. By that I mean no relish or enjoyment. You eat automatically. Imagine if you will all the people around you are eating a chicken casserole called on a blue tag. Others like me still have a green or red tag waiting on a call for our colour. It did not seem a civilised way to enjoy a meal.
The Amtrak meals were certainly civilised with table service, several choices plus sides, wine, soup and dessert. The table cloth while not being linen was white paper which was removed after each group f 4 finished eating. Sitting alone was not approved. Proper cutlery and crockery – well, the crockery was the Melamine type. Oh and plastic glassware and the coffee was served in take-away cups but the cutlery was real. We also noticed people were leaving a gasp shock horror, TIP. We had never planned to tip although Donnis who has been brought up in a tipping culture was afraid we would not get proper service unless we tipped. That seems like blackmail to me. One couple who we had several meals with, discussed tipping. I asked how much tip do you leave? She answered, this is my last $5 so this is all I can tip. Why do you tip? Because the staff only receive a minimum wage. Oh how much is that? We do not know. Then how do you know they are on minimum wage? Because…well …well because that is what we have been told. What if you are on a minimum wage, do you still tip somebody else on a minimum wage? Ummm don’t know. What about pensioners on a minimum fixed income, do they tip? Don’t know. They did finally comment that on their next meal they had no money left with which to leave a tip and they feel uncomfortable. On average they try to leave 15% of the value of the meal as a tip. In restaurants it is suggested the tip is 20% or 25%. On this train trip the average wait person would serve 10 tables per hour. The average meal would be $100 per table. Do the maths on an average of 10% tip per table, that’s an extra $100 per hour in tips. Tax Free! On top of the minimum wage. The service is no better or worse if you do not tip.
I did some research on minimum wages. US rates are all over the shop with 51 states having different minimum wages but averages out at $7.25 per hour. Almost slave labour with wait staff virtually begging for handouts. No wonder they beg for tips. Employers do not want to change the minimum wage as it is simpler to pay wait staff less and let them survive on tips. It’s less paperwork and less they have to work out meal prices to include a fair and living wage. Americans and Canadians for that matter think food prices are cheap. Mostly they are not. The advertised price might look cheap but once you add on GST – each province has a different rate – from as little as 5% to as much as 25%. Then a tip goes on top of that.
In Canada the average minimum wage is $11.70 and the same tipping game goes on there.
In Australia the average minimum wage is $17.20 with a rare occasional tip.
Recently we had coffee and a doughnut. We had to pay at the counter then wait for our name to be called to collect the coffee and take it back to the table ourselves. We used a debit card to pay. Instantly 25% was added to the cost for a tip. There was no service yet we were still expected to pay a tip.
Luckily the US has $1 bills so if you are the tipping type you can carry a big bag of small denomination money to pay all the little tips. On the train we never saw anybody tip with coins. They always threw notes onto the table.
Canada only has coins for small denominations – just like Australia.
Now back to the train trip. It was fun for the most part and we never got bored. For those contemplating a train journey and if you are a light sleeper or have trouble falling asleep, be aware a train journey may not rock you to sleep. It may rock you awake. If the train picks up speed to maintain a timetable the carriages will begin to sway side to side. There is also a very slight forwards backwards motion none of which seems apparent during the day. Then there is a clickety clack which you do not seem to hear during the day. As well, going through rural areas the driver is required to sound his horn when approaching crossings without warning lights. At night the horn sounds often. Again it is not something you hear during the day. If you get a chance to fall asleep during the day do so
Would we do another long train journey in the US? Probably not! For the most part normal coach seats are quite comfortable and have access to the same dining facilities. On journeys up to 12 hours I would agreeably do another train journey but not overnight. I did not fall asleep easily. I do not fall asleep on long plane flights either. I should also mention that as “room” passengers we were entitled to First Class Services where available. Chicago Union Station has a First Class Passengers Lounge which includes a baggage storage area. They also provide free food and drink which changes throughout the day. They provide lounge chairs, dining tables with chairs and benches for working on computers. Power outlets are beside almost every seat. Local TV and WiFi is included. I have no idea if there was a similar service at Seattle but we did not see such a service.
Finally try to preview the timetable. If you are expecting to travel through an area where you want to see special scenery be aware that some journeys may pass through that area at night. Our train went through the American Rockies which I wanted to see. Our train was 12 hours behind schedule when we passed through. Had we been on time we would not have seen the Rockies in daylight.
Wednesday 30th May
The day started quietly as I struggled with the head cold. Donnis and I planned to go to Costco before she visits her mum.
Then came the phone call from Ivan and Maia. “Do you want to go to Kicking Horse Mountain for a few days?”
“Be ready in an hour.”
Thursday 31st May
Ivan and I left for a hike. First we stopped at a conjunction of two rivers.
Kicking Horse River begins in Alberta and is fed by the snow melt from mountains on the north side of the valley.
The Columbia River begins in British Columbia and is fed by snow melt from mountains on the south side of the valley.
The rivers run westward on either side of the valley until they join at Golden and continue the westerly journey through BC as the Columbia River and enters the ocean in Washington State USA. Further east of the valley near Lake Louise another river begins, the Kootenay. This river heads south into Ohio and Montana USA. (readers may recall I mentioned the Kootenay as we travelled by train through USA) It then heads west then north back into Canada and joins the Columbia.
On our way to the walk I spied a small herd – flock – group – family of Mountain Sheep.
They had a couple of young in the group and all are losing their winter wool. I noticed one, a buck who seems to have had his horns shorn or perhaps even broken in a territorial clash.
I must be very badly out of condition as the walk drained me, especially as we took no hiking poles or worse, no water. Later I realised we are high up in the mountains and oxygen levels would be far less than I am used to. Level walking or even walking downhill was no roblem. It was walking uphills when I suddenly found I was gasping for breath.
The falls drop about 15 metres and immediately pound against a large rock in the middle of the river. This creates a huge spray which billows up above the river. The walk was steep and with few places to step unless you have poles or something to lean on or fall against, such as a tree.
Mid- afternoon, after our hike, we drove to the small town of Field which has an inordinate number of guest houses…all with no vacancy signs. Towns such as Lake Louise and Banff have a high No Vacancy rates due to expensive rents for seasonal workers. This little town is only a half hour away from those centres. Field supplies guest house accommodation for those seasonal workers.
We had lunch at Truffle Pigs a fancy old restaurant instead of the planned diner which we found, on arrival to be closed until mid June. http://www.trufflepigs.com/lodge/
On the way home I spied a black bear on a hill above the highway.
We stopped and I jumped out to photograph the bear.
He was a little camera shy and annoyed but I had a steep hill and 4 lanes of highway between us.
I was sure I could escape into the car before he got down the hill. He trotted behind a log and hid, looking up occasionally to see where I was.
When he was browsing on all four legs he did not look so big.
Later as he stood and showed his full size I realised he was quite a mature fellow and by the look of his coat and size he is well fed even this early after the thaw.
The rest of the drive back to Kicking Horse was uneventful.
Today has enough information and photos to deserve its own post.
The head cold which gave notice of arriving two days ago attached itself to me with lots of venom and took over my life. I ignored the early warning signs but it was no use. Donnis and Joan dosed me up with preventatives and symptom easing lotions, potions, vaporub and Panadol.
The day dawned sunny but not warm until about 10am.
Along with Joan, Andrea and her two boys Miles and Evan, we went to Heritage Park Historical Village.
The park is built on part of what is known as the Glenmore Reservoir, water supply for the city of Calgary. The reservoir is built on the Elbow River which drains snow melt from the Rockies some 60 Klms to the west. The park is a 127 acre prime real estate on a peninsular of land. It has 180 different exhibits including an Amusement Park for younger children.
First up I should mention that the train ride which travels around the peninsular was closed. No reasons were given.
Next the steam driven paddle wheeler was not operating. For this we were given an explanation. The reservoir dam wall further downriver is being extended so the water level has been lowered to allow work to proceed…for the next three years. Basically the area the paddle wheeler operates is not much more than a few sandy waterholes.
Also closed off is an area of wonderful statues of native animals. Although they can be seen through the wire fence it is not suitable for photos . My other disappointment is the three levels of early car exhibits is confined to only two floors and much of those two floors are about early 1900’s cars plus hundreds of old fuel bowsers. There was a third floor with signs encouraging people to go to the top level to see the display. We did. The floor was empty. The rest of what we saw was fascinating but regrettably we ran out of time.
The theme of the park is the changing Calgary/Prairie life encountered since the day of the Blackfoot Tribes amongst others.
The theme follows through with life in the early days of colonisation, settlement and urban life up until the early 1950’s.
Early settlers often referred to as sodbusters made simple dwellings from sod. They were usually dark and smelly but were cheap and relatively easy and quick to make and required few tools or even skills.
Lined with canvas painted with whitewash they provided a one room dirt floor basic habitation with room for a bed, a table, chairs, a wood burning stove for meals and were reasonably dry and warm. Root cellars were usually a separate underground bunker style larder held upright with rough sawn timber and without windows all of which was covered with dirt and grass. All the winter staples, such as potatoes, pumpkins, beans, beetroot, apples and whatever grain was available were stored underground where it remained cool all year round. Just to see these dwellings gave an idea of the absolute hardships people endured. Usually the sod huts were considered a temporary dwelling to get the family through a season or two until something more substantial could be built.
Log cabins and slab huts were also featured. Slab huts were rough sawn timber with any gaps (and there were usually lots of gaps) were filled with a mixture of mud and whitewash. Often these were used as a barn.
Miles enjoyed his time at the Amusement Park going for a ride something which spun a car around while going around. He also enjoyed being on the smallest ferris wheel all by himself.
Looking around the park the staff paid and volunteers were all dressed in period costume from the late 1800’s through to about 1950. Even the staff at the Hotel Wainwright where we had lunch were all dressed in period costume.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved around the park giving little talks pointing out sights of interest and generally adding colour and photo opportunities.
Horse and hay wagon rides were popular today especially as the paddle wheeler and the train were not operating. Most people, like us, had gone to the park expecting a train and boat ride.
All the old houses from the turn of the century, that is from 1899 to 1901 were set up with period furniture and staff in period costume were there to explain certain features. One farmhouse had a cake and bread making demonstration using only the equipment available at that time including baking in a wood fired oven. (it shows how old I am, growing up in Balmain we had a wood fired stove which was mainly used in winter as it heated the entire house. The stove was called an Early Kooka. )