Monday, 28 June 2010

Rockies Road Trip - Part 2 (Banff to Vancouver), 22nd - 27th June 2010

Today was set to be a busy day sightseeing Banff and the surrounding area.  We got up early to start our day.  It was a bit more overcast today but warm enough.  We headed for the Banff Gondola.  After a few photos with the massive Ice Explorer vehicles we headed up the gondola.  What an amazing panoramic view from up here.  It was a bit cooler up the top being a bit closer to the snow and more exposed to the wind.  We went for a walk up to the top peak to have a look around.  Typical kiwis we were and happened to be the only ones with jandals on, despite the signs warning you not to wear this kind of footwear.  I've definitely walked in worse conditions with them.  After several photo ops, encounters with chipmunks and a browse in the tourist shop we headed down for our next adventure.

We headed out of Banff towards Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.  With our eyes pealed the entire way we didn't manage to see any wild life on the way.  Maybe we are just looking too hard.  Now we had truely stuck beauty.  Driving into these kind of places is just breathtaking.  The water is just so clear and the snow covered mountains reflecting on the water is just something else!!  The pictures are fantastic but just don't quite do it justice.  This is probably one of the nicest lakes I have ever seen.  We had packed a picnic lunch so decided we would sit on the rocks here and have a picnic.  We soon became surrounded by chipmunks and there were a few ravens hanging around.  Man these things are massive and scary looking (the ravens I mean) wouldn't want one of these to peck you.  After a quick pit stop we were on our way again.

Next stop was Lake Louise, now if you ever come to the Rockies this is one of the places you will most likely come to.  It is pretty fantastic but to be honest I don't think you would find somewhere around here that isn't.  I personally enjoyed some of the other lakes more.  Still a must visit if you ever come this way.  We went for a walk around the lake to try and catch the sun and shadows at different places on the lake.  At different times of the day the lake can look different colours, from blue to green to turquoise.  Even within the space of half an hour or so the lake looked different colours.  We took a few silly photos here and then headed on our way again.  Now at this point I must add that we had decided to start doing some silly plank photos, in case you don't know doing "the plank" is lying down flat in some random place to take a photo just for fun.  There is no real reason just pure silliness.  You may see a few of these photos in here.

It was getting a bit late in the day and getting a bit cold so we decided to head back to Banff for a swim at the hot springs, very nice and relaxing way to end the day before dinner.  We went out to Wild bills for a good pub meal before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Today 23rd June was going to be a really long day, as most of our days seem to be.  Today we headed to Jasper along the Ice Fields Parkway, this drive was set to take us about 4 hours.  This section is probably one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on!!  The Rockies are just so impressive and the mountains are huge.  At this time of the year it's nice to still see the mountain tips covered in snow.  We got up early again and had a big breakfast before setting off.  As you have to go back towards Lake Louise to head to Jasper we decided to take the nature road again to try and find our bear.  Today we were successful, right along the side of the road we spotted a grizzly bear eating dandelions.  The car went crazy once again and the paparazzi were out.  We managed to get nice and close without being those dangerous types of tourists. We kept our distance and managed to get some great photos along with a video.  It's crazy watching some people get out of their cars just to get close to these animals, stupid people.  After a while of photos and once the ranger had turned up to control the gatherers we headed off on our way again.  We were all excited now.  Now to find a Moose.

First stop along this journey was Peyto Lake, now this lake is just stunning and such a gorgeous blue colour. The glacier used to fill this whole valley however has receded about 2 kilometers in the last century.  You can't walk down to the lake so we just had to observe it from up at the summit.  I just can't get enough of this beauty, stunning!!  We walked down through the shrubbery back to the car to continue.

Next stop was the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields.  Another glacier that has receded several kilometers over time, where the information area and car park are used to be the glacier.  We decided to get in a big snow car and take a tour to the glacier.  What a fantastic trip and a must do if you are ever in the area in my opinion.  On the short trip up to the glacier we got to see some mountain goats.  No photos of these as they were gone by the time I got the camera out.  Now this big vehicle has to maneuver down this massive hill which is icy and extremely steep, quite scary as you start heading over the top of the hill and then end up almost vertical.  There were a few people in the car who were holding on pretty tight, I think we may have also got a short scream at one point.  Once we got to the glacier we were able to get out for about 15-20 mins to have a walk around.  We grabbed our drink bottles and dipped them into the stream that was running by, now you haven't tasted water till you have some straight off a glacier, it's just so cold and clean!! After walking around and a few more photos it was time to be on our way.  We headed back to the snow cars.  The journey back was just as fun however not so scary this time as we were prepared for the climb back up the hill.  Once back at the information area we had a bite to eat for lunch of some overly priced food and a walk around a couple of tourist shops before heading on our way again.

We stopped at several falls along the way including Tangle Falls off the side of the road, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.  Athabasca falls were by far the best.  The Athabasca river links the freshwater ice of the Columbia Icefield to the salt water of the Artic Ocean.  It was very impressive, and not somewhere you'd like to find your self ending up after paddling down the river.  It wouldn't just be cold but I'm sure you'd get stuck in one of the many nooks and crannies the ice and river water has made.  We took a few more photos and videos then set off on our way again.

We arrived in Jasper around dinner time.  After checking into our accommodation we decided to have a look through the town of Jasper to find some where for dinner.  Then collected a few things for a BBQ for tomorrow and headed back to the accommodation.  We decided it would be a nice evening to have a look around the area we were staying briefly.  We jumped in the car and headed to Pyramid Island.  This is a small island that has been popular with locals and visitors since 1930 when the first foot bridge was built.  It has a short 600m walk around the island to enjoy.  The island and the surrounding lake get their name from the mountain that looks over it:  Pyramid Mountain.  We had a walk around watching some of the chipmunks carrying around some rubbish the humans had left, such a shame people can be so thoughtless.  Despite that it was such a beautiful view on such a beautiful evening, I think there is nothing better than looking out across the water at the beautiful sky and mountains as the evening is closing in on you, just amazing!

We were staying in Jasper 2 nights so today 24 June we spent having a look around the Jasper area.  Today wasn't the nicest day we have had in our trip, it was a bit cloudy and cool this morning.  We decided to still take the 40 min drive towards Maligne lake.  I know what you are thinking, "not another lake" but this is a must see in the Rockies.  Maligne Lake is famed for the colour of is water, surrounding peaks and the three peaks visible from the lake and Spirit island.  It is one of the most photographed locations in the world, and it is truly beautiful.  I could only imagine how stunning this would be on a sunny day, as it was still stunning on a cloudy day.  We waited for our boat and hopped on for our hour trip out to Spirit Island.  Now spirit island is nothing too exciting just an island with several trees on it and a walk, however if I could be there and be surrounded by such beauty each and every day I think I'd be pretty "spirited" myself.  After a few photos and a quick stop we headed back to the start.

Oh I forgot to mention.  On our way to the lake we managed to see some more wildlife, turns out it just pops up when you least expect it.  While driving down the road we wondered what that thing was running down the side of the road heading straight towards us.  Turns out is was a proud red fox, who was carrying its prey back home.  We couldn't believe our luck, you can't get more wild life than an animal with its prey!!  Along the journey we also managed to see some elk and some big horn mountain sheep.

The day was beginning to brighten up a bit and the sun was trying to come out.  We were still on the look out for Moose so made a few stops on our way back towards Jasper.  We made a stop at Medicine lake on the way to Maligne Canyon.  Waters from Maligne River flow into Medicine Lake however never appear to flow out.  Medicine Lake does dry up in the summer months though leaving a thin channel of water which disappears into the shoreline.  The water from here then makes it way through Maligne canyon.  We went for a walk around the canyon area looking way down towards the water.  We managed to hear a woodpecker on the way but couldn't quite see it.  It's so hard to even hear where the sound is coming from as it seems to echo off all the walls.  We finished off the walk and jumped back into the car to finish our exploring.

Next stops were Lake Annette and Lake Edith, now these are the kinds of lakes you want to have a swim in.  The water is just so clear and clean, with the reflections of the mountains in them.  Just beautiful!!  Such a pity we didn't bring our togs with us.  We headed back to the motel to decide what our next plan of action was.  Once back at the motel Cam and I decided that you couldn't come to the Rockies and not have a swim in a glacier fed lake.  So we got our togs on and headed down to Patricia lake.  Now this water is freezing, well not quite but pretty dam close!!  If I was to guess I would say approx 6-8 degrees, the type of cold that no matter how long you are in the water you never seem to catch your breath.  We managed to stay in for a few photos (none of which I can post sorry as they are on Mum's camera) and a very quick swim, before getting out and heading to the spa which was conveniently located just a few minutes walk away.  There is nothing quite like sitting in a spa pool all warm, when the air around you is freezing, surrounded by snow covered mountains!!  Don't think I'll ever get used to that.

After the swim we took advantage of the nice evening to have a BBQ before heading to bed after our busy day.

Well tonight was the last night of our Rockies Road Trip.  Another long 4 hour drive to Kamloops.  We started out reasonably early on the 25th June.  We only made one stop on the way to Kamloops at Spahats falls.  This big waterfall comes flying out of the side of the cliff face down to the rocks below.  Quite impressive, what I thought was more interesting was that the cliff face below the path you walk on to get to the lookout has a massive crack down to the base of it.  This was caused by an earthquake in the past.  Glad they told us about this once we had walked over it.  Still worth it in the end I guess.  After a short stop here were continued on to Kamloops, we wanted to get here at a reasonable hour.  It's amazing how it can warm up so much after a short distance of travelling.  While in Banff and Jasper the temperature had dropped a bit being closer to the mountains.  However now in Kamloops the temperatures were back up to the 30's again.

To cool off we headed down to the Thompson River at Riverside park in Kamloops for a bit of a swim.  After trying to help rescue a few stupid people who were nearly being carried off down the river on airbeds, we plunged into the river.  It was very refreshing, not quite as cold as the last swim but still takes your breath away.  We collected some food and took advantage of the nice weather again for a BBQ on the deck for dinner.  Tonight was just a relaxing night before our journey back to Vancouver.

Today was set to be another 4 hour drive and we had one stop along the way so once again we were up for an early start.  We headed for Hell's gate.  At hell's gate you take and Airtram down the cliff face, across the Fraser river and to the platform on the other side.  Over here you learn about the history of the area, can have some food and watch the waters roaring past.  Here the towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 35 m wide.  Such a large amount of water powering down through such a small gap.  We hung around here for a while watching the hummingbirds, having and ice cream and taking a few photos before heading back to the airtram and to continue our journey home to Vancouver.  After dinner out in Vancouver we called it a night.

That concludes our 9 day, 2200 kilometer trip of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  My advise to anyone would be that this is a must do trip in your lifetime if you can manage it, however I would try to take at least 2 weeks and spend more time in each area.  This is such an amazing and beautiful place, just breathtaking!!

I'm going to add one more day onto this trip.  We had to make use of Cam's time off and the rental of our car so we decided to add in one more day trip.  Today we got up early again to head to Whistler.  Now Whistler is another place that you have to visit if heading to Vancouver.  Whether you are here in summer or in winter there is plenty to see and do.  We decided we had to see one of the local waterfalls so stopped off at Shannon falls.  Still a great waterfall however after what we had seen in the last several days it wasn't as impressive as the other ones.  After about 15 min here we continued on our way.  Once in Whistler we had to bundle up a bit more, it was a bit of an overcast day and was a bit cold.  We headed up on the Gondola.  Along the way we managed to see 2 black bears on the side of the mountain.  By the time we got the cameras out they were gone though, perhaps we can see them on the way down.  Once at the top we had a few photos in the snow, yes snow in the middle of summer.  It's hard to believe that this time last year there was hardly any snow and this year it was everywhere, there were still people snowboarding in the glaciers and it's near the end of June.

After perusing some of the tourist shops and getting some cheap bargains on T-shirts we headed across on the peak to peak to Blackcomb mountain.  There wasn't much more to see over here other than a different view, so after some photos we went back across the peak to peak to Whistler mountain and down the Gondola.  We had the cameras out however the bears had gone.  After a walk around Whistler village and the shops we were on our way home again.  Now Cam and I have traveled this road several times and never seen a bear.  This time however we were lucky, not only a bear but a black bear and her cub just walking along one of the side roads.  We did a U turn and took some photos from the other side of the road.  Don't think we have any chance of seeing a Moose now so we continued.

Once back in Vancouver we took the scenic ride home first stopping up Cypress Mountain, one of the local mountains to get a view back over Vancouver and the city.  Such a clear day for it and we managed to see one of the cruise ships leaving, perfect timing.  Now we drove through Stanley park to the lookout where we watched the cruise ships continue their journey out of the harbour and even managed to get a picture of a raccoon!!  What an amazing holiday.

Wildlife seen:  Deer, Marmot, Mountain Goat, Mountain Big Horn Sheep, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, Elk, Red Fox, Squirrel, Chipmunk, Raven and Raccoon.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Rockies Road Trip - Part 1 (Vancouver to Banff), 19th - 21st June 2010

I'll start back a few days, before the 19th June. Mum and Dad Jordan arrived on 16th June 2010 to Vancouver to spend 5 weeks in the area. I picked them up from the airport after their long haul here. We took the journey back to the city from the airport on the Canada line. After arriving at our apartment, dropping their bags off and a coffee we headed out for a walk to Canada Place. Just a short walk to check out the scenery and get a bit of a feel for the city. Luckily Vancouver had decided it would bring out a bit of sunshine for them, being late afternoon however it's wasn't out for too long. After a little walk we headed back to meet Cam and head out for some dinner. Just a relaxing evening before all the fun begins.

17th June we walked over the bridge to Granville Island for a day of perusing the shops and watching a bit of entertainment. A great place to show tourists and find a few presents to take back. Granville Island as I have probably mentioned in other posts is a public market full of international foods and local stalls. We spent the majority of the day here just looking around. After this we headed home for dinner, it's great having your parents over to visit when they then cook you dinner. Their way of contributing, which was much appreciated. After dinner we went for an evening walk around the waterfront, one of our favourite things to do on a beautiful evening. As we were walking along the waterfront we were telling Mum and Dad about how we quite often see seals, just as one popped up in front of us, perfect timing!! We walked right around to science world before heading home through the city. A nice relaxing day and evening.

Today was a stunning day in Vancouver, perfect day for a walk to Stanley Park. After a bit of a sleep in we headed down to false creek, walked along the waterfront towards second beach, such a beautiful way to see the entrance to Vancouver. It's such a long walk around Stanley Park we decided to cut across the front of it and past the Lost lagoon lake. There were some turtles who thought it was a beautiful day.  There were several of them sunning themselves on some rocks with some beautiful swans swimming by, such a picture op. I have never seen this here before, Vancouver was bringing it all out for Mum and Dad so far. We stopped for a bite to eat and to watch some of the World cup football, before heading off along the waterfront, past Canada place to Gastown. Gastown is Vancouver's old town area, this is where settlers first started things in this city. Now Vancouver isn't called little Hollywood for no reason, we happened to fall upon the filming of a TV series called Facing Kate, I told Mum and Dad we could go searching for filming but never thought we would actually find some. We hung around here for a while watching, always so interesting. On our way back home we managed to find some real life action, there were several undercover cops and several people in handcuffs, not sure what kind of trouble they were in. Wow what an action packed trip.  We headed home after this for dinner and an early night as we were heading off on our trip the next day.

Today we were heading off on our 9 day trip around the Rocky Mountains in Canada.  Today the 19th was set to be a long day.  The trip is about 4-5 hours drive from Vancouver. We were going to take it easy as it was Dad's first time driving for a while on the wrong side of the road.  We also wanted to take in the scenery around us and make a few stops.  We headed off nice and early on our way to Kelowna for 2 nights.  Kelowna is a city in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.  Kelowna is well known for it's hot weather during the summer, and the Okanagan is very well known for it's wines and fruit.  On our way we stopped off at a few small places including Hope and Merritt.  The sign on the way into Hope says "experience Hope" so we thought we must get out and take a few photos like good tourists.  A nice little town.  This started a trend of stopping off at little places along the way.

The next stop however in Merritt was perhaps one that we didn't need to make.  You could just about see a tumble weed blowing in the wind.  We did manage to find a supermarket here however and get some lunch, we then found a nice spot on the way at the info center to eat our lunch, it was starting to get hot now the further we got to Kelowna.  We pushed on towards Kelowna as these little stops were beginning to take up a bit of our time.  Now Kelowna didn't disappoint and we found out just how hot it can be arriving here to find 30+ temps.  After replacing our long pants with shorts we headed off to do a bit of exploring.  Now Kelowna is just beautiful, I think if I was to stay in Canada this could be a place I would be happy to be.  It's right on a lake and just has a really nice feel to it.  We walked around the waters edge and through the city.  Back at the hotel we enjoyed a BBQ in the sun and heat, then a cool off in the pool before heading to bed ready for our next day.

Today was a bit more relaxed as we had the entire day to spend in and around Kelowna.  There happened to be an event on called smoke on the water, where people who BBQ were having a competition of who could cook the best meats etc.  There were a few stalls and the best part each place was chopping up pieces of their cooked meat for people to try, it was delicious and we got to have all sorts of meat selections.  This happened to be right down by the lake so we took a little time to listen to the music and put our feet in the water.

After this we headed over to the car and boat show which was also happening in Kelowna today, we picked a good day to be here it seems.  They had some really neat and flash old cars.  They were all done up and shinny.  Once we had enough looking at this we sat down for a while to enjoy some live country music that was going on, some of these people have amazing voices.  In the afternoon we went out to West Kelowna to have a look at a couple of the wineries, we stopped off at one with a bit of a view for one of the most expensive coffees I have had, the company and view were worth it though.  We continued on around the area to have a look at some of the flash houses and man there were some beautiful spots around this area.  Far enough away from the city to feel secluded but close enough to get everything you need.  Definitely somewhere I could stay.  It was getting later in the afternoon so we headed back to the hotel and walked down the road for some dinner, dessert and a walk back around the area before bed time.  Tomorrow is going to be a long day.

We set off fairly early this morning the 21st of June on our way to Banff.  Today's drive is about 6-7 hours.  You would not believe just how stunning this place and drive is, everywhere you look are snow covered mountains for miles!!  Banff is a very popular spot particularly in the winter for the skiing, however it is also very popular during the summer due to the beauty of the place and walks they have in the area.  On our way to Banff we stopped at Salmon Arm a cute little town nestled on the shore of the Shuswap Lake.  We took a few photos near the lake, had a bit of a shop around and had a bit to eat including a meat pie!!  Not quite New Zealand standards but pretty good for Canada standards.

We left here sometime after lunch to stop off at Revelstoke dam, just a quick stop and a few photos as we were conscious of the time.  Now we knew we would see some wildlife at some point however we didn't realise we would see so much all at once.  Some of us got closer than expected.  We got a snap shot of wildlife on our way to Emerald lake.  As we were driving along the road we got a glimpse of a bear unfortunately by the time we got back to it, it had disappeared into the woods, I guess we'll just have to wait for our chance.  Emerald lake is absolutely beautiful, the water was so blue and with the mountain behind it was very picturesque.  This was our first stop off at a lake and turned out to be the start of many more lakes and waterfalls to come.

Our next stop along the way was Takakkaw falls, now here we were very lucky with the wildlife sightings.  As we were driving along we could see something moving in the distance, turns out there were some deer crossing the road.  We slowed down and the paparazzi were out.  There was excited screams and cameras clicking like you wouldn't imagine, you would think they were standing on top each other and juggling.  I must admit it's great to see things just in the wild that you wouldn't normally see at all.  After our encounter here we continued on to the falls, they were pretty impressive, not the biggest stream of water but very high. It's not just the waterfalls either when its surrounds by a river, and mountains as far as you can see it's very impressive.  The boys took a walk around the water to head to the base of the falls while Mum and I built and Inuksuk.  An Inuksuk is a stone landmark or a cairn built by humans used by some native people of the Arctic region of North American.  It happens to be one of the symbols for the winter olympics and you see them pretty much where ever there are rocks.  After making our rock formation we took a few photos and headed around to the waterfall as well.  It was getting a bit late at this time and we still had a bit of a drive to get to Baniff.

We headed off back down the road.  On the way back to the main road there were a few more deer and then we came across this fury thing in the middle of the road, it walked right up to the car and posed for a photo, we didn't know at the time what this was but later found out it was a Marmott, something I have never heard of before.  It was very cute looking but we were sensible tourists and kept on driving.  We arrived late in Baniff, went out for dinner and then called it a night.  Our mission for the rest of the trip now was to see as much wild life as possible.

More to come in part 2.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bits and Bobs, 29th June - 15th June 2010

The 28th May 2010 was our first year anniversary in Vancouver. On the 29th we headed out for dinner with some of our new friends and old friends to the Local Public Eatery. We had some nibbles, dinner and few drinks to celebrate. Turns out there was another reason to celebrate, our friends Andrea and Laurence are expecting a baby. It was a great evening out with friends to celebrate our time here so far.

June the 1st we went to see the Eagles at the Pacific Coliseum, this was my second time seeing them and Cam's first. We were a little far back at the venue and it was a bit hot, but they put on a great performance as usual which made up for this. Such an amazing band.

We had decided to move apartments and the rest of this week we had several appointments to look at our options. Turns out there were quite a few options out there, and lots of nice places. We had a few more places to look at next week then thought we would make up our mind after that.

Saturday 5th June we went round to Misa's house for dinner. Randall was leaving to go walk the Camino de Santiago, an old pilgrimage walk in Europe. This is about an 800 km walk and can take up to 3-5 weeks to walk, depending on your speed etc. A nice dinner out, even better when you don't have to cook anything.

On Sunday it was pouring down with rain, so we took our umbrellas and headed to Commercial drive for the Italian Day. This is another one of the street days where they block off the streets to cars, and different places set up different stalls. I must admit I have been to better ones, there weren't many stalls this time, perhaps this was due to the rain. We met up with Kim and stood in line to find a place to eat and have a drink, I think every other man and his dog thought this was a good idea in the rain. After lunch and bit of a chat we headed home for the day.

Saturday the 12th was a beautiful day in Vancouver, the sun was shining and it was warm out. We had chosen an apartment over the last week and today we headed around to sign the lease. It was a perfect place, we have a view of the mountains and the ocean in between some of the buildings. We are on the 16th floor and are on the west side of the building so can see to the west, north and south. Can't wait to move in on the 23rd of July.

After this we headed to Kits beach to meet Andrea, Laurence and some of their friends, for a picnic. We laxed out on the beach, ate strawberries, watermelon, cheese, crackers and cinnamon buns. Some went for a cold swim in the ocean while the rest of us hit the volleyball around. A nice relaxing afternoon. After this we headed around to Andrea and Laurence's for a beautiful Salmon dinner, out on their deck in the sun. Just beautiful!!

On Sunday we met up with Andrea and Laurence
again to go on a trip and picnic to Golden Ears Park. It was a slightly overcast day and a little chilly out in the forest. Once we got there we set up for our picnic, I think next time we need to organise who is going to bring what food. We had so much food to eat between the four of us, think we were going to have to take some home. After our feast we headed off for a walk, well more like a wild goose chase. Andrea decided to take us off the beaten trail, around the waterfront, through some streams and through the bush. After a while we decided against her judgement and headed back to find a proper trail.

Turned out to be quite fun actually. We jumped in the car and went to find the falls. This time we found the real trail, the weather had started clearing now as well and it was a beautiful day.The trail was absolutely beautiful and went right next to the water. After our walk, a few picture and several hours later we headed back to our picnic spot for round two of our feast. It was getting a bit late now and we had a bit of a drive back to Vancouver so we packed up and jumped in the car for our trip back. It was a really nice day away, great to be able to just jump in car and head away on a road trip.

Tuesday 15th June we headed to a pub called venue to watch and English band called Athlete. It was a great concert, I love watching bands in a smaller venue, makes it feels much more intimate. The band even stuck around afterwards for signatures and photos.