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Posts from the ‘Canada’ Category

Exploring Bella Coola (2)

Now to the Hagensborg area and west. Read more

Exploring Bella Coola (1)

When we weren’t bear watching we explored Bella Coola and its surrounds. These endeavours were a little weather-impacted (the rainforest habitat shouldn’t make that a complete surprise) though the resulting cloud gave the place additional atmosphere and our trusty Jeep got us everywhere we wanted to go. I’ve divided this into two posts covering roughly west and east of where we stayed. Read more


We weren’t going to leave things entirely to chance. On three of our four days in Bella Coola we booked a half-day river drift bear-watching tour run by a small company based at our lodge. Absolutely the right decision: it enabled us to see grizzlies and black bears fishing and feasting on luckless salmon. Read more

Into bear country

With eggs left stabbed and oozing on my plate after two attempts to get them properly cooked, we checked out and caught a cab back to the airport. The YVR South Terminal is located away from the main airport and among other things, services coastal routes such as the one that would be depositing us in bear country for the next few days. Read more

The Canadian adventures begin: Express stop in Vancouver

It’s September, seemingly our month of choice for offshore excursions and that would be true again this year with Mike and I currently in Canada. After a gnarly build-up juggling work and health issues we nevertheless arrived in Vancouver (bless those 13 hour flights) to kick off our almost three week adventure. Read more

And so it ends where it began

After my brief look at Ottawa I arrived back in Toronto for two nights before flying home. I started the trip here and had completed a large odd-shaped circle of travel…

(All it needs is a couple of legs and it would sort of be a cat?) The mapping tool spazzed out when I tried to include Churchill, north of Winnipeg, as there is no road there only a railway. So the map is missing that wee subarctic foray.

I liked Toronto, the lovely weather helped I’m sure, and it was nice returning there being vaguely familiar of my surroundings for once. These are a few photos covering my first and second visits.

My hostel was on Church Street, this being one of the namesake structures

During a tour on Lake Ontario

CN Tower

And a view from the top of the tower

A fort originally established to protect the city

Casa Loma on the main tourist route. Not overly significant historically?, it's just your average 98 room grand mansion with immaculate gardens

The Hockey Hall of Fame

And with 10 weeks up it was time for the final dose of sitting down for mega hours while getting from A to B to C, though a plane was a nice change from buses and trains. A quick tally now on Google maps indicates I covered 20-25,000kms. That type of information was a bit harder to come by then – so much has changed on the technology front in the last few years to help travellers research, plan, record and communicate. I’m pretty sure I won’t be arriving back from travels with 41 rolls of film again!

With well stuffed bags earlier in the trip

This concludes my 2004 USA and Canada recap. The full collection of related posts can be found here.

One visit to Niagara Falls is probably enough

I skipped Niagara Falls earlier in the post sequence so I’ll tuck it in now. I spent a couple of nights there at the start of my trip after leaving Toronto. With the exuberance of someone early in their trip I packed in as much as I could. There is loads of stuff to see, both in and away from the townships.

It is a place of interesting contrasts. My rather shabby hostel was based in the original N.F. township which is a relatively old and worn place about half an hour scenic walk away from the falls and the newer ‘tourist end’. Clifton Hills is where the majority of tourists are catered for on the Canadian side, but big tourism seemed to have sent it into tacky overdrive. Some descriptions liken it to a mini Vegas but that almost sounds a bit complimentary.

But the natural attractions are what people go there for. The falls, three in total, are stunning. From the Canadian side the Maid of the Mist boat tours get you up close to the Horseshoe Falls. The power and noise is incredible and you (and your camera) quickly become thankful for the dorky waterproof coverings they give you. The American and Bridal Veil Falls are accessed from the USA side. Along the River Road and Niagara Parkway are various viewing places and walkways and other attractions.

While there was a lot to appreciate it was overall a bit of a funny place and I left there with no desire to return. Never say never though eh?

Clifton Hills is the garish tourist end of Niagara Falls. Load of people, loads of neon.

Horseshoe Falls

Tourists getting drenched on the Maid of the Mist

The Bridal Veil Falls and walkway, next to the American Falls

Somewhere there beyond the mist thrown up by the falls is an old power station

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge from the Niagara River

Given my employer prior to the trip (and since as it's turned out) I took the opportunity to tour through this power station when I stumbled upon it

Another of the attractions along the Niagara Falls Parkway. While not much of a botanical gardens person I had a bit of a look, but the nearby butterfly conservatory was a bridge too far!


In search of hockey

In planning my trip I was determined to see a game of NHL ice hockey. Along with drag racing, speedway tracks and polar bears, it was one of those North American experiences I really wanted to notch up. I stalked websites waiting for the draw to be released. I saw a game was scheduled in Ottawa that would tie in nicely with the end of my trip. I planned an overnight excursion especially for that, on the basis that I would sort a ticket later when they were released.

What I didn’t count on was a lockout which resulted in the cancellation of the entire 2004-2005 NHL season. It was to be the first time since 1919 that the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded. Awesome.

While I couldn’t believe my bad timing, I decided to go up to Ottawa anyway.

After my final Greyhound ordeal from Winnipeg to Toronto I overnighted in the same hostel where I began my trip, and caught a train north the following morning. The trip took around 5 hours. It was mostly wet and I had an obscured view – and when I did wander to the rear of the train for a look I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by the scenery.

Somewhere between Toronto and Ottawa

I had booked into a hostel which used to be the city’s main jail for more than a century until its closure in 1972. Such history was an irresistible pull.

My hostel, the old jail

Clearly such a building would not have elevators so had to hump the bags up four flights of stairs to get to my six bed jail cell dorm, which had retained a lot of its charm from its former life. That evening I went on their daily tour of other parts of the building. It was a prison where hangings took place, three apparently, and the hangman’s noose remains today. Though well fenced off!

Where naughty tourists are sent

With less than 24 hours in Ottawa, I got out on foot to see as much as possible.

The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America

The Peacekeeping Monument

On Parliament Hill: the Peace Tower with Centennial Flame

Poking around the old carbide mill on Victoria Island between Ottawa and Hull

Halloween is nigh

Gorgeous autumn (oops, fall) colours

View over the Ottawa River

Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River into Quebec

And so this was about as close as I got to ice hockey.

Monument to a famous Canadian hockey player from the 1950s

Despite the hockey disappointment it was still a worthwhile trip. I even won $5 in the Canadian lottery. But with only a couple of nights left on North American soil it was time to scoot back down to Toronto.

Manitoba beaches and other stuff

One day we grabbed our winter woollies and bundled into Angela and Adam’s car for a day trip to see what else Manitoba has to offer.

Lake Winnipeg was first up, the southern end being some 55kms north of the city. It is a massive body of water: about 24,500 square kilometres. In comparison, Lake Taupo, NZ’s largest lake by surface area, is just a wee drop at only 616 square kms!

We stopped for gas at an interesting place called Sherwood Forest. Luckily not a long stop – I’m sure I heard duelling banjos in the distance…

Grand Beach is one of several communities round the lake and a popular destination in summer. But this was the latter half of October and I was getting an early taste of how cold it gets in these parts during winter.

Clearly not a summer visit to Lake Winnipeg

We had passed bits of snow on the roadside on the way up and around the lake ice was beginning to form.

The bonus of this unbeachy weather is that we basically had the place to ourselves.

Although there were definitely creatures around.

Who needs a chainsaw when you have a beaver

This is what they call cottage country, with many houses being more holiday cottages than year round residences. The little nearby settlement was quiet but pleasant.

On the way back to Winnipeg we detoured for a quick look at Springhill, a small ski field only 15 minutes from downtown. It’s just off the highway which is visible in the background.

Waiting for snow

Another detour took us to the Fort Whyte Centre, a bit of a wild life and bird life reserve. A couple of hours were easily spent walking the trails and looking through the facilities.

Geese doing what geese do

With a bison at the visitor centre. Still cuddly even though he was a bit dead.

Soon enough my week in Winnipeg drew to a close. I’m sure I’ll return one day if Angela is still there when I next get back to Canada. As I was leaving another North American tradition was on the horizon: Halloween.

Ange started the Halloween adornments before I left

I was also nearing the end of this trip and about to get my final dose of Greyhound. Toronto was a mere 30 hours away.

Relaxing in Muddy Waters

After a few weeks on the go it was time to chill for a while. I bid farewell to Churchill and climbed onboard the train for the 40-odd hour journey back to Winnipeg, which was to be my stop for the next few days. Not sure how much of a destination it is ordinarily and if not for my friend Angela living there I would likely have skipped over it.

Angela and I were penpals had met in person once, 16 years before, when a group from her school toured NZ. To be able to see her again was fantastic, especially on her home turf.

With Angela and her partner Adam

Winnipeg lies on the edge of the expansive prairies that span Manitoba and further west. Its origins as a trading area and garrison are perhaps not surprising given its location at the junction of two major rivers. Winnipeg in Cree means ‘muddy waters’.

Angela took me to a number of local attractions. The rivers meet at a place called The Forks which today is a destination for culture and entertainment. We wandered around the markets, as well as the nearby Fort Gibraltar and St Boniface Cathedral.

View over The Forks

Market at The Forks

St Boniface

We went to the zoo in Assiniboine Park which was pleasant enough and housed some furred and feathered creatures that I don’t often see.

The more I look at them, the odder they seem

I didn’t like seeing the lone polar bear in its enclosure. I remember when there were two polar bears in the Auckland Zoo and now feel very strongly that they just do not belong in captivity.

Winnipeg has a famous historical bear connection: Winnie the Pooh was named after a WW1 army officer’s actual pet bear which he named after his home town, Winnipeg. That bear ended up in London Zoo.

I coincided my visit with Angela’s birthday and also Canadian thanksgiving – my first experience of this North American tradition. These occasions were spent with other members of Ange’s family and it was good to meet names that I had heard about over the previous 20 years.

Thanksgiving with Ange's family

We had a great day trip outside the city which I’ll cover next. We may have been in prairie country but we were off to the beach!

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