The country of the big mammals and wonderful nature!Friday April 20th, 2007 by Daniëlle
At nine o’clock in the evening on the 16th of April we arrived with a mega jetlag in Vancouver, Canada. The taxi brought us to our backpacker hostel close to Chinatown. We wondered for a moment if we arrived in the right country, as some spots looked more like China than like Canada . What was really funny is that in New Zealand the trees were losing their leaves and in Canada the trees are filled with blossom and you can see tulips and dafodils everywhere. From fall to spring in a day …
Our reservation through the internet had arrived at the hostel C&N backpackers.com, so we quickly hit the sack. Most of our time we spent in bed during our first day in Vancouver, but probably we just needed the rest. After that we checked out the information centre for information on ferries and rental cars. Obviously we were spoiled in New Zealand, because it took quite some time to receive the correct information.
We found out that the Inside Passage (ferry in the direction of Alaska) would not really be an option for us, since the dates and time did not really fit in our schedule, because it is still off season. The ferry only goes at night and we would have loved to enjoy the wonderfull scenery during the day. So we had to change our plans. Alright, then we would first get ourselves a rental car.
Easier said than done, because with all the different taxes and insurances, it is quite difficult to figure out the differences between the diffent rental companies. A few hours scanning the internet reduced the number of rental companies to a total of three. At that time it was quite late and we did not really got to what we had planned that day. The jetlag was not any help either.
The next day we made a fresh start. After visiting three rental car companies we ended up with the rental company Enterprise rent-a-car, which was the one our hostel had recommended. The cheapest, with full insurance, so no excess and a trunk which does not show any luggage if present. Our new travel companion is a Nissan Versa, brand new, license plate 788HRF.
We took some pictures strawling through Chinatown of some nice buildings and saw turtles and breeding Canada Geese in a nice park. After that passed through Gastown by Gassy Jack and the Steam Clock, some well-known spots of Vancouver.
Time was flying again so we quickly booked our Orca tour at the information centre. After that we needed adapters and plugs, because our Nokia phone is not able to charge at the 110 V of Canada and ofcourse I wanted to make sure that I would be reachable by phone at my birthday. I am also able to recharge my Ipod again, so we will be able to have music even if we are in the middle of nowhere and our car radio is not able to fine tune on the channels.
Afterwards we went to Stanley Park. Nice park, really worthwhile to visit. The animals are really tame. Although signs ask visitors not to feed the wildlife a lot of people do. Beautiful birds, but also a raccoon and lovely squirrels, so cute. One of the birds even landed on my hand to check out if I had some kind of food for him.
After a pizza we bent back to the hostel where at midnight it was my birthday. After a big kiss and a hug from Edvar and a lovely massage from my sweetheart, we went to bed.
The next morning we quickly picked up our rental car and had a lovely phone call with both Moms and Dads to catch up on the latest news. Thanks again for alle the emails, ecards and text messages for my birthday, they were really nice! . Jarno, my brother, called me in the evening, it is really so nice to hear some familiar voices again.
At two o’clock we took the boat to watch the orca’s, this really seemed a nice thing to do on my birthday. The weather was lovely and the tide was very low, so the orcas should be easy to spot. We saw dolphins, bald eagles, sealions and seals and blacktailed deer, but ……… unluckily no orcas snif. In New Zealand you would just get a refund, but that is not the way it is done in Canada. You can join them for free for the rest of your life on their tours until you do see an orca. We will probably give it another shot just prior to our flight to Brazil, maybe we will be lucky this time.
Our first impression of Canada is that it is very expensive! Although it seems easy to spot a Ferrari or two, homeless people are also quite common, there seems to be a big gap between rich and poor. The people are very friendly. Compared to New Zealand it is less easy to figure out things on your own and at the information centre they are less well informed and just want to book tours, with the exception of the lady who helped us the first day, she really was great and gave us a lot of usefull information. At the Subway you will be able to get nice sandwiches a good cup of coffee and wonderful Minute Maid orange juice for breakfast for a reasonable amount of money.
Last night we took the ferry to Victoria, where probably tomorrow our discovery tour of Vancouver Island will start. Canada is famous for a lot of wildlife and we hope to see and take pictures of a lot of great mammals, like bears (brown, grizzly, spirit), wolves, deer, moose and hopefully in the end the orcas. OK, now we are all up to date again with all the stories and pictures, which we hope you will enjoy again. The photogallery works again, so don’t forget to check the 15 new pictures of New Zealand and the first batch of Canadian pics!
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Vancouver Island and from Whistler till JasperThursday May 3rd, 2007 by Daniëlle
Sorry it took us so long to write the next update! We really love Canada and there is so much to see, but the prices for internet are quite expensive. The distances are quite long so we spent a lot of time driving in our car. But from the car there are a lot of opportunities to spot wildlife, which is great! We have spotted the following “new” animals already: black and white-tailed deer,
mule deer, lots of birds (like Bald Eagles, hummingbirds, ruffed grouses, Steller’s Jay), black bears, a river otter, a snake and a ground squirrel. Check the photo gallery for the pictures!
In Victoria we had a parking ticket, which was not that great. We really wanted to get out of the towns and into the countryside, so we left Victoria to drive to Tofino. We did some hikes near the shore of Ucluelet and between Ucluelet and Tofino (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve). The views at the shore are magnificent, high waves bashing on the rocks. We were able to get lovely pictures of a juvenile bald eagle. We also did a trail through the bonsai forest and through the rain forest.
After Tofino we travelled to Campbell River, where we stayed in a nice motel and did some nightspotting along the road between Campbell River and Gold River (Strathcona Provincial Park). We were low on gas and a couple told us we would be able to get gas in Gold River until nine o’clock. Since we were closer to Gold River than to Campbell River we drove to Gold River to the gasstation …… closed at 8 o’clock …… We had a problem, because now we would not be able to get back to Campbell River. We already paid our motel in Campbell River for the night, so what to do next?
A guy suggested to head to the Motel up the road to ask, if they maybe had a solution for our gasproblem. We went up to the Motel and the lovely lady of the motel was able to help out. She called her husband, tired from a hard day of logging, who was able to give us some of his pink boatgas. So luckily we were able to get back to Campbell River. We spotted Roosevelt Elk, ruffed grouses making drumming sounds with their wings and a lot of black tailed deer, but still no bears. A lot of people had already seen bears, why weren’t we able to?
The lady of our Motel at Campbell River gave us the great tip to watch the road between Port McNeill and Port Hardy. Bears are seen a lot down the road over there. Since we were planning to go to Port Hardy anyway, we kept our fingers crossed, hoping to see some bears. Indeed bears!!!!!! Just grazing like cows along side the road . First one, than a mom with a cub and than one very high up in a tree. We were very happy. In the evening we did a strawl alongside the harbour and spotted a river otter, harbour seals and fur seals.
The weather was not really great, pouring with rain, so we decided to drive to the cave area (near Port Alice), to visit Devils Bath, Vanishing River and Eternal Fountain. Our Nissan did a good job avoiding pot holes, logging trucks and getting us safely past the last bits of snow. We saw two bears again, but they disappeared quickly in the thick bush. Getting closer to Port Hardy we saw at our familiar spot another bear and heading back bumped into a mother with three cubs. In Port Hardy we had Sushi at the local Sushi bar, the food was oke, but the pieces were a little to big, which was a pitty.
After Port Hardy we had a long drive all the way to Nanaimo to catch the ferry from Departure Bay to Horse Shoe Bay to finally end up in Pemberton at a lovely hostel lodge, near Whistler. We had the whole place to ourselves which was great. The next day we checked our email, but decided not to do an update, because of the high costs. Arranged our ski equipment for the next day and did some grocery shopping.
The next morning we headed up to Blackcomb mountain for skiing. Since Edvar did not have much ski experience, I acted like his teacher all day and he was a great student. At the end of the day he was able to get down the mountain pretty good almost parallel. He only fell two times, which is very good for a beginner! So as you can read I am very proud of him! After the skiing we had a drink on a terrace, but since it is off season, I did miss the Austrian après-ski atmosphere I am used to.
We wanted to head up to Jasper, but this was a bit too far, so we made a stop at Clearwater and stayed at the Half Moon Hostel. The Hostel is lovely, cheap and situated at a farm. Lots of animals, two dogs, three cats, six horses, geese and chickens, we loved it. Edvar and I were playing with the dog throwing its rugbyball and the two daughters of the house and the dog were completely exhausted, when we went to have a nice hamburger at the road restaurant. We did some nightspotting again and saw mule deer (big ears), white tailed deer and heading back another black bear. We also chased a little calf, that had escaped its meadow by crossing the fence, back to its mom.
The next morning we headed for Jasper and saw another black beer, mule deer and a bear (brown version of the black bear) on the railway, really funny sight. Near Jasper we saw a very cute groundsquirrel just by the side of the road. We checked for accommodation and hiking trails at the information centre and found a lovely lodge to stay. We will stay in Jasper a few days, because this is a very beautiful area, before we will be heading to Banff.
By the way of course we missed the anniversary of our queen (30th April), did you do nice things at this National Holiday?
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Who is afraid of the big bad wolf?Friday May 11th, 2007 by Daniëlle
The days go by quickly, but today we will update you on our last days of travelling again. Jasper is really a Walhalla of wildlife. We hardly knew where to look first, deer in all sizes: white tailed deer, mule deer, elk (wapiti), moose, but also bighorn sheep, squirrels, a black bear and a coyote showed themselves to us.
Almost every night we went nightspotting, which caused the odometer of our rental car to count above the allowed free 5000 kilometers and we have not arrived in Vancouver yet. Well we will see what the extra costs will be when we return Nissie to our rental company.
The coyote stumbled upon us quite unexpectedly. After a night of nightspotting we wanted to empty our blatter at a picnic spot the Palisades, near Jasper. Edvar just got in the car and I started the engine, when we were eye to eye with the coyote, which seemed just as surprised to see us as we were to see him/her. After glancing at us for a while it continued its way, with a little loop around us, but seemingly not very impressed, leaving us still surprised.
At the imformation centre they told us the coyotes build their den at this picnic area every year and they close the area, because the coyotes can get quite agressive when protecting their young. Loretta the lady of our lodge told us that another coyote always has its den at the golfcourse. Which can give the players an additional handicap, when the youngsters play fedge with the golfballs.
Eventhough we visited Medicine lake and the still frozen Maligne lake multiple times, we didn’t see any wolves, where Arvid was able to see them two years ago. In Jasper we hiked at Pyramid lake, Maligne canyon, Five lake loop and Athabasca Falls. We had quite a lot of rain so we drove around in our car a lot.
After Jasper we took the Icefields Parkway to Banff. Throwing snowballs at eachother underway and seeing Mountain goats. In Banff the city was busy building a new sewer in the main road. This did not really add to a nice view of the town and because the prices were huge we decided to stay for just one night and head towards Golden.
In the morning we had breakfast between the groundsquirrels at the Lake Minnewanka loop, visited Lower Bankhead and again saw a coyote. Spotted the chipmunks at Vermillion Lakes and took highway 1A. Although we took this highway off season it was pretty busy already and we did not see much. Additionally this highway is closed at the times you would expect to see most wildlife to make sure the wildlife gets a little peace and quiet.
In Golden we headed straight to the wolfcentre to make a reservation to hike with the wolves, which was possible for Tuesday. Arvid thanks again for this wonderfull gift! Searching for a hostel we ended up in a cute hostel, the On the Caribou Backpackers Hostel.
Since no one was there, we made ourselves at home as stated on the sign. After we had dinner and did the dishes, the owner came home and walked in to see us. He told us the hostel was closed …… but it was already 21:00. We told him we would have wanted to stay for three nights, but that we would leave if he wanted us to. Luckily the friendly owners said since we were here anyway we were welcome to stay. Which resulted in a hostel for three nights totally to ourselves, which of course was great!
Monday we spent our day in Yoho National Park, but a lot was closed because of the snow and we followed a rather wide dull trail, where we did not see much more than a grouse and a few squirrels. The natural bridge was nice though. At night we went nightspotting again and saw a nice beaver burrow with two beavers, a pair of Canadese geese with seven yellow fluffy chicks, really cute, and a nest with an osprey.
Then the big day arrived, hiking with the wolves. Yes Jarno, who would have thought I would hike with wolves without having my tiny guardians with me?!?! At the Northern Light Wildlife Centre in Golden are momentarily four wolves. You can hike with two wolves, two handlers and four tourists. We hiked with the wolves Aspen and Tuk. Aspen is 75% wolf and 25% Husky, Tuk is a fullblood wolf. Aspen sticks to the group more and Tuk is the most shy wolf of the pack.
The wolfcentre tries to improve the image of wolves by education, hoping to receive a better protection for the wolves throughout Canada. The wolf is only protected in the National Parks and are declared outlaws outside them. A wolf can travel large distances and will cross the bounderies of the Parks. Well, I can tell you, these are magnificent animals, which are more affraid of you than you are of them and it would be a great loss if this wild animal would be lost as keystone of the ecosystem.
The wolfcentre also tries to legalise the use of Karelian Bear dogs to re-educate problem bears. These dogs can teach a bear the bounderies of its territory, which will prevent close encounters with humans. The bear will be hunted till the boundary where he is allowed to go and the dogs will be called off. If you repeat this several times the bear will no longer cross this boundary. The problem is that Canada has a law that forbids the harassment of wildlife (although killing is allowed) and the use of the dogs is considered to be part of this law. Wolfcentre keep up the good work!
After Golden we headed to Radium Hot Springs, it is a pitty that there are little to no rest areas where you can view the wetlands. We tried to reach a glacier, but the road towards it was too bumpy. We did do a nice hike to the Bugaboo Falls.
At night we headed to Banff from Radium Hot Springs (Kootenay National Park) and saw a lot of white tailed deer and two bears and a couple of bighorn sheep. The next day we drove to Nelson, a really nice town, where we are writing the update right now. In Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park we saw two wild turkeys, visited the Hot Springs and saw a lot of ground squirrels and nice ducks. The males were busy with courtshipping the ladies.
Today and tomorrow we will have a look around in Nelson and then will head, with probably one stop, slowly to Vancouver, where we will have our second attempt of seeing the Killer Whales, before we fly to our next destination: Brazil!
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Last days spent in CanadaSaturday May 19th, 2007 by Daniëlle
From Nelson we drove through Penticton back to Vancouver. Nelson is really a cute town with lovely houses. So we tried to imagine what wishes we would have for our future home. We strolled a little bit in and around town. In Penticton we walked along the beach and visited Vaseux lake and White lake, which was nice and we saw beautiful little blue birds and two moose.
Almost stept on a snake, but luckily I spotted it in time. Edvar was just making jokes that he would like to see a snake again, well his wish was granted, brrr snakes are not really my favorite kind of species.
Back in Vancouver the town looked much sunnier without a jetlag and of course now we knew our way around. On Tuesday we had our second attempt of viewing killer whales and yeah we succeeded! Really mightyfull animals, only very difficult to catch with your camera, especially when the captain turns away the boat or starts the engine at the wrong time grrr .
Wednesday we started our long journey to Brazil and that story can be found under the headline of Brazil!
About CanadaSaturday May 26th, 2007 by edvar
Just like our story about New Zealand, we would like to write something about Canada, for those who want to visit this country. Maybe our experiences can help a little bit …
We really enjoyed Canada. The nature is overwhelming (see below), people are friendly and travelling is easy. Just like in New Zealand, a car is necessary. The distances are huge, there is so much to see and especially the more remote areas are very nice.
Finding a rental car is not easy. Each company has different kind of insurances, excess rules and you’re not always allowed to drive on gravel roads. In this chaos, it’s hard to make a good decision. We choose Enterprise, as they were the cheapest, including full insurance, no excess and we were allowed to drive on gravel roads. The car we got (a Nissan Versa) was almost new and we liked it a lot.
Driving is not a problem in Canada. They drive on the right side (right!) and traffic rules are simple. Europeans might need some time to get used to the “4-way stops” (the first who stops is allowed to drive on first). On the other hand we noticed that they drive quite fast in Canada. We often got annoyed by truck drivers who drove 20 km/h faster than allowed, too close behind you so that they could almost kiss your ass, while driving through a national park where deer can cross the road almost every second.
Regarding sleeping options we often used hostels. The cheapest way (cheaper than hotels/motels or B&B) and you can cook your own meals (eating in restaurants is quite expensive if you do it every day). Most hostels were OK, but a bit less than those in New Zealand. Not always very clean and some kitchen were moderately equipped. Although we also stayed at hostels that do not look like a hostel at all, much more luxurious (Whistler, Radium Hot Springs and Nelson). We also encountered some “strange persons” in hostels, for example persons who were staying there for five years. Maybe this is because hostels in Canada used to be known as shelters for homeless people …
Just like New Zealand, Canada is not cheap. We first thought it would be even more expensive, but at the end we it turned out to be comparable to New Zealand. This might be because we didn’t do many excursions in Canada, but on the other hand the car and the hostels were a bit more expensive.
The Canadian cities are not so interesting. You will encounter many homeless people in Vancouver and many parts of the city are old and crappy. Other cities are not much more than large boulevards with McDonalds, Burger King and dozens of other chains and don’t have the ambiance of European cities. Some small towns however, like Nelson and Jasper, are very cute.
Nature is really fantastic. Panoramic views, stunning mountains and plenty of wildlife. The wildlife is quite easy to spot, especially if you drive around at sunset. Animal lovers will really like it over there!
For those wildlife spotters, we make a small list of places where it’s quite easy to see specific animals. No guarantee and it’s based on our own experiences. Also note that we were there in the spring, while many animals might have different behaviour in other parts of the year.
- Deer: hard to miss (we saw hundreds), so don’t forget to check the green fields on the side of the road. Watch out for those who cross the road!
- Black-tailed deer: only on Vancouver Island. Try Strathcona Provincial Park, in the evening.
- White-tailed deer: easy to spot on the mainland. Drive from Radium Hot Springs through the Kootenay National Park in the evening and you will spot dozens.
- Mule deer: especially near Jasper.
- Elk: they are perceived as a plague in Jasper, both in (!!) and outside the town (Highway 16 East).
- Roosevelt Elk: only on Vancouver Island. Try Strathcona Provincial Park, in the evening towards Gold River.
- Moose: From Jasper to the west (Highway 16).
- Bear: Black bears are easy to spot on Vancouver Island, between Port McNeill and Port Hardy, especially in the afternoon.
- Coyote: Parking lot Palisades, a bit east of Jasper, seems to be a good spot, just like the golf course of Jasper.
- Squirrels: Just search in the forests of the national parks. The picnic spot near Lake Minnewanka loop (close to Banff) is a good location to spot groundsquirrels.
- Big Horn Sheep: Seen a lot around Jasper, on Highway 16 east. You can also find them in/near Radium Hot Springs.
- Mountain Goat: Watch for cream-coloured spots on high steep rocky mountains, for example in the northern part of Banff National Park.
- Sea mammals (like whales and seals): Try excursions from Vancouver or Victoria (Vancouver Island).
- Grizzly, cougar, wolf and other exotics: Hard to see, so you need a lot of luck. We think that the area of Jasper (and more to the north) offer decent possibilities. For wolves, it’s interesting to visit the wolf centre in Golden.
- Birds: The Bald Eagle is one of the most impressive birds. In the spring, they can easily be seen on Vancouver Island. Try the garbage dump near Telegraph Cove (northern part of Vancouver Island).
Important places to visit? We think that we’ve seen most interesting places of the western part of Canada, British Colombia. Just visit those fantastic National Parks (Jasper/Banff/Yoho/Kootenay, especially Jasper) and don’t forget Vancouver Island. Also think about the Inside Passage (ferry from Vancouver Island to the north), as this should be a fantastic trip.
Regarding the time of the year, we think that spring is a good time. Sometimes the weather can be better (cold, some snow, etc.), but those white mountains are lovely. However, the green-blue lakes like Lake Louise are still frozen. from mid-May you might see animals with young ones, which should be fun (we just missed it). If you go in summer, you might get some higher temperatures, but don’t forget the thousands of tourists, higher prices and less available accomodation.
So, that’s it for now. If you have any questions or want to add your own experiences regarding Canada, don’t hesitate to add some comments!