Tuesday, July 24, 2007

24th July - last day with Contiki

Well - all good times must come to an end. Sigh. Last day with group. Some of us went to the Gutenberg Cafe near the library for breakfast - pancakes with maple syrup. Yum. Cafe run by Koreans:)

Some of the group left for Seatle at 10.30am. I went shopping at the Bay. Sale. Must have tried like 20+++ pieces of stuff. Am happy that I am only an L (size) or size 12 (down from XL or size 14). Was very tempted to get a Anne Klein red jacket - but the price.....I sakit kocek. It's a very nice and well-made jacket:(((

Also went to Chapters to check out their books. Quite good selection.

Am ready to go back to KL now after shopping trip:)))

Whistler to Vancouver, dinner cruise

On the 23rd, we left Whistler on the Sea & Sky Highway to Vancouver. A obligatory tour of Stanley Park - the oh so famous landmark of Vancouver, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and finally hotel for a nap before dinner.

Got some interesting pictures.

Had a final dinner cruise around the Vancouver Harbour. We saw some seals, what type, cannot tell. It's an amazing wildlife tour as we saw a bald eagle perched on a buoy, loons, geese, seagulls. Too bad no dolphins or orcas/whales (who sometimes visit the harbour).

BTW - Harry Porter mania is serious here. Some of the Contiki group actually went to queue at midnight on 20th July at Chapters (something similar to Borders) to get a copy. Sheesh.


This is a beautiful place. Very happening town. Very touristic but they deserved it. Well planned. The scenery is wonderful. We did Paddle & Peddle on 22nd. Real fun but oh my poor shoulders hate me after paddling for 1 1/2 hours, followed by 30 mins of cycling back to hotel. The water is pretty high, so very exciting with the strong currents flowing in the lake and streams. And since the water is high, we had to portage the canoes over the more dangerous areas. Heavy canoe.

I find that I like mountain biking - in the cool temperatures here. Maybe will consider getting a bike back in Mal?

The scenery up the Whistler Peak is amazing. Went on the gondola (cable car ride) - saw a mama bear with 2 cubs. Cool.

On the day we went up = there was a mountain biking contest, like AXN - got some real cool pics of the bike warriors - no joke, they have body armour, protective pads all over and covered with mud. Their bikes have front, body and back suspensions.

On the peak, we met some Canadian Amazing Race contestants (family). Real interesting - watching them scampering around looking for clues. Too bad, didn't see any camera crews.

Teach ya'll a new word - Inukshuk - it's the name of the stacked rock statue that is the symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jasper whitewater rafting today

Wow - 3 posts in one day. Actually managed to get free computer and internet at the hotel we are staying tonight. That's why a deluge of updates and emails. At Ca$6 to 8 for 1 hour for internet, have to be a bit kiasu to jaga pocket.

Well - we left Jasper in the morning for some whitewater rafting. Really cool/awesome/fun trip. Water is freaking cold though. The wetsuit isn't that effective and the water seeps in - wow - like getting ice cold bath. And the water is high, so great run. The guide invited us to jump into the river - yup, we did.

Had buffalo burger after the rafting trip. Soooo good. No regrets (on calories or cost since it's a RM30 burger :) From a roadside type of cafe.

Travelled from Jasper to Kamloops today. Saw a timber wolf - walking on the highway. Woohoo.

So far live wild animals tally - 1 moose, 2 black bears, 5-6 elks, 3 white-tail deer, 4 mule deer, many many bighorn sheep, 4 loons (Canada's national bird), 1 beaver, wild geese, many squirrels - black, red, brown and golden, 4-5 ermines, 1 chipmunk, ravens, crows, magpies, 1 lobster (wild and live one, not dead in the supermarket or on my plate), 1 wolf. Too bad no whales although I did go for Whale watching tour. Do mosquitoes count? Cos there's millions and zillions here.

Leaving Kamloops for 2 nights in Whistler (one of the places that the winter Olympics was held). It's the premier skiing resort in the world. Supposed to be another adventurous and fun place to be. Another paddle & peddle trip coming up (paddle = canoeing, peddle = biking).

Banff to Jasper

We went through the most scenic highways in the whole of Canada - It's Highway 1, also called the Columbia Icefields. It's a valley surrounded by majestic peaks and glaciers. Apparently there's like 600 glaciers in the whole of the Rockies and we saw many that day.

Oh oh - saw a black bear on the highway.

We stopped for a glacier tour of Athabasca Glacier. It's part of the Columbia Icefields. A special monster truck took us up to the glacier itself. Cool trip. It's much much bigger that the Franz Joseph in NZ.

Rolled into Jasper in the evening. Am very happy to be back here. Love this little town. Managed to go for the Town tour (for CA$2). Interesting stories about the people and place.

Also rented a bicycle and with 4 others and biked up 2 hills to the Lake Patricia and Mt Pyramid. Arghhh 7 km uphill. Going up - 55 min. Coming down was a breeze (10 min) - cold breeze as it rained. But the scenery was worthed the effort.

After 14 km, 2 of us decided to bike some more (get our money's worth - bike rental was 1/2 day @ CA$22). So we went over to the Old Fort Trail, crossed the Athabasca River and cycled on to Lake Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge. Such a lovely place. Would love to stay there is I am rich:))) That's another 10 kms of trails. I swear I have never cycled so much or so long in a day. My butt was screaming murder, and my calves and thighs were aching. Nice hot bath in Jasper.

I've discovered the joy of taking hot baths (vs showers). Sheer bliss.

Calgary to Banff

Sort of the capital of the Rockies - plenty of adventure and fun and shopping and drinking (bars). Great place to hang out.

Went on cable car to the top of Mt Sulfur. Beautiful scenery. Cool fresh air and plenty of mozzies. Great view of Banff and the valley. Also did Mt Assiniboine helicopter ride. It costs a bomb - RM660 for 30 mins ride but since it's my first time in copter- what to do? Pay lah. No problem with heights.

Upper Hot springs - bliss to celup-celup in hotsprings. Sort of melted my muscles.

One of the girls (the schoolteacher) and I rent bicyles and peddled around the sights of Banff. We must have done like 20 kms in 4.5 hours. Sights such as The Banff Springs Hotel, Cave & Basin, Fenlands, River trails & Bow Falls. Have not ridden a bike for sooooo long.

Left Banff on 17th July for Jasper.
PS: A tour guide told us that Banff stands for " Be aware nothing for free"
Jasper - "Just another silly place extracting revenue". Super true - most stuff costs 20-50% more than other cities like Toronto or Vancouver.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Contiki - Okanagon / Calgary

Joined Contiki tour yesterday. Pretty hectic - bus took us from Vancouver to Vernon, in the Okanagon Valley - it's the Fruit producing valley for Canada.

21 young chikus + me :) plus the Tour Manager and driver. Mostly Aussies, some Americans and British. Had chinese buffet dinner - plenty of food.

6.30am morning call and left Vernon for Calgary - The Stampede (Rodeo). First time in a cowboy bar - lots of people drinking, dancing and loud music. They had a great band singing Country & Western. Interesting experience.

Left early with some girls and went to Walmart - shopping. Happy me - found 3 pairs of pants/shorts that fit pretty well. And 1 size smaller too from normal. Not that I've lost any weight. Eating like a horse (using cowboy metaphors since it's the rodeo:)))

Plan for tmr - Calgary Stampede. Yeehah.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Vancouver, British Columbia

This is a lovely port city, surrounded by sea on 3 sides. The weather has been cooperating nicely, 28 degrees, sunny skies.

Went to Horsehoe Bay, Lighthouse Park (Hostel free guided tour - they had a volunteer taking tourists out). Great trip but had to walk a lot:)

Granville Island market is fun too - plenty of food and buskers singing on the streets.

Jalan-jalan around city yesterday. There's a Howe Street here (silent 'e' - pronounced as how). Also did a Gastown Ghost Stories 3-hr tour last night. A bit creepy with all the ghost stories.

Leaving Vancouver today, joining Contiki tour of the Rockies. This is the final 2 weeks now. How time flies when you are having fun:)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Jasper to Vancouver

What a nightmare - the train was 9 hours late. Apparently the weather was too hot, so a goods train jumped tracks as the iron tracks expanded in the heat and delayed other trains. So my train was 9 hours late arriving Jasper station. Instead of leaving Jasper at 3.30pm, we left at 11.30pm. And there was a medical emergency, somebody had heart problem, and they had to send an ambulance to send her to the Banff hospital in the middle of the night. Interesting events.

The good bit that came from this is that, instead of going through Fraser Valley at night, we went through it in the morning. Great scenery. Had many pics of valleys and mountain rivers, tunnels and Hell's Gate.

Took the bus from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. City called Victoria. Arrived at 9.30pm. So after 36 hours out and about, zonked out and slept for 12 hours.

Victoria is a pretty little town. Pop 70,000. Did walkabout in town in the afternoon.

8th July: Walked in Chinatown, street stalls, parade and theater in the park. Went for Harbour cruise. Took the public bus to Butchart Gardens. Amazing place. Love the flowers and stuff there. Had pizza for dinner:)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Jasper National Park

What a fantastic place this is. Lots of hikes, biking trails. Water sports too - canoeing and white water rafting. The scenery is fabulous - surrounded by mountains. Did a "Path of the Glacier Walk" tour in Mt Edith Cavell.

Saw 3 glaciers and a lake with icebergs. Imagine - icebergs in the mountains. The icebergs were formed when pieces of the glacier breaks off in summer. It's amazing to walk to among the pieces of huge icebergs. When we were there, there was an avalance. It was loud and looks like a waterfall, except it's ice. The guide said the ice fell about 300-400m off the mountain cliff.

So far - for scenery and adventure stuff - I would recommend the Rockies as the best place to visit Canada if you have only a few days and can only see a small part of the country.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Winnipeg to Jasper National Park

The trip to Jasper was amazing - flat rolling fields of canola (yellow flowers) to cows & horse ranches and further west of Edmonton, the hills start appearing. Amazing hills and blue water (glacier water melt) in rivers and lakes. It's amazing, even awe-spiring.
If you have been to New Zealand - South Island - the National park is 10 x bigger. The whole little bitty town of Jasper is catered for tourists. Surrounded by huge craggy peaks of the mountains.

And since it's the Canada Day weekend - can you imagine the crowd? Canada Day in Jasper - with speeches, parades (candy & flags tossed on the streets), being sprayed with water from fire trucks, pancakes breakfast, bands - it's really fun. Saw my first Mountie (RCMP) in their bright red uniforms - marching past.

Booked tour to Maligne Valley / Lake cruise. Amazing trip, like a safari on the roadside:)
First sighting of an elk (a she-elk), 3 white-tail deers, 2 bighorn sheep (another female), squirrels and finally a black BEAR. He was near the roadside, and we could hear him breaking old logs looking for bugs to eat. Very exciting.

Scenery was fantastic - Maligne Valley is a hanging valley - what is means is that it's a valley above another valley - Jasper valley. The lake is the 2nd largest glacier-melt lake - water was turquoise blue green. And freezing 4 degrees. Perish the thought of taking a swim. The 90 min cruise to Spirit Island - end of the 24km lake was really beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and forests, with green water.

Had the best blueberry scone I've ever tasted in the Lake Cafe. Sorry, no pic of scone.

After coming back to the hostel, I hiked 2 km uphill to the Whistlers Mountain Tramways. Paid $24 to go up in the cable car to almost 2,400m. The scenery and view was amazing. And the wind...brrr...8 degrees up there.

Took plenty of pics but sorry - cannot upload into the computer. It's too slow to do and internet / computer time is very expensive:(
Will have to find cheaper computers...like in libraries.
Gotta go for dinner.