Wordsworkinc's Weblog

Life, love and language

Saskatoon revisited

This was my fourth visit to Saskatoon and, while some of our family lives there, we will probably make many more. So the challenge is to find something different to see each time.  We drove there this time in convoy with Tracy and the boys, their dogs and cat and our dog, Sherry.  On the way we stopped at a picnic ground at Alsask, on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan,  to walk the dogs (and the cat).

127

During the week in Saskatoon we decided, in addition to our usual activities, we would visit Lake Waskesiu and take a ride on the Southern Saskatchewen River on the Prairie Lily.

In the end the day chosen for the drive to the lake, a trip of about 3 hours, was overcast and threatened rain and only Tracy and I chose to risk it.  It was worth the effort.  We had lunch at the Elk Ridge Lodge- the photo of which is unfortunately a little dark due to the low light –

130

– before driving down to the lake itself.  The roads on the way to the Lodge and down to the lake were bounded by boreal forest. Who knew that the Prairies had so many trees?

135

Lake Waskesiu is roughly in the centre of the Prince Albert National Park and is one of 7 major lakes in the park.   The name means elk in the Cree language, hence the Elk Ridge Lodge which together with cabins, cottages and townhouses provides accommodation for the many holidaymakers who enjoy the facilities at the Elk Ridge Resort.  There are a couple of public camping places nearer the lake and a little community of quaint shops and restaurants. Despite the development the lake itself looks serene and untouched and there are a number of hiking paths in the area. Unfortunately we did not have time to do more than wander along the banks near the town-site and visit a couple of the little shops.

147

140

Our boat ride on the South Saskatchewan River was also taken in the rain.  This wasn’t really a problem since the rain was intermittent and the riverboat has both a canopy on the top deck and a heated cabin below.  The Prairie Lily offers a variety of cruises on the river, including dinner and brunch trips and can be booked for business and family events.

155

We opted for a straight hour cruise up and down the river.  The hot chocolate we bought on board was lousy but the cruise itself was a fun way to see Saskatoon from a new perspective.  We passed the Delta Bessborough, also known as the Castle on the River – a beautiful hotel dating back to 1930 – where Tracy and I stayed when we first drove through to Saskatoon to look at purchasing a house there for the family.

160

We also passed under a number of bridges, some of which sheltered flocks of pigeons, hiding out from raptors which apparently never think to look for them under a bridge!  Saskatoon has 8 separate river crossings and is known as the City of Bridges.

157

The week went past far too quickly but I look forward to exploring Saskatoon and its surroundings further on our next visit.

 

Advertisements

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada, Travels | , , , | 1 Comment

Houseboating on the Shuswap

This has been a beautiful summer, spoilt only by an extremely unseasonable snowfall in Calgary which left our yard looking like mid January instead of early September.

001

Before this anomaly of nature we were able to make the most of the summer sunshine by taking a few trips around the countryside.  One of these was our trip through the Rockies to BC where we spent a long weekend houseboating.

The scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. From Calgary to Shuswap the constantly changing view of mountains, trees, lakes and rivers is amazing.

089

Once we arrived at Waterways docks our captain(s) had to go for a briefing while we loaded our belongings onto our boat, Shanda, and started to settle in, but not before we were taken on a thorough tour of the boat and required to check off a list consisting of everything from cutlery to waste bins.

Unfortunately we had scarcely started to unpack when we got a call from Calgary telling us that one of the dogs had gone missing. A frantic hour followed as our friend and dog sitter scoured the area together with many of the neighbours and a photo of the miscreant was posted on FB.  Knowing that we would not be able to enjoy the holiday while Shinga was roaming the countryside, Tracy and I drove the 4 1/2 hours back to Calgary, arriving after midnight and ten minutes after our arrival Shinga heard Tracy’s calls and came running in through the gate!

3 hours sleep and, Shinga loaded in the car we headed back to start our delayed boat trip. We took a water taxi to the little bay where the rest of our party was waiting for us.

005

013

The rest of the weekend lived up to our expectations. We drank wine, and other beverages (and blew up floating devices) in the hot tub which is always our favourite haunt on the boat

032

049

… visited the Sea Store – where we bought said floating devices

045

… fished, well, some of us did, with varying success. The picture is of Cale, fishing off the back of the boat.

038

… swam in the lake which was lovely and warm.

059

… and went walking along the sand and through the trees when we beached for the evening. At least the more energetic of us did. The rest of us sat on the beach, sipped on wine and other beverages and enjoyed the view.

024

All in all a perfect way to spend a long weekend in summer.  We have already booked our houseboat for next year.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Boating, Day Trips from Calgary, House boating, Living in Canada, Travels | , , | 3 Comments

The Town of Irricana, Alberta

Last month we made another trip to Saskatchwen.  Beautiful as the prairies can be, the long straight roads and flat countryside can become monotonous after 6 or 7 hours driving so this time we decided to make a few side trips to see places of interest.  I found six places along our route which I thought would be worth visiting on a website called bigthings.ca/alberta.

The first place on our list was Irricana, a little town of approximately 1200 inhabitants just over 50 kilometres from Calgary.  In fact, Irricana was only elevated from village to town status in 2005.  But what an enchanting little town!  The ‘point of interest’ we were after was a metal horse standing in front of the rather run down Irricana Hotel.

Image

The only information I could find on the horse was that it was built of an unknown metal in approximately 1988 or 1989 and was commissioned by a man named Mel Brown who had lived most of his life in Irricana, presumably spent much of his time at the hotel,  and wanted the statue to stand as a memorial to himself.

But Irricana lived up to its slogan: More than just a one horse town.

Image

It was obvious from the little gardens on either side of the road as we turned off the highway that this was a community with a great deal of pride in their town.  We found, and duly admired the metal horse, but it was the fire hydrants which had us driving up one street and down the next, trying to identify as many as we could: Donald Duck, Sylvester, Tweety and many more added more than a touch of whimsy  to the streets.

Image

Image

Eventually we decided to have our breakfast in the little camping area, near a statue of a unicorn, and, having spent an hour at our first stop off point, whittled down our list to avoid reaching Saskatoon after nightfall.

Image

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada, Travels | , , , | 2 Comments

Day Trips from Calgary

Inspired by the book Day Trips from Calgary by Bill Corbett, we decided we would start to work our way through it, visiting as many places as possible within a day’s journey of Calgary.  Our first choice was the Leighton Art Centre, which I have been wanting to visit for some time. So we set out confidently yesterday, turning south on 37 Street according to the directions and then looking for the west turn into 266 Avenue.  However, we ran out of avenues at 242 and, completely lost, decided to turn the trip into a pleasant drive through the countryside, followed by a picnic at Lloyd Park.

Image

Today we made a second attempt to find the Art Centre, armed with directions supplied by a friend.  The book, unfortunately, left out a couple of important turns which led us astray yesterday and Google, for some reason, shows  the Centre in Millarville, nowhere near its actual location.

Despite the setback it was well worth the visit.  There is an exhibition of water based media on until the 20th October, featuring a number of canvases I would happily have bought and brought home with me if my wallet would allow. The house itself is a work of art, and a step back into history.

Beside the art though, the setting alone is worth the trip.  Leighton Art Centre is apparently at the same elevation as the Banff townsite.  As a result it has a breathtaking view across the Millerville valley to the distant mountains.

Image

After wandering through the gallery I took a walk along a grassy pathway to a well placed bench where I sat for a while in the sun. Although the temperatures are still sitting in the middle 20’s the breeze was  just cool enough to encourage me to linger there a while.

Image

Before heading back to the centre I wandered a little further along the path to gaze, fairly perplexedly, at a small grove of dead trees.  This consists of  1000 dead spruce trees which were dug up, stripped of their leaves and branches, and replanted on the hilltop at the centre  by  Peter von Tiesenhausen who named the area Sanctuary. Admittedly the artistic value escapes me but I am sure that there are many who have been entranced by the display.

Image

On the way back we passed a row of four atypical red barns in front of which were a number of beehives and many busy, buzzing bees.

Image

A well spent afternoon.  Next weekend – Crowsnest.

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , | Leave a comment

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Over the long weekend we drove south east from Calgary, through Medicine Hat to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Image

While the rest of our friends and family had already settled  in the camping area we, together with our poms, Shandy and Sherry, opted for the luxury of Elkwater Lodge instead.  Unfortunately when we reached our destination and sifted through the various items we brought for the family – water guns, pillows, a duvet, a dog playpen, and a blanket  – we discovered we had inadvertently neglected to pack our own suitcase which still languished at home on our bed!

The hotel  staff were far too polite to comment on the luggage which we carried upstairs to our room – two dogs’ beds.  Having ‘unpacked’ we set off for Elkwater Lake to meet the rest of the group.  The lake is lovely, perfect for boating, and the kayaks had already been well used.

The 'beach' at Elkwater Lake

The ‘beach’ at Elkwater Lake

We drove back to the campsite, set up the dog playpen and left Shandy and Sherry there while we headed back for Medicine Hat – 70 km away –  but the closest place where we would be able to buy a T-shirt or two and a change of underwear to see us through the weekend.

Image

The dogs in their playpen (and Asher in his hat)

Lunch at Wendy’s and a shopping spree at The Bay in Medicine Hat and we wended our way back to Elkwater to join everyone in a barbecue at the campsite, then, ready for bed, we took our dogs and our new purchases back to the Elkwater lodge which is located in the tiny community of Elkwater alongside the Elkwater Lake where we slept comfortably in our airconditioned room.

Image

Sitting around the fire at Trace and Mark’s campsite

Image

… and the meat is sizzling!

Following breakfast the next morning we went back to the campsite where the annual water-fight was soon in full swing.  Water-filled balloons and water guns were brandished and soon everyone in range was thoroughly soaked.

Image

Water, water everywhere

Image

Water pistols are not what they used to be!

Having managed, fairly successfully, to avoid the worst of the dousing we decided to explore a little.  Asher and Cale came with us and we bought ice-creams before driving off in search of Reesor Lake.  After an unplanned detour which took us off in the direction of Wild Horse, the USA border post, we finally stopped at the Lookout point above the lake.  From here you can look out over the valley in all directions and imagine it as it was 10000 years ago when the plateau on which we stood was an island surrounded by glacial ice.

Image Looking down at Reesor Lake

Cypress Hills is covered in forest and forms a green plateau rising up above the surrounding prairies, The park itself spans the two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, covers 50000 acres and is 1466 meters at its highest point.   This plateau was the only piece of land spared the glaciers as they scoured out the valleys below.

Apparently there is a large diversity of animal and bird life in the park, and Ray and Brian were woken up early in the morning by a flock of wild turkeys surrounding their tent but, although I travelled armed with my binoculars, camera and bird books, the only wild life I saw was on a walk with the dogs when we passed a squirrel and a Mule deer with her fawn.  Oh yes, and the pelican on Reesor Lake.

Image

Reesor Lake

Image

Reesor Lake with boardwalk and pelican

Spring fed, Reesor Lake is another beautiful body of water, about 20 km from Elkwater.  When we arrived at the Lake we were just in time to watch a bride and her entourage wading out of the water, skirts held high, where they had obviously been having photographs taken.

Image

The wedding party

We didn’t spend much time at the lakeside.  After taking a few photo’s ourselves we started back, only stopping to let Cale try out an old pump near the water’s edge.

Image

After another evening barbecue and bacon buns the next morning – food plays an enormous role on these camping trips – we helped Trace, Mark and the boys pack up their caravan. Ray and Brian had left the afternoon before as Brian had to work on Monday which was a holiday for the rest of us.

We left at noon, in sweltering weather and took about 4 hours to get home, stopping once to allow the dogs (and ourselves) to cool off under the trees at a rest stop area, about half way between Medicine Hat and Calgary.

Due in part to our impromptu shopping trip to Medicine Hat we did not have anywhere near enough time to explore the park which has many places of historical significance both for the aboriginal groups and for European settlers.  We will definitely be visiting again.

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , , , | 1 Comment

Saskatoon

Last weekend we drove back to Saskatoon.  Now that the canola and alfalfa have been harvested most of the fields are lying fallow, brown, yellow and beige.  I’ve been wanting to get a photo of an old grain elevator for some time and have only seen these on the prairies in Saskatchewan.   Apparently there was a time when these tall, stately structures dominated the prairies.  In the 1930’s there were nearly 6000 of them. They must have been quite a sight, painted in bright colours,  and standing in fields of golden corn.  Today, most have been replaced by more prosaic concrete structures and only about 80 wooden elevators are still operating.  The one I photographed stands alongside an abandoned railway line and, traditionally, bears the name of the town it used to serve.

Old wooden grain elevator

On Saturday we took a drive to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just outside of Saskatoon.  Wanuskewin, in the Cree language, means being at peace with oneself.  We were fortunate enough to be able to watch Josh Wabash, from the Waywayseecappo First Nation peoples in Manitoba.  Josh has been dancing since he was 3 and he demonstrated his talent in full, colourful regalia and then explained the dances to the audience.  His motto: I dance for those who can’t, and I will keep sharing my talents with those who are willing to experience it.

The First Nation dancer at Wanuskewin

Besides the dancer, we also visited the Mistatim exhibition, in honour of the horse.

One of a number of stories of horse battles painted on hide

Wanuskewin has much more to offer, including a number of interpretive trails which we were unable to sample, due to time restraints, but we will be back to visit again some day.

Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day so we drove out to Blackstrap lake, which none of us had seen yet.  Blackstrap is a large, manmade lake, fed via an earthern aquaduct from Lake Diefenbaker.  Only about 1/2 hour out of Saskatoon it is a perfect recreational area, offering boating, sailing, fishing and, in winter, cross country skiing.

Cale, ready to go paddling on the lake

Mount Blackstrap, also man-made, was constructed in 1971 for the Canada Winter Games.  Asher remarked, on seeing it, that only someone who has never been out of Saskatchewan would ever consider it a mountain!

The discovery of a self-serve yoghurt shop – Pure – with many flavours of yoghurt and any number of toppings to try – you load up your container and pay by the gram – was the cherry on the top of another enjoyable visit to our neighbouring province.

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calgary to Saskatoon

With Tracy, Mark and the boys living in Saskatoon now we will probably be making many trips to Saskatchewan, our next-door-neighbour province.  Our first trip was on the Monday after they left, ostensibly to help move some of their belongings but, far more importantly, to see them settled and happy in their new home.

An 8 hour drive through the Prairies did not really appeal to us and we resigned ourselves to a long, boring trip.  Happily, this was not the case, and the trip reminded us anew of the particular charm this part of Canada holds for those who are open to its beauty.

Driving through the badlands

The drive took us through the badlands with their distinctive coulee landscapes and hoodoo rock formations and along route 9 past endless fields of yellow canola flowers.

Canola fields

We took Shandy with us which necessitated a number of stops for walks and water.

A 'Shandy' stop

In Hanna we found a lovely coffee shop/antique store where we stopped for the obligatory latte before continuing on our way.

With only one wrong turn we found our way to our destination and spent the next two days exploring Saskatoon.  What a pretty little town!  Highlights of our stay were the visit to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo,

Taken at the zoo

lunch at the Berry Barn

The Berry Barn taken from the pathway alongside the lake

and cooling off at Pike Lake Provincial Park which is just 20 minutes from Saskatoon where the boys took the pedal boats out onto the lake.

The boys set off across Pike Lake

The 8 hour drive no longer seems so daunting and we look forward to our next visit at the end of September when the Fall landscape should offer us a completely different perspective.

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Palung district in Nepal

Although our trip to Nepal was planned around the Annapurna Circuit we arrived a few days earlier having accepted an invitation from a Nepalese friend in Cape Town to visit her at her village, Okur, in the district of Palung,  This turned out to be a lovely introduction to the Nepalese way of life.

The driver picked us up after breakfast at the hotel in Kathmandu and we were treated to a beautiful scenic drive through the mountains to Okur where we found Moona and many members of her family waiting for us on the side of the road.

Arriving in Okur, Palung

We were warmly greeted with hugs and flower leis and then quickly unpacked the vehicle and followed her through the terraced fields and over a suspension bridge to her house.

On the way to Moona's house

Our warm welcome continued as we each had a bindi applied to our foreheads and flowers put in our hair and were then treated to a meal of rice, dahl and potatoes outdoors under a large shady tree.

Bindi's on our foreheads

After the meal we took a walk through the village, following the road uphill to a second village where we stopped at a tea shop for chai.  Sarah, who turned out to be a magnet for both animals and children, was soon surrounded by the latter who were fascinated by her camera.

The village street

The five of us shared a long room with three double beds upstairs in Moona’s house.  I slept fitfully and rose early to join Judy for a short walk through the forest.

Since it was too cloudy to see any mountains we initially decided against the planned drive to the lookout point for Everest at Daman.  However, after walking from the house to the village for tea, egg and chickpeas, our driver, Ram, appeared and it seemed we were going to do the trip after all.

In a packed vehicle – 10 passengers, South African taxi style – we headed up into the mountains on a switchback road which took us past valleys of cultivated terraces and into the indigenous forest.  Our first stop was at a small temple, Shree Rikheshwar, about 2 km south of Daman.  To get to the temple we set off on a 1 km walk along an ancient pathway and up and down a myriad steps laid with stone.

Pathway to Shree Rikheshwar

Turning a corner on the trail and coming upon the temple with its thousands of prayer flags was a stirring experience.

Prayer flags at the temple

From there we drove to a tea house where we stopped briefly for tea and coke

The cooking area in the tea house

... and the scullery

and then the rest of the group set off, walking down the hill to the Everest Panorama Resort, while I elected to drive down to the gates where I joined the others and walked up to the resort. There we used the facilities – ‘real’ western-type toilets at the restaurant – before climbing back into our vehicle and making our way to the Everest lookout tower, where, despite our best efforts, we were unable to spot the mountain in the mist.

Entrance to the resort

What we did see, however, were approaching storm clouds, green with hail!

Our next stop was a traditional restaurant where we were served a mouth-watering meal and watched the hail materialize, pounding the roof and road with small stones.  The hail had stopped by the time we left the restaurant and we drove back to Palung in intermittent rain.  Once back in the little village of Okur we elected to stop off at the tea house for a while as we waited for the rain to stop and then walked the 20 minutes back to Moona’s house.

By this time it was getting quite cold so it was lovely just to settle in and rest, looking at photo’s, reading etc.  A light meal with the family followed and then early (very early) to bed.  I went to sleep quickly and woke up around 4am, having slept for a full 8 hours!

The next morning we had a wonderful send off by the whole family.  We first had  a full photo session including all the family and the dogs

Family photo session

and then, as we walked away from the house after many ‘namaste’s’ and hugs we found a whole contingent waiting for us at the start of the pathway where two pots of flowers had been set up and we were blessed with leis of yellow and red flowers and a red bindi on our foreheads.

Saying goodbye

The rain which had fallen all night had all but stopped as we made our way along the now familiar paths through the fields and across the suspension bridge to Okur, accompanied by Moona and some of the family members  Here we made our last visit to a tea house in Palung  to breakfast on boiled eggs, potatoes, chickpeas and tea before, after another round of photo’s and hugs, we piled into the vehicle in which Ram was to drive us back to Kathmando and the start of our Annapurna adventure.

Road out of the village

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Travels | , , | 5 Comments

The Annapurna Circuit

(As experienced by a 60-something moderately fit trekker)

I have just completed 16 days trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.  Fourteen of those days were spent on our feet for an average of eight hours a day, walking above green terraces, along cool forest pathways, up endless stone steps, over dry, dusty roads and snowy mountain passes, in sun, rain, sleet, snow and howling winds.

During this time we stayed in remote mountain villages, most accessible

only by foot or on the back of a donkey.

We had the privilege of briefly sharing the lives of the gentle, hardworking people who make these magnificent mountains their home.

What follows is a copy of the journal I kept during the trek.  So much remains unsaid ….

 

Starting out – Besisahar to Khudi

Our journey, in a surprisingly comfortable minibus followed the road to Palung for a while and then turned off towards Besisahar.  The roads were congested at times but what a beautiful route!  We stopped for lunch at 11.30 at a Nepalese restaurant in one of the little villages along the way and then continued our journey, finally arriving in Besisahar at about 2.30pm.

Besisahar - the start of our trek

Suresh, our Sherpa, had announced during the last leg of our drive that we had a 2 hour walk from there to our first lodge.  No-one had really prepared for walking but, after a half an hour looking around Besisahar and doing some desultory shopping – Judy got her track suit pants – we headed out of town.  The 2 hour walk was fairly easy with no steep inclines and we made good time, even with a number of stops along the way to take pictures, look at birds – a bulbul and a king-fisher – or just admire the view.

We walked through a couple of small settlements before arriving at Khudi and finding our lodge, which was basic but clean and inviting. We sorted out our bedrooms and wandered through to the dining room for tea and a few games of Bananagram.  After a delicious but far too lavish dinner we drank hot chocolate or tea and chatted or read for a while.

The lodge at Khudi

A young American girl turned up with her guide/porter quite distraught just before we went through to bed.  They had been walking for a couple of hours in the dark and the rain, having missed the bus which would have taken her through to join her two friends.  Although she originally planned to walk on for another hour our shocked looks and exclamations changed her mind and she booked in for the night.

By 9pm everyone was ready for bed to prepare ourselves for the next day which would be our first full day of hiking.

Khudi to Siurung

I slept well, woke early and tried for a shower but had to settle for the tap.  Sorted out our belongings and then went up to the dining room for tea, followed by breakfast and bought water.  The American girl came in for breakfast and we got photos of her with all of us before starting our walk.

Setting out from Khudi

Walked in the rain on and off and then the sun came out.  It actually got unpleasantly hot for climbing – and we did a lot of climbing! Siurung, the village we were aiming for is at 2300m.  We stopped a couple of times for a short break and then lunched on the mountain side on fruit and boiled eggs – lovely!  It cooled off after lunch, raining intermittently and soon getting cold enough to don raincoats.

A nice long winding road past a picturesque farmer’s cottage led down to a suspension bridge.  We could see our destination at the top of the next mountain!  Flowers were quite prolific along the way – rhododendrons and white orchid-like flowers hanging from the trees.

The first of many suspension bridges

Crossing the bridge

We continued climbing up to the village where we were given three rooms in three separate houses.  Very basic accommodation but it felt good to be able to lie down on the beds for a while after enjoying a cup of tea.  The skies cleared and we were treated to a stupendous view of the snow capped Himalayas.

Flowers

A good dinner in the ‘’community centre’’ followed by entertainment in the form of first a small boy and then a woman dancing to a drumbeat and singing.  Judy, Mel and Ruth gamely joined in, Sarah and I declined.  Leis were handed out to all.  The entertainment went on far too long with everyone dying to get to bed.  When we eventually did I slept well, to be woken by barking dogs around 5am. Judy and I probably had the best accommodation – two separate (but tiny) rooms, mine with no window and Judy with unglazed openings.  Mel and Ruth slept above a very noisy goat and Sarah had rats in her room!

Siurung

Siurung to Jagat

Breakfast at the ‘’community centre’’ – muesli instead of the oats and honey we had ordered – and then we set off through terraced fields and isolated villages.

Terraced fields

The villages this high in the mountains are lovely – cobbled stone streets and clean and picturesque.

Village

Lots of downhill today, mostly over rocks which was taxing for the knees.  There were some beautiful waterfalls along the way.  We stopped at one for a water break then climbed up to a shop/restaurant where we had lunch – noodles – delicious!  We have all sworn off meat for the duration of the trek.

Waterfalls crossed the trail

It rained a little on the way to our lunch stop but soon cleared up and we continued downhill until we reached the road.

Walking in the rain - little boy tending to water buffalo

This was dusty and uninteresting after the paths we had been following but a bit easier on the legs.  We followed the river which was a torrent of blue water augmented by waterfalls gushing down the mountains – no shortage of water here!  The river must be fed chiefly by snowmelt.

One of the many waterfalls along the way

The road turned away from the river and started climbing up the mountain.  We opted to take a shortcut to cut out one of the curves in the road.   I managed this with a little help from Lila whose ready hand helped me over a couple of really difficult spots.  The road continued upwards for a while and then dipped down towards the village, Jagat, where we eventually found our lodge.  A  beer and a shower in rapid succession and then dinner and bed

Donkeys in Jagat

Jagat to Dharapani

 

After tea and breakfast we left Jagat for Dharapani in sunny weather.  There were lots of ups and downs today as the path and road followed the Siyanga river.

The trail followed the river

We walked about five hours before we reached Tal where we had noodles for lunch.  At the restaurant at Tal our meal was interrupted by a series of blasts bringing rocks crashing down from the mountain side into the river – evidence of the construction of the new road which will eventually change for ever the Annapurna Circuit. ( Due to the road construction, after Chamje we had to follow a new route along a rather dusty road and had to move to the side of the road a number of times to make way for donkey trains coming and going).

Road construction

We crossed the river a couple of times on suspension bridges and, at one stage, walked through a waterfall which cascaded onto the road, ran across it and down the mountain side.

Another waterfall crossing the road

Another suspension bridge, shared with donkeys, cows and two men carrying mattresses took us through a picturesque little village from which we had another half hour walk to our destination.

Crossing into Dharapani

One last suspension bridge, yet another climb and we were in Dharapani.

It was a long walk today – 8 hours on our feet with a stop for lunch – and not an easy one, with lots of rocks to negotiate.

The lodge we stayed in was comfortable and the food, once again, delicious.  Ready for bed by 8pm.

Our lodge at Dharapani

Dharapani to Chame

 

We had less than 7 hours walking today, starting off with a fairly easy walk along the river and then climbing steeply up through pine forests – an amazing variety of pine trees – interspersed with rhododendrons.  We were rewarded for the climb by magnificent views of Annapurna 2 and the Lumjung Himal massif.

View of the mountains

After the climb the track widened and the trek became fairly easy with just a few difficult places to negotiate along the way.

We stopped for lunch

We stopped for lunch after about four and a half hours – vegetable curry and rice and noodles – and sat outside to eat.  However the weather rapidly cooled off and jackets were quickly unearthed from backpacks.

After lunch a short two hours of walking took us to Chame for our overnight stay.

Walking into Chame

Our excitement at finding each room had its own toilet was somewhat dimmed by the fact that there was no water for the cisterns.  But hot tea and a lukewarm shower refreshed everyone while Judy wandered off to the market to find another flashcard for her camera.  An internet café right in the little lodge complex allowed us to access our emails and send off messages to families at home.

Internet sign

The weather had started to close in so we only had brief glimpses of Annapurna 4 through the clouds.  We drank hot chocolate and played Bananagram until dinner – Dal Bhat (rice and lentils)– then, well fed and nicely relaxed, we retired to bed and read.  An early start tomorrow for Lower Pisang.

Chame to Lower Pisang.

 

After breakfast we walked out of Chame along a relatively easy, wide road, shared by various donkeys, cows, horses and porters.  It rained a little and was too cloudy or misty to really enjoy the peaks.  After climbing a while we crossed a landslide and rounded an enormous rock face.

Rounded a rock face

Crossing  a suspension bridge, we continued to climb in earnest as the rain changed to sleet and then snow, turning the landscape into a winter wonderland.

It started to snow

It was snowing quite heavily by the time we reached our lunch stop and everyone donned beanies, gloves, buffs and jackets.

Vegie curry for lunch and then a magical hour and a half walk along wide easy pathways to Lower Pisang.  The rest of the group elected to do the climb to Upper Pisang but I opted to stay and finish my book which I did wrapped up in my sleeping bag – our room was freezing!

Wearing virtually everything I had, I joined the others on their return and we gathered in semi-dark in what appeared to be a dining room/bedroom.

We gathered around the fire

Tomato noodle soup for dinner accompanied by hot chocolate and I was more than ready for bed by 8pm.

The room was very cold and I battled to sleep, as did Judy who was sharing the room with me.  I finally unearthed and donned the down jacket lent to us by Himalayan Glacier Tours which did the trick.

Lower Pisang to Manang.

 

I was feeling a bit queasy in the morning so ate very little before we started our day.  A nice trail today, although it felt long.  A long, steady climb near the start at the top of which we overlooked a lovely snow clad valley surrounded by mountains – Pisang Peak, Tjuli and Annapurna 4.  The latter, however, kept coyly hidden beneath the clouds.

Clouds hid the mountains

We stopped for lunch and listened to our host explaining, in impeccable English,  how vegetable growing in the mountains hasn’t changed over the generations – no pesticides and only compost made of pine needles which had been thrown down in the animals’ enclosures.

Lunch menu - nice, if you like yak!

Sureth told us we had about an hour and a half to go to Manang after lunch but it seemed to come up far quicker than that.  A large, clean and quite sophisticated village – we passed a little shopping centre and a couple of places offering laundry services. Once we reached our lodge we found our rooms and quickly put our feet up

Manang

Manang – Rest Day

 

I felt tired and quite miserable on our rest/acclimatization day in Manang.  I must have picked up some sort of a bug and was quite nauseous at times.  Spent most of the day on the bed, reading.  The others were more adventurous and walked up to the monastery and then later to the glacier lake.

Glacier lake

In the afternoon I went to a lecture on AMS given by an American doctor who runs a clinic in Manang.  I spoke to him afterwards and he recommended a course of antibiotics which I bought from his clinic.  Hoped I would get my appetite back soon as I needed the fuel for the pass!

Manang to Ledar

 

After breakfast of poached eggs Judy went to the clinic for antibiotics as well and brought back a batch of imodium tablets for me.  We left Manang after 8am and started a steady climb which lasted most of the day through increasingly barren countryside but with some stupendous views of the mighty peaks of the Himalayas, including Tjuli West, and Annapurna 2, 3 and 4.

On the way to Ledar

We stopped for lunch – onion and garlic soup – and learnt that we were making for Ledar instead of Yak Kharka – about an hour further along the trail.

Lunch break

Very tired of walking by the time we arrived.  We had a short rest and tea – although I had lost my appetite completely by then and gagged over a cookie!  Then we walked uphill for about 200m and sat in the sun for about 15 min to acclimatize.  Headed back when the sun went behind the mountain and it started getting really cold.

Sitting in the dining room, we chatted to a Belgium couple for a while.  I declined dinner in favour of snacking on dried mango and nuts.  Took ages to get ready but finally climbed into bed and started warming up.

Another 2 days and we start heading back down. (When I wrote that I had discounted the climb to Ghorepani!!)

Ledar to Throng Pedi/High Camp

 

I hadn’t eaten much for about 4 days and finally hit a brick wall today.  Made it to Throng Pedi by stopping to rest every 10 steps or so on the uphills. I don’t remember much of the day’s trail as most of the time I had my head down, counting my steps and trying to control my breathing.

A frozen waterfall on the way to Throng Pedi

When we got to Throng Pedi Sureth wanted to push on the High Camp which would mean that we would have a shorter hike up to the pass in the morning.

Shuffling into Throng Pedi

I assured him that I could not walk any further that day and elected to hire a yak of which there were two at the lodge.

A choice of yaks

For the record, riding a yak is not the most comfortable of experiences. However, having reached High Camp in one (rather shaken) piece, I arranged for the yak to take me to the top of the pass as well.

It was bitterly cold in our room at High Camp and I sat with the down jacket covering everything else I was wearing trying to write my journal wearing gloves.  Apparently the next day, after crossing the pass we head downhill on a rather harrowing path, made worse by ice and snow.

High Camp over Throng La Pass to Muktinath

We were woken at 4.30am this morning and quickly sorted out our bags so that the porters could collect them.  We then made our way to the dining room through a fresh fall of snow for a plate of hot porridge.  It was still very cold.  The rest of the party went on ahead as I waited for Baba, the yak, to take me to the top.

Yakking up the mountain!

Feeling as I was, without Baba I doubt I would have made the top of the pass, (although there were times when I came close to climbing off my stumbling steed and trying to make it on my own two feet).   It is a long, hard climb, made worse by the freshly fallen snow and the bitter cold.  The first people to set out had started trampling a path in the snow and the man who led my yak attempted to improve the path by stamping down the snow as he walked, but unfortunately what held a human’s weight didn’t do as well for a yak and more than once Baba stepped into deep snow and went down onto his knees.

Since much of the path led around the edge of a precipice with snow sloping down from above and dropping away below, I quickly stopped looking down and just concentrated on staying on the yak’s back.   Apparently my fellow ýakker’ also found the trip quite hair-raising.  He had hurt his knee and had decided to avoid damaging it further over the pass.  Once we reached the top, however, he emphatically refused to go downhill on the yak and, as far as I know, made it on his own.  Quite honestly, I think attempting a ride downhill on a yak is suicidal!  Still, looking back, I count the ride as one of the highlights of my trek.

Sarah arrives at the top of the Throng La Pass

Everyone quite euphoric having made it over the pass as the possibility of AMS had remained a spectre in the background during the previous days’ climb, especially for those who had never climbed to that altitude before.

Our party at the top of the pass

Prayer flags were hung and photo’s taken before slithering our way down to Muktinath

Throng La Pass 5416m

Swopped the yak for my ‘’yaktrax’’, (named after the yak, these are light weight ice grips which are worn over regular hiking boots} and managed the downhill without too much trouble.

On the way down

A long, hard haul though!

Muktinath to Marpha

Our lodge at Muktinath

We left at 8am this morning and walked until 6pm with a break for lunch.  The first two hours were lovely. It was sunny and we walked through villages, downhill most of the way.

Villager weaving yak hair scarves

Unfortunately this didn’t last very long. At around 10am the wind came up and blew gustily for the rest of the day.   The trail led along a plateau above the Kali Gandaki gorge.

Kali Gandaki gorge

The landscape was barren, and the trail  very rocky. After a while we turned off the track onto a road where the passing jeeps threw up sand and stones at us and evidence of landslides kept us from walking too close to the rock walls.  The wind whipped up sand which stung our faces and then, just before Jomsom, it started raining, the wind driving the rain to the extent that it, too, actually stung at times.

We clambered down a rocky slope to Jomsom where we stopped for lunch and discussed taking a bus through to Marpha but none was available and hiring a jeep would cost around 7500 rupees.  Instead we pushed on to Marpha and arrived exhausted.  Beers brightened us up, as did the decision to take the bus through to Tatopani the next day.

Marpha to Tatopani

 

We got away at about 8am this morning after a visit to the Buddhist temple.

The village of Marpha from the Buddhist temple

Marpha is such a lovely clean town with cobbled streets and cedar branches burning aromatically in little braziers in the road.  I would have loved to have been able to spend more time exploring.

Marpha

Lila had organized a jeep for the same cost as a bus as three Russian girls had already hired it!  We finally set off with 13 people loaded in like sardines.  Sang the Mountain Song and then entertained everyone with some Xhosa and Afrikaans campfire songs.  The Russian girls sang for us and then the rest of the crew gave us a few renditions in Nepalese.

Ruth and Sureth set off from Ghasa

After an uneventful but hair-raising trip to Ghasa Ruth and Sureth got out to walk the next stretch.  The rest of us caught a local bus with no shock absorbers on the back wheels and quickly set sail again.  Riding a local bus is an experience all its own.  We had to stop and back up a number of times to let other vehicles pass as generally the road is only wide enough for one at a time.  We drove above the Kali Gandaki valley along the edge of the road looking down into the gorge, and, at one place we had to stop and wait while road workers cleared a landslide on the road.  Altogether quite an alarming trip, not improved by the fact that we passed at least one ill-fated bus which lay forlornly at the bottom of the valley!.

A local bus

The bus finally lurched into Tatopani where we found our rooms and then went down for lunch and drinks.  The rooms each had their own showers and (working) Western-type toilets.  Luxury!!  After lunch we went to the hot springs and soaked in the hot water for a while – lovely. Then back for a shower and just to relax.

The lodge at Tatopani

Ruth and Sureth arrived earlier than expected and most of the group went back to the hot springs later in the afternoon.  Everyone met for drinks down in the courtyard afterwards  – nice atmosphere, 70’s music playing.

Relaxing in the courtyard

We ate dinner in the courtyard as well – spinach burgers – delicious! So nice to have my appetite back! – then played a few rounds of rummy before retiring.

Tatopani to Shikha

 

Lay in a bit this morning and then had a shower and breakfast and chatted for a while with two guys from the Netherlands before leaving at about 9am.  After climbing for a while we crossed a very rickety suspension bridge and started climbing again in earnest.

Crossing a rickety bridge

The sun was shining – a beautiful day – but it got steadily hotter.  I really battled on the endless steps and thick sandy road.  By the time I reached where Judy and Ruth were sitting in the shade of a tree I had grave reservations about being able to complete the trail today at all.

Endless steps

Fortunately the landscape started changing as we walked through forests which gave shade and a light breeze started blowing.  Although the trail continued upwards the cooler weather was a life-saver and I managed a lot better, albeit with a number of stops to catch my breath.

View from our rest stop

We reached our lunch break after about 4 hours.  We heard the first rumbles of thunder while we were having lunch and the thunder continued as we resumed our walk.  Clouds covered the sun, the breeze freshened, and, although we continued climbing ever upwards, it was much easier to keep going.

Steps leading through a village

We finally arrived at our destination where hot showers awaited us.  A nice fire was going in the dining room where we all gathered to read, play cards, or just sit and chill.

Then dinner at 7pm and off to bed.

View from my bedroom window

Shikha to Ghorepani

Leaving Shikha for Ghorepani


A short walk today.  We left Shikha at about 8am after a breakfast of poached eggs and Judy and I arrived in Ghorepani at 12.30pm.

The path between the two villages is beautiful, forested and filled with the sound of birds, but the climb is relentless.  We had a couple of short stops but the plan was to push on to Ghorepani for lunch.  The trail led through miles of rhododendron forest where most of the trees were in flower – absolutely beautiful.

Rhododendron forests

Judy at a village water fountain

Sarah and Ruth were not feeling at all well.  They went on ahead with Lila and Mel and were both rolled up in their sleeping bags when we arrived.

The rest of us had lunch and chatted for a while to Ned, a young American who had signed up for a hike to the Annapurna Base Camp and then found he was the only member of the trip!  It didn’t seem to faze him.  However, the rain and hail, which started to fall again soon after we arrived, did, and he went off to buy a rain-jacket at one of the little shops in the village.

I went down to the internet café, which was part of the lodge, where I picked up an email from Richard.  This was the only the second time I had been able to gain access since starting the trek – so nice to hear from home and to know that everything was alright.

Back in the dining room I sat at the fire for a while to get warm and then went up to the room I shared with Ruth, climbed into my sleeping bag and read for a while, dozed, and wrote up my journal.  Finally went down for dinner then back to bed where I slept fitfully all night.

Judy and I had decided not to be woken early to climb Poon Hill in the morning as we were almost certain that the cloud cover would obliterate any view of the mountains.  Ruth, apparently, woke up at about 9pm, though she had been left behind from the trip up Poon Hill and dressed and rushed down stairs only to find everyone was in bed and asleep.

Ghorepani to Hile

 

Melanie, Ruth and Sarah went up Poon Hill but the clouds obscured the mountains and Judy and I were well satisfied with our decision.  Woke and read for a while when Ruth left then went downstairs and had a lovely hot shower followed by coffee.  Packed our things when the others arrived and then had poached eggs and toast for breakfast.

Rain poured down as we ate but abated a little before we left.

The road to Hile

The trail through the forest

We  started climbing down almost immediately and continued to do so for the next 6 hours with a short break for a drink and another longer one for lunch. which we ate in an open rondavel overlooking a valley.

Lunch at the rondavel

After ordering potato soup for lunch we watched in horror as the porters chased and caught one of the chickens in the yard and proceeded to slaughter, clean and cook it for their own meal.

The mist started rising

The mist started rising in the valley as we sat there and it got steadily colder.  After finally getting and eating our lunch we sat around, freezing, waiting for the staff to complete their meal in the warm kitchen/kiosk!

According to the map there are 3280 stone steps on at least one section of this journey and my knees felt every one of them.  Despite this, it is a lot easier climbing down than up and we felt for the many trekkers who passed us coming in the opposite direction.

The pathway led through rhododendron forests with the occasional magnolia tree, figs, cherry trees and many other unidentified species.  Hundreds of birds could be heard in the branches and we even caught sight of a monkey.  The rain made the stones and rocks slippery and I landed on my backside once, but on the whole, a beautiful, if damp, walk.

When we arrived at Indira everyone thought we had made it for the day so it was with some reluctance that we forced ourselves to walk the final ups and downs to our lodge in Hile.

Our lodge at Hile

Once there, we sat outside under cover, eating popcorn and chips, while Sarah, Mel, Ruth, Lila and Pratish played cards.  Eventually it got too cool so we elected to eat dinner indoors and retired to bed around 8pm.

Hile to Nayapul and Pokhara

 

Our last day of walking today, as we hike out of the mountains to meet our jeep which will take us through to Pokhara.  I chose poached eggs again for breakfast then we set off downhill again, out of the little village of Hile.

Leaving Hile

It was a much easier downhill without the rocks and the thousands of steps we had to negotiate yesterday.  Most of the walk was very pretty with the river running along on our right and lots of trees and greenery all around us.

The path through the trees

I love the stone cobbled streets and little walled paths running past the quaint little villages which we passed on our trek.

Unfortunately too soon we came to the construction of the new road and followed that almost as far as Birethanti.

The village of Birethanti

Right now the ‘road’ is simply a wide dusty track where walls and vegetation have been blasted away – as yet, no traffic other than the ubiquitous donkeys.

We reached the village of Birethanti by 9.30am and, because we were not planning on a lunch stop, and the jeep was only expected at Nayapul – 35 minutes down the road – by 11.30am, we stopped for tea/coffee and apple pie or pancakes.  Aside from the flies, this was a pleasant interlude, and far better than standing waiting at the bus terminal for the jeep to appear.  While there we tried to get photographs of Fishtail Mountain as it teased us from behind the clouds, but with little success.

Lila started getting restless so the rest of us filed obediently after him leaving Sarah, still shopping at a little stall near the teahouse, with Sureth.

We walked down the hill, across the pedestrian bridge, and into a different world.  Instead of the well swept stone streets, we negotiated muddy, churned up roads.  Many cars lined the pavements and a couple of motor cycles zoomed past.  This side of the village is much dirtier and far less attractive than all the remote villages we have wandered through on our journey and an unfortunate reminder of the negative consequences of building a road through the Himalayas.  It was with  relief that we finally climbed the last hill and found the terminal with our jeep waiting to be loaded up.

Nevertheless, it was a bitter-sweet moment.  Our epic journey was over.  A jeep ride into Pokhara and tomorrow a tourist bus back to Kathmandu – leaving rural Nepal, which we have come to love, behind us.

The journey to Pokhara on barely paved roads took us about one and a half hours and the hotel was a pleasant surprise.  Near the lake, comfortable rooms, hot baths/showers etc.  We sorted out our belongings and bathed then joined our porters and Lila for one last time to thank them and hand out tips.  Quite an emotional moment – they have been a great crew and attentive to our every need and we have felt quite close to them over the almost three weeks we have spent together.

It was from our hotel in Pokhara that evening and early the next morning that we finally got our photo’s of the elusive Fishtail Mountain: Machhapuchhre, the holy mountain.

Fishtail Mountain

Back in the city

A long bus ride over some hair pin bends, above deep valleys brought us back eventually to Kathmandu and Hotel Shanker and the end of our trip.  We had dinner at Rummydoo with Suresh, provided by Himalayan Glacier, obviously a favourite with returning trekkers – where we decorated a ‘foot’to be hung in the restaurant, celebrating our own trek.

Our 'foot' commemorating our trek

Coming back to civilization’ was quite a culture shock after two weeks in the mountains.  Both Pokhara and Kathmandu seem to have achieved an uneasy peace between town and country living with fields, haystacks and livestock extending far into the urban sprawl, but the traffic and confusion, especially in Kathmandu, was made bearable only by the proximity of flush toilets and hot showers!

The peace and tranquility of the ‘himals’  have been left far behind, but hopefully we all carry a little back with us in our hearts.

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Travels | , , | 2 Comments

Three Weeks in Calgary – Holiday Diary

My sisters, Gail and Barbara arrived in Calgary on the afternoon of the 22nd June.  We had a great time together and put together this  short journal chronicling their stay.

23rd June

We decided to have a quiet day for the first day so everyone could get over their jet lag. Later in the day we drove to West Bragg Creek, which is about 15 minutes from home, where we saw a swarm of butterflies around a puddle of water on the ground.

Butterflies at West Bragg Creek

24th June

Today we left Calgary for the Athabasca Glacier, which ‘flows’ from the Columbia Icefields, having packed a picnic lunch to eat along the way. The main ingredient of our picnic was meatballs, the consumption of which sparked Barbara’s comment: “The meatballs were a great idea to munch along the way, but after stuffing our faces and having a meal at the hotel a little while later, there were a few of us feeling a little green through around the gills and one of us (name not appended) experienced the meatballs in reverse the next day.”

We drove through Banff National Park and onto the Icefields Parkway which runs through Jasper National Park parallel to the Continental Divide.  Both Banff and Jasper Parks are part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site and the Icefields Parkway is renowned for its grandeur. Gail remarked: “Travelling through the mountains and approaching the Glacier and the Icefields is a sight I’ll never forget – absolutely spectacular!”

On the way to the Glacier Hotel we ran out of gas.  The culprit, who will also remain nameless, managed to coast 8 km downhill to the Saskatchewan River Bridge where a friendly Parks’ Board official provided the much needed gas to get us to the filling station at Saskatchewan Crossing – refusing payment on the grounds that it was our ‘tax dollars at work’.

Waterfalls abound on the route

After many stops for photographs we eventually arrived at our destination and had dinner at the Glacier Hotel’s restaurant before retiring to our room to relax.  While not exactly wheelchair friendly (the low loo syndrome), the room was comfortable and had a view of both the Athabasca and the Dome Glaciers.

25th June

After breakfast at the Glacier Hotel we arranged our bus ride to the glacier.  Gail travelled in style with Barbara on a specially modified bus and was hoisted, wheelchair and all, into the impressive looking Ice Explorer.   The trip onto the glacier is awesome and a little scary. You have no idea of how steep the descent to the glacier is until you are on the bus with its nose facing downhill at an 80 degree angle.

Gail going into the Ice Explorer

All together on the glacier

Despite the cold, everyone went onto the glacier which is approximately 6 kilometres long and a kilometre wide.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity to stand on this ancient ice which is anything from 90 to 300 metres deep.   The Columbia Icefield from which the glacier originates is one of the world’s largest accumulations of ice and snow and covers an area of nearly 325 square kilometres, sometimes reaching a depth of 300-360 metres.

On the homeward trip God really blessed us by displaying three of His bears up close and personal in one day. What a great experience!

We saw two of the bears on the way back along the Icefields Parkway, a black bear, spotted by Barbara up on the mountain side slowly worked its way diagonally down, popping out of the forest opposite our parking spot and proceeded to wander along the side of the river, turning over the odd log, presumably in search of insects, before swimming across the river and walking down parallel to the car.  We eventually left when we realized that we, and the numerous other cars which had stopped to see it, were preventing it from crossing the road which was its obvious intention.

Black bear

Cinnamon bear

The second sighting was a Cinnamon bear on the side of the road, unconcernedly searching through the grass.

When we reached Lake Louise we wandered past the lake and then had lunch at the hotel.  Shortly after we resumed our trip we saw our third bear – a grizzly -through the fence which runs along the main road just after leaving Banff

Grizzly

Seeing the bears, so completely free and looking almost docile, minding their own business, it is difficult to believe that they are wild and dangerous animals.

Icecreams in Cochrane

We rounded off the trip with a stop at Cochrane for their obligatory ice creams before finally heading home.

26th June

Today was spent relaxing, playing games (Rummy Kub) and, in the evening, getting together for  a family barbecue at home

27th June

We intended to spend this morning exploring Elbow Falls and picnicking on the banks of the Elbow River.   We set off along the road to Elbow Falls but, when we got there we found that the parking lots for both Elbow Falls and our second attempted destination, Forgetmenot Pond, were crowded so we decided to postpone our walk and go during the week when it would be quieter.  Instead we picnicked from our car, overlooking the river.

In the evening we went to Ray and Brian for a barbecue where Gail saw Ray’s home for the first time and met her cat. Her comment: “Beautiful home and interesting cat!!”

28th June

We  treated Asher and Cale to a trip to the zoo today where we found the Canadian Wilds section overgrown and unkempt but enjoyed the rest of the exhibits. Gail had been watching out for big horned sheep in the wild but found those at the zoo a bit of a disappointment: “My first look at wild sheep (at least I think they were sheep) losing their winter coats and looking awfully patchy”.

The most entertaining animals in the Canadian section were the prairie dogs with their busy scuttling around and repeated loud calls, executed standing on their back legs with heads thrown back.

Prairie dog

We visited the African section and sat outside at the restaurant having lunch, surrounded by peacocks and guinea fowl!

29th June

Today Gail, Barbara and I went to Cinnamon Spoon at Bragg Creek for coffee Barbara commented: “The last time Peter, Ally and I went to Cinnamon Spoon everything was covered in snow and it was freezing, what a different place in the summer!”

After lots of talking and laughter we decided to take a drive and ended up at Elbow Falls where we went for our delayed walk.  Elbow Falls are on the Elbow River in Kananaskis Country about 22 km from West Bragg Creek, or half an hour from our home.  They are a favourite destination for Calgarians who flock to the Falls over weekends in summer to picnic under the trees next to the fast flowing river – a beautiful setting.

Coffee at Cinnamon Spoon in Bragg Creek

Barbara at Elbow Falls

Walking along the banks of the Bow River

30th June

Ray had invited us to meet her at work today and go with her to explore ‘her’ Calgary . This included Kensington, where we stopped for a drink ,and then crossed the Bow and walked along its grassy banks, a stone throw from the city.  Many of the shops in Kensington are pretty and quaint, and the walk through Bow was lovely with hanging baskets of flowers along the way giving a summery and festive feel. We sat for a while, watching people walk, skate and cycle past and looking at the ducks, tails up, in the river.

1st July

Today we set off on our trip to Waterton National Park which borders Glacier National Park in the USA and, with it, forms the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This is the world’s first International Peace Park having merged in 1932, and it serves as a symbol of friendship and peace between the two countries.

We stopped first at the Chuckwagon in Turner Valley for breakfast.  The Chuckwagon is like a place straight out of western movies except this is the real thing. Cowboys in boots and jeans popping in for a bite in a real cowboy town.

Chuckwagon at Turner Valle

Our next stop was Frank Slide where we viewed the devastation then walked around the Interpretive Centre and had coffee before continuing on our way. Frank was a mining town in the Crowsnest Park in the early 1900’s.  The Slide refers to the avalanche of rock which broke free from the east face of Turtle Mountain which was being excavated and destroyed the mine and the miner’s houses on the outskirts of the town, killing approximately 90 people.  Most of their bodies still lie buried under the rock.  Altogether 30 million cubic metres of limestone fell that night covering 3 square kilometres of the valley floor and much of it still lies where it fell. The First Nation people who populated the area at the time called Turtle Mountain ‘The Mountain that Moves’, perhaps the miners should have paid closer attention.

Frank Slide

Bison at Waterton

From Frank Slide it is a fairly short ride through to Waterton.  We past long lines of Wind Turbines along the way and when we reached Waterton decided it was a little to early for our motel so drove instead through the newly built Bison’s paddock and then up the beautiful Red Rock Canyon where we were prevented from seeing the canyon itself due to repair being made on the car park.

Finally, after a quick ride around Waterton, we pulled into Bayshore, our motel, and, while Gail and Barbara were settling in, Richard and I picked pizza for dinner.  Our plans for Baileys and Rummy Kub did not materialize since Barbara had already changed into her jammies by the time we returned and, by mutual consent, we settled down with our books and had an early night.

2nd July

We were up early this morning and had coffee and muffins for breakfast . Barbara and I went for a short walk in the rain and encountered an extremely dangerous (and/or curious) deer which stalked us (or, followed us) for quite a way along the river bank despite Barbara’s desperate attempt to distract it by leaving her disposable coffee cup and a bottle on the pathway.

Having escaped unscathed we headed down to the landing where Richard dropped us off before returning to his book. The Waterton ferry trip to the USA border post is a must.  Because of the wheelchair the three of us sat outside on the bow of the boat facing the elements, frozen cheeks on. Nevertheless, the rain, cold and wind couldn’t dampen the experience and the breathtaking views.

Gail, freezing on the ferry

Barbara playing at Titanic

On the trip back we were sheltered from the wind and managed to thaw out a little. Soup and sandwiches for lunch completed the thawing process and we rounded off our Waterton excursion by driving up to Cameron Lake.

On the way down again  we saw a Cinnamon bear with a small cub and Barbara collected some water from the cold, fast running stream.

3rd July

This Saturday Tracy and Mark held their annual breakfast. About 50 people arrived at various times during the morning and after breakfast some of us played volley ball and then soccer on the lawns.

Gail commented: “What a lovely tradition, getting friends and family together like this.  People arrived, socialized and had their breakfasts and left, with others coming and going throughout the day – Dawn and Barbara limped in after their game of soccer and volleyball – guess they’re not as fit as they thought huh!!!!!”

Barbara playing goalie

I personally think we did a sterling job!  Barbara’s strategy as goalie being exceptionally effective.

4th July

Sunday was a rest day – we spent most of the morning at home, lounging on the deck and chatting.  In the afternoon we picked up Cale from his party and met Ray at Chapters for coffee

5th July

Today was cold and wet.  We had arranged to take Asher to the Telus Science World but when we arrived we discovered that the  Body and Brain exhibition was on. Asher was not at all keen to see it so we left him at the Lego exhibition where he had a great time building and testing lego cars while we watched the documentary.  Later we picked him up and had lunch at the Science World restaurant. The amazing documentary and exhibits and the hot chocolate and coffee’s  afterwards made up for the cold and miserable weather outside.

6th July

We spent most of this morning at home again and then took a (very) short walk in Fish Creek before going  to The Ranche for dinner.  The Ranche is located in the Fish Creek Park and was built in 1896 for William Roper Hull, a pioneer rancher and entrepreneur. The Ranche House cost about $4,000 to build and was apparently the finest country home in the Canadian Territories during that era.  It still is a beautiful house and  a unique piece of architecture.

The Ranche House

Gail, ever pondering the state of Canadian loo’s commented: “Dinner was lovely and the atmosphere warm and inviting. After spending so much of the time in Canada running around looking for suitable toilets (gee the one’ s in Canada are oh so short. Do these people suffer from short legs or what??) The toilet at The Ranche was a pleasure to go to!!”

7th July

Today Tracy, Asher, Gail, Barbara and I drove through to Drumheller in the badlands, stopping at Horseshoe Canyon to take some photos. The sudden contrast of “steep, dry coulees ridged with the strata of hundreds of years of erosion by time, wind and water” after the green grasslands is quite startling. Drumheller is a fairly nondescript little town with its main claims to fame being the Royal Tyrell Museum and the Red Deer River which flows through the coulees (or ravines) and past the hoodoos of the badlands.

On the way to Drumheller - Horseshoe Canyon

Taken in the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller

We walked through the Royal Tyrell Museum and then had lunch at the restaurant before driving home. This is an interesting experience, well worth the long drive, aggravated by the  construction along the way.  We were, however,  amused to find many of the hoodoos covered in soft green grass and wondered how long they could claim the title of ‘badlands’.

8th July

Tracy drove us through to Banff today, where we had coffee at Starbucks and then took the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. The views from the gondola and from the top of the mountain were magnificent.  Gail found this “an awesome experience, especially as I’ve never been on something like this!  The views are spectacular (something I must experience in winter)”

Taken from the Banff gondola

Taken from the Banff gondola

We went back to Banff to buy lunch – Sushi – and then followed the Lake Minnewanka Loop, stopping at the lake to eat our lunch

Here we finally saw Gail’s big horned sheep and lambs. Barbara climbed out of the car to see them close up and personal and got some amazing photo’s of the rather scruffy looking sheep (all busy moulting).  No big daddies, unfortunately, so no real big curving horns.

Big Horn Sheep, well, lambs, at Lake Minnewanka

Gail also managed to take some photo’s–unfortunately just of the rear ends

9th July

With the holiday rapidly coming to an end we breakfasted at the Priddis Grill today then spent the rest of the day sorting out our photographs.

Barbara’s comment as we went through the pictures: “Canada, what a beautiful country!  God must have been in such a good mood when He created her!”

Later Ray, Brian and Lesley joined us for dinner – Ray first treating Barbara to a hot rock massage.

10th July

All good things must come to an end.  Today we passed the time going around the Farmers’ Market, buying some books and other odds and ends at Chapters and then playing Rummy Kub at home until it was time to go to the airport.  The house is very quiet without the sisters but we look forward to our trip to SA next April and hope to welcome both of them back to Calgary soon.  There is still so much to see and do.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Travels | 3 Comments