Greetings from Alberta, Canada

Kanada - 23.8.2018 09:26

Here again is the link to the video of our time in Canada: https://vimeo.com/285648254. Password is 1205.

After having a few days in Vancouver, we flew to Edmonton, in the province of Alberta. We stayed there from August 5 to August 18, so it was a good chance to calm down, relax, and enjoy some easy days, which was needed in order to have energy to experience New York and Iceland in just one week.

We were fortunate to be able to stay with friends while in Alberta. Deb knew a family through Mercy Ships, and they welcomed us to stay with them. I had met a young Canadian couple when I was in Cambodia, and they with their beautiful baby girl welcomed us to stay on their farm. Friendly Canadians!

Edmonton is not known for being an attractive city like Vancouver, but we enjoyed getting to know the area where our friends and their parents grew up. They are stories of life, which are interesting. We visited places that are meaningful to our friends, which helps us know more about them. Luke’s (friend of Deb) family is certainly an entertaining one, a lot of fun and warmth, and a cute dog, called Suki. There are funny stories about the dog too.

There is a lot of oil in Alberta, I understand most of it is still north of Edmonton. Some people are rich, and they have a lot of toys; so many people drive a huge truck! The land is vast, straight roads for miles and miles.. They call it the Prairies. That’s where they have the cowboys.

So we spent a day with Luke’s family (without Luke though because he was working in the north). They are really nice. After driving around the town we went to Fort Edmonton, which is a park that displays the old lifestyle in Edmonton, still when they rode horses, had saloons, and made old candy. We learned about the fur trading and about the Ukrainian bookstore. There were a lot of immigrants from Ukraine. Also from Finland, but the Finns didn’t bring bookstores, just good ice hockey players.

So my friend Stephen picked us up from Wetaskivin where we had stayed the day, as it wasn’t too far from their farm. Arrived at the farm, we had a whole floor for ourselves! It was amazing to see Stephen and Ally again, after knowing each other for a couple of months in Cambodia a couple of years ago. They have a beautiful place, lots of land to overlook. Corn fields, horses, cattle, chicken, dogs and cats. Oh, and a cute little baby girl called Anika. Deb loved her. She couldn’t get enough of playing with her.

Stephen and Ally took us horse riding one day. That was exciting! We had ridden only once before, but I had forgotten most of it. It was quite an experience. We had cowboy hats and everything. I was nervous about riding the strong animal and it could sense it, which made controlling it even more difficult, and me more nervous again. Deb was more relaxed, I was so proud of her. We did a couple of hours of horse trekking and I got better. There was one moment where a big truck drove close by on a farm road and horse was going back and fort but I managed to steer us safe. After that moment I think I gained his trust and the rest of the ride went very well, he was going really politely. I’m not sure if horse riding is for me, the animal is much more difficult to control than a car, but then again it must be quite special when you have a bond with the horse and it does what you want it to do. Also, I would need to start stretching my groin. Now I know why cowboys walk the way they do..

Stephen and Ally were kind to let us use one of their cars for our two week stay. One day we went shopping at the outlet malls, preparing for our move to DRC.. Another day we drove a couple of hours southeast to Drumheller, where they have the world’s largest dinosaur museum and a lot of fossil findings in the nearby area. It was fascinating. Especially to hear the stories of how some of the fossils were found and brought in. A lot of luck, hiking, drilling, brushing, and flying with the helicopter. The area around Drumheller was interesting otherwise as well, it was really hot, like desert, and you could see around you layers of old soil in the hills.

Finally Luke came down south from fixing roofs at the oil rigs in the north. We spent a weekend with him. His cooking was so good, and we had a great fun time together. We were supposed to go to Jasper at the Rocky Mountains but the weather was really bad so it wouldn’t have been worth it. Thus we ended up staying in around Edmonton. We went to West Edmonton mall, which has a waterpark and a little amusement park inside. I think it used to be world’s biggest mall when it was built. There were fun things to see and do in the mall. We ate cinnamonbuns, played UV minigolf and rode the Mindbender, which is the biggest indoor rollercoaster in the world. That was fun! It had been so long since I rode a rollercoaster. In the evening we did an escape room together with Luke and his sister, which was really cool. We worked well together and managed to escape the Jumanji! Good for marriage ;)

We drove back to the farm and packed our car ready to go camping the next day. We hadn’t brought any of our own stuff for the trip, but fortunately Stephen and Ally had everything we needed and much more, so they let us use their camping gear. We were camping from Monday to Thursday. The first day we drove about 2hrs to Lake Abraham where we set our camp by the blue lake, in a beautiful location. After eating camp lunch, and learning again how everything works when you are camping, we went to do a hike to the Crescent Falls. It had been raining the previous days, so the weather was beautiful and clear. There had been a lot of bad wildfires in the province of British Columbia, and the smoke from the fires made the air in Alberta bad and poor visibility. But that day at Crescent Falls was really beautiful and we enjoyed the hike along the impressive canyon. The waterfalls at the end were amazing too. Unique landscape with its fresh water and mountains, but what makes it different from Switzerland for example is that the mountains are covered by narrow spruce trees that give a distinctive look. Or the areas where there are no trees it’s just plain grey rock. No grass no nothing. Hence the name, rockies, I guess. White water river rafting or canoeing there would be amazing! Just need to mind those waterfalls..

Unfortunately because of the extreme dry weather we weren’t allowed to do camp fire, but there were some fireworks at night. Apparently the star sky was amazing too, but I didn’t crawl out the tent to look at that. We woke up to a sunny day, although the smoke had started coming back and the visibility wasn’t as clear anymore. Apparently it’s quite common that there’s smoke in the air around the mountains during summer. Anyhow, I went for a swim in the morning, although I didn’t really want to because I knew it was glacier water. But I thought I should because I could. That’s when I really woke up. We ate breakfast, oh the maple & brown sugar porridge tasted good! The coffee too, and the eggs, nutella sandwich.. things just taste better outdoors, right!

Anyhow, we packed our camp in the car and off we drove. We weren’t inside the national park at this point yet, but soon we entered the Banff national park, a heaven for outdoors people.. although, it was crowded, and I don’t understand why there was a highway through the park. Apparently Jasper NP would have been more “authentic”, but we had reserved our camp site from Banff already six months ago. Already then many of the sites were sold out. But I understand why many people go to Banff. It is really beautiful and it has those places that give you the wow experience. I guess once you’ve seen those spots you could happily move to less crowded grounds.

So we did the Bow summit hike. Unfortunately the views from the summit to the valley were so smokey that we couldn’t see much. But we had a really nice view of the turquoise Peyto lake on our way up. We drove to our campsite in Johnston Canyon and set up the camp really fast this time, after learning from the previous day. It was a very pleasant camp site with hot water showers, dish washing stations, and clean toilets. Also, what was nice was that each camp site had quite a lot of personal space. We did the Johnston canyon hike still before the evening, and that was a nice one following the crystal clear river upstream in the canyon. There were also beautiful waterfalls along the route. And the smoke didn’t affect the visibility in the canyon. We came back to our campsite, took a shower and went out for a nice C.A.B steak dinner in the town of Banff!

The next morning we woke up at 5:30! That’s what you have to do if you want to have some privacy on the beautiful trails in Banff. And it was worth it. It was nice to visit Lake Louise and hike up to the teahouse at Lake Agnes for breakfast, and take photos before the crowds arrived. That was a 16km hike we did, as we continued to the other end of Lake Agnes and hiked up to the Big Beehive, and down the Six Glaciers’ route back to Lake Louise. The lakes, rivers, and the forests were amazing, although we missed most of the mountains and glaciers around because of poor visibility. It was already impressive, so I can imagine it would have been spectacular in good visibility. We checked on our phone how the scenery would l00k like on a clear day.

We were back at the car and it was barely lunch time! There was still time to do so much. We wanted to go to Moraine Lake, but it had been closed off already because it was full.. that’s how crowded it gets. So we decided to make lunch, fortunately we had all the cooking gear in car. After lunch we checked Moraine again and they had reopened it, which was great! And I mean it really was great, because I think Moraine Lake was the most beautiful place in Banff we saw! The water was so blue, more than the other lakes. And the lake was surrounded by green forest, rugged mountains, and rock piles. Fortunately the visibility was better than elsewhere as well, because somehow of the formation of the mountains there was quite a strong breeze through the lake that cleared some of the smoke. We found a nice spot for ourselves by the lake and I got to go swimming again. I hadn’t tried the water temperature before I dove in, so it was quite a shock when I hit the water! Especially because my wife had affirmed me the water was warm.. I don’t think it was that warm at all!

That evening we still had time to go for a nice meal in Banff and enjoy the Banff hot springs as well. Amazing how much you can do in one day if you wake up early!

Our last day in Banff the visibility was still poor so we walked around the town a bit as it wouldn’t have been worth hiking up Tunnel Mountain in that visibility. We couldn’t even see the mountain! But then we hiked at Grassi Lakes in Canmore, which was a nice easy 2hr hike with really beautiful waterfalls and lakes. We drove on a dirt road to the Spray lakes, but decided not to drive the 3hr extra loop as the visibility was poor. Otherwise that area would have been much less touristy and we could have seen some wildlife. So far we had seen many chipmunks, some marmots and mountain goats, but I wouldn’t have minded to see a bear! We even bought a bear spray as we were told it’s a necessary measure for self defence in case threatened by a bear in Banff, last resort though. I didn’t wish to use it, and we didn’t. Actually I tried to return it to the shop but they wouldn’t allow me, which was quite annoying because that weapon cost 50 dollars. And I can’t even keep it because it can’t be taken on a plane. So we gave it to Stephen and Ally because they didn’t have one.. Stephen fights bears with his bear (bare) hands, I think.

The last couple of days we had in Canada we spent at the farm with Stephen and Ally. It was great fun talking, playing, eating and even working together. For one day I offered to help with silaging at the farm. It’s an intensive couple of days of work, when you cut down all the hay, collect it, and store it for the winter. Even the neighbors and family from out of town came to help. I got to ride in the truck that transports the hay and in the tractor that cuts the hay. I myself drove a big tractor in the pit, where all the hay was collected. My job was to drive this big machine back and forth to pack the feed. I had a great time! Haha, it’s a lot like on our farm in Swaziland, although they are quite different. There is always work to do, and something needs to be fixed. I have respect for these farmers. They have to be their own mechanics, vets, drivers, builders, and accountants. No wonder the work never ends! But I get it. You are your own boss. And you can see things change. Even in just one week the chicken doubled in size! It was interesting to learn more about that business too. There are so many moving parts, so much responsibility, and risks too. It was good to see where our food comes from, and what it takes to arrive on our plates.

So yes, we had a great time connecting with friends, witnessed beautiful nature, learned about farming, riding horses, driving a tractor, and even about life with a baby. What a great privilege to learn all that, right! Babies like ice cream. They eat it with their body, mind, and soul. That’s cute.

The Taje family, apart from Luke Fort EdmontonBisons near Stephen and Ally's farm Checking out the chicks at Stephen and Ally's farmThe Friesen family: Stephen, Ally, and Anika Horse trekking at the Prairies Once upon a time; a cowgirl and a cowboy.. Pro Bass Shop near Calgary  Some of the dinosaurs looked very real at Tyrell dinosaur museum in Drumheller At the hoodoos!  We escaped the Jumanji with Luke and Hanna! Suki Hiking at to the Crescent falls Wild views at the Canadian Rockies The beautiful Crescent falls Lake Abraham Lake AbrahamBeautiful lake waters good for morning swim Camp style breakfast at Lake Abraham Welcome to Banff! Peyto Lake On the way to Bow summit Johnston Canyon Morning coffee at Lake Agnes Smokey views in Banff Lake AgnesWildlife: marmot? Chipmunk King Lake Louise Moraine Lake    Moraine lake  Six glaciers' hike, but the glaciers were a bit difficult to see   Grassi lake Canadian delicacy Drinks after hiking Me and my monster truck! Packing animal feed Ice creams at the Wooden Shoe

 

 

Greetings from Vancouver, Canada

Kanada - 19.8.2018 18:57

This post is about the first part of our trip in Canada. While I finish the pictures and writing of the second part, you can already check out the video of the whole trip here: https://vimeo.com/285648254 with password 1205.

So, Vancouver, it is claimed to be even the most beautiful city in the world. I’d always wanted to go to see Vancouver, the waters and mountains around it. We had really nice few days there exploring the city a bit, although spending more time in the parks in and around it, which I appreciated. I thought Vancouver was beautiful as well though, especially because of its surroundings. There were small planes taking off and landing on the water in front of the city, flying passengers to the many islands and coves nearby. We rented a tandem bike to explore Stanley Park, which is a big forest/beach/inland water area covering a peninsula right off the city. It was nice to ride around the peninsula along the sea and in the forests. Doing it with a tandem was another new experience in itself as well! Balancing it was more difficult than I had expected, but we managed it and got better at it, and avoided any accidents on the sometimes busy bikelanes.

One thing I didn’t expect of Vancouver was the large number of homeless people. I understand that the living costs in the city have gone up a lot, many rich foreigners are buying properties in town and also driving up the prices. We did see many Asians, and they seemed to have been pretty well integrated, as in the immigrants had been there for quite some time already and it would be easier then for new ones to integrate as well then, I guess. I’m not sure if the high living cost is the only reason for the big homeless community, as we observed there were very liberal and alternative lifestyles that could lead in to more people living on the streets. We didn’t have a car in Vancouver so we used the buses, and there we encountered many homeless people. Especially along Hastings Street, which was on the way to our Airbnb. There is a stereotype of Canadians being friendly, and to my surprise this was true, among the homeless especially. And why not!? My experience of alcoholics and drug addicts from Finland just told me a bit otherwise. But actually the homeless people we saw in buses were in general really polite and didn’t cause any trouble. And I was happy to see that they were treated with respect, as in people would offer their seat to a homeless person in a crowded bus.

We met other friendly Canadians as well. Our Airbnb host family was one really friendly and helpful family. They even picked us up from the airport and had put a bottle of rosé in the fridge for the honeymooners! We shared many stories together and had funny and meaningful discussions. And they even let us use their car for one day when we went hiking in Lynn Canyon!

Deb’s friend, Sarah, joined us for a couple of days as well! She had taken time off of work and traveled more than 10 hours by bus to come and see us. Sarah is a friend from when Deb worked at Mercy Ships, and they had a really good time reconnecting. We did some hiking together, like the day in Lynn Canyon, and also up to Cypress Mountain. Both were really nice days. One day we walked along the coast just taking in the sea air and stopping at benches to read the special messages on them. We explored Granville island together, an industrial area that had been turned into a recreational area with markets selling good stuff, like food and desserts. That day we, like thousands of other people, went to English Bay for the evening to watch a beautiful fireworks show by the South Korean team, who were competing against Sweden and South Africa. We ate there at the beach, watched the sun go down, and the evening ended with a blast, spectacle. It took quite a long time to get back home though.. which was no surprise. A surprise was that Deb and Sarah met another friend from the Ship after the fireworks. Vancouver seemed to be the place to be.

Oh and before Sarah came we had a great day in Deep Cove, just the two of us. We could get there by taking two buses in less than an hour. I would definitely recommend spending a day there. It’s a beautiful area filled with nature, and there is a small town with cozy cafes, restaurants and shops. The atmosphere is really laid back. People have houses, or free time houses, by the sea. And just looking at the houses is interesting in itself. You have even a better view of the area if you rent a kayak and paddle around the cove and the islands. That’s what we did, in tandem again. We rented a double kayak for a couple of hours and that was a great way to explore and do some exercise together. We were actually really active. After the kayaking we still went for a couple of hours’ hike to the Quarry rock, which was a nice look out from the beautiful forest where the trees are so big and old. The forest was different from Finland. It was very bright and green, and there was a lot of ferns and moss growing.

We enjoyed Vancouver. It seemed to be a good place to live, kind of like Sydney in that way. I would like to go back and explore more of the archipelago around Vancouver, maybe take a plane with pontoons. Apparently there are quite interesting communities in these hidden coves, which can’t be reached by cars.. Oh and I’m sure one wouldn’t need to go far to do some good fishing. And then of course there is the Whistler mountain, which we didn’t have time to visit this time. But we did a lot of great stuff with the time we had, definitely!

Arrived in Vancouver Indigenous totem poles at Stanley park The Hollow tree at Stanley park. Here people have been taking pictures with their vehicle parked inside the tree for decades already. We continued the tradition. Breakfast at Honey Donuts and Goodies fuelled us for kayaking and hiking in Deep Cove Kayaking at Deep Cove was great fun! Hiking through the bright and spacious forest in Deep Cove. This would be amazing for mountainbiking! On top of Quarry rock in Deep Cove. Vancouver at the back. Beer tasting in Deep Cove style Coastal walk at the North shore of Vancouver together with my wife and her friend Sarah. Lion's gate bridge and Stanley park at the back. Found this on the beach At Cypress Mountain viewpoint with my wife and Sarah. Vancouver at the back Fireboat putting up its own show before the fireworks Fireworks spectacle by team South Korea in English Bay, Vancouver Some natural swimming pools in Lynn Canyon Picnic lunch at Rice lake with wife and Sarah At Lynn Canyon  Ice cream with my wife and Sarah. I had salty liquorice (salmiakki) and mint chocolate chip cookie dough flavours