ARGH! In no time of my life have I written as many words.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Waterton Lakes National Park
White Mud Park
Canada Day Celebrations
Lazy Days in Edmonton
You would think we would be safe from the weather
Dammit! I thought the last epic would be the only epic!
Francine and Peter have two house cats, Skippy and Buddy. Both Buddy the black, and Skippy the white have long hair, therefore you will always see cat hairs on your clothes, no matter what colour you wear. Both cats are confined to indoors, except for when someone can watch over them in the front yard. Therefore, they have a few quirks.
Buddy always wants to go outside, yet when he is, he just sits there, scared of everything (this was due to an altercation with a leash and a crazy deck-chair). Otherwise he is just a cute, cuddly, fluffy-wuffy black cat of cuteness.
Skippy is the psycho one. Skippy is the cat on which that proverb is based on. If it moves, he pounces on it. If it looks anything like a nook or cranny, he is trying to get inside it. You leave the bathroom door open while your showering or doing other stuff, Skippy will join you. And don’t even think of sleeping if you leave your bedroom door open, because toes and noses are a favorite plaything for Skippy.
Oh yea, if Skippy isn’t doing and pouncing or investigating, he is chasing Buddy around the house at 150 kph upside-down on the ceiling. While you sit on the couch watching TV, Buddy, then Skippy use your head or shoulders as a launching platform to land on the opposite wall, jump off, do a half-turn back flip and land on someone’s crotch, before disappearing down the hallway. Whew.
On the weekend of the 16th Francine and Peter took us to Waterton Lakes National Park, via some interesting landmarks.
A few million years ago, there was this really big glacier in the Rocky Mountains that covered quite a bit of the Alberta planes. It retreated dumping big rocks (glacial erratics) in the middle of the flat planes, and all the melted water carved a big canyon, now called the “bad lands” (as in a bad place to cross).
In carving this canyon, lots of layers of sediment was exposed. Which was lucky, cos there was quite a lot of dinosaur skeletons to be found!
We went to Drumheller (in the badlands) and visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (dino museum!).
Saw lots of dinosaurs, took some photos. Learnt some stuff. The Museum costs CAN$ 7.50, but its well worth it. It has some interactive exhibits, and more than enough information (I got saturated after going through 45% of the museum).
Outside there are a few walks. Most of the ground is rocks and a brown-red clay colour, with little to no plant life (being a desert and all). On the walk we found a fossilised tree. Its bark was intact, but its pulp had been replaced by crystals over the few million years. Cool.
Back from our walk, and of all the things to see, we see a cute little bunny rabbit. Weird.
I thought Hoodoo Gurus was just a silly name of a band, but after going to Drumheller, I now know different.
As you might or might not know, for the quest for spiritual enlightenment, some people went to far, deserted places to contemplate. After a while these people were sought out as spiritual experts, or Spiritual “Gurus”. That explains the Guru bit.
A popular place for the Gurus to go were the deserts. Sparsely populated, the Guru would have little to distract them. So, what is a hoodoo?
Over the years, different layers of sediment form. In the badlands there are layers of rock, sandstone, ironstone, clay, and other stuff.
When there is a rock on top of some sandstone, it protects the sandstone from erosion caused by the elements (rock hard, sandstone soft). Over time, erosion carves around the rock, leaving a sandstone tower topped with some rock. This is a Hoodoo.
\_________/ <- Rock(s)
| | <- Sandstone (eroded away)
=========== <- The ground
Coyote liked to topple off these rocks to crush a certain bird in those roadrunner cartoons. However, they were also favored placed for Gurus to sit while they meditate. Therefore they were called "Hoodoo Gurus". TADA!
Unfortunately, it was dusk when we took a photo, and the flash wasn’t strong enough to get the picture
We then drove to Calgary and stayed the night.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
The next day, Francine, Peter, Geri and I went to the Waterton Lakes National Park. But before we got there we visited a place called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which I’ll refer to as HSIBJ from now one, cos its too damn hard to type.
Before firearms and horses, the planes Indians fed on buffalo and foraged goods. When certain conditions existed, the Indians would chase a herd of buffalo off a cliff, so they would fall to their death. They would then butcher them and collect the meat and bones and stuff for food and equipment. At times they would kill a heard of 100 or more.
HSIBJ had an Interpretive center (most American and Canadian landmarks have a center where you can learn about the landmark and buy souvenirs and stuff). It also had cat sized squirrels called Marmots. They were fat and lazy, sunning themselves on the rock of the cliff-top. In addition there were cliff swallows, which build nests on the underside of rock outcrops out of stick, mud and saliva. It was quite cool.
You also learn about the impact of the stupid white man on this 1000 year old tradition. White man came and shot the buffalo for game, and managed to pretty much wipe out the entire buffalo population in 10 years or so. I bet the Indians were pissed!
Oh, We also passed a Teepee, so we took a photo for Helen.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Before we went into the actual park, we went through a fenced buffalo safari park type drive through. We got really close to some buffalo, took some photos. However it wasn’t all good clean fun at one point a buffalo decided to relieve their bowels. EWWWWW GROSS! But at the same time, strangely fascinating. The body (buffalo or otherwise) is an amazing invention!
Red rock creek gets its name because the creek is surrounded by, you guessed it, red rocks! Got some cool photos and then decided to go for a walk. We were a bit on edge because Peter bumped into someone he knew from college (waitress, hehe, too much time at the local pub eh Peter?), who said they saw a bear on the trail we were about to take. We all grabbed a bear stick (pfft, like that will stop one), and made noises all along the trip. I was told to quit that annoying whistling within 45 seconds
Saw some more beautiful falls, and no bears. Saw a Coyote on the way back. Oh yea, we also saw a moose (except me, too busy putting my shoes one) on the way to red rock creek.
We then drove to the Waterton Lakes township and checked into a hotel just across from a HI (YHA) hostel. (Geri was sure she saw a deer in someone’s back yard. Yea, whatever)
Walking to dinner we saw a big-horn sheep walking down the main road of the township. For some reason Geri spotting a deer in someone’s backyard sounded a little more believable now. Looked at the sky, didn’t recognize any of the constellations.
The next morning there were two deer laying on the grass by the church across the road from us. Geri got some photos of her with the deer. We then packed up and went for breakfast. Next stop, Cameron Lake.
Cameron Lake is on the US-Canadian boarder. It is also a popular place to come across Grizzly Bears (eek). There was a deer roaming around the car-park, however the thing we noticed first were the Stella-jays. These shiny blue birds look just like the blue-jay, however there colours are a much brighter and shiner blue.
While taking photos of the jays, some silly couple decided to take their dog for a walk. Beside the fact that taking dogs for walks in bear country is a dumb thing to do, taking the dog for a walk when there is a deer in plain sight is just … stupid! The dog started barking, the deer got defensive, and started to charge the dog. The girlfriend had to keep fending off the deer with a big stick. All the while everyone around the lake was watching this display. Cripes how I hate stupid people! Eventually the couple got the idea and took the dog back to the car, while the deer ran off into the woods.
Behind the lake is Mount Custer. Snow covered, it reflects in the glassy lake to make a beautiful photo opportunity. Anyway, we grabbed some bear sticks again, and went for the walk alongside the lake edge (shutup with the infernal whistling Richard!). The walk ends about 100m before the US boarder, due to the fact that the grounds around the lake are a popular bear foraging ground.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! BEARS! RUN! ……..
hehe, just joking. IT WAS A JOKE! Sheesh. No bears to be seen, we walked back had some lunch, then started the drive back home. You can hire both single and double canoes to explore the lake for only CAN$18 (I think).
On the way back we stopped off at the Oakatoke Glacial Erratic. This big rock (~18×18x9m) is in the middle of the planes of Alberta. Damn Glaciers! The field it was in was swarming with Ground Squirrels, living in their little burrows. Just as annoying to farmers as rabbits I would assume.
White Mud Park
About 50 (or 15 minutes rollerblade + 5 min walk) minutes walk from Francine’s house is Whitemud park. This is a stream surrounded with bush and trees, and a haven for all sorts of cool creatures. Geri and I have been there a few times, and the last trip we took we brought the camera with us. Beside the bright greens of the deciduous Poplar and Birches there were plenty of critters posing to get there photos taken. Red Squirrels, Least Chipmunks liked to hang around a lookout, where people like to feed them seed and so forth. We got some very style-ee close-ups.
While walking through the poplar forest bit of the walk, we passed an old couple, one of them asked
“Forgive me if I’m wrong, but are you two from New Zealand?”
Geri and I were shocked, until we remembered that my day-pack has the New Zealand flag on it. Anyway, we got chatting, exchanged stories, and so forth. Art and Effie Hobden were a retired couple who had done lots of traveling around Canada, had experienced a hungry bear attack (Grizzlies are bigger than black bear, and when they have been spoiled by human feeding, can get quite over-zealous when they see a car).
Tip: Don’t turn off the engine when stopping to look at bears, and definitely do not break down when a bear is climbing onto, and rocking your car.
Art noticed that Geraldine was admiring his walking stick. He then surprised us both by offering the stick to Geri to keep! After saying “are you sure?” 1000 times, Geri accepted the gift with much thanks and praise. Now Geraldine has a nice dole stick with a screw on the end (to prevent slipping, and to ward off killer dogs)
Art and Effie had lived in Edmonton for quite a few years, and were quite shocked to hear that we were going to photograph some beavers that were on the river. They said that beavers are quite a rare sighting, and are mostly nocturnal. Well, Geri and I have already seen beavers the last two times we had been at White Mud. Well, we walked to the “beaver place” and lo and behold, BEAVERS!
At first we couldn’t see any, but then eagle-eye Geri spotted on moving on the river bank 100m away. So I walked off path alongside the river and took a photo. Geri also spotted a muskrat (a Vole with similar habits as the beaver) so I took a photo of that as well. Unfortunately it was and over cast day, and I was at full zoom, therefore my shakiness blurred the photos somewhat. Hehe, no matter – we can always come back for more.
We spent most of the days in Edmonton going to parks or visiting landmarks. However we were most surprised when Francine said that she is going to Washington DC for a work trade show, and that she can TAKE US WITH HER!
We arrived at night, which is cool, because all the landmarks are in lights. We got a ride with an Afghan Taxi Driver to our hotel, the HILTON Garden Inn. We couldn’t help not to see the Washington Monument all lit up with lights (big concrete spike).
Next day we went to The Mall and had a look around. The Mall is a big park in the middle of Washington with all the famous monuments in it. It has the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, The reflecting pools ‘Forrest! Forrest!’
The Vietnam memorial, that wall with all the names of the dead on it. Capitol Hill (i.e. Parliament Building) and plenty of Red Squirrels.
Did I mention it was hot. 83, with a due-point of 74 (29 degrees C, 90% Humidity). Oh yea, the water tasted like pool-water. Remembering of course, that fast food joints make their drinks using the local water…
On day two of our little vacation we walked to the US Capitol. Of all the things to see in Washington, we bump into two Canadian Mounties!
They were there to promote Canada day (which unfortunately lies 3 days before independence day) at the Canadian Embassy. We got our photos taken and continued our walk along Pennsylvania Ave. Spotted the FBI building that was meant to have been blown up in Arlington Rd, and took some more photos.
Finally got to the US Capitol. Lined up for the self guided tour (15 people every 5 minutes, guided is 40 people every 30 minutes). We walked around the building, saw lots of cool architecture and art and stuff. I then decided I wanted to see the Senate and House of representatives in session (god knows why, we all know how boring politicians are to watch). Anyway, after 5 minutes of the Representatives, and Geri was clinically brain dead. So I dragged her out, and took her to the senate for more torture.
“I know only the boring get bored, but they are so boring they are boring ME”
Everyone in the public gallery was looking at something, apparently some Kennedys are still alive. Pity I dunno what one looks like, so I had no idea which one of the senators was senator Kennedy.
Three is the charm. Boy, was it ever?! We went to the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave.) and saw the President. Took a photo, and then went on our merry way. We then took Francine to the Lincoln Memorial, after which we parted ways, she went back to the hotel to do some work, and we started our trek to Virginia.
Once in Virginia we visited Arlington National Cemetery. We visited the Graves of JFK and the Kennedys, and the Challenger Space Shuttle victims. Also of note was the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown solider. Symbolising the 21 gun salute, a solider will watch the grave for 21 seconds, turn, wait 21 seconds, do 21 paces over 21 seconds, turn, watch the grave for 21 seconds, turn, wait 21 seconds, do 21 paces, etc. After 30 minutes the guard will be changed with military precision. An additional bonus was that during the changing of the guard, silence was mandatory, its quite nice when Americans shut up for a while. The Vigil and Changing of the Guard has been happening for so long now, that the marble has black stains where the solider makes their paces.
After the trek back to Washington DC we visited the Korean war memorial before heading back to the hotel.
EARLY. In order to go for a tour through the White House, you have to have a ticket (free). In order to get a ticket you have to go to the White House Visitor Information Centre. Unfortunately there are a limited amount of tickets, and they go fast(1000).
We left our hotel at 6am in the morning, and got to the ticket place at 6:05. There were at least 200 people already lined up! I believe the first guy got there at 4am in the morning! They had some staff organising the queue. One in particular (60+ year old black man in a suit) yelled at people when they stepped out of line onto the footpath. ‘Twas funny (”GEEERORFF DA SIDEWAALLK BOOYEEE”). Anyway, the line was stopped after 6:30am, because the daily quota of people had been filled, therefore everyone arriving after then were turned back.
We waited till 7:30am for the ticket place to open, and then waited another half hour to get our tickets. As we basically left the hotel as soon as the alarm clock rang, we were itching to get back and have a shower as we were feeling quite stinky.
Come 11:45am we Francine, Geri and I left the hotel for our 12pm tour. We arrive at the meeting place and wait half an hour to actually start walking to the White House. Into the east wing, past the X-ray machine we walked. The Library, Vermeil Room, China Room, East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, State Dining Room, Entrance and Cross Halls we walked. Unable to take photos inside we took some close up photos just outside the front entrance. And with that our visit to Washington DC was over.
A quick taxi to the Airport, a lost chance to photograph the Pentagon, and a 3 hour wait in the executive lounge (free drinks, booze and food, thanks Francine!) and we were off to Toronto!
For those who haven’t seen “Forrest Gump”, it was one of the reflecting pools that Jenny wades into yelling “Forrest!” to get Forrest’s attention at the anti-war rally in Washington DC.
If you want to see the falls, see them from Canada!
We arrived in Toronto and headed straight to the hotel. Geri and I got comfy, while Francine had to leave again to meet Peter, who was flying in from Edmonton, and was due to arrive at 11pm. The next day we got a rental car, and left for the hours drive to Niagara Falls, wooop!
There are two falls, the American Falls, and the more famous Canadian Horseshoe falls. Photos Galore! There is also an old scowl stuck before the Horseshoe falls. Interesting story about that. It broke loose in 1918, the two guys on it opened the bay doors so it would run aground. The then spent a night just 100m away from the falls before being rescued the next day. They were saved by a rope fired from the roof of the power station on the side of the river. Cool eh?
Did I mention it was bloody hot, it was 30 degrees again and humid to boot.
We did the next thing that you MUST DO when visiting Niagara Falls, and that is to take a trip on the Maid of the Mist ($CAN 10.25, no CC, travelers cheques accepted). You get a free blue plastic raincoat with hood, and boy, do you need it.
TIP: ALWAYS use lens filters for your Camera lens. They cost $NZ 30, and are easier to replace than a $300 camera lens.
FREE SHOWERS! Everyone was yelling and cheering, which was weird considering they were being drenched head to toe with mist from the falls. The view from the boat of the horseshoe falls was beyond comprehension, and by all meanings of the word, AWESOME! I Tried to get a photo, but by the time I pulled my Camera from pointing down to pointing at the falls, then lens was completely covered in water. Bah!
No doubt the highlight of the trip, if you go to Niagara, you go on the maid, period!
Geri and I grabbed a Maple Leaf to press in our diaries.
Thought: Is Viagara a combination of Niagara and virility? It would make sense, all the power of the falls mixed in with lost virility. Hmmmm.
Before going back to Toronto we stopped off at the Whirlpool and ‘Niagara on the Lake’ township. The Whirlpool is a whirlpool in the direct meaning of the word: A pool with whirling water. While the township was a nice tourist trap, with old fashioned buildings and outrageous prices. The only saving grace of the township was the fact that it was cherry picking season. Mmmm, big fat cherries.
We then headed back to Toronto to catch the Canada Day Fireworks displays.
Canada Day Celebrations
Being July the first, it was Canada day. At this point I became envious of Canadians. All around me, I see kids with the Canadian flag painted on their face, in Niagara there were kids cycling down the road with a big Canadian flag blowing in the wind, soliciting toots from passing cars. People having barbies and generally feeling good about being Canadian. I have never seen this sort of national pride about being a New Zealander, sure we might celebrate a sporting achievement, but that’s the closest we get to national pride. No-one is proud of just being a Kiwi. Bah.
Enough rambling. Francine rang up a guy who she met on the Edmonton-Toronto flight. He offered to take us out on one of his boats during the fireworks display. We got into Downtown Toronto just in time for the fireworks celebration, and to be stuck in a big Canada Day Celebration Traffic Jam.
20 minutes later, we met up with Francine’s friend who was organising parking for the yacht club which just happened to be in downtown Toronto, for some reason he didn’t expect it to be so busy on Canada Day, hehe.
Halfway through the fireworks at 11pm, Francine’s friend got us all onto a yacht, and we motored into the harbour for an uninterrupted view of the last of the fireworks. Ooooooh, aaaaaaah.
After 15 minutes of skippy sitting on my hands while I write this, hehe.
After 15 minutes of the last of SLKIPPYGEORRF!
After the last of the fireworks finished, we motored back into the marina dock and walked to a local bar. SKIPPY! QUIT LICKING MY HAIR!
Francine and her friend got two jugs of beer. MMM BEER! First beer in over a month. It was nice. Geri and I played a bad game of darts before
Fancine’s friend disappeared and we all retired back to the hotel.
Ever had a bad travel day, you know, when you go to all the wrong places and miss out on all the good deals. Well, that happened to us the next day.
We went back to downtown Toronto to have a mosey. Francine and Peter decided to go up the CN tower ($18 or $35 with a breakfast) Geri and I were a little low on money, so we decided to pass.
ARGH! BAD LUCK! We later found out that with our YHA cards we could have got 50% off the price, and that the CN tower is the largest free-standing tower in the world. Ahhh #*@!.
Geri and I decided to visit the Kensington markets. Initially we walked the wrong way and ended up at the waterfront. That wasn’t all bad, because it was quite nice there. You could get a return fare to Toronto Island for only $CAN 5, but we passed because we wouldn’t have enough time to do that and go to the markets.
Being quite hungry (and poor) we grabbed a hot-dog to share between us for $CAN 2.50
ARGH! BAD LUCK! Just 100m down the road was another hot-dog stall selling the same thing for just $2. Bah. That and the fact that Quad Sausages sell for only $NZ 1 back home. Ahhh #*@!.
We then found a food stall selling all sorts of foods. We decided on sharing a plate of Indian food with some chicken curry. Mmmmm, yum. All full again we set off for our walk to the markets. Many a time we were tempted to take a tram ride, but we decided we needed the exercise.
All of a sudden we were in the middle of road to store wall of Chinese people drinking coconut milk from coconuts. Consulting our not to scale map we found out that just before the markets there was China Town. Eek. Shuffling through the crowds we finally made it completely past where the Kensington Markets should have been. MAP! Oh, its actually down a side street, cool. Had a look round, nothing much to rave about, just a few alternative cloths shops and craft stores. It was now 4pm, and we had to walk the hours walk back to the car to meet Francine and Peter.
Oh yea, there was a block of Fur shops on the way to the markets. Weird. Sort of had a corrupt dirty dodgy feel to it.
An hour later we got back to the car park to meet Francine and Peter. They apoligised for not making clear how far away the markets were, and then told us that they wanted to go there so they could get some stuff.
AAAAAARG! WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE SAID THAT _BEFORE_ WE WENT! &$#^%ing #^%@# #$%ed #%@er! We pretty much spent all day walking to and from those markets. We could have done something else, like go to the island or something, bah!
Did I mention it was bloody hot (again), 30 degrees and humid to boot.
We went back to the markets and Francine brought some marble carved bookends. While Geri and I make a wise $2 investment on some fold out fans. We then hopped back into the car and drove back to the hotel.
No NO NOOOO! Looking on Francine’s and Peters map we found out that we actually never made it to Kensington markets. That we missed out seeing them by 1 block. ARGH BAD LUCK! ^#*%! What a waste of a day. ^&^$!
The next morning we caught the flight back home. Wow, what a cool holiday.
Note: If you are going to Toronto do the following:
1) Visit the Island (CAN $5 return ferry)
2) Visit Casa Loma (Castle built in romantic 17th Centery styles, with lots of catacombs and underground tunnels)
3) Actually make it to the Kensington Markets
4) Visit China Town
5) Go up the CN tower with a YHA/HI card (CAN $9)
Lazy Days in Edmonton
The Summer festivals have started. The first one we went to was the street performers festival. The sort of acts you saw in the Cup Village during the Americas Cup. Juggling, stilt walking, magic and public embarrassment were the tools of the performer.
Alberta has its own Government, and Edmonton is the Capital. The Legislator building is the place were the stuff happens. We went for a free tour and saw all the history and cool stuff. However one thing stood out. There is a fountain in the Foyer of the building. On the third floor there is a spot, that because of an acoustic anomaly, exhibits strange characteristics. If you stand in this spot, it sounds like you are having a dry shower, move 2cm either way, and all you hear are the echoes of the fountain downstairs. Very cool.
For a town of 500,000 Edmonton certainly has cooler stuff than Auckland. The town hall is a big glass pyramid (it was built over the old town hall and finished in 1992 for a total cost of $20 million, 1% of which was spent on the art to decorate the building). The Council chambers has a retractable roof to let the natural light in, how cool is that?
Out the front of the town hall is a fountain pool. When we were there, it was full of people bathing and playing in the fountains that sprayed inwards from the sides of the pool. Apparently it doubles as a public ice rink in winter. Yet again, cool.
You would think we would be safe from the weather
Unfortunately all this hot humid weather is not a good thing. A Cold front came over on top of the hot humid air and caused lighting storms, and more ominously, tornado funnels.
We were driving back home one day after working on the sections when we hear about a funnel touching town creating a tornado! Luckily for us it touched down in Red Deer, 150km south of Edmonton. Unfortunately for them, it touched down in the middle of a trailer park, killing 10 people, and injuring over 500. Summer isn’t so great when you live in fear of tornadoes.
Dammit! I thought the last epic would be the only epic.
Well, that’s all folks. You should be up to date with our exploits to date. I have written over 5000 words, and typed for over 12 hours doing this epic, and I’m not going do it again!
Have fun using this to put you to sleep.
-Richard ‘Jodi/Max’ Maxwell
Ps. Thanks to Geri for proofing and adding the odd snippet/correction.