Friday, 31 October 2008

Our journey from Vancouver to Waterton Park.

We left Vancouver Tuesday morning with Moose Travel. They're a little more expensive than Greyhound, but are catered for backpackers, and do fun journeys, with stopovers and making friends and drinking. Our group was pretty small; Troy, our driver/guide, Elaine, Leah and Dylan (all from Australia), Simon from Scotland, and us. Tuesday we drove a very long way (around 600 kms). We stopped at Bridal Falls, a big cool waterfall, a town called Hope for lunch, before ending up at Shuswap Lake for the night. We kept getting to stuff that was shut for winter, but Troy took us in anyway ("The falls are closed but we'll drive straight through....there's a sign by the falls saying not to go any further, but you can just walk on straight round that...). Shuswap Lake was really pretty, although there's not much there. We walked down to the lake, and then were in the pub by 5.30, drinking and playing pool. It was a really "locals" kind of pub, but nice. We were all exhausted through, so after laughing at Dylan and Simon trying out the hot tub (it was cold) we went to bed.

Started early the next morning by going to another hostel for breakfast. The hostel rooms were in train cars, and the rest of the hostel was incredibly quirky, with armchairs that were old-fashioned hairdressing chairs, and and a landlady who cooked us amazing fruit pancakes. We kept on driving, stopping in a park for lunch (it was oddly cold here, the rest of the trip was pretty warm), visiting a natural bridge, driving into the rockies (and thus losing an hour) and finally arriving in Banff. It was dinner time by then, so we ate and then headed to the hostel pub. Where we got drunk in Canada for the first time. A very fun night though - one of the tour, Simon, is a really good singer and got up on stage to sing, and we danced and whooped a lot, chatted and drank, it was great.

The next morning, the rest of the tour carried on up to Jasper, and we had the day in Banff by ourselves before moving on to Calgary by Greyhound that evening. Man, Banff is beautiful. It looks like a model village. It's surrounded by the mountains (which were all snow-capped), and all the streets and buildings are just...perfect. There's no other way to describe it, I was just in shock all day. We wandered around, ate, and took a lot of photos. We walked up one of the hiking trails to Bow Falls, and some amazing views. It was lovely. Unfortunately, we had to leave at dinner time to catch the bus to Calgary for the last night of our Calgary.

We spent about 11 hours in Calgary, 6 of which we were asleep for. Some might say this is about the optimum time to be spent in Calgary. I don't know though - maybe it's a cool city, it's just a but underwhelming after Vancouver and the rockies. We went for dinner and went up the observation towel (Seamus and I do love a good observation tower), went back to the hostel to bed, and left at 6am the next morning to catch the bus to Pincher Creek. That was a boring drive. Everything between Calgary and Pincher Creek was just ranch-land; flat, yellow land with no people or buildings for miles. We got into Pincher Creek at 11-ish, where we were collected by Andrew, Kendra and Ashley, our new workmates at Waterton. We're now sitting in a hotel room at the park - our apartment's not ready until next week, so we're staying in a big, lovely room until then. More about Waterton soon...I'm tired...

Monday, 27 October 2008

Racoons and Canucks.

On Saturday, we went to Stanley Park again and we saw racoons! I was so excited. I could tell Seamus was very excited too, but he hid it well. The racoons were really tame, and walked right up to people (I was a bit scared of them because Seamus said they sometimes have rabies). It was really cool. We saw them swimming too.
Saturday night we went to the ice hockey game (Vancouver vs. Edmonton). It was even more exciting than seeing racoons. We drank very expensive beer and waved our little free flags, and shouted, and someone spilt his very expensive beer on my clothes. Canucks won, 6-3! I feel I am now a sportsfan. The stadium is huge and there were so many people all cheering and stuff...and I'm a sucker for...human emotion, and I was seduced by all the happiness and I loved it. Seamus liked it too, because he could talk to men about sports, which made a change for him because usually he just has to listen to me talking about squirrels. Speaking of Seamus, I know some people have expressed a wish for him to write his own entries on this blog, but since the most writing I can get him to do is sign his name on postcards, you're going to have to keep on waiting. I'm pretty sure he's having fun though.

Tonight's our last night in Vancouver! Tomorrow morning, we begin a three-day bus journey through Shuswap Lake, Banff, Calgary and Pincher Creek, all the way to Waterton Lakes National Parks (a journey of about 686 miles...). We'll arrive there Friday morning, and we'll stay til April/May hopefully. I'll write more once we get there.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Photos from UBC, Chinatown and Granville Island.

Some observations on Canada.

The last few days, we've been doing lots of "everyday" stuff; the kind of things you have to do when you live somewhere. Laundry and the like. And here's some weird things about Canada:

1)Seamus went to get his hair cut, and the hairdresser tried to trim his eyebrows. Is this a Canadian thing or a gay thing?

2)The banks here charge you to have an account. With the accounts we've opened, we're charged $4 a month, and for this we're "allowed" to make only fifteen transactions. After this, we get charged 50cents per transaction. Once we're in Waterton, it's not like we're going to have anywhere to spend money, so we should be ok, but this is still strange.

3)Mobile phones. OH MY GOD CANADA, SORT IT OUT. When every other country seems to have such straightforward mobile phone systems, I have no idea why Canada's remains so confusing. Pay-as-you-go is basically impossible because it's so expensive so, against our better judgements, we are now on contracts. We had to buy new phones because Canadian phones don't use sim cards (my new phone is pink....same as my old phone....). With our contract, we're "allowed" a certain amount of incoming minutes as long as we stay in the Alberta area. If we leave the Alberta area, we have to pay some stupid amount just to receive calls, let alone make them. If we move permanently outside of Alberta, we have to change our numbers as different areas have different phone codes. We have to pay 50cents a month as a sort of emergency-numbers-tax (just in case we need to call 911), plus system access fees, plus works out so expensive, and the fact is we're going to be living and working together and have no Canadian friends, so have these crazy contracts pretty much just for emergencies. I HATE THIS.

4)TAX. You think something's pretty cheap, then they go and slap a load of tax on once you get to the till. I feel this is deceit.

5)It's impossible just to walk into a bar and order your own drinks. Everything is table service. Meaning you have to tip.

6)"Eh!". And now I can't stop saying it either!

Despite these complaints, I am loving Canada and Vancouver more and more. I love the decent recycling system, and how everyone is so nice (probably because they're angling for tips but still), and how you can see mountains from pretty much everywhere, and how there's so much wildlife all over the place, but mainly I love Oreo ice-cream bars.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Money etc.

The last few days have been a bit fraught. Living in a hostel started to take its toll on me, especially because of the school party who were in all the bedrooms around us. We also had a bit of a money crisis, when the banks stopped letting us withdraw money and we have five dollars left and I cried. But we've pulled through the hard times, and today are going shopping...

Wednesday we went to the University of British Columbia, which is a really amazing campus. There's 50,000 students or something like that, and it's so huge compared with Kent Uni. From there, we walked down the Wreck Beach, which is "clothing optional". We opted for clothes, but lots of people didn't, it was supposed be 20 degrees and very sunny, but October still seems a little late for public nudity, especially now that there's snow on the mountains. Anyway, the beach was lovely. I have set myself a challenge for this year, well, less of a challenge, more of an opportunity to buy more clothes. The challenge is to buy university merchandise from every university town/city we visit. University of Victoria and BC are already checked off the list, and we're not due to hit another university town for about six months now, which is probably good for our finances. Seamus is very good about following me around university shops while I try and decide which jumper to get.

We had lunch on the campus, and walked around some more, before going to Pacific Spirit Regional Park, which adjoins to the university. It was not as good as when we went to the forest in the rain the other day, but still nice. So, lots of walking Wednesday. We went to the cinema in the evening to see How to lose friends and alienate people. It was....alright.

Yesterday we went to Chinatown, which is one of the largest in the world. So many supermarkets selling the same products, it's impossible to see how they all make money. We had a very cheap lunch in a chinese restaurant, and went to a chinese park. Today, we're going shopping for coats and other clothes. Thank god for credit cards! After today, we have three days left in Vancouver. I found it too busy when we first got here, but now I love it. We're trying to do as much stuff as possible in the next few days, since from next Friday we'll be out of civilisation for six months...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Photos from Victoria.

Photos from Victoria, October 18th-20th. More here -

Capilano Forest photos.

A few photos from my favourite day in Canada so far! More to be found on flickr -


On Saturday, we went to Victoria, a bus and ferry trip away on Vancouver Island. It's meant to be the retirement capital of Canada, and also the place with the most British-born citizens. It was so different from Vancouver, no high-rise apartments and skyscrapers and so quiet in general. It was really pretty. We got lucky with our hostel and had a six-bed dorm just for us the first night, and a nice quiet couple the second night. I really liked the hostel; right by the waterfront, really high ceilings and just generally a very chilled out place. On Saturday we walked to Beacon Hill Park, which is partly really well-kept, but also quite wild in places. We walked up the hill to see a view of the sea and what Seamus tells me was mountains in Washington. There was a peacock wandering around. He was cool.

The city's a bit touristy, and very British...lots of fish and chip shops, and souvenir shops specialising in irish/scottish/english gifts. I imagine it would be a lovely place to live, but unless you indulge in the expensive, supertouristy attractions (waxwork museum, undersea gardens etc), the nicest thing to do it just walk around. On Saturday evening we got some cider from the off license, it's this British Columbian cider called Growers and it's really good. So we drank some and played the North American Genus edition of Trivial Pursuit, difficult only for the high proportion of baseball-related questions. Seamus won, but barely.

On Sunday, we walked all the way round the waterfront, it was very cold but sunny. The best part was that we saw seals! We went to the harbour, and a guy had bought some fish from the market and was holding them out of the water, and this seal was jumping out and taking the fish from his hand. I loved it! We got kind of transfixed and had to stay there for ages watching. Man, seals are cute. There was a second one too, and they were doing puppy dog eyes at us to try and make us feed them. It was my favourite thing in Victoria.

On Monday, we went to the University of Victoria and walked around a big garden, and saw giant squirrels and wild rabbits which didn't look wild but were also very large. Seriously, animals are all huge here....the seagulls are bigger, I swear. Anyway, we came back Monday evening, and are now back in the same Vancouver hostel room. We're here for a week now. There's this massive school party at the moment here, and they are awful. So badly-behaved. I met a cute kid on the bus yesterday, we spent the journey making faces at each other, but these kids make me feel a little murderous. Today we're doing laundry, food shopping and hopefully setting up bank accounts. Photos of Victoria later!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Friday, 17 October 2008

Hiking in the rain!

Today it is raining in Vancouver. I also have a cold (for the first time since March 2007). I blame my mum for this, plus the boiling hot plane on Tuesday, plus the lack of sleep. Every morning so far, I wake up at around 3am, my body reluctant to let me sleep any later than mid-morning UK time. And because we've been so busy during the days, I am exhausted.

Today we went hiking! We went on a tour with the hostel, to Capilano suspension bridge and the rainforest around it. It was pouring with rain, so it was actually really cool, because we saw all this mist over the dam. We saw eagles, salmon jumping over the dams, and baby squirrels. Honestly, I'm in my element here, the amount of wildlife around. The walk was really good, we walked on the world's longest trail (it goes all along Canada). We didn't walk all of it though. We hiked up trails and it was slippy and difficult, but I didn't fall until we got back to the city centre, when I fell on my bum down some shopping centre steps. The suspension bridge was very cool, if a little Santa's grotto-esque.

Yesterday we went to sort our social security numbers. We went to the orientation for new BUNAC people and got completely confused by banks (they charge you to have an account) and mobiles (they charge you to receive calls). We have not yet made progress with either matter. Seamus also realised his visa (stapled into his passport) says he was born in Scotland. I realised how many people have trouble pronouncing 'Seamus'.

Tomorrow we're heading to Vancouver Island to stay in Victoria for a couple of days, then coming back to Vancouver for a week to wait for our social security numbers and see some more sights. On the 28th, we're taking a bus to Shuswap Lake, and staying there for a night, then continuing our bus journey onto Banff. Day after, we'll travel from Banff to Calgary, stay there about eleven hours, before finally arriving in Waterton Lakes National Park on 31st October. This will (hopefully) be where we remain until April. We have jobs for a hotel there, it looks really beautiful, and should have lots of snow and skiing and walking, we have an apartment there for while we're working. So if anyone wants to come stay in the middle of nowhere, you'd be welcome....there may be bears. Waterton Park is joined with Glacier Park, in Montana - the two meet at the US-Canada border, it's seen as a peace union thing.

Ok so we're going out for dinner soon. We ate at two great restaurants yesterday, so I'm hoping we find somewhere good tonight too.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


We're in our hostel room in Vancouver after a long day of walking. We walked all the way round the edge of Stanley Park (10kms) plus all over Downtown and Gastown and various other places. Flights etc were all fine yesterday. I know lots of people hate airline food, but I really like it, although I genuinely think vegetarian airline food is very good. There were also good entertainment on, but I fell asleep during most of it. Our hostel was fine, but my annoyingly-responsive body clock meant I woke up at 2am and couldn't get back to sleep, leaving me five hours to consider 1)if I should buy a Macbook (Seamus is selfish with the laptop! It is his laptop but still....) and 2)if Canada has Panda Express chains like the US does.

So today, we went to Stanley Park (it's lovely, and we saw eagles), the Lookout tower (this is a relationship habit, we just like going up observation towers whichever new city we're in), Gastown (mmmm touristy plus STEAM CLOCK!), a shopping mall (it's going to cost about 300 dollars each to get a decent winter coat), a diner apparently selling the best burgers in Vancouver (it's true, they were nice) and a Chinese cafe/art shop. It is bigger and busier than I originally thought, thank god for Stanley Park otherwise I'd be way out of my depth, I've been in the countryside too long. We tried to make a plan for the next couple of weeks to encompass various activities (we are trying to get to an ice hockey game before we go to Waterton), oh and we've decided on Waterton for work. Oh, and we found out it's really hard to get Canadian sim cards, it's so confusing and you have to pay for incoming calls, so really it's been a very full day, we are planning to go on a hostel outing to the pub this evening but Seamus is asleep and I am tired too, so I'm not sure yet. We had a beer earlier in the diner, and it wasn't very nice...I miss cider already.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Heathrow Terminal 5.

We fly to Vancouver in three hours. Goodbyes were not that emotional, I am very calm and not scared like I was when I went to Finland. The cat shit on me this morning when I was saying goodbye. Terminal 5 is lovely and new but Seamus says he won't like it until our luggage arrives safely in Canada. Bye xxxx

Monday, 13 October 2008

Leaving tomorrow.

I thought it might be easier to keep a blog while we're in Canada than write multiple emails, although I will still email too. We leave tomorrow, our flights at 1710 but we'll leave in the morning because we are the kind of people who are paranoid about missing flights. We are yet to pack, but have organised pretty much everything. As it stands, we have two job offers to go to, and hopefully we'll make up our minds once we get to Vancouver and see how hard it is to find our own accommodation. This is our very vague plan as it stands:

14th-18th Vancouver
18th-20th Victoria
20th-23rd Vancouver
-at which point we'll either be staying in Vancouver to work until April....or taking a very complicated bus/taxi journey to Waterton Park to work until April.
April until August - visit the following places: Banff, Thunder Bay, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa, whatever else we come across on the way. We fly home from Montreal on August 9th 2009. If anyone has any suggestions for places to visit and things to do, then please share....