Final Day- Calgary

Greetings from our last hotel in Canada on our final day. Calagary has been the last leg of our journey and we’ve had some of our most chilled out days here... and what must count as one of our most terrifying adventures ever!

 Some might have remembered that this is where we were to have hired a car to go zipping around the countryside. Well, we did hire a car. For an hour.
The city of Calgary is a lot bigger than either of us imagined- filled with confusing one way streets, construction everywhere not to mention the fact that everyone drives on the wrong bloody side of the road! So this little adventure falls straight into the catagories of What the Hell Were We Thinking and Know Your Limitations.
Starting the car proved a challenge. I’d broken out into a sweat before I’d even turned on the ignition and had to call some guy from the parking area to help. Reversing the car was the next hitch (it’s been almost a decade since I’d driven an automatic!)and by the time we’d pulled/jerked/shuddered up to the rental kiosk to check out my legs were like jelly, my heart was in my throat and my head was saying ‘I should NOT be doing this’. As with all airports, the maze of exit roads were impossible to make sense of...it was a case of pick one and try to move the car forward as if you know where you’re going. We had a map but nowhere to pull to the side to actually use it! Plus this map reading stuff is not what Valerie and Leanne do best.
We stop a local, we chat, we talk about the World Cup soccer and eventually we’ll get a set of directions that appeals to us the best.
 Long story short- we drive into into An Accident Scene ...or what one of the three Very Pissed Off police officers called A Crime Scene!!! Shock horror! When they finally decided not to ARREST US they told us to bugger off.
We did. I pulled into a garage and burst into tears and twenty minutes later the car keys were back in the hands of a very confused Alamo employee.

It turns out that there’s free transport running through the length of the city of Calgary and plenty to see and do here so we really didn’t need to worry about hiring a car after all. Our remaining days here have been warm and summery (at last!) and we’ve sat in the sun soaking up the atmosphere, sampled the local beer, walked lots and eaten, for the most part, great junk food.

It’s been an unforgettable two weeks. The sights and sounds, the people we’ve met and the precious time we’ve spent together. The memories will live on for a long time to come.

Thanks mom!


Day 9- sensory overload

Five am Lake Louise photoshoot.....f#@*ing thrilling.
Glacier walk...f#@*ing freezing.
 Lunch at a horse ranch. ..f#@*ing scrumptious. Steaks to die for.
Twenty minute helicopter flight over glaciers and pine trees the size of paintbrushes....f#@*ing awesome!!!!
Two black bears (honeymooners, apparently) nonchalantly munching dandelions alongside the road....the cherry on top of an unbelievable day.
People, save every bloody rand, cent, penny...whatever, and get yourself on a Rocky Mountaineer tour. We're nearing the end of ours and will be heading for Calgary tomorrow ...after another cable car (gondola) and helicopter ride. I'm trying not to let the prospect of driving on the wrong side of the road freak me out too much...I've been able to get the feel of it (as much as one can sitting on a tour bus) and I'm pretty sure it can't be more hairy than sitting NEXT TO THE PILOT in the front of the helicopter!!!!! What a rush.

It'll be so sad to say goodbye to this gorgeous country.

Cheers for now, eh? 

PS- still no mountie.


Day 8 -Lake Louise

Too moeg today to write lots. 
 Pics are all SOC (straight out of camera) which, frankly, I'm hating as I'm really dying to tweak the light and contrast a bit in Lightroom. Trying to leave my best pics for later.

This is where we saw another bear here(far up the mountain, but we'll take it), lots of mule deers (long floppy ears) and apparently the impressive horned thing we saw next to the train what seems an eon ago was actually an elk, not a caribou. The bears come down to the roadside this time of the year to eat dandelions. They've also learned to walk along the railroad track eating the grain that's fallen off the cargo trains. We've heard some amazing bear tales on our trip - fascinating creatures.
 We're really getting into the routine now...new hotel rituals include checking out the fancy soaps,  the coffee machine and the smoke break spots for mom. Sometimes she's been able to open the window and smoke through the crack, carefully tapping the ash into a held tissue. I kid you not. She's sworn to kill me if I attempt to take a photo of this not-so-elegant-but-oh-so-rebellious deed.. The last few hotels have had a wire mesh covering the opening so she's had to skulk around the nearest entrance for her fix. And of course, the daily washing of 'smalls'- I no longer worry about what hotel staff might think of the state of my undies. I can't hang around to explain to them that Max, when he was a kitten enjoyed chewing the elastic on my bra straps.
I'm missing my kitties. 

 Here we are at the incredibly ostentatious, fake Swiss Chateau-style hotel at the Fairmont Lake Louise. No shortage of monied people here. It's gorgeous though.

After taking a walk around one side of the lake we sat in a secluded wing (thanks to the lady at the President's Club desk for the tip-off) at the end of the hotel far from the tourists and just soaked up the view for a bit.

Cheers for now :)


Ridin' the Rocky Mountaineer

Greetings from yet another hotel in Canada. We're no longer in British Columbia, the Rocky Mountaineer having brought us through two stunning days worth of jawdropping scenery into Alberta and the gorgeous town of Banff.
Today's hotel, The Caribou Lodge and Spa has trendy green walls and a fake caribou head in the bathroom very useful for...wait, let me show you quickly.
 So this is us on the train. We were given these little pins to wear- a red maple leaf to distinguish us from the posh gold leaf passengers in the double decker coaches at the back. We later heard that our food was wayyy better than the gold leaf's....go us!

We had a little rain on the first day but it didn't spoil it much. I struggled a bit to get the right settings on the camera...and the views obviously weren't as stunning as they could have been but the atmosphere was amazing. Down below rivers raged and boiled ferociously and it's incredible to think that hundreds of years ago intrepid map makers were trying to explore this land in little canoes. Our guide in our cabin had so many stories to tell about these pioneers of early British Columbia which made it made it all the more real. Day one on the train was the day of the canyons. As we climbed higher and higher the terrain started to look more and more like parts of the Karoo.
Day two is known as the lakes part of the journey...and oh, my.....how beautiful it was!
The Shuswap Lake is so big it took us about an hour and a half to wind our way around one side of it and all along the banks we could see holiday homes, campsites and house boats...all empty and quiet,  just waiting for the summer holidays to begin. It was magical.

As we wound our way along spiral tunnels (trully amazing engineering) everyone kept a beady eye open for bears..or anything that had legs, basically. Someone would shout out BEAR ON THE LEFT! And all would scramble. We did see bears...twice! And a caribou who just happened to be munching on some greens where the train had to stop for 10 minutes. Just as the caribou meandered off an otter swam past. Woohoo!
The Rockies are surpringly marshy and the pools of water are this incredible milky blue colour...something to do with the minerals from the glaciers. Will have to try and get some photos at some stage.
So we've spent the day in Banff, a gorgeous little town nestled at the top of the Rockies....it's filled with hotels (all in that ski resort stone lodge style), slacker ski-bum types on their skateboards and fit-looking mommies towing baby's prams behind their bikes. I could live here too.
Tomorrow we're heading for Lake Louise. It's another stay at a Fairmont Hotel but this time I'll be using my Presidents Club membership to get me some free internet. Hah!
Pretty fancy looking hotel, huh?
Until then, cheers everyone.


Day 6- Kamloops

The last two days have been silent because although we were in an incredibly larney and a touch intimidating hotel (the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver....) they did not offer free internet access!!! Shock horror!! Imagine my joy when I found that our lowly little hotel  in the middle of Kamloops has rather speedy wireless!
Our last day in Vancouver was spent up in the lush mountains - walking along the Capilano suspension bridge and going up Grouse Mountain. This was where many of the events for the winter Olympics were held. All these snow mobile type things sitting up there in the mist just begging for someone to pose on them.

Today we took the Rocky Mountaineer through the most beautiful mountain passes and river canyons to Kamloops. The weather wasn't that great but it hardly detracted from the experience. We've seen lots of huge eagles and ospreys - still hoping to spot a bear!

We're off at sparrow's fart tomorrow for Banff where we'll be staying for two days so hopefully will have more time to post something decent.
 On the ferry back to Vancouver....man, I love that city. I want my holiday home there when they've invented teleportation.

Cheers for now!


Day 3- Vancouver.....

Also known as the day we walked ourselves stukkend.

 The buildings are a wonderful mix of grunge and modern sophistication - old brick side by side with blue-tinted glass scultures. Parts are pretty rundown but I love that old tenement look- so different to the buildings back home. Why, oh why did they have to tear down so many of Cape Town's old buildings?

Wait! A shebeen!? Soccer!? 

The arrows led to a pub filled to the brim with English supporters singing with typical fervor ten minutes before the match was due to start. Goosebumps moment. We spent the morning in historic Gastown, not too far from our hotel and then made our way across the city to Granville Island Market. 
Loved these two guys- the geek pal was downloading music. 

Ack! Must dash!!!Gotta check out of this hotel and do the mad wheely suitcase dash across the city to our next hotel. 
Cheers for now :)


Day 2- Vancouver

Well, we're here. After 32 hours of flying or sitting in airports we're seeing the city through somewhat glazed eyes but it looks very Canadian. Logs floating in the harbour! Woot!
Two 9/10 hour flights one after the other leaves one feeling a bit silly but we've met some super people so far...all asking what we're doing here instead of staying home with all the World Cup celebrations. The vuvuzela was in all the Brit papers and today featured on the local Vancouver news as well. The announcer guy did say that they'd had the 'plastic horn' at their hockey matches for ages though. Huh! Doesn't he know it was never going to make any lasting impression with the name 'plastic horn'!?

Pics to follow when I can keep my eyes open


Day 1- hello heathrow

Mom and I are sitting under the BA lounge (sneakily using the larneys free wi-fi) next to aWHsmith killing time. We had a bit of a bumpy ride =lots of turbulance and of course, I didn't get much sleep at all. We weren't that impressed with BA actually- sour-faced cabin crew and no warm lemony face cloths this morning!! Are they doing budget cuts or what? We had a bit of an experience entering the international connections lounge/area..going through the madness that is the security check!!!!! OMG!!! Mom very wisely put her bracelets in a plastic bag and sent them through the detector (EVERYTHING has to go through them in plastic trays) I left mine on. Bad move. Just ahead was a moslem lady who was being scrutinsed and her hubby was starting some kind of International Incident by accusing everyone of prejudice when I walked through... and set off the alarms. So there I stood security guard stopped everything while I had to wait for a woman to come and search me (one already being involved in the drama with the moslems) very red-faced and awkward cause everything was held up. Eventually a woman came to wave the wand and boy- was she thorough!!!! Eish. We then dashed ( me red-faced and mother in full I-told-you-so mode) to the nearest coffee shop where we inhaled the most divine americano guarenteed to keep us awake for the next half of our journey. Bring on Vancouver!!
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in which we explore The Suitcase

I had a bit of a warm-up session today .
I opened the suitcase the cats had been gagging to explore and practised packing.
Some had more fun than others.
I realised I don’t have many T-shirts that don’t look like they’ve survived a hot summer (or two).
Hope the Canadians don’t mind.
The next blog will hopefully be posted on a continent far, far away....
Far. Away.
Like, a day's traveling (actually more) and nine hours behind SA time away.
Wish us luck peeps.
See you soon!

Seu Jorge & Almaz- 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine'


about packing...

I'm thinking about packing. A lot.
And about what I need to tell Heidi, the cat sitter.
Like how to work the temperamental washing machine.
And where to find my movie stash. And where to put the trash.
I'm also worrying about how I'm going to carry all my geeky tech stuff. 
Like the iPod, Kindle, Netbook, camera, external hard drive (for photo storage ,RAW files are HUGE) 
and I imagine I'll be worrying about them every step of the journey.
Traveling must have been far simpler in the days of sketchbooks and postcards.

So I guess you can say I'm more worried than excited at this point.

PS- Adding sketchbook to the To Pack list. Speaking of which, anyone who loves making lists
and mind maps would be fascinated by this online application. My mom and I have been using it to plan the trip and it's a-ma-zing!

Bird and the Bee - 'I can't go for that' (Hall and Oats cover)

Oh, and what the hell, I love this album so much here's another track...
'One on One' from "Interpreting the Masters volume 1: A tribute to Hall and Oates."