DescrizioneOn Monday 8th May I flew to Vancouver in Canada, to be with my girlfriend, Paula. The beginning of a rather different kind of adventure! We lived in a nice apartment in the smart and trendy Kitsilano suburb of Vancouver. The beach was across the street with views of English Bay, downtown and the mountains in the distance. Being right next to Kitsilano Beach and only a ten minute bus ride in to downtown, we were in a perfect location. Kitsilano also had a good selection of cafes, restaurants and bars.
Our first trip in Canada took us up to the Rockies for a long weekend, 25th - 28th May. First we drove for about 5 hours to Kelowna in British Columbia, where I got to meet Paula's mother, sister and brother-in-law. From Kelowna we continued for a further 5 hours up into the Rockies and on to Field, BC, where we had reservations for the luxury Emerald Lake Lodge. Paula had won the stay at the lodge at a company golf tournament!
Emerald Lake was pristine and surrounded by evergreen trees and snow capped mountains. We checked into the rather comfy cabin and then went down to the lodge for a light supper. Afterwards we retired to the log fire in our cabin and indulged in some smoked oysters and a good bottle of red wine. Traveling can be tough! The next morning we enjoyed a very pleasant hike around the lake before beginning our return trip to Vancouver.
Our next trip was to the "Land of the Midnight Sun". On the weekend of the summer solstice we took a two and a half hour flight north to the city of Whitehorse. Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon province and is at a latitude 61 degrees, about the same as the Shetland Islands in the UK. In Whitehorse we picked up a rental car and began our drive north to the Canadian Arctic. First we drove for some 500km on the fast sealed and paved Klondike Highway up towards Dawson City. Just before Dawson City we filled up with gas and turned off onto the unsealed Dempster Highway that would take us to the Arctic Circle and beyond. "Completed in 1979, the Dempster Highway is the only highway in Canada that crosses the Arctic Circle. It affords the traveler a rare chance to see vast expanses of beautiful arctic tundra and striking mountain ranges"
Following a further 407 km drive along the spectacular dirt road we arrived at a small monument marking the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33' north. We continued a further 40km just to be sure! After a bit of searching we found a small dirt maintenance track which took us away from the road to a secluded little spot with a view. As we drove away from the road we came up behind a mother Moose with two calves. We approached very cautiously as Moose, especially the males, can be dangerous - they are big animals! The mother seemed surprisingly unperturbed by her new spectators and continued grazing with the calves. We were only 20m from the Moose family and we got to watch them for a good 5 minutes before the mother led the calves away.
It was 11.00pm and the sun was bright! Amongst our limited supplies we had a 6 pack of beer to help us pass the time to the true sun midnight of around 2.00am Vancouver time - sure enough the sun never went below the horizon - amazing! Having begun the day at 5.00am we were both exhausted and didn't have the energy to put up the tent so we bedded down in the car. We managed to get a good few hours sleep despite sleeping in the car in the broad day light.
Saturday we drove back south to the Klondike Highway and visited the historic gold mining town of Dawson city. Dawson was quite the frontier town with saloons, a casino, old time dance hall and a river paddle steamer. The city was built in the late 19th century on the banks of the Yukon river. We had planned to camp in Dawson but the allure of a comfy motel overcame us. It felt real strange walking out of a bar at around midnight into the bright daylight!
Sunday we drove south back down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse. In Whitehorse we found a place for a take-out sandwich and ate it down at the Yukon river next to the old steamer SS Klondike. At 9.30pm we caught our flight back to Vancouver. The three day adventure was pretty exhausting but a lot of fun. We also managed to see a bit of wildlife including Moose, Fox, Prairie Dogs, Falcons, a pair of Bald Eagles and billions of man eating mosquitoes!
Our next little trip was a long weekend to Galiano Island, which is one of the Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island. Paula won two Harbour Air tickets at her company golf tournament, so we took an exciting flight on one of their seaplanes out of Vancouver to Montague Harbour of Galiano Island.
It was quite an experience traveling on the 6 seater seaplanes which fly at only 100 knots at an altitude of just 1000 feet - we really had a great aerial view of the Gulf Islands. Due to the crazy schedule we landed at the harbour at 7.15am. The pilot taxied up to a jetty, jumped out onto the floats, hopped onto the jetty and tethered us up. We were the only two passengers for this stop, so we climbed out onto the jetty and walked up to the small cafe at the marina - unfortunately nothing opened until 9.00am!. Luckily enough we had brought some snacks to munch on before we could get a coffee when the cafe opened.
It was a beautiful day so we took a kayak out for 3 hours and did a trip up to the nearby marine park and then around the adjoining island. The scenery was stunning and the warm sun made the experience that more enjoyable. After the kayaking we called the owner of the B&B we were staying and she came down in her jeep to pick us up. We stayed at the Eagle's Nest on Mount Galiano. The B&B was set in 80 acres of land and enjoyed a kilometer of private coastline. Our room was a really cozy cabin style with a great view out over the water. The place was run by a French Canadian couple and had a real homely feel. The breakfasts were superb and served in a beautiful dining room overlooking the water.
Over the long weekend we spent our time hiking up to the lookout near Mount Galiano, watching the Harbour Seals sunbathing on the rocks just below the B&B, and generally enjoying the magnificent scenery and tranquillity. One evening we prepared a dinner at the B&B to eat out on the picnic table overlooking the water - it was a clear evening, the food was good and we had a decent bottle of wine - an excellent recipe for a good night!
The plan for my next trip was to explore the province of Quebec for a week or so visiting Montreal and Quebec City and then to travel by train to Nova Scotia and meet up with Paula. We would then spend a long weekend with Paula's father and partner who lived in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, before flying back to Vancouver.
On 3rd October I caught a direct, 4 hour, flight from Vancouver to Montreal in the province of Quebec. I spent 4 days in the city which had a pleasant mix of the old and new. Most of the population were truly bilingual and the place had a vibrant feel about it. I stayed in a hostel near to the Latin District and the cafes and nightlife were impressive. The Quebec Province seemed to have a much more 'Live and let live' feel to it, for example, you could buy a beer from most convenient stores instead of having to go to a government Liquor Store as in British Columbia! I met a great crowd at the hostel and enjoyed a hectic social life for a few days. Although I should have been practicing my French I met up with a group of Mexicans so I brushed up my Spanish instead!
To travel from Montreal to Quebec City I joined a car pooling club called 'Allo Stop'. This organization was great as I traveled to Quebec city for $15, instead of paying $40 for the bus - another example of the more laid back lifestyle. When I got in the car I found that the other 3 passengers couldn't really speak English, but surprisingly the girl next to me spoke perfect Spanish so we chatted in Spanish for the whole 3 hour journey to Quebec City.
The hostel in Quebec City was perfectly located in the heart of the old walled city which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quebec City was a like a picturesque French town on the banks of the wide St. Lawrence river. The people here mostly spoke French, but I still managed to meet a group of guys from Venezuela to practice my Spanish with! I got in with a good group of guys in the hostel and we all explored the historic old city and checked out the local music scene. The weather was unseasonable cold and one morning we were treated to a snow flurry - I certainly wished I had packed a scarf and gloves.
From Quebec I caught the train to Halifax in Nova Scotia. The 20 hour journey took me up along the St. Lawrence river, through the province of New Brunswick and then across Nova Scotia to Halifax on the Atlantic. It was a pleasant change to travel by train and I spent a good few hours in the 'Dome Car' watching the scenery role by. The autumn colors added to the beauty of the countryside. From Halifax I caught a 3.5 hour bus journey down to Annapolis Royal on Fundy Bay.
In Annapolis Royal I met up with Paula who had flown directly out from Vancouver and we stayed in her father's house. Annapolis Royal is the oldest European settlement in Canada and Paula's father's home was a beautiful, brick built, heritage home dating from 1825! Paula's father and partner made us very welcome and spent the 4 days showing us around. The leaf color was about at its best and we were treated to spectacular colors where ever we went. We explored the French Shore on the Fundy Bay side, and Lunenberg on the Atlantic side. Lunenberg is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the 4 days we covered a good area and I got a great overview of Nova Scotia.
On 16th October we flew overnight, via Toronto, back to Vancouver. It was strange to think that Halifax in Nova Scotia was almost as near to London as Vancouver. Canada is certainly a very big place - in fact the largest country in the world!
After my 6 months in Canada with Paula I flew back to the UK and arrived in London on the afternoon of Thursday 26th October. Unfortunately, Paula and I decided that although we had had a great time together our relationship wasn't really going anywhere. It was painful at first, but I soon accepted that we had made the right decision. I spent the last couple of months of the year in London catching up with my family and friends. On Christmas Day my brother arrived from Australia and spent a week with us - it was the first time we had all spent Christmas together for more than ten years!
Just after Christmas we had the first real snow in London for five years. I saw the New Year in at a rather civilized dinner party with my best mates in Ewell, Surrey. As we toasted the New Year with Champagne, I couldn't help thinking about the previous New Year's Eve in Vilcabamba, southern Ecuador. A year had flown by, I had spent 6 months with Paula in Canada and now I was back in the UK planning my next trip! I wondered what 2001 had in store for me.