Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food & Drinks at White ave

Part three of my trip to Canada is a bit hazy for me personally. Perhaps it was the alcohol, or the sun, but memory of this period is a bit limited. What I do remember is the following:

The day after coming back from Jasper, Jen dropped Clara and me off at the West Edmonton Mall. This is supposed to be the biggest mall in North America. It ended up being a bit of a disappointed. We went to Galaxyland: The largest indoor amusement park in the world. It does not really have a lot of competition for all the obvious reasons: It is not that wise to built an amusement park in the middle of the building since the space for expansion is limited.

Besides the usual fair attaction they had several rollercoasters, and these were quite stomach-turning. The first one was a rollercoaster where the carts themselves spinned around while you were being tossed around the track. So instead of only having to focus on the area right in front of you, you turned around constantly, losing your orientation in the process. After this ride we went straight to the top rollercoaster. Yes, indeed, the largest indoor rollercoaster in the world. In took three loops (although I completely missed the second one) and an awefull lot of turns. Your body was literally thrown around.

The mall itself...euh...Shops everywhere...exclusive shops..shops with pushy owners..not my taste. But it was surely a great taste of kitsh and the grandest scale.

That evening we had our first real night out in Edmonton. We went to White ave, and old part of the city of Edmonton, and it was quite primitive. Luckily however they had a great bar which was accomodated especially for drinking games. It was somebodies birthday and the drinking game was already going on for quite some time judging by the lack of focus in the birthday boy's eyes. All I remember from playing this game was that my number was three, and that I lost a lot. Mostly intentially. The punishment was drinking a little bit of beer, and since I hadn`t had a drink since entering Canada, this was an end to a long period of drought for me. So we were playing a very loud drinking game which started to attact a bit of negative attention. Finally, around 2am, we prepared ourselves to go back home.

We took a cab, and arrived at somebody's appartment. A pretty nice one I`ve got to say. There we watched some television and had some more drinks. And I, your's truly was the only one to finish his rum-coke! I regretted finishing it in the morning was a clean night but a bit unstable.

I also remember that Jen, Clara and me went to a Cajun place somewhere along white-ave. Dee-da-do was the name of it. A nice little bar, great 30-40s music, a bit of Jazz. I don`t know exactly anymore what I had, but it was a big sandwich, with a lot of pork on it, and the taste was simply..well..delicious. I had a hard time finishing it though..and for something tasting this good, that's rare!

Now I`m also remembering this great Japanese place I went to on Robson street in Vancouver. I love ramen. I wish we had a ramen shop in Brunssum. Ramen has several things going for it. 1) It's generally cheap 2) It's filled with fresh vegetables and optionally some meat 3) It is a soup. Basically this means that you get two meals for the price of one. And at this restaurant they were simply delicious. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Moose's tale

The bus trip to Jasper was a very long one. Almost 12 hours sitting in your seat. This could have been very tedious ride, if it wasn`t accompanied by the great views of the backland of British Columbia. Never did I have such a scenic busride as this one. And besides the Flaura, the Fauna was also very interesting what kind of people travel with the bus besides tourists. I`ve seen my fair share of Canadian trash. Those classic examples of couch potatoes with clothes that fitted them 10 years ago but not anymore. A very scary sight for sure when you see pure fat just wiggle around like that. A human body is not meant to move like that. Luckily the sights outside were just perfect.

Then came my first wildlife sighting. Right in front of our bus, coming from the opposite direction, we saw a car hitting something. The something rolled into the ditch. That something was a black bear. The car had a serious dent in its hood, probably total-loss. Speeding here in your car has some serious risks.

The Jasper International Hostel was waiting for me in Jasper. My first hostel ever. The had a coed dorm (mixed) and a female dorm. It was refreshing to stay at a place where people of any background can just coexist with eachother, even when sharing a room with 20 other people. Within a few minutes I already met some people with whom I could hike. A Swiss girl and a German guy. I know; long live Europeans, but I would meet those real genuin Canadians later on my trip. We decided to hike the mountain that was in the back garden of our hostel. An 8 km trail, with an increase of height of almost 1300m. The signs all said it would take between 4 and 6 hours, but quite amazingly, after a shocking start (we were already out of breath after 100m), we were at the top in 3.5 hours. And we didn`t even hurry, we just took it slowly, step by step.

On top of the Whistlers we had one of the best views ever. Everywhere around you mountains with snowy peaks, a cold harsh wind blowing in your face. The sky was a bit cloudy, but this only added that extra bit of drama to the landscape: The interplay between shadow and light. We had a nice coffee on top of the mountain, and went back down with the cable car. Sadly, both of my new friends had to leave the same evening, so I had to find some other people to talk to after dinner. I ended up having a little chat with two dutch girls, who were already travelling in Canada for two weeks.

Later that evening I checked my e-mail and so a message from Jenn, stating that I should call her. So I called her. She wanted to drive to Jasper (CRAZY!) to meet me and to do some sightseeing together. So what did we do?

We went to Maligne Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and took a hike on the Moose Lake Loop. This little loop honoured it's name as we closed in on the lake; There she was! We saw it standing there, a female moose! I honestly think it was chained to the bottom of the lake. We decided not to close in to much; The last thing we wanted to do was to disturb it's dinner. Amazing how you can have such a brilliant animal sighting, on one of the shortest hike ever.

Then we proceeded to Malign Canyon, to go for a hike there. However, we (or should I say I? Sorry Jen!) decided to make the hike a bit longer than the 2.6km one of the Canyon itself. We created our own giant loop, walking besides the river and into the forests. It was not the most scenic route, but still incredibly challanging. It took us almost 4 hours to get back to the car, completely exhausted. I estimate we hiked about 12 to 16km. A bit too long for both our tastes I guess. So we decided to award ourselves with some pizza. I took a hawaii-en pizza, while Jen treated herself to a vegetarian. I barely was able to finish mine, and Jen also left the greater portion of hers on her plate.

Around 20:00 we decided to drive back to home. Sitting in the front seat, we had to make several stops before we left the park. We saw some large deer walking in a local river, and some mountain goats. Around 23:30 we arrived in Edmonton, slowly pulling up at her house. I got assigned the guestroom, with a nice soft bed and some thick and warm sheets. Suffice to say that I slept like a rock.

The next morning (a monday), we had to wake up early to go to the Heritage Festival. It's a festival in the river-valley park were all kinds of local cultural organisations come to celebrate their roots. Examples of stands were the people from England (Off with his head!), Wales, Thailand (including transvestite singer), Poland, First Nation and of course The Netherlands. I could not keep myself from trying on of the herings. It tasted just like the ones you can get at The Hague. Sadly the other members in my group did not want to join in this cultural exchange. To think they are alumni from Aiesec! A disgrace I tell you! ;)

In the afternoon it was time to go on a Susan Mary Edey Park Hike (in short: a SMEPH). These are special hikes were she guides you through the wildest regions of the park. While you are struggling to get through the vegetation, you get the impression that she does not know where she is going. Actually, she knows exactly were she is, and just wants to give you that wild Canadian experience. It worked out perfectly, and Clara and me were quite tired after the extensive hikes. Later that day we went to the Provincial government building. It was pretty damn interesting. Alberta seems to be a conservative place, where the conservative party as the absolute majority in parlaiment. They had some strange governers, and simply adore Queen Elisabeth.

The next day I went back to the Rockies, with Sue's parents, and Clara, Sue's friend from Brasil. We first drove to Banff, after which we continued to Lake Lious, going to the Icefields parkway, ending our trip in Jasper. So what did we do in Banff? We started with a hike in Johnston Canyon, a beautiful Canyon with upper and lower falls. We decided to take the full hike, but only after having a wildlife picknick. The falls of Johnston Canyon reminded me a bit of the rivers I saw in Luxembourg, but everything in Canada is just a little bit bigger and wilder.

After this nice hike we went to downtown Banff, and went up a mountain with a cable cart, and hiked a bit more there. Again, great views of the surrounding mountains with the sunset. In the evening we wanted to go to a spa, after having a nice dinner at the Spagetti Factory. Sadly we arrived a bit too late at the spa, and it was closed. Disappointed and tired we went back to our hotel room. The next day I learned that Canadians do not give up easily.

It was a day that started with the incredibly blue Lake Louise. In the background you could sometimes hear some heavy rumbling. This rumbling was caused by parts of ice breaking of the mountain-gletchers. Judging my the demographics of the tourist there, you really saw that both the Indians and the Chinese people have increased there welfare quite a lot lately. They should however become better tourists in my opinion. For example: We went to the Columbian Icefields. We stayed perfectly within the cones (for our own safety). The Chinese just went wondering off all over the gletcher. But besides the Chinese people with a subconcious death-wish, walking on this glether was probably one of the most unique things I ever did.

It felt so strange to walk on a few thousand meters of moving ice. In the beginning I was quite sceptic: It is melting, it will be gone within a few years just like the North Pole. But finally on the gletcher itself I was complete awe-struck. All the sceptisism just left me, and I felt like a little child again while making my way on the glether. An amazing experience, and the sights, well, it becomes an old story: Stunning. I tried to bring some gletcherwater back home to Holland, but on the final day of my trip I decided to drink it. Fluids in airplanes, people just don`t like it these days ;).

After hiking on the gletcher, we took a little hike at the great divide, which did provide some great views, but no real "great divide" (division of the river into two directions, one to the Atlantic, one to the Pacific). Then it was time for some relaxation. We went to a spa near Jasper. There I switched from the hot (50 degrees celcius) and the cold (19 degrees celcius) several times. The feeling in your nerves is just simply amazing. I think I burned some skin on my food during one of the quick interchanges. It was very relaxing though, just before we went back to Edmonton to go to a festival.

Thanks to John and Mary for driving us two around this region. I owe them a few dollars on gas and a lot more.