Archive for Juni, 2010

Field, Yoho NP, British Columbia and Lake Louise, Banff NP, Alberta – Glacier retreat and exhaust smoke

Mittwoch, Juni 30th, 2010

Weather isn’t too much inviting this morning: 6° C with rain, snow and graupel showers. We go anyway to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park that looks like its name says: emerald. Wir fahren trotzdem an den Emerald Lake im Yoho Nationalpark, der so aussieht wie er heißt: Smaragd. A coach full of Japanese drives us cackling and flashing down the road to another outlook where it is more quiet and Emerald River, that is nevertheless grey, washed away the bottom of some rocks. The mountain river squeezes through a cleft and squirts out on the other side as waterfall. This spot is called Natural Bridge. The creek whisks through the woods, but there are coves everywhere where water flows slower and the deposited mud makes cute beaches.

Back to Lake Louise, Banff NP, we meet a snow plough. That gives us something to think about. We start our hike to Plane of Six Glaciers despite snow. Weather forecast promises improvement. It’ll be right: In glorious sunshine we walk along kitsch-coloured Lake Louise where one more of the famous railway hotels is situated. Unfortunately not every effort was made to give The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel architectonical splendour back then. It looks boring, nothing sort of prison-like ugly. The over 5 km long ascent up to Six Glaciers Tea House is much more beautiful though and so warm that we start to remove clothes. Most hikers stop off for coffee and cake, but the ambitious start to put on clothes again to resist the now chilly wind. They put up with further one and a half kilometres climb to get to the outlook. To not suffer from vertigo might be quite helpful here, but Joerg is very brave and ignores the slope (on both sides of the trail!). The effort is worth it. The view to the surrounding glaciers is marvellous, much better than from the tea house. Meanwhile we put all clothes we have. The wind gliding over the surface of the ice collects coldness and hands it over to ears, noses, and hands. I’m not capable of saying if they are really six glaciers, because there is not too much left of them. Not just due to summerly thaw. Glacial retreat in the last decades is alarming. Comparative images from 100 years ago and today make incredibly clear how few frozen fresh water is left. What glaciers left behind isn’t less impressive. Huge scree slopes with very fine gravel, larger rocks are found mostly at the foot of the mountain at the end of the former glacier tongue.

Back to the parking lot Arminius doesn’t want as he should. He works, but he smokes. We should break him of that, smoking could harm, as we know. Since we didn’t plan to smoke national parks’ campgrounds we decide to leave Lake Louise. Namely in southern direction, back to Calgary, where we want to overnight for the moment.

Lake Louise, Banff NP, Alberta and Field, Yoho NP, British Columbia – Blue-green picture postcard kitsch and spiral tunnels

Dienstag, Juni 29th, 2010

Our first half-day hike this morning starts in 2000 m elevation at Moraine Lake that looks so much artificial and screamingly turquoise as if somebody poured a paint pot in it. The pines and the ten snow-covered mountains over 3000 metres around make the postcard picture perfect. We are following the trail to Consolations Lakes. This area is notorious for grizzly mums to raise their grizzly babies here. There are alarmingly many and huge strawberry plants, especially besides the path. Since bears like berries I am happy that they are still blooming, and there are no fruits yet. A lot of Least Chipmunks already learned that tourists’ backpacks might contain interesting things like food. But they are little animals and not dangerous. I prefer them. A few sweet Hoary Marmots allow us to take pictures of them as long as we keep safe distance. The short-legged ground squirrels weigh up to 11 kg and have ice-grey fur at shoulders and back, a red-coloured tail, and a white patch on the muzzle. In areas frequently visited by people, hoary marmots aren’t timid. They might stand still for a picture, or they just go about their business.

We decide to visit another national park in this chain of parks. Few kilometres behind Lake Louise sign posts are welcoming us to Yoho National Park and to British Columbia. Yoho means in the language of the Cree “reverence and amazement”. With British Columbia we put our foot in all ten provinces of Canada. Like everywhere even on Trans Canada Highway it is conspicuous that truck traffic is limited. On one hand, Canada is the world’s second largest country but with only 33 million inhabitants. What do you want to uselessly carry around? On the other hand, a lot of cargo is carried on rails. All day long you see hooting freight trains to chase away game animals. On each wagon stand two small and one big overseas container above them as long as it’s not a bulk cargo or tanker wagon. In Yoho right beside the TCH the railway winds through the spiral tunnels. The initial railway line in the very narrow valley became apparent soon as to steep since many wagons were derailed. Already in 1909 at Kicking Horse Pass two spiral tunnels were blasted into the mountain to reduce the gradient from 4.5 to 2.2 %. Because Canadian goods trains are most of the time extremely long and pull much more than 100 wagons, you can see the locomotives, mostly three or four, already leaving the tunnel while the last wagons didn’t even enter it.

In front of the village Field in Yoho Park we are riding two circles around Monarch Campground like pros, choose a pitch, register, and reserve it before we continue to Takakkaw Falls. The 254 m high waterfalls belong to Canada’s highest ones. Particularly interesting is that the falls are fed exclusively from the littler higher situated Daly Glacier. Accordingly Takakkaw Falls, what means “magnificent” in Cree language, change during the year. With beginning thaw in early summer the biggest amount of water race down the slope. In late autumn the falls become sparse. The remaining water eventually freezes in winter until the glacier collects new masses of snow for next year. Takakkaw Falls flow into Yoho River. The big amount of glacial mud it carries gives the river its milky-opaque light grey colour like liquid concrete. Later on, when the rock meal set, the dissolved minerals might dye a lake blue-green. The park management compiled two pretty paths: one to an overlook to the whole falls and another to the foot off Takakkaw Falls where you can get splendidly soaked.

Banff, Banff NP, Alberta – Our first grizzly bear live and in colour!

Montag, Juni 28th, 2010

In Banff we first go to a spot this morning where we can overview the Bow River Lower Falls and The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The palace-like building belongs to a chain of former railway hotels for luxury voyagers of the late 19th until the 20th century. There is expensive luxury still today, but no more vial rails. Some kilometres further we find some Hoodoos, the washed-out rock pillars, but the view down to romantic Bow Valley is more impressive. Eventually we go to Sundance Canyon, where First Nations held their sacred Sundance Ceremony. The half-day hike first follows as a paved trail along Bow River, but later on it is a nice walk through a narrow canyon and a forest.

When heading north by car, we immediately realize him on a grass hill between woods. There he is: big, brown, well-fed. Or first grizzly bear in the wild. Fortunately he doesn’t realize us since he is busy with catching food. Today’s menu is meat. He seems to hunt a ground squirrel or marmot. The poor small animal seems to possess a den in the ground with several exits since Mister Bear is jumping nimbly forth and back between the holes. It is astonishing how fast this hulk with the huge backside is able to move. We do not want to dispute his dinner, so we take a couple of pictures and leave him alone.

In the end of the day we go for a short walk to Johnston Canyon. A creek cut deep into the stone, creates some cute waterfalls and a small tunnel you can walk through. The river water is so cold and the canyon so narrow that cold can’t escape and it is chilly there even on hot summer days.

After 62 nights of our world trip there is one more premiere: For the first rime we sleep on a campground. There is no other option in the big national parks. We go to the forest parking lot, spin two times, and look vainly for a reception, for somebody to tell us where we can park, and who wants to get our 21.50 Dollars for parking and toilet, but without shower. Finally we ask two Germans for the system. It is self-registration. Fill a form and depose it together with the money in an envelope in a kind of big metal piggy bank. Our neighbours are happy to have us here. They need fire, axe, an adapter and whatsoever.

Dead Man’s Flat, Alberta – Day off II

Sonntag, Juni 27th, 2010

We prefer to spend also this sunny Sunday at the cosy lake than on weekend-overcrowded hiking paths. We delay the continuation of our journey to tomorrow and call with new observations and shrewd insights.

Dead Man’s Flats, Alberta – Day off with pick-nick, barbecue and soccer

Samstag, Juni 26th, 2010

We returned to the beautiful lake site. We decided to allow our ill-treated bones an off day. The pick-nick area is excursion goal of numerous families on a marvellous Saturday. We are conducting endless guided tours around and through our expedition mobile. Again and again we have to sweep and wipe the floor to remove the rest wood carried in. A young man has to be photographed behind the steering wheel in the driver’s cabin. Probably he will tell later on at home how adventurous it was to drive that beast.

In the afternoon a big family meeting invites us to pick-nick after the vehicle tour. They decide to organise a barbecue and take us along. There is potato salad, hotdogs, and soccer world cup Korea vs. Uruguay on TV. Isn’t that something?

Banff, Banff NP, Alberta – Avalanche in the Rockies

Freitag, Juni 25th, 2010

For today we planned a hike to Aylmer Lookout. Initially we follow Lake Minnewanka shoreline. The name means “Spirit Lake”. The entire route shall be 24 km long and include an elevation gain of 560 m. Unfortunately it is not enough to double this number to find out the covered altitude difference. The first eight kilometres are a constant up and down; there is not even one even metre. After that it is just a steep mountain. When the mountain path leaves the lake a sign warns us from grizzly bears and pleads for highest attention. Today, we’ll not see one. Instead we are witnessing an avalanche. A not ending thunder sounds. Fortunately we are at the only place with good view to the mountains on the other side of the valley. From the top a snow slab slopes into the depth, sweeping away melting water and rock, and lands with a crash hundreds of metres deeper. We understand now very well why parts of Banff National Park are still closed. Arriving at the peak we know that all the stresses and strains were worth it. The view to the lake and the surrounding mountains is magnificent. An ice-cold wind blows around our noses. There is not too much wildlife today besides the charming golden-mantled ground squirrels that skilfully dig up mushrooms from the ground. We are somehow motivated during the four kilometres downhill. The ongoing up and down along the lake becomes long, longer, too long. But there’s no taxi waiting for us, we have to return on foot. Arminius is awaiting us eagerly.

Banff, Banff NP, Alberta – A wolf on rails

Donnerstag, Juni 24th, 2010

First we get to Banff information centre this morning. The village itself is proper, pretty, and touristy. And expensive. Even the tourist information is commercial. The info material included to the entrance fee is poor compared to the other parks. If you want to know more, you have to ask well-directed or research or – that’s the goal – buy one of the offered hiking guide books. It is still June and not yet high season, so we can ask the ranger many questions.

She sends us first to Johnston Lake that we will hike round. The mountain lakes get their beautiful turquoise and emerald dye from glacier mud that were deposited thousands of years ago. There is mixed woodland around the lake, and above conifer wood up to the timberline. The peaks are snow covered even on the southern slopes. The panorama touches everybody.

Along Minnewanka Road we go to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. In the area between the two lakes Rocky Mountain Sheep are said to stay. We were not disappointed: Directly beside the road royal rams, ewes and lambs are leaking minerals. We were told not to leave the car not to make them get used to humans.

In the south just off the park we find a night site at a lake. It is one of these places you don’t want to leave any more. Blue-green water, light green trees, grey mountains, and white snow. On the other side of the lake there is the railway line where every now and then a freight train passes. We don’t want to trust our eyes. A four-legged animal plods along the rails. A glance through the binocular offers the whole truth: It’s really an adult wolf with brown fur that carries out its patrol. Trains transport and lose often grain that attracts small and wild animals; game handed to the wolf on a plate. Only minutes later a beaver swims over the whole lake in our direction before it disappears in the thicket. We are in paradise.

Calgary, Alberta – Deadly buffalo jumps for human survival

Dienstag, Juni 22nd, 2010

Claude is our tour leader today – the best one in western Canada! A 600 km long trip through southern Alberta is showing us nearly all landscapes of the province: Huge areas of arable land and pastureland, where there are cattle and real cowboys with horses. Later we see the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where we go along between green hills. In the end of the day we will cross the highest road pass in Canada.

For the moment we are visiting Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The prairie Indians, mainly the Blackfoot, developed 6000 years ago a special technique to bag the bison that were necessary for their survival. A couple of tribes had to work together to hunt the fat herds in autumn. With buffalo and wolf hides camouflaged women and men drove the animals into a narrowing funnel that they had prepared in advance for weeks. They used that bad vision but good sense of smell of the bison. Eventually they led them to panic. The animals started to run and many of them fell off a cliff that they registered too late. Most buffalos died after falling, the injured ones were beat or stabbed to death. The prey was completely used: The innards were ate, the meat cut into strips, dried and then partially grinded and mixed with berry fruits to produce the nutritious pemmikan, precious stocks for the long winter. Melted fat and bone marrow served as well as nutrition and remedy. From bones they produced tools, furs, hides and tendons were used for clothes and teepees (tents). In good years, when more animals were killed than the First Nations were able to use they just took the most wanted parts. The remaining corpses piled up during thousands of years. Excavations at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump resulted in the insight that the cliff was 22 m high in the beginning, but the bone rests shortened it to 12 m. The unappetizing name comes from an old legend that says that a young brave wanted to watch the spectacle at the foot of the cliffs under a ledge. During the unusual successful hunt the carcasses piled more and more until they crushed him to death at the rock face. His relatives found him later with his head smashed in. There were many more buffalo jumps, but this tradition disappeared with the European settlers’ arrival. Rifles and horses imported by the Whites made hunting easier and shifted it from community to individual. In the following years hundreds of thousands of bison were killed, mainly by the Whites and the species eventually exterminated. Reasons were the deliberate deprivation of nourishment as basis for the Indians’ life, a kind of perverse shooting as well as the use of the phosphor contained in the buffalos’ bones to building bombs in the First and Second World War. A later discovered small group of surviving bison were used for breeding. Today some hundreds of buffalo herds live in governmental or private possession.

In the early morning of April 29th, 1903, a 1 km wide, 425 m long and 150 m deep piece of rock slid off Turtle Mountain and buried part of the coal mining town of Frank. At least 70 people were killed while sleeping that night. The coal mining night shift found its way out later. 82 million tons of stone did not only trap the village but filled the whole valley with lumps of rock. Still today the stone desert nearly without vegetation reminds of Canada’s deadliest rockslide ever. As reasons the mountain’s unstable geological structure, underground coal mining, water action and some unusually warm days followed by a frost night are considered.

Alberta founded along the Rocky Mountains a couple of parks following each other from north to south. Coming from the south we go to Kananaskis Provincial Park, also named K-country. The lovely green foothills disappear, the mountains get steeper and stonier, and the road rises continuously. We think to be in the Alps with all the grey snow-covered mountains and conifer forests. Highwood Pass at 2206 m elevation only opens on June 15th, we are lucky. Still now there is snow on the side of the road and during photo session and goose flesh appears. Searching for wild life we cruise through the whole park. We find a lot of red and mule deer, but there are no bigger animals today.

Calgary, Alberta – New friends on 1000 metres elevation

Montag, Juni 21st, 2010

Arminius hardly climbed the steep hill out of the valley, the prairie has us back. Imperceptible we arrived at 1000 metres elevation. We are licking an ice cream in the sunshine. Then we go into Calgary to a quiet green residential district, where Claude, Lynn and their family are already expecting us. Claude is Natalie’s uncle whom we visited in Prince Edward Island. We’ve found new friends!

Drumheller, Alberta – Looking for the superlative of barren

Sonntag, Juni 20th, 2010

Calling the highway hotline this morning makes clear: Trans Canada Highway to Alberta is still closed due to flooding. What irony: The area is Canada’s aridest one with in the average 270 days without precipitation per year. We come to know that the damages at TCH have to be repaired before being passable again. Who knows how long that’ll take? Furthermore the bridge on the service road to Cypress Hills Park is damaged, so there is no access. We have to take a detour on worse roads. What does not detract the prairies from getting more barren. The nearly elevation-free plane extends till the horizon. There are not many ploughed fields, mostly simple grass grows. We discover few yellow canola patches, wind-protection rows and ponds. The road seems to be made with a ruler and leads to infinity.

What is the superlative of barren? Barreny, barrenst or most barren? I guess eastern Alberta is the right place to find out. In any case it is “most prairie” here. On the only marginally hilly plane farming is missing completely. Meadows stretch as far as you can see. Here aren’t even groves or bushes. Simply nothing. You can fix your steering wheel in straight on position.

Unexpectedly we drive down a steep gradient. A glacial valley opens that casts a spell on us. The river washed out the limestone in terraces. The horizontal planes are grown over with a short carpet of grass, on the vertical steps vegetation can’t stay and the yellow-brown stone is visible. The river meanders through the scenery. The Badlands called area is well-known for its dinosaur bones’ finds, but you can’t visit the places where they were found. Instead, there are a couple of very touristy plastic and concrete dinosaurs. We prefer to visit the Hoodoos, washed out limestone pillars with a bigger hat that protects them from further erosion. They look a bit like mushrooms. The columns stand on darker stone that remains from an ocean 74 million years ago.

We stay even behind the city of Drumheller for a couple of kilometres in the valley and find a beautiful place to overnight where we can marvel the sunset while having a beer.

Regina, Saskatchewan – Ground squirrel and coyotes in the prairie

Samstag, Juni 19th, 2010

Highway hotline confirms this morning that TCH isn’t open yet. Together with the French we develop an alternative route, since we want to barbecue tonight together. With the prairies fauna changes as well. Prairie dogs don’t seem to be endangered; they zoom over the road forth and back, not always successfully. They are so many; I ask myself if they aren’t a nuisance like mice in Europe? The endless meadows are ideal terrain for coyotes. One of them crosses our way, two pack members flee into the high grass.

Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital with 170,000 inhabitants isn’t too exciting. We prefer to continue our way to the agreed meeting point with Francoise and Dominique. On the parking lot in the pretty Qu’Appelle Valley a royal deer watches us. Many of the designated pick-nick areas are equipped with grills. We just have to collect some wood to light our common barbecue.

Brandon, Manitoba – Witch brooms on trees

Freitag, Juni 18th, 2010

Torrential rain for hours is inconceivable in Middle Europe. It’s tipping it down, but we don’t want to be kept from hiking by the rain. Armed with rain jacket, rain cape, water-resistant pants and rubber boots we are clumping into Spirit Sands. In the beginning sand dunes are grown over with dense vegetation. Double as much rain as in an average desert allows birches and oaks, firs and spruces, aspens and poison ivy to grow. Less pleasant for the trees are witch brooms called blackish branch swellings, caused by a parasitic plant belonging to the mistletoes. They manipulate hormonal balance of their hosts, and tap nutrient transport that leads to weakening and sometimes death of the tree. Attempts to chemically exterminate the parasite were extraordinarily successful. Unfortunately the host died each time as well.

Slowly vegetation gets thinner and grasses take over. Eventually we find the tiny cactuses. We are lucky they bloom in the middle of June. Finally plants disappear completely and there is just sand. We find traces of deer and a big cat, perhaps a cougar. For kilometres we follow the trail through the peculiar wet sand desert.

I don’t envy the man at Saskatchewan information centre. He tries to make the prairies tempting to the visitors. But he supports us with precious information about interesting spots. He also tells us that Trans Canada Highway at the provincial border to Alberta is closed due to flooding. Rain is in Saskatchewan as well. Here we meet Francoise and Dominique, two French travellers with a motorhome on a world trip. They plan to visit all the Americas, ship from Buenos Aires to North Africa, and head back to France then. We decide to spend the night together to exchange experiences.

Spruce Woods, Manitoba – Cloudburst in the prairie

Donnerstag, Juni 17th, 2010

Lake Winnipeg is known for its beaches and the relatively warm water in summer. The extended sand beach in Grand Beach Provincial Park is really pretty with its sand dunes; the water is shallow and lukewarm. Wind raises and it starts to rain, but it stays mild. The subtropical feeling is supported by gently rolling pelicans. Canada goose families are waddling around, always watched by mum and dad. Seagulls are passing by and piping plovers are dashing along the shoreline. Birds’ paradise.

We get strong wind, and later on a violent storm develops. Deep darkness surrounds us in the afternoon. We are passing numberless thundery fronts. Raindrops as big as saucers are splashing against the windscreen and Manitoba’s farmers have to endure again a couple of centimetres of precipitation. We continue to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Manitoba’s prairies are said to be extremely boring. It’s not so bad, at least when you are travelling for the first time. Big fields are interrupted by tree rows, small forests, farmsteads, and villages. But the highway leads astonishingly long straight ahead. In front of Spruce Woods the landscape turns hillier, greener; grass, hardwood and conifers take turns. A part of the park is called Spirit Sands, a desert-like area with shifting dunes and cactuses. It is a very arid region, but not today. Whole Manitoba is sinking in thunderstorms and we get drummed to sleep by raindrops.

Beausejour, Manitoba: House hold day II

Mittwoch, Juni 16th, 2010

Cleaning, cutting hair, rearranging: The weather is marvellous, and it is time to get rid of the wool pullovers and winter boots in our wardrobe and put shorts and sandals in. We stay on a gravelled piece of field. Some farmers plan to build a barn together. They complain about the extended rain this year, the canola harvest will just fall through. Since weeks it rains heavily again and again, some fields just look like lakes. The farmers allow us to stay on the lot, but at night we escape into our cabin. Thousands of aggressive bugs choose us for dinner.

Winnipeg, Manitoba – House hold day I

Dienstag, Juni 15th, 2010

Showering in a proper bathroom, laundry, and oil change are just three of the extremely thrilling activities we had planned for today. I don’t want to bore you…

Winnipeg, Manitoba – German-Russian past in Canada: the Mennonites

Montag, Juni 14th, 2010

Northern Ontario is the home country for numerous tribes of the First Nations like Sioux and Cree, to just mention two of the most known ones. The highway warps through a country full of forested hills, basalt rocks, and small rivers. There are so many pretty log cabins to spend your fishing or hunting holiday. If you like just hop on water plane that’ll fly you to the best fishing grounds. You probably haven’t to go far for hunting. Big light brown deer jump cheerfully forth and back on the road. Later on we watch a black bear guzzling at the edge of the woods.

At lunch time a young couple speaks to us in German. They tell us they are Mennonites, a Christian denomination practising adult christening. Originally they were from Northern Germany and The Netherlands, but some hundreds of years ago they weren’t tolerated in Middle Europe. They moved on eastwards until Russia, where the tsar welcomed them. Eventually they emigrated to USA and Canada, where the first of them settled in 1776. Most of them left Russia with foundation of the Soviet Union because again reprisals were taken against them. Many tried to go back to their original home country since they have kept language and tradition during all the time. There they were considered to be “Russians”, again deprecated, and the majority of them followed their fellow-believers into the New World. The traditionalists among them still today refuse modern technologies. They harness the plough with horses and go to church by carriage. But you can’t recognize the modern Mennonite. They appear as any other person would do. They wear shorts and t-shirt, and they drive cars. The young couple invites us to their parents in Winnipeg, because this will be our next destination.

In 1693 the ultra-conservative Amish People split away off the Mennonites. Nearly completely driven out of Europe, they settled mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania, few of them in Ontario. There is a third denomination of the so-called Anabaptists. The Hutterites, Germans being residents mainly in Moravia, were also persecuted. They moved to Transylvania, later on to Ukraine, USA and since 1918 to Canada. They live in initial Christian communities of property. A couple of families run a community together. Still many of them wear their traditional clothes in muted colours and discreet patterns as well as suspenders and goatee beards. Most of these denomination members are pacifists and refuse military service; that was tolerated by Canadian government.

In the evening we visit in Winnipeg the father of the couple we met at lunch. We learn a lot more about the Mennonites. Our host has been a film producer in former times. Among others he had shot a well-awarded movie about the history of the Mennonites. He hands us a copy, so that we can watch the DVD later on our laptop.

Thunder Bay, Ontario – A young brave on Trans Canada Highway

Sonntag, Juni 13th, 2010

The Trans Canada Highway guides us westwards. Until the 1960s there was no continuously paved east-west-connection in Canada. Cars travelling among the provinces partially went through the USA. Just in 1965 the last piece of asphalt was finished to connect the already existing roads. Since these days the TCH goes from St. Johns in Newfoundland to Victoria on Vancouver Island. In some areas you find more than one parallel road named TCH. The shortest route through the ten Canadian provinces is nearly 7,400 km long and includes three ferry sections.

83 km in front of Thunder Bay a part of the TCH is named Terry Fox Courage Highway. Terry Fox was a remarkable young man. He was only 22 years old when he died. Terry was wearing prostheses since he lost a leg at the age of 18 due to cancer. In April 1980 he started in St. Johns the Marathon of Hope on the TCH. He planned daily stages of 42 km until Vancouver Island. He did not only want to demonstrate courage to face life but to raise funds for cancer research. In the beginning his run remained unnoticed. During time, media took attention of him and people celebrated him on the roads. He collected donations of all together 24 million Dollars. After 5,373 km in 143 days he had to give up. Not too much later he passed away. A movie was made about his life and some memorials were erected to his honour, on of them in Thunder Bay. Nowadays in most schools and in many towns Terry-Fox-Runs are held yearly for the benefit of the cancer fund.

A Canadian law prohibits carrying along opened containers with alcoholic liquids or consumption of alcohol in public areas, as pedestrian as well as in a car’s passenger space. As European you might think this law is useless since few people were intending to sit behind the steering wheel with an open beer can in your hand. After our experience with the Harley drivers we watch another strange behaviour. A car arrives at a designated pick-nick area where we sat down for the night. The couple gets out of the car, takes two beer tins from the trunk, has a quick one in just a few seconds, and dispose of the cans with a well-directed throw into the forest – despite the existing garbage containers. Granted, the traffic density isn’t as high as it is in Europe and a certain amount of alcohol when driving is tolerated as well. Anyway, the law might make more sense than perceptible at a first glance.

Sault St. Marie, Ontario – 3000 km motorbike ride for a wedding

Samstag, Juni 12th, 2010

There is not too much to see in Sault St. Marie, so we continue our way to the west. The landscape gets hillier; soon mountains grown over with forests follow. The highway bends around Lake Superior shoreline. An extended family of the rare Canada Goose waddles beside the road. The grey-brown water birds with the black neck and head are sometimes called Wawas following the Ojibwe language.

On the parking lot at Lake Superior Provincial Park we meet two Harley Davidson drivers. They are having a break to slurp a beer and puff on a cigarette. We also get a beer. And they apologize for the beer not to be very cold. The two of them just ride 3,000 km for a wedding party and to visit the son of one of them. Who in Germany would get the idea to just ride to South Greece for a party? I try to figure out what is in their three cases. I guess in one of them is the suit for the wedding, the tooth brush and travel necessaries. They don’t need tent and whatever since they sleep in Motels. The other two cases are probably full with beer. You have to set priorities.

A short but rocky trail leads us to the Indian wall paintings at Agawa Rock at a precipice at the lake shore. You have to proceed hand over hand along a metal chain not to slip from the smooth slope at the foot of the wall. Thick ropes hang into the water; with their help you could rescue yourself to the shore if fallen into the water. The spot is dangerous when unexpectedly high waves wash the hiker off the stones. There have been a couple of accidents in the past years. Today it is pretty quiet. The 150 to 400 years old animal and boat paintings of the Ojibwe aren’t excessively impressive, but the bay with the water clear as glass is a beautiful site. The path through the narrow high canyon is fun, but you should take care of the slippery stones.

We frighten away a flock of vultures besides the road that help themselves freely to a perished moose. In the end of the day we steer for a truck stop at the edge of the town of Wawa like the goose. Luckily Saturdays there are not too many truckers who find it necessary to run their engine the whole night since it is essential to keep the air-condition going with 15° C outside. The few ones parking here still make enough noise. You find Canada – unfortunately – together with the United States at the top of the world’s energy consumers. Or, better to say, the energy wasters. But the site seems to be an inside tip among motorhome drivers. A camper, big as a coach, is already here, with a car in tow where again two bicycles are fixed. The couple travels with at least five awnings with which they could shade half of Wawa. Short after a similar huge RV arrives with three passengers in it. That could be a bit cramped, so they tow a trailer as big as our whole cabin is. Completely unbegrudging I watch their four hydraulic forces that automatically lift the vehicle into a levelled position. As already mentioned, a coach is pretty low in space for the three of them. That’s why now the side walls slide out to make more room. But they are kind people and invite us to Alberta. Later on another house on wheels arrives.

Parry Sound, Ontario – Talking instead of driving

Freitag, Juni 11th, 2010

Shopping days are strenuous days. Not because of the few things we have to get, but due to the many conversations we conduct. In the morning in front of Canadian Tire the first people approach us. Back from shopping, the next conversations are waiting for us. After shopping in the supermarket there are more curious people. Women, men, older and younger people. More and more listeners approach, it is like the “Never-ending Story”. I am completely tired without having even driven one kilometre. We should print brochures and distribute them.

Niagara Falls, Ontario – Tourists in plastic bags at tamed record falls

Donnerstag, Juni 10th, 2010

The Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls follows a row of well-groomed estates, lawns, trees; everything is green, green, green. One chic winery follows after the other, in this region are most of Canada’s wineries. In the end of each vine row there is a red blooming rose bush.

The lookout terrace at the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls offers the best view to the falls. Lake Erie pours fourth in the 56 km long Niagara River and the in the 99 m deeper Lake Ontario what causes a high flow speed. Niagara Falls consist of the smaller American Falls and the larger Horseshoe Falls. The last mentioned are 54 m high and 675 m wide that does not automatically mean the falls are spectacular. The masses of water are the astounding fact despite reduction to up to 75 % due to several hydroelectric power stations. 154 millions tons are thundering into the depth every minute in summer, a bit more than half in winter. The water withdrawal reduced erosion of the falls a lot. In former times the falls moved backwards about one metre per year, nowadays it is just 30 cm in ten years. Since their formation 12,000 years ago the falls nibbled 11 km off the soft limestone. Mint green water shoots over the edge and lathers whitely when hitting the ground. A huge mist cloud spurts up to the edge. Every few minutes a Maid of the Mist, how every single boat full of tourists is called since 1846, approaches the bottom of the falls. Visitors packed in plastic bags there hear the deafening roaring.

Toronto, Ontario – Window-sightseeing at walking pace

Mittwoch, Juni 9th, 2010

This morning waves lash against the shore, rain drums on the beach. The water colour changed from transparent-blue to a milky green-brown. However, it is uniquely beautiful.

After discussing with many Canadians we decided not to go into Toronto but just cruise along the shore line to see the main buildings of the city. The 2.5 million inhabitants’ metropolis is good for shopping and nightlife, but that’s not exactly what we are intending to do. We arrive at 3:30 afternoon, in the middle of the rush hour. We take this advantage to just pass the city at walking speed and take pictures of the sky scrapers. Unfortunately the weather isn’t very kind to us today. Extremely low hanging clouds cover the tops of the high-rise buildings. We can only imagine the spire of CN Tower.

A couple of hours later we reach Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Victorian small town rightly received the award Prettiest Town of Ontario a couple of years ago. Thanks to a big amount of American tourists everything is quite expensive. 24 c$ plus tax and tip for a simple plate of Spaghetti Bolognese seem somewhat exaggerated.

At the edge of the village we find at least a parking lot that’s not subject to a charge at night.

Prince Edward County, Ontario – German wine and mosquitoes á la Hitchcock

Dienstag, Juni 8th, 2010

The holiday fever thrills us again. We loved staying with Myra and Dan, but we have to go on the road again. We are heading straight south and along the US border to the west. We pass Kingston that is said to be one of Ontario’s most beautiful cities. There is the other end of the Rideau Canal. A short ferry trip carries us to Prince Edward County. The peninsula at Lake Ontario is an awesome piece of land. Huge old hardwood trees, meadows, a higher situated mystical black lake without visible inflow, vines, and blue water around.

We visit Waupoos Winery. Ed Neuser, the German owner, isn’t a long time in coming, our vehicle attracts him. Ed’s English is better than his German; he already emigrated in the 50s. Waupoos was the oldest vineyard on the peninsula. According to Ed is Prince Edward County the coldest region in the world where wine is grown. In winter there were regularly minus 30 degrees; therefore special techniques as well as type of grapes were necessary. We find the classical Riesling. The Geisenheim smells interestingly like peach, grapefruit, and herbs. This hybrid grape was first grown in the German city Geisenheim from a Riesling grape on a Russian vine, but isn’t popular in Germany, the young winemaker explains. It is six o’clock in the afternoon and Ed realizes quickly that we need a place to overnight. He gives us the decisive hint and the detailed map as well. On the south-eastern end of the island right before a provincial park small gravel tracks lead to the lake. Nobody would bother us there.

The beach is just perfect. Clear mirror-like water washes around flat round pebbles. The shingle beach is soft, without four-wheel drive and differential lock nothing goes here. The idyll would be perfect, if there weren’t the mosquitoes that immediately settle on Arminius but spare us. We realize with big relief that they don’t sting. The scenario is a bit frightening anyway. Myriads of bugs hover like a black cloud above our heads high in the sky. Billions of beats of their wings cause a sound as I stood in front of a beehive. As we go into the cabin, dozens of them crawl on our window panes like in a Hitchcock thriller.

A dream comes true: Myth Harley Davidson

Montag, Juni 7th, 2010

Canada’s Government House looks like a castle. The neo-Gothic building sits enthroned on the Parliament Hill. The visitor’s tour is free of charge and leads through the House of Commons, the Senate, and the beautiful round library that holds thousands of books in carved precious wood shelves. The Peace Tower, a small issue of Big Ben, towers the complex that seems to be from the middle ages. Daily at noon the carillon sounds. With an elevator you reach the tower and can overview the city. Despite its nearly 900,000 inhabitants Ottawa seems cosy and green, not least due to the city council that forbade the construction of sky scrapers. After the visit Dan drives us to the seat of the Governor General. The Canadian deputy of the Queen resides befitting her status in a kind of palace surrounded by a huge public park.

The afternoon is not that relaxed. We have to rotate Arminius’ tyres to ensure equal wear and tear. Fortunately Dan helps us, but we still have to work a couple of hours. In the evening a dream comes true for Joerg: He may ride a Harley Davidson. First Myra’s small 900 cc, then Dan’s 1700 cc. With a broad grin Joerg indulges in his first beer.

Ottawa, Ontario – A wise queen and hand-cranked locks

Sonntag, Juni 6th, 2010

We are back to Québec. Gatineau is the twin city of Ottawa right over the bridge. The British queen Victoria prudently preferred Ottawa as Canada’s capital instead of the other applicants Montréal, Kingston and Toronto. The location at the border of Franco- and Anglophone Canada in adequate distance to the hostile USA made the small town without any infrastructure and full of rough-and-ready lumberjacks an ideal choice.

For the moment we visit the Canadian Museum of Civilisation on Québec side. This historical museum is phenomenal. The complete basement is dedicated to the history of the First Nations. It is allowed to touch most of the show pieces what gives a much more intense impression than just watching. The third floor shows vividly Canada’s past 1000 years, in particular the White Man’s settlement. A small town was built up there. You walk through the alleys and visit the printing house, the shoemaker and the smith of the 19th century. Lighting is arranged so smart you think you stroll through a town at night.

Over the bridge we walk back to Ottawa’s tightly structured city. Just beside the Rideau Canal flows into Ottawa River. The English built the connection to Lake Ontario beyond St. Lawrence River, consisting of a 200 km long chain of lakes and channel parts, with enormous efforts to ensure supply for Toronto in case of a conflict with the Americans. Nearly 50 of the mostly hand-cranked locks overcome 84 m difference in height, six directly at the channel mouth. All of them are National Historic Sites. One of the 90,000 recreational boats per year is passing downstream, so we can watch the lock workers while cranking. It looks like hard work.

Byward Market – Bytown is Ottawa’s former name – might not fulfil international standards, but it’s pleasant and likeable. A central food court with confectioner’s and fast food stalls from all over the world is surrounded by numerous fruit and vegetable stands as well as delicatessen. As the market stalls want to close they start selling different kinds of fruit for one Dollar the box or bag: strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and peaches. A good bet.

Myra loves to cook and does it very well. Tonight she serves Spaghetti with mussels in tomato sauce with green asparagus. Who could resist?

Ottawa, Ontario – Wal-Mart or suburb family?

Samstag, Juni 5th, 2010

The rapids where Ottawa and St. Lawrence River meet stopped 1535 Jaques Cartier’s expedition to Canada’s midlands exactly where Montréal is situated today. The discoverer of St. Lawrence River fought with the low water depth while the Indians overcame the obstacle even in those days. After building the first channel in 1826, the second bypass of the rapids for ocean liners was finished in 1959. Now St. Lawrence River is navigable right through from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and Montréal became – 1600 km away from the sea – to one of the world’s largest inland ports.

We cross the border to Ontario and reach Ottawa in the afternoon.  In Canada’s capital there are no parking lots for motorhomes, so we decide to sleep the first time at Wal-Mart’s parking lot. The large supermarket chain offers RVs all over North America the possibility to stay overnight free of charge. Of course they hope for the campers to shop with them – what happens mostly. If they do not wish or allow parking there is usually a sign posted. There is no indication that we are not wanted, so we start to make ourselves comfortable as far as this is possible. A lot of people start talking to us, curious what kind of car we drive and what we are doing. Dan and Myra decide to adopt us and take us home. Good-bye Wal-Mart, actually we prefer the suburb, the garden plot, daughter Megan, energetic Boxer teenager Daisy, tomcat Sylvester and another cat I didn’t meet, pasta, beer, and campfire. What a hard life.

Montréal, Québec – Fantastical or just a city?

Freitag, Juni 4th, 2010

Today is première day. We are sweating for the first time. The thermometer shows only 25°C, but the heat in a city feels different. On the way to Montréal we are stuck in a traffic jam for the first time. Friday’s rush hour is as bad as anywhere. And Arminius is the first time in a town with over a million inhabitants – 1.6 million to be exact. Parking for motorhomes is nearly impossible. We steer for a parking lot at the Marina in Vieux Port where we are allowed to stay until 6 o’clock next morning. There we are in the middle of the city and can walk on foot to all attractions. Unfortunately we didn’t know that there is not only the Cirque du Soleil beside but a disco that provides us with loud music until the early morning free of charge.

There is a lot of historical charm around Vieux Port and Vieux Montréal. Uncountable restaurants, arts galleries, painters, antiques and carpet shops settled here. We walk through downtown, Quartier Latin and China Town, and are happy that tourism season hadn’t started yet. Montréal’s special quality is the underground. It has more than 150 entrances, a more than 30 km long subterranean tangle of squares, streets and junctions with 1800 shops, 200 restaurants, connection to theatre, cinemas, hotels, the university, a church, shopping malls and several office blocks. Hundred thousands of commuters don’t even have to go outside on cold winter days.

Montréal is beautiful, Montréal is interesting. Mike and Mélie each described the city just with a sentence. Mélie guessed Montréal is fantastic. Mike said, well, it’s a city. Probably they are both right.

Québec City, Québec – Small France in America

Donnerstag, Juni 3rd, 2010

Québec City is not only the oldest town of the continent, but with citadel, intact city wall and old town the only fortified town according to European role model. Founded in 1608, New France’s capital at that time and today’s capital of Québec was able to defend itself late into the 18th century, not least because the strategic position was very well chosen on a mountain above the strait. He Indian word Kebec means “where the river narrows”. Just in 1759 the British conquered the city, but they conceded freedom of religion and mother tongue to the inhabitants at an early stage in 1774. Québec ever since stayed French to the core. Still today from each number plate the province’s slogan “Je me souviens” impends: “I remember”.

The completely preserved old town from the 17th and 18th century is absolutely worth seeing. Fancifully decorated restaurants, bistros, boutiques, and shops swarm in the narrow alleys. The well-groomed historical ambience fills even the in this regard spoiled Europeans with enthusiasm.

Le Bic, Québec – Eider chicks in panic and a five-star cowshed

Mittwoch, Juni 2nd, 2010

The St. Lawrence River is said to be one of the world’s best whale watching spots. Clear water from the Great Lakes assembles in the St. Lawrence River, flows into the St. Lawrence Gulf and eventually into the Atlantic. At the lower reaches of the estuary the bottom suddenly climbs from 340 to below 40 meters. Eutrophic water is forced to the surface and nourishes plankton and therewith many other marine animals wide into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Parc National du Bic is a nature reserve situated at St. Lawrence River with lots of bays, rocks, islands, and salt marshes. We are lucky today and can observe seals and the timid eiders. As usual in bird life only the male wear splendid colours, the eider feathers are white black and yellow. A huddled group neutrally coloured eider mothers and a not defined number of tiny panic-stricken chicken flee paddling. A glance into the binocular lets Joerg discover some whales. For animal watching we have been walking far into the bay at low tide. That retaliates as it suddenly starts to rain heavily and we have to go back all the long way. After few minutes the soaked trouser legs dangle around our calves; at least the waterproof jacket keeps us dry. Jeans are a very stupid piece of clothing for hiking. In a region wit fast weather changes it’s recommended to wear water-repellent hiking pants. Not that we don’t have those. We learn – for next time. Two hours later the temperature rises just as fast from 12 to 22°C.

The area around St. Lawrence River presents itself in a very attractive manner: green willows and hardwood on the south side, the Laurentian Mountains on the north shore and high tree-covered islands in the estuary. A village follows the other, the houses are delightful. Besides the in North America customary wood houses a lot of stone is used for construction here. Nearly always buildings are decorated with gables, porches, balconies, or terraces. Souvenir shops, boutiques, small specialized groceries, or arts and crafts businesses are often equipped distinctively loving so that it becomes clear from a distance what shall be disposed here. Sometimes a colour-fitting car stands in front of a painted house: beige to beige, blue to blue, red to red. That must be French elegance. Generally vehicles differ a lot from the rest of Canada. Instead the favoured pick-up trucks and SUVs we see mainly limousines and compact cars. The density of German cars of all categories, according to budget – besides the usual Japanese brands – is noticeable. Even sports cars are big sellers. French cars instead are completely missing. What must be the reason? However, everything is guarded by the Catholic Church. The smallest village is towered by an excessively big church, and its silver-grey roof is a reminder to all the surroundings.

The probably most unusual building is a five-star cowshed. The spacious building stands on s hill at St. Lawrence River. To make the cows enjoying the view, the stable is glazed from bottom to roof. The beautiful black and white cattle stand like behind a show window. With this luxury it is no wonder that one litre of milk partially costs nearly four Dollars.

But of course there is the other Québec as well. Here people smile less American-friendly, but they jostle more European-like. While driving they don’t stay squeamishly with the regulations. Other travellers do not report about this province without reservation. At ten past five we reach the tourist information. Both clerks stand in front of the door and inform me that they have already closed. So far so good. They ask me anyway what I want. As I explain them that I just would like to get a map of Québec, they shrug their shoulders and proceed back to their office. Well, it’s just closed, they say as they leave. Why do they ask?

Other travellers driving towards us informed us that Québec City does not allow camper parking. We made inquiries of Mélie’s parents and decided to stay in the other side of the river in Lévis. It’s difficult there anyway, but directly beside the ferryboat service there is a 24-hours parking lot for motorhomes as well. That costs money, but therefore we can stay until the next evening. The picture postcard view to the old town of Québec is included to the price. Tomorrow we want to ferry across the river to Québec City without car.

Amqui, Québec – Rebuilding for Arminius

Dienstag, Juni 1st, 2010

Arminius slightly changed his appearance. There are only two aluminium boxes left on the roof, a third one is now situated in the rear above the spare tyre on an especially made mounting. Mike can weld, he’s got a welding gear, and so he and Joerg build a new back-box-support. We leave the fourth box including content behind; sometimes you have to separate something. We knew from beginning on that the roof load – despite only lightly packed boxes – would be probably too heavy overall. But we had to test off-road to be convinced. Fortunately  Mike and Mélie found us (searching information about Unimog on the internet he got our e-mail address via a network from Ian from Dartmouth), and we could solve a problem, eat tastily for three days, enjoy wine and beer, weld, inflate children’s swimming-pools, get the cat in and out, and whatever has to be done.

In the evening we set off. Lots of these convenience stores with gas station have a nice plot in the back. So we go the “gas-station-act”, ask friendly, put diesel, and may park overnight free of charge.