Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia + Port Angeles, Washington – Farewell and new beginning

Mittwoch, Oktober 13th, 2010

For our farewell Canada shows itself at its best. On our last day in this country a shining sun on a perfectly blue sky sais goodbye. We ourselves have to say goodbye to Branca and Anton whose hospitality we enlisted such a long time. From Victoria we take the Ferry to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

The US Border Officers are very friendly and uncomplicated. I may even keep the rest of the apples that I still have from Ludwig in the Okanagan Valley, just citrus fruit would have been a problem, but we don’t even have meet or fish. Even our main problem, the wrong 3-months-visa from Alaska, is solved here: They just issue a new visa for six months, beginning from today, and we don’t even have to pay for this new visa. After one and a half hours ferry trip, we have to pass the border control another time. After answering two questions and 30 seconds everything is done and we are in the United States of America.

30 Miles later, right after Sequim, Wallace is waiting for us. He had invited us when we met him in Alaska. His wife Bev is gone for visiting her relatives, but Wally has organized a finger food party for us, where we tell all his friends and neighbours about our travels.

That was Canada: Width, woods, wildlife – we love it!

Mittwoch, Oktober 13th, 2010

In more than five months in Canada and Alaska we drove unbelievable 35,000 kilometres, got nearly 7,500 litres diesel, slept all in all four times on a campground, rotated our tyres three times, made two oil changes, bought one set of new injector nozzles, and had zero police controls. Canada is a beautiful country with magnificent nature and real friendly people, and we loved travelling through.

One of our favourite destinations was the Maritimes, the Atlantic Provinces in the north: Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island comes up with different scenery behind every corner and still record less tourist masses than the west. The coasts are sometimes lovely and sometimes steep, sometimes steep and sometimes shallow, green, stony, or sandy. Newfoundland and Labrador score with rough, untouched nature, many moose, and the probably most hospitable people. Prince Edward Island seems to polarize more: Some people think it’s fantastic, our enthusiasm kept within limits, although the forest-free potato field scenery and the sand dunes in the north are a welcome change to the rest of Canada.

Québec’s deserted north is relatively inaccessible, but the ice-cold St. Lawrence River in the south creates a distinct landscape. And, not to forget, Québec City is Canada’s most beautiful town. The never-ending Ontario with many forests and lakes convinced us anyway with spectacles of nature – but not only – like Niagara Falls and the respectable but cosy capital Ottawa. We don’t consider the prairie provinces Manitoba and Saskatchewan as the highlight of our journey, but even here you can find some national parks worth to see. The lake district in the north shall be interesting, but we didn’t have enough time for that.

Alberta is, besides the Maritimes, another favourite. The range of different landscapes from flattest prairie over the badlands, lovely foothills up to the rugged Rocky Mountains (with its wonderful parks in Kananaskis Country, Banff and Jasper) is probably the largest. Calgary is a pretty town with “Alpen view”. There are sites of cultural interest everywhere, and the northern ranch and farmland are again another world. The north of the country became our very personal most-loved area. We couldn’t get enough of it. Yukon, North West Territories, northern British Columbia – and Alaska, knowing, that isn’t part of Canada – won our heart with their numberless mountain ranges, dramatic views, rivers, lakes and plateaus, deserted solitude, the wooded tundra and the treeless taiga (although we are actually warmth seeking lovers of the tropics). We loved each kilometre, from Watson Lake to Whitehorse, and from Dawson City to Inuvik (and from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay). Even when British Columbia is the declared favourite destination of most Germans, we do not completely share this opinion and think it’s a bit overrated. Its touristic infrastructure is very developed, with corresponding prices and the willingness to make a tidy sum on each corner. Still, central and southern BC has its absolutely beautiful sports like some smaller parks in the Rockies or the Okanagan Valley. Although –Vancouver is a city worth to bee seen, we would prefer Calgary or Whitehorse as a starting point for a Canada trip. But that’s only a personal opinion.

Generally you have to expect a lot of forest in Canada, what is naturally not always associated with the best views. Driving on gravel roads is simply a part of a Canada journey, as well as the not always predictable weather. Despite Canada is the country for outdoor activities, you should always have a “plan B” for rainy days up your sleeve. The very low crime rate and the Canadians’ friendliness, openness, and overwhelming hospitality are very welcome. You can clearly feel that humans feel better and are more relaxed when having more space for living. Happy Canada! We go to bat for the truckers whose driving behaviour is better than their reputation – as long as you behave accordingly thoughtful. In spite of more than 5,000 km gravel road we still have our original windshield, even without glass repair.

A solemn planning factor for travelling Canada is the high price level: It is an expensive destination. Maybe that altogether lower cost of living, caused by fewer taxes, a nearly complimentary health-care system for residents, far-reaching lower real-estate prices as well as energy and water costs, and cheaper cars, make living in the country quite comfortable. This has no effect on the average traveller and he is soaked. Whether entrance fees, eating out in a restaurant, accommodation costs, food, or alcoholic beverages: most of it is clearly above German price level. Fuel is a bit more inexpensive than at home, but not as inexpensive as some years ago. Thanks to the size of the country – Canada is after Russia the earth’s largest country – and the huge distances the slightly lower prices for gas or diesel qualify and easily become the most important factor of the travel budget, where it is simple to miscalculate. Generous planning is recommended!

The world isn’t perfect anywhere, not even in North America’s north. Pollution and other environmental sins especially in the denser populated southern belt partially interfere with pleasure of travelling. It starts with the man of common people who leaves his beer bottle in the nature, litters the forest, or drives a pick-up with a very poor mileage. Idling is a very widespread bad habit among private persons as well as truck drivers who tend to keep the engine running for the whole night – for whatever reason. Industrial plants like for example paper mills are equipped with inadequate filters in some places, what makes itself felt with poor visibility and a certain smell. Clear-cuts in the forests are sometimes shocking, and the food’s chemical’s content verges on bodily harm. You can draw your own conclusions about an astonishing high cancer and Parkinson rate.

Personally we didn’t have any negative experience; hence Canada was a marvellous destination during the past 25 weeks. We will miss the stop-slow-sign turning pretty blonds that regulate the traffic in construction areas. Because no roadwork’s’ traffic light can substitute those “lollipops”. Thanks to the unfinished Happy Valley-Goose Bay Road, to Dempster and Dalton Highway, because they cared for a little bit mud on the tyre. It was fun. Many thanks to the lovely people who contributed to successful outcome of our journey and left incomparable impressions to us. Our special thanks are meant for the following dear friends for their exceptional hospitality:

Ian and Claire
Vivian and Wally
Carmelita and John
Edgar and Darnell
Marron and Simon
Leslie and John
Pat and John
Mike and Mélie
Dan and Myra
Claude and Lynda
John and Lyndel
Archie and Torrie
Ursel and Udo
Rita and Ingo
Ludwig and Irene
Kerri and Simon
Carolyn and Craig
Branca and Anton
Dave and wife

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Last preparations

Dienstag, Oktober 12th, 2010

Today’s tasks are cleaning the truck, polishing it till it shines, and hoisting the US flag to freshly and neatly enter a new country. USA, we are coming!

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Well-done test drive

Montag, Oktober 11th, 2010

After three weeks rest from driving we are going for a test drive: The engine starts at the first go, and Arminius runs as he never did something else. We are ready to start!

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Beloved jam

Sonntag, Oktober 10th, 2010

We are organising ourselves and try to store everything including all glasses of homemade jam in our limited space. (The jam from the stores is just too sweet.) Thanks to all who kindly supply us!

Frankfurt, Germany + Vancouver, British Columbia – Simulated worst-case scenario

Samstag, Oktober 9th, 2010

The worldwide biggest flight catastrophe simulation takes part on Frankfurt Airport today of all days. Two scrapped airplanes portray a crash on the new runway that’s not yet in operation. There shall be 500 injured, played by actors. All rescue units like fire brigade, ambulances, teams of doctors, and hospitals, all of them are involved. The emergency exercise shall bring insights for Europe’s air traffic for the next years. Not even the airport employees new before which airline would be “affected” by the accident. In the airport, it is obvious that Lufthansa is the one. The queues there are even longer than in Vancouver. Poor passengers. But Condor is checked in separately, so we do not have to suffer from this.

The flight, however, is not a pleasure at all. The space for my legs between the seats borders on bodily harm, the air is warm and stale, the food is unreasonable. I am wondering how I can survive a flight without getting claustrophobia and a thrombosis. But is it the airlines’ immeasurable profit aspirations? Or is it us, who want everything cheaper and cheaper, including the flights?

Frankfurt, Germany – News coming soon

Dienstag, September 21st, 2010

We arrived on time eventually.

I want to ask all of you for some patience. We’ll continue our travels on October 9th. I will be right back then with new adventures, experiences, and comments.

A résumé of our Canada visit will be published soon.

Next destination: USA.

Vancouver, British Columbia – Long waiting, poor organisation?

Montag, September 20th, 2010

Branca brings is with her car to the ferry port Duke Point. From there we ferry to Tsawwassen in two hours, and take a taxi to the airport, it is not too much more expensive than the bus for two passengers. We’ve got plenty of time, the flight will depart at 6 pm, and we arrive at the terminal at 1 pm. Lufthansa checks in the Condor airline passengers. A sign announces that check-in will start at 1:30 pm, and we are one of the first passengers in the waiting line, so half an hour waiting time sounds not too bad. We are waiting and waiting, the queue is getting longer and longer, but nothing happens. None of the airport employees shows up. In the end all 270 passengers of the airplane stand in one line, I never saw a longer queue. At 3 pm my patience trained in ten years living in Africa is at the end. I ask one of the ground hosts according to which time zone the check-in at 1:30 pm was calculated, but the employee answers tersely that they first want to check in the two Lufthansa flights and then start with our Condor flight. Somebody would take care sometime. I’m prepared for waiting another couple of hours, but then the steward seems to take care nevertheless. Soon the check-in starts, and at 4 pm we are done. The Lufthansa counter at Vancouver International Airport had to check in incredible three flights today, and that seems to be too much for them. Or what is the reason to keep passengers waiting uninformed?

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Packing the suitcase

Sonntag, September 19th, 2010

We park Arminius in a corner of the plot, and pack our things and presents. Tomorrow we’ll fly for nearly two weeks home, a family’s birthday causes us to interrupt the journey for a short time.

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Good-for-nothing prejudices

Samstag, September 18th, 2010

I’m at the hairdresser in Duncan this morning. A woman gets her hair done in the opposite corner. Her son in his mid-twenties sits besides her, his incisors decayed to stumps. The rest of the gang, half White, half Indian, that does not inspire too much trust hang around in front of the door in a corner of the scruffy mall. The son begins to talk to me. Despite my resentments I try to be unbiased. He explains his big family. His mother has got five children, one of his sisters as well, and he is expecting his second one. The family with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren comprise 28 members, 12 live together with the mother. I talk about my family. The young man disappears quickly for a while. When returning, he presses a coloured Indian beaver carving into my hand. It is a present for my family at home, and he has made it himself! Prejudices – not a chance!

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia –Fresh fish in the fish factory

Freitag, September 17th, 2010

We’ve spent a quiet night on a rest area a bit far from the road where are marked campsites. It was – believe it or not – free of charge. We are heading south to Nanaimo. There is not a must to visit the city, but we want to go to the fish factory. It’s not only fresh fish you get in Saint Jeans Canary and Smokehouse, but shock frosted fish and local specialities as well. They offer wild caught Coho and Sockeye salmon. We decide for the last one with a deep orange colour, it shall be the best. Besides, we take smoked and candied salmon, lobster pâté with brandy, banana-pepper-mustard, and other delicacies that are for our loved ones at home in Germany. In the evening we are back at Branca’s and Anton’s house.

Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Many whales, no orcas

Donnerstag, September 16th, 2010

For breakfast we get freshly home-baked whole grain bread. Scrumptious! Then we hurry to Telegraph Cove in the north of the island where we have to be at lunchtime. We’ve booked a whale watching tour there. An experienced captain and a naturalist guide the trip. It is a sunny day with patches of fog. The islands are enchanting, but inaccessible. Steep cliffs surround the wooded islands, just a few beaches invite to land. Small corpulent seals sunbathe at shallower rocky coasts, or they swim around eagerly, raise their round head off the water, peek with their black button-eyes from the water and glance around curiously. The steeper parts are occupied by sea lions that can climb better thanks to their larger front fins. We are watching a colony of males that is pretty loud and odour-intense. The smaller younger males who don’t have a chance yet to conquer a female harem don’t even swim to the northern mating areas where they would only be chased away. The ton-heavy pashas with nice rolls of fat reside in the upper circles. They already returned from the mating areas, the females with the calves will follow soon.

We are very lucky today with the humpback whales. We see many of them. Spout, back fin, back fin, back fin, tail fin, gone. See you next time. The naturalist can identify all of them on the basis of the individual marks on their tail fins. Sometimes we know exactly where the next whale will ascend. Waterfowls developed their own fishing techniques. When discovering a shoal of fish like herring, the swimming birds like seagulls pounce on the prey from above, during diving birds like cormorants attack from underneath. The swarm of fishes is caught between two layers of birds. Then the whale comes, opens its mouth and clears everything. This announces itself with the swimming birds’ taking off. Then we know in a few seconds the whale will surface to breathe. The whale has to take care that it does not accidentally get a diving bird in its mouth. Its palate is just as wide as a hand. Since it couldn’t swallow the bird it would have to set the whole load of fish free. A couple of dolphins ride on our bow wave, and we watch one couple of white-headed bald eagles that stay together lifelong and eye us up sceptically to angrily. Bald eagles are good swimmers; even their technique wouldn’t win a prize in free section. If they grab a fish under the surface that’s too heavy to take off with it, but they don’t want to let it go, they paddle with their wings in the water and drag the fish in their claws behind them. They pull it to the shore or on a stone where they dissect it.

We are so lucky with the whales today, but the orcas don’t show up. Well, there is another point left on our wish list for South America.

Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Fallen giants

Mittwoch, September 15th, 2010

On the way back to the east coast we do nearly not find a parking space at MacMillan Provincial Parks. How must it be in high season? The Cathedral Cove called corner of the park is a small wild piece of rain forest with huge old Douglas fir, but as well impressive red cedar and hemlocks. The park management compiled some trails to discover the primeval forest. The trees are so high and the needle canopy is so dense that nearly no light reaches the bottom. Only ferns with modest demands on sunlight can grow. Lime-green mosses overgrow the trees’ stems and branches, and hang down like cobwebs on a forgotten attic. Douglas fir can become up to 42 m high in the landlocked country, the coastal variety even 85 m. The biggest still living giant in Cathedral Cove is more than 800 years old, measures 76 m in height and 9 m in circumference. Fungus, parasites, and illnesses can weaken the roots and strong wind can cause their untimely death. During the New Year storm in 1997 many of the primeval times’ giants fell. They lie in the park all over the place. Just the blocked paths were cut free, but the other stems were left as part of the natural changing process, because the living trees receive new fuel from the rotting ones. A short time ago one of the firs must be fallen and destroyed a bridge. Due to that some parts of the trails are not passable right now. Warning signs strongly advise to leave the park when there is wind. It is obvious why. Where the forest thins in this way, new opportunities arise for other species. Berries and other bushes that are in need of light cover the ground now. The suppressed hemlocks take their chance and will perhaps take over regime in a couple of hundreds of years.

After leaving the rain forest we reach Cameron Lake and the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. Little Qualicum River flows through a canyon with rapids and some smaller falls. Two bridges and some kilometres of hiking trails were made to follow the river’s course. In the end of the day we rest at the house of Dave and his family in Campbell River. Until few years he had an older Unimog himself and asked us to pass by. Dave brews his own beer, and as a German I can say: pretty good!

Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Sea fog at driftwood beach

Dienstag, September 14th, 2010

We drive by Cowichan Lake another time since we want to reach Port Alberni via logging roads. We pass Nitinat River that flows into Nitinat Lake, the only tidal lake in Canada that’s connected with the sea at high tide, not at low tide. Now in late summer it shall be the best time to angle salt water fish caught in fresh water. In Port Alberni we take Hwy # 4 west. This stretch is said to be Vancouver Island’s best. And really: it is beautiful here. The partially narrow road winds up and down, from left to right, and sometimes very close to the rock faces. The road follows funny Kennedy River whose bed is shaped by huge roundly smoothed rocks where you can climb on in many places.

Arriving at the coastal road from Ucluelet to Tofino a surprise is waiting for us: fog. The entire coastline is covered. We go to Ucluelet, a not completely crowded but also not exciting tourists’ village. In the Pacific Rim National Park we stop at Long Beach, a several kilometres long sandy beach that is meant to be the most beautiful in British Columbia. Huge driftwood stems lie at the beach, washed ashore by waves not to underestimate. Quite a few strange rubber snakes lie about. They are a couple of metres long and narrow to one end. The thicker end leads into a ball where half meter long rubber bands are fixed. The rubber-like material of the hose is one to two centimetres thick and extremely stable. The objects are bull kelp that grow in the North Pacific’s cold shallow waters and grant many hundreds of other species food and habitat. The thin end is equipped with some roots with which the plant cling to a stone on the bottom. The ball is the buoy that keeps the algae upright and leads the plant to surface and light, the rubber bands are the “leaves”. The ball is filled with enough carbon dioxide for buoyancy to suffocate a small chicken. Bull kelp belongs to the world’s most fast growing living things. On sunny days they shall be able to add 60 cm in length, in the average still 20 cm. Their maximum length is around 30 m, but they live only one year. Then they die and are washed up.

Swimming is only for stalwarts due to cold water and undercurrent, but the coast is famous surf area. You can walk along the beach and through the bordering forests, but visibility is so poor today. The area is known for sea fog even when the sun shines behind the mountains. For curiosity we drive to Tofino at the end of the road. The touristy village is not really worth seeing and consists of hotels, restaurants and outfitters. You can book canoe and kayak excursions, surf courses, whale watching tours, angling trips, and even recreational scuba dives. Besides that there is not much to do than eating and sleeping.

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Just like home

Montag, September 13th, 2010

The next morning wine and schnapps still convince: no after-effects. I could become a new fan. We are pampered the whole day just like at home.

Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Fragments of primeval forest

Sonntag, September 12th, 2010

We are heading to Duncan at the north sore of Cowichan Lake. Again we are passing rain forest fragments that appear like magic forest. Giant trees from prehistoric times rise up at a dizzy height and darken the sky. Stems and leaves are dark from rain and wetness, water drops from the leaves. The ground is covered with ferns that cope with the little residual light. A wood couldn’t appear more mystical.

We are expected by Branca and Anton in Duncan, Mike’s parents. Tony makes his own wine, white and red, and some schnapps. I battle my way through the entire range and have to say: not bad, not bad!

Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – The complete clear-cut

Samstag, September 11th, 2010

Instead of going to Duncan on the direct way we ride around via Sooke, Port Renfrew and Cowichan Lake. The badly paved road is partially quite narrow with single-lane bridges and hairpin bends, but at least some parts are renovated. It leads through spots of mixed woodland with huge trees that came into being long ago. But in most areas the forest looks completely different. Conifer monocultures of different ages shape the appearance. Always signs proudly inform when reforestation took part. But how! It’s not the same. The afforested woos have nothing, really nothing to do with the original vegetation of the rain forest.

Few people know that there are tempered rainforests outside the tropics. But unfortunately they are endangered just as much as the tropical forests. More than 50 % of Canada’s rainforest stand on Vancouver Island, at the coasts and in the inner British Columbia is already cleared and the mighty logging companies do their best to further decimate the primeval forests. But BC’s labour market, its exports and with it the earnings depend for a big part on the logging industry, although declining. That’s why the concerns receive generous rights for cutting down and discretionary. Environmentalists have a hard life to get the better of monetary interests. Government and general public as well ignored the problematic nature until few years ago, but slowly politics makes concessions in preservation of some rain forests. During today’s trip we get to see much more devasting crimes against the environment. Nearly nobody on Vancouver Island takes the effort to thin out the forests responsibly and reforest them. Clear cuts are the cheapest and most effective method for logging companies. Kilometres long mountain slopes felt victim to total clearance. For the major part it wasn’t even reforested, what causes dramatic ecologic consequences: erosion of the earth’s surface, loss of nutritive substances, and frequent landslides. In some areas grass seed was dropped from the air to vegetate the hills. In consequence deer multiply disproportionately and become a nuisance, but forest animals like cougars find less and less habitats.

BC means, is said jocularly, “bring cash”. I guess there is some truth in it. We go to Botanical Beach close to Port Renfrew to rummage in the rockpools. Parking is 3 $. At San Juan Bay beach we shall pay 10 $ for day use and 25 $ for overnight – without service, of course. Further at Cowichan Lake we circumnavigate the lake. The three here active logging companies set up quite a few Forestry Service Campgrounds that were placed in tiny pieces of rain forest. Despite the beautiful surroundings they do not always appear well-groomed and tidy. But they ask for 17.50 to 22.50 $ per night. Just to remember: We are not in Banff or Jasper National Park, we are in the middle of nowhere at a gravel logging road with no infrastructure at all. That’s a tidy sum. Anyway, we find the only parking space at the lake where no sign “private”, “forbidden”, or “not allowed” is, and where no gate or chain is, and park for the night.

Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – British tea ceremony and manor houses

Freitag, September 10th, 2010

From Tsawwassen terminal we take the ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. First we go to Victoria, the very British capital of British Columbia. This impression is increased by the venerable parliament building with the gold-plated George Vancouver statue on the dome as well as the noble The Fairmont Empress Hotel, erected in 1908. In summer you have to fork out there 60 $ for a tea ceremony with biscuits or cucumber sandwiches and it’s still necessary to make a reservation. In front of the parliament that can be visited free of charge, and at the harbour on the opposite side some totem poles of the West Coast Indians were raised. We start a round trip on the Scenic Marine Drive at Saanich Peninsula. After few minutes we reach the Mile 0 monument where Trans Canada Highway officially starts. Scenic Marine Drive passes old manor houses with well-groomed gardens, accurately trimmed hedges and ornamental plants. Often we catch pretty views to the sea. Eventually we reach Cordova Bay from where we go back to Victoria to visit Carolyn and her family. She is Mike’s sister whom we met in Québec.

Vancouver, British Columbia – From Gastown to Granville

Donnerstag, September 9th, 2010

SkyTrain is a modern driverless local train that mainly runs overground and often on piles. We take the Expo Line from terminus King George in Surrey, one of Vancouver’s suburbs, where motorhomes can be parked easily, and go to the other terminus Waterfront station in the city. A day ticket is 9 $ and allows using all means of local public transport (SkyTrain, Bus, SeaBus). During train journey we are enjoying the views to city, skyline, harbour, and mountains. The last stations are underground, but then we quickly arrived just beside Canada Place. From there it’s just a few steps to Gastown, the initially down-at-heel district that’s now renovated and nostalgically trimmed and that functions as “old town”. Favourite subject for a photo is the Steam Clock, run by steam from Gastown’s central steam heating system. Every 15 minutes it whistles and lets off steam. Another popular spot is the statue of John Deighton, called Gassy Jack, on a whiskey barrel. Gassy Jack opened the first pub on this spot and is regarded as the city’s official founder.

We walk through downtown with all its shops and pubs to the other side of the peninsula and take the Aquabus called passenger ferry to Granville Island to visit the public market. Fresh fish, meat and poultry, fruits, vegetables and delicacies, cheese, bread and pastry are offered for sale for reasonable prices. We can’t resist and buy some German sausages, sauerkraut and delicious bread. The Aquabus takes us back to the opposite shore, but this time we ride the bus back to Waterfront SkyTrain station that now hovers above the illuminated city.

Langley, British Columbia – Just work

Mittwoch, September 8th, 2010

The computer glows, I’m working hard. Enjoy our blog!

Vancouver, British Columbia – A green city

Dienstag, September 7th, 2010

Vancouver is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Population is so mixed that there is no discernible minority. The proportion of inhabitants with Asian roots has risen in the past 20 years to more than one third. One of the main attractions is Stanley Park, few minutes away from downtown. The green space is more than 4 km2 big and in the eastern part more a well-groomed park, in the west the rainforest stayed nearly untouched. You can circumnavigate the park by car or bicycle. An 81 km long network of roads, not accessible to motorized vehicles, passes through the green area. You can see Canada Place from here, a building that reminds of a sailing boat, which was erected for Expo 1986. You can glance at Lions Gate Bridge and at downtown as well with its new high-rise buildings with turquoise-coloured fronts that change their colour according to the way the sun’s rays fall. Right behind Stanley Park is English Bay. From the beautiful sandy beach you have a view to city, harbour, and the Coast Mountains. At sunset dozens of spectators and photographers gather when water, sun, clouds, mountains, and ships come colourfully together.

Langley, British Columbia – From sky to sea down to Vancouver

Montag, September 6th, 2010

Once more we climb on the chaos of tree-trunks, stones and meanwhile solidified cement-like gunge, before we return to the highway that’s now called Sea-to-Sky Highway. We pay Whistler a short visit, beside Vancouver the main venue for the Olympic Winter Games in 2010. Pretty, tidy, organised, touristy, and expensive. Another stop is meant for Shannon Falls, a waterfall that falls over several steps 335 m deep. We drive into Vancouver on the four-lane highway high above city and Pacific. In any case it is recommended to fill up your tank before arriving in Vancouver – in Squamish when coming from the north or in Chilliwack when approaching from west. Fuel is more expensive in Vancouver due to a special tax to finance the public transport system. The city of Vancouver has 580,000 inhabitants, the metro area 2.3 million people. One of the suburbs is Langley where we will be expected by Simon and Kerry who invited us since they are interested in buying a Unimog.

Pemberton, British Columbia – Glacier slide – traces of a catastrophe

Sonntag, September 5th, 2010

Duffey Lake Road as Hwy # 99 is called here winds in an endless sequence of curves in dizzying elevation above Cayoosh Creek. Crash barriers seem to be seen as superfluous. Sometimes I just prefer to look up to the mountains than down to the river. At Cayoosh Pass in 1275 m elevation you can walk to the three Joffre Lakes, turquoise gems in the middle of mountains and glaciers. Afterwards the road continuously descends 1000 m on a distance of only 13 km. In Pemberton we stop at the visitor centre since there is a public dump station.

Until august 6th 2010 it would have been possible to visit Meager Hot Springs close by if somebody would have been willing to drive 70 km, 35 km from it extremely bad gravelled forestry road. Unfortunately the hot springs aren’t accessible any more. North America’s biggest mud slide just buried the track. In the early morning of August 6th a piece of the glacier from Meager Mountain broke off and swept masses of mud, gravel and stones away down Capricorn Creek, where it temporarily blocked Lillooet River and the only access road to this remote area. Meager Hot Springs have been renovated due to an earlier landslide, just opened for a couple of weeks, and closed again because of the heat in August. Heat is one of the factors that favour landslides. The active volcanic region is known for flooding, rockfalls, snow and mud avalanches – there were 57 major slides during the past 100 years. This time 13 people were encircled by the masses of stones, some miners and some campers, but all of them have been able to get themselves to safety on higher terrain. The rumour of the approaching rock mass has warned them on time. Later on they were removed by helicopters.

A local tells us at the visitor centre that the completely buried road is passable again since short time. Loaders have cleared the way through the boulders to open a passage for the mining and logging companies who want to continue working. The gravel road is in a very bad condition. The entire dimension of the catastrophe reveals where Meager Creek and Lillooet River meet. Glacial ice has mixed up with millions of tons of rock meal, and carried stones, rocks and an enormous number of trees away, and buried the scenery on a width of more than two kilometres. Work machines burrowed their way through the chaos for weeks to unearth the road. Scree piles up three metres high to the left and right. The campground 36 km in front of the hot springs miraculously escaped. The mud slide split up and flew around the campground. So we are lucky and have an overnight place, and besides a couple on motorbikes we are alone here.

Lillooet, British Columbia – Perfectly camouflaged hunters with bow and arrow

Samstag, September 4th, 2010

On more time we squeeze through narrow wood paths, over mountains and through valleys, slide in the mud, throw with lumps of earth, meet hunters and anglers, and sometimes nobody for long time. A couple with camouflage battledresses and a camouflage coloured ATV take their tiny Yorkshire Terrier dressed in a camouflage pullover for a hunt with camouflage compound bows. We are enjoying the BC off-road feeling that usually does not reveal to the average tourist. Sometimes dry steppe succeeds against the forest, and rarely something else than pale green sagebrush grows. In other places, however, the forest is so humid that lime-green moss tufts overgrow dead branches. In Ashcroft we reach asphalt road. The terraced mountains are dressed in brown grass without any yellow shimmer. Thompson River flows through Black Canyon. The valley’s walls are really completely black. Via Cache Creek we get to Hwy # 99 to Lillooet. Around 150 years ago, during the local gold rush, the village was one of the biggest cities north of San Francisco. But nobody notices this today. Behind Lillooet suddenly imposing dark mountains appear, it flashes and thunders around us, and the dark rain clouds let us believe it is in the middle of the night.

The electricity producer BC Hydro runs a couple of rest areas and complimentary campgrounds. One is at Seton Lake south of Lillooet where not too much is going on in spite of the long holiday weekend. Just when we are parking a triangle between the mountains clears up and a stripe of blue sky appears. After half an hour sun shines, the rainbow fades slowly and the fresh thick snow cover on the top of the mountains sparkles. Way too early in the year, the Canadians around us claim. We decide to have supper together, a campfire and beer to celebrate today’s hunting success of the group. The woman shot her first deer. We get deer steaks and moose burgers for the way and return self-picked organic apples.

Merritt, British Columbia – Canadian outdoor pleasure

Freitag, September 3rd, 2010

The logging roads become narrower and worse passable, we go up to 1200 m elevation and down again, but Arminius visibly feels well here. The mixed woodlands are sometimes more, sometimes less dense. Big old trees stand here and there, but there is clear-cut in other places. Many conifers are brown and dead. The pine beetle lays its eggs under the bark. The grubs eat their way through the wood, destroy the nutrient and water capillaries and kill the tree. In former times severe winters always killed a part of the beetles. Few days below -40° are sufficient. But BC waits for those low temperatures for years. And the pine beetle reproduces uninhibitedly and destroys entire forests. An even bigger problem is that the dried trees are prone to forest fires which can easily spread out and cause further devastation.

It is the regulation in BC that logging companies have to erect campgrounds in certain distances. In this area there are many, absolutely idyllic campsites situated at small lakes without a lot of traffic on the logging roads. Since Canadians are looking forward to a long weekend with the Labour Day on Monday, and weather is beautiful, many places are already occupied. But these aren’t silent camping pleasures. Canadian outdoor entertainment is action. People drive with (electro) boats on the lake to angle, ATVs roar between the trees, and whole families ride their dirt bikes adjusted to their body size in the woods. Dogs bark, barbecue grills are preheated hoping for a good catch. On the neighbouring campground somebody turned up the music volume so that the entire surrounding can participate. Nobody feels even basically disturbed. After lunch we drive on and thread through the cows that stoically occupy the road. Despite the dry climate the less wooded areas are used as ranch land. There is only little grass that isn’t dried, but the cattle move freely on huge pieces of land to find something green to eat.

We reach Merritt in the afternoon, a small town that probably can’t be called a gem, but has a privileged location in a valley surrounded by summer-dry mountains. After we’ve done some laundry and shopping – I never bought cheaper bread and cake somewhere else in Canada, but I had to invest double of the usual amount into beer – dusk is falling over town. Days get noticeably shorter, and we still have to find an overnight place. Wal-Mart is still so option for us, but time is limited. We try our luck at the town’s view point. Nightly parking is not forbidden, so we get hold of a site above town with a view like from an eyrie.

Osoyoos, British Columbia – Popular organic apples

Donnerstag, September 2nd, 2010

From Anarchist Mountain we go down to Osoyoos Lake in the valley to visit Ludwig and his wife Irene. His 20,000 apple trees are just hobby, he sais. He earns his money with self-developed and produced, patented mountings for fruit trees and irrigation lines. To my pleasure he switches on one of the rattling machines that chisel bent wires every second. Ludwig takes me with his electro golf cart to the plantation where we pick apples. He gives us the whole box that stands now in the bathroom due to lacking space under the table. We stroll through his private garden and the “test field” where we find fruits that are cultivated from plums and apricots, tiny apples that taste like pear, and big apples that taste like pear. A kind of apples grows here that is so tasty that Ludwig can’t ever harvest them, because the birds pick them before and leave only the empty skin. He could use pesticides, automatic firing systems or nets, but he doesn’t want all that stuff. He wants apples he can eat unwashed directly from the tree. And the birds love apples too. So what. Irene gives us a bottle with homemade cold pressed apple juice that has to be stored frozen since it is made without any additives. It tastes sweet and exquisite like apples and apricots.

We are taking Hwy # 3 west to Princeton. We’ve bought a backroad mapbook for BC that shows all side streets, forest paths and trails on a small scale. We disappear into the woods behind Tulameen and find a pretty clearing for sleeping.

Osoyoos, British Columbia –Germans in Osyoos

Mittwoch, September 1st, 2010

We make our way through to the very south and close the US-American border. The many wineries don’t make our life easier, but soon the wine box is full that shares the space under our table with the ciabatta breads since yesterday. Now the weather is as it is expected to be: sunny, dry, and at least warm. The Southern European appearing ambience is now really shown to advantage: the grass covered hills that are dry-brown since early summer; the elongated lakes in the valley; the irrigated and therefore ample green vineyards and endless orchards; the numberless fruit and vegetable stands along the road or the offers to pick fruits yourself. Osoyoos has given itself a Mexican architecture what’s not completely inappropriate if we forget being in Canada. We go up for a couple of kilometres Hwy # 3 east in the opposite than our travel direction to reach Anarchist Mountain viewpoint, where we expect to shoot the perfect photo from southern Okanagan Valley. Back to Osoyoos while drinking coffee at Osoyoos Lake, we are the village’s attraction. Rita picks us up, invites us and describes the way to her home since she has still to work in town. But there are some precautions to take: She explains how to open and close the gate not to let the horse run away. Her husband Ingo might shoot, but if we drive slowly and wave our hands it should be o.k. But we can’t get away since we have to answer so many questions and receive good advice for the closer routing. Then Ludwig arrives. He has discovered the Bavarian flag sticker on our truck. In spite of his retirement age and his more than 20 years in Canada he stayed a typical Bavarian. But he doesn’t want to go back. Why then? „Here it is like home at the Tegernsee Lake south of Munich. It’s just not that cold. But I don’t need the snow any more.” We already have an invitation for tonight, but we promise to pass by tomorrow before continuation of our journey.

Again we go up Anarchist Mountain where Rita and Ingo have a log house on the mountain with a marvellous view to the lake. The completely glazed gable is aligned to southwest and offers a dream view to lake, mountains, town, even the border crossing-point and the American side. The two brought their three children 20 years ago to Canada, secured their early retirement with a holiday and horse ranch in the Rocky Mountains and eventually moved to the mild climate of the Okanagan.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia – Wine tasting and school bus inhabitant

Dienstag, August 31st, 2010

We are reaching Okanagan Valley in Vernon, one of the most developed touristic areas in British Columbia. The area is known for relaxingly un-Canadian weather, dry and hot. Today this is scarcely noticeable, because it has 12°, and it rains continuously. Okanagan Valley is Canada’s largest wine-growing area with nearly 90 vineyards. We will not even basically manage to visit all of them, but we will try hard and heroically to fight our way through the wine tastings. What a hard day!

The few campgrounds are expensive and loud because of the nearby highway. It is not easy to find any other solution in this densely populated area. We are going uphill on a road where are nearly no houses yet, but beside the turning area in the end of the cul-de-sac a scrapped school bus is parked that doesn’t seem to be in best condition. Inside somebody is pottering about and burning something on the open flame of a camping cooker. A – put cautiously – not very wealthy man is looking from the window. He obviously lives in the bus, and not very comfortable. He has long grey hair to save the money for the hairdresser, as well as the money for razor blades, what degenerates into an untamed beard. We are asking Ralph if we might park our truck beside him for a night. But he is evidently afraid that two vehicles could attract more attention than just one and might fear competitors. He was looking for a job as a picker. Cherries, nectarines and plums are ripe, and apples won’t be a long time in coming. We could park on an unsold plot a few metres further down, nobody should be bothered. As soon as we are convincing him that we don’t want to pick anything, we’ll leave tomorrow morning, and that our truck even has a valid license plate, he is well reassured and makes concessions. But we already decided to use the neighbouring plot. An hour later, we are cooking dinner, it is knocking on the door. It is Ralph with a pretty big water canister in his hand. He would like to make a coffee, but he ran out of water. Could we help him out? We have enough water. Besides he didn’t manage to buy sugar. Do I have some packs for him? I am filling some sugar in a bag and adding some of the ciabatta breads from the restaurant sack. He is apologizing that he has nothing in return. Singing and whistling he is jumping back to his bus. Obviously we made somebody happy.

Kamloops, British Columbia – Warm climate with heavy storm

Montag, August 30th, 2010

Kamloops is industrial town, traffic junction, and ideal supply point for travellers. At Costco we buy the obligatory broiled chicken, some ham, cheese, and cake – of course everything more expensive that in Alaska. The funniest thing we take is a bag of the size of a half potato sack with 18 small ciabatta breads. It lies now under our table since there is no space elsewhere. The city might not hold a particular attraction, but its location is fantastic. It snuggles up to a river triangle between numberless brown-green hills, covered with grass dried in the summer heat. Rivers carved valleys and canyons into the hills millions of years ago. Green areas are only found with irrigation. Forests grow only sparsely, but slowly more southern trees like cypress and weeping willows are put in the picture. Kamloops is regarded as the warmest city in Canada. To our great delight it meets our expectations today. Today is the first day with continuous sunshine, pleasant temperatures, blue sky and little white clouds after a long bad-weather period along the Northern Pacific.

We finish off our 16th wedding anniversary with a bottle of wine and a nice dinner on a pitch at a lake outside the city. A heavy storm befalls us during the night. Without any precipitation, but waves on the pond grow to a remarkable size and wind howls frighteningly.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia – High trees, deep waters

Sonntag, August 29th, 2010

Wells Gray Provincial Park is with 540.000 km2 one of British Columbia’s largest provincial parks, the main part is undeveloped wilderness. It is regarded as one of BC’s highlights and free of charge at the same time. The park is known for its connected lakes, rapids and waterfalls between the alpine appearing Caribou Mountains. Canoe fans as well as white water rafters find a paradise here. There are even rapids of category 5+ – something like a dark-black ski run. Many attractions are accessible by car or short hikes. E.g. the Spahat Falls where the water of a brook falls from a cave-like canyon deep down, and continues its journey in a deep canyon with huge steep faces. A view platform does not only offer glances to astronomical depths but over the green forest scenery of the park.

The sharp bends of the feeder track to the more than 1000 m high Green Mountain are problematically narrow for motorhomes. A view tower was erected up there from where we have a great view to the surrounding mountains beyond the treetops. Dawson falls are less worth seeing due to their only 18 m height than because the immense water masses at 91 m width. The spectacular signature spot of Wells Gray Park is Helmcken Falls. Water shoots from a defile in free fall 141 m deep where it lands in a huge semicircular bowl that must have been created thousands of years ago. The river flows on as well between canyon walls rising as straight as a die.

In August and September of every year you can watch a special spectacle of nature at Bailey’s Chute Rapids. Chinook salmon – up to 22 kg heavy – try with vast leaps to overcome the rapids. None of them makes it to more than the half. In the end of their journey they have to realize that they miss power for this last act of strength. They have to turn and drift downstream where they spawn in calmer waters and die. Clearwater Lake is situated in the end of the 70 km long park road and rightly carries its name due to its crystal-clear water. It offers access to diverse – non-motorized – water sport options. In the whole park very old huge red cedars stand out. The conifers can grow up to 30 m and their stems are up to 180 cm thick; further south they can grow even bigger. They achieve an average age of 300 to 700 years, but can become up to 1000 years old.