Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
This is the post excerpt.
Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
Having been up so late the night before, we had a lie in, then Henri directed us in making a delushuz cooked breakfast. The sun was (mostly out), so we ate on the rooftop patio in the sun. Absolutely lovely.
Sunday afternoon we headed on the bikes, to a cheese tasting. We were supplied with the correct wine for each cheese, and we were supplied with several varieties. We learned to cut it thinly with a little cheese guillotine, and then how to smell and taste like a proper connoisseur. It was all very yum.
As part of the cheese tasting, we also got to ride a canal boat, which was a very enjoyable meander through the canals. The sun even came out a few times, and it was all very pleasant. The cheese and canal tour all up was 22 euro, which I feel was a pretty good deal, considering the amount of cheese I ate, along with a glass of red and white wine, and a glass of port.
After the cheese and wine and boats, we wandered back through town, and did Rick Steve’s Audio tour of the Red light district, and right to the start of the town. I honestly don’t have a lot to write about the day, so here are a bunch of photos of canals, boats, and crooked houses! It was just very enjoyable and relaxing, biking around, wandering, and the boat trip was definitely fun, a good way to see a lot of the city from a different view.
Henrietta made us another lovely dinner, mostly cheese and potato, but with a few colourful veges thrown in. After dinner, we took the cameras out and biked around in the dark, which was actually very fun, if a little chilly. Did some night photos, and the main thing I realised is that I need a tripod!
Friday 26th September
Friday we woke at a decent time, got up, and, as you do, went to get breakfast from the local patisserie. More cheese, bread, pastrys, oh no!
It did take us a while to get all sorted and out the door, as it was our first proper morning, but we weren’t in a particular hurry, and the whole day was kind of like that, just pootling around, looking at whatever we felt like, going wherever. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep you cool. I imagine summer would be quite hot.
We headed back over to Avenue Vert, which turned, very suddenly, from wide, paved, smooth, to rough grass with a bit of a dirt track in the middle. It was certainly interesting, but you wouldn’t want to follow that forever. Quite bumpy. Lovely and peaceful though, heading through the farmland and trees, with no city noises or car noises.
We got back onto normal roads, then kinda lost the trail a bit, headed down a few little side roads and had a bit of a map consulting session, before we headed off down some more back roads. We saw a tiny town up on a hill, and off-roaded it up a steep hill to have a look. La Ferte-Saint-Samson, a tiny little village on a hill, with very cute buildings (tudor style, and Henri reckoned with Germanic influence), probably 15th-16th? Century. It was quiet and lovely, and we biked around for a bit.
Headed to the top of the hill to check out the cute little church, where the bells rung for midday. Whoever was ringing them, seemed to enjoy it, and they went on for quite a bit. Found a little orientation statue thing, and a very old tree, which I climbed. Carefully. It was so lovely and peaceful and sunny.
Someone at some point during the morning had mentioned that we hadn’t had any flat tyres or problems yet, so heading out of town, Henri got the first flat tyre of the trip. We went back to the pretty village square to fix it, so not a bad view to have to endure.
Finally managed to leave town, looking forward to doing some decent biking, and Dale got the second flat tyre of the hour, just down the road. There was a french horse, whom I greeted in French, although he was quite uncommunicative. He didn’t mind that I brushed all the flies away from his face though, and we had some pats, before parting, and we continued on our way.
One thing I noticed, and kept noticing throughout the trip, was that even in the peaceful quiet of the countryside, there always seemed to be some passenger plane or other going overhead. Just the sheer amount of plane traffic in the sky above Europe is amazing. So. Many. Planes. So many people going places. It is honestly a bit ridiculous.
More lovely countryside, green rolling hills, farmland, and the occasional bit of wooded forest. We had a vague destination of a local castle, though google maps couldn’t pinpoint it, and we ended up biking around in a big circle, before stopping to ask directs from a local French lady. She spoke lots of fast french words, until Henri asked her to slow it down a little, and we ascertained that we had to go down the road, left at the corner, then a few kms along, then you couldn’t miss it. I think we were a bit excited about asking and getting directions in French!
We eventually found the castle, Chateau Bremontier-Merval, which was a massive four storey thing, very pretty, which is now a school. It was on a hilltop, surrounded by lots of huge, old trees, all leafy green and knobbly.
After the castle, we headed towards our destination, somewhere to the South and West. We stopped for lunch in a little town, I think was called La Feuillie. There was one patisserie, where the lady didn’t speak much English at all, but we managed to get all we needed. We met a Brit, who had lived in France for a while. There was no supermarket, but we managed to find a couple of dairy/4 square type places (I’m not sure what you call them in England.. Newsagents maybe?) where we bought enough food for dinner and breakfast.
We had to follow some main roads, which really wasn’t as fun, but not much choice. We had a lot of trouble finding our destination – gmaps doesn’t always like French places. Eventually, our lovely Airbnb hosts came to pick us up, which honestly made me happy, as the lived at the top of a massive hill. They were very happy, as we were the first bike tour people they had had stay with them, and also the first New Zealanders.
Our accomodation was an adorable little cabin, with all the amenities, a pull out couch, and an adorable little loft bed up top. We had a quick dip in the pool, met the local ponies, goats, geese and chickens, and then got clean and dry for dinner. Henri made us a lovely, lovely dish, of layers of potato and raclette (we had this in Bordeaux, it is the cheese that is for melting, it is so, so delishuz). For the sake of feeling better about ourselves, we also had some stirfry veg. And baguette. I put the raclette/potato mix on the baguette. It was amazing. Lovely pastries and tarts for dessert, and I think we also had some macaroons.
I guess I should have felt bad for the sheer amount of food I was eating, but I really didn’t, because, hey, so very delishuz. Also, we were biking like 50km a day.
We lay out on the deck chairs, surrounded by the gathering dark, and watched the stars start to twinkle, and the bats flitter about through the trees. Bliss.
We must have seen half a dozen planes go by while we were lying there (plus one shooting star). Do they ever stop?
Another decent nights sleep, however this time, we intended to be up and gone early the next day, so we could get to the next town with plenty of time to look around.
I spent a few runs along the water front, in various weathers, plenty of pretty views and chalk cliffs.
One weekend we biked out to the Smugglers Rest Inn, in Peacehaven, for lunch, with Henri and Alastair. They had good bikes. We had medium hire bikes. But it wasn’t too bad. Lovely ride along the South coast, chalk cliffs, a bit of a breeze, a non nudists beach, and chalk!
Monday dawned nice and sunny. We all piled in Curby (our vehicle, a 7 person carvan), and headed out into the local neighbourhood.
We had a bit of trouble finding our first location, and zoomed on to the second. A lot of the roads are quite small, and kinda crazy, zipping through them in a large car-van. We found the second location, but they were closing for lunch – most vineyards seem to close for a period over lunch, perhaps for napping? While waiting, we decided to go to the supermarket and stock up on cheese and bread! We spent the rest of the day trying, drinking and buying wine. It was very interesting, many of the people didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak much French, so there was plenty of extrapolation, hand waving and charades, but we enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Our last day was spent in a town called Cadillac, where they had various interesting points. There was a church, Chappelle d’Epernon.
There was also an old castle – Chateau de Cadillac, that was used for various things. It is apparently a good example of French Architecture, and was quite amazing inside, with massive rooms and fireplace. Each one was elaborately carved in marble and stone, with huge tapestries.
The town even had a proper wall, town gate, towers with arrow slits. It was pretty, lots of spring flowers around. We ate lunch at a little bakery, where I had to go back and buy apple pastry things, and eclairs, a couple of times, as they were very yummy.
The day we flew out, we spent a fair amount of time packing, and headed into Bordeaux early so we sort out extra bags. I think a couple of extra bags were bought by people for transporting wine home. We stopped at a massive mall, that had the most amazing fancy toilets I have seen in a while. We also bought more macaroons, and ate them. 🙂 Plane ride back was uneventful.
We awoke bright and early in Banff, to a slightly chilly temp of around -30 degrees. From what I heard, Sunshine skifield was on hold due to it being too cold…. wtf!!! You know it’s pretty cold, when Canadians close their skifield. We stopped at the supermarket to get some lunch, then headed north, along the section of road called the Icefields Parkway. It is not a transit road, it is a scenery/tourist road, maintained by Parks Canada, and it one of the prettiest drives ever.
We stopped at all the places that were open. It was very, very cold, but it was perfectly clear and sunny, which is what we wanted. I will not go on about each place (hey look, another mountain!), but I do of course have pictures of each mountain. Well, most of them. There are more pictures than words in this post 🙂
My favourite bits were:
Weeping wall – an ice covered wall, frozen and blue. We stopped here for lunch, next to a very pretty little river.
Mistaya Canyon – very pretty! There was a raven sitting at the edge of the pull-out, and his feathers were fluffed out all over his feet, I assume to keep them warm. He didn’t want to move when I got close, but he eventually did, and looked a little put out.
Athabasca Glacier – the glacier has retreated quite a way, but you can walk up almost to the face, to the frozen pool of water that sits in front of it. Down one side you can see the exposed glacier, a beautiful deep blue, with layers and lines. It was hidden away, most of the glacier is covered in snow. On the walk up, there are lateral moraines (scree piles), tall on either side, and you climb up a terminal moraine. Occasionally, the bedrock pokes through, and it is sleek and smooth to touch, slippery to walk on if wet, and you can see the lines scratched into it, from when the sheer mass of glacier was moving rocks across it. The glacier is part of the Colombia Icefield, which is over 300m2, and feeds at least 8 glaciers. It was pretty. They had plenty of signs telling tourists not to try and walk on it, as people fall in to crevices and die.
Wild coyotes – Dale spotted one walking down a river, so we screeched to a stop, and jumped out to watch it. It trotted down the river, peed on a rock, then continued on its way. We spotted another one crossing the road in front of us further down the river, and we stopped to watch that one too.
There are around 100+ accommodation places that are guesthouses, located in the basement of peoples houses, in Jasper, a bit like in Field. It seems to be a good way for people to make a bit extra from home. Warm and snuggly, if no view, and we found a relatively cheap one for our few days in Jasper. It was nice to have a lounge and space to ourselves.
We got up, briefly examined some shops, and then headed north. Once out of Calgary, it was straight roads and flat, flat, plains for a couple of hours drive. Flat As! The road you could see stretching out in front of you for ages and ages….. Flat plains, very little in the way of trees or fences, just flat snow covered flatness.
Cruise control was a great thing here. As we were driving, the wind was pushing snow across the road in a thin veil, it looked pretty cool, but kinda crazy driving through a horizontal snow curtain.
We saw a few oil wells, just pumping away in the middle of nowhere, in peoples paddocks. We travelled over the prairie until we came suddenly to a gorge, where the road dropped down to a river valley. We stopped in a town called Drumheller for lunch. The town is filled with model dinosaurs, in varying shades of paint. The whole Badlands area is in a valley, carved out of sedimentary rock by rivers. You can see the layers in the rock on the walls of the canyons, and for the most part, they are striped and vividly coloured. Reds, browns, black layers of coal. The area was known for its coal mining, and we checked out a river and a suspension bridge. From the looks of it, people had been driving up and down on the river on their snowmobiles.
It was lovely weather in terms of sun and blue skies, but the temperature was a bit chilly, and we were reluctant at times, to get out of the car. Dale didn’t want to be in any photos, he mostly wanted to stay in the car. Which is fair enough, in -25 with windchill (I think a windchill warning was issued, in some places, something silly like 10 mins till frostbite in exposed places). It was a: jump out of the car, run to the place, take a quick photo, run back to the car, turn the heater up High).
There are formations called Hoodoos, pillars that have formed, usually topped by harder sandstone, where the earth around it has been eroded away, leaving a flat topped pillar. The area is also rife with dinosaur bones, and I think they have pulled the most intact dinosaur bones from that area than any other in the world.
We checked out some hoodoos, and then the massive fiberglass t-rex that they have at the info centre. You can walk up inside it and look out over the town. We also went to check out horse thief canyon, which is very pretty, and then horseshoe Canyon just before the sun went down, then we drove back to Banff.
Sunset over the plains, such delicate pastel colours, so cold and pretty. It is currently -28 out, but windchill is a ***, I’m sure it makes it more like -40, which is just ridiculous, and just popping outside the car to take a couple of pictures is an ordeal!
We are travelling directly west, the sun set in a fiery golden ball. The sky behind is turning blue-grey, the snow covered fields stretch out in all directions, flat as far as the eye can see. They seem to glow, reflecting the aqua of the sky above. IN front,the sky descends from dusky blue through aqua, pale teal, blue-green, a touch of yellow, orange, and then salmon and coral at the horizon. I love this time of night in Canada, just after the sun has set, the light seems to linger for such a long time, everything looks just a little bit softer. In Field, with the mountains, the sun would set, and there would be a mix of blue and yellow lights reflected off the sky and surrounding mountains.
We woke relatively early, consumed many pancakes with nutella, syrup and banana, and proceeded out on foot to the zoo. The Calgary Zoo was extensively flooded and damaged in the floods last year, but they are rebuilding pretty well. The zoo is located on two sides of the river, connected by a bridge.
After a 40minute walk, we arrived at the walking gate, only to find it was closed, and a sign sending us back to the north entrance. We headed back that way, but ended up walking right around the outside of one of the islands, which was a bit frustrating for me, coz I wanted to be inside looking at the animals, not freezing outside! However, we got to walk along the river, pretty and mostly frozen, and we saw a whole bunch of canadian geese (who were just standing in the unfrozen bits of the river, like it was balmy), and a very cute, fluffy, black squirrel.
We finally made it to the entrance, and went inside. It was freezing outside, with a slight breeze. A slight breeze I’m sure that brings the temperature down so much!
mThe zoo was pretty quiet, I don’t think it is that much of a Winter destination haha. The zoo itself I enjoyed, many of the enclosures are well designed and interesting, both for the animals and the people. The indoor penguin enclosure was awesome, with glass walls and pools that you can see into, with tunnels under the walkway, and when the penguins get out of the pool, they are at your head level, so you’re kinda looking up at them. You can lean on the glass wall, and while doing so, a penguin decided it would be a good idea to peck my hands. We’re not allowed to touch the penguins, but they are allowed to touch us!
After the penguins it was to the Canadian Wilds area, where we saw mountain goats and sheep, caribou, bison, elk.
An aviary housed some very fluffy owls, who all blinked sleepily at us (apart from one, who had intent yellow eyes, and he stared at us, no matter where we moved. There was one who was snuggled under a heat lamp, so cute!
Then across the bridge, where we found zebra, which were interestingly camouflaged with the snow and rocks; a pair of the coldest looking lions I have seen – two males, with decent manes, one was stretched on a rock, but the other was curled into a ball like a little housecat!
There was a very cool indoor African area, where they house the hippos, with a viewing pool, so you can watch them while they swim… on land they are massive, fat, and droopy. In the water, they are like large ballerinas, and it is very cool watching them. Also in the Africa area were giraffe, porcupines, and meerkats. I was (being mean) very amused by the fact that the meerkats were all quite terrified of my fox hat…I would stick my head over the viewing wall, and peer down at them – if I didn’t have my hat on they would peer up at me, and then go about their business, but if I had my hat on, they would peer up, look startled, and then if I moved, they would sound an alert, and then all run off and hide in a log or ball or den.
I had two favourite parts of the zoo – the first was their snow leopard exhibit, which we walked past and couldn’t find anything in, so we went along to the tiger exhibit, which was my other favourite part. The tiger exhibit was quite large, and had a lovely stream/pool in the middle (though frozen over at this time of year). it was full of bare trees and snow, but looked neat, and there were two tigers prowling in it. They looked much happier in the snow than the lions did, and their stripes and orange was very striking against the while. They both looked alert and curious and prowled around the cage a bit. They were so cute! One was cleaning his face with his paw, just like a house cat.
On the way back, we went past the snow leopard cage again, and there were two snow leopards! We were super excited. They are very pretty, they look so fluffy and soft, and their tails are amazing. So thick and long (I think they are up to 1 meter long, just the tail). They prowled around, and glared a bit.
Lastly we visited the elephants, who spent a while finding their food, in puzzle balls and holes in the walls. Their trunks are so dexterous!
We left the zoo, and caught the train into town (too cold and far to wander any more, and still sore from skiing), and went to the center mall, which has an indoor garden on the 4th floor. It is quite lovely, to sit amongst the trees and warm, while it is freezing outsdie. There were koi, and a few water features. The gardens were all so perfect, I thought at first they were fake. But they are real; I guess they grow pretty equally, with similar light, humidity, no breeze or animals or erosion to make things look different.
Tuesday we were up nice and early for cross country skiing, fully bundled up in all the clothes, and we were on the trail by 8.10am. It was freezing. Absolutely literally. About -22 degrees. We got our gear on and got moving as quick as possible; if you sat around for any length of time, all your bits started to freeze. The first few kms were pretty easy, getting used to up and downhill, and trying to make the skis slide nicely. It took 3kms for my hands to unfreeze, and another before I could feel my toes – it was a good incentive to keep right on moving.
We stopped after a couple of hours, at 6km, for a hastily munched snack of solid muesli bars (sorry, granola bars) and chocolate. They were not quite frozen solid, but pretty close. Had to be careful to blow the water out of the drinking tubes so they wouldn’t freeze. With mine, the plastic had frozen, but was able to drink easily. We only stopped for about 5 mins, but our fingers started freezing again, so we had to keep going. We both had grown ice forests, with icicles hanging from the sides of the hats. I didn’t get any pictures of the ice farms at their peak, though, unfortunately. They dripped everywhere during lunch.
Another couple of hours got us to the campground, where tent sites were a metre deep squares dug out of the snow.
Furthur on took us past the lodge (I’m not sure if it operates during winter, but it is super expensive to stay there. An incredible location, but I think it was something like $300 a night). Must be fantastic in summer, they have a whole pile of cute little log houses on the edge of the lake. They were all closed up for winter, but we found one in the sun to perch on the deck and eat lunch, as the snow was too deep to do it anywhere else. It was another ridiculously pretty place to eat lunch, with the white covered lake in front of us, and the high peaks all around.
Lunch was interesting. We had the cooker to make noodles and soup, which was great.. However, our egg sandwiches had somehow manage to freeze a fair amount. Especially the egg bit. Frozen egg is not delishuz, not even a little bit. Dale tried warming his up on top of the pot, and I stuck mine down the front of my jersey. It took a couple of hours to thaw enough to eat ><
After lunch we traipsed across the lake (you can’t climb to a frozen solid alpine lake and then not walk across the middle of it!), to the deep blue of the waterfall we could see on the other side. I’m not sure if it is even a massive waterfall in summer, but in winter it is a great, pretty wall of blue blue ice.
We took our skis off at the edge of the lake, and climbed up to the falls. It was lovely, we stopped to take a few photos and videos, and saw a couple of squirrels in the trees around, and a flock of little dark coloured birds who would keep flying to the bit of the waterfall that was still flowing, and hop around in the water. Weirdos, its cold! I think they might be called Dippers.
By this time it was about 2.30pm, and we needed to get going, so we could make it out by dark. Starts getting cold again when the sun goes down. We swooshed across the lake, then started the interesting part of cross country skiing, that is going downhill!
Cross country skis are meant for traveling long distances, not for downhill skiing! They are very thin, and do not have metal edges, the whole thing is plastic. There are funny bits on the bottom, like fish scales, that help stop them from sliding backwards when going uphill. When going downhill, you have to stick your foot out and snow plow, and you can’t steer very well because of the no edges. I fell over a few times on the steep downhills, before I figured out how to slow myself properly with the skis.
Heading down was much quicker than going up, most downhills meant you could just cruise, and try not to fall over. You sound like a train when you’re going fast with your skis stuck in the ski tracks. Feel a bit like a train too. Easy to derail! It was much more fun going downhill, but by halfway back I was ridiculously exhausted. We stopped for a snack – I had been keeping my food down my top to keep it warm, and the rest of my egg sandwich was finally unfrozen, so I got to finish that. The last 3 kms were very hard, only because we were so tired. We finally made it back to the car, going out took us just over 2 hours.
Back home to Field, where we went to the local restaurant, Truffle Pigs, for dinner, to celebrate our last night (and we were also too tired to bother cooking). Food was delishuz.
We worked the weekend, Craig and Kim went away, leaving us to look after the hostel. We worked till Tuesday, then got up early Wednesday morning, and headed up to Revelstoke. We planned carefully, what with crossing a timezone, and being aware of roads that were closed for avalanche control. We made it to the mountain by 10am, which is not too bad, only had one delay with avalanche control, though the roads were slow, as they were all firm packed snow. As we approached Revelstoke, the piles at the sides of the road got quite large. There is one section of road, through Roger’s Pass, where the road is often covered by tunnels, which are in the paths of avalanches, so that part of the road is protected. The road past Revelstoke was closed, so there were heaps of trucks lined up before the town, waiting until the road opened.
I don’t really have much to say about Revelstoke, except that it was amazing. They had over a meter of new snow in the week before we arrived, and it snowed 5cm every night, and 12cm during one of the days. We were still finding freshies on the third day.
Revelstoke has quite a decent vertical drop, a truck ton of snow, and lots of snow laden glades. My very favourite place was the Powder Monkey Glades, where the trees were nicely spaced, but in places the snow was so deep and foofy and lovely. We spent much of our three day visit in amongst the trees of the numerous glades, swishing and twisting and trying not to hit trees. I loved it. Best snow days ever.
They had some interesting names: Iron Gladen, Glades of Gnarnia, Powder Monkey Glades, Glades of Glory. The other interesting thing is that you don’t really go out of the ski area boundary here. There is plenty in the boundary to keep you entertained, but going out of it means you get charged a lot if you have to be rescued, and apparently they have had a few people this season being stuck out all night because they were not found. Cliffs, and cold.
They had a run called Lemming Line, where you have to walk a few minutes up over a ridge, but you get to drop down into a bowl, and the snow is ridiculous. Once in the bowl, you drop down through trees, and then cruise through glades for quite a while before you hit the bottom of the lift. The good thing about the bowl (or bad) is that you have to go in a roundabout way to gt back up to the top of it… you have to drop down to the bottom of one lift, catch that up, then traverse a few kms across and slightly down the mountain to get to the next lift, catch that up, and then traverse back across to the top of the bowl. So you can’t just ride it over and over and over until all the freshies are gone. Which is why they weren’t all gone.
The trees at the top of the field were all super snow encrusted, pretty much white all over. On Wednesday, we were doing a bit of a trek to reach the edge of the field (a run called Hot Sauce), and Dale saw an Ozone windsock. He thought that was interesting, and I said it was probably because they kite up this way. Then I turned around, and lo and behold, there was a guy just above us unrolling his kite.
On closer inspection, it wasn’t a power kite, but a glider thing. We helped him get it up, he had skis on, and the kite was attached to him with a harness, and two steering handles. The kite only sat a few meters above him. It took a couple of go’s, but once he had it in the air, he pretty much just took off, and soared above the field and off into the distance. It was awsum. Hopefully he landed ok, we didn’t see him again.
Thursday was the best day, with so much snow, and zooming through trees; very exciting, as you had to commit to your turns, you had to turn this way then that way, and error usually ended up with you against a tree. The amount of snow made the really steep slopes relatively easy to navigate, and a few times we stopped at the bottom of a slope, to look back at the almost-cliff that we had just dropped down.
Friday we were ridiculously tired, but as we already had lift passes we felt the need to go all day, and I think this was our longest day, as we also had to drive 3hours back to Field. Ridiculously tired and sore, after 3 full days of boarding. But it was fantastic.
We stayed in a new little Hostel called The Cube, which (was in the shape of a cube!) was right in the middle of town, near to food, supermarkets, and board waxing shops. It is quite a good hostel, the rooms are pretty private, the beds are very comfortable, and you get your own heater and tv. The only downsides was the soundproofing, and the door rattled a bit when others were closed. But it was a good place to crash out.
There is also an aquatic center in Revelstoke, and we got a pass from the backpackers to go. It was interesting, swimming around in comfortable temperatures, while you could see the snow softly falling outside. The aquatic center also had a hot tub, and 2 types of sauna, all of which we tried out.