July - August 2017
  • Day22

    Stanley Park and Aquarium

    August 17, 2017 in Canada ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    Repacked all our bags to ensure no liquid in carry on and souvenirs all safe. Checked out, left car at hotel and walked to aquarium, about 10 minutes away. Entered park and saw horse drawn guided tours. Next one left in 5 minutes so we went for it. Kids not that keen, but only an hour.

    Told us lots about history of park and Vancouver. Stopped at some totem poles for 10 minutes. Took photos and went to shop for model totems, almost missed bus back, Tash and I ran as last ones on. Saw little wetsuit girl statue, was supposed to be little mermaid like Copenhagen but they didn't want to be copied so did girl in wetsuit instead. Also,saw Vancouver cricket and rugby club. Bemusement from fellow tourists about cricket lasting 5 days and having tea break written into rules!

    After tour we headed to aquarium. Had green screen picture taken. I had green t shirt on randomly so appeared bodyless. Lady said she could fix but said no looked good as it was and bought a couple. Saw dolphin show first. Two dolphins, `Joanne a Pacific white sided and Chester a fake killer whale (so called as skulls when found were just like orcas). Quite unusual and rately seen, Chester found at Tofino on beach very sick. Neither can be released back to wild. Show was a training session rather than full on show, better that way, animals just working with trainers to develop understanding. Still did some jumps etc but not like a seaword style thing. Then went to 4d theatre. Was BBC film with Attenborough talking about sardine run when dolphins chase sardines up South Africa coast, followed by gannets sharks and whales. So many of them they split them off into bait balls and force them to surface where others prey on them. Gannets dive in in big flocks, get 10m with dive and swim another​ 10m chasing prey. Great spectacle water was sprayed on us, wind blown at us and diving birds simulated by spike in back from seat.

    Then hit sea lion show while having some lunch, huge portions again, should have shared. Show was training again so no jumping for balls. Steller sea lions rather than Californian we have seen before. Saw shop had model whales which excited Ed.

    Wandered around other exhibits, a good aquarium. Had tropical section with sloths in rainforest, spotted one but was obviously asleep. Saw penguins and sea lions get fed ice balls. Didn't go into ray discovery area as it had big queue. Could get hands on with rays here. We went to shop for model whales and a harry otter t shirt, then had slush puppies and walked back to hotel. Tash bought a large cuddly beluga whale and some orca slippers (was toss up between these and otter slippers)

    Repacjed bags a bit more. No room for the large beluga whale cuddly Tash had bought. Have to be carry on. Drove to airport. About 40 minutes. Filled up on way, slightly painfully as pump I was using kept cutting out so had to fill slowly. Returned car fairly easily, found trolley and went into terminal. Had done 2800km on the trip in total. Check in desks not yet open for BA, so had drinks and Oreos from yesterday Safeway. It opened about 5ish and we checked in, learnt was delayed about 45 minutes. Got through security. Sam managed to not set off alarm by putting her glasses through scanner rather than wearing. That will be the key from now on.

    Relaxed in lounge and kids went into duty free couple of times to spend last of Canadian dollars. Flight was delayed and boarding was slow as they tried to fix in flight entertainment system. Once on we learnt they hadn't fixed it and there would be none on the flight. Power plugs not working to charge iPads either. And two of menu choices not loaded on so not available. Not great service. Got some forms for compensation claim so we will see what we get. Ended up getting 6,000 Avios miles each, not much use. Flight was largely uneventful and we all slept a bit even Ed. Not too late landing, our bags, seemed to take ages to come. Met driver through customs, kids very excited he had sign with 'Smith Family' on it and we headed home.
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  • Day21

    Grouse Mountain

    August 16, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    On the ferry over day before had booked three of us to do ziplining up Grouse Mountain, Vancouver's ski resort in winter. Was about 20 minute drive, though traffic was slow across bridge so took little longer. Had breakfast of bagels in room from Safeway night before. Collected our tickets and got Sam one to go up and caught next gondola. Was just one up one down, they were big, holding 90+ people and taking 5 minutes to do trip. Swung a bit at the two stantions and Sam didn't like it. Up top we went straight to zip line place and did waivers then got kit on. Was same design as Whistler, with bar attached to trolley you carried. Got same safety demo etc. Only difference was landing position, legs together not spread apart like before.

    Got a go pro so kids could film each other and their own rides. They went first down ride one, was quite slow and tame but good intro to the 5 lines in all. Two Aussie blokes in their 50s were doing it too, one hated heights and was very nervous on all the wires, but he did it. Second line was a steeper faster one and had to go down in the screaming starfish. Legs and arms spread like a starfish to slow you down. Screaming optional but good for other visitors on path below that we traveled across. This was more fun. At end they had bags on the springs for your legs to hit as you swung up. Hence why didn't need legs apart for landing.

    Third wire was over a lake, quite pretty but fairly slow again. You did roll back over lake at end making you think things had gone wrong before you rolled back into the landing area. Emily one of our guides had forgotten to start the kids go pro, so they walked back up and got to do the ride again. Steve the other Aussie guide had said on radio to her did you forget something as kids landed. Tash thought she had done something wrong with set up and that was why they had rolled back across lake!

    After this we had to take chairlift up to summit of mountain. Was very slow lift. Took 14 minutes but could have done it in third of time if it had been normal lift speed! It went quite high above the ground and the Aussie guy had his eyes closed the whole time. Last two wires at top started from higher platforms and went across the valley then back again. First was 360m or so, second a little longer. These were great lines. Good views down valley, high up and fast. Had to go in speeding bullet position to make sure you got all way across. Legs straight out in front and lay back as far as you could. Got some real speed up. I rocketed past Asian lady I was paired with (lines were tandem so two at once, all like this).

    Flies were a bit ferocious especially at the top here, though none of us seemed to end up with that many bites. Was all good fun. Went back down chairlift. Aussies walked! Steve talked about driving on right and Canadians speeding and love of the horn, which would be seen as much more aggressive in U.K and Oz. Lack of speed cameras over here very different to U.K and difference is noticeable on people's attitudes to speed.

    We bought photos and got the go pro video download, all came out well.

    Then went for a drink. Tash and I had talked about doing tandem paraglide, so we asked whether any available. 1.30, 2.45 and 5.15 had one spot each. After consultation with others I went for 1.30. It was now 12.45 so had to pretty much head up chairlift to meet at 1.15 up there. Tash was undecided so I left them all and went up. Got given a waiver form to fill in and waited for my pilot to come up chairlift. He arrived, Carlos from Venezuela. One oft other pilots was his brother and both had been taught to fly by their dad when 13 and 11. He spread our chute and I got harness on. Then clipped to him and chute. We had to walk forward straight to pull parachute up then walk harder and run to get us off ground. Important to keep running until fully off ground. So ended up doing comedy run in mid air, cartoon like.

    Was actually easy process and was easily up and floating. He described it as a magic carpet and I could see why. We swooped across chairlift and down the valley sides. It was very manoeuvrable and he turned it one way then the other. Took photos and videos with a Go pro and talked about what we could see. Mount Robson in distance was in USA about 100 km away. Lake below, Capilano Lake was man made and fed Vancouver with 30 per cent of water. He asked if I wanted to do roller coaster style moves and flipped the chute from one side to the other. Have to say made me feel little queasy, was all in the head rather than the stomach which I would have preferred. Then headed into land. Came in very fast which Carlos had said we would, had to hold my legs up, then he tugged in chute and brought us to dead stop. Put my legs down nd stood up - very smooth. Looked at video on tablet while he packed away then went back to gondola on mini bus.

    Followed the guys through staff entrance and up with them then all way up chairlift as had text from Tash to say she had signed up for 2.45 flight. Chatted with Carlos, he does summer in Vancouver then time off then December to March in Cape Town then to Columbia. Trying to save up for house and some land to build paragliding hostel and live there making some money from visitors and enjoying life. Asked about comeptitions. Three types, landing where have to land accurately on a coin, quite boring he said. Acrobatics which his brother did, can do loop the loops, 271 the consecutive record. Now do tricks with wires crossed for extra difficulty, Carlos does regatta style races, where have to go to different GPS points in fastest time. Competitors wear GPS trackers to show they have followed course to markers.

    Saw Tash at top. Ed and Sam had gone up chairlift with her. Sam hated it, was very steep above ground. Carlos took Tash too. We all went down take off strip to watch her. She was nervous asking lots of questions as her coping mechanism . Most worried about having to run at the start. Only needed to do that for about 5 metres at most and Carlos was pushing you on for most of the time.

    She took off smoothly. Sun was now out and she went much higher on thermals than I did and even swooped back across take off area, waving at us. She landed and we met her at the picnic tables near gondola. We asked about 5.15 slot but it had now gone as Ed wanted to do it, though he was quite uncertain and I think maybe a little relieved the slot had gone. Next time for him. We promised him we would go parasailing in Lanzarote, Sam promised she would do it with him!

    Went to see the bear talk of the two grizzly bears that live in a compound on mountain, koola and grinder. They came out for the snacks placed around, though we had seen them earlier from the chairlift. They were orphaned and couldn't live in the wild. Very cute and made us sure the one we had seen in Banff was a grizzly, looked just like these guys.

    Took some pics then went to get seat fir the world famous lumberjack show. Ed and Tash went off to get beaver tails - a fried flat donut thing with topping of your choice. Ed got melted oreo for him and maple syrup for me. They were very very sweet and sickly! Show was good fun, two competing lumberjacks at various challenges, sawing, axe throwing, chopping between legs, log rolling, wood carving and climbing up tree to ring bell using rope and spikes. Our team won. We saw guy heading home in our lift later, with his axe in a special big case. He was a 5 time world champion in the log climb apparently so no wonder he won that!

    A 'tourist' wandered on set at one point then secretly climbed the pole and did some stunts on top before falling off and zipwiring down. Part of show though not obvious at the start until he was climbing. Was fun show and script was tongue in cheek. Carved a stool from wood and gave it to youngest person there, 4 month old baby asleep despite chain sawing!

    Went back down gondola and Tash and I went to Safeway for food. Fell asleep early as was shattered with all fresh air and excitement. Last day tomorrow.
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  • Day20

    Mainly a travel day

    August 15, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We were on 12.15 ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver Horseshoe Bay today, reverse of Friday's trip. About 2.5 hour drive to ferry so we wanted early start. Decided hotel breakfast would not be conducive to this so coffee in room then off just before 8, intending to get breakfast when we saw somewhere for a brief pit stop.

    Drive was smooth and about hour and half in we got near port Alberni (where Blain was from) and a coffee shop and restaurant. Pulled in, got some toasted sandwiches and coffee and used loos then back on way. Got to ferry terminal about 11 and checked in, reservation seemed to get us to front of line. Loos and shops on other side of terminal - Ed counted 36 traffic lanes, ferries go to various places from here. Bought ice creams and sat in sun listening to a busker. He was good and Sam bought his cd.

    Then back to car to await boarding. We were first on and went right to front of ferry. Went up and joined queue for food, which hadn't opened yet, were first in line there too. Got burgers, fries and drinks, big portions again that we couldn't finish. Ed got the smaller lego model from shop - it was sane boat exactly as way over so stock was identical to then. Journey passed quickly, had walk around and looked at view. Less windy and water calmer this time outside. Couple commented on Tasha's nat schools jumper that they had been there too. Daughter at Lady Eleanor Holles it turned out. They had said to kids how can they ever top this holiday. Fair point, though NZ also good place to go!

    When we docked we were the very first car off and set sat nav for Times Square suites. Traffic was slow as we approached main bridge into downtown Vancouver, Lions Gate Bridge, built by Guinness family it transpired to connect their exclusive British township in west Vancouver to the main downtown. Moved slowly for about half hour as various roads merged together crossing bridge. Hotel was just other side of bridge, through Stanley Park. Found it though couldn't park at front, but parked round back in alley way where car park was for hotel, though needed key to access.

    We had two adjoining suites so funnily two kitchens and two lounges. Kids bedroom singles, ours a double. Ed had wanted to get Funko Pops from time we arrived so we looked up where sold them in Vancouver. Turned out shops walkable had closed so we decided to drive to Oakridge Mall. Took about half an hour, plenty of parking. Lots of shops, some designer. EB `games had a huge selection of Funko Pops and Ed had trouble deciding which to get. We had our first and last Tim Horton's a Canadian coffee shop institution, famed for donuts which were tasty but very sweet! Tash visited Lulu Lemon and got a rucksack while Ed and I went to Lego shop where he customised three lego men and we got a Lego hedgehog for Nanny and Grandpa. Was small but very cool, must visit London one.

    Got some stiff for dinner from Safeway as Ed had had an A and W burger along with Tim Horton's stuff. Got a maple leaf on wall at A and W for donating to their charity collection, so Ed name will be up there for some time, they hope to cover all the walls with them

    Navigated our way back to room ok, Ed did good job with sat nav.
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  • Day19

    Tash is 14, off road day trip

    August 14, 2017 in Canada ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    So Tash turns 14. Where did the time go! Opened up her cards that we had brought with us then headed to hotel for breakfast. Were down there about 7.40 but it took them a while to bring the food - was proper service not buffet. Was geared up for leisurely time whereas we were in bit of rush, needing to meet the off road guy Blain at Pacific Rim visitor Centre about 25 minutes away at 8.45. Ended up getting there about 8.55. Blain was waiting with his pickup with two rzr' s on it. A German/Austrian couple were also waiting and did the trip with us, they had two seater, us a four. We went to loo, Blain said was last proper one before we went wild for rest of day. Tasha's face was not impressed by this news!

    We followed Blain about 5 minutes down road to a small parking lot with gravel road going off it. We filled in waivers again while he unloaded the 4 by 4's. Germans had a practice in theirs, then we got in ours. Basically same as ones we had driven in Whistler. Blain gave slightly scary speech about what to do and not to do, then we had a practice run. Ours had tendency to stall when you came to halt we were told, so bst to try and keep some revs on and slow slowly. Wasn't really a problem when we got used to it, it did stall but just restarted. Blain wanted much more distance between us than in Whistler where it had been a car length apart. 30m here, much more comfortable! Then we set off. Me and Tash in front, Ed and Sam in back. We drove along a reasonable gravel road for maybe 20 minutes and stopped on a wooden bridge over Kennedy river. Hadn't been that exciting so far and I think we all wondered whether we had signed up for the wrong thing. Ed was miserable as his helmet was uncomfortable hitting the seat back. Blain talked about Kennedy lake and Kennedy river and lots of cars came past, apparently a piece of land down road is used as overflow basic i.e. No facilities campsite where people end up when they arrive in Tofino and find everything better is full! Noticed one car had toilet roll in front window. Ed swapped to front and we pressed on. Road got bumpier and less maintained but continued at 50 to 60 km/h. Not too much dust unlike Whistler. Things were more exciting now as bumpier and the overnight rain had left puddles in the track, which I decided to aim for to spice things up. First one was bigger than I expected and we got a big wave of water up over the front of the vehicle. No windscreen so we all got wet. Ed loved this and think Tash did too and wanted to hit every puddle and get very wet, which we duly tried to do.

    After a while we stopped at viewpoint across the inlets and islands where we had bear watched yesterday. Was still but overcast. Quite few flies about, most we had encountered I think. Took opportunity to use facilities! Blain said road had been improved in last year or so for big logging trucks to get down, filled whole road and stacked high. Hard to imagine bringing lorry down that track. We swapped again Ed in back Tash in front and pressed on with road getting bumpier, quite a few narrow bridges over creeks. And quite a lot of puddles. The others were avoiding them, which gave me an indication of where to drive to hit them!. About 2 hours in we stopped and turned around, we were at Virgin Falls. Short walk through woods to base of falls. Spectacular, better given the rain night before. Small pool at bottom which even Ed declared too cold to paddle in - he did try with shoes and socks off. Certainly not swimmable though we had brought costumes in case.

    Lunch was set up on a fallen tree (huge) across the beach area. Very tasty. Rolls, ham, roast beef and mayo and mustard. Blain's wife had packed avocado for Sam instead of butter/mayo to spread on. Lettuce, cucumber with skin off. Tasted great in wild and even kids ate it. Cookies too which kids devoured and peaches, nice and ripe. Loads of bottles of water to drink. Ed climbed along the fallen tree and explored the roots - got a bit stuck trying to get down roots so Blain went across and rescued him. Really nice man. No one else was there and it was very peaceful. Good place to have a memorable birthday lunch.

    Back in vehicle we retraced steps. We followed Blain and Germans behind this time. They had great fun watching us hitting the puddles. One deep one spanned the path and I accelerated through it, water went right over top and continued to drip through gap,in roof onto Sam and Tash for a while.

    I let both kids steer as I did accelerator which they enjoyed, Tash more than Ed, who wa bit nervous of going wrong. At one point we took a wrong turn, upper rather than lower fork. To be fair Tash had steered right way but I had overruled. Could have carried on but didn't know that at time so reversed and rejoined. Back at start Blain refuelled then we crossed the highway and went down path the other way. It narrowed and we met a couple of logging trucks loaded down. Had to steer into verge and park at an angle to let them past, Ed felt he was falling out. Went higher up mountain and then hit track that barely looked like a path. Was very overgrown on each side and barely wide enough for vehicle. This meant we got hit in helmet with foliage and quite a lot of branches ended up in the vehicle. Ed and Sam in the back in particular were holding various branches by the end, Ed thought it hilarious. At some points we crossed streams not much water but quite uneven. At one Blain went through but told us to stop and he came back to give me instructions on line to take in case we tipped over. He offers to drive it himself but I declined. First go got it little wrong and seemed like we might tip, Blain came in to support vehicle if it did and we let it roll back and readjusted and went through fine, though quite rocky and Ed was worried. The two seater was easy to get through as much shorter wheelbase.

    Trail got narrower until everntually opened out into little clearing, with great views over Barkley Sound and the Broken Group of islands. Blain talked about wanting to come up here with a tent and watch the sunset and sunrise. We also talked about salmon fishing and fact Fisheries Ministry controlled fishing numbers based on predicted numbers returning. Got it wrong this year. Thought would be low number but already exceeded. Also talked about First Nation guys. Blain has remote house he uses on their land so has dealings with tribal chief. Tribe used to be 5000 or more, now about 300,

    Had some great cheese (a cheddar called English Tickler) crackers and beef jerky. Slightly spicy with Korean spice. Tash didn't like the spice despite liking jerky. Sam and I loved it and we all loved the cheese.

    Retraced route, Ed in front this time. More foliage and easier to get through tricky section this way, though still needed Blain's advice on line. We blitzed back to base and Tash managed to fall asleep in back - she can sleep in any moving vehicle!

    Said our goodbyes and headed back to Long Beach Lodge. Got back about 4.30 and changed and went to beach. Ed went in with hoard but declared it much colder than day before. Wind was less so was warmer on beach but day had not been as sunny so water not warmed up I guess. He had a coupe of surfs then decided to build in sand. Sam and Tash come down but headed straight back as Tash tired and they dropped boards back.

    Ed built a turtle in the sand then we went back and into hot tub. Had good soak for 40 minutes or so (Ed less) almost fell asleep. I got out and Tash got in for 15 minutes or so then we headed off to her birthday dinner at Wolf in the Fog. This turned out to be a cool place using local produce and funky menu with really friendly staff. I had put birthday on booking so they mentioned it straight away when we sat down and continued to mention it to Tash. They did mocktails, Tash had three different types. The crockery and cutlery was all old chine, none of it matching, you just got what came. We had some great food, shared some starters - foie gras for me with hinit of earl grey was great. Scallops and pork belly for Tash which Ed also loved. Herring for Sam - little daunting as whole herring skewered on sticks.

    Halibut main for Tash - waiter checked as was experimental dish with unusual things on it, but she was fine with it, apart from not eating the veg obviously. Sam had beef, I had green soul, which was bubble and squeak with other veg and a vinegar sauce. Ed had kids chicken fillets and chips. We all struggled to finish as was filling. Then desserts, only 3 so had them all, Tash had brown ice mousse cake, Ed lemon biscuits with dulce de Lethe cheesecake. I had coconut creme brûlée, which was excellent and fairly light given how full I was. Tash's came with a candle in it for her birthday.

    We tipped them well as they had been great and was good end to birthday.
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  • Day18

    Bears (and an eagle)

    August 13, 2017 in Canada ⋅ 🌬 15 °C

    Had to be checked out and in Tofino for bear watching boat trip by 9.30. Decided to go and breakfast there, though we ate up remaining rolls and bagels from previous night. Left a bit after 8 for 35 minute or so drive. Got parked up in spot without any restrictions. Ed picked a few blackberries though wouldn't eat them. Found shop serving drinks that was open and had coffees etc, good job not relied on it for breakfast wasn't anywhere to get food that was open. Went to Adventure Tofino office for 9.30 and met our guide, a Norwegian chap. Used loo few times as none on boat and got dressed in our survival suits. Bit overkill on warm day like today, but included life jackets and kept water out if we fell in. Also given gloves and hats if we should need them.

    5 minute walk down to boat, little further than usual due to excavation of harbour channels closing part of dock. Boat was a 12 seater rib, 11 of us on this trip. Three kids sat in front row, Sam and I and their dad row 2 then others in subsequent two rows. Captain at the back. We started off slowly then sped up when out of harbour. About 20 minutes to the bear area. Was grey and some low cloud on mountains but sun beginning to come through and it soon did making a lovely bright warm morning. First place we stopped we saw a bear. Was amazing, only few metres away on shore just going about turning over rocks and looking for shellfish. Very strong and can overturn really big rocks. This bear was a juvenile male. They get hot in sun and he went into water to cool down, then got out and had shake like a dog. We watched for 10 minutes or so then decided to move on. The different boats talked to each other on radio and shared bear sightings. A mum and two cubs had been seen so we headed there. No luck, but we moved around different inlets and saw a second bear on opposite side to where he had been sighted a few minutes before. Another male. Watched him for a bit then went off again. Nothing doing so headed back and saw this bear again but on the other side of a small island.

    Tried one last foray into an inlet visited before and were rewarded with what we thought was a cub. Was a young bear but as it was on its own, must have left its mum, happens at about 18 months old when mum will then have another one, work in about a 2 year cycle for each cub. So this guy was likely 18 months to 2 years old. Very cute, like a Labrador size. Time was up and we blasted back to harbour.

    Ed had got hot in suit so we spent some time during quiet moments trying to unzip it for him, eventually successful. Then in ride back he was cold! It was quite windy to be fair. At the harbour we bent away from dock, I thought to miss some kayakers, but turns out there was a bald eagle sitting imperiously in a tree just looking around. Great to see that too. They dive down for fish from the tree and sometimes go for something too big, if they then get too wet trying to pick it up they can't fly out of the water and end up having to swim back to shore using wings as paddles! Then headed into harbour, over all too quick. Got out of suits, said goodbyes. German family we were with had been whale watching in the storms yesterday, pleased we didn't do that! Ed keen on sea monster noodle bat next door so went there for lunch. Made nice change and was very tasty. Then walked into town to browse shops.

    Found ice cream and sweet shop first. Lady was very keen to know what popular British sweets were as she imported them to sell. She had some boxes of caramac and Bourneville that just weren't selling! Got some pick and mix, fruit pastille, about twice the price of back home for them and some ice cream. Ate in sun then went into gallery. Ed and Tash got some nice prints by the artist Mark `Hobson. Some of his larger originals went for 20 to 30k.

    Moved down through various souvenir shops and galleries. Nice eclectic mix of shops. Bought some. more prints, magnets and Tash tried on bikini but decided no in the end. Needed coffee and found nice shop, then went in one more for a magnet and Tash ended up with pyjama bottoms with horses on them. Drove back to hotel and hit the beach. Was warm but very windy. Kids went in sea which was not too bad and I rented them body boards which they loved. After hour and half or so Sam and Tash went back and Ed and I stayed. Had only been able to book dinner for 8.15. Had thought about going to lantern festival in botanical gardens but decided beach was more fun. Ed built a village in the sand and told me the whole​ back story about the different areas and why they were like that. Great imagination to make up story like that on spot. Went back after another hour and went in not tub, very soothing.

    Dinner was good in big dining room overlooking beach, sun was setting view was impressive. Service was a bit slow but food was nice. Back to cottage about 10. We had whole cottage here, with kids in upstairs room with two double beds and Sam and I downstairs where there was also big lounge. Was bit like centre parcs style room, very spacious. Could have spent more time here and used facilities like surf club etc more - another time.
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  • Day17

    Edina and first serious rain!

    August 12, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Leisurely wake up this morning as no rushing out anywhere. We went down to breakfast in hotel about 9. Was ok but service patchy again, no water offered or juice for kids. Was buffet but with no cereal so quite limited choice. Decided we wouldn't have it next day. Got back to room and as Edina was due between 11 and 12 Ed and I decided to go to Little Beach to do some exploring. Was only 5 minutes drive away, only had 5 parking spots. One other couple there. Very enclosed beach with barely any waves. Nice sand but with some rocks on either side. Ed went straight for climbing and we explored around them. He built a circle of stones on a grassy patch on top of rocks as a seating area. We had to keep climbing down to get rocks then back up. We then went further across the rocks to a smaller side beach, then headed back. Got call Edina had arrived so we went back.

    Edina not changed at all. Ed had no memory of her but she loved seeing him again and indeed all of us. Jack her new husband was very nice too. We chatted for an hour or so in the room then headed out for some lunch. Ed had remembered the name and location of a place recommended by the hotel man last night and navigated us there. Just got in in time before waiting list started. Was good food, I had lasagne, but was very big portion, couldn't finish it all.

    After lunch we headed to Wickmanninish beach, again recommended as great for surfing on and with neat First Nation interpretative visitor centre alongside. It was actually quite overcast and cold on the beach. I helped Ed build a circle of driftwood while Sam chatted with Edina. Ed also went in the sea for a little paddle with Tash. After nearly an hour or so we were all getting cold, except Ed who wanted to do more building. We went back to car to drive to interpretative centre and Edina and Jack headed off - they had about a three hour drive back. Was great to see them again and we promised we would meet up sooner than 8 years. Have what's app group set up with her and email addresses swapped now.

    We went to museum. Was nice little place, telling stories of First Nation old life, they hunted whales but only from necessity and were almost sorry they had to do it and made sure they used every bit. There was lots of info on whales and other animals in the area. Ed slowly cheered up from not being able to stay longer on the beach. Back in car we went back to town to gift shop and gallery we had seen next to lunch place. Had lots of nice stuff. We resisted two great sunset pictures as didn't think they would travel home well. Started to rain while we were in there and was the biggest rain we had seen, very heavy. Headed back to room and I wanted to go do the Ligthouse Loop of Pacific Rim trail. About 2km and supposed to be very pretty. It was pouring so no one else was keen so I went on my own, it was either do it now in rain or not have another chance. Was about 10 minute drive to car park. I started trail and although in trees was still very wet. Only saw 6 other people at start of trail and was only car in car park when I got back. Can imagine it is very busy on hot day. Was nice walk, largely flat, through old forest then along waters edge, with lots of spectacular rocks and views across inlets. Saw lighthouse. Strange whale like sound that kept going turned out to be siren on a buoy active in bad weather. Could hear it all night in hotel. I took lots of pictures and coat kept me dry, top half at least. Took me about an hour to do trail. Lots of side trails lead short paths to benches to sit on and look at view. Was a bit spooky out there on my own, kept thinking might encounter an animal if some sort! Went home via Co-op in town, called to see what others wanted to eat and bought some turkey, bread, crisps etc and we had a picnic in the rooms, very nice. Went to bed still raining, first real rain we had seen in our whole time here.
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  • Day16

    Ferry and Ucluelet

    August 11, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Up early, queuing for breakfast to open at 7. Some Aussies queuing too, they didn't have reservations for a ferry so were bit concerned they wouldn't get on. We were fine with guaranteed slot as long as we arrived in time. . On road about 7.20, unevemtful journey down, took about 1 hour 20 or so. Got there about 8.45. Traffic marshall gave us a yellow card for reasons never clear and we went through to the pay kiosks. Man processed our reservation and gave us a lane to wait in. Also asked if we had a yellow card. Never had to do anything with this again. Weird!

    Got out of car and walked to waterfront of Horsehoe Bay village. Used loos, saw massive seagull sitting on fence. Then back to car for 9.25 as advised by one of staff members. Waited 10 minutes or so to board Lady of Cowichan, very similar to an Isle of Wight ferry. Went up to deck and joined queue for breakfasts. These were good. I had a ham and egg muffin with potatoes. Others had various cooked breakfasts. Coffee was good too. Went up to outdoor decks to have a look and take some pictures, then to shop. Sam got book, Ed got lego car. We sat at table no he could build the car, then we went back upstairs as journey nearly ended. Took pics of Nanaimothen back to cars.

    Set sat nav for goats on roof shop and cafe. When we got there it was very busy and paring looked tricky, people all along roadside. We saw a couple of goats on the grass roof so decided to carry on. Some navigation confusion here but eventually got on way to Cathedral Grove with old cedar trees in it. This too was busy but got parked on roadside just past. Used loos then walked the trail through the forest. Short loop, 10 minutes or so, though we were about half hour as we stopped to take pics and look at things. Some of trees were up to 500+ years old. Very tall and very wide. One was hollow trunked but still massive, could walk in hollow. Reminded me a bit of tree in Sherwood Forest.

    Tash got bit worked up about insects (again!) and we headed off. No more stops planned, but about an hour later we drove past a river where there were lots of rocks and people on them. Ed wanted to stop and climb so we did. Tash was asleep so Sam stayed with her in the car.

    Ed and I had great time climbing all over rocks. Right down to river level. Quiet flow currently but level would be 3 or 4 metres higher at times it looked. Ed built a little dam across part of channel and paddled in water with shoes and socks off. We watched a lad jump from the top of the rocks into a deep pool below. Felt sure he was going to land on rocks but he didn't, though it was colder than he expected. Back to car and carried on. Tash still asleep. When she woke Ed joked she had been asleep for 4 days and we were now on way to Vancouver.

    Got to Ucluelet and found hotel. Checked in, room very nice. Hotel restaurant could not fit us in until 8.15 but we took it. Man in gift shop gave us lots of advice on beaches and places to go see. Seems we could have spent ,a lot longer in this area (Though true of many others too). Room was great, Ed likened it to the treehouse we had stayed in. He had sofa bed in lounge. Big panoramic windows overlooking a beach with rocks and the calm Pacific coming in. We saw a bride and groom having picture taken on the rocks. Ed and I went down to explore and did some climbing in rocks. Saw lots of crabs and anemonies in rock pools. Lots of drift wood too, all bark peeled off and smooth.

    Dinner was erratic. No one seated us or even acknowledged us for a while, but waiter we had was very helpful. Food was good and wine also. So a nice meal. Even Sam had a dessert a vegan chocolate cake. Comfy beds again.
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  • Day15

    Jet boating and peak to peak gondola

    August 10, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    We had a more leisurely lay in this morning and went down to breakfast about 9. Was busier. Whistler is definietly a later place, mornings and evenings. Once back from breakfast we decided to head to Pemberton, half hour up the road and about 10 minutes from jet boat meeting point. Got there and called into visitor info who showed us where some coffee shops were and where jet boating was. Filled with petrol then parked next to station. Town looked like proper western style town. There was a pharmacy so went in to get something for Ed who was complaining of sore ear and Tash with sore chest. Ended up with cerumol and benylin.

    Then went to diner. Sam and I had coffees, Tash and Ed milkshakes, chocolate and vanilla. Ed declared this the best shake he had ever had. Hi praise indeed for a traditional little diner in small town.

    Was just after 11 and so we headed to the golf club where jet boat meeting point was. Got there and were directed to side where jetty was. Boat was just returning from previous trip so,we hung around. Eric the owner got us to fill in waiver forms again and the other passengers arrived. A couple who had stayed with him in his B and B for couple of nights and a man from Denmark.

    We got into life jackets then into the boat. Couple in the front then us on either side of aisle and Danish man on back bench as ballast!

    We were off and Eric did some swooping cornering in typical jet boat style. We headed to the confluence of two rivers, one glacial, the Green and one not, much browner. Where they met was obvious, brown water and green water. We then headed back up river to the starting point and beyond. We stopped at a good point to view the biggest peak in the area and one prone to rockslides, there had been one about half hour before. Then we carried on and the water began to get a bit choppier. We saw a golden eagle nest st the top of a tree, no sign of the eagle. We stopped again before the steepest rapids up to the Nairn Falls. Eric explained would be choppier coming back down as travelling faster with the flow and against the waves that broke upstream not downstream.

    This section was great fun. Not quite as extreme as the Taupo rapids jet but over a longer stretch. We got to just below the falls and stopped for some photos, then back down, again great fun and Ed got very wet! Good job temp was in 30s again. We slowed to look st an osprey, first I'd ever seen. The same pair had been coming back to the same tree for 8 years. Spend winter in South America. Saw a mother deer and two fawns briefly before they went back into the trees. A pair of ducks were spooked by the jet boat and flew alongside it for a few hundred metres.

    We saw a beaver dam up a creek. They dam the inlets not the main river. Keeps them secure having lodge entrance below water. They control height of water by adjusting the dam so entrance is under but living area above water. Saw lots of trees chewed by beavers. They really do chew through big trees to get to the leaves at the top which they store in the lodge to eat in winter. They are nocturnal so rarely seen.

    Also saw a heron flying along the river. All too soon back at start, our hour was up. Ed wanted to play the putting green golf there but we needed to get off to have time to do the gondolas. He got bit grumpy. Parked back at hotel and went straight to Whistler village gondola. This took 25 minutes to go up to near the summit of Whistler mountain. Much of it was going across as well as up. At top was cafe and had some lunch then walked 200m or so down hill to chairlift that went to the summit. This lift was quite exposed and went over some big drops. Sam really didn't like it but made it to the top. We walked to the summit marker and took some pictures. A large Asian group were flying a drone to take a better picture of themselves. Were soon told to stop by member of staff. At the top we were largely above the smoke so though couldn't see all way down had good view of surrounding peaks. All these lifts took bikes as well as people as loads of mountain biking courses off the mountains, something for another visit. There was a glacier at the top here and still some large chunks of snow at the side of the path. Kids made a snowball each in August!

    Back down on chairlift was as scary for Sam but we made it. Then had to walk back to base station, largely uphill. Kids had taken free walking poles on way down and Sam used these as well as Ed. Ed complained a lot, he does need to get fitter but we all made it. Then onto peak to peak gondola, going across valley to Blackcomb mountain from Whistler. Was impressive structure. Had green screen pics taken for superimposed pictures. Large queue for glass bottomed gondolas, only 2 of them, We obviously didn't want one so walked straight in. Could hold about 20 people but only 8 in our one. Was 400m above valley floor, highest in world. Got to other side, took some pics, bought our green screen pics then headed down solar express chairlift down Blackcomb. Had to change lift 2/3 of way down, then we were at bottom. Been up about 2.5 hours. At bottom was Funzone with Mario mini golf. We had a round, I won, Ed second then Sam then Tash. Ed wanted to do a jump from about 15 feet into big pillow so got tickets. Some aussies were doing it, when Ed got to top realised it was quite high and couldn't jump, but then with much encouragement from us and Aussie group he did it. Then tried again but couldn't. I was called on and just went for it, worst thing is to stop and think I find. Wasn't really my cup of tea but got to put on brave face so as to encourage kids! He did it again rwice with Tash's help, very brave of him. Couple of the Aussies girls had struggled to do it, giving their friend with the camera lots of great shots - he was keeping that sim card as he put it!

    Then had drink in pub where Tash managed to push a stool down some stairs when we left. About 10 minute walk across to main Whistler village from here, past area where bike teams were setting up for crank works tournament at the weekend. Had Domino's again. Tash and I collected and got cool as moose t shirts on way. Packed car largely as early start tomorrow for ferry..
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  • Day14

    Rafting again

    August 9, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    At the Adventure Group for 8.30 for rafting at 9. Actually had to go across road to Wedge Rafting office. Usual waivers signed. Waited around until just before 9 for guides to come out. Two elderly ladies in their 60s made us laugh, didn't look to kids like they would be best paddlers!

    We had somehow lost our swimming costumes, last seen in Lake Louise but hotel there hadn't found them. Think must have left them in Revelstoke hotel. Except for Tash's which was in boot of car - think because she was slow getting changed in Lake Louise and so hers never made it into same bag as the rest. This was only discovered last night so no time to buy more. I had packed second pair, Ed and Sam hadn't. They were worried so I gave Ed mine and wore some shorts. Sam just wore underwear, which as it turned out was fine.

    Went through the usual kit acquisition, wetsuit, life jacket, helmet. Elderlies made us laugh as one's name wasn't read out and she wanted to know why, despite fact lead bookers name for everyone else had been read out rather than all names. We hoped not to get in their boat!

    We changed into wetsuits then headed to bus. About 5 minutes or so to the rafting location at Green Lake. Did intros on bus, name, where from and favourite breakfast cereal! Bacon sandwich for me, porridge Ed, pancakes Tash toast for Sam.

    We were first raft allocated to Uri from Slovenia as our guide. Us four plus a girl from Quebec City called Michelle. Got similar safety briefing as last time from Uri who was lot of fun, stereotypical mental Eastern European but infectiously enthusiastic.

    Start of paddle was straight row across Green Lake. It was tough as headwind, at times we were paddling and going nowhere. Uri said was toughest headwind he had encountered, which may have just been to make us feel better. Eventually got across the lake celebrated by a high five of paddles and a series of monkey noises from us all. Uri's signature move I think, didn't hear any other boat doing it!

    Then we hit the rapids, they were a little tamer I thought than the Canmore ones and it was shorter, only hour and a bit on water, but the rapids were all in a row rather than more spread out before. It was good fun and Uri was good at turning the boat into the rapids for maximum wetness. He steered us into rocks saying 'Oh no I didn't see that' and 'oh no we're going to crash' in a tongue in cheek fashion! . Ed liked it as he had paddle and was right on the edge this time rather than in the middle, though he didn't enjoy the paddle across the lake. Both he and I struggled with the get down pose, couldn't get back up again, in the end I just went for leaning in as the rapids weren't that severe. We did a bit of splashing of other boats, with high paddle fives and monkey noises afterwards. We definitely won the wars.

    Am pleased we did other rapids first as if we had done these ones not sure we would have tried a second time, the initial row over the lake and the shorter rapids meant the other one was better.

    We landed and disembarked and I was co-opted to carry raft to trailer. Best way was lifting up onto your head apparently. A guide and me and another rower had one raft. Have to say it was a struggle to get it over my head and it was heavier than I expected once up there. Had to carry it uphill too, so this almost finished me off by the end, was tougher than the initial row over the lake!

    Back on the bus got the same lines as before about saving the water from your boots to send to US for them to send back as Budweiser and thanks for coming otherwise we'd need to get real jobs.

    Got changed back again and popped back to room to change wet clothes. Then went out intending to go on gondola, but wondered if we could change the tickets to tomorrow hoping the smoke would have cleared a bit more, it's cleared a bit each day so far. We could and changed to tomorrow then called the jet boat to see if we could go earlier. Not possible as all booked, so tomorrow will be tight but doable. Then had lunch, Tash and I large plate of tasty nachos. Then did some shopping including new swimming costumes for Ed and Sam. Then went back to hotel and kids and I went down to the pool and hot tubs. I just went in hot tubs, very nice on aching limbs from rowing. Kids were reluctant to go in pool initially as lots of kids were in there but as they moved to other end and hot tubs they went in. And then stayed in for a couple of hours. I rested on sun lounger and periodically popped into hot tub.

    About 7 we went back to room to work out what to eat. Decided to order Domino's to go and collect. Tash and I went out to get it and very tasty was too, ham and olive no cheese for Ed and Sam, with cheese for Tash and pepperoni and pineapple for me. Went to bed tired but another good day.
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  • Day13

    Ziplines and 4 by 4's

    August 8, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    First day in Whistler. Breakfast in hotel was decent continental - cereals, toast, cheese, meats etc. We went down at about 8am as we were on a Zipwire tour at 10am, needing to check in at 9.45. We got to the Adventure Group office about 9.30 and filled in the normal waiver forms, then went next door to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company. They did some great stuff and this visit we got some fudge to take with us while zipping. Just before 9 we were taken to the bus station and got on the bus up to Cougar Mountain about 10 minutes drive away.

    Sam's fear of heights precluded her so she had the morning looking round the shops. At base camp there were toilets, a cafe and changing rooms etc for various different activities. We had to travel further up the mountain and went in 4 seater versions of the off road vehicles we will be driving this afternoon. Our guides (one from Oxford who's dad sets papers for the university medicine exams!) gave us a demo of the zipline operation on a really short stretch.

    Got normal cycling helmets on - had to wear full face ones on 4 by 4, managed not to roll my ears down. I went first paired with Hong Kong guy. Some photos taken on release then was 200m above valley below. Real sense of flying. This was highest of 4 zip lines. Landing position was important, legs apart to avoid hitting wire when swung up. Spring mechanism stopped you very ingenious. Thought was being pinged back into middle but rope stopped you - phew. Tash and Ed went down second pair - was two lines so two at time. They loved it. American dad heavier than me and needed whole spring to stop, to delight of his teenage boys.

    One guy from previous group getting plaster on cut leg. Hadn't landed properly I think. Was a Brit and very much of the just a flesh wound mindset.

    Second line was longest 1.3km rather than 1.2 of first. Ran parallel to mountainside with shallower slower finish. Had to look for model snowman stuck to cliff side. Had been repestedly stolen and put in more extreme spots till someone stuck him half way up a mountain. Was another great ride.

    Third zip fastest, steep drop at start so hit max speed at 4 seconds rather than 10 or 15 on others. Drop did make you gasp at start but was great again. Kids loved it. This crossed us back to Cougar mountain again. In winter they have to clear snow from in front of the drop to stop people zipping through it. They zipline all year round.

    4th zip went back to base. Wires were close so could hold hands. Suggested one of kids went with me to get more speed joined together holding hands but they decided to go together and did manage to hold each other's hands as man pulled them together before release.

    At base derigged then just caught bus back. No time to check photos but could do that when up later for rzr. Met Sam back in town after bus back and got burgers and chips from kiosk. Tash wanted gravy with chips we shared, was really good, really meaty! Then went to some shops, Ed and I went to a toy shop to see if they had funko pops no was the answer.

    Back to Adventure Group, more waivers and bus trip to Cougar Mountain. Got full face helmets again and goggles, needed for dust.

    Emma our guide explained controls and did safety briefing. Basically automatic with brake and accelerator. Pump brake best. Big grippy tyres so no drifting. Keep about a rzr distance behind one in front. And we were off. Lots of power and bumpy rocky roads meant jerky ride. Probably worse for passenger than driver. I had Tash, Ed went with Sam as she was bit nervous and he is calming. Turns out his main calming words were let's go faster! Holding up a hand meant slow down. After about 10 minutes we stopped to see if everyone was ok. We were in last rzr of 4 plus Emma at front. Didn't hit brake quickly eniugh and ran into back of chap in front oops. No damage done it seemed and we were off again.

    The dust from the track was massive. At times could just see lights on rzr ahead to follow at times we couldn't even see that, and hoped we were going the right way. Couple of times thought we had missed a turning, but we did ok. Grip and power of the things was great and could climb over any obstacles. We stopped at high point for some photos and swapped order so we were first. Sam and Ed moved from second to third. Following Emma was much better, less dust and more confidence she wasn't going to stop suddenly unlike single guy we had been following.

    We went down some narrow paths along mountainside with water running across in channels, great for powering though and creating big splash. All too soon headed downhill to base and our 75 minutes was up.

    Changed back, went and got photos from morning then back on bus to town. Tash and I went to supermarket for drinks and forgot we had no room key. Receptionist looked at us like we were tramps then asked if we had been doing rzr. We had all been covered in so much dust was very funny. Sam especially looked crazy.

    Showered and changed we went to Araxi restaurant. Specialising in fish. Was a smart place and we all enjoyed it. I had 5 oysters as starter each one with different accompaniment and much cheaper than in UK. Ed said best kids menu ever, vegetable sushi starter and fish and chips main. Skipped dessert and went to chocolate shop for ice creams. Sam bought a bag and we turned in.
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