A Travellerspoint blog

The Home Run

Well I write this from a comfortable chair, in a comfortable house, with a comfortable bed and food in the fridge. It is beautifully sunny outside and I can hear the birds chirping. Yes….we are home. However, it would be remiss not to write a final entry about our last couple of weeks traveling in Canada and finish the blog.

Once we had packed up all our worldly belongings in Calgary and said our goodbyes we headed up to Edmonton (home of the world’s largest shopping mall). This was no easy feat…we now not only had our super-sized packs, but also ski gear to haul to the bus station. I bemoaned the fact that we were now back on tour trudging along with sore shoulders at 7am and got rather grumpy. Kel however, used his brain, found a discarded supermarket trolley and we clattered along to the greyhound station with all our gear piled in that. We of course looked completely ridiculous and probably homeless.

Edmonton brought its own initial challenges. We trudged along from the bus station (quite a long walk requiring repeated rest stops along the way) with all our bags only to find that our hostel was shut down. We ended up staying in the Hostelling International hostel on the other side of town and it was agreed by all that it was my fault because I had been gloating not so long ago about never having to stay in an HI hostel again (a running joke on tour after we stayed in some less than desirable ones). We spent our entire time in Edmonton checking out the mall, which by all accounts was quite excessive. Most of that time was spent in the water park and much of that, going down the water slides. A good time was had by all.

After Edmonton it was off to the Rockies for a few days in Banff and a week or so at Lake Louise. It was awesome. Is that enough to say about the Rockies? I think so. We skied, we snowshoed, we ice skated. An unforgettable part of our trip.

So overall the 2007-2008 Two Kiwis Tour was a great success. After nine months of traveling we are still together (engaged even!), we have some fantastic memories, some very funny stories and some friends for life.

THE END.

(This is Imelda by the way. Kelly lost interest in the blog, so I took over creative control).

Posted by twokiwis 12:50 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The Two Kiwis are tough

-17 °C

The Two Kiwis have...
1. Taken the walking bus to do the grocery shopping at -17
2. Gone for a run at -16
3. Gone skating outdoors at -19
4. Run all the way home because it was so cold

You get the picture....its getting pretty cold now for us warm blooded kiwis. However, after a brief period of acclimatisation (I actually cried one day when I got home because my hands were so cold and I was wearing completely inappropriate gloves), we are handling the cold pretty well and now have a completely warped view of what is warm…. anything above 0 seems practically tropical.

The climate leads everyone to be absolutely obsessed with the weather and I must admit I now check the thermometer outside our window when I first get up in the morning, enter into long discussions with my fellow workmates about the weather patterns and have managed to dedicate half my blog entry to it!

We have managed to check out a few winter sports over the last few weeks. We wandered down to the World Cup Long Track Speedskating at the Oval which was good fun to watch…they are phenomenal athletes. We also checked out the Luge World Cup and Bobsleigh at Olympic Park….this one blew me away, they are so fast in real life you can barely turn your head fast enough to watch them go by.

We have headed down to Olympic Park a few times now (the skifield just on the outskirts of town) to hone our skills before we head to the mountains in January. Some people’s skills need a little more honing than others, I won’t name names. I have also discovered outdoor skating at the Olympic Plaza, its free and 5 minutes from my work…my dream come true!

Given that you can't go to Calgary without seeing Rodeo and we unfortunately missed the Calgary Stampede, we spent one Saturday night with Kel's workmate Karen watching the National Bullriding Champs at the Saddledome. It is a great spectator sport and given that to qualify through they had to stay on the bull for 8 seconds....they are pretty tough.

Kel has now morphed into a Calgary Flames fan, complete with hockey jersey and his own set of coaching instructions that he yells at the team when he thinks appropriate. We were lucky enough to get some free tickets from his workmate this week which was great fun. In fact the tickets were so good that we couldn’t even see the nosebleed seats (our usual seats of choice) from where we were sitting.

Our time in Calgary seems to be nearing its end rather quickly. We are hoping to continue making the most of the winter fun here until the end of the year and then head to Edmonton (worlds largest shopping mall), the Rockies (arguably some of worlds best skiing) and LA or our three weeks of travel on the way home.

Posted by twokiwis 09:44 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Halfway...

Well it’s hard to believe that we’re half way through our stay in Calgary. We have seen a massive transition in the landscape, from the golden leaves of fall to everything being covered in snow, as it is today.

That said, it hasn’t really been a smooth transition into winter. The temperatures here can be highly variable. One day it can be 20 degrees and the next it can be snowing.

We were lucky enough to have a visit from my parents a couple of weeks ago. On their way to Washington DC for business, it wasn’t hard to convince them to stopover and see where we’re living. We met up in Banff on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend and spent the long weekend driving the Icelands Parkway, which is a highway that traverses the Rocky Mountains at Alpine level. The Parkway took us up past a couple of glaciers and who knows how many alpine lakes to the town of Jasper. We then followed the highway back to the famous Lake Louise. We covered a fair distance over the three days, but this is rated as one of the most spectacular drives in the world and it didn’t disappoint.

One of the must dos in Calgary is of course ice skating, so we thought we would take the folks to the Olympic Oval speed skating track for a bit of a skate… with an expert instructor present of course. We established that it must be at least 15 years since either Mum or Dad had been skating, but there were no falls or crashes, only some great skating improvements over the week.

After a great road trip up through the Rockies we decided we would take a smaller day trip out to The Badlands. This is an area out to the Northeast of Calgary that is a totally different landscape altogether. This area is as flat and barren as the Rockies are tall. Despite this it is quite a significant area for fossils and dinosaur bones. The small town in the centre of it all is Drumheller, which is home to a fantastic dinosaur museum, a number of spectacular canyons and the airy Hoodoos.

Although we did see some spectacular scenery and do some pretty cool things while Mum and Dad were here, more than anything it was great to spend some time hanging out.

With recent loses from almost every NZ sporting team, we have made the decision to temporarily transfer our support to the Calgary Flames Ice Hockey team. We have been lucky enough to get hold of some tickets to a few of their home games. We have now been along to support our new favorite team on three occasions. Now our team haven’t been successful on every occasion, but they have far from embarrassed themselves. Of course the locals are crazy about hockey and the Flames, so the atmosphere is always amazing, even if they lose.

We have been trying to make the most of the last of the good weather, so yesterday we hired a car and headed back up into the Rockies to hike the Grotto Canyon. We followed a largely dry river bed up through the canyon and managed to catch glimpses of a few frozen waterfalls.

We are quite glad we took the opportunity to get out hiking one more time as it has snowed quite heavily over night, and they may prove to be our last time hiking… That is until we find ourselves some snowshoes of course.

(Kel)

Posted by twokiwis 19:44 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Calgary

Life as a cowboy

all seasons in one day

Well we are now all settled into the cowboy/oil boom hybrid city that is Calgary.

Kel is working at the University and I have been honing my retail skills at an outdoor clothing store and teaching the wee kiddies of Calgary how to skate. By all accounts we are both enjoying it immensely – Kel is learning vast amounts that he will be able to utilize at home and I am revelling in spending my days chatting with the hoards of travelers that come through our shop on the way to the Rockies and singing “heads shoulders knees and toes” with my youngest skating class. We are flatting right near the university with a couple of students and more importantly, central heating.

Calgary is a strange wee city, but I have to admit I am really enjoying it here. The oil industry is booming here and the city is growing like crazy. At the same time there is still the remnants of the old cowboy town, not least the famous Calgary Stampede which we are gutted that we missed.

Of great delight to me is the fact that Calgarians (well Canadians in general) are absolutely mad about skating (particularly ice hockey which they follow like rugby) and there are ice rinks everywhere. There are about 5 rinks within walking distance from our house (compare that to the 2 in the whole of the North Island). The best of those, only 10 minutes walk away from us is the fantastic skating complex that is the Olympic Oval, built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Olympic Park which held the ski jumping and luge events at the Olympics is also on the outskirts of the city and we had a fun day poking our nose around there when we first arrived. In winter this converts to a ski-field so we are looking forward to checking that out later in the year.

The Rocky Mountains are only an hour’s drive away and are utterly spectacular (I can’t help comparing this to the hours drive from Auckland which gets you to Huntly). We did a the most amazing hike in Canmore (just outside the Rockies) a couple of weekends ago and it took you right up to the snowline….I felt like Ed Hillary standing at the top. Unfortunately we have to commit the view from the top to memory as the battery went most unhelpfully flat on our camera. Canmore also holds the Nordic skiing centre so we are hoping we will get a chance to try out some snow-shoeing or cross country skiing at some stage.

As a general observation Canadians seem to be an awfully friendly and chipper bunch and tend to stick by the rules. It is impossible to come within 50 feet of a pedestrian crossing without them stopping for you. I have tried on several occasions to walk so slowly up to the crossing that they have to go in front of me, but not even that works. I have also learnt through trial and error that not all words in the Kiwi vocabulary have made it to Canada. When I call myself a “munter” they have absolutely no idea what I am talking about and roll around in fits of laughter.

We have just had Thanksgiving here which I find quite an odd celebration. The radio was full of people calling in to give thanks that they were alive, that they lived in a free country etc etc. I just don’t know if we would get into that in NZ…grumble on the radio about sport yes…but give thanks for things, probably not. I am rather jealous that they get two Christmas dinners a year though. I didn’t realize the importance of having a turkey for thanksgiving dinner until I admitted that we had tacos, you would have thought I had committed treason.

Anyway that is enough of my thoughts. A big hi to anyone who is reading this at home. We are missing everyone and are rather torn between how much we are enjoying all the new experiences in Calgary and how much we are looking forward to seeing everyone again.

Kels on duty for the next update about our recent trip into the Rockies, so stay tuned.

(Imelda)

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Posted by twokiwis 08:41 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The States and Canada

SAN FRANCISCO

From D.C. it was cross country to San Francisco for a little bit of East coast. SF is a bit on the touristy side, but we kinda knew it would be like that so we donned our tourist garb and got out amongst it. Of course one of the SF essentials is riding the cable car hanging off the side and taking in the vista that is the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. However the vista wasn’t quite enough for these two active kiwis, so we hired some bikes and rode across it to a small village on the other side of the harbour.

Since we were unable to make it to a baseball game in New York we went along to see the SF Giants play at Giant Stadium. The stadium itself was fantastic and looked right out over SF Bay. Of course we had the best seats in the house, they were right up the top… the locals call them the nose bleed seats (who would know why?). Anyway we decided to toe the line and support the home team who managed to blow a 5 run lead in the final two innings to lose by 3. Oh well, we did get to see the mystical Barry Bonds hit a homer.

(Kel)

Can I just say while we are talking about the Giants, that baseball fans (whilst slightly obsessive) put rugby fans to shame in NZ. We had brought some Yankees caps in NY and made the fatal mistake of both wearing them one day in San Fran. Well…you would have thought we were holding large “we hate San Francisco” banners. We got dark looks, snide comments, openly questioned as to our loyalty, but we did get one call out of a car from some Yankees fans yelling out “go Yankees”. I actually felt a bit sorry for Yankees fans, I think they may get the same treatment as Aucklanders do from the rest of NZ.

(Imelda)

KLAMATH FALLS

After San Fran we jumped on the train towards Seattle with a stop midway at a randomly chosen small town called Klamath Falls (which unlike the name suggests does not actually have a waterfall). Klamath was quite a contrast to San Fran and served as another example of how varied the States can be. It would be fair to say that there is not a lot to do there, it’s a real country town. However, we did manage to get a taste of small town America by dropping into the County Fair and we also stayed with a lovely couple who gave us a taste of small town hospitality.

The real draw card of Klamath Falls is that it is a stones through from one of the best National Parks in the States, Crater Lake National Park. Needless to say we spent the good part of two days driving round the lake, hiking up for a view over it and hiking down to it.

SEATTLE
Seattle has been the surprise city of our entire trip. We hadn’t expected much at all and in fact it was really just a gateway into Canada. We didn’t in fact know that it was home to the most spectacular markets and it just happened to be the 100th anniversary of the markets over the couple of days that we were in town. This meant there was plenty of free stuff being handed round, which we all now is a pretty good start to anything.

The highlight of the markets are the fish tossing stand where guys throw huge Salmon to each other over about a 5m distance without letting one slide at all. I wouldn’t recommend trying this at your local supermarket. Then there is of course the first Starbucks café. It is actually kinda cute and kwirky, just the way you want your café to be and much unlike the franchised crap that they have managed to put out in every other location around the world.

To be fair, most of our time in Seattle was spent hanging out at the markets with a fellow kiwi who we bumped into. She is currently living in Tokyo so we were all able to entertain ourselves with each others accents and stories from home.

(Kel)

I have to disagree with Kel here, the highlight of the markets was not the fish tossing but rather the enormous birthday cake in honour of the Market’s 100th birthday, which I generously offered to help them finish.

(Imelda)

VANCOUVER

Kel has been to Canada before, but as it was the first time for me he acted as a bit of a tour guide. We started off in Victoria then made our way across to Pender Island, a smaller island off Vancouver Island. Pender Island proved to be a true remote getaway, with one taxi driver, no public transport and 3 places on the whole island to eat. It is also worth mentioning (as the locals frequently point out to you) that they have an international disc (Frisbee) golf course through a forest, which actually proved to be wicked (or so I’ve realized since being away sounds like “wucked” in the Kiwi accent)..

After Pender Island we headed to Vancouver. It’s quite amazing just how close you can get to the outdoors from the city and we had a great time hiking and kayaking at some beautiful spots only a bus ride away from the central city. Kel insisted that I do the infamous “Grind” hike which I had heard so much about. It is straight up for an hour (yes, that’s no flat and no downhill) and although I hated it all the way up, it felt pretty good when we got to the top.

CALGARY

We’ve now hit Calgary and are now in the process of all sorts of boring things like flat hunting, getting jobs and lining up to get IRD numbers. We didn’t get off to a particularly good start, the person we had arranged accommodation with for our first week didn’t show and wouldn’t answer their phone so we were literally in a new city with nowhere to stay! We are now glad to be out of hostels and looking forward to the challenges of living in a new city for a wee while. Will keep you posted.

Posted by twokiwis 10:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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