Canada 2017

The start of a, hopefully, fresh start in Canada.


After an uneventful train trip down to London on Thursday and a quite Friday at my Aunt & Uncle’s (walk in the morning and a relaxing afternoon at the flat, due to rain) left the UK on my latest adventure on Saturday – a, hopefully, permanent move to Canada.

While both trains ran on time the same could not to be said for the flight – take-off was due at 11.50, but was delayed until 12.50 due to some issue in Canada before it left there.  The plane also had an interesting seating arrangement which meant that I was asked if I would move seat so a couple who both had aisle seats could sit together – a galley had been removed to get more seats in and consequently the seat row numbering was out.  My seat was in row 21 but the row next to me in the middle of the aircraft was 23, with the rest of row 23 being 2 rows further back!!!  The change of seat was a welcome 1 though as I had had another passenger that was of a similar build and our shoulders were practically touching, my new seat had a smaller person sitting next to it so had more room.

Arrived in Calgary at 9.50pm (GMT), got a taxi to my accommodation and then had to wait for the owner to show up and let me in (which I had been given the impression would be 4pm local time – so a 10-minute wait from when the taxi dropped me off).  Just before 4pm someone arrived who is also renting a room in the house, who let me in and let me use her phone to phone the owner so I could find out which room was mine – I eventually didn’t meet the owner until nearly 8pm when I went upstairs for a drink, my room is in the basement (basic only has hanging space no drawers for storage but a worktable – nice and cool as weather is warm)!!!  The target market for tenants is quite clearly Chinese – most signs that are up are in Chinese and the owner is Chinese who has difficulty understanding and being understood in English (I was advised of this before I met her by the fellow tenant who let me in)!! Apart from myself and the woman who let me in (her name is Dominque – if I remember correctly) all other renters are Chinese (at least 5, including a family of 3 [the father is studying in Calgary for a month but they are usually based in Vancouver]), 1 not very talkative – have said hi a couple of times and got no response.  Have successfully managed to negotiate the transit system (though only 1 stop – so I could get some shopping done).



Bedroom 1

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 2

Rest of Sunday has been spent recovering from the flight and adjusting to the time difference (7 hours behind the UK).  Tomorrow plan to finish off setting up my ban k account, get my Social Insurance Number and a cell phone.


Discovered yesterday that the oven in the house doesn’t work properly – and that there is a 1 on the kitchen worktop (I thought that this was just a grill!!).  So dinner took longer to cook than planned.

Today was all about getting things organized – Social Insurance Number [or SIN for short!!!} (Canadian equivalent of the UK National Insurance Number), finalizing bank details and getting a cell phone.

Getting the SIN was incredibly straight forward – went in, showed my citizenship certificate, was asked to wait for 10 minutes and was called to a desk where I had to fill in a piece of paper with my mother’s first and maiden surname and fathers first name and surname and, again, show my citizenship certificate.  While chatting to the guy arranging this it transpired that he had visited Scotland and walked the West Highland Way last year, I told him I hadn’t done it but had completed the Southern Upland Way.

Next stop was the bank and this is where things got interesting!!!  I had set-up the account before I arrived so just needed to get it moved from a deposit only to a chequing (or a current account if you are in the UK) account.  The advisor I spoke to suggested that what would be better would be to change the deposit only to a saving’s account and set-up a separate chequing account, so that’s what we did – this is when things got interesting.

On the bank’s website it advised that people emigrating to Canada would receive the 1st 6 months free for the chequing account ($14.95 a month thereafter) and would be able to arrange a mortgage with no credit history – which I thought would be handy, but as I am a Canadian citizen these “perks” don’t apply to me (the advisor said that I was in a “grey area” as I was emigrating to Canada and hadn’t ever lived there so fell within the category for these but as a fully naturalized citizen I wasn’t!!).  Another perk that sounded attractive was a free iPhone or watch – but again I wouldn’t’ be able to take advantage of this straight away as I needed to set-up salary payments into the account and a couple of direct debits and would take about 30 days from this being done to getting the phone (I needed a phone ASAP!!), so again no perk for me☹.

After the account (and online banking) had been set-up the advisor took me out to show me how to use the ATM (you would think that I would already know how to do this – but Canadian 1’s work differently, mainly in the fact that you can withdraw money from either your chequing account or any savings accounts you have using the 1 card and PIN – so have to be careful about which 1 you choose if you are trying to save!!!).  Now just must wait 10 days for my “proper” card to arrive (have a temporary 1 that allows me to withdraw money from ATM’s\in branch and make deposits) and wait until I get a job before I can get a credit card or mortgage.

The final 2 jobs of the day was getting a phone and a monthly transit pass – straight forward enough but as the shopping centre had only 2 network shops and there were more than that to choose from (I had been advised by the bank advisor when I asked [as they really needed a Canadian number not a UK 1 as was on my file] to try Rogers, TELUSA & Bell, although there are many more than that) and no 1 shop you could go to so you could compare price plans meant going for a walk to check Bell’s options – ended up with the best deal from Bell on a different model from what I had planned.  Then off to the transit office for a pass – $101 for a month of travel on all city public transport.  2 things that were interesting when I was arranging my contract was that I got to choose my phone number rather than having 1 assigned and there is a monthly charge of 41 cents for 911 calls!

Returned to the bank to update my phone number and pay back in some money that I had taken out (had planned to pay for the handset outright to get a cheaper deal – but was cheaper to pay for the phone through the contract).  Then a final spot of grocery shopping and back to the house to set-up the new phone and log-on to the online accounts for the bank & phone.


Today was spent wandering around downtown Calgary and around the river (there is a fantastic park & path network that borders the river which is only about 5\10 minutes from the centre of downtown).

Received an e-mail from the recruitment company and will be having a face to face Monday 12th as he has a “super packed” week this week.  Also received an e-mail from a mortgage adviser at the bank looking to arrange a meeting to discuss my options (have suggested Tuesday 13th as I should hopefully have a better idea of the job situation).

Below a selection of photos from the day:

Sitting Eagle


River path & Downtown

Conversation sculpture


Today was an all-day trip up to Banff & Yoho (translated as meaning awe & wonder in 1 of the first nation languages’ according to the tour guide) national parks.  Left the house at 0520 got back 1930 – though should have been closer to 2130 but tour had to miss out the Takakkaw Waterfall as road had not been cleared and re-opened for the season, skiing lasted until around Easter so things are a little behind! so instead of the tour lasting 9.5 hours was about an hour less (so was able to get an early coach back to Calgary.  The driver for the day was Dave and his assistant Danielle (an Australian whose job appeared to be making sure that we were all back on the bus before it left each stop).

Lake Louise

The itinerary of the day should have been Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Spiral Tunnels (for trains – “The famous Spiral Tunnels on the CP Rail Line were opened on September 1st, 1909. The route called for two tunnels driven in three-quarter circles into the valley walls. The construction and extra track effectively doubled the length of the climb and reduced the gradient to 2.2%. The labor force to build these tunnels through sheer rock amounted to about a thousand, and the cost was about 1.5 million Canadian dollars. This is one of the steepest, most scenic railway lines in North America, crossing the kicking horse river, and running under Mount Ogden and Cathedral Mountain, towards the town of Field, BC.”  (source:, Emerald Lake and Takakkaw falls.  As mentioned above the road was closed so the falls were off the itinerary and the driver decided to do the spiral tunnels last in case a train came down (1 did – 30 minutes after we left, the coach passed it as we headed back to Banff!!!).

Moraine Lake

On board the coach was a mixed group, mainly Australian retiree couples, 1 single retired Australian, a couple from Halifax (England) and the rest from other parts of the world (though not sure where as not very talkative outside their own small group).  Both the Australian tour guide and the woman from Halifax were jealous of the fact that I am 1 of the fortunate few that have dual nationality so can live in 1 of 2 country’s – both really enjoy Canada, but the Australian’s visa runs out sometime around October so she has to leave and while the woman from Halifax’s husband has relatives living in Canada neither are able to get dual nationality!

Emerald Lake

Overall a great day out only let down by the fact that today was the 1st day we have not had any sunshine – cloudy all day (with a rain shower in the afternoon and a thunder storm in the evening).  So views were great – but not as good as you see in advertising\postcards of the area.  But is only 1 hour 15 minutes from Calgary so if this ends up being my permanent base can easily get back anytime I fancy.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

A few interesting thing’s from today:

  1. The trans-Canada highway runs through the park and has an 8-meter-high fence running down both sides to prevent animals from straying on to the road. While this may have presented a problem for animal migration’s there are several under\overpasses at various points along the highway for animals to pass under\over the highway and others are being built as part of a wildlife corridor that will stretch from Yellowstone in the States to the Yukon on the Canadian side – an impressive undertaking considering it involves 2 federal government’s (Canada & the US), a couple of provincial governments, a territory, and private land interests!!!
  2. In some parts of the park it is mandatory to have a walking group of 4 minimum – any less and (if you are caught) you can be prosecuted, in other parts it is a recommendation – but not a legal requirement!!
  3. Due to the incredibly high numbers of visitor’s the park gets (and is continuing to grow) there is an initiative to get visitors to leave their cars at designated parking lots off the Highway and then to use shuttle buses to get to various parts of the park (school buses are used as the shuttle buses). A contract has also had to be issued so that there are people stationed at various junctions to ensure smooth flow of traffic – the driver told us that 1 route we took once took him nearly 3 hours due to traffic and he had someone on 1 of his trips who claimed it took 6 hours to get out of Banff – though he is not sure if he believed her or not (think I’ve remembered that right)!!!


Today was my 1st chance to meet with the Calgary Camera Club.  Had e-mailed the club before leaving the UK and had been in e-mail contact with the club’s vice president, Ric.  After my arrival I e-mailed Ric with my phone number and we spoke on the phone about me meeting some members of the group, originally on an outing to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park but due to scheduling issues a week previously the groups end-of-year shrimp boil social.

As I have not yet bought a car (the CTrain is adequate for my needs at present) Ric offered to pick me up at the end of the line and take me to Fish Creek Provincial Park (this is within Calgary city limits.  Unfortunately the shrimp boil was, quite literally, a wash out – rained all day (and was also cold, so after waiting for a bit to see if weather would improve and if anyone would turn up (a few did).  So I was offered what I thought was going to be just a lift back to the CTrain station with Michael (club president) but turned out to be an invite to dinner. 

After Michael phoned his wife to advise that there would be a guest for dinner drove over to his house and had a very nice evening chatting to Michael and his wife (he is originally from Ontario and she is from England, has dual nationality), Michael showed me his camera kit and then we had a steak dinner.  Michael then drove me home, his car’s sat-nav couldn’t find my address so we ended taking a bit longer than it should have done and I ended up using the sat-nav function on my phone to get us back (why I didn’t think of it before we left his house I don’t know!!!).

The boil has been re-arranged for tomorrow.


What a difference a day makes – today sunshine & warm temperatures!  So the boil went ahead, Michael collected me from the CTrain and drove over to Fish Creek Provincial park to get set-up.

Helped with set-up and then spent a few enjoyable hours chatting to different members of the group and indulging in good food (potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, sausage & shrimp all flavoured with spices that Ric gets from Louisiana (where boils are a big thing and where he briefly worked back in the 80’s).  Due to the amount of food left several of us got doggie bags to take home as Ric was going to throw out any leftovers.

Members of the camera club chatting (Michael is on the left of the photo in the white shirt)


 Today I had a meeting with Hays recruitment about possible job opportunity’s – very much the make or break meeting of the trip as the result will decide what, if any future, I may have in Canada.

While the meeting was productive it has led me to seriously consider whether to continue to attempt to build a new life here.  Bjorn, the recruitment consultant at Hays, was very helpful and upfront – he provided me with a list of competitors that I could try, but also advised that the situation in IT across Canada is, generally, not in a great place at the moment and is not likely to change any time soon. He also advised he had had 1 job seeker that it took him 18 months to find a position for.  

Calgary also has a problem with the number of people looking for work due to the crash in the price of oil – during the boom oil companies were throwing money around and hiring lots of people, with the crash there has been a lot of layoffs as companies are restructuring and working out that they may have 5 people doing a job that can be done by 1. 

So overall not a great day but I at least I now know where I stand in terms of the chances of getting a suitable job – basically almost non-existent. 

I am now leaning back to my original plan A, a road trip across Canada. Though will have to be modified as I had planned to buy a camper van (or similar) for the drive – but with it being Canada’s 150th birthday this year all national parks are free entry (normally a permit is required) so all camp\RV sites are fully booked (generally it is recommended to book sites at least a year in advance even when there is no special occasion).  With Banff being a very popular choice the chances of finding a suitable overnight spot are likely to be non-existent – a couple of people from the camera club had been planning to camp at Waterton National Park (which is normally far quieter than Banff) – but this has also been fully booked).

While disappointing that a permanent move is now not likely to happen when I arrived I was hoping for the best but expected that the plan may not work out has hoped and I may have had to change my plan (with the worst-case scenario being having to return to the UK).


Today I was booked on a trip to the Columbia Ice field, this would be a rather long day – starting at 5.30am and not getting home until 9.30pm.  Weather was overcast all day – on getting back to Calgary there was blue sky and sunshine!!!  Our main driver and assistant today were Clayton (driver) and Chris (assistant), we also had Kevin (driver) & Jack (guide) for when we did the excursion on to the glacier.

Was collected from Downtown Calgary at 6.15, driven up to Banff and then transferred to the coach that would be doing the tour up to the icefield (others on the coach from Calgary were doing different tours).  This trip included stops at Lake Louise, at a couple of scenic viewpoints, the Columbia Icefield Glacier and, finally, the Glacier Skywalk (suspended 918 feet above the Sunwapta valley floor) – which I actually managed to walk around!!!

Athabasca Glacier

Glacier skywalk

This is 1 of the more popular tours that the company does and, as such, the coach was full after the stop at Lake Louise (were a further 2 couples were collected).  I ended up sitting next to a lady form Toronto who was originally from Glasgow and sitting behind her was her sister and nephew who were visiting from Glasgow!!  The drive is predominantly along the Icefields Parkway, which was originally built in 1930 as part of a work creation program during the depression, it was finished in 1939 (there was meant to be a big opening ceremony but the outbreak of world war 2 kinda killed that plan!!).   The original parkway was single track and it was not until 1960 that the road was upgraded to 2 lanes and, in places, re-routed (the old route can still be seen at these points – 1 is a steep incline leading up from the road and this can be followed for a reasonable distance as it reach’s it peak and starts to descend to, once, again meet the road – another section is closer to the mountain, as the engineer’s thought it would be less likely to flood as there is also a river running through this particular valley at the same level as the road – but they never thought about rock falls, the replacement was re-routed closer to the river!).

On the drive to the glacier we were fortunate to spot 2 black bears and on the way back big horn sheep and 1 of the black bears we had seen on the way up.  At the Glacier Skywalk there was a mountain goat having a sleep underneath the skywalk!!! 

Black bears

If animals are spotted by the road the coach doesn’t stop but does a slow drive by to give everyone a chance to see the animals (not great for a photo opportunity – but I did attempt some with my phone) – the reason for this is 2-fold, passenger safety (as a brown bear can run at 30mph if 1 did decide to charge there would be little chance of getting back in your vehicle safely) and animal welfare (if the animals get used to people stopping vehicles’ for photo’s the animals become used to traffic and this increases the chances of animals being killed on the road – which happened just a few weeks ago when an animal was killed).  Several vehicles had stopped and the occupants had got out to get a closer look\decent photo, I noticed a sign on the return to Banff advising people not to get out of there vehicle’s if an animal was spotted.

Part of the trip included changing from the coach to a sno-coach (a coach with extremely big wheels that can be driven on to the glacier), once on the glacier we were all able to get off and have a walk around for 15 minutes before returning to our main coach for the trip to the Glacier Skywalk and the drive back to Banff.   The drive from the coach transfer point to the glacier was a bit of a roller coaster – there was a steep gradient up before a very steep descent before crossing a large puddle of glacier water (the guide advised that this had been created so that the sno-cats wheels were washed before actually driving on the glacier to reduce the amount of dirt on the ice which can impact on the rate of the glaciers melt.

Me with the sno-cat our group used

Sno-coachs are built in Calgary and there are currently 24 in service, all but 1 being used on the Athabasca Glacier (the 1 not being used is owned by the US and is in use in Antarctica).

Once back on the main coach our driver told us a story that should have been tragic but was actually rather amusing – in 1990 an experienced skier was climbing the Athabasca glacier with the intention of getting to the top and then doing some back-country skiing, unfortunately for him he missed the signs on the glacier and fell into a crevasse, normally this means certain death as you fall all the way to the bottom, fortunately for this person his ski’s and backpack saved him (guess his ski’s got wedged between the 2 sides of the glacier – we were not advised of how), so he managed to climb out leaving behind his pack and ski’s.  Fast forward to a couple of years ago and a walker was out near the bottom of the glacier and spotted a backpack and ski’s – the very 1’s that had saved the skier back in 1990.  As the pack had ID in it the pack and skis were reunited with the original owner, along with a set of keys which included 1 for a car that had been sold in 1992, his lunch was also still in the pack (and, apparently, the sandwich was fine but the carrots were not!!!).

Big horn sheep

On the drive back had a couple of stops – 1 was a rest break and the other was a photo opportunity we didn’t get on the way out due to the wildlife.  1 passenger a row in front of me on the way back decided to listen to music, only problem was he didn’t have headphones (several other passengers were doing the same but were using headphones), this happened twice – the 2nd time it happened 1 passenger started shouting from further back to use headphones (wasn’t loud, but loud enough for more than just him to hear), Chris came down and asked him to turn it off as it was disturbing passenger’s (was some kind of Indian folk or love songs by the sound of it – though didn’t understand a word) the guy playing the music seemed surprised it was causing annoyance and asked Chris if he had headphones he could borrow (which he didn’t), after Chris had returned to his seat the passenger asked another passenger on the opposite side of the aisle if she liked the music and she replied not particularly (he seemed surprised that someone didn’t like his music)!!!

North Saskatchewan River

An update to my diary entry of 08/06 – there are 44 over & underpasses along Highway 1 as it runs through Banff.  The location of each was picked through a combination of road kill (a stretch of highway with a large number of road kill indicated a migratory route) and through data collected from radio collared animal’s as they migrated.


Today was a visit to the Alberta Badlands, a trip I thought might not happen due to lack of numbers required by the company (4 minimum – I was the only booked as far as I am aware). 

The trip did take place but using a different company that was recommended by my 1st choice and I e-mailed on Friday to find out if a trip was planned (along with the other 3 that were recommended – of which 1 didn’t reply to my e-mail and the other did stating that there might be a trip on Sunday).  The trip started at Calgary Tower at 7.30am, where I met the guide\driver and the rest of the party (only 2 others, who are from Chicago & on a 12-day coach trip from Calgary to Vancouver, they arrived a couple of days early as they wanted to see the Badlands).  Our guide\driver for the day was retired airplane captain Dave, not a professional guide (provided some information but not as much as I would have expected if he had been a professional guide – would have been given more information on the history & geology of the area we were visiting, but was easy to talk to and we all had a good chat about various things not related to the Badlands!!) or vehicle (normally vehicles are fairly modern luxury coaches\minibuses – the vehicle for the day was an older model Ford Eseries people carrier type vehicle with a cracked windscreen!!!!).

After pick-up we headed out on the latest adventure, a 2-hour drive to Drumheller & the Badlands – with sites visited being Horseshoe canyon, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Last Chance Saloon (with real bullet holes in the wall!!!!) and finishing with the Hoodoos.

Horseshoe canyon

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is not only a world-renowned museum of palaeontology but also a research & preservation facility as the area is a dinosaur fossil “hotspot” (over 150 dinosaur skeletons have been found in the area in just over a century of excavation!) – you can actually watch staff working on skeletons that have been recovered and are needing presereved.  Normally I am not that bothered about visiting museums but this 1 is certainly 1 I am glad to have visited – was well laid out, everything was explained well, exhibits were interesting and, for children, plenty of hands on exhibits.   A lot of funding for the museum comes from oil & gas company’s (according to Dave several million has so far been donated).

Running all over the museum car park where these little guys – Prairie dog’s

Royal tyrrell museum

The Last Chance Saloon is an interesting restaurant\bar that is accessed over 11 one-lane bridges that are in the Guinness World Record books for the most bridges in a small area (only 4 miles!!).   As mentioned above there are still bullet holes in 1 wall (no photo as a couple were sitting at a table right in front of them having lunch) and is very popular, especially with motorcyclists (Dave himself has a Harley and stated that the Saloon is 2 hours from Calgary which is a comfortable distance to do on 1!!!).  The current owner does not run it (had previously been in the same family for over 90 years) but has hired a woman known as Ms Kristi (a former bank manager who hated that job!!) to run it, something that Dave says she is good at but the owner is not (is not a people person) and needs to be as can be inundated with bikers (has had over 1000 arrive once and there is an annual motorcycle rally).

Last Chance Saloon

Final stop of the day was the Hoodoos, natural rock formations that the native Blackfoot & Cree tribe’s tradition is that these are petrified giants that came awake at night to protect the valley by throwing rocks around!!!  To be honest was a little disappointed – thought that they would bigger and\or cover a larger area.


Arrival time back in Calgary was 4.30, so not as long a day as previous excursion’s I have done.


Today flew to Vancouver for the start of my adventure on Canada’s Pacific Coast, a short flight of just under an hour & a half (with some good views of the Rockies on descent).

At Calgary airport checked my e-mail and had 2 e-mails relating to my planned trip when I get to Victoria, originally was going to be whale watching but when I checked the website there was an option for whale watching and hiking (click here for more info) so I e-mailed an enquiry about that.  1 e-mail was from the company that does the whale watching and the other that does the hike requesting information on where I would be staying in Victoria and a contact phone number, the 1 about the hike also advised that a backpack, water and snack are provided, that the guide is a photographer (so you would have a few photograph’s as a souvenir) and requesting information on any dietary requirements – I replied with the requested information and to advise that I had a backpack as I am a photographer so need 1 for my cameras – had the following response “Love having someone who is into photography – maybe I can help you take better shots – maybe you can help me!”.  Finally I had to phone to provide payment to secure my place’s – so that is the final part of my Vancouver adventure arranged. 

After a short cab ride, figured it was easier than trying to work out public transport while dragging a suitcase around, arrived at my home for the next 4 nights.  This is a guest house in a reasonably central location (has good trip advisor reviews for its location), is 2 minutes from city hall & about 10-15 minutes from Vancouver General Hospital.  When I booked was advised that check in was from 1500 but luggage could be dropped before then if required, I arrived at around 1300 and was able to check in straight away as my room was ready.

My Room

Once checked in I phoned the tour company that I will be doing tours with over the next 3 days to advise I had changed my accommodation for the week. Previous place did not provide breakfast, which could have been a problem as 1 of my tours leaves before 0800, this 1 does – though is pretty basic (a croissant, muffin, banana & bottle of water).  Then I needed to cancel the accommodation I had arranged (same as this week) as I discovered that I had booked for the 26th not the 27th (I also managed to do this with my flight – the return leg was booked for the 27th not the 28th!!!!) and rearrange for the correct date (was unable to get into the guest house I am in at the moment – but did book a room at the location where I was originally going to be staying (figured that even though they don’t do breakfast can have a cereal bar, or 2, and get something more substantial when  I get to the airport).

Rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the area near the guest house and finding the collection point for my next 3 tours (a Holiday Inn a 10-minute walk from the guest house).


Today was a visit to Capilano Fish Hatchery, Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain.  Though we did the suspension bridge last & the guide\driver (Ian) also stopped at the Cleveland Dam and returned to Vancouver through Stanley Park (which is part of the Vancouver city tour that the company also does).  Weather started out overcast and cloudy – it was not possible to see the top of Grouse mountain as we left, but as the day wore on the cloud burned off and the day ended in glorious sunshine (and me in shorts & t-shirt)

At the fish hatchery, which was built to allow salmon to spawn – the construction of the Cleveland dam blocked fish from swimming up river to they’re traditional spawning grounds and those young that were there when the dam was built died riding the spillway down to the river!! Ian gave the group 2 options – go into the fish hatchery and have a look at the display boards explaining the life cycle of the salmon that swim up the river or a walk in the woods, everyone but me chose to go into the hatchery and look around there – this left Ian to take me for a short nature walk, which led up to a viewpoint where you could just see the dam round a bend in the river, but feel and hear the sound of the water rushing down the spillway.

Next stop on the itinerary was Grouse Mountain, a 4000ft (1200m) high mountain in the North Shore mountain range.  After taking the skyride (cable car) to the top the group was given free time to look around, roughly 3 hours, experience various activities that are on offer.  I tried the Birds in Motion (a talk\demonstration of various birds of prey, Eco walk (a guided walk explaining various aspects of the landscape at the top of the mountain (a bit challenging as there is still quite a bit of snow at the top, the last winter was 1 of the worst that has been seen for a while and there is still snow where they wouldn’t normally be any), caught some of the lumberjack show – a demonstration of lumberjack skills done as a series of comedy sketches and visited the 2 resident grizzly bears (Grinder & Coola).

Grizzly bear

Both bears were orphaned in 2001 they were both due to be released into the wild but became too used to being around humans and so the decision was made to instead give them a habitat at the top of Grouse mountain where they could live and be studied – from these 2 bears researchers solved a puzzle that had been around for many years (and had several theory’s), how do bears maintain muscle mass during hibernation if they are sleeping for the winter??  The answer is that hibernation is not exactly the right way to describe what they do – it is more like a winter dormancy, there is a hibernation enclosure that is fitted with cameras, from these researchers were able to observe the bear getting up and moving around for up to 30 minute’s a day when it had been presumed they were sleeping (is sort of like sleep walking as the walk guide described it).

Bald eagle

The next stop was Cleveland Dam, not part of the tour but Ian decided as we been patient with a few minor delays in the morning (we met another bus that had collected others and took a bit of time to get this sorted and there was also 2 no shows) that he would add this in as we passed it on the way down to Capilano Suspension Bridge from Grouse Mountain.  From this dam (which is 1 of a serious that provides Vancouver’s drinking water) there is a good view of The Lions (a pair of mountain peaks that have given the name to a film company (Lionsgate) & a football team (Vancouver’s BC Lion CFL).

Our final stop of the day was Capilano Suspension bridge, not just a bridge but a whole park built around the bridge.  Of the whole day this was the 1 I was most worried about – as me and heights have ever really got on and crossing a suspension bridge which stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River would certainly be a challenge!!!

As it turned out crossing the bridge wasn’t as bad as I thought, a little nerve racking but overall worthwhile (I also managed the cliffwalk, which I didn’t think I would be able to do – click here for more info).   The whole park was very interesting and there was no choice but to cross the suspension bridge (twice as you had to come back the same way!!) if you wanted to explore all of it (on the opposite side is a treetop walk, various woodland trails and an area with birds of prey and an owl.  Each member of the group was provided with a map, on this map there was 6 stamps to collect – if you collected all 6 you could get a certificate at the end (when I got mine I wasn’t asked to show the stamps so think that the certificates are just handed out anyway – but added an additional something to do while in the park!!).

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Finished off the day with a steak dinner at a rather nice restaurant I have found that is part way between where I am staying and where I am collected from.


Today took a trip to the sea to sky gondola via Horseshoe bay, the Britannia mine museum and, on the return, a stop at Shannon Falls.  Today Jeremy was our driver\guide and had 2 trainee guides with him (can’t remember their names!!).  Weather today was fantastic – clear blue sky and sunshine all day.

There was an optional extra for today – a Deep Fjord Tour, a (roughly) 1 hour boat ride (normally 2 hours as you would return to the start point – but the tour company have an agreement with the company that does the fjord tour to drop people off at the museum) with the chance to see seals, various seabirds and see the land from a different perspective.  

Of all those on this tour I was the only 1 who had opted for this, being the youngest in the group probably had something to do with it!!  But I was not to be the only 1 going out on the water as the 2 trainee guides both also opted to take the boat ride.  The fjord tour takes place on Howe Sound, the most northerly fjord in north America and is a spectacular ride – with amazing scenery and wildlife.  For this we were supplied with survival suits in case we fell in (the guide, Paige, advised that should we fall in we would be fine and she would pick us up on her next tour the following day!!!!!).  Was definitely worth paying that little bit extra for – was certainly the highlight of the day for meJ  1 of the trainee tour guides managed to leave her phone in the dry suit she had been supplied with – this is going to be retrieved tomorrow by the next party that visits Horseshoe Bay.

Me with 2 trainee guides

Harbour seal

Next up was the Britannia mine museum.  Here we had the chance to pan for gold (Jeremy gave us a demonstration), watch a video about the history of the mine and went on a tour that gave an idea of what it was like to work in a mine as well as have a look at mill number 3, where the mined stoned was processed and turned into copper.  Won’t bore you with the full history (would also make this diary entry rather long!!!), check out the mines own website for full info here.

Britannia mine museum’s mill 3 seen from the water

Our second to last attraction of the day was the sea to sky gondola near Squamish (more info here), this was only opened a few years ago (currently has 20 gondola cars but this can be increased to 40 should it prove popular).    For a trip like this you need the right weather (as the views from the top are spectacular with the right weather) – today was the right choice, clear blue skies and good visibility meant plenty of photo opportunities.  After lunch at the café at the top of the gondola took a walk along 2 trails – 1 goes over a suspension bridge, the other is a scenic viewpoint walk.

Howe Sound

Final stop the day was Shannon Falls, this can be seen from the road, but is certainly better close up.  On the walk up Jeremy showed us where loggers had cut down a couple of trees (notches had been cut in to allow them to cut higher up where the trunk is narrower and how the cut trees are now providing food for new growth trees (saw 1 tree that is currently growing in the remains of a logged 1!

Shannon falls


Off to Whistler for the day (roughly 1hour 40 from Vancouver, if you drive straight up) with stops at Porteau Cove (formerly an emergency ferry terminal should the road be closed by landslides – but since several million dollars was spent on improving the road to Whistler in time for the Winter Olympics of 2010 is no longer needed), Shannon Falls (although I had been there yesterday Wam advised of a different view point closer to the falls, that Jeremy had not mentioned, so headed up there – was certainly better for photographing the falls and, to start with, was quieter than the main viewing area), Squamish Adventure Centre (for a coffee break, this is apparently the only place Australian’s can buy coffee they don’t complain about – as most of our group was from there our driver guide Wam, originally Dutch but moved to Canada as a child, decided this was the best place).  Also in the group was a man from South Queensferry who has been on a tour of Canada starting in the east and working his way west!!!!  Teamed up with Mithra Gonazalez, who I was sitting next to (the bus was nearly full and originally, I was sitting next to someone else who was on the trip with their partner, so being the nice guy I am and offered to swap seats!!).

Was advised that pick-up was at 7.55, didn’t get picked up until nearly 8.30 as there was a bit of confusion on which Holiday Inn it was I was being picked up from – another couple had the same problem and phoned the tour company to find out where our buses where, after being picked up (by Paula , 1 of the trainee tour guides from yesterday who was doing some of the pickups for the whistler tour to save some time and then going on to pick up other people and do the Vancouver City tour).

The Rockies from the top of Blackcomb

On arrival in Whistler we got our tickets for the gondola to the top of Mount Whistler, this also included the peak-to-peak gondola (which goes from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Peak, with a choice of normal gondola or a glass floor gondola – a bit misleading as only part of the floor is glass, a square in the middle!) and the ski lift’s, we were also given a complimentary ticket to a  museum on the indigenous people of the area (as weather was so nice ended up spending the afternoon on the top of the mountain’s as views were spectacular. 

Hoary Mamot

Came back down on the chair lift, Wam had advised we would need to come back over the peak-to peak gondola and down the same way we came up – at the ticket booth was advised that we could go up the Gondola and come down the ski lift (it was far nicer coming down the chair lift than the gondola – especially for photographs, we so a black bear grazing just off to the side of the seat we were in). 

Me at the top of Blackcomb

On the journey back Wam took a detour down a road that is quite good for spotting bears – only spotted 1, a cub, further up there is the Alexander Falls that we stopped at before heading back the way we came to get back on the road to Vancouver, with a couple of final stops.  1 at a viewpoint for the Tantalus range and the other back at Porteau Cove for a comfort stop.

After again switching buses downtown and dinner arrived back about 8pm at the guest house.


Today was the journey to Tornifo, an 8-hour trip mostly across Vancouver Island and with an hour and a half of which was on the ferry.  The journey from Vancouver to the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay was only about 30-40 minutes.

Vancouver from the ferry

The journey can be broken down into 3 parts – Vancouver to the ferry terminal, pay and board the ferry (bags needed to be checked in and the weight limit is less than on airlines as there is a ruling that staff can only lift a maximum weight limit) and finally the trip across Vancouver Island to Tornifo.

Overall and interesting journey made more so by the driver on Vancouver Island pointing out interesting sites and facts about some parts of the island (as an example we passed Cathedral Grove, a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem, that was used in filming the scenes in Star Wars that was supposed to be on Endor, were the Wookie’s took on the galactic empire).

Arrived in Tofino, found my guest house for the night (nicest place I have stayed so far in Canada and I have my own bathroom for the 1st tie too!) then took a wander round and found where I need to go for tomorrows bear cruise (there is, apparently, a rare spirit bear [a black bear that is pure white due to a faulty chromosome in both parent’s] in the area, so here’s hoping that this is spotted tomorrow.

My room in Tofino


A 2-hour coastal bear watch was the only planned activity for the day and I nearly missed it as I mixed up my times – was supposed to be at the activity provider half an hour before we left for this trip which was 7am and I managed to work out that I needed to be there for 7.30!!!!  So rolled out of bed at 6.45 to start getting ready and at 6.50 received a phone call asking if I was still coming!!!!


Fortunately my accommodation is only 5 minutes from where I needed to be so made it for 7, also fortunately I was not the only 1 who was late – there was a family of 4 that were coming and they phoned a few minutes after I arrived to advise they were having problems with GPS so were a little behind (Tofino is such a small place that you don’t really need GPS as is easy enough to find where you want to go on a map). So, finally, at 7.30 the boat turned up (had picked up 4 people from somewhere else) and we were off.

No spirit bear, I asked the guide and he said that there had been 1 somewhere else on Vancouver Island but had been captured around 4 weeks earlier, we did see 6 bears in total (5 adults and 1 cub) so a worthwhile trip.  The boat for this trip was a zodiac, so was into an immersion suit for the ride (got rather warm when we stopped to watch bears – most were in the sun) but soon cooled off when the guide opened the throttles and raced across the water to cool us down.  We were not the only boat out bear watching, there were 6+ others doing similar trips and all would radio the rest if a bear was sighted to let the others know where it was.

Black bear & cub (standing)

Black Bear

And another!

Rest of the day was spent wandering around Tofino, there are quite a few nature walks in Tofino and the surrounding area – 1 I did took in 3 beaches’ (Tonquin, Middle & Mackenzie) as I had been advised by my host (who I bumped into when I came back to sort out my camera kit after the boat trip) that Tonquin was a nice 1 for sunset’s and was a bit of a local secret (though is marked on tourist maps and is on 1 of the way marked walking routes!!).

Middle Beach, Tofino


 An easy day today, a bus ride from Tofino to Victoria, a 6 hour 30-minute journey.  After arriving and checking into my hotel (although harbour side my room overlooks the car park at the rear of the building and there is a step up in to the bathroom!!!) for the next 2 nights went out to find out where I need to be tomorrow morning (about a 15-minute walk from the hotel) and find somewhere for dinner.

Ended up finding a nice fish shop near where the whale cruise starts from and have to be honest Britain may have started fish and chips but Canada definitely does it better (see photo below)!!!!

Dinner – a salmon (yes, you read that right) fish supper!!!

After ordering my food had a bit of a wait, after you have ordered you are given and device that beeps and flashes to advise your order is ready, so kept an eye out for a free table (the area was extremely busy – is a mixed commercial residential area actually on the water, clicked here for more info.  I managed to get a table and when my device went left my bag and wen t to get my food, on returning to my table there was a member of staff checking out my bag (he had thought I had gone and forgotten about it, happens regularly, I told him I had left it there to keep the table.  A couple who live locally ended up joining me, each table can hold roughly 6, so chatted to them while we ate and then wandered off to have a look around.  Ended up buying a soft ice cream sundae for sweet – very nice:-)

Home for the next 2 nights

On the journey down I checked my e-mail and had 1 from the guest house I had stayed at in Vancouver (had booked 1 night after I get back from Vancouver Island before flying back to Calgary the following day, but had managed to book the wrong day).  They had advised that I needed to cancel the booking and re-book for the correct date, but advised there were no rooms available on that date.  E-mailed them to advise of this and the date and they requested I phone, once I had checked in did so and spoke to a Chinese woman with poor English, ended up advising her that I would find somewhere else as we did not appear to be getting anywhere with attempting to rebook and the manager wasn’t around (who had asked me to phone in the 1st place!!!).  Upshot of all this is I do have a room (should be the same 1 as I had for the week) at the guest house for the 27th, at the same price and with no cancellation fee – luckily the place I had booked instead has a no cancellation fee policy, so have accommodation that provides breakfast and has laundry facility’s, if needed (which the other did not).


Today had 2 planned activity’s whale watching and a hike.  Original plan had been to due the hike in the morning and the whale watch in the afternoon, but had an e-mail from Mark (who leads the hikes) asking if I could change to the afternoon as he had a couple wanting to do the afternoon and only me in the morning.

The whale watching took place in an open boat with a guide and boat handler (can’t remember either of their names!!), the company has a variety of different craft (click here for more info – the 1 for the trip I did was the Goldwing) – from the open boat that was used for this trip to a to vessels that have an enclosed area so you can be indoors if you want to, and lasted about 3.5 hours. Is certainly more fun in an open boat as you get to feel the breeze on your face and get a good soaking when going through waves (we were advised that out guide was responsible for our safety but not that of any electronic equipment that we used!!!).  After being kitted out with waterproof trousers and a flotation jacket there was an introductory talk\safety briefing, at this point we were advised what wildlife we might see (in the end all we saw was a pod of Orca’s – the guide thought we might have seen humpback’s as they had been seen frequently in the area but not today.


As with the bear watching different boats from different companies would radio\e-mail\text\Facebook each other with locations so all those out would get a chance to see some wildlife.

After lunch went back to the hotel to wipe down my kit, considering had been exposed to salty condition’s thought best to do this before the hike rather than after.

At 2.45 Mark from Hike Victoria, arrived to at the hotel to pick me up and we then went off to collect the other 2.  Not only is Mike a hike guide but is also a photographer, so that was good as we were able to talk about photography and compare notes on equipment.  After picking up the other 2 participants for this activity headed to then location of our walk, the Gowlland Todd provincial park.  A short walk at only 3.60miles, but took 3.5 hours to do – partly due to the other 2 participants’ not being hikers, Mark stopping to give us information on the area (history, fauna, etc.) and to give safety tips at various points (particularly areas that were steep and there was a hazard of tripping as well as plenty of stops for photos (Mark started suffering from lens envy when I brought out my super telephoto lens and took several photos of me with it!!!),  near the top saw Turkey vultures so was glad to have the super telephoto out as was able to get some decent photos of them in flight.  On the drive back to Victoria saw some deer grazing by the road (tried a few photos with the phone as the cameras were in the boot of the car).

Tod inlet – view from the highest point of the hike (distant mountain range is the Olympic mountain range, USA)

Another hard day at the office!!! (Mark Vukobrat –

After the hike was back to Victoria for dinner and downloading and an initial sort of the photos – will finish off tomorrow when I am back in Vancouver.

2 Turkey Vulture’s

Turkey Vulture


Today was the journey back to Vancouver, on a different route than the way out, the journey out was via Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo & the return was Swarz Bay to Tsawwassen (but journey time on the ferry was the same).  The journey into Vancouver went directly past where I am spending tonight – but, unfortunately, was not able to get off as my suitcase was in the hold and not easily accessible as I had booked myself straight through to the depot in Vancouver (a little annoying but such is life).

Tomorrow is the flight back to Calgary and from there we shall have to see what happens – have still not to heard back from the tour company in Yellowknife, so suspect that this may have to wait until my next visit (if I can find 3 other people to travel with!!!) – if this trip does not happen then will be off to Thunder Bay (but will sort out once am back in Calgary.


After and uneventful flight back from Vancouver to Calgary, today flew to Thunder Bay.  Flight from Calgary was delayed by 30 minutes as there was a passenger who had additional support needs and there was behind the scene’s discussions on whether or not they could fly as they were travelling alone, decision was finally made that the passenger would have to be disembarked and booked on another flight when they had a friend\relative that could accompany them for safety reasons.

A slight delay in Toronto before the 2nd flight of the day left (more down to getting the plane ready after its previous trip).  Arrived in Thunder Bay only a few minutes behind schedule and thought I had landed in Scotland as was overcast and raining!!!!!

Once I had met up with Sigrid (my host for the next few days) was back to her house for dinner (and a enthusiastic welcome from 2 of her German shepherds, Dresden & Starlet), a chat about what I was wanting to do while here and a look at the weather (rainy most of the weekend here in Thunder Bay – but, hopefully, drying up next week).

Sigrid and Dresden


 A quite start to my time in Thunder Bay, Sigrid was busy in the morning and evening.  So spent the morning looking at things to do around Thunder Bay, booked a flight back to the UK:-( and booked a Secrets of Superior Tour (more info here).  In the afternoon, after lunch, went out to see Kakabeka Falls, also known as the Niagara of the north, after a wander around there & a quick stop at the supermarket for a few items was back to the house.  As Sigrid was out for the evening it was leftovers for dinner for me and then a quiet evening sorting out my cell phone contract.  Bought myself out of my existing contract as I had taken out a contract and got a new phone when I arrived, so the phone is now all paid for, and changed my contract to the cheapest I could get (keeping a contract will mean that I have a bill coming out of my account every month so will be building a credit history in Canada as I also plan to set-up a monthly wire transfer so I keep a small amount of money in Canada for future trips or a further attempt at a permanent move in the future).

Kakabeka Falls


 Today was Canada’s 150th birthday.  So plan for the day was to go to a presentation training class where Sigrid had 2 dogs that are being trained for showing (neither are hers), then off to Fort William Historical Park (according to its website “one of the largest living history attractions in North America”, click here for more info) and finish the day off with a firework display that was being shown at the marina as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.  Fort William Historical Park and the firework display were weather dependent as the weather looked like it was going to be wet.


Of the 2 weather dependant activities Sigrid & I only did Fort William (as the weather forecast was predicting rain on & off during the evening so was decided to watch the main celebration in Ottawa on TV as we thought the fireworks maybe cancelled due to the rain) and when we arrived at Fort William was pouring down, cleared up shortly after arriving at the fort and the poured again as we headed back to the car.  At Fort William looked around the various buildings, fortunately while there is a lot to see outside there is also lots to see inside (including demonstrations on activities’ such as bread making, and you can buy loafs that they have baked – we tasted the white bread that had just been baked and bought a loaf of wholemeal for dinner, both tasty, butter making & canoe building – unfortunately canoe building was not being demonstrated when we were there).  There was a cannon demonstration at the wharf just outside the fort’s main gate, which was interesting, after this everyone went back into the fort for the national anthem and birthday cake as part of the birthday celebration (other activities had had to be cancelled due to the rain).

A rather wet Fort William

The same view a short time later

Then back to the house to dry off, have dinner and watch the celebration’s in Ottawa (there was a lot of rain there as well, but did dry up later on), some reports suggested that up to 100,00+ people may have attended this event but about 25,000 people turned up (some not happy due to time it took to get on to Parliament hill due to security checks, waits of over 3 hours were reported).

Cannon demonstration


 Today Sigrid drove me down for a visit to Pigeon River Provincial Park (along with Dresden), where we viewed High & Middle Falls and, after hiking out to High Falls, hiked over to Finger Point lookout (somewhere Sigrid had not visited before either).  Total distance hiked was 5.88 miles (9.46Km).  Big improvement in the weather today – sunny & warm, rain spat down twice but didn’t amount to anything, but due to all the rain some points underfoot where extremely boggy and\or had very large puddles.

Lake Superior from the lookout at the top of Finger Point

After the hike went into the visitor centre as Sigrid was wanting a Canada 150 t-shirt, which has (until today) proved elusive, I also purchased a few souvenir’s.  We then drove over to Middle Falls, this proved a bit of a challenge to find as is not signposted and where there used to be a car park from where you could park to view the falls (and is a very short walk from the falls) this has now been closed off and has been for some time as nature is starting to reclaim it.  There is a walk from the Pigeon River Visitor Centre to Middle falls, so it appears that Ontario tourism is trying to encourage people to walk from there to Middle Falls (which is about 2.5Km, 1.55miles, one way) – which is fine if you are fit enough but if someone with mobility issues wants to view it is a case of trying to find your own way to the nearest parking area (which is still 0.7Km, 0.44miles) from the falls (which could also be an issue for someone with mobility issues and when Sigrid & I did it was extremely wet in places – at one point walking over to Middle Falls Sigrid took her trainers off and paddled through a puddle as if she hadn’t she would have got soaked shoes and nothing to change into).

Sigrid Paddling

Not much in the way of wildlife today – saw 1 woodpecker (but was too far away to get a decent photo) and heard another, 1 deer (but ran before I could get a photo) and lots of butterfly’s around Middle Falls.

High Falls

Middle Falls

As I type this Sigrid is asleep in an armchair!!!:-)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly


Today Sigrid and I took a trip out to Hillcrest Park, Cascades Conservation Area, Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout and Trowbridge Falls.   For these outings we took along Ryder, Sigrid’s youngest dog and only male.

Sleeping Giant

Sigrid & Ryder

The plan had been to visit each location without having to go back to Sigrid’s, unfortunately at the Cascades the plan fell apart when Sigrid slipped on some mud and ended up with the rear of her trousers covered in mud and the air blue!!!!!


After returning to Sigrid’s, Sigrid changed we had lunch and then headed back out to visit The Terry Fox memorial and Trowbridge Falls.

Terry Fox Memorial

Trowbridge Falls



Another short diary update, mostly to be told in photo’s.  Today was a visit to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, just over an hour from Thunder Bay.

Sea Lion Rock

Our 1st stop was Silver islet at the tip of the park, formerly a silver mining town.  Then we went on to find the visitor centre to get a map of the park and decide which trails to hike and where else we wanted to visit, the decision was made that we would hike Sea Lion Trail (1.73miles, 2.78km), Wildlife Habitat Trail (0.90miles, 1.44km), drive up to the Thunder Bay Lookout (9Km down a gravel road from the main route through the park) and Joe Creek Trail (1.05miles, 1.70km).  Then back to Thunder Bay for dinner at Prospector Steakhouse.

Sigrid & Dresden

Overall a good day with only a lack of wildlife that would have made it a really good day – at the visitor centre there is a park map that has the locations of animal siting’s marked over the past week, on this there had been brown bears, moose, otter’s & wolves spotted in various parts of the park and all Sigrid and I saw was a single squirrel and swarms of mosquito’s!!!

Joe Creek


Today Sigrid had peace from me as I had arranged a tour for the day!!!

The tour visited the Terry Fox monument, Red Rock (a former mill town), Nipigon (a former railroad town), Schreiber (a former division railroad town), Rockport) from where we did a zodiac boat trip to some of the islands in the Rockport archipelago) before finishing with a trip up Mount McKay (which overlooks Thunder Bay).  Another day lacking on wildlife – only wildlife sighting was a bald eagle, but only had the wide angle lens out and couldn’t get a bigger zoom out in time:-(

Cliff Painting

Was picked up from Sigrid’s house just after 9am and it turned out I was the only 1 doing the tour (Taylor the tour guide and owner of the company used, Animikii Tours, when we were chatting I mentioned that most company’s usually have a minimum number he said that he looked at it from a tourist’s point of view and that as he uses a smaller vehicle does not have the same costs as if he used a minibus or coach, he uses a 7-seater car, plus he can also get places he wouldn’t be able to with a bigger vehicle).

Old railroad engine – Schreiber Railway Museum

All of the towns visited are along Lake Superior and are, mainly, former company towns – though the industry that built them has now either closed or moved out.  In the case of Red Rock the mill closed a few years ago and in the case of the railroad towns advances of rail technology mean that these towns are no longer required.  As such all are having to find new ways to bring money in and prevent them becoming ghost towns, mainly through tourism (Red Rock has a marine interpretive centre and marina facilities, Nipigon a museum of local history and Schreiber a “railway museum” – is housed in old railroad cars and has a few exhibits on the history of railroading but also a few on other aspects of history).  Other ways that they are trying to survive is by trying to encourage retirees to move to the area (average house price is around $50,00, so a move from Toronto [for example] could give a decent amount of money for living expenses from the sale of a property there even after buying a property in 1 of these area’s), in the case of Red Rock [as it has a deep water harbour] there is currently a feasibility study about developing a harbour facility to take some of the strain off of Thunder Bay’s harbour (the railroad spur in to town is still in place so would be easy to move freight from water to rail with some investment).

Harry’s Hilton

Lunch was supposed to be at the Hungry Moose restaurant, but when we arrived we discovered that it was closed for a family function (Tayler had e-mailed the day before but had received no reply).  Eventually we ended up having a very nice lunch in a café in Rockport.  After this was down to the marina to meet up with our boat guide, Paul (a reserve in the coastguard, there are 3 coastguard personnel 1 our guide Paul in Rockport and 1 each in Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie to cover that stretch of Lake Superior), be issued with a buoyancy aid and then off to see some of the islands on a (roughly) 2-hour ride.

Battle Island Lighthouse

During the trip Paul stopped off at various places and explained a bit about the history of some of the islands – 1 had had a lumber mill and fishery at 1 time, 1 had a quarry (stone could be easily removed in the required size so was a popular place to get stone from), 1 had a small shack that had 3 days’ worth of food and firewood should a sailor get caught out by the weather (called Harry’s Hilton as the island is called Harry Island – the federal government wanted to have this pulled down due to liability concerns, but someone suggested that the government person should be advised a business in town would provide this under the business insurance and for 6 years there has been no more word on demolition!!) and a 3rd, battle Island, had a lighthouse (now automated) and the lighthouse keeper’s houses have been leased to a group that are interested in restoring these and leasing them out as holiday homes after previously being owned by the former lighthouse keepers, who were given them on automation to keep as holiday homes, both now deceased – 1 had no family and the other had a wife & 2 children but the children live out west (and didn’t want it) so ownership reverted back to the lighthouse company as there was no one to take on the property (though as the island is 8 miles from Rockport will be interesting to see if this project comes to fruition).

Final stop of the day was Mount McKay, which was last visited over 20 years ago on my last visit.  Perfect time of day to visit as sun was just right for photos.

Thunder Bay


Today visited Ouimet Canyon & Eagle Canyon (which has Canada’s longest suspension bridge and zip line – only did the suspension bridge’s).  Today, as yesterday, rain was forecast but sunshine and clear skies was the norm for the day.  More wildlife today – a fox with a rabbit in its mouth (typically no zoom lens to hand so wasn’t able to get a photograph), a black bear (had the zoom lens out so got a photograph before he disappeared back into the undergrowth).  As usual we brought along Dresden for today’s adventure.

Black Bear

Before heading off to the canyon’s stopped off at a restaurant for breakfast, Hoito, which is a very popular place to eat as has decent portion sizes and is reasonably priced.

Ouimet Canyon

Both canyons visited today have well marked paths and Ouimet Canyon has info boards telling you the history of the canyon.  There is an entry fee to Eagle Canyon ($20) and, for an additional $50, you can take a zip line down from the top of the canyon to the bottom (Canada’s longest, highest and fastest zip line – half a mile long, 175 feet high and reaching speeds in excess of 45 mph)!!!  As mentioned above there are 2 suspension bridges – Canada’s longest at 600 feet across the canyon which hangs at a height of 152 feet above the canyon floor and the other is 300 feet across the canyon and 125 feet above the canyon floor.

Eagle Canyon – can you spot the 2 suspension bridges??

Between the visit to Ouimet Canyon and Eagle Canyon we took a slight detour up to Greenwich Windfarm, which Sigrid had been advised was worth a look.  This is a really good example of how to place a windfarm – is in a really isolated spot, which does not ruin any views.

Wind Turbines



 Today visited Chippewa Park & Mission Marsh Conservation Area, both on Lake Superior and giving good views of the sleeping giant.  Had also planned to visit the marina but was closed due to a Jazz festival.

Swing Bridge

Sleeping Giant

Grain Elevator


After leaving Sigrid’s on Saturday 8th I arrived back in Edinburgh on Sunday 9th, after nearly 24 hours traveling (departed Sigrid’s at just after 2pm Thunder Bay time, 7pm UK, and arrived at the house in Edinburgh just before 7pm on the Sunday).

Both flights went smoothly with the flight from Winnipeg to Gatwick arriving early.  Only delay was waiting for a taxi at Victoria, which took half an hour due to a large queue and lack of taxi’s waiting at the rank!

After unpacking last night, spent today backing up files from my Mac and sorting things out.  On checking my e-mail I had received an e-mail from Bjoern, the recruitment consultant from Hays Canada I met at the beginning of this trip, about a possible job opportunity – so here was me thinking that I would be back in Canada sooner than I thought, but the job was no longer available and it was for a helpdesk position, for which I am not particularly well suited!!!

Final thoughts

 While the outcome was not the 1 I had hoped for in some ways things have worked out better.

I have kept my Canadian cell phone number (as this will be a monthly outgoing from the account) and I plan to set-up a wire transfer to my Canadian bank account, which will (hopefully) allow me to build up my credit history making it easier on a future trip to get a credit card as, although I would be a newcomer to Canada, for financial institutions I am considered Canadian due to my dual nationality (I fall in to a “grey area” as the financial adviser at the bank told me when I went in to complete setting up my account during the 1st week of the trip).