Whistler

Today we spent the day in Whistler before driving back to Vancouver. Tomorrow is the BIG day. I dont know that I will be reporting frequently as the ship doesnt have free wifi. So we shall see. Otherwise I may have to do a bulk upload when I can, or when we hit mainland Alaska in a week and reunite myself with beloved wifi in a motel. Anyways, back to our awesome day – today.
Up we sprung and packed our backpacks then off to the campers kitchen for breaky. I am so bored of cereal I just couldnt face it again. Gracie had a single serve sachet of porridge that she had kept from another motel. Geoff and Bailey ate their boring tasteless mixed muesli while I ate butter on dry crackers, while having a conversation about missing egg on toast and vegemite on toast… Something crunchy and savoury…mmmm. We also expect we shall be stuffing ourselves with every food conceivable on the ship grazing buffets and other daily smorgasbords… Oh I have drifted off talking about food again! On subject – today.
We spent the morning at a forest treetop zipline park. It took about 3 hours through the canopy walk boards and five ziplines. It was really awesome.
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Gracie our little daredevil did really well. Two of the long ziplines around 350 metres she was not heavy enough and would have not made the end so she was tandem harnessed to a guide. Three she was allowed to do herself. So yes we were all very high up and jumping out of trees along flying foxes. Flying like eagles amongst and through the cedar trees and over the creek.
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The last zipline was ‘freestyle’ and we all went upside down.
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We then headed to the lake for some lunch with our little friend white foam esky. We have been running down our supplies so when we board the ship tomorrow we are not throwing anything out.
The lake is like a postcard. It is a hive of activity from canoes, paddle boats, kids playing and family picnics. There are lovely wood cabins by the lake with their private little jetty and deck chairs. The weather is just gorgeous. The sun has been shining and its lovely and warm. Whistler is in the final stages of prep for Canadian Ironman. Registration commences today with the triathlon on Sunday. So the place is busy and ready. You can tell the people are chuffed with the season. They really get to enjoy the snow and the sun, all seasons with wide swings in either direction.
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Tonight we pack, sort and have a clean up. Tomorrow we will leave our car in the motel carpark and head to the main shipping pier. Tomorrow we will return to using the bus and train and wearing our backpacks in the city. Tomorrow we should be eating like kings and queens and have our own fancy cabin to call home with nothing to organise or plan. Well except for, shall I have a beer or cocktail? We are all looking forward to a bit of luxury and extravagance.

Whistler

Now our day started off very interesting. Yesterday we were offered ‘free tickets’ for the four of us on the gondola and lifts to access Blackcomb and Whistler peaks. Now we all know nothing is for free so in return you go to this seminar on Vacation Timeshare thing, 90 mins of our time and they babysit your kids at the kids arcade. The tickets were $150 so we thought okay what the heck. We have been around enough now to know that we had to listen to the blar blar blar, get the tickets and ge out of there without signing anything. We both agreed to slap the other one if we said yes to anything! There were heaps of people doing the same thing.

Well let me tell you, it was sticking sharp things in your eyes kind of stuff. Two hours of number crunching and hard sell to ‘rest’ $35,000 into their account in return for a 1-3 weeks holiday every year in a five star resort somewhere around the world. It was Amway ten times. It was interesting and yes an experience. After about 90 mins I said to Bruce that I was done and had to collect my kids now. We grabbed the free juice and biscuits on the way out and looked for the nearest exit as quick as we could. Took me about 2 hours to get over, but Geoff was intrigued by all the number crunching and their sales techniques. It kept us all entertained for the day talking about poor old Bruce who no doubt missed out on his commission for not signing us up today at the majorly discounted ‘today’ deposit price of $3,500.

So off we went with thanks to the hard sell hotel mob with our free lift tickets (cost me two hours of my life) up the mountain face. Free again…

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There was more cool Winter Olympic stuff to be seen including rings and a museum on the Canadian champions of 2010.

The gondola and lift system takes a couple of hours as it covers two summits. It was awesome view and a magic way to enjoy the mountains. We did feel kind of ripped off though making it to the top without the hours of pain to get there, considering our legs are still paying the price for our summit climb a couple of days ago.

image The Peak 2 Peak main enclosed gondola is amazing. An engineering marvel as the longest in the world. We went back and forth a couple of times just to take it all in.

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The views at both summits were wonderful. We just sat on the Whistler peak for ages looking out to the snow covered ranges beyond. It was the done thing to build yourself a little man out of rocks. These were originally built by the Eskimos to mark important things like food and as a welcome symbol. The tradition migrated further south and was used by early Canadian tribes.

imageWe managed to find some snow patches again and have a little snow man competition. Actually this patch of snow was so unique as it was coloured by different rocks, like some kind of oxidation process. The snow was melting and formed a little icy cold lake. The kids broke off sections of the melting snow to form icebergs and float out little snowmen. It was really great fun.

Of course all day we were always keeping an eye out for BEARS! Where are those bears? We watched out from each gondola and every lift. We watched out from each lift station and restaurant. We scanned each patch of grass and along the edges of the pine forest. Geoff read a sign saying black bears were spotting at pole 17 on the gondola returning back to Whistler Village. This was our last chance and lift home. So there we were in our own gondola, finding our bearings, all scanning, we were making ‘cant bear anymore waiting’ jokes then YES we seen not one, but two black bears at around 5.20pm at pole 19 and 17. It was so exciting and Bailey was bearly keeping it together. It was a unbearlievably cool experience. Animal encounters only count when its done in the wild.

We finished our day buying a well earned carton of Canadian beer and cooking a yummy home cooked meal at our really homely ski lodge.

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Whistler

Our legs are sore from yesterdays hike. We all notice it at any stairs as the muscles in your legs all say enough is enough.

We seem to be sleeping in longer each day… today didnt begin until 9am much to Geoffs disgust (in our holiday laziness). We packed up and headed for Whistler. So it is summer and there is no snow on Whistler from our view from the village. The whole landscape is set up for a summer time adventure.
We seen the Olympic rings from the Winter Olympics 2010. The village certainly has a snow village feel.
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It is really homely and interesting to walk around. The place is filled with serious mountain bikers. With bikes we have not seen before, built for the downward slopes. It was really interesting to watch them loading on the chair lifts. Oh how the place converts from one season to the next. We learnt that Whistler does not have an off season, its a year round pumping place.
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We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre of the Squamish and Lil’wat people of the region. The first people and their story. Much like you would expect to experience in any cultural centre in Australia. It was interesting enough. We have done a fair bit of this kind of thing now and the kids really understand there are all kinds of people around the world. And that humans began their sprawl all over the planet rather rapidly once we discovered transport. We all came from somewhere, some earlier than others.
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We are still on the hunt for bears looking out the window as we travel along. And asking locals and people ‘where can we see bears in the wild’. Most say something like ‘oh you wont see them they are deep in the woods’, or ‘I havent seen any bears this season’. So nothing of interest to report! Then once a day or so we hear someone say they seen one walking past or crossing the road! Two guys in our lodge said they seen bears today while biking. There is hope for us yet.
Today we tried a Canadian junk food dish. Its your normal chips and gravy plus ‘cheese curd’. These white clumps of cheese just melted a bit like a fast food fondue. Yummy enough for food to fill a hole and fast.
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Tonight we are staying in a ski lodge. Its like a fancy backpackers, so everything is clean and nicely set up (as opposed to our San Fran backpackers that was the biggest mess ever). Nice big clean well organised family kitchen, baskets to name your stuff in the fridge and pantry. Our room is two story with one room above the other. And much to Gracie delight she gets a bed of her own and doesnt have to share with Bailey for the two nights we call this place home. There is no room telly so its nice and quiet, plus the kids played up today so its a good day to send them to their room while Geoff and I socialised with the other campers and drank wine!

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh

A fab day in Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) as we conquered The Stawamus Chief, the second largest monolith in the world thanks to our own Ayres Rock. The hike took us seven hours all up from top to bottom including two peaks, rest and viewing stops.imageThe terrain was very steep and changing, lots of wood stairs, rock stairs, chains, metal pull up hooks and original forrest and rock floor.

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It was a real test in fitness and endurance for us all. There was one point when Geoffs legs went wobbly as he helped the kids up a very steep section of cliff. On one side was the drop off and the other side the cliff face, plus he had a kid in one hand helping them up. He has flashes of getting in trouble by both sets of parents for loosing a child when we promised we would take good care of them!

The summit was an epic beautiful view of Squamish town and surrounds. It was another busy trail with people passing back and forth. Lots of average adventurers like us of all ages, shapes and sizes. Some fit types running past, some plodding along and some unfit types huffing and puffing. Dogs are really welcomed and encouraged from anything to hiking trails, hotel rooms to restaurants. Today we seen about five dogs including one cute little lap doggie in a backpack and the other big dog who had to negotiate the chained areas and a steep ladder. One thing that is great about us all being together all day everyday is that we get in lots of time for talking. On the way up any mountain I cant talk at all, no spare breath left. On the way down however we find ourselves deep in conversation with the kids discussing things they want to know about the world.

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The Chief is a world renowned for rock climbing. There were lots of serious rock climbing crew camped at the bottom. We passed lots with their ‘crash mats’, ropes and climbing gear. They are FIT and muscular in a natural way, like the dont eat much and just focus on climbing. These are the serious kind who climb up the sheer rock face by using cracks and other crevices. They either climb, hike or abseil back down. Last night we seen some base jump off and parachute to the bottom. Mental. By the end of the climb our legs were fatigued and beginning to muscle shake. So yeah, we climbed it and we rocked on the big rock! Seriously awesome wild and free fun.

Squarmy

We packed up our neat little home of four nights in Vancouver and headed north on the Sky to Sea Highway towards Whister all looking forward to experiencing wild and free range Canada. The road was scenic and made its way along the bottom of the cliffs. On one side were the steep forrest covered mountains and the other side we are looking out to the islands, also lush and mountainous.

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We stopped along the way and met some fly fisherman who were happy Serbians now living and loving being Vancouver residents. One talked about being in the best country in the world and how lucky they were salmon fishing. They were reeling in salmon after salmon and wanted us to take one, but we explained it just would be an offence to the fish to cook him in our motel microwave! It was such a great sight, just like the fly fishing shows or documentaries you see of men in their overalls ever so clever casting out that little pretend fly.

We stocked up out little foam esky at the local supermarket to cook our own yummy micro dinner tonight. Stirfry with lots of fresh colourful things! Yum!

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Now to our days mega highlight – pretending we were bears! We booked into a nice hotel (Gracie was excited it had a bath and soft toilet paper) in Squamish then headed to the river bank to make our french stick ham and salad lunch. We had the afternoon to sightsee and seen on the map two streams marked ‘Salmon Spawning’. OMGolly so you could imagine my quiet anticipation! Well it did not fail to deliver. A river and its streams full of salmon working against the current to get themselves to the top of the dead end streams to release their eggs. We seen them in all stages from full of life jumping up stream to laying around dead after achieving their lifes work. We also seen the eggs laying at the bottom of the shallow stream, much larger than I expected and pale orange. The water was like ICE, yes frozen ice off the mountains! It took about 10 mins for our feet to go beyond feeling so we could stand in it long enough to catch the fish with our bare hands. It really was a once in a life time thing. One of the very reasons we came to Canada at this time of the year. We are coming into peak salmon spawning and bear feeding time. Bailey came across some bear footprints in the mud and came bounding back to us pronto. We feel closer to real wild bears than ever before.

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Vancouver

We started our day in the slow lane. It is tiring being on tour like rockstars. We slept in then lingered a little longer with our breakfast. There is a coin operated laundry in our motel so I seized the opportunity. When a clean load of washing returns everyone needs to sort their bags out to make it fit back in.

Around 12.30pm we decided to walk to the Burnaby Village Museum to get out and about. We had to find a Flight Centre to pay for our flights to Hawaii on 1st October. That walk was 3.5km including Geoff visiting the Barber for a trim. We trouped another 4km in the drissing rain to the Museum. The weather then cleaned up nicely for us to enjoy the rest of the day, it rains in Vancouver all the time remember! We were so buggered we sat and had a beer to recover, while the kids had chips and gravy. I enjoyed a bit of people watching at the wedding party outside the beautiful little old time church. Hour and a half and still no bride. Geoff reckons it was a gay wedding as in his opinon there was far to much boy hugging going on.

imageThe Burnaby Museum is a village over many acres presented like the old days complete with the rooms set up with people dressed in period custume inside telling you about what went on in their building. There was a tinman, blacksmith, school house, seamstress, old houses, photography shop, pharmacy, store, bakery, telegram place and much more. The kids ran around with the kids morse code activity booklet following cules to crack the code. They finished their adventure with an old time carousel ride.

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We walked to find the bus stop which took us to a big shopping centre. The ones if you are not careful you dont get back out. We all enjoyed some retail therapy. Then another bus and we got off to check out the big second hand superstore (a massive Good Sammys). Now that was fun all topping up on a couple of nice bits to take on the cruise ship.

We pounded the streets some more and finally made it back all buggered by about 9pm. The usual sort of arrival time for us lot.

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Vancouver

Off we went into into the City for day two. At the end of the SkyTrain we start to come across heaps of youngish crew in playing dress ups for the Anime Convention, Japanese Culture cartoon fans. We couldnt tear ourselves away people watching. The costumes were awesome.

We hired bikes for four hours and rode around Stanley Park, one of the ‘must dos’ in the City. It must have been about 10kms we travelled. An easy scenic ride. image

We seen lots of interesting landmarks on the way like totem poles with symbolic explanations, some old war canon, view point markers, native fishing rock trap and what birds to keep an eye out for. We stopped to enjoy some blackberries for a snack.

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The path made its way around The Seawall. The famous Autumn leaves were starting to fall. There were lots of mussels on the rocks. I had my first near death experience animal encounter. I seen a pure black squirrel and in the excitement pulled on the front brakes as I squealed out in excitement and my front wheel went over my right shoulder quick as a flash. I dont know how, but I was still on my feet. The squirrel was nowhere to be seen after that!

imageWe stopped mid afternoon for a late lunch when we came across a hotdog stand by the beach. We finished the day watching the movie Planes at the cinema.