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Welcome to the new improved Las Vegas….or Dubai, United Arab Emirates as some call it.
Apr 16th, 2010 by Jeff

If you’re flying in from Mumbai to Dubai be prepared for some culture shock.  Flying into Dubai’s new international terminal is like stepping into the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, minus the smoke, liquor, weirdoes and scantily clad women.  After arriving at our gate we rode the moving walkway through large arched hallways made of glass, marble and glittering gold for probably a mile.

The girls infront of the lift, notice the waterfall in upper background.  I could only get in two of the elevators.

The girls infront of the lift, notice the waterfall in upper background. I could only get in two of the elevators.

The girls stopped briefly on our way to make use of the bathrooms (see Tessa’s post).  Once through customs, we entered one of three glass elevators the size of a small living room in front of the 150 foot tall, 100 foot long waterfall. The elevator brought us down three stories to the baggage claim area.  From the airport we hopped into an immaculately clean, large Toyota sedan and were driven to our new accommodations.  This was about as polar opposite as it comes to our experience of arriving in Delhi’s international airport (look back in the blog to get our take on that).

As far as accommodations go Dubai was another couchsurfing success!  Our gracious host for our time in Dubai was a delightful, funny and intelligent young woman by the name of Staci Haag.  She took all of us into her nicely appointed two bedroom apartment in Dubai proper, which ended up being a great departure point for our explorations of the city.  Even thought she had work obligations for the week, we stayed up chatting into the night, discussing her work in promoting democracy in the region and the trails and tribulations of working in the environment that is the Middle East.  Her stories were all very interesting and entertaining.  (We certainly wish her the best with the work she is doing there).

After our time in India, we all decided we needed some good all American style consumerism, and general merriment.  Therefore, the first item on our agenda was hitting some of the UAE’s gianormous malls for some shopping.

Butterfly cutouts hanging in on of the malls huge atriums

Butterfly cutouts hanging in on of the malls huge atriums

Here again, the Las Vegas analogy comes into play.  We went to a mall that had different themes to the sections, (like Rodeo Drive with the upscale shops and an old time Arabic bazaar).  We went to the mall that has a full size ice rink, the world’s largest saltwater aquarium, an indoor ski slope, and a water show outside in their fountains.

Water fountains sync'd to musical score outside the mall.

Water fountains sync'd to musical score outside the mall.

This mall was right next to the world’s largest skyscraper.  We had originally planned to go skiing here, but after looking at the cost ($80/per for two hours) and the size of the hill, we just decided it just wasn’t worth the cost.  It was pretty cool (and a little weird) to see this inside the mall.

Once we were done exploring the malls, we had our sights set on one of Dubai’s two water parks for some good clean fun.  The girls and I choose to go to the Atlantis Resort water park out on the famed artificial palm tree shaped island.  (Kate opted out on this adventure.  When she saw some expat’s that had nice blonde hair she inquired about their colorist; after that she was on a mission to restore here beautiful hair to it’s normal color from the stripper blonde shade she acquired in Thailand.  She knew this would be an all day job).  This park had some great slides built into a pyramid type tower about six stories tall.  On some of the slides you rode on tubes down a curvy bumpy track and where deposited into a lazy river which you could either ride back to a conveyor, or dump yourself into the rapids ride which would take you around the park.  Also, on the highest level of the tower you could go without a tube down an almost vertical drop through a tube in a shark filled aquarium and out to a waiting pond.  Phoebe was tentative at first, but later in the day got up the courage to do it.  I was very proud of her, seeing as she was probably the smallest person I saw taking the plunge on that particular slide!

On our last full day in Dubai we were invited to a party thrown by some of Staci’s friends.  Unfortunately, only the girls and I went, since Kate had one of her dizzy spells and just needed a day in bed.  We had a great time at the party as it was like a traditional American Bar-bq, with the added touch that it was the day before Easter and the host had eggs for the kids to color.  Tess and Phoebe both grabbed and egg and went to town!  We all enjoyed the grilled chicken, sausages and a garden salad, while the girls regaled everyone with stories from our adventures.

Our quick stay in Dubai was most pleasant and a much needed respite from our third world adventures.  We got in enough time to prep us for our next stop, Cairo – which we knew would be a little challenging!  We all agreed we enjoyed our quick stop and would be happy to go back and explore a little more.

Our last major stop in NZ…..Ross
Feb 11th, 2010 by Jeff

Our last stop in New Zealand was definitely one of the best! We spent three days and two nights with a lovely couchsurfing host family just outside of Ross on the southwest coast of the lower island. Annie, Ted, Katie (13) and Jessica (9) – how perfect is that for a matching up with the Wells crew- took us in and showed us a great time. Even thought this part of the coast gets 250 days of rain a year, we brought good weather with us and had three straight days of glorious sunshine.

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

To really appreciate how well we had it with Annie and family, you need to understand their setup. They have this gorgeous house on 200 acres of land right up on the beach, with a wetlands preserve to the south and a river to the north that empties into the ocean.  On the farm they have cattle, horses, sheep, a pig, four dogs, and six cats (I think – we didn’t see the cats much). Needless to say the girls, especially Phoebe, were in heaven. They also have all the fun toys and things that go along with the farm: trampoline, kayaks, canoes, gold panning equipment and river rafts.

Some of the animals

Some of the animals

When we arrived at the home in the afternoon, Ted and the girls just happened to drive in right behind us. They warmly welcomed us into their home, gave us cold drinks and let us get a little settled. Once Annie got in from her work (she is a nurse) we ventured to the beach with kayaks, boogie boards and kids in the back of the pickup and the dogs running eagerly along as we drove down the access road. We made our way to the water. The kids, Ted and I traversed a little stream (that gets dammed up between rain storms) on the kayaks and boogie boards while Kate and Annie walked around to get to the ocean. The kids spent the evening swimming in the creek, while the adults walked the beach and collected stuff (needless to say, Kate has sent another box of rocks home to AZ). We also made plans for the next day. We ended our first evening, with a delicious late night dinner of pasta Bolognese a la Annie, and wonderful conversations late into the night.

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Everyone, but Ted – who had to work, slept in the next morning. After my girls helped Katie and Jess move the calves from one paddock to another, Annie, her girls, Phoebe, and I went off for a haircut, leaving Tessa and Kate to fight over the computer (a good internet connection in New Zealand will do that to you). When we got back it was time to head back to the beach. The second day was much like the first evening, but with a few extra adventures.

First of all, we decided we needed to try a New Zealand specialty – mussels fresh from the ocean and cooked on the beach! We planned another walk to coincide with low tide and then found a rock covered in mussels. We picked two large grocery bags full, and brought them back to our beach site where we started a small fire. The kids and I all experimented with the best way to get the mussels in to the fire and cooked, while adding the least amount of sand to our meal. At first we just set the shells in the fire, which worked but added quite a bit of sand to the meal. We then placed them on large rocks we had set in the fire, which worked a little better. Actually, this amounted to the dogs getting a meal of fresh mussels, as none of the people wanting the extra grit with their meal. Finally Ted and the girls decided to use the shovel from the truck as a pan they could hold while the mussels cooked. This worked quite well (they even put water in the shovel to aid the steaming process). Tessa happily devoured a number of the mussels – looking somewhat like a Neanderthal, crouched over, pulling them apart with her hands and munching away. “It’s kind of like seafood gum!” she happily exclaimed.

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

While the girls were using the shovel, I decided to be a survival purist and wanted to only use items found on the beach for my portion of the meal, using a forked stick from the beach I continued to cook my few pieces on the hot rocks and was able to get a few cooked and eaten (but to be honest I think Ted and girls food was cooked better and less sandy).

Getting back to our beach walk that evening, after pulling the mussels from the rocks, we continued on down the beach towards an area that often has seals basking in the sun. We were not disappointed, as the dogs flushed a large male out of the rocks and into the ocean. They never really got close to him, so none of the animals were ever in any peril. On the way back to our beach sight, with mussels in hand, we then spotted dolphins playing in the waves. This was my cue to get back and get in the kayak!

I ventured out in the kayak to try and catch a glimpse of the dolphins and try to ride a small wave or two. The dolphins shot past me once while I was out in the surf. However they did not stick around while I paddled in the water. I did catch a wave or two (after being dumped two or three times – in my defense the kayaks didn’t have a fin and weren’t really set up for catching waves).

Getting across the "dammed" creek

Getting across the "dammed" creek

After the beach we headed back to the house for a proper dinner. While the mussels were a good appetizer, we really saved the vast majority of the mussels for dinner later that evening. We steamed two large pots of them. I made a white wine and garlic sauce and a coconut curry sauce, which were both quite tasty if I do say so myself. Ted also cooked up some fine sausages and no one left the table with any room, as Annie had also made a cheesecake dessert.

The following morning we got our things packed for the next part of our travels before the girls went off with Kate to ride the horses on the beach. From what I hear, Tessa was taken on more of ride by the horse, then actually directing the horse on where to go! But I’ll let Tessa tell that tale. While the girls were riding, Ted and I went off to see if we could find some gold near the creek. I am happy to report that we were successful. The tiny flake I found would probably only buy me a stick of gum- if that, but I’m sure Pappy would have be proud of me anyway!

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

It was with much sadness that we left that afternoon, in order to get back to Christchurch to start our journey towards Thailand. Ted and Annie said if we stayed longer and the weather held out we could all go rafting. (Ted is a conservation officer and oversees the area he lives in. He knows all the good areas to trek through). Unfortunately we had already purchased our onward tickets, or it would not have been hard to convince us to stay awhile longer. We hope that one day we might get back to NZ to take them up on their offer, or maybe they will head our way and we can return the hospitality they showed us. We would love to share Arizona with them.

Our time in Guilin (and waiting for Kate and her new tooth)
Oct 30th, 2009 by Jeff

After a brief trip to the Chengdu Panda Reserve in Chengdu, and a “soft” lunch at KFC (Kate felt she had better stick with a known food choice with her newly repaired, temporary tooth, and she figured KFC’s mashed potatoes and fried chicken would work), the girls and I donned our backpacks, walked down to the corner and tried to hail a cab for the train station. We had ample time to get to the station when we left the hotel, but 20 minutes later we were still trying to find a taxi. Kate eventually stopped one, and Phoebe, Tessa and I drove off into Chinese traffic heading to the train. Fortunately, the station wasn’t too far and we managed to get there with a few minutes to spare before the mass boarding of the train began. Usually, we get there a little earlier and are able to board with the “soft seat” or “vip” pre-board. Phoebe and Tessa didn’t let the hordes of Chinese get in their way as we made their way to the platform.

The train trip – 25 ½ hours – was mostly uneventful. We were lucky enough to meet a lovely young Chinese tour guide. Jane spoke very good English and helped us with our questions regarding our departure and ensured we got off at the correct stop.

Our accommodations in China jumped up a notch or two with our arrival in Guilin. I had discovered a couchsurfer who also ran a contract manufacturing facility. Jenny; her husband Jonathan; her two children, Albert and Phoenix (ironic huh); Jenny’s parents and the nanny lived outside Guilin in a gorgeous 7 bedroom home in a gated community. Jenny had their driver meet us at the station and bring us to their house. A delicious Chinese home cooked meal prepared by Jenny’s mom was waiting on the table for us.

The day after we arrived we had a “recovery” day, as Phoebe was a little under the weather – motion sickness from the train. So the girls did homework and read. That night we were treated to Beijing Duck as our gracious hosts took us out to dinner. The next few days were spent with rather slow starts in the morning (Tessa and Phoebe into good books and me researching Yangshou and Vietnam) with site seeing in the afternoon. Tuesday we went to the Tiger and Bear Park in Guilin. There we saw over 500 tigers and probably 150 bears, all fairly well cared for in a huge reserve area. We stayed for the circus act, but decided to pass on the tiger feeding show (live bull put into a pen with 10-15 hungry tigers) as I thought this was a little more than the kids needed to see. Wednesday we explored the local shopping area ate some good pizza and sheppard’s pie at an expat restaurant and walked along the river. Thursday I was treated to a tour of our hosts business (a contract manufacturing plant) and the girls and I took a tram to the top of a local karst (a cool limestone mountain structures) at a large park. This park also has a toboggan like the one we rode at the great wall and this time Phoebe was not to be denied her own car!

Group of Tigers (waiting for the bull?)

Group of Tigers (waiting for the bull?)


Phoebe, Tessa, and Jeff at the top of karst

Phoebe, Tessa, and Jeff at the top of karst

Friday was the real day we had all been waiting for because Kate was getting back into town with her new tooth! But in order to pack in a little more site seeing (and so Kate could not say I was slacking on my duties to keep the educational tours going in her absence) we went to another large karst park in town and toured a large cave there.

Phoebe and Tessa in cave

Phoebe and Tessa in cave

From Gulin we made our way down to Yangshou on the Li River. But that exciting story will come with the next post.

Cheers,

Jeff

I SUMMON MY MINIONS!
Sep 9th, 2009 by Tessa
I summon you minions...

I summon you minions...

Pigeon "falconry"

Pigeon "falconry"

What’s the only thing better then a puppy or a school of giant koi bigger then my leg? A FLOCK OF CHEEKY PIDGEONS!

One of the markets we went to was along side a beautiful river. The water was so clear it almost looked like you were gazing into liquid glass. There was  a traditionalstyle,  vermilion bridge stretched across the length of the river. Under the bridge was a School of MASSIVE koi. One of the vendors at the market sold fish food. As we walked over to bye some, I kept my eyes on the ground, marveling at how clean the street was. We bought some food and hurried over to the river. The river was more like a large canal. The sides of it were made of river rock and cement with some grass poking out here and there. The ideal place for pigeons. We stopped at the steep slope and started throwing the small round pellets at the koi. The pigeons on the rocks slowly gathered under us to catch all of the poorly aimed pieces bouncing off of the slope. The foraging pigeons in the market behind us started to close in from the back. We were quickly surrounded on the wide sidewalk, about 10 yards away from the closest stall. Flustered by the pigeons and half flustered by my Mom hollering at them and running away (pigeons and camping without air mattresses are her week points), I started throwing the food as far as I could to get them away. My mom laughed.  ”You know you could probably get them to eat out of you hands!” She said as a joke, but I can never tell so I put some food in my hand and held it out thinking, what the heck! These pigeons have got to be the cleanest pigeons in the world!. Phoebe quickly picked up on it. After a little, I decided to try something cooler. I put the food in my hand and stood up with me hand in the air. Five  pigeons instantly jumped onto my hand and ate right from it.

Nacho Takayama

Seattle really IS as cool as it thinks it is…
Sep 1st, 2009 by Kate

I didn’t want to love Seattle, but I did.  Granted, it was sunny both days that we were there, but I think I would have even liked it in the rain.  It’s urban.  It’s hip.  There are cool old-ish buildings and a pretty darn nice art museum (Bill Gates is putting your Microsoft money to good use – remember that next time you are cursing Vista). 

We found pizza that rivals Biancos – no really.  It’s called “Serious Pie.” and we only had to wait an hour and a half.  Chanterelles with truffled cheese, clams with lemon tyme, and yukon gold potato with house pecorino & rosemary.  Totally divine in a totally divine kind-of-way.

One disappointment was Pikes Peak Market.  It was a total tourist trap.  After being at the great Granville Island Market in Vancouver, I had very high expectations for Pikes Peak – after all, they throw fish and they have a book written about it – but alas, it was pretty lame.  We did see the guys throwing the fish (vaguely entertaining) and did manage to score tastey grilled salmon sandwiches – but for the most part it was like Main Street at Disney but with food instead of souveniers (although there was plenty of Pike’s Peak kitch to be had for the asking).  There were a few booths outside of the official market that had great local produce, and we also happened upon a nice neighborhood farmer’s market so Seattle redeemed itself :-)

One really funny thing that did happen to us was we got caught up in this cycling-thing called “Free Form”.  Apparently this happens in cities around the world but we’d never heard of it… about 200 people on bikes showed up at this downtown park that we just happened to be sitting in (I swear Marion – you are right, we do attract craziness) and after about 20 minutes they all started riding around in a giant circle in one direction.  It was like being in a bicycle tornado.  Everyone was ringing their bells and riding faster and faster until they all started spilling out of the park and onto the (very busy Friday afternoon rush hour) street and then all of them followed eachother in one direction up the busiest of the streets blocking car traffic in EVERY direction.  And then they were gone – riding up the streets beyond where we could see.  Apparently this happens every last Friday of the month, and they ride around for like 20 miles during rush hour to bring attention to… riding your bike.!   It was a sight.  We all thought of Jeff Cline.  His bike would have been the coolest.

Anyway, thanks to cousin Kevin for letting us crash on his empty apartment floor, thanks to the nice girl at the bus stop that sent us to Serious Pie, and Phoebe would like me to add that the little old Italian guy selling fruit across the street from the Monorail station has the BEST nectarines in the universe.

Canada wrap-up
Aug 31st, 2009 by Kate
Phoebe the "rock" star!

Phoebe the "rock" star!

 

Tessa with most important rock climbing gear - leg warmers...

Tessa with most important rock climbing gear - leg warmers...

 Not to be outdone by Jeff, Tess and Phoebe went rock climbing a few days ago.  They scrambled up the rock face like it was nobody’s business.  Rock climbing out on a real mountain is a far distant cousin of climbing in a gym, and for some reason makes the “mother of the little mountain goats” a bit more nervous.  Alas, they were in safe hands and had a blast. 

 And since we needed yet another jolt of adrenaline, last night we went with our couchsurfing hosts Kyle and Robin to a game called Manhunt.  For those of you who live in Phoenix – I am SO setting up a game like this when I get back so watch for details next year.  Basically, it is a giant game of tag with people you don’t really know in some kind of urban setting.  IT IS SO MUCH FUN!

 The organizers post the met-up date/time/location on a group they’ve made in Facebook, and tons of people just show up.  Last night the game was held on the campus of a school plus all the neighborhood surrounding the school and there were about 40 people.  Sometimes it’s in a park, sometimes a forest preserve, but most often in urban areas including downtown Victoria.  Everyone checks in at the appointed time, gets a yellow armband to wear, finds out what the boundaries are, and then everyone rock/paper/scissors to determine who is it.  As you get tagged, you become “it” too, so by the end of the game most people are “it” and are hunting for those that aren’t.  Mind you, you can’t tell who has been tagged and who hasn’t.  For me, it was mostly running, hiding, and laughing – but as beginners luck would have it – I won the first game! 

We all had a total blast and it was a great way get some exercise and to meet a bunch of really cool people in BC.  If you Manhunters are reading this – thanks for an awesome time and for letting us crash your game!

So we’ve moved on from Canada now – passports and all (oh that is a non-online story) and we’ll be in the US for a few days before leaving the comforts of North America.  We had an absolute blast in Canada – it is  a beautiful place with lots of great things to do, but I think the biggest impression that was left with me was how wonderful the Canadian people are.  Thanks in large part to couchsurfing.org, we have great new friends that I am sure we will stay in contact with forever – and we fully expect you all to come and visit us in AZ during one of your winters!  Shout outs to Nathan & Mel in Calgary, Jodi & Nick in Canmore, Chad in Revelstoke, Andrea, Liesje & kiddos in Vancouver, Kyle & Robin on blackberry hill in Sooke, Diane & Nick in Duncan, Anne & Kellea in Parkville and Kyle & Robin (again!).

Some travel highlights we recommend:

  • Fiasco Gelatto in Calgary
  • Bamff Hot Springs Hotel (we’re going to come back here and stay someday when we’re rich, and/or for Phoebe’s wedding)
  • Revelstoke – we liked the whole town (and they have a great local brewery too)
  • The Hemlock Forest in Glacier National Park
  • Gort’s Gouda in Salmon Arms
  • The Columbia Icefields (the drive between Jasper & Bamff is amazing!)
  • The Granville Island Market in Vancouver (kicks Pike Peak’s market butt!)
  • Stanley Park in Vancouver (rent bikes and cruise the outer loop for the best view of the city and waterways)
  • The BC ferry between Vancouver & Vancouver Island
  • The Dutch Bakery on Fort St. in Victoria
  • Sombrio Beach between Sooke & Port Renfrew
  • The farmer’s market in Duncan (find the people selling the venison sausages)
  • The Parksville annual Sandcastle Contest (Jack Gape – we’re going to build a monster castle next year buddy – I have tips from the pros!)
  • Butchart Gardens in Victoria (that’s Butt-chart to Tessa)
Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Sambrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Sambrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Tessa, Phoebe and couchsurfing host kid Kellea on tree roots at Cathedral Grove

Tessa, Phoebe and couchsurfing host kid Kellea on tree roots at Cathedral Grove

Girls on fallen giant red cedar tree in Cathedral Grove

Girls on fallen giant red cedar tree in Cathedral Grove

for those who I sent the totem pole card to-!
Aug 26th, 2009 by Tessa

The totem pole card that I sent to the school had the story of the first totem pole on it:

The chief of the raven clan owed a great debt to another chief. So he needed to think of a way to pay the debt, but he didn’t know how. One night a beaver came to him in a dream(beaver on the bottom of the totem). The beaver was holding a log on which it chewed on. But before the dream was finished he woke up. The next day he had a dream that the thunder bird brought him a totem of a raven(for the raven clan- the thunder bird is ontop of the totem). The next day he knew what to do. He got his son, and had him carve the other cheif a totem pole (the son is in the middle of the totem).

Vancouver Island and my expanding interests
Aug 22nd, 2009 by Jeff

Another week in and things are running a little more smoothly. We have been able to set up accommodations with family and couch surfers for the rest of the month. This has taken some of the pressure off the immediate “find a place to stay” scramble we were doing early on. However, Kate and I have been discussing the ease of internet accessibility in Canada, and that it may not last as we move further west in Asia (although it might – since we are planning on staying with couchsurfers who rely on the internet?). I guess well find out soon enough. However it turns out, Kate and I are feeling a little more pressure to get set plans in place for Japan, China, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

I have particularly enjoyed our time in Vancouver Island. Rock climbing with our host Kyle was an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me. I had always wanted to try climbing out in the wilderness on a real mountain (I had done the rock gym once or twice) and it definitely brought a new “edge” to the sport. Although I was strapped in and safe, I still had a very real fear of slipping and falling down the mountain. Also, I was much higher than I had ever been in a gym. On both climbs that I did, I opted to not push too hard and risk any injury (but it would be cool to try again and summit the section of mountain I was climbing). However, overall I was very happy with my performance and would definitely like to pursue this more (Jeff and Chloe – we should get together and do this in AZ when Tess and I get back in town).

Today we spent the day in Duncan. This is about 50 miles north of Victoria. The town has a quaint little city center and we went to the farmers markets (some things just won’t change with Kate – I am sure farmer’s markets will be on the “things to do” wherever we are). The market was very nice and I did get an awesome smoked venison sausage. (I also had some great smoked elk earlier in the week in Victoria). After the market we went on tour of the totem poles in the town. The local indigenous people have had totems in the culture for hundreds of years. It was very interesting to see the different forms and be told the reasons for totems: as a family ‘coat of arms’, as a method of story telling, as a memorial or burial tribute, in addition to a decoration for the homes. Seeing all this great art made me wonder what I’d use in a design for a Wells family totem? I think an eagle would need to be there somewhere, with Pappy as a pilot for American Airlines and my degree in Aerospace Engineering. The other stuff is still under consideration. I may sketch something out on this grand tour of ours.

We also spent some time today at a Raptor Sanctuary. I’ve always enjoyed seeing these birds of prey in the wild and this was a very up close look at them. The center does daily flying (off tether) demonstrations and we were in very close proximity to the birds; only a few feet away. One of the owls in the show was hand reared and allowed the trainer to manipulate his head and body to show us up close all the interesting things that make these birds so special. It was quite informative and educational (schooling points for Kate and I – woohoo). Falconry has always been something I have had an interest in and this experience definitely piqued my curiosity – this is another thing I will need to learn more about.

As far as the Network Administrator stuff goes – things seemed to have ironed out for the most part (knock on wood) no more major computer glitches (although the wireless seems to be a little finicky – my latest research seems to indicate it is just the nature of the Eee 1000HE network adaptor). I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Cheers,

Jeff

Ahhh, the Canadian Rockies in the summer…
Aug 12th, 2009 by Kate

 

The Banff Hot Springs Hotel vista

The Banff Hot Springs Hotel vista

Banff Gondola ride

Banff Gondola ride

Sulpher Mountain hike - Banff

Sulpher Mountain hike - Banff

Top of Sulpher Mountain

Top of Sulpher Mountain

Really, you just have to see this place to believe it – it is so gorgeous.  Really really gorgeous.  REALLY.

 

We flew into Calgary last week to cold and rainy weather.  What a shock after the sunny humid days of the Bahamas and the dry intense heat of AZ.  It was about 50°F with constant light rain – and we looked like total fools with our 3 layers on.  We couchsurfed at a beautiful house in south Calgary – our host, Nathan, was actually out of town for the week, and in true couchsurfing fashion, he checked out our profile and decided we were worthy enough to actually let us stay at his house without him even being there!  The highlight of our Calgary stay was actually an adorable little gelato shop called “Fiasco” on 10th Ave and Kenzington.  The owner and staff were great fun, and their flavors were unlike any we had ever tried… my recommendation… Avocado Lime, Phoebe’s favorite… Salted Carmel (ala Auntie Tasch), Tessa’s fav… Honey Pear, and Jeff’s was the Chai Tea gelato… YUM!

 

From Calgary we headed an hour east through pretty rolling hills full of cow pastures and the Olympic ski jumps from the Calgary Olympics.  Have you ever seen those ski jumps in person?  They look scary enough when you see them on TV, but in person (or should I say speeding by them on the highway) they look TOTALLY INSANE!  Tess even thought they looked scary!

 

On to Canmore and Banff, and couchsurfing with Jody & Nic.  Canmore & Banff are sort of the gateway to the Rockies.  We all commented on how the landscape went from little rolling hills to GIANT mountains in such a short distance.  And the Rockies are actually rocky – I guess I’d never really thought about why they call them the Rockies – but the tops of all of them are bald and rocky (duh Kate).  The pine forests are impossibly thick, and it is hard to imagine being the first people that thought settling in this area would be a good idea.

 

We enjoyed our time in Banff (although its pretty touristy) – spending time checking out the Banff Hot Spring Hotel (Phoebe has decided she would like to get married there – we’ll start saving up for that as soon as we pay this trip off) and riding the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain (and hiking down the entire 5.8kms – Tess will blog about that adventure).  We were disappointed to see that the hot springs had been turned into a big boring swimming pool and think that we should call our hot tub back home a “hot spring” and charge $8 a person so sit in it.

 

The next day we headed over to the infamous Lake Louise, and then over to Yoho National Park to visit the third largest waterfall in Canada, Tawkaka Falls.  We turned off the main highway to take the mountain road up to the falls, and no sooner had Jeff said “now girls, keep your eyes peeled, this is the kind of road that we’re likely to see animals on” then a big black bear lumbered onto the road in front of us.  IT WAS SO CUTE!  It is such a bummer that bears are so terribly dangerous because they are totally adorable and I could have one in our backyard next to the chickens.  I was so excited that I didn’t get the camera out fast enough to catch it – but we are very happy to add it to our critter count.

wasp on a stick!
Jul 20th, 2009 by Tessa

I was staying back one day at camp with all of the assistant counselors and one of my friends, Tom, when our counselor, David decided to show us a cool trick.

David, the guy counselor, decided to show us how to put a bee or wasp on a stick. You see, when a bee or wasp gets cold, they go into a dormant stage where they fall asleep, and as soon as it becomes warm again, they wake up. So we got a 2 foot stick, a foot long string, and a wasp from outside. We stuck the wasp in the freezer and waited for it to fall asleep. In the mean time we tied the string to the end of the stick. As soon as it fell asleep, we took it out, and while it was still cold, we  tied the string around it. This made us a “wasp on a stick”. As soon as it woke up, it couldn’t sting us because the stick was long enough that it couldn’t reach us (since it is on a string). I wasn’t involved in this activity, I simply watched them.  (at least I am obliged to say that so I don’t have bad wasp Karma) Now that it had woke up, it flew around on the stick and we walked it around. Before we left, we let it go though, either by cutting the string and running or by freezing it again and untying it.

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