Monday 22 December 2008
after about 6 months of hot and humid countries, half the contents of my backpack have been binned (i have no clothes!!) and it's now thermals, layers and woolies from now on. i have never experienced cold quite like it. we had to go back to the hotel one day as my legs were numb and freezing. that was when we were in banff (canada)... we were in for a shock when we got to alaska... anchorage was frrrrrreeeezing!
so, after a very long flight from new zealand we arrived in vancouver and managed to go back in time and gain a full day practically. tired from our flight we got to our hotel and once again, in true backpackers style, had a suite room with ocean view, seperate sleeping area, full kitchen and our own laundry facilities. it was raining in vancoouver when we arrived... and it pretty much stayed that way for the whole time we were there. it was a bit annoying... vancouver is supposed to be a great city, lovely views, good atmosphere etc... but a city that rains constant is just miserable to me. we had a few days where it was fairly dry and we got a glimpse of what the city would be like in better weather. we took a walk to stanley park and spent most of the day there walking about and visiting an aquarium.
view from stanley park
we also went to granville island which had an indoor market selling all sorts, and a brewery where we learned all about how it's made and sampled a few beers, one tasting of white chocolate.
we also went up the tower and got some cool views of the city. apart from that, just walking about and chilling out in our wee apartment. we also went to the pictures a couple of times... it makes us laugh, we're travelling around the world, seeing the sights of all these places and in the last 4 weeks we have been to the pictures about 7 or 8 times. there's only so much you can do in a city go and see seven pounds starring will smith. so sad but sooo good.
view from granville island
whilst in vancouver, we hired a car for 6 days and drove east to the alberta region. i have always wanted to go to banff national park so we drove for about 13 hours to get there. the road conditions were unreal. the last few hours of the drive it was pitch dark, no road lights or cat eyes... and the roads were getting thicker and thicker with snow making it hard to see any road markings. not to mention i was driving an automatic, drivers seat on the opposite side... and driving on the opposite side of the road. we eventually got there and we were both in awe with the town all lit up with christmas lights and all the snow. first time i've ever seen so much snow! banff is beautiful... the town just screams christmas and it got us well in the festive spirit. paul built a snowman for me on our first morning there.
paul with his snowman lol
we had a few days in banff and drove around the national park checking out some sights. the roads got even worse, some roads were closed so we had to be super duper careful when driving. one day we saw 3 cars at the side of the road that had skidded out of control and drove past a car doing 360's all over the place, luckily on the opposite side and far away from us.
we saw the largest lake of the national park and also drove to the popular lake louise, which i've saw many pics of... clear blue lake with snowy mountains in the background. all we saw was a lake full of snow, but it was still gorge.
whilst in banff we drove further east to calgary, one of the 2 big cities in alberta. i loved calgary... it was frrreezing cold but fresh and clear blue skies. it was what i hoped vancouver would be like. it was a lovely city... we walked about for a while and went up to now our 5th tower on our world trip. the calgary tower was our favourite. great views and away in the distance you could see snow capped mountains bordering the city.
being in banff was definitely our highlight, we could have spent a lot longer there but we had to get back to vancouver for our flight to alaskaaaaaa.
we're mad going to alaska in the winter but no regrets at all. we arrived with about 9 days to sight-see. we phoned a few places and went to a couple of tourist information offices to get told the same thing every time... closed for winter. it turns out that all tours, museums and general sight seeing stuff only run from may to september. one guy at the tourist information office gave us an itinerary of stuff to do but with no trains running or buses, we would have to hire a car.
we had to hire a car. anchorage is so spread out that we had to get a taxi to places because it was too long and too cold to walk. anchorage was a bizarre city. it was like a ghost town, eerie, people staring at you, lots of homeless people and nothing at all to do but eat and drink. a few times, paul would get out the car for something and i'd find myself locking the doors because i just didn't feel safe.
in the winter alaska only gets about 5 hours of daylight, so anything we were doing, we had to plan our time and make sure we were making the most of it. in the summer it's the complete opposite... the place hardly ever sees dark. they go out clubbing and it's light, come home and it's light.
we drove south one day to girdwood. the drive was stunning... driving right next to the water that was solid frozen, broken at parts with mountains in the background. we're loving the snow. we stopped at a ski resort hotel and took the tram up to the top of one of the mountains to get some cool views.
views from the car driving to girdwood
we also stopped at an animal sanctuary hoping to see a big grizzly bear but because it's winter they're all hibernating. we did see some reindeer though and moose.
the following day was our highlight of alaska. it's pauls birthday on hogmany so this was his early birthday present. we went on a snowmobile tour around the chugach mountains near girdwood. we were extremely lucky with this one. going by previous decembers the tours don't normally run because of the weather. but our luck was in. the park officials opened the park and we were snowmobiling for about 3 hours checking out some glaciers and driving through some scary terrain.
it was just us 2 and our guide matt and we had soooo much fun. these snowmobiles can do up to 70 miles an hour, they're fast and pretty dangerous. the first hour or so we were speeding through trees and driving on frozen lakes and i was getting pretty confident with the thing. we stopped at an ice cave and had some hot tea and then started making our way to the glacier. the terrain got bad, matt had to stop a few times and get his spade out to make the track a bit better for us. a few occasions my snowmobile was close to toppling over and paul and matt had to help me get the the thing moving. we were then on flat surface again and i was speeding through it having so much fun, matt on front and paul behind me. i then drove over a bump and was flung in the air, i managed to keep a hold of the handles but the rest of me was all over the place and i was flung towards the bonnet and whacked my head off the windscreen... thank god for the helmet and goggles.
it made me a bit more cautious lol. we drove through even worse terrain again but it was all part of the fun and we were loving it. we were driving next to a train track a few times and a main road which was a bit scary but we all survived lol. matt was speeding on ahead checking out the path as we were dodging small trees and branches and bumps and dips all over the place. i went round a corner too fast and was heading right for a tree. they're not the easiest to maniouvre, i managed to drive right into the tree bending in backwards... i was pissing myself laughing and tried to do a sharp turn to get back on to the path but failed miserably. paul turned round the corner, saw me lying in the snow and paniced, but i was fine. then came matt wondering where the hell we were.
we then saw the glacier. we were a few feet from it but we weren't allowed to get too close to it as the ice below could crack, the glacier would move and we'd be trapped under it. scary huh! of course, he told paul that when he was close to touching the thing. it was then a half hour drive back to where we had started. loadsa fun and if not for the back pain (and price!) we would do it again lol.
we're now in toronto. we should have been in toronto last night but due to delays our 2nd connecting flight decided to leave without us. we left anchorage on saturday night and come sunday night we were stuck in newark, new jersey. the whole trip was a shambles but i wont bore you with the details. after an hour in the customer service queue, we had no choice but to arrange a hotel for the night and take the next available flight the following day.
we are soooo glad to be back to canada. we've lost a day but hope to fit in as much as possible. we've got dinner booked for christmas day. we're having a festive dinner at the fairmont hotel with a choir, santa and scrooge for entertainment.
3 days till crimbob, eeeeeek ! this one will definitely be different... i hope you all have a lovely time and i'll be in touch before hogmany. lotsa love, have a good one... mico xx