Port Hardy to Nanaimo

After our fantastic Great Bear Lodge adventure we had another night in Port Hardy before driving to Nanaimo so we could catch the ferry from Vancouver Island back to the BC mainland. Nanaimo is famous for a rich creamy chocolaty slice with a sugar kick to boot you into next week. I recommend you try one. Fortuitously, the town also had a good local brewery, White Sails. We tried a couple of brews before eating and then heading home to get a good night’s sleep so we didn’t miss our early ferry departure. IMG_6499

IMG_6353
We did see an elk but I wasn’t quick enough to snap it. Also a bear running across the road. O adventure.
IMG_6354
Miracle Beach – somewhat different to your usual Aussie seaside view
IMG_6370
Nanaimo at dusk
IMG_6375
Understated food advertising at The White Spot restaurant – it was pretty good though…

 

Advertisements

Off pontoon

Our first mystery outing (*spoiler alert – look away now if you’re planning to go yourself) was a walk on the mainland. When you first arrive, rule number one is that you don’t go off the floating lodge unless you have a guide. On our walk we had Marlo and Sabine guiding us, with frequent calls of ‘Hey bear!’ to make sure there were no surprises. They also had bear spray on the hip. Both were really knowledgeable about bear behaviour and we were shown some cool places where bears hang out.

IMG_6098
Don’t leave the pontoon without a guide, ok?
IMG_6082
If you go down to the woods today…
IMG_6085
Summer scat – yes, they have been eating berries. Waiting for the salmon to arrive. 
IMG_6097
Stylish transport home

Bear spotting day 2 – morning

Every day at Great Bear Lodge you get plenty of opportunities to see bears. While we were there, our itinerary was breakfast, gear up, then bear spotting outing in the tinnies,  lunch, post lunch mystery outing, early dinner, gear up, then back in the boats . We were really lucky that there was only one session where we didn’t see any bears. Though of course the first session, on the day that we arrived, was the only time we saw cubs – and it was also the only time we didn’t take a camera. The landscape is so beautiful, and I loved the inquisitive seals popping up their heads to see what was going on.

IMG_6040IMG_6048IMG_6051IMG_6067IMG_6054

 

Bear spotting day 1

We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises.  We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.

IMG_6025

Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.

IMG_6026IMG_6080IMG_6265

P1070852

Tokyo time

Some pics from Sunday’s Shinjuku shoppping – it was wet but we still had a fab day.

Our last couple of days temperature-wise have been cold and wet. On Monday we spent the morning in catching up on some planning (aka staying warm and dry), and in the afternoon headed out to Shimokitazawa. It was six degrees and raining when we left – it didn’t warm up much after that, but at least the rain stopped. And the trains have good heating, as do the shops – and the toilet seats (love it!). This area is great for interesting vintage and new clothes/design shops. There was even a decent craft beer bar.

IMG_2447
New fav opshop – I got some 300 yen ($3.50AU) bargains!
IMG_2449
Street art in Shimokitazawa
IMG_2450
Bside design – very cool sticker shop
IMG_2452
staircase
IMG_2454 Ushitora Beer Bar
Ushitora Beer Bar
20170327_184630
We think a Queenslander owns this pub
20170327_191353
Amazing lamb chops for dinner at Es Restaurant, Shimokitazawa

So much to see in Tokyo

A week in Tokyo is going so fast! Over the last couple of days we’ve checked out Ueno Park and surrounds, Shinjuku shopping, and a few of the local craft brew bars.

Ueno Park was in full cherry blossom frenzy, even though there was not much blossom actually out yet. People were picnicking and taking photos and having a good time regardless. A wonderful atmosphere. We detoured to Benten Hall, and on the way there was a kind of flea market and various street food stalls which was interesting viewing. We also stopped in at the Toshogu Shrine and Daibatsu before picking up some street food lunch – on the way to the fabulous Tokyo Museum. So much to see at the park and Museum, but we gave it a good try and enjoyed everything we saw. On the way home, we tried out the Irish Pub ‘World End’ and it’s sister venue, Towa. Towa has Japanese craft beer and soba noodles. I liked both places. World End was a trip back in time – punk music playing and the venue smoky and dark. Towa was much more sophisticated – with the added Tokyo element of trains rumbling over head every 5 minutes or so. We finished off the evening with a walk around some of the Ueno sidestreets. Venturing into some pachinko and slot machine venues was an experience – the volume was incredibly loud with music and machine noise, and the venues were busy, with young/old/male/female playing.

 

Singapore over easy

A few of my favourite Singaporean things: yum cha at Tak Po (newly discovered); wandering around Chinatown; a visit to the Peranakan Museum; checking out some craft brews at Clarke Quay Brewerkz (where that afternoon torrential downpour doesn’t matter); dinner at The Blue Ginger Restaurant (Peranakan menu, good food and great service).