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.
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.
On a day trip from Harrison, thanks to our friends local intel, we checked out the Othello Tunnels, a park close to the town of Hope on Highway 3. In town we discovered that Hope and surrounds is where Rambo First Blood was filmed – they are celebrating the 35th anniversary soon. There was also a mountie in full kit roaming the streets, but I didn’t get a chance for a pic.
It was a lovely walk and the tunnels were impressive. We approached from the further entrance, which had cougar and bear sighting warnings – as is common almost everywhere in BC.
On the name: apparently the chief engineer was a Shakespeare fan. And when they first ran the train service they scheduled it at night so passengers couldn’t see the sheer drops either side.
For this trip we travelled with Arutam Ecotours, meeting our transport and guide at a healthy 6 am to start the day. Parque Cajas is a large park, and our introduction was at one of the lower entrances, Llaviucu Lake. It’s only about 30 minutes from Cuenca central. With a guide we went to parts you might not otherwise see, but the walk around the lake would be easy enough to do by yourself. A great benefit (besides information about the birds, animals and location) was that with a guide we were let into the park a good 1.5 hours before it officially opened. One of my favourite trips for this hol.
We took the opportunity to go on an excursion to an archeological site within the city of Quito, Rumipamba. The site is still being excavated and part of the park was closed due to ongoing work. As with many such sites, you can’t actually see the richness of the finds. The interpretive centre helps identify the importance of the area for the non-expert (ie me). We are talking finds from 1500 BC. There are some reconstructed huts that give the flavour of the kinds of dwellings found here centuries ago. But I wonder – why did the population keep on returning when volcanic eruptions kept destroying their villages?
The place has wonderful views of Quito, today very tranquillo: and we saw a few hummingbirds as well – one with a spectacularly long tail. (M says it was a black tailed trainbearer).
One of the lovely things about being in a holiday destination for an extended time is that you have the luxury of doing ‘normal’ things – like going for a walk without a particular tourist must-see in mind. We took a stroll down to Guápulo park, which has one of the steepest paths I’ve been on in a city park. It was kind of like home with all the eucalpts, flowering callistemon and wattle trees. But not really. I am enjoying surprising Ecuadorians by telling them that eucalypts are ‘de Australia.’
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.
The Cherry Bloss PR icon for Ueno Park
Picnics under the buds
Daibutsu – where students pray for exam success
Love those okonomiyaki pancakes
Amazing hairpin from the fabulous Tokyo Museum collection. Go there.
Excellent day in Singapore. It has been a while since we’ve been in humidity (exceptional Adelaide weather last week doesn’t really count) but it’s good to get a sweat up and burn some calories. Had a great walk around the Botanic Gardens and in particular the National Orchid Garden in the morning. Then a wonderful cheap and cheerful lunch at the Tang food court (thanks to some advice from The Ordinary Patrons), a stroll up Orchard Road which included some Lion Dance/drummer sightings, and then a beer.
Our Adelaide catch up trip has been wonderful fun, and included much eating, drinking and making merry. Before we arrived I was thinking about how to manage luggage weight (do I really need that item for the next 8 months?) so that I would always be under the allowed level and with some space to spare. The suitcase is not too bad (around 16.5 kilos to start the journey). Now I’m thinking about the extra kilos I feel like I’ve put on since I’ve been here in Adelaide. I’m sure I’ll walk or sweat it off in the next couple of months.