Great White North to Prairie Province
02.12.2013 - 06.12.2013 -28 °C
===TERENCE'S AMAZING RACE ACROSS CANADA CONTINUES ...===
Today was an extremely long day of travel for me.
I woke up around 4am as we had to leave for the airport at 4h30am to check in for my flight at 4h50am. Even though said I would take a cab, Erik insisted he would drop me off at the airport and see me off, which I felt pretty bad about as it was so early in the morning.
We left the house in the icy cold, temperatures still around – 25 Degrees.
Once at the airport I checked in and we grabbed a quick breakfast before I left.
I had to say goodbye to Erik, as our boarding call was announced and thanked him for letting me stay and giving me a great experience up North.
I had booked my flights with Air Canada and due to pricing was not able to secure a direct flight. One will quickly learn that in a country the size of Canada it is virtually impossible to find direct flights that do not connect through numerous cities and when you do happen to source a direct flight you will pay a small fortune for it.
Most flights land up connecting through Calgary or Edmonton, Alberta as this province is pretty much the mid-way point in the country.
I had 3 flights to catch and the routing was rather ridiculous to say the least but there was no real alternative.
So yes, rather than going North out East I landed up going North down West, then out East. Instead of simply being able to fly from Point A to Point B, I landed up having to go from Point A – C – D to get to Point B.
Departed Whitehorse, Yukon Territory at 5h30 for Vancouver, British Columbia getting in at 8h15.
Along the way you pass endless beautiful snow capped mountains over BC heading into Vancouver.
It was so nice flying back into Vancouver with the bay, the downtown island and the mountains across the channel. It is really the most picturesque city.
When we landed I actually had to remove all my winter gear as it was 3 degrees, warm, humid and the sun was briefly showing its face. The 3 degrees after a week of -25 felt like beach weather. I had a lay over until 10am.
On the news in the terminal there were loads of forecasts about heavy snow storms which had hit the province off Alberta from Calgary right across the Rockies. As a result numerous roads and highways were shut down and many flights into Alberta were delayed including mine and i was hoping it would not be cancelled. I was hoping to catch up with a friend of mine at the next airport in Alberta so sent her a message that my flight would be coming in later. I was happy my baggage was to be checked straight through to my last destination.
Finally, departed Vancouver, British Columbia at 10h20 and flew into Edmonton, Alberta. The flight was around 1.5 hrs with a time zone change from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. Flying into Edmonton was a completely different change of scenery from having arrived in Vancouver. The weather was terrible with heavy snow and wind and the entire area blanketed under snow. The landing was not a very smooth one either as we slid onto the runway. Getting off the plane I had to put back on all my winter gear as the temperature was now -13 degrees with heavy snow and wind due to the storm.
I made my way to the Second Cup Café where I was going to meet my friend Val.
I called her up and she was on the highway trying to drive to the airport in the snow storm. Traffic was bad and there were numerous accidents and cars in ditches due to the road conditions.
Eventually she arrived and we managed to catch up for about 1.5 hrs.
I met Val when I was on my summer vacation in Hawaii and in Kona on the West coast of the Big Island. We had landed up staying at the same hostel B&B in Kona. She was travelling with some friends from Austria and we got to all know each other and kept in touch. Many times I had hoped to get up to Edmonton while out near Lake Louise and the lodge but this did not happen and Val just never made it down to Banff. Edmonton is around a 5 hr drive North from Banff.
So it was so nice that we were able to connect and touch base last minute and on the fly, even if just for a quick catch up and coffee.
While I was waiting at the coffee shop I got chatting to 2 terminal check guards who were on lunch. Yes, Canadians are super friendly and you often land up having conversations with the most random people. After he heard me say I was actually working in TV professionally but just Tourism/Hospitality while travelling, he asked to swap emails. He was actually in IT but working temporarily in airport security as he had just moved from Vancouver. He said he had a few concepts and ideas for reality shows which he is trying to pitch to the right broadcaster and asked if he could bounce some ideas of me. So long story short we exchanged details. Again, it always amazes me that if you take the time to chat to people, how often you will be surprised by what they have to say and what interesting contacts you can make.
Just then Valery arrived at the Coffee shop. She is in her 40’s but just such an amazing and lively person. She also travels a lot and had just returned from China.
She rocked up, gave me a hug and said right, I need to feed you. She pulled out a whole tin of home made biscuits she had made, together with some chocolates and fruit as a treat for me, saying she knows how it is when on the road and travelling on a tight budget and was playing the whole “Mother” role. She has kids the same age as me. I laughed so much. She went to so much trouble and also brought me a small souvenir and treated me to maple coffee. She even jumped up and offered the security guards some biscuits and got chatting to them, since she realised they had been keeping me company before she got there. Just typical Canadian hospitality.
We chatted for a long time and filled in each other on our trips. She is planning a trip to Cape Town next year to stay at a friend’s place that has bought a holiday home out there and wanted some info and to see if I would also be back then.
After a good chat, Val had to get going before the snow storm and traffic got worse and I had to check into my final flight. It was so nice that she had taken the effort to drive all the way to the airport in a snow storm just for a quick hello and coffee.
I really do have some amazing travel friends out there that I have made along the way!!
My final flight from Edmonton, Alberta departed at 16h30for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and was schedule to arrive into Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport (what a mouthful) around 18h20.
This flight is only 1hr 20 minutes. We had to walk across the runway to board the plane in the icy cold and take a smaller propeller plane.
There is another time change from Mountain Time to Prairie Time, so I actually landed around 19h20. By this stage I had set my phone so many times I wasn’t quite sure what time or zone It was and gave up trying to figure it out, what with all the back and forth all day.
The weather in Saskatoon was just like Alberta. Icy cold, - 13 Degrees and Snowing.
At this time of season, it is hard to find a city or inch of Canada that is not well below Zero.
What a routing to have to take:
TOUCHDOWN IN SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN
Saskatoon is a town located on the South Saskatchewan River in the province of Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan is bordered to the west by Alberta, the Northwest Territories to its North, by Manitoba in the East, and to the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota.
Saskatchewan has an ethnically diverse mix of European foreigners who settled in the province, with a high percentage of German, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian & Irish together with a number of First Nation’s people.
Saskatoon, is about 2 hrs North of the province’s capital city – Regina.
The 3 main cities in this province are Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Saskatoon is named after the local cree native saying of “place of many Saskatoon berries”.
The city has also been nicknamed “Toon Town”, “City of Bridges”, “Paris of the Prairies” and “POW City (Potash, Oil & Wheat)” after its main natural resources.
Locals living out here are called Saskatonians.
The license disc for the province reads “Land of Living Skies” with some wheat husks symbolic of its rich agricultural setting.
These are the images that most people conjure up when they think of the province.
Flat, barren, no hills or mountains and vast stretches of agricultural land.
I was going to be staying with a friend of mine – Dustin, who said I could stay at his place for a few days.
Ironically, I also happen to know Dustin from my Hawaii trip.
He stayed at the same hostel and Dustin also knows Valery, as we all landed up sharing a dorm at the hostel in Kona. So it was just so funny that I would land up catching up with the 2 Canadians, I had stayed and hung out with in Kona Hawaii in the same week. Dustin and I, landed up doing some day trips together in Hawaii and since I had my rental car and he could not get around, we split the cost of the car and managed to do some beach hoping, surfing and sight-seeing along the coast and then in the evening hung out with Val and her friends from Austria.
Dustin had sent me a message the day before saying that he was not able to collect me at the airport, as he was put on call for night shift at his work and would only be back the next morning around 5am. He works partly as a paramedic and a personal trainer. He sent me the address to his place which was 5 minutes away from the airport, so I could take a taxi and he informed his house mate I was coming.
My bags arrived super quickly for once at the baggage arrivals and I headed curb side for a taxi. I of course landed up with the Middle Eastern Pakistani taxi-driver who was not the most familiar with the address but luckily had a GPS. Thank goodness.
I arrived at Dustin’s house and met his sister and his housemate Kate who were at home. Kate got me all settled in and was super nice.
House in WestView North & waiting for the bus to town:
I walked around the neighbourhood a little to check out all the Christmas decorations. No one does Christmas quite like North Americans. Here in Saskatoon they seem to really go all out, with every inch of homes shining and sparkling with bright flashing Christmas lights, tinsel, wreaths on the door, reindeer figurines, garden ornaments & large inflatable figures of Santa & Frosty the snowman. It really is quite spectacular to see, especially when everything is under white, it just ads so much more to the holiday feel. All the shops too, are playing Christmas Carols and people are hastily running around in search of Gifts. I will be spending my 2nd Christmas in Canada and look forward to another White Christmas out East.
Woke up this morning around 9h30 as I was so tired after all the travelling and got to see Dustin. Was really nice to catch up again.
Had breakfast and then Dustin dropped me off downtown to do some site-seeing while he hit the gym.
Driving around the suburbs you already feel that there is so much more open space and the houses all have bigger yards which literally flow right onto the side streets. The houses are all painted in light colours and pastels and seem to blend straight into the stark white winter landscape.
It also takes some getting used to not seeing any black roads running through the suburbs, as these are all under snow and ice.
Saskatchewan is known as the flat land and that is because once you have left the great big Rockies of Alberta, you are basically left with a flat endless landscape and large expanses of agricultural land.
Many people usually just skip right over Saskatchewan and Manitoba saying that it is not really worth it and you will get bored of the long distance drive through these provinces where the scenery can be nothing more than boring and a little flat (literally) compared to other provinces. I still wanted to head out here and get a sense of the place for myself.
The downtown has an older look and feel to it compared to the bigger cities like Vancouver. Lots of brick and older looking buildings. Most of the suburbs and key shopping streets also generally only have 1 story. I guess that is largely because of the available land; expansion tends to grow outwards rather than upwards over here.
The weather was rather windy this morning which sent an icy chill right through you.
I have been rather mesmerized by the snow over here. Ok, it doesn’t take much to interest me. But seriously, the snow is so much fluffier out here and almost appears like glitter or cut diamonds it sparkles so much. Especially when walking through it or kicking it. When the wind blows it picks up like fine dust and moves like the smoke y effect coming off of dry-ice. The snow elsewhere I have seen is rather wet and compacts. Just something random I picked up.
I headed down the main 2 streets 21st and 20th to have a look.
There is a lot of street art, sculptures and colourful paintings which you can find dotted all over the city and parks.
I checked out the well-known historic, Delta Bessborough hotel which looks like a giant castle at the end of 21st Street.
This hotel was also built by the Canada Pacific Railway.
Next to the hotel lies the Potash sponsored Ice Skate rink in the Kiwanis Memorial Park which they set up along the promenade in winter.
The Potash Corp is a major company in Saskatoon employing a large % of the workforce out here. They produce phosphates for agriculture and also supply the salts used to put down on roads and sidewalks in winter to melt snow and prevent slipping.
Saskatonians and their Ski-Do's ... Everywhere ...
Next I ventured out along the South Saskatchewan River.
This is a rather wide river which has 7 bridges extending over the waterway.
Saskatoon is for this reason called the city of bridges.
The river has started to ice up and freeze for most of its length.
It provided a pretty spectacular view in the morning sunlight. The ice however does not freeze flat over the surface but instead creates very jagged layers of thick ice as it freezes over. Large sheets of thick ice and icebergs could be seen floating down along the river.
I did a walk along the Meewasin River Trail. This is a trail along the river which connects numerous parks, conservation areas and is part of a 65km conservation zone along the river valley. I walked along the river and was totally fascinated by the frozen ice and layered ice shelves which had built up along the way.
It really did look so amazing with the various bridges stretching over the frozen river.
It was super cold though and with the wind coming off the water you felt you were going to freeze.
I headed back into downtown to look around and then met up with Dustin again for lunch at a place called Jakes Café on 21st Street. We had some really good lunch there and then Dustin drove me around a little to see some of the neighbourhoods.
We stopped at the weir (falls) on the South Saskatchewan River which is part of the river which does not freeze over due to the strong currents.
From here you can see the large icebergs come crashing over the edge of the weir.
After we drove over University Bridge which leads over into the University district of US (University of Saskatchewan). The university district is rather large with a number of buildings. It even has farm land and a farm with silos and livestock as agriculture is one of the key fields of study. The university has beautiful rock and stone buildings and one almost thinks of Harvard when seeing them.
The view on the way back over the bridge and river during sunset was beautiful.
Dustin dropped me off at Broadway Street which is seen as being a little “hippy” and has a number of cafes and interesting shops to ramble through.
I also waked through the adjacent neighbourhood to look at the beautiful wooden homes and the tall tree-lined streets with large overhanging bare skeletal branches.
I decided to make my way back to the house by bus rather than taxi and that was perhaps my first mistake. I usually hate taking buses anywhere in the world because a) you can never easily find which bus to take, b) I rarely understand the bus schedules or they land up being somewhat outdated c) you always get told to take a bus that lands up being the wrong one and d) I always find myself on the wrong side of the road to catch the bus in the direction I need to go. Well in my case it was all 4 in one.
Landed up on a bus which was heading in the direction I needed to go, until it veered off and I found myself totally lost. The driver though was so nice and she backtracked on her return and pointed me in the right direction and I eventually recognized a landmark near where the house was located.
I came home and Dustin’s housemate Kate was home from University. She was just about to head out to boot camp but had made me dinner which was totally unexpected and so nice of her as Dustin is working night shifts at the moment.
I spent the evening on the couch watching TV and relaxing as I was so cold after being outside all day.
Today was another late start. With the sun coming up later and the cold weather, it really takes a little more effort to get up promptly these days.
I headed into downtown again on the Bus again. Caught the right one first time.
Walked along the river trail stopping off to see the The Prairie Lily boat which was moored for the winter and then walked to the Mendel Art Gallery to have a look at an exhibition over there and then walked back into the downtown district to grab a much needed coffee. After that I moved on down the streets looking at the shops and then headed to the Thien Vietnam restaurant for the daily special and some good Vietnamese lunch.
View of the University on the upper hill above the South Saskatchewan River:
I spent a part of the afternoon at the Midtown Plaza and mall checking out some of the shops. I generally have no interest in malls and despise the whole mall atmosphere and culture however perhaps it was the warmth and chance to evade the cold that kept me a little longer today. It is such a pain seeing so many great things to get but knowing you don’t have any luggage capacity to add anything more nor a budget to spend on things I probably don’t need but would like to have anyway.
Lastly, I headed up 20th street to have a look.
This street and the neighbourhoods leading off from it, seem to draw a more mixed and diverse immigrant crowd.
The area also has a number of Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainian Churches which do look somewhat odd placed over here and you feel you are walking down a street in Eastern Europe for a second.
Took the bus back home and was going to be heading out with Kate to see Saskatoon by night, have dinner at an English Pub Restaurant and to look at the Christmas Festival Lights Display. We intended to have Thai food but can you believe so many places were closed by 8pm, you would swear that everything just stops dead in the winter and because the sun is down by 4h30 - Haha
I slept in until 10am again and then ventured with Dustin downtown where he dropped me off.
Today it was FREAKING COLD and the coldest temperatures i have ever experienced. It was -37 Degrees with wind chill, so you can only imagine. When your eye lashes start freezing and you constantly blow a puff of smoke from your mouth you know it's cold. I had about 5 different layers on.
I explored a little more along the frozen river. YES, in those crazy temperatures and NO I don't know why.
The giant ice stacks are really amazing and the mist was coming off the icy lake as the morning sun reflected from it. So it was pretty awesome.
After, i dropped into the Saskatoon Farmers Market to find some hot soup and coffee and look around before heading back to the Plaza Mall to hang out and avoid the cold.
That draws an end to this stage of my trip.
I was hoping to meet up with a former producer from back home who has moved to a small town (Nipawin) 3 hrs east of Saskatoon but she was working and does not have a car out here. I also did not head out to Regina as planned as that is around 3 hrs buy transit and I just wasn't up for it in the cold and just for a day trip. Next time I guess ...
Well this is pretty much the end of my Saskatoon stay as i will be boarding a flight onto Toronto, Ontario tomorrow bright and early (again).
Dustin will drop me off at the airport around 5am.
Oh yes, and on my birthday. Haha.
I don't see myself doing much or really feel the need to.
Every day has been so amazing and awesome in its own way along the way, so i really don't feel the need to make 1 day even more awesome. Lol
I am hoping to catch up with a few friends here and there if I can. Toronto is just so huge there is only so much you can do.