A Travellerspoint blog

Amazing Race Canada - Whitehorse To Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Great White North to Prairie Province

snow -28 °C

===TERENCE'S AMAZING RACE ACROSS CANADA CONTINUES ...===
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ROUTE INFORMATION:
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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.

DETOUR:
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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.

Flight 1
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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.
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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.

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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.
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Flight 2
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.
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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.
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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!!

Flight 3
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.
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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:
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TOUCHDOWN IN SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN


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LOCATION:
SASKATCHEWAN
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SASKATOON
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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.
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03/12/2013

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Downtown Images:
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Saskatonians and their Ski-Do's ... Everywhere ...
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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.
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It really did look so amazing with the various bridges stretching over the frozen river.
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It was super cold though and with the wind coming off the water you felt you were going to freeze.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

04/12/2013

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.
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View of the University on the upper hill above the South Saskatchewan River:
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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.
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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.
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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
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05/12/2013

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.
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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.

Posted by TezaTravels 05.12.2013 18:26 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Amazing Race Canada - Yukon Territory & Whitehorse

Whitehorse, Carcross & Skagway

snow -25 °C

TERENCE'S AMAZING RACE ACROSS CANADA CONTINUES:
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===THE GREAT WHITE NORTH, LAND OF THE ETERNAL SUN & SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES.===
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PIT STOP: YUKON TERRITORY
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Found a spot to sleep in Calgary Airport, after having arrived after midnight from my long trip from the Dominican - Toronto - Calgary and having to overnight before my next connecting flight mid-day to Whitehorse.
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Before I left Calgary I quickly sent an email to the people I would be staying with up North to confirm my arrival time. I was going to be staying with some family of a former colleague/friend of mine that I worked with at the Ski hill on Vancouver Island. Oceana had put me in touch with her uncle in May already when I was going to initially come up to the Yukon before starting work in Alberta. However, this did not happen in the end. I landed up touching base with Erik again and he said I could come up for a few days and stay which was great.

After departing Calgary on Air North at 13h30 we took a short flight to Edmonton to drop off passengers before continuing onward to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
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The flight along the way was just amazing. I had a window seat and all you could see was endless wide open land that was completely flat. It is almost barren looking and covered in white, as far as the eye can see. It is amazing that once you have left the Rocky Mountains in the west of Alberta it is pretty much flat out east leading into the Prairies and North before you hit the mountains heading into the Yukon again.
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As we approached the city of Edmonton all you could see were farms covered under snow and a city that was blanketed in white. It all looked so cold and not very inviting but the landscape as seen from the air was simply out of this world.
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Air North is such a fantastic low cost airline.
We were served a lunch sandwich, beverages a few times and dessert as well and the cabin crew and staff are ever so friendly. Given you generally have to pay for everything separately when selecting a low cost airline, it was really refreshing to have it all included for once.

After we had left Alberta and started flying further north over the mountains in the far North of British Columbia that lead into the Yukon Territory, you are left completely mesmerised by the endless jagged mountains that lie before you. They seemed to go on forever as we flew. It is amazing how much terrain in Canada there is, that is virtually untouched and uninhabitable.
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We arrived into Whitehorse just after 16h00 on Sunday 24th November.

Flying into Whitehorse is also pretty spectacular. As you approach you fly over endless forest and mountain terrain and lakes frozen over. The sun was setting already at 4pm over the mountains and coming into land at the airport was a little scary as the entire runway at the small airport is covered in snow and it looks as though you are about to land on a frozen lake. It was an interesting landing.
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BIENVENUE A YUKON
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LOCATION:

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Whitehorse is the capital city for the Yukon Territory and the largest city in the Yukon. The city was incorporated in the 1950’s and was formed during the Klondike gold rush. It is situated just off the Alaska Highway alongside the Yukon River, which for the local natives meant “Great River”. Three main mountains surround the town – Grey Mountain, Haeckel Hill & Golden Horn Mountain. The city was named after the White Horse Rapids for their resemblance to the mane of a white horse, near Miles Canyon, before the river was dammed. The town became popular and was developed in and around the gold rush period when prospectors and people searching for their fortunes were heading up towards Dawson and Whitehorse became an important stop off point.
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The great Alaska Highway passes through the town and this was an important highway system. It stretches for over 2450km from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska. 925 km of the highway passes through the Yukon. The highway was built and paid for by the Americans.
During the war and when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941 the US was concerned about losing control of its territory in Alaska and as a result of the Alaskan state being separate from mainland USA decided to build a highway route that would enable them to maintain their forces and military garrisons in Alaska and so in 1942 started work on the highway. Parts of the highway were then handed over to the Canadians however the Canadian government never had to pay for part of the highway stretching through their territory.

Whitehorse is often referred to as the City of the Midnight sun as it has around 20 hrs of daylight in the summer months. In the winter though it is a different story with only a short day of 6-7 hours of Daylight, providing it is not snowing or fogged over.

Whitehorse is a small town that is geared towards outdoor activities and is a place of outstanding beauty in both the summer and winter. The summer offers fantastic hiking into the wilderness, lake exploration and the perfect place to do road trips on the Alaska Highway. The winter offers back country skiing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snow shoeing and a chance to see the famed Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, which most people flock to the Yukon for, in the hope of witnessing this magical phenomenon.

As I exited the plane into the terminal I could feel the drop in temperature immediately. I think the temperature was at around – 15 degrees Celsius.
I quickly put on my beanie and gloves.

After landing, I grabbed my bags and was on the look out for Erik and his daughter. Erik had offered to pick me up at the airport which was near his house and that was very nice. He was at the airport with his daughter to collect me. His daughter, Canyon is only 6. Such a beautiful name I think. He had named her after one of the mountains in the area.
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Both Erik and Canyon are ever so friendly and hospitable.
After leaving the airport, Erik did a short drive around Downtown Whitehorse to give me an orientation of the small town and then we headed out for dinner at Boston Pizza.
Afterwards we returned to their home, were I took it easy for the night, chatted and worked out some plans for sight seeing for the week.

The sun sets here pretty early so by 6h30 pm you already feel as though it is 10pm at night. The Yukon is known as the land of the eternal sun or land of the midnight sun due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle. In the summer it never gets dark up here in the North. I cannot imagine what that must be like to get used to. Then in the winter season the opposite occurs with the sun only fully coming up closer to 10am and then setting around 4pm. From one extreme to another.

I landed up going to bed by 9pm as I was totally exhausted after the long travels from the Dominican.

25/11

Today I woke up around 8am.
I had such a fantastic sleep after 2 days of having slept in planes and airports and been on the run. I felt like a new person.
Erik had to take his daughter to school, so I had breakfast and left with them as I was going to be dropped off downtown after that.

It was still pretty dark at 8h30 and the sun only really comes out solidly closer to 10h00, which is a very strange feeling.

I layered up and put on my thermals which I have not worn since the ski hill and it was so cold outside this morning. The suburbs and neighbourhood and the sidewalks and gardens are all covered in snow and you can hardly see the payment and road.
It really is interesting to see where people choose to live in the world

Arriving at Canyon’s school downtown – Ecole Whitehorse Elementary, the kids were all out on this white snowy play ground doing morning exercises. Apparently all the kids do what is called “Active Living”, which is morning exercises & walks around the sports field to warm up before going inside to start the school day. It is funny as the spot lights are on and you can still see the moon somewhat visible in the sky.
I went with them into the school building and all the kids have to remove their winter boots and then put on their inside shoes. Outside each class there are racks for all their winter gear. It was funny to see such a mass off winter coats, ski jackets, boots and apparel outside each class. I can only imagine what a mission that must be.
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After saying goodbye, I headed to Main Street with Erik and we had coffee at a trendy café downtown called Baked. Afterwards, Erik went to work and I headed out on foot to explore the small historic town.
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There are a number of old colourful historic buildings done up in architecture from the old Klondike Gold era. It is a very unique and different town and has its own character. Most of downtown is covered in snow and the sidewalks and road are all pretty much ice. It is super cold to walk around and even though I was layered found it difficult to walk around much without ducking into a shop to evade the persistent cold that eats into your bones.
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I headed down main street to see the SS Klondike, which is a sternwheeler paddle ship that sits on the banks of the Yukon River. The ship was used to transport freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City further up North however when the highway to Dawson was completed there was little need for the ship and it later became a cruise ship before being decommissioned and donated to Parks Canada as a tourist historical site. The ship is literally on the edge of the freezing Yukon River and in cased in white snow. It is pretty amazing to see however I could not hang about very long as the cold from the wind and the river was absolutely killing me. I could barely take my camera out for some pics as my hands outside of gloves were painfully cold.
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I had to actually go into a random office and use the washroom to run my hands under hot water, as I could not feel my fingers and my hands were totally numb with the worst feeling of pins and needles. It was awful. Hours later I could still not fully feel the tips of my fingers properly.

From here I wandered down the promenade alongside the river taking some pics. The landscape is all so silent and serene and almost feels like it is literally frozen in time.
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There are a few first nations totem poles dotted around town as well as some rather interesting and colourful murals and paintings on the walls of buildings too.
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I headed down 2nd and 4th Avenue having a look at the buildings and shops in town and then decided to head in doors again to warm myself up as I was really not coping to well with the frigid cold. I came across a great little café and restaurant called Burnt Toast Café which I ducked into. The name rang a bell as I think I had at one point applied for a server position here. It is a great little restaurant. I had a much needed coffee and a fantastic potatoe and bacon soup. I was after anything that was hot and would warm my core body temperature up.
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I headed back to Canyon’s school afterwards as Erik was going to collect us from there to take us home.

Staying in the division of Hillcrest:
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That evening I spent at the house, doing some travel research and updating my journal in front of the fireplace. I did not have much interest in heading back downtown in the cold.

26/11

On Tuesday I went for a walk with Eric and Romeo (the dog) around the neighbourhood. The sun was out and it was such a beautiful day despite still being extremely cold. A walk in the snow is always so refreshing. The neighborhood is all dressed in white.
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I then stopped in at the Yukon Transportation Museum next to the airport to have a look but this was closed. They still had a number of pieces outside the museum including the world’s largest weather vane which is a giant DC-3 aircraft. The airport is really intersting to view just because of the fact that it is totally under snow.
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I headed back downtown to carry on with some site seeing in and around the town.
I decided to walk from the house I was staying at on the trail around the airport and then down the cliff into town.
This trail usually takes around 30 to 40 minutes.
The airport sits on a plateau on a hill above the town and from here you have fantastic views. It is also pretty impressive seeing the airport completely covered under snow and planes having to land in such conditions. There is a groomer that has to go out and clear up the runway before each plane lands. It is a pretty spectacular setting for the airport with the mountains in the background, the town of Whitehorse below in the valley and everything completely in white.
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From atop the hill you had a perfect view of the downtown quadrant, the suburbs extending all the way back to the Yukon River and the mountains which rise in the distance. It is so strange not seeing black pavement and roads in the town and everything is dressed in white. The sun generally starts coming up around 8h30 and by 10h00 it is fully out. It is amusing watching the people from the lounge window in the morning running around in the dark; walking dogs, getting onto the school bus and people de-icing their car windows and clearing snow from driveways before they even depart for work. Not such an easy task. There is no such thing as just jumping in your car and hitting the road. You always need to factor in extra time for scraping snow off the car windows, warming up the vehicle etc etc.

I visited a few other museums in town today.

First was the Kwanun Dun Cultural Centre which houses a few artworks, crafts and relics by the indigenous First Nations People, which was interesting.
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Next, I visited the MacBride Museum of Modern History which showcased life in the Yukon cities of Whitehorse and Dawson City during the Klondike Goldrush in the 1890’s. The museum also had replica shops and period pieces from the era as well as an extensive display off animals and wildlife from the North.
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I had lunch at a local Asian restaurant which had a buffet special on the go. So I tucked into that before making my way back home before the sun starting going down around 4pm.

Headed back to the house and waited for Eric to come back from work. We cooked up some steaks on the BBQ.
Quite funny given the entire backyard is under snow.

27/11

Today I was up very early.
I had decided to rent a car for a day, which I booked last minute the day before.
I figured it was time to see more of the Yukon and get out of the main town of Whitehorse.
I had decided to do the famed drive on the Yukon White Pass, which is a route from Whitehorse all the way to the border of Alaska through the mountains and the winding mountain passes. This journey generally takes around 2.5 – 3 hrs depending on the weather and road conditions. I was going to head out all the way over the border into the US State of Alaska and the port town of Skagway. I had cancelled and changed my mind about going to Alaska as heading into the Dominican for a week was better logistically but since I was so close to the town of Skagway it made sense to at least hop over the border and to check out this town while I could.
Eric had called the emergency highway patrol number to get the latest forecast and update on the South Klondike Highway and other than snow pack on the highway and ice the road was not closed for any reason.

DETOUR: Whitehorse, Yukon - Skagway, Alaska USA
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The drive would be a little ambitious given the winter weather conditions and that I would be driving on endless snow and ice covered roads through fog and snow but it is something that one certainly has to experience when up North. Many people also chose to ride the well-know White Pass train which covers this journey, however this stops operating at the end of the fall season.

I was collected by the rental car company (Driving Force) at 8am and taken to their downtown office to pickup the car and sign the paperwork. I received a white Chevy Sonic. These are really nice cars to drive and I have driven two of them before along my travels in Canada. The cars here are all pretty much automatic which I actually now prefer.
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By the time I had jumped in the car the sun was half way up. I was a little apprehensive at first about making this drive as the last time I had driven on snow was back on Vancouver Island last winter. I was just going to take it really slow.
I had packed some extra supplies, snacks, water and had some additional warm clothes and a sleeping bag (good for -30 degrees) in the event that the car should break down, go off the road into a ditch or be stuck somewhere due to avalanches and road blocks which is only to common in these parts. At least I would be good to survive in the car for a few more days. Better to be safe than sorry. Temperatures here have been around – 15 but before I got here they were around – 30 and can go into – 40 degrees which is no laughing matter.

I departed Whitehorse for the historic town of Carcross which is around 40 minutes drive West of Whitehorse. The journey takes you off the Alaska Highway onto the South Klondike Highway.
I stopped a few times along the way to take photos of the breathtaking scenery.
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I passed more frozen lakes – Emerald Lake and Spirit Lake.
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The valley’s and mountains were again all covered in white and most of the road trip out west you felt as though you were driving in an abyss and cloud of white as you could hardly distinguish the road from the landscape. It is nothing but a bright white landscape before you for 3hrs.

I stopped off at this amazing little “Klondike era” village and farm (which was closed for the winter – of course) but had great old buildings all done up in the whole gold rush period look and feel. The farm had many huskies which were barking and the ominous sounds of the dogs echoed forever across the barren land. It was rather ominous but at the same time so nice to hear.
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Next I stopped at the Carcross Desert.
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This has been described as the World’s smallest desert and is basically made up of shifting dunes. Due to the humidity in the area, the dunes cannot fully be classed as a desert as it is not dry enough. The desert was completely covered in snow and you would never have imagined that what I was standing on is in fact “desert”.
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This town was originally called Caribou Crossing. Caribou Crossing was named after the migration of huge numbers of caribou across the natural land bridge between Lake Bennett and Nares Lake. That caribou herd was wiped out during the Klondike Gold Rush. This town was renamed to Carcross as there is another town with the same name elsewhere in British Columbia and mail was always being sent to the wrong location.
This town sits of Lake Bennet and Nares Lake and is home to the local First Nations People – The Carcross/Tagish Nation. The town was a popular stopping destination for gold prospectors heading north towards Dawson City.

You first come across a small gas station and diner to the right and a native government building on the left overlooking the lake. There are a few totem poles situated in and around the snow which just looks so spectacular as the bright colours of the totem poles contrast against the bleak white landscape.
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I stopped off at the diner to grab a quick lunch and coffee before turning off the Klondike Highway into the old Historic downtown part of Carcross.
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This town is not just a tourist town and many locals live here in the small suburbs off the downtown, however, it had a complete ghost town vibe to it, as I must have been the only one their (in winter) checking it out. Most of the shops, art galleries and first nation’s buildings were closed and business’s shut down due to the lack of tourism.
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I had such an awesome time running around here checking it out that I must have been there for over an hour. It literally felt like it could have been the perfect movie set with all the old historical buildings and period piece facades in the town. The downtown sits along the icy Nares Lake which was iced up along the banks. A few native first nations’ homes sit alongside the river, smoke billowing from the chimneys. It looks ever so cold and uninviting but at the same time so serene and still.
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It started to snow so I jumped in the car and tried to make up for lost time out to the border. The drive from Carcross to the Canada Border Post is around 1.5 Hrs as you have to leave the Yukon and drive through parts of Northern British Columbia before arriving at the Canada border Post, then another 30 Minutes onward to the USA Border post before going through and driving 20 minutes into Skagway.
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The drive was really the hardest drive I have ever had to do.
The mere fact that I had to drive for the time I did on endless snow and ice covered roads and constantly be on the look out for problems on the roads, ice and rocks, wild animals and try and keep the car from not sliding was quite the task. At one point I hit some soft snow near the shoulder of the road and the car slid out for a bit but I came right in the end. In the end I landed up driving in the middle of the highway unless of course I saw other headlights coming. I was driving the highway very slowly to be on the safe side. I only saw two other cars the entire period I was driving on the highway. That also is a little unsettling because if something goes wrong, who knows when you are likely to have someone help or assist you. There is also no mobile reception and my Alberta # doesn’t work out here, as they have some special telecoms company up here, so you really are in a pickle if you land your car in a ditch. The road snakes its way along a cliff with a lake to the left of it and steep Rocky Mountains to the right. You pass numerous Avalanche warning signs as you head through the pass and are advised not to stop at any point. The snow was blowing horizontally against the wind shield and the fog was so thick you really had to go slow to be able to keep track of where the road was.
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The scenery along the way though and the “White Pass” certainly lived up to its name though and I was glad I did the road trip.

I passed through the small Canadian Immigration Post and then the last winding drive onward to the USA Border post which is separated from the Canadian one by a 12 mile gap.
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Once I arrived at the USA Border post you have to hand over your passport, then park and exit your car and then come inside and wait.
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Now, I always find it a pain dealing with the USA border officials as they are just so pedantic or plain paranoid it is always a frustration. So not like the Canadians who are always friendly, cheery and helpful. I was kept waiting for well over half an hour as they had to check and verify a few things and then went on about why I was in the Dominican for a short trip and then suddenly up in the North and what I was now doing as I had finished work and why I was coming into Alaska etc etc. Now I remember why I avoided this whole drama initially when I decided to have a break down South instead. Transiting through the US is always such a pain. Anyways the eventually stamped me through and said I have 3 months to stay before leaving. I said, well I will only be a few hours and then perhaps a week at the end when I head home out of New York State.

I drove onward into Skagway after having lost almost an hour and since you have less daylight up here that was a little frustrating.

Made it to ALASKA after all. Haha
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I was contemplating also taking a 1 hr ferry from Skagway to Haines further down the inlet however as it is winter and the American Thanksgiving coming up there were no ferry’s running until Friday.

SKAGWAY LOCATION:
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Skagway has such an amazing small town feel to it and I loved it straight away after having only driven 10 minutes through the small suburbs of it.
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Skagway is a borough situated on the Alaska Panhandle in a glaciated valley at the top of the Taiya Inlet which leads off from the Lynn Canal.
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The town is a mega tourist town and has lots of hustle and bustle when all the big cruise liners and ships doc in the summer. However, in the winter time, Skagway too is somewhat of a ghost town with hardly any tourists and only a few locals who live there and have stayed behind.
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The White Pass train ride onto Whitehorse is a popular activity in the summer but the train is also on lock down at the rail station in the winter.
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The historic downtown area near the port is very cute and has loads of brightly coloured wooden old fashioned buildings and like Carcross, the facades are all in a similar style reflecting the Klondike and Gold Rush era. Each shop has wooden signs hanging above their doors and it too feels like the set of a movie.
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I came across a few quaint coffee shops, a restaurant and diner or 2 and a handful of random local shops or souvenir outfitter type shops that were open but as for the rest all the shops were closed, bordered up with signs “see you in the spring” or abandoned.

I walked around town exploring a bit and then headed down to the port on the far end of town which looks out into the waters of the Lynn Canal. The inlet leading in towards Skagway is a narrow waterway which bypasses many other inlets and waterways. The fog was sitting in between the bay and it was totally quite, only the sound of seagulls filling the air.
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I headed back into the town and had a bite to eat at the Got Wood Pizza Station which had a few Americans and fisherman type local sitting around.
I dropped by a few stores to grab a souvenir and then the Lemon Rose Bakery for a cookie and coffee to go before heading back.

I did not want to leave to late as I had already lost track of time given there is another time change between the Yukon & Alaska and I would now have to do the road trip back partially in the dark which I was not looking forward too.

I will definitely be back to do a proper trip in Alaska someday as the scenery and small towns are simply fantastic and it would make for a really great summer road trip.

28/11

Today I had a rather slow day.

Returned the rental car and then took Eric for breakfast at the Burnt Toast Café (my new favourite little spot) to say thank you for letting me stay.

Sunrise around 9h40:
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I also stopped by the toy store to buy Canyon a thank you gift for letting me take over her room, while she was at her mom’s.
We then stopped by the school over her lunch break to give it to her. She was very happy.
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Afterwards Eric took me to a local art gallery called YAA (Yukon Artists Association) which had some nice artwork.

I then headed off to the Canada Games Centre which is a giant community and sports centre where I got a cheap day pass for the swimming pools, sauna and hot tub and spent some time chilling and then rented skates and attempted to skate for my 3rd time ever. It is not the most easy thing to do and I would much rather strap on some ski’s and race downhill instead. There were some young kids whizzing around me and boy did I feel out of place trying to find my feel on the ice. I was so worried I would land up with a broken ankle or wrist. It was fun to try it again.
I will be doing some skating on frozen lakes when out near Quebec too.
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29/11

I woke up early as I was being picked up for a day tour. I had been referred to this tour company “Who What Where Tours”. The owner Teena was fantastic in helping with information and putting together a trip that would encompass everything I wanted to do in one day. I was the only one on the trip. She basically picked me up in Whitehorse and we headed off North on the North Klondike Highway which heads in the direction of Dawson. She was such an amazing guide and had loads of stories and insight to give me on the area.
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My first stop was Equinox, where I had booked an excursion to do Ice Climbing, which is something I thought would be pretty neat to try out, especially up here. Again, I was the only one at the place which was great. Chris, the guide was also fantastic. He took me through a quick briefing and breakdown on how ice climbing works and the equipment used, as I had no experience or knowledge on the sport of climbing.

You get kitted up in a harness, helmet and visor, with thick boots, crampon (spikes) and your ice axes and then head off to these man made ice columns and spires which extend high into the sky. They have a structure which they slowly release water over from the start off November and then weeks later they have these amazing columns and ice pillars which you can climb.
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At first I was a little nervous as I don't enjoy heights and the though of having to traverse the ice with a pick axe seemed a little complicated.
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In the end I had a fantastic time and did a few climbs. There are only so many climbs a person can do before the body is exhausted and your hands and arms are numb due to the blood draining away from your upper body while climbing.
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Getting to grips with using your toe spikes and wielding an axe to grapple it into the different layers and types of ice was also something to get used to. There are so many icicles that with each thrust you send shards of solid ice flying everywhere.
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After this we ended with a run on the Zip Line which stretches out over a frozen lake. Again, not something that I would usually do but it was fantastic and the view over the frozen landscape and forests was simply breathtaking.
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Next, Chris dropped me off at the Bean North Coffee Roasting Company which sits just down from the climbing company on another property. They have fantastic coffee which is distinct with their cute and quirky Moose labels. The coffee shop was just as cosy and totally needed after spending the morning on the ice. Had some good coffee and soup to warm up.
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Then I walked about 1km onto the next property where the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is located. This is definitely a must see when up North as it gives you a really good opportunity to witness and experience all the wildlife native to these parts of the country and territory.
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The temperatures had dropped when I arrived. You can take a guided tour in a bus. There were a handful of tourists from Japan and 2 from New Zealand. I decided rather to walk the 5km trail around the preserve and do it at my own pace. It was super chilly but so great. The preserve is a fantastic facility and feels so natural with massive enclosures and fields. I got to see Wapiti (Elk), herds of Mule Deer and Caribou, Moose, Bison, Musk ox, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats and the rare arctic fox and lynx.
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Lastly, I headed to the last property on this strip where the Thakini Hot Springs are located. These are thermal hot springs and were the perfect way to round off the day. The water was nice and warm while the edges and surrounds of the hot springs were covered in snow and fog.
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Teena then came to collect me at 4h30pm and the sun had already gone down.

When I got back to Erik’s house, he was getting ready for work but suggested he drop me off at this book signing in town. The council was launching its first book on the history of Whitehorse and though I might be interested to check it out. They had good snacks and it was a cool event. Afterwards I checked out some of the nightlife in downtown Whitehorse and also dropped by a local hotel to checkout a singer and band that was playing. Eriks neighbour was singing and had invited us to see her perform which was nice to get another local experience.

30/11

Today I had a cheat day and was rather lazy.
I slept in and hung about the house until mid day before even thinking of venturing out. The weather dipped over night and I think it was around – 20 Degree today.

I decided to head to the Cross Country Ski Centre at Mount Macintyre and rent some equipment to do some cross country skiing.

I prefer downhill skiing instead but it was a nice way to get out for a bit on the trails in the woods. It is a really hard workout.
It got so chilly my eye lashes starting freezing and little icicles formed on them.
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Afterwards I headed to the Canada games centre to use the indoor poles, steam room and hot tub.

Got back and headed out for some dinner with Erik.
Eric invited me to tag along to an event one of the neighbours were having in the next division. A French lady was having a snacks and hockey night, so decided to join for that. When we arrived it was a little awkward as all the guests were French Quebecois and from the French Community that resides up here. I could only muster up un pertit per francais with them.

The weather had dropped to around – 25 degrees and I could not really believe they wanted to head outdoors and play hockey but anyways we went (about 10 people) and had to still clear the rink of snow and do some shovelling to make it playable. This was hilarious as I was already frozen to the bone.
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We then played and I had a quick crash course into Hockey. They were all in the 40’s-late 50’s and ever so competitive I could not believe how they were running around out there on the snow and in the frigid weather. It was a fun night and again, another local experience I would not get elsewhere.

1/12

Today was another slow day as i was feeling pretty tired after such a week full of activities and site seeing.
I slept in, did some much needed laundry before heading off on my next leg.

Erik came home from work and then took me out to Muk Tuk on the North Klondike Highway.
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This is where i was going to work last January however was not able to get off Vancouver Island quick enough and so could not accept.
Anyway i decided to head out there and meet the people and see the operation and all the dogs they have on site.
It was really impressive to see. They have around 50 huskies on site which live on the front of the property. Really spectacular to see all these dogs running around with so much energy in the frigid weather.
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I did a self guided tour while there and got to see the dogs and the puppies.
The weather out here was so insanely cold i felt like my hand was going to freeze and succumb to frost bite.
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On the dog sled - this is how you roll in style up North
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The husky puppies are just so cute, i wanted to take one in my backpack.
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Afterwards we headed on home where i packed up and Erik made us paste and meat sauce.
Got to try Moose Meat Sauce too!

It has been so fantastic staying with Erik and Canyon and they have been super hospitable and really showed me a great time out here in Whitehorse.
I love it when I leave a place having really got the local feel for it rather than just feeling like a tourist running around ticking off sites.

I am definitely glad I made the effort to get up here as I would totally have regretted it. The vast openness and stillness of the North, the scenery, the never ending snow, the well below freezing temperatures which I have never been exposed to before and the general feel for the town of Whitehorse and the surrounds has been well and truly amazing. I got to do everything i wanted to do and hopefully the Northern Lights will show themselves before i finally leave.

This draws the end to my week long stay in the Great North and the Yukon Territory.

That was a chilling experience (Literally) and about as far North as i got possibly get given the distance and how far South i am from. Polar Opposites.
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Getting ready for the next stop …

People along my Journey:

Lenka (Czech Republic) & Kim (Vietnam) from the hotel i was at:
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Sarah (Prince Edward Island, Canada) who worked at the lodge and hotel with me:
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Erik (Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada) who played host while i visited:
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Posted by TezaTravels 01.12.2013 21:06 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

La República Dominicana

Beautiful Beaches, Rum, Mammajuana, Gwa-Gwa's & Spanish Hospitality

sunny 29 °C

OLA ...

Well, initially this week long trip (outside of Canada) was supposed to be scheduled and planned for the U.S. State of Alaska and Anchorage.
However, after much deliberation and logistical problems and the fact that transport in the dead of winter up North is somewhat problematic, I decided to forgo the whole plan and instead went with the option of the Dominican Republic.

My room mate at the Lodge I was at – Alex and his best friend Mike headed down South just after we closed up for a short vacation and really enjoyed it. After seeing some of their pictures, I was taken by the idea of heading down south myself and looked into the DR and Cuba. There are fantastic pre-winter sales held by Air Canada and West Jet at this time. Most Canadians tend to holiday in Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, The DR, Costa Rica or other islands in the Caribbean.

In the end I decided that the Dominican Republic was the right option, as I had always wanted to visit here and the idea of sun and warmth (sans snow and minus temperatures) for a week also sounded really appealing.
I landed up booking a package at an all – inclusive resort.
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Something, I have never done, as the whole resort, hotel vibe has never seemed overly appealing to me and hotels always seem to have that clinical sterile atmosphere that doesn't really allow you to get a true experience for the places you land up visiting. But, this time I was willing to give it a try and was looking forward to not having to think about where I was staying, transport or all the other logistics that require planning and could thankfully just know it was all planned for me and included, for once.

The trip was a rather long one as most trips/flights for the Caribbean depart from the east coast – Toronto or Montreal.
If you are heading to Hawaii or Mexico then you can fly out from Vancouver or Calgary.

I departed the mountain town of Banff at 6h30 pm and arrived directly at Calgary Airport at 8h20 pm. My former manager and friend Nikki had arranged a free bus ticket for me with her contacts in town and that was so nice and a saving for me too.
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I had enough time to check in, get settled and have some dinner before I caught the red-eye flight at 00:20 out east to Toronto, Ontario.
This is around a 4 hr flight. Amazing the distances across Canada with a 3 hr time zone change from Mountain Time to East Coast Time.
I arrived at 6:30 am and had a lay over of 3 hrs at Toronto Pearson International Airport before catching the 9:00 onward flight. I was hoping all would go smoothly as this was essentially the date I had to leave Canadian Borders. I did not seem to have any problems. The flight down South to the Caribbean and the island of Hispaniola took another 4 hours.
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Landing in Toronto was a little shocking. At 6am we flew over the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) outside of Downtown Toronto and the area is absolutely massive and the lights seemed to go on forever. When you have been in the Rockies with 1 highway and only 1-2 small mountain towns around you to see so many lights, streets spanning the area like a giant web extending as far as the eye can see, and the 6 lane 401 highway going in both directions, it is a little overwhelming.

Orientation Map:
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I arrive into Samana El Catey Airport which is the NE part of the island and the area of Samana.

The DR shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
Haiti lies to the west and the DR lies to the east occupying two thirds of the island nation. The DR is the second largest island nation in the Caribbean with the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the island to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the South.

The Capital, Santo Domingo lies south east.

The official language of the country is Spanish, however French, German and Italian are also widely spoken in tourist areas and resorts.

The country is a melting pot of Caribbean, Spanish, French Creole and African culture and influences. It was strange to see so many Africans again after such a long time.

I had looked at various areas on the DR coast to stay:
Santa Domingo (Capital), Punta Cana (East Coast), Puerto Plata (North Coast) and Samana (North East Coast). I decided against Punta Cana and Puerto Plata as these 2 coastal areas are know for being extremely touristy with lots of hotels and are also the go-to destinations to party. They both have beautiful white sandy beaches but it all seemed a little too similar to Cancun, Mexico which was not one of my favourite destinations. I was looking for a place to relax and do as little as possible and enjoy tropical secluded beaches with lots of nature instead.

I opted to go with the Samana Peninsula area on the far North East side of the island.
Samana is a new tourist destination and the area is becoming more and more popular over the usual coastal cities.

  • *Stars indicate areas covered and seen in the peninsula.

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Samana is a natural gem that remains one of the country’s most unexplored regions. It is an absolute paradise with endless dense tropical jungle and foliage, vibrant green hills which roll across the peninsula, tall coconut trees that tightly blanket the landscape, waterfalls and pristine secluded beaches with turquoise temperate blue waters. The area has a few small villages and “towns” that are dotted across the Samana Peninsula together with a few guest houses, lodges and bed and breakfast’s mostly run by a number of international expats from France, Germany & Italy.
What I loved is the fact that there are very few large hotel groups stuck next to one another and the area still retains its natural beauty.

Samana has become a key attraction for those into eco-tourism and endless nature. Whale Watching (in season), Scuba Diving, Zip-Lining through forests, ATV tours through the jungles and horse back riding are some of the popular attractions drawing travellers to the area. Samaná, Las Terrenas and Las Galeras (the 3 main towns) on the peninsula are all destinations known for ecotourism and Las Galeras and Las Terrenas are two charming towns catering largely for tourists. Las Terrenas is a Mediterranean town with a large French expat and tourist population.

Alex had stayed at the 5* Grand Bahia Principe Cuyaucao hotel in the town of Santa Barbara de Samana but they did not have any availability for the dates I had, so I went with the 4* Grand Paradise Samana hotel located in the area of Las Geleras in the Samana Peninsula. This is a 35 minute drive from Samana town on the opposite side of the peninsula. This area is even more remote with endless coastline and dense tropical bush making up the area.

As we flew over the Caribbean you spotted numerous islands along the way before we approached Hispaniola. Upon landing you pass over many rice paddy plantations and can see nothing but a carpet of tropical green colors blanket the island.
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When we landed at El Catey Airport and the doors of the plane opened you had the most amazing scent hit you together with the warm tropical Caribbean breeze.
It was fantastic and to feel the immediate rays of the sun and warmth beat down on you. Just 10 hours earlier I was stepping onto the bus in Banff in -12 Degree weather, so this was a blessing. I did however step off the plane in my snow boots, long top and thick coat while carrying another carry bag with a ski jacket and trainers I could not fit into my backpack and quickly had to change before I passed out in the humid weather.
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You do not need a visa to enter the DR however you do need to purchase a $10 tourist card upon arrival and receive your border entry stamp in your passport. West jet had already arranged our tourist cards so the customs and baggage collection process went so smoothly. Although the one lady did ask about a visa and I was not sure whether she was referring to my Canada one or what. Perhaps she was wondering how I would get back to Canada, which did get me thinking I had perhaps missed a step somewhere in my planning. Oh, well I was here and would worry about that when back enroute to North America.

Our plane arrived early but the WestJet Vacations bus was already there to collect us and transfer the passengers to the 3 hotels the guests were staying at. My hotel was the last stop, so I had another 1.5 hrs drive after my already long trip.

The hotel I was staying at does not have the typical hotel feel, as it is sprawled out amongst a large property along the coast with tropical gardens and rolling lawns which lead right up to the beaches. The “hotel” has various apartment style rooms located in different areas of the property together with many cabanas. My room was nice with a patio garden view. Not overly fancy but done up in a typical beach type theme and certainly a step up from any hostel. Haha. I still do not see myself spending any time in the room and not sure why anyone would given the location.
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Aerials of the hotel grounds:
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The hotel has 3 swimming pools across the estate and a number of bars.
There are 2 main restaurants where you have buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food given its buffet is pretty standard as far as I am concerned but nice to be able to indulge at meal times which is one of my favourite things to do. The bars are open and you can have endless house, domestic and international drinks as well as a host of endless colourful cocktails. The open bar is not exactly my number one attraction and I am sure I wont be getting my money’s worth is this area. Haha
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Check in went quickly. I did have to pay a $15 fee to use the hotel’s in room safe though as we were advised this was important.
Internet out here at the hotel is insanely expensive at $5 per 30 minutes. Clearly this is where they make extra money.

When I first saw the beaches I was gob-smacked.
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They are simply to die for and just too good to be true.
I had seen a few beaches briefly, as we drove in the bus but the beaches around our resort are just out of this world.
The beach sand is bright white and ever so fine with blue turquoise waters washing up onto the beaches. The beaches are lined with endless tall coconut palm trees that curve and bend along the coast. I went for a quick swim as soon as I could and the waters are ever so warm but refreshing. Just as I had imagined they would be in the Caribbean.
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Our beach Playa Las Galeras, never feels like there is anyone on it and you certainly don’t feel as though you are falling over other tourists.
Aerial View of Playa Las Galeras:
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This is in fact the quiet season so it is nice to have the beach almost to yourself.
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Feeling the rays and sun for the first time in ages feels amazing and not having to wear socks and boots is also fantastic. Oh to have naked feet walking on the beach sand is simply amazing.
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Ok, so i did not exactly pack well and was not dressed for the caribbean given i had given all my summer clothes away a few weeks back thinking i would not need them again. 1 pair of shorts was sufficient though.
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Las Galeras is also referred to as “The Fisherman’s Beach” and was named after the rowing boats used back in the day by pirates who frequented the area.
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The far end of the beach has a number of horses living in the coconut plantations.
In fact in the DR you are likely to see a number of horses running around on beaches or in the towns. There are also a number of stray dogs, pigs and chickens here and there along the roads and towns. One should not be surprised to find a horse gallop over you on the beach or run down the street while you’re sitting having a coffee on the sidewalk.
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I came across a local boy washing the horse in the water and surf and the horse was totally loving it.
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I am going to give a brief run down of my trip by day, so that I am able to complete this post before I leave.

DAY 1: Taking it Easy & laying low at the resort

After the very long time it took to get down here, I decided to spend the day at the resort and Playa Las Geleras. I found a deck chair and spent most of the day breaking it in, absorbing the sun and giving my body the much needed Vitamin E it was so missing after being in the cold for so long. I walked about the resort, enjoyed the buffet meals throughout the day and had a few tropical cocktails from the bar.
The Cuba Libre and Caipirinhia being the favourite options. Checked out the pools and walked around the plantation and beaches.
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Had a photo taken with this cute squirrel monkey on the beach:
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I also explored the local town of Las Geleras which is a short 10 minute walk from the hotel along the beach. This is a cute little town with lots of small local and expat run restaurants, café’s and simple Dominican type bars which spill out onto the road. It is vibrant and chaotic at the same time, with DR locals (adults and kids) driving like made men on their motor cycles, stray dogs running about, horses and donkeys plodding along the streets and an explosion of loud Spanish music echoing down the road from a multitude of random establishments and vendors try furiously to tempt you into their stores to pickup a souvenir or two. All the items seem pretty much the same – colourful bold artworks with African influence (not too different from home), wooden sculptures, endless jewellery with the local larimer stone, wooden parrots and other local items.
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Various stalls and tables featuring the local Brugal Rum or Al Presidente (the local beer of choice) are also there to tempt you. If that does not take your fancy then perhaps DR or Cuban Cigars might. Interesting fact to learn that since the US-Cuba embargo on trade, the leaves used to make the cigars in Cuba are now shipped over to the Dominican, where they are now reproduced and then sold to the USA anyway. A clever round about way of bypassing the system.
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I came across a cheap internet café charging only $1 an hour for internet (beat that hotel!!) and have frequented here a few times. I got to know the owners who are from the UK and France and they were so great at always offering advice or helping me plan transport or my day trips cheaply and without being taken for a ride by locals. They just up and left their jobs in Europe wanting a change of pace and lifestyle. One of the girls is here working on a tourist visa (not officially) and that got me thinking too. Haha.

I have been very surprised by how friendly and honest all the locals actually seem to be and it is so refreshing. I have always been given my correct change back no matter how small and never really felt on edge. Yes, you can’t say the same about the regular taxi drivers or tour operators from the hotels or in town who are generally always trying to make their money but that is the same anywhere you go.

That evening I went to a local show in the resort amphitheatre which generally has something going on each night. This time it was a musical dance show taking you on a journey through the musical ages from Abba and Queen to Michael Jackson and Madonna. Very funny and a pretty good show. I have not been to many, as I find they start pretty late and after a full day of sight seeing, I am way too tired to stay up for them. Met a couple from France who gave me some good tips on seeing sights cheaply and so plan to try it out tomorrow.
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DAY 2: Gwa Gwa Taxi to El Limon

Today I woke up early and decided to follow the advice given to me from the French I had met the night before. I wanted to head out to the town of El Limone and to the Cascada El Limone (Waterfalls). I was not going to pay $70 to do this tour and so explored the options. The local taxis outside the hotel wanted to charge me $90 return to get to El Limone. I said they were crazy because I could pay $10 less and do the arranged tour and get lunch and transfers and the horse for less. They were terrible negotiators, so I sad Adios and walked 10 minutes into town. Chatted with some locals who said they could take me for $60 for a return transfer. Ok, cheaper than the previous offer however I would still need to pay for the rental of the horse once there. You cannot access the falls easily without having a mountain horse to take you up the trail. Yes, the trip is a good 40 minutes away to El Limone but I was not going to pay that.

I contemplated this offer at the internet café before accepting. I got chatting to the French lady there and she said I should rather take the “very local taxi” called a gwa gwa or moto-concho to Ciudad Samana and then another onto El Limon and she has a contact there who has a tour agency and restaurant and they could do the tour for $25. This is exactly what I was looking for and more within my price range. The cost included a local lunch and the cost of the horse and guide to get to the falls.
The local taxi cost 100 Pesos ($2.50) from Geleras to Samana and then you transfer again and pay the same for the trip from Samana – El Limon. Bingo … Am I Loco, maybe. It might take longer but I was saving a fortune and would be doing it like a local.
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These local taxis are basically just small trucks/bakkies with benches in the back and a covered tarp roof but are used by all the locals and tourists wanting too avoid expensive transport. The gwa gwas travel fairly slowly as they pickup passengers and so it did take a while longer to get to Santa Barbara de Samana but I had an open air taxi and could observe the local life, towns and landscape as we meandered along the coast. At one point the back of the taxi started filling up and we had a mother and 2 kids, a kid going to school, some workers and a bunch of supplies from baskets of Papayas to barrels of gasoline, groceries and what not in the back. They all tried to communicate with me in a mix of basic Spanish, French and English.
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Arrived in Samana and the taxi driver made sure I caught the next mini-bus taxi onward to El Limon which was really nice. The very little Spanish I remember reading a few years ago started coming back and even just the very basic words here and there is a big help. Coupled with some baby English and some hand gestures and you more or less are able to get on by.

Arrived in Ciudad El Limon which is another small town further North on the peninsula and found the restaurant.
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I met the manager, paid and my guide Vincent came to get me. We picked up the horse next door, saddled up and I was off down the street heading to the falls. The horses here are all very skinny. After we had made it up the road on the hill we veered off onto the trail which took us through forest, jungle, across rivers and again back up a steep rocky mountain path.
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The views and tropical landscape is beautiful. The heat and humidity is a little overwhelming and I am glad I had a horse rather than having to hike. The trail was not the easiest for the poor horse to negotiate but I guess they are used to it. It is very muddy and slippery.

After 40 minutes we arrived at the top of the hill. Walked down a trail and I was met by the Cascada El Limon Waterfalls.
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Considered the most spectacular of Dominican Republic’s many waterfalls, El Limón captivates as it cascades 170 feet (51.8 meters).
The falls are amazing.
Water cascades down a mossy mountain wall before plummeting into a deep rocky pool below and the water has a yellowy, greeny look to it as it falls over the edge so finely. The waterfall has small cave like crevices underneath which I explored behind the curtain of water. It was nice and refreshing after the long trip up. There were a lot of tourists in the end but I am glad I got to see them.
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Afterwards, I headed back into the town of El Limon and had lunch at Santi’s.
A typical DR lunch comprised of plain rice, spiced rice, chicken, fish and beans. It was really nice and a hearty portion given the price. Afterwards, I thanked the owner and they helped me get the right local taxi back to Samana.
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Half an hour later I arrived in the town of Santa Barbara de Samana.
This is a town located on the bay of Samana near a small fishing port.
It is one of the largest towns on the peninsula and was intended to be the countries capital.
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I decided to spend some time and explore the town before heading back to Las Geleras.
The town has beautiful brightly coloured buildings and shops down the main avenue which just adds to the Caribbean feel.
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There are a few local churches of different denominations spread out around too. La Churcha, also known as the Dominican Evangelical Church. The church is the first African Methodist Church of Samaná.
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The town is a little poor at the same time and one has to be a little cautious when walking around.
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The promenade facing the bay was busy with locals selling arts and crafts and tuk tuk bicycle drivers ferrying locals and tourists up and down. From the promenade you can view the well-known bridges (called the Bridges To Know Where) which connect 2 small islands to the main land.
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Walked along the port towards the Samana Beach.
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I decided to drop by the Grand Bahia Principe Cuyaucao resort where my friends had stayed just to check it out and admire the views from the hotel. This hotel (one of many in the chain) is situated high on the hill over-looking Samana Bay. It was a beautiful hotel with a much nicer pool and fancier restaurants compared to mine, however I was disappointed when I saw the beach they had. It was literally one small beach that you reach via elevator down the hill. The hotel does have nice views of the bay, town of Samana and the small islands connected by the bridges. Other than that you only have the bay and if you wanted to access all the beaches near where I was, you would have to take a taxi. So in the end I lucked out with the better location in terms of pristine secluded endless beaches. I walked across the first bridge to the second little island but avoided the third bridge as I had read reports about tourists being mugged once they reach the secluded far flung island.
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After I returned to catch another local taxi for the 40 minute ride back to my town of Las Geleras. Along the way we had a tropical down pour but by the time I arrived back the weather had lifted and the sun was out. The weather here has a few short spats of showers throughout the day. This is also the rainy period heading into hurricane season, so I guess I can’t complain but other than that the weather has been nice. Spent the night chatting and having drinks with some Canadians from Montreal, Quebec. There are many Canadians here from Calgary, Toronto and Quebec, so its feels just like home and that I haven’t ventured all that far. Canadians are without a doubt the friendliest nation ever. Even the resort staff I chat to have said compared to the French and Germans they are a real pleasure.
The locals have even cottoned onto the market and try to keep them feeling at home in the DR.
You can even get a typical Quebecois Poutine Dish on the beach HAHA
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Day 3 – Beach Bumming and Beach Hopping.

The weather today was not as pleasant.
Ok, let me not complain. It was humid and there was no snow, so all in all, it was still fantastic. The skies were overcast and there were on and off spats of tropical showers. I decided to have a quite day and hung about the resort for a while. Had a late breakfast and walked around. The weather did change around lunch time and actually got pretty warm again. I spent some time on Playa Las Galeras and walked through the coconut plantations to the end of the beach. I came across a local boy washing his horse in the ocean and this horse absolutely loved it as the small waves lapped over him.
I then headed into town to use the internet and explore more of the town. Later in the afternoon I walked to the next beach which is around 1.5km away. Playa Playitas is another fantastic and secluded beach. Not many tourists would know how to access this beach so it was always pretty quite. There is one little restaurant and 2 local establishments on the beach together with a couple of palm leave umbrellas you can sit under along the beach. The waters here are also just perfect in colour and it looks really idyllic.
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Went on a hike in search of Playa Froncton and Playa Madama and eventually gave up after realising it was not just a 15 minute walk away. What the locals had said and my misunderstanding in Spanish eventually made me realise it was over an hour away. So i turned back to the hotel a complete mess and covered in mud after trekking through the bush and muddy paths. I did have a nice view of the coast from the top of the mountain though.
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I got to know so many people at the resort as a number of us all came in on the same Air Canada or WestJet flights and so after some time you land up having chats with the guests and find yourself joining different people for meals, drinks, chill time on the beach or outings and land up kind of having your own “click” at the resort, which is nice. There was one arrogant couple and the husband literally spent all his time drinking to the point where he was so blotto he was constantly mumbling and dancing and walked around with his giant drink caddy and thermos from 8am until after midnight. He kind of landed himself the nickname Babba (which is a brand for a drinks thermos) or Rob Ford (the current disgraceful mayor of Toronto) as he looks like him and also constantly makes a fool of himself. So among the group and guests he kind of became the joke of the week, with everyone talking about what he was getting up too.

I headed back to the resort and for dinner our theme for the night was a beach BBQ.

Day 4 – Excursion – ATV Tour – Playa Rincon

Before I arrived, Alex my room mate had told me about an ATV he did that was really worth it. So I had pre-booked with the company back in Canada. The company called Rudy Rancho is run by Rudy a young local Dominican who is based near the resort I was at. He has everything from horse back riding, excursions around the area to ATV tours which he does jointly with another German based tour company. When I met with him at his ranch, Rudy took me on his motor cycle to Sunshine Holidays in the town of Galeras to finalise my booking. Here I met Marcelle. A tall skinny German man with a very thick accent. He was from Bremen Germany but left the strict and stressful life of Germany for a more laid back lifestyle in the DR and setup a tour operation. He was ever so friendly and kept me chatting to him for ages. He had availability the next day to do the tour and so I confirmed my spot immediately. I was hoping the weather would be good as you really needed a nice day out for the ATV tour.

The ATV tour included a tour to a local plantation, rides through local villages, site seeing of different beaches, jungle and bush in land as well as time out to Playa Rincon which is the key attraction.

Playa Rincon has been rated as one of the World’s Top 10 Beaches and Conde Nast voted this beach as one of the top 2 in the world.
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I arrived early morning to start the tour at 9am.
On the tour I would be joining 4 other Germans from Nuremburg who had also signed up. Marcelle did the breakdown of the tour and the ATV briefing in German which I was surprised, I understood pretty well. Two local guides took the 5 of us out for the tour and they were just brilliant.

The tour starts out driving through villages and towns into the interior. Here you drive the ATV’s on the main road. This certainly would not be allowed elsewhere in the world. We stopped at a local plantation. Here we were given a demonstration of all the different fruits specific to the DR. From Cocoa pods, noni fruit, sugar cane, coconuts, papaya, coffee beans etc which we also got to try. They also let us taste local chocolate and cocoa, coffee and then the much revered Mammajuana.
NO not marijuana… Mammajuana, which is called a local medicine/aphrodisiac drink.
It is made of 1/3 Rum, 1/3 Honey and 1/3 Red Wine together with the shaved bark from the Noni Fruit tree and different spices. You can drink it as a shot or like a normal drink. Either way … you feel like you have been hit by a brick it is so strong.
Considering I am such a light weight, doing shots while operating an ATV is probably not the best option. HAHA.
On the table in the little shack they also have a wide variety of Dominican and Cuban Cigars for sale, ground coffee, local bottles of rum and tourist souvenirs.
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You then take a short guided tour through the plantation to see the trees the fruits grow on.
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From here we jumped back on the ATV’s and sped off enroute to Playa Rincon stopping at a vantage point to take in the view across the thick plantations down to the beach.
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Upon arriving at this beach you are met with a bright white light bouncing off the sand from the beach and the blue waters are ever so vibrant. It is a long stretch of beach and truly is beautiful.
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International versions of Survivor have been featured in more remote beaches north of this and Rincon has also been used for challenges in the Columbian Version.

We relaxed at a small beach side shack and restaurant where we were going to have lunch. The options were chicken (pollo) or fish (pescator) again. I choose the fish of course. We all had a local Coco Loco, which is a cracked coconut shell with a mix of Rum. Here Rum flows endlessly like the tropical showers which you encounter every day. While waiting for lunch we explored the beach, took photos while enjoying the sun. I was lucky to have had perfect weather to experience this beach.
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Lunch arrived and we had locally caught fish. I actually had a parrot fish on my plate as the beak of the fish was clearly visible. This was accompanied with rice and banana plantain fritters. I can honestly say that was the best fish I have had since I got here and far better than the fish at the hotel. It was seasoned just perfectly and was super tasty. I was surprised that we did not have as many fish options at the hotel as I thought we would have, so this was great. IMGP1074.jpg

Paying with some local Pesos. Either US Dollars or Pesos are accepted.
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After lunch we jumped into a dugout canoe boat and did a short trip through the mangroves swamps on a crystal clear river. Vines hang from the tree tops and we got to swing like Tarzan from them.
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One we returned we jumped back on the ATV’s and headed to the far end of Playa Rincon where we spent some time swimming in the warm waters. There are 3 cute little ram shackle type beach restaurants and bars here.
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Later, we headed to Bocca Del Diablo which is a rocky plateau above the ocean.
Here there is a blow hole which spurts out a spray of water when the force of the waves hits the coast. This was cool too see and the force that gets pushed through this crack in the rock was unbelievable. It was enough to blow you right over.
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As we were riding out to the blow hole you bypass an area where they mine granite in these limestone and granite cliffs. It was pretty amazing to see these giant blocks of granite that they extract from deep within the mountains.

Last stop on our tour was Playa Playitas which we had all seen on our own but wanted to revisit again, as it is such a great beach, especially during sunset when you have the perfect vista of the sun setting along the ocean.

From here we headed back into town and concluded our trip.
It was an outstanding trip and I loved the fact that you were never on the clock. They just added extra beaches and things for us to do and was well worth the money.

Back at the resort, I caught up with some of the Canadians from our little “click” and had dinner before joining them for the evening show in the amphitheater. After this we all moved to the beach bar for drinks and then landed up at the resort club and ”discoteque” where we danced until the club closed at 2am. It was a super fun night and the group we have are all so much fun.

It is a rather random mix of people from different ages and backgrounds so made for an interesting few days.
Everyone was from different parts of Ontario or Quebec.
You had Shannon and Dakota who were the youngest from Niagara Falls, Dave a hippy with a long pony tail in his late 50’s who was basically just travelling the world and such a hoot, Monica and her husband Dave from Waterloo, Ontario. She too was just the most fun person with a crazy personality, Jeff and Donna who are friends from Montreal, Quebec and Murray and Lu from Kitchener, Ontario. We all hung out at various meal times and on the beach which was nice.

Day 5 – Excursion – Los Haitises National Park & Cayo Levantado (Bacardi Island).

This tour I booked through WestJet as we got a special 2 for 1 combo deal on the tour. To take in the famed Los Haitises National Park and then the Island of Cayo Levantado. It was also a full day trip, so I had to be ready to leave at 8am for the tour.

We transferred by bus from the resort back to the town of Santa Barbara de Samana and stopped at the port where we caught a large boat/catamaran for the trip out to the Los Haitises National Park. The boat trip out there is around 1 hr. On the way you pass along the coast which gives you fantastic views of some of the bigger hotels along the way and the dense jungle and tropical forest which covers the area.
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Making up approximately 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) of unique, diverse area, Los Haitises National Park is comprised of mangroves, estuaries, coves and bays. Easily reached by a short boat ride across Samaná Bay, the park is well-known for both its magnificent series of limestone caves covered in Taino Indian art and its boat excursions through exotic mangrove swamps. In this park, you encounter a wide variety of bird life as it is also a core bird sanctuary and nesting sight where you can find more than 100 species of birds, 90 plus plant species, a wide variety of mammals and caves bearing pre-Columbian Taino art.
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The boat trip out here is spectacular and there are so many small limestone islands that you pass with inlets and passages here and there.
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They are covered in thick foliage and there are birds everywhere. Spotted numerous flocks of pelicans either swimming in the water or roosting in the tree tops as well as turns and boobies.
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The area really reminded me of Halong Bay in Vietnam or parts of Thailand with the limestone islands. Wes stopped off at 2 different limestone islands to explore the massive cave systems which can be found in the core of these islands. Simply impressive and you cannot believe such large caves are able to exist in the centre without the roof of the islands collapsing.
We came across some art from the days of Christopher Columbus in one of the caves.
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These islands were also used to film part of the Pirates of the Caribbean Film and international versions of Survivor (The Colombian and USA) have also been featured in parts of the area.

After exploring the waterways and mangroves in and around the islands we headed back towards Samana Bay stopping off briefly at a sandy cove which has a local coastal home on it.
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There are some more cave systems on this island that we looked at before heading off to the famed Cayo Levantado Island.
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This coconut palm-lined island has become one of the area’s top tourist destinations for romance, relaxation and exquisite Dominican cuisine. Many visitors flock to this 6-square-mile (15-square-kilometer) island to walk along the pristine beach and tan, while others venture out to the thriving reefs for snorkelling and scuba diving.
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This is a beautiful island with magnificent white sandy beaches and unbelievably beautiful waters. The island has been nicknamed “Bacardi Island” as this was the island used to shoot the Bacardi Rum commercial which has made it a household name now. The island has the 5 Star Plus, Grand Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Luxury Resort on it too which has its own private beach on the North end of the small island. On the opposite end is a public beach. We docked and spent a few hours on the island. Here I met a family from Thunder Bay, Ontario and there 2 twin sons and landed up hanging out with them for the afternoon. They invited me snorkelling and looked after my bags while I was checking out the island.
The beach is spectacular and everyone was out and about getting those picture perfect beach shots and snaps. The contrast from sand to water to palm trees is just perfect.

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Here we had lunch – your typical fish, chicken and rice options again. It was good though. There are a number of local craft and souvenir shops and stands in the centre as well as a few local bars and simple restaurants to enjoy some local food.

We departed back to the Samana port at 4:30 and then we were transferred back to the resort which was another 35 minute bus ride.
Arrived back at the resort, showered and hung out with the group again before doing dinner, another show and then drinks on the beach.
The buffet theme was “French Night” which I think was one of the best I had while there. The selection was better and the dessert buffet was to die for.

Day 6 – Final Day – Beach Time

I woke up early today, had breakfast and headed into town to use the internet and confirm some travel flights and logistics before doing some final souvenir shopping. I cannot get much so grabbed 2 postcards and a small wooden painted parrot which is a popular souvenir it seems.

Headed back to the resort and literally spent the whole day on Playa Las Galeras with the group, lying in the deck chair catching a final tan, swimming in the ocean and sleeping. It was the perfect weather and ending to a good but short trip down South.
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Uno Cuba Libre Por Forvor
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Before dinner I quickly packed up my bags so that it was all ready for the next days departure and then joined everyone for dinner and the evening show before rounding up and doing a few last minute cocktails at the beach bar and discothèque with everyone. We all exchanged details and will keep in touch. They were all really such a fun bunch to hang with. I also met 2 girls from Hamilton Ontario (near Niagara Falls) who said I should contact them when out east and they would show me around too, which was super nice.
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The final morning, I woke up earlier and headed down to the buffet for breakfast and coffee on the beach before lying on the deck chair enjoying another hour of the warm sun and taking in the view. Then I said my goodbye’s to everyone I had been hanging out with. Most of them were there for another day or 2 as they had arrived after me. Our bus was departing the hotel at 11am even though our flight was only at 3pm. We had to pickup guests from the other 2 hotels and then headed onwards to the Airport.

The day I was departing was one of the hottest days and the airport was so immensely hot and humid, I wanted to pass out.
Going through border security was a little complicated as the official was not 100% sure how I could get onto a flight bound for a country that I don’t have a visa for, given that mine had expired. Eventually he understood the whole scenario once a senior official had explained it to him that I could still re-enter as a tourist.

The flight was full to capacity and I had the honour of sitting next to this American and his small daughter and they spoke non-stop for 4 hours. I was so tired I just tried to sleep with my head propped up against the window. I had a very long flight ahead of me with another 7 hours of travel and lay over’s before arriving in Calgary and then another 15 hours of travel and lay over’s enroute to Whitehorse in the Yukon.
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It was a fantastic trip although short and I would definitely recommend the DR to anyone. I would certainly like to head back there someday again.

HASTA LUEGA ...

Posted by TezaTravels 28.11.2013 00:28 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (0)

Bye Bye Banff

End of the road ...

snow -12 °C

ROCKY MOUNTAIN GAZETTE

On Thursday 14th November it was my last day of work and it was great to be completely finished and to be able to do some travel again.

In the afternoon a colleague drove Sarah, Miranda and I up to the green patch on the hill overlooking downtown Banff and the valley to see it all covered in snow and for me to get one last view of the town. it was so beautiful up there and you could see the frozen Vermillion Lakes in the distance.
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That evening some of my friends and colleagues decided to take me out downtown for a final goodbye evening. We headed off to the Canadian Royal Legion for their weekly Bingo night. Clearly this is the thing to do in Banff on a Thursday night and the venue was packed with a surprisingly younger crowd. I few of us had never played before so it was something new to try and pretty fun in the end.
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After this we headed to Bruno’s which is a small bar/restaurant for their weekly Karaoke night. I was certainly not going to sing but a couple of my colleagues are great singers and guitar players so it was a fun night.
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Sam, Matt (Ontario), Jeremiah (California) & Sarah (PEI) at Brunos
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With Tami originally from Durban
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They even sang a goodbye song for me by Aerosmith - I don't want to miss a thing - Haha.

Had a fantastic last drive along Highway 1 and out towards Lake Minnewanka and 2 Jack Lake. Everything has once again morphed since my last stop off here in the fall. The landscape is still and serene, almost frozen in time. We pass endless mountain peaks and snow capped craggy cliffs. Rundle and Cascade Mountain loom high above the road way, as the icy breeze flows over these Rocky Mountains and the dramatic clouds in dark shades of grey paint a stark and ominous feeling.
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The buildup of snow clouds is imminent and one can slowly feel the temperatures starting to drop lower as each day passes.

Along the way we bypass a field and opening in the valley. A large heard of Wapiti or elk can be seen foraging and eating grass as the last of the sun peaks over the mountain tops. The fields are blanketed in white snow and only a few wisps of grass and foliage peak through. We stopped to take in this beautiful sight. The elk turn their heads but look unperturbed as we snap away at them like paparazzi on the pavement.
There were so many around so we got to stop and take some really great photos. The larger male elk just prance across the road way like they own the place. It was a great last sighting and send off.
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The Gang:
Jeremiah (California), Matt (Ontario), Miranda (Ontario) & Sarah (Prince Edward island)
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Sitting at the Banff Brewster Bus station waiting for my connection to Calgary Airport. I was dropped off by some friends.
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Once again had to face the music and say goodbye to all those who had grown so close to me in such a short space of time.
Knowing that in just a few hours, I will be seeing the last of these dramatic mountains, as we head on through the plains towards Calgary and they become nothing more than a distant memory. I will definitely miss the mountains, endless forest, wide open spaces; snow capped peaks, the ever changing weather systems that have a mind of their own in these parts, as well as the wildlife that lives so freely out here and constantly surprises you at each and every turn.

It has been so amazing to have called this place home over the last few months.

I am looking forward though to a break & relax down South in The Dominican Republic after all the work.

Posted by TezaTravels 26.11.2013 19:27 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Terence's Amazing Race Across Canada Kicks Off

Time to Travel

snow

Well after a very long year of working and travelling around Canada, my year has finally come to an end and I am now in tourist status rounding up what has been the journey and experience of a lifetime.

I left Canada for a week to head down South to the Dominican Republic to get some sun and leave Canadian Borders so as to bring an end to my prior Visa.

I had an amazing week out there. The Dominican Republic is a fantastic island destination and the beaches and tropical locations are simply out of this world. The weather was amazing, as were the locations and sights I saw. I landed up meeting a great crowd of people from Canada who were mainly from Ontario and Quebec and we all hung out for the week.

My trip back was a long one and started with Dominican Authorities scrutinizing my passport, not wanting to stamp me out of the country and allow onward travel as my Visa for Canada had expired. I said I was well aware of this but was now re-entering as a tourist. Eventually an official came to the counter and spoke with the junior officer in Spanish for a few minutes before all was fine and I was stamped out and moved on to board. I think the senior officer had to explain to the junior officer that regardless of whether it expired, the passport I have entitles me to 90 days/3 months travel into either the USA or Canada as a tourist. Upon landing in Toronto and moving through Canadian customs and immigration, after a few quick questions and clarity on why I was back and what my intent was, all was good and I was stamped in as a tourist. So all in all, my plans had all worked out as organized.

I have just arrived back on Canadian soil at Toronto Pearson International Airport after a 4 hour flight from Samana in the Dominican. That concluded another 11 250 km of round trip travel. I am now waiting for my connection onward to Calgary which is another 4 hour flight out West. The temperature went from 35 degrees and high humidity in Samana to minus temperatures (-10) in Ontario and will only get colder as I head out west back to Alberta and fly over Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
There was so much snow falling and fog in Toronto, you could barely see the runway. Never before have I seen snow on a runway or had to take off and land on an icy runway which is a little freaky. The plane had to go to the “ice bay” where a truck and crane spray down the wings and tips with hot water and a solution to remove snow and ice before take off, which is something new to experience as well.

Once I arrive in Calgary, Alberta, that is when the fun starts.
I will begin my final whirlwind tour of Canada and take in a number of provinces, territories, cities and sights across the country.

That is when my trip
Terence’s “AMAZING RACE ACROSS CANADA” commences.
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This is something I am really looking forward too but at the same time hope everything goes according to plan. This is perhaps one of my most ambitious trips and tours trying to traverse a country as large as Canada with a limited budget and time in which to do it in but am super eager to see more of this amazing country.

My intended travel map across Canada:
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Hitting the Mark and checking off the Maple Leafs along the way:
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I have now landed in Calgary Airport. Time is 00:45 am. The flight from Toronto was a good one and I slept most the way. I am having a much needed Tim Horton’s coffee and Boston Crème doughnut to energize me. I will have 12 + hours to wait before catching my next flight. So, I am on the hunt for some couches and a place to sleep for the night. I did not want to have to take a taxi in the early hours of the morning downtown and find a place to stay, just to have to return back to the airport for my noon flight. It just seemed like an unnecessary expense and since I can sleep pretty much anywhere, do not mind staying at the airport for the night.

24/11/2013

FAST FORWARD:
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I am super excited, as this afternoon I will finally be heading up North to visit a place that I have literally been trying to get to for many months now and time wise it has just never worked out. I will be flying out to one of the Canadian Territories and the town of Whitehorse which is located in the Yukon Territory just east of the US State of Alaska. It is quite the change, having gone from way down South in the Caribbean to way up North near the arctic. Initially, I was supposed to have gone to Alaska and crossed over into the Yukon, however transport issues and logistics in the winter made this just a little complicated.

I depart Calgary, Alberta around noon and have to make a short stop over and catch a connecting flight in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. This city lies about 1 hour North of Calgary by air. From there I fly directly to Whitehorse in the Yukon and will arrive around 16h00. There are not many airlines that head up there other than Air Canada or Air North and in a country this large you will quickly learn that there is seldom a direct flight anywhere.

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Calgary - Edmonton (Alberta) to Whitehorse (Yukon Territory).

Off to find a place to sleep now and get some rest before departing tomorrow.
I have already been traveling for over 15 hours today across multiple time zones (pacific, eastern, mountain) so not really sure what time my body thinks it is.

Cant wait to make it up to the Great White North tomorrow ...

Posted by TezaTravels 24.11.2013 00:58 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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