Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 8 Fairbanks

Yukon River
Leanne got her wish to see sled dogs!

View above the clouds approaching Fairbanks at 10.30 pm.

Day 8

The sun was gone but it was a soft light through the night,so blinds had to be closed so we could sleep.
Up at 6.30 and down to have the complimentary breakfast.Nice variety to choose from so left for our Arctic Circle Adventure well fed.
We boarded a Piper 2 engine plane and belted up for the ride of our lives!Climbing up and over Fairbanks city and then over the magnificent mountains..Followed the Dalton H/way,flew over a couple of remote Athabascan outposts and the famous pipeline that carries oil down from Prudoe at the top of Alaska. Saw a couple of remains of old gold mining towns that are now only inhabited by 80 or so folks.
Followed the Yukon River which was still frozen over and looked like a great white ribbon weaving it's way between the mountains.
Smooth flight again..How lucky have we been? We landed in Coldfoot which is really a truck stop for the haulers going north & south along the Dalton.
Chris was our guide on the ground.Just a young bloke but very enthusiastic and knowledgable.Because Leanne showed an interest in the sled dogs he got us all fitted out with gumboots and we walked around to the kennels..We were greeted by about 20 happy and excited doggies  who just wanted to be patted,all the while taking turns howling in the air to get attention..Chris then took us to a frozen lake where we walked out a little way (nervously!).It's very isolated there but in the Summer season when the tourists arrive there is boating/hiking and a variety of attractions.
Back on the plane to Fairbanks which got a little bumpy as we neared the airport but we landed safely after a terrific and memorable day.

Day 7

A day for travelling and getting to Fairbanks,,
Woke up and looke out the window to see 2 window cleaners on the high rise opposite,dangling from a thread of rope and swinging from side to side to clean..Couldn't watch...gave me the heebie geebies!!!!
We had breakfast in the hotel and decided to have stroll around the city.Same as as any other so we all said let's just drive to the airport and hang around there Arrived very early but read and snoozed until time to board.
Because we wereleaving Canada and our destination was the US we had Customs to go through and they are very very thorough..Our fingerprints were taken as well as eyes....Shoes off and bag opened and examined..All good.Phew!
Not a big plane this time..Just 2 propellers(and 2 wings too!!)but it was a great flight as very smooth.Only 1 & 1/2 hour flight to Seattle where we changed planes for Fairbanks..Seattle is a big airport but just had time for a coffee before we wereoff again.This time a big jet..Another easy smooth flight and totally awesome views of the tops of snowy mountain ranges.
Took a taxi to the hotel with a real character.She had her little dog on herlap as she drove and looked like she'd just come out of the woods.!But she was full of info about Fairbanks and we booked her to take us to our Arctic flight in the morning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 6 Calgary

After checking out of the hotel we loaded up the rental and headed out of town with a nervous driver at the wheel..
Unfortunately it was raining and bitterly cold but we decided we'd drive out to Lake Louise before driving to Calgary.
Good Decision..The lake was frozen and looked magical.Snow piled high everywhere and a wind that you could cut with a knife!We headed into the hotel to look around and I must admit it was pretty posh.The doormen were dressed in Austrian clothing and there was a Canadian Mountie walking around having his photo taken with guests.Well worth the visit.
Back in the car and took a few detours to get back to the highway to take us to Calgary..So lucky we did that as now we were seeing the wildlife up close..Got some great shots of moose and mountain goats..
The drive in the rain to Calgary was a bit streesful for Andrew but with help of an in built navigator,we finally made it..
On the 10th floor of the International Hotel in the city..In a 2 room apartment that's very spacious with lounge,full size dining table and TV.
Decided not to brave the cold and go out for dinner so went to the hotel's restaurant and had a great meal of filet mignon for 3 of us and a 12oz rump for Andrew.
Need a good night's sleep..Will try to put some decent photos on next blog..Not too good at it!!


Waiting at the station
Some wildlife.mountain sheep
Banff at dusk

Day 5 Rocky Mountaineer

Wow!! Just unbelievable scenery all around us..The sun is out and snow is piled high beside the rails and through the pine trees..Looks like a Christmas Wonderland..We passed and travelled beside the Thompson River for many miles.Lots of rapids but also many landslides beside he river.Only the most advanced and experienced rafters go on this one when the snows are melting and feeding the river.
The service and attention to us(called The Guests not passengers)was superb.Any request was granted and any question asked was given the answer fully..Apparently if there is danger of a landslide,the army is calledin and they fire a Howitzer to create a slide controllably.
Arrived in Banff just before evening and this place is beautiful.It more like fairyland with all the shoplights on people wandering around doing shopping..Terry bought another Akubra type hat.Hope this one makes it home this time!!
Our accommodations so far have been excellent,nearly all have been 4star.
Our journey on the RM finished here in Banff and we were waved off agian with those smiling faces.
The Mount Royal Hotel here is another winner.
Tomorrow we are on our own and pick up the rental car in the morning..

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 4 Rocky Mountaineer

Here we go!! Up at 6am to catch a taxi to the train station.
As we pulled up there was a line of around 6 people in their RM uniforms,all smiling and clapping as we got out of the taxi..What the???? Apparently we were the first passengers to arrive and this was the first tour of the new season..As we were escprted to the check in counter it was more of the same..Big smiles and clapping..Felt like we were royalty..Thought we'd try for an upgrade to Gold Leaf Service while we were on a roll but no such luck unless we wanted to pay an extra $400 each!
As it turned out we thoroughly enjoyed our Silver Service and had the best hosts/ guides/stewards that we could wish for.
The train travels on the same lines as Canadian Rail and they have priority,so it was a bit slow going getting out of the city area.Once we were clear we were off and running and we were served breakfast(3 courses),snacks mid morning,then a 3course lunch and then afternoon snacks!!!
The train passed through a lot of farming and dairy areas for most of the morning and some of the little towns were quite rustic and quaint.
The rest of the day was something we did not expect as we were then in mountainous desert country..It had it's own beauty and we saw some bighorn sheep perching precariously on the rocky outcrops.As the train came down out of this area,we were skirting around a huge lake with Canada Geese swimming around.On the other side was more like the brochures as the mountains were covered in pine trees and in the distance there were mountains topped with snow.The scenery was just beautiful all the way to our stop for the night at Kamloops.We settled into our hotel and on the table was a complimentary dinner for two at the restaurant downstairs plus a leather notebook.Nice surprise and a lovely meal was had by all.
Into bed and ready for what is the highlight of the journey.The Rocky Mountains!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 3 Vancouver

Woke up feeling refreshed after a great sleep in till nearly 9am..We're off to buy walking boots for Leanne,a soft backpack for us and hopefully a light rain jacket for moi(they speak a lot of French here!)
Success with our shopping so found a cafe that had organic coffee etc.and relaxed for a while..Caught a taxi back to the hotel where we unloaded all our goodies and back we go down the lift to catch another cab to Granville Island which is famous for it's fresh food,galleries,art and all sorts of other wonderful things to spend money on!!
Bought a few nice gifts to take home and I was absolutely thrilled to find a framed print of BevDoolittles famous painting of American Indians riding through an Aspen forest.Getting it shipped home..
Now we're back in our room and having a wind down glass of wine and crackers while the boys have gone down to Rosie's Bar for a beer and to watch the passing parade!!Guess it's guy thing...
Having dinner in tonight and pack our bags ready for an early start to the Railway station to board The Rocky Mountaineer for Banff..Have been advised that there is a picket line there that we will have to pass through so that should be an exciting start to the day !!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 2 Vancouver

View from Gondola at Whistler.
Snow everywhere!!!This is just how I imagined this place to be like..Even though it's the end of their season there were still lots of skiers & snowboarders here.The drive up here was just awesome on the Sea To Sky Highway and our driver was terrific showing us to places we wouldn't have seen if we drove ourselves.The road wound itself up the mountains and we were lucky enough to see a coyote,a deer and cute little squirrels..There were signs to beware of bears but no luck there yet!! Majestic waterfalls cascading down hundreds of feet and crashing over boulders at the bottom and racing off into rapids downstream.Had lunch in a mexican style restaurant where Andrew had Nachos(see photo)
Doesn't look too good does it?But there was nothing left 5 mins later!!!!
Finding it hard to describe just how beautiful the country is here.Tomorrow we are off to a camping goods store to buy boots for Andrew and a soft style backpack for us.
This is for Allison..There are Wallymart stores here!!!! Can't wait to take Leanne through one....
It's 10.30 and the youngins have turned in for the night so Terry & I will have our showers and tuck ourselves in for the night..

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day 1 Vancouver

Up at 4am and waiting for the Mayers to arrive at 5am and we're off down the F3 and head for the airport.Very foggy but not much traffic so we made very good time..
The guys took the car to the carpark while Leanne and I trolleyed all our luggage to a cafe to wait for them..
 Had a surprise visit from Andrew's sister Martina and her son Luke who came to say goodbye.
Waiting for our flight to be announced,it came across the PA system that due to the fog our plane would be 40 minutes late taking off.
Finally on board and settled in our seats we were pleased to see about a dozen late release movies to help while away the time as well as documentaries and oldies.
Up up and away!!! We were well fed throughout the journey and the flight was uneventful..
Flying in over snow covered mountains was just awesome and we had a really smooth landing.
The airport is huge but nearly empty of people as the skiing season has finished and we were on the shoulder season.Through Customs with no dramas and out to get our taxi to our hotel.Our driver was great and filled us with all sorts of info about Vancouver..The city is coming to life after Winter and streets were lined with Magnolias and trees covered in blossoms..It's a very clean city and the view at the end of the road leading through to the city centre was just beautiful with snow covered mountains as the backdrop..
Our suite at the hotel is fabulous.We each have a roomwith a tv,a lounge/kitchen area with big TV,bathroom with a bath.Very swish....
We all had a 2 hour nap before setting off to explore the city and find the Tourist Info Ctre where we booked a tour up to Whistler for tomorrow..Stopped at a bar near the hotel and the boys had a Canadian beer and we each had a margarita to top of the day.Back at the hotel we had happy hour and watched out the 12th floor window as the crowds wended their way down to the stadium for the playoffs in ice hockey between the Kanuks and ? singing their heads off.Quite a sight..
Getting tired after a big day.The bed is going to feel so good tonight!!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sunday 15th April 2012

We're counting down!!! 6 more sleeps till we head for the airport,leaving the Central Coast at 5am.
The car is booked in at a long stay carpark near the airport which saves us the hassle of getting there either by train or shuttle bus.Also it's nice to get back after a long flight and hop in the car and drive home..(Don't want to think about the trip being over!!)
Picked up some more US and Canadian currency which should see us through nicely.
Last minute shopping was for adaptors for recharging cameras,laptops,shaver etc. and a couple of pairs of warm track suit type pants for me..Our thermal underwear is all packed as well as gloves ,beanies & scarves..Terry's bag is all packed and locked.He's so organised!!I'm still putting in and pulling out again.If anything is forgotten we will just have to go shopping!
Next blog will be our first day after arriving in Vancouver.Yeeha!!!!!!!!!!