Archive for the 'Travel stories' Category

Seven things

  1. I find it somehow depressing that the top 4 WordPress weblogs always seem to include LOLcats and lately LOLdogs. Call me curmudgeonly, but they just annoy me.
  2. I am currently recovering from some bedbug bites. It’s a travel experience that just keeps on giving. Bedbugs are apparently very hard to get rid of and something your host will not want to talk about.
  3. I just found out that Australia’s best selling motorcycle is the Honda CT110. Australia Post buys (and sells) thousands of them every year.
  4. Did you know that ferrets must be kept cool when temperatures get above about 27 degrees C? I made a special “Ice Cave” which is a sleeping box with a compartment for an ice container above it. It seems to work.
  5. Alister Coleman a.k.a Scaryduck and Robber Rabbit has started videoblogging. He’s even quacking scarier in person.
  6. OK, Doug is videoblogging too. I am watching with interest the progress of his forehead scar, and await the actual appearance of Karen on, as opposed to off-camera.
  7. My brothers live in Emerald, which has just been flooded. Fortunately, while one of them got water in his shed, his home wasn’t inundated. The other brother, (who’s the local Reverend) has been on national radio today talking about the flood.

Oh, Antonio!

A weekend in the country, what fun!

Ms Canada and I took a drive through Northern Victoria over the weekend. From Melbourne, up the Hume to Benalla, to Yarrawonga for lunch by the lake where we took a look at the weir (built in 1937-39). Then up the Murray Valley Highway to Cobram, to Koonoomoo, home of the “Big Strawberry”, Mywee, where I went to primary school, then by the house I grew up in. From there to Strathmerton, past the ancestral homestead, then on to Nathalia for a pub dinner and a motel. The next day, Echuca for brunch and thence via Rochester, Elmore, Heathcote and Lancefield back to home.

For details and pics, follow me below the fold.

Continue reading ‘Oh, Antonio!’

Compound Interest on Deposits

Here in Oz, it doesn’t ever get really cold. Confined to the receding snowfields of our elderly, eroded peaks, ice seldom touches our lives. Unless, of course, we decide to pay ruinous prices for a ticket for a day of 30 second slides down rock and scrub-infested “ski-slopes” while avoiding suicidal snowboarders.

You can understand why our recent Canadian trip with snow, sleet, frozen lakes and all the other appurtenances of the Northern clime was a real treat for me.

I was particularly amused to encounter what, no doubt, is old news to most – the common Northern Poosicle, or Stalagshite.

I first encountered this phenomenon at a roadside stop between Banff and Jasper. Being remote, there was no plumbing, of course, so this was what we term in Oz, a “long drop dunny”. But the drop wasn’t long any more.

With the temperature below freezing, any “substance” deposited must have frozen fairly rapidly after just melting enough of what it had dropped onto to bond solidly. This resulted in a growing conical column of, errrr, well, let’s be frank, frozen poo. In this case the very pointy column was well over 7 ft tall, and had pretty much made it up to within inches of seat level. You actually had to aim off to one side of the top of it.

My loud exclamations of wonder were not appreciated by Ms Canada, who, refusing to enter the hut in case she glimpsed the offending item, was forced to cross her legs for another 100km.

Nozzle wars

Can you guess what I liked most about staying in one place for more than one night while we were in Canada?

Not changing bathrooms.

I like my hot showers. But I don’t like spending half my time and wasting a considerable amount of water trying to discover how the plumbing works.

In no two places in Canada did the shower fixtures work in the same way, and all too often they seemed to have been designed by an aesthetically gifted sadist with a Buck Rogers fixation.

Where I come from, it’s generally simple. One pair of hot and cold knobs for the shower and one separate set for the bath. Hot on your left, cold on your right. And mostly a rubber plug for your sink or bath.

But in Canada? Welcome to the bridge of the Starship Faucet (TNG version, with flowing lines). No separate knobs exist – only a bewildering variety of often phallic controls, which tilt, rotate or are pulled or pushed. You never know which applies unless you try tugging in every direction to see how it moves. There’s only one “control” system for both hot and cold water for both bath, shower, and plug.

I wasted a lot of water gushing from the bath faucet while trying to figure out how to divert it to the shower. I spent hours shivering while attempting to understand how the temperature controls worked. I think I damaged at least one plug system in the process.

But I usually figured it out, … except once at Ms Canada’s brothers’ house, where, naked and shivering, I finally cried “Uncle” and had to ask him how the hell it worked, (in this case you had to push down on a slightly raised rim on the bath nozzle).

There’s no place like home. Even with our Level 3 water restrictions.

Slide night

It’s Canada Trip slide night. Some random images follow….

On the road, distant scenery doesn’t get much better than this.

But in Sioux Falls while our train was being serviced, this particular scenery forced we passengers to move upwind as far as possible.
And finally (for now), this is the last covered bridge (covered to stop it being closed by snowfalls) in Ontario, known as the “Kissing Bridge”.  Yes I know.  All together now…  “Awwwwww….. “

Pies, fries and pig tails.

The folks at the gym will be seeing me more often in the next few months because of a slight cultural misunderstanding.

Here in Australia, it’s considered polite to finish your meal with an empty plate. But, I’m told, (too late) that in north America (including Canada) it’s polite to leave the plate unfinished. If you clean the plate they assume you’re still hungry and will offer you still more food. And sadly, the portions in Canada are humungous. Your correspondent would be likewise if he lived there for any length of time.

But the food was good. The fruit pies are to die for. (I highly recommend the “Stone Crock Bakery” in St Jacobs, Ontario). Then there are pig tails (see picture, no they’re not curly) from Kennedys’ Country Tavern in St Agatha. Or for the ultimate guilty nosh, ask for the Sweet potato frites in the CN Tower restaurant.

Excuse me, I must go run a couple of miles.

Yummm good sausage, sauerkraut and mustard… but the price puts the lie to the 25 year claim….

Crispy frites and a view too. Heaven on a 1000ft stick.

Animal crackers

Whenever two or more tourists gather in Canada, they shall ask “Did you see a bear?” Bear sightings are the tourist holy grail, and a good bear-scare story out-grails everyone else.

Cutting to the chase… yes, we did see a bear in Canada. In fact, we saw four black bears, but it wasn’t a Sir Percival moment.

We were driving along the road from Pinchers Creek to Waterton National Park in southern Alberta, about 150m behind a big oil tanker double-rig. Suddenly we saw four bears bounding across the snow toward the road from the left – just ahead of the tanker. the tanker slammed on the brakes and hit his air horns. It didn’t stop the bears. Two of them dashed across the road in front of the hooting tanker as he slowed to a shuddering stop. The other two followed in seconds. The two adult bears and half-grown cubs lolloped into the bushes and disappeared before we could get the camera out and focussed.

We didn’t see any more bears, either in the distance or close up. In fact, we took the guide books’ advice and made lots of noise when hiking to avoid a close encounter.

Of course, there were plenty of mountain sheep, deer, elk, a solitary moose (at distance from the train window), beavers (mostly seen from the train swimming in their dams at dusk ) and we spotted a muskrat gathering nest material in the River Nith* at New Hamburg. Plus I snuck up within 5 ft of a very preoccupied groundhog before it noticed me. And there were the usual variety of variously hued squirrels.

*supposedly there’s a water monster in the Nith. I wonder if they call it “Nithy”.