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Alaska Trip in July 2012

Mala,Andrew and Malisha

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Posted by fernando65 22:10 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Alaska Trip in July 2012

Mala,Andrew and Malisha

As a short introduction, me (Andrew) and my family live in Sydney Australia. This is our trip to Canada and Alaska. For 9 months me and Mala spent hours and hours every night after work to organise every single step of our pre-planned trip overseas.

Our trip to Alaska is not the normal Alaska cruise. We wanted to travel around the way we had travelled on our previous adventures. We love to visit remote places, meet people and eat their local food. So we decided to fly over to Vancouver and start our land trip from there. The plan is to drive from Vancouver to Anchorage and back.

We left Sydney on July 3. Our plane trip was very tiring and we spent nearly 14 hours in the plane. On the positive side, Air Canada flight was very good. We landed in Vancouver earlier than the time we left Sydney because we gained 17 hours. We hired a seven sitter from AVIS and got a very good deal. We were given a white Ford Expeditiion, a brand new SUV, just come out of the factory. It has lots of new features including a built in Navigator, a reverse parking camera. It is the ideal vehicle to do our long and tedious trip.

We came out of the airport and drove straight from Vancouver to Kamloop.

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Posted by fernando65 22:10 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

From Kamloops to Prince George

Driving 525km along Cariboo Highway

We checked out from Holiday Inn Suites around 8:00AM because the hotel does not serve breakfast. On wednesdays, ( 4th July) there is a Farmers Market in Kamloops town centre. We went there hoping we could find some food for our breakfast. We bought some organic pies and took them to the closest coffee house on the road. Canadians probably are the friendliest people on the planet. They greet you with a happy smile and talk to you in a very friendly manner. It is very easy to have a conversation with any stranger you meet on the road. Mala makes sure to advertise the fact that we are from Australia and we are on our way to Alaska. That makes people curious and they want to know more details about our trip. One lady said her sister lives in New Zealand. She is going there in September to vist them. We bought some fresh cherries and strawberry from the Farmers market.

On our way, we stopped again at a fruit shop. We bought some manderins and apricots. The lady who was selling them said the manderins are from Peru. We again stopped at the 100 mile House ( a small town ). On this road, the places are named ( to show distances) with names like 6 mile park, 30 mile lake, 70 mile house, 150 mile house etc. I have to check and find out how they came up with these names and the startnig point from where they measure these distances. Somewhere close to 100 mile House, we stopped at a shop where they sell Beef Jerky. I had a chat with the shop owner. I asked him about his business. He said the business is not good, not many tourists are stopping there. The economy in the Southern part of Canada is booming, but not many tourists are coming this way. Even the few people who come there, are not spending money and buying things.

We had our first mishap today. The highway is paved, but there was a section which is having lot of lose gravel or tiny stones. One vehicle that dashed through at high speed in the opposite direction sent these stones flying and one of the stones hit our windscreen. We slowed down and found a tiny crack on the widnscreen. Luckily we took full Insurance for the rented car. We were not sure whether this crack can spread with time. We drove upto Quesnel and stopped near a shop that is selling windscreens and glass. Mala talked to the owner who is a lady. Her husband is the mechanic who is doing all the jobs. She said this is a very common occurance on this highway. It happens soon after the winter. The roads get damaged due to snow and they need contant repairs. She got her husband to seal the crack. It took only 10 minutes. First she said the repair would cost $15, but after she talked to Mala and found we are from Australia, she did not want to take any money. They had their two children playing with bicycles. Mala found a cadbury chocolate in one of the bags and gave it to them.

We reached Prince George around 3:30PM and checked into Travelodge. Our next entry will have more details about Prince George.

EDIT: Mala insisted that I add to the blog when we bought beef jerky along our long drive. Shortly after buying the apricots as mentioned above, we had stopped at a little tiny shop where you could buy cherries, beef jerky, wooden products and other random packaged foods. All in a tiny garage, i had a conversation with the elderly man who ran the shop. He had talked about how business was declining and how the economy has impacted his sales. Sadly, the tourism industry in this area was low - and as a consequence he was unable to make a decent living. We bought a package of garlic beef jerky with a fair amount of meet in it for $12.95. Malisha ended up eating most of it - she most fond of this jerky.

Posted by fernando65 06:41 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

July 5th night in Prince George

at Travelodge, Prince George

At Prince George, we checked into Travelodge. This is an old hotel in a quiet area of the city. The staff were friendly and helpful. We got a big room with two queen beds.
Prince George is a relatively big city with a population of over 60,000. But like all other Canadian cities there is hardly any night life. They close all the shopping malls at 6:00PM. Restaurants are open till about 9:00PM.

Malisha checked the Internet and managed to find a Sri Lankan restaurant that specialises in South Indian cuisine. We decided to go there for dinner mainly out of curiosity.

The young lady who was in charge was probably the owner. She came and talked to us and later sent the chef to meet us. The Chef is a Sri Lankan lady. She is initially from Jaffna and her parents are still living in Jaffna. Her husband came to Canada first about 12 years ago. She got married to him and came to Canada in 2007. She was very nice and it was great talking to one of the new locals that still cooked great Sri Lankan food.

The food was quite good and very authentic. Trip Advisor readers have rated this restaurant as the second best restaurant in Prince George.
I finally managed to upload some photos that were taken during our drive from Kamloops to Prince George.

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Posted by fernando65 21:21 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Prince George to Smithers

July 06

We had free breakfast at Travelodge. The breakfast was limited to cereals, muffins, toasted bread and Bagels. There was no cream cheese to go with Bagels, only peanut butter and honey. You cannot expect them to give you a full English Breakfast.

Trevelodge is a pet friendly hotel and allows you to take your pets into the room. This could be a big plus point for animal lovers, who travel with their pets. I would recommend this hotel to overnight travellers who like to sleep well and take a good rest before resuming their journey.

We were driving to our next destination - Smithers, which is about 370 km from Prince George. The road was under construction in some places and we had delays from time to time. We passed many lakes on our way. Most of the lakes are associated with lake resorts which provide bed and breakfast. We could have found accommodation in any of those resorts if we did not book our hotels in advance. We also saw many cross roads starting from the highway leading towards Ski resorts.

We were hoping to see bears and moose, but I saw only one moose just coming out of the woods. We passed a few small towns. In one small town, we stopped at the popular café Tim Hortons for coffee. Tim Hortons are popular for doughnuts (as advertised all over the TV).

We arrived at Smithers around 2:30PM and checked into Sunshine Inn hotel in Smithers. Smithers is a true tourist town. It has a small population of 6000 people. It becomes a Ski Resort in winter, but in Summer they organise many other events to attract touists. They had their annual music festival one week before we came there. Some of the world famous musicians attend this festival (none we knew!). A few years ago, some of the famous Hollywood stars stayed in the Sunshine Inn hotel when they were shooting a film in Smithers.

If you are in Smithers, Sunshine Inn is the only place to stay. It is the best hotel we stayed so far. We were given a two bedroom suite. Malisha had her own room with her own TV set. The Queen bed in our room was the most comfortable bed we had during the trip.

The receptionist at the hotel welcomed us with a smile. She lives only two blocks away from the hotel and knows a lot about the area. There is a white bear in the area and people see it from time to time also named the 'sprit' bear. We could be lucky to see it on our way out.

There is a taxidermist who has all the stuffed animals for display. We can visit the place tomorrow. When we told her that we are driving to Alaska, she gave us a map and marked the small towns where we can put petrol.

Posted by fernando65 08:45 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

From Smithers to Stewart

Driving along Cassier Highway

Sunshine Inn provides free breakfast. As you know, the free breakfast is something you get for nothing and nothing much to talk about. Anyway they had cream cheese to go with bagels. Previous day, Sharon, the receptionist at Sunshine Inn, told us about the attractions in Smithers. Igloo museum is one of them. This is a small place run by a taxidermist .His main job is taxidermy, that is to stuff animals killed by hunters or animals who get killed by accidents. He has a private collection of stuffed animals and he charges a nominal amount of $10.00 per person from people who visit the museum to see them.

The three of us visited this place and he took us round showing his stuffed animals. He has done a great job in preserving the animals and making them look like live animals. This is his collection over a period of forty years. There was a big moose, a cougar, a wolverine, many bears, deer, foxes, wolves and many other small animals in the collection.

Talking to him, we learned many new facts about animals in Canadian forests. There are many different kinds of bears. The most common bear found in Canadian jungles is the black bear. Though they are called black bears, they are not black...for this reasons they're also called the Cinnamon bear. Some of them are dark brown, others are lighter in colour. Brown bears are rarer and are different to black bears as they have a humped on their back. Grizzly bears are larger in size, but not very common. They are mainly found in Alaska.

If you want to see bears, you must get up early and leave around 5:00AM. The most feared animal in the Canadian jungle is not the bear or the couger, but the wolverine. They are scavengers similar to Hyenas and have very strong jaws and teeth. That taxidermist emphasised that this particular creature was the most dangerous of the woods.

We also discussed about other animals and their eating habits. I asked him why he is not expanding his business and making it known to tourist industry. He may be able to attract more visitors. He really does not have the time. He is already one year behind in his work undertaken for his clients. He took us to his workshop and showed how he is curing the animal skins and preparing them to fill up. Malisha took some photos of the stuffed animals and I will try to upload some of them.

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Stewart is about 330 km from Smithers. It is not on the main road to Alaska. We have to travel on the Cassier Highway and then at the Meziadin junction turn left and travel nearly 67 kilometers. This stretch of road is well known for its scenic beauty, but at the same time, can have heavy falls of snow. The road is fully sealed and the maintenance crews work around the clock to keep this road open. To avoid Snow avalanches, which is a common occurrence in winter, the maintenance crews drop explosives from air planes and clear snow from mountain peaks.

In Stewart, we booked into a hotel called Ripley Creek Inn. From outside, it looks like a collection of old buildings. But the rooms in the hotel are very cosy. We have booked a room with two queen beds.
Stewart is part of British Columbia, and a town that belongs to Canada. We can cross over to Hyder from Stewart. Hyder is a small village that is considered to be a part of Alaska which belongs to USA. The strange thing is that any one can drive over the border and there is no one to check you at the border. We drove across to Hyder. It is more like a ghost town with a few American souvenir shops. Mala bought some fudge from one of the shops. However when you come back to Stewart , the Canadian border patrol stops you. They have a small post there. We had to show our passports and get them stamped for a second time and also answer a few stupid questions such as whether we are carrying any firearms and how long do we plan to stay in Canada etc.

One major attraction in Stewart is the Bear Glacier. Twenty years ago, this glacier came up to the main road. It has receded over the years and you can see it from a distance. Sharon, the receptionist at Sunshine Inn told us that her sister-in-law visited Stewart about a year ago and she saw more than forty bears on the way up and down. We were expecting a simlar number of bear views. But we saw only one bear on our way to Stewart. We were going there in the afternoon and the time was not good for bear views.

Posted by fernando65 00:06 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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