Friday, October 31, 2008

Day twenty nine

Arrive home in Melbourne! Tired but happy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day twenty eight

This morning in Singapore we decided to go shopping again and get my lovely new handbag. She has been named Kate.
Isn't she lovely? We had a late checkout from our lovely hotel so we got to hang around our suite until 6pm. Then we got driven to the airport by another man with a nice shiny car (this one was a mercedes benz) and hung out at the airport for a couple of hours until our flight left.

We had intended to claim back our GST from our shopping in Singapore but we checked in our bags before finding out that we needed to show what we had bought in order to make the claim. Suffice to say, we did not claim back the GST. Oh well, lucky it wasn't a LOT of money.

The flight back to Melbourne is about 7 and a half hours which isn't too bad. As it's overnight we just slept most of the way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day twenty seven

After waking up at 4.30am (jetlag sucks) we got up early and went for breakfast. We decided to go shopping but after consultation with the concierge discovered that the shops didn't open until 10am. We had a couple of hours to kill so we went back to our suite and read for a bit.

After setting off to go shopping, we covered about 3km of underground shopping centres - thank god for the airconditioning because it was HOT! Anyway we made it to the train station and caught the train to Orchard Road. They were doing major construction on Orchard Road so there wasn't a lot to see... we did visit a few shops and I got some new sunglasses. The boy got some new boots and a winter coat from Hugo Boss (which is ironic considering it was about 32 deg C outside) and we caught a cab back to the hotel.

We had dinner at their fancy restaurant that night which was lovely. Then afterwards I decided that I needed a photo of the city skyline from our hotel room and this is what I got.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day twenty six

We spent all day today flying, flying, flying and arrived in Singapore at almost midnight. Luckily a nice man with a big shiny car picked us up at the airport and took us to our cushy hotel, the Ritz Carlton. Even better, they upgraded us to a suite!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day twenty five

Early afternoon flight from Vancouver to Singapore. 19 hours in the air!

Flying... flying... flying...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day twenty four

Today was our last day in Vancouver. We decided to have a lazy day - got out of bed late, wandered down to a cafe for a late breakfast, moseyed back down Robson St and looked in all the shops. I bought some stuff in Kiehls and spent a bit more than intended. We lazed around for the rest of the afternoon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day twenty three

Today we went to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This involved a long walk (a VERY long walk) down to the sea bus terminal (otherwise known as the ferry), then a ride across the bay, then a bus trip up the mountain. THEN we had to catch the skylift gondola thing up to the top. Actually that was pretty cool but it was so foggy we literally could not see three metres in front of us.

Anyway the whole point of going to Grouse Mountain was to see the grizzly bear refuge. There are two orphaned grizzly bears that live there together. And look, here they are! Grizzly bear butts!
I saw this chipmunk sitting on a tree trunk. Personally, I wouldn't have been in the bear enclosure but maybe that's just me.
Here the bear was posing for me...
And here comes the other one, not wanting to miss out on the action.
And now, for your entertainment, grizzly bear wars!
So Grouse Mountain was totally worth the hassle to get there. On the way back to the ferry we decided to get off the bus and visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. After paying CA$31 (each - and that's about A$689 each) to get in, we walked over the bridge and were... disappointed. It was nothing to get excited about. But I got a couple of nice scenery shots.

The ride back was long and the walk back to our hotel was even longer. We went out for dinner and crashed again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day twenty two

Today I foolishly went out without my camera. We walked down to Stanley Park, which was just beautiful. After wandering around there for a while we eventually found the Aquarium and visited that for a couple of hours. They have Beluga Whales there and they were so much fun to watch.

We went back to the hotel (I should be point out that it was a one hour walk in each direction) and found the address of the fossil shop that the boy wanted to visit. We caught a cab over there and spent over two hours looking in the shop. We left having bought several fossils and cool rocks, which were shipped home to us.

After a big day out we had dinner and crashed out at the hotel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day twenty one

This morning we flew back to Vancouver (in business class thankyou very much). For a three hour flight we only arrived one hour after leaving. Happily, our hotel let us check in early and they gave us a nicer room than the one we had booked. Anybody going to Vancouver, the Listel Hotel on Robson St is great!

So we left our bags and stuff and wandered down Robson St for a bit. We looked for some decent coffee but just like in the States, the evil empire is everywhere and we were disappointed in our quest for coffee. We did find a decent cafe and had some reasonable eggs benedict so that was a plus. We just moseyed around the shops, and ended up having dinner at the restaurant in our hotel, which was excellent.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day twenty

Here's the most important shot of the day.Yes people, those are BABY polar bears. With their mum. How freakin' cute are they? These babies are about 10 months old.

This afternoon we travelled back to Churchill and spent an hour in town before heading back to the airport. We flew back to Winnipeg and arrived around After three exhausting days on the tundra buggy seeing the amazing polar bears, we crashed out (after having our first showers for three days).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day nineteen

Today I will mostly let the photos speak for themselves.
Except for this one. The story here is that one of the tundra buggies blew a tyre and it had to be changed. Going on the ground in polar bear territory is not advisable. There were three men to change the tyre, and one man to stand on the roof of the tractor (being used to jack up the tundra buggy) with a shotgun in case of polar bears. Just as well he was there too. One very large male bear spotted the potential for some lunch and snuck up in the grass. The tyre changing boys jumped into the tundra buggy until he went away. But he didn't go away. He got closer and closer (very slowly) until they had to get in the mechanic's vehicle and drive at the bear to chase him off. We called it polar bear reality tv.

This is a snowy owl. They nest on the ground. Well, there are no trees.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day eighteen

After our first night on the Tundra Buggy Lodge, which was an experience, let me tell you. We had bunks, which is fine. But there were 18 of us in one buggy and we had one shower and two toilets for all those people to share. It was ... cosy. But seeing these magnificent beasts made it totally worthwhile.

This is the outside of the lodge. Sorry about the reflection, I didn't have much more opportunity to get a good photo.OH MY GOD look it's a polar bear! This one spent most of the time just sitting in the kelp bed and waiting for the ice. He would sometimes raise his head as we drove past, but mostly he ignored us and slept.
This one did almost the same thing.
Want to know what a polar bear butt looks like? I have many variations on this shot.
This bear obliged by at least not showing me his butt as I took the photo.
And here's the sunset from our second night. It had snowed early in the morning then cleared up and we had great weather.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day seventeen

This morning we got up at quarter to dawn to fly to Churchill to see POLAR BEARS! We landed in Churchill after a two hour flight at about 10am. Here's a picture of our plane on the runway after we got on the bus.
This is the world famous polar bear jail! Bears that are caught too close to town before the sea ice freezes are trapped and kept here until they can be released a safe distance away out on the sea ice. They don't get fed, they only get water to drink. It's to encourage them not to come back.
The bears are caught in these traps.
I don't know if I've mentioned how cold it was in Churchill. Oh and those white dots you see in the picture? Not bad photography, no no, that's snow.
Just up the road from the sign that says you shouldn't walk in this area because there are polar bears about, is this boat. The locals have turned it into a sort of playground. We didn't go and play, you know, because of all the polar bears that were about.
After lunch in town (not an exciting place, if you're not going to see polar bears I really don't know why you'd go to Churchill) we had booked a helicopter flight out over the tundra. These are the helicopters we went on.
FIRST POLAR BEAR SIGHTING!! Okay it's a bit blurry but I was excited and it's hard to keep a camera really still on a helicopter.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day sixteen

This morning we left Lake Louise and travelled to Calgary (about a 3 hour drive, give or take). Our driver picked us up on time but there was some confusion about payment. I had already paid the travel agent back in Australia but he seemed to think we would be paying cash for the trip. Anyway about an hour away from Calgary he pulled over to the side of the road and rang his boss to clear up the confusion. I spoke to his boss and he was extremely rude to me. He said the pick up had "been booked on the internet somehow" and he hadn't received any payment and that I had to pay by credit card now. Mind you, he wouldn't even tell me how much I had to pay. So after much arguing I just gave him my credit card number and we continued on to Calgary.

By the way, Calgary is an ugly city and I don't ever want to go back. It seemed to have no soul or character at all. So we got on the plane to Winnipeg and checked into our hotel. Tomorrow morning we fly to Churchill to see POLAR BEARS!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Day fifteen

Still at Lake Louise today. We had to get moved to a different room because the thermostat in our room wasn't working properly and we were too hot - I was even starting to get a heat rash on my leg! Ironic when it's snowing outside. Anyway today they moved us to a very nice suite on the other side of the hotel so we have this view out our window now.
It alternated between rain and snow which means the rain washed away the snow. Very sad. We went for a walk along the lake in the morning and got these couple of shots, but it really started coming down so we went back inside.

I went and had a (VERY expensive) facial and massage at the hotel spa and the boy napped all afternoon. We had a very nice lunch in the Lounge with big picture windows looking out over the lake. Dinner was good, we played some pool (I didn't win) and all in all it's been a good stay at Lake Louise.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day fourteen

This morning we spent wandering around Banff before heading off to Lake Louise. This is the main street of Banff. It's very pretty, and one of the cleanest towns I've ever seen! It wasn't crazy busy with tourists, although there were enough of us there. They were gearing up for ski season to begin in three weeks' time.
We decided to take the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain and see what the place we were in really looked like. Here's the view from our gondola, looking down.
These are the views from the top of the mountain. Oh and by the way, we can never call the hills in Australia "mountains" again. They are pathetically small!

In the afternoon we caught a cab to Lake Louise. We were staying at the Chateau Lake Louise and this is the view from our window.
(If you look carefully, you can see a bit of my reflection in the window.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day thirteen

We left Kamloops at the crack of dawn (okay so it was still dark) and began the journey to Banff. You can see in this photo that the temperature of the water in the ponds was warmer than the air, hence the steam. Yes that is steam.
Today we travelled through the Canadian Rockies proper. Every five minutes we'd round a corner and see some spectacular scenery. After a while it's hard to keep taking photos because it's ALL so good!

Random nice scenery shot: there are a lot of these things to see in the Rockies.
Snow! I'm trying to be arty by showing you this picture in black and white.

More lovely scenery...
The Christmas Card shots!

Arriving in Banff late in the day, and boy was it cold. We had to dig extra warm clothes out of our suitcase for the short wait to get a cab to our hotel.
We stayed at the Fox Hotel and Suites and it was just lovely! They gave us a suite which was even nicer, so we had a huge bedroom and separate lounge, two big screen TVs, a kitchen, the works. I would definitely go back there again. And the food in their restaurant was really good too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day twelve

This morning we left our hotel at 6.30am (!) and went to the Rocky Mountaineer train station. The people there were very nice and had us all sorted in about 10 minutes. We departed on the train at just after 7.45am for the first day's journey to Kamloops.

We travelled out of Vancouver and through some very nice countryside and then the mountains, but not the Rockies yet!

This pass is called Hell's Gate; there is a cable car across it that you can go on if you're not whizzing past on the train!
We went under this bridge and I managed to snap a photo of the structure underneath. There are several single span bridges in the mountains; you have to wonder how they built them more than 100 years ago!
What we didn't realise about these mountains is that some of them are in a desert! Everything is very barren and there are not many trees, as you can see from some of these photos.
These are some rock sheds that have been built across the tracks to protect the trains from landslides. You can see the avalanche tracks right above the sheds.
But more excitingly, we saw lots of bald eagles! This one sat nicely in the tree to pose for me.

We stayed overnight in Kamloops but I don't have any photos because it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left again the next morning! Kamloops is not very exciting in the dark.