To Brighton and Back

For reasons unknown to even myself, I quite like a bit of Olly Murs and he was on in Brighton recently, so we thought we’d head down to Brighton to see him and make a bit of a weekend of it. I haven’t been to Brighton since I was a kid – all I was really expecting, was people wearing interesting clothes and the opportunity to buy vegan shoes. Well, I can tell you, Brighton did not disappoint on either of those fronts.

On our way down we stopped off at Westmeston, which is on the northern slopes of the South Downs (according to Google maps). We had a short wander up the downs (harhar) dodging a number of cow pats along the way. It’s a nice view here and I can see why people would like walking along here, but I don’t like walking along here, or anywhere, because I just don’t really see the point in it unless you are going somewhere… like to the shop to get food, or to a restaurant to get food…

On our way back from our short walk I managed to offend some dog walkers by loudly proclaiming that “poo is definitely a fetish thing”, having reached this topic after having avoided said cow pats and dodging a couple of dog ‘presents’. It must have sounded like it was my fetish thing (which it most definitely is not), so I can understand why they looked at me so, but we’d merely slipped into this convo after I narrowly avoided slipping in the aforementioned cow pat, so you can see how we got there. They did look truly horrified, and I don’t blame them.

 

You have to pay for parking everywhere here, which we categorically refused to do, so we dropped our stuff off at the AirBnb, drove out of the centre and plonked the car in a residential area and started the trek back into Brighton centre. Trek is not an over-exaggeration btw – it took FOREVER. The road just seemed to go on and on and on and on. It didn’t seem to matter how fast or powerfully I put one foot in front of the other, I just didn’t appear to be getting anywhere. People have climbed Mount Everest in a shorter time than it took us to walk back into Brighton, and that’s not even a lie.

To stave off the impending tantrum, we stopped at the Tinto Taperia, for some tapas (if you hadn’t already guessed). Tapas can be a bit hit and miss, but this got a decent rating online, so we thought we’d give it a go and we weren’t disappointed. I’m a big fan of padron peppers, so we weren’t leaving this place without trying some of those, and their patatas bravas and chopitos (deep fried baby squid) were on point, meaning I left one very happy customer. My experience marred only by having to listen to the man on the table next to us talk about marathons, but you can’t have everything.

 

Not to break from tradition, the following evening it was tapas for dinner again or ‘small plates’ according to the restaurant, 64 Degrees in Brighton Lanes. Unfortunately it was tipping it down with rain when we left and en route to the restaurant, I took a shortcut across the front of a hotel as it was under cover. Needless to say I lost my footing in the rain and I went down hard, into a massive puddle of water. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I then couldn’t get up because the bastard tiles were so slippery I actually needed help to get up off the floor.  Rising from the puddle, I found myself completely sodden and dragging myself to dinner, the evening topped off by me getting my coat pocket stuck on the door knob in the restaurant. Excellent.

The food was epic here and we sat up by the kitchen, so we could see everything being made. If you are ever doubting how hard people work in a kitchen, take any opportunity to sit and watch your food being made, because they do not stop! The food was beyond yummy and I’d recommend you book, as the place is tiny.

The following day we’d arranged to have lunch at the Gingerman restaurant. This place popped up on loads of different lists of ‘best places to eat in Brighton’ and the menu looked good, so we were game to give it a try. The food was great, I can’t deny that, but the service was utter crap. Our starters came without too much trouble, but the second lot of drinks we ordered got completely forgotten about, as did our mains. You’d think this would be pretty difficult in a restaurant this small It’s a tiny restaurant, so you can see every table in there with a casting glance) but you didn’t have a hope in hell catching either of the waitresses’ eyes.

Usually you can feel it when someone is staring at you, but it seemed that no matter how long or how hard my eyes bored into the back of their heads, it didn’t make an ounce of difference. In a matter of moments there would have been smoke coming off the back of their heads (that was the level of laser stare I was giving them) when eventually one of them came over with our long forgotten drinks and the main courses we had waited 45 minutes for.

The couple next to us even got served their mains before their starters, so I don’t think we were alone in our experience. We wanted dessert – we’d had our eyes on the apple crumble soufflé from the off – but we’d waited so long now, that we were too hacked off to sit there and wait for another course. It’s a shame, because the food was really good there, but not good enough to make up for the fact that it took about thrice as long as it needed to take, as well as being ignored by the staff for the entire meal… it’s not like I was up for a deep and meaningful conversation with them or anything, but it would have been nice to get the bill before the turn of the century.

 

To cheer ourselves up after this, we went for a wander around the streets of Brighton, taking the opportunity to dive into all the retro, vintage and second-hand shops (and there are a lot of them) we could find. In one of the shops, we came face to face with what I think you would term a ‘complete nutter’. In an antique shop, we were standing looking at some furniture when an old Gollywog toy fell down in front of me. I’d just picked it up to pop it back on the shelf, when I heard some incredibly deep and raspy breathing. I turned round to find an overweight and sweating man, loudly exclaiming (at the same time as loudly mouth breathing) that Gollywog toys “couldn’t possibly be racist”. He had a wild look in his eye and we dodged around him pretty sharpish.

We decided that seeing as we were in Brighton, beside the seaside, we ought to have an ice cream. Earlier on in the day we’d wandered past an ice cream shop with a massive queue in front of it, so, thinking that queue = good, we headed to Gelato Gusto. I lucked out here, because they do dairy free ice cream and it was AMAZING!! You never get good dairy free ice cream, it’s always really melty and icy and it’s always super obvious that it’s dairy free. But not this one – this was hands down the best dairy free ice cream I have had and I’d go as far as saying it was just as good (if not better) than the dairy options there. AND they had sprinkle cones, which made my life.

 

The evening brought with it the Olly Murs concert we had come to Brighton for. Upon entering the concert venue, we came to realise there were two distinctive age groups and we fit neither of them. There were the very young, say, 12 or 13 and there were the quite-a-lot-older, say, 55. Out Olly came, and boy, was he appealing to the latter. There was much more grinding up against the mic stand and gyrating than I had bargained for and at one point someone even shouted “get your cock out Olly”. Ick.

Despite the oddly sexual nature of the show, I did very much enjoy it. I’d forgotten how many absolute bangers Olly Murs had released and he did a few covers of some well-known songs. It was more like a party than it was a concert. He did seem to only play the first 16 bars of each of his songs though, which left me wondering whether he had somehow lost the rights to his own music… but I had a genuinely great time, so you’ll receive no complaints from me, Olly.

Bonnie

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St. Lucia Day 8: Prince Charles’ choice

It turns out that having a hotel room open to the elements isn’t necessarily such a great idea in practice. It turns out that the elements not only keep you awake, but they wake you up as well. And not only are you at the mercy of said elements, you are also at the mercy (so it turns out) of the wildlife. The wind is insane up here, which makes sense, as you’re essentially half way up a mountain, but it makes SO MUCH NOISE. And don’t forget the sun – that little sun does insist on rising before 7 am and that little sun does insist on forcing you to wake. As does the bird who comes in at some ungodly hour to peck at the choux bun the hotel left on your pillow last night. Grrrrrrrr.

As much as I like to moan, we did wake up to a rainbow arcing over the Pitons, so I really shouldn’t complain too much. We’re off for some more whale watching and we head down to the town of Soufriere, where we park up outside the place and meet a man who introduces himself as ‘Usually Darren’. Now, I can’t say if this is his given name, whether he isn’t always Darren or whether there’s a man named ‘Unusually Darren’ and this is the only way he can differentiate himself from said Darren. Usually Darren is very kindly going to look after our car whilst we are on the boat – thanks UD.

The whale watching tour goes off without a hitch, apart from one couple who board the boat and immediately proceed to remove their clothes, until they are sitting there in their swimmers. What? This is all kinds of weird – who goes whale watching with a big group of people you’ve never met, and with speed, decide it’s appropriate to remove your clothes. I was uncomfortable. They were, of course, British.

Once we get out there and I’ve forgotten about the mostly naked British people, we find some pilot whales. I’ve never seen a pilot whale before, but they give the impression of being quite stumpy, round and cute, even though they are about 20ft long. They don’t do a great deal, so there was no jumping and splashing about, but it was good to see something we haven’t seen before, nonetheless.

Back on dry land, Usually Darren is excited to see us back at the car. The car hasn’t been stolen or broken into, so it goes without saying that we must part with our cash and Usually Darren must receive it. Back at Ladera resort, we take the opportunity to go and watch the hummingbirds. They have a seating area with feeders around it, so you can watch the birds come and go. It still amazes me how quick they are – here one moment and gone the next – you don’t even see them go. I get a few decent snaps of their comings and goings, but it’s particularly tricky to capture these speedy creatures.

That afternoon we head to Fond Doux Plantation and Resort, where you can take a tour of their plantation. This is apparently Prince Charles’ resort (or the eccentric Prince Charlesy version of a resort) of choice on the island and if you know anything about Prince Charles, this should tell you all you need to know about this place. Boy oh boy, was this an experience. It started off with us booking in for the tour, assisted by a man with THE longest fingernails I have ever seen in my life. They are well over an inch long and I cannot stop staring at them whilst he’s booking us in – I cannot focus on anything else. Booking completed and fingernail staring time over, we both need the loo, so we head to the respective male and female bathrooms, which are quite literally the same room, just with what appears to be a piece of cardboard to separate them from one another. But at least you can chat to one another whilst you are doing your business. Weird? Yes.

We’re greeted by our tour guide – Clinton. Clinton appears to have sprinted here as he’s dripping in sweat. My suspicions are swiftly confirmed by his greeting of “Hi guys, I’m Clinton, I ran here”. Well, with that settled, we begin our tour of the plantation. He starts off pointing out a few of his favourite plants and giving us some info about the banana plants. He tells us that this plantation used to supply Hershey’s (who apparently own Hotel Chocolat) with cocoa but they had started growing their own cocoa and no longer had any need for Fond Doux. Clinton clearly harboured some ill-feelings towards Hershey’s and loudly and frequently proclaimed that Hershey’s would no longer have the best chocolate in the world now they were growing their own cacao, ensuring us that Fond Doux would soon be giving them a run for their money and that they were going to ‘show them’… K hun.

Clinton was now bounding around in the bushes, plucking off flowers for us to sniff and admire, each time assuring us that this was his favourite plant and informing us of its various qualities and uses, half of which seemed to be hangover cures, the other half of which were ‘to make you big and strong’, which involved him flexing his arm muscles each time he said so (I think we may have even caught a glimpse of abs at one point). Clinton then spots a cinnamon tree, gleefully eyeing it up before springing over there to cut us off a piece of bark to nibble. He stood there beaming at us. This was another one of his favourite plants.

With a sideways glance at one another and a questioning widening of the eyes, it dawned on us that Clinton may not just be simply high on the spice of life. Clinton may, in fact, simply be high on spice. This guy was something else – floating through the plantation, practically giddy with ecstasy (hopefully not the pill kind) giggling along to his own jokes and wafting through the undergrowth – it was tricky to keep up with him at times, as he’d get so excited about the next cocoa pod to look at, he’d flounce off, leaving us in his dust, hurrying to catch up.

I don’t know what Clinton had been smoking, but it was certainly some potent stuff and would probably have taken out a whole herd of cattle with one whiff. Never have I seen a man quite so high in charge of a tour of a plantation. In fact, never have I ever seen a man quite so high in charge of a tour. Or, for that matter, quite so high.

Despite the vehement protestations against Hershey’s we’d been hearing from Clinton all afternoon, we went to Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant in St. Lucia, Boucan for dinner, which is on their plantation. Now, it’s worth mentioning that everything on the menu contains chocolate. I genuinely did not think this was possible, but it is, and they have done it. Chocolate in your dinner may sound like a weird concept (and it is) but it worked. The same cannot be said, however, for the cocoa nibs (which I will hereon refer to as ‘nibs’). NIBS ARE THE WORST. I’m not even overexaggerating here, nibs are legit the worst things to have happened to the world, since forever. They are crunchy and yucky and bitter and weird, and they seem to increase in your mouth as you are chewing them instead of reducing. They defy the laws of chewing.

Not only that, but they would sneak up on you! You would take a bite out of something, 100% sure that it contained no nibs, in fact, you would bet your life saving on it and then out of nowhere, you would find yourself chewing on something akin to a splintered table leg. THE WORST! The fish had nibs in, the meat had nibs in, the sauce had nibs in, the butter had nibs in… even the drinks had nibs in. EVERYTHING HAD NIBS IN. Honestly, I thought I had died, woken up and found myself in nib hell. Were the pillows of the hotel stuffed with nibs? Did boiling hot nibs rain down upon you from the shower head? Where does it end? I feel it only ends when you spontaneously combust, exploding into a sea of nibs… nibs cascading across the floor, because you are no longer made of flesh, you are made of nibs. You are nibs.

Bonnie

The false pocket infuriation

This weekend I went to Cambridgeshire to see one of my girls for her birthday. She was having a bit of a ‘gathering’ on the Saturday night with a bunch of her friends. I still feel uncomfortable about calling a group of people coming together of an evening and partaking in a few beverages, a ‘party’. There is something about the word ‘party’ which just makes the whole thing a little too serious and pressured. Like, if only 3 people turn up to your gathering, it doesn’t matter. There’s no judgement, it’s not a big deal – it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a gathering. But a party? A PARTY needs people. There is a requirement for attendance, so you don’t look like a complete looser. If only 3 people turn up to a party, your life is as good as over, is it not? Can you imagine? A party and only 3 people turn up. The ground would have to swallow me up there and then. It could not be lived down.

Anyway, I went there early so we could spend some QT and I’d help her set it all up on the Saturday. We went out for some drinks at the local Spoons on the Friday night. We thought it would be appropriate to share a bottle of prosecco, seeing as it was her birthday – and any excuse for prosecco right?

I’d decided that space buns were going to be a thing that day (mainly due to it being 32 degrees and me really not enjoying my hair being stuck to the back of my neck with sweat). I teamed those little bobbles of gloriousness with my new mustard yellow crop top with the pom-pom fringe, some big gold hoops and the dark blue maxi skirt everyone seems to love.

Everyone asks me where this is from, and I always tell them it is from River Island (which is not a lie), but I also have to explain to them that I bought this when I was an actual child of 15 and I’ve had it ever since (it’s been through various stages of tightness during that period). Because so many people have said they like it, I don’t want anyone to go mooching about the shops trying to locate this skirt that was in Spring/Summer Season 2009. As funny as that would be, I just can’t do that to my fellow ladies. I also just kind of don’t want them to wear the same clothes as me, because if they did – I would have to burn the skirt, which I don’t want to do, because as everyone says, it’s a nice skirt.

Where was I???? Oh prosecco! Well, it turns out I was very much wrong about the pro being a good idea. This prosecco was THE WORST prosecco I have ever consumed in my life. I can’t even explain what it tasted like; all I can say was it was legitimately one of the worst alcoholic beverages I have ever had the misfortune to consume. It almost tasted mouldy.

Oh, and to top the night off… You know how I said about wanting to burn my clothes if I ever saw anyone wearing the same thing? Well, I certainly wish I hadn’t said that out loud, because the universe clearly decided to punish me for it, by burning a huge great hole in my skirt when someone dropped their cigarette ash on me. URGH!!! Is this genuinely a punishment for being a bit of a brat about the clothes thing? Because it really does feel like it and I can now only assume that they whole world is entirely against me.

Whatever. Back to the gathering… I was finding it hard to decide what to wear for this, obvs there is no need to be super smart, but I wanted to look decent as well as minimise the sweat level as much as possible. Do you know what this calls for? This calls for the new wide leg, high waisted light blue trousers. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

They tie up at the waist and nip you in just nicely and skim over everything else. I teamed them with a white tee with a blue and a red stripe on it, flatform sandals, chunky gold hoops and some tortoiseshell mirror sunglasses. I loved myself so much in this outfit, ngl. I felt fash AF.

The whole gathering thing started off a bit slowly, because no one really knew each other. But a bottle of vodka later and I was still sitting outside at ridiculous o’clock – putting the world to rights with my new mate Tim. We were discussing (in an alcohol fuelled state) the fact that we both felt as if we should achieve more and make a bigger difference with our brains, but were so far achieving precisely nothing of note, as a result of extensive procrastination and a generally lack of belief in oneself – and the classic ‘it’s easier to just not try’ thing, which so many of us suffer at the hand of. In addition, we discussed how incredibly unfair it is that women’s trousers never have sufficient pockets, and that the false pocket is possibly the most infuriating invention in the entire world, and he is certainly not wrong.

Bonnie

Another day, another slice o’ pie

23rd June

Heading back to Moresby island today in preparation for our boat expedition the following day. We had to go back through Queen Charlotte to get there, meaning we HAD to stop at Queen B’s café, we really didn’t have a choice. First, however, we went for a little mooch around the town. We treated ourselves to another totem pole viewing and saw a truck load of bald eagles circling around above us and chilling on the beach.

Couple of baldies

As well as a row of ravens sitting next to the kid’s park. I think they wanted to have a go on the slide but thought we’d judge them if they hopped on (I would have FYI).

I had an enchilada at Queen B’s, which was scrummy and topped it off with a slice of pumpkin and pecan pie, which beat that enchilada hands down, even though it was a pretty good enchilada. But ain’t no enchilada as good as no pie. U get me?

We got to our hotel on Moresby Island, which was The Sandspit Inn. My door didn’t really shut, but that was easily overcome by using my total bodyweight to yank it shut after me. If you think about it, it’s pretty much an additional safety feature – no one is going to waltz in and steal my things if the door is too big for the frame and they can’t open it, are they? No, they aren’t. After battling with that for a while, I laid on the bed and vegetated for a while/the rest of the evening.

The evening was turning into night and I was looking forward to bedding down and getting in a good night’s sleep before we started exploring via boat the next day. No sooner than my head rested upon the pillow, did the hotel bar turn into some sort of club and start pumping out all of the bass. I don’t mind a bit of loud music, but it really is a surprise when your hotel turns out to be an absolute slave to the sesh and not the least bit interested in their guests getting a decent amount of shut eye. I can only imagine how loud the music would have been if my door wasn’t quite so snug in the door frame. Silver linings and all that.

Bonnie

BFTs: Big Fuckin’ Trees

22nd June

We headed to a place called Port Clements today, there’s not much there and to be honest it wasn’t really worth the drive, but we did stop for another slice of pie on the way there (see, told you I’d opened the floodgate). The pie was at a place called Angela’s place, which happened to be another gas station-cum-diner, or a ‘social café and fuel station’ as per the sign.

I’d say that this pie had a better filling than the previous nights, but the pastry wasn’t as nice… So, I can’t say which one was better… I’d possibly lean towards the first one as the whole experience was just a little better.

We stopped to see the Golden Spruce on our way back, which was a GIANT let down. Basically, it used to be this big gold coloured spruce tree, until some proper nut job cut it down in a protest. I’m all for a protest and that, but cutting down a super old one-of-a-kind tree? Nah. You can have a little read about that sitch here, if you’re interested. Anyway, so we went there to look at this stump, which was exactly that – a stump. I’ll give you £1 if you can even see a hint of golden in this pic… thought not.

In this park, there were some huge trees, like, properly massive trees. Well over the wingspan of one girl. Some of them, it probably would have taken about 8 or 9 of you holding hands to go all the way around the tree.

I feel like most of what I talk about revolves around food, but I’m actually fine about that, so here’s some more about food… Because dinner was SO good last night, we went to Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill again to eat. We had a summer salad, which was mad tasty – I’ve never had raspberries, blackberries, mandarin and nuts in a salad before, but I WILL be having it again, Mouth-watering doesn’t even begin to do this justice.

Following on from yesterday’s crab cakes, I couldn’t help but opt for another crab-containing meal. I had a crab patty burger, which was NEXT LEVEL. It was just… I can’t even describe it, it was so yummy. Moist, perfectly seasoned, beyond fresh. I could wax lyrical about this crab burger for the rest of the day if no one stopped me. Is anyone going to stop me? I tell you what would stop me though; stuffing my face with another crab burger.

Obviously, there was room for pie. Apple pie and lemon meringue pie (promise I didn’t eat both slices on my own). Apple pie was distinctly better than the lemon meringue – nicely spiced, pastry was fierce and the whole thing was just on ittttt.

Yummo. See, pie is becoming a serious problem for me. Like, it may even be an addiction. I’ve had 3 different kinds of pie in 1 day. HELP!

Bonnie

A sweaty selfie looks less than healthy

21st June

The day started off well with a breakfast of pancakes, streaky bacon and maple syrup. I feel like I haven’t really eaten that much maple since I’ve been in Canada, which is sad, because it is the land of maple syrup. I’d always thought that every single Canadian drank maple syrup like water… maybe I’m wrong… but if I lived in Canada where the maple be good and the maple be cheap, I would not be having the good stuff on a rare occasion.

We headed to Tow Hill (which I naively had thought was ‘Toe’ hill), I don’t know why, but toe on your foot just made more sense to me than towing your car, ya know? Anyway, we headed down there. Down there? Up there? Who knows, but we headed there. We were expressly told not to drive our hire car down any gravel roads, so, naturally, we headed off down a gravel road to this toe place. Once you get there, you have a bit of a hike up the trail to get to Toe Hill. At points, this gets pretty steep, but it’s all on a board walk, so there is no risk of falling to death or anything like that.

We headed to the beach first to have a look at the hill from there, and there is also a ‘blowhole’ on the beach too – but you can only see this do its thing when the tide is midway in, there’s a fair swell, Jupiter is in rising and the North star has combusted.

I decide that merely viewing the blowhole from afar is simply not good enough, one must in fact, climb atop the blowhole to truly experience it. So, I did.

The rock formations here are pretty cool, ngl. It was good to have a mooch around and have a look in the rock pools and scramble around very un-elegantly on various bits of rock I came across.

Next on the list was to hike up the actual hill. Now, this was the steep bit. To say I got a bit of a sweat on would be a gross understatement of the facts. I tried to take a selfie where I didn’t look too hideously warm, but I’m not quite decided on whether that panned out or not – I’ll let you decide on that one.

Once you get up to the top of the hill, it’s a pretty decent view. You can see out across the beach, and see people catching crabs, fishing and digging for clams.

We popped back down the hill (which was distinctly easier than the heart attack inducing haul up) and headed to Agate beach, aptly named, because there’s a tonne of agate to be found on there.

I can’t really say whether this was agate or not, but it looks kinda like it, so we will say it is, just so I can feel pleased with myself.

Dinner was swiftly becoming a priority, so we headed back down the gravel road we shouldn’t have been driving down, hit up the B&B for a change of clothes and bounced out again. We went for dinner at a place one of the women we had met at the top of Toe Hill had suggested. She said you have to look past what you see on the outside, because it essentially looks like a rough old petrol station – which turned out to be the entire truth.

Anyway, it was called Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill, and it genuinely does look like a run-down old gas station from the outside, but I promise you it is worth going in there – the food there is one of the best meals we had on this trip, if not THE best. I had crab cakes for dinner and the crab was fresh caught that day, and it was DELISH. I can’t even rave about it enough; this crab cake was the best crab cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Swiftly followed by a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie, which had been made by one of the local ladies, which was again, DELISH.

That first slice of pie seemed to open up the floodgates, and much pie was consumed after that point. Much to the detriment of my waistline upon my return home (the scales groaned under the additional weight, I’ll tell you that now).

Bonnie

Pickle spears and little deers

19th June

The next couple of days involved travelling back to Whitehorse, the only notable happening was the consumption of some pickle sticks at the Airport Chalet in Whitehorse. I’ve never had a pickle stick in all my life – in essence, they are sticks of pickle (or gherkin if you are from da UK) which are bread-crumbed and then fried, resulting in the most glorious tasting things I have ever had the fortune to eat in my life.

We experienced a rather wonderful sunset as we were flying back to Vancouver – quite vibrant in colour, and I love the lil moon peeking through.

20th June

The following day saw us travelling to Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii is what used to be known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, in and around that area there are loads of cool first nation island ruins, where you can see the houses that existed on the islands, old house frontal poles and mortuary poles. First, however, we are heading to Masset where we have a few nights stay at the Eagles Feast House, which is a guesthouse right on the water.

When we land, we have about an hour and a half drive to where we are staying. The island is so peaceful, like, I’ve never been anywhere to tranquil in my entire life. It just has this aura of relaxation about it. The islands are being overrun with deer, and they are everywhere! We saw a little one on our drive toward Queen Charlotte, such a little bambi!

When we were in Queen Charlotte we stopped at this great little café called Queen B’s.

They have daily specials and everything is home-made and delicious. I had hummus, pita, salad and soup, accompanied by a cranberry sparkler.

We took in some totem poles, before arriving at our B&B in Masset, where I had a nice room overlooking the water.

I was looking forward to some downtime in Masset, we hadn’t anything planned, and it would be nice to have a break and just not really do anything. All the travelling we’ve been doing has resulted in a haze of tiredness. So, I settled down that evening for a date with Jake Peralta, of Brooklyn 99 (taking advantage of the free WiFi of course).

Bonnie

Did you hear the one about the bear?

18th June

On the agenda today: making it back to Dawson City. We drive pretty much the entire way, without seeing a single thing; clearly our luck is never going to change, and we are never going to see a single interesting animal at any point during this entire month-long holiday.  Are there even animals in Canada? Does a single mammal exist, larger than a squirrel? Well, it turns out, they do exist.

We’re not far away from Dawson City when we see a grizzly bear at the side of the road. I think we nearly all died in our seats – we genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing. All this time without seeing a bear, listening to everyone else we’d met telling us about all these amazing bear sighting, and we hadn’t even caught a glimpse of one. And here one was, literally a metre away from us, and with a 1-year-old cub!!

They were scared of passing traffic (particularly the little one) and each time a vehicle came past, the little one shot up onto the bank and into the trees, out of harm’s way.

We probably sat there for about half an hour, just watching them go about their business, munching on the grass and mooching about together. Bears are just glorious, are they not? If you think they’re not – then I am not interested to hear it, quite frankly.

High on bear spice, we carry on along down the road, only to see a MOOSE!! It wasn’t a daddy moose – so there were no giant antlers, but it was a moose all the same. The lady moose ran across the road, then made her way across a pretty deep stream (unsure at what point it becomes a river) and popped back out the other side. Our luck is truly changing!

We get to Dawson City and check into the Westmark Hotel. Now, this is by far the nicest hotel we stayed in on this holiday – but it is also the worst, and I’ll tell you for why. No WiFi, that’s why. There’s WiFi in the communal areas, but you can’t get WiFi in you room and I am SO not about that life. Why would you do that to people? WHY??? It’s like they are tantalising you with the possibility of good connectivity, and then just whipping it away at the last moment. I would rather stay in a much less nice hotel, with a normal WiFi policy.

That evening, we went to Diamond Tooth Gerties. Diamond Tooth Gerties is a gambling hall, where they do shows each evening; a ‘Vaudeville’ show (according to Wikipedia). Diamond Tooth Gerties is also Canada’s oldest casino – this knowledge is also courtesy of Wikipedia. For not that many Canadian dollars, you can spend an evening in Diamond Tooth Gerties – not only can you spend a night there, but your ticket is valid for the rest of the month, so you can spend the whole month there if you want to… or was it the rest of the year? I can’t remember now. Either way, it was a long time.

You can have your fill of dancing girls doing the can-can and flashing their bloomers. Many a quick change is done, and Diamond Tooth Gertie herself has a good old sing-song. Okay, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s a definite laugh.

The splits are done many times (as was much wincing on my part) and legs were more often above heads than not. They even get up a few guys from the audience to have a go – which is more than amusing.

Ooh, something I completely forgot to mention! In Dawson City, it can legit be 15 degrees Celsius, and EVERYONE is out in their flip-flops and shorts, and I mean EVERYONE. I’m sorry, but +15 is not warm enough to take your jacket off outside, let alone wear minimal clothing. These people are complete nutters, I swear.

Bonnie

Today, ft. more driving ‘n’ wind.

17th June

When is there not driving to be done? There is always driving to be done. In Canada, one does not simply, not drive. Here, people think 2 hours is a short drive… Like, HUN, 2 minutes is a short drive – 2 hours, and you will need to present a strong business case to gain my attendance.

Anyway, we were heading back to Eagle Plains, which means we were going back through the mountains where it had been snowing a mere day or two prior. Well, when we passed back through that area, it was literally like a different planet. Snow was not a thing, it was well above freezing and there was actual sun.

The only downside to this, was that it was obscenely windy. So windy, that getting a decent selfie was impossible. So windy, that in every single photo of me, you can see my forehead. My forehead is a thing few have seen. Even worse than that, it looks like I have a Rod Stewart mullet going on, which is less than ideal. People were starting to mistake me for dear Rod and began asking for off the cuff renditions of Maggie May (I was only too obliging).

I can’t even describe to you how knotty my hair was after braving the wind at the Arctic Circle sign. It was almost like it had been woven into a mat: that’s how tangled up it was.

Also, how cool is this hazy mountain vibe? It looks like it was born to be on a gallery wall. All the pinks and greys and blue are just everything to me.

We stopped for a bit by the river to have a rest and stretch our legs. I made the MASSIVE error of getting out of the car and going for a wander down the river banks – I experienced major regrets. I don’t usually get bitten by mosquitos, but this was most definitely an exception. If I’d been wearing trousers like a sensible person, then none of this would have happened, but I wasn’t, I was wearing tights. Obvs not just the tights, cos that would be weird, but a tights and dress combo, like a normal person.

I got savaged by these little winged assholes, so, I had some properly mangy looking legs for like a week. Hot or not? Most definitely not. But, on the plus side, I did find a pebble that looked like a heart – so silver linings and all that.

It almost makes the mauled legs worth it… apart from the fact that it really doesn’t.

Bonnie

Having your arm in the socket is overrated

15th June

Had another pretty chilled day today – the place we are staying at keeps huskies, and if you are short on things to do, you can take one out for a walk. So, this is exactly what I did. Let me tell you one thing right now: HUSKIES ARE MAD STRONG. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me (seeing as they pull sleds for a living) but by the time this walk was over, my right shoulder was dramatically less in the socket than it was when it began.

I even took out one of the smaller ones who was only a year old, but she was still ridiculously strong. Like, it was more like being pulled along by a horse than it was a dog. As a result, I think they should measure things in husky power, rather than horse power.

Even though I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘don’t really like dogs’ club, even I have to admit, these pups were frickin’ cute. Even when they did stop to drink out of puddles which were more mud than water and pause to consume what I think was some sort of moss. Yick.

I even let one eat a piece of dog biscuit out of my flesh and bone hand. But between you and me, that was the 4th bit of biscuit I had provided, after wussing out and dropping the other ones each time the doggo’s face came at me. But don’t tell anyone, please.

After my arm had been stretched sufficiently (if only I could do that with my legs), resulting ruined ligaments and tendons for life, we popped out to find the local car wash. The trouble with the roads around here, is that your car gets properly dusty.

Then, the dust gets everywhere, and when you get out of the car, you end up with mud all over the back of your trousers. Not that that happened EVERY SINGLE time or anything… it’s almost like I never learn.

Bonnie

A lazy day and school bus suppers

13th June

You may have noticed that I missed a day out, if you did – then thank you for religiously reading this – you and the one other person who isn’t my mum should probably get married or something. Anyway, the reason I missed a day out, is because on that day I did literally nothing. I didn’t wake up until about 1pm, and for a couple of reasons; firstly, because the sun is up here until about 1am, and secondly, because all the driving had knackered me.

When I did wake up, I sat in bed and read my book, replied to a bunch of messages and emails, progressed to watching re-runs of Friends, Will & Grace and 2 and a Half Men and then ate a fat bag of granola and drank about a gallon of coffee. All in all, a pretty productive day, wouldn’t you say? I needed a break in all honesty – holidays are tiring when you are on the move constantly, never sleeping in the same place for more than a couple of nights, driving and straining your eyes looking for the non-existent wildlife of British Columbia.

The next day I managed to rise from my coffin at a slightly more reasonable time, but in all honesty, achieved about as little. What I did achieve, however, was the consumption of food. There aren’t many places to eat in Inuvik, in fact, the only options you have are a couple of hotels and one family-run restaurant. If I were you, I wouldn’t bother with the hotels and I’d stick with the family-run, which is called Alestine’s, if you’re interested.

Alestine’s is only open from 5pm-8pm in the evenings, so make sure you get there on time. This place is a cute little shack on Franklin Road, where they do all their cooking out of the back of a bright yellow school bus.

The service is friendly, and you’re served by the wife of the family, who is rushed off her feet constantly because of the popularity of this place. They have about 5 main course options on the menu and one dessert, which are given to change as and when things are in and out of season, or when the chef fancies something different. We entered in and who else did we see sitting in there, but Susan and Michael! We promptly park ourselves down on their table and ask them what’s good on the menu. After taking that in, I order the fish tacos at the recommendation of Susan. I’ve never had fish tacos, but when in Rome and all that…

My fish tacos soon arrived, and boy did I enjoy them. They came with fries (as does everything in Canada) and they were filled with fried white fish, mango salsa and a light coleslaw. YUM!! I wolfed those down in about 8 seconds flat, got my hands covered in sauce and ended up with chutney all round my face – so it was a good meal for sure. It took all my mental strength to try and not wipe my hands on my trousers. I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves whether I managed that or not.

I’m so bad with wiping my hands on my trousers. I KNOW I shouldn’t be doing it, but I literally cannot help myself – the desire is too overwhelming. It’s clearly much more ladylike and polite to wipe ones’ hands upon a napkin of a serviette, but I just feel like my trousers really do the job better, and it’s obviously way better for the environment if I shun all serviettes and refuse to use them. That practically makes me an eco-warrior, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??????

Bonnie

“You’re bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute”

11th June

Overnight it continued snowing, and when I looked out the window in the morning there was still a smattering of snow. I’d been looking forward to being snowed in and having to dig the car out and put on the snow-chains to be honest – but no such luck. All I got was to slip about a foot on the metal grid out the front of the hotel #MichelleODrama. Because it’s all kindsa of mountainous between here and the next stop (Inuvik) we decided to set off with an American couple we’d met in the hotel, called Michael and Susan. Safety in numbers and all that!

Because I’m a born daredevil, I opt to drive first and lead the pack as such. No sooner do we get down the hill from the hotel, does all the snow disappear – muchos dissappointios! However, in the place of the snow, was a sludge you would be hard pressed to call a road. There were some spots which were black-ice-level slippery. Some impressive skids were done in the 4×4. I think I pretty much held my breath for the entire drive – that’s how hard I was concentrating.

We start climbing up towards the Arctic Circle, the snow has made a reappearance and the temperature is dropping big style. By the time we reach the Arctic Circle sign it’s -5 degrees Celsius, the wind-chill factor making it a cool MINUS 20!!!! Chilly does not even cover it. The sign appears out of the snow and we pull over to get some pics. Now, this was a dramatic 10 minutes, even for me. I stop the car and I get out… And only I get out… It turns out that in the cold and snow, the passenger door and the rear doors have frozen shut and we can’t get them open. No amount of tugging is opening those bad boys, so an amount of clambering had to be done to exit the vehicle.

I was desperate for a wee by now, so I headed to the loo. It’s so windy here, I was almost blown past the lav – but I made it in eventually, after a long battle with the door. I get in there, and the loo seat is covered in snow. This is something I have NEVER experienced in all of my loo visits. A good inch of snow stands between my bare arse and the toilet seat… Hovering seems a good idea at this point.

After a tricky few minutes I exit the loo, struggling to do my trousers up in the freezing conditions, only to hear Michael (the American guy) shouting though the wind at me “Bonnie, do your trousers up! You are bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute!”. Needless to say, this did not help me with doing my trousers up – not only were my hands frozen, they were now jiggling around uncontrollably as a result of intense laughter. And I was trying to run.

It was way too cold to get any decent photos, so we accept that we will have to stop on the way back and get the pics. Seriously weak selfie game was exhibited.

Ooh, I forgot to mention! When I got out of the car here, I got a high 5 from Michael saying I was a great little driver. Never has anything made my life more than this did. He is my new fave person.

I carried on driving and I’m not going to lie, it got beyond terrifying. Obvs I loved how terrifying it was, but it really was scary. It started snowing heavily and visibility was non-existent. All I could see in front of me was white, and the occasional flash of the lights on the RV we’d come up behind. Driving down this road, the wind was whipping up the snow from beside the road, meaning I couldn’t see where the road was or where the other cars were.

There isn’t anywhere you can stop, and even if you did stop, you run the risk of getting hit by another car who just hasn’t seen you in the snow – so I press on. This was white knuckle – I’m not gonna lie. When I eventually got out of the car, my hands were screaming in pain from how hard I’d been gripping the steering wheel. Even though I thought I might vom from the fear, it was EPIC and I would drive through another snowstorm in a heartbeat.

After the treachery of the icy mountains, the rest of the drive was pretty mundane. We crossed over on a ferry, entered into Port McPherson and stopped for something to eat at the tourist centre. Again, there’s hardly anything here, but a break was definitely required, and the local food cooked at the tourist centre was really yummy, making it worth the stop. They had bannock, soup and fish, all done on the BBQ, and they had a tipi set up that you could have a look in. One of the guys explained about putting up the tipi and told us it was his first time – pretty good for a first attempt I think!

As we were coming into Inuvik (which was to be our home for the next couple of days), we paused to stretch our legs. There was a short hike, which I opted for, turning out to be the most non-event hike of my life.

A lot of climbing and a whole load of nothing to see, apart from hella bear poo. But a selfie at the top was required all the same. Selfie game much closer to being ok point.

We arrived in the evening at Arctic Chalet, Inuvik, which was where we were staying. We had clearly interrupted the woman who runs its dinner, and she did not seem best pleased.

Apologising profusely to Judy, we were handed some keys and pointed in the direction of some wooden cabins, where snow-covered loo seats haunted my dreams.

Bonnie

No Sourdough Sourdough Joe’s

9th June

Last night we went for dinner at Klondike Kates restaurant in Whitehorse. We are told it’s the best restaurant in town, but I’m slightly disinclined to agree with that. The food was nice, and the service was friendly, but it was no better than anywhere else we ate. In fact, other places were more fun and enjoyable. I don’t know whether it was entirely down to the atmosphere inside, and in my opinion, some of the other restaurants are better.

After we’d eaten, we went for a walk that someone in the hotel had recommended. To get to the walk, you have to cross over the river on the ferry, oh, and it’s a really easy walk.

The ferry comes and goes as there are people to use it, so if you wait there, they’ll come and get you, which is neat. We crossed over as foot passengers on the ferry, which takes about 10 minutes once you set off. Also, here ferry guys though – we watched this ferry go across so many times and not once did they make a single mistake. I swear they actually must be Gods or something… because it was genuinely impressive!

Once you come off the ferry and walk up the road, to get to the walk you need to take the first left into the campground. Keep walking through the campground until you see a yellow gate (a 10 or 15 minutes’ walk). Head through the yellow gate and down towards the beach – on your left-hand side there will be a break in the trees and you can cross a stream over a little bridge and you’ll be walking next to the river.

Across the river, you can look at the hills and keep your eyes peeled for some wildlife! Obviously we saw a grand total of nothing, in-keeping with the rest of the holiday.

As you walk along, you’ll come to some steamboat wrecks on your left. These were left here at the end of the gold-rush when they were no longer needed (they were beached on the banks of the river and have been left there).

These are pretty cool to look at – there are a few of them there at different stages of dilapidation – the ones further back are in better condition. I went for a bit of an investigate and wandered round the back and climbed up on top of one of them to have a look.

The sunset is beaut here, coupled with the fact that it never really gets dark (it was 20 hours of sunshine when I was there), so you can still walk around happily at 10/11 o’clock at night.

The next morning we went across on the ferry again, but this time by car. We wanted to drive up the Top of the World Highway and take a photo of ourselves next to the sign… so we drive for a while and didn’t find the sign, and we drove for a while more and didn’t find the sign… turns out the sign is no longer there… so we drove a LONG while for literally no reason! But, we did find some snow, so that was a win, kinda.

I took the opportunity to stake my claim on the snow, with a classic year 8 ‘Bonnie was here’. Do not judge me…

And a couple of people threw some snowballs at me… Hmpf… bullies!

We popped to Sourdough Joe’s for dins – FYI no sourdough is served here, despite the name. The food was yummay here and IMO it’s the best restaurant in Dawson City. It’s got a chilled vibe and it’s a bit of fun, making for a very enjoyable dinner.

After that we headed back to the hotel and popped into the bar. They have a guy who plays some tunes at the piano each night from 7 until 9, and I have never seen a man enjoy playing the piano more than this guy does.

Some jaunty tunes, a couple of Yukon Gold’s later and some money in the tip jar, made for a great end to the evening.

Bonnie

It’s Mine Time

8th June

Breakfast was calling me, and Riverwest Bistro answered with a breakfast burrito. If you’re looking for places to eat in Dawson City, Riverwest Bistro has plenty of options. It’s a bit of a diner joint and it’s by no means upmarket, but the coffee was fresh, and the food was good, so you’ll have no complaints from me.

We went for a mooch about the town, stopping off in the Northwest Territories Visitor Centre. This place was really good, the lady working there (Dawn) was incredibly informative and hugely knowledgeable – it’s worth popping in there if you need some information about the drive up the Dempster Highway.

Whilst we were in there, we got to talking and she mentioned that there were some cyclists heading up the same way as us who needed a food package dropped off, as it was too heavy for them to carry with them. We offered to take their food package up with us, and feeling like exceedingly good citizens, we headed off with the food package (which turned out to be pretty damn heavy after you have been carrying it for 20 minutes). I can only imagine they were concealing bricks in their food package for some unknown reason.

To fill up our afternoon, we booked ourselves onto a goldmining tour. We had wanted to go on a trip with a native guy in a boat, but he was all booked up – so that was a no go. A shame, to be honest, because we’d been recommended this in the visitors centre and they seemed genuinely excited about it, so we were a bit disappointed, but you can’t have everything. We chose a tour with Goldbottom Mine Tours, departing at 1.30. I have to be honest, I wasn’t bowled over by this tour – I think it was lacking a little something. However, I do think you should go on a gold mining tour whilst you are here. Gold mining is the entire reason this town exists and it’s worth getting to know a bit about it, and the tour was still enjoyable, even if it wasn’t outstanding.

I’ll tell you a little bit about what goes down during the tour. You start off outside the tour office and head up the road to the Goldbottom Mine site (it’s a bit of a bumpy ride). Whilst you’re travelling, the guide talks about the mining history of the area before you stop off at the site and switch your shoes for wellies. The tour guide takes you for a look around the old house there, which is full of cool artefacts and has been done out to look like it would have back in the day.

You head up to a mining site which is in use at the moment and if you are lucky, you’ll get to talk to one of the guys who is mining there. We spoke to a guy named Dale, who told us about the machinery he was using and how much gold he was extracting on a daily basis – this was by far and away the best bit of the tour.

After that we headed back to the Goldbottom Mine site and he showed us how you separate the gold you have panned for from the black sand and other bits and pieces you end up with. This was interesting, and apart from the rude American woman basically rugby tackling me in a bid to get a photo, went off without a hitch. Once we were done with that, the tour guide showed us a huge nugget of gold which one of the people who owned the mine had found.

Here the rude American lady saga continues. We’re standing listening to the guy explaining about the nugget and she’s standing behind me, and I can feel her touching my hair. I pass it off as an accident and continue listening. Then she touches my hair again… Now I know this clearly is no accident, like, she’s kind of tugging on it – does she really think I can’t feel this? Hey, rude American lady – that’s actually attached to my head you know!!!!! CREEP. I end up having to move because I can’t actually address this out loud in front of all these people. The funny thing is, I’m pretty used to people touching my hair; people ALWAYS touch my hair. But, it’s usually accompanied by a verbalisation of the hair touching intentions, such as, ‘isn’t your hair long’, or, ‘isn’t your hair a pretty colour’. One does not simply touch another person’s hair in creepy silence. So, I placed myself out of reach of silent hair stroker and pretended it never happened.

Now it was time for panning for gold! This is where I came slightly unstuck, as I didn’t really know what I was doing and the man just kind of left you to it. I think they could do with working on this section of the tour, as I wasn’t the only one who found this frustrating. Eventually he came back and explained, but I was already miffed by this point, so I enjoyed it less than I wanted to. Also, Goldbottom Mine Tours, if you’re listening, a hot drink and a snack wouldn’t go amiss at some point in the tour. Whilst we are getting sorted with our wellies, it would be easy to sort out some tea and coffee and a biscuit, which I know would be appreciated by your tourists. Oh, and if you could weed out the hair strokers beforehand, that would be GREAT.

Bonnie

The Road to Dawson City (which is not a City)

7th June

Back to the Burnt Toast Café, Whitehorse for some breakfast before the next leg of the journey. The girl serving was rushed off her feet – they were busy yesterday at lunchtime, but this was something else – they definitely need to get someone else in to help! There was a bit of a wait for food and people just kept on coming in (clearly this is the place to be! Either that, or there’s not really anywhere else to go, or a combo of the two). Anyway, the wait was well worth it, because the food was delicious. I had the Breakfast Sandwich, which consisted of a bun, filled with an egg, bacon, tomato and spinach, accompanied by hash browns (fried potatoes). BEYOND SCRUMMY!! And just the right thing to stave off the hunger on a 7-hour trip to Dawson City.

We hit the road, heading in the direction of Dawson City. The drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City is a long old drive (about 530 kilometres) and it takes a while, especially when you aren’t used to the gravel road and you’re on the lookout for wildlife. We saw precisely nothing the whole way, despite someone having seen 10 bears the day before. There are campgrounds along the way, and they are always nicely located. We stopped at one on a lake, which was really pretty – and they are always a good comfort stop as well – there really aren’t that many places to stop for a wee!

Ooh, so there’s this place you HAVE to stop at if you are driving from Whitehorse to Dawson City, it’s called Braeburn Lodge (located on mile 55 o the Klondike Highway).

You have to stop here because they do these GIANT cinnamon buns. When I say GIANT, I am not over exaggerating – they are literally the size of your face and so frickin’ tasty as well. There is no way you can drive past this place without stopping. It’s so out of the way that you get Carnation Evaporated milk with your coffee!

If you go to the loo, you’ll see people have decorated the back of the toilet door with graffiti (obviously I can only speak for the ladies’ loos here – I can’t say for the men’s – and I’m certainly not brave enough to go in there and check for you). But anyway, people are telling you what their names are, when they came and where they are going from and to. The one which stood out to me most, however, was one which read ‘7/10 would poo here again 2017’. That speaks to me, in a serious way.

Stop off at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site – there’s a nice trail here which goes down a set of steps first, then travels upwards. You get a great view of the Yukon river here, where there’s a tiny island with some nesting birds atop it. To walk to the top of the trail and back would take less and an hour, I’d say about 45 minutes… I took it upon myself to run it, so it didn’t take me very long (all that pent-up energy again).

We get to Dawson City in the afternoon; it took us about 7 hours to get up here in total. 7 hours on the road and we didn’t see a SINGLE animal, not even one! This was all kinds of disappointing, especially considering we’d heard about a guy who had seen 10 bears the day before – I think we were almost expecting them to be lined up along the highway with a welcome banner. They were not.

Dawson City looks like a cowboy town. I don’t know what I was expecting from the name ‘Dawson City’, but this wasn’t it. I think this place has definitely been named in jest, because a City this is certainly not. All the facades are wooden clad and painted in bright colours, it’s right on the river and it looks super cute.

To be honest though, at that point I was so tired from all the driving that I hardly knew my arse from my elbow. We were staying at the Downtown Hotel in Whitehorse, as hotels in Whitehorse go, it was good. Good Wi-Fi, coffee machine and clean and comfy. Oh, and it has swinging saloon doors on the front, so if that doesn’t persuade you to stay here, nothing will. I elected to skip dinner (a bit of a first for me) and headed straight to bed. Needless to say, I woke up beyond hungry and wondering why on earth I had elected to miss a meal.

Bonnie

Watching Whales in Vancouver

5th June

I have literally no idea what I did on the 5th June. All I have in my camera roll is a photo of maple syrup biscuits… Which, by the way, are hella tasty, so you should definitely get some if you happen to be in a supermarket in Canada. All this photo tells me, is that I must have been in a Walmart. That can’t have been ALL I did for an entire day, can it? I’ll have to have a think about it, I’m sure I’ll remember.

All I do know is, that getting up at 4.30 am to go to the airport to catch a flight to Whitehorse is looming. Oh wait, we went whale watching! That explains why I don’t have any photos on my iPhone – they are all on the camera camera, because there isn’t much of a chance of you getting a good photo of a whale in the ocean on your iPhone, no matter how good a photographer you are.

It was about an hour and a half’s drive from Vancouver to Steveston. Which is where we managed to catch a whale watching tour with Vancouver Whale Watch. We didn’t book, and we were fortunate to get the last 3 spaces on the boat which was just about to go out – close call! There are a few companies you can book with if you are interested in whale watching in Vancouver – they are all pretty similar and follow the same whales. It was a little bit of a grey day, but I was hoping that the lack of sunshine wasn’t going to stop the whales from coming out to play.

On our way out to sea we saw a few California seals chilling on some rocks; as much as I would like to like California seals, they are really not a pretty sight. I’m all for any kind of animal, but they aren’t about to win any beauty contests – cute they are not.

However, they do look pretty regal and commanding up on those rocks, even if they do STINK of fish… you can certainly smell them before you see them.

We picked up the pace, heading out to sea at a fair clip, looking for some orca, or killer whales. Now, these are my absolute fave marine animals – they are so unbelievably clever, and they have some serious emotions going on – I’ve no idea how you couldn’t love these guys. They all hunt in different ways, for different prey, depending on what is abundant in the area in which they exist. It’s so cool how they live together in their pod as a tight knit family unit, communicating all the time with one another. It’s so cool to listen to as well and we know so little about what they are saying to one another; it’s pretty majestic.

There were a couple of pods in the area and these are whales which live in the area. We found the pod we were looking for, made up of about 5 orcas and they had some little ones in tow.

It’s wonderful watching them surface; they are SO beautiful and it’s especially wonderful seeing the little one with its mummy. We also got to see the little one breach, picking up some pace and flinging himself out of the water and re-entering with a big splash! Unfortunately, I missed the photo opportunity – better luck next time!

We spent a long time with that pod, sitting and watching them in all their glory. Rolling around in the water and having what seemed like some good fun. After a while, we needed to start heading back, so we turned around and started making our way, stopping to see some harbour seals sunning themselves on some logs.

These guys are so much cuter than California seals, they are so chubby and roly-poly with massive eyes and they are just how you want a seal to look.

As we were heading back, we caught up with another pod of orca and these ones were much more active! Tails were coming out of the water and slapping back down, and they were a lot closer to our boat as well.

The little ones in this pod seemed to be having a whale of a time (pun very much intended).

Seeing this makes it all very much worth it. You never know what you are going to get with whales. They could be really active, or they could be calm and relaxed, but either way, it’s always a good experience and something well worth doing.

I LOVE WHALES!!

Bonnie

R.I.P Dungarees: Squamish and Horseshoe Bay

4th June

Today we headed up to Squamish and Horseshoe Bay; a couple of hours outside of Vancouver. It’s a pretty drive once you get out of Vancouver and get past all the red lights and stop signs available to screech to a halt at. I do so love coming to a smooth stop – I’m really starting to miss it… Anyway, we stopped off at Shannon Falls on our way up. You can walk up the trail here and you come to a pretty waterfall. There are a few steps to go up, but it’s not too tricky. It took us about 30 minutes to walk up, take a few photos and come back down. There are two levels on the Shannon Falls trail – the first gives you a view of the whole waterfall from the front, the second (a bit further up) gives you a more side on view, so you can see the torrent of water coming down.

I had some pent-up energy (on account of having done precisely no exercise since the last week) so I took a little jog up the steps… That certainly relieved me of all that pent-up energy.

We carried on our journey to Squamish. There isn’t a tonne of stuff in Squamish; it’s more about the journey to be honest, but there are some nice gift shops with some native art in them and some places to grab a coffee and a bit to eat. We stopped for lunch at a little place called Green Olive Market and Café, run by a husband and wife. I opted for a Greek salad for the following reasons A) Who doesn’t love a Greek salad? And B) I was starting to worry I was getting scurvy because they don’t seem to eat vegetables in Canada.

On our way to Horseshoe Bay from Squamish, we pulled in at Porteau Cove. As the name suggests, it’s a cove (who’d have guessed it). It’s got loads of drift wood which is well worth a climb over – I managed to get pretty far without having to touch the ground and without falling off. I hear balance is key here.

It’s really pretty here, with the water in the foreground and the mountains in the background and it’s so peaceful as well. It’s also got a campground there (Porteau Cove Provincial Park Campground), and if you were camping it would be a great place to stay I think.

I had a bit of an incident on the beach here at Porteau Cove. We’d walked down to the water to see how cold it was (pretty cold) and whilst we were down there, my mum asked me if I would show her how to do a squat – she’s thinking about working on her fitness and strength, you see. Now, I don’t profess to be a professional squatter or anything, but I definitely do them and I have done them in the gym as well, so that’s as close as you can get to professional in my eyes. So, I give her a quick demo on how to squat.

To show off my best squatting form, I prepare, get my feet in the right position and lower myself into a properly deep squat – I’m talking more than 90 degrees here. I regret this, and I’ll tell you for why. When I lowered myself in to the deepest of all squats, a thing happened. The thing that happened, was that I split my dungarees… My FAVOURITE dungarees [insert anguished emoji here]. As a cool breeze caressed my right buttock, I can only describe myself as entirely forlorn. I’m trying to look over my shoulder to see said split. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there – I heard it go and I can feel a certain chill overcoming my arse. Fortunately, I’m wearing a jacket which covers the split, which is a small mercy. Dejected, I head back to the car and I even sit in the front (a major risk to life), which I think shows the true extent of my pain. R.I.P dungarees – R.I.P… Rip… You get it? See, I’m funny even when I’m broken hearted.

We arrive at Horseshoe Bay, which again, is really pretty. We take a look round a souvenir shop and have a bit of a wander, trying to work up an appetite for dinner. We sit on the pier for a bit and watch some Amish people larking around in a group. They are all young – I’d say 25 and under. Whilst I am questioning the combination of ankle length, pink, floral dress and walking boots, one of the men wanders by, carrying a rather fetching replica Gucci handbag. I’m assuming it was his partners handbag, but I think it would be rather more fun if it was his, don’t you?

We went to Trolls for dinner. People seem to rave about it, so we thought we would give it a go. They are famous for their battered salmon, so I was after giving that a try, but they were fresh out of it, so that was a no go. I opted for cod, as the only other fish option was halibut and I wasn’t feeling that.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was tasty for sure, but I’m not sure it’s deserving of the reputation it has. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, but I’d imagine it’s something along the lines of not believing everything you hear.

Bonnie

When is a hill not a hill, and actually a mountain? When it’s Box Hill, that’s when.

We went for a walk up Box Hill this weekend – turns out it isn’t a hill and it’s actually a mountain, but that’s another matter and far be it from me to email the National Trust and ask them if “hill” is really an accurate representation of the facts. But walking up Box Hill is one of the top things to do in Surrey (apparently), and you should do these things at least once, shouldn’t you? It was my turn to drive and I was weirdly nervous about it. I say “weirdly” like I never get nervous about anything and it’s totally out of the ordinary for me to worry unnecessarily about things (it’s not, as you know). But, WEIRDLY I was really nervy about driving and I kept worrying I was going to forget how to do it because that does happen sometimes. I feel this is on account of driving being a learned skill. It’s not like creativity, you can’t forget how to be creative, you are just a creative person. But you can forget how to drive, because you aren’t a car. So there. It’s a thing and it happens and I definitely can’t be the only one this happens to. It probably happens to Lewis Hamilton as well. Probably.

As it turns out, I didn’t forget how to drive and all my driving was impeccable I’d say, and I didn’t struggle too much with the sat-nav and managed to follow it quite capably. I seem to find it hard to have both the verbal directions and the screen directions, and I can’t concentrate with them both and I end up paying zero attention to the road, which isn’t ideal, so I tend to mute the woman and just look at where I am supposed to be going. Also, I don’t really like her telling me what to do and I feel I should be able to make my own decisions, and that by muting her, I am taking back some ownership.

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Wait. Let’s back track for a moment. I said “we” went to Box Hill. “We” as in two people, two people as in a couple and half of this couple isn’t one of my weird selection of friends, for once. The other half of this couple is a real boy! Well, man really, but I am just trying to assure you he is a real person and not a cardboard cut out (he isn’t, I promise), but I’m now worried that I have promised when I didn’t need to and now you don’t believe me. ACK! Oh well, believe what you want, but he’s real, I promise… Christ. Oh, and not only is he real, but he is hella handsome. So step back bitches – he’s mine. Don’t make me hurt you.

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Anywho; we (yasss!!) got to Box Hill in one piece and started on our (yay!!) merry way along the stepping stones walk. Our “merry” way lasted for approximately 6 seconds before the path turned into a treacherous set of steps, slick with mud and the souls of those who had fallen. Seriously, I have slipped about less on an ice rink. The situation was diabolical and I am genuinely surprised I didn’t end up on my arse, caked in mud, next to the skeleton of the last girl who slipped as a result of her inappropriate footwear and never made it out alive. Some of us ended up on our arses, but it wasn’t me… HEH.

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Watching people slip and slide around activated my inner cringe gauge and I genuinely have aching abs from all the internal cringing I was doing, plus all the laughing I was doing at people falling over. I did a lot of laughing. I laughed until my face hurt and I couldn’t really breathe much and I lost the ability to walk (see, the learned skills just escape me).

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We got to the stepping stones and I was silently willing someone to fall in. I know it’s not right to will people to make a fool of themselves, but I genuinely can’t help it and I couldn’t stop my mind urging them to make a fatal error and slip into the water. Alas, no one did, and I know I shouldn’t say it’s a shame, but it’s a shame. I posed for a quick photo on the stepping stones, which turned out to be the only in-focus pic of me from the entire day (thanks hun, the next David Bailey you are not).

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Rocking the nerdy camera-clad look
Finally, we were on firmer ground. To have grass beneath my feet was for the world to be right again. I was living the dream. There was a cute little footbridge, upon which I challenged my masculine company to a game of Pooh sticks. The masculine company didn’t know what that was, so I graciously explained the rules of Pooh sticks to the obvious newcomer to the field, then selected my stick. I released my stick from my grasp, sure that I was going to win (considering I had experience on my side) then dashed over to the other side of the bridge to await my sweet victory. Shit. I lost. Can you even believe I lost? I lost!!!!!!! I hate losing. I’m convinced it was a fix, there is no other explanation. How did he win????????????????

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After the Pooh stick fiasco, we headed on up the hill. Oh wait, not the hill, the mountain, and not just any mountain, it was akin to trekking up Mount Everest. I was half expecting Sherpa Tensing to pop up and offer to carry the bags. If only he had, it may have reduced the amount of sweating that was done. I had to take my coat off half way up. I had to stop and take a photo of some cows, not because I wanted photos of cows, but purely so I had an excuse to catch my breath.

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I give you: cows
I’d got to the point where I couldn’t really get a decent lungful of air. Every breath hurt, and I was 99% sure I was close to a lung collapsing. To our shame, as we got to the top of the hill, we were met by a literal granny, who was bounding up the hill, assisted merely by the arm of a woman I assume to be her daughter. If I can get up a hill with breathing apparatus at that age, I will be impressed, let alone walking unaided – which I struggle with now to be honest.

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photo credit @notdavidbailey
Bonnie

South Africa Day 17 (AM): Elephant Herd and Cats that Purred

We were up and away quickly this morning and out looking for a leopard. The guys were determined to find one this morning, and I think they were willing to go on all day to look for one of these elusive cats. We started off where we had lost the male leopard last night, and spotted a couple of warthogs on the way, having a munch.

It turns out, he is new to the area and hasn’t quite established a territory yet, so he is keeping himself to himself. We followed some tracks, but they disappeared across some hard ground, and we couldn’t see which way he had gone from there.

We drove down the riverbed looking for more tracks. It seemed that the leopards had been out in force this morning and there were loads of calls on the radio for leopard tracks leading in every direction. Out of nowhere, we were racing down the riverbed. Someone must have heard something on the radio! A leopard had been spotted, and the guys weren’t taking the chance of a leopard eluding us again.

You could tell how excited the guys were, and we raced towards where this leopard had been spotted. We rounded the bend and you could see her. Wow. She was so gorgeous. And accompanied by her 6-month-old male cub. OMG!! I nearly had a heart attack there in my seat. I love cats at the best of times, but these kitties are so beautiful. The markings on them are out of this world and the way they move and act just makes me want to explode, they are just like kitties at home, just bigger, and so beautiful.

 

Cub left, mummy right

The little one was feeling playful and affectionate this morning, and he kept walking in front of his mum and brushing up against her. He was stopping her to try and get her to play, but she wasn’t having any of it.

He was bounding around, just like a little kitten. Playing with things on the ground, running up trees, and generally making a nuisance of himself. They were chatting with one another and you could hear the little one calling and purring to his mummy.

He started jumping around in the trees and trying to jump on his mum. This made my heart MELT.


His mum stopped and he carried on walking, he had spotted a bird up ahead. He made a good job of stalking this bird, but to no avail, as it flew off as he was about to pounce. Mum looked on in amusement.

It was time to make ourselves scarce and leave these two to it, so we headed off in the direction of some elephants. We drove into the riverbed and waited. One elephant appeared and made its way up the bank.

 

Little and big

The another one appeared, and another one and another one. They were all sliding down the bank on the left-hand side, and walking back up the bank on the right-hand side to feed.



There were lots of mummies with their babies. They looked so funny when they were trying to slide down the bank after their mums; we even saw one sliding on its bum.



One even trumpeted at us and tried to charge at the vehicle. He was a boisterous little one and he ran off to wreak havoc and bother the other little elephants.



There was one female digging for water in the river bed, the dug down far enough and was drinking water from the hole she had made. Her baby then came to try and get some water, its trunk was too short and the little one ended up having to get in the hole to get something to drink. Sooooooo cute!!

In total, there were about 30 elephants in this group. We didn’t count them exactly, but there in front of us, we counted 20 and a few had already wandered past and were straggling behind.

On the way back we saw some more zebras who looked like they were cuddling. They were actually grooming each other’s backs and getting the spots they couldn’t reach by themselves. Apparently, they sleep this way sometimes, and it’s kind of like a combination of a pillow and “I’ll watch your back, you watch mine” situation.

We saw a few vervet monkeys in a tree and a huge male kudu, just as we pulled into the camp.



Wildlife seen today:

  • Warthog
  • Giraffe
  • Impala
  • Nyala
  • Kudu
  • Leopard – mummy and cub
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Vervet monkey
  • Baboon
  • Steenbok
  • Dwarf mongoose

 

Bonnie