28. May, 2006

Back on the mainland and another fuel story

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 05:21

It's raining; again or still…

From Tofino we drove to Campell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The plan was to spend a couple of days in Strathcona Park and then drive north to board a ferry that would bring us to Bella Coola or Prince Rupert. Well, neither of it worked out as expected.

We camped one night in the Strathcona Park since it looked like the night was gonna be a dry one for a change. We found a wonderful spot at the Upper Campell Lake to put up our tent. The next morning we set out on a two day hike along the Elk River. So, we packed our two backpacks with everything we would need to spend some time in the lone wilderness and started hiking up through quiet forrests. After less than 20 steps light rain set in but we just kept going. It wasn't until two hours later that we realized…that we had forgotten to pack our stove fuel! How stupid! This meant: no chance of fixing a warm dinner (camp fires forbidden, and even if..all the wood was wet), not enough other food, and bad mood. We decided to return.
That night we stayed at a logde again to dry our gear. Ok, next we tried to arrange our ferry trip to northern B.C. First we found out that services to Bella Coola only start on June 7th, which meant we would have to spend two more weeks on Vancouver Island. Not an option for us. The fiendly B.C. Ferries staff also told us that they had recently lost one of the two vessels operating those northern passages. As a result this means that the only vessel left is booked until August. That's three months from now. Awful!

So, our trip is ful of surprises. Given the circumstances we decided to take the ferry back to Vancouver and head north towards Whistler. We didn't wanna drive into Whistler directly, though. Too many other tourists -> too expensive.

We're currently at a wonderful hostel in Squamish about 30 minutes south of Whistler. We like it here and might even stay a couple of days. We'll just see day by day.


24. May, 2006

Rain men – and women

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 20:14

So far we've had to deal with two problems here on Vancouver Island: finding fuel for our Trangia camping stove, and the rain.

Upon arrival with the ferry in Nanaimo we started looking for fuel for our stove. It proved to be a wild goos chase since nobody here seemed to understand what we really needed. What is called Brennsprit/Spiritus in German has different names here. We were looking for methylated spirit/methyl/spirit but it didn't ring a bell with anyone whom we asked. So we ended up setting up a fire at the campground and boiling water by putting the pans directly on the coal. It worked somehow…
The next morning we decided to hit every campground with a convenient store around Nanaimo. Luckily, we hit bulls eye with the first we found. However, we found out that the alcohol stove fuel is called methyl(ated) hydrat here in Canada.

So we camped again the next night cooking for the first time with our Trangia stove. However, we were forced to cook in the back of our Dodge Grand Caravan since by that time the rain had set in; and it wouldn't stop until next noon. So, in the morning we packed all the wet camping stuff into our car and drove to Tofino.

Tofino is a cute little harbor town at the end of the Trans Canada Highway. It's sitting on a peninsula surrounded by the pacific ocean on three sides. We just wanted a dry bed and a hot shower…

It hasen't stopped raining ever since and we're leaving Tofino today after two nights. Despite the rain and the heavy wind we were out on a whale watching cruise yesterday. It was a lot of fun thanks to the rough waves and the crazy french skipper. We didn't get to see any whales though 😦 but sea lions, sea otters, and bald eagles instead.

20. May, 2006

Leaving Vancouver behind

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 18:47

We're leaving Vancouver by car in a couple of hours to take the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. That's the plan…at least. From there we'll see where our interest we'll lead us.

We're not sad to get out of Vancouver. The city itself is ok but not of particular interest to tourists who have seen other cities of this planet before. It'd surely be ok to live here, people are friendly,  food is good, etc. but what counts here is nature. Mountains, forrests, and lakes around the city drag out us out of here like a magnet.

At this point of our journey we're also wondering how frequently we will be able to write new posts to this blog. We're curious to learn how widespread internet access is out there in the wilderness.

18. May, 2006

Out of US

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 20:27

Hey folks, last night we touched down in Canada for the first time. At a little over 2 hours it was a pretty short flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. This time we were prepared to not getting any food on board (that's normal in North America now). Not like when we flew from New York to San Diego (5 1/2 hours…) in the evening with an empty stomach since we expected to be served dinner on board – that was quite a disaster.

In San Francisco we were able to spend some time with Ryan – he used to work at the EF school in Santa Barbara – and his family. He's married to a Japanese, and they've got two cute kids. We really enjoyed being with them. Btw, if you think your English skills could do with some improvement, you should check out Ryan's company ESL Video. They offer extraordinary and authentic video-based lessons.
Other than that, we didn't do much in San Francisco. We toured all the touristic places during our several visits to SF in 97/98. Apart from those, however, we could recommend two venues: Twin Peaks at night and the Exploratorium. Our friends Aya & Tim, whom we spent some time with in San Jose and SF took us up to Twin Peaks on Sunday night. The place offers a magnificent view over the city. Very nice!

Although we've only spent less than half a day in Vancouver, we feel that people here are even more friendly (to tourists?) than they are down in California.

14. May, 2006

We’re heading north

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 20:22

It's Sunday morning and we're sitting in a cafe in San Jose. It's pretty warm outside and the city is slowly waking up.

We didn't like leaving Santa Barbara at all; it's just too gorgeous a place. We were able to meet both Akiko's ex-hostmother and my ex-hostfamily the Johnsons. The Johnson kids have grown into teenagers and hardly remember me. No wonder, they were only 2 and 5 then in 1997/98. As we used to when we lived there, we spent some time at Borders. Loaded with books and magazines we then spent a day at the beach and at the Mission Park reading. We even managed to pay a visit to the people at Image Net, the company I worked with during my internship.

On Friday morning we set off for Morro Bay – yet another place that brought back memories. I even stayed there once with my family when they were in the US to visit me. As always we stayed at the Embarcadero Inn and had dinner at the Windows on the Water restaurant. It might sound dull to do the same things over and ove, but that's the whole purpose of tracing memories.
We rented a kajak and paddled around the bay in search of those nice birds Morro Bay is famous for. We didn't see many, but we played cat 'n mouse with a seal instead.

11. May, 2006

Going home?

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 00:54

We left NYC on Sunday for San Diego. We discovered that it is much easier to get to JFK airport from Manhattan by subway and air train than it is by bus. Think about that if you plan to visit New York.

Seeing San Diego again after 8 years felt strange but very good. We drove around and visited all the places that were familiar to us because we had been there before. It's a great feeling. We also managed to spending an evening with Akiko's ex-housemate Kristen and her husband H.J. Wonderful!

Surprisingly, the weather in California is not as good as in New York. It's not as sunny and not as warm as on the east coast. On the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara we stopped in Santa Monica – no not to spend time on the pier, that's boring – but to see the art exhibition 'Ashes and Snow'. However, the line in front of the ticket office was way too long. Too bad, but we'll try to order posters of those magnificent photos.

We arrived in Santa Barbara yesterday in the afternoon in bright sunshine. That made this pearl of a town look even prettier. It gave us the chills driving into SB. In some way it felt like coming home. We're staying at The Sandman Inn; a decent motel uptown with two heated outdoor pools and jacuzzi.

7. May, 2006

Working out in NYC

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 00:43

Good we brought comfortable sandals with us… However, our feet and legs still feel as if we had walked up and down Manhattan all day long. That would be a little far from the truth, but we’ve explored a lot of New York on foot indeed. Together with the wonderfully warm and sunny weather our walks are also responsible for the suntaint on our heads and arms.

You might have heard from others that New York isn’t a cheap place – they were all right, believe us. It’s expensive to eat, to sleep, to shop, to… you name it. There are a few exceptions to the rule, though. Surprisingly, the ferry that sets over to Staten Island (25min ride) is free for some mysterious reasons.

One insider(?) tip regarding breakfast: since we tried to stay away from tourist traps (overpriced restaurants for example) and Delis we tried to find something off the beaten path. The Food Emporium offers wonderful bakery, fresh fruits and a whole lot of other food at decent prices.

3. May, 2006

The eagle has landed

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 22:50

Well folks, we’ve arrived in New York! What an exciting city…

Yesterday we walked around the neighbourhood (hotel area on 45st street), had coffee in Bryant Park and went to see the Public Library. The 7.2 million books there put us in awe. Today we explored the finacial district – and Ground Zero of course – and strolled around Soho. It’s wonderful but tiring to spend time in this vibrant metropolitan.

As for our hotel, I think we got a decent deal. The Milford Plaza assigned a corner room on the 27th floor to us. This gives us a wonderful view over upper 8th street and west Manhattan. The honking of cars down on the roads and the sirens of police cars and ambulance, however, reminded us during the night that we’re in New York and not in Tokyo 😉

1. May, 2006

Hectic rush before departure

Filed under: North America 2006 — frightanic @ 00:55

Things are getting a bit hectic now as the day of departure is right ahead. Since we plan to meet some of our friends, ex-teachers, ex-hostfamilies along the way from San Diego to San Francisco we need to make our schedule more concrete than we initially planned to. But of course, we can't just tell 'em: "hey, we'll get there whenever we feel like it, just be around".

One of my ex-teacher at EF in Santa Barbara, whom I haven't seen in eight years is leaving for vacation the very same day that we planned to arrive in SB – we'll rearrange somehow to make it happen still.

Yesterday we learned that an acquaintent we know from Toastmasters here in Zug – we haven't seen here for quite some time as well – will be in New York Monday/Tuesday May 1st/2nd and also that she'll be around San Francisco until the end May. We on the other hand will arrive in New York May 2nd and we will leave San Francisco on May 17th. So, we might arrange for a dinner or drink with her in San Francisco.

We're busy emailing and Skypeing with the various people. The fact that California is 9 hours behind does certainly not make this easier…

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