Welcome!

Hi Everyone!

So I’ve decided to do this blog as a bit of a scrap book to record my adventures in Canada, and hopefully give people thinking about going there an idea of what its like. Also webGIS is getting big right now so this seems like a fun way to learn a bit of web design!

Plus everyone does different social things, Facegram, InstaTwit, InBook, Linkeder, Shouting in the Street, etc, and I can’t be assed to remember all those passwords so I’m creating this as a one stop shop, which I can plaster all over the above websites!

I’ll try to add lots of different and interesting things I go along.

Enjoy!

The Stroudie Algonquin Expedition

Hot on the heels of my exit from Edgewalk was the arrival of 3 of my closest friends from the UK. Tom, Tim, and Soph were coming over to see Toronto and see one of my favorite places on earth; Algonquin Park! After some prep the 5 of us made our way up to the park, and made an early morning start the next day from Rock Lake.

Our first day was an easy one, we were all getting used to canoeing together, especially in our 3 person canoe, which we’d only had a couple of hours in before the trip, so I’d planned a route which was fairly short. We wound our way down the river into the lake and set out for Pen Falls and our first portage.

 

 

Our first portage was a short one to give the guys a taste of what was to come, we’d spread our kit well amongst our bags, were able to divide up the canoes and paddles nicely, and dispatched the portage without too much trouble. After that we were heading for our first campsite and made great progress down the lake, shaving some distance off our next day! We got to our campsite before lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and enjoying the camping. Me and Nyssa were in a tent, but Soph, Tim and Tom had decided to go with hammocks for their accommodation! I was quite interested to see how they got on with them, especially as a thunderstorm started to roll in that night!

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Getting the fire going in the evening…

We awoke the next day to rain. Mine and Nyssa’s tent was showing it’s age a little and the common consensus from the hammock club was that they’re not insulated and they don’t offer much protection from sideways rain! I was a little nervous, we were quite soggy and I was hoping that the rain wasn’t going to set in for the entire weekend and spoil the holiday. Fortunately the rain cleared up as we were getting ready to go and the sun came out just as we were leaving. Our route for the second day would take us up the Galipo River through Welcome Lake and Harry’s Lake.

 

The route made for a decent workout, as we were paddling against the flow of the river in places, and the wind was annoyingly against us the whole way, but we were rewarded with a great lunch spot at the end of our longest portage of the trip, 2170m!!

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On the beach at lunch time!

We reached our campsite in the early afternoon, which had a huge exposed rock outcrop for us to swim and fish off of, hang out on, and dry things on. We also enjoyed the last of our fresh dinners. From here on out tea would be boil in the bag! We still had plenty of fresh cheese and cucumbers for lunch though, and whisky. The weather continued to hold out for us and we enjoyed a warm evening around the fire.

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Chilling out on the rocks..

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Enjoying the camp fire..

Our third day was the longest of the trip, 4 portages totaling 3000m, and we had to cross a wide stretch of Lake Louisa. The conditions were also much more muddy and buggy than usual… We made good progress however, and had worked out a good system for each portage by now, with everyone playing their part to spread the weight around.

 

Lake Louisa proved easy to cross and we took lunch at a rocky island in the middle of Rod and Gun Lake (in order to escape the mosquitoes). I was really pleased at the progress we’d been making during the trip. We had plenty of time to stop for a lazy lunch, or wake up, pretty much whenever we liked and we were never really under any pressure to get to our campsite, miles away. This day was our longest day of travelling, and we were doing very well, taking a steady pace but not busting a gut.  We dispatched the final portage to arrive at our campsite for the night, and enjoy our hard earned boil in the bag dinners!

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The island on Rod and Gun…

Our forth day was pretty short one. This trip was a holiday after all, so I’d planned a short amount of travelling that we could bang out before lunch and have the afternoon to laze about and enjoy the lake.

 

It was a great lazy afternoon with 95% of the hard work for the trip done. We all took time to swim and wash, and me and Tom tried our hand at some fishing. Me and Nyssa made sure to finish off our bottle of whisky of course! The whisky of choice for this trip was the Ledaig 10 year old! A wonderfully peated dram that goes well with the act of burning anything you can get your hands on, and chop down to size! We stayed up fairly late that night listening to music and watching the fire go down, and we all took time to savor the moment in the wilderness before we returned to civilization the next day.

Our final leg was very short. One average length portage, and a half hour paddle back to the access point and our pick up. We weaved our way around the islands of Cache Lake, and just had time for a quick photo before we headed back to give back our canoes, and drive back to T.O.

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We made it!

It was a really great trip. I really loved taking some of my closest friends out to one of my favorite places in the whole world, and introduce them to Nyssa before she comes over to the UK in September. I was also pleased that I’d struck a good balance between actually going on a journey and still having time stop and smell the roses. It was another great highlight of the last 3 years, and one I will never forget.

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Oh yeah and obviously I had to take them up the tower! 

 

Leaving Edgewalk

As June came to and end it was time for me to leave Edgewalk. My work visa was due to expire which meant no more working, and thus I would have to end my time at the tower. I’d been really enjoying my last few months there; I’d ticked off most of the things I hoped to see on a tour (mostly weather phenomenon), and I been lucky to have some great groups of guests who were as enthused about the place as I am.

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Ya just can’t beat the office space..

As my last day approached I began to get a few pangs of sadness. Everyone at the tower has been very good to me. It’s been a place of acceptance and support for the entire 3 years of my visa, almost to the day, and in recent days I’ve realized its been the closest thing I’ve had to home while I’ve been here.

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Back in my first season.

It was very fitting that I spent my last time up there with Jenn. She’s been with me at the tower from day one, we did our initial interviews and medical together, most of our training together and all those summers full of tours. We closed up on my last day and took some time to take some selfies, take in the view, and talk about the future.

 

The next day a load of us got together for some drinks and it was very humbling to hear messages of support and thanks from everyone, I managed to hold it together as everyone start to leave the party and ended up being the last one to leave in the morning after we went back to Colin’s house for more drinking.

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It’s a thumbs up from us!

Despite feeling very sad about leaving I know that it’s the right time for me to be moving on. My generation there has moved into management or left for greater things, and this is no time in life for me to be treading water.

On Canada Day me and Nyssa made our way over to Trillium park to watch the tower’s firework display. As we watched everything going off I felt glad that I’d made a small contribution, I helped write the book on how to launch fireworks off the tower, so I felt like in a tiny way I’d left a bit of a legacy there for years to come.

The Top (only) 8 things I HATE about Canada.

After last week’s whisky rant, here follows a list of my gripes with this happy-go-lucky nation:

8 – Why is it so far away??

If I’m going to be spending my time divided between my home and here the least Canada can do is be closer to the UK. Instead I have to take about 8 hours out of my day and 400 quid to go between! Soooo rude. Lets face it, Britain gave Europe the 1 finger salute, and Scotland’s already copying, so we may as well get some big chains, push Iceland out of the way, and drag ourselves Wales first into the Gulf of Labrador, the weather would basically be the same anyway.

7 – The Border Force

I know we need to monitor the country’s borders, but you didn’t need to hold me for 3 hours unnecessarily last week, and because of that you made my list!!

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This way to destiny!! (and a long wait….)

6 – Canadian Phone Coverage

Canadian phone coverage is some of the most expensive in the world. In Britain I can pay $35 a month for a free Iphone and like 10 gigs of data, why can’t I here??? You can here the operators whingeing now “Oooh the country’s too big” or ” The infrastructure’s expensive” BOO HOO!! You’re a gigantic corporation Bell, and you Roger, so man up and make it cheaper. Oh but thanks for texting me when I’ve nearly used up my data that’s handy.

5 – Canadian National Railways (CN)

In Japan the average delay for trains last year was 0.6 minutes, and you can travel 500km in less than 2.5 hours. By that standard my train from Jasper to Toronto should have been an overnight, and not 4 days!!! Seriously though, I shouldn’t have arrived 13 hours late, and don’t turn your nose up because the government says you have to let VIA use the track, I’m still your customer, and PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FREIGHT. Just because you built my favorite tower doesn’t mean you get off any lighter here. On the plus side when the train turned up in the PAN – AM opening ceremony I did get to shout “At least this one’s on time!!!” And that got me some laughs, thanks….

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Fun, but tardy…

4 – Not Included Sales Tax

Canada, when I go into a shop with my weird plastic tenner, and I see laundry detergent for $9.99, guess how much I want to pay………………that’s right $9.99!! With the penny change! OH WAIT! YOU DON’T HAVE ANY SODDING PENNIES!!! It’s called a penny jar guys, what am I supposed to put in it?? DIMES???? Get out of here!

3 – Tax Returns

So when I play the guaranteed jackpot CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) lottery every year, WHY should I spend an entire evening at my laptop NOT playing Kerbal Space Program, and filling in stupid online forms to get my money???? In the UK you just ring up the Her Majesty’s Revenue Agency and explain your life story in layman terms and they do it all for you! No wonder you can run the whole thing from an efficient looking, piss tiny, building in Ottawa. Pfft…

2 – Alcohol Laws/Tax, particularly in Ontario.

Seriously guys these law and taxes put people out of business, and allow ole Forty Creek to sneak marzipan into their whisky and claim it’s more pure than Scotch. Come on, have some standards, and help small businesses! Also, if I want to buy my favorite 100% Canadian Rye, I don’t want to have to trek half way across the province to find it!

1- The Banks

Dear all Canadian Banks,

WHY, If I’m giving you all my money, and allowing it to be used as capital to help you to earn millions in profit, WHY should I be charged for you to use it? Some of you, and I’m looking at you RBC, have buildings literally made of gold, and you want to charge me for the privilege of looking after it! Don’t give me that bull about waiving fees if its over a certain amount, in the UK I have 2 accounts with 4 pound between them and I don’t get charged nothing! They are essential facilities, and when I need to buy whisky and maple fudge they won’t always be full! And no I don’t want a free ipad, you consumerist pig!! Or a Samsung equivalent TD, you cheapskates, and your buildings are rubbish!!!!

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BMO doesn’t have any imagination either….

Happy Canada Day long weekend!!!

Thumbs up!

I’ve hung out in worse countries.

 

A very important meeting…

After Ross left I spent most of June being a bit of a hermit, saving money ready for July and my two upcoming canoe trips. Most of my entertainment came from Edgewalk. June was to be my last month working up there, ever, so I’d been experiencing a fresh wave of enthusiasm for the place, just to be out there taking it in.

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Some awesome cloud action..

As July approached I had a very important meeting, my parents had come to town for a few days, and they would be meeting Nyssa for the first time. I wasn’t particularly nervous about this, but nevertheless I did have a few butterflies just as the two were about to meet. Unsurprisingly everything was fine and soon they were all exchanging stories of my drunken behaviour, which seems to be how most people who know me bond when they meet for the first time! Mum and Dad had a few things planned while they were in town, this included a Jays game of course.

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We actually won the game too!!

The next day we headed down to Niagara Falls. The main aim was to visit the American side of the falls which presented a few extra challenges for me. I would need to get my ESTA and be prepared to face the potential wrath of two border protection agencies once again. Getting the ESTA was useful for me as I needed to ensure I got a stamp in my passport at some point near the end of my visa, to allow me to rent a car with my friends in July. The Americans were actually most suspicious of Nyssa when we first arrived, but after we explained how we all knew each other they were pretty nice and we go through the border no problem. The American side of Niagara was pretty nice. It didn’t have the extensive casinos and waxworks that the Canadian side does, and there was a much larger area of park land around the fall, which I really liked. The view of the falls is not quite as good, but you can get close to both sets of falls, and there’s a lookout that extends out over the canyon.

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The view from ‘Merica

My parent’s visit was quite short, but definitely a success, both them and Nyssa expressed how much they liked each other and it was really nice for me to start welcoming Nyssa into the family, as I’d been welcomed with open arms into hers. The real fun starts next month, 3 of my friends are coming over to meet her! (and go canoeing!)

Ross and the tour guide(s)…

Being a professional tour guide helps when your mates come to town and you need to show them what Toronto’s all about. In May Ross passed through Toronto on his way to Vancouver, and starting his working holiday! He was deciding which city to spend the bulk of his time in, and despite wanting to remain impartial, it was hard not to be loyal to Toronto and want him to come back here! Conveniently he’d had picked an AirBnB that was a short walk away from me, so we were able to meet up close by and do a lot of walking around the city. I was keen to show Ross the more cultured parts of the city, so we set out first for Kensington Market, and then after a wander around there we weaved down through the city to the tall building of the Financial District. Despite Toronto’s rich tapestry of culture, they’re still a big part of how the city works, so you can’t really ignore them when you’re showing people around. We finished with some Mexican in the distillery district, which also had a market on, with loads of trinkets to see and buy!

You can’t come to Toronto without going down to Niagara Falls, so me and Ross took a day to go down there as well. On the way we stopped at Forty Creek’s distillery. I like distillery tours, and this one was attractive to me as I’ve never seen a large distillery that churns out thousands of bottles of bottles a year. The tour itself was interesting, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. First the tour guide went meticulously though Forty Creek’s entire product range pretentiously saying how every single one was definitely best in class, and how their whiskys were all not liquors when compared to their rivals like honey Jack Daniels, despite saying their maple “whisky” was basically a 1-1 mix of whisky and maple syrup. We’re were unconvinced. After that we were taken into the distillery itself which as I expected was on a scale unlike anything I’d seen before. We were shown a continuous still 3 floors high, and tanks for various things that were 20,000 litres plus! The original smaller stills were there and I believe the largest is used to make some of Forty Creek’s flagship whiskies. I picked up a bottle of the Confederation Oak in the shop for Joe.

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Perhaps the only one worth buying?…..

Our conversation with the tour guide in the shop after was the most interesting part of tour however. I was interested to know the mash bill (what grains they use) for the whisky, but I was told this was a secret. Fair enough if you’re making secret sauce, but every other decent distillery I’ve ever encountered makes a big thing of what grains they use, holding them up as a reason for the flavor they’re so proud of. A lack of transparency with spirits is never a good thing, and set off alarm bells that only made us probe further. Despite feigning knowledge in the conversation, our tour guide didn’t seem to actually know that much about the product she was saying was the best in the world. She was pretty ambiguous on what Canadian whisky even was, giving us generalizations scotch is from Scotland and bourbon is from America, rye is from Canada, there’s more to it than that. We did glean one thing though. After slagging off our beloved scotch whisky saying that “loads of scotch has artificial flavoring”, our tour guide told us that the distillery sometimes adds a “small” block of marzipan to their whisky! We came away from the conversation slightly shocked, it highlighted a major problem with Canada’s whisky industry. Producers are not required to declare exactly what’s in their products and this allows them to cut corners. Scotch and bourbon are held to exact standards about how their made, and in Canada those standards are not as high, which is a shame. We came away feeling a bit weird, like we’d watched some kind of shocking Louis Theroux documentary. Entertained, but deep down, shocked. It made me think about how I’ve been as a tour guide, people pay attention you, and listen to the facts you say, so it should be a point of pride to know that they’ll go away any perhaps find out that what you say is indeed true. We hadn’t seen much pride on show here, just prepared spiel and a bit of an urge to get us through as quickly as possible, but we did get some free tasters!

Anyway, rant over, after that we headed on to Niagara, in increasingly bad weather. When we arrived in Niagara the viability was zero and we couldn’t even see the falls!! I began to feel like the worlds worst tour guide, we’d already been to a rubbish distillery, and now the falls which I had sold as one of the worlds natural wonders was covered in fog! Nevertheless in pouring rain we soldiered on and ventured behind the falls. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do here as its filled with nerdy geological facts about the falls, and you can get really close to them, feeling the roar in your chest!

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Feeling the power!!

Luckily as the day went on the weather cleared up nicely and we walked along talking in the view and marveling over the tremendous amount of water being moved in front of us. We got back to TO quite late, and it took 2 days to dry my shoes off!

It was great to show Ross around Toronto, and hear him express how he liked it more than he expected. It was an important face to face catch up for me as well as I’m not sure when I’ll see him next. The experience at Forty Creek had also made me appreciate how integral my knowledge is to a good tour at Edgewalk, I hope that the care I take over my facts pays off long after my guests have finished their tour.

 

 

April and Thunder Bay

April was a pretty quiet month for me. After getting back from Ottawa I’ve spent most of my time finding a new place to live and then hanging out in it, in order to save money to finance some canoe trips later in the summer and keep my head afloat while my hours at the tower are low. It’s not all twiddling thumbs though, I’ve been brushing up on my knowledge ready for school in September, and catching up with my Toronto friends. Me and Nyssa had some adventures too!

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Nawww

The first was a trip for Nyssa up on to the Edgewalk. It was great to finally get her up there to see where I hang out all summer! It wasn’t the warmest day, but we could still see very far and have fun doing all the activities and things.

As April slipped into May, we ventured to Nyssa’s home town, Thunder Bay. It’s located on the shore of Lake Superior up in northern Ontario, a couple of hours flight from Toronto.  I was a tiny bit nervous on the way up, it was time to meet Nyssa’s parents!!

As we came in to land we flew over Thunder Bay’s perhaps most iconic attraction, the Sleeping Giant. This huge landform stretches for over 5 miles along the horizon in front of the city, and resembles a person led on their back.

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Viewed from 25km away!

The scale of the giant is awesome, and whenever we were driving around the city it constantly drew my eye. We were fortunate to get great weather for our visit and so it was nearly always visible when we looked out over the bay.

Nyssa had organised a busy long weekend of first meetings for me, but we spent most of our time hanging out with Nyssa’s parents and brother, and going around to see the local scenery. Our first stop was a walk through Centennial Park. Thunder Bay sits on the exposed edge of the Canadian Shield, a huge section of rock which forms part of the core of Canada itself. Nyssa had mentioned once that amethysts and geodes could sometimes be found in the area and ever since I’d been teasing her about Thunder Bay having gems lying around everywhere! So as we set of into the park my eyes were searching everywhere on the off chance I’d see something (although I really had no clue what to look for!) Sure enough though I spotted a vein of bright white and purple crystals running through a rock in the ground. After some scuffling around, and using the classic technique of throwing one rock at another, we came away with a few nice pieces.

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The really good one is Nyssa’s find.

We also had a day with her friends and went over to Kakabeka Falls just outside Thunder Bay. The area had experienced a big deluge of rain and ice a week or so before, and so the falls were really swollen, with water blasting over the edge at quite a rate!

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A lot of white water!

As for Thunder Bay itself, the town is not exactly anything to write home about, but as with every city in Canada, dramatic scenery is never far away. The trip was really worth it to meet Nyssa’s family, and I’m looking forward to coming back again, and definitely want to do some hiking to see the Sleeping Giant close up.

The Capital

I’d been back in Toronto less than 48 hours before I went off to my next new place, Ottawa! Me and Nyssa were heading up to spend some time with her sister, Kathleen, and her boyfriend Kurt. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Ottawa, most Canadians who I’ve mentioned it to have responded with “meh, its ok I guess” or something to that effect. Nevertheless I’d been eyeing it for an excursion since the beginning of my trip. We were based at the Chateau Laurier, right in the middle of the city and perfect for sight-seeing.

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Yup, it’s another giant castle..

We spent our long weekend going around a host of characterful little spots, nearly all of which revolved around food! On our first day we managed to hit up a tea house, an Ethiopian restaurant, 2 pubs, an escape room, and a secret underground bar! Our second day started with an awesome breakfast!

Ottawa does a pretty awesome breakfast! #foodporn #ottawa #adventure

A post shared by Dave Pellatt (@danger2007) on

That afternoon we went to look at Parliament Hill. This was pretty much the main tourism aim for me for the trip, to see where it all happens. Canada’s government buildings are split into blocks that surround a large open square. It was first used for the government in 1859 and I found walking around the square that it had a real colonial feel to it. I could imagine it as an outpost of London, with it’s Gothic, European, style buildings among the wooden buildings of early Canada.

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Ottawa circa 1838. Parliament is now built on the right.

In the middle of Parliament Hill is Center Block, and the Peace Tower which towers over the square and offers a great view out over the city, Ontario to the south, and Quebec to the north.

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Pretty ornate….

We didn’t get to see inside until the next day (after a swing class, and some rather good tacos) when we took a free tour of the tower and a few rooms at the base. The view on the day we were there was great, we could see a very long way, helped by the fact that Ottawa has limited the height of buildings around the city to close to the level of tower.

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Quebec to the north….

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Ontario to the south….

We spent our final evening at Kathleen and Kurt’s for dinner and board games, and then on our final day, we all went to see a Canadian institution, a sugar bush! (It’s where maple syrup is made.)

Upon arrival I got to try a traditional Canadian treat, Taffy! This is made by dribbling warm maple syrup over snow until the syrup is stiff like treacle and can be eaten like a lolly pop.

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Authentic and tasty!!

After some pancakes, smothered in maple syrup of course, we took a wander around one of the trails through the trees to see the actual extraction of maple syrup from the trees. In the old days syrup was extracted by tapping a tree and hanging a bucket off the tap to catch the sap, nowadays the taps are connected together by pipes allowing the syrup to be piped back to the farm straight to be processed. “Raw” maple syrup is almost as thin as water, so its quite simple to transport. It was very interesting to see, to feel the weight of the pipes, and actually see the sap moving through the lines towards the farm.

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Ducking through the sap lines…

Our visit to Ottawa was a really important travel lesson for me – Local knowledge is invaluable. Kathleen and Kurt have been living in the city for years, and without their suggestions we probably wouldn’t have found any of the cool little places that we visited, especially the secret bar, which is not common knowledge. (You’ll also have to find it yourself!) Now that I’m back in Toronto I’ve had to find a new place to live, and get to know a new neighborhood of my own. Hopefully I can find a few more hidden gems in my last few months here.