The Canadian hooded villain
Canada has many scenic yellow traffic signs that warn you of moose, elk, big-horn-sheep and other wildlife crossing, but this sign has to be the most hilarious of all. On many public parking lots, this warning says that valuables in cars should be kept out of sight of potential thiefs, but the cartoonlike figure of the hooded, "Zorro"-like villain breaking and entering the car wins the price for weirdest traffic sign in my humble opinion.
Bedwells Falls Hike - Strathcona National Park
This hike (trailhead at the end of Buttle Lake) which is often recommended can only be reached by a 5 km gravel road. In most guide-books, it says "four wheel-drive suggested", so you could get the wrong impression that this road is manageable with a normal vehicle. It is not. The way is steep, dotted with deep potholes and sharp stones, and without a suitable vehicle you run a great risk of breaking your axle or getting a flat tyre. We gave up halfway, because we feared our car would break down in the middle of the wilderness. We didn`t see too many other vehicles along the way, so it would take some time to get help in case you need it. Better try this road only if you trust your vehicle or if you have a 4WD-car.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
No danger, but a real annoyance. Though our Canada journey was great, one thing really put us off: The behaviour of foreign tourists in the national parks (less so the local visitors). There really are only a few rules on how to behave there, but even those are constantly ignored. A few examples:
1. On the Mt. Edith Cavell meadows - hike three tourists (from the accent I`d say they were from Switzerland) were having a lunch in the mountain meadows. Now almost every 500 meters along the path big signs show that the alpine vegetation is fragile and easily destroyed and hikers must stay on the path at all times. The signs also reminds all hikers - with photographs - that because of visitors strolling off the path, much plants had been destroyed in recent years, so that the park authorities had to lots of path-rebuilding and re-planting. For those who can`t read English, icons show that it is forbidden to step on the meadows. When we saw them sitting there, we said in no uncertain terms that they should get off the meadows very quickly, as the meadows are a no-go-area, and explained why. They did not. We asked them why they chose to ignore the park rules, they said they didn`t know about them and nobody told them (simply ridiculous, there were signs and icons everywhere). Mistaking us for Canadians, they even complained about Canadians not being very friendly. These people should never-ever be allowed to enter a national park again. I will report this incident to the park authorities, too, knowing that they probably can`t do much about it.
2. Dogs are to be held on the leash at all times in National Park, and there are some areas where dogs are completely forbidden (like Caribou recovery zones or areas where bears with cubs are known to live). We saw lots of people walking their dogs off-leash and sometimes ignoring the no-dog-zones, too. I simply don`t get it. Why can`t they walk their doggies in their residential areas ? Even a leashed dog will scare away wildlife.
3. Tourists smoking (!) in National Park areas, woods etc.
4. Tourists ignoring the warnings not to cross the security barriere at Columbia Icefields glacier, instead walking on the Glacier, sometimes with their kids.
5. Tourists stopping their cars abruptly on the driving lane once they see a wild animal. Tourists getting out of their car and approaching or even feeding wild animals to get a better photo shot.
A lot of tourists behave as if they own the National Parks and behave real stupid or reckless. As I see it, there are only two solutions: First, the park authorities should send staff on the most popular hiking trails on a regular basis to fine tourists who violate park rules on the spot and maybe even deny them further entry into the national park. Second, every responsible tourists should instantly critisize the behaviour of those who don`t follow park rules and not just ignore them.
Wildlife is often spotted along the road, especially elk, deer, and big-horn sheep. Lots of drivers instantly stop on the highway when they see wildlife or drive abruptly on the side lane without indicating. This can be quite dangerous, so always keep enough distance to the car before you, indicate when driving onto the side lane, be careful when when re-entering traffic, and keep distance to the animals.
Many ignore the rule that one should not leave the car and approach the animals for a better photo. This should not be done - animals, especially bears or elk deer, can be very dangerous. Even if animals are not likely to react agressive, people leaving their cars scare the animals away while people sitting in cars are usually ignored.
Downtown Eastside Vancouver
Do not go there - rather take a taxi or a bus if you want to go from Gastown to Chinatown and vice versa. Several other readers already commented on this ill-reputed neighbourhood, so I`ll keep it short. The distance between Gastown and Chinatown is only a few blocks, but those are full with seedy characters, street bums, drug addicts and prostitutes. Even in daylight the Downtown Eastside is considered unsafe. Apart from this area, Vancouver felt pretty safe to me.
Dont feed the Elk!
When you're visiting the Rockies (ie: Banff & Jasper), be alert for wildlife, especially elk! Elk seem to be the popular mountain animal in town - they're literally everywhere! Please remember that elk are wild animals. They're unpredictable. If you come too close, they could charge you and could fatally wound you. It's best to stay in your car and view from the windows. Whatever you do, please don't feed the wildlife, elk or otherwise. Feeding them only encourages them to hang out in populated areas which is usually more fatal for them than it is for us.
We had over 8 elk outside out condo the last day we were there. they were just begging for food.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Family Travel
Things not to say while in Canada
Sometimes visitors, especially of the American persuasion, visit Canada and say certain things that really aggravate us Canadians. Here are some examples:
• This Canadian money is soooo cute. It reminds me of Monopoly money!
• I’m surprised to hear that you don’t add “eh” to the end of every sentence.
• I see a lot of modern buildings all around, but where are your igloos?
Winter Highway driving in Canada
I have been asked about the safety of winter driving in Canada. I tend to think one can head out in Canadian winters, as long as you are careful. My wife hates the inconveniences of long distance road travel in winter.
I would never road travel in winter without being prepared for the possibility of driving off the road and have to spend a good number of hours (maybe overnight) in your vehicle. That means we travel with a cell phone, a whole lot of extra blankets, with shovels, with the vehicle's tank at last half-full of fuel, and we listen to local weather reports. Plus if it looks like a storm is brewing, we tend to get off the highway (into a motel) pretty early (the later you leave it, the harder it is to find a room). Also, I would never make such a trip without getting a garage to give your vehicle the once-over -- nothing worse than loosing your alternator in mid-trip, and we always put some gas-line antifreeze in the car before the trip (our gas line froze on one trip).
Our normal yearly winter drive is across the prairies from Winnipeg to Calgary, and over the past 30 years, we have been forced to seek shelter in motels about five times, white-knuckled driven about five times (white-knuckle driving is when you can barely see the road, and you drive hunched over the steering wheel, adrenalin pumping, etc.), and only slipped off the road once.
As long as you are aware of and plan for the risks, I would drive. Cost-wise it depends on how much 'luggage' you need to take with you. If you do not need a lot of luggage, we have found that two people flying is approx the same as two people driving. This is when cheaper flights are available of course. It doesn't work at Christmas time when the airfare for one person will cover gas and maintenance for your vehicle.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
The lack of train travel
This is definitely a warning, and not a danger, but I feel I must mention it because many people who come from parts of the world where train travel is cheap, fast, and reliable tend to come to Canada with the same expectations. However, in Canada, train travel is basically a novelty. It's one of the most expensive and slowest ways to travel in Canada. Canada is geographically so massive, and there's such a sparse population, train travel isn't really convenient. There is no equivalent to the European train system in Canada.
First, trains are predominantly used for transporting cargo in Canada. Thus, cargo trains get first priority on the tracks. This often results in passenger trains having to wait before cargo trains clear. This can often take hours, resulting in unreliable time schedules.
Second, the cities and towns serviced by trains are few and far between. There really aren't that many stops. As well, VIA Rail, Canada's national passenger railway, is really the only option if you want to travel by train across Canada, and the trains don't depart every day. If you're on a tight schedule, plane travel is always faster, and sometimes even cheaper!
Finally, the trains are great from getting you from town to town, but they're not ideal for experiencing the wilderness, famous for Canada. The only train that focuses on the scenery is the Rocky Mountaineer and Whistler Mountaineer. They're both luxury passenger trains and cost a small fortune. These are not every-day commuter trains but are equivalent to cruise ships on rail - definitely not for those on a budget.
All in all, while travelling Canada by train makes for a unique experience, it's not going to be the fastest, cheapest or most convenient.Related to:
Perhaps it's just because I'm from the Southwest United States, but I find Canadian food to be extremely bland. After my first trip, I always make certain I bring some tabasco and other seasonings with me. In Canada don't count on a restaurant being able to provide them for you! They may not even have them.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
- Road Trip
Snow, snow and more snow!
Be prepared for some snow when you visit Ontario in the winter! This picture was taken in Stayner, the village where I used to live, on 30th January, 2003. It was a gorgeous sunny day, so I went out to take some pictures of the snow covered landscape. Hahaha, but the sandbanks were so high I couldn't look over them any more :-)) This is what they call an old-fashioned Canadian winter :-) Not all of Ontario is this snow-covered though. I lived about 1 1/2 north of Toronto in an area also known as the snow-belt. Hahaha, I guess that name explains why there is so much snow here at times ;-)
NUNAVUT CANADA – TRAVELERS BEWARE!!!
For those considering traveling to Nunavut through a licensed tour operator or outfitter, I recently read a rather disturbing newspaper article in the Kivalliq News (August 25, 2010) involving a case where the Nunavut Government pulled the operating license of a long-term eco-tourism operator right on their opening day and without notice, and subsequently ruined the pre-paid holidays of nearly 40 people booked. I am scheduled for a tour to Nunavut in 2011, so this definitely caught my attention. From what I have been able to find out, this unprecedented maneuver appears to have been done without any solid basis or as result of any investigation. What's even worse, this may have forced the tour operator into insolvency, and the Government of Nunavut is apparently not intending to pay back the tourists whose holidays have been wrecked by their actions.
Having traveled to the Canadian Arctic several times previously, I have noticed a definite distain by both the Governments and tourism departments towards eco-tourism development in both Nunavut and the NWT; and if this sort of thing can be done to one tour operator, it can also be done to another without notice as well…
Seems it may be sort of like a police state in the Far North - eh?
Kamloops, Off Roading alone
We all know that this is a "No No" but some of us still do it.
There may be several reasons for this but none are good ones I suppose.
The location of this place seemed like the North end of town, ask a local.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Horse Riding
- Hiking and Walking
It's So Big!
Warning: Canada is much bigger than you imagine! DO NOT think you can possibly see everything this country has to offer in 1 or 2 trips here!
Don't generalize it, if you've been to the west coast, don't assume you have any idea what the east coast looks like- because it's completely different!
TAKE BEARS SERIOUSLY
While camping be careful of bears who are found in most parts of Canada. The common brown bear can be dangerous although some people approach them and give them apples, which is kind of stupid. The grizzly bear is deadly and shouldn't be approached. Camp grounds will have warning signs up, also tamper proof trash cans, but remember not to keep food in your tent as you might find a bear ripping the tent apart during the night. If you don't have your own car it is better to hang the food up a tree by using a rope.Related to:
- National/State Park
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