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Canada

Awesome Trip to Haida Gwaii

By James

semi-overcast 15 °C

We are still travelling, but just in shorter trips! And this one was a good one so we thought we would share:

Haida Gwaii used to be called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Its as far west in Canada as you can get! After a 2-hour flight in a thirty-seater plane, where I couldn't see anything because of the massive bank of clouds that blocked my the view, we eventually landed in Sandspit Airport. We rushed to the rental car service and drove 70k/h (the limit was fifty) to get to the ferry before it took off and we'd have to wait another 50 minutes until it came back across the gap between Moresby Island and Graham Island. We got there just as they were closing the gates and got on and about ten seconds later, the ferry left the shore.Twenty minutes later we arrived in Skidegate (pronounced SKI-duh-git) on Graham Island.

After a long two-hour drive up the island we got to Masset. We looked around for a restaurant to grab a bite to eat before driving to where we were staying for the night.We looked around town but all the restaurants were either closed or full. After about 20 minutes of searching we found this place called The Golden Pam and we ate dinner there. After that we drove along North Beach until we reached where we were staying, The Sand Dollar Cabin! It was a cute little cabin that had three beds and it was 60% sleeping space it had a table that was waaaayyy too small for all of us. The next day, we were all woken up by our neighbours in the scallop cabin driving off in their truck to go clam digging, we met them when they came back and they showed us their clams. Daddy had a conversation with them and they asked if they could teach us how to fish for crabs.That was how we ended up on North Beach watching my dad wade around in chest deep water trying to catch a five-inch male Dungeness crab. In the end he did end up catching one and we cooked it up and we (Neve not included) ate it. It's meat was sweet but kinda' rubbery and I didn't like it too much but my parents loved it! The next day, we walked the Tow Hill Trail. Tow Hill is an old volcano and the highest point around for miles and it is less than 125 meters. Pretty pathetic compared to what we have here in Alberta eh? So, anyways we climbed to the top of Tow Hill and we got our first view of the Alaskan panhandle. It wasn't much to see, just a bunch of snow-covered peaks peeking out from above the clouds.

The next day we packed up our stuff and began the drive to Queen Charlotte, the largest town in Haida Gwaii. On our way there, we made multiple stops, the first was the Golden Spruce Trail. Me and my dad hiked the fifteen-minute trail to the bank of a river and on the other side of the river was the skeleton of the golden spruce. For those of you that don't know the story of the golden spruce, here it is. The golden spruce was a large rare spruce tree that's needles were gold in colour. It was worshipped by the Haida People. When Haida Gwaii was logged, they left a small patch of trees including the golden spruce. One man thought this was stupid so one night, in protest against the logging companies, he put a large cut in the bottom of the tree. The next storm, the tree blew down. This angered the Haida People, so they set up a trial for the man in court. But he never made it there, he was lost at sea while kayaking to his trial in Haida Gwaii. To this day some Haida people say they will kill him if he ever returns.

So there it is, the story of the golden spruce. Now, back to my story. After doing the trail, we drove until we reached Port Clements. We then visited the church where we saw the Golden Spruce Jr. It had been grafted from the original tree but since had been grafted as a branch, it looked more like a bush. When we finally reached Queen Charlotte, we went straight to where we were staying, The Echo Bay Lodge! As soon as we got there we were greeted by our host, Terry. Before dinner, we decided to walk down to the visitor centre and we played in their touch pool. When we got back, Terry gave us a crab to have for dinner so we had crab cakes and chicken for dinner. The next day, we went straight to the Spirit Lake Trail, it was a guided hike and our guide was AWESOME! At the end of the hike he sung us a Haida song.

The following day, we drove down to Sandspit and stayed at a B&B for the night. The next morning, we left at 7 am to go on a 4-day Moresby Explorers zodiac tour of Gwaii Hanaas National Park. On our first day we drove for about three hours in our little zodiac boat with a few stops along the way, we stopped at the ancient village site of Skedans and toured around there and listened to the story of each totem pole told by the Haida watchman. After that, as we were zooming out of Skedans, we got a call over the radio that there were killer whales in the area. It was a pod of three or four whales and we followed them around for about an hour and then we continued our boating down to the floating lodge, where we were staying for the night. When we got to the floating lodge we were awestruck because we had counted 123 jellyfish on the way there! We were greeted by our cook, Sunny, and then we had a delicious dinner of salmon (my favourite) and it was DELICIOUS!! The next day me and Neve tried to catch a giant jellyfish with a net but since they are so fragile, we ended up straining it :(

The next day we had a very fun trip down to Rose Harbour. Because the waves were massive we would go flying through the air in our little zodiac boat and then we would hit the next wave with a crash. This continued for about 3 hours and we made a short stop for lunch and then continued on past Rose Harbour to go to S'Gang Gwaii, the most well preserved village in Haida Gwaii. We did a long tour with another Haida Watchman (named James) he told us many Haida stories. That day we also saw puffins, seals, sea lions, and humpback whales. We also watched a black bear hunting crabs. Back at Rose Harbour all the food is made from the seafood found around the harbour and the vegetables grown in the massive garden, all cooked over a wood-fired oven. They also grind their own flour.

The next day we stopped in the famous Burnaby Narrows for lunch. We walked along the beach until we found a shallow area filled with sea stars and giant red crabs that were super aggressive . We spent hours there, catching crabs and playing with sea stars. The clams were skirting out of the sand like a sprinkler system!

When we got to the floating lodge Sunny had prepared us another delicious meal, my mom and I borrowed a kayak and went looking for fossils and counted even more jellyfish. That night I was asleep before my head hit the pillow I was so tired. The next day we left and said good-bye to Sunny and then drove back to Sandspit. We stayed for three nights in Sandspit, did some hiking in old growth forest, and then we flew back to Alberta.

Parent's note: In addition to the stunning scenery and wildlife, the art and culture of Haida Gwaii is very vibrant. We very much appreciated the strong First Nation culture and their willingness to tell us their stories. Highly recommended ecotourism experience!

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Posted by Arin MacDyer 18:18 Archived in Canada Tagged trees animals Comments (1)

Rating the Family Travelling Experience

We are back at home and life goes on. It has been wonderful to reconnect with friends and family. We get to experience the things we missed (perogies, more than one change of clothes, toys) and the things we didn't miss (alarm clocks, schedules, housework). Almost everyone asks us what our favourite places were and each of us has a slightly different answer. Below are our list of the top three places we enjoyed the most:

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Neve
1) Sumatra
2) New Zealand
3) England

James
1) Australia
2) Sumatra
3) France

Arin
1) Sumatra
2) New Zealand
3) France

Simon
1) Sumatra
2) New Caledonia
3) Malaysia

But really, our entire year was full of wonderful experiences. 13 countries in all, and to put it another way, we didn't have a single negative experience - no sickness, no theft, no dangerous situations. Part of that was traveling to safe countries, hand washing and careful food choices, and choosing more cautious transportation methods. We still lived it up - ate at street vendors, hiked in jungle, swam in the ocean with sharks and jellyfish, and even managed to routinely cross four lanes of crazy traffic without aid of a crosswalk. Homeschooling was hard, but I would still recommend this type of travel for other families. Our kids were adored and pandered to everywhere. For Canadians with cold winters it was 10 years (or more) worth of winter vacations rolled into one, in places just too far to travel for a two week stint. It was also quality time together as a family that was so needed in our busy lives. Our children are better global citizens and definitely more confident. It is unlikely we'll make this exact type of trip happen again but for sure our family is going to keep travelling!

Posted by Arin MacDyer 09:40 Archived in Canada Tagged arin Comments (0)

Embrace the Chaos

Is three backpacks, a duffel bag, two carry-ons, two booster seats and a purse too much stuff?

Back in Edmonton it felt like we really had to limit our possessions. Although I know Simon loves me because he went out and bought me a compression sack so I could squeeze in an extra swimsuit and a dress. But we managed to get the stuff down to one bag of camping gear, one backpack with clothes, one pack of snorkel gear and the other held odds and ends like school books and a big ziploc of malaria pills.

I sure hope its enough and that the pile of luggage does not become a real drag to carry around. I guess that is for a future post!

Kids are nervous and excited but not too nervous to spend the American cash they got as a going away gift from Granny and Grandma. Straight to the candy store for them...

Posted by Arin MacDyer 14:02 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Shots

(James) I hate the SHOTS!!!! I hate the shots because I always experience such pain after. So far I have had 4. I also kind of like them because I get tons of pokemon cards and ice cream every time.

It is relay gona suck because my dad wont let me get very many suveneers!

Posted by Arin MacDyer 19:10 Archived in Canada Tagged james Comments (0)

Four Weeks to Go!

Four years of planning leading up to a four-week frenzy of preparation

I'm not sure how the conversation started. I remember it was during a road trip and maybe it was at the end of a particularly long winter. Simon and I easy agreed that we needed to travel for a year and that it would have to be a year of summer. With that conversation started the planning for a self-funded leave that would take our family around the world.

The hardest part has been in deciding where to go. We opted for safe, inexpensive (we are planning to camp lots so needed countries that supported tenting!), and that were warm when Canada was cold. We also needed a good long stop in England to catch up with relatives. Our itinerary is as follows:

  • Hawaii
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • France
  • England
  • Morocco
  • Iceland

We've bought a bunch of new gear, new packs for the kids, and have survived four batches of needles. We've booked vacation rentals in most of the places we will land, but certainly haven't planned all the accommodation or the trips we will take in each country. We've rented our home and are already living out of a suitcase. Four weeks to go and we are getting excited!
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 18:50 Archived in Canada Comments (3)

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