Category Archives: Travel

Stream crossing

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I like this photo….just because.  In some cases, photos are enjoyable or noteceable because of what their subject matter. Personally, I couldn’t get the best angle I wanted to, but I did get the sun dappling over these large, lovely smooth boulders which were the stepping stones over the shallow stream in the park. I thought the use of the stones gave the stream a wonderful fairy tale setting!

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Japan: Bridges in a Park

So there was this park that wasn’t in any guidebook online I could find; you really have to be searching for it specificaly. It’s called Koraku park near Korakuen station or Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens. It is actually designated a historical asset and of special historical significance. Each scene in the park is meant to recreate a scene from somewhere in Japan. The red bridge immediately draws your eye. It is a recreation of the Tsutenkyo Bridge from the Kyoto temple Tofukuji. Many of the views of the bridge are partially obscured from other viewpoints and looking up at this bridge didn’t really highlight anything so this is my favourite view that shows the red popping amidst the green, but also gives some movement to the picture as it leads your eye off to the other side.

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The full moon bridge is named because when the river below is high, you get a reflection of a full moon from the bridge’s arch. This is actually recreating Seiko Park from China. I tried photographing it from all angles, similar to the red bridge above, but in this case, simple was best. Head on to show the gracefulness of the lines of the bridge.

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Japan: Culture Through Cooking

I love to eat and I’m an engineer. What better way to learn about a culture than to flame broil some tofu? This hands-on cooking course was perfect. Small groups, instruction in perfect English by locals and all about local food. Below we prepare a miso sauce firm tofu skewers. We learned the local uses of white versus red miso (white is for special occasions!)

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And we also made Japanese spring chicken stew that is not so common in North America.

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And lastly, interesting combinations of local crunchy cucumbers and the ever present dried fish!

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Our hosts were lovely – see more at Cooking Sun and/or book at GoVoyagin!


Japan Wildlife Two Ways

If you’ve followed my blog (please do!) you will know I photograph animals. A lot of animals. So when I got this chance to get close up to a beautiful wild heron (using my standard zoom – not even telephoto!) I took it. This first photo shows the detail of the plumage and subtle shades of colours.

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The second shot is the one I’d hang on the wall though. Waiting with just a little patience, the bird moved very, very slowly underneath a tree. Because the crane was hunting, there were no ripples in the water. This was the last in a series of shots where the bird’s shadow was fully immersed in the trees shadow.

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My favourite photos from Spirit Bear Lodge – part 1

This post is going to be about the bears because when you call yourself Spirit BEAR Lodge, you pretty much make the point that the bears are the highlight. There are grizzly bears, black bears and the spirit bear. On the trip I took, we mostly saw grizzlies and we, unfortunately, missed the spirit bear 😦  I can’t say I was disappointed with what we did see though! People tell me that if I want to see bears, just come out to the town dump and see the poor bears that have been hooked on junk food just like us.  I say that seeing bears in their own habitat on their own terms is as different to the “town” bear as astro turf is to a meadow.  The fake stuff will do and is less expensive, but you know it ain’t real.

Black bear mother

Black bear mother

Young juvenile grizz - pretty thin, but eating

Young juvenile grizz – pretty thin, but eating

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Very large male a very long way away

Very large male a very long way away

Sunning bear not sun bear

Sunning bear not sun bear

Is that a salmon I see?

Is that a salmon I see?

dum, de, dum, de, dum

dum, de, dum, de, dum

Salmon!

Salmon!


Spirit Bear Lodge – An overview, a teaser and what you need to know

I shared my photos with a number of friends (partially cuz I like to share, partially to reassure them that I don’t just work and ride my horse and that’s it) and the most common question I got back was “where was this?”.  Us poor Canadians really don’t know what’s in our backyard. So, first, it is here www.spiritbear.com and second, that is located here.  And the second most common question was about how I did this. I like to call it a Canadian safari.  You go to some place that you wouldn’t normally go to, people organize you into groups, they take you out to see wild animals and scenary, make sure you stay safe and are well-fed and you take photographs.  Of course, that description takes all the romance and adventure out of it.  An alternate description would be: you embark on a journey on little planes and boats to access a remote corner of the world that only a David Suzuki or a Richard Attenborough have gone before, put your life into the hands of experienced and well-trained guides, trek out into wild habitats to see large, potentially dangerous animals on their home turf, endure sometimes harsh conditions to get that perfect shot to bring home to show your friends. And, depending on your previous life experiences, it could be either the former or latter!

As you can see from my other posts on this subject here and here, what you see and the photos you get are truly magnificent.  Here’s another one for your teaser:

 

umpf! Got one!

umpf! Got one!

 

What You Need To Know:

The staff at the lodge are great. They know your name. They are friendly and professional and personable. They are also sneaky when planning a birthday surprise.

The food is very good, indeed! You don’t have a lot of choices – this is one place Starbucks has NOT found (although they do have locally roasted coffee up there), but the chef does not give you any cause for complaints. Plenty of food at all meals and I dare you to find a meal where you can’t find something you like. Breakfast is both continental and hot, cooked food. (mmm, bacon!) Lunch is a plethora of sandwiches (apparently the egg salad goes fast), snacks, fruit, veges, juices, pop and water. And Dinner always has a fish and meat option with plenty of sides a vege main. No choice in desserts but I’m not complaining at the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc, etc.

The guides and boat captains are all extremely competent, friendly, professional and approachable. It must be tough to be all of that, all the time and watch out for wildlife at the same time – so hats off to them. Those that are First Nations are very willing to answer your questions and share stories with you.

Photo gear – see separate post coming up 🙂

Gear – their packing list has been well thought out and you won’t go wrong to follow it. The only alteration I’d make is that if you have your own waterproof boots that you are comfortable walking in on uneven, rocky shorelines, bring your own. There was only a couple of places that I preferred the lodge’s rubber boots over my own gear (if I had brought it!).  One strong suggestion if you have any type of walking issues (stability and balance) is to bring a walking stick.  Even one is helpful in a couple of areas we went.

Misc – you are on the boats a lot. If you are at all prone to seasicknesses, bring your own stuff for that. I was lucky and had perfectly calm seas the entire time I was there.

Lastly, I will say that they take care of you once you are there, so once you’ve packed and started your trip, don’t worry about anything else!


Was I ready for the Spirit Bear Lodge?

Those of you who know me personally…..which constitute the majority of my readers here….know that I obsessed about this trip I took (www.spiritbear.com) in this post. So much so, I had writer’s block here just before it started. So, was I ready for it?  Yes and no. The practical details of it I was ready for. I’m pretty agile, little boats don’t bother me (much), uneven ground is ok, and I still bounce (a little) when I fall. So most of the physical part of it was a snap; except for my camera equipment. I know perfectly well what possessed me to buy a camera (plus lens) that weighs more than more laptops these days, but I never realised that I needed to train so that I could carry it – even short distances!  or that my arm would start to ache after 2 days of lifting that thing (I highly recommend a tripod).

But my biggest complaint (other than that the bears didn’t get my memo that I would be there between 1000 am and 2 pm for their photo shoot every day), was that the beauty and grandeur of the last and largest temperate rainforest on the planet would give me a sinking feeling when I came back to the city and my life and job. Not once were there disclaimers about “this vacation may cause all forms of TV/internet entertainment to look dull and flat” or “your vision may be impaired when viewing all other, formerly majestic scenery” or even “may cause productivity to go down as you spend your time daydreaming about your vacation”!

The main attraction of Spirit Bear Lodge is, of course the white spirit bear with other bears coming a close second (blacks and grizzlies). But I was delighted by Stellar sea lions (the largest of the eared seal family), astonished by the lion’s mane jellyfish (the largest jellyfish in the world), over the moon about seeing humpback whales (not the largest whale) and completely chuffed to snap photos of bald eagles and ravens.

Was I ready for this trip?  No.  Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

More photos coming soon….

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Korich Bay

Korich Bay

Carter Bay

Carter Bay


Spirit Bear Lodge – the last photo

I recently posted a blog that had me wondering if I was physically up for this trip (more details of the trip to come – stay tuned!).  But for this shot, I would have crawled through the forest, sedge and dead salmon. As it turned out, this was my last shot before I got on the boat to take me home.

"Friendly Bear" at 12 feet away. Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

“Friendly Bear” at 12 feet away.
Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

 


The Sense of Places

People used to say that cities had a vibe or feel. New York was one of those that everyone said feels different from anywhere else. London, Paris and Rome – all iconic world cities that were supposed to have their own character and feel. But to me, it’s not a “feel”, but a smell. When I get off a plane in Beijing, as soon as I smell the air in the airport, I know I’m in Beijing (very similar smell to Hong Kong, but more “mainland”). Its a certain something in the air that you never sense anywhere else. I associate it with a mix of Chinese spices and preserved food (like those mushrooms!) and humanity.

I recently was in Vancouver, the city I grew up in, and of course, I always associate it with the mountains and water, but as I was walking around the city and what I really remember is the musty smell in the air mixed with the fresh sea air. It’s a combination of the slight tang in the air with the damp that is captured and held in the wood of the buildings and the vegetation.

I used to think that I just didn’t “get” the vibe, but for me, it’s the smell.


The Hike – A quick pre-trip thought

Well, I think I’m prepared. Can you really prepare for your first hike?  If you’ve never hiked before? I bought the non-cotton t-shirts and pants, I trained to carry my gear, I tried out the hiking pole and even went on a “test hike”.  Then I remembered that there is a boat portion of this trip and I sometimes (only sometimes) get motion sickness.  So, I will add Dramamine to my pack tomorrow.