Archive for the Travel Category

Last explorations of Saskatchewan

Posted in Abandoned buildings, Dummer, Ghost towns, Great Sandhills, Kayfield, Leader, Ogema, Regina, Saskatchewan, Southern Prairie Railway, Travel, Truax with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2017 by Amanda

While I didn’t explore quite as much as I had planned before leaving this province, I did make a couple of trips.

On Sunday, July 2, I  visited the Great Sandhills, looked around the nearby town of Leader, and stopped at a few abandoned buildings. I didn’t do this in my own car as the second window on my car had stopped working (though apparently the dealership had never seen this happen to other cars) and couldn’t be repaired until Tuesday.


The Great Sandhills

The following weekend, after that fire interrupted night, I headed to Regina where I had another free hotel stay.  I visited the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Wascana Lake,visited the Hunter Gatherer vegetarian restaurant, and went on a tour of Stone Hall Castle (a large house which has been turned into a fake medieval castle).


Inside Stone Hall Castle.

The next day I visited ghost towns/almost ghost towns: Dummer, Truax, and Kayfield on a slightly not direct route to Ogema.  I visited the Deep South Pioneer Museum there as the admission was included with my train ticket on the Southern Prairie Railway.  I accidentally visited on the 40th anniversary of the museum; I think I would have appreciated it more had it been less busy and less like the museum I visited last year near Moose Jaw.  The train ride went to the ghost town of Horizon and back.  There was some interesting commentary on the train ride but some idiots wouldn’t shut up which made it difficult to hear.  I really wonder why some of them were there as they certainly weren’t listening and didn’t seem to be looking out the window either!


The train

Elk Island National Park & Edmonton

Posted in Alberta, Edmonton, Elk Island National Park, Travel with tags , , , on July 24, 2017 by Amanda

On the Victoria Day Long Weekend, I decided to take advantage of this year’s free national park pass and visit Elk Island National Park.  I’d driven past it a bunch of times but had never stopped.  My sign that I wasn’t the only with this idea was the several cars parked by the sign along Highway 16 and people taking pictures.  I finished two hiking trails: one was maybe 3 kilometres long and the other was 10 kilometres.  I started another but it was way too muddy for my liking.  I saw lots of bison but no elk!


A bison

Afterwards I headed to Edmonton where I spent two completely free nights at a very new hotel.  I really do love the Marriott Rewards Visa!  Of course, I shopped etc. while I was there.

Costa Rica

Posted in Costa Rica, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio National Park, Monteverde, Quepos, San Jose, Santa Elena, Travel, Vacation with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2017 by Amanda

I am finally going to write the posts I should have written months ago.

I went on a trip to Costa Rica in March.  While I enjoyed some aspects of the trip, I found Costa Rica to be surprisingly Americanized (they have Wal-Mart, Denny’s, Curves etc. etc.)

My flight leaving Saskatoon was delayed and, as I had a barely legal connection time to begin with in Calgary, I’d resigned myself to missing my flight to Houston.  However, there was a woman from Air Canada waiting at the wait with my name and the names of three others on a sign.  She rushed us to security/customs and I made the flight without incident.  The airport in Houston was filled with students going on trips for Spring Break; I definitely was one of the older people waiting at the gate!

Upon arriving in San Jose I was concerned as there weren’t all that many immigration officers but the lines moved pretty quickly though there was one idiot who decided to wait until he was in front of the officer to fill out his form.  I spent most of my first day just walking around San Jose which was fairly interesting.  When I arrived at the hotel where my tour was starting from, I was surprised that the keep the tv and a/c remotes behind the desk; apparently, people stole the batteries otherwise.


San Jose

On the first real day of the tour, it was raining a little which was apparently very unusual for the time of year.  Our first stop was at a coffee plantation.  It was pretty interesting even though I don’t drink coffee.  Upon arrival in La Fortuna, we signed up for tours the next day.  Later that afternoon, on the way to go hiking we say a lot of cars parked along the road; this was because three was a three-toed sloth on a nearby tree.  The hike was good but the volcano was somewhat obscured.  After that we went to a local hot spring which was not what I had expected but still good.


The coffee plantation

The next morning I went canyoning which I really enjoyed though it consisted of less rappelling than I had expected.  In the afternoon, I went to the Venaro caves which were about 45 minutes away from La Fortuna.  My group was just two guys, me, and the guide.  Unfortunately, this meant we went through the “birth canal” which he doesn’t often take groups through as not everyone can fit.  Why can’t I end up in groups with the old and obese?  Anyway, I did end up enjoying the rest of the caving.  In the evening, we went to hot springs at a resort which were definitely much different than the local hot springs.



The following day we headed for Monteverde via a van, then a boat, and then another van.  The boat ride was quite scenic.  I still didn’t get a full volcano view though there was apparently a few minutes of one the previous day (likely when I was in the caves).  We stayed in Santa Elena which is small but quite touristy.  The serpentarium was interesting but seemed overpriced considering its very small size.  I also spent some time walking around a restaurant that had been abandoned after a fire.  In the evening, there was a night walk.  We saw some things but I think it would have been much better if people had obeyed instructions to be as quiet as possible!  I was very excited when I found a small yellow bird sleeping that the guides hadn’t noticed.


On the boat to Monteverde

The next morning began with a hike in the St. Elena Cloud Forest.  It was rather rainy and beautiful but we really didn’t see a lot (just some birds and insects).  The area is filled with micro-climates and there was no rain when we headed to the hanging bridges.  Once again, we didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife although I enjoyed following a coati round the parking lot!  After that it was ziplining time.  It was quite different from other ziplining I’ve done.  Some of the ziplines were very long and done in the superman position.  I did miscalculate what was halfway on one where you had to open up your arms halfway so I didn’t quite make it to the end but otherwise it went well.  It ended with the Tarzan swing which I guess can best be described as a bit like a mini bungee jump.

It was rather cold when we left Monteverde and while the Monteverde area was very scenic I don’t think I could put up with the extreme dampness for long.  When we stopped to see the crocodiles by a bridge later on it felt so hot.  Later in the afternoon we went to the beach at Manuel Antonio, an easy bus ride from our hotel in Quepos.

The next morning I visited Manuel Antonio National Park itself.  I opted to walk around by myself instead of with a guide as there were groups of people wherever there was actually anything to see that worked out well.  The Waterfall Trail was kind of disappointing as it ended with no waterfall but in the dry season I really should have expected that.  I saw some sloths and deer and butterflies and birds but monkeys were by far the most prevalent sight in the park.  In the afternoon we went on a catamaran where after fairly extensive searching we did end up seeing dolphins.  They were too quick to take pictures of but I did manage to record some video of them.


Just a couple of the many monkeys.

The following day I was lazy and went on mangrove boat ride where I just got to sit and watch instead of opting for kayaking.  Lunch beforehand was accompanied by orange cashew juice which wasn’t bad but was definitely unusual.  We ended up taking a detour to get back to San Jose as there had been a deadly accident (a tree apparently hit a car) on the main highway.

On my last day, I again wandered around San Jose.  I went to a really good vegetarian restaurant.  I wandered around a cemetery and did a bit of shopping.


Posted in Alberta, Calgary, Driving, Travel, Weather with tags , , , , on December 23, 2016 by Amanda


So, once again this is a rather delayed post.  There isn’t actually a lot to say but I thought I needed to write it before my next trip (home for Christmas).  Three weekends ago, I drove to Calgary to visit my sister who was doing training there. It was a lot of driving for a weekend (I did take Friday afternoon off work) but she was relatively close.

We ate at vegetarian Indian buffet which cost only $12; I so wish that there was a place like that here!  I also had a Harvey’s veggie burger which we could also really use here.  I saw Santa driving through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru in a rusted “Tickle Tunkle” car.  It was snowing a bit on the Sunday morning and the visibility wasn’t the greatest.  However, I didn’t find the roads too bad but I saw like ten vehicles off the road.  I can’t imagine how many would have been off the road if the roads really were bad!

September 3: Strategic Missile Forces Museum

Posted in Russia, Soviet Union, Strategic Missile Forces Museum, Travel, Ukraine, Vacation with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2016 by Amanda

Today I spent more time travelling to and from the destination than actually visit it; it was worth it though!  I went on a tour of the Strategic Missile Forces Museum which is more than three hours south of Kiev.  The tour ended up being cheaper (75 USD instead of 110 USD) as the group increased from 3 to 6 people at the last minute which was a nice surprise.  All of the missile bases in Ukraine were destroyed after the fall of the Soviet Union expect for this one which was kept as a museum but obviously made not to function.  The United States provided much of the money for the closure of the bases; it actually cost significantly more to close them than to build them.  The scary thing is that in Russia that bases with the exact same design are still in use.  When relations between Russia and Ukraine were okay, it was not uncommon for men who worked at these bases to bring their families to show them what it was like where they worked as they couldn’t actually show them their workplaces.

We were very lucky that we arrived a few minutes before a whole busload of people.  As only three or four people can fit in the slow-moving elevator at a time to visit the command centre, we would have literally be delayed for hours had we not gone down first. If they’d launched a missile it could have hit the US in 20 to 25 minutes.  The command centre is located 11 stories down in a tube with sleeping quarters below.  These are the only two levels people can visit.  It was designed for people to stay for up to 45 days in the case of emergency but they neglected to put a shower in!  The stairs between these two levels were kind of scary.


Part of the command centre.

Outside there were a number of missiles including the type that brought down the Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine; I was surprised at how small these missiles are.  There were also much larger missiles there as well as museum building, part of an electronic fence, a launch pad, the guard house with windows but no door, huge trucks et cetera.


One of the huge missiles.

This place really could improve their souvenirs though.  They had a single cabinet of souvenirs but they could only find the key for half of it and our small group probably half of what was accessible.  The prices were very reasonable too.

I had dinner in Kiev and then bought some more souvenirs before heading back to the hotel for an early bedtime as I had an early flight the next mornings.

[The flights all went well.  I felt great on Labour Day which was a rare day between vacation and work for me but on the Tuesday a cold struck.]