10.09.2011 - 27.09.2011 21 °C
I just returned from the Mohawk Tour with Moose Travel Network: two weeks cruising the east coast of Canada. My first week in Toronto was great! I met lots of great people, party nights, chill out beach days and sushi. I walked the waterfront trail to the west of Toronto and went to Ontario place, where the dude at the front desk told me I could go in for free and pay for seperate rides if I wanted to, so I dashed off to the Log ride (remember that from youtube, Juul?) only to find that all the tickets boxes were closed. So I just watched other people having fun . I also rented a bike and rode to the beaches, east of Toronto, where I swam in Lake Ontario and saw a 9/11 memorial with official looking people singing the Canadian and American anthems. On the way back I got lost on some kind of nature trail and biked up and down hills for about 20 km before I got back to the city, sweating my ass of in the blazing sun. Some other day I went to a festival at the Molson Theatre with Jacob and Vincent, some German guys I met at the hostel. We saw Three Days Grace :D Yay!!! On my last night in Toronto I went out with Mick (Ireland), Tom (Ozzie), Julia (from San Fran), and Jade (Ozzie). Topic of the night was ' the Dungeon': a spare room on the 3rd floor that is always open and contains nothing but a double bed and a chair and a nice and deep layer of condom wrappers. As I was sleeping right across the hallway, I was somewhat afraid the syphilis molecules might come creeping in..
Anyhow, the Mohawk Tour then! We started off in Montreal, Quebec, where we discovered the nightlife on St. Catherine and Rue Crescent. It started off pretty awful, because all the bars and clubs we went to had an extreme Jersey Shore vibe to them (which might have been caused by the presence of ' The Situation'). Thankfully, as we wandered around we found a really comfy little bar where we ran into a performance by a Torontonian signer named Patrick Dorie, beautiful (go check him out on youtube ). He kind of reminded me of Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, the shy genius type.
We had one day to discover Montreal, which I spent walking around taking pictures. I love walking around a city alone, cos no one is bothered if you want the be a nerd and take endless amounts of time for any such lame activity as taking pictures of birds nests in the park. I had a french crepe with bananas, strawberries and nutella for lunch . That night we went up to Mont Royal on the edge of the city and had a spectacular night-time view, including fireworks and a red moon (and a raccoon!).
The next morning we drove to Tadoussac, which is a really charming little hippie town in a spot where the St. Lawrence river widens to become a Gulf. The drive was awesomely beautiful: lookouts over endless red, yellow and green forests and glimpses of the St. Lawrence river far below. At night we went to see the sunset over the water . The next day was one of the highlights of my Canada-experience: we went whale watching! We got to wear gorgeous sumo-suits that made me feel really cool (and fat) and went on a speedboat that took us far out into the Gulf. In the mean time we contorted our faces in concentration, trying to spot a ripple in the water. Whenever this occurred our stomachs would make a back flip and people would jump up and point frantically at what turned out to be a floating log. The feeling of anticipation was great! We'd already seen a bunch of seals and dolphins when our guide told us to sit down and hold on tight because the whales had been seen 4 miles ' that way'. So we raced over there and lay still in the water, waiting. Finally, there was that much anticipated ripple in the water that was followed by the appearance of a massive black back and fin, gliding through the water some 20 meter in front of our boat. Everyone fell silent apart from the occasional oohs and aahs. The Fin Whale came up again a few times and then it was gone. We repeated the racing around and waiting process a few times and spotted some more fins and fountain sprays, accompanied by that awesome gurgling swoosh sound that they make. What an amazing experience!
The next day we drove to Quebec City, the only walled city in North America, which was pretty but attracted heaps of old people on cruise ships. The old town was really pretty thought with tinny little sloping french looking streets. Our next destination was Mont Tremblant (a terribly commercialized ski resort) but we stopped at Omega Park on the way. Omega Park is a safari park where a selection of typical Canadian wildlife is brought together: Black Bears, Arctic and Timber Wolves, Coyotes, Bisons, Canada Geese (yes, they really are the most common geese in Canada), unfortunately no moose, and elk that stuck their heads into the van. Ottawa was the next stop, and we went to see the Parliament buildings (David Cameron was there so we couldn't go in) and to museum of Nature (you know, the type where they have dinosaur skeletons and everything).
Next up: Fort Coulogne! Our day out on the Ottawa river was without a doubt the best day of my Canada experience. We wenting rafting with Esprit, which is voted one of the top rafting companies in the world by National Geographic. Some of the rapids in the Ottawa river are classified as level 5, which is the highest - thus most dangerous and difficult - category in rafting. You can imagine I was pretty scared, ha. On the bus, we got instructions for what to do in case we fell out: 1. don't panic, 2. keep your feet up, cos they will get stuck in the rocks, 3. hold on to your paddle, 4. always listen to your guide. We started off practicing the commands on the water with our guide Julian (from Argentina): easy/hard forward, all back, get down GET DOWNNNN!! The first big rapid was called 'butterfly' and as we got down, we turned around and paddled back into the fall, causing the front to be caught in the water and be pushed out again so that the raft jumps up an down on its front tip. They call this 'surfing' and it was bloody awesome.
The third or fourth rapid was the big one that was classified level 5: ' the Dragons Tongue'. Esprit is the only company to run that rapid, because the others don't have the expertise and safety measures to be allowed to run it. We got out of the raft and climbed up on the rock overlooking the fall to get a briefing what to do and what the dangers were. Captain Lalo showed us the giant whirlpool at the bottom of the fall that you seriously do not want to end up in, cos ' you might be in there all through October, November, Dec..'. We went down the Dragons Tongue with two guides in each boat and there were people standing on the surrounding rocks with safety lines. Again, we had to practice commands first and then HARD FORWARD (!) toward the cliff. And it was awesome! But not much time to sit back and enjoy the ride, cos we were approaching the whirlpool and had to go HARD BACK, HARD BACCKK TEAAAAAAAAM, until we cleared it and could cheer (paddles up, scream ' Pakauuww' and paddles hit the water). What a team effort! We paddled on until our guide pulled the raft to the site and said 'and now we jump'. And sure enough, there was a 5 m cliff towering above the fast flowing water and Lalo was already up there, throwing people off like lemmings. He told us to swim left as soon as you come up, cos with every second it will take you 50 more strokes to get to shore. It turned out to be awesome of course, though some people had to be pulled out of the water with safety lines. We did some more surfs and rapids until we reached a single rock standing in the middle of the river, right before a big rapid. Julian told us all to cram together in the front compartment of the raft and the HARD FORWARDDD straight into the protruding rock, and the raft went right up, standing almost vertical in the water (we had a man overboard ). To conclude: a day of aweeeesome fun!
The next day we went to Algonquin Provincial Park and stayed a the Wolfs Den Hostel, where all the buildings were made out of wood. We hiked the Centennial Ridges, with beautiful outlooks over the colored valleys and shimmering lakes. Unfortunately though, no moose, bears, wolves or beavers, but we did see some snakes that were chasing a frog. On the way back Sarah (our tourguide) made a pitstop along the highway and we saw a MOOSE grazing on the other side of a swamp :D Yay. That night we roasted marshmallows on the campfire and saw the northern lights!! Beautiful green rays in the sky, sometimes very sharp, otherwise just a vague haze, but always a gorgeous sight! We got up at 5.30 the next day to go moose hunting (again, no luck) and see the sunrise over the valleys. Later on, we canoed to the Ragged Falls. I shared the boat with Emma and we made some detours through the swamps and almost got stuck . We saw some Blue Jays :D.
Right now I'm back in Hogtown (that's right, where downtown Toronto now blossoms, there was once a hog farm) preparing for New York F*cking City!! I'll get back to you then