10 steps To reduce Your Debts Quickly.

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Our greatest is not never falling but rising every time we fall .

The first thing to remember here is that you are not alone .

Around 73% of North American consumers have debt. Around 68% have credit card balances. Most people have debt of some sort , its how our Western society functions today. Mortgages, credit cards,auto loans,personal loans,student loans, pay-day loans………… so on and so on .

When dealing with any personal issue, you have to first recognize there is a problem and you have to want to solve it .

If you are one of those people who are ok with their levels of debt and managing it correctly, then great. stop reading here and have a great day.

The fact that you are reading this article ,tells me you are likely to have an issue with your levels of debt and are looking to solve them .That leads us into the first stage:

1/ Record your spending for a 3 month period.

For this period of time, record all your income and all your spending. Make yourself a spread sheet or even just record it in a book. Separate into areas of spending, such as Household bills Motoring, Groceries, Entertainment, Insurances and most importantly, how much your debt is costing you each month?

In other words what interest are you paying on each debt, each month ?

2/ Target the Most expensive debts.

Once you have recorded your spending for 3 months, you will be able to understand which of your debts is costing you the most money in interest. Now I am not talking about mortgage debt here. Lets focus on the unsecured loans, likely to be your credit cards that have most interest ( APR %) Use this information to make a “hit list” of debts. Make sure you pay each one on time, but focus every available spare cash onto the most expensive one. Once this one is paid off in full, these funds should then be transferred onto the second most expensive debt and so on. This is the reversal of the  “snowball” effect of how they got to be out of control in the first place.

3/ Reduce all  Un-necessary expenditure

Your  3 month  record of spending will show Where your hard earned cash was going? I was amazed how much I spent on things I didn’t really need. Not just larger ” one off” purchases, but multiple small purchases that go unnoticed until the monthly totals are added up. Once these are stopped the extra money can be allocated to your debt management.

4/ Set up an emergency cash fund

 This  will not directly reduce your debt, but will stop any credit card debt increasing . Stuff happens. That”s a fact. In order for you to stop dipping into your credit limit every time some un planned event happens , set up a cash fund to help when stuff goes sideways.

5/ Spend Smarter.

Everyone has to spend money at some point. Price check, coupons, internet shopping, sales there are many ways to find what you need at a reduced cost. Stick to buying what you need and not emotional purchases, i.e wants!

You will feel better at the end of the month when you add up the cash you saved by doing this.

6/ Improve your credit rating

There are ways you actually improve your credit rating. When your borrowing is reduced to a reasonable level, lenders will be keen for you to take up their services once again. This time use it to your advantage. Contact your existing lenders and try to get better terms by lowering your interests rates. Failing that, go to an alternative company and transfer your debt at a better interest rate. It may seem like a lot of hassle at the time, but even a small decrease in interest rates will reduce your costs over a  period of time.

7/ Increase Your Income

Change jobs, negociate a pay rise,work extra overtime, get a side hussle, rent out a spare room or even buy and sell items for a profit . Use your imagination, but obviously the extra money you generate must go to your debts.

8/Sell unwanted items for cash.

We all have have things we don”t use or need anymore. Find them , clean up and advertise them locally. Put the cash down on to your debt . Simple.

9/ Set a time scale and a  realistic goal

Progress maybe slow to start with but as debts are reduced the speed of progress should increase. You are more likely to succeed ,if you give yourself a realistic time scale and monitor your progress to keep yourself motivated.

10/ Set a future Budget

Hopefully by the time you have reached this stage your debts are under control and life is easier. Time now to prevent it happening again. Set yourself a budget and keep monitoring your income and expenditure. to prevent a build up of debt in the future.

Never underestimate the importance of abandoning crap you don”t need!

Featuring the “Battle-Axe”

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Tuesday 4th September. Colton, Walnut & Anaheim CA

54 miles only. 14 hours ( I love my job)

After a relaxing Monday afternoon, I woke on this day in a fantastic mood. That was soon to be tested.  I went to report to the warehouse early, that I was on site, hoping they would assign me a loading bay and would soon be on my way .

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” right?  Well , not in this case. I was met by the rudest, most ignorant person I can remember meeting in a long, long time . I would hate to think what they would be like if you were late for your appointment . This woman ripped me up cos I was early!!!. Now there is an opportunity for all sorts of funny comments and jokes at this point, but I have decided to leave those today,  but I’m sure you know what I was thinking at the time.  I took this as another test of the new calm me. Hey I passed!!!!

The most pleasing part was seeing her reaction, when I told her I agreed with her and should have been more considerate and not turned up so early.  Left the building and waited in my truck, before returning to the building at my scheduled delivery time. Impressive.  Well I was anyway. Later I found out she goes by the name of “Angel”.

I think the true meaning of this name was wasted on that “battle-axe.”

So after that rocky start, I eventually got rid of my first delivery and headed back to the freeway to find my second stop.  I think “battle-axe” had actually done me a favour , because by the time she decided I was worthy to get off loaded and my paperwork was processed and I handed over $30 cash “lumper fee” ( Never done in Europe by the way ) , the early morning rush hour had passed and the freeway was running fine .

At the start of the trip I was looking into purchasing a navigation system for heavy trucks. I eventually decided  to save my money and use the google map app on my cell phone. Today would be the first test of that decision hopefully I won’t regret it .

Having entered the companies details into my phone I headed West towards LA, paying full attention to the instructions given.

The directions given by my phone were spot on.  Apart from trying to send me down a no-truck route ( not her fault as there is no way of me letting the clever little thing know that we were travelling in a semi) I arrived at the second warehouse, which was owned by the same company as my first location.  It was here that I found out that the lovely Angel spoke to all drivers in the way she had spoken me earlier. Oh well, there was me thinking I was specially selected for her abuse .

I am not sure why warehouses give appointment times for their deliveries. Possibly the only reason was to fine companies if they are late for their scheduled times, so bringing an extra source of income ( maybe they could pay to send Angel to charm school). Although I arrived exactly on my delivery time slot, I was told it would be at least two hours before they got to my load . One poor guy had already been there for four hours and they were going to get to him after me, all because his load broker had screwed up making the appointment.

Test number two. In the past I would have come “un-glued” at the warehouse manager demanding to get off loaded at the time I was given, paced the yard and probably smoked ten cigarettes while waiting.  I would not have got on a bay any earlier and would be in a bad mood all day. What a Muppet!

Today? I decided to park the truck, lock the doors and take my dog for a walk and check out the neighborhood. Test passed .

Some two hours later, I managed to finally get on a warehouse bay and my dog was now exhausted.  I had an interesting maneuver to carry out, so testing how rusty  I had become during my time away from trucking.  This reversing exercise would have been a lot harder had I entered it in an angry frame of mind.  Due to fact I was a lot calmer, it presented no problems and I was soon being unloaded. After an hour and a few more stories about the behaviour of the now infamous Angel, I was leaving and off to my final destination for this load.

My mind was also beginning to focus on what or where I was going for my load back to Canada.  The only thing I knew is that it would be back to Canada. This is because a truck registered in Canada,  cannot carry goods from a US state and deliver it to any point in the US. It can only do cross border work.  In times gone by  I have had bad experiences when it comes to waiting for a reload.  Sometimes being sat for days.  I was told by this company that this wouldn’t happen again, but this yet to be proven.  Most companies don’t book your re-load until  they know you are empty and ready to go.  This means you cannot make any plans, or even know your destination, Canada is a really big place!  Not an ideal situation and not for everyone.

For now, I can only focus on getting my last delivery done and worry about that later. As it turned out, much later

Arriving at the third warehouse of the day (all the same company) I was greeted by the familiar sight of a long line of trucks in front of me.  The warehouse had four loading doors, but only one was working. Great . Looks like its going to be a long afternoon.

When I was finally done, it had taken over five hours to take the remaining three pallets from my trailer.  It also meant that I had run out of hours on my electronic log , done very few miles and when I did the math , probably earned less that the minimum wage for todays work. Another reason why companies struggle to find drivers.  It also meant that I did not receive any news on my re-load and had to negotiate with the warehouse manager to be able to park at the facility that night as I could not legally drive anywhere till the morning.

He agreed that it was their fault my day was screwed and kindly let me use their facilities for the night. It turned out that there was a great little restaurant down the road, so I finished my day writing my notes for this blog and having a great supper of Sweet and Sour chicken, Rice and Salad.

Happy Days , despite battle axes best efforts !

Mellow Monday Drive

IMG_0363Mon 3rd September.

Primm NV to Colton CA

189 Miles Driven.

To find confidence, we must first find the courage to act .

Up around 5 am local time.  Despite my hope that many of the weekend party goers had left on Sunday to get back to suburbia, the interstate was already getting busy.  So morning routine complete, I left the truck stop and entered the steady stream of traffic.

When leaving Nevada into California, all trucks have to enter the largest scale and inspection station I have ever seen.  Firstly your’re asked what your load is.  Frozen Fries clearly was not an issue, as I was waived straight through. Maybe the fact it wasn’t even 6 am  and the inspection guard could not be bothered to take it any further.  Secondly, you are then guided through a series of control lights as to which of the many scales you drive across.  Having just fueled up, I knew I would be close to my maximum weight allowed, especially on the front axle, so it was with a little relief when the green arrow flashed for me to leave the facility and re-enter the freeway.

California, is not a truck friendly state.  Not only do the fuel prices drastically increase here, but the speed limits drops to a ‘ granny paced” 55 mph (88.5 Kmh for everyone else ) and there are plenty of officers waiting on the side of the highway with their electronic devices to remind me of that fact.  So progress was leisurely, however it was steady as everyone seemed to be satisfied following the new speed limit and there was little in the way of delays.

I am determined in this latest venture back into trucking,  not to get as stressed out while driving.  In years past the idiots you see every day in this job, would really have a negative effect on me.  As previously mentioned, I used to be a fairly heavy smoker . The amount of cigarettes I smoked would greatly increase as soon as I got behind the wheel of a big truck.  After several unsuccessful attempts to kick the habit, I finally managed it around 3 years ago. This would be the first time I’ve driven professionally since quitting the disgusting habit .  Maybe its the fact I’m older and eventually realized that there will always be idiots on the road, so screaming and yelling at them makes no difference.  Maybe its the fact that I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that life really is too short and its better to enjoy it , than to fight it .

That’s one of the reasons why I came back to trucking.  I can make a lot more money working in my previous profession, but just hated it. So now I’ve decided that its better to make what I now refer to as “Happy Money ” What I mean by that, is its better for me to make $150 and enjoy what I do, rather than $200 and totally hate what I do to earn it.  I think in the long run I will actually be better off .

When working in a job I hate, I purchase things I don’t need , just to cheer myself up. These are purely emotional purchases done for a short justification for working in a job that makes me miserable.  So to summarize, I had to do a job I didn’t enjoy, to make a certain amount of money, so I could buy things I didn’t need, in order to make me happy, if only for a short time.  Strange but true.

Bet I’m not the only one, am I ? Let me know, by completing the contact form below.

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When the interstate dropped down to the San Bernardino region and the traffic finally thinned out I was still calm and collected and to be honest with you , very proud of myself . There was also a sense of relief, because I was concerned that I may slip back into old habits and the blood pressure would be through the roof on a regular basis .

Finally, it was time to find  the location of my first drop and suitable parking hopefully close by . Now this was another occasion that new technology has made life easier . In the past to find an unfamiliar location would involve , maps , notes and possibly asking strangers for directions or using the CB radio to ask other trucks local to the area. Not today . Simply copy and paste the address on to my Google maps app and the automated woman’s voice guides me into position . My issue is just one of trust . I was considering purchasing a trucking specific GPS system, however, the $400 to $500 price range put me off making that purchase so early on, so I decided just to use my smart phone.

To my surprise it guided me, without issue, right to the building. I was equally pleased to see a large open yard with plenty of room to park for the night. Not only that, there was a truck stop ( full of trucks waiting out the holiday as suspected) within walking distance, several fast food joints and believe it or not a coffee shop . Happy bloody days mate !

So with in the warm September sun, I nice gentle walk of the neighbour hood was in order, smug in the fact we had successfully got here without incident ,fuss or bother .

Home made supper ( not a fan of fast food , except after too many beers) , make some notes for my blog and that was my day . Tomorrow , we face 3 drops all in the LA area . Probably going to be a test of my middle age Karma.

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Moving to Canada? A Divided Country.

pexels-photo-756790.jpeg Canada Area      9985 million square kilometers

UK Area              241,590 square kilometers

Canada, the second biggest country in the world after Russia. This place is bloody huge . I come from a  tiny country where you can drive from one end to another in a day , well as long as the M5 motorway is clear , so night driving would be required , but you get the picture, its small .

When I first moved to Canada, I arrived under an immigration programme called a PNP. This basically meant you stayed working for the same company , doing the same job for approx 3 years and in that time you hopefully get your permanent resident card, which then allowed you to work anywhere for anyone . ( that is a whole different story , which was not a happy time I”m still not over it !!)  Canada is divided into Provinces , 10 in total , with 3 more Territories in the North of the country , very confusing I know, no-one has ever explained the difference to me.

In 2006 the province of Alberta was crying out for class 1  Truck Drivers and as I had held a license and even owned my own truck in the UK, it was an easy step for me to make and enabled my family to move relatively quickly .So this gave me an opportunity to travel through the country and get a good feel for this vast land ( earning a pathetic wage at the same time ) It quickly came apparent to me how huge this country is but also how divided a nation this is .

Most people outside of Canada would know that the Province of Quebec is the French-speaking part of the country and a lot will remember the movement for independence from the rest of the country , In fact it had referendums on its sovereignty in 1980 and 1995, both of these were a defeat for the independence campaign , the latter by a very narrow margin. As far as I can see these referendums were a waste of ballot paper and TV coverage full of politicians wearing bad suits and even worse haircuts ( wow barbers have really improved lately ) as Quebec people still regard themselves as independent  to the rest of the nation and I can confirm that the people who live in the Western Province of Alberta have few good things to say about the province of Quebec . Similar to the rivalry between the UK and the French-speaking nation in Europe. ( France , for those who can’t figure it out )

After  six months of truck driving around Canada , I realised that I hadn”t moved to Canada , but moved to a single province of Alberta . Each Province has its owns laws ,        even down to the age at which teenagers can get loaded at the bar! . Each Province , thinks it contributes the most to the economy, whilst the others contribute nothing . This is particularly bad in Alberta as its people here think the revenue from the vast oil sands situated in the northern part of the province, pays for everything nationwide whist everyone else in the country spends their time fishing or speaking French or collecting government handouts whilst smoking pot !.

I know people who live here that regard themselves as almost American rather than Canadian .Most of this countries population lives within 100 miles of the USA border to the south . Most of the people here , travel regularly to the more famous southern neighbour , especially in the Winter months when the “Snowbirds” ( Old people with money ) head to the warmer temperatures of Phoenix , Vegas or Florida the see out the bitter  weather, the rest of us are left to cope with .( Yes , if that sounds like I”m jealous) In fact , until recently Canadians didn”t even need a passport to travel south , a quick flash of their provincial driving licence would see them across the border .  International terrorism has caused a rapid increase in Canadian passport holders.

Most people here ,prefer to purchase “Domestic ” vehicles, as they feel it’s better for the economy . A loose term of the word Domestic, as in fact the Fords, GM”s and Chrysler made vehicles are  American owned and in the case of Chrysler have large Italian influence in the shape of Fiat , yet Canadians regard them as made in their country. Strange, but true .

I know each country has regional divisions , ” north south divides” and even local rivalries are common , but bottom line those divisions are put to one side when it comes to national pride or interests . Not here . In fact , in my time here I see these divisions have become wider and deeper . Only this week the news is dominated by the story of the Alberta premier banning the sale of Wine from British Columbia, in retaliation to that Province not wanting a pipeline across “their land” in order to reach world markets of India and Japan .As far as I can see that just means one province can”t have good wine and the country as a whole cannot benefit from exports of Oil. This has been exaggerated by the down turn in world oil prices ,causing a downturn in the once prolific western Canadian economy and the presence of a Prime Minister who seems to be following a policy of making himself   a proclaimed leader of human rights , rather than a leader of a nation . I don’t know anyone here in the west who would admit to voting  for him, but due to the fact that the majority of people live in the Eastern Provinces of Ontario and Quebec , making voting in the Western Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia almost pointless .

So if your thinking of moving for a new life in Canada, make sure you research the Province , not the country as a whole . Living in Toronto has no relevance or connection to living in Vancouver . Apart from the fact you will be dealing with one Canadian Immigration  department you will be wasting your time and energy . Focus on what sort of person you are ? What you like? what you want from life ?

Look upon moving to Canada in the same way you would moving to Europe .Living in Germany would be vastly different to moving to Italy . Apart from a common language    ( Although Canada is officially bi lingual , no-one outside of Quebec speaks French on a daily basis) each Province is very different. In the words of a good friend of mine ” I”m Albertan first then Canadian! “. Strange ,but true .oil-monahans-texas-sunset-70362.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Blues ( Grow Some !)

pexels-photo-844343.jpegMost people’s images of Canada must include snow. We have wonderful summers , spring last for around two weeks and fall (autumn to my English readers ) is truly beautiful time in the mountains of Western Canada, but winter dominates your life, like no other season when you live here .

Not having grown up here , I don”t ski, can”t skate and fail to see the enjoyment of spending hours on a frozen lake , dangling a fishing line through a drilled hole , hoping a passing fish will take your bait, before you completely lose all feeling in your lower limbs, otherwise known as ice fishing !

The recommended temperature for your household freezer is -18 degrees C . This winter in Calgary is proving to be one of the coldest, in fact the New Year started with a bone chilling -30 degrees C on News Years Day .

Now I hated the Winter when I lived in the UK , damp, dreary days that seem to go on for ever. I still hate Winter ,but surprisingly less so here . I know what your thinking , but here even when it’s very cold the sky is a clear blue ,with bright sunshine . It”s just you need to wrap in multi layers of specialist clothing and put on footwear that look like moon boots, to go out side to enjoy it!

I have learnt to approach Winter with a positive attitude . It comes every year and it”s  always a shock to the system when it does . Unless your prepared both physically and mentally, you are in for a tough five months .

Physical preparation always comes too late . Like I said , fall here is beautiful, the colours are amazing and with daytime temperatures still in the comfort zone its easy to forget whats around the corner . Then one morning you look out and wham, there it is , six inches of snow has fallen overnight and the morning commute is a nightmare . Now this shouldn”t happen , but it does , for some reason every year the weather forecast ( which is very accurate here ) informs people of the upcoming snow storm , but it gets ignored .

So whats a the physical preparation? Firstly , winter tyres fitted to your car . In some provinces this is mandatory ,from October ,that you put on a special set of tires for the winter months . Here in Alberta it’s not compulsory, it’s just recommended . Well there lies the problem . You are now likely to be driving on snow , ice or at worst freezing rain for a period of 4 to 5 months and the winter tires are still in the garage! So , every year on the first snow fall day we have hundreds of accidents and the roads are a complete war zone . ( a little like my home country when they have one little snow storm every five years of about 2 inches ).

There after follows a period of time when the busiest people in the city are those who work in tire stores . From dawn to dusk , lineups of cars wait to have their winter boots put on .After a few days of this , people then regain their winter driving skills thanks to the latest in rubber technology, apart from the newly arrived immigrants , me being one in 2006 , who are experiencing Winter driving for the first time . It’s then you ask yourself Why did I move here ?

Preparation number two . Snow shovels . Make sure you have several and they are easily available , because you are definitely going to need them . For the wealthier residents, this means making arrangements with the same guy that mowed their neat little lawns in the summer , to come out every time its snows and shovel their paths and driveways clear of the latest level of white stuff .( One big mystery to me is why people spend a fortune on getting their lawns in perfect golf course condition , only to see them disappear in a layer of snow and ice for 5 months , then  re-appear in the spring all brown and dead looking, just in time to start the whole process over again? )

For us poorer people , Winter snow shovelling becomes part of your daily routine . A chance to get out of the house , meet the neighbours and spend twenty minutes shovelling snow into ever-increasing piles . Hopefully you achieve this without having a heart attack , pulling your back out or falling on your arse . I’m not sure of the numbers involved, but all of these things happen to many people whilst participating in this unique , non olympic winter pastime .

Further physical preparations include , getting your heating system serviced , putting all garden furniture away , drain your lawn irrigation system ( why have one in the first place , but we”ve already covered that one ) , change the oil in your car to a thinner one , much better for your engine on cold morning starts . Bring out your heavy-duty power cords to plug your vehicle in overnight ( all vehicles have block  heaters that actually heats the coolant and keeps the engine block from getting too cold ) this way the poor thing has half a chance of starting , but only if you”ve checked your battery is still good , most only last a few winters .

Summer clothes packed away , to be replaced by over priced winter wear ,transforming the residents of Calgary into want to be “Scott of the Antarctic”s “, apart from all teenage school kids , who would sooner look cool and feel freezing . Head to the doctors to have your flu jab , seems like all Canadians do this , not the immigrants , don”t know why this is . Finally , all summer toys , fishing gear, motorcycles , camping equipment and RV”s , winterized and stored away , not to be seen for the next rew months .

Now your ready . Well Physically anyway . The secret to getting through the Canadian winter is all in your head . Cabin fever is a very real thing . A claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person ends up stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period . In other words, you go slowly mad , looking out the window at tomorrows shovelling task . If you are not Scott of the Antartic, or into winter sports , this is a very real problem . Endless trips to the nicely heated shopping malls, eating crap food ,( A very big part of North American Life ) lack of fresh air and endless series on Netflix all combine to turn your once active brain and body into a useless rotting cabbage.

Now here”s the answer to this problem . Stop feeling sorry for yourself , get off your arse and do something !! It really is that simple . So if you are a  negative , wining product of modern society , who is not prepared to face up to mother  nature and take her on , forget moving to Canada .Stay where you are, softy !

The first Winter you face will be tough , be prepared , but don’t let it beat you . Grasp it , feel it and enjoy it , because sooner or later she let’s go and the two-week spring time arrives , followed by the glorious summer months . Winter defines Canada and your mental attitude to Winter, will define you .

Happy Shovelling !!

Calgary .Wednesday 7th February 2018. Todays temperature  a low of – 17 C currently under a Winter Storm Warning with up to 35cm of snow forcast over the next 36 hours . Get in !

 

 

How to be a successful Immigrant. (To Canada ) 5 Golden Rules

Moving your family across the world to a new country is to put it bluntly ,scary . For what ever reason you decide to undertake such an adventure, you need to follow some  basic rules to make your move a success .

I moved to Canada over 10 years ago and  in that time I have learnt a thing or two about moving and more importantly ,settling in to a new nation .  Remember you are and always be an immigrant, where ever you move to , so get used to a description that does not sit well with some people. So if your going to do it? Do it right .

1/ Get out and Make some friends

I moved to a country that speaks English ( Don’t ask someone from Quebec , you might get a different answer) so it was  a lot easier to get out there, meet people and build friendships . In the early days it is down to you to make the effort .This is a must .You will always have the “nosey” people who approach you , but in my experience don’t waste your efforts with them  .If you have children , a great way to meet people is through their schools and any clubs they join . Try to avoid joining clubs that are full of people who come from your homeland , as this will not help the process ( Not unless you want to sit around and reminisce about how good the homeland was , so  good, you all left)

2/ Adjust

Most people become an immigrant through their desire to improve their standard of living , both for themselves  and that of their families . For some reason they then try to make there lives the same as they were back in their own country .You have to realise that basic ways of life vary in different countries . Simple every day tasks, like parking your car , driving in general , shopping, going to work, watching TV , going out for a meal , will all be different to what your’re used to .Yes, some of these tasks will be harder and not so pleasurable . As they say here “suck it up princess” So, the quicker you accept this, adjust to your new world and stop comparing , the easier life will become .

3/ Be Open Minded

This one was the hardest  for me to achieve . I have always been used to doing things one way. My way . You have to open you mind up to accepting new ways of doing things , as people are not going to change their ways just to make you feel comfortable .If I can do it anyone can .Open up your mind to the new experiences with alternative cultures and a different way of living .

4/ Patience 

A close second for me  . Never been the most patient person, however if you don’t want to end your days by hitting your head against a brick wall, you will require patience by the bucket load . When moving countries you will have to deal with those strange individuals called ” civil servants” or as I like to call them, “idiots”. Despite the best efforts of modern technology , paperwork is still king . Your whole life will be recorded , scrutinized, checked , double checked , sent back because you ticked the wrong box in section 123 subsection 567, then finally just when you are about to give in , a government immigration worker will actually put in a full weeks work and put his little stamp on your documentation and your life is back in order …………………eventually . Be prepared these people are not normal , trust me .Hang in there, tough it out , it will be ok ….maybe.

5/ Be yourself

You will always be different in your new country  , you may look different , definitely sound different , dress differently , eat differently and generally will never blend in . So don’t bother trying to be someone you’re not . I still wet myself laughing when I see people dressed and acting in a way that they think they should to blend in , when in actual fact they stand out even more.

 

When I arrived in Canada, my flight landed at 3 in the morning , in a city called Saskatoon . Where ?I hear you say. Exactly . Its was snowing hard and at -30 degrees ( yes Minus!)it was bloody horrible, my immediate reaction was  turn around and wait for the next flight out. Thankfully,I didn’t. I made my way to the hotel, stayed there for 3 weeks, completed my training with the company I was to work for ( lying to my wife on a daily basis on how great it was ) then moved to my next location of Calgary .

So to summarize. In these days of the internet, if you  think you  can research your country of choice and  have everything figured before you arrive,then think its going to be plain sailing ahead , you are sadly mistaken and my advice is to stay at home, and live in your comfort zone .

At some point you have to jump in feet first and just go for it .Be Brave and be lucky. cropped-p10303401.jpg

Travel Log .Did you see the Bear ?

Day 6 . Boat Trip  Ucluelet/Broken Islands British Columbia .

Now I am a huge fan of the internal combustion engine and a driving enthusiast . I love all things motorized ( apart from mini vans……see previous posts ) and love to drive , whether for a living or for pleasure . But today is a day for leaving the keys behind and take shank”is pony ( My late fathers saying for walking … I never understood it either ) down to the harbor , grab a coffee and see about a boat trip around the Broken Islands .

These islands are part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and are located off the Barkley Sound coastal area . This area has wild life in abundance and a whole industry has grown in Ucluelet taking tourists on a variety of different types of boat trips

For the more adventurous type, hire a sea Kayak , pack a tent and paddle yourself around the area over a few days , camping on the islands where you are permitted to do so .

For the speed junkie , hop on to a highly powered zodiac , whizz out to the ares where whale sightings are common place, and watch the splendor of the show . Now given the fact, as I’ve already explained, I love all things motorized, you would think this would be the one for me . Especially when you consider I have the attention span of a gold-fish , and get very bored very easily ( I am sure if I was at school today , they would have attached some disorder label to me )

Not on this occasion . I wanted to slow things right down and take it easy . Don’t panic my friends I’m still staying faithful to the engine and decided to take a trip on a converted life boat , which takes a 4 hour trip on a leisure cruise around the islands . I wanted to take in the views of the coastline and see all the wildlife available . Speeding across the water, wrapped up in a survival suit, bouncing my teeth out on one of those speed boat things just didn’t attract me today . Plus the fact this one had a toilet and I”ve never heard of a life boat sinking, so that’s the one for me .

So after a leisurely couple of hours doing nothing but drinking good coffee and watching the morning activities of a charming little harbor, we wait for a journey to begin .

Now one thing Canadians love to do, is to drink coffee and since moving here I have become a huge coffee fan , or as the rest of my family believe , a huge coffee addict             ( Same thing as far as I’m concerned ). Food in Canada tends to  copy the American style  menu of  Burgers , Ribs, Hot Dogs , Burgers, Burgers , Fries ( chips to you Brits ) Burgers ( you get the picture ) But definitely not Coffee . For those of you that have visited the famous neighbours to the south, will know that in general coffee served in the States is to be honest ………shit !

Here in Canada we have quality coffee for all tastes and pocket .

Fact Time : Canada is ranked 3rd  in the Top 10 coffee consuming countries of the world , behind Netherlands ( crazy dutch people ) and Finland ( suspicious) . It is believed to be linked to the cold weather in winter, but in main I think its down to the sheer number of outlets and people like me haven”t got the will power to pass them by .

Tim Hortons is by far the most popular chain with 1 store for every 9000 people living in Canada . Compare this with the Golden “M” from down south ,which has 1 store for every 25000 people living in the country .

Hardly surprising really, as this chain gets its name from a Canadian Hockey player and if it’s the second thing Canadians are obsessed with is hockey ( Ice Hockey as known by all you  non Canucks). So put the two together and instant success story .

My home city of Calgary , has hundreds of coffee outlets and I frequent them all the time . While the standard of coffee is high , there are some annoying features of these stores .

People actually use these stores as a mini Library, Office or Study Room . Mainly students and realtors ( Estate Agents ) are to blame for this , but also its increased with the down turn in the economy ( World oil prices taking a kicking ) and the cold winters experienced in Calgary . Mini Rant .

The problem is lack of seating space and combination toilets ( bathrooms as they call them here , not quite sure why as I have yet to see one with a bloody bath in it ).Now there is plenty of seating in these buildings , it’s the fact there is never enough available for when I want to sit my Fat arse down and enjoy a cup of south America”s finest beans .

All the seats are occupied by these people , all sat with a cup of water ( to cheap to purchase coffee) working on their lap tops or reading some 1000 page obscure novel . Now Canadians are nice people . Very nice people . Sometimes too nice and this is one of those occasions .You see the staff working in these establishments never say a word to these seat huggers and even fill their water up on demand . So I feel its rime to help them out , as I’m not Canadian and not that nice .

To all those people sat reading this in a coffee shop , without a cup of coffee in front of you and you have been sat there for more than half an hour , with no more seats available for paying customers ( except for the one next to the multi sex bathrooms, that no one ever uses )Bugger Off!!!!. Stay at home , go to a Library or just go somewhere else and let people sit down in comfort and drink their hot beverage that they actually paid for !!!To all you staff that work in the establishments, grow some balls , kick these people out and increase your companies profits, who knows , you might even get a bonus!

As far as the joint sex toilets , I feel sorry for women . Men have generally disgusting bathroom habits and that’s that . Sorry ladies, I am trying to improve my aim , can’t speak for other men . End of Rant .Turned out to be quite a big one .

With all the coffee shops I have been to ,I have never sat in one where you can get a great hot brew as well as the latest deep-sea fishing gear , but you can at the Cap”N’Hook in the harbour area of Ucluelet . In doing so, it offers everything for the fishing tourist that flock to this area all year round. The staff here are very knowledgable and can answer any questions you have about fishing tackle ,licenses,or even the best guides in the area to take out on daily fishing trips! Well worth a visit even to a non fisherman like me , just to drink coffee , listen and meet the local characters , of which there are many.

One of the local well-known captains owns the converted life boat that we”ve decided to take our leisurely coastal tour on .He has been doing this for over 30 years and previously worked for Parks Canada as a wildlife officer , so he should know his stuff . So when the time came for our departure we met him at the dock where Brian from Subtidal Adventures introduced us to his 1953 former rescue craft . Considering she was even older than myself it was in great condition ,clearly benefitting from all the care and attention from her captain. ( Looked seaworthy, that’s all I care about)

After a brief safety orientation and instructions on how to use the life jackets, we gently left the harbour , in search of the areas finest wildlife .

The other  passengers were in fact fellow Europeans , a Dutch couple ( they were in the coffee shop, no surprise there !)and a German couple ( Don’t mention the war or the world cup, I instantly thought to myself……..focus )made up the complete party .With such a small party ,it meant our host could answer all our questions and really give a personal touch when pointing out different wildlife . P1030231

Fact Time :The symbol of United States , the Bald eagle , is a common sight in these areas and in fact can be seen all over Western Canada and as far up the west coast as Alaska .

An opportunist feeder it subsists mainly on fish , which it picks right out of the water with the use of its impressive set of talons. A spectacle I am pleased to say I have witnessed on previous occasions , however , today this guy was happy to sit on a warning buoy , not fifteen minutes into our cruise.

The bald eagle is not actually bald , but gets its name form the old name meaning “white Headed” and it only gets this white head once it reaches adult maturity . This magnificent bird was once on the brink of extinction, however through cross border environmental efforts it was removed from the endangered list in 2007.P1030229 The next animal guaranteed to bring out the camera and the funny noises ( listen to the ooooo”s and aaahhhhh”s next time . For you Brits this is probably best witnessed at the zoo as you have no interesting wildlife left , apart from football fans and Saturday night kick out time of the bars and clubs)is the bear . This junior black bear was probably around 3 years old, so was facing its first year away from its mother and by the look of it , was doing a pretty good job of it searching for food along the shoreline.

I still look on in amazement every time I see a bear and I have seen many since my move here .Living so close to the Rocky mountains they are a common sight , especially the Black Bears with over 390,000 in Canada.The Grizzly Bear is far more rare, in fact in ten years I have only ever seen one and of course the Polar bear far up north is probably the most symbolic animal of Canada, especially when it comes to environmental issues and Global Warming topics .

Unfortunately, Bears also seem to bring out the “stupid gene” in tourists when they come across one . Our local news in the summer months reports incidents of people walking up to a bear to try to get a “selfie” with it . If they happen to come across a mother with her cub , they have even been seen trying to touch the baby . Never stops amazing me how dumb people are . Of course the reaction of these bears usually leads to an attack on the dumb tourists and some are seriously hurt even killed. The result is then the animal is usually put down , as apparently it develops a taste for dumb tourist meat.

Tourist Guide Fact time :If by chance you come across a bear , keep your distance and try not to surprise them, you are better off making lots of noise, than trying to creep up on them . They do not want to hurt you and will only attack if they feel  threatened.( You Brits should treat it the same way as approaching a football fan of the opposing club ). Take your pictures from a distance and then use the latest photo app to make it look like a “selfie”.Job done , you get a great picture for your friends to see on Facebook, the bear’ goes about its day and lives to see another one , and you get to keep your facial features .

P1030247
Loved these guys. Harbor Seals lazing around in the morning gloom. Reminded me of politicians

As we left the protection of the bay and headed out to the Broken Islands, the morning mist had yet to clear and the sea began to swell, along with my stomach. Suddenly that last cup of coffee, didn’t seem to be a wise choice . In fact everyone on board ( except for the Germans obviously) began to turn a shade of green .For those of you that have never felt sea-sick , its similar to when you have drunk to excess, without the early benefit of being drunk . All the pain with no gain .

Despite his crew dropping like land loving flies, Brian continued to cruise merrily away pointing out interesting wildlife in the increasing fog .( At this point I couldn”t care less to be honest , but faked my interest similar to math class at school ). After what seemed an eternity, was in fact 4 hours, we finally saw harbour the of Ucluelet, and the sky cleared to welcome home the intrepid voyagers.

Even though we all felt pretty rough at this time , these cruises are a fantastic experience.If ,like me, you come from a country where the wildlife is pretty tame and boring , these trips will really impress . Back on dry land , time for a coffee .

Start : Ucluelet Harbor

Finish : Ucluelet Harbor .

Distance Travelled : No idea , but it seemed along way .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Log:Are you a Professional ?

Day 5 Road Trip : Ucluelet to Tofino .

Weather on the west coast of Vancouver Island can be unpredictable at best , so even in the driest summer experienced by Western Canada in years ,you can still get a damp start to your day .

After a large cooked breakfast made on the barbecue , which involves a great deal of water to douse the flames ,( not sure what it is about men and barbecues ) and enough smoke to worry the locals that an idiot tourist had somehow managed to start a forest fire during a rain storm , we decided to make the best of the situation and set of the neighbouring town on the west coast , Tofino.

Coastal fog is a common morning phenomenon in the summer months and today was one of those mornings . Tofino is located at the western end of Highway 4 , which follows the coast line between the two towns.

While driving this road at a ” I’m on holiday bollocks to you pace” , you soon notice the rather unique roadside sign warning you that you are in fact in a Tsunami zone .The signs inform you of this by using a symbol similar to a wave chasing some poor individual across the beach , a similar mental picture to that of a dog chasing a postman, if you get my meaning .

Fact time : Scientist believe that a giant slab of rock sliding in from the pacific, has been building pressure up in the area for over 300 years . There is so much pressure that the shape on the Island is being altered by a few centimeters every year .

The result of this will be a sudden and unpredictable release of this pressure in the form of a massive off shore earthquake , effecting an area from British Columbia right the way south to Northern California . Experts cannot tell when this is going to happen , only that it is inevitable .Inevitable they say !

The last mega quake happened in Jan 1700 and experts believe that when it does happen parts of the coast will sink over a meter then move to the west between 10 and 15 meters . Now I am not sure how they know this , as I don’t believe there was a great deal of accurate measuring equipment available or trained scientist to measure this in 1700 and Canada didn’t convert to the metric system till 1970, but for ease of conversation lets assume that they are right .

Great . Now I find this out! Didn’t read this is any of the numerous tourist guides on the ferry crossing did I?. Guess they forgot to mention that , bit of a type ” O “.

Managed to find some instructions in the cabin , four pages worth to be exact . When you consider there was only one page on eating out in the area , clearly the owner was as concerned as I’ve just become .

So, what to do in the event of an earthquake followed by a Tsunami? Considering Vancouver Island is covered in tourists for most of the year , and considering how tourists drive when on vacation ( see previous Post: Are you one of those drivers ?)I already have my doubts on how successful any plan is likely to be , however once more let’s get serious.The plan in the event of this happening is as follows :

1/ Drop and take cover under a desk.  Good start . Drop , well as most people will be lazing on their beach towel, they’ve got a head start . However , if the earth is shaking for five or so minutes would you be able to do anything else but drop ? A desk ? Well I’ve already been on several beaches in the area and I’ve seen numerous  surf board and kayak rentals , but yet to see one that supplies desks , but lets improvise and once the ground starts to move, everyone will calmly walk to the nearest beach store where they will  collect their surf board and take cover , got it .Next ?

2/ Hold On .Really ? at this stage I don’t really need to be bloody told to hold on ! Trust me I have that one covered !

3. DO not pack and Do not go to the beach to watch .   What twat (Non Brits may need to google this word for clarivication )wrote this one and how much did they get paid ? Firstly , I’m already at the beach along with thousands of others and try telling my wife not to pack !!!!

4. Be Calm and  make you way to the nearest evacuation zone : Oh you bloody think so do you ? So while the sea retreats at 600 mph , you want me to  calmly get my car keys walk to my vehicle, then  everyone drives carefully , observing the speed limit obviously, to the nearest high ground ?

5.It then goes into detail how the if the earthquake is more than a 9.0 in magnitude and lasts for more than 5 minutes, a series of Tsunami waves are expected to reach the area in twenty minutes and be 20 m high and goes on to lists the areas in that zone that are more than 20 meters higher than sea level .

Fantastic , so while all this shit is happening , I have to time the duration the ground is shaking , reach in my pocket for my seismograph ( which everyone carries don’t you know?) , get the local seismologist ( who just happens to be wondering the beach when I need an expert scientist ) to measure the strength so knowing which area I supposed to go .

Now I don’t mean to make light of this very serious and real possibility of a huge loss of life and damage to the area and an evacuation plan is certainly  required . But seriously, does anyone actually think this plan will work ? or do you think there would be complete panic, mass killings and  breakdown of societies rules , while people scramble to where ever the think is best?

Personally, I’ve decided that if this happens during my stay in the area , forget the plan . Sit back , have a beer, smoke a joint , have sex ( after all apparently we have twenty minutes )enjoy the view and kiss my ass goodbye!

So now that we have decided not to worry about any impending disasters we make our way along Highway 4 towards Tafino, when we come across a rare occurrence around here , a traffic jam . Living in Calgary, I see these on a daily basis ( mainly caused by bad city planners and the inability of drivers here to understand the meaning of Merge , or give way ,to you Brits reading this ) but here they are somewhat of a rarity and frankly I wasn’t interested in joining , so instant reaction, take a left, park up and walk to the beach. So we did.

Combers beach .After a short five-minute walk from the car park through the rain forest that runs adjacent to the  coast line , you come out on a wide open flat plain of sand .IMG_1892The Sitka Spruce forest makes for dramatic walk down to sandy Combers Beach .Part of the Pacific Rim National Park .IMG_1901.JPG

The beach has miles of clean sand , with pockets of dead shell fish, where the last feast took place in the retreating tide . As with any beach  which has heavily forested boarders , drift wood is in plentiful supply . Some of it has been carved so smooth by the ocean, it almost looks to perfect .

I’m told camping on the beach is a favoured past time of the area , especially amongst the surf lovers . My theory for these man-made structures littering the beach ? Obvious, people know there’s no desks available and built their own covers as per the tsunami survival plan . Brilliant .

After a walk ( not hike ) along the endless sands , its time to head back to the truck in the hope that the traffic jam has cleared .Thankfully normal service had resumed and traffic was back to acceptable levels .

On the approach into Tafino , the explanation for why we were delayed earlier came clear .Half the road was excavated away as part of a programme to install culverts( Large open-ended pipes buried under the road) to allow salmon runs from the rivers to the nearby ocean . Mystery solved .

Tafino . What can I say ? Fact time .

Located at the top of Highway 4 , it is a very popular tourist destination attracting surfers , nature lovers,whale watchers and campers.The more well-known of the two towns on the west coast, Tafino has mild winters and temperate summer temperatures ……………………………..ah enough of this I can’t do any more .

I hate the place . All I found is want to be hippies wandering around the town  cramming the small coffee shops , so you can’t get a seat , all sharing one cup of hot chocolate. It seems compulsory for women to not wear a bra ,that’s ok by me in certain circumstances , but not on a cold chilly day and when years of gravity have taken its effect  .The most famous Bra of all was in fact a Canadian invention, so be patriotic and do the rest of us a favour and wear the bloody thing ! . Mini Rant .

Tafino used to be Hip . Back in the day when it was cool to be a society drop out , living on the beach . Now  it suffers from an identity crisis . It still attracts the next generation of hipsters ( minus their bra,  but with cell phones, probably paid for by mommy and daddy ) while the place has now become too commercialised and big business . All the clothes stores sell the same stuff all with the town’s name plastered over it , as if I didn’t know where I was .Obviously once you purchase the surfer logo infested clothing, it makes you a cool surfer and totally hip.

Hotels ,  RV Parks and restaurants are all over priced and over crowded .

Tafino does have a great food scene , that’s part of the problem . Your average city slick , trying to look cool wearing his Tafino T and sandals( whilst still answering his Emails from the office )loves to sit at the fancy eatery and pay top dollar for fish and chips , pretending to be part of the cool surfer hippie brigade . It’s a little like every one on St Patrick’s day seems to be Irish , or as I call it “Plastic Paddy Day “.

Personally, I know I’m in the minority , but it all over priced and over rated . I’m out of here .

Back on Highway 4 heading south, past the road works, and back to the real world in Ucluelet . To get over the disappointment of the other place ( no bra town ) we decided to book a meal at the local floating restaurant, sit down with real people, instead of a bunch of wannabe’s and enjoy a plate of reasonably priced fish and chips .That’s when it happened , for the second time today , whats going on ?A long line up , and an hour and a half wait for a table .

I was then informed for the reason for the mayhem . The road has collapsed between the two towns , so trapping all the day trippers from ” No Bra Town ” in Ucluelet and obviously they now want to eat , hence the long line up ( Que for you Brits ).Well I guess it’s not their fault and thankfully the women seemed to have put their bra on for their day trip , so at least we didn’t have to face that ordeal. Could have put me off my food , but I doubt it  .

So with an evening walk around the harbour to pass away the time waiting for our table , the reason for the road closure was discovered . Not as I thought the beginning of a massive earthquake, but the second half of the road had collapsed, where they were installing the salmon runs .What a relief . This turned to absolute joy when I heard a local fisherman describe the extent of the damage .

Now small town people speak in a certain way. A way in which is calm, understated and to be honest hilarious, without them meaning to be . Coming from a small town myself I simply love it and miss it immensely.

He quotes ” The road collapsed while they were digging those round things into the road for the fish to use . Its pretty bad as I”ve heard they had to bring the professionals in from the other side of the island ” ( Assume he meant from Victoria or another large town all situated on the East Coast ) Laugh? I damn near hurt myself .

“Bring in the professionals?” I asked him for clarification, ” So does that mean around here anyone can dig the main highway up?”

Calmly and without any emotion he replied with “I think so , it”s not the first time it:s happened this year ‘

Oh my God , I laughed so hard . Brilliant . Suddenly my inconvenience waiting for a table to come available at the local eatery all became worth it .

Finally we received notice from the restaurant that our table was ready and ended our eventful day with a fantastic plate of local fish and chips, complete with a couple of beers, fine company and all the women in the building had a Bra on. Perfect .IMG_1101

Ucluelet Marina , in all its splendor. Great to see numerous working boats still active in the area .

 

Start Point : Ucluelet British Columbia

Finish Point Ucluelet British Columbia( via No Bra Town )

Distance Travelled : 82 Kilometers

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Log: Are You One of Those Drivers?

Day 4     Road Trip Victoria to Ucluelet .

Get the hell  out-of-town , before Monday morning traffic builds up too much and reminds me of home .

The trans Canada highway (Highway 1) begins its 8000 kilometer  journey across the country from here in Victoria . So here we go again, this time heading north following the east coast of the island re- tracing our steps back through to Nanaimo , where the sea crossing had ended two days earlier .

After bypassing the town of Nanaimo ( sorry my Canadian readers it’s not big enough to be called a city ) we head west on highway 4 , towards Port Alberni ,

Before getting to Port Alberni, we take the short detour off the highway into a small town by the name of Coombs, home of the goats on the roof market . Guess  what , it’s a market with goats on its roof . Straight up my friends , look !FullSizeRenderStarted by a family of Norwegian Immigrants in 1973 , when it was no more than a road side fruit stall, it has grown into a must see attraction. As rumour has it , the goats appeared on the roof several summers later , when after a certain amount of alcohol was consumed , it was suggested that they borrow some goats in order to reduce the height of the grass now growing on the roof .As with all  ideas involving beers , it was a good one and proved to be very amusing to passing motorists and so increasing the markets business . Great marketing ideas are not always taught in business school , sometimes it just takes imagination and beer( and an immigrant who likes to drink ).

Today the market is open  from 9am to 8pm and has a wide range of vendors , including one that sells the largest wooden penis I have ever seen , kid you not. So with goats and large wooden penises in the same area , why wouldn’t you stop ?

After purchasing some fresh vegetables and fruit ( yes it still has it original fruit stand despite the invasion of Phal’lic wooden sculptures ) we continued our journey west , along highway 4 .After passing through Port Alberni , never stopped here never felt the need , (something to do with the large golden “M” upon entering,put me off stopping at together , sorry Port Alberni , I’m sure you have lots to offer the average traveller, but not this one !).The road becomes increasingly narrower and more twisty by the mile . Here comes a Rant !!!!

Now I’m not an expert on the development of vehicles over the last thirty years , but having done a lot of driving in that time , I am sure millions of dollars, Yen , Euros, or whatever other currencies there are from large car making countries , have been spent on improving handling and performance of the average family form of transport ….. be it the Albertan favourite the pick-up truck , the tree huggers and students favourite small economical hatch backs , or those bloody awful vehicles driven by families where the men have little or no testicles , the scurge of 21st century motoring , the mini-van !!!!!!!!!!

I can also say with confidence that the worlds tire companies have spent equal amounts on developing their product to enable these vehicles to take a corner at greater speeds than a horse-drawn carriage . Clearly this money has been wasted . ( if any car manufactures are reading this , please divert some of this money into developing windshields that don’t ever crack , a car alarm that people actually take notice of and air conditioning that doesn’t freeze your feet ,as people in summer actually wear summer footwear ).

Despite all their efforts , a large amount of drivers have no concept how to take a corner correctly , how to accelerate out of a corner and not to enter a corner by slamming your brakes as hard as you can , going round a bend in a series of short jerky movements of the steering wheel, only to exit the bend at approximately a third of the speed that the  vehicle is actually capable of safely doing . So please do us all a favour . Either concentrate on  your driving and be more aware of fellow motorists, stop texting or trying to watch the kids DVD playing in the back ( maybe teach the kids to look out of those see through things running down the sides of the vehicle called windows, at the beautiful scenery that this country is blessed to have )use your mirrors and lay off the big pedal and give its little brother next to it a little more attention, or sell your penis shrinking mini van and buy a horse and carriage . At least you with be saving the world’s oil for those genuine driving enthusiasts and the horse has probably a greater ambition to take the corners at a reasonable speed . In addition to this, the environmental Nazis will love you , as no pollutants into the air and you can use the horse droppings on your home-grown spinach garden ,your wife forces you to grow in your cookie cutter house in the sub-burbs ……..loser ! Rant over .That feels good .

So after enduring a painful  display of driving skills , we arrive in the coastal town of Ucluelet, the gem of the west coast . Where”s the ship ????. On previous visits to this coastal delight , upon arriving in the town , one of the first things your met with is the sight of a large ship tied up in the harbor.The Canadian Princess has left town. Since 1979 she had dominated the harbor landscape . In her working life she was named The william .J.Stewart and spent her time mapping the west coast of Canada .With a change in ownership of the complex she was attached to , the new owners, probably wisely, decided they didn’t want the ship and she was towed away as part of the deal . Her age and possible liability in the future for any environmental issues, meant the modern business model has no room for sentiment .Still its always sad to see a landmark feature of any town disappears , that’s progress for you ,

The word Ucluelet , means ” people of the safe harbor” and to be honest I couldn’t think of a better named town anywhere in the world. I feel safe and secure as soon as I arrive . The slower pace of life on the west coast immediately takes effect , and the stress of living in the city seems to fall like one of the stunning sunsets , this part of the island experiences on every clear night.West Coast Sunset

Having settled into our  cabin, which will be home for the next five nights , we set off to the local store to stock up on supplies for the week. Ucluelet still has a core of year round residence and workers from the fishing industry which means the stores here have not gone  completely tourist based , so finding food and supplies for the week was no problem .The little supermarket was probably a quarter of the size of the one we use in Calgary , yet still managed to stock everything we needed and sold a selection of camping and fishing equipment along side the bacon and eggs .One shocking thing for me was the lack of fresh fish . In a town that is literally surrounded by some of the best coastal fishing grounds in the world, I was surprised to see little or no fresh sea fish available . When asking the locals it seems yet again big business is taking over . Ucluelet still has several processing plants , however all the fish from these plants are taken by truck over  the island to the mainline where they are frozen and distributed in Vancouver . So basically the supermarket gets its fish from Vancouver , even though its caught a couple of miles away , another case of where so-called development and supply chains make no bloody sense .

To finish the day , time to take a walk along the many trails that run along the coastal area of the Pacific Rim ( Or as my family like to refer to it as the pacific asshole).Now notice I used the word ” walk ‘, not a hike . To me a hike is something that involves a great distance walking over variable terrain so needing specialist equipment and involves a fast pace . A walk on the other hand can be done with no specialist equipment , over shorter distances and doesn’t require you to be that physically fit .

That is the one for me . Flip Flops a Camera and that’s about it . Now you may be wondering why I’m going into so much detail on this ? Well if you have read any of my earlier posts, you will know this is an observation I have made regarding people in Calgary walking , or as they put it Hiking .

Calgary has many beautiful scenic areas to walk and despite the fact it has grown tremendously over the last ten years , it still maintains its green spaces and areas of recreation . So it’s not uncommon for me and my wife ( having two dogs means it’s almost daily) to take a quiet walk and take advantage of the city planners good work . However , quiet is not experienced very often . Not through traffic or aircraft or any other of the usual city noise suspects , but through the need of people in Calgary to dress up like the are competing in the Tour de France ( famous bicycle race ,just in case you didn’t know ) and tour the same footpath , sounding their bloody bells with a constant ” to the left ” or some other pointless warning ,as their  overweight bodies struggle to overtake me on my leisurely walk .

Those of you that know me , will be shocked at this next line . I’m sorry . Sorry , because I thought this was a normal Canadian thing , to squeeze your candy packed body into a tight  figure hugging cycle outfit , don a very expensive aero dynamic helmet , get on your overpriced bicycle( complete with annoying bloody bell), load up enough water bottles to last a camel three weeks , attach some sort of electronic device that records everything from your heartbeat to how many pedestrians you have pissed off and cycle around the footpaths as fast as you can . No . I’m mistaken . At no point in my travels through British Columbia, even in the fairly yuppie infested areas of Victoria , have I witnessed this disturbing event . No , only in my home city of Calgary does this seem to happen . You muppets !

I digress , as I tend to do a lot . As we walked around one of these trails taking in the beautiful coastal scenery ,it came to my attention that not one of my fellow walkers was dressed in the latest voodoo lemon like, brightly coloured outfit. Complete with water bottles, an electronic gadget counting your paces ( even my mother in law has one of these around her wrist , as noted on her last long visit to my home , but that’s another story ) and the latest running shoes or hiking boots . In fact most people were actually wearing normal clothes ,  flip-flops or some other type of casual summer shoe  and actually enjoying their walk , regardless of  how many steps it took them to get back, or how long it took or how many calories the managed to lose .

Breathtaking is a word that is over used today, and I’m not a person who is easily impressed by the average , just ask my kids , but the views were literally that . P1030161.JPG

The over cast skies only added to the dramatic views and really showed the power of the sea.  The way it carved the rocks along the rugged coast line .P1030106

Amphitrite point lighthouse , is the main stopping point on the aptly named lighthouse walk . With free parking to dump the wheels , this 45 minute walk is easy on the eyes and the feet . Around the half way point you will come across this lighthouse , which replaced the original building in 1915, as the 1906 original was not strong enough to withstand the pacific storms along the west coast .

This iconic building has kept watch over the ships from Barkley Sound and the broken islands ever since . With over 300 species of migrating birds that pass through this area every year its a popular spot to watch nature at her finest . Best thing about the trail …….. No cyclist allowed, yes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Start :   Victoria British Columbia

Finished: Ucluelet British Columbia

Distaced Travelled : 504 klms  ( seemed longer thanks to you drivers )

 

Road Trip

Day 3 Victoria

Having had a good night sleep ( Anything was better than the Chevy Pick-up hotel from the previous night ) , we ventured downtown , via the split windshield Hotel Zed VW camper van .

One huge disadvantage of living in Calgary ( which now apparently is in the top ten cities in the world to live in , not sure who decided that , no coast , no work ,high house prices ,in the middle of a slump in oil prices ………………………?) is that we are a 12 hour drive to the coast and therefore the opportunity to eat fresh seafood, is at best somewhat limited , in truth bloody poor .In fact in my opinion , eating out in Calgary is generally over priced and over rated , except for asian food  , the majority of restaurants tend to offer all the same choices, including one of the biggest disappointments to me when I arrived here , that being Alberta Beef ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,aaaahhhhh .

So coming from an island and being bought up on a fish diet we set off on our Fish and Chips finding mission .

A short boat taxi ride from the main downtown area, takes across the bay to a place they refer to as fisherman’s wharf . There , a small number of floating houses and restaurants provide the visiter with a relaxed waterside watering hole . With a busy harbour entrance providing constant entertainment , ships, trawlers , pleasure boats and best of all float planes provide an ever-changing horizon,

With one of the hottest summers of record , a strong American dollar and fires raging in northern regions of the western provinces , the west coast seems to be having a record year for numbers of visitors and on this particular day , many of them seem to be desperate to eat  fish and chips at the same time as us. So much so we had an hours wait for fresh batches to be cooked having arrived ten minutes after they ran out of supplies .

With a little patience, our wait was rewarded with a large plate of fresh haddock and chips ( fries to you north american folk ……………..funny how the restaurants are not called fish and fries here.)Fantastic , Calgary restaurants could learn a thing or two from Victoria regarding food presentation and portion sizes . It’s also great to be served by a server who knows what there doing, not covered in cheap make up and perfume , and actually cares about customer service rather than looking for a large tip for basically doing very little .( My Rant Over for the day ?) Victoria boasts more restaurants per head than any place in Canada and for them to all stay in business, they must know a thing or two .

Having finished our lunch we headed back to downtown Victoria , via a cool little tug taxi, which run continuously from several pick up and drop off areas throughout the harbour area . Any visitor should try these at least once as they give a great service , if a little expensive , but that the price you pay for anything unique.( Had to wait for our taxi , as the first one to collect us had the family on board that was kitted out like they were on a cross continental hike and allergic to the twentieth century and as we had our dog with us they clearly wouldn’t survive such a long crossing in an open aired boat  !!!!!) .Another Rant for those who are counting .

Back into the city we wondered around the stores . As anyone knows with teenage kids , shopping for cloths seems to be high on most of their ” want to do lists “, and my sons are no different . In the age of over indulging our children for fear of them growing up with some mental condition or the latest ridiculous abbreviated condition , I follow along like the modern lap dog Dad, aimlessly wandering the streets , reminding myself of my teenage years when one pair of runners ( trainers as I know them by ) seem to be enough ! ( I lied about the daily rant clearly ).

Victoria has all the usual stores, plus a few that offer more of the west coast hippy style that seems to be coming back in fashion .But what it does make great use of , is maintaining the old buildings that once housed mainly ship related industries and workshops and now offer a wide range boutiques, used clothing stores , endless cafe and small specialist food outlets. Even a reluctant shopper like myself can find something of interest .

To end the day we grabbed a take out from the well-known chinese district , popped a squat in the old district and watched the world pass by , enjoying top quality asian cuisine .To follow, a half and walk to burn off supper back to the hotel . The trendy VW camper only runs to 5.30 pm pick up , so walk back it was . ( I never once a fan of taxi or worst still busses )

With full stomachs ( well mine at least , the stomach of a teenage boy seems to be an ever revolving door ) and tired ache feet , a good nights rest was had by all . Tomorrow we leave Victoria and head still further west .

Start point _ Victoria BC

Finish – Victoria BC

Distance Travelled _ 0 klms . (Not driving , felt like bloody lots walking)