British Columbia Alberta

From hairy fur animals and golden loons

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8,000 km round trip by car through British Columbia and Alberta. 9 days alone on a boat through the fjords and inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific coast. To the most remote and spectacular areas to experience bears that have just come out of hibernation. We are doing the most wonderful experience of our life with a grizzly mother and her 3 boys. On the tour we experienced beautiful, thoughtful and touching things and tell about our personal experiences, emotions and impressions about people, animals and nature of western Canada.

For the 12th time in BC and Alberta! In 1993 we got married in Vernon on Okanagan Lake. Before and since we were really often here to visit. But now it's really the last trip in our lives to these two Canadian provinces. So to speak, our Western Canada Farewell and Revival (foto) tour. This time we have spent a lot of time to look, enjoy and take pictures. Unlike usual, we have not set any location or time goals except for visiting our friends in Vernon and our Great Bear Rainforest Vessel Tour starting June 8th. So we just drove on it, only with the current daily destination. Andrea had sufficient rest and had the leisure to find her photo opportunities and put them in the right picture. With a lot of patience and perseverance. We really enjoyed that. And we were rewarded for it, because we also had a lot to experience. Beautiful and touching. With humans, the animals and the nature of Canada. It has probably become a very extensive travel blog ... ..

But let's start at the very top: We land at noon, sitting in a punctual and friendly 747 LH in cloudy Vancouver and experience the fastest so far (less than 30 min.) And smoothest customs clearance of our lives: brand new via fully electronic detection. An impeccable Jeep Cherokee is already waiting and will accompany us to almost 8,000 km from now on. We find our B B in the leafy district of Granville with plush white carpets and "shoe out". In the late afternoon we will pay Downtown a first visit and collect our first ticket for parking costs 40 euros. Somehow, car parks in this city are hard to spot. Vancouver is a one-way street mess. Despite the many tourists in the Gastown, the poor people who live here on the street can not be overlooked. We dine in the venerable "Old Spaghetti Factory" with original tram wagon inside and then drive tired in the drizzle back to our sleeping nest.

The next day is the beloved of us Stanley Park and once again the small Chinatown with the narrowest lane in the world. Unfortunately, the sky was gray again and the otherwise desirable colors do not quite come out. A challenge for the photographer! A small highlight is the Marine Building with its fantastically designed, very old interior design. A mini-insider tip.

On the other hand, it looks quite sad on and around Hastings Road in the east of the city. We've probably never seen so many hundreds or thousands of homeless and homeless, poor and drug addicts as close together as there. We are appalled and Andrea takes some pictures of these people. It's just awful! We'll find out more about this situation later. Very different and contradictory. We do not know what is true and what does not. As so often in this world.

We decide to head east to Vancouver, out of the now huge city with its large Asian city districts. After Osoyoos and Penticton we spontaneously turn north. There we stop in the heavily grown Kelowna on the southern Okanagan Lake and want to surprise our friend Rod from old times after over 15 years, who now lives there. As luck would have it, our B B, Starbucks coffee stop and Rod's apartment are just 2km apart. The flying visit will be a complete success.

The next day Matthias has a birthday and we plan to wander the near Kelowna the Myra Canyon Trestles. 18 supergenious, high wooden railway bridges as in the Wild West on a distance of 12 km. We are very sad, because the entry is denied us because of Baumfällarbeiten on this day. So we drive in the direction of Nelson and stay there in the historic Hume Hotel from 1898 (see below). On our previous visits, hip-hop-like people strolled on the well-known Baker Street, with their pretty, colorful wooden houses. There was a lot of music and it was very romantic. To our regret, not much is left of this flair these days. One day later we set out via Creston, Cranbrook, Fernie, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest to Waterton Lakes National Park, our southeasternmost toureck. We expect rain, sleet, gray clouds and freezing cold at just over zero degrees! We did not think so. In addition, even the famous hotel "Prince of Wales ", on the small hill right in front of the magnificent lake with a mountain backdrop behind closed. Great! With shaky ice fingers, Andrea does a timelapse video of the bit, which we can see. We then eat a badly prepared pizza and sleep in the not too cozy Bayshore Inn.

Command back. The weather looks a little better the next morning. Shortly after leaving the village there is a small, unexpected encounter: Andrea wants to photograph a piece of nature and suddenly a herd of deer surrounds us, who are not afraid of humans at all. Some of them lick our Jeep with their long tongues. Matthias is in it, Andrea is out. We return the same way over a beautiful plateau and an exciting pass back and turn at Cranbrook on the highways 93/95 via Kimberley to the north.

The first shots of bighorn sheep close up are in the middle of the landscape. They, too, are not impressed by anything and bask in the rising warmth. Next stop is Golden, in our memory a rather inconspicuous place on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. But far from it! The small town shines freshly spruced up with a large, interesting railway area and nice little restaurants. It's 20 degrees, just a few clouds and the sun is shining. We spend the night in a sensational B B with very friendly hosts high above Golden (see below). The evening will be filled with the no less fantastic "1122" in the center of town. They cook really well there. A big surprise for us.

We will take the following photo goals for the next day: a) a Wolf Wildlife Center, b) a buffalo farm and c) the long rail freight trains in Golden. The "Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center" was founded in 1998 by Shelley and Casey Black and is somewhat hidden near Golden in the Blaeberry Valley (no spelling mistake!). It houses a pack of wolves with captive or after-birth-giving wolves. The Blacks and their supporters have been struggling for more pro-friendly laws in Canada for years, and do not mince words.

Her program "Walk with Wolves" is part of her educational work. We would like to write here at this point much more worth knowing and certainly unknown about wolves, what we have heard there, but this would go beyond the scope of the travel blog really. Instead, here for those interested the link to the English website www.northernlightswildlife.com Our wish: Just read it there. You will be totally surprised what you learn about wolves!

The visit of the buffalo farm falls into the water, as there are simply no buffaloes. You are probably on a sightseeing tour, somewhere.

Well, and then the railroads. We drive with our car just once on the huge area there and are - after only a few photos - made aware of the security people that we are here, for safety reasons, of course, not wanted. As soon as we leave the area and are above us on the highway (to photograph from there), we are stopped by a police car. He discreetly informs us that this project is also not in accordance with the law and reviews our papers. After more than an hour of waiting, the friendly policeman with German grandmother finally releases us from his care.

We continue to have a criminal record in Canada and relieved to make an afternoon trip west to the Rockies. Unfortunately, the long-awaited spiral tunnels can now be forgotten photographically and otherwise, as the tall fir trees cover more or less everything. And of course, a long train does not come until we're almost back in Golden. Even at this time of the year water-filled Takkakaw Falls are not accessible to us. The way there is closed.

We would like to enjoy the scenic route from Radium Hot Springs to Banff over Highway 93 and therefore drive a bit to the south, then turn to the northeast. On the way we see the small, emerald-green Vista Lake from above at 1,700 m altitude below us and dream a bit into the lonely landscape. We arrive at Banff National Park and meet two famous, but completely icy, snow covered lakes.

The world famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. We definitely did not expect (more) at the end of May! Hordes of people walk around on the latter lake and we discover a photographically very interesting group of Buddhist monks in their yellow-orange cowls.

We will probably never visit the lake Luisen again, because the tourist crowds are incredibly large, the beautiful lake hotel is closed to these crowds, only hotel guests still have access today. The parking lots are even more monstrous than those in some big cities in Europe. You can forget that.

After an overnight stay in Banff and a tasty "Mexican" in the evening, we discover the three small Vermilion Lakes located on the outskirts. A totally romantic sight. Pure enjoyment for nature lovers. Andrea photographs every quantity of birds and ducks (families). The ducklings are popularly known as "Loonies" because they are round and fluffy and have a circle on the small breast reminiscent of the gold-colored 1-euro coins of earlier Canada.

Unfortunately, the Johnston Canyon on our plan is also closed. We ask ourselves again, why actually. The goal is therefore today Revelstoke, a small sweet place in the middle of the mountains. In the late afternoon we sit comfortably on a park bench in the sun on the banks of the Columbia River and relax a bit from the day.

Next stop is Vernon at the north end of Okanagan Lake. This is the town where we got married 26 years ago on a B B called "Castle on the Mountain" with our Canadian friends. The castle still exists, now has a new owner and only two rooms are let. Nevertheless, we spend three nights there in nostalgic memory. And miss the old times and the family atmosphere of yesteryear. No shared breakfast and no nocturnal outdoor hot tub. With Sharon, Eskil, Lyndell and Ian we do a winery tour over the weekend on the old romantic streets of the elongated stretch of land between the Okanagan and the Kalamalka Lake and eat an ingenious Lobster pizza for lunch. And of course, there's Eskil's legendary original breakfast with warm porridge and whipped cream, including some shredded fresh raspberries. Everything comes to an end. It will probably have been the last meeting of this kind.

On this somewhat sad evening for two, we do the rough planning for the second half of the car tour and leave our wedding destination early in the morning heading north again for the Rocky Mountains. Via Kamloops we get on the highways 97 and 5 to the finally sun-flooded and clearly visible Mount Robson to Jasper, where we expect a heat of over 28 degrees C. In all our visits before, the mountain was always mysteriously enveloped in the clouds.

In the meantime, too much has not changed in this wonderful mountainous place. Of course, the new, wide-developed Icefield Parkways - once down and up again with a total of almost 500 km on this day with selected destinations - is a "must": the foaming Athabasca Falls, the ever-melting Athabasca Glacier with new paths and parking lots for the visitors and the unfortunately frozen Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. We would both like to have photographed in their milky emerald green.

On the second day a nice ride to the most beautiful lake of the entire tour, the Maligne Lake.

Matthias takes on the guide of a huge black touring coach, which scares away moose and black bears on the roadside with its overloaded diesel engine. Just as the Chinese bus passengers once again through the window with their cell phones and iPads tried to take any pictures. An American tourist yells at Andrea from a seemingly safe distance: "This is a bear !!" - as if we do not know what a fur animal is and how to deal with it. And a Japanese runs with raised camera down the slope directly to a bear.

Well, on these days we are really lucky with our wildlife photography: grizzlies, black bears, bald eagles (in the nest high on a totally dried up tree), moose, bighorn sheep, ducks, roe deer, Canadian geese, a kind of "weasel", Wapiti deer, wolves and lots of birds. On the evening of the last day in Jasper Matthias leaves his wallet with everything in it just so on a pile of bananas in a supermarket. Luckily the staff saw it and returned it intact! By the way, a recommendation for dinner in Jasper is the Kimchi House Korean Restaurant (see travel tips).

We head east again out of the Rockies over Prince George and then south to 100 Mile House (attention: Lakelands = 1 million mosquitoes-danger !!) to Barkerville, an old Historic Town deep in the Cariboos. "Dahooja, Weyt-kp!", The indigenous people of the Cariboos say to newcomers in this area: "Welcome, hello all!". Barkerville is located in the territories of seven First Nations with the ineffable names Lhtako, Nazko, Lhooskúz, Ulkatcho, Esdilagh, Xat'sull and Simpcw. In 1862, Billy Barker discovered gold there at Williams Creek. This discovery brought a flood of lucky knights from all over the world into the wilds of the Cariboos. Between 1862 and 1870, more than 100,000 people toured the Cariboo Wagon Road, which was also referred to as the 8th wonder of the world back then. In its heyday, Barkerville was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. Today you can admire more than 125 historic buildings and shops as well as the inhabitants in historical robes that stroll through the streets, greetings and with whom you can chat perfectly. And you can eat delicious in the gold rush style. And even try gold panning and try his luck. Finally, meet Billy Barker in person ... ..

The 3rd day in a row with more than 30 degrees C.! We have one of our car tires repaired for little money on the edge of the highway. The mechanic finds a mini nail.

From 100 Mile House we drive past the disappointing Hells Gate along the exciting Fraser south to Hope. On the way, we are allowed to take a close-up photograph of a pair of bald eagles and their nest close to Cache Creek on a very large private property. What a peace and opportunity to experience these animals so.

A few kilometers further we discover in a forest area the old, iron Alexandra Bridge, which leads over the light brown Fraser. A little insider tip!

Arriving in Hope, we will visit Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park for an evening visit. Four former, pitch-black railway tunnels carved into the hard rock, we pass through and as a companion next to it always a bright green foaming river in a hyper-steep canyon. Here it is more than beautiful.

The next day transfer from the mainland to Vancouver Island by ferry from Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver North) to Nanaimo. What a perfect organization of the many cars! We drive a bit to the north and then turn left in a westerly direction. There, of course, we have to see the ancient tree giants at Cathedral Grove, leaving our car door unobserved for 1.5 hours without noticing it! But when we come back, everything is still there.

We spend the night in the surprisingly pretty Port Alberni, a well-known sport fishing village, eat delicious fish and chips in the "Bare Bones" (see travel tips) and try despite a glittering spotlight at a time-lapse video of a smoky paper mill on the banks of the Somass River at night River.

Next day west to the Pacific Ocean with its towns Tofino and Ucluelet.

From a photographic point of view, this First Nations country with its beautiful, stormy wild beaches and islets - at this time - is not the yellow of the egg for us. About Comox in the east of the island and then to the south, we once again see the famous Chemainus with its murals. There are many added since our last visit here. We eat the best ice cream from Vancouver Island in the best weather.

Where did the Chemainus founded in 1858 come from? He comes from "Tsa-meeun-is" (Broken Chest), a legendary shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chieftain. His people took his name for the identification of their tribe. The first of the large murals for which the town became famous was completed in 1982. In the meantime, Vancouver Island is home to over 70 different ones, all of which deal with First Nations history, settlements, life and forestry.

Along the coast we use the old Highway 19A, until it ends unfortunately just before Nanaimo and reach in the evening Victoria, the beautiful city in the south. There, of course, the dreamlike busy harbor, a new fold-up car bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Empress Hotel and a kind of haunted house (Craigdarroch Castle) on the visit and photo program. We stay in this city for three days, which we like so much.

On a hike on the Highway 14 to the northwest on the rough Pacific coast, we drive over Sooke almost to Port Renfrew to finally find the much sought after Fairy Lake in the middle of the woods. There we meet on a kind of campsite Diane, who lives here as a former postbus driver in a camper. Surrounded by tens of hummingbirds, blue birds ("Blue Steller's" or in German Diademhäher) and honey whiskey she tells us her story. We like to listen to her and then set off to our ultimate goal, the "Lonely Tree on the Lake". In the rain, Andrea takes great pictures of him.

We finally spend the night in Richmond near Vancouver Airport, with a population of more than 66% Chinese. In the late afternoon we drink fresh, home-roasted coffee in the "Viva Java", a super-tiny coffee shop, whose much talking owner Arturo looks and speaks like the well-known Hollywood actor Jean Reno in earlier times. Guest is also Jeff from Canada, who knows Lake Constance, there Fischbach (Friedrichshafen) and likes to eat "Schwäbisch".

The Big Bear Rainforest. 9 days and 8 nights. There is really a lot to talk about and about this cruise. Not so easy to be reasonably brief. And one thing right at the beginning: We have promised not to reveal in which bays and inlets we were exactly to protect the plant and especially the wildlife there a little from the crudity of mass tourism initiatives. So we do not use names instead. With the request for understanding.

After leaving the Pacific Coastal Airlines 18-passenger aircraft from Vancouver via Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Bella Bella on Campbell Island, we arrive in a rickety white van in 10 min. and brought to the local pier for $ 20 to get the (free) water taxi to Shearwater - a mini bay with a few buildings, shops, a factory, and an elderly "hotel" on one of the 1,000 mega-small islands somewhere on the Pacific coast of northwestern Canada.

Our tour will start at the dock in Shearwater. For the first time we see the glossy "Great Bear II" lying on the wharf. Much bigger than ever thought. A 17 m long "Hatteras Long Range Cruiser", a world-famous "trawler-style" motor yacht, designed to cross any ocean.

Our crew is already there: Eric (the captain), Cindy (the chef) and Marjan (the good third aid). The mouth stays open a little when we learn that we will do the tour alone with the three of us. Unfortunately, a couple had to cancel very quickly. On board, there is even an organic herb garden and edible flowers. A private bathroom with shower, two inflatable boats, a seawater treatment plant. So: What a luxury is there for us !!

Before it starts, we meet Harry and Sally, a true-to-life bald eagle pair at the harbor, which Andrea, of course, immediately photographs in a professional manner.

Fresh calamari and Caesar salad with salmon and red wine round off the evening. The next, rainy day, we head north through Queen Charlotte Sound to find out why this region is known as "The Great Bear Rainforest": In the most remote and spectacular areas of BC. To breathtaking landscapes, an impressive wildlife, to the Fjords and tidal channels with bright green, tall grass and wildflowers overgrown estuaries. The mountain peaks of the Coastal Range are still covered with snow at this time and form a nice contrast to the azure blue sky. Polished granite walls tower thousands of feet out of the sea and are littered with rushing waterfalls at this time of year, seemingly falling from the sky.

We want to experience big grizzlies that have just awakened from hibernation and come into these inlets to enjoy protein-rich sedge grass and salmon berries. And we will hopefully see humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters and other marine mammals. And always check the coastlines for black or brown bears, deer, deer and wolves.

Our crew tells us that as the trophy hunt for these sentient bear creatures in those bays is finally over, their sight will touch our hearts. We'd soon see why stories we've heard about the cruelty of Grizzlies are just stories that are far from reality. Although these bears are clearly wild animals and need to be treated with respect, they are far different from the monsters hunters wanted us to believe.

Eric is a bear finder, a certified bear leader and a conservationist with a huge heart for the animals and nature here. His careful and careful handling of this ship enables us to enjoy the natural behaviors of wildlife without permanently disrupting or affecting the land and animals we see. While some cruise liners have a very defined itinerary, it prefers to be more adaptable. When nature crosses the best path, Eric tells us, we want to be able to stop for as long as we want and enjoy those life-changing moments. And that's exactly how it will happen in the next few days.

The first sea otter is sighted. He looks funny because you only see a small silver head with two big eyes. We photograph colorful starfish on the shore and sea anemones. A chic octopus is unfortunately too fast for Andrea's camera. Despite bad weather, we visit on an island the place Klemtu and the Big House of the First Nations. Vern, the Chief of the Village, tells us a long, thrilling story from this big wooden house, four men in canoes and Equinox, an underwater chief and superhero. Also on the third day it pours from buckets, but the weather report praised improvement from tomorrow noon. We are waiting for the sun. Fresh strawberries, pancakes and whipped cream for breakfast help us beyond the wait.

The weather is actually getting better, we see some sun. We anchor at the end of an inlet and observe on the "green beach" the first three grizzlys who eat there in peace and quiet huge amounts of shells.

Later, a bear mother with her three "cubs" take off in front of a male specimen. Everywhere there are incredibly beautiful, rushing waterfalls and dreamlike water reflections of the landscapes and the sky in all colors.

Today we reach the crew favorite Inlet. As we circle the last corner of this long bay, we know immediately that this should be a home dreamed of by grizzly bears. And here we have the most wonderful experience with such creatures. With a grizzly mother and her three boys. They have already been eating the high green grass on the shore for three hours and despite the rising tide we are sitting motionless and still in our dinghy. Obviously, she thirsts and they drink something of the fresh water of the bay. Next to her, Mother Bear marches on the meanwhile formed sandbank and behind her in step-by-step her boys. Suddenly she stops and the three Cubs surround her as if they want to discuss something together. And there it happens: The huge mother falls on her back and begins to suckle the three bear cubs. Lovingly, she embraces her with her bear paws.

The little bear snouts are quite white from the milk. What a sight! The tears roll down our faces for five of us. We are totally touched and can hardly believe it. Thank heaven, that we can see and experience this once. Andrea takes the pictures of her life!

Another cove with a very large and expansive estuary, snowy mountains and foggy rainforest offers one of the best crab species. Andrea and Eric go catching crabs. So an evening crab party on board is fine, right? Half of the caught creepy-crawlies are released because they are too small. The others taste extremely delicious. It's fun to dine in our "Revolving Restaurant" because the boat turns in the tide at anchor or during the day in the half or three quarter circle.

During the final part of the cruise we travel through an area known to be an important habitat for humpbacks. At this time of year, these humpback whales feed on her long return hike from Hawaii from herring and krill. And then we finally see the first humpback whales that can swim up to 18 km / h. Andrea catches her the moment she dives down and shows her wonderful caudal fin. A dream that we are allowed to experience this here in the greatest peace and solitude. Later, Cindy and Eric actually identify this whale from a thick book with hundreds of tailfin photos of that region. His name is "Teeth".

Unfortunately we are not allowed to see on this trip, are the great black and white orcas and their mad jumps out of the water. They just do not want to appear. Ok, then next time. But as a substitute for them at least small Dall's Porpoises and Pacific White Sided Dolphins, which often play on the bow wave of our ship. Again a challenge for the photographer!

The penultimate day breaks in total calm and sun. Everything is quiet outside. The water is mirror-smooth. You can see for miles. Eric discovers three whales in the distance, and when we go, they are better off the water than they were from the ground. No more whales are spotted. We are a little frustrated. Once again, Eric is deceived by the huge marine mammals. 100 meters in front of the ship a big whale appears. Incredibly close! Everyone runs to the deck to take a picture of him. He disappears in the void. What a pity! The day comes to an end. One last dinner. It's raining.

The issue of animal welfare keeps us busy throughout the cruise. How reckless people can be, we unfortunately experience again here. A very large motor yacht (worth 15 million euros) with the name "815 - Sherpa" anchored in the same romantic bay as us. Their passengers actually have nothing better to do than rush through the small rivers with their zodiacs, to enjoy the bear mothers and running away bears, who jump in fear with fear. What are those idiots! Eric is very angry and goes back several times to protect the animals in their own dinghy, to put them to speech. Cindy, meanwhile, informs the BC Park Rangers and the so-called "Watchmen", which unfortunately do not come on site. The Watchmen in the Great Bear Rainforest in many places on the fact that the visitors, tourists, photographers and fishermen do not violate the protection rules. Most of the waters and inlets are First Nations territory. Unfortunately, they have no opportunity to impose fines but only warnings. Unfortunately, they are just "toothless tigers"! A conversation by radio refuses the captain of the 815 Sherpa simply from. In the evenings, they then make the "Big Party" on board the otherwise impenetrable silence of the bay. Es ist echt unfassbar! Geld scheint alles zu gestatten auf diesem Planeten! Und dann wundern wir uns, wenn beim nächsten Besuch hier die Einfahrt in das Inlet für immer gesperrt ist.