In Praise of Cadiz

 

At the Chiclana terminus, we changed buses and took the 20 minute ride to Cadiz for the first time.  I’d been looking forward to finally making the trip.  The idea that we would get to spend some time in Cadiz was the main reason we came to be housesitting in this part of Spain – believing initially that our assignment would be based centrally within the city.  I hadn’t foreseen just how much I would become utterly charmed by the natural beauty, people and easy-going way of life in the South West of Andalucia.  I feel at home here.

People seem to me to be very happy here. I love watching the restaurants and ventas fill up at lunchtimes, particularly at the weekends with families spanning new-borns to those with a few more years on the clock all chatting loudly and having fun over the afternoon meal together.  I like the way people are inclusive,  have time and respect for each-other and take care of older family members.

A few Sundays ago, we joined a group walk with the residents’ association of San Ambrosio – a mixture of nationalities and ages with a common goal being to enjoy the annual hike – singing, chatting and snacking on fruits and cake as we made our way through the countryside to a church in the pretty, white, hilltop town of Vejer where there’s a statue of the Saint himself.  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, despite some difficulties for us understanding the Spanish language (we are trying to learn, honestly), but we were able to communicate.  I really enjoyed talking with many different people and listening to their stories.

Yes, there are hugely challenging employment issues for many, however the people I’ve met seem to be finding their way around the obsticles by being adaptable, resourceful and respondng to local needs.  Maybe the sunshine and warm climate helps.  I can’t help but think that maybe people are contented because they just dont need so much and are happy living simply.  Many people I’ve met are living a permacultural lifestyle, are self-sufficient, growing their own food and looking for different ways to meet their daily needs which don’t cost so much.  People seem to be happy with what they’ve got.

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And the cows move in…

250 cows including three bulls have  arrived to roam on the property. I have never been so close to cows before – curious creatures. We had an audience whilst we were eating dinner tonight. About ten of them just staring at us through the window while we are eating our stir fry!

Rich is stumped, this lot are trouble!

Very pretty countryside scene but boy, do they make a racket at 5am!

 

And the yearlings keep eating our door mat!

 

The Rockies

It’s hot again and I’m enjoying the early morning sunshine from the decking outside.  The lake is motionless and black, save for a silvery shimmer at the far side near the abandoned cabin and a solitary loon swims silently.  The birds are busy flitting about feeding and with their songs.  The sky is a cornflower blue and the land is an assortment of vibrant greens with splashes of colour everywhere from the wildflowers.  Radio 2’s ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ gently wafts outside from the house where Rich is washing the dishes.  A helicopter passes over – it looks like one of the many, huge dragonflies we see here.

With three weeks left, we have started our preparations for leaving. We’ve sold our lovely car as well as all the camping equipment we had purchased over the months.  It’s feels strange to think the camping trips are over.

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We returned to the ranch from our long weekend in the Rockies late Monday evening, exhausted and utterly exhilarated by our 2000km round trip, having had all our expectations of one of the top Canadian tourist destinations exceeded.  We spent two days in Jasper and were totally blown away by the mountains, lakes and animals.  Hiking up the steep tracks to the Bald Hills above Maligne lake, we were filled with the anticipation of seeing Grizzly bears and the views of the valley and peaks when we looked back were gorgeous. We took an evening wildlife viewing trip with Jasper John, a 60 something forester with a huge knowledge and passion for animals who had lived in Jasper National Park for 35 years.  There were 12 of us on his little bus and we were the only European guests.  John delighted us as he drove us along with his commentary, stories and singing (a great rendition of Howlin’ Wolf), but most of all with his ability to find bears for us to view at close range while they were feeding at the side of the road.

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Maligne Canyon, Jasper

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A bit puffed out after hiking up to the Bald Hills. Maligne Lake’s not looking bad from up here though.

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Marching off ahead scanning for bears!

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The drive from Jasper to Banff was even more spectacular with glaciers in addition to the drama of the mountains, ever more turquoise lakes and forests.  And of course, a trip to Lake Louise – full of tourists, but beautiful.

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Lake Louise

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Yoho National Park

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Louise at Lake Louise

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Bear encounter in the Chilcotin

 

Well, what a week in the Chilcotin, a wild area of West Canada. We set off on Highway 20 (the only main road in the region) heading for the coast town of Bella Coola. We stopped about half way to camp for the night in Tatlayoko Lake campsite, which is 30 miles off the highway down a track. Most of the provincial campsites are very basic – just a fire pit and drop toilet. This was no exception. Just what we were after. It is situated in forest next to a large lake with snow covered mountains as a backdrop.

Tatlayoko Lake

Tatlayoko Lake

As we left the site in the morning we saw a mother and young black bear running up the side of the bank, obviously running from our car. The rest of the journey was on a gravel highway with hardly any other cars on it. The last 30 miles was terrifying as it was down an extremely steep part of the highway through the mountains of Tweedsmuir National Park. It was very narrow with no barrier on the drop side. Luckily there were no cars coming the other way.

View of Tweedsmuir from the Highway

View of Tweedsmuir from the Highway

Bella Coola itself was very disappointing. This is the only town within 400 km of the highway and consists of a store and post office and a Tourist Info that hadn’t opened up for the season yet. We realised that the summer season doesn’t really kick in till late June in Canada. We found a private campsite 20 km away which had cabins and showers, so we stayed there for 2 nights. We were beginning to pong a bit (especially Louise) so it was a welcome break from roughing it.

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After chillaxing and a bit of trekking we decided to return to Tatlayoko to get back to nature again. The death road wasn’t as bad going uphill and Louise did a great job of driving. When we got to the top we were rewarded by a close view of a young black bear (which was actually brown/red). I managed to get a half decent photo.

 

Teddy

Teddy

We returned to our wild campsite at Tatlayoko which was totally abandoned, so we had it to ourselves for 3 nights. However, we weren’t the only mammals there. On the last evening after dinner round the fire Louise suggested we walk to the other end of the campsite to wash the pans etc in the lake. I protested that at 9pm it was a bit dangerous as bears would likely be active. Anyway, off we trotted. As soon as I shouted “Hey bear” as you are supposed to, a large black bear emerged from the grass and looked round at us as if to say “Yes, can I help you?” We turned round sharpish and walked back to our fire checking we weren’t being followed. It was a bit scary, but more importantly, it was extremely exciting. The bear was not interested in us at all. We slept happily in the car that night knowing we were not alone.

Also on this adventure we saw pelicans, a moose and the rare Fisher, a large member of the weasel family that amazingly hunts porcupines by attacking their face repeatedly.

 

What a week.

 

Sunshine and mosquitos

Early morning walks with the dogs

Early morning walks with the dogs

It’s summer.

The last few weeks have been humid and hot, with increasing numbers of vicious mosquitos and temperatures in the sun quickly reaching the high 30s .  We try to get the dogs out early for their exercise so we all can enjoy their walk and cope with the heat.  As we stroll, or rather get pulled along by our inquisitive, furry friends, we listen to the forest orchestra at full pelt now, smelling the divine pine and keeping an alert watch out for bears, it feels like we’ve been here a long time.  With just over eight weeks left of our first Canadian adventure, I think we both feel like we have learned as much about our environment as we have ourselves.

This week, we were lucky enough to watch from our window a baby moose being born at the edge of the forest.  It’s first, wobbly steps being carefully monitored by its mother until it gained some strength and she magically whisked it away into the safety of the trees.  Since then, we have enjoyed seeing their tracks on the trails and are happy that the hunters haven’t found them yet.

With so much humidity, we have been treated to some spectacular storms at the end of most days, which has meant we’ve had less watering to do in the garden.  I realised in the nick of time yesterday that what i thought was a garden hose, was indeed a snake!  A beautiful creature with a yellow stripe and red spots wrapped around the hose, cool as you like.

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Storm

Storm

 

Lovely Ayla

Lovely Ayla