Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Thank you North America and goodbye

MP3 track of the day - The breaking of the fellowship - Lord of the Rings

Weather - hot ... very hot

I didn't sleep too bad last night, all in all. It's extremely hot here and I woke up around 9am to grab breakfast (which was included in the cost of the hostel) before getting ready and checking out. I'm in the hostel reception now, watching people come in and go out; wondering where they are going, where they have been, how long are they here for and have I been where they really want to go to?

North America has been fantastic, I've loved every minute of this continent and I certainly want to come back some day. During my 2 and a half months here I have covered over a staggering 20,500 miles (that's going between Lands end and John-o-Groats 23 times! ... whats more, it's also more miles that I did in my car in four years!) and I have visited twenty-one places (Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Winninpeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, Vancouver, Seattle, Anchorage, McCarthy, Kendicott, Denali National Park, Seward, Homer, Hope, Juneau, Prince Rupert, Port Hardy, Tofino, Ucluelet and Victoria)

As I look back through my blog from the 6th May (when it all started) until now, I've tried to grab my top 10 experiences (though there a certainly sooo may more) from North America that I think will always stay with me (in no particular order):

  • The power of the Niagara Falls - The sheer power and amount of water flowing over these falls is incredable.

  • Walking around Quebec City - The most beautiful city in North America; you could just spend days and days walking around and never get bored.

  • Hiking in Jasper National Park - Much more beautiful than Banff; it has everything you could wish for ... mountains, glacier lakes, alpine forests ... just thinking about it makes me want to go back.

  • Taking a tour down the Icefield Parkway - One of the most beautiful drives in the world; being able to stand on a glacier was an incredible experience and the whole day was just beautiful.

  • Visiting Lake Agnes above Lake Louise - A 2 mile hike up to Lake Agnes, above Lake Louise, should not be missed as I think it's a more beautiful lake... especially when it's still frozen.

  • Taking a boat trip from Juneau to Prince Rupert through the inlet waters - Being able to go to sleep with the gentle sound of the boat as it goes through the water and small mountain islands dotted all around, heaven.

  • Hearing a glacier crack on a boat trip in the Kenai Nation Park - Not many people can say they have seen, and herd, a glacier crack ... I have. The whole boat trip was amazing

  • Watching the sun go down on Tofino Beach - Vancouver Island has some amazing beaches and, at the top of the list, Tofino and Long Beach

  • The wildlife - Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, American Bald Eagles, Hump-back whales, Arctic Foxes, Moose, Elk, Caribou ... I've seen them all!

  • The people - The people you meet in the hostels as you travel make a trip. Rosy, Lilly, the gang from the Trekk America tour, Matt the Aussie, Simon and many many more ... my Facebook account has never been so big. Also the locals are so nce and welcoming that just help you enjoy their country more and more.

However, even with spending 2 and a half months in Canada and Alaska, there are still places I want to visit:

  • St Laurence River, Quebec - Flying into Quebec City, I would love to hire a car and spend a month driving up the coasts of the St Laurence River.

  • Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - Again fly into Halifax and rent a car to explore the areas within these two beautiful provinces ... especially making sure I saw Lunenburg.

  • Ontario - Explore Ontario a little more including it's national parks.

  • The north - New Foundland / Nunavut / Northwest Territories, Yukon all provinces I haven't visited yet.

  • Polar Bear watching in Churchill - September time is meant to be perfect to see Polar Bears near Churchill.

  • The far north of Alaska - Barrow and places like that with the possibility of stepping onto the Arctic

If someone was to ask me where to go on a holiday in Canada and Alaska I would struggle to answer the question. Firstly it would depend on the time they had available, budget and what they liked. From my experience I would say that if you liked cities, go east (Quebec City, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto etc) however if you like scenery I would head to the west (Jasper Nation Park, The Inlet waters, Vancouver Island etc). If you didn't have that much time and wanted a complete mix of things, I would suggest Vancouver Island with Victoria - a beautiful city ... Tofino - beautiful beaches ... and the middle of the island being covered in mountain ranges and rivers.

However, one itinerary could be...

-Fly to Calgary and either take the Greyhound or hire a car and make your way to Jasper National Park

- Drive south from Jasper National Park, down the Ice field Parkway to Lake Louise

- Head west to Vancouver before crossing onto Vancouver Island and Victoria

- Head north-west to Tofino

- Head north-east to Port Hardy to take the ferry to Prince Rupert

- Take the two day ferry from Prince Rupert to Juneau through the inlet waters before flying home from Juneau.

I reckon this would take nearly three weeks and if you do fancy this type of trip, and are planning to hire a car, TOP TIP: advance book your ferry journeys as apparently they get booked up months in advance for vehicles (walk on passengers are fine). Regarding budget, don't be fooled that because we get 1.5 dollars to the pound that things would be cheap, or cheaper ... they certainly are not. I was totally surprised to find that food here (even with all of the Canadian Agriculture) is so much more expensive than back at home. I do believe that this is because we are apart of a bigger trade agreement area (EU) than Canada is and the fact that Canada and America still has border controls between each other amazes me. You have to pay for more attractions here (museums are not free compared to the UK) but travel by bus is not bad value at all ... travel by train or plane is astronomical compared to the UK. So please BEWARE THAT NORTH AMERICA WILL COST ALLOT TO TRAVEL IN (I have made this mistake).

North America has some great ideas that the UK should adopt. Firstly a simple but clever idea is that if you re-use a plastic bag in a supermarket, you get 5p off your shopping ... if you need a plastic bag you get charged 5p. Another idea is that over here you have toilets with a button for 'number ones' and a button for 'number twos' ... it means that you can save 3 litres of water on flushing the toilet for a 'number one'. All city buses seem to have a bike rack on the front which are super easy to operate ... it only took Rosy and I two minutes to load our bikes onto the bus and it was really useful, great idea. Finally all ATM's are located within reception areas of banks; there are no on-street ATMs that I've found (therefore it was a little difficult finding ATMs at the start of my trip) and so I would head to the biggest building in town (which is usually a bank) and walk into the reception area to use the ATM at anytime of the day or night ... I felt so much more secure withdrawing money this way.

However there are a few ideas that I'm glad we don't have at home. The fact that the Canadians don't put tax on any of there prices has been an annoyance ever since I got here. What's more there are three taxs including a Provincial Sales Tax (PST) which fluctuates depending on which province you are in ... really frustrating to try to work out how much things cost. In America you have to pay for your bank account and whats more, if you use an ATM from another bank operator within the US you get charged for using that ATM.

The other things that are annoying is that word 'awesome', and the fact that the North Americans can't speak English correctly, and they change words for, what seems, no apparent reason (whats a TARP? Why not call it a ground sheet as that's what it is ... a sheet that goes on the ground). However all this is a small niggle compared to the kindness shown by people within North America. Most people are delighted to help you and will go out of there way to make sure that you are okay (I've been walked to a hostel I couldn't find twice) ... I love the people here, they are fantastic.

So could I live here? Yes I could happily live in Canada (not sure about America) but there is no major pull from the UK to here. I do miss the fact that everything is nice and close in the UK, the rail system runs more than once per three days, that tax is included on the prices of things (and that everything is soo much cheaper in the UK) and our comedy, TV and sport programmes. I would say that both countries have their positives and negatives ... neither is better than the other.

Is there anything I regret or done differently? I only have a few small regrets; I missed Lunenburg and I also missed the 4th of July fireworks within Juneau when I had the chance to see them ... but like I said before these are tiny. I suppose I could have been more tight with my budget, maybe eating at the hostel a lot more than I did, though I really don't think I would have saved a massive amount.

So how much has my North America trip cost me? With flights, insurance etc I reckon it's cost me £4,500.00 for 10 weeks within north America ... not great but hey-ho!

And this is it; I need to get some lunch before heading off to the airport; I only have one last thing to say...


Toodle Pip!


  1. Awesome Blog Dude... Will you be holding an evening of slides and lectures on your return? ;-)

  2. Nice one Matt.

    Been catching up on the trek America posts and if you do get free tickets to that American Football game, and it's the Chargers you better support them or I'll stomp on your Epic armies :)

  3. Thanks guys ... though I haven't even finished the post yet (just uploading some memorable photos :( )

    Might do an evening, although with all my photos it might be a weekend :)

    Really gutted to be leaving :(