A Travellerspoint blog

Canada

TAKE OFF……..

TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH

sunny -30 °C

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Sometimes I really question what I have done to deserve such an awesome life. I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities and this has certainly been one of those. I can’t say that Northern Canada was even on my bucket list (I hate the cold) but when I got invited to spend 3 days on the company jet, testing out our new technology, with stops in Iqaluit and Whitehorse, I couldn’t say no. Honestly, I think I was more excited for this trip than I have been for any in a very long time.

Recently, 10 satellites were launched (with many more to follow), that contain the technology to allow controllers to see aircraft everywhere. Until now, this could only be done using radar so this is huge and will completely change how we do business, especially in remote and oceanic airspaces. The purpose of our trip was to test this new technology.

The other neat thing about this trip was that we were bringing along 2000lbs of hockey equipment for kids in the northern communities. This gear was donated and sorted by Nav Canada employees and coordinated with the local hockey organizations who will later distribute it to various communities.

Our trip began in Ottawa, where we picked up the company jet (who doesn’t want to say that?) and met our crew. We had TJ and Carl in the front and Eric, the flight engineer monitoring flight activities in the back. His large display allowed us to see when we were under the coverage of the satellites. We also, fortunately, had our own mechanic, Craig. Steve was the technical expert who has been working on this project for years and we couldn’t have been happier for anyone than him when we found out everything was working brilliantly. The rest of us played no part in the actual test but were all quite interested in the results and the experience because it will greatly impact our future work.

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Our trip was not without events. Before departing Ottawa, we had a technical issue which caused us a slight delay and put us just behind schedule. A reboot took care of this and we were on our way, curled up in the 6 comfy seats on board, with a pile of yummy snacks in the bins. Kirsten’s fear of hunger was quickly alleviated. The flight was about 3.5 hours and was perfect until we reached Iqaluit when Eric came back to tell us that we were going to have an “abnormal landing” but that everything would fine. We would be landing without flaps so we might come in a little fast. The crew was so great that none us had any concerns for our safety despite the fact that I was pretty sure those “flaps” thingies were rather important. The landing was fast, and a little noisy, but otherwise perfect. Apparently, we still had half the runway left when we stopped. Our only fear was that we might not be able to continue.

Although, they crew were confident that the aircraft was fixed, they were not confident in taking it further north. We thought everything was a bust until we learned that they were sending the other company jet to Iqaluit so we could continue on. Yahoo!

Our stay in Iqaluit was short, arriving around 8pm and departing at 1:30pm. We made the most of our time. After a quick dinner of Arctic Char in the restaurant and a stop by the bar, we all went to bed to rest for a morning of exploration.

The bar...

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A headless rabbit?

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The crew was very busy, unloading the hockey gear, transferring all the testing equipment and snacks from one airplane to the other and getting ready for the next leg. While Rob did a site visit at the airport, the rest of us bundled up and headed out in the -29 weather for a stroll about town. A couple of us got to go up in the tower for some great views, including the two Nav Canada jets, a rare site, on the ground and the transfer of hockey gear.

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Here are a few shots from that stroll. It isn’t easy to take your time to get the shot when taking of your mitts hurts. I would have loved to had a different lens on when the dog sled went by, or even better, been closer but at least we saw it. It couldn’t have been a better day with lots of sunshine and no wind. Even though my eyelashes froze, I was not cold.

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We departed on time, for our 5-hour flight to Yellowknife for fuel. During the trip, we all took turns in the cockpit for the landings and departures. This was a real treat that rarely happens post 9-11. It is always valuable to see things from another perspective. The landing in Yellowknife was mine and it was awesome although it was at times a little eerie. I was a little disoriented seeing only vast whiteness contrasted against bright blue sky. This landing was perfectly smooth despite another flap issue when they didn’t completely extend. Yup, new airplane, similar issue. The mechanic felt the temperatures were playing havoc with the flaps. After some testing, we continued on to Whitehorse, a short 90-minute flight.

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Unfortunately, the flaps once again caused some concern on landing. That’s when the crew decided that it required more investigation and that the aircraft would be grounded, leaving us with the option of a few more days in Whitehorse or on a commercial flight home. We chose the latter. Although we didn’t get to see Whitehorse, or the northern lights, we received a warm welcome from the Nav Canada staff and enjoyed a lovely dinner together.

One might think that this might have turned out to be a stressful trip, nothing could be further from the truth. The flight ops teams were professional and honest with us and because of that we were all very relaxed. They took the issues seriously and investigated thoroughly and when the problem needed further attention, they grounded the aircraft. We couldn’t help but chuckle at how bizarre it all was but someone did comment that it wasn’t a trip for anyone with “flapxiety”. The crew said it was a new experience for them as well. We even laughed when on our last commercial flight into Ottawa, the pilot told us not to mind the noise outside because it was just a large truck helping to manually start the engine. An “abnormal departure” perhaps? Could it be us?

But alas, after a long day, we are all home safe and sound. We are excited about the results of our test and richer for having experienced something so special and unique. I think I can speak for the entire team when I say, the company jet is the definitely the way to travel. Now to convince someone that I should be flying around with these guys all the time. Hmmmmm

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Posted by curlygirl 18:29 Archived in Canada Tagged north whitehorse yellowknife iqaluit Comments (6)

‘TIS A LITTLE BREEZY AT THE TOP

sunny 22 °C
View FOGO on curlygirl's travel map.

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After two years of talking about it and trying to find the “right” day, I finally made it to Fogo Island with the help of my good friend Pat. Time was getting short with my move to Ottawa less than 2 months away and I couldn’t imagine living on the mainland and not being able to speak about what has quickly become Newfoundland’s most famous and trendy destination. Our own Prime Minister visited last Easter and stayed at the Inn with his family. Sadly my budget did not allow for the $1500 - $2000 overnight stay at the beautiful Fogo Island Inn but nevertheless we elected to do a very full day trip that did not disappoint.

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We left on the first departure of the day at 8:30 am on the new and very modern Fogo Island Ferry. The ferry which makes multiple trips daily from Farewell has a reputation for being unreliable even since my days in the early 80s as a tourist information officer. Even this new ship has had its issues with engine failure so packing a light overnight bag seemed like a reasonable plan especially with the high winds in the forecast. But we traveled both ways on schedule and in comfort.

There is no shortage of things to do on the island and I expect most people are like me, underestimating the size of the island and number of communities, each with their own personality. I was grateful that my friend, driver and guide knew her way around. Being late in the season some attractions were closed but there was still lots to see and I wished I had more time to explore the towns on foot and hike more trails.

Our first stop was in the town of Seldom. Surprisingly named because people seldom miss a visit to this quaint town, and not for my assumption that people seldom go there. The main attraction there is the Marine Interpretation Center which includes a very well maintained traditional trading post and museum. It is a beautiful representation of past life with artifacts from jars to old ledgers.

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I think what I loved about Fogo was that no one seemed to fuss. The people were friendly and chatty but no one was out to impress or pretend as you sometimes find in touristy destinations. I had a fine chat to this crew who were mending their shrimp nets. One man patiently teaching the new guy.

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I have never seen so many churches, new, old, and every denomination. We visited the two hundred year old United Church in town of Fogo or Fogo proper as it is sometimes referred.

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Of course no trip to Fogo is complete without the hike to Brimstone Head. I have always heard it is considered one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society although some of my research last night questions this theory. The hike was lovely and the trail well maintained. The high winds increased as we got to the top. We met an Irish family descending who warned us that “tis a bit breezy at the top, but worth it”. Truth be told, I was glad I had enough weight to ground myself because it was blowing a gale.

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Next it was off to the Fogo Island Inn for a peek around. The hotel is fully booked until the end of September so getting a lunch, dinner or full tour reservation was out. But the staff was excellent and gave us lots of information. We visited the art gallery inside but failed to realize that the white plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling were not just that but instead the exhibit “Light Boiled Like Liquid Soap” by Wilfrid Almendra. It’s a wonder we didn’t pull one down. Oops. We only learned that it was actually an exhibit much later in the day when we saw the poster advertising it at Nicole’s Café, the favored spot for lunch.

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I loved the room keys.

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Joe Batt’s Arm was another beautiful community with at least three harbors in the middle and another viewpoint for the Inn.

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The most unusual little town was Tilting, where there were tons of handmade fences and homes and stages with double doors for entrances. I would have loved to have wandered around here more on foot and read all the historical information posted about the town. We did get to visit Lane House which is another worthwhile museum.

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We visited many more smaller communities and enjoyed a picnic before heading back on the 7:30 ferry. It was an unbelievable journey home, warm enough to sit outside with a sunset that could have been a painting . Although I was beat by the time I got in my door at 9:30pm, I was so glad I made the effort. Funny how easy it is to travel the world and miss the gems in our own backyard. I look forward to returning, next time as a true CFA.

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Posted by curlygirl 17:11 Archived in Canada Tagged island inn fogo Comments (14)

SEARCHING FOR THE HIKING TRAILS OF TWILLINGATE

ANOTHER ADVENTURE IN MY OWN BACKYARD

sunny 26 °C

I am, once again, compelled to write about the beauty just around the corner from my home town. I have to admit that Newfoundland is an entirely different creature under the sun when she allows you get out and enjoy her beauty. Yesterday was one of those days when the temperature hit 26 degrees and the sun was high in the sky, at least for most of the day.

With no real agenda, I set off with two of my bookclub pals to explore the Twillingate area with plans to hike some of nearby trails. Given that it took us three full days to pull together a plan to even meet up, it is no surprise that our little adventure was at times more of a misadventure.
Susan and I drove about 45 minutes to meet our tour guide and Campbellton native, Pat who was anxiously waiting our arrival. We loaded our gear (just like pros with hikers and walking sticks) into Pat’s car so she could lead the way.

Our first stop was in the community of Boyd’s Cove. The Beothuk Interpretation Center was a complete unknown to me but a place everyone should take the time to visit. The Beothuk, a now-extinct people, lived in Newfoundland more than 300 years ago before being killed off by the “white man”. We didn’t take in the museum which is filled with artifacts from the site, (wanting to maximize our outdoors time in the great weather) but instead took the 1.5 km groomed trail to the village site. It was a beautiful trail. Along the way, I was delighted to find this spectacular sculpture designed by renowned Newfoundland artist, Gerald Squires.

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Since the sun was at its peak we decided to stop for lunch before getting on our sweat. Where else would you eat on such a great day but Samsone’s Lobster Pool in Hillgrade? This simple, cash only seafood restaurant never disappoints. Sitting right on the wharf, we enjoyed fresh snow crab. Yum.

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Then it was onward to Twillingate. Although I have been there a million times, I really enjoyed visiting the craft shops, the museum, and the church, which incidentally, was built and completed by local fishermen in 1842 and has a ceiling that resembles an upside down boat. We went on to explore the cemetery where the local, and once world famous opera singer, Georgina Stirling rests. What better place to stop for a wee refreshment than a cemetery overlooking the ocean. Pat’s homemade ice tea and watermelon.

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From there it was off to the lighthouse to pick up one of the shoreline trails. Our 4 mile trail turned out to be more like 500 meters ending at a spectacular dead end. Confused and disoriented we decide to head back to the parking lot to try again.

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Hard to believe we took a wrong turn and had to use this bus to guide our way through the woods.

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After getting some directions, we drove to a different parking lot, to catch the trail from the lower end. This was somewhat more successful although we did not end up where we intended. Apparently we should have done a little more research and I should have carried the map that was back in the trunk of the car with our walking sticks. What rookies!! As we are slipping and sliding down we began to realize that the sticks might be more than a decoration and would have come in handy. In any case, the views were spectacular and we enjoyed every minute.

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As we were making our way back, the rumbles started and the un-forecasted thunderstorms started to roll in creating some even more spectacular skies.

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Back in the car, we explored the communities of Crow Head, Back Harbour and Durrell while the rain poured down around us.

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Our route towards home took us to Moreton’s Harbour just because I have never been there and it is part of that famous Newfoundland Song “I’se da B’y”.

listen here

In keeping with Pat’s unwritten rule that you always have to go to the end of the road, this side trip took us onward to Tizzard’s Harbour. Absolutely gorgeous. It is amazing how much reconstruction is taking place in this region. We commented often how hard it much be to keep all these little roads clear in the winter months.

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This brought us to the end of a very fun fill and full day with a realization that although it is often easier to just stay home, it really is worth the effort to get up and get out.

Posted by curlygirl 08:22 Archived in Canada Tagged newfoundland gander twillingate Comments (5)

IN MY OWN BACKYARD

PUFFINS AT ELLISTON POINT

sunny 27 °C

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It is almost a cliché. Finding the beauty in your own backyard that is. I am posting today while choking down a bit of crow. I am admittedly a wanna-be mainlander who often complains about my place of residence but one who just experienced a fantastic day in Bonavista and Ellison, Newfoundland, just 2.5 hours from home. To be honest, watching the whales and puffins were on par with seeing the animals in Africa.

Having seen some incredible picture of Puffins by one of the members of my photo club I felt compelled to go out in search of these beautiful birds. Fortunately I have a friend who is always up for an adventure and she just happens to own a beautiful Nissan convertible and loves to drive. I love being a passenger. Thanks Debbie. It didn’t hurt that it was yet another beautiful hot sunny day in the string of unprecedented terrific weather this summer. Newfoundland always looks best under the sun.

Our journey took us on a picturesque ride along the coast to Bonavista. We arrived and decided to check and see if the recommended restaurant was really closed on Mondays and while it was, it was no disappointment since it took us down a road that served as the viewing grounds for a spectacular show by the humpback and fin whales. The humpbacks were jumping out of the water and at one point two shot straight up and seemingly crossed and splashed back into the water. Another waved his tail for 20+ consecutive waves. I didn’t take any pictures because they were really too far away to do justice but I certainly enjoyed the show.

From there it was lunch outside at the Dairy King restaurant. While slow, the food was tasty and we were overlooking the water where there were a few more whales and plenty of sailboats.

Next stop was Elliston Point, home of the puffins. I have seen this little bird before but only from afar. They were amazing. Thousand of them whipping by just overhead and a couple who were close enough to pose for a picture. Sadly, all four of my camera batteries quickly depleted not allowing me to autofocus and I missed the best shots switching to manual focus. An obvious issue with the charger I used last night. Ugh! However I could not be the least bit mad because it was just spectacular and I am sure I will return to try again.

I figure since I share so many of my stories from around the globe, I should offer up this adventure so other might consider the same. I should add that there were next to no people around although we met a nice couple from Ontario who proclaimed Newfoundland to be the most beautiful place on earth and somewhere they might retire and another lady who from Michigan who says when her daughter has finished school, she is moving here. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, I did suggest that they may want to return in February to be sure before making the commitment.

Here is a taste of the beauty in my backyard.

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And me and Debbie enjoying it.

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Posted by curlygirl 18:53 Archived in Canada Tagged point puffins elliston bonavista Comments (2)

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