Welcome Home….

How did the poem start? “Oh to be in England…” God knows what Robert Browning was on when he wrote it, but it’s probably illegal nowadays!!! :0)

So we’ve been home from Canada for a week now and how does it feel?

Firstly do I include or exclude the dogs when answering that question?

Well I can hardly say I’m ecstatic to be back, although it is wonderful to have the dogs back with us, and I’m pretty sure they’re thinking along the same lines… LOL.

We have to thank Val and Peter for taking such good care of them. It’s probably fair to say that instead of just crying and wailing, that these two had a wonderful holiday too without Kim and I telling them to be quite, or to behave themselves…

So now we’ve got past the dogs, are we pleased to be back? Hummm well quite simply put….. NO!!!

We may have only spent 2 weeks in Canada, but we did find the Canucks to be generally very polite people and what was the one thing we noticed? There weren’t crowds of teenagers standing on street corners getting drunk and looking for trouble. Maybe there is far more for them to do in Canada? Maybe the education system is so much better?

It was strange, but we were told that truancy isn’t a problem out there because their education system works differently, but then on doing some research and reading up, it would appear that they still have a problem with truancy, just the level might be different and the reasons may well be different.

Given half a chance we would definitely just up sticks and move away from Great Britain Plc.!!! Let’s be honest here, this country seems to be going down hill more and more each year. Is the UK getting worse or am I just becoming older? Victor Meldrew maybe comes to mind… :0)

If we don’t get to live in such a stunning country then we’ll definitely be back to vacation. I personally would hope that a vacation in Canada is just the very tip of an incredible journey and life changing experience.

Lewis

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Keeping it up!!!

We went, we survived and then returned!!!

So not only did we have a fantastic trip to Canada, but we managed to actually keep a blog going and to those who followed it, a big thank you… It was nice to know people read it… :0)

What next? Well now that we are back in the UK do we keep this blog going? What do you think? Are you all really that interested in what we have to say? LOL Answers on a postcard to….

Well seeing the name is Lullingstone Photography, then maybe it would be right to keep the site going, but now focus mainly on not just photography, but also on the NCFE Photography course which Lewis is doing over the next year.

Maybe there are subject matters you’d like to read about or maybe you’d like to see my views on suggested topics…

Watch this space and let’s see how this develops.

The Last Post…..

And now, the time has come, and so I face, the final curtain…..

Sitting here at Vancouver International Airport, checked-in, and just writing this final entry to our Canadian Adventures….

What can one say about Canada?  There are many words in the English Language that one can use to sum up this place…  Beautiful, Spectacular, Breath-Taking, but to be honest none of them do this incredible country justice!!!

Without wishing to cause any offence to Canadians, you can keep Vancouver… Although I’m sure it does have some lovely parts such as Stanley Park, at the end of the day it’s still a city and we didn’t travel this distance to visit a city, albeit one that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics….

Vancouver was just a way in which to get into this amazing country and then the real adventure and exploration began…  Husband, Wife and a hired SUV!!!

This country has the most stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and biodiversity.

Maybe I’m wrong here, but it appears that there are those Canadians who are doing their utmost to protect what is around them and working directly against them are those who have no interest in protecting the natural treasures around them for their children and other future generations!!!

The saddest thing about this amazing place?  Well the saddest thing must be with regard to it’s predatory wildlife, as in Bear and Wolf.  At a couple of wildlife sanctuaries we were given some horrific statistics regarding both bear and wolf.  Now I don’t know whether the figures we were given are accurate, but then again I don’t know if anyone can truly say they have accurate figures….

How is it possible to go from 1500 Grizzly Bear in Banff National Park 10 years ago, to only 60 today? Although you’ll hear so much about Canada doing so much to protect it’s wildlife and natural resources…. With that sort of reduction maybe someone should suggest to them that they are failing….. BIG TIME !!!!

Firstly I should say that I don’t have a degree in Biodiversity, Zoology or any other educational discipline that you might expect.  However the thing that I do have which hasn’t cost me anything is a great passion for wildlife and all animals.  If you like wildlife then you’d better take an interest in their environment and what damages their environment…. whoops I nearly forgot, that’s us isn’t it?  Humans!!!!

People will tell you that you need a license to shoot a Grizzly Bear and that you have to go out with a registered guide / hunter.  The question they can’t answer is… “How many licenses are issued in total every year?”  It’s very strange to be told that the money from killing one grizzly bear (“client” pays approx $30k – $50k) goes towards conservation and protecting the species…  How the hell as a Government can you protect a species when you issue licenses for the killing of the very same species you claim to protect? Maybe it’s just because I’m English, but it sounds like a total contradiction if you ask me….

So far one has only talked about legally shot bears.  There has been no mention of those who are illegally shot, or those who are killed on roads by traffic or railway lines by trains.

I dug out a book we’ve got on Canada and the Rockies.  The book is about 15 years old and has a very interesting paragraph regarding Bears.  That paragraph states that extirpation (local extinction) will be achieved roughly within the next 30 years….  If that’s true, and the fact the book is already 15 years old….  Well simply put, that means the bear only has around 15 years in parts of the Rockies!!!!

You’d best not get me going on the Canis Lupus or better known as Grey Wolf, Timberwolf, Black Wolf !!!  Doesn’t matter what you call them to be honest as in this part of the world the Canis Lupus is considered to be vermin and is hunted and shot just like foxes used to be hunted in the UK.  You don’t need a license to shoot a wolf.  There is no limit on the number you can kill, nor does it matter if you shoot a pregnant female, or a female with puppies or cubs, call them what you wish!!!

Maybe one day the Canadian Government will look at the problems observed in Yellowstone National Park and what was done to redress the balance…

The grey wolf is often referred to as an apex predator and there are only about 5 or so species on this planet who are given that status.  Without the apex predator, species lower down the food chain aren’t threatened thus putting a greater pressure on the habitat that they occupy. Yellowstone found that the banks of the rivers were being broken down and that the grasses along their banks were dying.. Why? Because the wolf wasn’t controlling the number of Moose, Elk and Caribou….

The fact that the Ungulates (cloven hoofed animals) weren’t being moved around to different parts of the park meant that the ground wasn’t being “rotated” and so wasn’t given time to recover. As soon as an apex predator was re-introduced the Ungulates kept moving and so the ecological pressures were being spread accross the entire park.

The re-introduction of the Grey Wolf to Yellowstone was a great success and the natural balance to the park was eventually restored, although this took several decades to achieve. If one believes some predictions, then some species don’t have decades!!!

If Canada isn’t careful, the same will happen…  The wolf is a much-needed species and one can only hope that the Canadian Government will come to their senses and ban their being hunted before they end up becoming an endangered species…. How many years will it be before Wolves and Bears finally become extinct?  Maybe we should all do something NOW so that we never get to the stage of Extirpation or Extinction……

I’d totallly encourage shooting, but please only with a camera, not a gun!!!   Hey now there’s an idea…..

I would so love to be invited to Canada to study Bear and Wolves and to witness and document impact we are having on these species and so subsequently the impact we are having on various Ungulate species.  There is one problem to that wish though… a) Who is going to listen to me, if other qualified individuals have been ignored? b) Who would pay for such a project?  oh yes, and finally c)  bit difficult to work and live in such a beautiful country when neither you or your wife is Canadian and neither of you have the necessary visas.

Will my wife and I come back to Canada?  Oh god I so do hope so…..  I’d rather not leave to be perfectly honest, although I do have two hairy hooligans waiting for us back in the UK.  So please listen to the ramblings of a mad Englishman and ensure that we can always come back and see the wonderful nature that Canada has to offer.

 There is something rather special about this place.  It certainly hasn’t become a “nanny state” yet like the UK.  There aren’t speed cameras on every road.  We have seen 2 police cruisers and 1 Sheriff’s truck over the whole 3606km driven…. Strangely enough though drivers generally seem to behave themselves and if a driver gets into problems, then other drivers will stop and help.  God it’s been absolute bliss!!!

Most of all though…..

We did it, Our Way……..

Lewis

Day 14 – Wednesday 21st September 2011

Our last full day and we left Kamloops with heavy hearts to drive to Whistler, our last hotel for this trip.

The drive reminded us of our first days which seemed more than 2 weeks ago now. We have adjusted to Canadian time, Canadian driving and the Canadian lifestyle and tomorrow we return to reality and resume our lives in the UK.

We stopped in Pemberton to use the rest room (toilet) and there was a coach load of English tourists who had just arrived and were obviously still working on UK time looking at the state of them…. The only worrying question was “did we really look that rough two weeks ago?”  These poor tourists looked shattered and as we walked out of the Gas station laughing, we felt like seasoned veterans!

Today has been pretty much travelling and the only time we stopped was to watch some of the salmon on their spawning run.  It’s a strange life being a Salmon, especially if your female!!!

We have had most seasons of weather in the last two weeks and today we have had our first rain during the day. Not just the first rain during the day, but god knows how many millimetres of rain…  Heavy was one way of putting it, but looking at the long range weather forecast it’s now rain, rain and more rain, so we obviously timed our trip absolutely perfectly..  Just imagine it was 30 degrees celcius when we landed and is probably going to be about 12 – 14 degrees celcius when we depart…..

This is our last Canadian blog, the next will be from the UK when we have arrived home and we have been reunited with our two beloved hoolies!  Have to admit that although we will both miss Canada dearly, we both miss our two hairy German Shepherds more…  I suppose the ideal combination would be to have the two hairy hooligans with us over here, although that would mean getting Michka a passport, as Bailey already has one…

Well thank you all for reading our blogs over the past couple of weeks and we both hope that you have enjoyed them and enjoyed some of the photographs that have gone with them.

Lewis & Kim

Day 13 – Tuesday 20th September 2011

After an “interesting” stay at the super 8! we hit the road fairly early and set off for Kamloops and the Wildlife Centre there.

At the Centre, they have two orphaned grizzly cubs about 8 months old, so so cute but no plans to try and return them to the wild or to work with the Grizzly Bear Society in order for them to learn the skills they need in the wild.  We both feel this is very sad as Grizzly numbers are diminishing in some areas and rescuing orphaned cubs from the Wild isn’t going to help protect these numbers….

Although the Centre does good work and although all the animals are well looked after and have arrived there after accidents etc., it becomes more of a zoo and less about conservation.  A little time and forward planning wouldn’t go a miss.  The fact that we knew more about the Canus Lupus (wolves) than the lady who did the presentation talk, we did find a little amusing. The funniest part must have been when this lady decided to start quizzing Lewis because we’d said we like wolves and know quite a lot about them….  She almost seemed rather upset when Lewis answered the questions correctly!!! LOL :0)

Having said all of that, we saw some animals that we were unlikely to see in the wild here, including wolves, coyotes, cougar and american eagle.

We spent a lot of time just watching the wolves and the black bears and eventually tore ourselves away to check into our second to last hotel….. The end is all too clearly in sight now and we have had the most amazing time, taken loads of photos and video (sorry everyone at home but you may get bored with it all!) and we have a lot of incredible memories.

Tonight we found a restaurant that actually served meals other than burgers or pizza and was reasonable.  So we actually ordered something that didn’t come with chips and had the pot roast which was lovely!!!

Onwards tomorrow to our last hotel so tonight we are firing up the jacuzzi bath and chilling whilst going over our photos.

Well off to bed now as have a reasonably long drive tomorrow back to Whistler… :0)

Day 12 – Monday 19th September 2011

We started the day with the quad bike half day experience, we each had our own quad bike (ATV) and after the safety talk (!) and how to ride it, we set off for the “test” ground to see how we got on.

That done, and no problems, Rob, our guide for the morning led us out into the back country and off we went. Lewis had some trouble with his at first, and kept veering to the right , but eventually got it sorted.

We saw some amazing sights out, once the cloud had lifted.  The waterfall we went to was spectacular and had a rainbow over it due to the increased flow of water down the Kicking Horse river at it rained last night, so lower down we got rain whilst up in the mountains there was a few centimetres of snow…..

Despite having big rubber tyres and rubber handle bar grips, Lewis survived the experience without falling off, locking any joints and not having any allergic reaction! What a Result!!!

We took some pictures along the route and when we got back to the site, Rob took some pictures of us together and some video footage of both of us racing around the test ground with more confidence than the initial outing!

Day 11 – Sunday 18th September 2011

We rose early today, grabbed a quick breakfast and were checked out of the Banff Inn by 8am! We set the sat-nav for Golden, BC and set off to the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to visit the Grizzly Bear Refuge.

Along the route, we saw an abundance of various types of deer and managed to get video footage of most of them.

We made good time to Golden, and took the mountain road up to the resort. While parking, we saw yet another deer and we managed to get a photo of this one!

We purchased our tickets and learned that in order to get to the bear talk and enclosure, we had to take the ski chair up – Lewis really didn’t like this much at all!

We got to the top and joined the bear talk, given by a former british woman called Wendy who has lived in Golden for 6 years and is married to a Canadian.

We heard all about Boo the orphaned bear who is now 9 1/2 and he has his own 22 acre enclosure. He made an appearance, but it was made clear that he is not a pet or tame in any way and his habitat and food source where possible is like he would get in nature, as in he has 4 micro habitats, 2 of which are wooded and 2 are more open plain like where all sorts of grasses and berries grow.  The problem with this is that when you need to consume 40,000 calories a day, there just isn’t enough to ensure he’ll get through hibernation and so Boo’s food is supplemented with berries, nuts and sometimes a little meat.  None of this food is “given” to Boo and so he finds it in his enclosure and thinks he’s just got the find of the century!!!

We managed to get some photographs of him before hypothermia set in and were lucky enough to get a ride back down the mountain in a pick up truck with Wendy the Guide.  This was far more preferable than becoming ice cubes on the ski lift !!!!

We are staying tonight in Golden, back in the cabin in the mountains (Cedar Restaurant and Chalets) and tomorrow we are off for a half day on quad bikes (known as ATVs in Canada)  to carry our camera equipment  and to see some of the sights up in the back country !!!