Day Trip to Banff

[Matilda]

Last week we decided to take a little day trip with our favourite German workawayers – Panini and Chippy (aka Annika and Lea). The plan was initially to go to Calgary so that I could pop into the Apple store and get my Macbook battery replaced. As it turns out, Apple doesn’t service this model anymore, so bye bye 3 hour drive to Apple and hello local computer techs who are happy to help!

Our new choice of destination was Banff as we’ve all wanted to go there since we arrived in Canada. The day started bright and early at 7:30 AM and we made a first stop at Lake Louise which is on the way. The lake is still frozen but it’s a beautiful place nonetheless.

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We probably spent around an hour at the lake before continuing our journey. The first thing you see when you come off the exit to Banff is a massive sign and tourists taking pictures with it. Were we going to do things differently? Nope! Cue the tourist pics!

 

The Banff National Park is known for its amazing nature so we had already decided to dedicate the day to hiking. We chose a pretty easy hike that goes all the way up to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. It’s a relatively small mountain but with an amazing view! We did have a little trouble finding the start of the trail and ended up starting our hike a little higher up. I was absolutely fine with missing 500 metres of incline as I hadn’t been feeling well the day before. And it also meant we already had a pretty nice view from the get-go. The hike from start to finish takes a couple of hours and I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

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While at the summit, we were greeted by this cute little chipmunk! It also earned Lea, who is a tiny person, the nickname ‘Chippy’.

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Chippy with chipmunk

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After our hike we checked out downtown Banff and we all agreed that it’s a strange place! While beautiful, Banff is very touristy, and Moa described it very well; “Banff is designed to be what tourists think Canada should look like”. Spot on! My impression of the city centre was that it felt like a Canada theme park. We looked through the local thrift store, and a few souvenir shops, before sitting down to eat some hard earned pizza. After dinner we made our way towards the Bow Falls trail. Trying to find our way there by car had us moving towards a location that on the map was called ‘Surprise Corner’. We though this must be something fantastic. Guess what? The surprise was that it’s just a corner! The road takes a turn! Whaaat! Anyways. We were now on the wrong side of the river so we ended up parking in a residential area and walked across a pedestrian bridge to the trail. It was a nice little walk to the falls and below them is a golf course where we met a herd of elk. Cue pics!

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We spent over an hour down by the falls before finally heading back to the car. We got to drive back with the sun setting over the mountains in front of us which is always breathtaking. I highly recommend it! We didn’t arrive back in Golden until around 10:30 but it was a day well spent! I think we’re all looking to go back and see other parts of the Banff National Park as the lakes melt and nature really wakes up.

Until next time!

 

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Workaway #3: Building An Earthship!

[Matilda]

You may have noticed a lack of updates lately. This is because we’ve spent a significant amount of time off grid. For the past two weeks we were at our third Workaway experience where we helped a lovely family build an Earthship! This was also in Blaeberry – only a 12 minute drive from the buffalo ranch. What is an Earthship? Well, I could try to take you through it, but you’d probably be better off reading about it HERE!

This Workaway was different to our previous ones for a few different reasons:

  1. More work. Wintertime at our previous locations meant work was a little slow. Here, we worked 5 hours a day!
  2. Our hosts were a family. It was definitely a change of pace to stay with a family with kids.
  3. We were already well established in the area and therefore didn’t spend as much time “in the house” after work was done.

Our main task was to help build/insulate walls in the Earthship’s living area. We did this with cob which is a mixture of clay, water, sand and straw. It takes a day or so to really get the hang of working with cob, but once you do it’s like clockwork. We started out building walls. The ones facing the outside were decorated with bottles to allow more light in and for decoration:

Earthship bottle wall!
Moa built the lower half of this bottle wall and I the upper!

 

In our last few days, we began to cover the tyre walls. The Earthship’s outer walls are tyres packed with dirt which are then covered with different materials depending on their location. Inside they are covered with cob. This took a bit of finesse as they should be made as even as possible. After the cob, they will eventually be covered with some other materials before being completely finished.

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The result of a day’s work covering tyres!

 

This type of work is very rewarding. It gets you focused and makes time pass really quickly. It gives you something to look at when the day is over and think “that’s what I made today”. And last but not least, it feels great to know that we’ve helped this wonderful family get one step closer to moving into their dream home.

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Photo by Jair

The family we stayed with was Jair and Mel and their two kids, Nova and Asher. Jair’s dad Tom also lives on the property and helps out in the Earthship. Though we were out and about quite often we really enjoyed the times we got to sit down and have a meal with the whole family. There was a great atmosphere and every person we met there was genuine and kind.

The family home, up until the completion of the Earthship, is a yurt. A yurt is essentially a big round tent. The yurt is completely solar powered so while we could happily charge our phones, we had to refrain from charging larger devices such as laptops. The water comes from a nearby creek! The family had a great name for going on a water collection mission: AQUA FORCE! We got to go with Tom, Nova and Asher on an Aqua Force mission when the family had a big bonfire.

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Left to right: Asher, me, Nova and Moa! Photographed by Tom.

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Our last day was yesterday and the family sent us off on our way with a big waffle breakfast. It was absolutely delicious. With our tour having two dates confirmed in Golden, I’m sure we’ll see them again soon! And if not, we’ll want to come back to see how work on the Earthship progresses. We definitely recommend you guys to follow these guys on Facebook! Check out Simply Not Square HERE.

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Sunset at “Inshallah”

A Hike to Wapta Falls

[Matilda]

I know what you’re thinking right now. ANOTHER blog post? You probably figured you’d have to wait at least a few weeks for the next one! Even though I did tell you there’d be one this week. I mean, sure, I did say it would be Moa posting… She still might. People have walked the moon!

I had a great little travel experience yesterday which I want to share with you. Moa may be off in Skaha but I might have exaggerated a little when I said I was left to my own devices. There ARE other people on the ranch. The other week, two German girls by the name of Annika and Lea arrived. As there is now a car on the property (OUR car! SMELLY but OURS!) we decided we should go on a little field trip (not to be confused with a Field trip). Our destination would be Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. The snow has really been melting away here in Blaeberry so we figured it would be a nice little hike. Once you leave the highway there is a 2 km drive to the trail and then a 2.4 km hike to the falls.

We set off at around 12:30 once our chores were done at the ranch. The drive to the trailhead is not too long – only about 40 minutes. As we drove into the national park we were informed by signs that visitors now require a park pass which needs to be purchased on the park border. We completely missed the exit and had to find a place to turn around to go back and get a pass. Aren’t we the most upstanding citizens? Anyway, once we got back to the little hut were park passes are distributed, it turned out it was closed and no pass was required. A few minutes later we arrived at the road to Wapta Falls. Which was also closed. Yep, the dirt road going down to the trail was still covered in snow and our hike was now twice as long. Did we let that get us down? Not right away!

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The walk to the trailhead was pretty boring so it was nice when we finally got there. The trail started going steadily upwards around halfway in. With fallen trees all over the place we had to practise some parkour to get by. (We were very graceful and I think Michael Scott would have been proud.) As the trail wasn’t really open for the season yet, I’m sure it’ll be cleaned up and made more accessible eventually.

We were very excited when we heard the roar of the falls which meant we were nearing the end of our 4.4 km hike (which I seriously believe was longer). The first stop is a viewing area high above the falls and the view is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture that fully conveys this. If you ever go there (or if you’ve already been), you’ll know what I mean! We stopped there to drink some water and enjoy the scenery before following the trail downwards.

It was kind of tricky this time of year as the trail is covered in snow, ice and mud. Snow was definitely the preferable foundation. I would say that probably 70% of the trail down was ice which meant that we spent a lot of time sliding, grabbing trees and trying to find alternative routes in the snow just next to the trail. Every now and then we’d get to some bare ground where non-slippery moss was available. I frickin’ loved that moss… Before you get all the way down beneath the falls, there is another viewing area. It looked like people had been taking shortcuts and made their way down via the very steep bank underneath it. We chose the slightly safer ice trail.

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Getting down took a LOT of effort but we made it! And it was worth it. It was such a cool experience to stand in front of the falls and feel that gentle spray of water. We were also lucky enough to have sunshine most of the time which meant we even got to see a rainbow! A picture says more than a thousand words so let’s have some photos, shall we?

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I don’t know how long we spent down there but as we started hiking back, my shoes were absolutely soaked! They’re not really hiking shoes… The hardest part was definitely the last 2 km back to the car as at that point we were all very hungry and extremely tired of walking on icy snow. But we made it back and pulled into Golden for an A&W meal just before 18:00.

I’d love to go back to Wapta Falls again when it’s warmer and dryer. Someone told me it’s even possible to go swimming underneath them, which would be amazing! So don’t be surprised if you get another blog post about this place before the year is over.

For now, here are some very happy hikers!

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Lea (left) and Annika (right)

Blaeberry in Pictures

[Matilda]

Okay guys, here’s the deal… Moa was supposed to post a little something about her ski trip to Lake Louise but then she bailed to go on a climbing trip for 6 days! How rude. So here I am, left to my own devices in a camper van on the ranch. The light in the tunnel is that we got a car yesterday (thanks to our friend Matt, who couldn’t wait to get rid of it). We’re now officially able to explore the area and visit town without having to bug people (Matt) for rides!

It was also my birthday yesterday and the others surprised me with breakfast in bed and a little song to start the day. Moa and I spent the rest of the day getting the car into a somewhat better shape and in the evening we had drinks and good food around a campfire. Not too shabby!

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Posing with our WorkAway host Leo, the new stinky car, and Pippi the border collie.

Anyway, I figured I’d take this opportunity to share some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken around these parts. My love of photography is really coming back!

Let’s start with some buffalo:

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And now, maybe some winter action…

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Let’s move on to spring, shall we?

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I really shouldn’t forget the very photogenic Pippi:

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And I’m gonna round this off with another buffalo. This guy is called Jack and we kind of love him! He is the only one that will let you pet him for a little bit. Buffalo cuddles, anyone? (EDIT: The photo below was entered in National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year contest. Click on the image to go over there and give it a like!)

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Watch out for an update from Moa at some point next week!

Friends on the farm

[Matilda]

I love taking photos and when I finished upper secondary school I bought a Canon EOS 500D for my graduation money. In the past few years that I’ve lived in London I haven’t taken it out as much as I would’ve liked. When Moa and I decided to go to Canada I made a promise to use my camera more. I would be stupid not to! So for this blog post I thought I’d introduce you to some new friends we’ve made recently. They’re pretty awesome. In no particular order of course…

Princess

How do I begin to describe Princess? Well. Princess likes food. A lot. Princess also likes being cuddled. A lot. And Princess loves milk. A LOT. She also likes to tell you when she needs something from you. Which is all the time. It really doesn’t matter if food was just served or if there is still milk in the bowl. Princess needs you to pick up the pace and do what she wants! She has made a habit out of listening out for my alarm in the morning, as my room is the closest to the cat food. Forget about snoozing. Once that alarm goes off, she doesn’t stop until I’m out of bed and preparing breakfast! If I do try to snooze, she will stand next to my bed and just stare at me. Here you should also know that my bed is quite low which means she is at perfect eye level for me when I lay down.

Princess is the cuddliest cat you’ll meet – there’s no way you’ll be able to sit on the couch without her coming in to keep you company. This is my favourite picture of Princess:

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It’s like an old beautiful painting. I hope it may one day hang in a prestigious art museum somewhere.

Crazy Cat

This kitty has a very appropriate name and there’s really no way you can ever tell what she’s thinking. Crazy Cat does not let you pet her unless it’s her choice and this happens very rarely. I did think we had a good thing going for a couple of days after we arrived here, but then she suddenly changed her mind. She’s really a one man cat who at the end of the day comes back to Hans for cuddles. Crazy Cat doesn’t meow like Princess does but she makes a lot of other noises. At one point I was almost convinced there was a small Danish child running around the house. She plays with one toy only and seems at her happiest and most talkative at play time. Crazy also has a weird habit of randomly grabbing onto you. For example, this morning as I was walking down the stairs, she was sat on one of the piedestals at the bottom and reached out to stick her claws in my hoodie. I think it was her way of saying “food now, please”.

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PJ

PJ, PJ, PJ… We’ve definitely cursed PJ a few times. With love of course! She is a very determined lady and incredibly smart. I would love to properly get to know her from horseback, but it’s a little too snowy and cold to have a good riding session at the moment. Especially considering I don’t really know the terrain here very well! PJ is the leader of the pack and knows all the tricks in the book. Every night when we go out to feed the horses, it’s a constant guessing game as to what mood she will be in and whether we’ll be able to get hold of her. Our current trick is to go out a bit later in the evening so that she’s hungrier and more keen on getting food… it has worked so far! But there are of course a few factors that could easily spoil even this seemingly bullet proof plan:

  • If it’s very cold outside.
  • If it’s snowing a lot outside.
  • If it’s very windy outside.
  • If PJ thinks we’re up to something sneaky.

This horse is beautiful though and I can tell that she’s a great companion. Whether you’re on the ground or on horseback, you’ll be having some discussions with this one, but once it pays off there’s no better feeling!

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Snowman

Snowman is the gentleman in the stable. He’s very chill and lets PJ do her thing and be the boss. He doesn’t mind. And yes, every time we go out to greet Snowman we do get the song from Frozen stuck in our heads. It’s inevitable. Unfortunately Snowman doesn’t get too excited about posing for photos so I don’t have that many. Of the two horses, he is the one who hangs back and decides that eating hay is definitely more important than checking out the human idiots calling him over from the fence. I mean, it’s not even a guarantee they’ll have treats. I did try to get some nice photos the other day. Turns it out it takes a bit of skill to photograph a white horse on a bright day in a landscape full of snow…

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Chiquita

Ooooh, Chiquita. We love Chiquita so much. Like, you have no idea. I’m not usually a dog person myself, but she has stolen my heart! She’s old and her joints are a bit stiff but she still gets SO EXCITED about going for a walk. She spends most of her time outdoors as she’s originally from the Canadian North. Upon leaving the house in the morning, we always bring her outside with us, and she always looks disappointed when we head off in the direction of the horses. Now, I don’t know what she’s thinking, but it’s probably something along the lines of “those big stupid moose are getting too much attention”.

When we finally do get around to taking her out for a walk, it’s like she’s ten years younger for a few moments. The first couple of times we took her out, we ran the first few meters and jumped around with her just because it made her so darn happy. Now it has just become the way we start every walk. She starts running before us and then looks back over her shoulder to make sure we’re still with her. She unfortunately doesn’t make it very far before she has to slow down but we can tell she loves it.

This doggo is adorable and if I could take her with me everywhere, I would!

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As you can see, we are in some pretty good company out here. Friends on four legs are the best friends! Moa will be with you very soon for another update. I don’t know what she’s planning on sharing with you, but let’s be real… it’s not going to be as adorable as this post.

Temporary farm life in Kenmore

[Moa]

Alright so, turns out that a consistent blogging is quite difficult after all – SORRY! We’re going to do our best to get you all up to speed and keep these blog posts coming a little bit more frequently.

So, where are we and what have we been up to?
The past 2 weeks we have stayed at a small farm in Kenmore, a tiny town situated outside of Ottawa, Ontario, where we are helping out in exchange of accommodation and food. We arranged all this through a website called Workaway.info, which I can highly recommend to anyone who are looking to travel on a budget. As described by Workaway themselves;

Workaway.info holds a database of families, individuals or organisations in an extensive range of different countries who have registered with us and are looking for volunteer help in a huge range of different fields. From painting to planting, building to babysitting and shopping to shearing, Workaway.info aims to introduce working travellers and language learners to like minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees. 

So in exchange for accommodation and food we work an approximate of 5 hours/day 5 days a a week, which is a pretty amazing deal if you think about it. The “work” is usually very rewarding and doesn’t feel as work at all because you are always learning new things. We are staying with our host Hans, a lovely German gentleman who moved to Canada about 9 years ago. Our days consist of helping him with his horses, cats, dog, wood stove and general chores around the farm which might need doing. 

We first arrived here on January 2nd after taking the train from Toronto the same morning. Hans picked us up from the train station a little later than originally planned (our train had been delayed due to “extremely cold weather”) and then took us to a local diner for some well-deserved pizza. After refuelling ourselves we kept driving to his home right on the edge of Kenmore, Ontario, which is about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa. Hans’ home is absolutely amazing and I felt at home almost instantly. We each got our own room and share the farm with Hans, the cats Princess and Crazy Cat, the dog Chiquita (the cutest and fluffiest dog we’ve ever seen), and last but not least the horses PJ (Plain Jane) and Snowman. I’ll let Matilda introduce you further to the animals in the next blog post along with the photographs she’s been taking of them – but let’s just say they all have their strong individual personalities! 

 

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Our temporary home in Kenmore, Ontario

A regular day on the farm:
We normally get up around 8.30am for some breakfast, to then get dressed and go out to the horses for the first chores of the day. The morning routine consists of bringing in wood for the house (the house is mainly kept warm using wood stoves), cleaning the stable of horse poop, giving the horses hay, fill up their water and fire up the wood stove in Hans’ workshop. We usually finish this around 10.30 and then we might take Chiquita for a little walk. During the day Hans is working from his office in Ottawa and he usually leaves while we are out in the stable. 

After the morning chores have been finished we pretty much have free reigns until the evening, as long as we keep the fires going in the stoves. Sometimes we might be given additional tasks to fix during that day, such clearing the path to the hot tub which is standing in the garden… 

Our chores start again in the evening where we once again feed the horses, clean their hooves and make sure that the fire is still going in the workshop.

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Matilda and PJ
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Our darling Chiquita on an afternoon walk in the snow

The rest of the day is usually spent quite relaxed. There are no stores or restaurants or anything at all really nearby, so we are really bound to the farm since we don’t have a car – but I don’t mind this at all. In a way, it’s very therapeutic. After feeling like I was running through the marathon that was 2017 it’s a well-needed break where I get to slow down and just be. Allowing yourself to not be productive is sometimes the best thing you can do I think. I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to do that for so long. 

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Hanging out with my new friend Princess

We’ve also spent all this extra free time on our music writing new songs and looking over our repertoire from the last few months because we have a gig coming up next weekend! That’s right, right here on the farm we’re staying we’re going to hold a small living room concert for an afternoon for some of the locals and neighbours around here. We’ll make sure to write a separate blog post about that, because I’m sure it’s going to be a special event. 

The weather: Snow, snow, so much snow!!! And it just keeps coming… like Matilda mentioned in her previous post the weather was one of the things we worried about before going – how could was it actually going to be? What does minus 25 feel like? Will we freeze to death? We’ve now found answers to these questions and no, it’s actually not as bad as we thought it would be. Being a person who’s constantly cold (queue the “but you’re from Sweeeeden, how can you be coooold?” comments) I was seriously scared that I was underestimating the weather in Canada before I went. But I’m fine! Like really! Okay, so there were a few days last week where there was a storm and the wind chill got to -40 degrees and it actually hurt to be outside – but besides that it’s completely manageable. As us Swedes say: There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. I’ve found this to be very true – as long as I’m wearing my thermal underwear I’m staying relatively warm! 

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A look at our daily view – the snow-covered garden!

So that’s the update for the day – now you know what we’ve been up to. Sorry again for the lack of updates but then again, I think that was well-needed to. Now that I’ve been here for some time I’ve found my place more, which I think is important to do before you share it with others like this. Keep checking in here for another update soon where Matilda will share some of the beautiful photography she’s been taking of the surroundings and animals here.

Also, if you have any questions at all or if there’s something specific you want us to write about – please feel free to ask them whether it’s here, on Twitter, Facebook or by email. 🙂

Peace out! 

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We love this dog so much we might just keep her…