Saturday, April 28, 2007

Foreign Journey: Ottawa

On 17th March, with a 5 hour bus ride on Greyhound costing CAD85, a visit to the capital of Canada becomes possible.

The entertainment district, with restaurants and shops, of Ottawa, one of the most beautiful capital cities of the world.

It is the city where important decisions for the whole of Canada are being made in the Parliament House.

Canada, one of the most liberal country, one of the most democratic country. All politicians and workers in the Parliament House have to bilingual. In fact, most people in Ottawa speak French, and there are many signs with French, bringing back memories of beloved Quebec.

Portrait of one of the ex-Canadian Prime Minister.

Taking a free guided tour around the Parliament House, a brief Canadian history and government system is being introduced. The grandeur of the Parliament House reflects a large degree of solemness as it was built while Canada was engaging with the World War II.
Not just a simple place to house politicians, it is a place filled with art, to inspire, to reflect.
The library, with several storeys, with hundred of rows of books, is not a normal library, but a grand library for the research of a handful of privileged. A brighter part of the building, as it is built after the war period.

A poem, reflection of the war.

From the top of the Parliament House, the view of the Ottawa can be seen.

The beautiful French province of Quebec can be seen across the river.
Bridge linking Ontario to Quebec. It may be of a different province, but that area is still under the same city, Ottawa.

Parliament House hill in winter Ottawa, from afar.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Winter: Algonquin Park 2

After a night's hike, a chance for trying the sauna and polar dip and a night's rest, Algonquin Park awakes itself.

A true Canadian landscape, of vastness and wilderness, Algonquin Provincial Park inspires some, and transcend others.

To walk on foot through the several feet depth of snow, a waterproof boots with good pair of socks is essential. With a pair of snow shoes, it would probably make trekking through the snow easier, but it adds extra burden to the legs.

It may seem a primary equipment, but these snow shoes, in a modern country, cost CAD$120.

Through the walk in the forest, it can easily understood how painters, poets could derived their inspirations from.

Most of forest, other than the trees, is deprived of any wildlife in sight. The bears, beavers and moose are still in hibernation. A walk through the deep forest, during the winter, is thus a safer encounter.

Animals might not be sight, but the view is amazing, almost a fantasy.

With an additional wilderness experience, a campfire was being set up on top of snow, using dried branches to get some relieve from the cold during lunch.

After the much needed lunch, the long walk through the winter forest continues. And finally the lake.

Every sight a painting, every turn a natural wonder.

It is only in winter that travellers are able to access to this part of the forest. Due to presence of bugs, undergrowth and marsh during the warmer months, it is almost impossible to walk through to this lake. In winter, it is only the snow and cold that stops the footsteps of travellers from reaching this great view of the park.

And it is only in winter, that crossing the lake on foot is at all possible. It is late winter, going into early spring, which means an increased risk of falling into the lake. However, travelers should be alert by walking near the shore of the lake. And the ice do not just break instantly when weight is exerted on it, but an initial cracking sound will be heard, and travelers should fall towards the shore for an increase chance in survival.

True beauty does not need photoshopped, or any creation from the tourism board. It just takes the five senses, the heart, to discover it.

After about a 12km walk, it is time to return to civilization. Icicles like roses are beautiful but are prickly.

Before leaving, snow shoveling can be tried, or

being part of the Canadian culture, engage in ice hockey.

Or a ride on the snow mobile.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Winter : Algonquin Park 1

Algonquin Provincial Park (3rd Mar to 4th Apr) is located about 4 hours bus ride away from Toronto, about 200km away. After travelling such distance, it is still within the Eastern tip of Ontario.

Although it may be a provincial park, its size is more than 10 times the size of Singapore.The frozen lake in the winter.
It might be a sparesly populated in a remote area, but locals travel on snow mobiles.
It was about a 2km walk across the frozen lake to reach the cabin.
At the cabin, the host served hot lunch that is essential for the survival of the cold.

Bagels and being heated up on above a firestove filled with firewood. Gabbage is being carefully separated in order to properly be disposed and not to pollute and preserve the park. Waste paper is being burnt in the firestove. Some more primary ways of life for experience.
After lunch, it was the start of an array winter activities, meaning it can never be done in tropical countries like Singapore. It may be cold, but not a moment boring.

At the start, it was dog sledging with a variety of sledge dogs. In the past, it was used for transportation of mail or goods, through the rugged tundra terrain. Now, it is for recreational purpose rather than any real transportation. A rare breed of the Canadian Eskimo with wolf-like features. It is a dying breed due to constant cross breeding of this breed with other breed dogs.

Though the dogs are strong, they are well-trained.

Unfortunately, visitors can only get to ride on the dog sledge and not have any control over the dogs. It may not be a fast ride, as the dogs get tired of running and dragging someone along the same route repeatedly.But still, it was a once in a life time experience.

Winter cannot be without the building of snowman. A tiring process that requires much effort to achieve the right size and shape.Made from icicle for the nose, branches for the arms and mouth, stones for the buttons and the eyes, and of course the most important was snow.

The more exciting part was the creation of snowball,
all ready for exhausting but therapeutic snowball fight.
Perhaps one of the most memorable winter activity.

Of course, what is winter at the provincial park without experiencing the wonders of the greater nature, momentally forgeting the drags of capitalism lifestyle.


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