Back in April last year I went of a solo trip to Florence & Pisa. I’ve been meaning to write a blog for ages, but never seemed to get round to it and I just found my travel journal and … Continue reading
On the weekend of 20th & 21st January 2018 I attended the Adventure Travel Show for the first time. Now, I’d never actually heard of the show before considering its been running for 22 years! I booked tickets for the weekend after hearing about it Wanderlust Magazine (or it may have been their email newsletter – I can’t remember), I’ve been reading the magazine for a while now and daydreaming about travel for months, getting itchy feet and such so I thought why not?
The event is held at Olympia in London not going to lie I usually come here for Olympia Horse Show so it was quite a transformation! If you haven’t heard of the Adventure Travel Show either its the UK’s only event dedicated to discovering the world off the beaten track.
I attended a number of talks over the Saturday & Sunday which I have listed below:
- Exploring Canada’s Wilderness – Richard Harpham
- Quintessential Canadian Paddling Trips in Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks – Ted East & Randy Mitson, Destination Ontario.
- Kit Lists Unpacked – Ann Foules, trekMountains.
- Get off the beaten track – Andy Jennings, Moto Aventures.
There were two other talks I was interested in attending on the Saturday (the times clashed a bit) but I ended up down in first aid for a few hours so unfortunately missed out on Ocean Giants: close encounters in out Blue Planet and Justine Gosling’s talk on exploring the Arctic.
On the Saturday I also attended a seminar which was Improving your travel photography hosted by Keith Wilson.
- Adventures in Sudan – Simon Grove, Explore Worldwide
- Epic paddling adventures into the wilds of Canada – Harlan Schwartz & Jake O’Flaherty, Destination Ontario.
- How to start your adventure (Panel) – Dave Cornthwaite & Friends
- How to get to the start line of an adventure despite other people’s doubts – Lindsey Cole
- Things I wish I knew before travelling – Duncan Milligan
- Things no one tells you about travel – but should – Pip Stewart
- Brilliant Baja – Helen Bryon, Wildlife Worldwide
- Things to consider when choosing a volunteering project abroad – Tom Gore, Kaya Responsible Travel.
As you can see I attended a number of talks, there was an array of talks to choose from and sometimes it was difficult to choose which one to attend if the times clashed!
I enjoyed all the talks I went to, but I must say I have four favourites which I loved hearing and they were;
Things no one tells you about travel – but should – Pip Stewart
Got those little voices that try and stop you doing things? We all do! In this talk, adventurer Pip Stewart will suggest how to stop them through sharing her own experiences, from the highs and lows of her 16,000km cycle ride from Malaysia to London (including nearly being blown up by unexploded mortars) as well as what it was like living with indigenous communities in the remote Amazon. Warning: monkey heads and termites for breakfast may be featured.
How to get to the start line of an adventure despite other people’s doubts – Lindsey Cole
One of the hardest things about an adventure is getting to the start line. There’s a lot of planning, wondering if it’s possible and other people can put you off. I explain how I use negative responses I’ve received during planning to not just get to the start line but also to the end. Examples of adventures: walking the Rabbit Proof Fence, Circumnavigating Australia with truck drivers, roller skating to Bude and running with Kenyans.
Things I wish I knew before travelling – Duncan Milligan
How do you stop yourself getting into situations that aren’t quite what you were expecting? What sort of mind-set allows for the best travel experiences? How do you avoid the normal pitfalls of travelling through the developing world? Learn from the mistakes of one man who has made them all and survived to tell the tale.
How to start your adventure (Panel) – Dave Cornthwaite & Friends
Dave Cornthwaite and guests share a feast of tips about how to come up with amazing adventures, the best ways to plan and how to make sure your first big adventure goes without (much of) a hitch.
So, here’s 5 things I took away from the talks I attended and yes, they are probably from the four talks listed above!
- “Be a bit careful – travel with change you in unexpected ways. Don’t chose happiness, chase adventure” – Pip Stewart
Pip’s talk is one of my top 2, it was a really interesting and engaging talk it was another I found made me chuckle and I loved seeing the little clips shown throughout the talk.
- “All these people will try to put you off. It’s easier not to do it then it is to do it.” – Lindsey Cole. Lindsey’s talk is defiantly in my top 2, not going to lie. It was so relatable but it was also really funny and she had us all chuckling away in the audience. Some of the messages Lindsey shared with us that she had received from people were shocking but her responses made me cry of laughter. And hey, why not? Adventure is addictive after all.
- “Say yes more – nudge towards adventure. Adventures can start anywhere” – Dave Cornthwaite & Friends
- “Don’t take the same pictures that you have already seen in magazines, online or postcards. Why repeat it? Is it really your photo?” – Keith Wilson
- “Travel can show you your superpower. It will strip you to your essence” – Pip Stewart.
Of course, there wasn’t just the talks at the event there was tons of stands to walk around and loads of brochures to pick up! All in all I had a great weekend and will defiantly be back next year and I might even pluck up the courage to speak to people!
Have you been ? Plan to go next year ?
I feel like keeping a journal is becoming a chore. It’s covered with scruffy handwriting, words I can’t even make out due to the hand cramps.
I have no idea where we went today, I took note of a few places we passed, but that’s about it. Bob, Fran and I drove to numerous places to find the wild horses. I got promoted to the front of the car, so I wouldn’t get left behind again, which is also a bonus as I can see out more of windows.
The majority of the day is spent driving in the car do the different locations. Bob said you could drive the length of the UK all the miles we put in. I can see his point, you can drive for miles and miles out here, not passing any towns or houses, whereas back home you would. I mean we have not passed a single gas station out here. I wonder what happens if they run out of fuel?
Thing is, I don’t mind the long drives, as it is something I have always loved; looking out windows, watching the world pass by and keeping a look out for wildlife of course. Thus, this is what I did on this journey. As soon as we left a whopping great big bird flew over the jeep. Spreading its wings, it soared overhead.
A Bald Eagle. It was huge! And so close, you could see its big menacing beak! It’s a shame I didn’t have my camera out. How unfortunate, as I saw 2 Bald Eagles today and no one will ever believe I’ve seen one now.
En route we saw loads of wolf tracks and when I say loads, I mean loads; I would love to see a pack of wolves out here!
In actual fact we saw a number of different tracks today. Because of the recent snowfall it’s easy to spot. Wolves, Moose, Cougar and Pine Martin were the tracks we saw today, along with a Golden Eagle and a Flicker which is a type of woodpecker.
Back to the journey…
Looking out for signs to give an indication to where we are heading, I noticed we passed Bearberry. Not long after, we pull into a forestry area, and spot three horses immediately close to some trees. The bay stallion looked like he’d been in the wars to protect his mares, scars covering his body. We carry on in this area and come across three more horses, all bays again. They were on the edge of the road in a snowy area, which was great, and then it started snowing. Luckily I managed to get some snaps before it got too heavy. As we left, directly opposite we spotted a chestnut stuck in a power line area, so Fran and Bob opened the fence up so he could find his way out.
Moving on we entered this massive forest and didn’t see horses for what felt like hours. We took various paths and eventually found them in a little valley area where the grass was sparse. The strange was we’d driven past areas with loads of grass, yet no horses! In this area we saw 3 young studs. It was a lovely spot for pictures and created a lovely background with beautiful light. I’m glad they played ball and posed as some of my favourite images come from this area.
Considering the amount of miles we put it, we saw very few horses. It’s funny how they are getting culled because ‘there’s too many’. From about 2pm-5pm we saw none. We even went off-roading up this steep hill, (“Hold onto your hats people” was Fran’s Quote), which was a little hairy, but the view was fantastic.
After a long day I was dropped back at the hotel and rang a Sarah whom moved out here 10 years ago from London. It was recommended I get in touch with her by Bob and Fran so I did that this evening and ended up going out to dinner with her and her family. It was a lovely meal and really nice to eat with people instead of alone.
My time is slowly coming to an end here, and I don’t want it to. I am really enjoying myself despite the snow and cold. It’s so peaceful out here.
This morning I went for a swim in the hotels pool (I’m not on holiday I promise). It was lovely, I haven’t swum in years and despite me thinking I’ve forgotten how to swim, I still can. Though I am much weaker than I used to be when I was younger. A bonus was I had the pool all to myself too.
On arriving at WHOAS facility’s I pitched in with some chores, cleaning pens and leading the rescue wildies to water before heading out with Gregg.
On the trip out we headed to Bearberry, Ghost and Ya Ha Tinder where I saw this incredible frozen waterfall with a plunge pool at the bottom, it was a challenge to reach but very rewarding it was stunning!
Saw 17 horses in total today and loads of hawks. I had the pleasure of seeing my first elk too. The mountains are huge and vast covered in an array of green conifers, it really is something else.
The recent snowfall meant lots of fresh tracks of wolves etc too!
The dust kicks up as I sprint frantically through the light brown smog. I scream at the top of my lungs trying to get their attention, waving my arms like a crazed madman. My heart is pumping and my lungs clench under the cold midday air. My throat feels raspy; it hurts. My legs soon tire, and I stand alone, teary-eyed and exhausted. The sound of the engine soon dissipates as it rounds a bend, leaving a falling cloud of dust in its wake.
My last cry for help “Don’t leave me……”
My throat catches, and I feel the cool shiver of sorrow bubble inside.” Don’t cry you idiot, that’s not going to help things. ”
But the truth is I’m scared.
I didn’t come on this trip to be a lone survivor in desolate plains of the Canadian wilderness.
Clutching tightly onto my camera, a million terrible scenarios run through mind. I try to think clearly, of the next course of action when an emergency happens. It’s a difficult thing to do when you’re on the brink of letting your emotions take hold, and turn you into a small ball of a teary mess.
Great, my water’s in my bag…which is now hurtling away in the opposite direction. Talk about icing on the cake.
I start walking. I’ve just been stranded in a Canadian wood, populated by bears, wolves and mountain lions. Never mind what I said in my last post about bear attacks being rare, my mind is nowhere near at ease.
What happens if one attacks?
And eats me?
All the evidence is hidden…..apart from my camera, my shoes and probably some smelly socks!
It’s the middle of the day and the sun is still high in the sky. Luckily, the human eating mammals should be sleeping. SHOULD.
I glance around nervously as I walk; I am a lone female with no survival skills what’s so ever. I don’t even know how to light a fire, let alone make one.
Fact is, sometimes people lost in the wilderness never make it out.
What are you supposed to do? Stop and calm down. Your gut reaction is to panic and when fear or panic rules your mind, it only works against you. The thing is, if people know you’re out in the wilderness and missing, eventually someone will come looking. By moving around you make it harder for the rescue party.
So what did I do? Carry on walking.
I look down at my dirty boots as I scrape their thick rubber bottom against the dry sandy road. Suddenly the silence is broken, and no it is not me whaling like a lost infant. It’s them!
Two grinning faces appear behind the dashboard of the jeep. At this point I don’t even care if it was a joke; I’m just so relieved they’re here! I am welcomed with the sound of laughter as I clamber into the backseat. I am not impressed at this point, but the over whelming joy of not having to spend the night in the woods allows me to join in with the laughter.
That was a close one…
“Don’t worry, there isn’t any grizzlies in these parts”. That’s what Bob said, just before letting me loose to photograph the wild horses that live on the rescue site.
I arrived not long ago when Bob, the president of the society ‘Wild Horses of Alberta Society’, and his partner Fran picked me up from the B&B. They arrived slightly early so I rushed to cram the remainder of my belongings away and run down the stairs with my luggage to meet them. In my rush, I almost slipped up on the wooden flooring.
I would miss the homeliness of the B&B and the city, but I am moving to a new place where the work and the real fun starts.
“Bye Louise, it was nice having you” Arlene the B&B owner hollered down the stairs.
“BYE! Thanks again” I yelled back before letting the door swing shut and walking towards the big red car that awaits.
I haul my luggage into the boot; Bob extended his hand as a greeting and so does Fran.
“Well hop in, ” Bob said. I clambered up into the big car; it was quite a way up for a short person.
We chatted for part of the journey to Sundre, talking about R.Vs, the Canadian domestic life and about the horses of course. I chatted with ease, which surprised me as I’m normally quite shy and don’t say more than ‘Hmm’.
So that how I ended up at the facility to meet the volunteers, the rescued wild horse, and the wild onsite band, much to my pleasant surprise.
This was where I was when Bob said about the bears. If I’m honest, the fact a bear could eat me didn’t cross my mind until he said that. I was actually worried more about the stallion charging at me!
Two types of bears actually reside in Canada. The grizzly bear and the smaller black bear are both species that are omnivores, which means they eat anything from berries to salmon.
In fact, what are the odds of me being killed by a bear?
Incredibly low in fact, I remember reading in Stephen Herrero’s book Bear Attacks that attacks are events and in North America there are approximately six hundred thousand black bears and sixty thousand grizzlies. Anyway, statistics say in the 2000’s in North America including Canada, U.S, and Mexico the Black Bear killed 15 people and the Grizzly killed 12 in the same period. Not that many when you think about it. In other words, less than 3 people are killed each year in North America.
So there I am. Walking towards the back of the rescue site towards the area where the wild horses are lingering. There are so many trees in the woods, mainly birch. I stand in a clearing, silence. I look up at the tall trees, they’re huge. I walk on the pine cushioned floor littered with dirt and leaves. You would have thought there’d be a fresh, nature smell in the area, but I smell….nothing. I’ve never smelt nothing before. The air is fresh and crisp. The sun filters through the trees creating a dazzling light.
I spot the stallion first. The stallion they call ‘Portero’ which means gatekeeper in Spanish. He is magnificent with this great presence and this beautiful long wavy mane covering his dark eyes. The sun shining over his coat, his muscles rippling. His mares stand behind dozing peacefully and heavily pregnant.
The horses, this place, the silence, is magnificent. I can’t believe I saw the wild horses on my first day and managed to get some stunning photographs.
It’s been a hell of a long day, I’m exhausted and it’s only 2 pm. The weather was on my side once again thankfully and this morning was spent at Calgary Zoo.
I suppose one of the upsides to not having a car is walking to the places and being able to stop easily along the way. The walk to the zoo was great once I got away from the main road as it led me along the river. The river water amazes me; it’s a dazzling aqua blue and crystal clear. It’s magnificent.
One of the benefits I’ve found by travelling solo is I can do what I want and when I want. I can leave the house whenever I want and not have to wait for other people to get ready. Plus, whilst at the zoo, I found I can move around the enclosures in my own time, as I like to read the signs and spend time watching the animals, as usually others don’t like to read and tend to move on as soon as they have caught a glimpse of the animal.
Now that I’d spent the majority of the morning at the zoo and I must say my favourite part was the Canadian Wilds section which is great as they have information on the various habitats, what lives there, and a display of the animals found in the various regions. It really led you on a journey and it was great to see the Canadian Wildlife (even if it was in enclosures).
I did also fall for the photogenic Gorilla in the African section as he/she really posed for the camera, much to the delight of a school class watching. It’s amazing how alike humans they are though one did eat off the floor!
Some brave House Sparrows approached me at lunch and tried to steal parts of my food. Much to their dismay, they were unsuccessful, until I emptied my crumbs.
I set out on the one of the bikes from the shed at the B&B and followed the Elbow River Pathway, hoping to make it to Weaselhead Natural Area, an hour’s bike ride away apparently.
This bike felt strange; when turning it moved too quick and felt kind of loose, but it was the only one in the shed my size. At least, the seat was comfy! I’ll go slowly I thought to myself, that way if I fall, it won’t be too bad.
This is so relaxing by the river apart from going up those dreaded hills. I got distracted by woodpeckers, squirrels and rabbits along the route. I’d been going for quite awhile and had to take many detours away from the river due to erosion and work on the riverbank.
Passing big rich houses like the ones you see in the movies, I drooled, they are lush. I really want to take a peek inside one.
Uh oh….the path ahead is closed and it’s pointing up a very big twisty hill. I am not biking up that. I managed to get a quarter of the way before hopping off and walking to the top. Taking a seat to catch my breath, I look at the view. Wow. Directly below is the blue river, twisting and turning. Behind that, an array of posh houses and mansions, with tall dark conifers and brown land stretching into the distance, until the mountains fill the horizon. What a view.
I carry on biking and stop at a map. I’m half way and I’ve been over an hour. I’m never going to make it in time and it’s starting to get dark. I carry on for a bit and it starts to snow. Great, I’ve come out in a thick fleece and fingerless gloves. I sigh and turn around; I guess I should head back.
Jeez! My legs are killing; it’s a good job I turned around. I ploughed on through the light snow and about 20 minutes from the B&B the snow suddenly got heavier, thicker and more pellet-like. It’s a blizzard.
I’m trembling, frozen and my legs are burning; I want to give up.
I push on, against the wind. My face hurts and can’t feel my fingers. I feel like I’m going to hurl.
I will my legs to bike faster.
Success! I finally reach the B&B. Frozen I fumble around and put the bike away and rush inside for a cup of tea and a nice warm bath.
Note to self: Always take an extra layer, whatever the weather.
I slept like a log.
Normally in new surroundings I find it difficult to sleep, but not this time. It was 7.30AM; an hour before my alarm.
I arrived at the B&B the day before. After struggling to find a taxi due to my booked taxi not showing, I finally made it. To top it off when arriving at the B&B nobody answered the door for 20 minutes. Great, it’s a scam I thought. Now what do I do?
I crawled out of bed and peeked through the blinds. The sky was tinted pink like candyfloss, the light reflecting off the city buildings “wow…..” I breathe.
I’d been told to help myself at breakfast and make myself feel at home. I showered and crept down the stairs. I feel slightly awkward just helping myself. I do it anyway, no one else is around.
It takes me a while to find the cutlery; I’d truly gone through all the draws now.
It was a lovely, warm day with clear blue skies.
I keep looking the wrong way when crossing the roads. People must be able to tell I’m not from here, which must be what the strange looks are for. The walk into the city was straight forward and relaxing with a slight breeze ruffling through my hair.
I used the weather to my advantage, and went up the Calgary Tower, the third tallest building in Calgary and much like the Empire State building in New York.
I’m glad I did. What a site! You can see for miles.
The views are spectacular! I gasped as I walked around, soaking in each direction I look out of. I can see the snow covered mountains in the distance. It’s beautiful.
It’s strange; everything looks flat up here and looks to be no hills. It’s so brown here; where’s the green trees and grass?
I wander back over to the glass bottom and look down. Whoa it’s a long way down. I feel myself start to sway and grab the bar. I must have pulled a face, as a Canadian lady turned and said “Yes, that is the building swaying in the wind”.
“Well that’s reassuring to know, I wasn’t sure why I was swaying” I replied.
Gosh I love the Canadian accent.
I left the tower and with my feet safely back on the ground I went to explore downtown.
First impressions? It’s posh. Everyone is dressed up in posh suits, dresses and heels. I looked very out of place in my jeans, outdoor coat and canvas shoes. Wandering around I searched for a shop to buy a sandwich.
I feel worn out, my feet are killing. I should have broken my shoes in before coming. I head back in the direction of the B&B. I see a model horse outside a shop, oh my gosh! There are cowboy hats in there. I’m quite excited by the model horse. Turns out you can have your picture taken with and by the cowboy hats. I really want one. I step inside gingerly and am immediately greeted by an elderly cowboy.
He certainly looks the part.
Cowboy: “Hello, how are you today?”
Me: “I’m good thanks, how are you”
Cowboy: “Good, where are you from?”
Me: “The United Kingdom”
Cowboy: “Ooohhhh say hello for the Queen for me when you’re back won’t you”
I chuckled. Why do people assume you know the Queen as soon as they know you’re British?
Cowboy: “I have one person in here last week who I said the same thing too and turns out they work for Prince Charles, small world isn’t it?”
“Sure is” I reply.
I wander off and look at the hats, they are so cool! Yikes, rather expensive though. I wander over to the clothes rack, where there a sale section. Bonus, I make a beeline for it.
29 Canadian dollars and a top later, I leave the store and walk back to the B&B to relax before heading out to the thing I’d been dreading – Eating out alone.
Lucky for me I picked a small local restaurant with hardly anything there. I slid into a booth, ordered, ate and left in a breeze. Not that bad I thought to myself, walking back in the snow and bitter wind.
Here are a few pictures from my first day/night in Calgary.
The wind rippled across the lush green grass. Was it the wind? Steel wings rattled and shook, the engine hummed in anticipation, patiently waiting its turn. The time came and it surged forward and accelerated to over 140 miles per hour, gently pushed me against the back on the seat. We have lift off.
I had successfully navigated Heathrow Airport on my own and made it to the plane. I’m on my first solo trip.
And that would be across the world to Canada.
Talk about throwing yourself in the deep end.
I haven’t felt overly nervous, well only at the airport. Once sat on the plane I was fine.
The flight was long and tough on the legs. I slept for a short while on the flight, woke up to a very numb hand and cramps. Sleeping on planes is not easy; I’m dreading the flight home as its overnight. I ended up reading, watching Paddington and Into the Woods to pass the time.
10 hours later I landed in Calgary at 12pm. Compared to the UK where the field were an array of patchwork green in colour, here it looked flat, brown and dull and everything looked square.
I took a taxi from the airport to my B&B in South East Calgary. The B&B (Riverpath B&B) is a lovely house very big and spacious, the owner Arlene was very friendly and we got along pretty well. It felt like I was visiting someone I knew.
I had a big debate with myself, stay awake and battle the jet leg or conk out. I chose option one; it was a lovely warm day out so despite being tired I went for a walk to the river. It’s beautiful a real nice aqua blue and clear too. I then walked to Inglewood which was voted ‘Canada’s coolest neighbourhood’. It was pretty windy out despite the warmth.