A New Years hike at Platja de Muro and a visit to Port de Sollér

January, 2022

Our intention is to explore Parc Natural de s’Albufera de Mallorca together with the dogs, on this glorious New Years day. According to our travel guidebook, the area is an eldorado for birdwatchers, as more than 200 species of rare birds have been spotted in the wetlands. We, and a few others, are pretty disappointed that the parc is closed, as we are fully prepared for a big hike. At least the beach is on walking distance and the dogs are getting very excited; they smell the sea! Platja de Muro is just an extension of the Parc Natural and it feels like we are on a Caribbean island! Soft sand, blue skies and a turquoise sea. In the summer it will be busy here with sunbathing tourists, but today there are just a few other dogs…..

Later we drive through Can Picafort, which was once a picturesque fishing village, but is now destroyed by ugly apartment buildings. At the far end of the boulevard some sculptures, made by the artist Joán Bennàssar, are overlooking the serene bay. These pieces of cement, mainly women, are goddesses and fairies, who dialogue with nature and the sea. They are distributed in 4 groups and are all located on the beach, along the promenade; desire, ritual, treasure and wound

The next day, we are going to discover a part of the northern coast and the dogs are joining us again for the trip. The Serra de Tramuntana, an impressive limestone mountain range of almost 90 km long, is covering this part of the island. Our plan is to drive to Esporles and from there direction Banyalbufar, both very pretty places! Just before Banyalbufar is a small parking place at the side of the very curvy road and it is also the starting point of a fabulous hike to Port de Canonge. Again nothing is going according to our plans, as the parking place is already occupied by a rough 20 cars. No other possibilities to park the car. Why did we go on the weekend, instead of choosing a quiet day during the week? The dogs are getting eager to go out and we too! We turn around and drive up the hill again and find a small spot behind the bus stop. Here, in the middle of nowhere, on top of the hill, a ruin of a former hamlet is visible. It is pretty spooky, but the dogs love it!

From here we follow the road to another pretty town called Valldemossa, a popular town for weekend outings! The road now turns towards the coast and passes scenic places like Deia. We decide to go to Port de Sóller, situated on a secluded bay with plenty of restaurants and lovely terraces overlooking the beach, the harbour and the lighthouse.

We take the dogs for a walk and they seem to like the ambience! Later we feed them, before they go for a nap in the car, while we have ‘a bite’ in town.

Port de Soller is fabulous and very relaxing! Our hike will have to wait for next time and NOT in the weekend!

The lively market towns Inca and Sineu

December, 2021

The commercial town of Inca is just a ten minute drive from our “home”. It is the third main town on the island and perfect for shopping. Inca is famous for the leather industry and the many old wine cellars, now converted into restaurants. We like to go on Thursday, which is market day and enjoy the Christmas spirit, with all the flowers on the square. I have never seen so many poinsettias in one spot! After getting some local produce, we find a place on a small terrace and enjoy the Spanish ambience, while sipping a red wine, a cappuccino and a croissant for the small amount of euro 5.40!!!

Sineu is another lovely market town and also very centrally located. Once it was the most important town on the island! Many tourists, as well as locals, are flocking the streets on the Wednesday, when fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and even livestock can be purchased. Another big attraction of this rural small place is the parish church, with its massive bell tower; Iglesia Santa Maria de Sineu. Very impressive from the outside and inside!

We stroll the streets of Sineu up and down, admiring historical buildings, and discover the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, which is nowadays a nunnery. It was built on the ruins of the former Palace, residence of the many kings of Mallorca.

Later we return to the main square, where we find an empty table in front of the church, overlooking the market. We order a drink and a small bite and they serve us very tasty local cheese and jamón. A great way to end this beautiful morning!

Dogs paradise around Parc Natural de la Peninsula de Llevant

December, 2021

We are not the only ones, who are having a great Christmas holiday. The dogs just love to go with us on our day trips and above all they LOVE their Christmas present from the landlord!

Parc Natural de la Peninisula de Llevant is a small hour drive to the eastern side of Mallorca. We park the car at Urbanicació Sant Pere Betlem and hike the trail along the scenic coast until the far end; Es Caló. On one side the sea and on the other side the lower mountains of Puig Todosa.

This area is not very well-known and still unspoiled. On the Punta des Caló, where the trail ends, we find a very narrow path through the bush and arrive on a small and rocky beach. Here the dogs can run and swim! It is just paradise!

Another great area to explore is just on the eastern side of the same Parc Natural and it is called Cala Estreta, Cala Matzoc and Cala Mitjana. The area is great for hiking, very quiet and just nature! A beautiful trip and possible to combine with the ancient towns of Artà and Capdepera. We choose to spend more time on the wild beach with the dogs. Here they can run freely and there are more trails over the rocks and into the back country.

After a couple of hours we drive to Cala Rajada. The dogs are fast asleep in the car and we go for an early supper into town. Along the seaside we find restaurant “Euforia”, where they serve all kinds of delicious tapas. We are sipping our wine and absorbing the view over the Mediterranean Sea. By now the weather is changing completely; suddenly thunder starts together with some heavy rain showers and a beautiful rainbow appears!

After our delicious meal, we walk back to the car and take the dogs for a last stroll. The rain has disappeared and the sky turns into a dramatic painting!!!

Climbing to the top of the Puig d’Alaró

December, 2021

Definitely a must to visit are the ruins of Castell d’Alaró. They have always been a very important reference point in Mallorcan culture. To reach the ruins we drive to the small town Alaró and continue towards restaurant Es Verger via a terrible narrow and bumpy road. It is so small that oncoming traffic can’t pass. Halfway I get a panic attack, get out of the car and start walking. My partner just loves the challenge!

It is better to leave the car in Alaró and walk the old pelgrims route (four hours two ways with an elevation of 600 meters) or go to the other side of the mountain, to Orient. In Es Verger we first drink a coffee before we start climbing. The restaurant is rustic authentic, with a big fire place and famous for the lamb shoulder cooked in a wood-fired oven. We still have to earn our lunch and it will be cheese and bread and no roasted lamb today!

We hike all the way up to 825 meters and go through one of the fortified entrances. Just a few steps higher you will find the Hostatgeria and the ‘Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Refugi’.

You will be rewarded with dramatic views over Es Pla, the Tramuntana mountains and the Orient Valley.

On our return we take a smaller but quicker trail. You have to “mind your step”!

A house and labrador sit in central Mallorca

December, 2021

It is not easy to find a convenient house sit during covid times. You need to be patient and be willing to spend a lot of hours on the internet, browsing the house sitters websites. In the end we are rewarded with a great sit of nearly three weeks on the Balearic island of Mallorca. I never visited Mallorca in the past and in my imagination it was just one of those party islands, where nature is sacrificed for huge hotels and ugly apartment buildings. Pictures of our future house sit showed lushy gardens and panoramic views and when we saw the pictures of the two black labradors, we didn’t think twice!

We rushed to the bookstore to get information about hiking trails (Rother guides) and interesting places to visit on the island and we are very surprised to discover that Mallorca has many natural parks, scenic roads and historical villages.

In December Covid was still a big issue and we, as well as the landlords, had to try to stay healthy! It all worked out fine and we even didn’t need to get tested! The house was all decorated for Christmas, the fire place worked great and the doggies stole our hearts from day one, so our holiday started (and theirs too!)

We decide to take the dogs with us in the car on most of our outings. It means we can stay away a bit longer during the day and the dogs love to go with us on our adventures. Our first outing will be to Parc Natural Es Trenc, in the southern part of the island. Just before entering the parc, we pass Salines de Llevant. Several lagoons are nourished by the waters of the sea and later the salt is extracted and gathered into huge piles.

In between the artificial lakes and the 6 km long beach, you will find dunes with all kinds of plants, which are adapted to the salt in the soil. Once on the beach, we let the dogs run free, as this time of the year there are only a handful of visitors.

Our second trip goes to Cap de Formentor, in the north of the island. The peninsula is protected on one side by the Tramuntana mountains and blessed with some fabulous beaches on the southern side. To reach the east of the peninsula you have to drive a very curvy road. Don’t forget to stop at Mirador de la Creueta for some fabulous views!

We take the dogs out for a walk on Cala Formentor, where the turqoise sea looks inviting for a swim. Margot, the youngest labrador is afraid of water, but Rosie just loves to jump in!

After our hike and swim, we are driving back to Puerto de Pollenca, a lively fishing harbour, where we find a great place to eat, right at the water side; “Stay Restaurant”.

The dogs are sleeping in the car, totally exhausted from the hike. Later, after we have had our supper, we take them again for another outing on the beach, before we drive home.

A four day road trip from Kaslo to Calgary

October, 2021

It is time to say goodbye to my son and his amazing cute and clever dog! I am already looking forward to my/our next visit in this isolated part of the Rocky Mountains.

We decide to take a different road, back towards Banff and Calgary and just see where we will end up on our first day. From Kaslo we drive to Balfour, where we take the (free) ferry towards Kootenay Bay. It takes around 30 minutes from one side to the other and we fully enjoy the views on this sunny day.

Our first stop is Cranbrook, where we grab a coffee in the lively shopping street. According to the signs we are pretty close to the US border! In Creston it is harvest time; on every corner of the street pumpkins are sold! Creston valley is one of BC’s prime agricultural regions. Grapes, peaches and cherries are growing here in abundance!

We decide to stay in Kimberley for the night (in a simple, smelly, but spacious apartment) and drive to Banff the next day. There, we will spend two nights in the cozy Hotel Fox & Suites. From Kimberley we follow the road to Invermere, where we take some time to explore the town. It is so much colder here in comparison to the Creston area. We are surprised to see the deer just wandering the fields beside to main road!

It is fun driving in this part of Canada. The roads are perfect, barely any traffic and the light over the mountains changes every minute.

At Radio Hot Springs we follow the narrow canyon highway 93 towards Banff. Suddenly snow is fallen and some goats are crossing!!!

We make twice a stop on Kootenay Highway 93. First at Numa Falls; there is a small parking place off the road from where you can walk towards a bridge. There is also a hiking trail starting from the other side of the bridge.

Our second stop is at Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek; a small walking trail will bring you via a few bridges higher up and here the river splashes deep down in the gorge.

Just before we enter Banff, we have a last stop to enjoy the view over the lake.

At the end of the afternoon we arrive at our hotel and enjoy a nice meal in town. The next day brings us to Johnston Canyon (this time we bought our Banff National Park ticket online!). The canyon is very popular by visitors from all over the world. We walk the trail from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls and beyond, but we leave the last trail to the Inkpots for next time!

From the Falls we drive to Lake Minnewanka, where I went for a boattrip a couple of years before. This time we just hike along the shores of this serene glacial lake. Most tourists are gone and we appreciate the stillness of the surroundings.

Our last day we will spend in and around my favorite place Canmore, where I was house sitting in 2015. A lovely town, situated along the Bowriver, with plenty of wildlife and hiking trails! I want to show my partner fascinating Grassi Lakes, just outside Canmore. It is a nice moderate climb up the mountain, together with many other visitors, but still worth it! We wait for the sun to rise above the mountain; once the sunlight starts shining in the crystal clear waters, sparkles start dancing!

In the afternoon we hike along the Bow River, explore the town and have a late lunch outside on the main street. We both fully agree that Canmore is more relaxed and less touristy than Banff and next time we will stay in Canmore for a night or two!

After lunch we go for one more hike along the other side of the river, as we noticed some Elks by the river side. Suddenly, we see a herd of Elk (Wapiti) on the local sports field! They even roam in between the houses. There must be around 60 all together…..The rutting season (from September until mid-October) has started and male Elks can behave very aggressively, as they herd females for breeding. We better stay on a safe distance!

It is getting late and time to say goodbye to Canmore. We still have to drive to our airport hotel in Calgary, as our flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. These last two weeks have been an amazing adventure and we do hope to return soon to the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Canada!

 

 

 

Kaslo, a jewel on the shores of Kootenay Lake

October, 2021.

Another day trip brings us to the “secret hot springs”, only known by the locals and surrounded by forests and a wild and very cold river. There is a small campground and the steep stairs will lead you to different tiny waterbassins along the river. A very relaxing area to spend the day. The dog also loves the hot springs! Next time we will bring a tent!

A highlight is our visit to Kaslo, a quaint little village with an impressive history. The Kootenay area was first discovered by indigenous nomads. There were two nations; Ktunaxa (Kutenai) and the Sinixt (Lakes). They lived from fishing and the abundance of wild fruits. Later, after settlers built the first log cabins, Kaslo became a sawmill site. After, the mining started and the Kaslo railway became important for transporting silver ore. Once mining was stopped, fruit farming and logging became the sources of income for the inhabitants of Kaslo. Nowadays, Kaslo is also a popular summer and winter tourist destination. Although it was struck by two huge disasters in 1894, a big fire and devastating floods, the people of Kaslo rebuilt their home town again and again. Since knowing its history, I even more appreciate the beauty of this historical village.

 

 

There are many great stores in Kaslo, where you can buy all kinds of meat, cheeses, wines and bread. The small fish and chips kiosk is famous and we grab some lunch to take to the park.

From the shores of Kootenay Lake we hike along the river up to the village, where we follow for a while the Kaslo River Trail. It brings us to the bright red Unity Bridge, which connects the north and south sides of the River Trail. Next time we hope to complete the 10 km loop, but it soon will be dark, so time to return home.

 

 

Monica Meadows; nature at its best!

September, 2021

My son drives us to the west side of the Purcell Mountain Range, for a hike to Monica Meadows. Until now he never had time to explore the trail, so none of us will know what to expect. We bring food, drinks and the special outfit for the dog. We all “hop” in the car (for me it takes a bit longer…) and start our adventure.

The access road towards the trailhead is not easy! It is 90 minutes driving over a bumpy gravel road! The wonderful views are a good distraction.

Finally, we arrive at the quiet parking lot. During the weekends it can be packed with other visitors, but on this Wednesday morning there are just a handful of hikers. The weather is superb; no wind and clear skies. The dog gets prepared and we have our trekking poles and bear spray ready. This is Grizzly bear territory!

We are now going for a steep walk up, with an elevation of 650 meters and seven switchbacks. My partner and I are going slow, now and then we are totally out of breath! The dog is running between the three of us, to see if nobody is staying behind.

Once up the mountain, the trail levels out and we arrive on an alpine plateau at 2360 meters. This is called Monica Meadows and it is just breathtaking!!! I have travelled all over the world and I have been very fortunate to witness the most beautiful places, but Monica Meadows is jaw-dropping! The bright colours of the larch trees are contrasting with the white of the fresh snow, the pristine alpine lakes with crystal clear water, the glacier peaks and mountain ranges on the horizon; it all makes it a complete magical wonderland. No other people, just silence.

My son continues the trail to the top of the mountain and finds another lake.

We would love to explore the mountain a bit further, but we still have to hike all the way back and drive the bumpy Glacier Creek Forest Service Road again. Definitely, a place to visit again! Maybe in summer, when all the wildflowers are blooming?

A house on the rocks at the end of the world…

September, 2021

It is pouring with rain when we leave Revelstoke. We just get a glimpse of the Columbia River, which we have to cross to move towards the very quiet British Columbia Highway 23. It takes us around 40 minutes to reach Shelter Bay, where we will hop on the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry towards Galena Bay Terminal.

Once on the other side of the lake, we drive to Nakusp and from there to the idyllic village of Kaslo, right on Kootenay Lake. By now the rain has disappeared and we fully enjoy the eighty minutes scenic drive.

I am constantly on the lookout for a crossing bear and probably will be during the next coming days. My son often sends me pictures of bears walking with their cubs beside the road!

While entering Kaslo the bright autumn colours welcome us! Later in the week, we will explore this village more thoroughly!

After Kaslo, the road swirls along the banks of Kootenay Lake and brings us finally to the remote area, where my son lives; “a house on the rocks at the end of the world”…

I fully understand why he choose this spot to settle down. It is where the beauty of nature lies on your doorstep; impressive mountains, wild rivers, serene lakes and fertile meadows!

My son lives in a 100-year old log cabin and we will sleep for the coming 8 days in the cozy guesthouse. Only the main house has a bathroom, so our bathroom will be a bucket!!!

Travelling in times of Covid-19

25th and 26th of September, 2021

Both my children live on the other side of the world; my daughter in Australia and my son in Canada. Due to the pandemic, I have not been able to see them for a very long time. I check from time to time the Canadian travel website and the moment I see that Canada is opening up their borders, my partner and I book a flexible flight from Amsterdam to Calgary. Although nothing is official yet, we apply for our visa. This is my chance to see at least one of my children and I have to act NOW! More towards the date of leaving, we get all our paperwork printed, download the ArriveCAN app, fill in health declarations and get tested just before we hop on the plane. It all sounds easy, but it isn’t; the preparations are pretty stressful!

Upon arrival in Calgary it takes us nearly two hours to pass all the checkpoints at the airport, due to the covid control. Once we get our car from the rental agency and join the other vehicles on the highway, we feel relieved. The Rocky Mountains are right in front of us and will surround us for the next two weeks!

It will be a long drive to the remote area, where my son settled down two years ago. He lives deep down in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia. To be able to enjoy the countryside, we booked two overnight stays; one in famous Banff and one in mountain destination Revelstoke.

As of all the delays, we arrive early evening at the Alpine Resort in Banff. We booked a cabin for ourselves, very rustic and quiet. We had plans to go for a hike into town, but by now we are totally exhausted. Although the Alpine Resort is more a hostal for backpackers, there is a bar and a small dining room. The menu is simple, but the burgers are good and in the morning they serve free pancakes.

At 9.00 we are ready to continue our trip, but first we go for some sightseeing. We drive down to the Bow River, a river with a length of around 600 km. The name of the river derives from the reeds that grew along the banks. They were used by the First Nations to create bows.

From here we have a great view on the impressive Fairmont Hotel, on the other side of the river.

Banff is still very quiet on this sunny Sunday morning. We grab a coffee, buy some sandwiches and continue our trip over the Bow River Parkway. Immediately, we are checked for the National Park Pass which we did buy on Saturday, when entering Banff National Park. At least it is 24 hours valid!

We stop at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, just to take some pictures. A lovely place to spend the night, but not cheap!!!

The pictoresque Parkway is bringing us to famous Lake Louise. It is my third visit to this Unesco World Heritage Site, only today it is packed with visitors. There is just one parking spot left and we pay the eleven CAD for the Day Pass.

Our next stop are The Spiral Tunnels at the Kicking Horse Pass. We are just in time to see a train circle into the mountains, in order to lessen the grade of the hill.

We follow the road towards Field, a small town in Yoho National Park, on the banks of the Kicking Horse River. It is time for a last coffee, as we still have another two hours to drive, before reaching Revelstoke.

Due to a lot of construction on the Trans-Canadian Hwy we barely make it to our hotel “River In” before dark. The hotel is situated close to the railway track, but at least the train does not keep blowing its whistle during the night, like in Banff!