Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Waterslides to the rescue

Just a quick update on recent activities from Canada which will hopefully relieve me from having to write essay long posts from now on.

All in all we haven't really been up to a lot and I do not anticipate that I will have an awful lot to share with you all over my remaining month in this country. Don't get me wrong, we are having a great time but there is only so much that I can tell you about our days skiing / snowboarding.

We are now back in our base of Banff after a week long escapade through 3 different Canadian cities.
First was a one night trip to Calgary to see Muse at the city's ice hockey stadium. We decided to stay in the Calgary YHA and I have to say that as a hostel it was one of the best that I have been to, in part because of the ability to make your own pancakes for brekkie. As for the shared dorm it wasn't the best, full of blokes, one who got up and went to work at 4am, one who wore an all in one long-john set akin to a baby grow without any underwear so you could see his penis protruding out of the front and another guy who saw that the room was full and kept repeating the same sentence of "it is going to be interesting in the morning when we all try to get ready" to nobody in particular.

As for the gig itself it was a little so so. Muse were excellent as they always are but you also need the crowd to create that electric atmosphere which they did in London at the O2 but in this case it didn't happen. Seriously, how can you go to a rock concert and sit in your seat throughout the entire thing? Fortunately the stadium wasn't full so we were able to pick and choose where we fancied sitting in order to get the best view possible as well as our own space.
In my humble opinion I would say part of the problem was that the bars closed at 9pm!! The gig only started at 8:15pm and went on until 10:30pm. I f*cking hate the fun police and nanny states.

Tuesday 5th Feb saw us head 3.5 hours north to the city of Edmonton and we were once again reminded of how bloody nice Canadians actually are. We were staying at another YHA located a few blocks south of the city centre and the only way to get there would be on the local bus. We had no change and only large notes but the bus driver told us that this would not be an issue and the ride was on him. For the rest of the journey he chatted to (up) Arancha and gave her all of the local intel that we would need for our stay.
This would not be our only gesture of good will from a Canadian bus driver and we were to receive a discounted ride upon our return to the city just a few days later with a "Welcome to Canada and enjoy your stay!"
In the end I purposely got onto the bus with only notes so that we make a saving - the backpacker way.
You would never get this sort of generosity or simple personable service in the UK - they are all miserable moaning b*stards.

Edmonton was to be another one night stop over and we used the free evening to go to the cinema to finally see 'The Life of Pi'.
With the life sized superhero statues adorning the entire place the actual cinema itself was one of the best that I have been to but this isn't surprising when you consider its location, the West Edmonton Mall. The WEM was once the proud owner of the claim to being largest mall in the world and I have never seen a place like it. Now I hate shopping but this gaff had it all:
  • The standard shops and food halls
  • The multiplex cinema
  • A comedy club and nightclub
  • An aquarium complete with twice daily sea lion shows (a bit wrong that they live indoors 24/7 but at least the dolphins are no longer there!)
  • Galaxyland - the world's largest indoor amusement park
  • An ice rink
  • Mini golf
  • Ropes quest - a multi levelled assault course although on the website it really looks like it says 'Rapes quest' which would send this mall into another stratosphere
  • World Waterpark - the world's largest indoor waterpark (more on this particular one later)
  • The Santa Maria - an exact replica of Christopher Columbus' ship that he discovered the Americas in!
  • and a hotel because one day is clearly not enough
Remember, this is all indoors inside a mall. What a place!

Wednesday through to Friday was a trip to Fort McMurray, a town in the middle of nowhere, 5 hours north of Edmonton and supposedly the location of where I would be declared the best birthday present buyer in the world.
It is Arancha's birthday later this month and my reason for taking her to Fort Mc was that this town is one of the prime locations in Canada to view the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis.
We travelled up to Fort Mc on possibly the best coach ever invented. Large leather seats with ample leg room (because we both need it), a fridge serving free beverages (hot and cold) and TV's showing movies for the duration of the journey.

As this was to be my present for AJ I had the foresight to pre-book a proper hotel whilst I was still working in London for our 2 night stay as I didn't think that a hostel would cut it. I also didn't just book any old room, I booked the Honeymoon Suite, hot tub and all!
The room was huge, a king size bed, a lounge area, a massive bathroom holding a shower / steam room and of course the said hot tub.
Unfortunately, the unveiling of the room to AJ was the highlight of this particular trip (tied equally with the snowball fight that we had and Arancha slipped on the ice and fell into the road). For 2 straight days all we experienced was a combination of snow showers or thick cloudy grey skies. To say that I was gutted was an understatement, yes the room was great and the Port and wine that we bought flowed effortlessly down our throats but we were here to see the northern lights and on this front we had drawn a big fat blank.
You can't imagine how frustrating it is to dream that you are looking up in awe at the lights and then wake from the dream to rush over to the window to see if the skies have cleared. This happened on an hourly basis!
I am now also left with a bit of a conundrum - do I now have to buy AJ something else for her b'day as this gift didn't exactly deliver? .

As if this wasn't all disappointing enough we awoke on the final morning to find that part of the bathroom ceiling in the supposed premier room of the hotel had caved in overnight leaving the sink and floor covered in debris.
Now I am not a person that likes to make a fuss and complain about things (yeah right, blame my mum) but given that my trip here had been a somewhat frustrating time I was quite happy to head to front desk to express my displeasure at such an event.
We were told to go to breakfast and that it would be 'sorted' by the time that we returned.
An offer of a 25% reduction to the final night's bill was the solution and with one quick look at the receipt I shook on this and happily trotted off.
Instead of applying a 25% reduction what they had actually done was take the full 2 day bill (restaurant food and drinks), calculate 25% of this and present that as the final amount to pay. Excellent, a 75% reduction on the entire bill.

With heavy hearts we left Fort McMurray on the Friday and yes it was a glorious sunny day. Seriously, what have I done to send my karma so off kilter?
Fort McMurray is quite a wealthy town due to its locality to the Canadian oil fields. Whilst waiting for the coach to arrive I stood outside in the relative warmth and couldn't help but overhear a roughneck from the oil fields having a quite heated phone conversation. The reason that I mention this is that this is the first time that I have heard a line from a nursery rhyme incorporated into a rant such as this:
"He is a f*cking ........., I sang a song of sixpence to cover his ass...."

It got me thinking about other rhymes that you could incorporate into the mix when having a go:
  • "Yeah Jimmy Savile, the paedo, like Georgie Porgie he kissed the girls and made them cry"
  • "Yeah Jimmy Savile was like the old woman who lived in a shoe, he had so many children he didn't know what to do"
You get the idea.

We returned to Edmonton for a couple of nights as we had some very important unfinished business to attend to before eventually heading back to Banff and the skiing.
The business I refer to is stripping off into my speedos and hitting the world's largest indoor waterpark. What better way to get over the disappointment of the Northern darkness?

It was immense. Below is the description of some of the entertainment on offer:

This tropical paradise boasts the world's largest indoor wave pool and tallest indoor permanent bungee tower, as well as more than 17 unique waterslides and play features.
World Waterpark’s three new thrill slides feature an electronic launch system. Sliders step into a glass capsule and the floor drops from beneath them, sending them on their journey.
Cyclone, the first waterslide of its kind in Canada offers both the unexpected drop plus a vertical loop. After the floor releases from beneath them, a slider plummets 17 metres straight down, as fast as 60 km / h, before arching upward into a near-vertical loop and blazing out into a splashdown lane.
The two Sky Screamer Extreme slides both have the electronic launch system, but one of the slides is enclosed from start to finish while the other is open. Standing above the park at 23.47 metres, the Sky Screamer Extreme slides are built for speed and can carry sliders as fast as 60 km / h.

I can tell you now that as you are stood inside the capsule trying to look calm and collected in front of everybody and the countdown begins "3...2....1..." and then before you know it the floor has dropped away and your sphincter is in your mouth as you rush downwards not knowing where you are and shouting out every expletive you can muster amongst the scream was brilliant and as soon as we had reached the bottom, gotten over the sting of the water on our quickly reddening skin we were climbing the steps back up to the summit.
In my opinion, simply the perfect way to spend a Saturday evening. (if you aren't up for a drink that is)

And that was that.
After a week away from the slopes it is nice to be back given that in just over 2.5 weeks we will be leaving here for good and heading west. The snow is good and we have now moved onto building jumps in the more desolate areas of the mountains where you can possibly avoid people for the entire day. The thing about these areas is that the snow can also be 3 - 4 feet deep so there is a lot of cushioning for many bad landings. The only risk is of losing AJ completely in such high snow drifts.
My 2 jumps today were as follows:
  1. Made the jump, got the air, landed skis pointed down, lost one ski and did a forward roll with the other still attached - the result; a slight winding and headache
  2. Made the jump, got the air, landed on my front with my momentum allowing the legs and skis to attempt to pierce the back of my head in a sort of scorpion like manoeuvre - the result; a crack in the back but not unwelcome
Arancha's 2 jumps:
  1. Made the jump, got the air, landed snowboard pointing down and stacked it - the result; a face full of snow
  2. Lost track of the jump in the near white out conditions so slowed down so much that she slid up the ramp and slid down the other side - result; no respect from me!
The snow is continuing to fall so hopefully tomorrow's jumps will result in some decent YouTube footage as we didn't get today's shambles. However, we did capture my first attempt on this jump yesterday when I made some air (minimal) to then overshoot the landing and end up on my side submerged in a ditch.
Don't worry, this will be edited into the final cut.

Finally, I had my first taste of a Canadian born dish called Poutine yesterday. Basically, it is chips with gravy and cheese curds - nothing that new there but it is proper winter food and just what you need after a day on your arse trying to unsuccessfully land jumps.

Well that is all for now, I will be back in a few weeks once when all of the snow based debacles will be over and we will be on the verge of heading to country number 2; the USA.


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