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Wanderlust cured’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 29 Jan 2009

Location: Banff & Canmore, Canada

MapI hate to admit this, but I never really celebrated Australia Day in Australia. Shameful, I know. When your abroad, something deep down stirs the patriarcal bone in your body to say "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi". Or maybe not so much a bone, but rather the number of Ginger and Rye (aka Canadian whisky and Ginger Ale) and tequila shots that one could (allegedly) consume in a night. So I joined in on the festivities...now let me add that standing in a line for a nightclub isnt much fun back home...but try standing in that same line with the wind blowing on a -30 degree night! Actually one, shall we for the sake of ease call him a "crazy" gentleman really got into the spirit and wore board shots and thongs, people were impressed but I was thinking "goodbye toes, circulation wont make up for it". John Farnham even got a play that night, albeit techo, but 'your the voice' was so bittersweet. Allegedly (again) the night ended at around 4:30am in a bed & breakfast that some local Aussies were staying in and I got a suite all to myself! Sweeet.

Now to more intellectual matters. Wildsmart are a community organisation that do good work in the Bow Valley area in keeping wildlife and humans interactions positive. I attended their talk on Cougars. My interest was to find out my chances of getting eaten while I was hiking, simple. Turns out it was better not to go. Ignorance is bliss (so ive heard).
Heres a few fun facts about Cougars:
* They can stalk their prey for kilometers and wait in the wings for hours, when they are 100 metres or less near you, you must stay still and fight like hell...you run and your arse will look as juicy as a deer or moose.
* Always carry a stick when you go hiking
* They breed all year round, so theres plenty of them, their numbers are on the increase - for once one animal in the world is increasing rather than decreasing, sadly this one is a top predator and humans have been on their menu in the past
* There are some specialist Cougars, ones that like moose, ones that like deer, ones that like wild horses. Now let me tell you, the talk told us to make yourself look really big if a cougar approaches you...think about this...Im 5'8, lets say for arguments sake - an athletic build, no bigger in size than a large dog when I am curled up...how does one look as big as a moose?? If you figure it out, let me know...it will increase my chances of survival greatly.

You know, I shouldnt really be telling all these aweful facts, they are majestic creatures, whose place as a top predator is imperative to the ecosystems over here, there are even a few humans that I would possibly put on their menu...but when I hiked up Lady Macdonald today (Lady Mac is a mountain for those wondering why I am hiking up a lady) all I could think about was being followed, every snap made me turn, my stick was big...but I am not the size of a moose, my joy of crushing snow under my boots lost all value as I realised that it would attract more attention towards me, my thoughts of my evolutionary disadvantage were ringing true. Regardless...I made it home safe, decending into open terrain (which Cougars dont like) was like sweet sweet joy, and I know it will be everytime.

Before I get off the topic of Cougars...one guy in the audience in question time asked "I went back country snowboarding with my buddies, and when we were coming back, we noticed cougar tracks for 4kms on the tracks we had come in on, should we have been worried?". The answer by the Cougar experts. "Yes".

I also found out that I have two new friends that find it funny to put each others name down for open mic night at the Grizzly Paw pub (one hopes its just a personal joke, not one to be played on new friends). Here I was worried, having flashbacks of karaoke nights where people have no idea what "tone" means...who am I to talk, I sound like a wailing cat when I sing. But these two were awesome! Classic folk music sung with a deep melotic sound and a voice that sounded like Johnny Cash, who played a song called "The Buffalo Song". The singing was wonderful, the song, which is the history of the buffalo, not so wonderful. Humans, as they do, wiped out these furry gentle giants and they can only be found on farms like cattle these days. Sad.

The days lately are a little milder, and from what I have heard from the heatwaves of Australia, a little snow wouldnt go astray there...we have plenty here...help yourselves, its called "natural air conditioning". Current weather: Chance of snow;

-12° | 0° Fri
-21° | -9° Sat
-17° | -6° Sun

I would love to write about the Kenyan music I mentioned in my last blog but turns out that Canada has different bugs to Australia, so I have been struck down and been trying to sleep it off the past day or two. Nothing that 15 hours of sleep wont fix.

I start my house and dog sitting on Monday and am looking forward to some furry company, Luke has one blue eye and one that is brown, he loves affection and long walks in the snow. Sounds like the perfect mate...except I have heard he hogs too much of the bed.

Also back to normality of "working for the man" on Monday when I start my new job. Learning the Canadian legal system will surely be a good fryer for the brain. Once Canada has been explored I plan to "stick it to the man" for at least one year while I cycle through Central and South America - serve him right. My talks of those adventures will be kept for another day when I actually plan what the hell I am going to do - visit Columbia, drug capital of the world or not??? Big decisions.

Reading my blog should have got you out of work for 10 minutes...back to it!

Much love
R.J