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Spring Jock River Race

I always enjoy getting my gear out for the first paddle of the season – and for the past decade (or longer?) this has often been the Jock River Race, as a fun little paddle. This event draws in alot of casual paddlers, as well as a handful of serious folks out for a race. I tend to end up somewhere in the middle, as I cruise steadily though the scenery, soaking this all in.

Event day can be varied, depending on water levels, and temperature – you have to watch your email and website to ensure there are no schedule updates: it does change depending on water levels, and how quickly things melt. This spring, it was targeted for Saturday April 16, and that’s when it took place! First thing for me is always to find my paddling gear, and ensure I have enough warm layers. Uncovering the kayak for the first time this season, pulled to front of lawn on the grass, and strapped this in to get moving

After loading way too muck gear into the car (prepared for anything), I drove out to the put-in to pickup my number (new format this year), and get the car shuttle going to the finish area with Rick and his brother (Mike) who were also participating. This way my vehicle will be at the end when I’m finished. There is also a public shuttle, though trying to avoid that approach for now.

Start area is always a bit of a scramble with a bit of moving water – and inevitably, there are folks who manage to dump into the mighty Jock at the very start! With 175 watercraft registered this year (a record), there’s lots of help to retrieve any overturned boats, equipment, and paddlers. Rick helped me carry my kayak to a quiet spot in the woods where I could collect my gear and push off.

Getting myself ready to launch

With all kinds of boats lined up along the shoreline and at the waters edge, it’s probably the most challenging part of the paddle. I got my gear together, and headed onto the water to get myself out of the way, and tuck into the far shoreline where there is a bit more space.

Various watercraft getting into the water here
On Far Shore, hanging out ready to paddle
Chatting with Rick and his daugher at start (Photo Credit: Rick)

We start in groups of 5, spaced 30 seconds apart – so it does not take long to get everyone underway, and I started myself about 2/3 of the way to be in the middle of things.

The paddle this year was more casual than most, as I did enjoy myself dipping the paddle into the waters and floating downstream. Tried to be chatty as well with the participants as I cruised by folks – it was a partially sunny and glorious day. Water levels have already ebbed, as the flooding in The Fen had subsided – not many floodplans left, though a few looked tempting as always. I chose to stay in the main flow, which is always the safest approach. Cutting corners sometimes gets folks stranded – though I did see a few kayakers manage to easily navigate a few of the hairpins with a shortcut!

Moving waters were simple – and a bit lower than average this year (I’m guessing). Definately took a bit of scanning to ensure deeper pools were found to minimize the bumps – in a few weeks this would not be passable.

There is a stretch near the end of 750m (or so) that was almost continuous moving water and a lot of fun – then flattens out to another 500m cruise right into Richmond, to finish at Jock River Park. There are timers there, along with over a hundred watercraft pulled up onto shore in the park for successful paddlers. As it was a mixed sunny afternoon with warmish (+9C) temperatures, nice to be onshore and stretching the legs again.

Rick and his daughter arrived shortly behind me, and Jeff arrived right behind me too in his 16 foot yellow Necky sea kayak – side-by-side with my Perception Alcamy, that’s a boat defiantly built to be running a bit quicker (longer, and thinner profile). Getting out of the water, it’s always good to get a little help, and folks are there to pull you up onto shore to keep your feet dry – always appreciated. There are finish tents in place with some fruit and muffins available – and the awards start once everyone is in for the more serious paddlers.

Rick supervising getting the canoe to good spot!
This Racing Kayak is built for speed!

At the finish, everyone was enjoying themselves, boats were being collected and hauled away onto vehicles to make space, and there was some good will and spirits everywhere. Winter is past, and this is the first sign of spring for me! Richmond is actually an interesting historic village, and I do enjoy being there to check it out as well. Great to be out and about. Getting my gear home, it’s always a haul get everything put away, hung up to dry, and ready for another paddle. Settling down with a warm mug of tea and a nap is the best way to finish the event.

You can always have fun!
Historic Richmond: Church construction here from 1860.
Enjoying myself at start. (Photo Credit: Rick)

Whirlpool Trail – Niagara Falls

What do you do on a damp day in Niagara Falls? Check out some of the great shorter trails near the waterfront. Getting to the trailhead was simple – just a few km away from our AirBnB down the Niagara Parkway, and we pulled into the parking spot away from the main entrance where the whirlpool actually was. Figured it may be easier – just pay at the kiosk for parking, and off we went to immediately descend into the escarpment to the whirlpool portion of the Niagara River. The trail is well marked, and has a groovy spiral purple marker to keep you on track. The descent is also easy, as there are large staircases built into the ground, or wooden staircases to help get you down to the waterfront. Popular place for fishermen as well, as we passed multiple small groups heading back to their cars. Damp spots were also crossed with short bridges.

At the bottom, you arrive at The Whirlpool – and impressive gully of water that swirls off from the main flow of the Niagara River – which is moving along at quite a clip. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some signage around that seemed to indicate the trail was not available. We thought we would move along the waterfront a bit to get a better view, and see what any obstacle may be.

We soon came to parts of the trail that were a bit rocky, but still very passable with a bit of care. Definately not for a casual hiker, or family with kids. With the water moving at our side, we moved cautiously, especially as it has been raining for most of the day, and the trail was a bit damp with slippery rocks, trees, and mud. The rock features along the waterfront were, in fact, quite spectacular – and very managable.

This kept up for a few hundred meters, though we shortly came to some flat rocks that provided a good and simple viewpoint. As well, there seemed to be some anglers using flyrods for some fine fishes in the rapid and clear moving water. Not sure if these were Lake Trout, Steelhead or salmon, though the fishes need to be a reasonable size to manage the fast current we were seeing downstream from Niagara Falls.

Moving along the trail some more, we quickly got to some fine downstream rapids – probably a solid class-3 run, with high volume of water. An impressive site. We also started to notice more signs along the trail, warning folks not to go for a swim – really! We followed the trail around to various vantage points, though mostly obstructed by trees.

It was quite impressive especially with the canyon wall on the far side of the river – which is actually the USA porton of Niagara Falls. We kept to the trails that made there way away from the water a bit more – and picked up the trail that brought us along the rapids section. The trail did stay a bit more inland, and was still spectacular this time of year. We also started to notice some of the rock faces definitely had signs of folks bouldering in this area, with white chalk marks on some of the tiny fingerholds.

Time to ascend up the Niagara Escarpment, and we made our way along that segment of the trail. We did notice many fine rock formations along the way – and the signage did indicate these limestone ridges did contain tribulate fossils. Being inside a park, the signage also discouraged you from damaging anything you noticed as well! The final portion of the trail got us to the top of the escarpment via a 6-story metal staircase. As it was still raining today, no sign of other folks along the trail, and the staircase was ours to ascend.

On top of the escarpment, there is a fine park, with signage and safety railings along the edge. It would be quite a drop if you went over, and you would definitely break something on the way down if you took a tumble. Looks like a popular spot, and the trails here seem to be marked with a direction, due to C19 protocols. Not seeing anyone here on this damp day, it did not really matter when we were on the trail, though we can see by the size of the parking lot this must be a very popular spot in the summer here! Looking over the Niagara River from here, we can also see some USA Water Works and a dam off in the distance.

From here, the trek back to the car was about 2km along the top of the escarpment on a nice paved trail. There are some picnic sites, as well as a ranger hut with bathrooms here as well, so hopping place in the summer we are sure! The stroll along the rim of the escarpment did offer us some nice views in the drizzle. We also walked through an ‘adventure park’, that did appear to be open – though in the damp rain off season, there were no participants. There’s also a cable car that seems to come across the Niagara River here as well to give you good views of the Whirlpool, as well as the rapids. With the drizzle being continuous, we just got out the umbrella, and strolled to our vehicle to wrap up this very nice short hike – probably not more than a 6km loop, with an 80-100m ascent of the escarpment.

9RunRun. How did this happen

Run K2J

For me, it started this spring/summer when I realized I would not be on-the-bike very much, and needed another method to noodle around and be active. Did some hiking and paddling stuff which was fun, until I started to look at my heart rate and realized I need to bump it up a notch. The easiest way to get the activity I needed was to go for a short jog. With my penguin style trot, off I went for a few KMs here and there, with pacing based on heartrate. With casual guidance & wisdom from Judy, we nudged up the mileage – culminating in registration for one of our favorite races: 9RunRun!

Logistics for the in-person event were great. Race kit pickup was outside over two days at the Bushtukah Stittsville, with proof-of-vaccination being required to receive your in-person bib. Our good friend, Pierre-Pierre, was there screening all the…

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RT Series: Fallowfield United Church

Its been warming up alot over the past few days, and much of the snowpack is quickly melting off with spring-like weather. Last night we had a cold snap, so the snow, ice and mud should be crunchy and firm. There are still some good sections with packed snow/ice from winter, so some wooded sections will be slick, so micro-spikes will be ideal for that. Off we go with a point-to-point drop off with Judy at Fallowfield United Church.

First stop for me was to head down to Richmond Road, and leave the vehicle on the small dirt parking area right beside the trail, and the old rail bridge – which is also part of the Trans Canada Trail. The morning was chilly and not much activity on the trail: saw a solitary woman with a large chariot stroller and two small kids. Was expecting to stay on the great stonedust trail, but immediatly got diverted into the Sentier Rideau Trail woods – and off I went into. Trail quickly became snow and ice and tossed on the Micro-spikes to crunch through the quiet woods in peace. Saw a solitary trail runner the whole morning!

Moving into the woods, we avoided all the major trails, and this was mostly single track all the way. It was great to connect to some other trails, and the system remained well marked everywhere. Birds were plentiful, and woodpeckers were active. Started getting into more familiar territory, and shortly came onto wide open expanse that had sprouted a few inuksuks over the weekend! Definatly getting some melting underway. Started back onto the trail that quickly turned into a boardwalk, and was wondering when I would meet up with Judy – and sure enough she called just then. She had just crossed Moodie, and was wondering where I was – we met in 2-3 minutes for the midway selfie… and off we went on the beautiful morning. For me it was starting to get more urban, crossing Moodie with the traffic lights, and back onto trail. Strolled though the increasingly familiar woods as I headed to the town of Richmond. Here there would be a short segment along the roadway.

Moodie Drive took me into Richmond: and a few folks along the way were tapping their sugar maple trees: looking for some home grown maple syrup. Fair bit of work, but nice extra hobby during C19. This part of the walk is also starting to get into farmland, and there is a herd of cows here since I can remember; dairy products I would assume. Was watching for the turnoff, and it was well marked up Khymer Lane, and back into the woods I went. Though Rooneys park, and past some trails with a memorial bench “Sit with Dylan”: nice view of the fields and large St Patricks Roman Catholic Church completed in 1866. Walking a bit further, got another call from Judy who had brought the car around and was back at Fallowfield United Church. It was only a few minutes later and greeting a few dog-walkers we connected once again. Great outing on a beautiful day.

Interesting side-note: The cornerstone for Fallowfield United Church was put into place by Sir John A. Macdonald in 1886, who was a stone mason by trade and he made a 1 day journey from Ottawa to participate in this event. There is a Silver Trowel in the national archives that he used to lay the stone. Always interesting to know “John was here”, though no sign of any graffiti to that effect!

Koh Lanta- Cycling

Noticed some good looking bikes on display along the main roadway the past days, and made arrangements to rent two quality TREK bikes from Lanta E-Bike Tours and Rentals. The owner (Tim) and his partner were fantastic, and set us up so we could be off on our way. We really enjoyed the well serviced and quality bikes for our outing!

Our destination for the day was to head south to the National Park, and Tim mentioned this would be a great destination, and ride along the coast – though we were warned there were three ‘sporty’ hills near the end before, so prepare for a challenge. Donning helmets, we were off! The ride along the roadway was with light, mostly scooters and a few vehicles – always giving us plenty of space. As the only cyclists we saw that day, we definately stood out. The day was warm at 30C, but the breeze from the ocean helped temper the efforts. Hills were in fact sporty, and I have to admit we did walk up portions rather than try to grind up in the lowest possible gear.

Arriving as we approached the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, the forests would increasingly jungle like, and we definately saw monkeys… lots of monkeys on the road, and monkeys checking out the trash cans. Yep, we discovered ‘bad monkeys’. Arriving at our destination, we payed the park entrance fees, and make our way to the parking area: mostly scooters! We locked our bikes to a handy papaya tree, and headed off to the water front and ocean view for shade and the beach. The views were stunning, and the trails fun too. There was a park ranger keeping track of who went onto the trails – I’m guessing so everyone came back out. Enjoying ourselves in the ocean to cool down, we quickly realized we need to protect our gear from the eyes and hands of the monkeys lurking in the trees!

After the beach we took to the waterfront and trails. the lighthouse at the tip of the park on the cliffs are a natural destination, as well as a Geocache site! There is also a spectacular view onto the Andaman sea and the marine park has an unspoiled waterfront. There is an obvious photo-op spot, and we exchanged camera with other tourists for a rare team shot! The hike along the ocean front trail is also epic, and we had additional viewpoints there. There was a park ranger taking names of folks heading out on the trail, and checking us off when we returned – I guess you don’t want to lose anyone on these trails!

The cycle home was also challenging, with “the three sporty hills”. . . though we did have an advantage that they did provide an exciting decent along the way! There was also cheering from others on scooters, and locals along the way – we were the only cyclists we saw today! We did take advantage of the coastal route, and explored one of the beaches we pass along – nice spot for a swim and cool down more after getting out of the park and the hilly section. We really enjoyed getting to the next little town, and we quickly zeroed in on getting a cold beverage. Our hostess and her friends had a great laugh when we arrived on our bikes and leaned them against their restaurant – as the hills are impressive! Her first jest to us was “Do you need gasoline”, as this is the common tourist query for their scooters. “Ye!s” we said, “Gasoline for us – two icy pineapple shakes please”. This created a great laugh from the crew, and these were freshly made for us. Best frosty pineapple shake ever! After that pause, we continued our ocean side journey back to Lanta E-Bike tours and Rental.

It was another great day, and we’ve definitely fell into a groove for evening dining. There was a small family run restaurant right on the end of the beach amongst the rocks. We got to know the owners, and also put them on google map: “Moomsabai Food & Drink on the Rock” to help promote their business. This was a husband and wife team that made amazing meals – my favorite was the Massaman curries loaded with fresh spices and seasonings with rice. Best meals we had while in Thailand! Always washed down with fine large Chang Beer! The asian tables were relaxing and the sunset views with the distant shrimp boats priceless.

Bouqette Panama to Uvita, Costa Rica

In this blog post, we’ll outline how we got from Boquette in Panama, navigate and cross the land boarder to Costa Rica, then finally make our way to to Uvita, Costa Rica! Spoiler alert: there is a tourist bus that runs along the main highway that costs $25 USD each to San Jose… there is no discount for a shorter trip. Of course, when we realized this was the case, we just enjoued the journey and made the travel day a bit of a fly by the seat of our pants adventure!

Our day started with the planned departure from our hostel in Boquete on the 6:35am commuter bus to David. The commuter collectivo runs regularly all morning and for $1.75USD each, we made our way down to David that took around an hour, all downhill from the highlands. Our fist photo is at the bus starting point where we’re on an nearly empty bus, but with numerous stops along the way to collect and discharge passengers – it was standing room only by the time we got to David. There is a tourist shuttle as well, but it’s a fair bit more expensive, and definitely not as interesting. At the bus station in David, there are around 40-50 regular busses in the hub here – we used our best Spanish, and found out how to get to the boarder town of Paso Canoas, on the bus labelled “Frontera”. The 55km trip was $2.10USD via local bus – picking up and dropping off folks along the way again.

At Paso Canoas, there is a small outpost on the Panama side, and we paused for a local Panama coffee and pastry at an outdoor bakery before we started to walk across the land border. Exiting Panama was relatively simple: line up, get bags checked with a brief inspection, and then stamped out… off you go in the Costa Rica direction into Paso Canoas. And keep walking. Hmmm, where is the border checkpoint? We’re in the middle of town. Keep walking and waving our passports to the locals, they keep pointing forward. So after about a half kilometer into town (passing many side streets), we get to the Costa Rica immigration office. Lining up, we pay the entrance fee, and get our stamps for our official arrival. Awesome, and off we go walking some more to find the next bus station. After another kilometer we are leaving town… and we double back – past immigration office and locals keep point us towards Panama: and we find the bus station! Hopping onto the local bus there, we pay the $0.80USD for the 20km journey to the next large town of Neily and the next bus station. Feeling very local now with zero tourists on this ride!

This station had a lot of buses arriving and departing, and with a bit of Spanish we determined our bus may be arriving in 45 minutes… and we pay the $3USD each for a ticket each for the 120km ride and await the arrival of our next transport. The bus station is very local, with very few tourists – and alot of character! We stocked up on plantain chips and some sliced melon tarts for the journey from a local food stall. Hopping onto our bus, we’re once again the only tourists, and this drew attention. A few folks were curious what we were doing, and did practice a bit of English on us. Tracking the journey on GPSr, I could tell when we were finally getting close. We also got some help from some university aged locals. They asked where we were staying, and encouraged us not to get off in central Uvita, as our hostel was up the road a bit, near a bank and supermarket. Trusting them fully, we stayed on a bit longer, and after 2-3 more stops, we were told to hop off here at the side of the hwy, and walk up the next road 100m to our place. The directions were awesome, as we were at the hostel in a flash with these helpful directions.

Arriving at Hostel Toucan in Uvita, we managed to make arrangements to stay in the Tree House suite at the front of the hostel itself. It was an awesome setup: private balcony and a great overlook on the whole hillside. The interior itself was also very unique- with living tree trunks running through the main room and closet. There was power (lights), and the banos was shared in the main building, and the common kitchen that also had a shared fridge where we could store our cold beverages. He lodge itself was very open, relaxing and chill!

Chatting with the hostel host, we got some great advice on how to cool off in the afternoon – walk up the road for a km, turn left, and keep going uphill into the jungle to a lodge that has an entrance for a path to a waterfall on Rio Uvita! Sounds fun, and off we strolled. The country side was very rural, and we had a great time at the nearly empty site. The large waterfall pool was fantastic – and in theory we could slide down on the smooth stones in a natural waterslide. We passed on that, and after a swim, may have cracked open a cool beverage, and we explored the rest of the pools.

Heading back to the hostel, we came across some of the rural sights, including a herd of curious cows greeting us from their fields as we headed back to the hostel. We took it easy, and had dinner locally, which turned out to be a fairly popular restaurant itself! A great first day in Uvita, Costa Rica.

Chang Rai, White Temple

Of course, one of the most famous sites in Northern Thailand is Wat Rong Khun – known to foreigners as The White Temple. It’s a short 20Baht public bus ride from town, and as our hotel is less than 100m from the bus station, a simple task to hop onto our magic ride. The locals are always keen to help us ensure we get on the correct vehicle: fair mix of foreigners too, so we must be on the right bus to Mae Kachan bound we go, but of course, we need to hop off before the endpoint.

The White Temple itself is a total buzz of activity – food stalls and people swarming everywhere. It’s an amazing site to see and work the 100Baht entry to come in and check this out. It’s design and constructed by a local Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, completed in 1997: and everything is truly over the top!

Huge white Temples on the exterior, there is a more traditional though bizzare content on the inside. Photographs are unfortunately not permitted, so you’ll have to trust us on that! One of the items we saw was a place to purchase a thin tin leaf, that you sign your name on and hang as part of the display. There are 10’s of thousands of these in various ornimants. We could not resist, and somewhere at the temple you can find our donation.

Another key part of the display are the unique sculptures. There’s an unbounded amount of imagination in this area. This is a small fragment of the variations: even the street pylons are unique!

Of course, the part that caught my eye at some point in the afternoon was the public washroom. The men’s are a that I check out is highly decorated, and gilded in gold paint. I’ll happily rank this as one of the top-10 bathrooms I’ve had the pleasure to visit.

Enough of the White Temple, we head back to Chang Rai, and check out some of the more traditional temples at Wat Ming Muang. We still like the decorations and the dragons eating dragons for guardrails. Some of the construction efforts remain impressive as always. Bamboo scaffolding is in place, and the bare-foot laborer’s are working unaided without any type of safety harnesses!

Weary from the long day in the road, and in the 30C heat, we decided to take a break in a building that caught our eye: The Cat Cafe! There are limited seating, and once we purchase our frosty beverage, we can sit at a small table among the room with other patrons, and probably around 50 cats hanging out with their people. Of course, one almost immediately checked out my lap, and curled up for a snooze while his friends watched. Only in Thailand!

Of course the evening ends with dinner at The Night Bazzar food court. This is a nightly event that has food stalls along all the sides, and the large square in the center contains food tables. We love the Hot Pot with all the fresh vegetables, washed down with a icy fruit shake – wrap up another ideal day!

Chang Rai Cycling, Elephants, and temples.

Moving along though Northern Thailand from Chang Mai to Chang Rai closer to the Golden Triangle, we were looking forward to another great change of pace to get into the areas where there are still jungles and wildlife in the area. Our first day in town had us wandering around like we always to in order to get our bearings – and right near bridge over the Kok River we noticed some LadyBoy and mtn bikes in front of a shop: turns out to be the best bike shop in Chang Rai: Fat Free Bike Shop. Returning the next morning, we talked to the crew there and rented two quality Trek bikes to tour around town. This quickly changed when we chatted up the guys looking for a 1-2 hour ride somewhere. They all agreed a nice countryside ride along the Kok River on quiet roads would be ideal, and quickly gave us directions to a popular relatively car free cycle route: we were off!

Over the bridge and first road to the left – follow along. It was great rural countryside with lots of rocks, cliffs, statues, and buddhist temples along the way. We may have stopped at one or two of them – finding an abandon cave temple, before we found the legitimate “Cave Temple” we saw signposted along the roadway. Too tempting to pass, we parked the bikes and climbed the stairs to check this out, and were delighted at this accidental find. This came complete with a resident Monk, as well as locals doing their prayers and chanting in the caverns: quite a magical effect! There is also a section where you can purchase a bell for a 20Baht donation, and hanging this on a veranda with your names: Judy could not resist: any good luck is always welcome!

Getting back on bikes, we continued our hot ride in along the riverside, stopping at a few viewpoints along the way. It was probably 30C, and the 1L waterbottles we had definitely came in handy! We were heading in the direction of a National Park, but were never quite sure how far we got until we stumbled apon an Elephant Camp beside the roadway. This was a Thai tourist spot, with a few foreigners here as well taking brief elephant rides along the jungle and riverside – with a short stint along the hwy back to the main base.

There are alot of western opinions about these types of sites: being cruel to elephants and making them provide rides to people on these chairs. many of the locals point out these are now unemployed elephants that are not able to work in the recently banned lumber trade in the jungle. Used to hard work and heavy labour, the efforts here are a lot simpler, though the area they were contained in was constrained. Sadly, these creatures also need 100+ lbs of food/day: so need to provide some income during tourist season to augment their costs. We declined taking rides, but when we saw sugar cane and bananas for sale to hand-feed the elephants, we though that would be a good compromise! The elephants were fairly excited to see the goodies, and did not hesitate to snag anything we held up for them with grace and care. Hiding food behind your back did not help – that trunk knew exactly where to go!

Getting tired and weary, we decided to head back and stop in at some sights we passed along the way, as the initial objective this morning was to find The Blue Temple! We started to head back, and were admiring the short reddish groves along the way: a young pineapple field in the hillside. while heading back, we also could not resist pulling over and crossing a river stream on a rickety bridge to a large white impressive Buddha: probably 50 feet tall, and we were the only ones there at the site. Also found some go-carts and merry-go-round pieces, so looks like there are plans to create a festive plaza nearby. Our final stop/distraction was at a cave temple that had statues carved into the rocks themselves. Looking fairly abandon, we approached and climbed the staircase into the vaults holding more buddhas – no power at this site, and lots of dust on the floor: we found out later this was Wat Tham Tu Pu that is maintained by a solitary monk, and his cats.

Starting this morning, we indented to find The Blue Temple: Wat Rong Suea Ten. It was getting late afternoon, and we finally arrived. Touring the site, we definitely agree this is very blue! It was getting to be a super long and hot day, so we rode our bikes back to Fat Bike Rentals, and returned our cycles – delighted at the recommended route and the our discoveries today!

Heading back to our hostel, we passed through town and through the closing flower market once again. One thing I love about Thailand is the smells and colours: in this case the fragrant flowers at all the stalls as we headed home. Resting up and replenishing our fluids (beer?), we headed out to the nearby Night Bazaar for another festive dinner. Tonight we opted for Khao Soi Gao, which was a hot and spicy curie noodle soup with crunchy noodles. Washed down with a icy pineapple shake to keep things in check, this is another ideal evening winding down in Thailand.

CanTho, Mekong River

Today we make arrangements for getting a private tour with a dedicated guide on the Mekong river. This turned out to be a university age student that spoke great English: she arrived at our hotel, and we walked down to the waterfront for a 5:00am departure. She called over our boat with the driver, and we were off our way down the river in the darkness, light by a lantern at the front of the boat.

Touring along the shoreline, we did get a waterside view of the river life, though our goal was to head over to the floating market for breakfast. Sure enough, as we arrived at the spot, our guide heeded over a vendor, and we had a great noodle breakfast with an assortment of fresh vegetables as we eagerly slurped down the hot mildly spicy dish. Dishes used and returned to the owner when we were completed! No breakfast is without a hot beverage, and the beverage boat also arrived next, and we got two hot coffees to round out the experience.

First shore stop upriver was a shop that made rice noodles. Here we got to see how the rice was separated from the brown husks, and then turned into a thick rice porridge type mix. This was poured out into large round shallow pans, heated to be cooked and then dried on racks. These were then dropped onto a simple conveyor that rolled the delicate pancake into a slicer that made a forest of noodles that were gracefully swept up and stacked: voila – rice noodles!

Back onto the boat and out of the canals – and into main river. The second floating market was for fruit and vegtables – we had drivers arriving to show us wares, and our guide purchased some mysterious fruits for us that we nibbled on

Now off to more of the river, down another canal. working our way through the channels, we stopped for another stretch at a fruit tree farm, where we got a great tour of the site. There were things growing everywhere, and our guide gave us a detailed walk though the garden. Water lotus pond as full of greenery as well. We got to tour lots of various fruit trees, along with our favorite the pineapple shrubs: bright red fruit centered in the green spiky plants. Part of the tour was also working our way across some ponds on slippery bamboo bridges, that were teeming with large fishes I have not seen before. Finishing our outing, we headed back to the main building and got a fruit tray (very fresh!), and some hot lemon tea to get us ready for the journey back.

We hopped onto our trusty boat steed, and navigated through more canals – a full maze of small channels that appear to be endless! Getting back to the main Mekong river, we started heading back to Can Tho. Along the way, we saw these immense boat barges stacked with materials – that turned out to be rice husks being transported downstream for fuel. There must have been a billion husks per boat! Of course, there were additional boats on the river which is truly a highway for commerce. Along the shoreline, we also saw other industries: some logging waiting to be picked up.

Finishing our Mekong river tour, we took a break and had a short lunch stop back at our hotel. The fresh bakery is always a hit with a spicy tasty sandwich. Checking out the wait at the local barber, I hopped in for a trim as a prep for our return back to Canada. Walking along the waterfront, there are also a number of major temples and parks – a great way to wander around the afternoon. To start, we headed off to Ong temple, and admired some of the Buddhist architecture. This is a picturesque spot, and we also found a photographer taking some pre-wedding shots of an upcoming bride (this happens for 6-12 months before the wedding!). Always part of the history, there is also a ‘War Museum’ where exploits of the American War are documented… here is an engine from a shot down B52 bomber downed by a heroic missile crew in this area.

As evening approached, the sunset and boats on the Mekong river once again came to life – tourist dinner boats and some if the waterfront walkways are very scenic! Off to dinner at our favorite local Pho shop recommended by our hotel, and highly recommended in Lonely planet as well. The soups are stunning, and huge trays of fresh vegetables: mint, cilantro, sprouts, and Chinese greens are all mixed into the spicy soup for an epic an fresh meal. Tourists are combined into a single table in the corner, and the place is teeming with locals having large loud festive gatherings. Touring town, stalls are setup everywhere and selling cloths, food, and other goods. I picked up a 50,000 Dong watch to replace my failed FitBit for now. Love seeing the family scooter outing.

Ascent Giant Mtn, ADKs

Final day of the year in 2011, and took at trip to the ADKs with Brian, so we could enjoy some of the crisp cool scenery, and bag another winter peak. Arriving at the base of Giant mountain in the morning, we tossed on our gear, and started to show shoe up the trail – and I think we were the first to sign the register that morning. After 30 minutes of scraping along the slippery slopes, we got to an excellent ice bulge along the path on the open rocks. Clear solid clear ice with zero snow – we should see the yellow painted marks on the rockface encrusted below. We exchanged our climbing snowshoes, for some more serious ice gear, and both strapped on our full crampons. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as the rest of the hike and climb was sheer ice. With the rain, freezing, snow, thaw, rain cycles, the whole side of the mountain was one large ice sheet. We carried our snowshoes for the rest of the day – the hiking poles barely etching the firm ice. Photo here is nearing the summit, with nice background view of the some of the additional ADK peaks in the background. Great day to be out and enjoying nature!