The Sun is Finally Shining in Kamloops!

 

It’s officially spring now here in Kamloops, and all the snow has melted (which I honestly was beginning to believe would never happen!). You would not believe how fast the grass had changed to a bright emerald green, and how completely different the landscape looks, now that is not hidden my 2 meters of powder. So what have I been up to now that the weather’s warm?

 

Hunting Down the Rest of the Snow at McConnell Lake

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Snow shoeing across McConnell Lake

Okay, so I found some more snow. Early in spring I went on a camping trip with the “adventure club” of my exchange university (who host some absolutely awesome activities- I also went skiing with them!). We drove a few hours out of Kamloops to where the trees still held a layer of snow- to stay overnight at a cute little place called McConnell Lake Cabin. The cabin was about an hour’s walk from the road, so we all donned our snowshoes and backpacks, and walked across the middle of the frozen lake to get there.

 

When we arrived we ate a lot of food and chocolate (to keep us warm, or course) and spent the day learning to chop wood like a true Canadian Lumberjack, build fires and cook “Bannock” (which wasn’t all to different from damper). And of course, we had a lot of wild snow fights.

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The cabin (and the never-ending snow fight)

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All snuggled up and “warm” inside a quinzhee.

 

We also spent a long part of the day building a quinzhee, which is much like a less sophisticated igloo, where you build a large mound of compounded snow, and then dig out the middle to create a house. After reassurances from the guides that quinzhees were a warm, insulated place to sleep at night, two friends and I vowed to sleep there that night, instead of the heated cabins provided. I definitely regretted that. The quinzhees were as cold as you would expect a mound of snow to be, and one by one each of us snuck out to sleep in the warm cabin with everyone else.

Hikes, Hikes, and More Hikes.

So the sun is finally shining in Kamloops and it’s time to take advantage of all of the mountains and hiking trails we had around us. I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends now going on long day hikes, and they all manage to end in breathtaking views of Kamloops and the rivers around it.

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I swear, climbing on top of this rock felt much scarier than it looks.

Roadtrip to Squamish!

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It’s not a Canadian road trip without Tim Horton’s!

A weekend or two ago,  4 friends and I head off on the notorious Coquihalla (the highway between Vancouver and Kamloops that stars on “highway Through Hell”) to a tiny town just north of Vancouver called Squamish. It was a beautiful drive, and we all spent it with our faces glued to the windows in awe of how the sharp mountains rise straight out of the ocean- something I’d never seen before. It was lucky I spent so much time taking in the view on the way there, because the icy drive home at 2am had me so terrified my eyes were glued shut the whole time.

 

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While in Squamish we went on a famous “Sea to Summit” hike up to a mountain peak, which was the most intense workout I’ve ever had. My athletic friend spent the whole time encouraging me that the millions of steep stairs “will be worth it when you see the view from the top”. And the view from the peak of the mountain was just like heaven. No, not because it was so beautiful- but because we were faced by an impenetrable wall of white. Ironically, we had picked a very cloudy day to do the hike and could not see a single thing from the top. The hike was still fantastic, and on the way down we all took some time to appreciate the forest and the waterfall that followed us alongside the trail.

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Our view from the peak

Some Familiar Faces

 

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Wells Gray National Park with my parents.

Over the last weekend my parents flew in to Canada to see me. It was absolutely fantastic getting to see them, and we spent the weekend at the animal wild life centre, and walking through a nearby national park.
The wildlife centre was awesome to see, as it had all the native grizzly bears, coyotes and cougars that we definitely didn’t want to see on our hikes. We also found out (to our surprise) that porcupines are actually nothing like echidnas. As the weekend ended, it was sad to say goodbye to them, but I’m still getting updates and photos from them as they tour around Canada.

 

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Spring Break and Weekend Getaways

Having finally settled into Kamloops, I’ve been able to get out more on more weekend trips and explore what’s around.

Wells Grey National Park

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On the road to Wells Grey National Park

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to land a seat with a few friends on a trip to Wells Grey National Park- just a few hours out of Kamloops. So off we went in the rental car on a treacherously snowy road past mountains and rivers, for a weekend of snow shoeing and waterfalls. I had never snow shoed before, so the first hike we went on was a fantastic experience (and thank god we had snow shoes or we would have been waist deep in snow). The hike went through a few hours of untouched landscape until we finally found the frozen waterfall at the end- and it was absolutely stunning.

Throughout the rest of the weekend we checked out plenty more sights in the park. My favourite was Spahats Falls because you could see the water rushing down inside a clear tube of ice. Such a cool thing to see!

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Spahats Falls

On the last day of our trip we drove a few more hours out to Jasper, and did a 6-hour snow-shoe hike up a mountain there. After a few hours of climbing uphill in cold and wet shoes I discovered my enthusiasm for snowshoeing had absolutely faded, and by the time we got back to the car in the evening, I took off my snow-shoes and swore to never put them on again. Although I must admit, the views from the mountain were absolutely worth it.

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The absolutely-worth-it view of Jasper from the top of the mountain

Spring Break in Seattle

After a week full of midterm exams and assessments, we were all blessed with a week off. With friends going to New York, California and Banff I decided to take my own holiday and head off to Seattle (mostly because it’s super cheap to get there- only a $15 bus trip from Vancouver!).

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Just a tiny part of the gum wall

My week there was absolutely amazing, and while I promised myself to get at least some study done each day, my time was absolutely full with museums, markets, art galleries and famous sights (and needless to say, no study was achieved). My favourite part of Seattle was the Pike Street Markets, a popular farmers market where the original Starbucks café was launched (and believe me, I drank my fair share of coffee there). The markets also have a famous gum wall- where people come from all over the world to chew some gum and stick it on top of what looks like the underside of a high school desk.

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Poutine for days (literally)

After a week of travels, I was excited to return back to Kamloops and find out how all my friends’ weeks were. We all caught up at a friend’s house, over an excessive amount of poutine for dinner (a Canadian staple which is basically chips and gravy with the added magic of melted cheese).

Curling

Curling is a popular sport in Canada, which looks a lot like lawn balls on an ice rink. One person essentially pushes a rock down the rink, while the rest of the team sweeps in front of it with a panicked expression on their face. I find it absolutely hilarious to watch on TV, simply because the competitors’ faces look so intense, while they watch a stone slowly slide down a rink (it’s a bit odd).

The last weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to give curling a go with a group of my friends. While you feel a bit silly sweeping so vigorously in front of a slowly sliding stone, I had an absolute blast and think I’ve found my new favourite sport!

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My first try at curling!

For the rest of my time I’ve just been catching up with friends, studying, drinking excessive amounts of Tim Hortons coffee and yes, still eating too much sushi. Hopefully I’ll have some more adventures to catch you up on soon!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Getting the Best of Winter!

I’ve been in Kamloops for over a month now, so I thought it was about time for a new update! For the most part I’ve been going to classes, studying, and doing small things with friends like going out for dinner. All-you-can-eat sushi is big here, so I’ve definitely consumed my fair share of sushi (alongside deep fried pickles, which are surprisingly addictive).

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getting my fill of never-ending sushi

It’s still cold! Minus 21°C today and always snowing, which gives me a great opportunity to do all the snow sports I’ve been wanting to try. The university organises a lot of activities for all the international students, such as skiing, ice-skating and snowshoeing. These are either free or incredibly cheap, which makes trying new things very easy.

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Ice-skating

Little Weekend Endeavours

I went out ice-skating this weekend with a bunch of friends, and had a fantastic time. We used one of the indoor arenas for this skating trip, but hopefully  we’ll soon be skating on the frozen lakes.

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The view of Thompson Rivers and Kamloops after a very snowy hike

 

The hikes are also awesome in Kamloops, as they have so many mountains that you can climb up for a stunning
view of the city. I’ve been going on hikes on Sundays with my host family, and it’s a great way to work off all
that sushi I’ve been eating…

 

Sun Peaks Ski Trip

I finally made it to Sun Peaks Ski Resort to go skiing, which I was over the moon about as I could finally justify dragging my skis all the way to Canada. The resort was absolutely huge and the snow was awesome, so I had a blast. The only downside was the mountains here are so much taller/steeper than the ones we have in Australia, so what we would call a black diamond, Canada calls a blue run. Not so good for my ego, but a great workout for my calves!

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Finally Skiing!

 

Apart from that I’ve just being enjoying the town, and putting together plans for spring break and my end of semester holidays. I can’t wait to write all about it!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx

Arriving in Canada

Hello everyone!

As this is my first blog post, I’ll introduce myself: my name is Sarah, I’m 21 and study a bachelor of psychology at CSU in Wagga Wagga. I absolutely love travelling and this isn’t my first time in North America- I got back from a year in the USA in 2015, so this might be a familiar experience for me.

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Before I left to go to Canada, I got to spend Christmas with my family at the Gold Coast, which I really treasured. Not only was I saying goodbye to my family, but also the summer. It would be the last time for a while that I could hang out at the pool
or sun bake!

Just after Christmas, my brother drove me back to Sydney and I caught my morning flight out. For the most part, my flight went without any problems. I missed my connecting flight from Seoul to Vancouver, but I definitely won’t complain as the airline put me up in a 5-star hotel, fed me, and I got to see a bit of South Korea.

 

A Few Days in Vancouver

By the time I landed in Vancouver I was exhausted and in great need of a shower. In Australia, I had the great idea while packing to bring my skis- but this didn’t feel like such a great idea when I was dragging around 60 kilograms of luggage and a huge pair of skis while trying to navigate the public transport in Vancouver!

Luckily there were lots of friendly Canadians who helped me out! One lady even carried my skis onto a bus and paid my fare for me. So I’ll have to pay that forward somehow. I will say that one of my favourite part of Canada so far is how friendly the people here have been- they were always offering to help me out, and you definitely can’t stand at a bus stop for more than 2 minutes without getting into a friendly chit chat with the stranger next to you.

I spent new year’s eve in Vancouver before catching a bus to Kamloops, a small town in British Columbia where I would be studying at Thompson Rivers University.

 

Finally in Kamloops!

After living in the self-catered part of campus in Wagga, I discovered that cooking my own meals was not at all a skill I possess, so I decided to live in a homestay while on exchange. I was nervous to meet the family I would be living with for 4 months, but they were very friendly and I am excited to get to know them more! On my first Friday here, they took me to see a local ice hockey game, which was very exciting (although it still shocks me how aggressive ice hockey players are- it’s normal for many fights to break out in a game).

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The view outside my window

I started orientation week on my first day of arrival in Kamloops, and the cold definitely shocked me. Minus 20 degrees is much colder than the 40-degree heat I came from in Australia. But all of the town is coated in snow, which is absolutely beautiful. The university had about 200 new international students starting at the same time as me, from all over the world, so there were plenty of people to complain about the cold with and it was very easy to make new friends. I’ve also had the chance to try tubing already, and hopefully will be trying some other snow sports soon (snow-shoeing; curling; ice-skating on frozen lakes; and of course I’ll have to ski!)

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Tubing at Harper Mountain

Well that’s it for this week, but hopefully I’ll be able to update you all on some new adventures soon!

Best wishes,

Sarah xx