Thursday, 30 June 2011

Messing About on the River - Josh MacRea

All too soon the day has arrived when I have to leave Toad River, but wasn't quite ready for the surprise Colin & Heather pulled out of the bag to set me on my way. With just 7 hours before the Greyhound was due to leave for Whitehorse, Yukon it was announced that we were to go 'white water rafting' on the Racing River. An experience I had not enjoyed before, there was some consideration that I would be soaked and would have to carry wet clothing around, but I need not have worried.

The following images are self explanatory so need no commentary:-

During the course of the day we also saw:-

(Red-shafted) Northern Flicker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (male)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (female)

Female Moose with Calf

The Yukon

Add ImageThe trusty Greyhound picked me up at 18:00 after an absolutely amassing stay with the Leake Family and a number of their friends, and by 21:30 we crossed the border into Yukon. Our final destination was to be Whitehorse, about half way to Alaska, arriving at 03:00 when those without accommodation (myself included) decanted to the local Tim Horton cafe to sit out the rest of the night (in daylight).

This was also the geographical extent of my 30 days Greyhound Pass, and although there were still 6 days of valid use left it had been extraordinarily good value. A fairly accurate calculation of miles traveled = 5890 at a cost of £315.50 ($502), whereas the estimated price for single trip, 'paid on the day' journeys is well over $1,000 - now that's what I call a bargain!!!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Put Down That Weapon Or We'll All Be Gone - Midnight Oil

Since its inception nearly 2 years ago, this Blog has brought back to me 2 old friends I thought unlikely would ever be seen again. First came John Wood, a childhood mate whom I hadn't seen for 50 years, then the day before leaving home on this trip Graham Colson (and wife Lucy) turned up on my doorstep. Both had come across the Blog and found their way back to me. A couple of days ago the 'hat trick' was achieved as long lost Royal Navy buddy Mick Hutley contacted me by e-mail. His friend had been doing a little surfing when he came across the photograph below and reported it to Mick. We joined the RN together, both at the age of 15, on 4th September 1961 at the boy's training establishment HMS St Vincent in Gosport, Hants. From there we served for over a year on the Blackwood Class frigate HMS Keppel, mostly on Arctic / Icelandic patrol before joining the Tribal Class frigate HMS Eskimo for 13 months in and around the Persian Gulf. That commission came to an end in 1967 since when we have not seen each other, but be assured that is soon to be rectified.

Me and Mick (Huck) Hutley in Mitsiwa (Massawa), Ethiopia (now Eritrea) 1967, for the 'passing out' celebrations of Haile Selassie I's grandson as a Naval Officer. This was a grand affair with dignitaries from many of the world's nations in attendance, and the 'Lion of Judah' himself inspecting the Guard of Honour of which Huck and I were part. Great Britain was represented by HMS Eskimo, while the USA sent the destroyer USS Charles H Roan and the Russians a Kotlin Sam (Surface to Air Missile) Destroyer, visible in the background, all of whom plus the Ethiopian Navy took part in a series of sporting events, Eskimo coming a creditable second after the Yanks.

now back to today
The most striking of the antlers here at the Leake homestead are in my bedroom, with this '6 pointer' Elk taking one pride of place. The story goes that Colin and the Game Warden were patrolling the forest when they caught 2 poachers who had just shot this beast. First job was to recover the bullet to prove the crime, after which the perpetrators were prosecuted. Their intent had been just to take the antlers as a trophy, with mark across the forehead being where they had taken a chainsaw to it. In a 'waste not want not' situation Colin was allowed to keep the beast for the meat and the trophy.

Rene, a house guest from New Brunswick, was not a hunter and as such was having the Mickey taken mercilessly about this. On the day of the hunt who 'bagged' the biggest Moose anyone had seen around here in many a year. In turn Rene gave the skull and antlers to Colin who boiled it down to make the trophy.

Another guest over the past couple of days, has been 'Hunter & Trapper' Herb Stümpf who has delighted us with his tales of the outback.

In town just briefly for the annual Blue Grass Music Festival, Herb is now preparing for his next foray into 'The Bush'. This will involve 7 months alone in the wilderness where his business consists of catching and 'breaking' wild horses, taking care of the 200 head of tamed horses used by the hunting fraternity, keeping 100 miles of trails open and trapping anything from Wolf to Lynx and Bobcat to Cougar for the pelt trade.

Time to feed the livestock again.

Two views of the Toad River

Geographically probably one of the longest jobs in the world, painting the road lines on the Alaska Highway. A few days ago I saw this rig about 100 miles south at St John from the bus window, they still have a long way to go! Part of Colin's job is to weigh the paint over distance to be sure they are using the correct mix.

The reason I spend so much time looking at the radiator grills of lorries. This guy however was taking keeping his vehicle clean to a new dimension as this contraption was simply to keep insects off his paintwork! A couple of Swallowtails can be seen, but the most interesting insect among this assortment was one of the Clearwings.

Butterflies, similar to Clouded Yellows in UK.

This most obliging Pine Siskin landed right in front of me.

A Swamp Donkey (Moose) in the Toad River lake.

Another Dragonfly.

On my final evening here there were 2 other guests Ben & Nea Friesen (right) who are from Penticton some 200 miles east of Vancouver, what may be referred to as 'the Interior'.

We all enjoyed a fantastic al fresco meal of roast Stone Mountain Sheep and plenty of wine. I usually have a strict rule on such adventures to strear clear of alcohol, but who could resist given the setting and company.

After dinner there was time for a bit of target practice, and have to admit I was 'champing at the bit' to have a go with these weapons.

Breach Action 37mm Winchester Hunting Rifle complete with telescopic sight.

Browning pump-action Shotgun.

Hunting Longbow with attached quiver and pulley string system, this weapon is easy to use but I still didn't get a 'bull'.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Another Great Day With The Leakes

Right out of the blue comes our 143rd country to join the readership, the tiny land-locked nation of Lesotho. It was a few years ago when I undertook a trip from Johannesburg to Mozambique, then onward to Swaziland and Lesotho before getting a taxi (via the Maria Moroka National Nature Reserve) to Bloemfontein. From there it was an extraordinarily long coach ride to Cape Town where I met up with Jim the Medic. My fondest memory is of the people there, so I hope our new readers pass the link on to others in that fine country. WELCOME!

Dark-eyed Junco

Colin & Heather checking the vegetable plot.

Cassie a pure bred Miniature Alaskan Sled-dog

and Jethro an Irish Wolfhound.

The horses awaiting dinner.

Here it comes guys, Heather tows a new bale out of the stack,

then lays into it with pitchfork and chainsaw.

Here comes the reinforcements, family friend Jill Lindsey is met by Jethro & Cassie.

Everybody, except me, muck in to get the horses fed and then

get sat down to dinner (including me of course). Over the past few days we have enjoyed Moose stew, Elk steaks (which I have had before) plus Caribou (new to me) 'new laid eggs, wild and cultivated Berries Crumble and tonight it's 'pot roast' Stone Mountain Sheep (along with Dall Sheep they are truly wild).

Some of the Home Decoration

Antlers of various animals.

Colin makes all his own 'fishing lures'

with the main quarry being Salmon, Greyling and Dolly Varden (Bull Trout).

The skin of a 'road kill' Lynx.

Stone carvings attributed to Heather's Father.

Grey Jay, also known as Whiskey Jack

an Indian term for 'robber', these birds are totally adept at nicking stuff from humans, animals and other birds alike.

When Colin asked "do you want a Gin", I thought he meant a drink, but at least this was one way of giving him a 'hand'!

Warbling Vireo

difficult little blighters to get the camera on.



Savannah Sparrow