Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Whistler, British Columbia – Not Just A Skiing Mecca

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Garibaldi Lake near Whistler

We’ve all heard of the skiing and snow-boarding mecca that is Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. One of the largest ski resorts in North America, Whistler Blackcomb was home to the alpine and nordic events of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and so, as you can imagine, it has fantastic amenities and is truly and outdoor lover’s paradise. In this article we are going to explore many of the fun adventurous pursuits you can engage in throughout the year in this magical place.
Whistler Village is the perfect resort town, set up with pedestrians in mind. As such it is a great place to relax and enjoy the local cafes, boutique shops, bars and restaurants. The township and ski resort lie some 121 km (75 miles) north of Vancouver. The drive takes about 1.5-2 hours depending on traffic/conditions. If you want a real fairytale experience up in Canada’s Coast Mountains why not invite a group of family and/or friends to Whistler for a long weekend or, even better, a week. There are fabulous Whistler vacation rentals available if you’d like to splurge on a luxury vacation that you’ll never forget.

Whistler Blackcomb – Winter
This famous ski area is the biggest in North America and has 8000+ acres of mountain slope to explore. It was originally 2 separate ski fields (on neighboring Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains) but they merged in late 1990’s. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola spans the two mountains and is the highest (1430′) and longest (1.88 miles) gondola in the world. The gondola is used by sightseers as well as skiers and snowboarders. There are fur trees dotted here and there on the ski runs which makes them more spectacular but also more challenging. You need to be aware of and avoid tree wells (which I hadn’t heard of before writing this article, coming from NZ where our ski fields don’t have trees on them), and know what to do if you fall in one. The most important thing is to always ski with a buddy, never alone.
If you have spare cash there is also the option of heli-skiing on fresh powder and/or walk on the Whistler Glacier.
If you’d like to pretend you’re a Winter Olympian, the Sliding Centre is open for us mere mortals to have a go at the Bobsleigh, with a professional pilot of course. This heart pounding experience is not just available during the winter either. In the summer season they fit the bobsleighs with wheels!
My list of fun winter activities is certainly not exhaustive but could also include dog sledding, ice skating, nordic skiing and snow mobiling.

Whistler Blackcomb – Summer
In the summer months Whistler has a popular mountain bike park with trails for beginners (lessons available) through to advanced. This year the season was May 9th – October 9th.

There are also great hiking trails on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Of course some are closed over the winter months but you can “snowshoe” some of the ones that remain open. One of the most popular summer hikes is the High Note trail which starts from the top of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, is 9.4 km and takes about 3-4 hours to complete. Along the trail you’ll see cute Marmots sunning themselves on rocks, and get spectacular views of the surroundings mountains, and the valleys and lakes below, including Cheakamus Lake.

For pure exhilaration there is arguably nothing more exciting than the Whistler Ziplines. The park features multiple ziplines which are linked by suspension bridges, boardwalks and trails. It boasts the longest zipline in Canada and the US combined. The beauty of this activity is that no previous experience is required. You just have to have a will to be thrilled as you soar through the air over old growth rainforest.

Other exciting outdoor pursuits are white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking. White water rafting tours, led by experienced guides are available on the Green, Lower Cheakamus, Elaho and Squamish Rivers. The rapids on these rivers are rated between Grade 1-4. The River of Golden Dreams (officially Alta Creek) is gentle meandering river which is popular for relaxed kayaking and canoeing, as are the lakes around Whistler. The growing sport of Stand Up Paddling has made it’s way to the mountain lakes too. There are plenty of rental companies that hire out the watercraft if you haven’t brought your own and don’t want to do a tour.

If you are into fishing then there’s fishing tours to local rivers and lakes all year round. In this part of the world you’ll be fly-fishing or spin casting for Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Char or salmon. In the winter they do ice fishing too – a unique experience where you fish through a large whole drilled through lake ice.

Near Whistler
19 km to the south of Whistler is the large Garibaldi Provincial Park which is famous for it’s natural beauty. The park offers 90+ kilometers of hiking trails, including the 18km return trail to Garibaldi Lake with it’s gorgeous turquoise glacier water. The park is has a number of camping sites and it is essential to reserve a camping spot at some of them (including Lake Garibaldi) during the peak season from June 29th to mid October. You have to purchase a permit to camp anywhere in the park. Another great way to see this stunning lake and the mountains surrounding it is from the air in a chartered small aircraft from either Squamish airport or Green Lake (seaplane). or to can get a helicopter tour from Whistler.
Another must-see spot 29 km north-east of Whistler is Nairn Falls Provincial Park. The activities available are fishing, cycling on the roads within the park, and hiking. The most popular hikes are the 3km round trip walk to the gorgeous Nairn Falls, and the 4km round trip walk from the camping site to One Mile Lake which is a fun spot for swimming and general frolicking in the admittedly frigidly cold water.

The Top Five Destinations to Perform Volunteer Work

Volunteer work can be a fun and rewarding experience. As there are so many communities which require outside aid, you will certainly have a number of different options. What do many consider to be the top five locations that are suited for active volunteering?



Haiti



Although it has been a few years since a massive earthquake rattled this region, Haitians are only now beginning to get back on their feet. Basic necessities such as medical care and potable water are still lacking here. You will be able to make a very real difference if you choose Haiti as your destination.



Vietnam



The friendly individuals within this country still live quite a rural existence. However, many desire a higher education that may be lacking in their region. Many volunteers will travel here to aid in formal educational programmes. Besides having the ability to shape the minds of young ones, you can enjoy some of the most stunning scenery on the entire planet.



India



India is one of the most populous countries on the face of the earth. The communities here are facing numerous challenges. Sanitation, access to primary health care and an adequate education are but a few of the different volunteering options that you will have. You can choose to work in major cities such as Mumbai or for a more rural experience, it is always possible to seek work within an outlying village. The locals will certainly be impressed with your efforts. 



Romania



You may be surprised to learn that a country within Europe is in desperate need of help. While Romania has been slowly improving since the fall of communism, the truth of the matter is that much of the infrastructure here dates from the Soviet era. Thus, it is decades behind more modernised countries. Should you be interested in becoming involved within the construction sector, Romania is a great place to begin. Also, there are a growing number of individuals who are desperate to learn English and better their position in life. Teaching is another great idea.



Ecuador



While the economy here may be robust, this pristine country has been suffering from the effects of deforestation. Many volunteer projects in Ecuador will revolve around teaching the locals better land use policies as well as simply planting trees to help the ecosystems flourish. However, never forget to purchase an adequate travel insurance policy when visiting any foreign country. You will be financially protected in the event of an emergency and you can be provided with the peace of mind to truly focus on your work. 



Volunteering is one of the best ways to experience the world while simultaneously helping those who may not be as privileged as yourself. These five countries are excellent places to begin such an adventure. By performing more research and understanding where your unique skill sets will be valued, you can make the most educated choices possible to begin down this rewarding road. 

Image by Steffan Scherz under Creative Commons license.

Cocktails in Berlin

Berlin is an amazing city. It has an incredible history, fascinating culture, and an awesome nightlife scene. Germans are famous for their love of beer, and it would be easy to to dismiss Germany’s drinking culture as just all being about beer and pretzels, but if you up for a night out in Berlin then you will soon discover that Berlin has some amazing bars and they know how to mix some delicious drinks.

Aperol Spritz
One of the most popular drink for Germans, especially at the beginning of the night or before dinner is the Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian liqueur – similar to Campari with a bitter orange flavour. An Aperol Spritz is the liqueur served over ice and then topped up with Prosecco. Something similar which is also popular is known as the Hugo and it is elderflower syrup topped with Prosecco (with a mint garnish). Every bar in Berlin will happily serve you an Aperol Spritz, but I always associate the drink with the Schöneberg area which is a fun, relaxed neighbourhood. Try the Green Door bar – it has a deliberately kitsch interior and is a favourite with the locals.

U-Boot

For something a bit more hard-core, you could kick your night off in Berlin with a U-Boot. It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a cocktail – it’s a glass of beer served with a shot of vodka. It’s called a U-Boot because the shot glass full of vodka sinks to the bottom of the beer like a submarine (U-Boot is an abbreviation for the German word for submarine). Sometimes the vodka will be replaced with Korn which is kind of like a German version of vodka – also clear but with a bit more flavour. A similar drink to the U-Boot is the Jaeger-Bomb. Jaegermeister is a traditional German digestif, but you can drop a shot of Jaegermeister into a glass of Red Bull and down it all in one skoll – a definite pick-me-up if you feel your energy-levels flagging. Everywhere in Berlin will be able to serve you a U-Boot or a Jaeger-Bomb, but one of my favourite bars is Würgeengel in Kreuzberg, a relaxed kind of cocktail bar where anything goes.

Fragrances

Always at the cutting edge, one of the best bars in Berlin is Fragrances at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. What makes it different? They’re pairing fragrances with bespoke cocktails. There is a display of scents that are matched to the aromatic profile of the cocktails on the menu – you sniff around until you find your preferred drink. If you are drawn to earthy and floral notes then your corresponding cocktail is ”Un Matin d’Orage.” Sounds like something Heston Blumenthal would dream up? Probably, but if the drinks are good then the gimmicks are just for a bit of entertainment along the way.

You never know quite where a night out in Berlin is going to take you, but you can guarantee that there are going to be some great drinks and a few surprises along the way. What more can you ask for? Prost!

Photo Credit: Alberto Garcia under Creative Commons license.