Marmot Basin, Jasper, AB

A few months ago, we have one of those “What the hell!” moments and we book ourselves into a back country ski trip at Mistaya for the first week of January. Silly us!

As soon as we return from Bonaire and get our heads back into winter, we start skiing at Snow Valley, the local ski hill where Murray worked. I say worked as he has officially fully retired, just like me, and is no longer teaching there. Mur helps me with my technique as I only skied once last winter due to my surgery. We practice going up and doooown, using poles, edging and things are starting to come together. But the short river valley runs can only do so much, so off to the mountains we go!

Yesterday, we arrive in Jasper and stop in at four hotels asking for the price of a room for two nights. Every single hotel quotes us a price that is lower than their website price. Travelling to Jasper midweek, before Christmas is an ideal time, no crowds and lots of available rooms.

Ready to ski

We are on the ski hill at Marmot Basin by shortly after 9:00 am. It feels like we have the whole hill to ourselves. We ski some green runs to get my body moving and my technique down.

We then take the chair right to the top of the mountain. What a view! Bluest of skies, snow dappled mountains. This is why we get outside!

The runs down from the top are a little more challenging for me. Side slopes, narrower lanes, steep pitches. Some spots are good and some are not so good as my nerves get the best of me and when that happens, technique goes out the window! Mur says I am doing great and only need to always remember to go up and down with every turn, then the hardest slope or turn will work out.

Marmot basin

We have a great day skiing, with Murray taking a few extra runs while I rest my weary muscles in the chalet. We will return to ski more tomorrow.


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Plan B

Glub, glub goes our plan A. Plan B? We don’t have a plan B. Once we decided to go the live-a-board route our investigations ceased. So, developing a Plan B is our next objective.

We have 2 weeks in Fiji so we hope to work out a week each at two different dive areas and see what Fiji has to offer. I have kept the links to the resorts from my previous research in the bookmarks of my internet browser. I find the 4 or 5 I thought worth our time to look into and Debbie starts to investigate. The folks at the Fiji Siren office have a business relationship with the Volivoli Resort and our contact has offered to get us a price to stay and dive there during the dates we will be in Fiji.

We think by choosing two places to dive in different areas of Fiji we should get a pretty good overview. It also leaves open the possibility of going to another island if, or more like when, we are on our way to Aus once again. In the long run this will probably give us more extensive coverage than the live-a-board we had thought we were going on in the first place. And there are another couple of other live-aboard boats plying the Fijian waters, we can  book a trip aboard one of those if the opportunity arises.

We have answers back from our ubiquitous emails and are in the process of evaluating the responses and trying to coordinate flights and transport to different islands to see what options are available to us.

PS The Fiji Siren did in fact sink. It contacted something in deep water and started to take on water. All the passengers and crew got off the Siren with lots of time and no panic. In the end it was decided that the boat could not be salvaged and it sunk to the depths. So sad.

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Fiji Planning

It has been a while since we posted pre trip posts. Life has been in the way. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control and they sap mental and physical energy. Not leaving enough to do the extra curricular thing. Things have stablized a bit and maybe I can find a little time to document the run in to our next trip.

The other point to the no pre trip posts is, as our planning was going quite well, there was not anything to report that had not all ready been addressed in previous posts.

This time however our plans have taken an unsual twist and it will required some thinking and quite a bit of extra work to have things come out in the wash.

A week or two before we left for Bonaire we had made some commitments towards our trip to Australia next spring. Our son told us what will be the best time to visit so we can coordinate some time with him while he has a few days off work. We outline a trip we think will make sense maxing our time down under. If we are going all that way we don’t want to go for two weeks. Also wanting to expand our diving horizons we think we should take advantage of the situation and find a place or two in the South Pacific to visit the under water flora and fauna.

Fiji is easy to get to on the way to Aus. We have heard the diving is good there and the tourist infrastucture has been in place for along time. On the way home the Solomon Islands seem to be almost in line with our flight north. So, we do some research and decide we should probably make two stops, one on the way down and one on the way home.

There are plenty of dive resorts in Fiji. They are located on various islands and all have there forte. There are not too many resorts in the Solomon’s although each of them has their niche as well. There are also dive live-a-boards that ply the waters of both places. After weighing out the options we decide to book trips aboard live-a-boards in both places. We think that would give us the best overall view of the diving available. 

There are really only a couple of options in each place. The dates we will be in each place are one determinant of our choice, price of course is a factor, the dive sites visited by each boat, the services offered (like nitrox availablity), and our gut reaction to the info and pics on the web sites all play a part in the choice of vessels.

After some reflection we think we should hook up with the Fiji Siren, and the Biliki. A few emails later we have figured out how to make the reservations and pay the deposit.

We then head to Bonaire.

Upon our return I am in the process of contacting a few of our friends to see if they want to join us. One couple is very interested and makes steps towards coming along. Their flights have just been booked, we are looking forward to diving with them and D sends me a return email asking me to look at the web site I have sent her the link to, there is something strange.

The web site is veiled over with a message reading something like, Update 1. Read further down the page and it looks like the boat sank and in fact it did. Even before D & C get a chance to put their names on a cabin the boat is no more. This of course puts somewhat of a damper on our plans as well……

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Goin’ Home

We are on the last plane of this trip and as far as the trip status goes we are still 0. It seems we can’t get through a trip without a bit of stress.

Yesterday, Insel Air, supposedly a horrible airline, ran like clockwork. Supposed to leave at 10, we left at 10. We skirted the customs scam on Caracau, where upon arrival you have to enter the country in order to exit immediately and pay a $5 exit fee for the privilege, by having a Westjet boarding pass in our hands and going through the little known ‘in transit’ gate located before the immigration booths.

Next leg Westjet was again on time and we arrive in Toronto as prescribed. Glitch here though as we are not the only ones to arrive at that time and the line at immigration is horrendous. With the new machines everything cracked along and since we had carry on luggage we are on the curb waiting for our hotel shuttle in no time.

This morning however is not so slick. We have booked a shuttle with plenty of time to make our flight. We arrive at the lobby at the appointed time and there is a minor kerfuffle going on. We soon learn the shuttle has given up the ghost. More and more folks arrive at the front looking for a ride. By luck Debbie and I place ourselves by a guy who happens to be a Westjet pilot, and we soon find out a savvy traveler. We start a conversation and chat a bit. Just small talk, where are you going and stuff like that. We soon gather the hotel has contacted a cab company and we will be shuttled via cab to the airport. Most folks seem quite stressed and getting worse when the pilot, who has been staring out the front doors, looked at Debbie and I and gave us a little nod of the head. We follow him out the door load our bags into the trunk of a taxi and we were off. A bit sleazy, leaving the other folk behind but it is a jungle out there and the fittest survive.

The airport gods are looking upon us. We again have boarding passes in hand and our only hurdle is security. Holy s**t the line is long. Haven’t run into that in quite a while. It moves quite quickly and we are still at our gate with a 1/2 hour to spare.

Looking down on the landscape there has been snow on the ground since shortly after we left Toronto. Landing soon and our trip status with be changed to 1. Time to think XC skiing.

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Last Day of Diving in Bonaire

It is our last day of diving here in Bonaire. There are so many dive sites up and down the west coast, that even on our last day, we dive two sites we haven’t been to.

We have been searching for good photo opportunities of this fellow and today we finally got some. He is a peppermint shrimp. Cute fellow who sways back and forth inside tube sponges.


A few days ago I happened across a belted cardinal fish hiding in a coral. I have been searching for him and today we find two different ones. Tiny fellow with a snub nose. Again, a real cutie.


We dove 13 days straight. Ten days were 3 dive days and three were two dive days. We covered a good portion of the dive sites on the west coast, and even two on the east coast. We did not get over to Klein Bonaire to do some boat diving, maybe next time. It was a great dive trip with a myriad of sea life. I think we will be arriving home slightly tired. See you on the other side.

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A thought or two or four

In one part of Bonaire, sea water is flooded into large ponds and the water is evaporated leaving only salt that is shipped elsewhere. In another part of the island, sea water is pumped into a desalination plant, the salt is taken out to make drinking water. Weird, huh?


Today we dive Margate Bay. There are a couple of other divers doing the same dive, and underwater they are traveling at about the same speed we are. This is the first time we have encountered other divers who are not seeming to race through dive sites. After the dive we head to Cactus Blue, our favourite food truck, for a hamburger. I notice this other couple there, the ones who were diving Margate. I approach them and explain that it is nice to find other divers who dive slow. When I ask where they are from, they say “Edmonton, Alberta, Canada”. I laugh and when M and L ask where we are from, I say “Edmonton!” We share stories while eating the best truck hamburgers on Bonaire. It is indeed a small world!

Slipper Lobster, Bonaire

Slipper Lobster

While we are eating our lunch, the local lizards are enjoying their lunch of escaped lettuce fallen from our burgers to the ground. One walks over Murray’s foot, startling poor Murray. A minute or two later, two lizards are fighting over scraps when their fight takes them across my feet. A squawk is involuntarily let loose, and it was not from the lizards.

Watch out for possessive damsel fish underwater. I was taking a picture of a corkscrew anenome, which happened to be in Madame Damsel Fish’s domain, when she got a little irate and pecked at my hand! That has never ever happened to me before. No blood just a small fright.

The four Canucks head to Batchelor’s Beach for the final dive of the day and spend a good portion of our time hunting for non existent seahorses. Peaceful dive, as mentioned we all dive about the same. We part in the parking lot with intentions of exchanging cards and maybe someday diving together in some far flung place.

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Bonaire Road Signage

Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands, so there are many Dutch speakers here. Many food labels and menus are in Dutch, so it would make sense that road signs with words on them are in Dutch too. Roads signs with no words can also be rather humorous for North Americans.

There are wild donkeys on the island, so there are warnings for motorists about donkeys crossing the roads, or that’s what we think it says.


In some countries, they are called speed bumps or sleeping policeman. Here they are drempels.


And just for fun, this one means “Welcome to Saskatchewan”!


There is a narrow road in the north of the island where there are many dive sites. Motorists need to be warned about these creatures crossing the road.


That’s all for our take on the signage in Bonaire, but here is a critter we met today.


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It’s a Forest Out There

Bonaire’s reef is in fantasic shape. It has been a national park for many years and has flourished under the protection of the law. Everything is in abundance. In fact it is hard to find those special things because there is so much of everything. One animal does stand out. There are so many one becomes complacent about them about 5 minutes into the first dive. The only thing is there are so many you cannot ignore them.

There are Spriobranchus Giganteus on every square foot of reef on the west shore of Bonaire. The Christmas Tree Worm, its common name, is a tube building polychaete worm. It has two conifer like crowns consisting of radioles, hair like arms radiating from the worm’s central body.

Christmas Tree Worm

Once these fellows find a home they tend to stay. They bore a hole into living coral and lay down roots (figuratively). They are quite shy and will retract crowns and all into their tubes when they are disturbed.

Christmas Tree Worm

The largest of them is about 1.5″ in diameter. They come in a variety of brilliant colors and are easily spotted when swimming by. Christmas Tree Worms are one of the most widely recognized of the marine burrowing, segmented worms.

Christmas Tree Worm

We keep thinking we should mention these guys in our blog so today we decided to give them a dedicated expose. Hope it is something you can use in your everyday conversation tomorrow.

Christmas Tree Worm


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Rest Day

Karlendijk is bigger than when we were here 6 years ago but it is really much the same. I could not remember the routes to take here or there but that just took a couple of days and some things began to look familiar and now navigation is easy. One thing I do not remember is the number of cruise ships that stop here. From Tuesday to Friday there is a least one ship a day moored to the main pier and the hordes descend upon the two block downtown or rent a golf cart and take an hour trip around the island. These are days when it is best to be underwater as much as possible. I’m guessing the revenue is worth it for the buisnesses but the extra traffic is quite annoying to the ones here to dive.

Today was our only shopping day and it was, without planning, an non cruise ship day. We had the main street and any shop we went into to ourselves. We did not buy much so we didn’t help the “divers are enough for Bonaire” movement. Explaining why there are cruise ships every day.

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark

The first two shops we stopped at are owned by Canadians. A crusty old fellow that had been in the Canadian military and retired down here. For a few years he ran dive tours but now he mans the shop that sells his wife’s paintings. We walk down the street and stop in an upscale kind of jewellery shop and damned if that lady is not from Edmonton, Millwoods in particular. The lady at the Carib Inn dive shop guessed that we were from Edmonton or Calgary, just by the way we talked. I believe she is Canadian too. I do find it odd that there are so many Canadian expats here but most of them came because of the diving and have stayed on, so I guess it is explainable.

Diving today was a little different. We were on a boat. A Canadian made boat. An aluminium hulled Zodiac. We went to the “wildside”, the east coast of Bonaire. I found the diving quite easy but I have to say the swells were really something. Four to five footers. Ten people on the boat, back roll in one at a time, drop to about 30′ and let the dive begin. The main attraction, besides being able to say ‘I dove the wildside’, is the possibility of sighting the larger ocean going pelagics. Managed to see a couple of eagle rays out in the blue and there was one HUGE nurse shark. (Nose in the air again) I have seen so many nurse sharks I don’t even bother to swim over to have a look when the dive master points one out, but this one was big. Eight to ten feet would be my guess.

The next dive was on turtle heaven. 40 turtles is a conservative number. Kick, kick….. turtle, kick, kick….turtle. Could have gotten boring if turtles were not such elegant swimmers and able to mesmerize you with their fluid motion. And of course with that many turtles one is bound to have a close encounter or two. Debbie managed to get a turtle nose as one of her photos. They were not that bothered by divers, even though they have seen far fewer than the turtles on the west side.

Green Turtle

Green Turtle

The dive master (owner) guys were both youngish entrepreneurs. Seemed really happy with their work. Enjoyed guiding even though they had probably done those two dives hundreds of times.

The last portion of the second dive was over some coral ‘fingers’ that ran from quite shallow into the depths. Beautiful terrain but we did not have any time to explore them. The dives are limited to 60 minutes and both of the DM’s had that part down to a science. By the time we passed over the fingers once it was time to call it quits and we had to surface.

Only two dives makes for an easy day. Wandering downtown is not very taxing. Hopefully we have had enough leisure time to rest up for tomorrow’s three shore dive day.

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In Search of Supper on a Monday Night

It is after 6 o’clock and we are starving. Murray has this list he compiled from reading Trip Advisor and under the Italian restaurants, a place called Mona Lisa is identified. We decide to go there.

Normally we read menus before we go into a restaurant, but we neglected to do this before we get sat at a table. I order a Ginger Ale to drink, while Murray has water. We are both looking at the menu and simultaneously realize that this is NOT an Italian restaurant and the items on the menu are of no interest to us and horrendously expensive. Murray graciously informs the server that we won’t be staying past me drinking (very quickly) my drink. We pay the three bucks and skeedaddle.



Still hungry. Now where? There is another Italian restaurant a few blocks away by driving that is in the same building as a sushi place and an Indonesian restaurant. We drive there, park, walk up to the door of the Italian place and it is closed. Same for the other two restaurants. It seems that many restaurants are closed on Mondays. How can you do that in a tourist spot?

Still hungry. Now where? Oh, let’s try Julian’s on the waterfront. We drive past there looking for a parking spot. Find one a block or so away. Walk there and read their menu. A burger is $15.00. Menu is not too thrilling. We decide to forgo this place.

Juvenile French Angelfish

Juvenile French Angelfish

Still hungry. Now where?  We end up at Wattaburger. A fast food kinda place on the main street. The menu is mostly in Dutch. We are now famished so we decide quickly what to order, saunter up to the counter and Murray orders Chicken Fingers, Small Fries and a Fanta Orange for me and a Mushroom Burger and Chocolate Milkshake for him. The young local girl looks stunned. Murray repeats Chicken Fingers. The girl says do you want sauce? What kind do you have? She then proceeds to rattle off some words that neither one of us understand. Now it is our turn to look stunned. I think I hear something with the word chili in it so default to that one. We finally make it understood what we both want after much back and forth about whether they actually have chocolate milkshakes. She takes Murray’s credit card, runs it through but we have no idea how much it cost. When Murray asks her, she again looks stunned. I have a feeling she is not used to dealing with finicky Canadians!

Get our food (only mediocre) gobble it down. Not hungry any more.

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