A Travellerspoint blog

The Beijing dream is crushed


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"We have college position in Beijing." That's how I was introduced to what I thought was my new job in the megalopolis that is Beijing. I was going to become a Beijinger! Wow! Maybe I might stay in China for longer than one contract this time. Finally, I found a job that I liked in a city that had more than four foreigners to socialize with.

I packed way too many clothes and headed back across the globe. Two months earlier, my boss had even allowed me to move my things into my new Beijing apartment. I thought I was really lucky. I thought I had finally found a competent employer. With my visa finally in my hand, I showed up to work on the first day.

"You know will be teaching high school, right?" said Peter, the head teacher from Boston.
"Ummm no! Oh my god!" I replied shocked. "No, that was not mentioned in my contract or in any discussion once."
"Sheila strikes again," he laughed. Like misleading me as I move my entire life across the planet adds up to a funny joke.

Sheila was the recruiter that had promised me this "college" position. After guiding me through six months of visa hell, she was sending me to work with teenagers??? That was not going to happen. I sighed and said that I would try the job for a while, but later that day I got a messaged from my only friend in town, Chris, asking me why I was leaving. Well shit, if Peter wants to gossip and tell everyone I am leaving, then I guess I am leaving! I bitched Sheila out over WeChat and complained incessantly to Melody, the school's liaison.

Incidentally, the day I quit was also my birthday, so I invited all the teachers that would've been my co-workers over to my place for beer and snacks. Everyone brought more beer and more snacks than we needed and it was a great time. All of them told me that they too had been promised this elusive "college position" and had simply accepted their fate and the high salary for teaching the high school students. I was astonished, and can't believe that anyone would want to work for someone who had lied to them so blatantly.

Anywho, it was a shame that I'd be missing out on some decent colleagues. However, I'm sure that something would've happened to make me hate each and every one of them. For example, Brandon, a burly ex-sailor went home from my birthday party with everyone else. A few minutes later, I got an email from him, asking if I still wanted him to finish the beers. I said sure, come back over if you want, after he made sure everyone was gone. I asked him why he did that and he replied he wanted to be "discreet". What? Like I'm a craiglist hooker? Get the eff out of my apartment you sleazebag. After that smooth move he realized he wasn't wanted and left, without me having to even say so directly. So I guess that was good. Later he denied saying anything of the sort, and asked me if I was mad at him for leaving! Uh... no forget it you're a douchebag stop emailing me. I blocked him and that was that.

Posted by baixing 19:14 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

The Montreal Biodome and lunch at Robin des Bois

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We drove all the way to Montreal and got to our place at around 10 p.m. It was a room in the University of Montreal residence. Something happened with mom's credit card so we lost our reservation and they shoved us in another building far away, where there were masses of fruit flies in the sink and an elevator that smelled like body odour.

We went out for a late dinner at a trendy bar near Cote des Neiges called Saint Houblons. They had a delicious poutine with a duck sandwich that we shared, along with a pitcher of hefeweizen. Delicious. There was also a 24 hour local fruit and vegetable market where we bought our healthy fruit breakfast for the next day

Back at our hotel, the construction woke us up early in the morning, so we had our fruit and moved on out. Mom wanted to take Dad to the Biodome but I just wasn't interested, so I went on a bagel buying expedition. I bought a half dozen at St. Viateur and Fairmount for our drive home in the afternoon.

We only had one camera, so here are mom's pictures from the Biodome:

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On our way back downtown for lunch at Robin des Bois, the subway broke down. Someone got hurt, similar to last time I was in Toronto. However in Montreal, when the subway breaks down, you can't just grab a streetcar going the same way and take it to your destination. You have to take a strange bus. The angry subway station man didn't know anything about the shut down of the subway, or how long it would be. He just sent me out to get bus 15. We waited a few minutes for that bus and an angry old heroin addict woman was grumbling the whole time.

When I got on the bus, I asked how to get to St. Laurent. It took longer than five seconds, so this crazy woman started blurting out a long string of profanity at me and told me to learn how to use the bus. I told her to stop being rude and that I'd stay there all day if I wanted to, and the bus would never leave! The bus driver was kind and in between her insane harassment, he told me to get off in two stops and switch to another bus.

I figured I'd just stand at the front and wait for my stop because it was difficult to see exactly where we were getting off, but my heroin addict friend felt the need to tell me otherwise. She came back up to the front of the bus and continued abusing me with more disgusting profanity. I wasn't going to take it anymore so I started yelling right back. She said something like...

"Where have YOU been? You don't know nothin'!"

"I HAVE BEEN TO THIRTY FIVE COUNTRIES AND I HAVE NEVER MET ANYONE AS TERRIBLE AS YOU."

"Oh little rich girl! Get off the bus you don't know what you're doing!"

And I spun around yelling back at her to shut up again, when her weird boyfriend/husband stood up like he needed to defend her, and then my mom felt the need to get between us.

"Ohhhh you need your mommy to come save you!" and then she began abusing my mom.

It happened to be our stop, like I said, all this happened in between two bus stops. It was the most verbal abuse I have received in my life all squished into about two minutes.

That woman was absolutely insane. Someone like that would never survive anywhere else but Canada. We pay for her medical bills every time she gets punched in the face or overdoses on whatever drug she's doing. Sometimes it makes me sick. People living in a bubble of insane anger like that don't deserve to live at all. I don't even care. She needs to be put into an institution, not let loose on the streets like that. Just completely insane.

We went on our way, finally getting to Robin des Bois. I felt really stupid for not being patient enough to wait for the subway to come back on again, but we made it in one piece for an amazing lunch.

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After that, we drove right home, through the terrors of Montreal traffic at 3 p.m. We sampled our bagels for dinner, and I have now decided that St. Viateur is hands down the best bagel in Montreal. Not too fluffy, perfectly chewy and a little crunchy on the outside.

Finally, we picked the dog up at the sitters at about 10:30 p.m. We left everything in the car and passed out dead in our soft beds.

Posted by baixing 05:58 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

To the end of Nova Scotia and back

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We woke up and got out of there real early that morning. It was probably the first time we put away a dry tent all trip. We had the road all to ourselves, but still managed to bump into a drunk/high group of 40 somethings stumbling their way along the trail. Weird people all around these parts.

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The mountains here are made up of three layers, igneous like granite, metamorphic like schist and sedimentary like sandstone.

Here's me at the valley where you can see all three types.

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When we got tired of all those lookouts, we kept going to the end of Nova Scotia, Meat Point. You have to take a 7 km dirt road all the way there, and it's difficult in a normal car, I would say. Not sure if it was worth going, because it's not part of the Cape Breton Highlands Park, it's a private campsite and the guy that manages it, is a little bit weird. The people who hang around there are pretty creepy too.

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It's very beautiful, of course, and we found a way up the mountain. The manager told us it would take 20 minutes and his own daughter walks up there regularly with flip flops on, he said. The first part of that statement was true, but I'm afraid for his daughter if the second part was also.

We were supposed to see whales from that mountain, but of course, we didn't see any, and mom was a little scared of the cliff so we went back.

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On our way back, we stopped at an outcropping of rocks. The main rock is granite, but 375 million years ago, earth movements and pressure cracked the rock and opened up cracks where minerals were squeezed and recrystallized. It makes an amazing scene, which was stunning in the bright sunlight.

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We were getting pretty hungry, so we made lunch at Ingonish beach. We spent about an hour sunbathing and warming up from swimming in the icy, salty water.

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Some people from Sydney told us to take the ferry back, because there would be too much construction if we followed our GPS. We thought about it but decided not to. Except when we tried to follow the GPS, we screwed up and ended up at the ferry anyway. It turned out he was right, of course and it was quite a pleasant way to skip the construction .

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Then we drove and drove and drove, until finally we found a campsite near Pictou. A few times we found dead ends, following the "campsite" signs on the highway and our GPS to absolutely nothing. But we got there before dark and it ended up being alright. It was our last night of camping, so we figured we didn't need to peg anything out, including the actual walls of our tent. But guess what, it rained again, and we got up in the middle of the night to hammer some pegs in and spread the tarp out on the floor. Sigh.

Posted by baixing 17:48 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The best campsite of the trip, Corneybrook

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Lonely Planet recommends a stay at a self-registering site called Corneybrook. These are unreservable, so you just have to take your chances when you get there. We packed everything up before 9 a.m. and found that Corneybrook was quite empty. We found one of the best sites right on the edge of the cliff, where we could see the beach and set up there. It was real windy, so we had our storm lashing on and even put our luggage inside, weighted down by large rocks.

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We wanted to walk on the famous Skyline trail, so we went there right away.

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I will never understand why people leave the trail, even when it's so obvious and they build a special boardwalk just for people. There are signs everywhere that say don't step on the delicate wildflowers and lichen etc etc. Still, people have to make their own trail on the already overcrowded mountain.

Back at our campsite, we had some lunch and were shocked to find that the campsite had filled up to overcapacity. People were not registering themselves and they weren't paying. An old Frenchman came to mooch some lunch off of us and to establish some sort of rapport, so that we didn't report him. It made me quite upset, because it reminded me of all those shitty people on couch surfing who think they deserve free stuff just because they are fun. Well guess what, I am fun and I still pay my share. I don't care how funny you are, you still have to pay for your campsite.

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Then we took a nap, and it was time for dinner again. We spent $75 on three sandwiches and two chowders. Outrageous! The sandwiches were definitely packed full of lobster, but the chowder was really not exciting, full of flour and potatoes, and not much fish. Bleh.

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At this point, a security guard came to check up on who was actually registered for their sites. We had learned how to do it simply by reading a sign. Ignorance of the rules, was not an option. The French guy came over to ask us to defend him to the poor security guard. I told the guard he wasn't bothering me, but I also added that he should kick out all the extra people. Later I asked old Mr. Frenchie point blank if he was going to pay for his site. He just looked at me and turned away in silence.

Most people in the other illegal tents weren't even present when the security guard arrived, but he said he would come back later that night.

We broke out the fancy Cabot Trail liqueur we bought and of course, Mr. Frenchie came back, begging for a taste. Mom can't bear any social awkwardness like I can. I let him linger while sipping it in his face, she had to offer him some so that he'd leave us alone. I just took off to watch the sunset on the beach, unable to listen to his annoying, attention-starved blabbering any longer.

Eventually mom and dad chased him away, probably with the excuse that they had to find me, and we watched the seals swim around in the bay. Dad couldn't sit so long on the hard stones, so me and mom stayed down there and at one point, a giant seal came real close to us and we both screamed and ran away up the stairs. Those things are dangerous and they were getting way too close!

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We watched another sunset sitting beside our tent and gazed at the stars beside our campfire until we couldn't keep our eyes open anymore. That security guard never came back, my faith in campsite justice, destroyed.

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Posted by baixing 12:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Destination Cape Breton Island

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Our next campsite would be on Cape Breton Island. I knew that it would be terrible, because I booked it and there wasn't much left to choose from so I just picked the cheapest one.

The drive up was pretty awesome, but first we stopped for lunch at Pomquet Beach. We had heard there were massive sand dunes there, but to me, they looked pretty small, and grass covered. Grassy dunes important for preventing land erosion. So that's fine, it's quite pretty when you think of it that way.
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Here are some views from the way up. There were more awesome scenes than these, but as you know, I hate taking photos from moving vehicles. I was cajoled into taking one of them:

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We made a bunch of stops along the way and took pictures at the various lookouts.
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By the time we got to our crappy campsite at Cheticamp, we were tired and didn't even bother going to the free hot chocolate and marshmallows event at the campfire. Of course, it started raining again. We played more cards in our tent and went to bed quite early, so we could find a better campsite for the next night.

Posted by baixing 11:23 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Got attacked by birds and shocked by jellyfish

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We slept in and went to the bog trail in the morning. Dad had to poop, and there were no outhouses there, so we did the hike without him and he met us at the trailhead.

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After that, we went to Kelly's beach to wander around. Mom and dad stayed behind and I walked until I thought that I shouldn't anymore. The plovers have their nests there and I didn't want to disturb them.

I sat down for a while at the end of the island and watched some seals bobbing about in the water. On the way back, I felt a shock on my foot and something got stuck in it. I kept walking in the water, so that it would get flushed out and after about 30 minutes it did. That's when I got attacked by the terns! I started running down the beach and made my way back to the boardwalk. I couldn't see the bottom of my foot so I asked the kind lifeguards to do it. It was rainy and they were bored so I had the services of four of them.

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They looked at the bottom of my foot and couldn't see anything anymore. They also told me that jellyfish stings burn, they don't zap. Then I have no idea what went into my foot. Oh well. They gave me a couple of band aids and I went on my way.

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When we got back to the campsite, a few people had left, including our Arab friends. They didn't say goodbye. Mom took their wood and she also grabbed a handy jug that someone had left behind. We were finding treasures all over the place! To our surprise, the Arab buddies came back to look for something small, but they didn't find it. It was at this point that we quickly shoved the wood into the fire, to eliminate all evidence.

Posted by baixing 10:14 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Back to camp at Kouchibouguac

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We stocked up on groceries and headed out to the next park. Kouchibouguac was only 45 minutes away.

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We got there real early, so we set up camp and went for a couple of hikes on the Osprey Trail. We didn't see any ospreys but there was a nice view of the bay.

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When we got back we cooked some fresh mussels and delicious salmon, better than what they had in Miramichi.

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Our campsite was conveniently situated right beside a crazy child moaning all night, and a couple of clueless Arab guys on the other side of us.

At first we noticed the tent to the left of our site, it didn't have its fly on top and the roof of the tent was a screen. It started to rain so I thought I'd help them out and put their fly on. Actually all of their food and things were in the tent, getting wet! Who has to leave so quickly that they can't even put the fly on their tent properly? Did they have to run and do their daily prayers? Very strange.

When they came back I told them what we did and they said thank you. Next, they tried to start a fire. We could hear their lighter clicking away, unable to make a flame. We offered them our lighter, because we couldn't find the matches at the moment. He ended up keeping the lighter and ALSO asking us for a fire starter! What nerve! I know that in Arab culture, you don't assume that someone will give you anything back if they borrow something from you, but this is not the desert anymore, so you give the lighter back and you don't overstep your welcome by ASKING for things when they are not offered! My god. I was quite appalled.

It got darker, so they pulled out a brand new two mantle propane lantern. Way too bright for two guys in the woods. They had no idea how to use it, so they brought it over and mom asked for the lighter back before she helped them. She slipped it in her pocket after the lamp was lit, saving "face" for everyone. I know they appreciated that. A few minutes later, some other campers from across the street asked them to turn down their lamp. Of course they couldn't, so they put it under the table. Only for a few minutes. Soon it was out blinding everyone again. Jerks.

On the other side of us, there was a string of Acadian flags and a large family with a child that seemed unable to speak much, but he could definitely moan real loud when he didn't like something. He proceeded to do this all night while we were playing cards. A few times I yelled something like "THAT BABY NEVER STOPS!" and the mother just yelled something back at me, not attempting to improve the situation at all.

We went to bed early, and the Arabs on the left were still up, yelling at each other across the campsite and blasting some sort of arabic love ballads and dance music from their phone all night.

Posted by baixing 08:25 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

The end of New Brunswick


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We took a run out to the very northeastern tip of New Brunswick where there is a chain of low, flat islands pointing across the Gulf of St Lawrence to Labrador.

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There is a really old lighthouse that has been moved a few times because the erosion of the beach is so quick.

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On the way back to Miramichi, we stopped to walk the boardwalk trail over a blueberry bog where we saw pitcher plants as well.

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We tried to find some local salmon but it was overcooked. However, the view and setting was relaxing. Plus, we avoided the noise from the folk festival, which was more like a karaoke show, than anything else.

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Posted by baixing 07:56 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Village Historique Acadien

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Perce rock was on the way to the next place, so we stopped there quickly. My camera was doing weird stuff, so I quickly transferred everything to the laptop. We ended up parking in the wrong place and spent $9 to stay there for about five minutes.

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We spent the rest of the morning at a pretty great historical village. It was full of farm animals...

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...and dressed up actors
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All the buildings were from different historical eras, starting in the 1700s.
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I tried on an old fashioned hat. Mom really liked the button string toy.
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We had a picnic in the parking lot and then stayed at the Comfort Inn in Bathurst

Posted by baixing 06:55 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Hiking to Land's End

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This was probably our busiest day on the whole trip. We hiked up to the Mont Saint Alban tower, where we could see the end of Quebec. Mom had a panic attack at the top, so we came back down pretty fast.

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Then we walked all the way down the other side.

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Mom and dad stopped for another photo on the red chairs

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Then I went all the way down to Cap Bon Ami to see the pebble beaches, but no seals or whales.

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Mom and dad walked back to the trailhead and completed the loop. After I climbed back up the mountain, I ran all the way back down and met them at the end. They left a note on the car and we had a snack on the beach.

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We went back to the campsite for chicken soup lunch. We made it the night before, so all we had to do was warm it up in the microwave and it was delicious. Yeah they have microwaves there. There was also almost a whole case of "Lime-a-rita" which I convinced my parents to take. There was no way someone would just leave that there for the whole time we ate lunch. I assumed they had a couple, thought they were gross, and left them on the picnic table for anyone to take. In the end, they were pretty gross, but I would say, a fine addition to our picnics for a few days.

The next hike was to Cap Gaspe, which is mostly a continuous slope all the way to the end of the trail.
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There's a light house right at the end with more red chairs.
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After another slope down to the water you can see the Appalachians tumbling into the ocean.
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Kilometre zero of the International Appalachian Trail is also there.
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The walk back down was windy, cold and hot all at the same time, but it was easy.
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Mom wanted to see the sunset at Penouille beach. There were supposed to also be butterflies, but we didn't see any at all.
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We had some delicious wraps for dinner and laid down on the beach exhausted, watching the sunset.
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By the time we made it back it was a little dark.
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Posted by baixing 06:11 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Driving to Parc National Forillon

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We drove to the end of the Gaspe peninsula

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Along the way we noticed a giant sign that said "Marconi historical site 5 km". We turned off the highway and drove down the dirt road to find the lighthouse that sent the first land to sea telegraph to ships off of the coast of Canada.

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I took off down the boardwalk, but there weren't any ocean views, so I came right back.

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We continued on and finally found our place at Parc National Forillon. Forillon is an old French word that means rock sticking out of the water. Apparently it was the first thing that Jaques Cartier said when he came to land and saw the rock sticking out of the water. So, this is still the name of the park.
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Posted by baixing 05:20 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Seal watching and hiking day


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We went over to see the seals a little early than everyone else, so we had access to the telescopes the rangers set up on the beach before everyone else too. The harbour seals swim and sunbathe on the rocks because they need to molt before winter. They need warmer fur to survive. Some of them were very cute, sticking their head and tail up in the air and sleeping in the shape of a banana. If they can't fit on the rock they chose, they will try to make it work anyway.

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After that, we went to hike the famous trail to Peak Champlain, where you can see Ilet au Falcon across the water.
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I believe there were some very majestic falcons following us on our way.
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We met some 1st generation Chinese immigrants with their tourist family at the top. On our way down, a few of them raced past us. We ended up following them to the second seal watching activity, at another bay. This time, it was too cold and windy so we didn't stay too long there.

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Posted by baixing 19:36 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

It rained all the way to Rimouski


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We drove a bit through hours of rain today and arrived in the late afternoon to the park near Rimouski. We set up our tent and of course the rained followed us there.

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We set up our tent right before it started raining some more. Then we had dinner under the tarp and went to bed early.

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Posted by baixing 05:25 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Canoe to Chutes Waber

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It was another day of rain as we rented a canoe and took off to find the Chutes Waber. We were only allowed two paddles, so dad sat in the middle and relaxed as mom and I struggled away. Dad was in charge of photos as we pulled him over a beaver dam and waded through a stream that was not deep enough for our heavy canoe. I imagined I was a trapper with beaver pelts bringing them to the local trader shack or maybe the Hudson's Bay Company. That made all the paddling a lot more bearable.

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After landing on shore, there was a pretty long hike to get to the waterfall.
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All the good picnic spots were taken, so we balanced our food as best we could on the rocks. The water was freezing cold, but I tried to get a massage under the rushing water anyway. It didn't last too long. When I tried to climb out the rocks were so slippery I was trapped for a while in a small pool, taking two steps back every time I tried to take one. I eventually made it out.

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On our way back to the canoe, it started pouring once again. I had a cheap plastic poncho in my bag and it didn't do much to keep the rain off. We came to the end of the trail but didn't see our canoes. They were a quarter of the way around the lake! Agh! So we had to backtrack and find another trail going to our canoe.

On the way back the wind was against us and the lightning in the sky was constant. We hurried back to the canoe rental place. Everyone else had the same idea and there was a massive canoe traffic jam in that beaver dam stream. Young children were losing control of their boats and smashing into us all over the place. It was pretty insane.

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We made it back alright and tried to dry off back at the campsite in their beautiful communal picnic area/washroom building.

Posted by baixing 10:10 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Long Drive to Mauricie National Park


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I stayed overnight in Toronto to drop of my passport at the visa office in case my invitation letter arrived from China while we were gone. It was optimistic however, and the letter never did arrive anyway. I spent the rest of the day watching Dunkirk on the big IMAX screen in Toronto with Alan and his son Andy. We had an amazing burrito and I left early in the morning to meet my parents at Yorkdale mall near the highway.

We drove all day until we reached Mauricie National Park in Quebec. We were just in time to attend a canoeing event and we snatched the last three tickets left. It would've been nice but it started thundering and the rain started to come down so we came back to the dock right away.

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Some kids were trying to smash a small frog with their paddles and I yelled "NOOOOO!" at them but they didn't get it. Is it because you speak French you don't understand no? I don't think so. And why are your parents not telling you not to torment a poor frog? Annoying.

Then we set up our tent in the rain and little did we know that this would foreshadow the rest of our trip.

Posted by baixing 09:49 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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