First order of the day today was to meet up with our new driver, and a driver I had not encountered so far on my journey – the short blonde haired rascal Mike. Dan, Beat and I said our goodbyes to the Mont Tremblant hostel crew who have been so amazing to us over the past few days, loaded up the bus and got on the road.
We made just the one quick stop at the local convenience store on the other side of the lake to pick up some stuff for lunch later in the day and then it was full steam ahead towards our only stop for the day – Omega Park in Montebello (yes, their website is an abuse of your senses – lucky those of you without speakers!).
Omega Park is, for all intents and purposes, a zoo in the same vein as the popular Western Plains or “Dubbo Zoo” back at home in that you experience the animal inhabitants in their own micro environments from your vehicle as you drive through the park. It certainly beats the ordinary “walk up to the fence” experience of Zoo’s such as Vancouver’s lame representative. For $15 entry each, we were able to enjoy a leisurely 10km drive through over 1,500 acres of varied landscape styles periodically stopping to sometimes feed and/or photograph an array of somewhat socially aggressive beasts such as deer, buffalo, wolves, coyotes, gorgeous arctic wolves and black bears etc.
The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating with heavy rain impeding my photographic efforts at every turn, but I did manage to snap off a few great shots before we got to the end of the road, headed to the lodge and stretched out in the sun (that now decided to make an appearance) while tucking into the lunch we purchased earlier in the morning.
Here be the pics:
We eventually rolled into Ottawa and pulled up at our rather unusual lodging for the long weekend – the Ottawa HI. I say unusual as the hostel is actually the city’s old “Nicholas Street Gaol”. Once upon a time, the solid stone building was used to incarcerate and indeed facilitate the execution of prisoners.
With so much death and despair having filled the halls of this place, there was no doubt we were going to find out some pretty interesting stuff from the staff upon check in and we were right. Basically what they told us is summarised quite well on Wikipedia:
The Hostel itself is said to be haunted, and is featured on the “Ghosts and the Gallows” tour done by the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Hostel staff and guests have reported many strange and unusual events in the building, from disembodied voices, slamming doors, to ghostly apparitions appearing at the foot of their bed. Many people blame the strange happenings in the building on the restless spirit of Patrick James Whelan, as it is a strong possibility that he was an innocent man, executed for a crime he did not commit. In addition, he was promised by the judge he would be buried in his family’s plot in Montreal. However, because the fear of the Irish rioting in Montreal if his remains were returned there was so high, he was buried in secret somewhere on the grounds of the jail.
There’s a selection of rather cramped yet novel jail cell rooms that you can stay in on a number of the hostels floors, however upon checking in I found myself allocated in a large open dorm room with about 7 others which was fine by me. I took a few other pics in and around the hostel anyway just to show you what it’s like. I really like it. It’s not the best hostel I have checked into over the past month, but it certainly is different and has a charm all of its own.
Mike took us on a quick tour of the city, through some market areas as well as a stroll along Parliament Hill where there was a flurry of construction activity with stages and seating etc being assembled ready for the official “Canada Day” celebrations tomorrow.
We made plans to meet up again at the hostel at 9pm to head out on a pub crawl, but in the meantime I visited the nearby “Rideau Center” (a fairly large shopping mall one block from the hostel) where I went through the nervous process of having a bunch of images transferred from my memory cards to CD. I get the feeling I’m going to need every available slot on both my cards tomorrow with everything that’s going on that I want to photograph.
Also took the time this afternoon to get my hair trimmed. It’s been months since I’ve lopped off any locks and it’s certainly made a noticeable difference temperature wise on my scone if nothing else. Actually it was pretty funny how the whole thing went down. I was looking for a nice cheap and cheerful barber shop setup but couldn’t really find anything of that nature. So I ended up biting the bullet and heading into this somewhat “shwanky” joint where I ended up sitting in front of this woman who took to my accent within seconds. The chop was going to set me back $30 regardless, but she said she’d throw in a free wash and scalp massage if I promised to keep talking throughout. Who was I to deny this lovely young thing with an offer like that! Ha!
Our impromptu pub crawl was a tonne of fun with us visiting about 4 different bars over the course of the night, finally settling in at a unique little place called “Zaphod Beeblebrox”. I know, I know good on me for even remembering the name of the place. Apparently the name is based on a character from the classic kids book “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. Inside we found an energetic and entertaining mix of students, hippies and representatives of just about every other societal “pigeon hole”. The fun all came to an abrupt end at around 1am or something when closing time was called and everyone was turfed out into the street.
During the eviction process I literally bumped into and subsequently apologised to a girl who, after about 5 minutes of chatting, I found out was named Elodie (yes, like “melodie” but without the “m”). I don’t really know how it all came about, but she gave me her number and told me to call her tomorrow if I want to celebrate Canada Day with a bunch of Canadians rather than an international backpacking hostel crowd.
The offer is a tempting one, but I’ll just wait and see how well I occupy my time first.