Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Road trip to Edmonton day 1

Port Moody to Clearwater

Date of trip Sat 21/08

Distance travelled 465km

Edmonton trip day 1 picasa album

We set off about 10am and made a stop in Abbotsford to refuel the car at Petro Canada and ourselves at Tim Hortons. In about 2 hours we got to Hope, about 145km and stopped at Othello Road to check out the Othello Tunnels; a series of railway tunnels (date). Quite beautiful scenery as the railway ran alongside a crystal clear river threading it's way through the Coquihalla Valley. The tunnels are 5 minutes drive from the highway, and the walk took about an hour including stopping for a quick picnic lunch on the way. Jamie had a great time climbing the rock walls and looking into caves.

We continued up the BC-5 for another hour or so, and our next stop was for drinks and snacks at Merrit, BC. All we knew about that city was that there is a music festival there every year. The highway looks down at the city which is about 10 minutes from the exit, and spreads out across the bottom of the valley. Driving into the city was a sparse and dated looking light industrial area which did not look very active, and when we reached the downtown area we saw this amazing looking hotel and bar. Pulling over to take a shot of it we parked outside a store and intended to look for a little cafe to grab a drink. Some interesting looking characters came out of the place which turned out to be a liquor store, and after 15 minutes of walking around we figured out that nearly every body in that part of town was pretty drunk or otherwise messed up. On that basis we decided not to carry on looking for a quaint local coffee shop and instead hit up a Petro Candada/7 Eleven instead.

Seems like Merrit, which was a booming town at one time due to the railway stopping there, at least the old downtown area is somewhat down on its luck. The Hotel we photographed, which has an ornate copper turret, was closed due to fire damage, yet was once the best hotel in the interior. The Southern end of the town, which we passed only on the way out, seems to be sprouting up brand new condos, fast food and the big box stores you see anywhere else in the country.

As we left Merrit and continued North the air started to darken with smoke from forest fires burning in the Cariboo. We drove through literally hundred kms of mountain road where the trees were sparse and had been burned to black sticks by previous fires, which gave this part of the journey a somewhat post-apocalyptic feel.

By late afternoon we arrived at Kamloops, which was also smokey enough there was a dark haze across the sky, and you could both smell the smoke and fell it as a dryness on your tongue. We drove down to the waterfront park, where, despite the smoke, plenty of kids were playing in the water park, and mine soon joined them. Exploring the beach we found a dead fish that had been stripped of its insides, presumably by hungry creatures, and we decided it was time to eat. Without the energy or the time to try a local restaurant we decided to head out of town to a large commercial area just off the highway. After having Wendy's for dinner where the staff were notably pleasant, we continued on our way.

It's 124km to our first hotel, the Dutch Lake Motel in Clearwater. This is a pretty old place, but set on a lake front just off the highway. They offer canoe hire and free wifi. The rooms were large and clean with everything we needed, and we took advantage of the large property to take a walk to the lake shore as the sun set. Jamie also enjoyed riding his bike around the big quiet car park.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

In this, my fifth Studio Ghibli movie review, I look at the 1986 work Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Based in a world where people once lived in the sky, some disaster had brought everybody down to earth again. The Castle in the Sky is the last city still airborne, lost to the modern world and hidden amongst storm clouds.

As with virtually all the movies from SG, the story is told from the point of view of children. Sheeta, a girl who seems to have some connection with Laputa, and a magical pendant, teams up with Pazu (who's adventurer father had taken a picture of the Castle in the Sky).

Sheeta and Pazu are pursued by sinister government agents and a gang of pirates lead by an old woman called Dola (who looks very like Yubaba, the witch from Spirited Away).

The movie was somewhat disappointing as it is an epic tale, but compared with more recent SG movies it looks rather dull. Although it has plenty of action and some hilarious slap stick comedy moments, it doesn't have a lot of character and life, and I didn't feel that emotionally involved with the characters.

The sound track is lively and simplistic 80's music, which sounds somewhat retro now (in a good way).

Laputa's story has a slightly environmentally friendly feel to it which I liked, at one point Sheeta recites:

Put down roots in the Earth;
Let's live with the wind;
With seeds, make fat the winter;
With the birds, let's sing of spring.