Cycling Around Tasmania – Launceston To Deloraine


Sunday morning is my favourite time to be on the road; the absence of traffic makes for a stress-free ride.  The week before I had left Tasmania’s largest city – Hobart – on a  Sunday morning; now I was doing it again but from Launceston, the second largest of the island’s towns. From my backpackers’ hostel I found my way to Westbury Road by 8:00 a.m. and followed it up to the top of a steep climb out of town – see the elevation chart above! – until it becomes B54. Thirty minutes on the road and I had done the day’s major climb!  For the rest of the three-hour ride, the terrain was pretty much flat and I found myself in Deloraine before noon.

an empty Sunday morning road on the way to Deloraine

an empty Sunday morning road on the way to Deloraine

B54 passes through a number of tiny hamlets and by expansive farm fields.  It was March so harvest time had come and gone. I framed the flat road and an occasional herd of dairy cattle in my camera viewfinder to capture the essence of the day’s ride.  Given that the A1 – a major thoroughfare – is nearby, the secondary roads I was cycling remained all but empty the whole way to Deloraine.

B54 route sign - Deloraine 39 km

B54 route sign – Deloraine 39 km

Meander Valley fields on an overcast Sunday morning in March

Meander Valley fields on an overcast Sunday morning in March

Meander Valley -flat road through farm country

Meander Valley – flat road through farm country

another B54 distance marker in the Meander Valley

another B54 distance marker in the Meander Valley

At 9:00 or so I cycled through Carrick and the Inn pictured below.  A cup of coffee – Down Under I’ve learned to order  a flat white with soy milk – would make a nice reward for the early start to the day!  Unfortunately,  the restaurant was not yet open for Sunday business; staff was still cleaning up the Saturday night mess!

The Carrick Inn on B54 - too early for Sunday morning eats

The Carrick Inn on B54 – too early for Sunday morning eats

Off to the next possibility just a minute or two down the road –  The Mill Inn.  The lines slashed through the food and beverage part of their offerings made it clear that there would be no flat white here either.

Carrick's The Mill Inn - closed!

Carrick’s The Mill Inn – closed!


Not far after Carrick The Meander Valley Road (B54) crosses over the Bass Highway (A1) and continues almost all the way to Deloraine. The satellite view below has B54 crossing above A1 in the middle of the image; the patchwork of farm fields captures the essential nature of the region.


B54 overpass - A1 underneath

B54 overpass – A1 (Bass Highway)  underneath

dairy herd in the fields before Deloraine

dairy herd in the fields before Deloraine

Just before The Meander Valley Road gets to Deloraine it merges with the A5, which then takes you right to the bridge crossing the Meander River and into downtown Deloraine.

Draped over hills beside the Meander River, DELORAINE is a pleasant spot on the route west. The area was settled by Europeans in the 1830s, but Deloraine was a late-starter, developing from 1846, and today it’s National Trust classified, its backstreets stuffed with historic houses. But don’t let that put you off – architecture is only a backdrop to this town’s quietly bohemian vibe. Numerous arts and crafts galleries line the streets – for a taster there’s Deloraine Creative Studios … the outlet for several local producers, and the largest of the many shops in town.  Rough Guides Snapshot. “Rough Guides Snapshot Tasmania. (2014)


I headed for the Deloraine Apex Caravan Park.  The main office for the Park is in a bungalow across the street from the caravan and tent site. I paid my $10. and got my key to access the various facilities – showers, toilets, cooking area – and then walked my loaded bicycle down to the Meander River.  I found a nice sheltered spot under the tree pictured in the image below.  Once the tent was up I unpacked the sleeping bag and inflated the Thermarest pad.  After rambling around the park for a while – there is a bridge that takes you to the other side for a different perspective – it was time to focus on essentials.  Coffee and food on main street!


The Deloraine Apex Caravan Park – campers along the Meander River

Deloraine Apex Caravan Park - my tent spot on the banks of the Meander River

Deloraine Apex Caravan Park – my tent spot on the banks of the Meander River

Meander River reeds and reflections

Meander River reeds and reflections

I left my bike at the tent site and made my way up the hill on West Goderich Street to the main drag – Emu  Bay Road.  The one thing Deloraine does have was nice views of  The Great Western Tiers, a set of hills in the hazy distance.  Okay, so it’s not the Himalayas but still – it does introduce a bit of drama in an otherwise fairly tame landscape. (I would be looking for other words  later in the journey at Cradle Mountain and then at Strahan on the West Coast – not tame!)

The next day I would be camping underneath Mount Roland, one of the bumps or ridges on the horizon that I viewed from the back porch of the Great Western Tiers Visitor Centre on Emu Bay Rd.;  the Centre is worth a visit thanks to informative displays and lots of tourist info and helpful staff.


Quamby Bluff – a view from Deloraine

The Gog Range and Mount Roland in the afternoon haze from Deloraine.jpg

The Gog Range and Mount Roland in the afternoon haze from Deloraine

In retrospect, Deloraine would have made a good spot to stop for lunch and take in the views I framed above but as for that “quietly bohemian vibe” mentioned in the Rough Guide review –  I wasn’t feeling it!  There is “laid back” and then there’s “dead”.

Perhaps the fact that it was a sleepy Sunday afternoon in autumn explains the nothing-happening feel of the place.  Another 40 kilometers – two and half hours – and I would have been in Sheffield by mid-afternoon in what seemed to me a  more interesting little town with more to look at and with more restaurants open past 5 p.m.

Next Post: Deloraine To Gowrie Park Via Sheffield

Posted in bicycle touring, Tasmania | Leave a comment

The Ojibwe Rock Paintings of Killarney’s Collins Inlet

Related Post:  Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part Two

N.B. The post above is one of two on our mini canoe trip around Philip Edward Island. In it I devoted some space to the pictographs of the Collins Inlet site.  What you’ll see below is just the section on the pictographs, expanded and updated.  If you are interested in the logistics of the canoe trip, check out the post above – and Part One.


On the last day of the four we spent paddling around Killarney’s Philip Edward Island we paddled the western section of Collins Inlet from Mill Lake back to the Chikanishing parking lot. This “inside passage” from Beaverstone Bay all the way across the north side of Philip Edward Island was a favourite of the voyageurs of old, as it gave them a brief respite from the potentially turbulent waters of Georgian Bay.

Collins Inlet Pictograph Site

Just beyond Ambush Narrows, said to be the site of an Ojibwe ambush of invading Iroquois warriors during the Algonquian/Iroquoian War of the mid-1600’s, we paddled up to the Collins Inlet pictograph site.


On a twelve-meter (about 40′) stretch of the rock face pictured above and below are faded red ochre rock paintings left by Ojibwe shamans or vision quest-ers sometime in the last three or four hundred years. They are not easy to see and, in fact, we did not see all of them on our visit. The reason – we only learned about their existence afterward. We would have looked a bit harder had we known!

looking west the Collins Inlet rock face with the pictographs

looking west  at the Collins Inlet rock face with the pictographs

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great LakesTo understand the site and its images, I turned to two sources.  The first was Selwyn Dewdney and the 1962 first edition of his  Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes (Click on the title to access the text.) Dewdney visited the area in 1959.  The book has a sketch of the site and a brief description of the some of the pictographs.

discovering-rock-art-cover_300x454The other source was  Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders,  a study of a dozen Ontario Anishinaabe rock image sites by Thor Conway.  It was published in the fall of 2016 – i.e. after our trip.  Conway worked at the site on at least a couple of occasions in the 1980’s (1983 and 1989). I’ll use Conway’s organizational approach to examine the site more closely. He discusses the site in terms of four “panels” with each panel being a distinct collection of one or more rock paintings. Panel I is the furthest to the east and Panel IV is about twelve meters to the west.

As for Dewdney, of the more than 260 sites he would eventually visit,  the Collins Inlet site was #39.  He was there early in the summer in 1959, having been at Mazinaw Lake (#37, #38) in the days  just before. He would go from Collins Inlet up to Temagami to see the Diamond Lake site (#40) afterwards.

Here is Dewdney’s description of the site. He approached it from the west so the first panel he describes – one solitary image – is Panel IV in Conway’s analysis.

The Collins Bay site is in the conventional red again, on the rock-lined inner passage that the voyageurs used when Georgian Bay got too rough for comfort. Here is an animal head as bodiless as that on the Quetico Lake site. Here again is our ubiquitous—though somewhat battered thunderbird, and tally marks, I should judge, rather than the alternative canoe.

He includes the following sketch in his book (See pp. 92-93 for the sketch and text.)


And that is it for his treatment of the site.  Missing from his sketch is what Conway identified as Panel I; also missing is any discussion of the other images in the vertical collection of Panel II.

On our visit to the site, the image below captures all of what we were able to see. We saw Panel II with its four levels of pictographs, one on top of the other.  About three feet to the left of this vertical panel is what Conway labels as Panel III, a lone thunderbird image, barely discernible.

Collins Inlet Pictographs

Collins Inlet Pictographs

Panel I is not in the image, but to the right and down closer to the waterline.  Conway’s sketch of the image is accompanied by a quote from Joe Wabegijig of Manitoulin Island,  who first saw the pictographs in 1901 when he was twelve.   We learn of the Panel I image  that “…there was a head with horns also marked in red.”  Conway notes that it is possibly a  large head or mask but does concede that it may be something else entirely.

the main panel of pictographs at Collins Inlet

Panel II: the main panel of pictographs at Collins Inlet

Panel II:

This is the largest of the site’s panels.  Dewdney comments only on the bottom image.  I count twelve lines in his sketch.  As he mentions, an alternative explanation is of a canoe with riders, indicated by the vertical lines.  I’d go with the canoe.  A calcite vein interrupts the canoe but you can see the continuation on the bottom right of the image above with four more riders indicated.

This canoe image is a common one in the Canadian Shield pictograph country and is often interpreted as a war canoe with a number of warriors and as a symbol of strength and power. This could be why it appears so close to Ambush Narrows, given its association with a bloody Anishinaabe encounter with Iroquois raiders from the south.  Conway labels it as a canoe in his discussion of the panel.

Above the canoe is an image which most will assume is that of the Christian cross.  If it is indeed a cross then the question arises – is it really the Christian cross?  Some have argued that it is an ancient symbol used by the Midewiwin, the exclusive society of Ojibwe “medicine men” to indicate the fourth degree of attainment.  Others argue that the Medewiwin itself was a post-contact nativist response to the incoming Europeans and that it repurposed the cross, an obvious power symbol to the Europeans, and gave it a Ojibwe-related meaning.   See here for further discussion of this contentious issue!

Of the Christian interpretation Thor Conway concludes –

This is unlikely. When you look for identical images at other Ojibwa rock art sites, you will find almost every example is painted above or below an animal image. This remains an intriguing and, as yet unexplained clue.

In looking at it I thought that it looked like a stylized and simple representation of a bird, an eagle (a totem symbol)  perhaps or even Animikii, the Thunderbird. As opposed to a simple “plus sign”,  the image bulges in the vertical middle and the top of the vertical line seems to have a beak point to the right.  Dewdney unfortunately does not comment on this image or the ones above it in this panel.

Update: here is a version of the image I played around with in Adobe Lightroom, hoping to simulate the DStretch effect.  I altered the saturation and emphasized the ochre hue.  The result?  The beak looking to the right that I thought I was seeing is not there!


Above the Animikii or cross image is what appears to be the rather rectangular and headless body of an animal.  At the rear is an upright tail . Conway identifies it as a dog.  I thought it could be a crude representation of Mishipeshu, the underwater lynx.  To the left of the raised tail of the animal is a remnant of what could be a canoe image.

horned snake pictograph at Diamond Lake

horned snake picto at Diamond Lake

The zig zag lines at the very top of this small panel – well, again, who can say.  In Dewdney’s sketch they appear as indistinct smudges.  Of the jumble of lines Conway makes the following – a possible “shorebird track” and a canoe with paddler image. Bird footprints also  appear at the Diamond Lake site. They may be statements of clan affiliation. What also appears at the Temagami-area site is  the horned snake image. Perhaps the zig zag lines depicts a more horizontal version of  the two-horned snake (Mishiginebig  in Ojibwe) often depicted along with Mishipeshu.  Its head and horns would be at the right side – i.e. the part of the rock painting that Dewdney did capture. It is the horned snake image at Diamond Lake in Temagami that I thought of as I tried to make sense of the zig zag lines here.

N.B.  The analysis I provided above is likely off the mark! (Editor: Likely! Try 100%. While Animikii, Mishipeshu, and Mishiginebig are indeed figures from Ojibwe myth and were common subjects to be painted,  the human mind has a knack for finding , even  imposing,  meaning and connection even on events and markings that have nothing to do with what the viewer wills them to be!

Panel III:

To the left of the vertical panel is a lone painting seen in the image below described by Dewdney as “our ubiquitous—though somewhat battered thunderbird“.  Looking at Dewdney’s sketch of the image, he was not able to capture much of it the day he was there.  Perhaps the angle of the sun?   Animikii’s body is  a triangle shape; the beak on top faces to  the right.

Collins Inlet - lone Thunderbird pictograph

Collins Inlet – lone Thunderbird pictograph

Panel IV:

dewdney-quetico-lake-picto-site-animal-headA pictograph we did not see at all was the one Dewdney described as ” an animal head as bodiless as that on the Quetico Lake site“.  I looked through his sketches and found this one from the mentioned Quetico Lake site; it was of the head and antlers of a woodland caribou.

Woodland caribou in Killarney?  Conway includes interviews with a number of Ojibwe elders who have stories going back to the mid-1800’s when the caribou was in fact a part of the ecosystem of the area. A reader of this post was kind enough to send me a photo of the Panel IV caribou head.

Collins Inlet - Panel IV - caribou head

Collins Inlet – Panel IV – caribou head

He also sent a version of the image that had been processed using a pictograph enhancing application called DStretch.  Seeing what it does makes me realize that I need to get a copy of the app too!  What is really necessary are DStretch-ed versions of all the panels!

The antlers are not as dramatic as those on the Quetico Lake caribou head but other aspects of the representation correspond. Conway’s book also includes photos of the rice paper drawings he made on site of the caribou head – and of an almost vertical ocher slash located above the caribou head.  The bottom of this slash may appear in the image below.


And that is it for the Collins Inlet Pictograph Site.  Here is an overview shot I took of the rock face with the various markings indicated.  Missing from it are Panel I (somewhere to the bottom right) and Panel IV. ( It  is just to the left on the image I framed.)   Already knowing that they are there will hopefully make it that much more likely that you will see them!


As indicated above, there is some minor evidence of graffiti a few feet to the left of (or west of) the Panel III Thunderbird image. You can see the initials J.P. in the middle. Just above them is the year number 1939 and more initials.

Update: After looking over the photos I took at the site and taking into account information gleaned and received since our visit, I can now identify the four panels that Conway uses to discuss the site.  I’ve left in some of the tree growth in the rock face on either end to help as initial markers as you hone in on the various panels.


Collins Inlet Pictograph Site – enlarge with a click or two

These pictographs face south and are quite exposed. Given all the human activity in the Inlet since they were painted here with the mixture of ground hematite and fish oil some three to four hundred years ago or so, it is nice to see that their presence has been respected by almost all non-Anishinaabe passerby going all the way back to Samuel de Champlain in 1615 (though his trip down the Inlet may have pre-dated their painting).

Conway does record a brief statement by  one elder from Manitoulin Island about a supposed attempt by Jesuit priests living in the Wikwemikong community – when is not stated –  to erase one of the images –

And the priest kind of doubted that this thing could be washed off. They [the priests] tried to scrub it, and done everything else try to get it off. Never took anything off of it. It’s still there. (155)

In the end we just appreciate the fact that we can sit in our canoe in the same spot that an Ojibwe shaman sat or stood in as he dipped his fingers in the powdered hematite/fish oil mixture and reached out to the rock face intent on drawing specific images taken from his culture’s mythological image bank.


In his 1959 season Dewdney continued the search to the east of the Collins Inlet site.  He writes –

Farther east, I had no success in finding “an astonishing serpent” referred to in Harmon’s Journal, presumed to be in the vicinity of Grondines Point. In ’59 I flew over the area, a complex labyrinth of small islands and shoals, all seeming to shelve gently into the water.

It may be that Dewdney was looking in the wrong place.  Daniel Harmon’s journal entries for May 26 to May 29, 1800 indicate that he was on the north shore of Lake Huron on May 26 near the Serpent River mouth.


Scratched into the lichen on a rock face near the mouth of the Serpent River was that “astonishing serpent” that Dewdney was looking for. See here for a brief article by Thor Conway in the March/April 1985 newsletter (Arch Notes )of  the Ontario Archaeological Society.

There is, however, another reference to a pictograph site in the Point Grondine area that Dewdney may have had in mind.  In 1850 J.J. Bigsby, an English physician and geologist, published a two-volume account of his travels in Canada in the 1820’s titled  Shoe And Canoe. Of his route up Lake Huron he  noted the following –


Source of quote here

A pictograph site in the immediate vicinity of Point Grondine  has yet to be found.  If  22 kilometers qualifies as “not far hence” then perhaps Bigsby was relaying an account he had heard about the Collins Inlet site. It is clear from the text that their route did not in fact take them through the inlet; he mentions the Fox Islands as their next landmark.


As for us, we were headed west!  As we paddled down the Inlet away from the pictographs our thoughts turned to something more mundane – fish and chips at the “World Famous” stand/restaurant in Killarney!   Now we were motivated to finish off our canoe trip and drive into town, a few kilometers from the Chikanishing Road parking lot.

Fish and Chips Place in Killarney

Fish and Chips Place in Killarney

Related Posts:

Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part One

Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part Two

Posted in Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Train Ride Across the Highlands of Sri Lanka

Previous Post: Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains & the Hike To World’s End

Sri Lanka’s ultimate train trip runs 290 kilometers from the capital all the way east to Badulla.  In his excellent blog The man in Seat 61,  train aficionado Mark Smith says that it is “a classic journey that’s easily the best train ride in Sri Lanka”.   As you make your way from one end to the other,  it is possible to interrupt your journey with connections to the old capital of Kandy and the hill station of  Nuwara Eliya. These towns are  two of Sri Lanka’s most attractive.

The best part of the ten-hour trip takes you from Nanu Oya, ten kilometers by road from Nuwara Eliya, to Ella across the hill country and past tea plantations that sometimes come up right to the rail tracks. Cloud forest and the highest altitude rail stations in the country – 1800 meters higher than Colombo –  await!  On the Google map below the green line indicates the route –

We had spent the previous evening in Nuwara Eliya and in the morning drove by bus to Horton Plains National Park  and the World’s End Trail.  Then, our easy-to-walk World’s End circuit done,  we returned to Ambewela and waited for our train.  The memorable ride would take us to Ella over a two-hour time span.

Ambewela Train Staion window

Ambewela Train Station window

Ambewela at 1828 meters a.s.l. and nearby Pattipola at 1892 meters, are the two highest train stations in Sri Lanka and among the top 20 in the world. The line was built by the British during colonial times to haul tea from the highlands down to Colombo; now it carries tourists!

Ambewela - Train Timetable

Ambewela – Train Timetable

Ambewela Train Station - passenger wait for the train east

Ambewela Train Station – passengers wait for the train east

As we waited a number of trains passed by; they were all heading north and west to Colombo. A train aficionado would be able to identify the engines and the carriages and their respective vintages; I had to content myself with noting their various colours!

train pulling into Ambewela Station

train pulling into Ambewela Station

While the Sri Lankan government owns the rail lines and runs most of the services, there are a couple that are privately run – the Exporail Car and The Rajadhani Express.  The cars below date back to 1970 and as the image below shows, they are looking a bit tired.  And, if getting photos of the views is your mission, it sounds like you’d be better off on a regular train like the blue one we were waiting for.  Here is what the man in seat 61 says about the Rajadhani –

The Rajadhani car dates from 1970, so externally it’s older and grubbier than their website suggests.  But it’s easy to book online, it’s very comfy, well air-conditioned, has effective WiFi  – if you correctly enter the world’s longest WiFi password, that is – and is very popular with tourists.  On the downside you are sealed in behind small and very grubby windows, making it a poor way to experience the journey.  Taking photographs of the scenery is almost impossible, so you are better off in regular 2nd class.  source: here

The Rajadhani Express pulls in to Ambewela

The Rajadhani Express pulls in to Ambewela

a train heading to Colombo

a train heading to Colombo

In the image below a tourist watches me as I include her in my photo of the observation car.


Ambewela train stop – a Chines tourist in the first-class observation car

More cars heading west, more colours …until finally our blue train, known as the Udurata Menike – a Sinhala translation of the original English “Highland Lass” – arrived.

The blue Chinese-built trains were the newest ones I saw; they were introduced in 2012. We had reserved second-class seats and, best of all, it was very easy to take pics.  I am almost certain that the windows open so dirty windows were not an issue.  I am not sure why I did not use my Sony DSLR for any of the pix in this post; all but the last were all taken with my with my point and shoot – a Canon Elph 330 (aka Ixus 255).

our train finally arrives at Ambewela

our train finally arrives at Ambewela

The car below looks like it might go back to pre-independence times!

old rail car sitting near Ambewela Station

old rail car sitting near Ambewela Station

And then we were on our way – taking in the fifty shades of green often covered in a shroud of mist. Every once in a while we would enter a rock face through one of the 44 tunnels of the route and views would be replaced by the sound of screeching wheels on the rails.

the blue train on its way to Ella -

the blue train on its way to Ella –

Going through Tunnel #26 at Km 233

Going through Tunnel #26 at Km 233

passing through the cloud forest of the Sri Lankan highlands.jpg

passing through the cloud forest of the Sri Lankan highlands.

cultivated fields in the Horton Plains cloud forest

cultivated fields in the Horton Plains cloud forest

Tamil women picking tea leaves - Sri Lankan highlands

Indian Tamil women picking tea leaves – Sri Lankan highlands

Historically there are two Tamil communities in Sri Lanka. There are the Tamils who were brought over to the island by the British in the 1840’s to work on the tea plantations; they are referred to as the Indian Tamils.  There is a much older group- the Sri Lankan Tamils – who have been a part of the history of the island going back 2000 years.  For some of those years they actually ruled parts of it. Tamils make up about 20% of the population of the country – and while they are more numerous to the north and along the east coast, they are also very much a part of the hill country that this post describes. (See here for a map indicating ethnic group distribution.)

One of these years I hope to return to Sri Lanka with my bicycle, take the train up to Jaffna, and then travel down the east coast of the island to Trincomalee and beyond to experience another aspect of a beautiful  island with a fascinating, if somewhat painful recent history. As I high school teacher in Toronto I came to know a number of students from Sri Lanka, some Sinhalese but mostly Tamil. Beginning in the early 1990’s many had arrived as refugees from the civil war going on.  Outside of Sri Lanka, Canada is the home of  the single-largest number of Tamils.

Sri Lanka tea country - flower bed on the side of the rail tracks

Sri Lanka tea country – flower bed on the side of the rail track

Common in Sri Lanka are trilingual signs like the one below at Haputale. The top row has Sinhala letters and the middle has Tamil.

Haputale - trilingual sign

Haputale – trilingual sign

passengers disembarking at Haputale

passengers disembarking at Haputale

more tea plantations east of Haputale.jpg

more tea plantations east of Haputale

flower bed - Diyathalawa station

flower bed – Diyathalawa station

a view of Diyathalawa from the train

a view of Diyathalawa from the train

Heel-oya Station platform

Heel-oya Station platform

As the photos of the various train stations and the countryside show, buildings and surroundings are mostly well-kept and tidy.  Garbage and litter are rarely seen and the smell of sewage – one of my overriding impressions of travelling the top half of  India – is thankfully absent.

Kithalella Station -

Kithalella Station

Ella Station - packpackers on the platform

Ella Station – backpackers on the platform

We got to Ella at about 5:30.  We had set off from Nuwara Eliya at 6:30 a.m. for Horton Park and had been rewarded by a nice ramble in Horton Plains Park and then this train ride.  After we checked into our Ella hotel, my roommate and I walked down to The Grand Hotel for supper. Behind the hotel is a garden with a fabulous view of Ella Rock and the Gap.  The next morning we would hike up to the Rock and look back at the hotel! Here is the Rough Guide reivew of Ella –

Sri Lanka’s most beautiful village, offering verdant walks amongst the surrounding tea plantations and a marvellous view through Ella Gap to the plains below.

Next Post: Hiking The Hills Above The Hill Station of Ella

the view of the Gap from the gardens of the Ella Grand Spa and Resprt

the view of the Gap from the gardens of the Ella Grand Spa and Resort

Related Links:

The Man In Seat 61‘s write-up on the Sri Lanka rail system is an essential source of information if you are planning to use the train to get round the island.  This site – not a commercial venture but the personal site of Mark Smith –  has everything you need in terms of timetables and reviews of the different trains. As well, it provides historical background on the various trains you would see pass by.  Click on the title  –

I did this tour – The Highlands of Sri Lanka – with Exodus Travels, a small-group travel country based in the U.K. there were 12 of us in the group, a mix of older Brits and a couple of Canadians. I’ve used Exodus at least a dozen times when the organized trip option makes the most sense.  I always come away impressed with the guides and the way that everything on the logistics side just falls into place.

A Fascinating Journey, a review of a book written by Hemasiri Fernando titled The Uva Railway: Railway To The Moon appeared in The Sunday Times Sri Lanka (May 1, 2016).  It gives a brief  summary of the author’s detailed treatment of the history of the line and may well lead train buffs to getting the book itself. A search for the book at unfortunately did not come up with it; a Colombo book shop may be the place to look.

Lou Wilson uploaded to Youtube some video of his 2012 train ride from Kandy to Ella.  He captures the spirit of the journey beautifully.

Posted in Easy Travelling, hiking/trekking, Sri Lanka | Leave a comment

Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains & The View From World’s End

Previous Post: Hiking Sri Lanka’s Knuckles – To Meemure and Corbett Gap

a view of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya

an evening  view of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya

We were out of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya and on the road by 7:00 a.m. the next morning.  Our destination for the day: the hill station of Ella about 60 kilometers to the south-east with one major diversion – a short hike in Horton Plains National Park.


The early start would hopefully allow us to get to the viewpoint at World’s End in the park before the clouds started rolling in from the south and hid the spectacular views. We gained a bit of altitude as the switchback took us up to the plateau.  Down below the mist hung in the valley and created an enchanting scene.

on the road to Horton Plains National Park from Nuwara Eliya

on the road to Horton Plains National Park from Nuwara Eliya

Down in the valley I spotted the dozen windmills of the Ambewela Aitken Spence Wind Farm. It gave the scene an unexpected futuristic look.

a dozen windmills in the valley mist south of Nuwara Eliya

a dozen windmills in the valley mist south of Nuwara Eliya

Following regional highway B582 to Pattipola, we then continued on toward  Horton Plains National Park entrance. There was another surprise – looking west over the valley  I spotted Sri Pada‘s distinctive profile on the horizon.  Total distance – about 35 kilometers!  Sri Pada’s 2,243 m (7,359 ft) height and the lack of any other peaks of similar size nearby means it really stands out!


Two evenings before we had climbed up the pilgrimage mountain with thousands of Sri Lankan Buddhists keen to get close to what believers say is a sacred footprint left by the Buddha on one of his three legendary visits to the island.  Sri Pada would also be given the name Adam’s Peak by visiting Arab traders to fit with their Muslim stories.

Well, there it was and here we were – looking at it from the Horton Plains!

a shot of Sri Padas from the moving bus on the way to Horton Plains

a shot of Sri Padas from the moving bus on the way to Horton Plains

On to the park, still named after a British governor of Ceylon from the 1830’s. (The Sinhala name for the area is Maha Eliya.) We would spend the next three hours on an easy circular hike that would take us past the three main attractions.  The sign below lists them.

trail sign at Horton Plains National Park.jpg

trail sign at Horton Plains National Park

There are other hiking trails in the park but this one is by far the most popular. The yellow line indicates the trail.  Beginning at the park entrance at the top right-hand side, we walked down to the World’s End at the bottom and then came back via Baker’s Falls. Total distance: about 9 kilometers with perhaps 90 meters (300′) in altitude gained or lost on the way.  The terrain is a mix of cloud forest and grassland and the trail is well-worn thanks to the many visitors.

Horton Plains Park's most popular walk

Horton Plains Park’s most popular walk


I found the above GPS track uploaded by  Miriup at wikiloc;  check it out here Using the slider on the elevation chart, you can walk the trail and get a feel for its ups and downs!  It really is an easy half-day walk.  We were definitely the exceptions with our hiking boots, trekking poles and, for some, even full gaiters!  Shorts and running shoes seem to be more typical!

hikers getting read at the Horton Trail Y

hikers getting read at the Horton Trail Y – pointing my camera into the sun was not a good idea!

In the above image we have come to the initial Y in the road and everyone is getting ready – sunscreen lotion, water bottle, camera, sun hat!  To the right the trail takes you to Baker’s Falls; to the left it goes to Mini World’s End and World’s End.  Given that views tend to be better earlier in the morning before clouds have moved in from the coast, a clockwise direction is advisable.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees!  We found the view clouded over as we passed by Mini World’s End.

a view from Mini World's End

a view from Mini World’s End

What the trail does is take you along the edge of a cliff that plummets 1000 meters from your 1800-or-so- meter vantage point to lowlands just below.  Supposedly on a clear day you can see all the way to the south coast of the island.  We would not be so lucky!



a bit of mist obscures the view at Mini World's End!

a bit of mist obscures the view at Mini World’s End!

Mini World's End - the-photographer-gets-photographed

Mini World’s End – the photographer gets photographed!

Mini World's End - mist, forest, and grass

Mini World’s End – mist, forest, and grass

A bit further on from Mini World’s End is World’s End itself. We arrived there to find the view even more clouded over than the one we had left.  W e walked into a group of walkers already sitting there on the platforms and gazed into the thick fog.  While it wasn’t what we were hoping for, it had a beauty of its own.

World's End view - Horton Plains

World’s End view – Horton Plains

panorama of World's End with mist down below

panorama of World’s End with mist down below

I thought of Mount Fuji and a Bonzi tree as I framed the shot below!

World's End view - mist below Horton Plains

World’s End view – mist below Horton Plains

And then it was back to the World’s End platform for one last look before taking the trail down to see the twenty-meter drop of Baker’s Falls.

the loookout at World's End in Horton Plains Park

the lookout at World’s End in Horton Plains Park

As the image below shows, we would lose some altitude as we went down to the river that flows by.

down to the foot of Baker's Falls in Horton Plains Park

down to the foot of Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains Park

It is the  Belihul Oya,  a tributary of the Walawe.  (The Walawe Oya is one of three rivers (along with the Mahaweli and Kelani) that have their headwaters on the Horton Plains plateau. See here for a map.)

walking to Baker's Falls from Wrold's End in Horton plains Park

walking to Baker’s Falls from World’s End in Horton Plains Park

We spent some time at the Falls, framing a few shots and inhaling the oxygen-enriched air.

viewers' platform at Baker's Falls

viewers’ platform at Baker’s Falls

Baker's Falls in Horton Palins Park

Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains Park

fellow traveller getting the shot just right

fellow traveller getting the shot just right

a view on the walk back from Baker's Falls

a view on the walk back from Baker’s Falls

We knew that our morning walk was done when we saw the trail marker down below. Its well-worn look gives the impression of something left behind from colonial times seventy years ago!

the trail sign at Horton Plains

the trail sign at Horton Plains with distances to the various attractions

On our menu for the rest of the day – lunch at a local rice and curry restaurant and then a train ride from Ambewela to Ella, where we would spend the next couple of days hiking in the hills above the town. The train ride is perhaps the most dramatic in Sri Lanka, taking you through cloud forest, tea plantations, and the highest-altitude trains station on the island. The next post will take a look at the scenery!

Ambewela Train Station/Horton Plains National Park

Ambewela Train Station/Horton Plains National Park

Next Post:  A Train Ride Across The Highlands of Sri Lanka (Ambewela To Ella)

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Toronto’s Main Street In Transition – Yonge From Dundas To The Harbour

See Also: Toronto’s Main Street In Transition – Yonge From Yorkville To Dundas Continue reading

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January 2017: Prepping For Hikes In Argentina’s Lakes Region

Click on the More options prompt on the top left of the map for a full-screen view.

In a month from now I will be in Bariloche area of  Argentina for three weeks of hiking and volcano climbing.  It is located in northern Patagonia on the east side of the Andes in an area known for its volcanoes and sapphire-coloured alpine lakes. The Chilean side is just as spectacular!

After flying down from Toronto to Santiago de Chile and then on to Puerto Montt, I’ll spend the first three nights in Puerto Varas as I find my feet and my castellano! After an easy first day checking out Puerto Varas, I hope to bus over to the  Volcan Osorno (2,652-meters) for a walk to the top – it will make a nice warm-up hike. There is a cable lift which takes you up part way; I think I’ll get a lift ticket!


From Puerto Varas,  I cross the Andes into Argentina and the resort town of (San Carlos de) Bariloche. See here for the Cruce de Lagos website.


It promises to be a scenic bus/boat trip even if a bit pricy at $280. U.S.  The Google map above shows the much cheaper bus route but I think this splurge will be worth it!   It will take me past Volcan Osorno again as well as across Lago Totos Los Santos from Petrohue to Peulla.  It takes 12 hours to  get to Bariloche.


A couple of years ago I spent $320. US for a spectacular 45-minute balloon ride over the Plains of Merit in Pagan, Burma so I have had practice in rationalizing  seemingly ridiculous expenditures.  See Ballooning Over The Plains Of Bagan for my thoughts on that extravagance!


I’ll be spending two weeks in the area, a few days in town getting organized and one on a rented bicycle saddle doing the Circuito Chico, a 60 km ride along the lakeshore to the Hotel Llao Llao.  I’ve already booked a room for three nights at the Hostel 41 Below in the downtown area. A  selling point was the vegetarian meals served at lunch and dinner.  It can be difficult sticking to a vegan diet while travelling.  This should make my stay in Bariloche  somewhat easier!

Most of my time in the Bariloche area will be spent on the hiking trails to the west. I have two hikes planned:

  1. the five-day hike from Cerro Catedral to Refugios Frey, Jakob (San Martín), Laguna Negra (Italia), and Lopez before coming down to Colonia Suissa and a bus ride back to Bariloche.  I’ll have my tent – but if the weather is really bad a space in the refugio is an option.
  2. a hike up to Refugio Otto Meiling  from Pampa Linda.  Once there I hope to find a guide who can get me to the top of Cerro Tronador (a 3,470 meter high extinct volcano) – or at least to Pico Argentino. It is the peak accessible from the Argentinian side.  Glacier melt over the past decade or so means that the actual highest peak is a dangerous undertaking.  It would be a ten-hour slog starting around 3 a.m. to takre advantage of the  harder snow.   I will bring along my crampons and climbing harness; I may be able to rope in with a group that is already going. I did find a guide service which offered to do it for $650. for the day but have to believe that it can be had for much less. Time will tell!

After that things are a bit up in the air.  I know I’ll be heading to the north end of Lago Nahuel Huapi to Villa de Angostura and then up to San Martin de los Andes but have no goal in mind other than to arrange a hike to the top of Volcan Lanín with one of the many agencies based in San Martín. A three-day $650. excursion looks like the solution.


I then loop back to Chile through the town of Osorno and spend the last two nights in Puerto Montt – I’ve pre-booked a room at the Hotel Seminario on a street above the downtown area –  before flying back to Toronto near the end of February.

I now have the month of January to up my fitness level a bit so that I can do all the above and enjoy it!  A couple of Saturdays ago I slipped on some black ice on my street while walking my dog Viggo and badly bruised my hip. I was barely able to walk the 150 meters back home, thinking all the while about what this could mean for my upcoming trip! Well, it is two weeks later and the hurt is all but gone. However,  my training program was put aside while I healed.  Now to get back to where I was!

My  January 2 activity  so far has  included a 1 hour 15 minute walk with Viggo and a more intense  45-minute bicycle ride on the city streets, which were clear of ice and snow. One more 45-minute walk with V and that will be it for today.  Tomorrow’s +6ºC is nice but the rain  will make a longer bike ride unlikely.


If I can keep riding the streets it means  I won’t have to resort to the boring treadmill at the gym or to my Nordic Trak machine in the basement.  I may earn some aerobics points by putting in a jog or two through my Riverdale/Cabbagetown neighbourhood instead of cycling.



Posted in Argentina, Chile, hiking/trekking | 4 Comments

Walking Down Toronto’s Old Yonge Street – Before It’s Gone! Yorkville to Dundas

Related Posts: See the Toronto folder for more post and pix of my home town.

There are all sorts of reasons why Yonge Street dropped off the map of my Toronto in the past decade or two!

  • my music collection went the mp3 route,
  • all the bars and clubs with live blues, folk, and rock music closed their doors
  • my bookstore – digital as well as analogue – changed to
  • the restaurant meal I wanted to order had become vegan
  • the Danforth in my Riverdale neighbourhood had most of what I needed
  • I was not twenty-five anymore

While I remember with fondness that 18-year-old kid from a mining town of 10,000 walking down the freak show that was Yonge Street in 1969,  those days are gone!   And so – as the following pix will make clear to anyone over 40 – are an increasing number of the street’s tired and dilapidated buildings – and even some entire blocks.


Standing on Broadview Avenue across from Riverdale’s The Rooster Café I can look west over the Don River Valley and see the new buildings on Yonge that are changing the skyline.

walking from Jarvis towards Yonge and Bloor - with One Bloor East standing above all

walking from Jarvis towards Yonge and Bloor – with One Bloor East standing above all

I had some research to do at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge near Yorkville Avenue – the street which back in the sixties was hippy central! –  and figured that afterwards  I would do something I hadn’t done in maybe fifteen years – walk down Yonge Street!  Along with my laptop I put my Fuji X20 in my backpack and walked over the Bloor Street Viaduct towards Yonge.

the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge

the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge

the inside of the Raymond Moriyama designed Toronto reference library

the inside of the Raymond Moriyama designed Toronto reference library opened in 1977

The Reference Library – Toronto’s third largest after the main libraries of the U of T and York – has been there for almost forty years, long enough for it to have a $40,000,000. renovation a few years ago! My research done – I think I was reading up on Ojibwe pictographs – I figured I would make use of the 4th floor vantage point for some shots of Yonge Street. Looking south toward Bloor Street here was the view –

looking S to the corner of Yonge and Bloor

looking S to the corner of Yonge and Bloor

Next year at this time there will be a  998′ high condo/retail tower filling the space where you see the sign The One – as in 1 Bloor W.  It will be about 150′ higher than the 1 Bloor E tower across the street. Here is a satellite image from two years ago when construction on the 1 Bloor E. tower was just starting.  Keep on scrolling to see what is there now!



I looked west over the over the row of buildings that once included The Cookbook Store. It closed in 2014 after thirty years at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville.

While the front face of the buildings is still up there is a cavity behind that will eventually be filled by a 601′ condominium tower with 580 units.  The “heritage’ facade is staying! To the right is an image from the developers promo book. See here for the source.

looking over the 1 Yorkville site/corner of Yonge and Yorkville

looking over the 1 Yorkville site/corner of Yonge and Yorkville

looking south down Yonge Street from N of the Toronto Reference Library

looking south down Yonge Street from N of the Toronto Reference Library

One of my favourite bars on Yonge was the Morrissey Tavern at 817, just a few steps north of the library at 789. It was replaced with a condominium tower – the one at 20 Collier – in the early 2000’s.  Already a decade before I had quit smoking and hanging out in bars like the Morrissey had become a lot less desirable!

Dundas Square - not so public on this day

excavation stage of the site across from the Reference Library

The Cookbook Store at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville - only the facade remains.jpg

The Cookbook Store at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville – only the facade remains

the saved fronts of buidlings from Yorkville down towards Cumberland.jpg

the saved fronts of buildings from Yorkville down towards Cumberland

I talked briefly to a guy wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard about the excavation going on behind the facade you see in the pic above. I asked him why they were bothering to save such a shabby stretch of brick work. Even creating a fake 1880’s facade would be easier than having to work around the original one. He said it certainly wasn’t the architects’  or builders’ idea and that sometimes you have to make concessions to get permits.

the saved facade at Yonge and Yorkville

the saved facade at Yonge and Yorkville

Looking S towards Bloor from Yorkville Avenue.

Looking S towards Bloor from Yorkville Avenue.

the NE corner of Yonge/Cumberland slated for development

the NE corner of Yonge/Cumberland slated for development

The corner building – the one with Pizza Pizza on the first floor and the “Live right here” sign on the second – is slated for demolition.  Safe for now is the Pilot Tavern, another favourite watering hole back in the day.  It is admittedly looking a bit tired too!

the old Britnell's Book Store just N of the Bay Buidling

the old Britnell’s Book Store just N of the Bay Building

Britnell’s was THE upscale bookstore in Toronto for decades but by the end of the 1990’s the current generation of the family decided it was time to move on to other things. Visit the Starbucks in the space now and you will see the same solid bookshelves and the eye-catching black and white tiled floor.

standing at Yonge and Bloor - NW corner.jpg

standing at Yonge and Bloor – NW corner.jpg

Bye, Bye Stollery's - the SW corner of Yonge at Bloor

Bye, Bye Stollery’s – looking at the SW corner of Yonge and Bloor

The other day as I walked by the Necropolis next to the Riverdale Farm I noticed a historical plague acknowledging “The Early Settlers”.  It mentioned that the remains of these early citizens of Toronto had been moved from Potter’s Field to the Necropolis in the 1850’s. And where was Potter’s Field?  I was standing in it at the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor! Across the street was where Stollery’s – a conservative men’s clothing store – used to be.  I may have purchased a tweed jacket or two and a Burberry trench coat there before I devolved to Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s  “urban camper” style.

One Yonge Street - view from the west

One Yonge Street – view from the west

Formerly One Bloor East and now just One Bloor – it certainly is a dramatic addition to the skyline.  When 1 Bloor West – billed as The One on the sign board above – is up, they can argue about which is truly The One!

Later that week while I was walking along the Danforth – about 3.5 kilometers from the Bloor/Yonge intersection. From this distance you really notice how much taller than the CIBC Building or the Bay Building the newest addition really is.

a view of One Bloor from The Danforth near Carlaw Avenue

a view of One Bloor from The Danforth near Carlaw Avenue

Now the CIBC “Tower” is just a mid-sized high-rise that will soon – when One Bloor West is up – be even more overwhelmed.  Perhaps its owners are already calculating the feasibility of a teardown and rebuild more keeping with the space that Toronto haters across the country will say we think of the centre of the universe.

the first block south of Bloor - east side of Yonge.jpg

the first block south of Bloor – east side of Yonge

The House of Lords still stands!

The House of Lords still stands!


looking south down a tired stretch of Yonge street near Irwin Avenue

Yonge Street as construction site!

Yonge Street as construction site!

SE corner of Yonge/Gloucester demolition - Bye, Bye Aida's Felafels!

SE corner of Yonge/Gloucester demolition – Bye, Bye Aida’s falafel!


another block of vintage Yonge Street north of College St.

construction site between Maitland and Alexander

construction site between Maitland and Alexander

As I walked toward College Street I saw something I’d never seen before from Yonge Street – The Buddies In Bad Times building!  Taking out an entire block’s worth of buildings along Yonge can do that to the view.

an entire block between Maitland and Alexander - gone!

an entire block between Maitland and Alexander – gone!

To remind myself what had been there before I checked out the Google satellite view which helped a bit. What it shows is an entire nondescript block of vintage two-storey brick buildings.

Yong Street east side from Maitland to Alexander - before the demo crew showed up!

Yong Street east side from Maitland to Alexander – before the demo crew showed up!

A block further down and more demolition – the buildings at the SW corner are gone. The billboard on the scaffolding says Canderel. Underneath I see the phrase “Project of the Year”.

SW corner of Yonge/Grenville - one block N of College Street

SW corner of Yonge/Grenville – one block N of College Street

I turn to Google again to refresh my fading memory! While the satellite image predates the demolition, already on the doomed building is the tag “Condominium Residences”.

the new Canderel space on Yonge - before the demolition

the new Canderel space on Yonge – before the demolition

looking N up Yonge Street from south end of the old Eaton's College Street Store

looking N up Yonge Street from south end of the old Eaton’s College Street Store

the new look of the old Eaton's College store

the College Park Suites to the south of the old Eaton’s College store

Across the street from the College Park Suites is a parkette, created by closing the last twenty meters of McGill Street from Sheard Street to Yonge.  The result is a bit of empty space and a few trees on a bricked terrace right off Yonge Street. Across the street is the Aura,  currently the highest condo tower in Canada (but soon, I am sure, to be replaced by another Toronto tower holding the same distinction).

The McGill Street Arch and Parkette across from The Aura

The McGill Street Arch and Parkette across from The Aura

The McGill Street Arch historical plaque

The McGill Street Arch historical plaque


a stretch of “heritage” Yonge Street

a classic Yonge Street Building in the heart of downtown!

a classic Yonge Street building in the heart of downtown!

I can hear the arguments for preserving the historical facade of this slice of the old Yonge Street just north of Aden Camera. “It’s a part of our heritage!”

approaching Dundas from the north on Yonge Street

approaching Dundas from the north on Yonge Street

Yonge Street north of the Ryerson Student Learning Center

Yonge Street north of the Ryerson Student Learning Center

I looked across the street from the west side at a spot I spent hours at in my younger years. Given my obsession, it was almost like a weekly pilgrimage – sometimes on Friday nights, sometimes on Saturday afternoons.  No – not the strip club!

The Zanzibar Club and the Ryerson U's Student Learnng Center

The Zanzibar Club and the Ryerson U’s Student Learning Center

The Ryerson building sits were it used to be and even the iconic sign is gone but from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties I spent more time than I should have leafing through the record bins at Sam The Record Man’s.  Occasionally I’d also visit A & A’s next door.  Now I just have to wonder – what was  I looking for?

The Zanzibar, A&A's and Sam's in the 1970's

The Zanzibar, A&A’s and Sam’s in the 1970’s – see here for internet source –  City of Toronto Archives

I walked up the steps of the Ryerson building and tried to guess if I was anywhere near the space that used to hold the blues and folk sections in the Sam’s store.  Memories of  walking into the University of Waterloo’s Campus Centre in 1969 as a first-year student flashed by  as I walked up these Ryerson steps, looking like a very securely tenured professor who was contemplating imminent retirement!

the view from the front steps of the Ryerson Student Buidling

the view from the front steps of the Ryerson Student Building

the empty lot across the street from the Ryerson building

the empty lot across the street from the Ryerson building – SE corner of Yonge/Gould


a wall of advertisement across from Ryerson's Student Learning Center

a wall of advertisement across from Ryerson’s Student Learning Center


Yonge Street across from the Ryerson Building

Just off Yonge on Edward Street was maybe The World’s Biggest Bookstore. In the days before Amazon and its massive online book selection which you can have delivered to your front door within days, The World’s Biggest  was one of the regular stops in my ongoing quest for interesting reading – along with BMV next door  and Britnell’s and Book City and a number of used bookstores along Spadina and on Queen.  Now it is that empty lot to the west of BMV.  Originally slated for development as a low-rise row of restaurants, revised plans have a thirty-storey condominium tower there with some retail on the bottom.

the empty lot that once was The World's Biggest Bookstore

the empty lot that once was The World’s Biggest Bookstore

A block down from the Ryerson building is Dundas Street and the north end of the Eaton Centre, a 1970’s redevelopment which profoundly altered at least the west side of the stretch of Yonge Street from Dundas all the way down to Queen and the old Simpson’s store (which was bought by the Hudson Bay Co. in 1978 and recently sold by them to Cadillac Fairview, the entity that owns the Eaton Center complex).


the public square on the SE corner of Yonge and Dundas


looking up Yonge Street from the 4th floor Milestone Restaurant patio at Dundas

Dundas Square - not so public two days later

Dundas Square – not so public two days later – a large tent and barriers

I ended my day when I got to Dundas and hopped on the 505 streetcar back to my Riverdale neighbourhood. In the next few days I would return to Yonge Street to finish my walk down to the harbour.  While the stretch of Yonge from Dundas down to the lake always seemed to have more substantial buildings, there were still more surprises in store!

Riverdale view of downtown Toronto - from Bloor To Dundas

Riverdale view of downtown Toronto – from Bloor To Dundas

Check out the urban Toronto map to appreciate the level of redevelopment going on in the city. It helps make clear why Toronto over the past few years has equaled or surpassed New York as  #1 in North America for high-rise construction projects

Next Post: Toronto’s Main Street In Transition – Yonge From Dundas To The Harbour


Posted in Toronto | 2 Comments

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Bicheno To St. Helens

Previous Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Click on the More options prompt in the top left hand box to access the full screen view.


Day 5 on the road from Hobart – having covered less than 200 kilometers in the first four days!  This day would be more ambitious thanks to the fact that there really aren’t any great accommodation options before St. Helens!  In terms of ocean views it would also be the best single day as the pix below will hopefully show.  And while the elevation chart above may look rather daunting with all those jagged peaks, the thing to remember is the very narrow range in elevation – i.e. only between 4 meters and 73. It was actually a very enjoyable ride!

The beach at the Denison River Conservation Area, about ten kilometers north of my  Bicheno Holiday Park tent spot, was my first of a number of spots to get off the bike and go for a little shoreline walk.  The path going down to the beach came complete with a reminder to be aware that the immediate shoreline is a bird breeding area.


path down to the beach north of Bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

beach view south of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast

beach view north of Bicheno on Tasmania’s east coast

looking into the afternoon storm cluds near Bicheno

looking north into the afternoon storm clouds near Bicheno

Bicheno beach - Tasmania

Bicheno beach – Tasmania

Bicheno beach - Tasmania east coast

Bicheno beach – Tasmania east coast

I ended up spending a half hour at the most beautiful of the east coast beaches I had come across so far.  Back on the saddle I got to do a more inland stretch of the A3 before coming down close to the seashore again in the Chain of Lagoons area.

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno.jpg

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno – an inland stretch of the Tasman Highway

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

Another stunning beach area – and perhaps due to it being autumn – like most of the others I has stopped at, I had it completely to myself.  I sat on the rocks below and had an apple and some sugared water.  A look at the map told me i could have lunch at Scamander within the hour so back up to road I went for some more eye-popping beach views before the A3 turns sharply west to the junction with the A4.

East coast Tasmania - beach scene

East coast Tasmania – beach scene near Chain of Lagoons off Hwy A3

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania's east coast

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania’s east coast


looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

Just north of the Four Mile Creek Conservation Area the road runs right along the shoreline for a couple of kilometers before turning inland to the junction with Hwy A4.  When I got to the junction the distance markers told me that I had cycled 50 kilometres from Bicheno since setting off four hours before. This was not the Tour de France!

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

As i cycled through Scamander I was looking for an eatery of some sort.  I finally found something just before I reached the bridge over the Scamander River. It was a takeaway with all the usual fast – and fried – foods.

Scamander News Agency and take-away

Scamander News Agency and Take-Away

Lunch done I had another 23 kilometers to do and I had some extra motivation. Some bad weather was coming in and I wanted to be settled in somewhere before the rain came tumbling down.  As I approached St. Helens, the first option I passed was the  Big 4 St. Helens Holiday Park.  It is on the south side of the town just across the bridge from the downtown area.  However, the thought of spending the night in my tent in a rain storm was an option I figured I’d pass on.

Over the bridge there is also a Backpacker’s hostel on the main street – Cecilia Street.  It is also downtown and it would put me closer to restaurants and grocery stores. Off I went to the hostel – only to find that it was shut down and had a “For Sale” sign on it!  Yikes! What now?  Cycle the 1.5 km. back across the bridge and up to the campground?  Across the street from the closed hostel was the Bayside Inn.  It was already starting to rain as I pushed my loaded bike across the Cecilia Street.



Within a couple of minutes I had my room at the Bayside Inn – not in the new addition but in the original 1950’s motel structure on the side of it. At $80.for the night I was not complaining!  My bike and gear and i would be dry for the night! I rolled my bike inside the room and checked the facilities – a shower, a small kitchenette area complete with pots and utensils, wi-fi!  It would definitely do!

St Helens - the Bayside Inn - shelter from the storm

St Helens – the Bayside Inn – shelter from the storm

St. Helens Bayside Inn - the original motel structure

St. Helens Bayside Inn – the original motel structure

The rain came down all night and it was still raining the next morning when it was time to set off for Scottsdale.  By then I had come up with a solution to spending a morning or maybe more cycling in the rain up to my next day’s destination – I would just put my bike on the bus and miss the rain completely!

On the next street over (Circassian Street) from the Bayside Inn is a BP station.  It also serves as the pick-up spot for the Calows Coaches intercity bus that goes from St. Helens to Launceston.  Putting bikes on buses in Tasmania is a remarkably easy thing to do – unlike here in Canada.


I even left on the front and rear panniers on the bottom side on the bike so the bike would be cushioned if the ride was at all bumpy. (I did put a piece of cardboard under each of the rented panniers so they would not get all scrubbed up and smudged from rubbing!)


We left St. Helens at at 8:30 and at 11:00 I was in Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest town.  Thanks to my revised schedule, I was also there a day early. Since  I already had the next night at the Backpackers’ Hostel paid for,  I figured my best bet would be to see if they had a room available for this day too. They did – and that is how I got to spend two days in beautiful Launceston, in some ways a more interesting town than Hobart to the south.

Next Post: Checking Out Launceston, Tasmania


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Cycling Around Tasmania – Swansea To Bicheno

Previous Post: From Triabunna To Swansea

Overnight the clouds and rain moved through the area and the next morning the sun was back out.  I would have a pretty easy day of it.  Well, perhaps make that “morning”  since I rolled into Bicheno shortly after noon, having covered the 42 kilometers in about three hours of leisurely cycling.  I am enough of a obsessive-compulsive Type A personality that I do remember worrying that I was not covering enough distance each day and that I was spending too much time being a tourist. Noon – and dun? Ya gotta be kiddin’!


Click here for the full-screen interactive view.


The A3 on this day strayed far from the beaches and I recall cycling past long stretches of farm fields on fairly flat terrain.  Some of the pix below convey the overall scene. There was one bit of climbing to do; it came up near Apslaw just after the road turn off but even it – compared to the 600 meter gains in elevation I would be doing  a week later on the West Coast – was no big deal. And, of course, if you are hurting on the way up, you’ll have tears flowing out of your eyes as you bomb down the other side of the same bump in the road.

The point I eventually clued in to was that the bump on the graph above is not a 2-D representation of the actual hill but rather an indication of how much altitude you will gain in a set distance.  The  road can only be so steep; what you should really be imagining is an extended series of switchbacks that takes you up from, in the graph above, 8 meters to 183 meters, over a five kilometer distance. While it still hurts, it gets done!

heading north on A3 from Swansea

heading north on A3 from Swansea

bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

panorama – bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

road sign on the way to Bicheno

road sign on the way to Bicheno

Tasmania’s east coast and its incredible beach vistas!  Well, not on the stretch from Swansea to Bicheno!  It is only when you get to Bicheno itself that you are back at the water’s edge. Getting there shortly after noon gave me lots of time to ramble along the seashore after putting up my tent at the Caravan Park.

stretch of road S of Bicheno

stretch of road S of Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3


See here for the Google map view of Bicheno.

Central Business District Bicheno

Central Business District Bicheno

I put up my tent on the cushy grass surface in the Caravan Park’s camper section.  I was surrounded by over a dozen fellow bikers – but these guys = and their wives – were motorcyclists who belonged to the Ulysses Motorcycle Club. Billed as a club for “mature riders” I was looking at a bunch of guys who looked like they were in the retirement phase of their life journey – kinda like me!  There is a motorcycle museum in Bicheno which may have been the draw for these riders from the mainland states.  Given their friendliness and generosity with beer bottles, their slogan “growing old disgracefully!” was a bit of wishful thinking!  Later on I’d shoot the breeze and sip on the supplied beer with some of them – but first I had a veg-friendly lunch to find a beachfront to explore.

my tent at Bicheno Caravan Park

my tent at Bicheno Holiday Park

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

I would end up at Pasini’s, an Italian eatery with a lunchtime pizza that did not have cheese on it. In fact, it was so delicious that I went back again for supper and had the same thing!  Sometimes you have to take what you can get!


Bicheno’s Foreshore Footway – my route from the campground

Along the shore is a path called the Foreshore Footway that provides some excellent view – all the way from the Blowhole at the south end.  I spent an hour or more ambling along and pointing my camera in various directions. Some of the pix are below!

Bicheno shore -

Bicheno shore –

Bicheno trail above the beachfront

Bicheno Foreshore Footway just above the beachfront

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

Bicheno's rocky shoreline

Bicheno’s rocky shoreline

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

As I wandered back to the campground after my lunch at Pasini’s I passed by a shop selling water sports-related gear and supplies – but it had this unexpected item hanging in the window.  There were actually two of them – two dreamcatchers.  Long associated with Anishinaabe culture in my home province of Ontario in Canada, here they were! Okay, the hoops were plastic and not willow and the threads were plastic too and maybe the feathers were not eagle feathers  – but still!

It is quite likely that someone would be offended by this “thoughtless act of cultural misappropriation”.

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

The next day would be my biggest day yet.  Not only would I do more cycling. I would also do more of it on a road closer to the shore than had been the case.  The next post has the pix to prove it!

Next Post: From Bicheno To St. Helens

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The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake


Running rapids, inhaling the energy of the waterfalls we portage around, observing moose and bear and the eagles watching over us, stopping to embrace  majestic white pines, oohing over crimson sunset skies, listening to the sound of a loon breaking the evening stillness –  a canoe trip on the lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield has much to offer.  Often the most memorable highlight of all is the time spent gazing into the heart of Anishinaabe culture that we find painted on the rock face as we paddle by.

Missinaibi Lake and nearby Little Missinaibi Lake are two of the more significant pictograph locations In northern Ontario. Both contain sites visited by generations of Anishinaabe shamans who created images (pictographs) painted with a mix of hematite powder and fish oil that they applied with their fingers on the vertical rock face, usually while seated or standing in their birchbark canoes. These images were an expression of their culture and its values; they offer an entry point to the traditional belief system of one of North America’s most widespread pre-European indigenous cultures.

N.B. The drawing above is by Selwyn Dewdney and comes from his Stone Age Paintings, a brief study of Manitoba’s pictograph sites he did for the Parks Branch of the province’s Department of Mines and Resources. It was published in 1965.

Click on the View Larger Map prompt in the top left hand corner for a full-screen view.

In the summer of 2017 my brother and I plan to spend a day or two on Little Missinaibi Lake on our way to Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake.   We will be entering the top of the lake (i.e. the south end)  at Lookout Bay, having paddled down the Little Missinaibi River from our put-in point at Healey Bay on Lake Windermere.


120 km. from Windermere Lake (Healey Bay) to the Missanabie train stop via the Little Missinaibi River, Missinaibi Lake, Crooked Lake, and Dog lake

Until we generate some gps co-ordinates and snap some photos to share,  I thought I would bring together what  information I’ve found on the pictograph sites of Little Missinaibi Lake  from various print and internet sources.  If the lake is at all on your radar as part of a potential canoe trip, this post  will give you a good idea of where to look and what you will see.

If you’ve already been and  have any images or information you’d like to

  • share by inclusion in this post or
  • provide the url link to your own web page

contact me via the comments section below or at  Images would be especially welcome!


The 1:50000 topo map  (based on 1976 aerial photos!) ) put out by the Federal Government’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources  includes the Little Missinaibi Lake area . It is the  042 B 04 Bolkow map.  (Click on the link to access a downloadable copy from the government website.)

If you’ve got the Google Earth app installed, its satellite view would give you a much more recent look at the area.  ChrisMar’s waterproof 1:50000 Missinaibi 1 map is also a good investment as it covers both lakes and provides all the usual canoe-trip-specific information.

Sources Of Information About The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake:

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes

The oldest written source I’ve found on the Little Missinaibi Lake pictograph sites is in Selwyn Dewdney’s Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes. (Click on title to access the book.)  The work represents the first systematic recording and analysis of the Anishinaabe rock paintings in the Canadian Shield area.  In the first edition, published in 1962, Dewdney very briefly covers the three Little Missinaibi Lake sites he  visited at the end of the 1959 season.   The sites are #74, #75, and #76 in the list of pictograph sites in the appendices.

Here is p. 90 of the text –


In the early 80’s I paddled the Lake Missinaibi to Mattice stretch three times with my brother and other canoe trippers. On one of those summer trips we went all the way down to Moosonee; on another we flagged a train at the Moose River crossing.  While we vaguely knew about the Fairy Point pictographs, the weather (usually the wind!)  and our own ignorance about their significance meant that we spent little time at the point.  Our manual-focus Nikon SLRs (if we brought them along at all) were not usually out during the day and few pix were taken. Just being in the bush and the thrills and spills of the rapids were the biggest draws to guys in their late twenties!

wilsonIn 1994 Hap Wilson’s Missinaibi: Journey To The Northern Sky was published. It provided paddlers with essential information on rapids and portages that would ensure a safer journey down the entire length of the Missinaibi, still one of North America’s great remaining wilderness rivers.

Included in the book was a section on alternative routes to Lake Missinaibi, the river’s headwaters. As well as entry points at Michipicoten, Missanabie, and Barclay Bay, he detailed a route that begins at Boklow Lake near the Shumka siding,  a VIA stop on the CPR-owned rail line from Sudbury to White River. (See here for the timetable and  stops. ) This route takes you into Little Missinaibi Lake and the pictographs.

Wilson provides much more detail about the pictograph locations than Dewdney’s one-paragraph treatment.  Also, Wilson notes four – and not three – sites on the lake. On his Little Missinaibi Lake map he locates various selected features from north to south.  The four pictograph sites correspond to the letters A, C, E, and F.

discovering-rock-art-cover_300x454The most recent print source of information on the pictographs can be found in Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders.  Published in the fall of  2016, it is a major revision of a first edition from the 1990’s titled Discovering Rock Art In Ontario’s Provincial Parks: Sacred Landscape of the Ojibwa and Algonkians. Included in the coverage of twelve Ontario pictograph sites is a chapter on Lake Missinaibi’s Fairy Point and one on the Little Missinaibi Lake sites.

As the sub-title suggests, Conway highlights the stories and explanations provided by Ojibwa and Algonquin elders familiar with the pictographs and with the traditional worldview and myths of their people. It makes for an engaging entry into their beliefs and values and provides the necessary cultural context for the rock images.

Conway begins the chapter on Little Lake Missinaibi with a retelling of an encounter he had with a group of American fishermen on the lake.  Conway and his wife were doing archeological work at a site on the lake.  The fishermen were staying nearby in one of the two fly-in outposts located on islands at the north end of the lake near the outflow (see the map below for the locations).  They were clearly surprised to see anyone else on the lake; Conway was just as surprised by how little they knew about where they were!  He could be talking about me in my youth!  He writes –

These fishermen did not have maps or any background information about the area. What a loss it would be to visit the historic Missinaibi countryside so ill-informed. We talked about our rock research, the provincial park, and the nearby Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.


The Little Missinaibi Lake Pictograph Sites:

Dewdney on his visit checked out the three sites he had been told about. Wilson, thirty years later, notes the existence of four sites.  Another thirty years later and there are reports of further smudges and images. This post will focus on the four sites highlighted in Wilson’s canoe tripper’s guide.

We’ll start at the north end of the lake not far from the Air Dale island outpost. A trip report from 2000 posted at the Canadian Canoe Routes web site by Scott Warner describes the scene this way –

We pass the fly-in camp and begin to hug the right shore to look for the Pothole pictographs. You couldn’t miss them if you tried. The canoe easily fits into the pothole and we get lots of pictures…. Crossing the lake here we proceed to the next pictograph site which we find without a problem.

The Pothole pictograph site Warner is referring to is Pictograph Site #1 and #2 is the one they crossed the lake to visit.

Pictograph Site #1 (Site “A” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake): Also referred to as the Pothole by Wilson and Conway.  Wilson describes the site like this –

The most impressive rock site as all paintings are contained within a polished “pothole” depression, clearly depicted in the photograph.  (Wilson, p.51)

The photograph he refers to is on p. 52; it shows a small semi-circular cove with steep vertical rock wall. The photographer has scampered to the top of the rock to get nice shot looking down on the canoe with stern paddler sitting along the south side of the “pothole”.

With respect to the name of the site, Conway quotes an earlier visitor, the canoe historian Edwin Adney, who visited the lake in 1930  in the company of Cree and Ojibwa guides.

It was on the vertical rock sides of a natural perfectly semi-circular recess which the Indians proceeded to name in Ojibway and Cree, Rock Kettle and Little Kettle – Akikwabik (Ojib.) and Eshikwabish (Cree).  (quoted in Conway 231)

Dewdney’s brief treatment of the lake’s three pictograph sites included sketches of various images.  While he does not identify which of his three sites they are from – or if they are a composite made up of examples from all three sites – an examination of the images in Conway’s book leads me to conclude all of Dewdney’s image sketches  come from The Pothole.


Dewdney, from p. 90 of Indian Rock Paintings of The Great Lakes


a lower section of the Pothole pictograph site at Little Missinaibi Lake – see here for image source at Hawk Air Fly-In Vacations web page on their Little Missinaibi Lake  outpost.

Conway discusses this site extensively in his chapter on Little Missinaibi Lake. In fact, it is the only site that is dealt with.

He draws on his conversations with various Anishinaabe elders across northern Ontario over the past forty years, as well as the time he and his wife Julie spent there doing archeological work in the mid-1970’s.  He provides a list of some 72 different pictographs although elsewhere  he does mention 64 as the number. The difference in numbers may be because of the remains of  images painted underneath later ones which he also notes.

Three figures receive special attention in Conway’s coverage of Site #1:

  • the hunchback figure holding a stick, said to be connected with the Ojibwe mythical figure Bokwawigan
  • the so-called Dancer and what is either an unrelated slash of ochre or one impressive penis!
  • The Great Turtle, Mikinak, who is associated with the “Shaking Tent” ritual.  The image on the bottom right of Dewdney’s page of sketches does indeed look like a turtle. It leads Conway to suggest an interpretation of the Pothole itself as a sort of Shaking Tent, given Mikinak’s customary presence as a messenger and go-between connecting the manidoos and the shaman who has come for guidance or answers.
Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent

Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent – a painting by the great Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau

Picto Site #2 (Site “C” on Wilson’s map of the lake) is a bit less than two kilometers south of the lake’s major site.  It gets this write-up from Wilson –

The second pictograph site, unusual and interesting as the paintings have been accomplished while standing on the rocks instead of the customary canoe perch. There is also a prominent “conjuring rock” or pillar that often signifies particular deities. One morph drawing is similar to the “sun-face” found at Fairy Point.  (Wilson, 51)

Wilson provides a sketch of the overall rock face and of eight individual pictographs, including  a canoe with three paddlers, a moose, three or four thunderbird images, and the”sun face” referred to above.


Conway does not get into any of the pictographs at this site. From a chat with someone who recently visited this site, I learned that the photo above captures only some of the images that can be seen.

Picto Site #3 (Site “E” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake)

The site is located on the south-west end of the island indicated in the overview map above. Wilson deals with it in a few words –

…typical west exposure and barren rock face. (Wilson, 51)


He also provides a sketch of the rock face and of individual images.  There are three of them – a human figure with outstretched arms, a moose, and four oblique lines. The lines are often described as tally marks. A more recent visitor’s description included two moose figures and the lines but did not make mention of the human figure.  We’ll  see for ourselves when we pass by in July.

Picto Site #4 (Site “F” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake).

Grave Bay is a 1.6 kilometer long and narrow bay at the south end of Little Missinaibi Lake. This coming summer it will be the first pictograph site we see as we paddle the first five kilometers of the lake from the mouth of the Little Missinaibi River. Wilson has this to say of the site:

The fourth pictograph site, barely visible under layers of lichen, is located at the entrance to Grave Bay. (Wilson, 51)


And that’s it for Wilson’s  treatment of Site “F”!   There are no accompanying sketches to add to the words above.

A fellow paddler spent an hour last summer looking for this site on both sides of the small point on the west side. He came up empty.  Given Wilson’s cursory treatment of the site it is not clear what there is under those “layers of lichen”. If you’ve found something at this location and can clear up the mystery, let me know!

And that – for now – is what I have on the pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake.  In the coming months if more information comes my way I’ll update or add to this post. And sometime in July as my brother and I enter the lake from Lookout Bay we will make sure to set aside a couple of days to savour being in a space – much like Cliff Lake or Mazinaw Lake – that drew generations of shamans and vision questers to  a place held sacred  in traditional Anishinaabe culture.

Posted in Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments