Abraham Lake

Last weekend Julie and I took a road trip to visit Abraham Lake, located in the Kootenay Plains. The drive to Abraham lake took roughly 4 hours via Rocky Mountain House on Highway 11. Abraham Lake is a photographers paradise because trapped methane causes frozen bubbles to form under the ice on the lake’s surface. The methane is formed from decaying plants on the lake bed. The methane gas ends up becoming trapped within the ice, in suspension, just below the surface of the lake as it begins to freeze.

Abraham Lake is actually an artificial lake and Alberta’s largest reservoir. The lake has a surface area of nearly 54 square kilometers and was created in 1972 by the former Calgary Power Company (now known as TransAlta) when the Bighorn Dam was constructed. The lake was built on the upper course of the North Saskatchewan River and is used to feed the 120 MW hydroelectric Bighorn power plant. The lake received its name from a contest that the Government of Alberta sponsored in 1972, during the final stage of construction of the Bighorn Dam. Students across the province submitted names to be taken into consideration. The lake was named after Silas Abraham, an inhabitant of the Saskatchewan River valley in the nineteenth century.

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After visiting Abraham Lake we drove to Banff to soak in the Banff Hot Springs by continuing to drive along Highway 11 to where it meets up with Highway 93N, and then looped around to Banff that way.

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Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

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August 28th 2016 – New Zealand Day 8

Today I struggled to wake up. I was pretty tired, so I guess I must not have had a good sleep. I woke up at 7:30am and had a lazy start. I made myself eggs, cheese, and ham on toast for breakfast, served with a cup of coffee.

My first stop today was Hells Gate, which I tried to visit yesterday. Hell’s Gate is a geothermal attraction that has the world’s largest mud volcano, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere, and about 30 hot pools. It reminded me a lot of my trip to Iceland, but also in a different way. Iceland had pools that were more blue/green colour in hue, and these one’s were more black/yellow in colour. It all has to do with the amount of sulphur, and the type of effluent. I opted out on a mud bath because I was going to visit some other geothermal attractions, and wanted to save my money for those.

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After visiting Hells Gate I drove to the next geothermal attraction that I wanted to visit called Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Waimangu is the only geothermal system in the world whose surface activity can be traced down to an exact day, in this case June 10 1886. An extremely violent volcanic eruption occured, causing a series of craters and allowed geothermal fluid already present underground a direct passage to the surface of the earth. I took a one and a half hour walk through the valley and saw the beautiful Southern Crater, Frying Pan Lake, and Inferno Crater. Southern Crater was formed during the 1886 eruption and is about 50 metres deep. The crater isn’t active, and is thus a cold pool except for some warm ground and some small mud pools at its north-eastern end.

Frying Pan Lake was formed on April 1 1917 when Echo Crater erupted, causing a deep and enlarged crater that quickly accumulated water. The lake is fairly acidic, with an average pH level of 3.5, and is fairly hot reaching boiling temperatures at the surface of the lake. There is a small river that flows from the north-eastern side of the lake.

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My personal favorite was Inferno Crater, which is a pale blue lake that is highly acidic, with a pH level of 2.1, and a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius. The lake follows a complicated rhythmic cycle of shallow recessions occurring every few days, followed by deeper recessions at longer intervals. It’s common behaviour is to overflow for two to three days, recede about eight metres for about fifteen days, partially refill over three to four weeks, oscillate for a while, and then overflow again. White silica deposits make where the overflow level is.

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At the end of the walk a bus can pick you up, but the bus only runs every hour or so. I was lucky and arrived only a few minutes before a bus arrived.

After catching a bus to the top I was in need of some food because it was way past my lunch time. I had an apple and an orange, as well as a ham and cheese sandwich.

I wasn’t sure what to do next so I checked the GPS provided with my camper, as well as Google. I got quite a bit of information that interested me. My first stop was Ohaaki geothermal power station. I wasn’t allowed to enter, but I took some nice photo’s of the plant. When I was in Iceland you were allowed to have geothermal power plant tours at their power plants. I went on two with my father when I was there last year. Ohaaki is unique because it is the only power station of its kind in New Zealand, with a 105 metre tall natural draft cooling tower. The other power plants all use fan coolers, or water cooling. The power plant was originally constructed in 1989 and had a generating capacity of 104 MW, but over the years this has declined to 65 MW, due to a decline in the steam field. This is common with geothermal power plants. A way to mitigate this is to re-inject the effluent back into the ground when done with it, or to use a blended cycle co-generation, where smaller turbines run off intermediate and low pressures leftover after the main turbine has extracted what it can from the steam.

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My next stop was Aratiatia Rapids, which had a short five minute walk to a lookout to see the rapids. Technically the rapids are not always prevalent due to the dam constructed for the Aratiatia hydro-electric power station in 1964. The dam construction meant that no water flowed over the rapids, but several times per day the dam gates are opened which restores the rapids to normal operations. These rapids are also used by local companies for white water rafting.

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After visiting Aratiatia Rapids I headed towards Taupo Lake, which is where most of New Zealand’s geothermal power stations are located. I stopped at Wairakei geothermal power station and took a few photos. This is the largest geothermal power station in New Zealand at 161 MW. It uses all the latest technologies such as effluent re-injection, and blended cycle co-generation. I also took a photo of the bridge next to the power station, because I thought it looked nice.

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The last stop of the day was Haku Falls, which are fast and furious. While I was photographing the falls a jet boat was blazing around at the bottom with some pretty thrilled customers screaming and laughing.

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It was time to find a place to sleep for the night. I picked a great spot right in front of Taupo Lake on the north shore. I had a beautiful view of the sunset, a few hundred ducks as company, and even free wifi!

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