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27 juni 2006

Backcountry camping at Joffre Lakes

Two weeks ago we had our first real backcountry camping experience at Joffre Lakes. Camping next to a glacial lake, underneath a glacier at a campsite you can only reach on foot….. This is why we went to Canada!!

Joffre Lakes is a very small provincial park, about 30km north-east of Pemberton. But lets not get ahead of things. There are 3 lakes, lower, middle and upper Joffre Lake. And there is one trail that will lead you to the Upper lake were the campsite is. The trail is about 5.5 km long, gaining just under 400m. in elevation. With just a daypack, the Upper Lake can be reached in 2-2.5 hours.
But we needed more than just a daypack. Robin is not yet able to walk such a distance. The most he has managed by himself so far was 2 km on a flat road (in the Lynn Valley parade). So we had to make sure one of us could carry him at least part of the way. Since carrying Robin requires one of us to carry his backpack (which has little space to carry other things) the other person would have to carry all camping gear for the three of us. That is one backpack filled with: 1 tent, 3 sleeping bags and mattresses, 3 sets of extra clothes, a stove, pots and food for 3 for 2 days, and some more small stuff. Well, that didn’t all fit in one backpack, we had to pack the tent and a small pack with our food on the outside of the big backpack. It weighed 32 kg!

(Image by Shrubhugger)
On our way back it was approx. 27 kg. we had eaten the 5 kg. of food we took.
Bas had to carry this big backpack; I had Robin (only 20kg.) and an extra 14 kg. from being pregnant. We knew it would be tough, but decided to give it a try. We both had an extra day off, and we scheduled plenty of time for the hike. In the end (with Bas sometime speeding ahead, dropping his load, and then coming back to carry Robin) it took us just under 5 hours to get to the campsite at the Upper Lake. Robin actually did walk part of the way. About one third I think, and most of it going uphill. Even though Robin walking slows us down it was nice not having to carry him all the way. It great to see he likes it.

So was it worth all the effort? Definitely! It’s the most beautiful campsite we went to in BC so far. By the glacial lake, glacier hanging overhead. It had 1 outhouse 500m. away from the campsite. Quiet, except for the waterfall, and beautiful… Just look at the pictures http://gallery.brijn.nu/JoffreLakes.

The rest of the weekend we just watched Robin throw rocks in the Lake, hiked (without heavy packs) up a bit further through some snowfields towards the Tzill glacier, and watched how daring Whiskey Jack’s and chipmunks try to steal some of our food. Though technically considered rodents, chipmunks are actually really cute (like rats, only nicely striped with a fluffy tail).

Our way down was a lot easier. The big backpack was better packed too, so it was more stable. And just when we thought we’d never get to the big boulder field we both remembered to be difficult from our trip in, we suddenly saw Lower Joffre Lake, meaning our car was less then 1 km. away, and we had somehow missed the big boulder field. We did cross a boulder field on our way back, but it was not nearly as big or difficult as we remembered from our way in.
And Robin, well he hardly walked himself. He was too tired of all the stones he had thrown. And he fell asleep in his backpack, which doesn’t happen often anymore. He probably dreamed of going camping again. He still asks us often if we are going camping again……… soon Robin soon.

Posted by Brijn at 07:03 pm | Comments (2)

24 juni 2006

We almost bought a house

Our current appartment is fine, 2 bedrooms and in an excellent location. But at some point we want to move to something bigger...

So we keep an eye on the housing websites. Similar to the NVM/Funda website in The Netherlands they have MLS. Ge-an prefers this site, I like Realtylink more, they are both very primitive compared to Funda. I would love to get my hands on the raw data and build something more useful.

Anyway, we saw a house that whas in a nice location, three bedrooms and relatively cheap. It being so cheap whe had our reservations, there must be soemthing wrong.

We went over and had a look, it was very nice.. We could see us living there for quite a while. But the realtor was very pushy.

There are some differences how things work here compared to The Netherlands. A realtor can have both the Buyer-Realtor and Seller-Realtor at the same time (if the seller is OK with that).
Also, all realtor related costs are payed by the seller. That means that if one realtor does both sides the gets payed twice, and the seller can normally negotiate a somewhat lower rate with the realtor, so both parties are interested in somebody who is willing to use the same realtor..

When we looked at the house we where basically given a deadline of 19:00 that day (it was 16:00 when we looked at the house). They had another offer from somebody, but from an other realtor. If the own realtor has a customer, they have preference over the other customer. So she clearly was interested in selling it to us for the reason describe above.

But we had no intention of being rushed into a purchase of this size :-)

She called us the next day that the other buyer was unable to arrange financing so we still had a shot. The problems raising financing was the same the same reason she had given why the house had not sold yet (2 weeks on the market, 6 offers). We did not know what to believe, it sounded a bit strange.

One of the previous buyers had been very close to making the deal, but had at the last minute not been able to raise financing. For him a layer had reviewed all the documents.
The realtor arranged a call with the lawyer to explain to us what he had found. That conversation was extremely helpful.

In Canada most appartments/townhouse are part of a larger development. All owner of a part of a development are member of a so called strata (similar to the "Vereninging van Eigenaren)"). Before the strata came into existence the normal construction whas that of a "undivided interest". The big difference between undivided interest and a strata is that in a strata all the units are measured exactly aand you are given ownership title to exactly that piece of space (ie you realy the space of the unit). In undivided interest everything is owned by everybody. So your unit is owned by all other people as well (and other people's units are owned by you).

Banks don't like this undivided interest construction and won't provide financing unless you can either do a large downpayment OR take additional coverage for the risk the bank sees. As a result it's harded to arrange financing, and the price of these units are quite a bit lower then a comparable unit in a strata.

That suddenly made things a whole lot clearer. There was nothing really wrong with the unit. It was just the banks with their normal (risk adverse) nature.

Our last house-buying-selling experience was not a good one, so we are a bit careful. If the banks change there mind a bit more in a few years and will not provide financing at all for undivided interest, we would end up with a worthless house. Not a risk we want to take.

We now decided that we:


But that can change ofcourse the second we see another realy nice house :-)

Posted by Brijn at 10:30 am | Comments (0)