Peeing in the Extremes

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A night critter

The night is so dark, hot and humid. Huge trees overhead block out the light from the millions of stars I saw earlier. I stare up at the roof of the little tent I am supposed to actually be sleeping in and listen to things drop on it and scurry around. I shudder to think what is all out there in the rain forest. That would be the Amazon rain forest, and from a night hike the day we arrived, I know it is teeming with critters like spiders, insects and bats. Not the easiest environment to tent in, but we are determined to experience it all! “Mom,” I hear from the dark. “I have to go to the bathroom.” What?! This has got to be a joke. I don’t want to go out there!Where’s Rafael when I need him? We had earlier laughed when the crew set up two little tents in the small clearing. One of them was clearly a honeymoon suite with hearts and flowers in it. Did they really think I could leave my 10-year-old daughter to sleep in a tent alone in the Amazon? Obviously, they don’t have kids. I’m not laughing now. I should have made her father sleep with her, but who knew? She never, ever gets up in the night at home! I try pleading. “Are you sure? You don’t think you can wait until it gets light?””No Mom. I need to go now!”

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Our home for the night

Shit. Okay. I’m a grown woman. I can handle this. I turn on my headlamp and look around. At least we are both fully dressed. I unzip the tent and peer out, cringing as I hear something fall on the roof. Luckily Rachel doesn’t hear anything, or things could really go south. Our high jungle boots are outside the door. I pick them up, turn them over and give them a good shake. We’ve been warned about things crawling in. I have to wonder why we weren’t allowed to take them in with us. I guess our guides didn’t pack a vacuum to clean up the mess in the tent. Amateurs.

Off we go, into the night. Our “bathroom” is a hole in the ground with a portable toilet seat on a stand above it. “Don’t sit down, Rachel. I can’t see what might be under that seat.” She does her thing with no complaints while I look out into the trees. Wow, it is so amazing here. It’s warm and a little breezy and so alive. Camping is a total pain, but it is so worth it right now. This is a sight not many people get to see, and we are here!

Since I am both a mother and over 40, there is no way I can pass up a chance to pee, so I take my turn and we head on back to camp. That wasn’t so bad!

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Fast forward 8 months. It is bitterly cold and we are sleeping in a block of ice. Literally. We are at the Ice Hotel in Quebec. The place is beautiful, amazing, another adventure! It is also very hard to sleep in. The very thin mattress sits on a block of ice. The air is so cold that it actually hurts to breath in through your nose. If you pull your neck warmer up to over your nose, it quickly becomes wet and you feel even worse.

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At check-in, we are given a class on how to prepare for bed. We take all our toasty clothes to a locker room, where we change into bathing suits. The terry cloth bathrobe is a flimsy shelter from the cold as we make our way to the outdoor hot tub. We gingerly settle into the water, shockingly hot on our frigid toes. Our mission? Get as overheated as we can stand. Once we are suitably boiled, we race back into the locker room and put on our layers. Lots of wool to hold in the heat. We make our way directly to our room and zip into our sub-zero sleeping bags. I’ve never slept in a ski hat before and spend all kinds of time trying to make it comfortable to lie on. Whatever. I anticipate a difficult night anyway. A few hours go by and I’m drifting, on that edge of sleep where you’re relaxed but still aware. “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.” Oh no! What is up with this? Does she do it on purpose to torture me? If I leave my cocoon, I’ll never get warm again. I don’t want to go back in the hot tub! “Are you sure you can’t wait until morning?” “No, Mom, I have to go now!” I am defeated. Well, it’s not like my bladder hasn’t been complaining for the last hour. After a trip to the bathroom, we stick it out for another half hour, too cold now to even pretend to sleep. Luckily, part of the Ice Hotel package is a real hotel room. With heat. “That’s it guys,” I say. “We are heading to the hotel.” I get no arguments, and we gather our stuff and trudge out to the van.

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That is not a thick mattress!

I wonder where our next peeing adventure will be? We love to rock climb, and Rafael and I watch all these amazing climbers who go up a mountain partway and have to attach a tent to the side of the mountain to sleep. Maybe we should try that. I don’t even know how they pee, as they don’t seem to highlight that in their films. Spoilsports. I’m sure Rachel will love it!

 

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The Tidal Bore is no bore!

We sit on the edge of the Zodiac raft, clutching the nylon straps, faces turned into the breeze. The sun is shining down on Rafael, Rachel and I as we watch the foot high wall of water rush towards the raft. The excitement builds as the tidal bore rushes past us with a little bump under our feet. tidal bore 4Our raft picks up speed; we do a quick turn and race back to where the bumps have turned into Class V rapids. Stomachs drop and roll as we ride up and down the tight sets of waves. The sun-warmed water splashes in our faces as we laugh and hold on tight. When we get to the end of the waves, our driver races back around to the beginning and starts over again. We are on the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia, experiencing the thrill of tidal bore rafting. It is a unique and wild ride!tidal bore 2

The Bay of Fundy, which has the largest tidal range in the world at more than 47 feet (14+ meters,) is what provides us the big waves. When the tide comes in, it changes the flow of the river, with the Bay water rushing in over the River water flowing out. Don’t miss Hall’s Harbour, a very tiny, picturesque fishing village on the coast of the Bay of Fundy. Come at low tide when boats in the harbor literally sit on the sandy bottom. Come back at high tide to see them floating in 47 feet of water!

But I digress…

Back on our Zodiac, we ride the waves until everyone has had enough. tidal bore 3We then cruise over to a part of the river that has muddy banks. Here the more adventurous can jump out of the raft, climb the bank and slide down in the mud. Rachel loves it! The mud itself is warmed by the sun and is very fine and smooth. Go ahead and slide down, head first, feet first, or just roll down into the water. By the end, we look like we were dipped in chocolate. We take a swim to clean up a bit and jump back in the boat. On the way back to our starting point, we see Bald Eagles flying overhead, which make for a perfect ending to a wonderful adventure!

Can I do this adventure?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Courage level: 2 – Unlike traditional white water rafting, you do not have to hold a paddle and maneuver your boat around rocks. You can just hold on to the straps. This makes it much safer and easier. Even if you fell out of the boat, there are no rocks beneath these waves.

Fitness level: 2 – All you really need to be able to handle is the physical stress of being thrust up and down on the boat. If you have a bad back or neck, or are pregnant, this is not the activity for you. I actually have all kinds of work-out related injuries, but none of them bothered me here!

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Do I need special gear?

The Shubenacadie River’s water is full of mud during this adventure (maybe it always is, I don’t know!) You need to wear clothes you are willing to throw away. I’m not kidding, everything will have to go. There is a thrift store called Louis’ in Truro that you can get some cheap clothes if you don’t bring any. We didn’t know this ahead of time, so we went there and got clothes for the three of us for $16. Rachel and I did wear our own underwear, which we then had to toss because you cannot get that dirt out! I even took mine home to try and wash it with good detergent and no luck. So don’t wear a bathing suit or anything decent!

If you have a shock or waterproof camera, you could bring that. We did not have our Olympus Stylus Tough yet for this trip. It would have been fun for the mud sliding, but we were holding on too much for the rafting part! The rafting photos shown here are not my own.

Any more info?

There are a number of companies offering rafting trips. We went with Tidal Bore Rafting Park http://www.raftingcanada.ca/rafting.php and we liked them a lot. Our guide was friendly, everything seemed well maintained, and safety was an obvious priority.

We stayed in Truro at the Tulips and Thistle Bed and Breakfast. http://www.tulipsandthistlebedandbreakfast.com/  We loved it. The room was very comfortable and the breakfast was so good! It’s also in a good location for a number of other attractions.100_3972

Nova Scotia is a great family destination. There is so much to do and see. There are a lot of outdoor activities, like rafting, hiking, whale watching and rock collecting. There is also an incredible amount of history, museums, culture, great food and music, and in July, they have the Highland Games in Antigonish. That is a treat for anyone to see!

Halls Harbor Low Tide

Hall’s Harbour at low tide

 

Halls Harbour High Tide

Hall’s Harbour at high tide

 

The Magical Night of Ice…Surviving the Ice Hotel

“This will be a magical, unforgettable experience. Your winter adventure begins here!” If you have read any of my other stories, you know that is not something I can pass up. I live for new experiences and great adventures. So, I corral my husband Rafael and 12-year-old daughter Rachel, whip out the credit card for the admittedly high price tag, jump in our car and we are off. We are dazzled when we arrive. It’s something out of a fairytale, a kingdom made of ice. We have arrived at the Hotel de Glace in Quebec.100_7051

100_7034Everything is made of ice and compressed snow. We walk in and start touring around. There are ice chandeliers, tables, couches and chairs, columns and pictures on the walls. There are sculptures and other artwork that is so beautiful. Flowers, whales, trees, butterflies, fish, frogs and more are sculpted in the walls to look like they are coming right out at you. There are alcoves cut into the walls to create cozy seating areas. A giant ice slide is fun for everyone to go down. The bar is a particular treat. We go in and take a seat on the ice chairs that have fur throws on them. Our drinks are served in square ice glasses. Unfortunately, Rachel’s, which doesn’t have alcohol in it, freezes before she can drink it all!100_7059

We wander back outside to see the other buildings. There is a chapel that people can use for weddings. It’s very beautiful, but I can’t imagine wanting to get married where it’s so cold. For it is cold. We are bundled up, with hats, gloves, scarves and long underwear under heavy pants. Our daughter has snow pants on.

There is a maple sugar shack that we stop at. The lady pours hot maple syrup directly on the snow in a stream for about a foot. Then she takes a Popsicle stick and as it starts to cool, she rolls it up to create a lollipop. Rachel loves it.100_7062OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As evening approaches, white and colored lights come on around the hotel, making it even more beautiful. We attend our mandatory briefing on how to survive our night at the hotel. We get our sleeping bags, and hear about how we need to go in the hot tub and sauna just before bed to raise our body temperature.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The guests stay up late, as the staff has all kinds of games for us to play to keep moving and warm. Eventually, though, Rachel is tired and wants to sleep. We go hang out in the hot tub. That is always fun since we change inside and then run outside in the snow in our bathing suits. We are toasty warm now. We get ready for bed in our warm gear and go to our room in the hotel. A few hours pass fitfully. It’s hard to get really comfortable. The bed is made of ice underneath the fur blanket. The air is literally freezing. I’m nervous for Rachel because she keeps moving and losing her hat. At around 3:30 am she needs to go to the bathroom. This is sort of a joke to me. She never has to do this at home, but this is the second time it has happened at a very inconvenient time while away – the last was in the Amazon while camping. We leave our beds; go outside to the other building where the bathrooms are and then return. The problem now is that we are freezing, with no way to warm up!

The good news is there is an escape hatch if things are not going well. Once you get here you realize why it costs so much for a night’s stay. You are actually paying for a night in two hotels – a warm one and this one. If you are miserable in the middle of the night, you can leave and go back to the other hotel. After trying to get back to sleep for about an hour, shivering in the dark, we give up and admit defeat. We take the shuttle to the other hotel, turn up the heat to very warm and snuggle in bed. It’s blissful!

I’m defeated by the ice hotel. I can’t believe it! I thought I could survive anything for a night. I’m from New England, I ski, and I like the cold. Maybe I could have made it if Rachel wasn’t  there for me to worry about, but I will never know, because once was enough!100_7070

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Can I do this adventure?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Courage Level: 2 – It doesn’t take courage to stay here, just a bit of fortitude if cold is difficult for you.

Fitness Level: 1 – There is as little walking as you want, although I’m not sure if it’s actually wheelchair accessible because the snowy floor might be hard for wheels to move through.

 

Do I need special gear?

You need lots of warm clothes; ski gear if you have it or something similar. You need a hat that would be comfortable to sleep in. Bring long underwear, heavy wool or similar socks, snow pants or pants that resist water and a good winter jacket. You need warm sleeping clothes, not cotton. Wool is best if you’re not allergic.

Make sure you have warm boots because the floors are all ice and snow.

You need a bathing suit and something to keep your hair from getting wet when you are in the hot tub before going to bed (a hair clip.)

Bring a camera for all the amazing photo opportunities.

 

Any other info?

Here is the link to the Hotel de Glace

http://www.hoteldeglace-canada.com/

The Old City of Quebec has a lot to offer. If you are going to be in Quebec to see the Hotel de Glace, you might want to spend a couple days exploring. We stayed at a B&B right in the walled city that we really liked. It was in walking distance to everything, had delicious food, and nice Proprietors. It was toasty warm, too!  Maison Historique James Thompson http://www.bedandbreakfastquebec.com/100_7084

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