Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

“A long time ago, according to one legend, the people were driving buffalo over these sandstone cliffs. A young brave wanted to watch the buffalo tumbling past. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, as if behind a waterfall, he watched the great beasts fall. The hunt was unusually good that day and as the bodies piled up, he became trapped between the animals and the cliffs. When his people came do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus, they named this place “Head-Smashed-In”.

– The story behind the name of this place as described in the Interpretive Centre’s brochure.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Last Sunday, eight of us living in Calgary headed down to Fort MacLeod to visit a well known place where the natives used to stampede buffalo over cliffs in order to find the materials and food they needed to survive the winter. When we arrived in Fort MacLeod, it seemed pretty desolate with winds blowing dust through the streets and, at some point, I thought I might see a tumble weed roll around the streets. Our plan, to stop at the place best known for their buffalo burgers failing, since the restaurant didn’t open on Sundays. We ended up at A&W for lunch instead, the first time I chowed down at this particular fast food chain.

After lunch, we drove to the Interpretive Centre for Head Smashed In, a building constructed right into the hillside and just down from where people used to stampede the buffalo over the cliffs. The centre reconstructs the experience extremely well, with many different scenes reconstructed following a progressive time. A short fifteen minute video continues to rotate through, explaining and simulating the entire experience, with the typical disclaimer, “No animals were hurt in the making of this film.” Instead a computer generated image simulation of buffalo running over the edge finishing off the story for us.

It’s a great destination if you ever find yourself in Calgary, and if you’re ever so inclined, they even rent Tipis for groups of people to camp in to experience the prairie land way of life. Find the photos from the day trip here.

Good things come to those who volunteer

This weekend, I had signed up to help out Virgin Unite, a charity organisation who were in town for the Virgin Festival. Being the first time Calgary hosted the festival, they wanted a couple of people to help man their tent, signing people up for their quarterly newsletter.

What a hard life it was, with the tent in a pretty good view of the main stage, and with anyone signing up for the newsletter newsletter automatically going into the draw to win a guitar signed by Wolfmother. We had a huge variety of people passing through – those who’d just sign up without even understanding what it was about, those who wanted to win the drum kit instead of the guitar, and those who wanted to find out even more about the charity. I was surprised by the few people who said they didn’t have a computer (and thus didn’t have an email address to enter). I also ran into a few people from my current client as well, having a good chat about the festival vibes.

Virgin Festival Passes

Although manning the tent was pretty exhausting (trying to explain to people what the deal was over any of the music for six hours straight) we had enough people to rotate around for a couple of breaks. One of the girls from Virgin also gave me a VIP wristband, opening up access to the VIP tent, a chilled out zone with a private bar and less in-demand toilets. Combined with a free dinner from Moxie, I thought what a great experience it’d been already. That was until, they also scored me a pass to get into the Molson VIP tent to see an intimate acoustic set by The Fratellis.

The Fratellis

A perfect festival day with plenty of sun, plenty of awesome festival vibes and some pretty gorgeous people, all topped up with some good times fuelled by charity. Sweet. Gallery from the day can be found here.

A visit to the Badlands

Horsehoe CanyonThis weekend, a bunch of us visiting Calgary from overseas including Megan, Chris and JJ, decided to head out to Drumheller (also known as Dinosaur Valley), located in the Badlands, an area north of the city holding vastly different terrain from the flat, generally brown prairie land that surrounds Calgary. We visited a number of attractions including a mini hike around Horseshoe Canyon, a visit to the world’s largest dinosaur statue, a visit to the Hoo Doos and the world class dinosaur museum, the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Surprisingly for a Sunday, the town of Drumheller seemed awfully quiet, with many of the stores shut around town despite the small number of tourists arriving constantly in vehicles. Being a dinosaur-themed town, plenty of the visitors had tiny kids in tow, although besides us, I noticed a large number of other non-kid toting groups of people.

Worlds Largest DinosaurRun from the dinosaurThe World’s Largest Dinosaur, of course, a T-Rex menaces about the local Aquaplex. Towering at about 88 feet, all the cars look miniscule in comparison. Of course, the sharp teeth also mean it’s pretty menacing if you can’t tell by the people running away from it in the picture to the left. The climb up gives a pretty nice, although limited view of the surrounding area, and almost feels like you’re about to be swallowed whole. We thought a slide down it’s throat to leave would have just made the entire experience.

DinosaurOn to the best dinosaur museum ever, The Royal Tyrrell Museum, a surprisingly modern museum holds a wealth of everything fossil and dinosaur related. Apparently the surrounding area is rich in fossils and keeps people busy uncovering new things all the time. It’s a fairly interactive museum and so well designed it managed to keep the four of us entertained at least for a couple of hours. AxolotlIt’s well worth the entry price, and apparently they even organise sleep overs for groups of kids that it almost makes me want to be back in school (almost!) I have to admit, even though my favourite dinosaur ended up as the massive skull, triceratops, I couldn’t but help but be amazed by the weird creatures they had including the Axolotls (picture from patrie71’s Flickr stream under Creative Commons).

Hoo DoosWe finished off our trip to Drumheller with a trip to the Hoo Doos, a series of interesting rock formations that look like a bunch of smurf huts. Apparently erosion and plenty of human intervention mean that the formation is unlikely to last for much longer, so I certainly appreciated being able to see them before their demise.

It was great to get out of Calgary and a road trip away from the city. Check out the pictures here.

Wet Calgary

I almost thought I had returned to London last week after almost six or seven days of consecutive grey skies and plenty of rain all around town. It also somehow managed to get pretty cold at the same time, needing to pull out the jumper and the winter jacket I still have around.

Green Calgary

Even the locals say that that much rain was extremely unusual. At least, everything seems to be really green as a result (despite all the additional mowing now needed – see above picture). Everything has returned to glorious days of unending sunshine (it’s truly dark at probably about 11pm these days!) although there’s been a few surprise showers roll in suddenly.

The long way to the Crossroads

I thought I’d head out to visit another one of Calgary’s markets on Saturday, the Crossroads Markets. Aided with a map with a rough idea about how to get to there, what I thought would be an hour or two turned into an almost 20km hike all around Calgary, with a few stops along the way. The picture below represents my journey on Saturday, and at least according to the map, was 19.42km.

The walk

Here’s a twitter-fied version of my journey:

  • Stop for the mandatory Saturday coffee at Caffe Artigiano
  • Marvelled at the Talisman Centre
  • Wandered around the Reader Rock Gardens
  • Thinking this area around the Calgary Water Centre is pretty industrial
  • Alright, so I can’t go further from here, perhaps I need to turn here
  • I can’t see Blackfoot and decide to circle back
  • I recognise MacLeod
  • It looks like 42nd might connect. Do I want to risk trying it? Hmm. Let’s walk on.
  • Stopped to get water
  • 52nd? I wanted 50th. Turn back around
  • Go karting. Awesome
  • What the? The map said 50th connected to Blackfoot
  • The map says 58th should connect too. I have no faith in this map.
  • Yay! I see Blackfoot Inn. Alright, I give a little bit of faith back to the map
  • Whoa. Getting rough with no pavement to walk on
  • How convenient (only) the casino has pavement
  • Terrain increases pretty sharply. I’m goin’ bush
  • Woo hoo! A Crossroads Market sighting
  • Cross busy Blackfoot to get to market. Think mini-freeway deathtrap
  • Meander around for a while. Grab another drink
  • The map says Blackfoot circles back. Is it telling me lies again?
  • Doh. The road doesn’t have room to walk along. I turn down another road hoping it connects. Good one map.
  • All signs point to City Centre
  • An Inglewood trek. I spot Rouge, Nectar Desserts, Spolumbos, and another Buffalo Cafe
  • I recognise Deane House
  • People splashing in a large pond amuse me
  • Famished by 3pm. Smoked ribs and beef brisket doesn’t sound bad. I stop at The Palomino.
  • Return to base

Cupcake Addictions… I think not

Crave really seems to have captured the appetites for Calgarian cupcakes. Being located near one of their main locations in Kensignton, what time I have spent around the area on the weekend, I’ve seen plenty of people walking about their trademark bags. Clearly labeled yet see perfectly see through plastic gives everyone else the opportunity to ogle at their brightly coloured buttercream creations adorning an almost invisible golden base.

I sampled one of their lime flavoured ones. Intensively tart and sweet at the same time and just as intensively coloured, I couldn’t keep thinking that the cupcake was simply a vehicle for bringing the buttercream home to roost. Even with a cup of tea, I still found the icing to cake ratio simply too much. With that in mind, although I found their larger cupcakes to be overwhelming, I think the smaller, bite sized ones might offer a better balance.

Crave Cup cakes

Expect to line up in this place, unless it’s at the end of the day when they’re almost out of stock. Great for a sugar rush, Crave offers tantalizing flavours although, in my humble opinion, could do more to balance the cake to icing ratio.

If you expect an overwhelming amount of buttercream, add two more points to this rating.

Details: Crave Cookies and Cupcakes
Found at: Several locations – see their website
Highlights: Strong flavours, with eye catching coloured cream
Room for improvement: An improved cake to buttercream icing (I would like to have some cake with that icing thanks!)
TheKua.com Rating: 4 out of 10