Posts Tagged ‘Calgary’

IMG_5997Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump…. for a minute you wonder who is smashing whose head and that too over jumping Buffalo or Bison and then you realize that this is one of the ‘world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps’. It is not literally a jump but a 6000-year-old indigenous method of hunting unsuspecting buffalo who ‘jumped’ over a cliff to the plain below, to their death.

DSC05964Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump or Estipah-skikikini-kots site is on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at end of the prairies of Alberta and Montana (across the border). It was a Blackfoot (tribe) food-back-up-supply (depot) to round-up buffalo/bison from their grazing areas in the Porcupine hills and driven along drive lanes to edge of cliff by specialized buffalo-runners dressed as coyotes and wolf. The petrified herd galloped at full speed, unaware of impending doom, to fall down the 300 meters high cliff to immobility and death. The carcasses were dragged to the camp and butchered into pieces with every part and entail used for different purposes. Sometimes human error resulted in death or injury to the hunters, as one learns from the tale of a Blackfoot youth who had got caught in the wave of falling animals and found with his head smashed, under the pile of carcass.

DSC05973DSC05976A walk to this World Heritage Site (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1981) on a blustery windy day is a lesson in history of the Plains People and their courage and fortitude, of hardships endured to subsist on the vast herds of buffalo/bison that existed in North America, of their understanding of buffalo and predator behavior, notably wolf and coyotes, and of life before guns and horses.

IMG_3347One can hike up the lower trail, from the car park area, up to the base of the bluff where the buffalo fell. The place has since filled up with growth and earth but one can visualise the steep fall. The Site was abandoned in the 19th century after contact with Europeans and was later discovered, in 1880s, by Europeans and excavated by the American Museum of Natural History in 1938.

We preferred the second option of walking the upper IMG_3343trail from top floor of the Visitor Center and then walked back five floors for the exhibits and the cafeteria. The Interpretative  Centre, opened in 1987, is built into the sandstone bluffs of Porcupine Hills merging with the landscape of prairie grasslands to give visitors a feel of the past.


The entrance

The Center showcases archeological evidences highlighting the ecology, mythology, lifestyle and technology of Blackfoot people. The exhibits and the 16-minute narration by a native boy, of his dreams and participation in an actual hunt, is a gripping presentation of erudite technique connecting spiritual ceremony (performed by medicine women and men for a safe and successful hunt), with preparations of ‘buffalo runners’ to locate and herd the animals to the cliff site, the involvement of entire camp in setting up ingenious V-shaped drive lanes snaking their way through ridges, crossing coulees and rising across the tops of high hills to end at the cliff from where there was no turning back. It is a  story of courage, of hardship and survival instincts of both humans and animals. Particularly poignant is the killing of maimed buffalo as Native People believed that escaping animals would warn other herds of the deadly trap.

DSC05989A successful hunt brought in food, dried meat, pemmican, fat supplements from the bones, tanned hides for clothing and dwelling and tools from bones collected. Almost every body part of the animal used to last the extreme winter conditions when the tribe moved to safer regions along the Old Man River and the valleys beyond. .

IMG_3362Chastened and clued-up we followed the steps down to the Tipi exhibit and finally to ground floor at the bottom of a life-size diorama to click selfies where the buffalo (bison) seem tragically close to falling on your head.

Another must watch is the permanent exhibition, Lost Identities: A Journey of Rediscovery, a collaboration of historical societies and museums.

DSC05988We spent sometime at the Cafeteria refreshing ourselves with coffee and apple pie. No bison burgers after watching their butchering. While waiting for family to catch up, chatted with a Native, working at Center. He had greeted us at entrance with a ‘Namaste’ (Indian greeting) acknowledging that ‘we are both Indians, one from the West and the other from East’. His words, ‘India and China had the numbers to claim their land, whereas, his people are just spectators of happenings around’ sounded of lost opportunities. I did not want to show my ignorance of the political and social history of the First Nation and Native Americans and nodded acquiescence to his statements adding my one sentence that ‘maybe they needed a Mahatma Gandhi or a Sun Yat-sen to guide them to channelize their resources’. He smiled.  ‘A head-smashing photo-shoot moment’.

*To get there. From Calgary head south on Hwy. 2 for about 160 km. till you see the signs for Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Hwy. 785 West. The turnoff for Hwy 785 is about one km north of the major intersection with Highway 3. The Site is located 18 kilometres (15 minutes) north and west of Fort Macleod.

*The Center, designed by Le Blond Partnership, an architectural firm in Calgary, was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal for Architecture in 1990

IMG_3119Calgary Tower…collective feet-strength to look down 191 metres at Downtown Calgary. We are standing on the glass floor of the Observation Deck of the Tower awaiting a picturesque presentation of the city below, the sun-burnished Rocky Mountains, the foothills and the prairies.


Looking down…The Core of Calgary (Downtown)

One glitch …it was cloudy.IMG_3153










2. Two feet-Four feetKangaroo Creek Farm, Winfield, British Columbia…a family enjoyment place with uncaged Kangaroos, Wallabies. Wallaroos, mean looking Pot_bellied Pigs (thankfully fenced), snooty Emus, Parrots, Ducks, peacock and cuddly baby goats.




The quirky extras.

King Kong challenging the mighty Niagara……Niagara Falls, Toronto, Canada


The Reclining Snow….Calgary, Canada


In the snowy landscape the Peace Bridge appears as a giant caterpillar wiggling across the Bow River

Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava this pedestrian bridge connects the southern and northern Bow River pathways and Downtown Calgary with Sunnyside.

More bridges at






Asia Extended; Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver

Meticulous poster arrangement….this was taken while walking 17th Avenue in Calgary


It is silence all around…silence not of human voices or moving traffic but silence of space. Calgary in winter does justice to its name source, the Old Norse words Kald and Garf to describe ‘cold’ and ‘garden’, words used by Vikings when they resided in the Inner Herbides.

The snow is intimidating and you tend to tread softly like the ducks along the frozen banks of Elbow River meandering close to Downtown Calgary. The frosty ambience fails to camouflage the traditional and the remarkable , the streets, malls and parks of this burgeoning oil city

The 17th Avenue:  The tree-lined pedestrian friendly shopping corridor, the 17th Avenue, originally called Rue Du Notre Dame, makes full use of the wintery setting. The quirky signage, the craft pieces add color to the white and brown setting of designer boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, spas and salons, pubs and book stores.

The three-sided 1911 red stone Devenish Building stands out in the setting.  Previously an apartment block the building was converted into commercial space with specialist stores and brands tucked in between the old wooden staircases, narrow passages and hardwood floor bathed in decades old musty smell.

In contrast is the artsy nook, the 1973 Rubayiat, the 8500 sq.ft display of jewelry, art glass, furniture, pewter and other crafts from different corners of the world. The showpiece is the ‘tiller’ or the old cash machine and it was working.

The ideal time to explore 17th Avenue is summers when the blooming flowers  mingle with evening banter and music and the Avenue plays host to the annual  Chalkwalk and Arts festival. The Elbow River park nearby is the spring and summer get away.

Tired out by the winter time quietness the Poutine at the BIG CHEESE POUTINERIE revs you up. This is a Quebec originated version of fast food, now popular across Canada, of French fries and fresh cheese curd covered with brown gravy or sauce and added toppings of veggies or meat. I tried the veggie  (mushrooms etc.) and somehow think one has to develop a taste for it. But it helped  in spending rest of afternoon stepping in and out of stores and admiring the craft pieces adorning corners and store frontal.