Sun 29th ….We left you last time seeing a chap standing outside his house in Jasper, alongside a table with some ‘junk’, although he informed us that earlier it had been full to over-flowing. It was in a lovely residential area, and seemed a bit odd.
However the explanation was simple and sensible……periodically, people put out unwanted, but servicable items. Anyone can then come along and take any of them without charge, for their own use. Presumably reciprocity is expected so that everyone can get a glimpse of (and possibly obtain) others’ rubbish. Recycling made simple!
Having solved that query, we continued on our walk round this pleasant town. I got some video of one of the large freight trains running through with over 140 coaches! On the way, we had a good viewing of a large deer grazing beside the road, oblivious to the presence of humans or traffic. By this time our digestion and body-clock synchronisation was still not right and we were snacking at all sorts of strange times. Lunch was at Cafe Mondo with home-made salmon sandwiches….to be recommended!
Next morning, at a quite unreasonable hour, we left Chateau Jasper, and assembled with others at the local railway station to join the Rocky Mountaineer on a ‘Journey Through the Clouds’. This is one of a number of great trains which traverse (guess what!) the Rocky Mountains, all starting from, or returning to, Vancouver. The weather having previously been mixed, we had been concerned about whether the splendour of the mountains would be revealed in all their glory….we needn’t have worried! The sky was blue, and the mountains were inviting as we all talked excitedly about the coming journey, and pinned-on our little maple-leaf badges.
The tour on which we were involved had two standards of service, Gold Leaf, and Red Leaf. The Gold Leaf passengers had access to a glass-domed observation area, as well as cooked-on-board meals. We were very happy with the Red Leaf standard, and would be quite happy to recommend it to anyone.
We settled into our carriage which had about 50 seats with loads of leg space (airlines, please note). There were about 38 of us in this carriage, so a lot of empty seats. Seemingly this is intended so that we could move easily to the side would give us a better view. We had a lovely stewardess, who served meals and gave us a running commentary on the journey and what we should watch-out for. A load of video was taken, but the following link is probably the best way to get a general feeling for it all…
Jasper Lake was the first major stretch of water after we started off, and riding along quietly south west, along the Fraser River, we were increasingly impressed and astounded by the beauty of the scenery. We were then suddenly instructed to put our watches back one hour as we had left the Alberta time zone and entering British Columbia. Pine trees, animals, eagles, ospreys, rivers, and (obviously) spectacular mountains appeared at every bend and the video camera could be left on permanently. Sometimes we had to slow down or even stop to let another train pass so the opportunity came to get photographs.
Two spectacular natural formations then had to be seen, and so the train slowed up to ensure we got good photos. Firstly, the Pyramid Falls……
………and Mount Robson, which is the highest point in the Rockies, and is only completely seen about 10 days in the year, so we were lucky….
Because the rail-line was often alongside the edge of steep valleys, many tunnels were necessary either for access or to afford protection from falling rocks. With the necessary curvature of the track we sometimes got a good glimpse of the front of the train heading into the tunnel, and looking remarkably like a snake.
And so the miles drifted on and as the land flattened out we came to the end of the first day and approached our half-way point…Kamloops. We’re off to the hotel to get changed and go out for a meal. Good Night! See you later, and I’ll tell you about what happened!
Fri 27th ………The trip north-west from Banff heading towards Jasper was going to be a long journey lasting some 9 hours by coach, so it was important that we were up early! However jet-lag was beginning to set-in, and a broken-night’s sleep manifested itself. However, waffles and coffee did the trick and we were out on time.
Time and coaches wait for no man, and we headed off along the Great Canadian Highway, described by National Geographic as one of their ‘Drives of a Lifetime’ ……still with some snow and cloud shrouding the hills. It is truly startling along the whole journey…
The following link gives a good idea of some bits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNoSIkb9xEE
This area is one particularly noted for icefields, but first we stopped at Lake Louise Hotel. This incongruously- massive building is at the end of a frozen lake. We went in to look around inside but anything more than a snack would require a second mortgagae! Further along we came to the Athabasca Icefield and the Num-ti-Jah Lodges. The following shot let us see, close-up, the thickness of snow and ice at the lake.
The Columbia Icefield was more accessible by specialised motorised machines. The running commentary by the driver was excellent, but like at many such events, the facts are often forgotten but the impressions remain. It is obviously commercialised but the memories are startling. You can see the size of the equipment used, and you can imagine the terror engendered as it went over the edge of the road to go along the glacier!
Everyone wants to see bears in Canada, and Young Lady was no exception. We were warned on the next stage of the journey, that the driver might have to pull-up if cars stopped in front of us to view some bears at the side of the road…this seems to be permissible. We did, indeed, have to stop and had several good viewings of black bears.
There were other photos taken, with a variety of focus and quality, but some images looked like faked images of the Yeti, so were not worthy of reproducing here!
Northwards to the Athabasca Falls, a collection of waterfalls going through a series of gullies, at spectacular speed, and accessed by well-positioned bridges.
We took so many photos and video of this area but still could not record the total experience…you have to come to see it. Then onwards to our most northerly point…the lovely town of Jasper, and the well-disguised Chateau Jasper in in its coat of green-painted wood.
Every place where we slept we were fortunate to have great beds, and despite the continuing jet-lag problem (at least in my case), we were ready, after a hearty breakfast, for a day wandering about ‘at leisure’, as they call it……….
We discovered that there was a nature trail on one side of the town, which took you rapidly to great views over the area. This ‘rapidly’ description meant that Young Lady had to be encouraged, cajoled and almost pushed up the steep narrow path, whilst our joints complained at this abuse.
In many parts of the trail the town below was hidden by the massive trees on the hillside, but they protected us from the cool wind. The trail was used by jogger, walkers and cyclists alike, but I was pleased that everyone spoke, and especially cyclists approaced with caution and indicated their presence from behind with their bells. For some reason, in our part of the world they do not seem to see the necessity of informing you of their approach!
And so, down to town level again into a residential area to be met by the following sight….
…..who was he and what was he doing?……..watch out for the next exciting instalment!…….
No two-week holiday (our longest break in about 18 years!) can be set-up without worries and anxieties, and this one was no exception! Closing down a small business requires clearing appointments and paperwork, banking and answering machine, government returns and who will water the plants!
Close-family illnesses were cause for concern, but are outwith our control and the Lady of the House really needed the break. The other ‘cloud on the horizon’ was the Iceland volcano cloud. It was expected to arrive in time to disrupt our take-off from Glasgow on Wed . There was doubt about the forecast and Thomas Cook Travel didn’t help by not keeping us informed. However, Son kindly took us to Glasgow Airport and we left on time.
My friends know that I don’t like sitting in a metal tube for hours, many miles in the air. I’ve done it for many decades but still find it un-natural, and boring! Lady of the House, on the other hand, loves it. Attempts to placate those such as me by letting me watch some ghastly video, or be beguiled by advertising, or read glossy magazines, or eat from a cardboard box, just don’t work! An 8-hour journey could be a good chance to have a snooze to try to deal with the expected jet-lag, but the continual jollification by the stewardesses prevents this, at least for me. The shrinking seats made it even more uncomfortable. Luckily we had other passengers who were happy to chat and such distraction helped the hours to pass.
….but, the 8 hour time-zone change was the largest I have had to handle. On arrival at Calgary we almost had to put our watches back to the beginning of our journey, and keep the eyelids propped open for a long time. The warm welcome at the airport from the staff was what should be expected, but rarely received.
The transfer from Calgary to Banff was perfectly pleasant, but the weather wasn’t! The housing estates on the edge of Calgary didn’t look particularly attractive to us, but we were now in a different culture, and had better get used to it. Rain and sleet didn’t detract from the beauty of the entry into the Banff National Park and Banff itself.
We booked into the Fox Suites, wandered around the pleasant main street, and noted the courtesy of the average Canadian car-driver. Even idiotic pedestrians who wandered across the road contrary to the crossroad signs were treated as if they were in the right! Back at the hotel, Lady and I chose to share the main course of the evening meal as the portions were obviously over-sized for us mere Brits!
Next morning, she had the chance to learn how to make waffles for breakfast and we ate a bit more than we would have at home (but we were on holiday!). We went to the railway station, to get some shots of a train going through, but no-one could tell when the next one was coming as there was no schedule. A short wait in the rain proved photo-less. We had more opportunities to investigate the main street, the Mall, the attractive river and the museums. It was a good chance to relax after the previous days’ hassles.
….. just this morning, from the most wonderful holiday we’ve ever had, in the Rockies, and an Alaskan cruise……… watch out for the first exciting episode, after I sleep off the jet -lag!