Saturday – It wasn’t easy getting out of bed on Day 1 in Banff although the scenery outside looked great from the lying down position. We eventually emerged and, after showers and breakfast, walked to the town of Banff in beautiful sunshine.
This town is a tourists’ mecca and always loaded with Australians with their Scenic, Evergreen, APT and Travelmarvel name tags showing. After some time at a free Wi-Fi café, publishing the blog and catching up on things on Facebook and emails, we did the tourist thing and browsed the souvenir shops. In one shop, a guy with an accent got chatting to us and then he suddenly dropped the accent. “Ah,” I said, “From Australia?” “No from Christchurch.” “I was born there too.” There are many Australian and New Zealand young people working over here during both winter and summer. They are allowed to work for 2 years before returning or moving on.
We got chatting to some folk that had Evergreen nametags on and asked if Di Lowe was their Tour Guide. Di was our Tour Guide for our group to Africa in 2013. We were aware she was in Canada so turned up at the hotel and gave her a BIG surprise. Small world, again.
Sunday – Day 2 in Banff, we thought we had better get some photos. The sky was blue and just had that summer warmth to it. There is a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain so after the early morning Wi-Fi connection; we boarded a bus to the mountain. Who should be on the bus but some folk from Alstonville, who were on the Alaskan 7 day tour and the Coral Princess Cruise – small world, again. I had said to them back in Vancouver, “See you in Banff”, not realizing that I was making a prophecy.
The view from the summit is just incredible and to be able to have the opportunity with clear skies was magnificent. We hadn’t had any breakfast hoping to have it in the restaurant but that was full of Australians on an Evergreen Tour, so breakfast was a small snack. The elevation at the summit is 2281 meters or 7496 feet.
As this trip is our 25th anniversary of opening the travel agency, we took advantage of having the memory etched, 3D in crystal; a great memento of Lyn’s great work over the past 25 years.
On our return to lower levels, I followed Lyn, the travel agent, onto a bus, headed for the hot springs. Well, we got off 100 metres down the road, as the hot springs were across the road from the bus stop. $4 later. We could have purchased some ‘old fashioned’ neck to knee bathers for the event had we known. The picture would have looked priceless. It’s quite a walk down the hill back into town but we decided to take the trail. Half way along, I said, “You know, we could see a bear. How would you like some close-ups?” Lyn became very calm – NOT. Consoling Lyn has become an art I never knew I had. Low and behold, there was a bear down the trail in front of us. We both noticed him but were fooled. A tree trunk looked just like a bear.
After a wander around the famous Fairmont Hotel property, looking as though we were guests, we walked into town and did some more shopping – on the other side of the street, before heading back for an early night.
Tuesday – “Lets get up early and head off towards Jasper for tomorrow night”, was our reason for an early night. Would you believe we exited Banff at 11:00am? The rain had arrived and was with us as we visited a few gorgeous lakes on our way to Jasper. Our favourite lake so far is Lake Peyto, a magnificent green/turquoise in colour. We did some filming of a grizzly bear on the side of the road, with scores of other tourists trying to do the same thing. Guess what? We didn’t make it to Jasper that night. In fact, we can’t remember the name of the campground we stayed at; it was a ‘drop your money in a box’ honesty state campground, next to a river ‘built’ for fishermen.
Wednesday – Staying at such a place enables you to get going early and we were able to get to the Glacier Park before they even started operations for the day. It seemed like a spooky place at first. We took the snow bus up to the glacier at 9:00am with just 5 other people. This gave us full attention from the driver and he cared for us well. On our way back down from the glacier to the visitor’s centre, we passed 3 snow buses full of coach tourists, and a further 2 coaches arrived at the transfer station; we certainly thanked the idea of getting going so early. At the visitor’s centre on our return, there were lines of people, mainly Australians, lined up for the snow buses and the cafeteria. Di Lowe, our tour director in Africa, was in amongst the masses, we noticed.
A new ‘high’ point for the Glacier Park is the Sky Walk. You have to join the visit by bus and travel to a spot where the skywalk is suspended, not from, but ‘out’ from the cliff face – an enormous architectural feat. We were certainly impressed with the experience.
From the Glacier experiences, we were fortunate to see a few black bears on the roadside. We also visited the Athabasca Falls and on to Jasper. We did the wrong thing and looked around the town and had dinner before going to the RV campground. By being late, we were unable to use a full hook-up site so no batteries were charged overnight.
Today (Thursday) Departing at 7:30 and arriving at popular tour coach destinations early is well worth it. It’s about 50km to Maligne Lake and great bear country, we were told (saw none). But were able to have breakfast overlooking the lake covered in mist and rain before the “tourists” arrived. Among them were two couples we had met on the Alaskan section of our trip – small world again. We visited the Maligne Canyon on our way back towards Jasper and managed to take a nap of 30 minutes or so. The canyon is quite a showpiece, with snowmelt bustling its way to the river mouth, somewhere in the Artic Sea. We met a couple and their daughter on the Glacier the other day and since then have met up at the restaurant last night and again at the Maligne Canyon. They are from Quebec, which is French speaking, and the wife wanted to take our photo for memory of a ‘great couple from Australia’.
Our fridge stopped working on propane last night and the water heater pilot light had gone out. On our way through Jasper, we had them fixed at no cost to us. Now the food will stay cool and the dishes will get done.
Leaving Jasper at 3:00pm, we found a great spot for an ice cream at Mt Robson, a well-known mountain peak of the area. The view from the visitor’s centre is awe-inspiring. The roads have been good this afternoon and we have been able to travel at 110kph to where we are for the night at Blue River. We are thinking of taking a ‘Trip of a Lifetime’ on their river experience in the morning.