Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 14-16 September 2017 – Qualicum Beach/Qualicum/Vancouver/Sarasota, Florida – Days 19-21

Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Down to Qualicum Beach  (Day 19)

Another quiet morning. About 2.00pm we drove down to Qualicum Beach for me to have a dip in the Pacific Ocean.  I needed my flip flops (jangles/thongs) on as the beach had lots of stones.  It was quite cool but then got quite surprised as the tide was very deceptive – rough.  It didn’t take long before I was knocked down and off went my flip flops and I had to hang onto my swimmers.  Well, that was my “putting my feet in the Pacific” episode.  A local lady who was very brave, swam out to where my flip flops were and kindly returned them to me.

My dip in the chilly Pacific Ocean

After I dried off, we then went onto the Arrowhead Golf and Country Club for another nice meal. 

As well as liking his fishing, Bob also plays golf.  He knows several around the area and because they were trying to find me deer, that is why we have called into a couple as there are usually deer on the course.After our meal, Bob obtained a golf buggy and away we went around the beautiful grounds of the Golf Course.

A stop off in the grounds of the Golf Course

 

Two deer were there and I was quite excited that at least there were some deer in the country.  Was a lovely drive around the well manicured course with Mt Arrowsmith in the distance.Then it was back home again – yes, another nice outing. Bob had to attend a Shriners meeting.  I had not heard of Shriners – Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life.  Shriners International also supports Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is similar to what Lions/Rotary/Starlight Foundation do here in Australia?.  Each time we have been out, the vehicle is parked outside.  I learnt that the garage is full of quite a lot of provisions for Shriners  and with Bob’s kind heart, it seems that his place is a “stow it” place for friends’ equipment and his “on the spot” store. It was a joke – e.g. In conversation, I said –  “I have to get myself another watch as the face is hard to read”.  Next thing, Bob goes out and when he comes back, there he has two lovely big faced watches”.  I love them Bob and thank you for the other little gifts you gave me from the “shop”. Cheryl and I chatted for some time before it was time for bed.

The home of Cheryl and Bob

Friday, 15 September 2017 – Qualicum to Vancouver (Day 20) 

Up and after breakfast did my last minute packing as I was leaving this very hospitable establishment.  At 11.00am we drove through Parksville, Nanoose Bay, Lantzville and the outskirts of Nanaimo and at 12.00 we arrived at the Ferry Terminal of Duke Point. This is the terminal I should have arrived at when I first arrived and not at Swarz Bay (Victoria).  I purchased my ferry ticket for the 12.45pm  ferry departure and sadly said my last goodbye to Cheryl and Bob.  What a wonderful caring couple!!  I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they offered me at such short notice.  They apologised that due to Cheryl being unwell, they had not taken me out more.  I really appreciated the places they did take me so I was really spoilt.  We certainly checked out several of Cheryl’s and Bob’s favourite eating places.  Once again a huge thankyou to my good Samaritans and I am sure we will not lose touch.

Boarded the “Queen Alberni” built in 1976. Was quite a large vessel that took cars/trucks/caravans as well as walk-on passengers.  The crossing took about 2 hours and was a pleasant cruise into Tsawwassen, ferry causeway at Delta (Vancouver).  As we were approaching the terminal, Mt Barker on the USA side in Washington could be seen.  I then caught a taxi to my accommodation at Cozy South in Burnaby.  Took about an hour to go the 37 kms but we were in peak hour traffic.  The owner, Nola greeted me and took my luggage into my nice room.  She kindly made me a bowl of noodles and then I went to bed at 6.00pm as I had a very early start next day.

 

Last drive on Vancouver Island_

Leaving Vancouver Island

Saturday, 16 September 2017 – Flight to Sarasota, Florida (Day 21)

A very early wake up at 2.50am and Nola’s husband drove me to the Vancouver International Airport.  I went to see what gate I needed to go to and I saw that the flight had been delayed until 9.10am.  Imagine my face.  Headed straight to the Delta Airline checkin and I was informed that I had been transferred to Alaska Airlines Flight AS964 for the hour flight to Seattle Tacoma.  I had Seat 6D and to reach my bag under the seat in front of me, I had to actually get out of my seat to reach it – First Class!  It was a lovely sunrise. After a short while in the air we flew over the Rockies.  Was interesting to see how the landscape changed from mountains, rivers and flat country. Had to get three trains to the terminal for my next flight on Delta Air Flight DL2864 that left at 7.45 – was about 5 hours to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.  Then an hour later was on Delta Air Flight DL1297 for Sarasota/Bradenton.

 

 

I arrived at Sarasota at 5.50pm and Anne was at the carousel to meet me.  Al was parked close by so in went my luggage and we travelled several kilometres to a very well patronised restaurant for dinner.  It was Anne’s birthday.  We then went to North Port – half way between Sarasota and Fort Myers – to Al’s and Anne’s home.  It was lovely seeing Al and Anne after two years.  We did some chatting and then I had a choice of two lovely bedrooms – I went in the “Snowman” one – all tastefully decorated out in a snow theme.  I did a very small amount of unpacking as I was very tired – realised I had been 21 hours without sleep.

 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni – Day 18

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni (Day 18)

After our breakfast we set off for Port Albernia.  We had a short stop at the Riverside Resort as I needed a couple of things. We continued on until it was morning tea time at one of the many Tim Horton cafes throughout Canada.  It was a lovely drive through pine forests in the Regional District of Nanaimo until we were then in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

We arrived at the lovely city of Port Alberni with a population of almost 18,000.   Port Alberni is a deep port city which lies within the Alberni Valley at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island’s longest inlet.  The city sits beneath Mount Arrowsmith and is nestled amongst the vast temperate coastal rainforests and the numerous lakes and waterways that flow into the Alberni Inlet and Pacific ocean.  The beautiful mountains provide great hiking, walking and mountain bike trails.   The city is also known for its fishing especially the different species of salmon and is often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World”.Port Alberni has two quays – Harbour and Victoria Quays.  We spent quite some time at Harbour Quay taking in the lovely scenery.

Nice photo of Rob and Cheryl

We wandered along through to the little arcade of shops along the marina – on the way there was a piano asking to be played – I hit a few notes !!!!

As we were walking through, some men told us that we should go down to Victoria Quay as we may see some black bears on the other side of the quay looking for fish. Of course we didn’t see any.  It was now time for some of our own food so had a nice meal at the Boston Pizza Restaurant and then it was time for us to leave for home.

                                       Enjoying a meal at Boston Pizza Place

After our nice meal, we started our journey home.  We started to climb about 8 kms to what is known to the locals as “The Hump” – the highest point on the highway – Port Alberni Summit – elevation is about 425 metres.  It crosses from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and then into the Regional District of Nanaimo.  We wound our way through the MacMillan Provincial Park which includes a well-known area of Cathedral Grove –  a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island.  The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference.  We skirted Cameron Lake for a few kilometres and passed near Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum National Park and then we were soon back to Qualicum.

Bob, who loves his fishing, thought salmon that he had caught, was on the menu for tonight’s meal.  He likes to catch and cook it but surprisingly he doesn’t eat it. Cheryl and I enjoyed the meal as was light as we had a big meal for lunch.

Was a lovely day’s outing.  I had a nice call from son Robert so was good to hear his voice.  Another promise of an early night but somehow it didn’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Visit to Coombs – Day 17

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Coombs (Day 17)

This morning we were lazy and after lunch we set off for Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park – central Vancouver Island.  It was originally established as a park in 1940 to protect the old growth Douglas-fir forest.  It was quite a steep descent but Bob made sure I wouldn’t fall down.  Was worth the walk.

We then drove to the old the market village of Coombs about 10kms from Parksville. The original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market.  With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law, Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world.  

Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they ‘borrow’ some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than 30 years. Each spring, a trip of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world. There were lots of people looking up at the goats.

Had a leisurely wander through the various stalls and then saw the Goats on the roof.  I saw plenty of these sod roofs when I was in Norway. Fascinating.

Sign is for the tree not me ha ha

 

Goats on top of the building

One of the “lawnmowers”  –

After we  left Coombs we made a quick detour into Pheasant Glen Golf Course to see whether there were any deer around for me to see.  Alas, none.We continued on “home” as a friend of Cheryl and Bob, Janice was coming to see whether she could help me with my rebooking of my airline tickets.  After dinner, spent quite a lot of time on the internet and did my rebookings – was very convenient that Bob had a super telephone plan as I was on to the airline for quite some time. Thanks for that Bob.  Each night we say we are going to bed early but somehow it is quite late. I have been listening about the approaching hurricanes to Florida – José and Maria until the wee hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday – Monday, 9-11 September 2017 – Vancouver to Vancouver Island – Days 14-16

Saturday – Monday,  9 – 11 September 2017 –  Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Days 14-16) 

I woke up this morning with a start as thought it was 11.00am – Was actually 7.00am.  I tried to condense my luggage down as seemed to be getting heavier – 23.9kgs.  I booked out of the hotel and while waiting for the shuttle bus chatted to a Gail.  I left the shuttle at the SkyTram stop and then had a short walk in misty rain to catch the 620 bus to the Ferry to Vancouver Island.  While waiting for the bus, met a Marion, who lives on Vancouver Island, and was very helpful as I did not have the change for the bus fare so she kindly paid for me. Was quite a long drive to the ferry. Got my ticket and put my luggage on the carousel and Marion and I caught the 1.00pm Ferry.  We had lunch and then as we were nearing the Ferry terminal we rang Bob to let him know where we were.  Got a shock as I was on the wrong ferry.  We arrived at about 2.40pm.  I said goodbye to Marion and waited for Bob to drive almost 200 miles to come and collect me. I filled in my time talking to Jessica (worked at the terminal) and she took me out to take a photo and then I watched the hundreds of people coming and going on the ferries.

At ferry terminal

Bob arrived at about 4.45pm and we headed off.  The drive was through some beautiful forests of fir trees, huge chestnut trees and lakes – was quite foggy in places.  We stopped at Whipple Tree Junction near the village of Duncan for a coffee.  Passed through the village of Ladysmith where Pamela Anderson grew up.  Through Nanaimo, known as the “Harbour City” – is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and the third oldest city in British Columbia – Parksville and a drive to Qualicum Beach.  This area is known as Oceanside.  Prince Charles and Diana spent part of their honeymoon in this area.  We then called into the Memorial Golf Course restaurant to collect our fish and chips for dinner.  Qualicum is where Cheryl and Bob live.  Was nice to see Cheryl again.  The night was one of chatting until quite late.

The next couple of days was spent at home as Cheryl was still not well – bad bronchitis.  Talking, chatting, sorting out things on our Ipads, eating and drinking and listening to updates on Hurricane Irma.

Bob enjoys cooking so he was chief cook for our breakfasts – pancakes, waffles and muffins. On Monday he spent quite some time preparing a nice beef stew – very tasty. My nightcap each night was a Kahlua.  Was nice to have a couple of lazy restful days.

We are all concentrating  !!!!!

Looks like Bob is worn out from his stew making – thought he may have been getting a cold!!!!

 

 

Friday, 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour – Day 13

Friday and , 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour (Day 13)

We arrived in Vancouver at 7.00am – drizzling rain.  After breakfast, it was time to leave our cruise ship and board the coach with our guide Rica and Anthony our driver for a short tour around the city.

We went through Gastown, the original settlement that became the core of the creation of Vancouver in the 1870’s.  A tourist attraction is Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 by horologist Raymond Saunders and metalwork specialist Doug Smith.  Incorporating a steam engine and electric motors, the clock displays the time on four faces. The steam also powers the clock’s sound production, with whistles being used instead of bells to produce the Westminster “chime” and to signal the time every quarter of an hour. The clock produces a puff of steam from its top on the hour. As we were on the coach, we did not hear the sounds but saw a puff of steam as we passed by.

 We then made our way via Chinatown to Stanley Park , Vancouver’s first and largest urban park.  The 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest with scenic views of water, mountains, sky, cultural and historical landmarks and majestic trees along the Park’s Seawall.  It also includes Canada’s largest aquarium. As we drove around the Park, we saw the statue of the “Girl in a Wetsuit”. This statue was a gift to the Vancouver Park Board from sculptor Elek Imredy.  Unveiled June 10, 1972, she represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea.  We had a short stop at the Totem Poles at Brockton Point in the Park.
Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver,

These towering monuments are brought to life through First Nations artistry and are one of the most recognisable cultural symbols of Western Canada.  One of the Totem Poles was raised in 2009 and created to Rose Cole Yelton, her family and all those who lived in Stanley Park.  This pole is erected in front of the house site where the Cole family lived until 1935.  Until the time of her passing in 2002, Rose was the last surviving resident of the Brockton Community.

In front of the Rose Cole Yelton totem pole

It was time for our great tour with Tripadeal to end with most of the group transferring to the Vancouver International Airport.

I want to thank Gayle/Dianne, Kay/Phil, Gail/ Russell, Sal/Russell, Carolyn/ Rob, Andy/ Vincent, Marilyn/Paul, Kay/Jeff, Dianne/Ken, Rhonda, Joe, and Danielle, Lynda/Stephen, Maureen/Steve, Sandy and Peter for making this tour as enjoyable as it was for me. I really appreciated your assistance you all offered me when needed.  We certainly had lots of laughs.  Hope you all stay well and healthy and that we stay in touch now and again down the track.

I stayed at the airport until 6.00pm with Sandy, Peter, Maureen and Steve as their flights were not going until late that night. I then caught a cab to my accommodation at the Accent Inn. I had dinner next door at the Ihop restaurant and then came back to my room and contacted Bob about taking him up on his and Cheryl’s kind offer for me to stay with them on Vancouver Island for the week.  Guess they didn’t think we would see each other so soon!!  Had an early night.  Was very quiet being by myself after having companions for the last fortnight.

 

 

Friday and Saturday, 1-2 September, 2017 – Days 6 and 7 – Abbotsford to Vancouver/Alaska Cruise

Friday, 1 September 2017 – Abbotsford to Vancouver/Alaska Cruise  (Day 6)

Up and had breakfast and onto the coach and left Abbotsford for a relatively short drive to Vancouver.  We drove through downtown Vancouver. One landmark pointed out was four statues outside the BC Stadium of Terry Fox  (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) who was a Canadian athlete.  His right leg was amputated in 1977 after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.   In 1980 with one leg having been amputated, he attempted to run east to west across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Sadly he died before he was able to complete the run.   Was quite exciting when we passed near the Harbour and saw our cruise ship.

We arrived at the Port and was able to go on board the Celebrity Millenium.  After doing all the formalities for Security, went and had lunch with Gail and Russell (fellow companions).  It was then into my room (2072).

Plan of Celebrity Millineum

Coal Harbour Vancouver

 

At 4.30pm  along with the majority of passengers, I went up on deck as we slowly sailed out of Coal Harbour, Vancouver.  It is a beautiful harbour with the North Shore Mountains in the background.  We headed out towards the Lions Gate Bridge – reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franscisco but in green.

After doing some unpacking and familiarising myself with some of the ship, went and had a dip in the hot tub.

At 8.30pm, I went into the Metropolitan Restaurant (5th floor) to my designated table – seated with three pleasant Chinese girls.  (Smoked salmon and Creme Brulee.)  After dinner had a short visit to the casino and then into my cabin to sort out some shore excursions.  Ended up being totally confused and it was 4.00am.

Saturday, 2 September 2017 – Cruising –  (Day 6)

Looked out my porthole but it was very foggy and nothing to see.  Went down to Level 3 and booked some off-shore excursions and then had breakfast with Raylene, Brian, Sal and Russell.  Chatted with Rhonda, Joe and Daniella who I first met in Calgary but are on the other bus of TripaDeal – into bingo, hot tub and then dinner at 8.30pm with Kay, Phil, Sal, Russell, Gail and Margarita. (Escargot, lamb and Creme Brulee).   Today was a day of relaxing.

Dinner with Sal, Russell, Phil, Kay, Gail and Margarite in Metropolitan Restaurant, Level 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 31 August 2017 – Day 5 – Golden – Abbotsford

Thursday, 31 August 2017 – Golden – Abbotsford (Day 5)

Another early start with breakfast and onto the coach at 8.50 on our way to Abbotsford. We now entered the Glacier National Park. In 1883, a Mr Van Horne, the general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway suggested to the federal government that national parks should be created along the rail line. The park was established in 1886.

Once again, beautiful forests of pines covering the slopes of the mountains and passed Three Valley Lake . We thought we were going to be detained as there had been a nasty accident on the highway but by the time we arrived there was only the remains of a burnt out semitrailer.  It was quite hazy from the recent fires that have been burning throughout Canada. Our first stop was at Rogers Pass Visitors Centre, a small museum. There were some of the “local inhabitants” information – caribou, mountain goat, grizzly bear, wolverine. Along with each story, there was a stuffed owner.

Rogers Pass history commenced in 1871.  When British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, it was on the condition that Prime Minister John A. Macdonald would build a railway to link the province to the rest of the country. In 1881 construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway proceeds westward across the Prairies and eastward from the Pacific Coast. Major Rogers is sent to find a route across the seemingly impenetrable Rocky Mountains. He approached from the west, but because of the lateness of the season he turns back. The following year he confirms the existence of the pass when he reaches the summit from the east side – hence the name Rogers Pass.  So much construction was being done in the mountains until 7th November, 1885 the east and west construction crews met at Craigellachie.  We will hear more about the Railway when we visit Craigellachie (pronounced Kray-gell-a-Key) later.

For some distance we drove under Snow sheds and we learnt these were constructed to take the force of avalanches crashing down in the area. The area receives up to 15m of snow each winter.  Sadly, there were enormous avalanches along the way with loss of lives, and when on 4th March 1910 about 60 lives were lost there was public outcry over the dangers of railway operations in Rogers Pass.

In 1913 construction began on an 8kms tunnel through Mt Macdonald and in 1916 the Connaught Tunnel opened.  It seems that tunnels were being constructed to make rail travel much more safer.

We continued our travelling onto the town of Revelstoke for a refreshment stop. Throughout Canada there are many Tim Horton cafes and when we got back on the coach, Ron handed out Timbits – tasty mini donuts.  Thanks Ron. On we went until Craigellachie. It was at Craigellachie that on 7th November 1885  the last spike was placed into position to signify the conclusion of the Canadian Pacific Railway from coast to coast. This was mainly due to Major Albert Bowman Rogers and William Cornelius Van Horne.  Aside from overseeing the largest construction project ever attempted in Canada, Van Horne also chose the site and name for Vancouver, inaugurated a steamship line to the Orient and supervised the building of the Chateau Frontenac. Van Horne was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894. He died in Montreal in 1915 at the age of 72.  For this wonderful day to take place, a great deal of credit should go to many Chinese workers who lived in substandard facilities and worked the dangerous jobs at which many lost their lives.

I hope whoever reads this, you can get some idea of the workings of the railway as there are so many facts that I cannot possibly mention them all – I hope I have covered the pertinent facts. My mind just boggles at the enormity of the railway system that is enjoyed by Canadians as well as many people from all over the world.

We continue on through the Shuswap region travelling near the huge Shuswap Lake.  We pass through Sicamous with its lovely sandy beaches and is known as the Houseboat Capital of Canada. Then through Salmon Arm which is the largest urban centre in the Shuswap between the peaceful shores of Shuswap Lake and mountains and hills.

The Thompson River, home to several varieties of Pacific salmon and trout, is the largest tributary of the Fraser River, flowing through the south-central portion of British Columbia. The Thompson River has two main branches, the South Thompson River –  which we follow for quite some time and the North Thompson River. The huge Shuswap is the source of the South Thompson River, the only outlet of the Shuswap Lake system, and it eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver.

We leave the Rockies and see the Columbia Mountains. Our route seems to be flatter with fields of corn and various farmlands. Around this area is the largest grower of ginseng. We pass through the village of Chase. Here the South Thompson River originates.

We did not go into the city of Kamloops but saw it from the highway. Kamloops,  meaning “Meeting of the Waters”, is the largest community in the Thompson-Nicola Valley region where the North and South Thompson rivers meet near Kamloops Lake.   A very short stop was at Merritt with the Coastal Mountains in the distance.  We heard that Merritt is known as the “Country Music Capital of Canada” for its wealth of country music attractions, activities, and events. Merritt’s economy is dominated by the primary industries of forestry, tourism, and cattle ranches.

Our next short stop was at the pretty village of Hope with many wood carvings around.  I wandered down to Memorial Park where there several wood carvings. Hope is home to a notable widely known carver named Pete Ryan who has carved a number of the chainsaw wood carvings exhibited in downtown Hope. Chainsaw wood carving competitions and exhibitions are held.  Gayle, Dianne, Andy and Vincent (on my tour) were also having a wander before it was time to board the coach.

 

Gayle and I in Hope at one of the many carvings

Chilliwak was another town passed through before we finally reached our destination for the night in Abbotsford at about 6.30pm. After seeing my room (562) I met with Marilyn, Paul, Phil and Kay (fellow passengers) in the adjoining very popular “Rickys” restaurant for a very enjoyable meal and company.  When I put the TV on, there was a report that there had been a murder evidently not far from our hotel.  Evidently only happened about ½ hour before our arrival. We did hear and see a couple of police cars pass by!  

Another very long, but very interesting and informative day. Travelled through very diverse countryside once more and sad that we have left the mesmerising Rockies behind. Truly magnificent formations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday, 30 August 201 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/Columbia Icefield/Golden – Day 4

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 – Day 4 – Banff/Lakes Louise/Moraine/ Columbia Icefield/ Golden

After breakfast, it was an early departure from our Banff Inn at 7.15am as we had a lot to fit in today. We spent longer in Banff yesterday as we were hoping a couple of our tour group who missed their flight from Los Angeles would have arrived but they were still delayed so we saw more of the sights around Banff.  It was quite misty and cool but when we arrived at our first stop nearly an hour later at Lake Louise  – Jewel of the Canadian Rockies” – it was quite nice and sunny.  What a sight !!!  Beautiful calm turquoise waters with its backdrop of the Victoria Glacier.

Lake Louise with reflections in the calm water

I was with Russell and Sal from our group and we had time to wander leisurely beside the lake up to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise  through the grand entrance of the hotel with its beautiful chandelier and the stunning staircase leading up to the guestrooms of the hotel.  It is noted that the stunning chateau and the Lake have become one of the most photographed landscapes in Canada.  You can see why.

The three of us took in the scenery on our way to the coach.  I put in my order for the jazzy vehicle, but I am still waiting for its delivery!!!!

We then headed towards Lake Moraine, a glacially fed lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks. Another spectacular sight. There was a huge rock pile and some of the group climbed up to a better viewing platform but some of us declined and were just happy to stay below and take in the scenery all around.

Lake Moraine and the Rock Pile

After our stop at Lake Moraine we left the Trans-Canada Highway and joined Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway (232 kms/144 miles) and we were told that this is one of the world’s most scenic stretch of road and it is easy to see why – so many skyscaper high rugged mountains, many lakes and streams and lush ancient pine forests. We passed Glacier and Crowfoot mountains just to name a couple and then we had another stop at Bow Lake, one of the smaller lakes in Banff National Park. It is the source of the Bow River that we travelled along in many places – sometimes right next to it or else seeing it down in the valley as we made our ascents.

Bow Glacier and Snowbird Glacier were passed and Ron, our guide played the song – “”Snowbird. Each day we also heard the song – “Rocks and Trees, Trees and Rocks”. Very appropriate as that is certainly what we are seeing heaps of, but it makes the journey interesting.  Our time was delayed for some time as the road was blocked because a stray mountain goat had got itself onto the road. We felt quite sorry for it as by this time it was becoming quite distressed as people kept on approaching it to take photos – it finally managed to free itself and headed into the countryside. We wound our way, ascending, descending with magnificent scenery of mountain lakes, rivers, glaciers and valleys along the way, over Parker Ridge until we came to the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre in the Improvement District No. 12.

We boarded an “Ice Explorer” massive vehicle (snow coach) ($1M each and a tyre cost $4,000) specially designed for travelling over the steep grades, snow and ice part way up the glacier and Zak, our driver took us onto the Athabasca Glacier.

Along the slow haul up to the glacier, he gave us information about glaciers, icefields and their impact on the environment.  Athabasca Glacier  is one of the six principal “toes” of the Columbia Icefield. The glacier currently recedes at a rate of about 5 metres (16 ft) per year and has receded more than 1.5 km (0.93 mi) and lost over half of its volume in the past 125 years. Easily accessible, it is the most visited glacier in North America.  We made our way to the edge of the glacier  – what an experience – but one had to be very cautious as the surface was very very slippery.

On the Athabasca Glacier

On Athabasca Glacier

The pristine water was safe enough for us to fill our water bottles – marvellous in such diverse conditions.

We then boarded the massive vehicle and down for lunch in the very appropriately named Altitude Restaurant.  It was then onto our ordinary coach and we made our way down – saw a few mountain goats – past Peyto and Bow Lakes once more joining the Trans-Canada Highway.

The beautiful Banff National Park was left and we were now in the Yoho National Park. Once more we were travelling along lakes, rivers, glaciers and pine forests.  Our next short stop was at Kicking Horse Pass – one of the two viewpoints where one can safely watch trains and learn more about the very complicated system of the Spiral Tunnels. From this viewpoint 7.4 km east of the village of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden. There are some very interesting facts about the Spiral Tunnels here at Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site and you can see how this project was so challenging.  How the Spiral Tunnels work:  As trains snake their way up to the Kicking Horse Pass and the continental divide, they circle deep into the mountains on both sides of this valley. The two giant underground loops they follow are the Spiral Tunnels. Because each tunnel makes a complete spiralling turn, trains actually cross over themselves.  From this viewpoint, IF you saw an engine emerge from the upper portal while 15m below it, the last cars are still entering the lower portal!  Hard to imagine, but the trains are extremely long and can be up to a mile long. On average, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels daily, though not on a regular schedule.  A wonderful engineering project as the benefits of the Spiral Tunnels Line were many including: Improved safety for downhill trains, Runaway spur lines no longer required, Rear pusher locomotives no longer required, Scheduling delays reduced and Operating costs reduced. We were told we would hear more about the Canadian Railway System down the track  – pardon the pun! (tomorrow).

We finally arrived at the Golden Travelodge (Room 201) our accommodation for the night.  I read the diagram for our rooms and thought my room was furthest from the office and stairs BUT I got a surprise as it was near the office and Andrew kindly took my luggage up and it seems I had the “executive suite” as I had a huge king sized bed and a double spa bath.  I chatted to three chaps who worked for the Canadian Railways and were interesting with information.  After a snack, I had a wonderful soak in the spa and another one at 11.30 – Couldn’t waste the opportunity.

Feeling nice and relaxed after our very long day, got into my huge bed and thought what a wonderful, wonderful day we had. The trip onto the Glacier was very special as not experienced anything like that before and the scenery just breathtaking. Was hard to know where to look. We certainly did and saw heaps.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 – Calgary to Banff – Day 3

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 – Calgary to Banff  – (Day 3)

Had an early rise at 5.00 am and into early breakfast and then it was onto our coach at 8.30am. Ron was our tour guide and Dennis our driver. We passed through downtown Calgary, Province of Alberta and our first stop was at the Stampede Park. This is where the Calgary Stampede which is billed as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” is held each year.  Celebrating Calgary’s western heritage and values, the Stampede is embraced by the local community and attracts over one million visitors per year. It is renowned as one of the world’s largest outdoor rodeos, which includes events such as bareback-riding, steer wrestling, chuckwagon racing, stage shows, parades, concerts, agricultural competitions and First Nations exhibitions. (First Nations are the predominant Aboriginal peoples of Canada south of the Arctic).

We left Stampede Park and travelled 15 ks via the Trans Canada Highway to Canada Olympic Park (COP) where the 1988 Winter Olympics were held.  The Park is one of five venues that continues to serve all levels of athletes from recreational to Olympian standards. Canada’s bobsled, luge and skeleton teams and the ski jump team train at the Park and it is the place where many Calgarians learn to ski and snowboard.

After leaving the COP we travelled passed the village of Canmore, through some very flat and dry countryside until we came to the Bow Valley Provincial Park. The landscape changed dramatically and was the start of our tour through the Canadian Rockies. It was then onto the Banff National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site  – pine forests and high mountains.  As 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Confederation the entry fees have been waived to the 17 National Parks for the whole year.

At about 12.15pm we arrived in the very picturesque alpine village of Banff with lovely hanging baskets adorning the streets. It was very warm – I had too many layers on !!!  As you looked at both ends of the main street, you could see the peaks of  Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade.  We had free time to wander around the village with its many restaurants,, boutiques,many souvenir shops mixed with chateau style hotels and have lunch before it was onto the coach at 2.00pm.

We passed the magnificent iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel known as the “Castle in the Rockies” – has been providing legendary hospitality and unsurpassed dining experiences to guests for more than 125 years.  It was then on to short stops at the Bow Falls

Bow Falls

 and then The Hoodoos. These are curiously shaped formations by centuries of erosion. From this viewpoint, you overlooked the lovely scenery of the Bow River Valley. It was then a short drive out to Lake Minnewanka before arriving at our accommodation in the Banff Inn. 

At Bow Falls

After settling into my room, (214) I had a nice meal in the Inn’s restaurant, short chat with Faye at the desk, who came from Liverpool,  and then a reasonably early night after a wonderful first day in the breathtaking Canadian Rockies.