Beautiful Jasper and Banff

Trip Start Jan 19, 2005
Trip End Jul 29, 2005

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, February 18, 2005

Hi to all,

It seems ages since my last entry but it's only been just over a week! I'm writing from Banff, Alberta where we're staying until Monday before making our way back to Vancouver.

After leaving Vancouver for the first time on 9th Feb, we took the Greyhound bus to a small town called Jasper, across the timezone from British Columbia to Alberta.
Jasper really surprised us both. When you arrive it's like going back in a time-wharp to the 1920s-30s. Winter is low season so really quiet and quite a few attractions are closed, but the town is set in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, and the scenary is easily the best we've ever seen. We hired a car for a couple of days, and went on some amazing walks (yes, that's right, me walking) around frozen lakes, snow covered mountains and we've been up close and personal with some of the local wildlife, including moose, deer and wolves (there's a couple of photos for those who appreciate that kind of thing (Graham)). The main road into Jasper is called the Icefield Parkway (the one the buses can't use) and when we drove down there it was virtually completely empty apart from us - that helped when I kept forgetting to drive on the right handside of the road. I've also put some photos in of the views we had, but it's hard to appreciate how cool it looked. We were lucky with the weather too, since there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
Another highlight was a place called Maligne Canyon. It's a rock formation created by the rivers flowing down through the mountains and in winter all the water freezes to create these amazing "ice curtains", which are like mega-icicles and formations of ice and frozen water falls. The Canyon is up to 50 metres at times, and we were led through there by a guide, and had to wear special spikes on our shoes to stop falling over.

3 days was about right for Jasper, and from there we took a terrible bus journey via Edmonton and Calgary to another Rockies resort called Banff. It should only take 5 hours, but the direct route is too icy for a standard bus, so we had to endure 14 hours of hell, the majority of which involved a loud mouthed (and ugly) Canadian teenager telling the world of her sexual exploits the night before. Nice.

We're staying at a nice guesthouse not far from the centre of town, but it's run by this old couple, and I swear it's like being in a school dormitory. We've been told where to put our bags in the room, he comes in everyday to change the bins bet wen 10-11am, which is great for my lying in ambitions, there is no bath plug since they are so tight with the water, (in fact there's even a sign on our bathroom door telling us to have "very, very short showers since there can be anywhere between 12-20 people showing at the same time" - amazing considering there are only 4 bathrooms), and the best thing is that we have to make our own bed every morning, even though no-one else is there to see it. It's like a hotel telling you to make your bed every morning!

Since being in Banff, we've enjoyed more excellent scenary. Personally, I'm exhausted, since trying to keep up with Claire's hiking/walking demands, but at least I'm getting a little fitter. The best was a 3.2km hike up-hill at Lake Louise to another another lake at the top called Lake Agnes. From here we could see the chateau at Lake Louise, the ski resort and for miles across the mountain range.
Banff itself is still amazingly beautiful, but busier and more commercial than Jasper. We've been up Sulphur Mountain to the natural hot springs, which were +40c whilst above water was -10, which was great (same place we went Wizza), and we're set to go on a dog-sledding tour on Monday before leaving.

For those who are interested, my shoulder is a lot better, the bruised mess you saw a week or so ago is now just a red scratch, and I've been to the physiotherapist today and should be back to normal pretty soon.

Hope everyone is doing okay back home.

Take care

Ben and Claire
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