Trip Start May 05, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our second day in Banff started off with another sleep in (we are on holidays after all) and then about 10am we headed up to Sulfur Mountain to the base of the Banff Gondola. In similar fashion to my Capilano Suspension bridge visit we purchased the tickets from the concierge desk in advance so there was no way that I could chicken out when I saw how high and steep this gondola went up the side of the mountain. I didn't even want to look up when we got there so we quickly entered the lower terminal for the gondola. Cam had told me that it was a 6 person car so no need to worry. Well they are either 6 very small people or its a 4 person car. Either way being the off season there was very few people there so we had no wait and a car to ourselves.

Anyone who is scared of heights - this is a must do to get the heart racing. The gondola moves at a speed of 4m / second and your heart beats around the 200 mark as you quickly climb to the top of the tree line. Remembering that these trees are enormously tall, its a long way up, but thats just the beginning. As you continue climbing up you go way above the tree line and into the prevailing winds that whistle around the car. By this stage both hands were firmly attached to the seat with nothing but sweat dripping from them and very white knuckles. Kudos to Cam for putting up with me on the ride, he wasn't aloud to move, or talk too loudly in case it affected the stability of the carriage in anyway.

The eight minute ride to the top took forever, but i must admit the view you get of the mountains around and the town of Banff getting smaller and smaller below are amazing and well worth holding my breath for the 8 minute accent to the top. Once at the top there are two outdoor viewing levels that provide an amazing 360degree view around. Unfortunately the walk to the summit lookout was closed as it was still very thick snow up here. On the upper level the railing is painted like a compass, with many Capital cities of the world pointed out, Canberra is 249.6 degrees west south west at 13,312 km.

There is a small cafe and gift shop at the top, but they didn't seem to have any nice breakfast or lunch there (or coffee which was what Cam was after) so after taking heaps of photos we decided to take the decent back down the mountain. I thought going up was scary, but going down was worse as the wind had picked up a little bit with only a very light breeze, but still enough to get some sideways rocking action happening. It was on the way down that the angle that the gondola takes really comes to light. Facing forward this time (only because there was no way i was going over the edge of the mountain backwards) i had expected to see a great view of the surrounding mountains, which is what I got, with the slight addition of the cable that we are following down intersecting the view straight down the middle. I later read that it operates at an average incline of 51% as it climbs the 2,000+ feet upwards.

At the end of the ride our photo was waiting for us which we coughed up the $15 for before heading to the starbucks (which are literally everywhere) for a much needed hot chocolate to calm the nerves. We then headed back towards the town centre to stop off at the Buffalo Nations Museum on the edge of the Bow River. This museum looks like fort with wooden posts creating the external walls. Unlike yesterdays visit to the Whyte museum, which mainly looked at how white people developed the area, this museum looked at the local Indian nations that occupied the lands and their traditional methods and cultures. Again its a small museum but worth a visit to see a different perspective on the development of the area. We should have done some research as we could have saved a fortune if we had of bought the hotel package that included the Gondola and admission to the museums. Next door to the museum is the Indian trading post hut building as well, which is worth a look but now it is just another gift shop (which Banff seems to have heaps of already)

Tomorrow morning we have decided to head up to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway so we headed to the Parks Canada office to collect a pass. This part is pretty confusing, I think we are supposed to already have a pass for the Banff National Park, but because we came in via British Columbia they don't have any toll booths. Anyway we bought a pass that will last us until 4pm the day we leave Jasper so hopefully it will all be good.

Heading back to the hotel we booked our next nights accommodation before our 24 hours of Internet ran out (thus the delay in this posting) before doing a much needed load of washing in the hotel. Harding interesting but definitely necessary. Cam had a headache so I left him in the hotel before heading out for a walk around some of the parks surrounding the downtown area. At the end of the street is Banff park which lies between downtown and the Bow River. As its a nice sunny day there were heaps of people down here having BBQ's or sunbathing. Its only about 10-14 degrees but the sun has some bite to it so you really don't feel the cold until it gets dark or you go in the shade.

I followed the Bow river along a great little trail for a while, but after thinking i was half way to the falls, i read a sign that basically said I hadn't started yet so decided to head back towards the bridge across the river. On the other side lies Cascade Gardens and the Canada Parks administration building. The building is made of stone and is really nicely set amongst Cascade Gardens. Although not in bloom they were getting ready for the planting so that by Summertime/Autumn the park will be full of colour. I wandered around here a bit and found some great little gazebo's and lovely lawns that I think might make a good alternative wedding location.

Heading back into town and looking in a few more shops I found an awesome Christmas Shop (thats right, Christmas even though its May). This had everything you could ever need to decorate the house for Christmas - decorations, stockings, gifts, cards and these awesome miniature village models. This shop is well worth a visit, but could easily result in spending a fortune on all the cute little Christmas things.

Back at the hotel I dragged Cam out of the room for some dinner in the lounge downstairs. Again our sever was an Aussie guy from Bathurst - If it wasn't for Australia there wouldn't be a service industry left here!. For dinner tonight i went for something different and had an Elk Chili and a nice Red beer (the beer over here is great - they seem to have lots of micro breweries). Cam doesn't think it was really Elk, but it didn't taste like beef and why else would it be called Elk. We keep meaning to have desert but the meals are all pretty big servings so haven't had any room for it lately. With a long day of driving tomorrow we headed to bed early, although were kept awake for most of the night with very random water noises coming from the roof all night.
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