Travels in Alberta

Trip Start Aug 09, 2008
Trip End Aug 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Saturday, October 18, 2008

The weather is starting to get cooler here in the Prairies. The coldest overnight temperature has been -8 degrees. With the colder weather, the van is starting to feel a little smaller.  We are spending more time in the van in the evenings and cooking most of our meals inside, so organizing our space is a little challenging. We are also sleeping on the lower bunk because itīs warmer there and that entails moving all the stuff from the back into the centre just before we go to bed.

The cooking inside and sleeping downstairs all takes a bit of maneuvering and constantly having to move stuff to get to the cupboard or fridge. The van has different roof levels on the inside and I bang my head at least once a day. The good news is we should be in BC soon and hopefully in warmer temperatures.

Having said all that, we have a bit of time before we get into BC so we added a couple of last minute travels to our Southern Alberta itinerary. After our stop in Lethbridge, where we spent the morning strolling around the Japanese Gardens, we headed into Waterton National Park which is located on the Alberta/Montana border.

It was a beautiful, sunny and somewhat warm day when we got there. The place looked like a mini Jasper, with the exception of the Prairie landscape. Waterton is described as the place where the Prairies meet the Rockies.

The campsite was located right in town and we spent a relaxing afternoon walking to town and strolling along the lake. We had planned to stay 2 days and do some of the hikes the following day but the weather turned very cool with wind gusts of about 60-80 km/hr. So, instead of staying cooped up in our van, we decided to head north to check out the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre.

The Centre is located about 1.5 hours outside of Calgary. After a blustery drive on the highway we found a campsite about 3 km from the centre which was great. It was our first Prairie like campsite, with miles and miles of open space on one side and brown, desert like hills on the other. Other than cattle grazing nearby there was not much traffic in the area and in the evening, as we were watching the sunset, we heard wolves least we think they were wolves.

The next morning before heading off to Calgary, we stopped at the Head Smashed In Interpretive Centre. According to Blackfoot Native legend the name came about because this area, with its high cliffs, was a place where bison were tricked into stampeding over the edge to their deaths by the hundreds. One time a hunter wanted to see the stampede up close, but he got his head smashed in by the falling animals.

The interpretive centre was impressive with its displays of how the Blackfoot spent much time and care planning the jump, and leading the massive animals over the edge of the cliff.  It seemed to be a cruel death for the animals, but a successful hunt meant that a tribe would survive the long winter. They would use every part of the animal for making tools, shelter, and food. The blackfoot hunted this way for thousands of years until European settlers started hunting the animals in such large numbers that by the 1870s there were too few for the Blackfoot to survive on.

The interpretive centre was designed and run by first Nations people, and one elder answered any questions we had about the exhibits and the history of his people.

Calgary and Edmonton were stops to spend time with family. Rajivīs aunt lives in Calgary and my cousin lives in Edmonton. My cousin moved from India to Edmonton last year so it was interesting to hear how she and her family were adjusting to Canadian life, culture and climate.

We also had another van appointment with a mechanic in Calgary to fix the hesitation problem. The shop was close to downtown so it was a good opportunity for us to sightsee the City.

The mechanic, Paul, diagnosed and fixed the problem fairly quickly. I (Rajiv) was worried that rust in the gas tank was causing the hesitation, but it turned out to be an electrical problem. Now the van runs silky-smooth, just as Paul said it would!
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