Unfortunatley we do not have a photo of Edith Cavell hostel, at this stage we had not showered for two days and we had run into a bit of bother. The tour that we were doing is one where you can jump on and jump off and stay in the stop off points for pretty much as long as you like. Whilst Simon and I were keen to jump of at some of the destinations, a rustic hostel without electricity and running water was not really one of them. Unfortunatly Moose Travel had us down as jumping off and 4 Swiss backpackers where scheduled to jump on – taking our seats. When we contacted Moose the only other bus was six days away – Simon’s response – that is not an option! (I think he was very aware of the response from his wife if she had to go another 6 days without a shower).
After many phone calls the outcome was to stay the day at Edith Cavell hostel and wait for Bryan to take the rest of the tour out for the day, drop them at Jasper and then come back for us at about 7pm. This was not all bad as the hostel was located halfway up the mountain and there were plenty of short hikes to do. So with that arranged we settled around the campfire with our fellow travellers, a bag of marshmallows and a bit of singing from our Japenese friends. It was quite a cultural mix, the singing. A Japanese version of a song about Heidi, the little girl who lived in the Swiss Alps. Wendelin and Sandra enjoyed the song very much and we heard it a number of times on the trip.
The following morning our friends boarded the bus plus four Swiss and less two Aussies. The manager of the hostel had some good news for us though, a tour bus from the hostel in Jasper was coming up the mountain for the day and we might be able to hitch a ride. Campbell (another Australian) arrived with plenty of space on his bus and for $10 each (which was nothing seeing as Moose had refunded us $80 each) we had a very good day.
This was our last stop before we headed to our next rustic hostel. A 20 minute climb to the top of the hill with our entire tour group minus Gemma and a British girl Laura who must have been overwhelmed with the view from the car park.
Spectacular 360 degree views of the towering mountains that suround and well worth the effort in the sweltering heat.
Whilst it was not quite a Disney production our walk on the Athabasca Glacier certainly was spectacular. Up until this point we had seen galciers from the sea, from the bus and from afar so you can imagine our enthusiasim when Bryan suggested jumping on board a snow bus and walking on a glacier.
If you click on the photo you will be able to see a picture of one of the snow buses. Originally they were old school buses remounted onto huge tyres. Whilst the huge tyres have not really changed the cabins are a little more comfortable and have glass ceilings so you can get the best views from where ever you are sitting.
Driving up the ice was a slow trip with the top speed of the bus being 18kms per hour. This was good as it gave us opportunities to take photos out the window before we reached the safest point on the glacier to get out and have a walk.
Whilst the ice is firm in most parts there are some spots where it is like walking on a giant slushie. The section we were allowed on had been specially scoped out and sectioned off. Basically it didn’t have deep cracks or cravisis in the ice where a stupid Australian could fall to there freezing death. Having said that the only thing between us and the uncertain part of the glacier was four blue witches hats – they are a trusting lot these Canadians.
While up on the mountain Simon found a little creek of glacier water and filled up his water bottle – nothing like fresh ice cold mountain water for the bus ride back! Simon has also just told me that Kokanee beer (sold pretty much everywhere here) is made from glacier water – although tastes suprisingly like VB.
Our self proclaimed ‘Worlds Tallest Tour Guide’ may not be most knowledgeable guide around the rockies but we have managed to see some amazing sights that other buses have driven past. One of which is Panther falls.
A small car park on the side of the highway shows a distant view of yet another ‘Bridal Veil Falls’ across the valley. Somewhere much closer though, the sound of pounding water can be heard.
A short walk down what is most likely a bear trail brought us close enough that we could enjoy a nice fresh shower (something welcomed considering our accomodation at the moment). It reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom after they had riden the mine carts through the tunnel…. you know the one I’m talking about.
It really is incredible how close the highway comes to some amazing scenery. And there sure is a lot of water in this country!
This post comes a few days late as we had no running water, no electricity and no internet access at Rampart Creek (or the following hostel). Having said that the place was comfortable and it made me feel a little bit adventurous. Not as adventurous as some though who decided to go for a dip in the creek behind the hostel – the water was around 1 – 2 degrees! This picture shows the extent of Simon’s swim, a quick sit and then jump out.
Earlier in the afternoon a soccer match was held to determine who would cook and who would clean. After I kicked the winning goal (I know can you believe it!) our team decided they would cook – Simon was on the other team. Whilst cooking dinner is not the first thing you want to do after a long day of travel trying to wash dishes without running water is worse. So after a hearty meal of spaghetti bol we all settled in for a night of Uno, of which Wendelin always seemed to get hit with the draw fours and draw twos.
Today we joined a new driver – his name is Bryan. It is his first tour with Moose in the Rocky Mountains which should be interesting and his other distinguishing feature is that he is very tall – 6ft 11. This is very useful in a tour guide as you don’t tend to lose him! Our Swiss friend, dubbed by Bryan as Van Halen, but whose name is Wendelin has been allocated the front seat and has become the navigator as Bryan is still a little unsure of the route – we enjoyed our first ever world famous Canadian U turn today and I think there are definitely more on the way. (As an aside Wendelin, Simon and I enjoyed more Slushies today).
We arrived at Lake Louise in time for a walk around the lake and then lunch. Unlike the proceeding days of our trip we did not have as much driving to do and could therefore spend more time at each of our stops. Bryan suggested we do a hike up to a tea house perched on the side of the mountain but a wrong turn and an acknowledgement that a hike up the mountain would probably take a day rather than an hour resulted in a very pleasant walk to the end of the lake and back. This was good as it meant we could get a better idea of how big the lake actually is and to look back at the Fairmont Hotel, whereas most pictures are looking from the hotel. The blue colour of the lake is not really reflected in the photographs but it is a result of the lake being fed by a glacier. The ice of the glacier grounds the rock into such a fine powder (about the consistency of plain flour) that it hangs in the water giving off the pale aqua blue.
I would have enjoyed a night at the Fairmont Hotel at the base of Lake Louise but unfortunately our budget does not allow it – when I am rich and famous though I will take my husband there for the weekend!
On our to way Banff we stopped to see Natural Bridge, a partly formed waterfall in Yo Ho National Park.
You are probably getting an impression by now of how much water and waterfalls there are in Canada.