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A North-South Divide
Intrepid's Canadian Rockies
Recently, I took a trip to Canada, visiting British Columbia. I went with a tour company called Intrepid, who I have used a few times in the past. They've always provided a great service, and this year's holiday was no different.
The tour started in Vancouver, and then proceeded north to Whistler. This was a camping holiday, so upon reaching Whistler we were expected to put up tents (which were supplied). Putting up the tents was easy, and after the first couple of times, quick to do. I only once had to put the tent up in the middle of the night, and only once when it was raining (though it was more of a drizzle than a horrendous downpour). As a group, we were also expected to cook most nights, as well as wash up. For this, we were split into three groups of three (there were only nine of us on the tour, one of the smallest groups I've ever travelled with). This was all fine, and actually became quite amusing as a game of one-upmanship began to unfold each dinner time.
Being a snowboarder, I had always wanted to visit Whistler, though I hadn't expected to do so during the summer. The camp site at Whistler was nice and clean, and we were given adequate information on how to bear-proof the camp site.
I took some walks around Whistler's slopes, and experienced the peak-to-peak gondola ride. It was quite a lot higher up than I was expecting, and my vertigo did kick in a bit. Even though it was July, there was still snow to be found in places on the slopes, and the great ice walls showed no signs of melting any time soon.
After two nights camping in Whistler, we moved on. The plan was to proceed to Wells Grey, to go canoeing. Unfortunately, owing to the fires in British Columbia, we had to change plans. Though our itinerary was uncertain at this point, Jen, our tour leader, worked her socks off to figure out a new route for us to take. We embarked on a bit of a detour (via Kamloops, and stopping off for a spot of wine tasting along the way, as you do), and arrived at North Barriere Lake, where we spent the next two nights camping out. It was quite the contrast from Whistler: the camp site was very basic, with no showers, and just a drop toilet..! Luckily, we were next to a lake, so at least could enjoy a swim, to wash off the past day's travelling.
The canoeing went ahead as planned, and it was all in all an excellent experience. Not as tiring as I was expecting, either. It was very sedate, calm, and fun way to enjoy the lake. Following the canoeing, we even enjoyed some birthday cake, as it was one of the party's birthdays!
The following day involved travelling to our next camp site, with a number of stops for hikes and sight seeing thrown in. Our camp site for the night was a rather charming little place, next to a river. Apparently, there were a lot of mosquitoes there, but I didn't notice too many, my self. Dinner that night consisted of curry, including poppadoms! Well done those guys. They even managed to source some mango chutney! The bar had been raised. The next day, we visited Mount Robson, and learned a little about the area, and then moved on to the hot springs, both the new and the old. A dip in the new hot springs was very refreshing.
That evening, we arrived at Jasper National Park, where we would be camping for the next few nights. Jasper National Park is absolutely huge! There can be several thousand people in the park at any one time, no lie.
The day after, we step out for another long hike. Along the way, I finally got to see a bear! This chap was by the roadside, early in the morning, enjoying some breakfast. It was great to see such a wonderful animal, in the wild, with my own two eyes.
A long hike followed this, and then it was back to the camp site. As it had been a long day, it was decided that the group would go out for dinner that night, rather than cooking. And much to my joy, as we were making our way into town for dinner, we were notified of something occurring nearby: a grizzly bear, along with her two cubs, was feasting on an elk that had washed down the river. We rushed to see it, and I was not disappointed. For me, this was a once in a lifetime experience. We were lucky, too, as the mama bear did not stay longer than about ten minutes, before departing. Absolutely brilliant!
For dinner, I enjoyed some bison poutine, and a burger (just beef, nothing exotic!).
The next day, we set off for Banff. More hiking occurred that day (yes, this trip did involve a lot of walking; not that I minded in the slightest, as the sights were truly something to behold).
The day after setting up camp in Banff, we headed out to Lake Louise. We did so early, as it was said to get very busy (and it did). Some more hiking led us up to Mirror Lake, and a quaint little tea house. We also enjoyed some spectacular views of the Lake from way up high.
The day after that was a free day for us to go exploring in Banff town, while the evening saw us all heading out to go bowling. I came second. Not bad, not bad. The intention was to then head back to camp, although we might have all accidentally found ourselves in a karaoke bar..! Yes, that's something I didn't expect to do while I was in Canada (although going clubbing in Cusco, in Peru was still one of the most random things I've done on tour).
The next day saw us heading to Golden. Along the way, we stopped off for a couple more hikes, as well as a trip to Emerald Lake, which was, again, incredible. I was very lucky with the weather on my trip, as it only rained a little. This was both good and bad, as BC really could've done with some rain to quench the fires raging there.
We stayed two nights in Golden, with our second day seeing us heading to Kicking Horse River, for some White Water Rafting. I'd never done it before, so will admit to being a little nervous; you hear horror stories of accidents with things like this. My mind was put to rest when I arrived and found there were families there, with children. This wouldn't be anything major. The rafting was great fun, a little more gentle than I had been expecting, and a great introduction to the activity. I'd do it again, for sure. We hit some class 1, 2, and 3 rapids, with a single class 4 rapid immediately after lunch, all of which were easy to handle.
That evening, we went out for our final meal together as a group. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and one that I highly recommend to anyone.
If you're interested in taking a similar trip, you can find out more here: www.intrepidtravel.com/uk/canada/canadian-rockies-101136.