Our spur of the moment decision.
In October 2014 we were sitting comfortably in our friend’s home on Vancouver Island when Derek suddenly got a spark of inspiration and announced, “since we have 5 spare days before we have to leave Canada why don’t we visit the ice-fields, the Canadian Rockies?” Two things flashed simultaneously through my mind: 1) that’s an awesome idea and 2) won’t it be dangerous? If you don’t know it yet: I am the anxious one and I will almost always ask ‘won’t it be dangerous?’ Along with other anxiety inspired ideas like: It’s autumn – what about weather changes? We have never driven in snow or encountered black ice. Then the personal conversation continued in my head: “but it is a once in a life time experience”… “if you die you die”… “yes but what if I am just permanently maimed?”…“Well you have traveled through Africa and survived”… “Yes, but I was born in Africa and understand the ways better than in Canada…” I was still chattering along in my own head when I decided that I will put aside my fears. The overwhelming conviction for me was: I had faced cancer two years prior so let’s live life to the fullest! (almost like I am living on borrowed time). At this point I would like to say that I wish I had known about Alison Dopf who is a woman who lives in Alberta and who offers adventures in hiking and skiing as a guide. She recently wrote a post called Shoulder Season Shuffle which discusses the unpredictable weather of Autumn and Spring. I think I would have felt much more confident with her expert advice but alas I only got to know of her last year. I love reading her blog posts as they are so informative and meticulous.
Here is a short explanation of the Canadian Rockies:
The Canadian Rockies (French: Rocheuses canadiennes) or Canadian Rocky Mountains, comprising both the Alberta Rockies and the B.C. Rockies, is the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains. It is the easternmost part of the Canadian Cordillera, which is the northern segment of the North American Cordillera, the expansive system of interconnected mountain ranges between the Interior Plains and the Pacific Coast that runs northwest-southeast from central Alaska to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico.wikipedia
Soon we were traveling to Calgary, Alberta: first to Vancouver mainland by ferry, then by public transport to the airport where we took a small plane to Alberta. And from there we hired a car for our travels. I love the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500, any guesses why. I like small cars and much to my delight the only car that was available that day was a Fiat 500. When we did our road trip through Southern Africa we traveled in a KIA Sedona which carried all our supplies, food and daily essentials, even our rooftop tent. Now we were facing the fact that we had to flatten our backseats to fit our entire luggage in as we were traveling straight to London after the trip. We laughed at how funny it would look if we fitted a rooftop tent to this little car. It was a wonderful ride through the great rocky canyons and seemed to emphasize how small we actually as humans are.
One of the other things that I didn’t mention is that we had never driven on the “wrong side of the road” before. Meaning that in South Africa we drive on the left side of the road where as in Canada they drive on the right hand side of the road. For my anxious self this was a bewildering experience but soon my “little girl” came out and I was quite enjoying how funny it felt to be in the “wrong side of the road.” It was truly another adventure for us. I can’t even say it was ‘a dream come true’ as I had never imagined that we would ever have the opportunity to travel the Canadian Rockies. It was more like a gift out of the blue.
We planned to drive from Calgary to Jasper and as it is a 4 hr 49 min (415 km) via Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W and AB-93 N we decided to divide the trip into two days, stopping in Lake Louise, then drive on to Jasper; and then two days going back, staying in Banff; and the last day for getting back to Vancouver airport. To cut down on our expenses we stayed in cheap hotels and planned our frugal meals for the next 5 days, after all it was experiencing the immense mountainous beauty with snow-capped peaks we were after not hotel paradise and pampering. The first afternoon, when we stayed at Lake Louise we visited the lake, which was a beautiful turquoise colour. It was quite magical for us as it was the first time we had ever seen lake water so turquoise. It was nestling at the foot of beautiful snow-capped mountains. The next morning we went again because it was so beautiful but the fog hung low and we were glad we had seen it the day before.
The drive and the views were inexplicable: never having seen ice-fields and geological/glacial action before (we had only studied it in geography class) it was amazing to see first-hand. It was also colder than we had ever experienced and felt a bit like we were living in a fridge. We were glad to have bought warm jackets that protected us from the cold biting wind.
The sound was eerie. We enjoy driving in silence as a couple and our drive was most memorable: to be traveling through a landscape never experienced before, seeing rock faces, forests, gleaming snow, rock outcrops that looked like giant frozen people and hearing silence, except for the sound of the tires there was nothing to hear. It was like listening to a different type of nature: like frozen clarity.
Next up will be our stop at Athabasca glacier and the Athabasca falls before we get to Jasper.