All aboard The Rocky Mountaineer ! (2nd July)
A very early start after a restless night waiting for the alarm to ring. Taken by coach to the Rocky Mountaineer train station before the "All Aboard" was called and we were piped onto the platform by a piper in all his regalia. We really had no idea what to expect on this first leg of our trip, having never spent more than a couple of hours on a train before, let alone ten !
The train consisted of 21 pieces of equipment including 3 locomotives carrying 378 passengers plus numerous hosts. It was 1709 feet long, that's over 500 yards ! Anyway, food and drink was in abundance throughout the day. No exercise was required, other than walking up and down the aisle of the coach and down the spiral staircase to the dining area and the observation deck. Being in what they term "Gold Leaf", nothing was a problem and all ours needs were catered for.
We travelled through many different sorts of terrain, starting with green trees and ending in the desert. Wildlife was spotted at various points including bald headed eagles, long horned sheep and ospreys. The consistent aspect of pretty much the whole day was that we were following the Fraser River and then the Thompson River. Wide in places but narrowing at Hells Gate, the rivers were sometimes brown with silt, sometimes clear, sometimes benign and sometimes were white water rapids.
As we arrived in Kamloops, we were told it was 38 degrees, which in real money I calculated as being over 100 degrees. We thought it was rather hot !
With 378 passengers on board, all staying at the same hotel overnight, the thought did occur to me that check in might be rather laborious with so many all wanting to get to their rooms at once. It was therefore with wonderment we learned that our cases were already in our rooms and our room keys would be given to us as we left the train. Organised or what ?
A long day came to an end with a short walk down to a nearby park by the lakeside and a live group playing blues. The female singer was more than acceptable and we enjoyed a few songs before making our way back for a well earned rest ...... although all we had done was sit, eat and drink all day, we were knackered.
Slightly later start tomorrow but still setting the alarm for 6.00. No doubt more food and drink awaits !
From Kamloops to Jasper (3rd July)
Another early start, but not that early ! Set off from arid Kamloops, which is really just a staging post on our trip in order to reach our goal. Too early to watch Andy Murray in the quarter finals, although to be honest, Verdasco was not someone who I thought could cause him any problems. Today we were only 1224 feet long as we had ditched a few carriages and a locomotive.
Mostly meandering along with trees on either side of us but we went through a patch of a few miles of complete devastation caused by a forest fire in 2003 which had totally destroyed the vegetation and even jumped the river it was so powerful. Spectacular views become common place, "oh really, another mountain ?" Snow capped peaks begin to appear as we approach the Rockies. There is no doubt that we had arrived when we began following the base of a long mountain range which culminated in the awesome spectacle of Mount Robson. This peak is 12,972 feet high, the highest in the Rockies, but made the more spectacular as it is over 8,000 feet above ground level.
We crossed into Alberta, saying goodbye to British Columbia, and lost an hour of our lives. How does that happen ? Will we ever get it back ?
Arrived, after another effortless process of getting our room key, at Jasper Park Lodge, a Fairmont hotel, and were transported on a speedy golf buggy to our cabin. Then we had supper, as if we needed anything to eat, on the decking of the hotel bar overlooking the lake. Decided a pitcher of Pimms would be appropriate as the nearest thing we could get to Wimbledon. Sadly, no strawberries and cream on the menu, although I think we would have both struggled to consume even a mouthful !
The Jasper Experience (4th July)
Today was different because we were actually staying in a hotel for more than one night, which meant the suitcases could be emptied, reorganised, and all those winter clothes we had brought could be ditched into their own case along with rain gear etc. The hotel was actually a series of cabins dotted about the grounds surrounding a lake. Very different to normal.
The morning consisted of a half day coach tour of Jasper and the surrounding countryside. Lovely lakes, canyons and waterfalls were on the route and we got off the coach at each photo opportunity. How many more places are going to need superlatives ?
The highlight of the tour were two separate bear sightings. The first was a cub which stayed around briefly and then decided a coach load of tourists, mostly Antipodeans speaking loudly, was something mummy bear had warned him about, so he disappeared into the undergrowth. A while later, a more experienced juvenile brown bear posed for those on the other side of the bus, which had stopped just in front of some cars whose owners had decided that their kids should be fed to the bears today and had let them out of their cars to see the sweet brown bear more closely. Not recommended ! The juvenile decided that children would not be tasty enough, so walked across the road between these idiots and our coach. It continued over the hillside right next to our coach window so that we could see him clearly and take our photos and video. Brilliant !
After lunch we took the shuttle bus down into the town. The "town" consisted of two parallel streets with 90% of buildings being restaurants and gift shops. Luckily there was a wine merchant who knew his Pinot from his Chardonnay and so we bought a nice bottle to take back to the room to have with some cheese for supper. The heavens opened and, of course, we had no wet weather gear as it was safely packed away in our suitcases !
Back at the cabin, I took a book plus my wine and cheese outside on the small veranda. A nice red squirrel popped his head around the edge of the decking but, not content with just looking, proceeded to get up onto the chair next to me before I shoed him away. Five minutes later I was engrossed in my book and the little blighter went to second base by putting a foot on the table. Anyone got a shotgun ?