Traveldiary #7 : Boisterous British Colombia

Traveldiary #7 : Boisterous British Colombia

Our road trip through Canada still continues! We’re already about 4 weeks in and still have some pretty nice things to look forward to. So after spending a couple of days at Vancouver Island is was time to hit the mainland again. As we’ve already drove west via the south part of Canada is was now time to head back east through a more northern route. Let’s go!

Whistler

After spending 2 nights in our RV in Comox we took the ferry back to the mainland via Nainamo. We were actually quite lucky to get in on the first boat when arriving at the terminal. We were one of the last 5 cars that fitted on the ferry, other wise we had to wait for over 2 hours for the next ferry. When at arriving at Horseshoe Bay we continued the road to Whistler, making a nice stop at Shannon Falls. Driving rout 99 towards Whistler was really nice!

Shannon Falls near Whistler

Whistler is a decent, small village, known as one of the biggest ski-areas in North America. As we were not here during ski-seasons we knew that is would be totally different from winter, but we wanted to see the area none the less. You can really see it’s a winter village due to all the typical buildings and houses you normally see in skiing areas. Due to spring-season is was peaceful and quiet, with a hint of hippy. The scenery around the village is beautiful and there are many other activities to do, such as hiking, mountain biking and so on. Groceries were kind of expensive though.

For us the Whistler Train Wreck trail was on our to-do-list. Unfortunately is was raining immensely, so the hike wasn’t really fun, but it was still beautiful. From the parking lot this trail takes you to a suspension bridge and a train graveyard. As the trains are never removed, the train compartments are deteriorated and covered in graffiti, making this cool contrast look right in the middle of mother nature. It was really awesome to walk around, but the heavy rain made us want to leave earlier than we wanted.

Whistler Train Wreck Trail

Whistler Train Wreck Trail

Heading East towards Kamloops

After Whistler we continued the road towards Kamloops. We didn’t have any plans along the drive, but we did want to make some stops if possible.

One of the stops we found was Nairn Falls. There is a short trail that leads towards the falls. Nairn Falls isn’t very big, but it’s very impressive though. The waterfall has an immense power and the trail leads you to just above the waterfall, making you feel the rumbling ground underneath you.

Further along the drive we found another nice stop, the Joffre Lakes. The Joffre Lakes consists of a hike to 3 glacier lakes. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to hike to all 3 lakes, so we just went for one. It was surprisingly busy and we were just lucky to find a free parking spot. When at the lake we met 2 Belgium girls who had just hiked to all 3 lakes. They told us that it was quite an intensive hike, including some climbing, but totally worth it. It took them over 4 hours to complete the return hike. They also recommended for us to go to Wells Gray Provincial Park, which is known for it’s many, many waterfalls and hiking trails. Surprisingly we found out that it would be along our way from Kamloops to Jasper National Park, so we added Wells Gray Park to our to-do-list for the next day.

First lake of Joffre Lakes

Kamloops

Kamloops was our stopover for the night. Not a particular special place, but convenient located. The atmosphere of the town feels rugged and rough. But in the morning we went to this super cute breakfast place, which had amazingly delicious breakfast options. As it was a Sunday, it was very busy with locals. Entire families and groups of friends come here to have breakfast. It was very nice to be in the middle of this and experience this local activity, because the day before we hadn’t seen many locals around.

Wells Gray Provincial Park

Our next stop would be Tete Jaune Cache were we would be staying for 5 nights. This is just outside Jasper National Park. Accommodation options in Jasper are much less compared to Banff and also pretty expensive for our chosen dates. So we figured to stay just outside the area, again in a RV.

As recommended by the Belgium girls we went to Wells Gray Park today, as it was on our way. Because it was a driving day we choose to visit the 3 most famous waterfalls in the park: Dawson, Helmcken en Spahats Creek Falls. All three waterfalls are special and unique in their own way. To us Helmcken Falls was the most impressive. The complete scenery is just amazing. When driving through Wells Gray Park we also again encountered some bears! One was just side the road, about 2 meter from the car, busy finding food in bark. Really awesome to saw those amazing animals close by!

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Helmcken Falls

 

Sunwapta Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Sunwapta Falls

When arriving at our accommodation in Tete Jaune Cache we found out that our big RV turned out to be a huge RV with a big kitchen and enormous armchairs to relax in. It felt really American. But we were happy! This would be our home base for the next couple of days to explore the area and Jasper National Park.

Aribnb sleeping in RV, Tete Jaune Cache Canada

British Colombia

This drive from west to east made us see a lot of diversity in British Colombia. Vancouver Island was already amazing, but the scenery in Whistler and Kamloops all the way to Wells Grey Park are all completely different. Water and green turns in to dryness and red. Mountains keep changing or even dissapear something, before coming back somewhere. It’s a joy to drive this amazing country, Canada.

Traveldiary #6: Versatile Vancouver & Vancouver Island

Traveldiary #6: Versatile Vancouver & Vancouver Island

The laptop-quest

Before starting our world trip Tjeerd Paul was looking for a laptop. He came across this particular laptop introduced by Huawai, which would be released somewhere in the spring. No release date was mentioned, but it would only be available in the UK, US and Canada. During our time in the Rocky Mountains Tjeerd Paul found out that it was just released in Canada! He was soo excited! As this was thé laptop he was waiting for, we tried to find out where we could buy it. Surprisingly at that time 1 laptop was still available at the Microsoft Store in Calgary. We couldn’t make a reservation so we took our chances and just went to Calgary. (Just before leaving we contacted customer service who confirmed 1 available laptop). But when we arrived at the store there was none available! Such a bummer. Tjeerd Paul was so looking forward to getting his new laptop. So when the time was there to go to Vancouver, there was another chance of getting that laptop! After settling in in our lovely apartment, rented via Airbnb, we immediately went to the Vancouver store. Six laptops where in stock, from which 5 reserved and just 1 available! Tjeerd Paul was sooo happy! He finally got it after waiting for more then 5 months. Visiting Vancouver was already a score!

The city of Vancouver

After spending some time in the more quite areas of Canada we are now back in the big city again: Vancouver. And you’re immediately reminded of it by all the heavy traffic all over the city. So no way that we would take our car to go into the city center. Luckily there was a bus stop very close to our apartment with a direct connection to the center. The best part of using the bus is seeing all the different neighborhoods you go through. This is one of the best reasons to use public transport we think. After driving through some residential areas we entered the city center via China Town, which is really big. One of the things we noticed along the way were all the homeless people we saw in Vancouver. There are quite many of them. Apparently most homeless people from West-Canada go to Vancouver because the weather is better here. Summers are not as hot and winters not as cold compared to cities like Calgary or Edmonton.

Vancouver skyline

Cycling through Vancouver

Vancouver is known as a cycling friendly city. As Dutchies we couldn’t waste this chance to get on a bike again and explore the city on wheels. We were so glad that we did! It was a really change from all the walking and hiking and because you can go to all the main sights by bike, you can explore the city within 1 full day. During our cycling trip through Vancouver we managed to see the harbor, the harbor boulevard, Stanley Park (with it’s raccoons and totem poles) and Granville Island while enjoying the sun, scenery, wind, sea and food along the way. But don’t be fooled, Vancouver has some high hills, so cycling is not the same as in The Netherlands! Sometimes it was better to walk uphill, because the hills are so steep.

Two happy faces cycling through Vancouver

Cycling through Vancouver CBD

Home away from home

As weird and silly it may sound, the best part of Vancouver for us was our apartment. We had found these lovely, fully equipped basement apartment in one the residential areas of Vancouver. The apartment was decorated similar as our (sold) home in Groningen and even had the same couch as we have. Because of this, the apartment felt truly as home. Although we don’t have any problem with making ourselves at home along the trip, this was something special. It was really nice to have that feeling again, even if it was just for a brief moment.

Outdoor Vancouver

After our cycling adventure through the city it was time to explore a different part of Vancouver: it’s green surroundings. Upon recommendation of our host we went to Lynn Valley. The Lynn Canyon park is the free alternative to crowded Capilano, which people mostly visit for it’s suspension bridge. Lynn Valley is a neighborhood in North Vancouver, well known for it’s natural parks, which has it’s own suspension bridge and has nice hiking trails, swimming spots and picnic areas. We went for the hiking trails and really enjoyed the quietness after a day in the city. Just you, the wind through the forest, birds signing and the occasional steps of other hikers.

Lynn Valley suspension bridge

Vancouver Island

After visiting the mainland it was time to go a little more west and cross the water to Vancouver Island. After a 1,5 hour ferry ride we arrived at Nainamo and continued our journey towards Ucluelet. Along the way there were another couple of nice stops, which we couldn’t miss. One of the most interesting stops was Cathedral Grove. This is a small area covered with some of the oldest trees in Canada. Some trees have a diameter of over 3 meters! Walking through this forest makes you feel really small. Because it’s densely forested, it can be quite dark in some places making it a mysterious walk through this ancient forest.

Giant trees boardwalk

Cathedral Grove ancient trees

Checking off our bucketlist

Ucluelet was our destination for the next couple of days. It’s on the western part of Vancouver Island, within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. One of the cool things to do on the island is taking a water plane to fly above the coastline and sea. This was one of our bucket list things, so we called one of the companies in the morning to see if they had any space left for a flight. ‘Of course we do! Can you be here within a hour?’ was their answer. Wauw, that’s quick. Lets go! So we hopped into the car and drove to Tofino for the scenic flight. Unfortunately the weather was grey with no sun, but it didn’t really matter. We enjoyed every minute of it! It was really awesome to be in a tiny plane, flying above the water, having these amazing views and seeing everything from this unique angle. We didn’t see any whales but we did see a lot of walruses, being lazy on the rocks.

Waterplane ride Vancouver Island

View from waterplane Vancouver Island, Tofino

Exploring Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Because we did this scenic flight early in the morning, we had the rest of the day to explore. As we were already in Tofino we started in this surf village. It was pretty quite due to off-season but you can still feel the relaxing, hippy vibe that usually goes along in these kind of towns. There are some cute shops and restaurants among the surf and bike shops across the village. We didn’t spend to much time here, because we wanted to see more of the coastline, but now from the ground.

We continued our way towards Radar Hill, Schooner Cove, Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay. Some of the pathways towards the sea are hikes on itself, taking you through the ruff forest on boardwalks and many, many stairs. Everything it felt like an adventure through the jungle.

The next day we had another short hike planned: the Wild Pacific Trail. This easy trial takes you along the rugged and dramatic coastline at the Ucluelet peninsula. It’s only 2,6 km long but due to the beautiful views and taking photos along the way, we easily spend over 2 hours walking this trail. But who cares. Afterwards we went to see Half Moon Bay. This beach isn’t easily accessed as you have to walk the Half Moon Bay trail. A lovely trail passing through a stand of old growth trees, ending with a very long and very steep descent, accessing the beach by climbing over a bunch of logs. But the walk is definitely worth it. The view and peacefulness are rewarding.
On this day we also saw sea-lions again, in the harbor of Ucluelet, chasing the fishing boats. When seeing them it’s almost like they’re playing hide and seek. Funny little fellas!

Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop

The east side of Vancouver Island

The next day it was time to cross the island again and move over to our next destination: Comox. Again we visited Cathedral Cove, but this time we went to the other side of the road. This part wasn’t as spectacular as the other one, but we did see this big, old owl which was kind of amazing. We both had never seen a wild owl before. But here he was, observing the area, making owl noises during mid-day! We were so luckily see this, because after a few minutes he was gone, like he was never there.

As you may know, before we came to Canada we decided not to rent a RV due to the high costs. Because we did want to experience living in a RV, we booked a RV in Comox as our accommodation. Nice way to try, don’t you think? It was a lovely place, very cosy and with all the facilities to have a comfortable stay. You just can’t compare Canadian RV’s with European ones, because the Canadian RV’s are way bigger. But the experience was really nice and something we’d like to try more often. Another nice thing about this accommodation was the location. It was right next to the beach with views over mainland Canada. As scenery which never gets boring!
The host had two kayaks available for us to use, so the next day we decided to give it a try and went onto the water. The strong current made kayaking quite a challenge, so after 30-45 minutes we decided to go back. Not what we had in mind, but better safe than sorry in this case.

This day we also visited another winery, very close to our accommodation. After enjoying some lovely wines and a tasty picnic, it was time to go back. As we had such a relaxing day, we ended our day at the beach with a warm campfire and a refreshing drink. This is something you can never get tired of!

So, we spend almost 5 days of Vancouver Island. It really is a beautiful island, which has a lot to offer. There are so many things to see and do, especially if you love nature. If we’d ever come back to Canada, Vancouver Island would definitely be on our list to visit again!

Comox view

Traveldiary #5: Crossing West-Canada

Traveldiary #5: Crossing West-Canada

Driving through the Rocky Mountains was amazing, but all good things come to an end so it was time to move on. Time to head west, crossing West-Canada towards the sea.

Making our way to Invermere

Because we didn’t want to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountains just yet, we’d booked accommodation in a town called Invermere. The drive between Deadman’s Flat and Invermere is just over 2 hours and takes you through Kootenay National Park. Again a beautiful drive with a few nice stops along the way.

Upper and Lower Falls

Before going west of the Rocky Mountains we wanted to do one last hike in the area. The Johnston Canyon Trail seemed like a nice walk with the Lower and Upper falls as it’s highlights. When arriving at the trail the parking lot was already full of cars. And when going to the start of the trail, more and more people started to show. It was sooo busy! Just people everywhere. With strollers, wheelchairs, children, you name it. We actually wanted to go back, but figured that we’re here now and just accept the chaos and crowd.

The hike itself is fairly nice. A well-maintained pathway is created on and through the canyon, following the river upwards. Some parts are quite steep, but everything is doable for people of all ages. While zigzagging between the people we’re trying to enjoy the view, make some pictures and maintain our pace. We hoped to go to both Lower ánd Upper Falls but were to short on time when arriving at the Lower Falls. So after enjoying the wet breeze of the falls and waiting in line to make some pictures, we returned back to the parking lot.

Marble Canyon

After the Johnston Canyon Trail we were hoping to see some more quite places and after a short drive we came across Marble Canyon. This is a canyon which surrounds the Kootenay River. We walked the short trail which takes you along the canyon, crossing several bridges, viewing the river below. As there were barely any people we really took our time enjoying the scenery, making it an relaxing stroll in the sun.

Marble Canyon - Kootenay National Park

Marble Canyon - Kootenay National Park

The Paint Pots

Just a little further up the road was an other beautiful natural phenomenon: the Paint Pots.These are unusual orange ochre beds, formed by the accumulation of iron oxide around the outlets of three cold mineral springs. These Paints Pots have a history of use by both indigenous people and Europeans. Different tribes collected ochre here for important ceremonies and trade. The red powder was mixed with fish oil or animal grease to paint their bodies, tipis, clothing or pictures on the rocks. The Europeans also used the ochre as a pigment base for paint in the early 1900s. Nowadays the Paint Pots are still considered a sacred site by First Nations. You can walk a short trail to and through the pots, enjoying these incredible colors and scenery. You just need to be careful walking the trail as it can be really wet in some areas. If you don’t mind your step or misstep you’ll have wet, oranges shoes like I did.

Paint Pots, Kootenay National Park, Canada

Radium Hot Springs

Just at the south entrance the Kootenay National Park you’ll find the small village of Radium Hot Springs. Just before entering Radium Hot Springs we saw a couple of bears along side the road. At one point we saw this weird, dark rock in a distance. But coming closer it suddenly moved and turned out to be a black bear!

As you can probably guess, the village is known for it’s hot springs. These springs are used since before 1840. Indigenous people considered the hot springs a spiritual place and used the water as a source of rejuvenation and healing. Nowadays it’s a place for relaxing and has become a tourist highlight due it’s hot mineral waters. Of course we had to enjoy these hot springs as well. Unfortunately for us, we were here on a hot day, making it even more hotter than it already is Luckily they also had a normal swimming pool to cool down.

Another note: the Radium Hot Springs don’t look like natural hot springs. Due to regulations for public use, the water has to contain a certain amount of chlorine, making it look and smell like a regular pool. Totally different from the hot springs in Iceland. This was a bit of a bummer.

Relaxing Invermere

After all these stops we arrived in the town of Invermere. It not a particular special town, but when exploring the area we found this place very relaxing. Invermere is located very nicely between the mountains with a big lake. Many people were enjoying the (cold) water by supping, kayaking or laying on the beach. It really seemed like a nice place to life. As we had 1 day to spend here, we decided to follow the locals and make it an relaxing day, enjoy the water and snowy mountain tops.

Fun fact: a platoon from Inverere has liberated Veendam during the Second World War.

the road to Invermere

Drinking wine in Kelowna

After Invermere it was time to make some miles and continue west. Our next stop would be Kelowna. We stayed with a nice, old lady renting out her 2 spare bedrooms. The best part, it was ridiculously cheap (€27,50 for 2 nights) and was located near the Okanagan Lake. As Kelowna is known for it’s wines, we had to do a wine tour. Especially because we’ve never had Canadian wine before. During the wine tour we visited 4 wineries in and around Kelowna. We were accompanied with three Canadian girls and 2 other Dutchies. The funny thing was that the Canadian girls really like the sweet wines, while we Dutchies tend to like the dry wines. We were happily surprised with the quality of the wines and really enjoyed the wine tour. Our guide also told us that Kelowna is very popular with Europeans due to the climate and relaxing vibe. Maybe the wine has something to do with it as well. 😉

Winefields Kelowna, Okanagan Lake

Winecellar, The View

Another note: In British Colombia you have to show 2 identity documents to show you’re eligible to drink alcohol. At the last winery we were, we actually had to show them. We were lucky to have our passport and international drivers license with us, otherwise no wine for us!

Crossing West-Canada by car it definitely worth it, considering all the different places and areas you can visit along the way. And this is just in 4 days! After Kelowna we’re off to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. But more on this in the next traveldiary.

Traveldiary #4: the infamous Icefield Parkway, part 1

Traveldiary #4: the infamous Icefield Parkway, part 1

After exploring Canmore, Banff and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park it is was now time to explore one of Canada’s biggest highlights: the Icefield Parkway. Canada’s most rugged scenic drive located between Banff and Jasper. As our next stop would be in Invermere and we wanted to take all the time to explore this spectacular road, we decided only to drive the southern half of the Icefield Parkway. The northern half of the drive would be on our list for later on, when we’d be near Jasper.

View Icefields Parkway, Canada

The Icefield Parkway has many, many things to see or do. There are tons of viewpoints and hikes to choose from. As you can’t do everything in 1 day, we made a selection of what we wanted to see and do before taking off.

Moraine Lake

May is pre-season in Canada. This means that sometimes roads and highlights aren’t open to the public yet, due to safety. At the visitors center in Canmore we were told that Moraine Lake would be open from the 23rd of May. We’re so luckily to hear this, because we would never assume it could be closed and this meant that we could plan our visit. So on the 25th of May, Moraine Lake would be our first stop on our way towards the Icefield Parkway. We went early as we read that parking is limited and could be full before 9 am. In this case, park rangers close to road towards Moraine Lake, again for safety reasons. No way that we would let this happen.

When arriving at the entrance road, it was still open. Yes! We made it on time! After about 20 minutes we arrived at Moraine Lake. It was still quite and peaceful. We walked around the area and we’re stunned by the beauty of this lake. Even though you’ve seen it millions of times in magazines and online, it’s amazing to see it in real live with your own eyes. There is something about this view that makes it perfect. The colors, the mountains, it all seems just right. As it was still early in season, ice covered the lake for most part. But we didn’t mind. It made it just more special in our eyes.

Moraine Lake, Canada

Moraine Lake, Canada

Lake Louise

After Moraine Lake it was time to move forward, towards Lake Louise. When arriving we had to park at this immense parking lot, full of cars and buses. And it wasn’t even high season yet. If that many come to see this lake, it must be very special you’d think. But when walking towards the lake we were a quite disappointing. Lake Louise was mostly covered with ice and the scenery wasn’t as spectacular as Moraine Lake. The grayness of the clouds and lack of sunshine didn’t make it any better as well. And don’t forget about the hundreds of Asian people, making photos and taking all the space. So after taking our own pictures when possible we quickly went back to our car as we had many another stops on our list.

Lake Louise, Canada

Driving the south part of the Icefield Parkway

After seeing Moraine Lake, we were very curious on what we’d see the rest of the day. While making our way along the road our first stop was Hector Lake. Again a beautiful lake covered with ice with a nice range of mountains behind it. After this quick stop we continued our way upwards, seeing our first (black) bear! As excited as we were in the car, as calm was the bear, eating his fare share of grass in the field. Another thing we could check off our list!

Black bear at Icefield Parkway

Some other stops we visited were Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake (on recommendation of Henk & Harma). We noticed that this part of the Rocky Mountains was much colder than were we stayed. The fact that most lakes were still covered with ice confirmed this. When arriving at Bow Summit there was even still quite a bit of snow on the walk towards the viewpoint over Peyto Lake. This was quite an adventurous walk as the snow was very slippery of all visitors walking the path. There were even people walking the snow with only wearing flip-flops! After this slippery and slide walk we arrived at this breathtaking viewpoint over Peyto Lake. This lake has this intense blue color like we’ve never seen before. You can barely capture it on camera. We just kept staring at this amazing view, not even minding the rain at that moment. Unfortunately a lot of people kept on arriving at the viewpoint so after a while it was time for us to leave.

Bow Lake at Icefield Parkway

Peyto Lake, Canada

When driving back home we were still flabbergasted about what we’ve seen today. All these amazing lakes, views and colors, the way the mountains play with water and clouds. Nature is truly amazing and something we really have to treasure before it’s too late.

Views at Icefields Parkway

Traveldiary #3: roaming the Rocky Mountains

Traveldiary #3: roaming the Rocky Mountains

After visiting Drumheller it was time to hit the road and continue our journey to The Rocky Mountains. Something we’d really been looking forward to. As everything was almost fully booked and quite expensive in and around Banff, we found a nice studio via Air BnB in Deadman’s Flat.

Deadman’s Flat & Canmore

We were told that groceries are more expensive in the Rockies, so we stocked up most of our food in Calgary. After the groceries shopping it was time to leave Calgary and make our way to Deadman’s Flat. When you’re just outside of Calgary you can see the mountains already at the horizon. The road keeps getting more beautiful when coming closer to the mountains. The drive takes you through the suburbs of Calgary, rolling hills and eventually the tips of the mountains.

Deadman’s Flat is a small village just below Canmore and just outside the official Rocky Mountains. This doesn’t make it less beautiful though! After checking in into our converted garage/studio we went to Canmore’s visitor center to get some information regarding hikes and other things to see and do in the area. As the visitor center was relocated not long ago, it was a little difficult to find. Signs were (we found) misleading and unclear. This made us drive through Canmore more then we intended to, realizing Canmore is a very nice and cozy village to be with all kinds of little shops and restaurants. Sometimes getting lost isn’t so bad. 😉

View from Deadman's Flat

View from Deadman’s Flat

Grassi Lakes

Before coming to Canada we knew we wanted to do some decent hikes. The Grassi Lake hike would be our first hike. This trail leads up to 3 beautiful, small, turquoise lakes. There are two ways to get to the lakes. The ‘easy’ way and the ‘moderate’ way. As it was our first hike we figured we’d take the easy way up, just to see what they call easy in Canada. This turned out to be a wide, boring gravel road going completely uphill. As going uphill is not really my thing (Paula), I found it more difficult than expected. So I was really happy when we finally made it to the lakes. The scenery was breathtaking and all the colors were so vivid! We spend some time walking around, enjoying the view, having lunch and taking lots of photo’s before heading back to the parking lot. As the ‘easy’ way was pretty busy and boring, we figured that we’d take the ‘moderate’ way back. This turned out to be very nice hike with some great viewpoints and some exciting hiking parts with rocks, water and steep stairs along the way. Our first hike was a success!

Grassi Lakes, Canmore

Grassi Lakes hike viewpoint 2

Grassi Lake hike viewpoint

Along the hike we saw many people carrying bear spray (special pepper spray for bears). At the visitors center we were advised to get bear spray and were giving a leaflet what to do when you encounter a bear. We hadn’t seen any bears yet, but meeting them during hikes isn’t unusual. So after our Grassi Lake hike we decided to get some bear spray for ourselves as well. You never know when you might need it!

Banff and surroundings

Our days in this part of the Rocky Mountains were fully planned. We wanted to make to most of our time here and explore as much as possible, without travelling too fast. The next day we planned to see Banff and it’s surroundings. This was about a 45 minutes drive from Deadman’s Flat. We first started at Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack, two beautiful lakes just outside the village of Banff. After that we continued to the village itself, Bow falls and Cave & Basin National Historic Site. As we found the Banff Gondala ridiculous expensive ($64 per person), we didn’t feel like taking this attraction. When driving trough Banff we found the town very busy, especially compared to Canmore. You can see and feel that Banff is completely focused on tourists. Even though it looked like a lovely town, we were very happy to go back to our more quite Canmore. As we didn’t feel like cooking we went for a nice meal at a cozy, local restaurant in Canmore.

Two Jack, Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Kananaskis County & Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

At the visitors center they told us that the area of Kananaskis is also very beautiful to visit. So as decent travelers do, you listen to the local people and see what they are talking about. We were advised to go to Rawson Lake. This is supposed to be a amazing lake between the mountains and the chance to see wildlife should be quite high in this area.
When stopping at the Peter Lougheed visitor center a park ranger told us there was quite a lot of snow on the path/hike towards Rawson Lake. A return hike would cost us at least 4 hours with these conditions. Because we wanted to see more of the area we decided not to do this hike and see the Upper and Lower Lakes instead. There was also a bear with cups spotted in the area. Unfortunately we didn’t see them. Along the way towards the Upper and Lower lakes we drove through other nearby parks and made some stops at Barrier Dam, Wedge Pond and Interlakes. Even though we didn’t do the hike we wanted, this day was very fulfilling and lovely. The scenery was gorgeous and one of the best we’ve seen in Canada.

Upper Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed National Park

Chipmunk at Upper Kananaskis Lake Upper Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed National Park

During these couple of days we’ve already seen so many beautifull things, we can’t even believe it! And the best part is yet to come. In the next blog we’ll tell you more about the last few days exploring the south of the Rocky Mountains. So, stay tuned!

Traveldiary #2: Our first week in Canada

Traveldiary #2: Our first week in Canada

After checking Iceland of our bucket list, it was now time to check of another country of our wishlist: Canada.

Finding our wheels

Before coming to Canada we did quite some research regarding renting a camper (RV) for 4 weeks during our travels through Alberta, The Rocky Mountains and British Columbia. When inquiring quotes and looking for availability we found out that most of the small and medium sized RV’s were unavailable. Renting a large RV (minimum of 9 meters long!) would costs us about C$6000 (± €5000) including mileage and some camping gear. That’s just a crazy amount of money just for renting a vehicle and doesn’t include any of the campground costs and gas. And don’t forget the enormous size of the RV! After this shock we figured it might be more convenient and affordable to stay at Airbnb’s and B&B, while exploring West Canada with a regular car. Henk, an uncle of Tjeerd Paul who lives in Canada, was kind enough to help us find a decent car company and helped us to get a better deal as we would rent the car for quite a while. In the last week before we took of for our world trip all accommodation and car rental was book. We’d only have to collect the car an go!

Day of arrival

The flight from Reykjavik to Edmonton was a nice and comfortable sit. We hoped to get a visa stamp in our passport when passing security, but unfortunately everything was electronic. More space for stamps in the future.

Edmonton airport

Us arriving at Edmonton airport, hello!

We arrived in the afternoon and were picked up by the lovely Henk and Harma, family of Tjeerd Paul. After the warm welcome at the airport they took us to Boston Pizza for a quick dinner. Because of the time difference our day was 30 hours long and dinner felt like a late night snack to us. After filling our stomachs with some pizza the only thing left to do was having a good night sleep.

Getting stuff done in Edmonton

Wednesday was the day that we wanted to get some stuff done; picking up the car, getting a Canadian sim card and buying a small Bose speaker. Unfortunately the day didn’t go as planned. The car that was reserved for us was given to someone else, so they gave us another car which was a small upgrade. When inspecting the car the engine light was on. No way that we would take that car! But no other car was available. So no car for us today. The rental company would phone around to see if they can find another car available somewhere else in the area, which we’d hopefully could collect on Thursday.

Ok, the car thing was sorted, kind of. Now it was time to get a sim card and Bose speaker. Buying the speaker was no problem of course. But getting a sim card is another story. After some asking around we found that getting a sim card from Bell or ?? was the best option. But the store didn’t have any sim cards in stock anymore. Bummer, but we’d find it somewhere else then. Another employee of the store suddenly had another idea. As we’d be in Canada for more than 4 weeks it could be interesting to get a contract with Fido and cancel the contract after a month. It would be much cheaper than a prepaid sim card and canceling after a month would be free of charge. After asking some more questions it seemed a good option, so we went for it. We’re good to go, so we thought.
When arriving back ‘home’ we received conformation e-mail mentioning all kind of extra charges. This was not like they told us in the store! After contacting the customer service we canceled the contract immediately. You never know what kind of issues you get yourself into when canceling the contract after a month and we didn’t feel like wanting for it. So no car and no sim card at the at of the day. Luckily we found our Bose speaker we’ve been looking for which really has amazing sound! And you know what, we’d just go on WiFi wherever we’d go. Having no internet isn’t the end of the world ;).

Thursday was now the pick up of our car. So as agreed we’d pick up our car around 1 pm. Everything seemed alright. All scratches were noted, fuel tank was full, no engine lights or other lights burning, so we’re good to go! And the good thing was the car had cruise control, had a huge trunk for all our luggage and groceries and had all kind of other bonus features assisting you when driving. We felt awesome driving this buddy on wheels!

Kia Optima

Our buddy on wheels in Canada

After exploring some more shops in Edmonton (read West Edmonton Mall = biggest mall in North America), getting our last things and spending the last couple of days with the family; eating out, having amazing breakfast at IHOP and watching football together, it was time to hit the road and start cruising Canada! (Thanks Henk & Harma for having us!)

TP using his IKEA skills

Cruising to Calgary and Drumheller

The starting trip of our trip was Calgary. It’s a ‘short’ ride from Edmonton and would we our gateway to the Rocky Mountains. But when talking with the family they told us the Drumheller area would also be very nice to explore. As we had booked 2 nights in Calgary and it was only 1,5 hours drive to Drumheller from Calgary, we figured it was our only chance to see the place where most fossils of dinosaurs are found in the world.

On our way to Drumheller the scenery was kind of boring. It was flat, empty and yellow of grain fields. But when becoming closely to Drumheller the scenery changed and turned into this weird hill-like area ‘below’ ground at Horseshoe Canyon. Something like we’ve never seen before. We drove further into Drumheller and went to the visitors center for some extra info on what to see and do in the area. A lovely, young woman told us about the Dinosaur trail and Hoodoo Drive that takes you through a big part of the area, showing most of the sights. Sounds like a plan to us!

Horseshoe Canyon, Canada

Hoodoo drive, Canada

The Little Church, Canada

During this drive we visited Atlas Coal mine, the famous Hoodoos (which you can find on several places in Canada), one of the smallest churches you’ll probably see and another gorgeous valley were many fossils of dinosaurs where found. It was really a beautiful drive Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the museum where you’ll find more information about the fossils that are found in the Drumheller area. After this fulfilling and scenic day it was time to get back to Calgary.