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Rockies road trip (part 2)

Two weeks of stunning scenery, heavenly hikes and dramatic driving; with the icing on the cake being the All Blacks winning the World Cup!!

It is with excitement (mainly about NZ being in the final of the rugby world cup, but also about discovering some more gorgeous scenery) that we meet up with Lucy for the Johnson Canyon and the Inkpots hike.

Lucy is a couchsurfer who has offered to host us for a couple of nights at her place and who was keen to come along on a hike with us too. Lucy informs us that the temperature was -10 as she left her flat this morning, brrr. We have good heating in the car and the ice is soon scraped off and it's toasty warm for the drive down to the start of the trail.

The frozen canyon walls and partly frozen waterfalls are beautiful in the morning light! And again there's hardly anyone around. We continue up to the inkpots, which are cold springs which have formed pools of water. The pools are meant to be different colours, which are hardly noticeable, but the meadow we find ourselves in is surrounded by mountains and the dried wildflowers still in the shade shimmer with frost.

Hike finished, we take a drive into the nearside of Katooney National Park doing a much shorter walk around another canyon and finding out about the wildfires that look to devastate the area, but are actually an important part of the forest's regeneration.

Heading back to Lucy's we find we're literally staying on the sofa this time, and it's a bit on the short side...not our most comfy surf. Neither does the constant people traffic passing our sofa help. M and I decide to be a little more discerning with our couchsurfing choices in the future. As we're heading into Banff to meet up with Cat and Mark for a coffee, we make our excuses to Lucy and agree that a hotel in Banff will be the order of the day.

Mark suggests hiking up Sulphur Mt to Sanson peak which gives us fantastic views on both sides of the mountain range - cheers Mark! And once we've had our fill of the views we jump on the gondalar down. Perfect. (Especially as we get down for free!)

Our hotel is in the centre of town and has a Mexican bar next door. We have Margarita's in jam jar glasses while trying to work out the rules for ice hockey and other patrons munch on peanuts and scatter their shells all over the floor. Very rustic.

A fantastic night's sleep and we are up before the sun ready for our drive up to Jasper along the icefield parkway. A spectacular sunrise greets us and we are on the road north. As we pass Lake Louise the few other vehicles on the road peel off and we have to road to ourselves.

Breakfast is served in the back of the SUV in a layby overlooking a lake and flanked by mountains at -3 degrees. I manage to rustle up some surprisingly tasty pan fried bread with jam and tea on our little gas stove (maybe my standards were lowered by the cold and a grumbling belly, but it really was good!).

The scenery really is dramatic and it seems that every 15mins there is another spot to pull over in, check out the view, clamber down to a lake or up to a glacier! On Megan and Mick's recommendation (cheers!) we hike up Parker's Ridgway. It is snow on the ground almost immediately from the car park until we emerge into the sun at the top of the ridge and hit amazing glacier and mountain views. Magnificent!

We reach Jasper as night falls and find a pub for dinner and some local beers - I try the pumpkin and spice ale - Yummy!

A well deserved lazy morning is followed by hiking through Maligne Canyon and driving down to Maligne Lake. We are struck by how low the water levels are - just a trickle in what we can see could be a forceful torrent of a river, and one lake is dry enough to walk in!

On our drive back into town we see some bigger animals... a moose! He/she isn't bothered by our presence as it has an afternoon snack by the side of the road. And then we spot some bighorn sheep posing by the river :-)

Our spell of great weather is broken the next morning as we wake to rain. As it clears we can see that there is now more snow on the top of the mountains too - nice. We take a look around the very sleepy Jasper town, pick a bottle of 'Baco Noir' (new to us - it was really good! Med-full bodied with lots of plummy fruit and only lightly tanninic) to have with steaks and roast veggies as a late lunch and drive to the picturesque Patricia and Pyramid lakes for a quick peek.

We'd posted an add for someone to get a ride to Vancouver with us and share the petrol. Jeff knocks on our door and, hey presto, we have the company of an Ozzie chap for the long (12 hours thanks to a traffic jam just outside Vancouver) and mainly wet drive. We drop Jeff off, check into our hostel, cook up the last of our food, give the rest away to a couple of French girls and pop out to a nearby bar for a well earnt drink.


We have some shopping to do, so start by heading to the Mountain Equipemnt Co-op (MEC) and buy a steripen (it sterilises water using UV light and means that we wont have to buy 100's of plastic bottles of water in South America), rechargeable batteries and a rather groovy Camelback water bottle. We love MEC - so many awesome bits of kit for all kinds of outdoor adventure!

We pop our head into the 'Sin-bin' bar that we found would be showing the Rugby World Cup - but it's sold out! The owner calls a mate who has a bar over in Kitsilano and within a minute we have 'seats' booked there. Apparently you have to book a seat in a bar here - a crush around the screen isn't allowed...

Stanley park is next on our list. Stanley park, by the sea, is a real oasis in the middle of the city with loads of joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers (I would have loved to have had my blades with me). There are beautiful autumn colours, herons catching fish in a pond full of waterlillies and great views over the harbour. I direct us to a tea house on the top of a hill and we warm ourselves through and enjoy being pampered.

We continue our walk along the waterfront and down to Gastown - the old hub of Vancouver. Rachel has recommended The Old Spaghetti Factory and the long queue outside is clearly a good sign, so in we go inside to enjoy a drink at the bar. I order a massive margareta - it is totally kitstch and completely yummy! Food there is great, and plentiful, and the decor interesting with an entire tram sitting in the middle of the restaurant!

I get very excited as we head to Kitsilano, to our allocated bar for the rugby. Kick off is at 1am so we have plenty of time to introduce ourselves to the local Kiwis and get a few drinks in (how kind of M to offer to drive after!) The pub crowd is split 50:50 with the French, so there is some good banter, especially when the French players make their intention known with a show of force at The Haka. Somehow the French seem to unnerve us, one of the few nations capable of doing so, but we still WON! New Zealand the worthy holders of the Webb Ellis Trophy for the next 4 years. Well done boys! After much hugging of my fellow Kiwis (and the presentation of a Silver Fern flag to me from one of the Kiwi ladies, cheers Chris) and hand shakes with the French, we head to the airport for our early morning flight to Lima for the next chapter of our adventure...

Posted by DebandMatt 09:19 Archived in Canada

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Sounds like you're having a great time. I'm enjoying reading the blogs, so keep them up.


by Debarrmik

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