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12th Nov 2010 – Exploring Alberta, the Canadian Rockies and more!

November 13, 2010

My time in Calgary proved to be much more enjoyable than I’d expected. I had envisaged a few weeks of hard slog to top up my fun fund before my brother was due to arrive for a road-trip. Timing all worked out to move into a nice house with Carla, whom I already knew from Vancouver, at the place she was living in when I’d visited and gone to the Calgary Stampede. She put me in contact with her job agencies and I got a steady flow of office administration positions to keep me going.

When I arrived an Italian couple were also lodging there. They were just in Canada for a short time, using Calgary as a base to explore the Rockies. A couple of weekends were spent with them visiting Banff, hiking at Johnston Canyon and to a tea house above Lake Louise, exploring the Icefields parkway with its impressive glaciers, moody clouds and imposing craggy mountains. My car served us well, with Carla and I both sleeping in the back for these trips. Views were spectacular, especially by Two Jack Lake, one of the places we camped (for photos click here). I revisited Lakes Louise and Moraine with them as the colour of the water is truly spectacular and can be gaped at in awe for many an hour. More photos here.

The first week in September there was a public holiday so I decided I wanted to try and have a true rural Albertan experience. I searched on the Couchsurfing hospitality website and found a lovely couple who really did show us western hospitality. We spent our time around the fire, eating bison steak, going to the local eatery where the cowboys go for their steak and egg breakfasts, to a small local rodeo, hiking and bear spotting in the lovely mountainous countryside. It was great to meet these folk who’ve decided to sell everything and set off in a camper van for South America. Photos from this trip and Calgary here.

Alas, time came for Carla to leave but my brother soon arrived and after a short evening catching up with a relative we hot-footed it off in search of mountains and off-road cycling adventure. The weather treated us well and graced us with fantastic views near Jasper. We were treated to a cold night camping at around -7 deg C but at least the mosquitoes were not eating us.
Our first mountain biking on day 2 was at a place I’d been recommended by a couple of locals and a write-up in a backcountry mountain biking book mentioned “hike-a-bike”. Sure enough it was a scramble over rocks at the top, carrying our bicycles upon our shoulders, but we were rewarded with probably my favourite view for my entire time in Canada. Rather unexcitingly named Barrier Lake, in the Kananaskis, it was a sight to behold with the snow-topped mountains in the background. Day 3 ended up being almost a 7 hour expedition, either cycling or huffing and puffing pushing our bicycles over the top of two mountain ridges in the Rocky Mountains. It was only September but it was cold at the top of the first ridge and I was thankful for a handily stashed woolly hat for our picnic. Both the views and the descent made the climb worthwhile. The second ridge was nearly our undoing as sugar supplies became low. I had underestimated the effect of the amount of climbing on how long the ride would take and on our endurance. The north face of the mountain had at least 2 inches of snow which was not easy to ride through and then became a cold stream that sprayed up at us from the tyres as we descended!
The remainder of the road trip was mostly revisiting places I’d already ridden like Fernie, BC, with a few extra trails added, fitting in as much riding in as we could take. Unfortunately on the last day my brother was here (but fortunate we were not in the wilderness as previously) I managed to chip the top off one of my lower leg bones whilst trying to avoid falling in a ditch. It was painful but I didn’t expect the diagnosis or that I’d be leaving the clinic on crutches. I have since learned that I was extremely fortunate not to have needed surgery as this type of fracture usually requires! Eek. All of the pictures from the mountain bike trip can be found by clicking here

Hindered but undeterred, I still managed to show a good friend who visited from England around Vancouver, fly to Quebec City and explore there, Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls before going to a cousins wedding in Indiana and catch up with old friends in Ohio (photos here). I am off crutches in less than a 1 week and then have 3 more weeks to explore this land before flying back to New Zealand. I plan on making the most of it!

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 4:07 pm

    Nice post! It was great to meet you. I really hope we can meet up in South America in the future. You could make us curry!!!
    Miss you!

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