Get yourself a cup of tee or coffee ’cause this is going to be a long one.
If you read last weeks post, you know that I left the island, boarded a plane and made it to Vancouver, BC.
You might also know that Canada has some of the most amazing scenery! You might have seen all those pictures of turquoise blue lakes with mountains in the background before. Yup, those are in Canada. And like on many others bucket lists it was also on mine to go visit Banff to see the ever so famous Lake Louise.
Before I even left to Canada I told myself that I wanted to visit the Niagara Falls, Toronto and Banff, not actually realising that Banff National Park was all the way on the west coast! When I realised I was going to have to fly another 6 hours plus drive a few more hours I basically already had it crossed out for this trip. But when I was planning my time in Canada one of my co-workers told me how beautiful it was on the west coast and how I needed to go! I went back and forth wether to do this trip or not. Personally I think Canada is not the easiest country to travel around without a car, which I don’t have. This left me with another challenge: ‘How on earth would I get there???’
So here is the solution I found: a bus tour across the Canadian Rocky Mountains, starting in Vancouver and ending in Vancouver again. But my two week trip doesn’t stop there. I would then take the train across Canada for three days, stay in Toronto for three nights before returning to Montreal, where my next Workaway – an upcoming post – stay would start on the 24th of September.
Chapter One, The Bus Tour:
I booked a 6 day tour via Glouberouter.com. Now let me tell you, it was all a bit of an adventure. After you purchase one of their trips they send you an e-voucher with all the information on what you paid for and all the important information. So I arrived in the evening at Vancouver Airport where supposedly someone with a big yellow sign would be waiting for me. No one did. Like there was no one at the airport with any sign at all. There was also no proper contact written on the e-voucher besides the emergency line. Now Glouberouter only promotes the tours and then redirects your booking to a local tour operator. Anyway after a lot of calls back and forth someone finally picked me up from the airport. I was picked up by a chinese guy, who spoke very little english and transported in a little bus with Chinese written all over it. Now I really have nothing against the Chinese but it was a bit funny to me as I was in Vancouver, Canada and yet here I am sitting in an all Chinese bus.
My tour would disembark the next morning at 7am and so did many many many more! Now it turns out the local operator works with a lot of Chinese travelling companies with the average group being about 50-60 people. The Hotel was very full! But breakfast, oh breakfast was a whole other story. Let me paint you guys a picture: breakfast opens at 6:30 am and all Tours disembark around 7 am. That gives about 100-150 people the chance to eat breakfast in a room made for maximum 30 people for about 30 minutes. Let that sink in for a moment. You can probably imagine how my breakfast went. A way too aggressive elbow fight for a bagel and some cream cheese.
You’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself ‘that must of been a trip from hell’. Not at all actually! It was one of the coolest weeks I have ever had! Yeah the beginning was a bit rough but everything else went pretty well. I was on an all english speaking tour with people from Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the States. We were a smaller group of 25 people and had one of those big coaches made for 50 people, so plenty of space. Our guide was also very friendly, nice, funny in his own way and the driver competent. The actual tour through the mountains took only for days, unfortunately. The first day was a lot of driving as well as the last one, therefore most of the sightseeing was done on the second and third day.
On the first day we drove from Vancouver about 380km to Revelstoke, which is right before Banff. We stopped in Kelowna on the way up. Kelowna is a beautiful area famous for its fresh peaches, apples and ice wine. Here we stopped at a famous winery overlooking the Okanagan lake. I wish I could tell you wether the wine was great or not but I wasn’t allowed to try the wine unfortunately. The view was incredible though!
The next morning we drove a good 2 hours before we finally arrived in Banff. We were now in full mountain country and I was loving it! This isn’t one of the most visited places in the world for no reason! Our first activity for this day was the Gondola ride up the mountain across Lake Louise. If the visibility is great the view is amazing! Right in front of you, you have the whole mountain range, some glaciers and even a tiny Lake Louise. I can only imagine how this place would look like in autumn with the trees dressed in a beautiful orange and red!
After the Gondola ride we continued to Banff Town itself. As we were a smaller group we actually got to stay in Banff Town itself, our guide told us was a rare thing for groups normally. Before we got to explore Banff Town itself though our bus made a stop at the little Bow Falls. Now they might not be Niagara but they are still worth visiting as the mountain range around them gives the small falls a magical look. Also the water is a crystal blue colour. Very beautiful.
Banff Town. It’s not big but it is adorable. There are many little shops and restaurants around for tourists to go wild in, all in the style of little forest cabins. Very cute. Along the roads the town is decorated with flowerbeds and trees. All of it together with the big mountains around give the town a magical feeling that I was enjoying very much.
Before we continue, let’s talk about temperature for a moment. In general when you go to the mountains temperatures drop a little – BUT LET ME TELL…They dropped more than just a little! I woke up to a snowy winter wonderland! Magical and beautiful but holy moly it is the middle of September!!! Not even the Canadians were ready for it. I enjoyed it a lot because although I wasn’t really equipped for winter, I did always imagine how everything would look like covered in snow. Well the universe heard me! My dream/thought/wish – whatever you want to call it – it came true.
Day three. Todays activities include a visit at the famous Lake Louise – which I was very excited about, Jasper National Parks’ Ice fields and the Glacier Skywalk. We had a little bit of snow in Banff Town itself but not too much. As we got closer to the Lake Louise area though we entered a full on magical winter wonderland snow storm. Like it was full on Snowing! Everything was covered in about a meter of snow minimum. May I repeat the fact that we’re – IN SEPTEMBER. We unfortunately did not get to see too much of Lake Louise itself due to the snow storm but that did not stop us from having a blast by throwing snowballs at each other! It was great. We kept revenging ourselves by throwing bigger and bigger snowballs that the other did. Did I mention I was by far the youngest on my Tour? The average age was around 50 and well for those of you wondering I am 18. I didn’t have a problem with it though, to be honest it was actually pretty cool having “oldies” around because they all made sure I was taken care of all the time.
So we did not get to see too much of Lake Louise herself but we did get to enjoy a fantastic lunch in the Fairmont Château Lake Louise Hotel, which was very nice! After Lunch we continued to our last cool sightseeing spot on this trip. The Glacier Icefields in Japser National Park.
From Lake Louise we had about another 2 hours to drive, which this road is suppose to be one of the most scenic mountain roads in the world but again we did not see much of that as it was still snowing. We did though see mountain goats.
At the Glacier Icefield station you can do two activities – the skywalk and the super duper cool Ice explorer ride up onto the actual glacier. Luckily we got to do both!
So what is an Ice Explorer? They’re basically these ginormous vehicles that can drive on ice. Our Ice Explorer driver – shoutout to Ben – was the funniest guy ever and defiantly made the activity even cooler. On our way back he made us play a game ‘who stands last wins game’ on the steepest road in the world. I was not the last one standing. Now as I mentioned many times now it was snowing and because of that we again didn’t see much. So no blue glacier colours for me this time around unfortunately but it is quite impressive to look at something that usually is a mountain but due to the massive amounts of snow it could have also been a white sheet of paper. Like someone could have totally held a piece of paper in front of my face and I would have seen the same – a big white wide of nothing. The best memory of this trip though would have to be the snowball fight I had with a bunch of 80 years olds on the glacier! I am never ever going to forget that! Best experience ever!
The other reason why I won’t forget this trip is because of the Skywalk. Oh my I am terrified of heights like a lot! I really wanted one of those pictures where you could see my feet and then the floor beneath it, which was the only reason I went on the glass part. The things you do for photos. I made a lot of people laugh by how wiggly I walked up on that skywalk, let’s just say that. I think it was even less terrifying with all the snow there than it would have been without as I couldn’t really estimate how high up I actually was and still I pulled such a show. The view is amazing though – even if you are scared of heights, I highly recommend you face your fears for this one!
On the last day we basically only drove back to Vancouver, where our tour ended. This trip might have started off a bit chaotic and all but in the end I spent 4 amazing days with some of the coolest people in one of the most amazing places in this world. I will defiantly return but than rent a car and do it all camping style at my own pace! Anyone want to join? :p
As this post turned out to be very long, I will split it up in three chapters. First one being the bus tour, the second one Vancouver and the train ride and the final one will be my time in Toronto and Niagara Falls. Defiantly sign up for the email list if you are interested in those and many more! I hope you have a good day, until next time.