We survived the 14 hour overnight bus journey with ease, everybody was warning us not to do it, but it was nothing compared to what we did in Vietnam and Oz. Easy! Easy! Easy! There was one boy that was lying over two chairs and every time the bus stopped to pick people up he would pretend he was asleep so they wouldn't disturb him, when the bus started moving he conveniently woke up. It really annoyed us, I'm sure he was a 'pansy frog' so when we stopped the next time, he went to the toilet and draped his stuff over his seats so nobody would sit there................... so we threw it to one side and when new passengers came onto the bus we gladly informed them of the free seat haha high five!! .......he was devastated!
We arrived in Banff at 7am and the views were spectacular, snow capped mountains just surrounded us with 360 degree views, the village resembled a quaint little skiing resort, so small, and the buildings were made from timber and stone to give you that real authentic feel. We got a great vibe straight away and before we went to our hostel we grabbed a few bits of food from the only supermarket.
Our hostel was up in the mountains with great views, if it wasn't a hostel you would be paying over $200 a night for the location but because we were in a dorm it only cost us $30 a night. The hostel was great, it was just a big ski lodge, slate floor, big stone fire in the middle of the communal area and big high ceiling with huge wooden beams spanning across. As if that wasn't good enough we also have free breakfast included and free bus passes for the length of our stay!!
We didn't have much time in Banff as originally planned because we cut it short so we could go see Chandra but that wasn't going to stop us from seeing everything! Without time on our side we took the opportunity to have one of our customary naps then freshened up, haha (well we had travelled overnight by bus).
There were so many hiking trails on offer but we got recommended to do the hoodoo trail first which was a nice easy hike with rewarding viewpoints and exactly what we wanted. The track ran parallel to our hostel so we got wrapped up and began walking through the forest and we saw our first bit of wildlife ......wait for it.................the ground squirrel!! They sit up on their back legs and stare at you like meercats but are smaller. As we were walking through the woods, there was no-one to be seen and you knew that this was actually bear country, not like Yosemite national park where its heavily populated with tourists. The bears tend to stay away from the public however you were actually walking in their territory now and they were probably more bears than people in the Rockies. Just as all this was going through my mind Louise shouts....................ADAM!!! Fearing the worst I turned around expecting to see a big 10ft grizzly on its back legs............only to see it was a deer eating some grass..........phew!! It was so well camouflaged I walked straight past it but it was huge, to be honest I was quite scared of it, maybe not the deer itself but the fact that they could just be anywhere so on that note I grabbed a big stick to protect us! The rest of the walk I was on full guard, Louise was trying to converse but I didn't hear a word, she said I was too busy scoping the forest for bears, haha.
We finally got to the point of the hoodoo's which were funny shaped rock formations and the view was amazing, it looked over the valley which was just covered in Christmas trees with a meandering river that slit it in two, however all of this was shadowed by the sheer size of the rocky mountains. On the way back we saw our 3rd animal of the day..............a chipmonk!! We fed him a pretzel only to find out later on that it is an offence to feed any animal. Good job we didn't see a bear because my plan was to feed it Louise, then run!!
We got the bus back into town where we went on another walk which followed the river, to see the infamous chateau, it was a big hotel which was situated right in the middle of the valley with huge mountains overlooking it. We were shattered at this point with all the walking so we finished the day off by taking a trip to the outdoor natural hot springs, which were located up in the mountains. It was great, the outside air temperature was cold but the hot springs were lovely and warm and we just sat and relaxed as we watched the sun drop behind the mountains.........perfect!
That night Lou rumbled up some food and we discussed hiring a car, we knew we needed a car one of the days but because we only had 2 days left we decided on booking one for tomorrow because the weather was better. Some of our best ideas have been made in split seconds so we just went with it and reserved the car for tomorrow morning; now all we had to do was spend the night researching where to go.
That morning we slept in and were late picking the carup so when we got there the shop was closed with a sign saying 'back in an hour' who goes out of the shop and leaves it unattended for an hour???..........what a joke! When he did return he then told us he had already rented the car out to someone else...........your kidding me!!!! Half the day had gone and we don't even have a car but we quickly solved that and sourced another one from somewhere else and set off on our itinerary.
Our itinerary for the day was to head up to Lake Peyto and Lake Louise while hopefully spotting some bears!!!! While we drove.......sorry..... While Louise drove up to Peyto we saw a fleet of cars parked up on the side of the road we thought there had been a crash but as we passed slowly I caught a glimpse of a black bear!! BEAR BEAR BEAR I shouted to Lou so we tried to pull over but by the time we pulled up it had went back into the bushes. ............Wow, the excitement of nearly seeing a bear was great! Imagine if we actually saw one. We realised that they could just be on the side of the road so I kept my eyes peeled. We stopped off loads along the way at various lookout points to see glaciers and frozen lakes. By the time we got to Lake Peyto the snow was so thick and we were able to throw a few snowballs. Lake Peyto was unbelievably blue and it was one of the most impressive things we had seen on our travels so far, we also saw a snow rabbit. After we left Peyto we headed to the infamous Lake Louise but on the way we saw ANOTHER BLACK BEAR!!! We pulled over to the side of the road and we were first on the scene so we had the bear all to ourselves.
We were so excited we broke all bear safety rules and jumped out the car with our camera ready to get some close up shots, it was okay though because it's the grizzly bears you have to look out for......the black bears are the friendly ones haha.............that's what I kept telling Louise!! The bear was about 15-20 metres away easy enough time to run back into the car if it charged us. But it came closer and closer, to the point where we had to retreat to our car and lock the doors. It was literally 8 metres away and it wasn't fazed by the public in the slightest.......it was HUGE and I can't describe what it was like to actually see a bear up close in real life but it was definitely one of the highlights of our whole trip, we just don't get this in England!!! We spent maybe half an hour just sitting watching it we didn't want to leave but it got to the point where we had to head for Lake Louise, we still had so much to see and so little time!!
Lake Louise was again...........stunning, the sheer vertical snow capped mountains rose out from the crystal blue lake and there was a massive chateau just sitting at one end which must have one of the best hotel views in the world. After we left and headed back to Banff for a well deserved rest, on the way back we came across two GRIZZLY BEARS which were even bigger than the black bear, luckily they were behind a fence this time! When we were back at the hostel we sat down and cooked tea, we were absolutely exhausted but we soon realised how lucky we were to see the wildlife, some people come and don't see anything at all.... luck was on our side!! No time to rest though, we started organising where we were going tomorrow morning....... we had the car for 3 more hours the next day before we had to take it back so we researched all the best routes for wildlife.........the lakes were unbelievable but we didn't think we would see another one as stunning as Lake Peyto and to be honest we were here for the wildlife.
We got up early and made the most of our day and we headed down the 'bow parkway' route which was notorious for wildlife sightings. Our mission for the day was to spot a MOOSE, we drove around and it didn't take long for me to spot an elk in the forest, we pulled over and got out the car and crept up to the edge of the forest. Apparently elk are more dangerous than bears because they have really bad eyesight so if they see anything they just charge it so we tried to keep our distance but our excitement got the better of us again and we got some really good footage, as we got closer this thing was HUMUNGOUS, it was lying down eating but if it stood up I think it would be as bigger than a horse and it had massive antlers that made it look like a reindeer, the only thing that was comforting was that the forest was quite densely populated and it would struggle to get through the trees with them big old clumsy antlers haha. It didn't take long before the rest of the public stopped and had a neb, I felt proud that we started it............. maybe a bit like the feeling you get if you're the one who starts the Mexican wave at a football match.
We just managed to get the car back in the nick of time, and we spent the day doing some souvenir shopping on the high street. Lou managed to find a great little Christmas tree decoration for Tyke so she can hang it on the tree every year and since we were meeting Chandra tomorrow we thought we should get her a little treat, we hunted high and low for something but finally agreed on a good old english currrrly wurrrly!!! More sentimental value than anything else lol. That night we had to pack up and get ready for an early bus ride the following morning to Calgary where we would meet Chandra, but since it was our last night we treated ourselves to a nice tea of steak and potato fritters!!! I was on steak duty and Lou was on fritter duty, however it didn't really turn out as planned..........my steak was.............lets skip over that part and Lou's fritters..........well she frittered the crap out of them, might as well of had mashed potato!!
Next stop Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to stay with Channy! Can't wait
Love Adam and Louise xxx