One downside to studying abroad in Canada has been the fact that all my classes have either been at 9:30 or 10am, which has deprived me of the sleep I love so much. By now, you’d think I’d be conditioned to getting up at ungodly hours when people ask me to but it’s still tough! Even more so when you consider the line for the breakfast buffet at the hotel was so long I would have missed the bus if I had queued up, so I didn’t even manage a cup of tea in the morning. Boo!
I wish I could say this was a hike but unfortunately the route has been made highly accessible with wooden steps and decking. Probably for the best though; it stops anyone slipping off the mountain (arguably faster than the gondola!) and keeps the wildlife from getting too close.
I really can’t stress the temperature enough though. I must seem like a wimp to any native Canadians but this was my coldest October ever, despite being cocooned in the same thermal coat that I took to Africa. Back in the warmth of the gondola station, I bought a souvenir – a wooden totem pole of a thunderbird and a killer whale – which will join the Asian and African elephants from my other big trips this year once I’m home.
Back down at the base of the mountain, we were picked up by the buses and drove to the northern part of the park to Bow Lake – another unreal body of water. I know I sound like a broken record but these colours are not altered in any way! Gorgeous!
There’s a little lodge on the lake’s shore which was selling souvenirs and hot chocolate. It also had a small museum and even a real stuffed bear (sadly the only bear I’ve seen while I’ve been in Canada!). We took refuge in the warmth away from the biting cold after returning from another quick hike.
No matter how much I wanted to, there was never enough time to stop and take in all the beautiful the landscapes. We were back on the bus once again, resenting having to leave but also excited to see what could possibly come next…
And Peyto Lake was beyond my wildest imagining.
Of all of the lakes we visited, Peyto was my favourite. You could see right down the Bow Valley from the viewpoint.
Continuing up the highway, our next stop was Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield. The icefield, behind the glacier, feeds six major glaciers in the Rockies and is about the size of Paris. It’s massive. And dangerous.
Athabasca Glacier is far more accessible and is actually the most visited glacier in North America. Not just viewed but set foot on, thanks to these immense snow coaches.
It’s still just as treacherous on the glacier so tourists are limited to just a specific area of the ice that is made safe each morning by experienced workers. As we made our way up on to the ice, our glacier guide explained that an uncomfortable number of bodies have been found in the glacier from people who think it’s safe to walk on and end up falling into crevasses…
By the time we reached the exploration zone, we were thoroughly frightened and only walked where we were told. We still had a lot of fun slipping on the ice and throwing snowballs though!
We were even treated to some more snow!
|Back at the visitor centre|
|© Juraj Zamborský|
|Our Valemount hotel centrepiece – the closest I got to a moose!|
There was a small bonfire to celebrate afterwards, then we headed back to the hotel (a long, scary walk in the dark!) to grab our things and find a liquor store for drinks. Valemount being such a small town and it being a Sunday, we struggled to find anywhere that was open but finally, after walking to the other side of the town(!), we found an open shop.
Back at the hotel with a bag of wine (students, eh?), we ended up having a hot tub party that later became a pyjama party! A great way to end our last night as a group!