MY TRAVEL MAP:
I have arrived in the Wild Rose Province & The Town of Banff in the heart of The Rockies
I departed the Main Station in downtown Vancouver at 6h45 pm on Greyhound. The ticket was fairly pricy but with my student discount I got it for $107. I decided to just travel directly to Banff rather than doing a stop over midway. The bus is a really long trip and gives you an idea of just how big a country Canada is and how vast the distances are that one has to travel. It reminds me in many ways of Australia. When you look at a map you think, Yeah, that is pretty close and then when it comes to buying the ticket you become aware of the lengthy travel times. Many of the buses also leave at odd times like midnight or after or very early morning. As I was staying In Kitsilano outside of downtown Van I needed at least an hour to get into town on a bus so did not want the stress of an early departure or find myself sitting at a station at an ungodly hour. I decided to leave mid-day, travel overnight, save on a night’s accommodation and then arrive in Banff around 9am in the morning. Much better to start the day off in the light, especially when trying to track down your accommodation. The travel time on the bus from Van – Banff is around 15 hrs or so together with the change in time zones. I am no longer on Pacific Time and 9 hrs behind but on Mountain Time and 8 hrs behind now. Keep that in mind when calling.
The greyhound bus was good in that I had 2 seats and their was WIFI on this route. However I did not get much sleep and when I did it was more interrupted sleep than anything else. I prefer being on a plane for 12 hrs than a bus which has to stop to let people off, turn on the lights and is either too hot or too cold. When I did awake around 5:30 am we had pulled into a station in the mountain town of Golden, still in BC.
The view of these lengthy mountains stretching as far as you can see with snow on was a real site to wake up to. It was also a little chillier than BC. Next we continued into the province of Alberta and Lake Louise and then onto my get off point – the town on Banff in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I am left in awe every time I see another mountain range or forest pop up and no picture or words can every really describe how beautiful it really is. We spotted Big Horn Sheep alongside the road – my first taste of wildlife in the Rockies.
The bus pulled into the Banff bus stop and I was just in time to see the famed Rocky Mountaineer Train getting ready to pull off with a crowd of train staff and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) office in full regalia waving a flag as it departed. Somewhat of a tradition I think. I have heard many good things about this train but believe it is also super pricy. Definitely the way to meander through the Rockies if you can afford it.
Banff is a resort town located within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It is located in Alberta's Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway, approximately 126 km (78 mi) west of Calgary and 58 km (36 mi) east of Lake Louise. At an elevation of (4,800 ft), Banff is the community with the second highest elevation in Canada after Lake Louise. Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort are the three nearby ski resorts located within the national park.
Banff also houses the Banff World Media Festival once a year in June which sees the who’s who and top executives in the TV, Film, Broadcast (HBO, CBS, NBC etc) and Digital Media Industry convene in the heart of the Rockies to discuss new content, buy productions and network with the global media industry.
I had not booked accommodation again but knew I wanted to stay at the Samsun Hostel again. I stayed in the Vancouver one and it is fantastic, clean, has free breakfasts and good facilities. It was a good 15 min walk from the station. With all my gear now weighing around 35KG’s it is not easy to walk and lug stuff. I literally feel like a pack horse. The hostel had space and were able to accommodate me with an early check in instead of having to wait until 3pm. I was so tired; I showered and hit the sack for 2.5 hrs.
At 2pm I had signed up to do a free hike that the hostel was organizing on the Hoodoo Trail. It was a 3 hour round trip loop trail which would show you the mountains and Bow River. Even though I had traveled 16hours, slept 3 hrs and was about to do a 3 hr hike, I was most looking forward to seeing the area.
We walked through Banff town which again has a somewhat European Ski Village feel to it with lots of restaurants punting their Fondue Specials, others more local dishes like Bison and Caribou and then the usual US type food chains. There are loads of hotels, inn’s and lodges in the area too which have a Swiss log cabin feel to them. It is a very picturesque town and surrounded by mountains on all sides.
The Bow River which flows through the town has bright blue and turquoise water. The rivers here are not very deep but wide and flat and when the glacial water starts running and forming rivers it looks like the water is the same level as the roads you are on. On the trail we would see Rundle Mountain, Tunnel Mountain and the Hoodoo’s.
The trail we did took you all along the river which in some parts still has frozen ice on the banks and covering portions.
The pebbled streams and rivers are such a sight with never ending forests in between the hills.
The vegetation is different from BC and everything feels hotter and drier compared to the more rain forest type of vegetation you get in BC. There were about 16 of us from the hostel on the hike. I was advised never to do walks alone and always in groups with a min of 4 people. The area has loads of bear and cougar about and the signs for keeping alert are posted everywhere. Many people carry Bear Bell’s which ring as you walk and alert Bears to people being in the area. I have heard other stories that the bears start associating the bells with people and may have the opposite effect as a deterrent. You are also supposed to make lots of noise while on trails and talk audibly. Hence why in so many Films you see groups singing trail songs when out. Not just for fun but to alert wildlife you are in the area. That or the old “Hey Bear, Hey Bear” line when walking in the wilderness. We spotted some deer feeding on the side of a trail and they are not too perturbed about people being near.
On one part of the trail you pass the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which is one of the most expensive Fairmont resorts. It sits atop a hill like I giant medieval castle with tall spires and is surrounded by tall forest, a mountain backdrop and the crystal clear water of the Bow River flowing in front of the Springs and Fairmont Golf Course. It is rather impressive.
The Banff Springs Hotel is a luxury hotel that was built during the 19th century as one of Canada's grand railway hotels, being constructed in Scottish Baronial style and located in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. The hotel is located within a spectacular setting in the Rocky Mountains, just above the Bow Falls, close to thermal springs.
The trail led us to some amazing scenic points looking out over the valley, forests and mountains. We eventually got to the Hoodoos which are large chimney shaped cones of rock which have been eroded over time by ice and water. These stand before a beautiful island formed by the Bow River splitting around a piece of land.
The walk and views well worth heading out. I can’t wait to see what the area looks like where I will be heading very shortly.
After the hike we returned to the hostel where I rested and then set off to walk to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel to have a looksie inside and out on the front deck to see the views of the river and mountains from the hotel side. It is a super fancy hotel with concierge and valet service and this is where the upper crust of the Banff Crowd holiday. The hotel is renowned for the hot springs and the Banff Spa.
I had an early night and returned to the hostel.
All in all my first day in Alberta and Banff was fantastic and look forward to seeing so much more …