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Nick & Tim’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 28 Jun 2003

Location: Banff, Canada

Map1970 km That's Sydney to Cairns
Well folks, since we last updated we have had an amazing ride through the Rockies. The scenery and wildlife has been amazing to say the least. More animals - another bear, a moose, wild horses, two porcupines (fat little fellas), Rocky Mountain sheep and of course Elk - riding through Elk Valley.
Leaving Fernie, where all the friendly people convinced us to obtain bear spray, we set off along the highway to the town of Sparwood. We'd been looking forward to this one, home of the worlds largest truck (and not much else we might add). That truck was pretty bloody big, they use it in mining, but we reckon our Aussie mining trucks are probably bigger. From Sparwood we cycled on in the afternoon to Elkford, the last civilisation before we crossed the Rockies and rode through Grizzly country. We camped the night there after meeting many locals that had many tips from bear protection to the weather systems affecting North America.
In the morning, Nick holstered the bear spray and we set out along the dirt track that is the Elk Pass. Well, we got about 50 metres and there in the middle of the track was a bear sitting on his haunches. Good start. Before Nick had a chance to draw and mace that baby, he got up and ran away. (Before we get complaints - we never intended to use the mace execpt maybe on a redneck or two). A little concerned that the locals were right about the bears we continued along the pass. Soon enough we were in the middle of nowhere. Quite literally we were surrounded by mountain views that we can't begin to describe. We were pretty lucky with the weather and managed a good 70km off road. No more bears came along to bother us - thankfully. We did have a bit of a fright when Nick heard something loud in the bushes and saw something brown and very large moving along. It turned out to be a moose. How cool! He did the usual wildlife thing and ran off. We also got a little paranoid when we were eating lunch and kept hearing this low rumbling sound - kind of like a two stroke engine. Turns out we were being scared of some kind of bird with a bark far worse than its bite. From birds to horses - as we rode a kind of Lord of the Rings style scene occured as a bunch of horses galloped across our path. They stopped and looked at us, and we looked at them. It was kind of funny. Like two species meeting. Eventually we all made friends.
After a long ride we got to Elk Lakes. We were totally blown away by the beauty of the place. It was amazing. Plus, we were so remote that there was no one else there. We camped that night with full bear awareness procedures. We also had to contend with an incredible amount of mosquitoes. They were insane.
In the morning, Tim awoke to the sound of a large animal moutside lthe tent. Panic subsided when it turned out to be a fat little porcupine rummaging around the site. He was slow like a sloth and climbed a tree, we spent some time admiring it. We decided to spend the morning doing a bit of walking around the area - since it was so nice. We hiked up to the second lake and Tim checked out the view point - lovely.
We had to leave serenity eventually and got on our bikes to climb the Elk Pass. Not such a bad climb, despite being 1900m and off road. At the top of the pass was a closed gate signifying Alberta. We have now crossed into a new province - very cool. Bye bye BC, we enjoyed riding across.
It didn't take long to hit civilisation in Alberta - first stop a feed in a restaurant in Kananaskis Country. Here we overheard an Aussie family having a big argument and really enjoying their holiday!
That night we camped in Kananaskis country and were helped out in a big way by the 'campsite manager couple' who were both avid bikers. They lent us a book and told us the best, most scenic way to get to Banff. Most appreciated. Especially when the next day we rode a very long 100km off road through some of the most spectacular scenery we've ever laid eyes on. Surrounded by the mountains and lakes and not many people we descended from 1900m to 1300m in Banff. The entry to Banff was kind of bizarre - having been in forest and mountain all day all of a sudden we're riding through a castle style hotel and into traffic and traffic lights. The change was very quick. Banff is a nice lookin town, however ... the campsite is miles from the town up a huge hill and holds 2000 people. Gotta love that outdoor feeling. Last night we were kept awake by a bunch of rednecks listening to some country classics and telling their hilarious anecdotes about life as a moron. The bear spray came as close as it ever did to being put to use. Oh well, nothing could marr the ride through the Rockies - now its time for the Prairies. Flat, flat, flat (so we're told).