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Stefan’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 04 Sep 2007

Location: Somewhere in the Rockies, Canada

MapHola again everyone,

Just a quick update as I'm waiting for my bus. This will be my longest bus trip yet. It says on the ticket under duration, 1 day, 9 hours and 30 minutes!! Yipee

Back to where I left off... Niagra falls where amazing but VERY touristic, reminded me a bit of Las Vagas. There was soo much tourist related crap that has been developed in the area of the falls such as: Planet hollywood, lots of BIG hotels, wax mueseum, tropical bird aviary, casinos etc etc. So you get the picture!
From Niagra I headed to Toronto for a couple of days. I visited the Toronto Islands which was a nice retreat from town, and only a short ferry ride away. That evening I went up the "CN tower" (Which is said to be the tallest in the world) and watched the sunset over Toronto which was nice. A couple of days in the city was enough for me so I headed to Algonquin Provincial park which is one of the most popular parks in Ontario. There are thousands of lakes within the park and many people go on several day to week long canoe trips here where they have to "Portage" (Carry their canoe and all their gear between lakes through the woods). The distances they have to portage are not normally that far, several km's at the most.
I didn't do a canoe trip but did several hikes within the park with the owner of the hostel - who has visited about 75 countries including NZ. Did he have some stories or what!!

After a couple days here I headed to Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie where I went on a full day train tour to the Agawa canyon. An area only accessible by train, with lots of lakes and cottages where people go for holiday, also a popular cross country ski, snowshoe and snow mobiling area. The hostel (actually a hotel) in Sault Sta Marie was a funny sort of place, lots of long-term people staying there and had a bit of a dodgy feeling to the place... All part of the adventure ay!!
From Sault Ste Marie it was a good 20 hour bus ride to Winnipeg - the middle of Canada. From here it's possible to go to Northern Manitoba and see polar bears, but I was a bit early in the season so... I stayed in Winnipeg for a brief night as the weather was not great and there wasn't alot for me there.

Moving on again and after another 10 hours on the bus I was in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan (Canada's farming province). The view out of the bus was..... Prairies in every direction, the land was soo flat (and I thought Holland was flat!) We did drive through an amazing storm though, the clouds were so dark in contrast to the yellow colour of the prairie grass, it looked amazing, really!! Another highlight of the trip throught the prairies was a stop at a local eatery, just off the trans-Canada highway. All the locals (mainly old farmers) were hanging out having lunch, drinking coffee and wearing their cowboy hats. The only thing missing from this scene was a couple of horses tied up outside, instead they had their monster trucks parked up!!
I really only had a pit-stop in Regina, a sleep in the hostel and then headed to Edmonton, the Capital of Alberta and where the worlds largest shopping mall is. I spent a couple days here as the hostel was nice and I met some great people. So we had a few good nights out and off course had to check out the mall for a couple of hours. The mall really is HUGE. It has an indoor amusement park, waterpark (complete with wavepool), an indoor lake (complete with shipwreck), ice rink and the list goes on, oh and the 800 shops. A few hours in there was enough to drive me crazy!!
I had had enough of cities by this time so I went into the rocky mountains. Jasper national park was my first stop where I spent several days. I met a guy from England (Phil) who was right into climbing etc so we went on a great Cycle/hike to a great lookout where you could see mountains in every direction. The weather was soo good that day, so we were able to see for miles (and took some great pics too). We left our bikes about 4 km's from the top as it was too steep and rough for biking, but once we returned to the bikes it was all down hill on gravel for about 8km's, it was soo much fun. The only worrying thing in my mind was that hopefully a bear was not around the next blind corner (we did see fresh bear poo on the way) as I wouldn't have been able to stop in a hurry going the speed I was!
I did a couple of smaller hikes on the other days in Jasper which all had great mountain scenery. I didn't sleep well the whole time I was in the hostel in Jasper as the dorm was a 50 bed dorm (yes 50!) so there was always noise in the huge bunkroom. People coming and going, torches flashing around and the number of people snoring!! It was like a concert one night, not one that I would like to hear again!!
Phil, a Canadian and Australian girl and I decided to hire a car to drive down to banff via the Icefields parkway, one of the most scenic stretches of road in the world! We spent the day stopping at all the beautiful areas on the way (Including: Athabasca falls, Athabasca glacier, Lake Louise and lots more - see pics when I manage to upload them). Again the weather was on our side, soo sunny and warm. The highlight for me was seeing Moraine lake, a deep-teal coloured lake set in the valley of the ten peaks. It almost looks too beautiful to be real!!
I stayed one night in Banff as I had arranged to hire a car for a few days and head to Southern Alberta to Waterton lakes national park. It's a very beautiful area which is not as touristic as Jasper and Banff but still very beautiful. It's where the Prairies and mountains collide, so quite unique scenery. I went on an amazing hike here, (the best I've ever done), apparently it's one of the top 10 hikes in the world! It involved taking a boat across Waterton lake and hiking about 10km one way to this crystal clear lake surrounded by huge mountains. To get to the lake you had to negotiate a ladder on a big cliff, walk along a narrow ledge (on the same cliff) while holing onto a cable (so you wouldn't fall off the cliff) and crawl through a tunnel. The end result was truly amazing scenery (and a very cold lake which I dipped into for about 10 seconds). I met more great peolpe here, including a Polish guy who went on the hike above with me, and two Canadians, one of whom took me on yet another awsome hike the following day!! Waterton is somewhere I would really like to come back to as there is soo much to explore in the area. On the last evening I saw 2 black bears, one quite far up a mountain and another quite close to the road. All over Waterton village there were deer walking around the streets which was nice to see!

From Waterton I drove up to Canmore, which is just a few Km's away from banff. The drive up was through an area known as Kananaskis country which is on the Eastern side of the Rockies and runs all the way up to Banff national park. It's an area known for it's great hiking, fishing and mountain biking, as well as back country skiing and cross country skiing in winter. And it's also known for its bears!! A lot of the drive was on gravel road so it was nice slow going, so I was able to take in the scenery and make a few stops.
I spent 2 fun days and nights in Canmore (in the most beautiful hostel overlooking Canmore town and across to the mountains on the other side of the valley). I met a bunch of crazy Brazilian people who were studying English in Calgary. It was rather amusing listening to them speaking English after a few drinks!!

So that's a basic summary of my last month, now I'm in waiting for my bus, for my 1 day, 9 hour and 30 minute bus ride up to the YUKON!!!

Hope all is going great with you!

Stefan