To Vancouver Island

May 30th

Up early and left Whistler just after 7.30. Drove to the ferry at Horseshoe Bay. We didn’t know what to expect as ferry can mean so many things but the Queen of Oak Bay was a huge ro ro. Spacious inside. I rang home while we waited to embark. After an hour and a half in the mist and rain we arrived at Nanaimo.

The Island is surprisingly big! We stopped to look at Cathedral Grove which is a tourist stop full of very old and large Douglas Firs and cedars. Despite being near the road and popular, it was peaceful in the old forest.

On to Ucluelet where we first bimbled about on Wya beach, the first time I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean. The sun came out for us. We are staying at the Canadian Princess. My room looks onto the harbour, nice boaty view. But it smells a bit damp.

Up the road on foot to a posh fish and chip van so that’s what I had. It was nice but the guy was oddly grumpy because I didn’t want 2 pieces of fish. It came with tartare sauce and some salad. I tried a root beer but it was so vile I had to tip it out. Back to the hotel where I hopped over my balcony and into Sally and Joy’s for a quick regular beer.

Wya Beach, the Pacific Ocean
Wolf paw print
Being arty farty
It’s a maple leaf
It’s this big, in Cathedral Grove
Ucluelet harbour
Can’t imagine a lot of crime here
Mountain behind Ucluelet
Wolf tracks


29th May

Mireille had to get the tyre on the bus fixed so 10 of us did a walk on our own. The tourist map is a hideous piece of rubbish and isn’t even oriented to north. Too many cooks to “lead” the walk made it a not particularly good experience for me and I felt irritated. However we walked to Lost Lake (we did find it) and then Green Lake and saw a seaplane sea. Get it?! And a helicopter take off which was fun.

I think I still feel very numb and have no tolerance at all for bossy people or those who tell me what to do when I haven’t consented to that. I’m sure this is all part of the grieving process but it doesn’t seem unreasonable going forward.

M then took 8 of us to Cheakamus lake for swimming. It was fiercely hot. I didn’t go in the water except for my feet. I was always the one who took the photos of Chris when she was swimming. There were some annoying young people with a boogie box and some others who weren’t controlling their dogs very well. First instance of selfish behaviour I’ve come across in Canada.

I’ve learnt that there is no ground floor, the ground is floor 1. Most confusing. In BC they do have number plates on the front. The switches are still upside down!

I did go for a swim in the hotel pool which I had to myself. Lovely. Then out for a wander, mainly to get something heavy duty to deal with my bites. Back to shower and apply the hydrocortisone. This doesn’t work either, same as antihistamine. Nothing actually relieves the itching.

I still wanted to eat at the crepe resto that turned us away last night but it was shut. So instead had an excellent salad at La Cantina with lots of green leaves, rice, refried beans, toms, wedge spuds and more. And a Whistler lager, all for less than £9.

Whistler is a very new town, mostly built for the 2010 Olympics. Sort of a mix between Chamonix (ski focus) and Gran Canaria (tat). Hotel is nice and will be even better if the baby next door goes to sleep, it has cried now for nearly 5 hours. There are a lot of Americans here and they are very loud also. Baby has stopped at last.

Proof I got my legs wet
Than what?!
Taking off from Health Centre
Lost Lake
Seaplane on Lost Lake

Road to Whistler

28th May

Off early for long journey through a variety of terrain. First stop at Helmcken Falls, very impressive drop.

Several stops on the way, roadside stops usually have long drop loos, some nicer than others and some have water. Lunch just past Kamloops overlooking the lake. On the edge of gold rush country. Very dry, sagebrush.

Back into snow capped mountains, stopped to wet our feet in a lake. Very hot and air con in bus not working but ok with all the windows open.

I have been a very tasty 5 course meal for what appears to have been an army of mozzies and Smidge didn’t work for me at all. Back to the Deet then. There are very few unbitten parts of my body.

Stopped at Lake Joffre, busy Sunday pleasure spot, snow walk to lake despite huge degrees of heat.

Whistler, we are in Aava hotel, v swish. Whistler itself is horrible, plastic town purely for young skiers. Such a shock after being out in the wilds.

Out with Joy and Sally, after a black lager (just don’t) and a couple of false starts we had some good Italian food in Pizzeria Antico I had a sausage and meatball antipasti and we shared a huge salad.

Lake along the way
Foot bath
Cowboy land, near Kamloops
Helmcken Falls

Helmcken Falls

27th May

Breakfast on my balcony enjoying the peace.

Off up the road a little way to the canoes. We got a good level of information about what to do. Steph and I opted for a red boat and I went in front. We crossed Clearwater lake and went up the side then back across and down to the jetty. My first time in a canoe and I loved it. Steph was great at instructing and we got on fine with the boat. I know the others were laughing at us but we enjoyed ourselves. A couple of hours was fine for the first time as it was quite hard work. We could see the mountains and the lake was pretty calm, lovely, I want to do it again.

Back to the lodge. Quick lunch, went to see the horse riders set off, they got a lot of training too, in the blistering heat. Chris, Geoff and I set off through the forest after them. Following in the steps of horse poo. We went up to a trapper’s cabin, no trapper in it thankfully. Back via golf course and a cold beer at the club house (small shed with a table outside) thanks Chris.

Today I put cream on my mozzie bites, layer of sun protection, layer of insect protection. A cocktail of chemicals ingested through my skin, uck!

Laundry in my room but wished I had used machine as nothing will be dry. Went next door for a drink with Joy and Sally and Norman, James and Natalie.

Dinner of schnitzel and chips and a traditional beer. Ok, not as good as other meals.

Alberta whisky with Joy and Sally in bar on big sofas. The whisky a blend but ok.

Hot at the hut
Chris, not a trapper and no bear within
Horse leader
Heather and Andy ahoy
Steph steering from the back of our boat

Mount Robson

26th May

Early start for a long day on the bus. Mireille filled up the bus and several of us used the well appointed loo in the garage, gone are the days of a stinky hovel at the back, this was lovely! Into British Columbia and the clocks had to go back an hour.

We stopped at Mount Robson for a 9 km walk to a lake under this impressive mountain (3954m and highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies). Cool at first but then warmed up. Back to the visitor centre where we all had a picnic lunch at tables in the sun. I had an ice cream as well.

It was a long time on the bus and it got hotter and hotter, up to 30 degrees. We stopped a few times to have wees and stretch our legs at rest stops. Eventually arrived at Clearwater, first stop the liquor store then the supermarket.

Next stop a short way on was for Spahat falls, very big. Then a bit further again and we reached Helmcken Falls Lodge. I was expecting more wooden logs but instead it was a thick shag pile! Freshened up, bought satellite internet access. Barbecue under cover listening to cicadas. Chicken, aubergine, courgette, cous cous, also marinated tofu. Mireille played her accordion to us.

This is as far as we go into the wilderness and it does feel like the back of beyond.

First sight of Mount Robson
Lake on way to Mount Robson, as far as we got
Is this a triffid?
Majestic Mount Robson


May 25th

Long day out. Breakfast in my log cabin. All wood and very cosy.

Off to Maligne Canyon, limestone karst area with ravines, gorges and falls. Felt a bit touristy in and out which was a shame as it was lovely.

Then to Medicine Lake. We saw bears! Right next to the bus. 

Into Jasper for lunch. I had my picnic and finally found the post office to post a card. Nice building from 1939. The Canadians are celebrating 150 years of being Canada.

Back in the bus to get to the Five Lakes, which are named One, Two etc. Very pretty amazing blue green water from the minerals. Saw a chipmunk.

Tourism is very contained. There are no stalls at the attractions, no ice cream or coffee or other vendors. Big car parks. All the tat is in the towns.

Wandered round with Sally and Joy. Got some bargains. Met up with the rest. Changed in the bus and we walked to Evil Dave’s. I had an Electric Avenue lager and beef and bison meat loaf with mash and veg and it was very nice. I had apple cake and ice cream also good but a small portion.

Elks on the way home or is it just elk?

Hardly anyone smokes. Very noticeable.

Lake Two or Three!
Lake One
Jasper Post Office from 1939
Second bear

Athabasca glacier 

24th May

Exciting day. After 26 degrees yesterday evening it was cool when we set off. We drove along the Icefields Parkway to the Athabasca Glacier visitor centre and it got more and more wintry as we went along. Couldn’t see anything in the blizzard. Stopped at Bow Lake for photos but nothing to be seen, then at Lake Peyte where the snow was so slippy I couldn’t hack it.

At the visitor centre some of the group were hoping to walk the glacier but conditions prevented this so instead we looked around the centre, watched a sentimental movie about the glacier receding and then we went on through the blizzard to Jasper.

Quite a long day in the bus, Mireille drove well in the driving snow. We went about half an hour beyond Jasper to the Pocahontas Cabins which are lovely. There is a hot tub and a pool but it’s still a bit chilly for me.

I finally did some laundry. Chris bought me a beer. For dinner I had more beer and quesadillas with chicken and salad.

A few of us went out for a walk around the old Pocahontas mines but not much to be seen of them apart from an open door saying Do Not Enter which made me want to do just that. There were of course the amazing views. Nice to see the mountains again after all the snow.

We saw goats and deer today.

Driving is considerate, no up your bumper nonsense when in a queue and big gaps when parking. So much space is good for us.

I’m lying in bed listening to the rain on the cabin roof, seems very close.

In the blizzard at the visitor centre
Moosey, we didn’t see any real ones sadly
From exhibition, too much blizzard for good photos
Nice boys

Lake Louise 

23rd May

Chilly start to the day. Shocked by news of Manchester bombing.

We did a park and ride to get to Lake Louise, driven up in a yellow school bus. Lots of little marmots scampering about in the village. We got away from the crowds and followed a snowy path up to Mirror Lake and then onto Lake Agnes for lunch. The tea house was shut but it was a lovely spot.

Slow going to get back down. Could have done with grippy things on our feet but at least we all had good footwear. I think I was the only one who didn’t fall over, makes a change!

There is a massive ugly hotel at the lake with signs saying residents only but we got ice creams despite not residing there. It had croissants the size of dinner plates. A lot of things here are very big – face flannels, but not towels, lorries, cars, trains, they are kilometres long. More on train in a mo.

Much hotter, 26 degrees in the afternoon.

Dinner in Canmore at The Grizzly Paw. I had a pint of Powder Blonde and a veggie burger with salad. Not bad.

Some of us went to Save on Food supermarket and I decided to go on alone to Safeway searching for nicer cheese. Failed so got hummus instead.

As I walked back to the lodge I could see a weather system coming in fast. I knew I had to cross the railway track so of course a ruddy train came along. It was so long it took 5 whole minutes to come by and then it stopped with only 14 trucks to pass. And then I felt big drops of rain. Another 5 minutes and it started up again. So I trotted off and got back before the storm which is now blowing a hooley.

Lake Agnes
Contouring round the mountain
The Beehive
Lake Louise and it really is that colour
Icy Lake Louise


22nd May

Breakfast in my room. We set off for Banff, it was Victoria Day, a public holiday so the town was busy. We were out early walking and it was nice and cool. Walked up Tunnel Mountain which is a mountain but lacks a tunnel. We got up it to find that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had been up it in 1939. No escape from the royal family. Saw some elk. At least their bums.

Some of the way up Tunnel Mountain

Lunch in a nice big park next to the river. We then tried to get to the hot springs but it was too busy so we wandered round the town. Lots of tourist tat but some nice things too.

Big mountain in Banff!

Back to the lodge to freshen up. Today’s technical problem was a malfunctioning pole so I sorted that out.

Back to Banff to Park distillery and restaurant. I had chargrilled broccoli with polenta, corn nuts and cheese. It was excellent and washed down with a big beer. More elk on the drive back.

Bow River again


21st May

More lack of sleep. I breakfasted on granola and coffee. Spoke to Carol which was lovely. Set off in our big bus, it seats 21 and we are 12 so lots of room, all the bags are sectioned off bit at the rear. Shopping at the MEC and Safeway and a short tour of Calgary – the tower, the fort, the stampede ground. Then out onto the big road to the mountains.

Stopped in Kananaskis district to walk up to viewpoint. I felt pretty rough. Very hot and sunny. Still snow on ground. My water bladder leaking, most annoying, the valve has come off. Only 7 km and 400m of ascent.

Got back to bus and set off and there was a bear by the roadside. Then to Canmore to the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge where we stay 3 nights. Very comfortable and has a fridge.

Out to Elita restaurant for big local beer and nice chicken dish. Interesting menu including bison quesadilla and full vegan selection. Bed.

First bear, just near the car park we had been in!
Destination for our first walk out
Calgary Tower, includes rotating restaurant
View from Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge