We're in bear country. We saw one running across the road a few days ago and they are massive.
We were told what to do if we have a visit from a bear: clap or make a loud noise to let it know that you're there and then walk away and it should walk away too. If it doesn’t, and decides to attack you, you have to:
- Fight it off if it’s a black bear, or
- Go into the foetal position covering your head if it’s a grizzly.
I'm not too sure of the difference between a black bear or grizzly bear and the first option doesn’t sound very sensible, so I think I would opt for the second option for any bear.
We arrived in Banff yesterday, which is in the Rocky mountains. We’re here for 3 days so no putting up and taking down tents for a few days! The rocky mountains are incredible. We went on a hike up a mountain today, and I told Pete that it reminded me of the Lake District, he wasn’t very impressed – apparently I don’t appreciate the Rockies. Me and Pete broke off from the group and as we were walking up, we heard a growl, so we walked a bit faster. On the way down, Pete stopped very suddenly and started listening very intently and we both heard a very loud growl. Pete said “I think it’s a motorbike.” I appreciate him trying to make me less scared, but we were miles away from any roads so it was definitely a bear and the bear was definitely very close. We made a loud noise and walked away quickly and didn’t get any part of our bodies mauled off, so the advice obviously works!
Yesterday was the best day we've had so far, it was amazing.
We went to Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a big lake in Banff under some beautiful snow-topped mountains. The minerals from the glaciers on the tops of the mountains make the lake a very bright blue. You wouldn’t believe it was real if you saw it on a postcard, it’s just awesome (again, using the original meaning of the word awesome). We decided to take the 14km trek up to the top of the mountains to a place where you can see all 6 glaciers. After the bear incident, me and Pete thought it would be more sensible to stick with other people, but it wasn’t long before we were separated from the group again. Luckily, instead of coming across another bear, we came across two gofers, a beaver and the two Korean girls who are on our tour. (people keep calling them ‘the Koreans’ instead of their actual names, which is rather un-PC, but also extremely difficult to stop.)
The view from the top was breath- taking, so we stayed there until we were starting to feel the begins of hypothermia. There was a tea house a little further down the mountain at 2100m (6800feet). The ingredients were brought by helicopter and they had no electricity or heating so all their food was cooked in propane ovens. The staff lived there 5 days a week and got there by walking the same route as we had just done. They must be fit. And cold.
On the way back to the campsite we stopped at some hot springs. After a day hiking in the cold it was heaven. Everyone expressed their desire to spent the rest of their lives there, but after 20 minutes we were all over-heated and got out. On our way down the mountain to our gloomy, flooded tents we saw an opportunity that me, Pete, Elle, Kristen and Nick couldn’t resist taking – A warm and comfortable bed in the form of a YMCA hostel, so we checked in while the others in the group went back to the swamp to catch a variety of colds. The town was a 5 minute walk away, so we went out that evening. It was very fun, I wouldn’t have thought that Banff (the Canadian version of Keswick) would be a party town, but I was proved wrong (I ended up sleeping with my face on the cold hostel bathroom floor next to the toilet, not my proudest moment!).
|Elle and Kristen's eggcupping each other|
(I should probably explain the eggcup phenomenon – it is when you cup someones chin and say ‘eggcup’. I’m not too sure where it came from but it has something to do with Richard Baxter.)
Yesterday we went white water rafting in Yoho
A few of us went horse-riding and I got the naughty horse who liked to go very slowly just so he could trot to catch up to the rest of his friends. I didn’t mind though!
|Jess, me, Fred, Tylie, Brad, Josh, Nick, Amanda, Kristen, Elle, Rachel, Pete, Fi.|
Restricts them from joining in completely. Nick – a Bulgarian guy who doesn’t speak much (I don’t think hes having the best time). Fred – the crazy Frenchman who is extremely funny without meaning to be and gets very passionate while playing Yahtzee; he does a dance when he wins and swears lots in french when he loses. He is in my cooking group, which is hilarious. He’s 36 but doesn’t really know how to cook and many things are lost in translation. There is Elle from Surrey and Kristen from Australia, who are probably my favourites. And finally there is the tour guide: Josh, who is American and has driven us hundreds of miles and has been amazing! They are all lovely and we laugh lots. The tour is almost over :(
We went on an icewalk on athabasca glacier a couple of days ago. We were given hats, gloves and boots and a man led us up the glacier. The start of the journey mostly consisted of rocks until we arrived at the actual glacier. There were little streams running down it and it was so cold that the streams were forming pure, perfect snow as we watched. Strange and magical. The man led us through the first part of the glacier quickly because it was deep slush and rather hard to walk through. Beyond the slush the ice was hard, but not slippery at all. The man told us that the glacier was 250m deep. He warned us not to go off the track and definitely not to walk on fresh snow because it can hide crevices and millwells – holes that form in the glacier that can be as deep as the glacier. If you fall down one you get stuck somewhere down the hole like a cork in a bottle, and your clothes and skin get frozen to the sides of the glacier if you are not rescued within 40 minutes. Not everyone was listening to this information, so Pete, Brad and Fred went off exploring and pushing each other over. Further up the glacier, the millwells were massive and while Pete was leaning over one, Brad put some snow in his trousers which, obviously, made him jump and he nearly fell in. I was not impressed.
We dropped some snow down the hole to see how deep is was and it took about 7 seconds to get to the bottom. Talking about bottoms, a tour bus was on the side of the glacier on its way up to the top. The tour guide said we could wave to them or do anything really because the bus couldn’t get anywhere near us. So we mooned them. He said it wasn’t the weirdest thing he had seen athabasca glacier.
Yesterday me, Kristen and Elle went into Jasper for a bike ride. The bikes were rubbish and I cut my leg twice, but the scenery was lovely. Although, we were told that most bear attacks happen to people on bikes because the bears think you are sneaking up on them, so we had to make lots of noise. We couldn’t hear each other, so we had to shout and sing to ourselves instead. We watched the A-Team in the evening – it was quite odd watching television again after camping and playing Yahtzee for so long.
A few days ago we went horse-riding again and I got the naughty horse again. I’m starting to think its something to do with my ability to control animals. I have also been attacked by lots of mosquitoes. I am allergic to mosquito bites and I’m a habitual scratcher, so I now look like I may have an infectious disease.
The day after the horse riding we travelled to Vancouver. Me and Pete are leaving the group a day early, as we decided to go to Vancouver island and the tour officially ends in Seattle. Pete booked a hostel in East Hastings Street. We drove through East Hasting Street and I have never seen anything like it in my life. There were people shooting up in broad daylight in the street and it was as if all the homeless people in Canada had been dumped here. We found out from our tour guide that this was, in fact, true. Vancouver is the warmest city in Canada, so homeless people either travel here or freeze to death. Hastings Street is the place where the police contain the homeless people. Obviously, I think homeless people are just the same and definitely as important (if not more) as people who are more privileged, but ultimately, you wouldn’t want to go on holiday to Brixton or Hackney and this street was 10x worse that both of these holiday destination nightmares put together. I knew Pete would not be able to leave the hostel because East Hastings Street is a world away from his little house in a tiny village, and that could be a little difficult. So when we tried to check in the next day and were told we couldn’t book in without a credit card, we readily accepted this wonderful fact and ran. Instead, we booked into the hostel that we had stayed in with the group the previous night. It was a 10-bunk dorm, but it was in a lovely place and the people didn’t try to kill us, so that was nice.
On the last day of the tour (yesterday) with the group, Pete and I decided to do a bungee jump. We went to Whistler Village – a ski resort in the winter, but in the summer the slopes become mountain bike tracks and there are zip wires and bungee jumps. The jump was 160ft (53m) and was in a canyon over rapids. We were attached from the stomach instead of from the legs, which I thought may be a little less scary. You could either jump forwards or backwards if you felt like you couldn’t jump forwards. Josh (our tour leader) jumped first and tried to jump forwards, but had to jump backwards. He enjoyed it. Pete went next and he looked absolutely terrified. I couldn’t understand why because it looked fine. He jumped backwards after a little deliberation. Then it was my turn. They strapped me to the bungee rope and I walked onto the platform and it was terrifying. They told me to go backwards straight away because I looked so scared. I put the heels of my feet on the edge of the platform and looked down. Big mistake. I freaked out and gripped the railings with all my strength. The bungee guy who was on the platform with me (without a harness!!) was saying; “you can do it, just don’t think about it, take your hands away and lean back,” while pushing my hands off the railings. I said, “don’t push me!” and he said, “I’m not”, while pushing me, which made me freak out even more and I told him to let me go back on the bridge and he did after a while. When I got back on the bridge, I felt fine and I was wondering why I couldn’t do it. So I tried again and as soon as I stepped onto the platform, my anxiety got the better of me and I just couldn’t jump. This happened once more until they offered to either throw me over the railings, or jump with an experienced jumper. I chose the latter, so I had to wrap my arms and legs around a man (much to Pete’s distress!) and hold on for my life. He jumped off the platform backwards, so I was going forwards, which I found a bit easier. He jumped and I saw sky, then river, then sky and then I was in the river and then the horrible, hopeless feeling of free fall was abruptly halted as the rope caught us and we bounced up towards the bridge. We fell down again but we managed to not get wet this time and I started to enjoy it a little bit. It was all over very quickly and as we were dangling over the rapids, I asked the crazy bungee man if we were supposed to go in the river. He said; “well, I’ve never been in the river before but we are alive!” which was very reassuring.
They threw us the safety rope and we were lifted back up to the bridge. I was fine dangling from the rope but when it came to climbing back on the bridge (which required looking down from the platform again), I freaked out a little again. But we got back to safety and everyone clapped, which I thought was a little undeserving as I didn’t actually properly do it! I would like to do it again just to prove to myself that I can jump, but not because it was fun. The experience was more a feeling of relief than actual enjoyment.
That night was the last night of the tour, so we went out in Vancouver for a farewell meal. We did an awards ceremony and I got ‘most likely to get lost’ and ‘second most likely to be attacked by a bear’, which I didn’t know how to take. Pete got ‘Most dirty’ because he hardly washed for the duration of the trip. Oh Pete. All in all, it was a very lovely but sad night because we probably wont see most of these wonderful people again. The next morning was even sadder because everyone left for Seattle and me and Pete were staying in Canada. There were lots of hugs and tears on Pete’s face and I think we will be lost without them.