A Travellerspoint blog

Train to Toronto

semi-overcast
View 2010 Around the World on greynomadm's travel map.

Day 32 Sunday 17 October – Edmonton

A fairly rough night with a midnight stop at Edmonton. Up at 6 for a shower and then breakfast. Back to the 'dome' car for some spectacular sunrise photos. With frequent stops and starts we arrive in Saskatoon before lunch time. We are travelling through extensive cropping country and some irrigated fodder paddocks.

Despite having breakfast as early as possible we had advanced the clock another hour before lunch thereby reducing the time between meals. Breakfast is served on a first in first served basis. Lunch and diner have two seating, early and late which you have to select the day before. So today we decide if we want late or early tomorrow. There is about an hour and a half between sittings.

There is a considerable amount of water about and a local informed us that they've had a bad season, rain about planting time so the crops were sown late. Then they had rain at about harvest time and either couldn't get the crop off or it was damaged. There were huge flocks of Snow Geese and Canadian Geese dining out on the remnants. By evening we had entered grazing country and arriving at Winnipeg about 8.
We got off briefly and although we were there for three hours we had to be back on the train by 9 or stay off until boarding at 11. With all the service traffic on the platform and repositioning of the train they didn't want us wandering on and off and getting in the way. There is a total crew change here so a whole lot of new faces.

Day 33 Monday 18 October – Ontario

After a much better night's sleep we had breakfast and looked out on a totally different landscape. We have entered a vast area of very thin trees, many lakes but not much in the way of human occupation. The sunrise is more subdued, lacking the deep colours of yesterday. Clocks are advanced another hour we are now on Eastern Time.

Stops today are at Sioux Lookout and Homepayne, these stops are to change the engineers who have a limit on the number of hours they can stay on duty.

I've seen a number of log landings serviced by railway tracks. I'm informed that they are seasonal and only used during the winter when the marshes freeze over and they can harvest the trees for pulp wood.

Day 34 Tuesday 19 October – Arrive in Toronto

The train is on schedule and we are now travelling through some better looking country. Lakes and a variety of houses from fishing shacks to grand mansions. There are now also some more roads and increasing signs of industry.

As we approach Toronto there are trees with their coloured leaves. It augers well for some interesting images.

Will send a report on Toronto in the next few days.

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Posted by greynomadm 14:40 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Last Day in Jasper

sunny 8 °C

Day 31 Saturday 16 October – Last Day in the Rockies

Woke up this morning to a -7 °C outside temperature. Reorganised our luggage and had breakfast in the Moose's Nook. Back to our room for a quick check of the wardrobe and cupboards. Rang the front desk and had our luggage transferred to the Bell Desk for safe-keeping until our 4 pm shuttle to the station.

We have four hours to fill and spend them in the main lounge. The place is alive with activity as there's a convention of teachers from all over Alberta. Had a most interesting discussion with two who were interested in our medical system, our parliament and our education system. In many ways we are the same, in some ways quite different.

Yesterday, Al the driver, asked me what I had on my head. I said it was a 'beanie', he said that was a tight cap with a propeller on top. What I had, he said, was a 'tuque', a term I'd never heard. Looked it up on Wiki and he's right – about the tuque, anyway.

At about 4 pm we board the courtesy bus to the train station in Jasper, book in our luggage and await the boarding call. Back on the train and it is almost time for the first diner service. There's a 'wine tasting' in the club car and then off to bed.

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Posted by greynomadm 14:17 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Banff to Jasper

snow 2 °C
View 2010 Around the World on greynomadm's travel map.

Day 30 Friday 15 October – Banff to Jasper

A really early start today, up at 6, bags packed, quick breakfast at the Castle Pantry, pick up the bags and check out. It is cold outside and there's been some snow/rain overnight. The Brewster bus ferries us into their depot at '100 Gopher St' where we are transferred to bus 252 for today's journey to Jasper.

Al is the driver and wastes no time to give me a hard time. He has a wicket sense of humour and has a wide knowledge of the world at large and these National Parks in particular. By 8:30 we are on the road and heading North. The outside temperature is about 2 °C and the sky looks threatening. There are signs of recent snow on both sides of the road. By 9:30 we were at Lake Louise where it started to snow and actually stay on our clothes. A 20 minute stop and we head off again turning off the Trans-Canada Highway onto the Icefields Parkway. There is evidence of recent snow all around us.

We pull in for short stop at Bow Lake where we walk out on almost virgin snow. There are four bus loads of other people there already but there are still places where our footprints are the first. Jenny is very excited.

Back on the bus and within 15 minutes we are driving through a significant snow storm. Visibility is reduced and there is snow all over the road. It is seriously cold out there with a serious wind and white flakes building up on the windows. Within half an hour we are back under clear skies and sun shining on the snow-clad mountains. We cross Sunwapta Pass at 2030 m and arrive at the Columbia Icefield. Al explains that an icefield is a common area of ice which gives birth to a number of glaciers. We are to travel out onto the Athabasca Glacier. We have an hour to grab a meal, visit the wash-room and spend time in the Information Center hosted by Parks Canada.

At the appointed time we assemble at the departure lounge for the 10 minute shuttle to the transfer station on the edge of the glacier. The glacier has been closed on two occasions during the morning and there's some congestion with the backlog. Without too much delay we're off in another coach to the transfer station where we climb aboard the Ice Explorer. This is a custom built monster bus with 50” tires that are 48” wide and designed to work in Canada's North.

The explorer crawls its way down the edge of the moraine (pile of debris pushed up by the glacier) and onto the glacier proper. We are the fifth vehicle to arrive and it is quite crowded around the area designated as safe. We are permitted 20 minutes but Jen and I were back aboard after 15. We were standing on 100 m thick ice and a fair breeze descending down the glacier bringing the temperature down to -5 °C.
Back to the transfer station and onto the shuttle and into the welcoming warmth of Al's bus. Everyone is urged to be on the lookout for wildlife and seeing a person staring over the edge of the road suggests there may be something to see. Sure enough Al identifies a pair of Mountain Goats. They look like moving lumps of snow but we count it as a definite sighting.

Next stop is the Athabasca Falls which while not of a great hight they were very spectacular. The colour of the water is a milky blue due to the fine glacial material suspended in it. This glacial material has also added an abrasive element to the water causing it to gouge interesting shapes in the bed-rock.

By about 4:30 we arrive in Jasper and Al drops off the other passengers and takes us out to the Jasper Park Lodge. Just on the edge of town we see a number of elk to just round out the day.

We had diner in the Emerald Room to celebrate Jenny's Australian Birthday, her Canadian birthday is tomorrow. The 'Leggo Blocks' are some kind of candy left inside the hard-hat in our room, apologising for the construction work going on at the hotel. How cool is that ??

Banff Springs 8 am

Banff Springs 8 am

Lodge at Bow Lake

Lodge at Bow Lake

Jenny at Bow Lake

Jenny at Bow Lake

Snow Storm

Snow Storm

One of many peaks

One of many peaks

Down to the glacier

Down to the glacier

Ice Explorer

Ice Explorer

Ice Explorer

Ice Explorer

Jen & Carrol

Jen & Carrol

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Al the driver

Al the driver

Elk at Jasper

Elk at Jasper

Construction candy

Construction candy

Posted by greynomadm 20:42 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Banff Springs Hotel

sunny 17 °C
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Day 29 Thursday 14 October – Fairmont Banff Springs

Up at about 7 and spent an hour or more exploring this incredible hotel. Enormous ball rooms, compact meeting rooms, dining rooms and specialist restaurants. In addition there is a whole wing primarily for weddings and conferences.

Decided to walk into town – about 15-20 minutes, temperature just above zero and clear. Just half a block from the hotel we see a small group of elk cows and juveniles. Across the road grazing on a sports field was an elk bull. I managed to take a few photos but didn't get too close – he didn't seem to care. With interruptions for photos it took almost 30 minutes to get to the heart of Banff.

We stopped at the Parks Canada Information Centre and the lovely lady behind the desk confirmed that it was an elk and reiterated the warning that one shouldn't approach closer than three bus lengths to these animals. I think I was a little closer than that.

At times it is hard to remember that we are in a National Park. There are no restrictions on horses and dogs. When I remarked on that she explained that if dogs were banned hardly anyone would come. The same applies to hotels, dogs are quite acceptable although a cleaning surcharge is applied.

Found Bruno's diner just off the main drag and enjoyed a spectacular “Traditional Canadian Breakfast”. Two eggs any style, two slices of toast, fried potatoes and choice of bacon, ham or sausage. In this case they added a slice of grapefruit, pineapple and melon and a segment of orange – it just has got to be healthy.

Wandered in and out of a number of shops, many of them selling exquisite native souvenirs, many of them made locally which was a surprise. One shop had marked down jackets I would have loved to buy one of the traditional Inuit tops made to look and feel like skins. A steal at $180 (down from $250) but we couldn't see an occasion when we'd wear it and we're already over our baggage limit again.

Dropped into the local Post Office and found they have postage-paid post cards for just 4 cents more than the cost of the stamp !! Had to have some of them. Walked past the Banff National Parks Administrative building, looks a bit like our hotel, a mix of a traditional castle and a mountain chalet.

Back at the hotel we dropped our purchases and set off to check out the Bow River Falls, a shortish walk but a long way down. Well worth the walk especially as the weather is flawless, the falls are more of a cascade but very spectacular. On the way back a local jogger told us to look out for two elk further up the road. We heard them before we saw them, they were rattling each-other's antlers. Curiosity got the better of me and I broke the three buses separation rule, Jenny quietly having a fit in the background. Eventually she joined me to look at these two bulls pushing each-other around.

Back at the hotel we relaxed and I downloaded the pictures and started to write this entry. Happened to look out the window and noticed a whole herd of elk on one of the hotel’s golf fairways too far away to photograph but they looked good through the binoculars.
Tomorrow morning we have to be ready to board the bus at 8 am so we'll have to be virtually packed tonight.

Will update again from Jasper with any luck.

Lone Elk Bull, Bruno's Dinner, Parks HQ, the Hotel, Bow River Falls,

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Posted by greynomadm 17:20 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Chateau Lake Louise

sunny 5 °C
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Day 28 Wednesday 13 October – Chateau Lake Louise

Up at about 8 and breakfast with three bus-loads of Oriental Tourists. The buffet was quite good but not as extensive as the Jasper's. Regardless, there was certainly plenty to eat. After breakfast we walked down to the lake – we'd confirmed that it was still there from our bedroom window.

The appearance was somewhat different to last evening's as the sky was clearer and the sun from a different direction. Jenny was a bit reluctant to 'pose' but I think you'll agree that she looks in good shape with a background to match. Just walking from one side to the other of the lake brings different views of the peaks and the glacier.

We explored some of the many nooks in the Chateau and admired the many enlargements of historic photographs. Packed up and checked out by noon and left our luggage with the Bell Desk for collection later in the afternoon. Had a light lunch and then walked the 2 Km to the head of the lake. Again at every turn the views change and the hotel is placed in perspective with the mountains behind.

Back to the hotel and an interesting chat with a local business man who processes recycled newsprint into house insulation. It was an easy way to pass the time and hear about the area from a local rather than someone in the tourism business.

At 4 the Brewster coach was there to transport us to Banff. Along the way we observed the process of 'twinning' the highway. It is their way of describing the process of turning a two lane highway into a divided dual carriageway. This comes complete with wildlife proof fences on both sides and regular bridges to allow the animals to move from one side to the other. A very impressive operation.

On arrival at the Banff Springs at about 5 our reservation was not recorded. No drama, President's Club membership is recognised and there are ample vacancies. They feel sure that everything is in order and settle us in a room with the promise to 'sort it out' and 'let us know'. Within minutes there's a call from the desk to confirm that all has been resolved.

Funny, it was only this morning that I wrote to Debbie at Cartan Tours

“Our tour with you is only the second ever third party package we've ever booked.  It has been almost an act of faith to turn up with nothing more than a piece of paper and expect that it will be honoured or that the arrangements have actually been made.  It is a great relief when it all happens as predicted.  From the VIA Canadian through to the Fairmont bookings and having the President's Club on record you've exceeded my expectations.”

I must have upset the bookings spirits or something !!

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Posted by greynomadm 20:03 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

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