The plane trip back to Canada was long and melancholic, but without incident. I am never excited to return home from any tour.
We needed to rent a car to get to our next destination (just under 4 hours away), where our truck was parked. We were shocked to discover that it was going to cost us the same amount to rent a car for our 4 hour tour as it cost for our whole (nearly 2 week!) UK car rental. Maddening – and preposterous.
We heard lots of excuses about the Stampede, supply and demand and so on, but we still agree the jacked up car rental prices in Calgary at that time – were nothing less than criminal. If the distances in Alberta weren’t so bloody far, we could have taken a taxi for less.
I am not a big fan of Alberta. I can say that because I not only have family there (3 siblings), but also because I have tried numerous times to live and settle there – to no avail.
I just can’t do it!
I dislike the weather (terribly cold for more than 1/2 the year), I am not crazy about the natural landscape – though I appreciate a big sky. There is a distinct lack of physical character and (architectural) history, though there are a few fantastic places to visit.
Drumheller, Jasper and Banff, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump, are a few of the interesting and beautiful sites I have dropped in on – and will write about later.
I will admit that there is something very refreshing about driving for a bit through the prairies – the big open skies, the forever views, the quiet and fresh air. It is calming, and quite enjoyable – for an hour or so! After which I get bored and am ready for something else.
We spent a pleasant night visiting siblings, and headed out at the break of dawn for our 12 hour trek back home.
There really is nothing like driving through the Canadian Rockies (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) – something I never tire of doing. You are almost guaranteed to ‘run into’ wildlife (hopefully not literally, be careful!). And you are absolutely guaranteed spectacular views – providing you travel during daylight. Due to the aforementioned dangers, I suggest you do so.
This particular tour we happened upon some bighorn mountain sheep. Previous adventures have brought us grizzly bears, moose, elk, coyotes and black bears.
For centuries it was this range of mountains that separated the west coast of Canada from the rest of Canada. The mountains blocked development and settlement for many generations until finally (at the cost of many, many lives) the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was founded to provide a link from the province of British Columbia to the eastern provinces. The main difficulty in providing such a link were the Rockies themselves: treacherous mountain passes, fast rivers and sheer drops made for a difficult railway construction process.
This treacherous landscape is also better travelled during non-winter months. Though usually well maintained, Mother Nature can whip up a road destroying storm within unexpected minutes – and there aren’t a lot of services in the area.
The development of this region came at great human cost – to settlers, Natives and Asian labourers.
There are memorial plaques all along the Trans Canada commemorating the lives lost and the difficulties faced during this harrowing time, more than a century ago.
One of my current favourite aspects of the drive along the Trans Canada, is touring through Barriere.
In 2003 a major wildfire swept through and demolished the natural landscape, homes, business and industry. It is quite something to look at the once blackened, charred sticks that now host new, fresh, vibrantly green flora.
There is a life lesson somewhere in there, I am sure of it.
The people rebuilt too, and now a ‘wildfire dragon monument’ has been erected in honour of all those who fought to contain the fire, and those who fought to rebuild after the fire.
Additional photos in the slideshow
Sadly, our ambitious eight country honeymoon tour was over – but we were already thinking of where we would go next.