Round the world Day 29

After all the travelling over the last few days I slept in this morning and didn’t rush out.  I lay in bed and booked my coach seat to Piura on the internet, had a lukewarm shower and packed my bags again before heading back to the airport to try to get some money. Unfortunately getting money without the chip working is impossible in Lima airport as is ringing the customer service line, even with the help of the Tourist Information.   Eventually I used the internet connection in Starbucks to find a bank on the other side of the main road from the airport, the tourist information office warned me against it and not to trust anyone on the bridge or the other side of the road.  Having tried at the bank I ended up at a travel agent where they let me use the magnetic strip on the card to buy some Soles.  I returned to collect my bags from the TI office and reassure them that I was still alive.   I then took a taxi to Plaza Norde where the coach station is.

I checked in my bags with the coach company and walked across to the shopping centre which is next door.  Surprisingly (or not) the Plaza Norde shopping centre could be anywhere in the “developed” world if you could remove the obvious signs of Peru, the people and language.  It has a book shop, several mobile phone shops and stalls, a food area, clothes shops, a supermarket and a computer shop.  I did several laps and found the servicios hygienicos, bought a very cheap mobile phone and a spanish/english dictionary.  It would have been better if I had bought the dictionary before buying the mobile phone but the young man at the stall had the brilliant idea of using “google translate” and we managed to complete the transaction by pushing his laptop to and fro across the counter.

I ventured up to the food court and had a meal from the most Peruvian of the shops.  With my vast knowledge of spanish, ordering food involved a lot of pointing, smiling and guessing what the young lady serving me was saying.  I ended up with a meal of chicken, chips and rice with a purple drink that I didn’t recognise at all, but it was nice.

I headed off to the coach station with time to spare but got turned around at the security barrier leading down to the gates as I had to first go to a kiosk to pay tax on the trip of 1.5 soles about 30p.  I got down to the VIP departure area with time to relax before boarding the coach according to my watch, unfortunately my watch was hour out and I had missed the bus by 10 minutes.  Another journey up to the coach office and another 90 soles got me a ticket for the later bus giving me enough time to go back to the shopping centre buy some supplies in the supermarket and sit in the VIP lounge making the most of the WiFi.  At 8pm I joined the queue for the coach, put my fingerprint on the boarding list and smiled at the video camera before climbing aboard and following my bags to Piura.

On the journey out of Lima I got chance to look out at the hills surrounding the city.  I haven’t been in a country like this before, I have been to Vietnam which is another “developing” country but it is green and verdant (if thats the word for covered in plants), the hills outside Lima are brown and the lower slopes have mud buildings with tin roofs. The brown hills I have seen in Spain have white buildings with tiled roofs and look developed.

The coach was very comfortable and it wasnt long before I started to nod off at the end of two long days travelling.

Round the world Day 28

This morning started over the “mid-west” and we landed in JFK just before dawn.  I had chance to watch a few movies and read a bit of my book as well as dozing. There were a few rough patches but generally the flight was very smooth and it was interesting to look out of the window and try to work out where we were.  As we approached New York the number of lights below increased and despite the fact it was not even 6 in the morning there was constant traffic on some of the highways.  We did not pass over the city but the lights of skyscrapers could be seen in the distance and and the outlines of the water showed up as a different shade of darkness.

I ate breakfast with Frank before we separated, his wait being longer than mine.

The flight from JFK to Fort Lauderdale was as uneventful as the first.  I didn’t get any conversation with my neighbour this time so concentrated on books and more movies.

At Fort Lauderdale I had a 5 hour wait and during the time got talked into doing a questionnaire for the tourist board.  The man giving them out didn’t have an American accent and we chatted for a bit about where he was from.  He had been born in Rhodesia and moved to Miami before indepence.  He had been in the military in both Rhodesia and the US and is now enjoying retirement.

On the flight to Lima I just rested and watched movies so by the time we landed I had watched Malificent, Good Will Hunting and 3 more films.

In Lima I had to try to find a way of getting some Soles and managed to change my remaining US dollars.  My card is still not working so there was no chance of withdrawing more cash.  I managed to get enough to get a taxi to the hotel I had booked into.  The route to the hotel was circuitous as there was no way of crossing the dual carriageway outside the airport without going a mile or so to a junction taking a right turn and travelling another half mile before turning round and getting back to the first road.

My room in Lima

My room in Lima

The hotel was different, very brightly painted inside and with a communal bathroom.  The shower was not like anything I was used to as the heater was in the head of the shower rather than being a separate unit on the wall.

 

Round the world Day 27

Today was my first and last day in America, sort of, I will probably be in US airspace until 5pm tomorrow.  I had looked forward to being in Seattle and it has surprised me that when I have asked residents that I have met for recommendations and they have not been able to come up with many.

Apart from the lack of recommendations I have been hampered by a lack of a tourist information office.  I walked to all the places where I thought it would be obvious to have a T I office and found none, I asked in the hotel before I set out, at the Metro office and the Aquarium but there seems not to be any.

Pike Place

Pike Place

Pike Place Market was one recommendation so I walked there first.  It is an interesting market built on many levels leading down towards the shore and runs almost as a cooperative of locally owned businesses.  The first ever Starbucks is also across the street though I resisted with ease the temptation to go in.  The lower entrance to the market is close to the Aquarium so I walked across to ask about tourist information and for recommendations of things to do.  The young lady serving suggested going on the ferry for a ride out to the islands but as the day was overcast and looked like rain I decided to skip it and walked back through Pike Place up to the shopping areas.

Street furniture in Seattle

Street furniture in Seattle

After calling at an outdoor shop to see if they had a sleeping bag that would pack up smaller than the one I bought in Victoria, I walked up to the Science Museum and spent the afternoon round the exhibits and watching a film “The Equaliser” in their IMAX cinema.  The Science museum is ok but not the greatest that I have visited.  The film was a pretty good remake of the TV series from years ago with Denzil Washington as the hero.

Mural on the side of a youth centre in Seattle

Mural on the side of a youth centre in Seattle

From the Science Museum I walked to the base of the Space Needle and the monorail station.  To buy a ticket for the monorail you had to pay with cash so I had to find an ATM, the one closest to the station charged so I tried to avoid it but after wandering round for a bit I couldn’t find an alternative.  I had a coffee in Starbucks inside the centre and was served by a young lady who was keen to find out where I was from and to tell me that she had spent some time in Wales over the summer, visiting Swansea and Abergele to see her partners family.  We compared notes on the weather and she had been lucky enough to have lots of sunshine.

I took the monorail and back to the hotel and called at a Chinese restaurant and had Mongolian Beef for my tea before picking up my bags and heading to the airport.  On the way I got into conversation with a man who wanted to know where I was from and what I was up to.  He was a worker for the TSA and in his spare time he was a soccer coach for a local team, I saw him later having a briefing with his colleagues to take over working at one of the scanning lanes.

If a day ends when I go to bed then this will be a long day.  I bought a book at the airport and took my window seat on the plane to JFK.  My neighbour was a large and friendly gentleman called Frank who came from Holland and had been a lorry driver before an injury forced him to give up work.  He now lives off a pension and spends his time sailing and travelling.  He was on his way to Bogota where he was going to be travelling around by motorbike.  We spent a few pleasant hours talking about travelling, driving and the parts of the world we had both visited.  He gave me lots of useful advise about South America and we exchanged email addresses.

Round the world Day 26

Today was my last day in Canada and my first (of one) in the US.

I ate breakfast in the hostel sitting with a German girl from Hamburg and chatting about her home city.  I then spent a few hours getting my laundry done before packing my bags and leaving them in the storage room.  In the process I had to be rescued by one of the staff with a familiar accent.  Ryan was from Ashton near Manchester and managed to make my money stay in the washing machine when I couldn’t.

My plan was to go to Science World for the day before going to the station but when I arrived on the Metro I could see queues that stretched all the way round the block and I guessed would take hours to get through.  Instead I headed back to Canada Place and then up to the Library Square where there was a book fair taking place.  I had a wander round the stalls and listened to some of the authors who were doing readings.  I resisted the temptation to buy anything but did pick up a few leaflets and magazines to read on the train.

About 3 o’clock I headed back to the hostel and collected my bags before heading to the station in plenty of time to get through immigration and on to the train to Seattle.

By the time I arrived there was the start of a queue for the Amtrak Cascades and after dropping the book Soldat at the Viarail desk (to get it back to Diane on the Skeena train) I joined it.  I had to leave the line soon after to get one of the customs forms to fill in and when I rejoined it I was stood with a woman who had travelled with her husband and mother from Seattle on one of the cruise ships I had seen at Canada Place.  It turned out that quite a few people had travelled up to Vancouver by ship on a special deal and were returning by train, this may have been why the queue was so long.  As we waited a security guard emerged and started to arrange the barriers, podia (podiums?) and tape ready for the start of boarding.  One of the Amtrak staff came round giving us tickets on which he wrote the number of passengers in each party and instructed us to give them to Mr Jones when we got to the head of the line.  Eventually I reached the podium and handed my paperwork and the ticket to Mr Jones.  He was an Afro-american decked out in prisinte uniform reminding me of an actor in a movie and I had visions of him stood at the foot of the steps shouting “All aboard” but felt that it was all a bit cliched.  Mr Jones allocated me a seat and allowed me to pass through to Immigration.  This part of the process was nerve-racking as I had convinced myself that the information I had found must be wrong and I would be refused entry.  The officer who dealt with me was very helpful but had to call over his supervisor as I hadn’t got an “Esther”, I didn’t like to tell them that I wasn’t sure I had ever met one.  In the absence of this computer number they used another system to give me entry after taking my photograph and finger-prints.  The immigration process had taken about 20 minutes and a lot of discussion about my job, time in Canada and plans for the rest of the trip.  I think the consensus was that I was just another crazy “Limey”.

I found seat 7 in carriage 7, made myself comfortable and felt grateful to have avoided a large (in all senses) family that had been ahead of me in the queue.  After a few minutes I was joined by two women, one older and her daughter who apologised for the fact that her mother would be sitting next to me.  In fact she was a very pleasant companion and we found common ground over Norway.  Mrs Gundersens parents were both Norwegian and had come to the US in the 1930’s, her daughter had married a Norwegian and the two other members of their group were her in-laws from Trondheim.  It got even better when her daughter brought us both a glass of wine.  We chatted all the way to Seattle breaking off only for me to take photographs of the mountians and coast as the sun set.

The Cascade Mountains from the Cascades Train.

The Cascade Mountains from the Cascades Train.

cascadesb

It was another good railway trip but I would like to repeat it earlier in the day so that i could see more of the views.

As well arrived in Seattle we passed through sidings where there were lots of engines parked up and some of the double deck trains similar to those I have seen in Amsterdam.  I plan to go back tomorrow and take some pics for Steve.

The Norwegian family warned me that King Street South is a rough area and I should be careful as this is where my hostel is.  Luckily I made it unscathed and the  “American Hotel” is a good place.

Round the world Day 25

After breakfast this morning I had to move rooms (though I never worked the logic of why I had to).  I then headed off to the Capilano Suspension bridge that Dave the rigger had recommended.  The bridge is in North Vancouver and the journey was a walk down Granville Street to the Sea Bus and a normal road bus up from the port on the north side.  The Sea Bus is just as it says, it is part of your Vancouver Metro ticket and is a single storey ferry that can probably hold more than 500 people.  I suspect that during peak times there are more running but this morning there seemed to be only one.

The view from the Seabus

The view from the Seabus

You get off the Sea Bus in a terminal connecting with the normal buses and the Capilano and Grouse Mountain bus was easily found.  The driver taking us up had a good sense of humour or was in a particularly good mood this morning as each of his announcements on the PA had a witty comment that got everyone smiling.

Capilano bridge is not far out of North Vancouver, from the road it seems unlikely that there is tourist attraction nearby as it appears to be a residential street.  Passing through a narrow frontage (not the expanse of paving outside Alton Towers) you enter the property and it opens out guiding you towards the edge of the canyon and suspension bridge.  On the way information points set-out like large books tell the story of the bridge, its owners and the stages in its development.  Each of the books was illustrated with black and white photographs from the time and though they were damp and a little worn in places they were impressive.

There are the obligatory souvenir shop and café close to the bridge and more information boards.  After the lack of wildlife on the West Coast Trail it was fun to see two very tame squirrels running amongst the feet of visitors and under the display boards.  They weren’t cooperative to the point of posing for photos but lots of us tried and managed to get a few pictures of them.

Canadian wildlife! Not so fearsome as a Black Bear.

Canadian wildlife! Not so fearsome as a Black Bear.

The suspension bridge is a feat of engineering made out of steel cable and wood replacing the original which was made out of wood and rope.  The modern cables made me recall the ski-lifts in the Alps which always impress me with their reliance on simple mechanical systems rather than electronics.  At Capilano there are no complicated systems just the strength of the design and the components.   A few years ago this was tested when one of the Douglas Firs fell on to one end of the bridge during a snow storm, it weighed 46 tonnes and though the end of the tree snapped off the bridge survived.  The remains of the tree are visible on the walk.

Once you have crossed the bridge, which like most pedestrian suspension bridges likes to bounce around a lot (much to the amusement of some and the terror of others), there is a small but well set out park with a high level walkway in the trees and another at the edge of the canyon.  At one end is a display of raptors with an Eagle Owl and an other hack with their handlers.  All the way around there were well thought out information boards, a bit far to take a school trip from the UK unfortunately.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge

After walking all the paths on the west side of the canyon I bounced back across the bridge and walked round the cliff-top walk, all the time trying to take scenic photographs.  After a quick walk round the gift shop I left the park feeling really glad that Dave had recommended it to me and planning to email the owners to ask them for copies of the text from their notices.

The walk back.

The walk back.

On the road the choice was either catch a bus up the hill to Grouse Mountain or back down to the harbour.  I ended up walking down in the hope that I would find somewhere to eat en-route.   It was a good walk and I ended up close to the bus terminal eating ice-cream and milk-shake to cool off.

Back in Vancouver I took another walk around Canada Place before getting a latte at the coffee shop I had visited the other day.  At the far end of my walk, close to Stanley Park, there was a busker working a small crowd doing a passable George Formby.  This was another reason to smile having lived in Lancashire and travelled thousands of miles to see my first live George Formby impersonator in Vancouver.

I ended the day by taking the Metro out to Kilitzano Beach for a walk and taking the tiny ferry back to Granville Street and the hostel.  The beach was pretty busy with games of volleyball, people cycling, walking and exercising dogs.  On a bench close to the marina where the ferry picks up, a group of lads (are they “guys” over here?) were sharing a few spliffs, the smell wafting across to me as I sat on another bench making me think of music festivals as I watched one of the huge cruise ships make its way out to sea.

Vancouver from the beach.

Vancouver from the beach.

Impressive Graffitti on silos on Granville Island

Impressive Graffitti on silos on Granville Island

Round the world Day 24

Having had no success at the consulate yesterday one of the jobs for today was to try to get an international driving permit from the British Columbia Automobile Association,  this was very much clutching at straws but I thought it was a better  bet than trying to get one posted from the UK.  I has got directions to the BCAA building so set off in the rain to Granville St. station and took the metro out to city hall, from here I walked along the street in the direction of the University of British Columbia which was another target for todays roaming.

By hugging the edge of the pavement (sidewalk I suppose) under the eaves of the buildings I avoided much of the rain but I was still pretty wet by the time I reached the BCAA office.  As I expected they could not help so I consoled myself by crossing back over the street and having a haircut and a shave at a barbers I had just seen.  I know this seems decadent but it is a habit I have got into over the last few years.  After watching The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) in the spaghetti westerns and other americans have shaves with cut throat razors I had always wanted to find out what it was like.  On a trip to do steward training in Edinburgh I saw an A-board outside a barbers advertising shaves with hot towels and it seemed a good way of spending part of the morning.  It was great, if expensive (£25), and later when I moved to Leeds I found the barber at the end of the street did the same for £14 so it became a regular event.

A modern piece of native art.

A modern piece of native art.

After my relaxation I caught a bus towards UBC and after a bit of a walk and a second bus I got to the campus and across to the Museum of Anthropology.  MOA has a vast collection of First Nation artifacts ranging from totem poles, canoes and beams from longhouses to jewellery and having spent time on Haida Gwaii I was fascinated with the whole idea of tribes and their treatment since first contact with europeans.

moaa

All the pieces in the foreground of this picture, even the canoe on the left and trucks on the right, are huge ceremonial bowls designed to be filled with food at a Potlatch.

We had our own tribes hundreds of years ago, not only the Huns, Goths and Vikings that we think off on the continent but the Celts and different kingdoms within the British Isles.  Now we have moved away from tribes (until you support a sports team) and have then tried to impose our political system on the rest of the world causing chaos, look at Iran, Iraq and many other parts of the world.  The tribes I learnt about in Canada had a whole different perspective on life, with a lot less materialism than we had developed, in fact one of the important things to be able to do as a chief was to give your stuff away and your deeds and stories had the highest value.

Though I think there has been a lot of reconciliation over the last few years, there is obviously and understandably resentment at the way Europeans have treated the aboriginal tribes and displaced them from their homes and traditional lifestyles.  Children were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools and forced to abandon their language speaking only English.  This has led to people feeling devalued on a personal level and one area of the museum housed a display from a project by young aboriginal people from the Saami in the north of Scandinavia, Mauri from New Zealand and First nations in Canada.

moac

One of the pictures from Cuba showing Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela with other figures from South African politics.

There was also a display of art from Cuba so all in all there was enough to keep me interested for the day and plenty to take photos of.

I walked back across the campus just before 5 just as lots of students emerged from lectures. Apart from making me feel old, I worried a little that there wouldn’t be space on the bus back to City Hall.  In fact there was no problem nor was there on the metro as most people seemed to be using the opposite line to come out of the city.

This evening I met up with Devan who we had met in Vietnam and who has now moved to be student at Capilano University in North Vancouver. We met in the hostel bar before wandering further along Granville Street to find somewhere to eat.  We ended up at “The Warehouse” where we had a burger and spent a few hours chatting.  He grew up near Cranbrook in the interior of BC and it turned out that he knew quite a few of the places I had visited when I stayed with my Godmother in Trail when I was 11.  His mother and sister are teachers and his Dad was a logger and worked at a sawmill.  After a few jobs including working in the forestry where he had a few encounters with the bears who had hidden from me, one included having to make a quick escape when one charged at him, he is now studying communications and recommended a book called “The master and Magdellan” which they have been studying in class.  We also discussed his prowess as an ice-hockey goalie in school and family ability to grow impressive moustaches (the men not the women!)  his Granddad had won competitions in moustache growing and Devan had been proud of his as a 17 year old.

We left the bar about 11 and it wasn’t long before I was back in my bunk fast asleep as I haven’t really had much of a drink for ages and I can be a lightweight at the best of times.

Round the world Day 23

I’ve had a lazy day today after the last few days travelling.  There were various jobs that needed doing before heading off to Peru at the weekend.  I started by paying for the hostel and recovering my passport, had breakfast and then headed off in to the city in search of the British Consulate.  I hadn’t had chance to get an international driving permit before I left the UK, too many festivals and problems with motorbikes got in the way, so I hope that somehow I may be able to get one here.  Not at the consulate though because that is only open a few times a week and today isn’t one of them, not only that but they only deal with a very limited range of things and driving licences wasn’t listed.

After leaving the consulate I had to take this picture to send to a lad at Driffield School whose surname is Thurlow.  The only one I know.

After leaving the consulate I had to take this picture to send to a lad at Driffield School whose surname is Thurlow. The only one I know.

After being disappointed at the consulate I spent the day wandering round Vancouver, a city that most visitors like.  It has its share of tall buildings and plenty of people but for me has a really nice feel.  I’m not a fan of London having grown up in a village in the midlands and spent most of my life in small towns or villages in the north of England I find London overpowering.  Vancouver somehow isn’t the same.

The seaplane port with Stanley Park on the left.

The seaplane port with Stanley Park on the left.

In my wanderings I went down Hastings Street to the waterside looking over Stanley Park and the harbour.  I walked along the front reading the tourist information notices that expained some aspects of the history of Vancouver.  At Canada Place, the wharf where the cruise ships berth, there was only one in today one of the Holland-America Lines ships the Westerdam.  It was a big ship with probably a few thousand passengers and there were coaches waiting at the kerb to take them on excursions.

One photography book I read suggested that something bright in the foreground added depth.  I thought the heap of sulphur may do it but...

One photography book I read suggested that something bright in the foreground added depth. I thought the heap of sulphur may do it but…

I joined a few of them in the tourist information office, my request was different from theirs where is there to go that doesn’t cost much and I can get to by public transport.  I was given a map with some ideas but the woman lost interest at the mention of lack of money.  I headed round the corner to a coffee shop and had a latte before heading up in to town to find some galleries and museums.  The Gallery was expensive so I looked in the shop then headed to the library where they had a collection of photographs from early in the 20th century.  I also tried to find books on Autogyros for my next project in my mid-life saga, the library building is quite new but the contents are in the process of being reorganised and lots of the stock was in temporary wooden units so I ended up having to use one of the information phones and an assistant came to help.

At lunch time I went to a shop on the other side of the library mall and on the way back I was accosted by a woman with a party of young people, all of the group including the woman were all deaf and wanted me to take a picture of them.  It turned out to be great opportunity to revisit some of the sign language that I had learnt years ago, much of which I have forgotten.  Though most of the cameras were easy to use one girl wanted a picture on her phone and it took lots of attempts to get it.  It was chance for a good laugh and I think that all of us (with the exception of the typically sullen teenage boy) enjoyed the interaction.

I spent the afternoon reading a book about a pilot of seaplanes who had flown in Alaska and the Puget Sound.  He had started life as a journalist but grew tired and took up flying as an alternative.

This evening I had the hostel daily special which was meatballs and pasta and a local beer called “Angry Scotch”.

Round the world Day 22

After a good nights sleep at the hostel and chatting with an Isreali pharmacist who is travelling round by car, I got up and made my way to the railway station to catch the Greyhound bus to Vancouver.  It turned out that the timetable on the website was wrong and the bus wouldn’t be arriving until 10, at least that gave us chance to take some photos.

Newly refurbished Banff station, a little different to Seamer.

Newly refurbished Banff station, a little different to Seamer.

The view is different too.

The view is different too.

Banff Station

Banff Station

While we waited there was a strange noise from the other side of the railway and a bull elk was walking down.  According to the lady who worked in the office, who came out to look, the noise was a challenge and there was another bull nearby and soon we may hear the clash of antlers.  We listened but didn’t hear a thing.

When the bus arrived it was already crowded with people and we filled it.  I ended up sat just infront of the back seat surrounded by a Chilean family who were travelling from Winnipeg to Vancouver.  Considering how many hours they had been on the bus the two children were very well behaved with the youngest girl crying a few times but her older brother being quiet.  I sat next to the father who was a missionary, we chatted a lot and he tried to talk religion to me a bit but I think realised that I am a lost cause.  I don’t mean that I am an atheist, I would say I’m a Christian, but not religious,  the things that Jesus is reported to have said about how we should treat each other fit with my views and politics and I hope I could live like that, but I have seen a lot of churchgoing people who behaved in very un-Christian ways so got disillusioned with organised religion.

For a lot of the journey I was considering getting off at Kamloops and going down into the Okanagan Valley.  I remember it from a trip to Canada when I was 11, it was full of fruit orchards and I was amazed at the stalls piled high with produce as we drove through.  I remember we bought cherries and ate them as we travelled.  I’m told that it is no longer fruit orchards but mainly vineyards.  I decided with the stuff that I need to sort out before going to Peru I am best to go to Vancouver.

The journey was uneventful and with being on an aisle seat I didn’t get much of a view as we travelled a lot through quite steep valleys.  I was damp and overcast as well so I didn’t feel I missed much.

At one point I did start to panic as we were getting signs for the US border and wasn’t sure how I would go on as I haven’t got a visa, but each time we turned the other way into one of the towns to drop off passengers.

When we arrived I realised that I hadn’t written down the name of the hostel so had to go from memory, having been here a few weeks ago I picked up a map in the coach station and took the metro to Granville Street where I remembered the hostel was.  It was just a matter then of walking up the road.  Of course I picked the wrong direction first so the building numbers were going down not up but I only wasted 5 minutes or so.

At the checkin there was more hassle as my card was declined but they took my passport as deposit and we are going to sort payment in the morning.  I am in a room with 3 bunks and just collapsed into mine.

 

Round the world Day 21

Rang Travelex from the hostel this morning to arrange the Western Union transfer.  At 9.30 the taxi arrived to take me back to Jasper and we went to the Robertsons supermarket where I could pick up the Western Union transfer.  Because they needed the address of the hostel it ended up with the driver coming in to help out.  Eventually all the paperwork was done and the money was handed over, I paid the taxi driver with a big tip and walked down to the Greyhound office to drop off my bags and check on the bus to Banff.  Next I headed to the Tourist Information office who couldn’t suggest much for me to do that was cheap and only took a morning, this had them a bit stumped but they did suggest the town museum and Papa Guiseppies for breakfast.   I had eggs, bacon and hash browns (not quite the same as at home as they were more like fried potatoes) then walked up to the museum.

On the walk up I passed the building site of the new library and a brand new school so Alberta government who must get a lot of oil revenue are obviously spending some of it.  The school was surrounded by bikes and a woman was just turning up on one and chatted for a minute, she was a retired school librarian who was bringing some decorations for the official opening of the new school, she was also able to tell me about the difficulties that they had had with the library building which has been years in the making.  The school looked very smart and made me remember a picture I had cut out of the Beautiful British Columbia magazine 40 or so years ago, it showed the interior of a very colourfully decorated school and made me jealous as the schools I went to were painted in drab colours.

Newly built Jasper School.  Not quite what I'm used to in the UK.

Newly built Jasper School. Not quite what I’m used to in the UK.

The Jasper museum is not large but is well laid-out and tells the story of the town, tourism, railways and the park rangers.

One of the views from Jasper.

One of the views from Jasper.

It was Guiseppies again for baked onion soup with cheese and croutons which was very good and a latte coffee.  Then a wander round the station area to take a few photographs before getting back to the Greyhound office to pick up my bags.

Steam train outside Jasper station.

Steam train outside Jasper station.

The Brewsters coach that I was assured would come into the car park didn’t, but pulled in across the road.  I lifted my bags across and found a seat next to a window. At the next stop the passengers didn’t show despite the driver going in to the hotel reception to ask about them so he radioed the office and set off for Banff. Just after we got on to the highway he got a message to say that the passengers were at a different hotel so we had to turn round and go back through town to pick them up then get back on to the highway at the other end of town.

Once we got up some momentum on the highway the driver did a few announcements warning us amongst other things that he wouldn’t be stopping for people to take pictures of deer or elk but would if there were any Big Horn Sheep.

The Ice Park Highway is listed as a World Heritage site for its natural beauty passing along the valleys between mountain ranges.  There were many rockfalls and lots of scree to be seen so the area is still in a state of change, there were also lots of strata visible.  I could understand why the university group were visiting the area.  As we passed further down the highway there were snowfields, glaciers and morraine and I tried to remember the bits about glaciers that I had learnt for the Mountain Leadership and on our trips to Norway.

At the Icefield centre we stopped for a break and I got hot chocolate and a meringue and took a few pictures from the viewing platform.  I spotted a snow mobile of the type that we had seen years ago in Norway and tried to take a picture of it as we left on the coach.

View from the Icefield centre.  Nearby is the point where the watersheds meet, some rivers run to the Arctic Ocean, some the Pacific and others the Atlantic.

View from the Icefield centre. Nearby is the point where the watersheds meet, some rivers run to the Arctic Ocean, some the Pacific and others the Atlantic.

Glacier from the Icecentre.

Glacier from the Icecentre.

A very blurred Snow Mobile taken through the coach window.

A very blurred Snow Mobile taken through the coach window.

Another view from the coach window, they very rarely work.

Another view from the coach window, they very rarely work.

The descent at the end of the highway is a steep one and the exhaust brake was taking a bit of stick.  At Lake Louise there were drop offs in the village and a final one at the Chateau Lake Louise, unfortunately we only got to the back of the hotel so didn’t get to see the iconic view that is famous from calendars and postcards.  What we did see were the uniforms of the staff whch rather then French as the name Chateau implied looked more like Austrian with long socks and hats with feathers.

At Banff I was dropped at the Brewsters coach station and a taxi was arranged to get me to the HI hostel, unfortunately when I tried to book in it turned out that I was booked in at the International hostel so the same taxi carried me back down to a hostel which we had actually passed on the coach.

When I booked in at the International Hostel I was greeted by a familiar accent,  the young man on reception was from Beverley, had been to uni in Coventry and worked as an engineer at Landrover before giving it up to travel.

Round the world Day 20

I was woken by the maid who was very apologetic when she realised there was someone in the room.  When I emerged it seemed that the receptionist last night had not completed the booking correctly and I went with the manager to sort it out.  After paying (hopefully not for the second time) I headed back towards the station past a very impressive police headquarters building and called in to Margo’s a few doors down for breakfast of French toast and a latte.  There were a few police and a “Community Safety Officer” eating as well as other customers.  I had to smile that like the UK Canada are saving money on policing by having safety officers.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

I walked to the station becoming more alarmed that I may have missed the train as there was no sign of it near the station building.  I checked with the Viarail staff and the train wasn’t due to leave until 9.45.  In fact we left at 9.40 and soon after passed the longest girder bridge on the railway at 2.4 km long.

There were a few extra passengers on the train this morning and Dianne asked them where they needed dropping off one was Muhle Crossing and the other Longworth.  When we stopped at Longworth we got held up as there was a broken rail further up the track, this gave us the chance to get off the train and visit the tiny Post Office which had been moved to the site a few years ago.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Longworth Post office

Longworth Post office

There was also a maintainance team at the crossing with a 4×4 truck with fittings to run on rails.

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

When we moved there was another crew in a siding with a large lorry fitted the same way.

Truck equipped to go on rails

Truck equipped to go on rails

We bagan to leave the plains and climb into the Rockies stopping at McBride to pick up a party from Lion tours from different countries in East Asia.  I know it is a cliche but they were taking pictures of everything.

I found a book called Soldat in the lounge car at the back and began to read it, not forgetting to look outside and take pictures of my own.  The colours of the trees outside were changing from greens to the warm autumn colours but little of the red I had imagined, may be this is too early still.

Looking out of the rear window of the observation car.

Looking out of the rear window of the observation car.

At one point I was taking a picture out of the rear window when I realised one of the younger members of the Lion party was looking out, so I moved to let him to take his pictures.  An older lady came to join us and began to chat.  She came from Shanghai and spoke good english, chatting about the tour they were doing and where the party were from, mainly China, Japan and Taiwan.

We arrived at Jasper only 15 minutes late, which Dianne assured us was pretty much “on-time”, anything upto an hour late is “on-time”, up to 2 hours late is “a bit late” and 3 hours is “late”.  I think Northern Rail would love to get away with a similar policy if they could.

Now I had to throw myself on the mercy of a local cab driver to get me to the youth hostel.  The chip on my credit card stopped working in Campbell River and I have been getting by using the magnetic strip.  Unfortunately modern ATMs don’t use the strip so I have not been able to get any cash.  I have spoken to the card provider and they can send money to me by Western Union and a new card if I have an address to send it too, not much good on my travels.  Luckily the cab driver agreed to take a camera as security and collect me again in the morning to take me to the supermarket which operates Western Union so that I can get cash and pay him.  In fact when we got to the hostel he decided not to bother with the camera and just to pick me up at 9.30 in the morning.

As we arrived at the hostel at 7 there was a wait for reception to open at 7.30 so I chatted with another waiting guest as we listened to the sound of the evening meal being served.  He was a French chemical engineer who had hired a car at Calgary Airport and was doing a roadtrip with Banff as his next stop.  I was tempted to join him as he was looking for a share but with the hassle with the card and the fact that I had booked the Brewster Coach I decided that I couldn’t. Unfortunately he had not made a booking at the hostel so got turned away, through the joys of the internet I had made a booking while in Prince Rupert so having signed in and paid using the magnetic strip I was send downstairs to my bed.  Downstairs is open-plan with 50 or more bunk beds and lockers arranged in three rooms with no dividing doors and mixed sex. I found my bunk at the far end and sorted my stuff out.  I chatted with Emma, a teacher from Eire working in Chenjau next to Hong Kong and travelling round Alaska and Canada in her holiday.  She had been to Denali and Kenai Fjords amongst other places and seen Moose and Sea Otter.  More than Dad and I managed on our trip.  The other guest I chatted to was Brandon a young man who we joked was enjoying not being at school, it turned out that he wasn’t 17 or 18 as I thought but 21 and it was a University geography field trip. He is actually a Psychology major who is thinking of becoming a teacher, needless to say I warned him against it.