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Wednesday 30 May 2007
Banff, Canada

We have found Eden!

As I write this, I am sitting viewing of one of the most serene scenes I have witnessed on the planet thus far.

The crystal clear shallow aqua-marine water of Two Jack lake lays before me, stretching for around 6 kilometres to my left as it disappears around the corner to encircle a pine-covered island; across the lake a thick forest of pine and cedar rise up as a prelude to the rocky mountain backdrop - snow-covered peaks glistening in the pleasantly-warm 29C heat. The water nary moves only to exist as a perfect mirror of the alpine skyline.

A family of geese swim by gently quacking and nodding their heads to egg the youngsters on in the right direction.

A bird starts whistling a beautiful melody - the only response being the echo of the song as it rebounds from across the lake.

Meanwhile I'm still mesmerised by the mirror-lake in front of me, the turquoise blue almost inviting me to dive in.

No insects, no rubbish floating around. Peaceful and fresh. This is paradise. This is Eden.

... and this is where we're camped for 20 dollars a night!

We have well and truly arrived in the REAL Canada: the Rocky Mountains of Banff National Park.

On Monday 28th, we rented a Jeep Victory and headed off east out of Vancouver with Jonny at the wheel.

Hours passed by and we were amazed at how little progress we were making.. the country is huge, and trips between major locations easily take 7-8 hours on average.

We decided to take the lower road on our trip east since Jonny had read that there was an amazing wine valley we pass through if taking the Kelowna route.

Indeed the man was right, we passed through some stunning scenery (Kelowna in fact looks like a really beautiful town, nestled beside Okanagan Lake and seems to cater to extreme sporting activities... I wouldn't say no to getting a holiday home there! *sigh* someday). Eventually we found a camping spot near Vernon at a camp site for 22 dollars per tent..

Now the funny part... Jonny had informed me his tent was large enough for two people!.. But sure enough, we put it up and it was a rectangular shape barely 2 foot wide!! Sheesh.

Luckily enough (for me) I tested out the back of the jeep with the seats down and magically it was perfect (despite my 6 ft 3" bulk). The sleeping bag I bought for 20 dollars on Sunday also went down a treat and kept me nice n snug all night.
Jonny didn't fare quite so well unfortunately .. his sleeping bag was designed for plus 10 C and it easily went down to 2 degrees that night.

Day "Le Deux" - I took over the driving for this stretch. We span through the beautiful wine valley and picked up some obligatory wine along the way from a Dutch farming couple. The wine valley is famous since it tends to stay relatively warm year-round making quite a change from Canada's typical weather.

This was the day we really started seeing some of the first photo-worthy opportunities as well: Passing through Glacier National Park, we got the first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains and the myriad of waterfalls lining the road.

But it wasn't until we got to Yoho National Park that the real giants filled the skies. Snow-capped mountains are everywhere in this region (apparently the ski season only ended 2 weeks ago in mid May!) and they sit atop some of the steepest pine-covered mountains I've seen in a long time. It reminded me of New Zealand or Switzerland, but obviously on a much grander scale (whereas NZ might have the mountains all clumped together, here we see them sometimes together, or sometimes with a vast valley between them). Talking of pine trees, they're EVERYWHERE! It seems that every 4 sq metres of this region - that's not water, and not changed by man - is covered by pine trees, each standing 50 metres high. It looks so fertile and abundant that you could easily be led to believe that this area alone could absorb all the carbon-dioxide that's being thrown into the atmosphere causing global warming!

Since we were making such good progress on Day 2 (we covered around 700km) we decided to go the whole way and head for Banff National Park. Banff is of course in Alberta State, so as soon as we crossed, we had to set the clocks an hour forward.
We also managed to catch the most breath-taking "tourist attraction" we've seen on this trip so far: Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is a huge "mirror-lake" (pretty much every lake in BC/AB is a mirror lake of some sort!) that is bordered on 3 sides by 9 huge glacier-covered mountains. The water is a particular turquoise colour since it is entirely derived from the glaciers that hang around it, and in winter the water is completely frozen over.
In fact, when we arrived, it was still mostly covered in ice (despite the 36C temp!), with occasional patches of water, in which you could see a remarkable reflection of the sky and mountains, since the air was perfectly still.
It looks really cool on the photos, so I'll upload some when I get a chance!

Oh yeah, really glad I bought the SLR camera there at Christmas, it's coming in dead-handy for some damn nice shots.

Today I think we're going to hang around Banff for a day to maybe try out kayaking, or canoeing. Plus this campsite is easily the best one I've ever been to with the beautiful lakeside location that we're set up by.

I don't want to leave in a hurry.


UPDATE: later on this day we hired a canoe in Banff and went up a local river. It was mad fun!! Cheesy

We pretended we were early pioneers/cowboys and broke into songs like "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" by The Soggy Bottom Boys... it also got even freakier when I started humming the theme tune to Brokeback Mountain... ok we're not going THAT far with the cowboy stuff

Stayed that night camped beside the beautiful Two Jack Lake again (my fav lake tbh)

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Lake Louise (with ice!)

Lake Louise (with ice!)

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