Well, I have been home from Canada for a grand total of just over three weeks and I am finally getting around to writing about how amazing it was.
The mountains, the lakes, the wildlife, the ADVENTURE; it was just the best holiday. The company wasn’t too bad either.
I was really pleased I managed to keep a travel diary each day to remember all the details because it is surprising how quickly you forget the little things.
I thought the easiest way to reflect on the entire experience was to follow up on my excited blog post below and compare expectation to reality.
It was everything I wanted it to be and more and feel so incredibly lucky to have experienced such a wonderful adventure with my best pal in the world.
1. The Really Wild Show
Moose, coyote, pika, black bear, elk, mountain sheep, mountain goat, humpback whales x30, sea lions, harbour seals, porpoise and pods of transient AND resident ORCA. I cannot put in to words how breathtakingly beautiful all of these animals were.
We drove for a week and half through the most stunning scenery in both Banff and Jasper National Parks and saw so many elk, a gorgeous yet funny looking female moose, came face to face with an aggressive mountain goat, got snowed on but didn’t see a bear. I was obviously glad we didn’t encounter any on a hiking trail; it all feels a bit real when you see ‘BEAR IN AREA’ signs and spot posters telling you you are entering grizzly territory. Eep.
But after driving for so long with my neck at a 90 degree angle, up and down roads like the Bow Valley Parkway which is notorious for bear sightings, I had just about given up trying to spot a flash of fur through the trees and had resigned myself to the fact that we weren’t seeing a bear on this trip.
Exactly an hour OUTSIDE of Jasper National Park, however, NK turns to me promptly and says ‘Becs, there’s a bear.’ I promptly told him to eff off and practically jumped out of my seat when we spotted a black bear sniffing some poo on the side of the road. It was the most beautiful sight; after wanting to see one for so long it was just surreal seeing an actual, wild, Canadian bear chilling at the edge of a large tarmac turning circle with huge mountains behind him.
And then half an hour later, another one appears on the side of the road sniffing in the grass. Obviously bears are like buses, nothing for weeks and then two show up at once. Unreal.
As for the whales, we were lucky enough to see not one humpback but over thirty (this never happens!!) all feeding together off the coast of Washington state; they even breached right in front of us! The sound of them inhaling is like the brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park and it is a sound I will remember until my dying day.
And orcas, well those gals did not disappoint (matriarchy is the order of the day in orca pods, naturally). The first trip we were due to take was cancelled due to high winds, the second trip we didn’t see anything other than some sassy sea lions and it wasn’t until the third trip that I finally achieved my lifelong dream.
I will never forget hearing the first mate of the boat say the immortal words to the captain; ‘I got ‘em Bill.’ Suddenly there were huge, black fins appearing on the horizon. I feel emosh just typing it.
We saw a transient pod of orcas (these guys eat other marine mammals) and the next day, as if that wasn’t enough for this Welsh gal’s little heart, the more rare and elusive resident orca famed for their former matriarch, Granny, who died three years ago at the ripe old age of 104. They were playful, more solitary salmon hunters and decided to treat us with some pectoral fin and tail slapping before doing this…
I could go on and on about the wonder of the whales but nothing has ever made me feel so small and insignificant as seeing these magnificent creatures where they belong. I laughed, I sobbed, I balled. It was the best.
2. All the FOOD
I did have maple syrup, copious amounts of the stuff, and it turns out Tim Hortons’ hot chocolates are the absolute dream. Super cheap and so darn good. We felt so North American getting take-away hot beverages from a drive thru. We ate so many burgers, chips, pizzas and salad that cost three dollars extra and came with cheese on top. Felt rather stodgy at the end of it all but still thoroughly enjoyed every single bite! And don’t even get me started on breakfast- those Canadians make a mean pancake.
3. Soaking up the Culture
The Canadians are very friendly folk and enjoyed the novelty of us always asking for English Breakfast Tea- Brits, eh? Learning about the cultural history of Vancouver and the surrounds was fascinating.
There was a conscious effort to acknowledge and respect the First Nation culture, particularly on Vancouver Island, with road signs being in both English and the nation’s language in question and First Nation art was everywhere. We spent many an hour perusing amazing shops with wonderful wood carvings, soaking up information in museums (the Museum of Anthropology was incredible), finding all the totem poles and hiking up the huge monolith, Stawamus Chief, which overlooks the town of Squamish. It was a hell of a hike but the views were just out of this world and were definitely worth the achey legs for the next two days.
I felt like we only began to scratch the surface with learning about the country’s history (the history well before any Europeans arrived) but it gives us all the more reason to go back.
Bloody typical, I didn’t have enough! I should have followed my instinct and packed double the amount required. It did mean we got to use a launderette, an experience in itself with dimes, loonies, toonies, quarters and loonies (?!) but thankfully a kind lady took pity on us. The moral of the lesson is, kids; no amount of pants will ever be too many pants. #ididntchoosethepantslifethepantslifechoseme
We were incredibly lucky with the weather; it was really sunny and warm most of time and then suddenly we were snowed on in Jasper. It felt authentic though so we didn’t mind too much. It also meant we had to change plans which led to not only seeing the bears, but staying in a beautiful log cabin by a lake for two glorious nights which, after camping in the National Parks and stumbling to the loo in the night by torch light, was a welcome relief.
I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and this trip was most definitely evidence of that! Spontaneous-ness also meant we got to stay in a hotel with corridors a la The Shining, swim in hot springs with snow on our heads, and buy everything in reach with an orca on it- you only live once, right?!
All in all, Canada was amazing. I could write for days and days about it.
I’m looking forward to working my way back through my diary, turning each entry into a memory journal, making collages of tickets and leaflets and generally telling anyone who will listen about the entire trip!
“Hi, nice to meet you, did I mention I saw orcas in the wild in Canada..?!”
If you ever get the chance to go to Vancouver, you must do so because it was such a cool city. Skyscrapers and mountains as far as the eye can see.
Canada, it was a pleasure and we will be back, ‘for sure’!