Off the train and into Banff

Family warning. Profanity. 

You know how in any given group of people, once it reaches a certain size, there’s always “that one”? The one who probably shouldn’t, but still does anyway. The one who misses all the social cues, and is blissfully unaware of the effect they are having on others. Or in our case, the one who talks too loudly and just won’t fucking shut up when you’re stuck on a train with them for twelve hours and oh for God’s sake kill me now I can’t take much more of this. So yeah – we have one. I think it was Jean Paul Sartre who said his famous quote “Hell is other people” 😀 

It’s the only negative on what has been an otherwise brilliant journey.  I do my best to keep this blog positive (coz let’s face it being on holiday is like the best thing ever!) but this was such a big part of the experience it’s only fair to mention it and, y’know, keep it real. 

With that out of the way, the view was once again  awesome.  The further east we went, the greener the scenery became, til the snow-capped mountains returned, and the land became thick with trees once again. Just beautiful. But this time there seemed to be dozens of streams meandering around, rivers, babbling brooks, the works.  The kind of streams where you see nature documentary showing bears catching salmon.  We weren’t that lucky – no salmon, no bears. But someone did see a Marmot.

Food once again was awesome – French toast for brekky, pork loin for lunch, cheesecake for dessert, snacks in between.

 

Everything in Canada has English and French. Useful, but sometimes also amusing:

English

French

For getting reflection-free photos, there’s only a small area at the back of the carriage – basically the size of one window, where you can take photos in the open air. As a result, there’s almost always someone there as soon as there’s something worth seeing, but I did venture out once or twice to try my luck. It was a warm day, so it was really pleasant outside taking in the breeze. (And, at times, the diesel fumes. 🙂 )

We even received the famous double wave from the equally famous Doris. One of the residents of a small town along the way, Doris loves the Rocky Mountaineer and always come out to the front balcony to wave at the train (with both hands) as it passes by. This was lovely, but also perplexing for the staff – as they don’t publish the schedule, and Doris doesn’t come out to wave at all the freight trains that also go by. They actually went to the trouble of visiting Doris at her home one day, and they got their answer. The secret is – her dog! For whatever reason, her little dog lives the sound of the Rocky Mountaineer engines, but not the freight trains, so whenever the Rocky Mountaineer approaches, little Cedar-Bear goes berserk, and Doris knows to come out and give us the double wave. Apparently she’s only ever missed one day in he last six years – and that’s because they gave her a trip on the train itself. 

As we kept moving along, we finally reached the actual Rocky Mountains. They are mountainous. And also rocky. Surprising I know. 🙂 Also very beautiful, soaring up so high that snow still sits there and even a few glaciers visible way up high. 

Not long after it was time to travel through the Spiral Tunnels. To cut a long story short it’s a clever way to get rid of what was a gruelling (for trains) 4.5% grade. They used to have to station two extra engines at the bottom of the hill, and take all the passengers off the train, just to get it up the hill. The spiral tunnels were the solution, a 253 degree almost-circle to spread the climb over a longer distance. For some of those crazy-long freight trains the front of train at the end of the tunnel can be travelling directly over the back of the train which is still at the start. 

Our train managed it just fine – though for this leg of the journey we did have three engines instead of two, just in case.

The Spiral Tunnels don’t make for an interesting photo though – it’s kinda dark in there.  But here’s a few pics I took today.  I focussed more on staring out the window rather than starting through my camera screen – it’s good to take time to just remember the moment, rather than fussing around trying to capture it.  ‘Being present’, and all that stuff.

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Our train

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Serious-looking old snow plough engine

Again the ETA was variable, we were expect to arrive between 7pm and 9:30pm.  But we had a very good run, without too many other freight trans wanting to get in the way, so we arrived a little before 7.  It was a grand adventure, something I’d wanted to do for many years, and glad we finally had the opportunity to go.  We were so fortunate with perfect weather, too.  The service was excellent, the staff were awesome, I definitely recommend giving it a go.

The excellent service didn’t end once we got off the train though – five steps away from our train carriage was a bus that took us to the hotel – where once again our luggage was waiting for us inside the room.  Considering how have it now is, this really is a luxury.  One I’m definitely going to miss from here on in.

Banff is a very very pretty town – clearly built for the ski season, it’s trying its best to be all swiss-chalet like (at a guess, having never been to a swiss chalet), but it is very different from your average city, and extremely charming.  Especially when seemingly everywhere you look there’s a stunning backdrop of huge mountains soaring up into the air.

The room is lovely, nice and big – though there is one thing that might prove to be a bit of a concern – let’s see how it goes tonight:

Banff is packed full of tourists – I think we got one of the last few available hotel rooms in the whole city when we booked.  The pace is just heaving with tourists – many restaurants had queues out the door.  As unglamorous as it might found, we found a little mall with a little food court that was still open, and ended up having an amazing and delicious freshly-cooked-on-demand pizza.  Very nice, made with organic ingredients, many of which were source locally … kinda unexpected in a food court but glad we found it, nice one!

We had a very quick wander around Banff, we’ll have more tie to check it our tomorrow. A tomorrow which, I have to add, does not involve a 6am start. Yay for sleep-ins!

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