Jul 08

Two Old Ducks Hit The Canadian Rockies by Jan Speedie & Margaret Graham

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pic 1. rockies in distance

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but was it? As all things do, it began with just one question: ‘Where shall we go to celebrate this sort of birthday?’

We met at primary school when we were nine, a million years ago, and both had one of those birthdays this year. We decided on the Rockies, by train. Would we go it alone, or with a company? We decided on Great Train Journeys. Dr Diffey was in charge of us, a former headmaster, which caused some palpitations as detentions were a feature of Margaret’s school days. He was far from the usual model, a real legend.

pic 2 calgary airport

We landed at Calgary at the beginning of June, imagining Calgary to be a small rodeo town, but it’s thriving and huge. We set off by coach across the prairies, heading for Banff, in the Rockies.

pic 3 prairie Calgary - RockiesWe saw the Rockies from a great distance, and why not, they’re huge. We were lucky and arrived in a heatwave. Normally there is a British amount of rain and the mountains can be hidden, but we had a full frontal view at all times.

Feeling a little travelled out we hit Banff, toddling into the Caribou Hotel with our luggage. Margaret was smug because she had stuffed her clothes into something little bigger than a weekend case. Jan was just a small step up.

pic 4 Cariboo hotel at Banff

Then a quick look round in the clean clear air of the mountains. Banff is a tourist town, but why not? A perfect centre, with restaurants, shops, and lots of activities on offer.  The next morning, Keith Diffey gathered us up, assuring us that it wasn’t like herding cats, but not sure we believed him. We clambered on board a converted school bus, and headed for Bow River where we were to – no, not white water raft, but just raft for an hour.

pic 5 rafting

Another glorious day it was, as we were ‘oared’ rather than rowed along this most shallow of rivers. It has very few fish, as there isn’t enough to sustain more than the odd trout. The same could be said for the land either side. We saw the occasional caribou, but no bears, which we had rather expected. We passed weather eroded rocks.

pic 6 rocks

And stopped to see the golden willow, which the First Nation Indians would use for headaches. Much as we use aspirin for ours, though willow is common to both medications.

pic 7 Golden willow heachace cure.

We reached a gently sloping bank, and there was the bus, waiting to return us to Banff. As Margaret reached terra firma, she began to feel dreadful. Travel sickness? Onto the bus we went, Margaret with her voluminous handbag as always – thank heavens. (much like Tinky Winky the teletubby)  As we travelled, she upchucked into the only receptacle, the handbag, of course, or rather the scarf lying on the top. A memorable  moment for in the vicinity .

Jan spent a delightful afternoon dawdling along the river bank at Banff – alone. Margaret did not see the light of day for a good 24 hours, wondering quite where the high temperature had come from. There is, you will be thrilled to hear, no illustration of these events, especially not a selfie.

She did not emerge for the trip to Lake Louise, but instead managed to get into Banff and gave a chemist the option of shooting or medicating her. He gave her antibiotics, and anti-this, and anti-that, which got her upright and so the odyssey continued. More later.