Okay something that has occurred to me is ...

Trip Start Aug 08, 2002
Trip End Feb 01, 2004

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Saturday, August 31, 2002

Okay, something that has occurred to me is that I haven't been updating you on Canada.

First of all, I shouldn't be surprised about the weirdos I keep meeting, this is a country that nicknames its one dollar coin the Loonie (I kid you not) and the two dollar the Tooney (or Toonie I can't decide).

On the plus side, they do have HP sauce, proper mars bars, cadbury's chocolate (and it's almost edible) and heinz baked beans (though I haven't confirmed they are the same. "So what?" you may say, well you try getting any of those in the states!

On the other hand, trying to get a regular tea bag is a nightmare, I was at a point two days ago (after 3 weeks or more) where I was quite prepared to kill for a decent cup of tea. After perusing the shelves at my local Safeway (yes they're American) and being baffled by all the various types and flavours (the most popular appears to be some orange thing) I ended up with a box containing 5 each of various types (including english breakfast, earl grey, lady grey, irish breakfast and another I similarly named, could have been welsh breakfast). Anyway, despite my canadians friends not understanding my enthusiasm when I arrived in the bar with a cup of tea, I was most pleased and it wasn't actually that bad.

Anyway, back to the events of the week.

Monday night was the battle of the sexes, which the guys lost, we could have pulled it back if we got all the 12 days of Christmas right and the girls didn't. We had all the lines, but not in the right order (damn ladies dancing and lords a leaping). I did learn something though, not the least of which was that Vanilla comes from the latin word for virgina and that if you want to exude a natural mozzie repelant, eat bananas.

I had a lazy day on Tuesday, I don't know why but I just couldn't be bothered with the whole going out thing. So, after not much I joined in the pub crawl. I can now categorically tell you what the ultimate evil in the universe is - and it's pub crawls. I finally went to bed about 4, and the poor buggers in my dorm who had been on it too, but had to get on a bus at 8am had a mad rush at 7:30 as none of them went to bed before me.

So despite feeling somewhat worse for wares, I decided to climb Sulphar Mountain on Wednesday, the guidebook said 5.6 Km and 2 hours. Unfortunately it didn't allow for getting to the start of the trail. After trying the road route, which meandered all over the place I decided, halfway up, that in the midday sun this was not the best route and so consulted my map. I thought I saw a shorter route.

After going back down, getting lost and finally finding my own route to the upper hot springs (where the trail starts) cross country, I was ready to attempt it. I had decided to walk A, for the excercise, and B, because I was too tight to spend the $19 plus tax they wanted for the Gondola trip (I am my fathers son, he was dead proud when I told him, either that or I had spent too long in the precense of Harris and his tight fistedness). I was later to regret this decision.

After 20 minutes climbing I hit "the wall," I seem to remember something about it being when the muscles have used up all the energy stored in them and the body has to switch to converting fat, trying to convert it fast enough to keep pace with all the muscles that are screaming for it. Then just walking became a challenge. By halfway I had used nearly all my water and was sweating profusely. Then it go tough. The path went from about a 10-15 degree incline to about a 40 degree incline. As I stopped for a breather, a guy in his 50s shot by me, breathing hard, but at the pace I started at and without breaking a sweat.

I staggered into the bright sun at the top after 90 minutes, most impressive I thought, with a real sense of achievement, a severe case of the shakes, and slight dehydration. I shot into the shop and bought a powerade (that's like lucozade sport). After a bit of a sit down in the cooling breeze I walked up the boardwalk and looked at the old weather station that operated from 1901 to 1933 when some poor guy walked up here (I forget how often) to take measurements. It could take him up to 9 hours in the snow!

The views were fantastic, and you could see the weather systems coming down the valley, you didn't need to guess what the weather was going to be like. After about 30 mins I hoped the Gondola back down (it's free down if you make it to the top). I shared the 4 person car with a couple from Texas who'd, in 2 weeks, drive from Texas, to Boston, to Banff and were heading back to Texas. A total trip of 10000 Kms they reckoned. I told them that I had met a Canadian at the hostel who had been around the outside of the US starting in Calgary and would have totalled 14000 Kms - and he's done it on a push bike. For charity I might add, I think you can see his site at www.ryansdream.com.

Then I decided to visit the hot springs. Imagine somewhere that looks like a small swimming pool, but where the water contains sulphar and numerous other minerals, and is (at least on the day I visited) at a constant 39 degrees celcius. Its like one big shared bath, and was very nice, if somewhat warm after a while.

Anyway, afterwards I staggered back to the hostel, with my newly purchased tea bags, and a bus ride up. Looking at it, I'd climbed about 2000 feet from Banff town centre to the top of the mountain. I was impressed. Then I joined in a game of footy for an hour, which has it's own complications in the Rockies, notably that the sides of the flat area we were using were very steep and it was a long old walk if you kicked it down one of the slopes. Still, it meant we had plenty of breathers.

Thursday was the first day I awoke to a seen that wasn't covered in blazing sunshine, it was more patchy cloud and sunny spells. I hired a bike and went on a few of the cycle trails (three to be exact): Sundance, Bow River and Spray River. I also walked a bit at the end of Sundance. For future reference, bikes might be great fun on the downhill, but they're a pain in the ass when you want to climb any sort of hill. Toward the end of the day we had a few rain showers, and some colder weather (I felt right at home, and it did make a change from the constant sun I seem to have had whilst in Canada). I was trying to work it out, and think that I biked and hiked about 12-15 Kms in total. No wonder I was knacked.

Today I'm taking it easy, I'm thinking of doing Goats head mountain (or something) with the hostel later, a bus up there, then I bike ride down. Excellent. It's also Labor (that's the correct spelling) day weekend here as it is in the US, so I'm expecting it to get busy. Or an the post office is shut today, tomorrow, and Monday. It's always shut Saturdays. I'm not going to criticise the Royal Mail anymore.

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