Thankfully the train stopped overnight in Prince George, and as there were no hostels there, I'd had to reserve a place in a pricey bed and breakfast, and it was a superb place! I was the only person there, so I immediately stripped off and hit the hot tub, then collapsed in the living room area and watched DVDs, before having the best nights sleep of my trip so far in a huge double bed. In contrast, the Canadian lad was camping in the woods with the bears!
Special mention must go to the most adorable dogs in the world (apart from my own), Oliver and Shadow, two springer spaniels who gave me a nice warm welcome on arrival, and enjoyed licking my face when I was in the hot tub!
I immediately liked Jasper when we eventually arrived there at 5pm the following afternoon, as it was surrounded by the kind of mountains I'd never seen before...so rugged, and so HUGE! Still, I only had one night there, again in a bed and breakfast, as the hostel was fully booked some six weeks prior - this was a far cry from Stewart in terms of the number of tourists! I would return the following week, which would involve a degree of backtracking, but I wanted to travel along the famous Icefields Parkway a few times in case I happened to be unlucky with the weather...
I met James, a lad from Sheffield, the next day at the bus station and got on really well with him. We were both getting the bus down to Lake Louise and staying at the hostel for a few nights, before continuing onto Banff, and what a bus journey it was - the scenery was incredible! Too bad the bus didn't make any stops at the numerous lookouts, but I didn't mind as I was now convinced that I had to hire another car in Banff, so I could take my time cruising around...
I had a great first night at the gorgeous hostel in Lake Louise, winning both pool competitions before taking the lead at the karaoke at the bar across the road. The guy running it was hogging the mic though, much to my annoyance - he thought he was something special! And then a band took to the stage for half an hour as a "special treat" - apparently 'Westpoint' were just passing through the area and had decided to do an impromptu set. I retreated to the back of the bar as nu-metal is not my thing, but when I did a duet afterwards with a lad from the hostel, I quipped "Thanks a lot Westlife
, you were fucking marvellous!" and they saw the funny side. As it turned out, our version of Wonderwall went down a storm, and we decided to leave after that - it simply could not be beaten!
I bumped into Mark the next morning, the German lad I'd met in Tofino, so along with James we did a fantastic walk up past Lake Louise, and onto the Plain of Six Glaciers - there were fine views to be had. It was quite tough though, and presumably the previous nights drinking didn't help, but it was good to be out in the fresh air, along with the incredibly tame squirrels/chipmunks that would eat out of your hand.
I went to Moraine Lake on my own the next day, but I had to hitch hike to get there as the road is 13km long and I didn't fancy that in the searing heat, especially as a bear had attacked a jogger just a few days earlier. There were a few selfish drivers, but I only had to wait about ten minutes for a French-Canadian couple to pull over, and they recommended the Sentinnel Pass hike for the best views, so I duely obliged...
Moraine Lake itself was simply beautiful, with amazing turquoise water and a stunning backdrop, but I wanted to lose the tourists - this didn't prove to be difficult at all, as most were on tour buses and didn't stay long. I soon got talking to a few older Canadians and did some of the walk with them, and I eventually saw them again at the summit where they shared their sandwiches with me, and we enjoyed the view of the Ten Peaks together. They even gave me a lift back to the hostel when we got back to base, and I then had a relaxing evening playing pool with James and Mark.
It was the kind of day that reminded me why I love travelling so much - fresh air, wonderful hikes, and great company!
I took the Skeena to get from Prince Rupert to Jasper, a scenic train journey that takes the best part of two days to reach its destination. The time passed quite quickly as I was sat next to a softly-spoken Canadian lad I'd met in the hostel, and I immediately liked him due to his resemblance to Josh Rouse. We'd both stocked up on food in Prince Rupert and I had to smile at the differences in our respective diets - he had raw vegetables and salad, whereas I had Pringles and chocolate tea-cakes!