Canada
South Thompson River

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8 travelers at this place:

  • Day288

    Kamloops, Canada

    August 1, 2017 in Canada

    The highs and lows that are the end.

    Kamloops hosted our last night on tour. I can't say we had reason to stay here in particular, but it did do a pretty good job as the halfway house on our long road back to Vancouver. After all of our toe-teetering in the glacier fed lakes of the national parks, we finally managed to find a swimmable lake just before we hit Kamloops. It was warm and sunny and packed full of locals - the perfect spot for a lunch break and a well needed swim (shower)! As our journey continued west, the smoke thickened and temperatures rose, and we listened intensely to the radio warnings for fire dangers and road closures. From what I could smell we must have been getting pretty darn close! The scenery too, hosted strong evidence of recent fires that once threatened the town and now instilled an eerie feeling.

    We treated ourselves to a (low) quality motel which, despite the reputations motels have for their beds, was an amazingly comfortable sleep. A good deal better than the three dollar lilo, I can tell you that! Kamloops also provided a fantastic and unhealthy last supper which included a take on Canada's famous poutine - chips, gravy and cheese curds with a side of cardiac arrest. The real last supper was actually a breakfast: an incredible portion of eggs benny served by the most smiley and energetic Tuesday morning waitress I have ever met.

    On a full stomach we hit the road and spent almost all of our last day on holiday in the car. Almost as if it knew we were finished, the traffic greeted us heavily and caused work-like stress to enter our carefree lives as our flight time loomed closer and closer. Our seven hour timed-run to the finish line cut it pretty close, but ultimately culminated in a classic hurry up and wait. What else would we expect? New Zealand via Air New Zealand...We're coming home!
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  • Day3

    Kamloops

    July 9, 2017 in Canada

    Väl i Kamloops checkade vi in på Plaza Hotel och gick ut och åt på The Noble Pig, mikrobryggeri och restaurang. Middag och sen läggdags.
    Morgonen efter var stan höljd i brandrök från bränderna, vilket gav lite tyngd åt situationen. 7000 människor är evakuerade från sina hem.
    Vi åkte österut och lämnade bränderna, röken och Kamloops bakom oss.Read more

  • Day12

    Rocking the Rockies

    September 3 in Canada

    I was beginning to wonder whether we were going to meet our quota of wildlife today.   It was nearly six o'clock before we finally met the quota, but what a prize.  But we come to the end of the day too soon. We will go back to the beginning of the day.

    I woke before the alarm, which isn't a surprise. I took a quick glance at my phone and saw both the local and the Melbourne time  and realised that if I got up then and there I could have myself dressed, and packed before the alarm and that would give Ross time for a shower. He had said that, because of the early start, he would forego his morning shower, but I knew that would make him unhappy, so I was pleased things had gone so well with my early waking. I would be able to leave the bathroom free for Ross' shower and all would be well for the day.

    I was even more pleased with myself when, fifteen minutes later I was fully refreshed, dressed and almost finished packing my bag.   I turned to Ross and said " Time to wake up. Ross.  Ross. Come on, time to wake up".  He looked and sounded a bit grumpy at being woken, but this is normal so I kept going.  He argued with me that it was too early.  I told him I had finished with the bathroom and he could have a shower if he wanted to.  That was when he checked his watch and informed me that it was only 1.30 am.  I had read the Melbourne time and not the Banff time and I wasn't supposed to get up for another four hours. Ross turned over and went straight back to sleep.  I sat for a minute contemplating my choices then lay down and had another sleep until 5.30.   We then completed the plan as I had foreseen, Ross had his shower and we were ready to leave our room by six am.

    We had both decided that two breakfasts was at least one too many so just waited in the lobby until we were called to get on the bus. This wasn't long and we were taken to the station to await the arrival of the Rocky Mountaineer. Clearly this was not like jumping on a regular train. Much fanfare, special stepladders and rolled out red carpet for we who were travelling Gold Leaf.  Nothing more than we deserve of  course!   Up the stairs to the top floor where the poshest, roomiest, leather seats awaited, with one set of buttons that raised a foot rest and tilted the chair into a gentle recline and another set of buttons that adjusted the lumbar support of the chair and personalised the temperature controls. These were nestled under vast windows that gave us panoramic views all the way around and at an elevated height that had us all looking down on the rest of the world.

    We were introduced to our staff for the trip and just before they began the safety routine, we were asked to look out the window to our left. There, in full Rocky Mountaineer uniform, was the entire staff of the Banff station standing in a row, as a guard of honour, holding a Canadian flag aloft and waving us goodbye.  I just can't see the staff of Belgrave Station doing that as people head off to the  city.

    The train offered full sit down breakfast a la carte. Ross went for the Eggs Benedict and I had the blueberry pancake.  We began with a complementary berry smoothie and followed it up with our choice of beverage. On top of my pancake was an unusual fruit. I assumed it was edible and did so. It was yellow and sweet with tiny hard little seeds inside. Surrounding the fruit was a papery pod that seemed a strange thing indeed. I ask Amelia, our Derby born waitress, what this thing was. She replied that is was a gooseberry. It was quite unlike the Chinese gooseberries we get. It was yummy.

    Within minutes of returning to our seats on the top floor, (meals are served in the dining car on the first floor) we were offered snacks and more drinks.  This became the pattern of the day. Three course meals, then snacks and drinks almost incessantly throughout the day. 

    It is extraordinarily comfortable in Gold Leaf, (Ross keeps saying "Luxury" in an English north country accent) and the staff are always checking in to ensure we are ok and not starving. As if!! The staff also provide information, stories, entertainment, games and competitions during the day. Nothing too complex and usually associated with information about where we were.  We were given a pop quiz at the end of the day. Could we name the seven rivers we had followed in our journey today? They were the Bow, Kicking Horse,  Columbia, Beaver, Illecilliwaet, Eagle and SouthThompson. See I was paying attention.

    We moved steadily down from 1500 feet above sea level to 1200 feet. It was sometimes interesting to see how they got that done. The maximum gradient  early trains  could manage was 2.2 and in one part, the natural gradient was over four. Eventually the enginers developed special constructions called spiral tunnels. They built two of these tunnels. The first turns left inside the mountain at 226 degrees to brings the train out 50 ft lower.   Then later, the train enters a second tunnel, travelling right by 226 degree to come out a further 56 feet lower. This lowered the track by 106 feet and kept within the 2.2 gradient They are all very proud of this feat of engineering.

    We were still in the high peaks seeing snowfields and waterfalls. A fellow traveller sitting behind me remarked that she kept saying "Wow" in disbelief and awe at what she was seeing. Her friend said that she kept pinching the first woman to see if this was really happening. I suggested that this was not the normal way of doing things, but that one usually pinched oneself. She informed that this made no sense. "Why hurt yourself? "and when her friend yelped, she knew it was all real.

    For the second time we heard the explanation of the naming of Kicking Horse river which we followed for some of the day. Dr James Hector was both an explorer and doctor. While crossing a difficult river and leading his horse across it, the horse became distressed and broke free. Hector went after it but the frightened horse kicked him and he fell. When his team gathered around him they declared him dead and began to dig him a grave. They placed his body in the grave in all solemnity, but almost immediately he came to and sat up, scaring the geewillikers out of everyone. Many years later he was invited to come back to a newly established wilderness hotel for the adventurous wealthy, as a raconteur in residence. He brought his son, a recent uni graduate with him, to show him where his unused gravesite was still very obvious. However, before they began their excursion, his son had a ruptured appendix and died. Talk about irony! Hector couldn' t bear to remain so he left without finding his old gravesite. Sad story in the end.

    I was becoming concerned about our lack of wildlife sightings today. I had managed to get shots of the swamplands created by beaver and perhaps also, an old and discarded beaver lodge, but no beaver. I thought that maybe I should bring this failure to the attention of our guide who had assured us we would see lots of wildlife,(just to tease him of course).

    Twice we were told to look out certain windows to see bears but they had scarpered before we got there. I was beginning to feel disappointed, not with the trip or the train, just the no sightings. That was when I looked out my window and looked down into the river below (the Eagle River). I realised that we were watching the first of the salmon spawning and dying in the waters. Already dead fish were lying by the side of the river while more and more fish made their way to the spawning grounds. Crows were eating the dead fish. As I watched, I saw a female offer up her 4000 eggs to a male who spread his milt over them, fertilizing them. There was a little flurry in the water and the deed was done. Now they only had to wait to die. Sad. We learned that out of the 4000 eggs laid, only two salmon make it back safely after a few years. That is a huge attrition rate.

    After I had snapped a few images of the red chinook salmon I began looking for the beast that loves to eat fish. Strong adult male bears will catch the best, healthiest and strongest fish earlier on. The family groups with children will take the weakened fish. I was sure, if I watched the banks, I would see a bear. Constant surveillance out the window was exhausting and I had just about decided that this was not going to happen. I made a mental note to speak to our tour guide to complain of the paucity of wildlife, when the cry "Bear" came up. Off to our left, on a cleared patch of ground, sat a black bear sitting on his bottom watching the world go by. Sighted, but not photographed, we had added a bear and salmon to our list. Fantastic. Everyone was delighted.

    When our guide came by, I jokingly told him that he had had a lucky escape. Then he showed me what he had come across the day before while going on a short hike in the forest. He showed me a mother black bear, cinnamon in colour, and her three cubs, two black and one cinnamon coloured. The mother had been collared and was not overly frightened of humans, but she was not keen to be out in public with her cubs so she took them back into the forest. Our guide called the sighting in and Park Rangers were able to say she was a local and known to them.

    On the subject of bears, there are some places in Canada where it is illegal to own a rubbish bin. All rubbish must be taken to a bearproof central bin in each neighbourhood to prevent bears moving in to housing areas. The bins are for household waste, recyclables and compost, all of which are attractive to bears. I just know I would not volunteer to drop the rubbish in the bin late at night! And it just adds another quirky but admirable thing about Canadians that appeals to me.

    We discussed today that there must be some piece of legislation that required all Canadians to wave at trains and buses. Failure to do so must mean deportation to the grumpy south (the USA). Everywhere we went, people waved at us. They waved from footpaths, cars, boats and front porches. They waved from canoes and paddle boats on the river, from inside cars, from hilltops and ravines. Waving must be a course at Primary School because people of all ages wave cheerily accompanying the wave with a big smile.

    There is one woman, called Doris, whose dog alerts her to the imminent arrival of the Rocky Mountaineer and she goes out the front to wave at every train. She became so well known by all crews that everyone on board was asked to wave at her and they did. So did we! She waved back madly and blew kisses. Some time ago, the company learned of this and gave her a free ticket on the train. When the train went by her house, the whole station staff of nearby Kamloops station had driven out there to stand on her porch and wave at her. Really sweet! We were delighted to see her and to continue the happy story.

    The longer I stay in Canada, the nicer is my feeling of being here. People couldn't be nicer! All my jadedness is wafting away!
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South Thompson River

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