The Bear NecessitiesAugust 5, 2017 in Canada
Easily my best nights sleep on board a train (not counting the sleeper). It's amazing what a bit of extra space can do. I awoke amongst the Rockies. I've woken up to worse views!
I headed down to the dining car for a pancake breakfast with maple syrup (when in Rome). The writing on my box made me smirk - a little familiar don't you think?
I soon ventured to the observation car. Unlike the Amtrak observation cars, the Via Rail trains had a dome section so not only did you have panoramic windows at the side you could also see forwards and backwards along the train. We passed waterfalls, were followed by bald eagles, weaved between mountains and alongside turquoise lakes.
I met a similarly aged couple from Kent - Matt and Ellie. They were headed to Jasper too but had just embarked on a 10 month tour around the world. They were less than a week in to their journey. Ellie also wore a St Christopher around her neck. I have been wearing mine (a gift from my wonderful Aunty Margaloo) as a good luck charm my entire trip. Ellie has 3.
Around mid morning our attendant came round with goodie bags for all the kids. I got his attention and asked how young I had to pretend to be to get one. He soon came back with one for me and I gleefully assembled my choo choo club cardboard train. No I will never grow up.
The journey seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were in Jasper. I collected my suitcase (fondly referred to as Petunia the Pink Suitcase) and headed for a nearby car hire kiosk. The more people I'd spoken to the more I'd come to decide that to see the most of this beautiful national park, I needed wheels. I managed to get myself a good deal and so I was introduced to the 3rd car I'd driven since embarking on my trip. I christened her Cora the Corolla. Once I'd collected supplies from the nearby supermarket for tea and breakfast Susan helped me find the hostel which was located about 7km from town.
I can't tell a lie, I nearly cried when I saw the hostel dormitory. It had over 30 beds. All bunks close together with no power points to hand. Despite being handed my lucky number for a bed (17 in case you were wondering) this just wasn't going to work. I had passed some rather nice looking private rooms on my way to the dorm and I was praying one was free. It wasn't. Plan B. I asked if I could change bunks. The one I'd been assigned was in the depths of the room, by no windows and it was also a top bunk. I didn't mind this in hostels where you were given shelves and power points as part of your bunk but there was no where to nest! Insanity would soon set in. Taking pity on the princess with the pink suitcase, straw hat and Cath Kidston backpack with pink Lego tag, they offered me bed number 2. It was right by the door, window and also a bottom bunk. I was instantly much happier.
On ridding myself of train smell and generally feeling much more refreshed I went in hunt of the perfect mountain sunset. I was referred to Pyramid Island which was a short 20 minute drive away.
On arriving at my destination and the small car park I was suddenly aware of my solitude. I wasn't lonely so much as accutely aware of the potential danger of bears! Leaving my cinnamon roll flavoured oreos firmly in the glove box I ventured to the Island. I could see other tourists ahead so didn't feel too vulnerable. However to be safe, I remembered what a fellow traveller had told me which was that bears don't like to be surprised and therefore when hiking through woods on your own make as much noise as possible. Becky in particular had taken it upon herself to sing Disney songs at the top of her voice. There was nothing else for it and despite the sheer magnitude of material available to me the only song that came to mind was 'The Bear Necessities'. There's an image for you.
The island and views were breathtaking. Whilst there were no signs of bears I'm sure I heard a wolf howl. It was a full moon too. On returning to the hostel just after nightfall I settled into the big lounge and kitchen and made myself dinner. I got chatting to a young chap from Cambridge who had been in Jasper several days. He gave me another tip about bears which was that whatever you do, do not buy a bear bell. Bears are pretty smart and have taken this dining to mean one thing - dinner. On that note, mine was ready and I quickly snaffled it and headed to bed (after curfew - thank goodness my bed was right by the door)Read more