Last year, my wife and I celebrated a very important wedding anniversary. As she had spoken repeatedly about her wish to travel on The Rocky Mountaineer Train (RM), I donned my planning cap and went to work. I asked someone from RMT whether a train would be departing from Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver on 03 August 2012. The answer was affirmative. It meant that I had to arrange for flights from Toronto (for the two of us) and London, UK (LHR) and Vancouver for our children, I went to work and acquired airline ticket for them right away, to be sure that they would arrive at YYC on 02/08/2012 more or less simultaneously with us. Thereafter, I contacted RM for reservations and tickets, only to learn that the next RM would depart on 05/08/2012 instead of 03/08/2012. It was too late for cancelling the flight from LHR without penalty; thus, I tried to make the best of misinformation and succeeded. The four of us arrived at YYC within an hour. My wife nearly screamed, when our oldest child laid from behind her hands on her shoulder and said “good evening Mom”. It was a complete and utter surprise for her. We took a taxi to downtown YYC and, the next day, we took Brewster Transportation to Banff, where we stayed two nights at the scenic Rimrock Resport Hotel, as we had arranged to catch the RM in Banff. Next, what to do about 04/08/2012? I had bought four tickets for Brewster’s all-day Mountain, Lakes and Waterfalls tour. A Brewster van picked us up at our hotel, drove us to the Brewster bus station, and on we went. The day was and remained warm and cloudless and we were in for a wonderfully-scenic tour of part of the Rockies. If there is an incredibly beautiful one-day bus tour around Banff I would repeat, it was ours. We even stopped to watch wildlife on the way, including a Grizzly sow with three cubs – an unusual sight in Banff National Park in August.
We returned exhilarated to Banff, went to bed and caught the RM on 05/08/2012. It arrived about 45 minutes late, we spent the time drinking coffee and photographing the splendid scenery, anticipating our “treat”, and what a treat was awaiting us! At the station, we surrendered our suit cases, only to be re-united with them in our hotel rooms in Kamloops, were we over-nighted. We boarded our renovated car, anticipating breakfast. We enjoyed tasty omelettes, good coffee and pastries and fruit, served by a very competent team of three (Benjamin, Corbin and Holiday, yes, Holiday). Two rows behind ours, there were drinks, fruits and snacks all day.
It is trite to describe our trip as one of a lifetime, because there are other splendid ones, although it is unique to Canada. I would have to grasp for words that would do justice to out trip. Stupendous would be one of them; breathtaking another; overwhelming another, yet. To characterize it as “scenic” would fall short of justice. We sat on the right side of the train (as I had requested), and I believe it was the better one, but ever so often we rushed to the vestibule at the end of our car to snap pictures and/or watching wildlife through the open windows left and right of the train. Yes, we saw snow-capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, rivers and trees, but it would be unfair to single-out particular scenic spots for description, although photographing our train’s front and/or ends, as it snaked through many curves, and, for example, simultaneously, three parts of the same freight train of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), as its snaked through the spiral tunnels at the Big Hill in Yoho National Park, belongs to our trip’s highlights.
So did Craigellachie, where Lord Strathcona Donald A Smith, drove the “Last Spike” in one of the railway ties on 07 November 1885. Although the spike consisted of steel, the silver spike supposed to have been driven, is now kept in a museum). At this and other locations, our train slowed-down considerably to allow us to photograph.
The first’s day’s lunch included very tasty venison, wine and beer. It amazed us how hungry and thirsty one can become just from sitting on the train and admiring the scenery. Eventually, we left the Rockies and entered lakes and rolling hills until we reached Kamloops in the evening, where our suit cases were awaiting us in our rooms. As dinner was not included, we ate in a restaurant at the edge of the South Thompson River.
The next day, the train continued toward Vancouver. For breakfast, I ate croque monsieur, but was not impressed by the jam or syrup covering it, but, all in all, the meals, including shot ribs on the second day, were very good, and the service excellent. We passed the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, mixing dark- and light-coloured water. We saw osprey colonies and passed by Hells Canyon below Boston Bar, crossed part of the Fraser Valley, finally reaching Vancouver in the evening of 05/08/2012.
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