September 6th 2009 - London

Well, here I am again starting another blog! This time for our drive across Canada in late spring 2010.

The site is in its infancy and the map above only shows the provisional route. Apart from the obvious places we want to visit such as Banff, Calgary, Ottowa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec, we haven't decided on the other overnight stops. One not so obvious place we plan to visit is Mackinac Island, across the border in the USA on Lake Huron. I'll post more on this later.

I thought we would start the photos on the blog with the two trusty Landcruisers parked up in Anchorage awaiting shipping back to the US mainland.

There are lots of things to do before we start our Canadian 'cruise'. In fact there might be more than just the two Toyotas. We are hoping one or two of our friends from the HERO events might join us.

January 14th 2010 - Latest News

Several things have happened since my last posting in September.

Firstly, following a meeting just before Christmas with Bob and Thelma to discuss the route, we made some minor changes to incorporate places that have been recommended to us by friends and family. The map above shows the latest route. A stop has been added for a two night stay in the Algonquin National Park in Ontario and, after we leave Quebec, we are taking the road that runs along the north shore of the St.Lawrence River. We then take a two hour ferry across the river to Matane, Quebec Province, for the final two days across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to Halifax.

Secondly, Kenny and DeeAnne from El Paso, Texas will be joining us. They are very good friends who we met on the HERO Great Tour of China event. We stayed with them on our drive across the States in 2007. They will most likely rent a car in Vancouver and do a one-way rental, dropping the car off in Halifax.

Finally, we have decided on the leaving date from Salt Spring Island which will be May 2nd. If everything goes to plan we should arrive in Halifax on May 31st.

April 14th - London

It's nearly three months since I last posted to the blog and it's time for an update.

On April 29th, BA strikes permitting, we fly from Heathrow to Vancouver. Because of the uncertainity over the BA situation we have taken the precaution of booking on Air Canada as well. We paid for fully flexible fares and can cancel them and get a full refund. If we can fly with BA we will arrive late in the afternoon and then we have to take a chartered sea plane to Salt Spring Island, as we will miss the last ferry sailing.

We are meeting up with Bob & Thelma tomorrow evening to make final adjustments to the route as well as deciding on some of the hotels, especially those for the first few nights.

Kenny & DeeAnne will be joining us in Whistler, in their rental car, having flown up from their home in El Paso, Texas.

Finally, we have just heard that the ro-ro service out of Halifax goes twice a week, so shipping the car back to the UK should not be difficult.

April 23rd - London

Well, after all the upheavals due to the Icelandic volcano and flights being cancelled across Europe, it is looking more hopeful by the day that we will be able to get away next Thursday.

We took the precaution of booking back-up flights on Air Canada because of the BA strike situation, never thinking that Mother Nature might intervene! We'll make the final decision about which airline to use in the middle of next week once we know for certain if BA are flying. If they do, then it's first class to Vancouver, if not we are in the back of the bus on Air Canada.

On the basis that we are able to fly with BA, our flight arrives too late in the evening to catch the ferries across to Victoria and then on to Salt Spring Island, so we have laid on a chartered seaplane to take us directly to Salt Spring. The only problem will be if our flight is delayed because the seaplane cannot fly in the dark. If we arrive too late we will stay the night at the airport and then catch the regular seaplane service at 8.45am in the morning.

I will do one final posting before we fly out next week.

April 30th - Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Well, here we are at the beginning of another great adventure! We arrived yesterday afternoon after a very smooth and uneventful BA flight from Heathrow. After a short cab ride from Vancouver airport to the seaplane terminal we saw our our chartered seaplane waiting at the dock. It was a twenty minute hop across to Salt Spring Island, on a gloriously sunny evening. What a way to arrive!

My cousin, Basil, met us at the seaplane dock in Ganges, the main town in Salt Spring Island and took us the 13 miles to his house at Isabella Point at the southern end of the island.

As usual for me the effects of an 8 hour time difference took their toll and I woke at 2am!! I managed a fitful night and got up at 6am to have breakfast and then set to work on getting the Landcruiser ready for the trip. At lunchtime we heard from Bob & Thelma that they had just arrived on the Air Canada flight at Vancouver and would be taking the seaplane to Ganges. Wendy and I drove down to Ganges to meet the seaplane and arrived as it was landing.

Thelma climbing down from the seaplane onto the landing dock, being greeted and helped by myself.

After we had loaded up their bags into the back of my Landcruiser, we took them to the B&B that Basil had booked for them.

The afternoon was spent getting Bob's Landcruiser ready, which included inflating several tyres that were badly deflated. We will have to see if they have slow punctures or perhaps they were let down by the shipping company that moved the cars from Anchorage to Seattle last year.

Both cars parked up at Basil's house.

Tomorrow we have a relaxing day here on Salt Spring which is 'a little bit of paradise'. How lucky Basil and Margaret are to live here. Just look at the view below from their patio.!!

May 1st - Salt Spring Island

A much better night's sleep, having gone to bed last night at 7pm!! I obviously needed the sleep.

Whilst having breakfast I watched the hummingbirds feeding on the feeder hanging outside the dining room window and managed to take this photo of an Anna hummingbird.

We agreed to meet Bob and Thelma at the Saturday market in Ganges, so headed off at about 10am. On the way we came across this deer watching us from the side of the road.

Salt Spring Island is a haven for wildlife with many different species of birds and mammals, including orcas, that Bob & Thelma saw yesterday on their way across to Salt Spring from  the seaplane

We enjoyed our brief walk around the market and bought some jewelery made by local artisans. The view from the gardens across the bay from Ganges.

We drove back to the house and were greeted by one of Basil's two peacocks putting on a fabulous display for us.

We then had a great meal cooked by Basil & Margaret's son Ian. After lunch we went through our route across Canada with Basil who gave us some ideas of places to visit and also some alternative routes to take. It is such a vast country that we are spoilt for choice and hopefully we will be able to see most of the major sights. We have just seen newsreel from Calgary where a blizzard hit the city yesterday. Scenes of chaos on the roads do not bode well for us! Let's hope that by the time we get there in just over a week the weather has improved.

Tonight we are going to Hastings House in Ganges, a local hotel and restaurant, for a farewell meal with Basil, Margaret and Ian. A small way for us to thank them for all their help and kindness.

Tomorrow we leave at 9am for the short drive to the ferry that takes us from Salt Spring Island to Vancouver Island and then we board a second ferry from Nanaimo to Horsehoe Bay, Vancouver. From there it is a two hour drive up to Whistler, where we will meet up with our Texan friends, Kenny and DeeAnne. The adventure really starts then!!

May 2nd - Salt Spring Island to Whistler

After months, no years of planning (we first thought of doing this trip in 2008), we are off!

We said a very sad farewell to my cousin Basil and his wonderful wife Margaret. How will we ever be able to repay their kindness and hospitality? We promise to return before too long.

We left their house at 9am for the short drive to Vesuvius, where we took the ferry across to Vancouver Island. On the way to the dock we met up with Bob & Thelma who had driven down to the main road from their B&B. The ferry crossing to Crofton was about twenty minutes and then followed a 30 mile drive north to Nanaimo where we were to catch the 12.30pm ferry to Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver.

The weather has changed from the sunny days we had on Salt Spring and now we drove under cloudy skies and through light rain. Not too cold though at  12 degrees.

It was fortunate that we had made a reservation on the ferry as it was fully loaded when we departed.

Leaving Departure Bay

The crossing lasted about 90 minutes and was across a flat calm sea. No need for sea sickness pills! We kept an eye out for whales but once again we were unlucky and our first sightings will have to wait till our next visit to Vancouver.

We arrived at Horseshoe Bay at 2.15pm and drove the 60 miles north to Whistler in about an hour and a half. The road has been significantly upgraded since we were last here in August, principally for the Olympics.

On the road to Whistler.

We got to Whistler before 4pm and shortly after we arrived Kenny and DeeAnne booked in to the hotel. It is great to see them again after such a long time - over three years! They have hired a Jeep from Thrifty on a one-way rental which will end in Boston.

Bob is in the middle of doing a building development in Whistler and we met his business partner at his realtor's office. Maggi, will be handling the sale of the properties. We were treated with wonderful hospitality by her,  for which we were all most grateful.

In the evening we went to the Rimrock restaurant where we had a meal when we were here last August. Steve took this group photo, which shows us enjoying ourselves!

As we left the restaurant the rain had now turned to sleet and snow. With us heading north and up into the mountains on the road to Kamloups, it's not looking too good.

May 3rd - Whistler to Kamloops

What a wonderful day!!

We woke to a dreary wet and cold morning with low cloud and snow on the mountain sides just above the village. I had looked on the BC driving conditions web cams and seen that there was quite heavy snow on the mountain passes north of Whistler on the road we would be taking to Kamloops.

It appeared the roads were open and so at 10.30am we headed off. Bob and Thelma took Kenny and DeeAnne to see their building plots just above Whistler whilst we drove about 20 miles north to the town of Pemberton where I fueled the car up. What  pleasant surprise to see that diesel here in Canada is about 40p per litre cheaper than in the UK!!

As I finished filling the car Bob and Kenny drove up and so all three cars drove north on highway 99 heading for the town of Lilloet about 100kms away. The road rose quite quickly in a series of hairpin bends and as we gained altitude the snow started to fall, Quite soon we were driving through a landscape blanketed in deep snow. Fortunately the road was kept clear by snowploughs and gritting.

We reached the summit at just over 4,000ft and descended through some truly magnificent scenery of high mountains and ice covered lakes.

We stopped by one lake where we took these photos of the cars and me throwing snow balls. Oh, to be young again!!

Shortly after we reached Lillooet, a small mining town, and then the landscape changed from one of dense pine forests to a quite dry and arid cattle ranching area.The drive continued through areas that had been quite severely burnt by forest fires.

Bob, who was driving in front, pulled over to the side of the road and pointed towards a dead tree and there, at the very top, was this magnificent bald eagle.

The remainder of the 300km drive to Kamloops was in wide open countryside with little traffic. It was all on wonderful roads. Driving through the town of Cache Creek we saw this unusual looking motel.

We reached Kamloops at about 3pm. Our hotel, the Plaza Heritage, was built in the early 1920's. It makes a real change to the rather sterile atmosphere of many modern hotels.

Walking around Kamloops.

The weather here is quite nice. The temperature is 12 degrees and the sky is clear. Gone are the clouds and rain of Whistler. Let's hope it stays like this for our drive north to Jasper in Alberta.

May 4th - Kamloops to Jasper, Alberta

We left our hotel, the Plaza Heritage at about 10am for the 290 mile drive to Jasper. Kenny & DeeAnne had decided to leave an hour earlier and we agreed to meet them at our hotel in Jasper this afternoon.

The Plaza Hotel, Kamloops

As we drove out of Kamloops we went past the railway yards where this enormous snowplough was parked in a siding. It had to be 15ft tall!!

Bob & Thelma left with us driving north on Highway 5. The road ran alongside the Thompson River up a broad fertile valley. All the farms we drove past had enormous sprinkler systems watering vast acres of land.

 The road wound its way up the valley for nearly 150 miles. The river changed from a wide meandering body of water to a fast flowing torrent through the narrowing valley.

I had been leading Bob & Thelma for quite some time when I noticed that they were no longer behind us. We carried on for a few miles until we found a lay-by where we waited for them. About ten minutes later they turned up having re-fueled. Bob stopped by our car and showed us a photo he had just taken of a black bear that had been foraging by the side of the road. He turned round and led us back to the spot where the bear had been. When we got there, to our great excitement, it was still there and we pulled over to the side of the road and watched as it walked by us, no more than five yards away. What an incredible moment!

Shortly after, we drove past another black bear, this time a much smaller one than the first and quite clearly a young bear.

Bob took an amazing close-up of the first bear which I'll post to the site tomorrow.

The mountains on either side of the highway were covered with snow and as we reached the junction with Highway 16, the road to Jasper, we had our first impressive views of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at nearly 4,000 metres.

The remainder of the journey to Jasper was through wonderful mountain scenery and made a fitting end to a great drive through the Canadian Rockies.

We reached Jasper at 3pm and had time to drive the short distance to the Jasper Tramway, a cable car to the top of Mount Whistler. The cable car reaches a height of 2,265 metres, a rise of over 1,000 metres. We had fantastic views of all the surrounding peaks and the town of Jasper far below us.

After we returned by cable car to the station at the bottom of the mountain I took this photo. The question is, which one is Bob??

May 5th - Jasper to Lake Louise

Our drive today was down one of the great roads of the world, Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway.

Knowing how much there was to see on this wonderful road we had an early breakfast and left the Best Western at just after 9am.

As we drove through Jasper we had to give way to this gentleman being pushed in his wheelchair.

Our first stop on Highway 93, going south towards Lake Louise, was at the Athabasca Falls. The Athabasca River cascades down through a narrow gorge and has, over millennia, sculptured the rock into giant pot holes.

We stood by the falls and took this group photo.

We left the falls after about half an hour and continued the drive south. The scenery was simply breathtaking. On both sides of the road snow covered mountains towered above us, with their summits often hidden in clouds. Each bend brought more mountains into view. Here we are following Bob & Thelma, with Kenny and DeeAnne behind us.

At the highest point on the road, the Sunwapta Pass, 2,000 metres, we stopped to take photos and saw these sheep, or are they goats, walking along a ledge thousands of feet above the valley floor.

I then took this photo of Kenny & DeeAnne, which I hope their family back in Texas like!

Only joking, here they are enjoying themselves!
Our drive then took us through more and more fantastic mountain scenery until we came to the Columbia Icefields where we took a snow bus up onto the glacier. It was a great thing to do and everyone enjoyed being able to walk on the ice. We had a good driver/guide who showed us how the glacier has receded over the past 150 years. It is now shrinking at the rate of 30 metres a year!

We had a bite to eat at the Icefields centre and then drove about 70kms south to Peyto Lake. It was a fifteen minute walk across the snow to the view point high above the lake. The view of the lake far below was well worth the walk.

We left Peyto and drove the 20 miles to Lake Louise and our hotel, The Chateau Lake Louise. We are staying here for two nights so I'll post photos of the hotel and lake tomorrow.

One day I'll make a list of my top ten drives and I know the Icefields Parkway will be in that list!

May 6th - Lake Louise

This post is being written at 7am on May 7th just before we head for Banff and then on to tonight's stop in Calgary.

Yesterday was our first rest day of the drive and because of the UK election the afternoon was spent glued to my laptop watching the election coverage on BBC. We finally got to bed around midnight, 7am in the UK, and I then realised I hadn't done my normal daily post!

I haven't time now to give a full report, including photos of our stay here at the Chateau Lake Louise, I'll be doing that this evening after we have arrived in Calgary. All I will do is post the beautiful photo that Bob took of the black bear we saw on the road to Jasper.

Apologies for the delay in posting about our rest day in Lake Louise. Here goes.

We woke early to discover it was snowing and the renowned view of the lake was hidden in a 'mist' of fine falling snow. The lake was totally frozen and the vivid blue you see in photos is only there during the summer months. Still, the scenery is truly incredible with high mountains ringing the lake.

The Chateau Lake Louise, built by the Canadian Pacific railway, is at the head of the lake looking towards the mountains that ring the lake on three sides.

We decided to take a 2 kms walk to the end of the lake and the photo above shows the Chateau with the frozen lake in the foreground.

The mountains rising above the end of the lake.

We hurried back to the hotel so that we could watch the results coming in after the polling stations closed at 10pm, but first we drove down to the village of Lake Louise to buy some wine and snacks to have whilst we watched the election results. We watched for an hour and then went down for a traditional afternoon tea of scones, cream, and sandwiches in the hotel lounge. The skies had cleared and now you could see the mountains at the far end of the lake.

By the time we returned to our room the results were starting to confirm the initial prediction of a hung parliament. We finally went to bed just before midnight.

Our ninth adventure drive, this time from Salt Spring Island, Vancouver Island in the west of Canada, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the east, with an approximate distance of 5,000 miles.