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Day 3 - Journey to the Rockies

Today we were flying from Vancouver to Calgary, then picking up an 'RV' (motor home) for 8 days so that we could tour the Rocky Mountains in advance of our 'Rocky Mountaineer' train journey. Our flight was at 11:00 am, and we'd decided to take the train from Waterfront to YVR airport (note - we must find out what YVR stands for!).

There was an entrance to the train station right by the entrance to the hotel. This wasn't the same entrance that we'd come out of on our first afternoon, but we figured that we'd find our way to where we wanted to go once we were down there. Buying the ticket was easy - there are machines that take cash and plastic. And it's a reasonable price - $3.75 each. Now - bear in mind we had a large suitcase and hand luggage each. We took the escalator down, and followed the arrows to 'Skytrain'. We found the platforms - but the trains weren't going to the airport. There's another line! We walked along the platforms, took the escalator up the far side of the platform, saw a sign for 'Skytrain' and walked down the stairs - to find ourselves back on the same platform! 'Bugger! says I. 'Would you like a hand?' says a very friendly commuter. 'You need the “Canada Line” - up the escalator and turn hard right. Tell you what, I'll show you!' What a nice man - he missed his train ('Don't worry, there'll be another one along' to show us where to go.

And that also sums up our experiences of Canadians so far - they are all so very polite, friendly and helpful!

And so (eventually) to the airport. We found the same fast-food joint ('A&M') as the morning before for breakfast, for a smidgeon more dollars, and set ourselves up for the day. The security for check-in for the domestic flight was slightly more intense than a similar flight in NZ (we had to take our shoes off, there were full-body scanners for some people, and cups of coffee were definitely not allowed through!). The Air Canada flight was comfortable, and on time. It took one hour to fly to Calgary, and we crossed one time zone, landing at around 1:15 PM. We picked up a taxi - a very nice Sikh gentleman who didn't have the foggiest how to get to the address we gave him. We had to look up his map for him! But eventually he pulled up outside the RV centre.

We were renting a van through 'Fraserway', and had done it on-line through a website called 'Senior Motorhomes' (courtesy of Arts 61st birthday). This gave us a very reasonable price, with some extras thrown in. One thing we had taken out was the extra insurance; however, we wish we hadn't, as we discovered (when we got there) that this is not the same insurance company that Fraserway use, and is actually slightly more expensive than their $10 per day. Plus, if we do have an accident, we have to pay Fraserway's standard excess ($7,500!) then claim it back from the other insurance company - a bit of a hassle. Another consideration - if you want to drive to Mount Robson and back, you will drive at least 1,000 km - and as most vans don't have unlimited kilometers it's worth making sure you have a 1,000 km package. The ladies who booked us in were from Romania and Holland, and had picked up the Canadian friendliness and helpfulness traits very well. We were given information packs, and given a tour and instructions for the van. The local Walmart and Co-op Liquor Store were pointed out, and we were set on our way. Our plan was to stock up with enough food and drink to keep us going for at least the first few days on the road. I think we managed this - in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a bit left over!

Calgary area is very very flat, just grain fields
The road to Banff National Park

Then the drive to our first overnight stop - Banff Tunnel Mountain Campground Village 2. This took us about two and a half hours, including stopping to buy the National Park pass. We ended up with a one year Group Pass ($136) - which seemed overkill for our 7 nights in the park, but in fact was more or less the exact price as if we'd bought 7 nights for 2 adults.

Now a warning - to us Northern Hemisphere Brits, mid-May should be late spring to early summer (the NZ equivalent of November). But in the Rockies, it is the beginning of spring - and the summer season doesn't start until the end of May. This means that all except a handful of the campsites in the more popular places are not yet open. And apparently this year, spring has arrived late. So there is snow where you don't expect snow. Our campervan has good heating though, so we expect to be snug and warm. And with nothing much to do except write this diary, drink wine and play cards, it's going to be an early night…


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terris_travelogue/canada/c_banff.txt · Last modified: 2011/05/19 11:09 by tel
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