A 6am start, walking down the cool sunny streets to the station. A guy was approaching us before we had reached the station pavement, smiling and asking if we were for the train. First of many extremely enthusiastic hellos we were to get over the next two days. Soon signed up and given badges to “Help us celebrate our 25th anniversary”. The RM journey is thoroughly peppered with ‘jolly us along’ commentary – from the station master at Banff picking a volunteer to operate a portable train whistle (two long blasts) so that we could all shout “all aboard” to pre-lunch exercises standing up at our seats.
Almost as soon as we pulled out of town we saw a family of elk wading a trackside pool. Like the early early explorers we are following rivers, unlike them we get to sit in air-conditioned luxury.
Icy cold sediment laden water rushing past. Pine forest and snowcapped peaks dominate this first section. One of the carriage staff confirmed my guess that the tall but scruffy pines with very short and twisty side branches is the lodgepole pine. That’s two correctly guessed tree species, I must be mining some long lost memory seam.
I didn’t mean to insert that picture, hardly represents the snowy peaks I just mentioned. Sorry.
After following the Bow river up to its glacier, which we couldn’t quite see, we crossed the continental divide and picked up the Kicking Horse river, both of us heading for the Pacific.
Later we pick up the Columbia river. I used to think that the mountains provided the barrier to travel hereabouts, but passing through a wide valley with its floor full of swamp and Marsh I begin to see extra barriers. When the land rises a little it becomes dry enough for trees to grow – and they grow, and grow so close there’s no room to squeeze between them. Just one more barrier to travel. Above the tree line are rocks, avalanches, and snowcapped peaks – the third barrier.
Then we SAW A BEAR. Just a brief glimpse of a big bear standing on all fours on a grassy rise close to the tracks. I am surprised that the carriage didn’t fall onto it’s left side with the surge of 55 folk moving rapidly to the windows there to get a better look.
Later we travelled a long time beside a huge lake, the Shuswap, which gets geothermal heating so stays about 20 Celsius all year, and so has not frozen in living memory. This makes it a great recreational venue, and ‘The houseboat capital of Canada’. We heard that the local lumber mill has been bought by the community to preserve jobs. The threatened spread of a pine beetle led the government to approve massive felling of lodgepole pines, which resulted in a price crash, bankrupting the mill. Bloody ecology, it’s got a lot to answer for, including public ownership of the means of production.
At Kamloops the efficient machine that is the Rocky Mountaineer kicked in and we moved seamlessly from train to bus to hotel – 440 people in about 30 minutes. Rather more slowly we changed and strolled about town, seeking food and beer. Found beer at the Red Collar Brewery and Bar.
IPA with galaxy hops and described as English ale was delightful. The Pale ale was with simco and amarillo hops but not much of either, and too much caramel for my taste, though Jackie preferred it. Good atmosphere with mums and children at tables drawing with pens and paints provided by the bar, young people talking and some also drawing, and older men at the bar drinking and talking bollocks.
Then onto the Noble Pig, the other brew pub in town, which was much noisier and busier. The bar staff urged us to sit up at the bar, so we did, and sampled Imperialist Pig IPA, citrus and delicious, and a milder beer called Honey Badger Pale Ale ( described as an English ale, but too much caramel for that). A snack of pulled pork roll and fries left us stuffed and tired. Back to shower and sleep by 10pm.