2016 August, the day after the marriage reception of my daughter Pavithra and Sathish at Michigan, we packed our luggage for yet another sojourn to a part of the world we always wanted to explore. This time we chose the western parts of Canada. I had completed most parts of the East, a couple of years earlier. It occurs to me now as to why I still have not shared my first-hand experiences of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec. I should do that sooner!!
Landing at Vancouver, we were full of energy looking forward to the 5-day tour of the Canadian Rockies. We sensed it was more convenient to cover the distance and places with a tour operator rather than drive ourselves. By that way, our stay and food are somebody else’s foray-our focus not dissipated on the basics. A state of the art luxury coach was waiting for us late afternoon and our co-tourists were majority of Chinese. It is an amazing fact that anywhere in the world, they are one of the major contributors to the Tourism to flourish.
Canadian Rocky are the mountain formations that runs to thousands of miles from the Midwest of United States of America to well inside Canada-It has hard rocks, picturesque valleys, sparkling lakes, frothing rivers and chilling glaziers overrun with flora and fauna, herbivorous and carnivorous animals-the timid Canadian sheep to the fierce grizzly bears. It is the home for the Salmon fish-they are born in freshwater rivers, travel to and live much of their lives in salt water-the Pacific Ocean and return to the place it was born wading across the river current to spawn. Reading articles and seeing clippings of these pumped the adrenalin in us to explore the places-some excuse for our annual overseas outing! In fact, I watched the movie ‘The Revenant’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio on the Emirates flight to Boston, just a week earlier- the story begins with a brutal attack on him by a bear – a coincidence indeed!
A typical Canadian weather of windy chillllllllly mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights combined with sun shine or drizzles or both were with us all through our tour. The roads wound along the never ending natural marvels of huge mountain range-some looked as smooth as a ball of butter in a giant’s platter. Human interferences are prohibited by Law to safeguard the wonders of nature. What can be a monotonous viewing of huge boulders, suddenly would change to a lush valley, unknowingly we would have climbed to a higher plane, an unassuming water body that runs to miles together will appear from nowhere and a distant snow capped mountain will appear from nowhere. The various viewpoints situated at vantage points provides feast to one’s eyes-so much thought has been given by the State to benefit the tourists.
The ride on the winch to the upper crust sans snow was not as exciting, but the height it gathers and the distance traversed and the view from the top, offset the initial disappointment. Trekking back to the base did not sound a good idea as many places had just rocks and could be very slippery for an amateur. The weather had drastically changed by the hour-it became very cold and clouds were building up. The famous lake Louise was our next destination. This time, the smooth ride on the Trans- Canada freeway was through the thickest of foliage- a prelude for what we were to see anything so dramatically beautiful. Rounding the corner, the sight of the rugged snow-capped peaks that dissolves in the sparkling emerald green waters below, would hit one viscerally feel immersed in the nature during the time spent –the deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect. Hiking along the lake transports one to a different level. There are certain things which can only be experienced on seeing for oneself rather than knowing through pictures, hear-say or reading or through any other medium: one such place is this. The sun getting behind the mountains-the random change of colors on the surface of the gigantic boulders and the swift creeping of darkness made us tread fast back to the bus. Enroute, we were shown the place where the last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway in a ceremonial function was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia. It indicates the completion of the herculean project in 1855. A plaque commemorating the driving of the Last Spike, a monument and the first steam engine that crossed the point are exhibited.
The grand finale to be on the tour was opening up. It was none other than the visiting to the largest non-Polar ice fields in the world. After a scenic drive along that winds up its way, we were there to experience the magnificence of a powerful force of nature – ‘The Glacier. We were transported from the base station on a massive Ice Explorer-a bus built beyond my comprehension –the huge, tall body fitted with giant tyres and a very powerful engine, designed especially for the glacial travel It took us to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier-one of the ancient of its sorts. The entire place was as white as snow –pun intended!! Without the sun glasses, it was an instant headache with the entire place reflecting the sun rays piercing the eyes. Despite the disadvantage for a be-spectacled persons viewing, the place was awesome. An experienced guide is designated for each tour of the glacier-he keeps warning people not to attempt to walk on the glacier without an assistance from the guide as there may be hidden crevices and holes that are covered by a thin layer of snow. We drank water from the natural springs –an unadulterated, pristine liquid Mother Nature offers……
Back to the base camp, much excitement was to follow-the jaw-dropping walk along the glass floored Skywalk. The walk on the Toronto towers was dwarfed compared to what that I enjoyed “On the Rocks”!!The walkway along the mountains leads us to a glass floor observation platform protruding to some 300 meter away from the wall. There is literally no support from the base. Perched high over the valley, all that is between us and the ground that is 2 kilometers below is a thin layer of toughened glass. With the ghastly mountainous winds thundering across with a slight whine and hysteric shouts of acrophobic tourists it really pushes one close to the limit of his endurance!
That was the last leg of the tour-we really Rocked for all the 5 days. The far-east co-passengers discipline on keeping up the time was as solid as a Rock-never once they kept any one waiting. Whole of the tour, they were sitting like Rocks– no chattering, no noise whatsoever. As our bus rolled forward towards Vancouver, what we left in the background was the beautiful layered mountains of heavy Rocks, but carried all the sweet memories of those in our hearts as light as a cream !
Till I lace up for the next…….