On board the Rocky Mountaineer
If you are hoping to ride the Rocky Mountaineer this year, you can’t get a better value anywhere else. With up to $1,200 per couple in added value I would like to share my Rocky Mountaineer experience with you and invite you to join us this August before the trip is sold out!
Western Canada is always a homecoming for me. Like many of us travelling west I usually drive the thousands of miles or conveniently hop on a plane when feeling the need to get back to my roots or visit some old friends. This time, I tried something completely different…
Things I had heard about the Rocky Mountaineer rail service had piqued my interest and I wanted to experience it for myself. With an award winning reputation and being rated as the “World’s Best Rail Journey” by the likes of National Geographic, Lonely Planet and the World Travel Awards, it promised a great deal. But as I would discover, not even the accolades could do justice to the experience.
I decided to go with the Banff to Vancouver route and get in some extra time in Banff National Park before we set off on the train. On one of Rocky Mountaineer’s excursions, we went up the magnificent Icefields Parkway and stopped at Bow Lake.
The azure coloured water with the kayakers is reminiscent of a beach in the Caribbean; although instead of a far-off horizon sinking into the sea, we gazed at towering snow-capped mountains reaching for the sky. What an incredibly beautiful country we live in! The thought of sunbathing and swimming was tempting, but we had so much more to see.
At the Athabasca Glacier we got in the red and white Ice Explorer for a ride up and over the ice. When we walked out over the glacier you could peer deep into the cracks and breaks where the ancient ice is luminescent blue. We heard all about the changes the climate is having on the area. Our guide pointed out the “milestones” of where the glacier has receded from over the years. It was astounding to see just how much it had changed since I was last here as a child. If you haven’t seen the Columbia Icefields and their glaciers, go while you still can…
The next day we set out on our rail journey. We boarded the cars and went up to the fully domed windows of the Gold Leaf Service car. The panoramic view would come in handy. I didn’t realize until later just how lucky we were to be in the last car. The rear outside observation deck proved to be excellent for taking those majestic photos of the Canadian Rockies. Once we were all settled in our hosts Scott and Anne started their detailed and often hilarious commentary. They must have known every inch of the track!
Enroute to Kamloops we went across the Continental Divide and went through the looping Spiral Tunnels. There was a moose with her calf grazing in the canyon when we passed. They stopped to watch the train go by as if it was just part of their regular schedule to say hello to the folks on the train. Much to my surprise every time there was a wildlife sighting it was announced by Scott or Anne so no one would miss it. That was a lovely touch especially for the couple sitting across from us that commented they had a special knack for missing such things.
As we passed one field Scott told us of an old goat farmer who had once owned the land. Apparently he had not been a shy man and was out every day to greet the train, shotgun in hand and wearing nothing but his boots. The car roared with laughter and anticipated the next turn in the Rockies.
As we passed Craigellachie, thoughts of my great-grandfather came to mind - he was one of the engineers for Canadian Pacific. For all of you history buffs, it was here that the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven.
Getting off the train in Kamloops for the evening, I was anticipating quite a wait to get everyone situated and off to the hotel. Boy, was I wrong! They have the transfer down to an art, and in minutes, we were all on buses and headed to the hotel, which proved a nice change from the typical sleeper car births on the usual rail journey. All of our travelling was during the daylight hours so we didn’t miss any of the stunning scenery and wildlife, as you would with the likes of a regular scheduled train journey.
The next morning as we travelled along the steep slopes and rock sheds of Thompson River our host Anne told a spell binding story of how Agnes Macdonald, the former Prime Minister’s wife, had ridden on the front of a cow catcher on a train through the Rockies in the hopes of dispelling people’s requests to change the steep track. The experience must have had the opposite effect as shortly thereafter the gradient changes to the track began.
Our lunch in the lower dining room was incredible, as had been all of our meals. Their chefs are top notch and prepare gourmet a la carte meals for all of the passengers. In Gold Leaf Service all of our beverages were included, which was the icing on the cake along with the large picture windows that ensured we didn’t miss any of the spectacular scenery.
Seeing the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon was breathtaking reminder of how the beauty and danger of Mother Nature go hand in hand.
As we arrived in Vancouver and I felt a renewed appreciation for this gigantic land mass we call home. Being born in the mountains of Northern British Columbia I have seen much more of this stunning region than your average Canadian, but this journey took us through parts of the mountains that can only be seen on the Rocky Mountaineer. I would do it again in a heartbeat and now I am eager to do another leg of this spectacular rail journey to see the Canadian Rainforest.
After spending the night in the bustling city of Vancouver, we enjoyed a morning stroll in Stanley Park The city gets larger every time I visit. The friendly people with their relaxed way of life is what I miss most (next to the mountains of course). Then we were off to the pier to board the MS Volendam for a spectacular cruise to North America’s last frontier, Alaska. But that’s a story for another time…
Bonus Value of up to $1,200 is available for our 2015 group journey! Call for details.