Day Twelve – Flying high and I’ll raise you a pinky

Apologies again for the tardiness in blog posts – we were packing so much into each day that it was hard to stay awake to write once we stopped each day and towards the end of the trip we were exhausted. You know the old expression “you need a holiday to get over the holiday”? But we are determined to finish chronicling our adventures in Canada, so here we go:

A couple of big features of Day 12 – a helicopter ride over the Rockies and High Tea at the Fairmont Chateau, Lake Louise. Oh, and a LOT of driving. But first, to the fun stuff …

It was dark the night before when we arrived at our reasonably-priced hotel in Canmore, just outside the Banff national park, so the main things we were focused on the previous evening were: ‘Why is it so few Canadian hotels stock a kettle in rooms so you can’t make your own cup of tea’, ‘Why do hotels give you three towels when you book a room for four people’, and ‘I hope the weather is good for our flight in the morning’.

The dawn of a new day gave us an opportunity to take a peek at the town outside our room and we were gobsmacked:

The view was breathtaking!!!! And more importantly, there was sun hitting the top of the mountains! That augured well for our helicopter flight at 10.40am! A call to Alpine Helicopters at 9am confirmed that things were looking good – in reality, it had been the one thing we had been worried about proceeding because it was so weather dependent.

By the time we got to the chopper base 20 mins before our flight, the weather had changed. Our booked 30 minute trip over Mt Assinibione was no longer possible due to low-lying cloud that had moved in over the region, making it unsafe to fly. But the company offered us the opportunity to fly instead over Banff and Lake Minnewanka to the east of the town and take in the surrounding ranges. Of course we took that up (to be honest, unless you are super familiar with the area, you aren’t going to know what specific peaks you are flying over, so it made no difference to us). After viewing the safety video (or, how not to get your head cut off by the rapidly spinning blades when you walk to the chopper), we were assigned our seats and loaded onboard.

For some of us, it was our first time in a helicopter … check out Ange’s sheer delight in the video below.

The view from up high was amazing, and gives you a better sense than from the road just how vast and beautiful these ranges are. We were told that often you can see animals from the chopper, such as mountain goats or elk – however, we were not in luck today. But it was all good, as we had plenty of other awe-inspiring things to look at.

In what seemed like no time at all, we were back on the ground, completely elated and buzzing. What a rush! Can thoroughly recommend Alpine Helicopters for a mind-blowing flight experience.

With time ticking away, we were back in the car and on our way back to Lake Louise for High Tea, something we had heard was a ‘must do’ if visiting the region. And on the way, something magic happened. Snow! Big thick snowflakes started falling from the skies, which necessitated a pull-over and play by the highway for three of the ladies (coming from a cold climate and living in Canberra, Ange had seen snow before and was happy to watch from the car).

Once we were back on the road, it became obvious that it had been snowing for a while. The trees were frosted with white and there was quite a bit of snow lying on the ground (again, so pleased that we got our helicopter flight in early!).

Less than 24 hours since we were last here, and Lake Louise looked quite different with a new veil of snow.

But we were fast approaching our booking time, so we walked into the Chateau, found the restaurant and were seated beside a beautiful window overlooking the lake.

The food was beautiful – dainty little morsels piled on three-tiered plates. You could also choose from a variety of teas, or go for something with a few more bubbles (we chose not to).

The food was delicious, with special mention of the beautiful lemon curd which accompanied the scones. Amazingly good! And when combined with the view – well, it’s something that will stay with us for some time to come. Kristyn was so enamored with her lemon curd that she jokingly asked our server if she could get some in a doggy bag … and then gasped in surprise when he brought some out! One very happy girl!

With time marching on, and some five hours of driving still to do to get to our overnight stop of Kamloops, there was just enough time to find a snowy hill to make snow angels and head back to the car.

We knew that we would be arriving at Kamloops in the dark, but had chosen to travel down Highway One, the Trans-Canada highway, as we thought we’d make better time.

Well … it was definitely an experience. The roads at one point are quite narrow with sharp turns. Fine in daylight hours, not quite so much fun in the dark. In Australia, there are a lot of reflectors embedded into the road surface and plenty of signs to show the upcoming curves in the road. In Canada – not so much. Generally, if you are unfamiliar with the road, and without these helpful driving supports, you adjust your speed accordingly. Sounds reasonable, right? What we didn’t realise when planning the route is that just about every transport truck in Canada must use this road at night, and don’t take kindly to anyone slowing them down. We, unfortunately, witnessed some aggressive driving behaviour, from tailgating then overtaking us in front of oncoming traffic (which had to pull off the road to let the truck back in), to sitting on our bumper with their high beam lights on trying to intimidate us into driving faster. Suffice to say that if we ever travel to Canada again and drive, we’ll make sure it’s during daylight hours (and that we avoid this road).

Needless to say, we were very glad to see the divided, two-lane highway leading us into Kamloops. We found the hotel (the same one we stayed at before heading to the Rockies), wandered over to get some Dairy Queen deep-fried tastiness for dinner, staggered back to the hotel and organised our suitcases before we crashed in bed.

The next day would be our last day in Canada, with a drive back to beautiful Vancouver – the time went so quickly!

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