Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | August 29, 2016

Fernweh (Wanderlust)

It’s 1pm local time, and we’ve just departed Calgary, bound for Vancouver where we’ll pick up a connecting flight to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. From Port Hardy, we’ll be picking up a car and travelling south to Telegraph Cove, for our Grizzly Bear and Killer Whale tours.

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Bow Lake 

I booked the tours back in December. It’s salmon fishing season in West Coast Canada and that means the bears are actively pursuing the streams, stocking up on food ahead of their winter hibernation. These tours get booked up months in advance but tomorrow is the day, nine months after booking, that we shall hopefully get the chance to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

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The top of Sulphur Mountain

Telegraph Cove is tiny. There’s a café, a few places to stay, and a whole heap of fishing boats I understand. This is part two of three in our Canadian tour. This is our wilderness moment. Outside generators and grocery stores available only in the next town along. This is fernweh, as they say in German – that ache of mine for a distant place and that ongoing crave for travel. This is one of the main reasons we are here in Canada.  This is wanderlust in practice.

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The Bow River and its reflections

We have been in Canada since Wednesday evening – four nights so far. Part one of our adventure saw us venture to the Rocky Mountains, as we explored Banff and all its surroundings, from Lake Louise, to Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, the Bow River and the Columbian Icefield. We’ve had some poutine and enjoyed some Canadian wine. The Rockies have been more stunning, more majestic, more captivating than I could ever have possibly imagined.

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Emerald Lake

This is an active holiday. Treks, horse riding, glacier walks and gondolas that rise high into the mountains, rewarding us with the most mesmerising of views. Instagram style filters seem to come to life in the Rockies; the vibrancy of colours more electric than my A Level Art colour palette, yet it’s all natural here. Every which way you turn you seem to walk into a postcard here. A snapshot of time, a vividness that feels unreal to the point that you rub your eyes and take a second look, disbelieving the beauty that descends.

It’s places like the Rocky Mountains that make me ache for distant places. I haven’t seen this much colour since Marrakech last year. Yet these colours are natural, as rock flour graces the bed of lakes, reflecting light and yielding us with emerald swathes of gloriousness, amidst snow capped mountains and the stark contrast of grey, dolomite rocks.

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Peyto Lake

I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in New Zealand these past few days. Banff and its surrounds have a most definite Queenstown feel to them. Alberta and British Colombia’s best lakes are distinctly Wanaka like and Banff and Lake Louise have a definite air of Arrowtown about them. The giant gondola that lifts you up Sulphur Mountain reminded me so very much of Queenstown’s gondola.

Equally, the colours and the mountain ranges had an air of Cape Town about them too, yet no ocean and no beach, and certainly no South African heat nor Baboons to shout about.

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Sunset over Banff

Every time I think I know beauty in this world, every time I think I have seen something I’ll never match, there’s another distant land that makes me crave for more travel, that makes me want to explore more, see more, be more.

Our lakes, mountains and waterfalls tour this past Friday was right up there with one of the very best travel days. It’s on a par for me, with Fraser Island in 2009, with the Whitsundays sailing trip, with Cape Town’s stunning scenery, with every moment of my New York adventuring and with Kefalonia’s glorious sailing around the Ionian isles. It matched the surrealism of Tokyo and the captivating island of Vanuatu, with its rugged, natural and untouched beauty and the most amazing people with hearts of gold and smiles of wonderment.

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Contemplative at Lake Louise

The Rockies, and its glacier walks, was much like the Fox Glacier, without the mountain climb this time. The weather matched my 2009 glacier experience in New Zealand, moody skies of grey, clouds that both reflected the sun and teased us with infrequent downpours of rain. Seven years on, altogether richer for the experiences that have graced me since. Altogether wiser, perhaps, altogether more excited than ever to see, do and be more in these distant, captivating lands.

People in Banff are either ‘lifers’ or transient. A mix of people making this their forever home, and people joining for a Summer or two, to experience wilderness and the outdoors. Fans of ice climbing, skiing, ice fishing and mountain climbs all congregate in the Rockies and given the stunning scenery, it’s not hard to see why they stay.

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Lake Moraine – my favourite of them all

Mountain wildlife roam the forest lands around Banff and Yolo National Parks amidst the Rockies. Locals make jokes about runners being ‘fast food’ and ‘lean cuisine’ for the hungry grizzly bears and cougars that patrol the woodlands; they joke about cyclists being ‘meals on wheels’. The jokes aside though, you’re quickly taught to make noise as you wander trails, to carry bear spray and to learn to ‘play dead’ if you ever come face to face with a grizzly bear that you so happen to accidentally disturb. If you see a black bear, “fight for your life” they say.

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Mountain goats

The Rockies have their share of avalanches too. Our tour guide on Thursday talked of getting caught up in one last year whilst skiing, and how some 32 broken bones later, a 60 foot drop and four minutes of being buried and turning purple, he was lucky to be alive to tell the tale.

Then there are the elks, and the 52 people that have been admitted to hospital with elk related injuries in the last year in Banff. The Rockies, much like Australia, has its fair share of natural hazards, to watchfully be aware of it seems. Yet people still ski amidst the avalanche zones and people still trek amidst the habitats of bears and mountain lions. Perhaps it’s possible that the sheer beauty of this region lures you to find the hidden paths and make discoveries of your own. Perhaps this is fernweh.

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Lake Louise in the sunshine

Then there are the incredible stories of mother nature. Of the importance of forest fires in yielding new habitats, fresh trees and grasslands for the entire ecosystem of the forest and its inhabitants to remain healthy. The stories of how we, as humans, upset the equilibrium of the forests when we tried to stem the flow of natural fires a few decades back, rendering trees that grew too old and which were poor habitats, yielding less carbon dioxide than the fresh trees that fires inevitably brought.

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At Takakkaw Falls

I think that the power of Mother Nature is something that will definitely stick with me from this trip. The tales of grizzly bears, who breed in the Spring but only fall pregnant in the Fall, if those potential mother to be bears have managed to indulge on enough berries, salmon and the like in time for their Winter hibernation and to carry their cubs to full term. Only if they have managed to build up enough weight shall Mother Nature determine whether these females bears should indeed fall pregnant come Fall.

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Colombia Icefields

As Winter comes and the bears hibernate, these amazing females sleep through their pregnancy, giving birth in their sleep, letting their cubs feed on their milk through their winter snooze, waking in the Spring to toddler cubs that they then spend the next two years teaching the ropes of life in the forest. Where to find water, where to find berries, how to catch prey. Mother Nature is amazing.

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Sulphur Mountain

So we are just ten minutes now from landing in Vancouver, and I must turn off my laptop. We are arriving on the West Coast and have just gained another hour. There’s cloud and it’s 16 degrees. Summer, it seems, has escaped this part of town today. Yet it doesn’t matter, as I’m in a distant land and my craving for travel has been fed. If the second leg of our adventure is anything like our first, we are in for a treat. Excitement, contentment and inspiration fill my heart.

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