On Rocky Ground: Part Apart #canada #rockies # holidays

In 2013 I visited Canada with my wife, the Textiliste and my children, the Broker (formerly known as the Lawyer) and the Vet. We’ve stayed in Banff and visited Lake Louise and the Six Glaciers. Today it’s…

Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks. Maybe we’d been spoilt as our guide for Lake Louise was the cheeky charming Anika. Today we were collected by the oily lugubrious Derek whose personality ground my gears like an arthritic glacier. I’m not good with rules that have been designed to make the rule giver’s life easier especially when they are the first thing that’s shared with me.

Me: as I climb about his bus, a cheery ‘Morning!’

Derek: giving me a wary side eye, and nodding at my coffee cup, ‘You’re not thinking of drinking that on this bus?’

Me: momentarily flummoxed, ‘er…’

Derek, now standing and addressing the rest of the coach: ‘No food or drink on the coach. And don’t use the toilet. It’s for emergencies.’

Me: recovering somewhat, and beginning to move down the bus, ‘Thanks for letting me know.’

Derek, standing again, ‘Hey, I said no food or drink on this bus.’

Me: once more cheery, ‘Yep, got it!’

Derek: sounding more and more like Mr Gilbert my first Latin teacher and a man who could insert a piece of chalk into a pupil’s ear at fifteen paces, ‘So what’s with the cup?’

Me: knowing this won’t end well, ‘Just in case I need a non-emergency pee’ pause, rummaging in my back pack, ‘I’ve a Tupperware box somewhere in case I need an emergency number…’


Derek, for all his petty ways was a consummate professional. He rose about my pathetic flippancy, understood my children would control me far better than he and began to explain what we were going to see that day. He wasn’t wrong when he said it would be v good.

Lake Morraine is visually spectacular, one of those iconic back drops caused by some mother of all rock falls – a mountain collapsed, which must have moved even Derek’s vocal harmonics up a register or two. Visitors queue up to take the perfect piccy with that super turquoise water and pine woods as a back drop. Luckily, the threatened thunder, which briefly cheered Derek until it passed us to the south didn’t spoil our stroll around the paths.

I don’t really recall the Ten Peaks. Maybe Derek decided we didn’t deserve them. Instead we headed for the delightfully named Kicking Horse Pass, the continental divide. Apparently if we were rained on on the eastern side the water would eventually end up in the Atlantic, though I imagine it would pass through several Americans and Canadians via beer and coffee on its way, where as the precipitation on the western side would head off for the Pacific. That did seem a rather cool idea. It’s also the point where Alberta becomes British Colombia – I wonder why they retain the British prefix? Rather sweet and maybe the sort of thing no one wants to change in case the replacement turns out to be even worse.

Derek and me, it turned out were kindred spirits, hard though that was to swallow. ‘Next up, a treat,’ he intoned with what sounded like genuine enthusiasm. ‘The spiral tunnels.’

See, one reason why I wanted this holiday was the Rocky Mountaineer, the railway that travels from Jasper to Vancouver and which we could be catching in a couple of days. Railways are still a fundamental part of Canadian infrastructure taking all sorts of stuff – mostly grain- from the centre to the outer edges of the continent. When they were building the railway, back when Stove pipe hats and spats were the baseball caps and high tops of their day, they had a bit of a problem around here. The mountains. One of the things railway engineers soon learnt was that braking a train required help in terms of the incline of the braking train. Make that incline above 5 degrees and braking became something of an optional extra. Having lost too many trains to the recurrent if naive hope that this time the bloody thing would stop, the engineers decided the only answer was to create a spiral that never exceed the required 5 degrees. To do that the tunnels were blown into the mountain side and kept popping in and out. And because the trains were so long, you could watch the train as it weaved in and out on the way down or up.

I stood on the viewing platform with Derek, the rest of the party having decide to play I spy chipmunks while we waited in hope of a train.

Me: ‘How often do you see the train?’

Derek: ‘Never.’

Me: ‘Never?’

Derek: ‘Been ten years…’

Give him his due, Derek kept the faith. I wouldn’t say we bonded but my ingrained love of all things railway-based that goes back to the delights of the Rev Audrey’s Thomas the Tank Engine books, gave him the excuse to wait a bit longer. I wonder if he’s seen one yet? Hope so.

We left to take in a waterfall – my recollection is of a spectacular sight and a river underneath that reminded me of a China clay sediment lake in Cornwall, with its vibrant white silt.

I did thank Derek when we departed his coach, and I showed him my cup. I’d hate him to think I left it for him to clear up. I’m sure he appreciated the gesture. It didn’t need words.

That evening we moved from Banff to The Lake Louise hotel. one of those not quite places. It tried to be charming and nailed pretentious. Maybe it was the bed, which left me looking like a pretezel. Or the food which comprised an elk burger and rhubarb tart that didn’t appear to have what we understood to be rhubarb in it. We’d moved so we could get an early start on our big drive along Highway 93, one of the top drives in the world. Whatever, that would be a novel experience. I’d be gobsmacked it there were any drives in the UK that had been nominated in the top 1000 drives.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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32 Responses to On Rocky Ground: Part Apart #canada #rockies # holidays

  1. Never trust a guide who can’t spell his name properly. A brilliant take by the Vet on the traditional propping up a building photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darlene says:

    I hate to tell you this but I have actually seen a train go through those spiral tunnels. Saw it coming out and going in at the same time! Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such beautiful happy faces.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    I’m setting up our trip based on what you did! Did it ever rain on that trip? So gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely tour. Thank you, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Fabulous place Canada, we did Calgary to Banff including a helicopter ride, Lake Louise,then to Kamloops, then Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer, we had three days in Vancouver and visiting a day trip to Vancouver Island, then we picked up a car and drove up to Whistler and had three days there beautiful pkace Canada… Loved your blog it brought it all back 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  7. JT Twissel says:

    We were all set to take the Rocky Mountaineer in May … still hoping – maybe this year? Gads using the toilet on a crowded and moving bus would have to be emergency. What person in their right mind would attempt to do that were it not an emergency?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We saw the train in the spiral tunnels on our very first visit on 1994! I think that’s Takakkaw Falls – we went there in 94 and again in 2007.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. CARAMEL says:

    What beautiful photos! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Marsha says:

    Enjoyed your trip, Geoff. Looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Nice shots of your family as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. trifflepudling says:

    Sounds like you went on holiday with your wife AND The Textiliste 😉 ! Missing comma…
    Sorry – can’t resist being pedantic occasionally…


  12. George says:

    I spat my coffee out guffawing at your initial riposte to Derek, but ended up, like you, wishing he gets to see the train one day. Stunning pics. I have fond memories of a driving tour with my cousin that took us from Vancouver up into the Rockies then down through Montana, Idaho and back up into BC through Washington State. The scenery was breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Right after we go to Zion and Bryce we hope to go to Lake Louise and the area. Of course we also would like to go to the cinema, the grocery store and a nice hotel. Right now we rotate between the first and second floor of our house.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think I know this Derek, or at least his tribe. They are the ones born with the instinctive skill to say any words they like while still having translate to, “I hate my job and am likely not going to be fond of you either”. Yea, that’s him all right.

    Liked by 1 person

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