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Canada - Icefields - Day 6

Today was moving day so we were packed and on the road before 9am. We knew we had a long drive ahead and wanted to get moving out of Banff and start our journey north for a few days.

The weather was slightly overcast but the further north we went the brighter and warmer it got.

The scenery was spectacular and really I do not know enough superlatives in order to describe it. In parts it was so beautiful it really did not look real. The sky, the mountains, the perfectly shaped trees all giving the magnificent backdrop to streams, lakes and waterfalls all of such colour that it took your breathe away. We stopped a few times to breathe the fresh air and admire the view longer. Photos can never do justice to the sheer beauty of nature.

We also stopped en route at a little place called The Crossing which was almost like a small village in the middle of nowhere to top up with petrol. Unsurprisingly it cost almost 50% more than was being charged back in Banff.

Further on we arrived at our destination for the day - The Columbia Ice-fields where we had booked a Glacier Adventure starting at 1.30pm. We were nice and early and after checking in, we had some lunch sitting outside on the patio. I had my first Poutine of the trip. It is still a weird combination (chips/gravy/cheese curds) but it works. It is sold everywhere in Canada. I think someone should try selling it back home.

We then went and queued for our departure. We were to be taken by coach to the Ice Explorer Vehicles for the drive to the Glacier.

Now for the third day in a row, I have to record a problem with a fellow tourist from somewhere in the Far East. As we were waiting to get on the bus, a lady pushed past us and others in order to get to the front of the queue. Then once in position she motioned for the rest of her family to come and join her. Fortunately they didn't. Now if there is one thing to wind up Karen up it is someone queue jumping, and so she was a tad annoyed but in a very British like way. I explained that I think that queuing is very much a western phenomena and one not always followed in other cultures.

Once on the coach the lady then tried to reserve other seats at the front by placing coats and bags on them. This started to wind me up as well, so Karen and I just sat on her 'reserved seats'.

As we drove into the switching point to get onto the Ice Explorer Vehicle, Karen motioned to me not to let the lady jump in front of us again. I failed as the old lady moved like a ninja into the coach corridor ahead of me. I was directly behind her. She then attempted to physically push me back and tried to pull a child around me trapping my leg. I couldn't move even if I wanted to and asked her politely to stop so we could all just get off the coach.

When we got off the bus I showed her the mark she had caused to my leg and told her the pain she had caused. She looked at me blankly. We did all got on the Ice Explorer calmly. That concludes part 1 of the old lady story.

The Ice Explorer Vehicle was great. One of only ever 24 made. 22 of them are used for tourists on this glacier and the other 2 are in Antartica. It was huge with a 6 wheel drive, weighing 33 tons, huge low pressure tyres and can handle 60% inclines. It took us down what is the steepest road in North America easily onto the Glacier. We went past fast flowing streams of melt water and were dropped off on the Glacier and given a 18 minute slot to walk on the bluish ice. We were told the Ice Explorer had to leave exactly on its time slot. In parts there was a lot of slush and it was difficult to walk as it was slippery. We were glad to wearing our walking shoes. It was fresh but not cold. Some people had bottles they were filling with the melting ice as we were told it was safe to drink.

After 16 minutes we were safely back on the Ice Explorer.

Now part 2 of the aggressive lady story. As we were sitting there, Karen said I bet she will make sure she is last on. Her family as predicted were last on, but not the old lady who we could see was still taking photos. The driver closed the doors at exactly the designated time and started the engine. The family all shouted at the driver and demanded he stopped. He refused and they started getting upset saying the lady is old and doesn't speak English. He said he wasn't allowed to stop, he had to leave on schedule and that he had explained all that before we got off. She would have to wait on the glacier until another vehicle had a spare seat for her (these were running every few minutes).

Now Karen started to feel bad saying that although the lady had got her 'comeuppance' she didn't like to see anyone separated from their family. I am ashamed to admit it didn't bother me that much especially as I still had a red mark on my leg. People push the limits too far sometimes. If it was a scheduled flight the plane would not wait and miss its slot, so why was this any different? Perhaps next time the family will learn, or am I being too harsh?

Anyhow from the Ice Explorer we transferred to another coach which took us to the SkyWalk. This is similar to the one in the Grand Canyon. It is a glass bottomed walk over the cliff edge with a 918ft drop beneath you. It is very well done and even Karen felt safe and comfortable walking over it. The only problem was that it was rather crowded with people, which is a recurring theme. Perhaps I am actually getting a tad grumpy as I get older......

After a ride back to the Visitor Centre we returned to our car and started the 2 ½ journey to our Hotel in Hinton.

When I booked the Hotels for this trip I had not been able to get a room in Jasper. I hadn't realised that this Monday is Heritage Day which is a civic holiday in Canada. Therefore everyone takes a long weekend break. Hinton is the nearest place to Jasper but is one hours drive away in the wrong direction. This made me grumpy again but I was cheered up by Karens excitement in seeing all the wildlife on the journey. We stopped on a bridge as below in the river were a family of Elk crossing. We passed Big Mountain Goats and some fierce Mountain Sheep. No bears though although we did see a very large Elk (or was it a Moose) with an enormous head of antlers on the side of the road.

The Hotel was acceptable and Karen was happy it had a free Guest Laundry that we took advantage of. Then we went out for some food. Whilst driving we decided that neither of us fancied a restaurant tonight and so we settled for a KFC which ate on their big fancy wooden bench outside in the warm evening air.

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