Views like these - and bears
Both daughters will have finished at university in 18 months or so, and my wife and I have decided to do the Canadian Rockies by rail towards the end of Summer 2012. Has anyone done this and have any recommendations/things to watch out for?
Views like these - and bears
I have a man to do that for me.
What route are you planning on taking - a round trip from/to Vancouver? If you're heading towards Whistler, cycling down the the ski slopes used to be popular in summer, depending on how active you're feeling. The Gulf Islands, between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, are also worth a look - you can easily get a ferry over and back from Vancouver in a day, or stay a night - there used to be a place on Saltspring Island where you could hire a teepee for a night, maybe Google will find it.
I'd avoid the fast-boat whale-watching trips which you see buzzing around and pestering Orcas trying to feed, you can whale-watch just fine from the shore or from a nice, quiet kyak. In Vancouver itself, check when the fireworks competition / festival is on - 3 days where rival fireworks companies show off to each other and spectators. The area around the University of British Columbia is very nice, being beaches on three sides, and the Granvil Island area of Vancouver (with its own brewery) is worth spending a day in.
If you go hiking (which is, obviously, a very good idea), do take proper advice, equipment and maps for the area you'll be in. If you're used to the South of England, the scale of Canada can take you somewhat by surprise - there are huge swathes of land around, and you'll feel silly if you get lost or eaten by something. I wasn't kidding about the cougers, by the way, although on the mainland near the Rockies you'd be more likly to come accross bears or, to be honest, really big mozzies. If you don't have much by way of hiking or camping equipment you might want to wait until you get over there to buy a really good set of waterproofs or a tent - it can chuck it down good and proper sometimes, especially near the coast (the Victoria / Vancouver area is technically a temperate rainforest). The camping and army-surplus shops in Vancouver are (or, at least, used to be) good value for money.
Thanks for giving a little more detail, that's what we're looking for as we've really only just decided that's what we'll do. We are planning to push the boat out for this trip after a few years of relative austerity paying off our daughters' university fees, living expenses etc. I did camping once and it's not for me to be honest. Having visited the States a few times I've a good idea of the scale of the continent, and also that there are bears and wolves to contend with, depending on where you are.
We'll be getting some maps together over Christmas to look at the territory in more detail, and all feedback is gratefully received and added to the equation.
A day's river-boat tour might be an idea - a bit slower, maybe, than the train, and you can often see a fair bit of wildlife from a vantage point you wouldn't otherwise get to. There's bound to be somewhere up around the Rockies, although I can recommend the Lady Rose that runs between Port Alberni and Bamfield on Vancouver Island if you're over that way. The same company also offers kyaking trips where you paddle around a bunch of islands, which seems like great fun.
Once you get up towards the plains, on the east side of the Rockies, you could always see if there's a horse-riding centre, dude ranche or similar, if that kind of thing appeals. Maybe try white-water rafting?
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