After we said our goodbyes to our relatives in Sechelt we left early on our journey to the Rockies. We boarded another BC ferry to Vancouver, where we would then taxi to the airport. The obligatory wait and even an uncomfortable nap on some benches got us through to our boarding time for our flight to Cranbrook on a Bombadier Dash-8 propeller plane.
The planes duel propeller engines hum loudly for the duration of the flight but provide a real experience for someone who has only ever flown with jet engines. It was a fun flight that could be compared to riding a mountain bike, instead of a road bike.
We arrived in Cranbrook in the late afternoon and were picked up by Thomas and Sarah. From there we commenced our drive to Golden, stopping for a terrible Subway sandwich. I napped inconsistently, while listening to Jarrod’s choice of music and thinking about our full transport experience of the day – car, boat, taxi, plane, car.
Eventually we arrived at our cabin, nestled in the hills above the town of Golden. Our purpose here was to celebrate New Years with some more of our Canadian relatives and also squeeze in a day or two of skiing at the nearby Kicking Horse Alpine Resort. Teeny and I quickly remembered how to ski with few hiccups.
Golden is a fairly small town of less than 5,000 people. Situated in British Columbia west of Banff, it is lesser known than the “famous” Alberta town but enjoys a better skiing reputation, particularly among Canadians.
We stayed in wooden cabins by a small river, which was frozen over but still had a small trickling stream. We also celebrated my mum’s 60th birthday, with a family dinner, drinks and some games. Mum and dad also enjoyed a dog sled ride through the forest, which was a gift on behalf of the children and their add-ons.
New Years eve we visited the nearby Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre. The centre has a pack of ten wolves, who have either been rescued from the wild or taken from captivity, with a handful on show. The goal of the centre is to raise awareness of the problems facing the wolf in modern society, and to clearly explain their vital role they play as a keystone species in the ecosystem.
The wolves are also used for photography, movie and documentary work, so that wild wolves are not harassed by over-zealous money-grubbers. It was an amazing experience to be less than a few metres from a real wolf, to watch them interact with each-other, play and also witness how friendly they can be with humans when trained properly by experienced handlers.
The 31st then brought the opportunity of further celebration, which we all looked forward to. Our relatives and their add-ons (wives, husbands etc) as well as us celebrated together, with a fire and legal fireworks Andy had acquired earlier in the day from a small, cash-only shop beside a take-away shop…
I brought in the New Year taking photos and drinking a “caesar”, a Canadian bloody mary, consisting of clam and tomato juice (clamato), vodka, tabasco, worcestershire sauce, pickles, and pepper… It is meant to be a hangover or breakfast drink, and definitely should not be drunk following red wine, scotch, beer, and cider.
We eventually left Golden and headed “home” towards Fernie. We stopped in Banff for lunch and to get a feel for the town. I got the sense it is very similar to a Byron Bay type of tourist town. Situated in the mountains, surrounded by stunning cliffs and forests, it is a tourist mecca – stunning, but somewhat soulless and artificial. Yes, I base this on my three or so hours spent there, and yes, that could very well change if I spent longer, but I did not feel the want to.
People were not very polite, and everything was expensive. While we were there I could count on one hand the amount of Canadian accents I heard as virtually everyone was foreign, mainly Australian. Even the horrible restaurant we walked out of, before ordering, had a terribly depressing and rude Australian as the waitress. Visit Banff, but do not stay for too long if you don’t like being a tourist. I suggest visiting any other, less famous ski town through Canada.
Fernie is our Canadian home now. Small, compact and full of adventure fun. Not a lot of nightlife or touristy but just enough to at least have something. We arrived to Sarah and Thomas’ basement apartment in time for 30cm or so of snow. Perfect! We would never live for an extended period of time here, but for a holiday, it is awesome enough.