Boarding the Rocky Mountaineer at Banff
7:15 Coach from Irwin’s Mountain Inn to Banff Station which is just 5 minutes away. Boarded the train which left at 8. The train had Red, Silver and Gold Leaf carriages, we have upgraded to Gold, which means that you are in a 2 deck carriage with seating on the upper deck and dining car on the lower. We have 6 ‘Hosts’ looking after our carriage which seats about 70 people. The top deck has big windows and a domed glass roof for maximum views and the seats are wide and comfy. We are in Coach 4, Seats 41 & 42. Sparkling peach juice cocktails to start with a toast to the trip. We are going to be the second sitting for meals today, swap tomorrow. The staff are super efficient and friendly, constantly on the go with drinks snacks etc. while providing a commentary on what we are seeing – in terms of history, natural features and wildlife. While we didn’t see any bears (not really the season to) we did see a group of Elk (while we were getting on the train), an osprey (and several osprey nests) and a bald eagle.
Inside the glass domed seating coach.
8:30 Hot towels and then served with hot scone, with mixed berry jam from British Columbia, tea and coffee while waiting for breakfast! Am trying not to overeat so having half and passing it on to D.
8:50 Stopped at Lake Louise to pick up the remaining passengers.
9:00 Breakfast! Fruit salad, croissant, omelette (with potatoes, bacon sausage tomatoes, mushrooms) for J; scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, caviar for D; tea, coffee. Went to the viewing platform for a bit then back to our seats for a glass of beer / glass of white wine. The dining car is very plush and the food is beautifully presented and served.
11:00 Having just played a game of Surname Bingo (J played, D didn’t), we are now going to be given a light snack and another drink!
12:00 Passing Kinbasket Lake (named after a First Nation Chief) who survived a run-in with a grizzly bear. Have had a tomato juice and nibbles – trail mix and speed chickpeas. The first sitting for lunch has just gone down and we are about to have a cheese and wine party.
Minor incident – the tray dropped on my glass of tomato juice and smashed it over me, my bag, trousers, seat etc. The lady said they never have a trip without a broken glass and cleaned up my seat while I attempted to clean myself up in the tiny airplane style toilet. But trousers are now both wet and dirty.
12:00 A big glass of Merlot, crackers and cheese made things better! Forgot to say that all food and drink is complementary. Am feeling pretty full and we haven’t yet had lunch. Coming up to Stony Creek Bridge.
12:40 Travelling through Connaught Tunnel, the longest tunnel on this journey – 5 miles (8 km). Started in 1914, cost 9 million dollars and took 2 years to build.
13:10 Going through Rogers Pass where the route through difficult terrain was designed by a guy called Rogers – he didn’t cash the $5000 cheque fee as he prefered to have the pass named after him. Prone to avalanches and snowdrifts with the River Illecillewaet rushing along below.
15:30 just finished lunch: D had hunters soup, burger; J beetroot salad, pork & garlic mash; both had Merlot to drink and apple & rhubarb crumble with ice-cream.
Slowing down for Last Spike, where the final spike was hammered in to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway from ocean to ocean November 7th 1885.
The staff have just come round asking if anyone wants ‘another beverage’! We are both stuffed and cannot face any more…
13:15 Sicamouse & Lake Shuswab we will be going 30 miles along the shore, warm water with beaches. Eagles River and Darwin River feed into the lake. The whole edge of the lake is over 1000 km long.
18:00 after a final drink and a cookie, we slowed down to enter Kamloops where we will be spending the night. Our tour guide Brian said it was “a half horse town” but told us which restaurants to go to. Really slick service on arrival: we were asked to wait in our seats when the train stopped as the coach drivers would give the staff our hotel room keys. On arrival at the hotel, there was no need to check in and the baggage would be in our rooms, having travelled separately by truck by road. And it all happened to plan! The coaches drew up to the steps of our carriages, little ramps were put out with Canadian flags. Hotel room keys were given to the Hosts and were handed out very smartly. In no time at all we were off the train (de-trained), onto the coach and into the hotel. Glass of lemonade on arrival, escorted to the lift but we had to push the buttons for ourselves! Into the room and the cases were there. We decided to go for a walk to stretch our legs, didn’t want anything to eat surprisingly! Then back to the hotel for a cup of tea and to write this.
Tomorrow is a relatively late start, 7:20 pick up for Day 2 on the Rocky Mountaineer!