Before the beginning…
Those of you who are to join the NAE this year are now preparing excitedly, and from what we’ve seen, you should be excited! Emily (the Tour Leader) and I (Yanez, the cook) started off on the 25th of June (a beautiful day) with the ferry to Vancouver, joining the route we will take on tour the next day when we entered the Jasper National Park. Immediately the beauty of the place struck us. The park road winds through a vast valley dotted with small lakes, some bright turquoise, some milky blue, some deep navy in colour. Jagged snow-capped mountains with thousands upon thousands of seemingly uniform trees marching down all the way to the highway. There they suddenly get smaller with tiny ones right on the edge of the road, like child soldiers trying to reclaim the tarred bit. (!Why the children?!). The Canadian government is fighting back keeping the road in good condition. The Athabasca Glacier is also a highlight and a chance to fill your water bottle with ice cold water.
Before we came to Canada, I was most looking forward to the Mexico section because of the cultural experience. But for two South Africans like ourselves, Canada has already been rich with new and, to us, exotic things: Filling your own tank at a gas station (no, really!), root beer, the smell of a pine forest, real maple syrup, the trendy homeless and Poutine (with a capital P, fries cheese and gravy. Locals say it is at its best on the way home when after a hard night of drinking, something I am still to try). Canadians are friendly…really friendly. Even when they are tired and angry with you because the kitchen closes at 10 and you rock up hungry at half past 10 they are still friendly and keep the kitchen open. Maybe it’s the public broadcasts on the radio reminding all Canadians to be friendly and that being friendly is what makes them Canadian.
There is a real sense of national pride in Canada. In fact, if you stand anywhere in Canada you should see at least one Canadian flag and if you don’t, just wait and one will drive past you. But the most charming Canadians by far have been the wildlife. We are now in Muncho Lake and in the last few days we have seen grazing deer with the fuzzy horns, J-walking big horn mountain sheep, better behaved ones with smaller horns, bison and a huge black bear. Today we saw a mamma moose with two baby moose (mooses, mooselings… calves?). Anyways, time to read up on the wildlife. Most of them run away before you can get a good photo though but we saw them, honest to bob, and the scenery just gets more epic as we go towards Alaska. The North American wilderness might just be the most beautiful thing in the world.
PS. The mosquitoes are already big, bad and biting! Come prepared.