Sunday, February 1, 2009

Banff and Calgary - Day 4

We met in the lobby in the morning with no problems. We made a good decision last night to return the car today, as now we had a car that we can use to drive us and our luggage to the bus stop in town. As we tried to load all of our bags in the car, it became clear to us that we had to make two trip. Although we realized this pretty soon, we kept trying to stuff everything into the car for a while as we were all pretty groggy from partying last night and really didn't want to make two separate trips. In the end, we had to bite the bullet and decided that a single trip just wasn't possible.

With our luggage dropped off at the bus depot, Kim and I went to return the car. We also picked up breakfast for everyone, which consisted of nearly $40 worth of McDonald's as it was the fastest food we can find, and we were starting to run low on time. On the walk back to the bus depot, we came across two young deer or sheep grazing on a lawn. I was surprised that they barely took notice of us even as I walked up right behind them and stood close enough to touch them. I was tempted to reach out my arm and pet them or give them a nice back scratch as they looked so docile, but realizing that they were wild animals larger than me, I decided it was better just to leave them alone.

After getting our tickets and finishing off our meals by popping the perfectly sized straws for popping from McDonald's, we walked to the station where our bus was to pick us up. This was a typical small-town Greyhound station, a small simple building with some wood benches, some counters, an out-of-order drinking fountain and a large antique-looking scale. We chatted as we waited for our bus. The Kiwis told me a hilarious story about them getting completely drunk in town a few nights ago. Seeing that they didn't have a way to get back to the hostel, they "borrowed" a bicycle they found, piled onto it, and rode it reluctantly up the icy roads up the mountain back to the hostel. The next morning, they found that the bike they left outside had been "borrowed" by someone else. They were amused by images of Kiwis visiting Canada and stealing people's bikes at night.

Soon, we heard a bus stop outside. Some of the passengers getting off poked their head in and shouted to us that the bus was were. We each took a row in the bus as it was quite empty, and many of us decided to take a nap on the bus.

The drive from Banff to Calgary was much more scenic than the drive to Banff a few days ago, as it was daytime during this ride so that I can actually see the mountains instead of fuzzy shadows of hills outside the windows. The area around Canmore, one of the last stops before exiting the Bow Valley was exceedingly beautiful. Gazing north, one can see a perfectly U shaped valley with lush green vegetation cradled on the bottom of the U. On the higher portions of the U were dramatic rocky cliffs covered with snow and ice. On a clear day, one can see very far up the valley, all the way to where it is blocked off by tall peaks 25 kilometres to the north. The scale of this dramatic backdrop against the buildings of the town and the cars and trucks travelling on the highway was immense and humbling. As we exited the mountain range, the terrain quickly became flat, filled with pastures and wheat fields, what one would typically expect to find in the Canadian prairies. The formidable wall of snowy peaks behind us shrank with each passing moment, although it remained visible throughout the entire trip due to their sheer size.

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