Romancing the rails
Romancing the rails
Ever since the nineteenth century when the completion of the western railway created the spine of Canada's transportation system, the lure of railway travel has maintained a mystique which many still find an incredible draw. Instead of merely flying overhead, railway travel provides an opportunity to actually see the massive land mass called Canada.
Last fall, Gazette photographer Geoff Robins and two travelling companions answered the call of the rails in a three-week journey to Vancouver, documenting their journey in hundreds of photographs. Here are a few...
Photos by Geoff Robins
DAY 21EAST OR WEST?
Vancouver, British Columbia brings two worlds together in a scene which could be from Hong Kong. Any further and our travellers will have to swim. Crossing over to North Vancouver on the Sea Bus, it's possible to visit the Capilano Salmon Hatchery and have a photo taken on the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge.
THE ZOO OR THE MALL? In keeping with the Edmonton, Alberta tradition of putting everything in a mall, the University of Alberta introduces the concept to their residences (right). Meanwhile, to the left, a University of Toronto field hockey player at the CIAU championships dons the traditional uniform of a kilt in zero degree weather. Of course, while in Edmonton, it's necessary to see the West Edmonton Mall, the world's largest shopping centre. The mall contains over 800 stores, an ice rink (skate rentals available), restaurants, a hotel, a huge water park and a roller-coaster. If you're lucky to be in Edmonton during hockey season, check out an Oilers game at the SkyReach Centre. Any seat in the place will do they're all good.
YUMMM, PHOTOGRAPHERS MY FAVOURITE. Churchill, Manitoba's claim to fame are the polar bears which camp out waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze (left). They're very cute, but very deadly. For those who prefer not to see the bears from their insides, Tundra Buggy Tours (above) will provide an eight-hour bear-watching trip for $162. Although Churchill is a town of only 1,000 people, tourists swell its population in the fall. Finding a place to stay can be difficult and during the peak bear-watching season (Oct. 17-Nov. 17) there are often no vacancies with many hotels and bed and breakfasts taking bookings up to three years in advance. The town itself finds a way to combat both the elements and bears by putting everything from the townhall to the high school under one roof (below).
BLOWN AWAY IN WINNIPEG. As Canada's fourth largest city, Winnipeg, Manitoba has a lot to offer the traveller. Affordable lodgings are relatively easy to find and there are lots of great places to eat. Winnipeg also has one of Canada's best museums the Museum of Man and Nature, as well as the "Windiest Corner in Canada" at the corner of Portage and Main Streets.
UH, DID I MENTION I'M AFRAID OF HEIGHTS? The spectacular views of Banff, Alberta make it a top tourist attraction literally. Banff itself is famous for skiing and the Banff Springs Hotel, while Tunnel Mountain (above) is a great morning hike and affords a spectacular view of the town. At sunset, the best view shifts to Bow Falls the falls are beautiful as the sun makes its way behind the mountains. WARNING TO THE BUDGET TRAVELLER: Banff is a very expensive place.
RIDIN' ON A TRAIN GOIN' WEST. As far as views go, Jasper, Alberta's train station (left) beats the concrete jungle of Toronto's Union Station. Passengers can even catch a view of big horn sheep climbing up the mountain. Jasper itself is a little tourist town nestled among the mountains of Jasper National Park and is the place to mountain bike with great trails for both beginner and seasoned cyclists. If you're trying to keep your budget down, try staying in hostels like the one in Jasper (above). Budget doesn't necessarily mean boring the Lake Louise Hostel has fireplaces on every floor!
CIVILIZATION AT LAST! Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia and all its attractions await the weary traveller at the end of the tracks. The western city is a huge bustling centre with lots to see and do including some of the area's "must sees" the Vancouver Aquarium, the totem poles in Stanley Park and Canada Place the site of Expo '86.
For the interested and uninitiated, here's a rough idea of some basic expenses you may incur if you decide to follow in our adventurers' tracks...
Adult Low-Season Canrail Pass $369
(High season - $569. Includes 12 days of travel in a 30 day period)
Two extra travel days ($28 each): $ 56
Tundra Buggy Tour: $162
Car Rental (one week): $150 each for three people
Mountain bike rental: $ 25
Lodging (based on staying mainly in hostels. $450
Hostelling International members can save $5-$10 per night)
Food (depends on how much grocery shopping you're willing to do): $450
Miscellaneous (including museum admissions etc): $150
(Expenses have been calculated based on a four-week trip)