Canada Part 5 – A Rocky Road

Now. For anyone who has ever been in a car with me as the driver, the idea of me hiring a car driving around some mountains, in the snow, on the other side of the road, would fill them with absolute dread. For example, Kerry, one of my oldest friends, refuses to get in my car on a good day. Low and behold Megan didn’t even ask if I was a good driver, she only cared that I could drive. So, off we went to hire a car for a road trip around the Canadian Rockies.

I made it very clear how nervous I was. The day before. The morning of. At breakfast. In the rental shop. In the car. I can’t express how many butterflies my butterflies had. Renting a car is nothing like having your own car. It’s a whole other world of responsibility. Picking up that car was pretty much the most adult thing I’ve done. EVER! Needless to say, that’s a big deal. But, there I am sitting in the driver seat, slightly shaky, a little sweaty, like “Maaaaate, how do you make an automatic go?” I quickly popped inside to ask the rental lady “Excuse me, miss.” Fuck, I’d turned into Shannon!

After a touchy start, picking up the bags and getting onto the highway, I realised I was actually not that bad at this. Heck, I made it to Lake Louise in one piece. No sketchiness. We arrived just in time to make it up to Lake Louise with a hike from the hostel. Note to self check the weather before hiking in the mountains, especially when you might end up hiking into a snow storm. Which we did! With Megan sure she had frost bite, and visibility at zero, we headed back to the hostel for dinner and a well deserved beer.

One great night’s sleep later and we’re bound for the Icefield’s Parkway. A couple of wrong turns, an accidental crossing of the province border and the conclusion that we can’t read paper maps nor follow google maps instructions later; we’re driving down one of the most stunning roads I’ve ever seen, taking short hikes to see Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Athabasca Glacier and a whole bunch of other stuff we found on the way. This was the day, that we hired the car for. It hardly mattered that we got a little bit stuck in the snow and Megan had to push us out. It hardly mattered that we rocked up to the most prison like hostel I’ve ever had the displeasure of staying at. It just didn’t matter, because that day was what travel dreams are made of.

However, the drive back through the Icefield’s Parkway was a completely different story. It was International Women’s Day and I, feeling a little empowered by yesterday’s absolute triumph, decided to pull into a rather deep area of snow to stop and take a picture. It was an official lay-by, but the dump overnight and a lack of upkeep on the road meant we got stuck. Again. No, really. Not just a little bit stuck, a lot stuck. We tried digging, we tried pushing, we did everything we could to free the car of it’s snowy grave. It didn’t move an inch. Eventually 5 guys in a jeep pulled up to ask if we needed help. I looked at Megan, knowing full well we couldn’t do it alone, back at the guys, “Yes, please.” Talk about a strong independent woman fail. Alas, sucking up my pride did mean we were back in the car just in time to hit another couple of snow storms. White knuckle driving all the way to Banff made us both tense “I need a drink!”

And drink we did. We drank and we drank, and one two many ciders, a couple of tequilas, a stolen hat, a $25 tip, a lost purse, a missing bag, no coat and a night at a strangers house later, in strolled Megan. My night was a little more tame, after losing Megan, I optimistically picked up brochures for renting boards on my way home, hoping she’d be back at the hostel. She wasn’t. I wasn’t sure if I should be worried. So I slept instead. I slept until that bish came home.

Some vegetables, vitamins and minerals later. We were all feeling a bit more human if not a little sorry for ourselves. Me because I’d wasted a day being hungover and Megan, well because her whole life was in a bag that she couldn’t pick up until Friday night. At least we had another day to explore Banff. Reception had warned us of the icy conditions on the challenging trails we had initially planned on doing, and with both of us being big wimps, we stuck to the safer options. We still had to climb over the barriers saying “way closed” to complete our route though. Ok, the conditions were barely steep and only a little slippery, but I still think our daredevil status was reinstated. A quick detour to Minnewanka Lake (because mini-wanker) and the bag was ready to collect.

Once Megan was reunited with her life again, our road trip had almost come to an end. However, to top off a spectacular journey of beautiful views and clumsy mishaps, we got a chip in the windscreen just as we were returning the car. Lucky we took out that extra cover after all!

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