Sunday 16 June 2013

Hi-def Banff

No time for breakfast today – we were straight out on a SunDog Tour of Banff that left me feeling the town is like Queenstown on steroids, in HD. The towns are very alike, surrounded by mountains, on the shores of a lovely expanse of blue water, the buildings are neat and stone-built, and they’re busy with tourists – but it’s all so much bigger here. The mountains, the river, the hotels and resorts, and there are more visitors here, from more places. And the air! On a warm sunny morning as we had today, with the bare peaks still streaked with white snow, the edges were so sharp and clear, the details so crisp, that it was like high definition in real life.

We did the usual Banff sights: the Bow Falls (not actually as impressive as Huka), the Sulphur Mountain gondola, which was high and fast and took us to a magnificent panorama of mountains, Cascade Mountain towering and distinctive, Mt Rundle an extraordinary example of uplift. Then there were the trees again, the billions and zillions of trees, mostly pine but also including poplar and aspen. There were lakes, hot springs, reflections and waterfalls: all postcard-perfect on a warm sunny day.

Then I made up for my disappointment last week at Seward, and went on a 3-hour Spray River trailride on Marshall, who had a streaked dark-blonde mane to die for but an irritating tendency to drift to the right under bushes; and whose intermittent jog I’m blaming for the actual blister on my behind tonight. But it was glorious to be out in the pine-scented woods, with only birds and distant train whistles to listen to above the clatter of hoof on rock, following narrow tracks through the tall trees and crossing the blue river twice, washing off all the mud from the extraordinary ‘mud steps’ cut by the horses themselves. So never mind the blister, I’m mollified now.

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