“What’s the difference between an elk and a deer?” Asked G inquisitively. The hostel manager peered up from his laptop sneering, “Oh, I don’t know, that they’re different species? It’s like telling the difference between a cat and a dog.” So I showed him a picture we’d taken of an animal with antlers next to a lake. He paused for a moment before identifying it as an elk. “It has a browner neck and deers have a whiter ass.” Unconvinced that he’d ever seen a cat and dog in the same room we set off to Sulphur Summit, a grey mass of sharp rock that sits near Jasper and rather conveniently has hot springs at it’s base. It was to be our second trip to hot springs in Canada, the first being in Liard River on the Yukon border with British Columbia (whose welcome sign reads – “Welcome to British Columbia – The Best Place on Earth” – modest).
During that visit we came face to face with our second moose, this time a full-blown textbook bull moose, with antlers like climbing frames and legs like redwoods. We ran quickly and informed the nearest Canadian who took heed of our frantic warning like someone hearing of a blue bottle in their conservatory.
Later, we had to slalom through a bustling herd of bison, about a hundred strong. Round the corner a stricken lorry sat at the side of the highway, it’s whole front bashed in, bumper dashed across the tarmac. A rather more stricken bison lay in the hard shoulder. Wildlife is everywhere here, unfortunately humans are too!
Gina has been clocking in unbelievable mileage since crossing into Canada. As we’ve been heading south it has certainly felt like we’ve been outrunning winter. The routine for a few days was: Wake up to a carpet of snow. Drive south until sunshine and greenery in the afternoon. Sleep in a motel last seen in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Wake up to a carpet of snow. We’re now in Banff, sleeping my old friend Ciaran’s floor. The drive from Jasper was properly ridiculous. It holds up to the mantle of “World’s Prettiest Drive” rather well. Last night was Canadian thanksgiving, so we ate tacos and drank beer called Black Ice, which tastes of air but is 6.2%. Today’s plan is to go mountain biking and play indoor football with some locals – good job I brought my tiny 1995 Blackburn Rovers shorts. Game on!