In Vancouver we picked up our hire car and began the journey east towards Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Sadly there was no free upgrade from Avis this time so we ended up with the crappy class of car we'd booked. Our Hyundai Elantra 'Touring' was functional but made overtaking a slow, slightly embarrassing process.
|Nice view, shame about the car|
|Check in, dump bags, find brewpub|
|Post-hike lunch at Maligne Lake|
|Reflecting at Lake Annette|
|Our first glimpse of glacial turquoise in the Valley Of Five Lakes|
|Lake 1. Pretty good|
|Lake 3. Awesome.|
|Bonus lake. The most stunning reflections of the trip.|
|At our lunch stop among the endless larch trees|
|Looking down from the mountain pass|
|If you do encounter a bear the situation can be resolved with a simple hi-five|
The next day we chose to stay local - to see Lake Louise, try a few nice hikes in the area, picnic for lunch and head back to give our weary calves a break. We achieved this more or less - the more bit being the hiking and the less bit being the break.
|Michelle, Greg and Louise|
|An avalanche. Not spectacular but safety-wise that was probably a good thing|
It was a fantastic day's hiking but one of those trips where the last two hours just feels like a long walk back to the car. Still, worth every step.
After 5 days in the national parks it was time head west back to Vancouver. The next two days were mostly spent on the road, with stopovers in the towns of Revelstoke (not much to see) and Kelowna (pretty) before eventually making it back to Vancouver, returning the car (with an additional 2,043km on it) and checking into the downtown HI for our last hostel stay of the entire trip.
Like most HIs this one was clean and friendly, a little pricey for a hostel but better than spending the same money on a ropey hotel. That said, I look back on the first night with mixed feelings - on the one hand it was free, on the other it was only free because we shared with a mouse, scurrying around all night. The next day the staff - apologetic but clearly unsurprised - moved us to a different room and refunded the previous night's charge. Woo.
We'd left ourselves two full days to explore Vancouver before jetting off to Hawaii. Depressingly I spent each morning working on my CV before we made it out to sightsee but with only a couple of weeks left until we arrive in Aus it needed to be done.
On our first day (well, afternoon) we were taken out for a whistlestop driving tour of the city by Mike, a friend of Gurm, with whom we'd worked in London. Mike took us to Granville Island to visit the markets and then to the Granville Island Brewery. If you've been following our progress up the coast of the US you'll know I'm not normally one for beer tasting but it seemed rude not to partake.
Mike's excellent – and comically random – tour continued on to Stanley Park and to the hip and historic Gastown district. For a 20yr-old he certainly knew more about the sights and history of his hometown than I do mine, even if he did admit to making a few dates up when he wasn't certain.
On our second afternoon – with a first draft of my CV finally complete – we set off on foot to Stanley Park to walk the sea wall and stretch our still-aching legs walking through the park and forested areas. Before visiting I wasn't sure why a park would rank as a top attraction in a city of this size but after whiling away an afternoon there I think I get it now.
Vancouver was our last stop in mainland North America and the last destination for the blog. From Canada we flew here – to Hawaii – but this is our honeymoon so there'll be no more blogging now until Aus.
As I write this I'm able to say 'Next week we move to Australia'. It feels more than a little weird; for so long it's just been something far off in the future.
Right now the change feels as daunting as it is exciting. On the one hand it's going to be awesome to see friends and family-in-law again, and to return to some semblance of normality – to not be living out of a rucksack, constantly on the move from city to city. On the other hand we'll need to find jobs, get bank accounts, register for doctors, get new mobiles, and generally spend lots of money on dull necessities. The 7 months we've spent travelling have been a fantastic adventure across the world but they've also been a handy way of putting real life on hold. Now, real life wants revenge.
Next time: a land down under.