In late October 2017 my partner and I decided to book last minute flights to Canada. Travelling by RV we wanted to hit the road with no real plan in mind but to explore the raw beauty of British Columbia and Alberta over the next 6 weeks. Although we’ve travelled many times through various cold climates our journey was anything but smooth. Along the way we encountered some unexpected surprises which would later make for amazing memories. We were also fortunate enough to meet friendly locals who soon became lifelong friends in our home land down-under.
Having travelled to New Zealand and Tasmania many times I’d convinced myself that there would be so much similarity, I felt confidently prepared when boarding our flight to Canada. However, nothing could’ve prepared me for the sheer scale and diversity Canada had in-store for us. We arrived in Vancouver and felt the climate change hit us instantly. Coming from Summer on the South-East coast of Australia to Winter in B.C was much like throwing your body into a giant esky! Being a fiend for cold environments I was in my element, I couldn’t be more excited and was ready for the adventure ahead. We collected our RV, left the busy city and
straight onto the open road. Our first destination would be Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were encouraged to arrive at blue hour before the shuttle buses. The lights were spectacular and the rolling in of surrounding fog created excellent mood. The park; made up of hundreds of thousandsof lights really makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale. We decided to explore Cascade falls and Cypress Bowls next. Funny story… I was overly eager to test my video skills on this trip, due to my own error of judgement having switched to Sony recently I reformatted my memory card and lost all of the clips up until now. I was frustrated however we did return to capture these magical locations.
Onward via Sea to Sky highway we spent the night in Squamish. The weather was underwelming and the drive towards Whistler became an absolute nightmare with minimal lighting, blinding blizzard winds and black ice. I remember feeling so nervous as we approached any incline having almost slid down the road twice already with no clearing to safely pull over. We were told to wait a few hours for the storm to pass and by some miracle made it to Whistler without having a serious accident. We did however get bogged in town and as a result received our first parking infringement, from that point on we were pretty much locals!
The whole drive through Sea to Sky highway was hazardous so we took it slow, the harsh weather conditions made it hard to explore as a lot of attractions were closed for safety. Joffre Lake was a must-see on our list but the risk of losing the walking track under 4ft of fresh pow on a 3 hour hike was far too high. At this point we felt very limited, most campsites had closed during the winter and having had our RV winterised meant that we were unable to use any of our bathroom facitilities. Complications aside we still woke up early, cooked maple bacon and eggs and made a habit of catching a beautiful sunrise and sunset in a different location each day no matter what the weather. It felt amazing to just stop and take it all in together, whether it be nature in a storming uproar of rage or a still morning with golden light, the elements seemed to align perfectly giving us something new to appriciate everyday.
As we passed Lillooet we stopped overnight to admire reflections on surrounding lakes, snow capped alps and winding train tunnels perfectly nestled around every turn. Arriving in Kamloops we were so exhausted however, the following day was spectacular weather would you believe? Not one cloud in sight! A pit stop at Wendy’s and we are back on the road ready to explore the small town of Clearwater, visit a wild Bison farm and chase waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Wells Gray Provincial Park was unforgettably beautiful, Helmcken Falls in particular took our breath away. When we arrived the falls were covered in blanketsof fog and flowing like crazy, the energy and structural strength formed by lava and glacial flooding gives the falls a punch bowl appearance. Being able to sit and watch fog dive into the falls then roll out the other side was incredible and a highlight of our trip. During our time in Canada we met up with some fellow photographer friends from the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Together we convoyed towards the boarder-line of Alberta sharing stories of our current travels and future destinations. Better known as @thewildervan, the travel duo moved to Canada, bought an 80’s Dodge camper and now live life on the road Photographing their travels. Our nights were spent by the campfire listening to music, dancing, drinking beer and losing countless games of scrabble. It’s the most humbled I’d felt in a while, being their together with likeminded people who share so much expression, passion and raw love for what they do.
Our next few days were spent relaxing and recharging in Lussier’s natural hotsprings. Soaking in the raw minerals, enjoying the simple pleasures and some much needed warmth before the days to come. We were so lucky to have the place to ourselves but were later joined by friendly locals who shared stories of their own Canadian expeditions and key locations in the area. One of our final stops before entering Alberta was Lake Louise. A place where I learnt the importance of listening to your girlfriend and not standing at the edge of a frozen lakes.
We arrived at Lake Louise in the early morning to catch sunrise, the first thing I noticed were the birds and how amazingly comfortable they were flyingstraight onto you with no fear whatsoever. The Lake itself was so visually pleasing and the sun peaking over surrounding mountains made photography almost too easy. I set up my camera and asked my partner to stand at the edge of a thin layer of ice on top of the lake so that I can capture her reflection on the water. She declined and I’m now forced to do it myself. We switch places and I confidently “show her how it’s done” before falling into the freezing cold lake as the ice cracks beneath my feet. The people around me point, stare and were in a fit of laughter, my partner included, who
didn’t look one bit sorry for me! Half an hour later, a few boiling jugs of water and I’ve defrost my shoes, pants, socks and learnt a valuable lesson!
It’s intriguing to see quaint little towns along the way that live so simply but are still so happy, it really gives you a new sense of perspective. A similar experience occured the moment we caught our first glimpse of the Canadian rockies. The van went completely silent, we’d never seen mountains of that scale and perfection. Every detail was truly mesmerising as though it had been carefully painted. There’s something truly wonderful about being somewhere so remote and secluded on the open road. Allowing yourself to be consumed by an overwhelming amount of freedom, awareness and appreciation for your surroundings in such a pure moment. As we approached Emerald Lake we noticed how picturesque the area was and how it resembled a scene out of a winter Christmas movie. We canoed along the water for a while and noticed that the air had gotten so crisp and cool. The sun began to set, while tiny lights began brightening up the lodge across the water making it look and feel so warm and wonderful.
As we made our way into Banff we didn’t expect such a nice town, it was busy but still very enjoyable. Surrounded by gorgeous fields full of wildlife and frozen lakes we were spoilt for choice and spent our afternoons tobogganing and attempting to ice-skate in our Timberlands! Banff NP reminded me a lot of New Zealand, the sky was so clear however it was a great deal colder that British Columbia. As we were leaving, my partner had a bad fall on ice which put her out of action for a good 2 days. We decided to take it easy and spend time going through our photos and enjoying Banff together with our friends. During this time we drove up a mountain where I misjudged a corner, clipped a rocky embankment and punctured a back tyre. We waited a few hours for someone to come and change our tyre, and had locals constantly pulling over to ask if we needed help, food or even water. The people were so kind and lifted our spirit a lot in that moment. In the end we were quite sad to leave Banff as it had fast become our favourite major town.
Another favourite destinations would have to be Icefields Parkway. The entire drive is so wonderfully windy and every corner would open up to a new layer of snowy mountains. We stopped many times to shoot the beautiful scenery and explore lookout points before deciding to hike to Peyto Lake. I remember the hike back after discovering the Lake was frozen solid. Our fingers, toes, lips and noses were bright red and felt like they had frostbite. It was so painfully cold and unbearable at the time however, nothing could’ve prepared us for Jasper.
A funny thing about winter in Canada is that the days only hold 7 hours of light on average, making them feel extremely short. We walked a 3km elavated track to Johnson canyon on hard slippery ice, this hike was near impossible at times and felt like it took the entire day. When returning we would then cook dinner and be in bed by 6pm before noticing how early it still was! We spent 3 nights in Jasper and on the first night decided to sleep in our RV. This was a big mistake as the thermostat decided to stop working while the temperature dropped to -15’C overnight. We were freezing and our bodiesfelt every bit of the almost unbearable pain. When we woke our mattress had icicles coming off the side, the walls had a thin layer of frost that you could scrape off with your fingernails; our food supply was frozen solid and I had frost in my hair. We decided accommodation might be best from that night onward! Although the cold weather was challenging there was so much to love about Jasper. One thing being the amount of wildlife in the area as well as catching a glimpse of the Aurora. We were very lucky to spot two wolves, bison and photograph plenty of curious moose who often approached our RV. That night we headed to Jasper Lake in hopes of seeing the Aurora. Only for a moment we watched as the green lights danced in the night sky, they were momentary, magical and no sooner they were gone.
We spent our last 24 hours in Jasper drinking Canadian Whiskey, exploring the town and wishing our friends a safe farewell on their Journey. On our way back into British Columbia we discovered the beautiful Cascade falls. We arrived just as rays of sunlight began to break through the trees creating the most amazing natural light. We were so excited and fortunate to capture something so raw and unexpected. As we trekked through the forest in search of log cabins and ski huts we noticed that they were like tiny homes each built with so much attention to detail, diversity and character. In the midst of a snowball fight I remember thinking how incredible it was that certain people choose to live simply and off the grid in those cosy little log cabins. Our adventure then took us to Brandywine falls where we decided to hike for an hour to the bottom losing the track more times than we can remember. This waterfall was so intense and a lot larger than we anticipated. We sat on our rug for hours doing what we love, taking photos and just getting lost in the moment together. As our journey was nearing its end we visited the Squamish Suspension Bridge. The afternoon light was low and a storm was fast approaching, safe to say we were definitely back in British Columbia! We had a limited amount of time so we raced to shoot the bridge and just as we arrived a beautiful thick layer of fog covered the area creating an incredible and unique atmosphere.
On our last night we returned our beloved home on wheels and headed to Downtown Vancouver for a night in the city. It was almost humorous having gone from laundromats and public showers to a luxury hotel and 5 star revolving restaurant! We felt very out of place but figured it was time to indulge for our final night in Canada. Vancouver is a beautiful city with endless amounts of culture and energy. The nightlife is full of crazy yet unique places to explore, delicious street food and beautiful night markets.Our past month has been filled with so many memorable experiences, endless amounts of laughter and has given us a greater sense of adventure than we ever could’ve imagined. It’s never easy saying goodbye and we can’t wait to return. ‘Til next time Canada.