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Canada Roadtrip (3): Banff Park

Banff town was my basecamp for exploring the Banff park, not only because I wanted to have some services around after long days in the nature, but also because it is where the vast majority of accommodation is based. When I walked out from my hostel and walked to the town centre, I could not avoid thinking of Interlaken (Switzerland), where I had been a few months earlier, or Benidorm, in Spain. All three places had the same origin: a small town which was not born as touristic place, but which are now mere tourist resorts. Since I was in August in Banff, all hotels had no vacancy, and the streets were full of families from all over the world shopping, dining in their restaurants, and buying some food for the next day’s excursions.

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In order to have some flexibility, I also bought some supplies for the next day, which started really early thanks to the jetlag. There are two roads to go North from Banff, one is a highway, and the other one is the Bow Valley Parkway. The latter was my choice to start the trip, as it is a mountain road, with less traffic than the highway, but much nicer views of the mountains, the Bow river, and the meadows in the valley.

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My first stop was in the Johnston Canyon, where a nicely preserved path through the canyon brought me to the Lower and Upper Falls giving a first glimpse of what these days were going to be about. The hike was just 5.5 km in total, and is worth it. I was very happy when I returned to the parking and saw a couple of buses arriving to this spot. I was ahead of time thanks to the jetlag… or that is what I thought.
My next planned stop was Lake Louise, one of the highlights in the park, but it seemed that everybody else had gone directly here, and I could not arrive there: it was full. So I looked for a plan B, which was Lake Morraine, a nearby lake… which was also full, but I had good timing and they let a few cars in, and one was mine!

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Lake Morraine was my first contact with a glacial lake and it is unforgettable: the huge mountains surrounding them, and their particular turquoise water makes them unmissable. The water is freezing (less than 10 degrees in summer) as it comes from glaciers, and it has rock flour in it. This rock flour is the fine powder resulting from the glacier ice grinding the rocks, formed by rocks, gravel and silt, which is washed into the lake by the meltwaters. This flour absorbs all colours of incoming light except the blue-green that is seen.

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Once I recovered from the impressive view of Lake Morraine, I started a hike to Consolation Lakes, less than 6 km in total, although it was quite deceiving for a couple of reasons.
The path was emptier than I expected so my level of attention had to be higher, it rained during most of the hike, and the Consolation Lakes were not as beautiful as I would have expected (I do not see a lot of pictures when I plan the trips, I rely on descriptions). Before leaving the area, a sudden traffic jam caught my attention to its cause: a black bear walking in between the trees next to the road.

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I decided to go back to Banff and as the weather was better, I drove to Lake Minnewanka. This lake is very popular for families to spend the day there, and it is one of the few ones which can have motorboats in it. One of the borders of the lake is a dam, as the original lake was expanded in the first half to the 20th century. It should be a nice and pleasant place to be, if it was not because one of the hikes had been banned by authorities, as a bear had been seen a few days earlier. The alarm was clear, but still some people ignored it. Like the Korean lady who was in my hostel, and who told me she had been hiking there, and seemed to be surprised not many people were hiking…

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Before returning to the hostel, I paid a visit to the Banff Hotsprings, which is always a good way to recover from a first long day of driving, hiking, and raining while still admiring the views.

Canada Roadtrip (2): Banff and Jasper

Banff and Jasper natural parks need a few days to be discovered. The more, the better. I had to accommodate this visit in five days, so it was quite intense in terms of driving: 1249 km in 19h15’ on my own. This was very good in a way, as I had plenty of time to reflect, to take pictures, and to enjoy the views in a calm manner. It was also very practical to change the plans according to the weather forecast, and have a bit crazy jetlag-early-bird schedule, starting the days before 7 a.m.
The bad side of my loneliness was that I chose to be very conservative in terms of hiking. Although most of the tracks are really well preserved, and should not mean any hazard, the risk of having an encounter with a bear, or having any kind of accident, made me stay within very popular tracks, where I would see people very often.

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The parks have two towns: Banff and Jasper, and one resort at the Saskatchewan River Crossing. The rest of human life are some campings, and isolated accommodations, so take that into account if you plan a trip there. Just for you to have a clearer idea of how it is: in the southernmost part of Jasper park, there is no mobile coverage for almost 100 km.

Canada Roadtrip (1): The Plan

Thanks to a conference in Vancouver, I had the perfect excuse to discover the best spots in the North-West of Canada, and it is one of the trips I have enjoyed the most. I could accommodate eight days to travel outside Vancouver City, so I spent five days travelling on my own through Banff and Jasper parks, and I joined some friends for a couple of days in Vancouver Island, near Vancouver.
When I landed in Vancouver airport, I immediately realized I was in North America as I was walking on a carpet, which makes it a warmer place. The smell finally confirmed I was in Canada: maple syrup, the most internationally known product of Canada. When I looked outside, I thought it was a foggy day, which made sense as Vancouver International Airport is close to the ocean, but later on I realised it was smoke, coming from some Northern fires. That smoke was always present during my tour through Banff and Jasper, which made the views a bit less spectacular.

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 This trip was not easy from the logistics point of view, but after a few analysis, I drafted the plan as follows: from Vancouver, I flew to Calgary, as it is the closest airport to the parks. There, I rented a car, and drove through the parks. Once I left Jasper, I drove a few hours East to Edmonton, where I flew back to the coast. Instead of flying to Vancouver and then crossing to the Vancouver Island, I chose to fly directly to Victoria airport, in Vancouver Island. There we had another rented car to visit the Southern part of the island for a couple of days, and with which we drove back to Vancouver city.

Oporto – Praias

A couple of images from some early morning walks (this has become a tradition by now) in two beaches in the North of Porto: Praia de Mindelo (foggy morning) and Praia de Árvore (clear day).

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Two years ago, we went to Oxford as a friend had just moved there and organized a house warming. We had a great time there, and decided to establish a new tradition for that, the Biennal Oxford BBQ, where we would come every other year to this famous city to share quality time with friends around a BBQ.

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Things move fast, and this year we came back for a second and probably last time as she is moving to another wonderful city in Europe, which we will soon be visiting, of course.

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The good thing of coming back to a place you know is that you can slow down during your stay. Walk slowly, and enjoy every piece of the city a bit more. I come from a few weeks getting up early, and this weekend was not an exception, so I went for a long walk along the Thames River and into an empty Oxford, where most of these pictures were taken.

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