get to the Canadian Rockies, we flew from Toronto to Calgary from where we
were to drive to Banff National Park.
immediate impact of Calgary (apart from its quaint airport filled with
warm attractive motifs of the city) was the refreshingly chilly
temperature of 10 degrees. After Toronto’s heat it was a pleasure to
whip on the sweaters and brace ourselves against the crisp morning air.
is a pretty enough city, built around farms and its more recent oil
industry. After collecting our car, we meandered into the busy downtown
district, where we stopped for a “typical” Canadian lunch (since I was
told in a country of immigrants the Canadians have been able to claim the
food of the world) of falafel-a Greek dish of meat and salad wrapped in
we did not leave Calgary till late afternoon. I had a hypochondriac panic
and was directed by a sympathetic department store worker to a walk-in
clinic where I waited in a clean, efficient and friendly environment for
three hours, with people with an assortment of real injuries (broken
ankles, children with colic) to be told that the cancerous bump I had was
a rash - providing great comic moment for my husband and the kindly Jewish
doctor. The incident, because I interacted so closely with the real
Canada, endeared the city to me. After you’ve taken off your clothes in
front of a strange doctor, an intimacy of place is established.
with bottles of water, an assortment of fruit (raspberries, blueberries
really give you a flavour of this country) and a map, we set off in the
golden late afternoon sunlight towards Banff.
we drove, swallowing the endless wide highway, craggy mountains crept up
on us –the surface in some areas so smoothly white the children shouted
it was snow.
Banff, the mountains grew and grew, until finally, they loomed large,
their peaks snowy.
now we had got used to the dense pine forests flanking the highway, which
felt like a carving through the wild.
air, when we stopped to stretch or legs was cool and clear and my 11
year-old son, raising his eyes from the valley to the snowy mountain peaks
and icy crevices, echoing his father’s mad nationalism summed up the
Trini response to the Canadian Rockies with a “them little ice trays on
that hill is nothing to our green northern range”.
had to pay a toll to get into Banff National Park that the guidebook
described as: “2,564 square miles of protected wilderness of soaring
mountains, glaciers, mineral hot springs and blue-green lakes and
entry to the wilderness was disappointingly touristy- a tourist toy town,
jam-packed with prettily dressed shops selling frivolities, extravagances
and labels and a tourist information centre that made it worthwhile after
walked along clear brooks and streams, along which a profusion of bright,
delicate wild flowers grew, and took a small hike into the pine forest
dappled with light, where squirrels darted, bright red berries grew.
Everywhere were warnings to look out for bears, look out for elks, and
night we stayed in a rustic lodge (they are all named variations of
“pine tree’) and carrying logs of wood into our cabin, built a fire,
breathed in the pine air, and anticipated being somehow part of those
enormous snowy mountains.
of the closed Gondola, I opted for the open chair. What I didn’t expect
was to be dangling on a cable with my delighted seven-year-old on an open
swing like contraption, hurtling up a ski slope, a heart dropping fall
into the assortment of rock, exquisite clusters of lilac and yellow
wildflowers, tripping streams where the water was so clear you could see
the outline of every pebble.
the damn thing stopped suddenly, jolted back and forth, I screamed
inwardly, a long piercing scream.
were half way up the mountain. Ahead was a cable that linked up to the
top, behind us, was more cable, directly above us was mist, not cloud, and
all that protected us was a little bar.
got going again, and this time, I did scream, and a little hand held mine
saying: “Mummy, look around you-when in your life did you see something
didn’t answer her until we were at the top when, in a renewed burst of
exuberance, I raced the children up a pathway to look down thousands of
feet of jagged rock and ice, down to the emerald and turquoise lakes and
across the valley to towering mountains.
was speechless, breathing hard, shaky partly because of my fear of
heights, but mostly with awe.
Apart from a childhood memory of the Himalayas, of
Simla, I hadn’t ever been in the midst of such splendour, such imposing
eternal awesome beauty, as I did in the midst of the Canadian Rockies.