The Rocky Mountaineer Canada in style
Michael Allford visited Canada on our Rockies Explorer group tour and tells us all about exploring in style on Canada’s famous Rocky Mountaineer.
My journey began at the Rocky Mountaineer’s private station in Vancouver. After enjoying a complimentary selection of hot coffee, tea or fresh juice, we were entertained by the sound of Scottish bagpipers filling the station. I could feel the sudden excitement in the air as the station bell rang out, and cries of “All aboard!” were heard. It was time to take our seats and experience one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.
On boarding the GoldLeaf double decker coach, with its beautiful glass domed roof, I could understand why everybody speaks so highly about the Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf experience. Red carpet boarding, warm friendly welcomes and comfortable spacious seating; this really was travelling in style. From the upper level seating area we could enjoy a 360-degree view of the stunning and constantly changing vistas outside our window.
The champagne cork popped as our onboard attendants toasted us with a welcome cocktail. “Here’s to the most spectacular train journey in the world. Cheers!”
Thankfully, the pampering did not stop there. The onboard crew turned the 2-day journey from Vancouver to Jasper into an unforgettable experience.
As we pulled out of the station, it wasn’t long before fresh coffee and scones were coming down the aisle. Soon after, as we descended from the upper level dome car down a spiral staircase to the main level dining room, the aroma of breakfast wafted from the galley. Comfort, luxury, and delicious food were all in the GoldLeaf dining room, where white linen, gleaming tableware, and fresh flowers awaited us. The presentation of the food was so impressive, it was hard to believe these exceptional dishes could be created in such a small space. Delicious buttermilk pancakes, candied orange zest and Aldergrove berry preserve turned out to be a favourite choice at breakfast.
Our first day’s journey took us from the bustling city of Vancouver, to Kamloops, in British Columbia’s semi-arid interior. En route, we passed through the fertile Fraser Valley and the scenic Fraser Canyon. The highlight was when the train slowed down so we could photograph Hell’s Gate, where the unruly waters of the mighty Fraser river pass through the canyon’s walls at its narrowest point, causing spectacular rapids.
On leaving the lush greenery of the pastoral Fraser Canyon, the train followed the South Thompson river. As we approached the city of Kamloops, timberland turned into a semi-arid desert, with fascinating hillside landscapes, just like the scenery in those old cowboy movies. As we neared the end of our first day’s journey, we passed Kamloops Lake – reputed to be the home of the Ogopogo Monster (Canada’s version of the Loch Ness Monster). We were only lucky enough to spot a pair of bald eagles perched high on the treetop.
By 6pm we were arriving into the small town of Kamloops, in the heart of the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia. Kamloops is derived from a Shuswap Indian word meaning ‘meeting place’, because it is nestled in the valley where the North and South Thompson rivers meet. On disembarking, we were taken to our hotel, where our suitcases were waiting in our rooms.
Early the next morning, we boarded the train for the trip to Jasper. Overnight the train had been divided into two sections; one was now heading towards Banff and we were about to start our gentle climb through the Rockies towards Jasper. The train had been cleaned and was gleaming new, ready for our next part of the journey.
Departing Kamloops, we travelled along the Thompson river through rolling plateaux, and into the snowy peaks of the Monashee and Cariboo mountains. Regaled with fascinating stories from our on-board hosts, and enjoying even more delicious food in the restaurant car, our journey continued past Pyramid Falls, the Alberta Ice fields, and Mount Robson. Standing at more than 3,600 metres (12,000ft), the mountain is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately it was obscured by cloud cover, but still looked magnificent as it disappeared high into the clouds.
Shortly thereafter, we entered Jasper National Park – a Unesco heritage area, and the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. The train slowed as the staff yelled out “Bear sighting on the left!”, and we enthusiastically gathered to see our first black bear, feeding on salmon berries along the side of the track. It felt like a perfect ending to what had been a perfect journey.
As we arrived into Jasper, it was time to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountaineer and the wonderful staff that had taken such good care of us during this unforgettable journey.
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