Adventure activities in Canada

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Some people have me down as a traveller, a nomad, a vagabond. This, I don't believe is so true. There is still a hell of a lot of this planet left for me to see. But even as a bit of a newbie, I've already got a pocketful of advice to dish out. I can tell you of the best secret sunset beaches in Ibiza and how to get there on a moped. I could show you the best places to walk in Budapest. And do you know what else I know for sure? If you want a haven of wildlife, wild nights and adventure a-plenty then Canada should be your bullseye. Look no further.

I originally booked my trip to Canada on a bit of a whim. It happened to be one of those decisions brimming with clich ├ęs but after I booked it, I didn't really put much more thought to it. By the time it came around I was grossly underprepared but full of beans and with my brand new 35L backpack stuffed with a less-than-adequate sleeping bag and my trusty Converse on my feet, off to British Columbia I flew.

It's no exaggeration to say that the sheer beauty of Canada hits you the instant you arrive. It's absolutely everywhere, in every single sense. The smells, the sights, the tastes and the sounds. You will find yourself enveloped in a sea of frequent greenery. Roads that twist and turn against the backdrop of a beautiful mountainous landscape. If it's not a dazzling blue sky that fills you with awe, then it's a clear glimmering blue lake. Even though all of these things are endless in Canada, trust me - you will not get sick of it.

But if there's one thing that will thrill you even more than what Canada has to give in visual beauty and yes, even the food (one can never eat too much poutine), then it's the tons of adventure activities on offer. Some of which I had the pleasure to undertake while on my travels. You fancy it too?

White Water Rafting
...and where better to white water raft than on the Kicking Horse River itself?! Even the name should be enough to draw you in. My tour group and I rafted with the Glacier Raft Company who are situated in Golden, BC. These dudes and dudettes came with huge recommendations by my tour guide, who has rafted with this company for years, and is expertly run by people with a hoard of experience. The cost was around 175$CAN (£95) for 6hrs and you even got a delicious barbecue lunch in with that! The day starts with kitting out and a safety brief and then you get taken down to section one of the river, for a little introduction to white water. Then it starts getting more lary before lunch and after you've gobbled down your steak, you're back on the river for the third and most thrilling section. Think lots of whitewater and foam, dips and swells, lots of crashing about... and getting very, very wet! If you've missed out on falling in, you can even float down the river yourself towards the end where the water calms once more, which is it's own level of fun entirely. This was probably my most favourite activity of the whole trip and I thoroughly recommend it to everybody - especially with Glacier Raft Co.!

Glacier Walking
You might hear the term 'glacier walking' and think, what the what now? That's exactly what I did. But it turns out that it's not skating across a mountain like a penguin like you might imagine - or I did anyway. It's basically hiking up an icy mountain with crampons on, which makes the work twice as hard but oh-so fulfilling. There is so much natural beauty to be seen, especially on the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta. This glacier has receded almost an entire mile in over 100 years and it's bittersweet knowing that probably this glacier won't seen another century. Make sure you get a tour that is walking-only and doesn't use evil snow coaches that only accelerate the decline of the precious glacier - and make sure you do not step foot on it without a guide, however experienced you are. The guides are on this glacier day in day out, know about all the hidden crevasses that could pose as a danger to you and can pack you with a whole lot of history to boot. The price I paid at the time was 55$CAN (£30), which ain't half bad really. Plus to reach it you have to drive down the stunning Icefields Parkway, which is a visual adventure all in itself.

Canoeing
With endless lakes and even Canadian canoes as namesakes, it's easy to see how canoeing can be so popular in Canada. Especially on Clearwater Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park. The special thing about Clearwater Lake is all in it's name: the water dissolved from glacers and therefore so pure and clean that you can literally drink it straight from the basin. And boy, we did! As it was an activity already included in our tour, I have no idea of the costs or logistics but I can at least tell you what went down. We rowed 8km out to a campsite in the middle of nowhere; where we couldn't even get phone reception and no artificial light meant that we saw the most wonderful shooting stars. If you wanted to ever feel at peace, then that was the place. The next day with achey arms (and soggy luggage, but that's another story entirely) we rowed back knowing that we'd enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience, never to be traded in.


Swimming
Not just any ol' swimming either - swimming in some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Hell yeah, they may be freezing cold but with that inviting blue hue, how can you say no?

Hiking
Hiking is one of those things that I had never even considered in my life before. After all, the UK isn't exactly riveting with hiking hotspots. But it's a whole different kettle of fish in Canada. In Canada, you hike because there's something amazing to see at the end of it: a waterfall, a lake, a secluded beauty spot. And the thrill of seeing a bear in it's natural habitat lures you in too! Unfortunately we didn't see a single bear but it didn't stop our hiking quests. Of course, the cost is absolutely nothing. Just don't forget sunscreen, plenty of water and perhaps a good pair of shoes. Hiking is brilliant, because the best things in life are free - and my Converse survived too! Bonus!

What activities have you enjoyed in Canada?
Has this inspired you to give something a try?

P.S. Thanks to my fellow travellers for some of their brilliant photographs: Ken Lam, Paul Schwarz, Mela Fernandez, Paul Curran & Drea Morin.