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WEEKEND: TRAVEL: On a roll in the Rockies of Alberta; EVENING TELEGRAPH READERS JOIN CALGARY STAMPEDE BEFORE HEADING FOR THE WILD FRONTIERS.

Byline: Howard and Dianne Richards

THREE weeks last year wasn't long enough, so this year Howard and Dianne Richards, of Rugby Road, Harborough Magna, spent a month in Western Canada, mostly in Alberta Province. The couple submitted pictures for our Telegraph on Tour competition, plus the following report.

WE flew into Calgary in time for "Stampede" - 10 days in July when this bustling and now modern town hosts "the greatest outdoor show on earth".

There is an opening street procession with countless horses, riders, wagons, and first nation people in tribal costumes followed by rodeo, chuckwagon racing, funfair and a fantastic evening open-air stage show.

Alberta Province has so much and a hire car gives flexibility.

We used Rent a Wreck - which offers perfectly safe, but slightly older cars. A few existing body chips mean you needn't worry quite so much, but negotiate extra adult drivers' cover at no extra cost, just in case. Also try negotiating unlimited mileage, fill up with cheap fuel and travel.

Get a good map and use the gravel logging roads into the bush to explore the parts other tourists don't reach - for example, the caribou migrating routes and lichen forests near Grand Cache or the timber and pulp mills in Hinton.

Don't let the vast distances put you off, at 100kph (60mph) you will actually cover that distance, but beware of strict enforcement in wildlife sensitive areas and stick to the limits.

Carry your driving documents at all times and note that drink-drive limits are very low, so don't be tempted. Pedestrians are king and only park right side to kerb, then forget your horn, as Canadian drivers are very courteous.

An "excellent example of how a historic building has been preserved" states the tourist plaque on what is now the Grizzly Restaurant in Banff National Park, Alberta. My wife and I looked at each other and laughed.

It was built in 1946, and since we were born in 1945 and 1946 respectively, we obviously also qualified as "ancient monuments". That plaque symbolised much of what we loved about Western Canada.

Because the Canadian Pacific Railway did not finally link east to west until 1885, the pioneering wilderness lifestyle and heritage of the West is still treasured and preserved.

That same year Banff Hot Springs Reserve, now Banff National Park, was created. Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks are now linked with Mount Robson and other provincial parks, providing more than 20,000 square miles of wilderness.

We climbed mountains, walked on glaciers, went white water rafting, swam in hot springs, watched osprey and bald eagles soaring, saw elk, deer, goats, mountain sheep, coyote, porcupine, black bear, beaver and otter.

We recommend staying in B&B accommodation, with prices averaging a very reasonable 70-90 Canadian dollars per couple.

Eating out can cost as little as $3.95 - less than pounds 2 - in the 800-store, undercover Edmonton Shopping Mall. For pounds 15-plus you will get a top-range meal, Alberta steak, or salmon with all the trimmings. Soft drinks and coffees usually include a no-quibble free refill. Service everywhere is excellent and I didn't resent tipping at the 10-12 per cent norm.

Western Canadians love to talk and they love the English. "Have a nice day" is sincerely meant.

TOP TIPS

BUY a seasonal pass for unlimited use of the national parks. Go prepared with binoculars and sun cream. Long sleeves and a hat are useful in the creeks and at evening time against mosquitoes, and if you are sensitive to them, pack anti-histamines.

TAKE just enough Canadian dollars for immediate use, then use cards. You will get a better exchange rate.

WE flew economy with Canadian Air Transat direct from Gatwick booked through Dial a Flight. The low luggage limit wasn't a problem, clothing in Canada is cheaper than the UK, so buy extra if needed but leave some return weight allowance for the tempting souvenirs.

CONSIDER reserving window seats. Let others sleep if they must, but with the time changes the views and sunset and sunrise are fantastic.

CAPTION(S):

THE BIG COUNTRY: The impressive scenery of Banff National Park and (left) Howard and Dianne in western garb; HEADING FOR THE HIGH JUMP: A rodeo rider at the Calgary Stampede
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 15, 2003
Words:707
Previous Article:WEEKEND: UNPLUGGED: Memories of meals at home are just so sweet.
Next Article:WEEKEND: TRAVEL: Relax at an oasis in heart of the capital.


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