After a marvellous visit to Southern Alberta, it was time to enter the heart of darkness — Calgary, the home of the current Conservative Canadian Prime Minister.
Luckily for us I decided to dump our van full of immigrants, druggies, Muslims, hippies, homosexuals, and other reasonable people in Waterton. I hoped that a couple of days’ showers would remove the stench so that we could move amongst the population undetected and unmolested. My unkempt appearance would always raise eyebrows however.
Calgary, also known as Cowtown presumably because it was founded as a missionary post by some particularly zealous bison in 1273, roared into view as we sailed down Alberta Route 2 and no sooner had we entered the town than we were caught in a proper Calgary traffic snarl. The town is built for cars, and scorns at people who think otherwise.
Thankfully that morning we had managed to find a delightful B&B to stay in that was in the suburb of Inglewood, close enough that we could walk into town and give the rental car some rest. (By the end of the trip, the car would do 1600kms in only 7 days.)
Calgary is a large country town on steroids, and I don’t mean country as in “not urban enough”, I mean country as in cowboy hats and cowboy boots. We were there the week before the famous Calgary Stampede started, and were told by locals that the town goes absolutely bonkers for Stampede. I’d believe it.
The biggest attraction for us in Calgary wasn’t actually in Calgary at all, it was several hundred kilometres away in the Canadian badlands in a town called Drumheller. In Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum which is a mecca for dinosaur buffs. One of the better aspects of the museum is that most of the fossils are local to Alberta and they are the dinosaurs that you grow up with. (Feel free to name me 12 Australian dinosaurs in the comments section without using the oracle of WikiGoogle.)
The Royal Tyrrell is absolutely amazing and it was truly a joy to visit. Despite trying to educate visitors, sometimes it is hard to overcome ingrained ignorance. For instance, take the example of the loud American older lady that upon viewing a projection of the largest marine reptile ever proclaimed: “That must be where whales come from!”
I had to bite down really hard not to laugh loudly at her, and consoled myself with the fact that I would soon have revenge on America and its ignorance by waving my mighty and until recently worthless South Pacific pesos in their economically ravaged faces within weeks.
I also adore Drumheller’s tiny 6 chair ski lift just outside of town in a very tiny hill, which I thought was very funny until later someone explained how winter skiiing operates in Edmonton – it happens on the river banks and leaves very little time to turn before hitting the lodge.
If you ever make it to Alberta, a drive to Drumheller is a must.
On the drive back to Calgary we also got a taste of a thunderstorm prairie-style. The clouds were big, black, and looked very menacing; I expected a twister to drop out of the clouds at any minute. We made it through fine but did read a few weeks later that a tornado had taken out property from around the region that the storm occurred.
Canada Day happened on July 1st for the 144th straight year and we were in Calgary for it. The nice organising people put on a pancake breakfast in Fort Calgary (the one built by the cows all those years ago) before we met up with friends and poured money into Calgary’s pub and chinese food sectors.
We finished Calgary with a very good Mexican meal that Claire detailed here (Claire has been blogging our meals for tastingcanada.com).
I never heard from the people in the van again, I hope they made it back to the west coast alright.