The VIA Train route from Jasper to Prince Rupert passes through stunning wilderness landscape for 1,060 kilometres. The route guide lists 46 points of interest taking in massive pine forests, vast lakes, long river valleys, a number of villages and a few towns.
|The observation lounge and dome carriage|
Passengers booked for Prince Rupert have an overnight stop at Prince George, for which they must find their own accommodation and transport to and from their hotel. This is not the all-inclusive Rocky Mountaineer. We spent the night in Canada’s Best Value Inn and made use of the supermarket in Prince George for our meals the following day.
|Lake and Mountain views through the windows|
From the website, we expected that we would have designated seats and a dining car. Fortunately, we found out the day before that the only food would be sandwiches, crisps and other snacks and it would be wise to take our own food with us.
|Inside the Dome carriage|
Another expectation was that the train would be on time, as indicated by the timetable. It did leave Jasper on time, but the breakdown of a goods train on the line made us two hours late into Prince George. The 0800 departure from Prince George was about one and a half hours late and the arrival at Prince Rupert was three and a half hours late, which meant we arrived at our hotel after 0030. Apparently, changes have been made and the passenger experience should be better from 1st June.
|Changing the points was not hi-tech|
|Crossing a viaduct|
That said, we found the rail journey amazing and marvelled at the determination of humans to conquer seemingly insurmountable obstacles to complete this transcontinental route.
We had about six hours’ sleep at the Prince Rupert Hotel on 25th May, before setting off by taxi to the BC Ferry Terminal. We had booked an outside cabin and were able to view the scenic Inside Passage from the comfort of our own heated space.
|Occasionally the murk lifted and we had a rainbow...|
We were pleased we had done this because it rained all day and many of the lovely views were shrouded in mist. We did venture out from time to time and found sheltered spots to avoid the horizontal rain hitting the exposed decks at almost 20 knots. At least we could dry out afterwards in our cabin.
|...But mostly it was wet.|
The food on the ship was good; the staff was friendly and helpful and the schedule ran on time. Jeremy asked if we could visit the Bridge and we were given our own private tour by the Third Officer. It was a little different from the cockpit of Sal Darago as we looked down on yachts sailing below us, which appeared to be model boat sized. The Third Officer said that he would always prefer that yachts contacted big ships on VHF to discuss their course.
|Back to school|
We slept well in the bunk beds and left the ferry soon after 0900 the next day at its destination of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. A converted school bus took us to the Quarterdeck Inn. Our room was ready; we had a view over the marina, a pub next door and a laundry across the road. Sorted!
|Dorothy, Brian, Kathy and Jeremy above Elk Falls|
The bus to Coutenay left at 10.45 on Sunday 27th May. Two fellow passengers from the VIA train and the BC ferry shared a taxi with us to the bus depot. We arrived at Courtenay at 15.30 and were met by our sailing friends Brian and Dorothy, who we last saw on the island of St Helena in 2013. They have a lovely house in nearby Comax. They no longer cruise the oceans, but do take to the water in their trimaran, kayaks as well as skiing and cycling.
They showed us the beautiful scenery at the waterfront and in Campbell River, where we hiked in Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area.
|On top of Mount Washington|
The next day, we all drove up the lower slopes of Mount Washington, parked the car at the ski resort and hiked up to the summit. Brian and Dorothy are super fit and very kindly slowed their pace for us. I was slow as usual on the descent and used my knee supports once again.
|Totem Poles in the Victoria Museum|
It was great to catch up with our friends and fill in the gaps of the last five years. All too soon, it was time to be off again on the bus to Victoria. It was an hour late arriving, giving us just enough time to check into the Bedford Regency Hotel downtown and walk to the splendid Royal BC Museum.
|Legislature Building, Victoria|
Canadians on the VIA train told us we could book on a Greyhound bus in Victoria and it would take us on the ferry to Vancouver. Even better for us, they had a service which took us all the way to Vancouver International Airport. Our hotel, Accent Inn, had a free shuttle to and from the airport. All went well and we returned to downtown Vancouver for a walk along the waterfront and a horse drawn tour of Stanley Park.
|Vancouver Sea Plane Marina (want one)|
|The horse whisperer - two gorgeous Percheron brothers (want both)|
Too soon we were picking up our last hire car at Gatwick Airport and driving on the LEFT back home. Of course, home has its comforts and rewards... on Sunday morning we were having breakfast on board Searose with Emily, Ben, Ellie, Sophie and Tess. The only thing missing was the sunshine.
|Breakfast on Searose|