Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Reaching the Rockies


Since crossing the border into Canada, we’ve driven over 2000 miles across the prairies and we haven’t seen a single police car, police officer, or even a speed camera! They must be here, but it couldn’t be more different from the paranoid and profiteering, policed nation to the south, which I have been used too.

Although very much in love and able to have “quiet time”, the Rockie Mountains are like over protective parents out west, who are always watching, always present, forever reminding, reliably cold, and occasionally whip up a snow storm when you’re trying to stay out of trouble. The gigantums tower over me as I rest in the city of Canmore, just east of Banff National Park.

Canmore is a warming community of roughly 13,000, tucked away in the Rockies at an elevation of over 4200ft. It’s a colourful and vibrant city, and I believe, the highest in Canada (as Banff doesn’t quite have city status). Weather can be extreme here, changing drastically and quickly like a short fused, bipolar parent. It is however, beautiful, welcoming, often covered in sunshine and blue skies, surrounded by bucolic nature and thankfully, in its appearance, very sensitive and sympathetic to the beauty that it is built in – something I cannot say about many tourist-riddled places. Canmore is also a dreaded tourist trap, and the starting point for many outdoor sport-loving travellers, descending on the mountains from all over the world…normally arriving into Calgary airport. Tourism may be a driving force in both summer and the extremely cold, long winters, but if like me, you arrive a week prior to the school summer holidays, and a fortnight prior to Canada day, it is both quiet, and drenched in beautiful sunshine. By the way, mum, you can now get a direct flight here from the UK, and visiting your sister is overdue.


Another reason for me to stop in Canmore, before heading west into Banf and Jasper national parks (which are about the size of Wales), is to catch up with some family. I have an aunt and uncle and a few cousins who live here, and it has been on my “must go visit” list for over a decade. Following my last update, neither my uncle or I were drunk, or inappropriate. Although he did upset his grandson by trying to start a food fight on Father’s Day. I think it was his right. My uncle works as a semi-retired, volunteer White Hat at Calgary airport, amongst a few other community-focused projects, so if you land anytime soon, be sure to ask for a traditional welcome! My aunt owns the Wild Goose Trading post in the heart of Canmore. With the largest selection of Woolrich items in Canada, I actually couldn’t wait to go take a look and I came away with a fetching, “lumbar sexual” shirt….I’m completely down with the kids. Seriously though, I’ll be grateful for its warmth in the north.


Down with the kids, right?

I also have a few cousins dotted around the area. My youngest is the head stylist at Mountain Glow, so I made an appointment and asked him to smarten me up for the summer. Although I like the theme tune to The Littlest Hobo, I’m not sure I want to be synonymous with it. When my hair gets long and I don’t shower for a week, it tends to be as lusciously-lubricated as a mechanic’s grease gun. Sexy, I know.

While I natter away with family, like an old lady neighbour over the garden fence, KP wandered off and spent some time getting to know the area. After three mornings of having breakfast at Woods cafe, he received the local treatment, and his bill was soon discounted as if he was a resident! He does like a routine, especially a discounted one.


The exploring ditherer

After spending our first week together, covering roughly a third of the distance we might cover (Clayton to Anchorage), it’s been good to recharge a few batteries and stretch some social legs. Being in the truck for a week, simply driving and sleeping, does begin to make you weary. The hospitality has been a complete delight. Canmore is a welcoming hub of fine orange juice (according to KP). It has appropriate and aesthetically pleasing architecture, and is a year round outdoor pursuits mecca.

Even though they might throw up a few dramatic storms, like argumentative parents, the mountains are overwhelming, loving guardians. They are a constant reminder of how much we should respect our wild and wonderful homes, as well as a nudge in our ribs to show us that we all desire and need some rough love sometimes.


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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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