Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Banff & Jasper, and a bit of blue for the dads


The massive, monstrous hotel at Lake Louise (Banff National Park) is a fine example of a failure of aesthetics. After the original wooden hotel/lodge burnt down in the late 19th century, it was rebuilt and extended. It is a construction disaster, in the most inappropriate location – and it upsets me. Most towns we have seen – especially Canmore – clearly have building regulations which only allow for erections if they are sympathetic to the landscape. The hotel at lake Louise is about as sympathetic as a doctor telling you, you have cancer via the big screen at a ball game. It would look more at home, but probably just as unwelcome, on an ugly back street of New York City, than it does next to one of the most romantic and photogenic beauty spots on the Canadian map – if not THE most iconic natural landmark in Canada.

Banff and Jasper national parks (combined, roughly the size of Wales) are coupled so closely, that they have definitely gone past fourth base. They make a beautiful couple. There are fixed camps, cabins and lodges throughout the park, but they are relatively discreet. In peak tourist season, I imagine it’s the congregation of tourists that focuses the attention to the man made sections of the park, rather than the accommodation, shops and structures themselves. In late June, the four overspill parking lots are empty, and the lifts and the shuttle buses to the ski slopes are currently inactive. Come winter and when it’s covered in snow, this will be the busiest, buzzing hive of salapet-wearing bees in the entire park.


To drive from one end of Banff National Park to the end of her partner, Jasper, would likely take four to five hours on the one highway that runs through their hearts. As curious and as unhurried as we feel, we’re staying in the couple’s presence for three nights. Following our mixed feelings towards our first landmark pit stop, we exited the overspill car park as if it was a race to find redemption. KP amusingly suggested that we camp at Mosquito Creek (on a river in Banff NP), but as it was a cold evening, I decided we take the risk. Thankfully, it did not live up to its namesake.

In most national parks across North America, you experience what we call, “A Bear Jam”. When one car slows down or stops to see a bear or other magnificent beast, inevitably other cars pile up and a dozen or so Asian tourists jump out with either their extra massive cameras, or iPads. It was at our first BJ, when KP instructed me to “Check out that rack!”
Now, this is unusual. KP is a gentleman who is abhorrent when it comes to cursing or using dude language. I had to apply the brakes. It was then I saw the magnificent rack he was staring at, while I negotiated the BJ. Indeed, I was astounded, but I also couldn’t get the full frontal shot I was after.


On our second day, we left the creek at 6am in order to avoid any morning BJ’s. It truly paid off, and amongst Mother Nature’s bountiful offspring, we saw three black bears, as well as managed to check out a couple of waterfalls, completely tourist free. Canadian wildlife and I are going to have a chat this evening to resolve a few things. It is as if the entire wild population has converted to Muslim, and now capturing their image for eternity is against their religion. All I have are reams of healthy backside photos, of bears, elk, deer, and even KP this evening, as he wandered off into the bushes to satisfy his own nature’s call. Though I’m sure my reputation would not be tarnished, I won’t display ALL the butts. I’ve been known to get along with a few creatures, from various faiths, so I’m sure we can come to an understanding very soon.


Tomorrow we’ll head north, into Jasper’s realm. I’m told he’s a little more rugged than Banff, a little less shy, perhaps. Maybe we’ll find some more things in common, maybe the BJ’s won’t involve so many people, and maybe I can get a full face shot for once.

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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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