Road Trip Through West Canada: Where I Lost My Heart to Mountains and Sushi

roadtrip door West-Canada // Done That Been There

In 2004 I made a road trip through West Canada and was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. This was not only my first road trip, but also my first time outside of Europe. Here I discovered my love for rugged landscapes, expansive clear blue lakes, powerful waterfalls and wildlife. I always considered myself to be a city girl, but as soon as I saw those snow capped mountains in real life and wild deer grazing along the road, I lost my heart to nature instead. I can still remember that defining moment when I was engulfed by emotions seeing nature in its purest form. It was whilst munching on a cheap cake by the side of the road.

“This is what life was supposed to be like once”, I whisper while I take in the majestic landscape that surrounds me.

It’s still early in the morning when we pull up to a small parking bay along the side of the road. Boyfriend at the time and I have been driving for a few hours already and need to stretch our legs. We are on our way from Banff to Jasper and are driving right through the Canadian Rockies. This is week 1 of our 3-week long road trip through West Canada and this part will turn out later to be one of the most beautiful areas of the entire trip.

From the back seat of the car we grab the chocolate mud cake we got with our fast food meals from Wendy’s the previous night. It may be only 9 o’clock in the morning, but this rich treat tastes surprisingly good this time of day. While I have a bite of the calorie bomb with my plastic fork and pray that the fragile piece of cutlery doesn’t break in the dense cake, I look up for the first time since being parked here. When I see the view just above the road, it completely takes my breath away for a moment. There, right in front of me, I can see the snow capped mountains including Mount Robson, the highest peak of the Rockies, being revealed through the lifting clouds.

road trip through West Canada // Done That Been There

This view from the side of the road early in the morning evoked some deep emotions within me.

I feel humble

On the first days of our road trip through West Canada we have seen some incredible landscapes already. The alpine Mount Revelstoke National Park is definitely one of the highlights. But also the city of Kelowna proved to be an unexpected gem. Because of its location in a valley, it has its own micro climate. For this reason Kelowna is famous for its abundant fruit orchards and vineyards – besides for being the home to the Ogopogo monster, Loch Ness’s North American cousin. And just the previous day, we visited Lake Louise, probably the most photographed lake in West Canada.

And yet, despite all these magnificent sights, this view right ahead of me at this very moment, moves me profoundly. It makes me feel very humble and realise just how small I am as a human being.

Obviously the sad situation back home plays a big role in this. Boyfriend’s father has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. I therefore declined the scholarship to study in Melbourne for the following year. Instead of a whole semester abroad on my own, boyfriend and I are on this road trip through West Canada together.

The soothing power of nature

road trip through West-Canada // Done That Been There
Left: me as a fresh-faced 25-year old, posing in front of Lake Louise. // Right: one of the many waterfalls we encountered during our road trip through West Canada. I don’t know what it is exactly, but the sound of the roaring water tumbling down and the mist around it always has something magical.

road trip through West Canada // Done That Been ThereLake Peyto, one of the most beautiful clear blue lakes in West Canada.

road trip through West-Canada // Done That Been ThereThe amount of wildlife in and around the small mountain town of Jasper is truly incredible. We are greeted by this bighorn sheep when we drive into town. Later we see wild deer grazing in front of the visitor centre. A true goosebump moment! (Ignore the poor photo quality though. I didn’t have such a great camera back in 2004.)

Road trip through West Canada: flat lay collage 1

road trip through West-Canada flat lay // Done That Been ThereYou already read the story behind the cake above. You can read the story behind the chopsticks just a bit further down. (These are not the original cake, fork or chopsticks by the way!) This pair of hiking socks are the oldest socks I have. I bought them especially for our road trip through West Canada and they’re 14 years old now! I’m not really into hiking though. Perhaps that’s why they’re still in mint condition.

I bought the mug at Vancouver airport at the end of our trip. We flew back home just before Halloween. I still remember the cheerful staff going through the airport in their spectacular Halloween outfits!

“You don’t know what a California roll is?” asks the Japanese waitress in utter bemusement while she just stares and laughs at me.

Besides a great appreciation of rugged landscapes, I also developed a strong liking of sushi during this trip. Bear in mind that sushi wasn’t that popular in Europe yet. I had been to Japanese restaurants several times in the Netherlands before, but these were all establishments where diners were seated around a large grill. Those kind of restaurants where you see the chef juggling his salt and pepper shakers in the air whilst cooking. And where diners applaud enthusiastically when lucky table guests manage to catch a piece of omelette flung by said chef from the grill, with their mouths.

In Kelowna, boyfriend and I, utter sushi novices, decide to eat at a sushi restaurant in Kelowna. While we browse the menu, the wide variety of all the different sushi makes our heads spin. Nowadays even toddlers might know that a California roll is a reversed sushi roll (with the seaweed on the inside and rice on the outside), but back then I had no idea what this could even be. The waitress looks at me in utter bewilderment when I ask her what a California roll is. Instead of answering the question, she just laughs at me. This took place on day 3 of our road trip through West Canada. For the remainder of the trip we ate Japanese food, mostly sushi, almost every day.

road trip through West Canada // Done That Been There

In three weeks time I grew from a sushi novice to a sushi expert.

Road trip through West-Canada: flat lay collage 2

road trip through West-Canada flat lay // Done That Been There
I put together the itinerary for our road trip through West Canada myself using brochures from travel agencies and these Lonely Planet and Marco Polo travel guides. You can see the exact route we took marked in red in the Lonely Planet guide here. I will share the itinerary in a separate article with you. 

I bought the little shot glass with the funny moose in Banff. We were warned in the visitor centre of Jasper National Park that October is the moose mating season. “Don’t get trapped between possible mates” we were told. Luckily we didn’t encounter any moose in heat during our (nervous) walk through the park.

After we booked our trip we found out by chance that Van Halen was playing in Vancouver around the time we were there. We immediately decided to skip our scheduled day trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island and booked tickets to go see Van Halen instead. We also got tickets for a metal concert in a former grand ballroom (Commodore Ballroom) and attended an ice hockey match where the thumping beats of Dutch house duo 2 Unlimited frequently sounded loudly through the speakers.

Have you also ever had a travel experience that left a deep impression on you?
Please share your memorable moment(s) with me here!

Thank you, Zarina xx

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road trip through West Canada // Done That Been There

Dutchie in the UK, expat, nomad, culture vulture. Loves kale – on a plate, not in a smoothie – Thai curries (fiery hot please) and Belgian beers. Also blogs on 'Dutch Girl in London' about London, lifestyle, (street) art and culture.

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