Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 4 in Canada: Driving up to Jasper National Park (plus some stuff from the night before...)

Last night, we went for a concert. It was by a group called Return to Forever, comprising of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al di Meola and Lenny White. I'd never heard of them but when Dear Hubby heard that they would be in Vancouver the same time we were, he went over the moon and rushed to get tickets. I was really very doubtful about the concert since he said they played jazz-rock fusion and I can't stand fusion.

But I knew I enjoyed live music, I enjoy watching the interaction between the players and I'd never minded before what genre they were playing. And who could pass up the chance of seeing STANLEY CLARKE live??? So off we went at 7pm to have dinner at the Shark Club. There were some things I quickly learnt about Canadian cuisine: it's always served in huge portions and it's practically tasteless. Coming from Malaysia where everything tends to taste really, really good, Canadian food was quite bland.

The audience were mainly middle-aged and one of the most oft-overheard things at the concert was, "Jesus, I last saw them when they were playing in (insert venue) in 1972!" I thought, "Man... I wasn't even born yet when you guys saw them!" But it's okay. I'm used to hanging out with older folk and besides, I'd heard exactly the same comments when I attended the Eagles concert in Singapore back in 2004.

About three hours later, I found myself smiling from ear to ear. The music still wasn't my type and I hadn't a clue what Chick Corea was trying to express with his compositions but I'd enjoyed myself. It was a pleasure to watch top class musicians enjoying themselves playing together on stage. Best bit of the concert has to go to Stanley Clarke doing his solo bit on a double bass. I have no idea how he could coax that many sounds off that instrument, it was awesome.

This morning, we dragged ourselves reluctantly out of bed. We were facing an 8hr drive up to Jasper National Park. I'm normally comatose till maybe 10am but the promise of snow, glaciers and animals in the wild was enough to charge my batteries.

After the death-defying antics of drivers on the roads of KL and Jakarta, it was such a relief to drive in a country where people were actually civilised enough to obey traffic rules and use signals. The funniest thing about traffic in Canada is that pedestrians have right of way. When we were in Jasper, we had a cyclist - a cyclist!!! - stop at the pedestrian crossing so that we could cross safely. I told Dear Hubby that if this was KL, all drivers would be speeding up so that we would run and scatter in fear and not block his road!

We turned east towards Hope before going up north-east towards Kamloops and then on to Jasper. It was flat, cowboy country in the first part of the journey before the mountains took over. Long before we reached them, we could see the Canadian Rockies right ahead of us. John Denver songs swirled in my head. I know he was singing about another country but when I'm looking at the snow-capped Rockies ahead and the clear rivers running by the highway, I knew what he was meant.

It had been drizzling most of the time on the road. By the time we got to the mountain roads, guess what? It snowed!!! I was soooooooo stoked! I'm a tropical baby, I've spent all my life growing up in the sunshine and rain and had never seen snow. But right next to me on the highway were fir and spruce with snow heavy on their branches, snow on the ground and snow flying towards us. I squealed excitedly, "Snooowwwwwwww!!!" and rolled down the window, ignoring the wind and stuck my hand out. I sang out "Jingle bells" as we continued driving on and I finally rolled the window up again when my hand was close to freezing off my wrist.

It was 6pm when we finally arrived in Jasper National Park. Jasper is a little touristy town situated in the Park. People come here all year round to hike, ski and climb the Rockies. It was utterly charming and who wouldn't want to live in a town that had the magnificent snow-capped Rockies as your backyard? It was bear country and all the bins in the town were bear-proof. This is to stop bears from learning that they can forage for food in bins where humans live. Canada's policy is to keep bears in the wild away from human so that they can continue to be bears. Bears in human areas mean only one thing: either the bear or the human dies.

We ate dinner at Earl's which is a chain of restaurants. Dear Hubby told me that Earl's employs the cutest wait staff he'd ever seen. And it was true! Our waiter was a tall, fit, strong-looking Canadian lad with hazel eyes and thick dark brown hair. I thought to myself, "If you were in KL, you'd be mobbed by the ladies!"

We were absolutely pooped after the 8hr drive, so all we did after dinner was tumble into bed and snore the night away. Tomorrow would be another 4hr drive to Banff.... and... can't think... zzzzzzzzz.....

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