I surveyed the crowd in front of the copper sulfate blue lake. Moraine Lake. The reflections of the Ten Sisters, crystal clear in the still deep water. The scars of glaciers evident in the rock. Peaceful, even though the Lake’s edge was teeming with people trying to get a clear shot without other tourists in it. The more intrepid, climbing like goats, up and over the craggy boulders despite the ‘no access past this point’ signs.
Approximately 3.89 million people visited Banff National Park in 2016. I was one of them.
As a solo traveller, I get to choose where I go, when I go and what I will do while I am there. I can choose to meet people when I want or enjoy peace and serenity while hiking alone along pine scented trails, talking only to myself and never having to have that most annoying of travel conversations.
‘What do you want to do now?’
‘Oh I don’t know… what do you want to do?’
‘Oh, whatever… I don’t mind. I’ll just do what you’re doing’
‘OK let’s go for a 13-km hike’
‘No… let’s have lunch’
Gasp with exasperation.
I gave up on trying to get people-free images and began to include them in my scenes. Amused by women teetering on impossibly high heels amongst the granite, posing with their selfie sticks and peace signs.
My planned walk was brought to an abrupt halt by this sign:
I am usually as happy as a bear in the woods when I am out hiking; but today there were bears in the woods and apparently, plenty of them.
There was only one of me so I needed some buddies…. pronto!
I spied a youngish fellow with a toddler on his shoulders, loitering at the trail head. Maybe he was looking for some walking partners too?
‘Do you need someone to make up your foursome?’ I asked hopefully
‘No, no I am waiting for my wife.’ He turned away unsympathetic to my plight.
Searching for some other prospective candidates in the crowd, my antenna came up when I heard the melodic tones of another Australian accent. A whole family of melodic accents! Mum, dad and two teenage kids. Ker-ching! Jackpot!
How could they resist another Aussie in need? After all we were all 12,000 km away from home and these bears were real bears not the drop-bears we like to scare tourists with.
‘G’day’ in my brightest, friendliest tone ‘Can I tag along with you guys’
‘No worries’ says Mum
My problem solved, we set off on an easy 3 km circuit to the Consolation Lakes.
Making small talk, I discovered Dad was a bit of a photographer too, they lived near Newcastle, a once steel and coal mining city, north of Sydney. I live in Wollongong, south of Sydney, also once a big steel and coal town. We had plenty in common and walked along in pleasant companionship, discussing our adventures in Canada, what we had seen and where we were going.
Let me repeat that statistic I gave you before. Around 3.89 million people visited Banff National Park in 2016. We were five of them. That works out to 10,700 visitors each day (if we spread them out evenly across the year)
‘So are you guys on leave?’
‘Yes’ says Tim ‘I am a teacher’
‘Me too – where do you teach?’
He gave me the name of his school ‘And you?’
I told him where I worked.
He stopped dead in his tracks. ‘You’re kidding! You must know my brother-in-law, Chris!’
“Yes! I do! He works in the office next to me’
The kids laughed out loud and danced around. We all laughed and shook our heads and declared the world really was a small place.
So here were Chris’s relatives.
‘You are bound to see them’ Chris had quipped in jovial sarcasm on my last day before leaving.
What are the odds? To meet up with the family of a colleague on that day, at that place?
I guess they are around 2 in 3.89 million.
There’s my chance of ever winning the lottery right there.