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The Canadian years, Radium Hotsprings, 24

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 29 November 14:38

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Steaming in the snow

During breakfast, my father announced that it was to be a special day. He spooned his boiled egg out with great policy and patience and asked if we could still find our swimsuits from Libya. We must have looked a bit surprised, because he repeated it somewhat annoyed.’ It is not difficult,’ he began, ‘I asked if you had your swimsuits at hand?’ Us bigger ones, nodded affirmatively. ‘Beautiful,’ he said,’ take those along then, and do not forget your towel.’’ Gee Dad’, I asked, ‘where are we going?’ Wait and see, he answered. ‘We will start by driving to Banff and from there you must follow me, to the inch.’ I understood from this that we would go with two cars. ‘Can I come with you,’ I asked my brother, ‘in the Mustang?’ I thought that was super cool, the car was just a few years on the market but was an attention grabber. ‘Okay’, he said and moments later when the table was cleared and I had done the dishes with my sister, the expedition was ready to leave.

The Mustang growled satisfied and we drove down the Trans Canada Highway in the Banff direction. After about 10 minutes we came to a sign with the name 'happy valley', and I intended to go over there someday, if I myself had a car. On a slope some clip goats climbed up, their focus must be very low, I thought. I earned with my snow-clearing activities $ 80 a month. In Europe you bought a moped at the age of 16, here boys of 16  were engaged with old American cars, which were worth nothing after 10 years. 'Wheels' meant freedom. ‘What fees do you have for a car, apart from just the fuel,’ I asked my brother? ‘The tax and insurance and a tune up occasionally’, he replied while he drove through the snow. We drove past three deer that made their way along the trees to eat some bark.

‘Oh,’ I said, ‘is that expensive?’ ‘Not really,’ he said’, it is not too bad, tax goes on wheel base and is never more than $ 16 per year. That was better than I had expected. Every year he laughed, you get a new license plate, punched in jail’. ‘Oh’, I said again.’ Each year the color changes, so from a distance, the police can see if you have paid road tax. ‘Someone at the laundry has done that for a while,’ my brother chuckled. ‘Fine colleagues you have,’ I thought to myself.

Such a simple measure that made all the paperwork in one go unnecessary.’ Is the insurance dear,’ I wanted to know? ‘Yes, if you are young and have no experience, but every year you drive without damage the premium goes down significantly.’ ‘Can you you get around that’, I wanted to know? ‘If your father insures your car and you are registered as a co-driver you'll benefit from his discounts until you've built up enough no-claim.’ I thought I knew everything and decide to buy me a giant American if the price was right. We approached Banff with the three sisters mountains saw her and we had to abruptly brake. In a time where Abs was yet to be invented, that meant a big sliding party.

We almost came across the road to a standstill. A small herd of buffalo's made it’s way through the cars passing by each other. They were huge! I was happy that our car was yellow and not bright red. A buffalo is certainly not a bull but I suppose that even they would probably respond to that color. They had eyes that were disproportionately small for their enormous heads. I thought they looked malignant. You do not anger a buffalo nor scare them, so people very cautious and drove only on, when the last buffalo'shad  left their part of the road. Moments later we arrived at our, ‘free refill cafe '. I looked and there were no bears around the door, the story of the owner had stayed in the head. Mijn parents and the girls were already there. Our father had raced us , without us knowing it. He had won, he always had to be the best. I realized you just acted like that if you felt threatened by youth.

My mom and dad took a refill and we took our first cup of coffee with warm apple pie and the famous scoop of ice cream. The landlady made her little chat again and moments later it was time to move on. Really stay behind me,’ said my father, ‘if we should lose each other than we are at a parking lot called Johnston's canyon.’

I can only say that Johnston's canyon was beautiful. There was a path along the river with water splashing down, there were waterfalls and walkways and the water was crystal clear. This was Canada at its best. You walked to the end of the path and enjoyed the water violence that came down thundering in a waterfall, before rushing to the next bend or twist. We arrived back at the car park where you could hear each other again above the water roar. We were without words, we had seen something wonderful. The next stop would be Radium Hotsprings. We stepped in, each with our own thoughts and pursued the path on the Trans Canada Highway.

The signs pointed us the way and within the shortest possible time we were at the hot springs. You had to go through the reception room of a hotel to get there. There you paid a ticket and went to a locker room. On the other side you ran out the door,  into the freezing cold and then you jumped into the lukewarm water.Splendid! you were flooded with a warm feeling. Your ears were cold and the air around you was steamy water,heats hitting the cold air. The thrill of the intersecting air in your nostrils, accompanied by the lukewarm heat of the water, gave the whole thing something special. We bathed there half an hour and then went back with steaming bodies through the cold to the changing room, which  now seemed very cold. It was a special experience.

The return trip took us along lake Louise, a beautiful mountain lake and I remember that my brother said to me,’here in the bush, you are outlawed, there is no supervision and there are no laws. ‘I understood what he meant, laws have effect where they are respected, if you encounter a psychopath in the bush, who is going to protect you, then it's every man for himself. I did not know how prophetic his words would prove to be. I took it for truth and satisfied we drove on, home.

San Daniel 2014

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