Signature walks around Banff & Lake Louise

 

Trail from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes - photo by Rob McFarland

Trail from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes – photo by Rob McFarland

Escape travel section, Australia – July 22, 2012

Canada is a bit of a show-off when it comes to national parks.

Not only does it have more of them than anywhere else in the world, but its most famous Banff National Park is just a two-hour drive from Calgary and home to the bustling town of Banff and the stunning Lake Louise.

Visit in winter and you have access to a wide range of world-class ski resorts; visit in summer and you’re surrounded by a majestic landscape of mountains, lakes and forests just begging to be explored.

Here are two signature walks one easily accessible from Banff, the other from Lake Louise that showcase the area’s enviable natural beauty.

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Dinosaur hunting in the Badlands, Canada

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Canada - photo by Rob McFarland

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Canada – photo by Rob McFarland

Escape travel section, Australia – Jan 29, 2012

You’d expect the place where more fossils have been found than any other single location in the world to be hermetically sealed in a giant bubble and surrounded by armed guards and tripwires.

But here I am, roaming around a World Heritage site, idly poking things with a wet finger to see if I’ve found a fossil (fossils feel sticky, rocks don’t).

I’m supervised, of course, by our infectiously enthusiastic tour leader, Erika, but it’s amazing and pleasantly surprising that a tour such as this exists. This is what transports 75 million-year-old history out of stuffy museums and into the open air and makes it interesting and exciting.

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Heli-hiking in the Rockies

 

Hiking in the Canadian Rockies - photo by Rob McFarland

Hiking in the Canadian Rockies - photo by Rob McFarland

Escape travel section, Australia – Aug 21, 2011

I’m huddled with a dozen others on an outcrop at 2500m in the Canadian mountains.

After a glorious morning of hiking along high ridges, meandering through an eerie burnt-out forest and zig-zagging down steep snow-covered slopes, the weather has turned.

The wind picks up, the temperature falls and fat raindrops are splashing insistently against our faces.

It’s not the ideal situation to be in when you’re a four-hour walk from your accommodation. But Dave, our guide, is unperturbed. A quick call on the radio and five minutes later we hear the welcome sound of our ride home. Chad deftly lands his Bell 212 helicopter 3m from where we crouch.

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Calgary Stampede

 

Bull riding at Calgary Stampede - photo by Rob McFarland

Bull riding at Calgary Stampede - photo by Rob McFarland

Escape travel section, Australia – Aug 21, 2011

I’m 2m away from a man with one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. A day in the office for 24-year-old J.B. Mauney involves hopping on the back of one tonne of muscle, hoofs and horns and trying his hardest to stay there for eight seconds.

After which he has to get off without being trampled or gored to death.

To psyche himself up, he’s hitting himself, hard and repeatedly, in the arms, legs and head. It’s an unusual but effective technique. He’s won the event for the past two days running.

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24 Hours in Toronto

Downtown Toronto - photo by Rob McFarland

Downtown Toronto - photo by Rob McFarland

GQ Australia – April 2011

Ask most Australians what they know about Toronto and they’ll likely answer “not much”, which is surprising given it’s the fifth-largest city in North America. While it might not have the profile of LA or New York, it’s not short on charm. The world’s most multicultural city, Toronto boasts 200 different ethnicities and 130 languages. There’s a kaleidoscope of neighbourhoods including five Chinatowns, two Little Italys, a Little India and even a Little Poland.

Throw in a lakeside location, the nearby Niagara Falls and a thriving film industry and Aussies’ lack of interest seems downright ridiculous.

Read the rest of this story here: 24 Hours in Toronto (PDF)

Arctic adventure

Zodiac excursion in the Arctic - photo by Rob McFarland

Zodiac excursion in the Arctic - photo by Rob McFarland

An announcement comes over the public address system that there are two polar bears off the starboard bow.

It’s 7am. I stumble out of bed, bleary-eyed, and throw on some warm clothes. Up on deck, it’s a clear, crisp day and everyone is peering intently over the side, cameras and binoculars at the ready.

Suddenly, there’s a shout: “There they are!” All eyes focus on two white heads in the water a few hundred metres away. It’s a mother and her cub, clearly exhausted, desperately scanning the horizon for somewhere to rest.

The captain tells us we’re 190km from the nearest land. That’s a 60-hour swim.

We see other polar bears during our trip – lone males trundling over ice floes while sniffing the air – but I’ll never forget the heartbreaking sight of that mother and cub, struggling to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

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