Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Crossing the border for the first time

We had read up on the Canadian Custom restrictions and talked to a number of people, but still didn’t know what to expect.  We knew about the alcohol requirements but it hadn’t occurred to us that it had to be unopened. You wouldn't dream of taking an open bottle on a plane, but camping is different! Others had said, just don’t declare things, which I didn’t feel comfortable about – I’ve watched Border Security and I know the fines they dish out at home.  In the end all they asked us was how long were would we be in Canada and did we have any alcohol or firearms? We had heard of vegetables and opened bottles of alcohol being confiscated, so I had thrown some things out that didn’t clearly label their origin.

Having drinks with our neighbours in Golden we were advised to book Banff, not to have our car serviced in British Columbia and to re-think going to Alaska as they had heard that everyone that came back had wrecked their vehicles. We stayed at the Whispering Spruce which I think is the only RV park in town and at $48 a night, the most expensive we have paid for yet.

We took their advice and booked 3 days in Banff, 3 days in Lake Louise and 3 days in Jasper. Which was lucky as they were full every night when we arrived at each place. We booked our car into a Ford dealer in Hinton for it’s first service and started investigating travelling to Alaska through Trip Advisor. There is a lot of misinformation out there when you talk to people, similar to what we found driving through outback Australia. Most replies to our question said to “go”. Lindsay has spoken to a couple of people who have driven the Alaskan Highway and they say go too. I’ve started reading some trip notes from someone who travelled it last year and it has a wealth of information. While all the road is now paved, when they repair it, which is constantly, there will be some gravel.

We bought a Virgin SIM card but the most data we could get was 1gb for $35 (as good as useless), then they charge you expensive overage rates – for some reason I expected them to be more reasonable than the States. We remembered that we had been told to use the Rogers network, so I found a website that showed each companies coverage and no-one has signal in the area where we are going, so there is no point in purchasing any; we will have to make do with coffee shops and libraries. We are still paying for our US phone and data but can’t use it here and altering our plan costs more than what we would save. So at the moment we are cut off from the rest of the world.

We tried three ATM’s to get some Canadian currency and they all told us that our PIN was invalid. What? Luckily we found a credit union who would do it over the counter for us, so we aren’t sure if we are going to have this problem all the time or not. It’s so nice to have different colours for different denominations again. Canada certainly is more expensive than the US for pretty much everything.

We stopped off at the information centre in Field to get our Canadian National Parks pass – they charge a daily fee per person that means after seven days you have paid for an annual pass which also gives you access to some historical sites. The lady there was extremely helpful and gave us lots of maps and brochures for our stay in the Canadian Rockies.

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