We hit Calgary at the right time. Stampede – apparently the greatest outdoor show on earth – was in town. And so were thousands of cowgirls and cowboys recognizable by their hats, boots and checkered shirts. Of course, we joined in the fun. Without adapting to the dresscode though.
But before we made the pilgrimage to the Stampede area, we had other thrilling and adventurous things to accomplish.
On a secret mission we drove to Calgary airport to meet our friends from Switzerland Olivia, Pat, Kiana, Lani and Callum. With an improvised, hand made name sign (fabricated from Kellog’s boxes) in our hands, we waited eagerly for their arrival. Every time the automatic sliding door to the entrance hall opened, the children almost wet their pants with excitement. And believe me, excitement is contagious! It got to John and me as well. Awww… and it was so good to see the surprised familiar faces when the five of them discovered us. A brilliant start to the 52 hours we got to spend with them in the Olympic city of 1988.
We didn’t stay downtown for long though. Instead, we followed the tracks of the dinosaurs. On our way to Drumheller, the dinosaur capital of the world (that’s what they say at least) and home to the brilliant Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, we were taken by the vastness of Alberta’s plains. Unbelievable, that not even an hours drive away you’d be winding through the high and imposing Rockies. And here this flatness! The contrast could hardly be greater. And what made the landscape even more contrasting were the yellow blossoms that covered huge areas touching the deep blue sky. We didn’t want the drive to end. Or maybe we did… thinking back to the girls in the back seat getting more and more fidgety.
And then we entered a different world again. Matching the mystical history of the dinosaurs, we drove into the canyon like, rugged scenery of the badlands. Here it was totally imaginable that a T Rex would suddenly turn the corner. Instead we had to turn a few more corners to meet the king of the tyrant lizards at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. I must have mentioned before that we are not a family who jumps at every opportunity to go and visit a museum. But once again, we found one that we truly enjoyed. The whole museum is set up as a journey through the periods following the “Big Bang”. A great way to see what happened on our planet long before our time and to meet all sorts of dinosaurs – as skeletons and replicas.
Also in the Drumheller area, there are two more sites of interest. The Hoodoos – some oddly shaped, naturally eroded rock-formations which stand up to 20 feet tall – and Horseshoe Canyon, where you get to see the typical landscape of the Badlands. Both sights deliver mildly surreal landscapes that make you feel like you just stepped foot onto another planet. Unique stuff, and therefore definitely worth a stop.
The drive back to town gave us time to digest all those natural wonders and getting the right mindset on for a day in the middle of Stampede madness. Yee-haw!!! Apart from some rodeo pictures in our heads, we had absolutely no idea what to expect from Stampede. Now we know: Stampede is so much more than Rodeo.
For us, Stampede is…
… an extremely crowded place (not recommendable for people with claustrophobia)
… the longest queue ever (formed by people waiting for a free breakfast)
… motorbikes flying through the air – those riders are just insane!
… the horse with the longest legs ever. A GIANT horse!
… the place (not) to buy a wonder brush from an over-motivated and extremely charming salesman
… barrel racing (hats off to those ridiculously fast cowgirls and there horses), bareback riding, tie-down roping (quite brutal to the untrained eye), steer wrestling (we unanimously cheered for the bull), steer riding, saddle bronc and bull riding – WHAT A SHOW! And again we had to say: “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”
The learning curve:
- Should you plan to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, visit early. The queue was massive when we left.
- Thanks to the mastermind (or nerd) at the Royal Tyrrell Museum box office, we now know that dinosaurs are still alive. Birds = Dinosaurs! Everyday’s a school day.
We explored Calgary and its surroundings on the 6th, 7th and 8th of July 2018.