A day to chill in the natural beauty that is Banff National Park.  We switched our camera to auto modes and became fully fledged tourists for the day!

After visiting Lake Minnewanka we cleaned up the hire car (we’ve called her Sandy), said our goodbyes and gave her back to the man at Avis.  We enjoyed the ‘best burger in Banff’ and then chilled around the town for a few hours.

We discovered that we drove a total of 3389 km!!! (2105 miles) further than London to Moscow! We now just have a chilled night in Banff and then let the coach driver take us back to Vancouver! what an adventure :-) Post production here we come!!!!!!!!! 

ghosttownscanada banff minnewanka canada

We left Saskatchewan today as we travelled back to Banff. It was a sad sight to leave Saskatchewan behind, but we have had a fab couple of weeks and we’re confident we have the material to create a fascinating film.

As we worked our way back into Alberta, the flat prairies started rippling into small hills and, eventually large, jagged mountains. The contrast to Saskatchewan was quite a shock and made the grandeur of the scenery even more impressive. We finished our journey by heading to Lake Louise, which was an extremely picturesque and reflective place to end our day’s travels.

Linda’s animal watch: I saw a beautiful owl from the motel this morning. It was very still and I managed to get some stunning shots. Linda (jealous) was convinced it wasn’t real. How mean is that? I’ll upload the photo for you to decide. Tomorrow: we’re going on a bear hunt!

lake louise canada ghosttownscanada

Today was our final filming day! We snuck down to the breakfast room with our shop bought milk, porridge and tea and managed to persuade the waitress to let us use her microwave (yes, we are cheapskates). Stomachs lined, we wandered over to the museum to ask about the local ghost towns. The two woman in there were very helpful and again mentioned Robsart (which we had visited earlier in the trip).

We thought Robsart would be worth one more visit and we decided to see if we cold speak to one of the very few remaining inhabitants there. When we arrived, Linda was brave and approached one man working on his land but he gave a brisk response about not wanting to be filmed. Not deterred, she then headed over to the brightly coloured house at the end of the street. There, we spotted two people in pyjama bottoms sitting in their garden. Luckily for us, they were a very friendly couple. They seemed content to have carved out a life for themselves in Robsart, having escaped the business metropolitan life of British Columbia. They were a pleasure to interview and it felt like Robsart, in their hands, had a bright future.

The rest of the day we drove. Lots. We made our way to Maple Creek where we stumbled on the motel we had booked the previous week but got horrendously lost and never found. We then found our motel, bought Subways (me tuna Linda veggie delight) and headed to bed.

Linda’s animal watch: Deer in the road! They hopped around beside us as we drove along the gravel road.

ghosttownscanada day 11 saskatchewan robsart

A slower day today. Linda and I drove all the way from Assiniboia to Eastend, as we slowly make our way home. We stopped at various abandoned properties to take photos.

The houses themselves were beautiful, but were very enigmatic, containing little information about the people who used to call it their home. We stopped off for a break at the town of Ponteix, which was set up by French settles 100 years ago in 1914. We had a little chat with some of the locals. One man seemed perplexed then affronted and then slightly scared by our visit (we don’t think the town gets many visitors). After being confused that we didn’t have a ‘market’ for our film, he suddenly left the cafe mid conversation without warning.

We then made our way to Eastend, taking pictures along the way. As we write this, we are tucking into our roast chicken from a local Co-op in the fine establishment of Cypress Hills hotel. And that is all the news for today.

Linda’s animal watch: Rejoice!! Linda’s bunny was found. The bunny was adopted briefly by the cleaner, who had found him/her (gender as yet unknown) in the hotel from the previous night. As you can imagine, it was an emotional reunion. You can all breath a sigh of relief

ghosttownscanada day 10 saskatchewan highway 13

Today was thanksgiving and we decided to spend it in the company of Horizon, a small and beautiful ghost town a few miles outside of Assiniboia. The town itself seemed to have one or two residents, but apart from that we were completely alone. Two impressive and ramshackle grain towers look over Horizon, which also has an impressive church at the top of a small hill. One remnant of the town was its metal street signs, which were dotted around the existing and abandoned roads. The streets themselves were an assortment of interesting names: The optimistic Zenith Street was parallel to the ominous Nadir Street, for example. Pleased with our photographic and auditory endeavours, we walked over to the local lake, which had thousands of noisy birds. We managed to capture swarms (wrong collective noun?!) of them taking flight and these looked very nice in the sunlight.

We then headed back into town to relax and enjoy a festive pizza (me) and onion soup (linda). A good day’s work.

Linda’s animal watch: TRAGIC NEWS: Linda’s bunny has gone missing. She smuggled it through customs in Canada and it has been everywhere with us. If you have seen him please email us ASAP. Also, Mosquitoes continue there unrequited love affair with my flesh. Assholes.

ghosttownscanada day 9 saskatchewan horizon

We woke up early this morning to head to our most easterly destination and potentially the setting for the end of our film: the town of Forget. Armed with coffee we made good time, arriving in town just at the end of the local sister’s thanksgiving sermon. We had a great chat with her, and she was kind enough to show us around the town, including the one of the tiniest chapels we had seen. The town itself, despite its population of 20, felt thriving and energised. One house was being repainted while a group of young girls and their dogs scooted round the town on little golf carts. We took our pictures and then started our journey back west.

The area around Forget is densely populated with oil wells. They look like huge nodding machines poking their long beaks into the ground. Oil has played a big role in Saskatchewan’s economic reassurance in recent years, and so we thought it was important to capture a few of these for the film.

After this, we stopped for lunch at a cafe in Stoughton. We got chatting to the Philippine waitress, who had recently moved to the area (another interesting strand in the story of modern Saskatchewan). After our ham and cheese sandwiches we set off again in search of new properties to explore. We came across a big abandoned property, which looked highly inviting. This was before we saw the ‘Danger: Explosives!’ sign, telling us not to step foot on the land and definitely not have any electrical devices. Despite our curiosity and adrenalin-junkie attitude, we decided to stay away. Our last stop for the day was the ‘Prairie Malc farm’, replete with four buildings and a trailer and a cute scotty dog sign. The home had lots of interesting trinkets. Lots of cook books, including specialist jewish recipes and ‘food for the older person’.

Pleased with our day’s labours, we headed to the cute town of Ogema where we had booked at the “Ogema Motel”. Despite having called Delores (the owner) to confirm there was no sight or sound of her. Cold, alone and exhausted, we waited for Deloris for 45 minutes, ringing her phone and pleading on her answer phone for her to come and meet us. Alas, she never showed. Exhausted and homeless (on thanksgiving eve to make it worse), we resolved to travel the extra hour and a half back Assinboia, where we found place to rest our weary heads. We made one last effort to go record a night sky time-lapse, tiring but worth the results.

Linda’s animal encounters: Jealous that she didn’t strike up any encounters with animals today, Linda callously swiped a ladybird off James’ hand.

saskatchewan day 8 ghosttownscanada Forget highway 13

After stuffing our faces with blueberry muffins, toast and cereal in room 11 of the motel, we headed out to the local museum to find out more about the abandoned town of Maxstone. We were met at the museum by an elderly lady-volunteer, Sharon, who came and opened up the place especially for us. She busied around pulling out us some local maps of the area and a couple of first hand accounts of living in the town. While she was quite brisk at first, we slowly built up a nice little rapport with her, and she even invited us for thanksgiving. She also spoke about her experiences of growing up in a now-abandoned town, and also raising children in rural Saskatchewan. Like others we have met, she seemed quite emotional recalling her experiences, saying that while she visits the town regularly, she has never gone back and seen the plot where she grew up.  

After the museum and tea at the art gallery in town, we headed out to Maxstone. All that remains of the town were a beautiful white church and a schoolhouse. It looked as if the church had been turned into an historical site, with the building looking relatively well kept, if a bit over-grown. The schoolhouse was less well preserved, with rotting chalk boards and broken windows. We were brave and went down into the basement and, armed with a light, took some creepy looking shots. 

We then headed further along the highway where we recorded a couple of other houses. The sky was especially beautiful towards the end of the day, and we managed to capture some amazing shots with the GoPro as well as our DSLRs. On our way to the our final destination of Weyburn, we passed a cute little community of Ogema (population approx 250), where we are hoping to spend thanksgiving. 

Finally, Linda’s animal watch: after a special moment with a caterpillar yesterday, Linda spent some quality time today with a hare. She also had an adrenalin charged encounter with a flock of birds, who sprang up unexpectedly out of some grasslands. Both were unharmed. 

ghosttownscanada day 7 maxstone saskatchewan highway 13

We spoke to Louis a local volunteer at the museum, asking questions about Bateman and local history :) We stayed for lunch in town then headed for the ghost town of Maxstone, just south of Assiniboia.  Travelling along Highway 13, then 2 … we think we missed the area and will try again tomorrow but did find many abandoned homes just off Highway 2.  A really interesting day, we captured many things!! A poetic day! We then headed back into Assiniboia for the night.  Lovely meal out then back to the motel to rest for another night.

ghosttownscanada day 6 bateman Assiniboia maxstone saskatchewan

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