Rocky packs a big punch

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AS THE train rattles over a narrow viaduct, the view from the side of the outdoor carriage causes my stomach to flip. With no guard rail skirting the bridge, a sudden drop plummets hundreds of metres below into the raging waters of a glacial river.

Taking in the scene, it occurs to me, had I been one of the early gold rush pioneers traversing this wild country in the 1800s, I would no doubt have been wading through said river, rather than gliding over it from the confines of one of the world’s most luxurious trains.

I am on board Rocky Mountaineer, Canada’s iconic locomotive that last year celebrated its 25th anniversary. We are navigating a stretch of land spanning from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Jasper, Alberta, nearly 800 kilometres north east on a route known as Rainforest to Gold Rush. This year marks the first time the route will begin or end in North Vancouver rather than Whistler as it has done since the route was first established.

It’s a significant development as although Rocky Mountaineer operates a multitude of routes straddling the majestic Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, this route is one of the most spectacular. It’s partly down to the geographical diversity.

With sudden changes in elevation and climate, the landscape shifts dramatically, often within minutes. One moment, we’re winding through the Continental Divide, past Mt Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and seemingly the next we’re skirting the lip of The Fraser Canyon, sheer cliff walls giving way to hundreds of kilometres of arid desert plains.

But it’s also the service. Rocky Mountaineer offers two levels, GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf Service, both of which come with dedicated onboard hosts selected as much for their gregarious personalities as any previous hospitality experience.

For those on more of a budget, SilverLeaf Service still offers meals served in the comfort of your seat, complimentary drinks and entertaining commentary from the hosts, but for those looking to really live it up, GoldLeaf Service offers astounding levels of comfort.

In recent years, GoldLeaf Service carriages were converted into bi-level domes for passengers to further enjoy the scenery, with dedicated cylindrical glass viewing domes up top and a fully equipped galley, kitchen, dining room and outdoor vestibule beneath.

Snaking our way further into The Rockies, I kick back, enjoying the steady flow of Caesar cocktails—Canada’s much loved answer to the Bloody Mary—taking in the frequent spiels on native wildlife, gold rush history and poems read by our charismatic hosts, or just drinking in the sight of the ever-shifting geographical backdrop.

If this routine were ever in danger of getting old—which it isn’t–twice a day, we venture down to the plush dining cart to enjoy a la carte meals and local wines overseen by chefs trained in Michelin starred restaurants.

It’s an opulent, awe-inspiring journey and it’s no surprise this rail odyssey now tops the must-see list of many a world traveller.

How to get there: Air Canada flies year-around and non-stop to Vancouver from Brisbane and Sydney, and connects onwards to more than 100 destinations in North America. Travellers to Vancouver have their choice of three classes of seating aboard the company’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brisbane and its Boeing 777 from Sydney.

Traveltalk has teamed up with Rocky Mountaineer and Air Canada to offer one lucky travel agent (and partner) a luxury Rocky Mountaineer journey including international flights from Sydney or Brisbane. ENTER HERE >

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