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Backpack & Budget

Exploring Hostel Territories by Bus

May 19, 1996|LUCY IZON

Backpackers and budget travelers exploring Canada this summer can take advantage of two economical alternative bus services and more than 70 hostel locations across the country, including new facilities in Vancouver and Niagara Falls.

For about $115, you can hop onto one of two Rocky Express 15-passenger buses that tour from Calgary to Banff, Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, Nordegg, the Columbia Icefields, Jasper, Maligne Lake and back to Calgary in six days.

Youth hostel accommodations are not included in the tour fee, but beds can be booked in advance. A prepaid accommodation package for the five nights is available for $46. With the optional $11.50 food kitty and a $6 park entrance fee, the total cost of the five-night tour is $178.50.

Rocky Express's fourth season will begin June 2 and will continue until mid-October. Last year, Rocky Express carried 300 passengers. The average age was 30; 47 passengers were over 40.

Stops are made for activities that range from hiking, canoeing and caving to white-water rafting. Charges for other activities range from $36 for white-water rafting and $15 for mountain biking to horseback riding for $12 or more per hour.

Tours in the busy July and August periods tend to book up three to four weeks in advance.

To book, contact Rocky Express, c/o Banff International Hostel, P.O. Box 1358, Banff, Alberta, TOL 0C0, telephone (403) 762-4122.

Bigfoot's Western Canada Backpacker Transport is beginning its third season. The company will have two buses covering the route between Vancouver and Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary, beginning June 2 and continuing until the end of October.

Bigfoot's backpacker service offers the trans-Rockies trip, with an overnight stop at a hostel at Shuswap Lake, for $65. Hostel accommodations (some lodging is in a caboose) are an additional $6.

Buses depart Vancouver Sundays and Wednesdays and depart Calgary Sundays and Thursdays.

This year, Bigfoot is also introducing two-day trips through the Rockies from Calgary to Jasper, with an overnight stop at the rustic Edith Cavil Hostel for $70 plus hostel accommodations. Departures are from Calgary on Tuesdays and Fridays.

For more information on Bigfoot's transportation and tours, contact them at P.O. Box 74651, Vancouver, B.C. V6K 4P4, or call (888) 244-6673.

A new hostel will be opening in a former hotel near the world-famous Niagara Falls at the beginning of June. The hostel is also located within walking distance of the rail and bus station at 4699 Cataract Ave., telephone (905) 357-0770. It can accommodate up to 70 travelers in rooms with four or fewer beds at a rate of about $15 per person, per night.

By early June, a new youth hostel will also be open in the heart of Vancouver's West End at 1114 Burnaby St. It's within walking distance of Stanley Park--one of the largest urban parks in North America, where you'll find biking trails and a large new aquarium.

The hostel can accommodate up to 212 travelers. It has an equipment storage area, a kitchen and bicycle rentals. Guests have 24-hour access. The rate for members of Hostelling International is $13. Nonmembers are charged $16.

For more information, contact Hostelling International--BC Regional Office at (604) 684-7101.

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Students with an interest in marine science are being offered a reduced rate on volunteer programs to join a team of biologists studying whales along the central coast of British Columbia.

The work is being done by the Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation (CERF), a nonprofit Canadian registered charity involved in ecological and biological research along the British Columbia coast. To join the scientists is not inexpensive. Their research is partially funded by volunteers who sail aboard a 40-foot research vessel and assist with studies.

Seven-day expeditions run from June 30 to Sept. 1. The usual cost, out of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, is $1,075. The special student rate is $900.

Contact Adventure Spirit at (800) 667-7799.

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