Kyle: My Karaoke Pal
Canada: Banff, Alberta
I remember meeting Kyle in the place I met most of the people during my time in Banff – the infamous, beloved Beaver Bar of the Samesun Hostel. It was a place everyone congregated in the evenings for loud, beer-fuelled shenanigans. It was only a small little room, with a bar in the corner, a couple of high tables and chair in the middle and some benches lining the sides. In typical Canadian style, the decor was cosy and oaky with music and various pieces of art on the walls only backpackers would find remotely tasteful.
“We met at the Samesun hostel in Banff Canada at winter time with temperatures dropping to -30 plus. You were in the same dorm where we also met Steffan and a few others.”
Those 8-bed dorms weren’t great if you had a snorer amongst you, but they were the perfect place to meet people and share stories over some ice-cold PBRs. And each one had a cosy fireplace with a view of the Rockies. Absolutely couldn’t complain at all.
We formed quite a nice chummy group, but sadly a lot of people were dropping off to continue their travels a couple of days after. One night, in that -30 degree (CELSIUS!) weather, we all actually decided to go out to one of Banff’s best (read: only) nightclubs: the Dancing Sasquatch – if you know, you know. We layered up and bolted it down Banff Avenue to get there, freezing quite literally in the queue which took you into the basement of a building, with the cloakroom queue alone extending out onto the street. Everyone was huddled on the dance floor, clinking beers over loud music, having a good time. I remember thinking this is the only time I’d be caught wearing a fisherman’s jumper in a club.
I managed to stay in touch with a couple of the guys, one including Kyle. I caught up with him recently and since he stayed in Canada and lived there, I had a whole bunch of questions about his experiences.
“I lived and worked in Victoria BC for 2.5 years as a bartender, in my spare time I would take my car and explore the rest of Vancouver Island and other parts of Canada. I was fortunate enough to be able to join marine biologists on a whale watching boat, taking photos and learning about the incredible wildlife usually once or twice a week. I made many awesome friends and met a great bunch of interesting people.”
After following one another on Instagram, I learned Kyle was quite the photographer. As you’ll see, he’s captured some stunning moments with wildlife and really has a unique talent. Permission to hang one of yours on my wall in the future, please, Kyle? Also, please do go and follow him (@kylejbaines) and appreciate/support his beautiful work at http://www.kylejbaines.com
“I have always had an interest since I was a kid through my nan, she taught and always encouraged me.”
I asked if he’d had any memorable encounters with animals – and boy did he:
“I would say the most ‘oh crap’ moment would be when I was alone, searching for bald eagles around the Goldstream Provincial Park, off-trail, when I stumbled across a black bear fishing out salmon from the river. It looked directly at me, then proceeded to come towards me. Black bears are usually not aggressive but I wasn’t gonna stick around to find out, so I slowly backed away.
“It was about 15 metres away, then walked towards me and locked eyes with me until it was about 7 metres away. But as I was moving backwards, it stopped following me. Being on my own, I was like: ‘I am outta here’. But he seemed chill, I didn’t get any aggressive vibes.”
To even see a bear, let alone interact with one in such an intense way is incredible – not to mention getting away with your own life. Kyle’s story is actually quite shocking and rare: if you happen upon a black bear (specifically) and it wants to pursue you, you’re kind of done for. Generally, they’re quite skittish and run away from humans, but I learned on a wildlife tour in Jasper, Alberta, that with grizzlies, you play dead. Curl up into a ball, protect your neck and hug your knees to cover your stomach. And with black bears, as melodramatic as it sounds, if they decide to attack you, you have to fight for your life. So you can see how this example is quite the story. But maybe it’s also a lesson to learn that not all animals are out to attack and that if you respect them, they will respect you too.
Kyle then told me about his time photographing out on the water of the Pacific Ocean:
“The coolest experiences I’ve had would be when a Humpback or Orca would just glide past the boat out of curiosity or playfulness and have a good look at you.
“Having eye contact with such an animal is an incredibly overwhelming experience.”
He told me he wanted to get back into photo/videography when the world returns to normalcy and especially to cover more ground:
“I would love to visit more countries in Africa. I’ll head over to Norway, Svalbard, the Faroe islands and hopefully the Antarctic one day. I have a whole bunch of saving to do.”
And if he had 3 words of advice, they’d be the following:
1. “Say yes more to opportunities.”
2. “Make more of an effort to meet new people.”
3. “Don’t worry about what people think of you and your choices.”