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  • Day7

    Snow to Sun

    August 29, 2018 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    The day began in glorious sunshine. It was cool and crisp and refreshing. Most of the people in the group who had shared stories of broken sleep were able to admit to feeling a little more awake this morning, including me. We did not dally long in Whistler after breakfast and we were back on the bus and heading out by eight o'clock. The normal route to our next stop had been closed because of recent landslides and so we were forced to retrace our tracks right back through Vancouver and out the other side. It meant we probably travelled another 100-150 kilometres. It meant a long day on the bus. Fortunately, we stopped every hour or so for "washroom breaks". Isn't it interesting that so many cultures have so many ways of saying "toilet". These breaks were also important to have us all get off the bus and stretch our legs.

    Each day we are on the bus we are rotated to different seats. Today we were in the front row. It made it nicer to be able to see what was coming but a bit scary sitting so close to the driver and seeing how close he came to other vehicles on the road. Great logging trucks laden with freshly cut timber, tankers, RVs and other huge vehicles did not seem to phase our driver who belted past them at 120 km an hour, sometimes, I swear, were within centimeters of our bus. I found myself gripping the rail in front of me at times. I have also never been in a bus that needed to change lanes as often as we did. Sometimes I think it was just to cut corners or provide some interest for the driver. Later in the day, when I took advantage of a spare seat towards the back, to stretch out and smooth out the cricks in the body from sitting in one confined position all day, I overheard another conversation from others in the group, including a former truck driver who was not impressed by our appointed driver.

    We made it through the day without any mishap though. Not so much for a crash we saw on the highway heading in the opposite direction. Many locals drive enormous utes, then attach even bigger caravans etc. behind them. One of them had rolled over and was lying on its side, disconnected from its partner and spun away from it. It looked a real mess. I don't know what caused it but, given that the condition of the road was excellent, I think it just must come down to speed and over correcting a very large vehicle. The police and road safety people were in attendance and everything was under control so we continued on past it, but I did think about the people in the vehicle for quite a time afterwards.

    There was just one other thing about vehicles that caught my attention today. I HATE tailgaters. They upset me when I am driving and when I see them menacing other cars on the road. So when I saw a tiny little runabout car following just a metre behind a huge RV, I went through all the anxieties of this experience. What a foolish driver, I thought, running so close behind a huge thing like that. About an hour later I saw another one, but this time I took a closer look. The second, smaller car was actually being towed by the RV which was being towed behind a gruntmobile. It seems that when people travel with huge caravans for their holiday, they don't want to miss out on having a second car with them so they bring it too. They just attach a second towbar! We see many many sale yards full of brand new shiny caravans with all sorts of gadgets attached on our travels. The people must really like "roughing it" with all the mod cons.

    Our first stop was at a lookout that gave us great views of the Tantalus mountains. I got an excellent picture of a glacier, so that is another thing on the bucket list for this holiday

    A little further along I snapped a picture that entertained me. In the Squamish region, an area strongly connected to the Squamish peoples, they have written their road signs in traditional spelling and modern spelling. I have never seen a word spelled out that had a number as a letter. I did enjoy that. Please check out the pictures that show this creative sign. I would love to have seen more but that was the most interesting example.

    Later, as we headed up to our final destination for today, a ski village called Sun Peaks, we passed another series of signs. This time it had quite a different cultural connection. Out in the middle of woopwoop we saw signs leading to places or regions that had a different thread. There was Portia and Othello, Duke, Desdemona, Romeo and Juliet. As the trend began to emerge we kept trying to decide which name might come next. I was hoping for Benedick and Beatrice and Ross went for Desdemona. He won! I felt quite cheated when the names reverted back to quite ordinary names.

    At regular intervals, beside the road, particularly in the more alpine environments, I noticed small ponds below the side of the road and at the base of the mountain. I asked what name was given to these features, thinking they might have an exotic first nation's name. Bill, the tour director, said that they were called ponds. Then he suggested they might be called "sloos". After some efforts at translation and accent adjustment we realised this word was "slough" (pronounced like plough in Aussie English but slew in Canadian English). Just another pronunciation to add to the "ough" collection. I know there is a city in England called Slough, because I went there. It is only about two kilometres from Windsor and Eton, so this word has come across with the English settlers. Anyway, these features dry out over time and become peat bogs. Certainly the water was rich in tannins and very still. Lots of vegetation grew on the edges. These features do tend to lead to the creation of peat bogs. I had hoped, when asking my question, to learn that beavers had been involved in the part creation of the area and was told this was a possibility. I looked closely to find one but had no luck. I doubt if they would be out at the times we were.

    Our morning tea and washroom stop was at a place called Squamish which had the most amazing children's playground. No simple slides and swings here. A huge climbing frame, four storeys high, invited children up into walking along high wires, tarzan rope swings and other terrifying contraptions. One wire was to be crossed on a bicycle and others had small helicopters or motorcycles that needed to be climbed through or over to get to the next platform. The squeals of delight coming from it told us that this was great fun, but I found it rather challenging to watch.

    Inside, after the obligatory washroom stop, I wandered around the visitor's centre. I took some photos of a black bear and a grizzly but they were stuffed, which was sad, but interesting. There was also a very clever display of wood carving, illustrating the history of logging in the area. The crafting of this was remarkable.

    Back on the bus we drove on to Abbotsford, travelling right through Vancouver again. Abbbotsford is in the very fertile Thompson delta and it grows blueberries and cranberries, but also many other cash crops to feed the people of Vancouver and beyond. Ocean Spray, the people who sell us cranberry jelly, come from this region. Another major crop getting greater coverage in the delta is marijuana. It is about to be legalised for personal use and so much energy is going in to developing the new crop. They already have medicinal cannabis, but this is an extension. The government says it will supervise the production and sale (please read "tax it heavily"). It may remove the Vietnamese gangs that currently grow it illegally and the Hells Angels that transport it to America, illegally. There may be more benefit from legalising it than many saw possible. I know that when we stopped for lunch at the Farmers Market and petting zoo, I could buy hemp cookies right beside the chocolate chip ones. I chose not to. One or two on the tour were just a little scandalised by it all.

    The petting zoo at Abbotsford was cute with a miniature horse, donkey, and pig, some regular sized goats, sheep and chickens, a couple of turkeys and a delightful little bull calf who wanted to get close and personal with everyone. The goats had a pen that allowed them to climb onto the roof and graze on the grass planted there for them. Goats are hilarious creatures and these were no exception, head butting each other on the roof of the shed.

    After the lunch we headed up another pass through the various mountain ranges, all smothered in conifers, except by the roadsides that sprouted vast spinnies of silver birch, aspen and blackberry. I wondered if we would ever see a skyline that wasn't covered in pine trees. In one long pass we were told that, because of its location there was a lot of snow in this section of the road. The road and cliffs often picked up 2 - 5 metres of snow and while snow plows could clear the road, the possibility of avalanches was so great that they had to protect the people travelling through. The best way was to actually cause avalanches and have them controlled. To do this they shot a howitzer cannon, or similar devices, into the snow covered mountain, forcing the snow down until the threat was minimized. We were even shown the emplacement for the gun. Quite scary really.

    Within a short time, I nudged Ross and said "Look. No pines!" In a single turn of a bend we moved into the dry region. Most of the moisture dropped on the other side of the mountain and did not make it across the peaks. That meant that, apart from the very tops, the hills and valleys carried nothing much more than sage brush and scrubby grasses. The land was useful for cattle but not much else. The heart of this region is called Kamloops, a first nation word that suggests "meeting place". It is still that today and there is a set of buildings where many bands (tribes) come together for "potlatch", or ceremonial gathering even today. That is pleasing.

    We moved out of that valley after a while and found our way back into the conifer forests and on to Sun Peaks where we are in a hotel that tries to pretend it is small cabins. It is quite comfortable but it is not the Hilton. We walked around the corner for a special fur traders dinner. It is not very likely that they ate what we did, but we all played along. All I can say was that there was just too much food and I had to stop. Almost immediately after, we were all loaded onto another bus. This one was an old yellow school bus. It would not meet standards in Australia, I think, but all it was expected to do was get us ten kilometres outside town, up a dirt track to McGillivray Lake where we were invited to go canoeing. I was not prepared to test my shoulders any more with paddling, so happily minded handbags on the shore and took photos of the others paddling around the lake in the gloaming. It was a charming way to finish the day. I am quite ready for bed now and looking forward to another good night's sleep.
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