In an attempt to claw back one of our days off we arranged to go away Friday to Sunday, up into the mountains, Whistler etc. We managed to leave the ranch at 11.30am despite getting everything ready the night before! The first part of our journey took us through the centre of Vancouver, not that we saw any of it as the main highway sides were built up. We did manage a brief glimpse of the skyscrapers of the city centre as we crossed the bridge over the Fraser River, high-rises jutting out into the delta, much like New York (Roger tells me). The road took us west along the north bank of the river, but obscured the view with a thick hemline of trees, until we turned north and headed up Howe Sound to Squamish. This road looked distinctly Nordic, majestic peaks sweeping steeply down into the sea, just allowing enough room for the road to meander along the narrow shoreline. Actually, there isn’t even space for a road in Norway’s fjords (or Milford Sound in NZ).
We weren’t hampered too much but were in the midst of festival traffic also converging on Squamish where there was a 4 day event, headlined, coincidently, by Mumford and Sons. A couple ofbyesrs ago I had discovered that they were playing in Greenhead Park in Huddersfield and bought tickets as a birthday surprise for Roger as they were one of his favourite bands (and Ben was pretty envious but in NZ at the time). I would have to admit that they were one of the best bands I’ve seen live so we were a little tempted to call in but decided against as we had limited time and much to see.
The road from Squamish, on a sea inlet, to Whistler, a ski resort and host to the winter Olympics, is known as the Sea to Sky Highway, ascending from sea level into mountains which reach over 2000m. We took a detour into the town of Whistler to ascertain whether we might like to consider working a ski season here, no. It may look better covered in snow but what we actually found seemed rather contrived and Disney-fied, no real heart or character in evidence. We continued on to the town of Pemberton, as recommended and happened to land at their farmer’s market, our second this week. We had been taken to the Langley farmers market on Wednesday by Joanna, the lovely and interesting caretaker at the next door property, but more about her later as I can’t do her justice briefly. This was on quite a small scale but I was very impressed with the super downtown community barn (roof, as the photos illustrate) where it was located, the whole town nestling in the folds of the surrounding snow capped hills, whilst the residents ambled around in shorts and T-shirts.
We enjoyed a lovely meal, our last before heading up to a hostel in the middle of nowhere which didn’t provide food although we did have a dozen eggs, some cheese and a camping stove (what more could we want? well…….) The restaurant made their own gluten-free burgers and bread so I was able to accompany Roger and partake in the traditional state-side fayre. There is quite a lot of home-made gluten-free produce available, not so much for allergies and intolerances but as healthy lifestyle choices.
Back on the road we observed our first ‘wild horses’ road sign, much like the ‘beware deer’ sign but for horses which, disappointingly, we didn’t see but we were now in ‘First Nation’ territory so it was quite feasible if you were brought up on cowboys and Indians (not to be confused with ‘East Indians’ which is what those from the country of India are called in these parts). Our directions took us further and further away from civilisation, if you discount the trans-Canada railway line alongside the road and the mammoth power lines cutting their way down the valley. The hostel was well marked with home-made but distinct signage and despite not being able to identify the location on a map, it was exactly where the directions stated it would be, surprisingly!
We turned up a pretty rough track, definitely made with trucks in mind, but we were in our sparkling (not for long) Ford Focus hire car, oops! The land we crossed was dry and arid to the point of sub-Saharan, until we found a little oasis of an orchard, but this wasn’t the place, we were further on. As we rounded a corner into a parking area in front of a large wooden house we were met with a couple disgorging a young family of 3 from their car, aaargh! Fortunately they were staying in a different part of the building and transpired to be very nice.
We were shown into a 2 bedroom suite, we had the big family room or female dormitory depending on requirements and there was a rather tight double room on the other side of the living/kitchen area. All was pristine clean and bedding and towels were provided, my, how hostels have changed. After a wander round, checking out the hot-tub and games bungalow (which seemed to double as a church or prayer meeting room!) we pulled our patio chairs to the edge of the drive and opened the beer/cider. The tinkling of a bell indicated something living and Roger spotted a goat poking its head out of a window of the building below. It was definitely a window but the building did look in distinct disrepair so we concluded that it was meant to be in there.
It was still a bit too warm to test the hot tub and the children were playing on the trampoline next to it so we delayed our aquatics until we had cooled sufficiently. Armed with a drink each we decided to go for a dip later when everything else had quietened down. We were literally lowering our backsides into the lovely warm water as 4 members of the family emerged around the corner of the building in swimsuits and towels! Makes a change for the minutely adjusted juxtaposition of events to be in our favour, as they halted mid-step. There was a wood partition behind us as we submerged gratefully for a few seconds before feeling very guilty as they made no effort to advance but had obviously promised the well-behaved kids a dip before bedtime.
Magnanimously and quite shockingly to Roger, I peered round the partition and asked if they were coming in. Dad had decided not to anyway and eldest daughter had gone to sleep so just Mum and the younger 2 came in but the youngest didn’t even go beyond his knees before deciding it was too hot so Dad took him back. Mum and middle one stayed in for about 10mins in which time we discovered that they were from Israel (explains why I couldn’t place the accent).They had worked at Vancouver University for several years before going back to Israel but were now just on holiday for the month showing the kids around and then they got out, result!
We stayed in until we were good and wrinkly and the sun had gone down well beyond the mountain behind us. Our fellow suite inhabitees hadn’t yet materialised so we half hoped that they weren’t going to make it as we enjoyed the comfort of our own little seating area, resisting the temptation to utilise the glass chess set in front of us. Which are ‘black’ when 1 side are clear glass and the other frosted? We were still alone when we eventually retired although I did hear muted arrivals about an hour later. After a good night’s sleep I was aware of movement outside the door and emerged to go to the loo just as our fellow journeymen were packing to leave again – excellent! They had flown in to Vancouver the evening before from Germany so their bodies were still on European time so they thought they might as well get up and leave. We checked out of this excellent little place (Shiloh-works hostel, if anyone is in the area) after a chat to the lovely son and daughter of the Swiss couple who own it but were away. The son recommended a walk round Joffrey lakes where he had been involved in building the trails and the daughter in formed us that there were 3 goats living in the little house, all of whom had emerged that morning. It must be very difficult to live so remotely when you are young, even if it is beautiful, that’s not really what people look for at their age.