Gaylene told us we could have Saturday off and that we should go to Fort Langley. They (she and Brian) would be leaving early that morning and so could give us a lift to the bus station or FL itself as they were going to pick up 2 previous workawayers from the bus station and take them to Chilliwack show. We would need to be ready at 8.30 after doing the morning feeding (on our day off?!). We set the alarm for 7am, instead of the usual 7.30 on a work day and got up after an interrupted night when we’d been disturbed by a strange noise, rain! the first since we’d arrived in British Columbia. I also woke to the lovely news of the birth of my great niece, Maggie. The feeding was finished just after 8 but there was little sign of activity from the main house so we gathered our stuff together and hung around the cabin, keeping an eye on the vehicles.
At 8.25 we ambled out onto the drive and talked to Doc whilst waiting for them. Brian came out and got into the mustang. He started to drive past us but stopped and unwound the window. Were we about to go walkabout? He’d spotted the backpacks. We informed him that we were waiting for them to give us a lift as they went to collect people from the bus station. He seemed surprised as he was going to pick up his truck, the people were catching the bus to Chilliwack and they weren’t going until the afternoon anyway! He, very obligingly, offered to take us anyway as he didn’t have anything else to do. I struggled into the back seat behind Brian, who is a big bloke, but couldn’t manage to insert both feet so my right stayed on the other side whilst Roger squeezed in the remaining space and Arnaud, the youngest, fittest and skinniest of us all, but was lagging behind, sat in the front. I don’t think these cars are designed for 4 people never mind 4 adults.
The drive to Fort Langley is quite direct so it wasn’t long before we were rolling along the main street looking for a suitable dropping off point. At 8.45 there was little open, although we did notice that the farmers market was setting up. We extracted ourselves from the car and crossed to the information kiosk but were too early even for them. It didn’t actually open all day which seemed a little strange for a Saturday in summer. We had hoped to obtain some information about our return journey as we didn’t expect to be picked up, we didn’t know what time we’d want to leave and the others were going to the show anyway. I still had the number of the taxi driver who’d taken us from the bus depot so we weren’t too concerned.
We ambled down towards the river and bought ourselves a coffee whilst we decided what to do. A movement caught my eye and I spotted a huming bird in the flowers opposite. I thought I’d seen one previously but they are so fast it can be difficult to be sure. See if you can spot it, this isn’t just a photo of a pretty plant. A railway line ran through that end of town with unmanned crossings. The first train looked suspiciously like The Rocky Mountaineer, the trans Canada scenic passenger train running from Vancouver to Toronto, taking 3 days. There were definitely some glass domed tops to some of the carriages. The next train was one of those interminably long ones, common in the USA but presumably, popular here for the same reasons. I counted 72 carriages on the next goods train and Roger spotted ‘Union Pacific’ on a subsequent one. Arnaud exclaimed that he couldn’t possibly live here with all these trains going past so frequently although, by the end of the day we barely noticed them. The historic and recently restored station seemed popular with bridal parties for their post-nuptial photos. It seemed slightly absurd, watching these shenanigans, to think that many stations in the UK are older than this and still fully functioning, not museums. We do take our history for granted.
By this time the farmers market was due to be opening as it was nearly 10am. As we walked back up the main street we were inadvertently entertained by a dog training class occupying the whole of the other pavement. The poor pooch second from the right was the class dunce who had been unfortunate enough but probably deliberately located next to teacher’s pet (haha!). As we approached the church, holding the market in the car park, we were entertained by a string quintet who seemed to have expanded to a septet by the time we left. The market was quite a small affair and I did resist the wine tasting at this early hour, much to Roger’s surprise. The only stall which really captured my interest was one selling a remedy to make us less attractive to mosquitoes! I felt sure that if this really was the answer then they would be millionaires by now and malaria would be eradicated but hadn’t heard that this was the case. However, having been eaten alive the previous day, first time since Alberta but I’d been weeding in a dark damp area between the house and the hedge and knew it would happen. So belatedly, I tried a sample of the mouth wash which was reputed to make me smell like a plant they don’t like, same principle as garlic presumably.
We wandered back towards the river, crossed the bridge and found a walking trail through the woods on the other side, this would test my mossie repellent. The weather was rather grey so the Fraser river didn’t look particularly attractive. It is tidal, so whilst not contaminated, it was muddy dirty. The scenes from the view point were not that great, we didn’t even bother to go along to look at one, felt guilty so turned off to the next one to be met with a barricade of bushes! I think the main attraction of this town are the pretty buildings, nice shops and lots of cafes and restaurants, not its location.
We dropped into the pub on the river and enjoyed starter portions of poutine, which was more than enough as a main course, accompanied by Mike’s hard lemonade (which is basically an alco-pop but less sweet and more refreshing) and caught the last set of the ladies double final at Wimbledon. We asked our friendly waitress about public transport which seemed to be distinctly lacking. One thing I have noticed to be contrary to UK customs but apparently the norm here is that waiting staff clear away your plate as soon as you’ve finished. There is no waiting for the last person to put their cutlery down. Perhaps this is something we can adopt in France to counter the slow eaters when we are waiting to finish the meal and leave.
We made our way to the one bus stop we’d observed but there were no details of times. As we stood around indecisively a bus actually pulled up and appeared to consider it strange that these people stood at the bus stop didn’t actually want a bus. She was able to inform us that they were every hour though. We still weren’t sure about it as it would take us into Langley where there would still be a $30 taxi ride back to the ranch. Indecision reigns when people are in groups with relative strangers and each trying to be polite. We still had the taxi driver number though.
We ambled over to the other ‘historic’ part of town, home of the ‘Fort’ to find it predominantly a children’s centre. I had read about the Fort to Fort trail and thought that it might prove pleasant enough. When I enquired at the reception desk I discovered that it didn’t start at the Fort, silly me, but at the pub where we’d had lunch not long ago. As we emerged from the building the heavens opened so that was the end of that idea. It would only have been along the other bank of the river we’d walked that morning, taking us from the site of the new fort to that of the old so we didn’t miss much.
Our next task was to find a payphone as none of our mobiles were connected to the unfriendly Canadian networks. Roger felt that the bookshop and cafe looked a likely place and on asking if there was one available, was given the shop landline which he promptly handed to me! There was no reply from our friendly taxi driver! At least we could now fall back on the bus service. The shop owner (we presume) enquired about our success and on describing our lack thereof took it upon herself to book us a taxi and insisted we enjoy a coffee whilst waiting (she is a big fan of York) refusing any payment when our cab arrived.
Our taxi driver was an Afghan which could have proved delicate but he was a lovely bloke, we even got onto the subject of the ruin of his country after we’d discussed the effect of the Greek crisis in the EU and whether the EU as a process, works or not. All this in his 5th language of English in which he likes to debate as it challenges his vocabulary . What was he doing driving a taxi for 20 years in Canada! We were greeted back at the ranch by a concerned Gaylene who, earlier, had found nails in some felt on the ground in Angel’s paddock. Roger was tasked with using the metal detector (just a massive magnet) to find any others urgently even though we were back sooner than she expected. At least it meant we’d be able to do the evening feed!