It was with quite mixed feelings that we left Ubar. We were excited at the prospect of the next leg of our Canadian adventure but had had such a super time that it would be difficult to match but already things were beginning to change from our outset.
Bailey, accompanied by Sophie, kindly drove us in to Hinton, set on the banks of the Athabasca downstream from Jasper, which delayed our inevitable goodbye. We had missed saying farewell and thank you to Brenda the night before and thought we would miss Ray but he returned just after we’d packed up the car. I had spent sometime in the corral the day before petting and stroking our 4 legged friends for the last time. We had become very fond of the trail horses. They may not be as prized as the reiners but each had their own character and a lot of heart. It was lovely to just be within the group and despite their size and strength, not feel at all vulnerable as I would have done at the outset, mainly from lack of equine familiarity. The horses at the other end were also lovely but a bit less predictable or stoic.
The four of us enjoyed a pizza and went to check-in to our Days Inn motel. Our room was spacious, clean and well appointed. We even had a massage chair much to Sophie’s delight; I think she would have stayed in it all afternoon. Finally it was time for them to leave, Bailey had to be back in time for Larry to see Johnny, her horse. With a few damp eyes we separated but can keep in touch on social media which makes parting so much less final.
The next few hours were spent trying to get up to date on the internet with all the backlog of photos, amendments and corrections followed by a meal and soak in the bath. Our early bus required an equally early night which somehow extended to 10.30 but it was lovely to roll into crisp cotton sheets and a fairly firm bed. Our previous bed had been comfortable but quite soft (I wonder if Martina has already taken occupancy!) We had enjoyed the brushed cotton sheets when we first arrived and the nights were chilly but latterly the temperature had risen considerably so even though we’d thrown off the bear cover and duvet we were still hot as we didn’t dare expose any flesh for fear of night-time bitey things which seemed to invade the room despite our best efforts to keep them out.
A 3.30 toilet call evolved into getting up time and we gathered our final pieces of luggage together to walk the 3-400yds to the bus stop. No mean feat with a bulging 90 litre back back and equally full 30 litre pack on our fronts plus another holdall with wellies, food and coats (it was still far too warm even at that early hour) and a further bag containing breakfast which was actually the leavings over of the previous day’s evening meal. We arrived at the bus stop at 4.10, the expected time for the bus for a 15 minute stopover. Gazing towards the east we could observe the colours of the sunrise but not the bus! It finally materialised at 10 to 5, we could have had another 1/2 hour in bed, along with a torrential down pour.
Whilst we had enjoyed a few hours sleep in a bed our fellow travellers wouldn’t have so fortunate, leaving Edmonton at 12.30am, just as we had done 4 weeks previously. As the bus pulled in it looked half empty but on boarding I was met with a tangle of legs across the aisle as most seats were occupied by a prone body across both. We had to disturb a chap in order for Roger to sit down, my partner was inattentive enough to have alighted to go to the loo without ‘reserving’ both seats. We set off and soon the purr of the engine was accompanied by the snores of many passengers. The initial part of our route took us back into Jasper NP but without the beautiful weather we’d previously experienced. I thought that the early hour might reveal some wildlife snacking on their breakfast but perhaps the main highway deters that although the traffic is still light. The clouds contained us for most of the journey, 5 hours of pine tree laddened hillsides, until Clearwater in the lee of the Rockies. Here we emerged into blue skies and sunshine, lower rolling hills and the first farms we had seen, both cattle and arable. No sheep here remember, only wild ones to be shot!
We are headed to Kamloops where we change buses but the next two to Langley were fully booked so we arrive at 10.30am and depart 5pm so we’ll see what we can find to do within walking distance. Hopefully a ‘left luggage’ for a start. We have been warned that there isn’t much here but it is a major junction for various routes. May just need to read our books in the sunshine, drink coolers and eat poutine!
We emerged from the bus station into an out of town concrete shopping and eating area, not much to do. Roger noticed what looked to be a nice enough park over the road so we crossed and made our way to the entrance. It was only at the gate we realised that it was the cemetery! This didn’t deter us as there was no where else and we weren’t going to be disrespectful. We hadn’t noticed what it was from a distance as there were no standing headstones, only flat ones. We spent a little while wandering the paths in the sunshine and couldn’t help but notice the number of joint graves with single occupancy; the first encumbant having resided there for quite some time. We had a guessing game as to the reason, usually the male was already interned so I suggested that she was up and off as soon as he’d snuffed it. Roger proposed that it was due to a significant age difference and she was still alive. Looking at some of the doubles there seemed to be some basis for this, we noticed up to a 26year age difference.
The sun was beating down on us again so we retired to a memorial bench in the dappled shade to read our books for a while. It may seem a bit weird but it was a lovely peaceful setting, just the distant sound of the road and closer noise and smell of a lawnmower and freshly cut grass. I glanced up and there, wandering through the trees some distance in front of us was a lovely white tailed deer. We watched it meader amongst the trees and bushes, grazing casually in its progress (see if you can spot it in the photo). There is something quite nice to think of that scenario playing out above your grave, isn’t there? When it finally disappeared we took our leave and wandered back towards the road, noticing that a few of the older graves appeared to have been recently dug up and held no grass, just soil, strange?
We had a drink at Starbucks whilst deciding what to do next and realising that we had little choice. Roger noticed on the store list at the entrance to the retail park ‘Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack’ which really did deserve a visit. What an amazing shop, particularly after where we’d just been and were headed. There is certainly nothing like this in the UK to my knowledge, maybe English riding shops but not real Western. We spent quite some time checking out all the goods and chatting to the lady behind the counter who assumed that, as tourists, we were here for the Calgary Stampede, sadly not.
We finally left there to grab a bite to eat before our next 4 hour bus journey to Langley and happened upon a great place in the middle of this concrete jungle. We sat outside but in the shade and enjoyed our meal and were just thinking about moving when one of the staff came to bring down the shutter as a storm was approaching. We were allowed to be inside despite having finished and barely exited the patio before the first huge rain drops began to fall. They don’t just do rain here, it is almost semi tropical the way the thunder storms build up during the day’s heat. Anyway we’re on the bus now, headed to our second ranch and adventure so more news on that after we arrive and I’ve checked out the internet connection. Not sure what we’ll start with as it is Canada Day tomorrow, 1st July, but horses will still need feeding.