This entire trip wouldn’t be possible if not for the International Students Association at UVic and the fantastic Club ESL
! This trip was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had and I’m truly mourning the fact that it’s ended.
After waking at 6am, foraging for breakfast, and trawling my comically large suitcase on to the bus, I joined our sleep deprived group at UVic. We were picked up by a coach at 7:30, where we met our tour guide, an enthusiastic Dutchman named Roel, and Bud, our long-suffering, stetson-wearing driver. It sounds like the start of a joke – a Canadian cowboy and a Dutchman are driving a bus…
We left Victoria and drove up-island to Swartz Bay ferry terminal. Obviously not the most picturesque photo to be starting things off with but this was our view from the ferry as we left Victoria. Mist is common along the coast during October as hot air meets the cold air on the ocean.
Our first stop was the quiet town of Hope. We grabbed lunch at a little cafe called the Blue Moose, which was popular with the locals. Unable to find a seat, a few of us went for a picnic in a park nearby. I chowed down on a delicious turkey and red pepper flatbread sandwich. Mmm!
Aside from being one of the best place names I’ve ever heard, Hope is known for wood carvings and has a pretty nice view overlooking the Fraser river. It has a very quiet feel to it too, and it was strange being able to roam the streets and see so few people.
Leaving Hope, we joined the Coquihalla [kokahala] Highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the world (no, really). The conditions can change so fast on the Coke that you can start driving on a sunny day and the next bend will throw a snow storm or some black ice at you. There is even a division of the Canadian Army placed there in winter, tasked with shutting the road, shooting cannonballs into the mountains, and causing controlled avalanches so vehicles aren’t engulfed in snow as they drive…
So, it’s a death trap during winter, but in autumn it’s absolutely beautiful!
We drove on, leaving the volcanic Coast Mountains behind us and entered cowboy country and the desert. That was probably the biggest surprise on the entire trip. I had been expecting towering mountains, never-ending coniferous forests, and driving for hours without passing through any towns, but a desert?!
But there was no way around it! Kamloops and the surrounding area was undoubtedly dry scrubland (and in my shock, I must have forgotten to take a picture…whoops haha). I did some research when I got back to Victoria and the highest temperature ever recorded there 41°C! So much for Canada being cold!
We stopped at a gas station briefly, and then pressed on. In the darkening light, we had our final pitstop at The Last Spike, just outside of Craigellachie (polite nod to Scotland). The Last Spike is the point at which Canada’s eastern railway connected with the western railway. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you consider the sheer size of Canada and the number of mountain chains the country has, it’s a pretty enormous feat. Were it not for this spike, Roel informed us, British Columbia would probably be part of the USA, as trading routes used to be so much stronger with sea ports like Seattle and San Francisco.
We finally arrived in Revelstoke (another nod to Scotland – this time Lord Revelstoke, who was wrapped up in making sure the country didn’t tank when it gained independence) at around 8pm, dropped our bags off in our rooms, and went for dinner downtown. Downtown was less bustling nightlife and more of a ghost town (on a Friday of all nights!) but we made do by eating at a lovely Chinese restaurant, where we shared tongue-twisters and idioms in our different languages. We then headed to a local bar, which admittedly got rather busy as the night went on. A local rock band was juxtaposed with Top 40 club tunes (and if you’ve take anything from my playlists
, you’ll know that’s not exactly my music taste!) but it was definitely fun to see how a small Canadian town lets its hair down!