After 11 months of travelling we were now flying over the Pacific ocean towards our final country, Canada. Perhaps it was the realisation that we had just three weeks of our big adventure remaining that left us both running repeatedly to the toilets at Seattle airport, or maybe it was just the skanky Burger King we’d eaten before leaving Hawai’i. After a lengthy 8 hour stop over we caught our connecting flight to Vancouver, just 30 minutes north over the US-Canada border. Fortunately our stomachs had settled so we could enjoy our first views of stunning British Colombia on Canada’s west coast. A coastline of islands, calm seas, evergreen forests and huge snow-capped mountains all surrounding the city of Vancouver and its sprawling suburbs. As the plane descended over canals and rivers we could see piles of logs in the water, wow this place felt so different already. We were as prepared for cold weather as our bulging backpacks would allow with a fleece, hat and some gloves each, all bought from a bargain souvenir shop back in New Zealand, would they stand up to the weather?
After a short train ride we found ourselves in Yaletown in Downtown Vancouver. We emerged on the street and breathed in the cold air, for once feeling completely comfortable with our huge backpacks on with not a single trickle of sweat running down my back. I thought you’d like to know that. The architecture looked so different to Hawai’i, as I walked along my head was swivelling on my neck, taking in the surroundings and it was as we crossed the street that I looked to my right and noticed the huge white mountains in the distance, suddenly revealed by a gap in the tall buildings. We both had huge smiles on our faces, we loved Vancouver already.
After dumping our bags at our hostel we headed straight back out, keen to take in more of the feel of this place that had already made such an impression on us. Our wonder and awe was very suddenly dispelled as we heard behind us in a manic shout “who here’s gonna suck my dick?!”. We stood aside and let the crazy guy past, apparently no one had taken up his offer, he turned and screamed “GO AWAY!” to whoever he imagined was following him. We were back in the real world, it was a reminder that nowhere’s perfect. We went into the nearest Tim Horton’s, a café chain that’s a bit of a Canadian institution, and both warmed up with a sweet hot chocolate. Emma won a free doughnut from a promo on her drink cup, so as we left she gave it to the very appreciative homeless guy sat on the pavement outside. As we were now finding out, Vancouver has a large homeless population along with a lot of addicts. I don’t mean to talk-down the city, just to tell it as it is. I’m sure back home the streets of my own London are still covered in the weekend’s excesses with cardboard beds built up in quiet doorways. Maybe it just shocked us as this was something we hadn’t really seen back in Asia.
The following day we headed out intending to see some more of the city including its famous Stanley Park. It turns out that downtown Vancouver is very pedestrian friendly, you can walk just about anywhere without really needing to use public transport. The city is located on a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides and so today we intended to walk the sea wall around the city’s western edge. The sun was shining, the temperature was up in the high teens and as it was a bank holiday weekend the locals were out in their droves, jogging, cycling, skating and walking with us. Spring had certainly arrived making Vancouver look very pretty with cherry blossom everywhere, again we were completely in love with this place. When we’d left Hawai’i we thought we’d said goodbye to our last paradise beaches, but as we walked the 5 mile coastal path we regularly stopped to enjoy Canada’s own, and the spectacular views from them of modern architecture, huge container ships, seaplanes, forests and towering mountains. We made a short detour to see some First Nation’s totem poles standing tall among the trees, our first glimpse of Canada’s native culture and art. There was a loud hammering noise coming from a rude woodpecker who failed to realise the importance of these wooden poles as he worked away at a large hole in one of them. We stopped in the nearby gift shop where it would be safe to say we’d have happily bought everything they sold (had we the space in our bags). The local Haida tribe’s artwork graced every souvenir you could imagine. We both fell in love with the bold black and red depictions of native animals, all drawn in a distinctive pattern of ovoids and lines. Back on the path we passed under the huge Lions Gate bridge, built by the Guinness family (yep the beer dudes), a very busy road bridge that connects the city with north Vancouver.
By the end of the day we’d walked well over 8 miles and so there was nothing for it other than to sample a local brew. We both enjoyed a ‘sleeve’ of Granville Island’s lager and decided we’d have to pay the brewery a visit in a few days time 🙂
Over the following days we explored the shopping area of the city, had our portraits painted by a local artist and visited the Capillano suspension bridge which was a great opportunity to get out of the city. We spent half a day crossing the bridge, walking around the surrounding forest and the various other tree top and cliff edge trails. A native guide explained the uses of the various plants we passed, some medicinal and others used in building shelters, very interesting to hear. We both chewed a zesty spruce pine needle which we were told contained huge levels of vitamin C, we wouldn’t be getting scurvy any time soon. We spent another day getting lost in the forests of the very beautiful Stanley Park, watching Bald eagles soar overhead and even had a surprise close up encounter with a very brave Raccoon. My mind was blown when I spotted a microscopic Hummingbird fly past me, I thought it was a beetle at first, the tiniest bird I’ve ever seen.
We spent a morning walking around the very cool Granville Island market, a food lover’s heaven, we satiated our hunger for Indian food with a tasty curry from one of the many stalls set up there. We of course had to pop into the Granville Island brewery too and so both enjoyed some small taster glasses of their excellent beer, one of which contained maple syrup. We both especially loved their Irish Red, hopped to high-heaven in typical North American style!
After an awesome week in this fantastic city the time had come to move on and see some more of this incomprehensibly big country. We were both very excited as we’d arranged to meet our lovely Canadian friends on their home turf in the town of Saskatoon. The temperature was about to plummet and the snow was about to appear, but with it a lot of fun was about to be had. You’ll have to pop back for Emma’s next blog on our week with Mr and Mrs Fancy 🙂
Take care peeps and as always, thanks for reading,