I’m writing this in the back of Gina as we chug our way along the ‘Highway Through Hell’ to Vancouver. I didn’t call it that, the locals did. The first uphill has lasted 25 minutes so far. Poor Gina. We almost broke her in Nelson a couple of days ago actually. Fancying a hike out of town we attempted to take her up a 16km road so steep, bumpy and windy she started to make pitiful whining noises, like a broken kettle. We were forced to abandon her at the side and continue to the car park by foot, before ascending further above the tree line for some sandwiches near Lake Kokanee. It was a tough walk as we’d all been struck by the hangover bug doing the rounds in the hostel. Quite a collection of oddballs at the hostel as per usual, including a bloke on crutches who claimed to have seen Bigfoot. Upon further questioning it was revealed he had only heard Bigfoot, which seemed a little unconvincing to me. A bit like saying you once smelled Nessie. It reminded me of a bloke we met in Whitehorse who had seen loads of aliens. They always appeared at night in a spaceship that hovered above glaciers because “the aliens needed clean drinking water.” Suddenly the truth behind the shrinkage of the world’s glaciers was revealed! Amazing stuff marijuana.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate meeting other people though, with Ciaran and his missus Katie looking after us superbly in Banff. We played indoor football with all their chums, where the toll of 3 weeks on the road was cruelly exposed. It took about 3 days to recover. With both Ciaran and Katie working in hotels, they managed to put us in a very posh lodge for a night with access to hot tubs and saunas, while their pal Karl got us complimentary tickets on the Sulphur Hill gondola. The summit overlooked Banff and featured a weather station built in the 19th century that was manned by the same guy for 40 years. Sometimes it got so stormy up there the stone walls started to crack – this was before the gondola existed obviously, so there wasn’t exactly an easy way down.
From Banff it was a rather long soujourn to Nelson, which featured a brief ferry ride across a lake. I misread the ferry timetable so we arrived 10 minutes late. A two hour wait in the darkness playing headers (current record – 28) followed and we were finally on our way. The harsh crags of the Rockies gave way to rolling valleys and actual farmland and the hippy commune that is Nelson greeted us like the corpulent ghost of Lyttelton, New Zealand. Coffee houses, art deco organic vegetable shops, lots of guitar players and more coffee houses distracted us for a couple of days while our German hitchhiker looked for jobs to supplement the working part of her working holiday visa.
And now, with Gina heading triumphantly downhill (she drives much like the train in Dumbo) it is with a prominent doff of the cap we say thanks to Craig ‘Noodles’ Galloway and his lovely wife Shona for putting us up (or putting up with us) in Kelowna. Craig took us on a world tour of his whisky cabinet while we struggled with scrabble. He also introduced us to a local drink called a Caesars, which is effectively a Bloody Mary with sausages in it. The barmaid who served us looked like Audrey Hepburn though (cue me trying to impress her with my travel tales and her revealing she’d basically been everywhere I was hoping to see) so that was a plus.
Onwards to Vancouver then, where more old friends await and we finally bid farewell to ‘Zie German’ and indeed, to big old Canada!