I spent the next month with Sophie travelling up into the wild north of British Columbia. The beautifully rugged scenery, endless mountain sprawls, starring out at snow capped mountain peaks whilst laying naked in the summers sun alongside some gorgeous rivers edge, diving into pristine waters, showering under hot water falls, bathing in hot springs, hiking though cedar forests, a consistent enticement to the eyes, bears, wolves, elk, mountain goats and mushrooms, both natural and magic. Each day we woke inside the van opening the doors out to an incredibly serene picture of the world.
Leaving Vancouver, we slowly made our way north, nowhere particular in mind, just wanting to immerse ourselves into the greenery. we headed in the direction of Whistler, a name along side Banff and Jasper that I have heard so much about ever since a kid, saying that I’ve been exposed to Canada for sometime, my family having lived there the years before I was born, Canadian memorabilia throughout my family home. A huge reason to travel is gaining one’s own perspective, its exciting, to finally see any part of this world for one’s self.
First stop was Squamish, well known for its rock climbing scene. A friend recommended that we hike “Big Chief”, a 2-3-hour return, nothing overly strenuous. A short hike to three separate peaks overlooking to surrounding valley of the Squamish area.
Its beautiful, and a really nice hike up through the pines, climbing up the boulders, huge rocks faces surround you as you make your way up to yet again another incredible site out to sea and summit.
Resting the night just outside of Squamish we awoke in the morning for an hour of yoga, a fresh dip in the nearest body of water, followed by a hearty breakfast, not to long of a drive, a couple of stops along the way seeing the sites, and endless variation of lakes, rivers, canyons, mountains, forests and flowers to sit amongst eating a hand full of magic mushrooms to enhance the experience and communicate a little bit with the nature, speaking to the spirits of the land and small insects crawl over the gigantic ass that has placed placed itself in the middle of the path of there daily commute.
Stopping just outside of whistler, at a beautiful spot just of the highway we camped out the rest of the afternoon with the slack line, a bit of music, a couple of beers and another handful of mushrooms, the sun setting over the snowy mountains, the reflection bright off the snow, purple and orange streak the sky like a mad mans paint brush, expressing his inner passion for a love he is yet to find. And as the moon came out to say hello we apologized for not being able to speak and we crawled back into the warmth of Fiona’s belly, lighting a candle and setting the mood we lay in inside the space ship, this is the only world we know rite now. Cuddling into each others warmth, resting our eyes, minds still wired, we slowly fall asleep.
town wasn’t far from where we were camping so we decided we would skip breakfast and get something when we arrive. There where a couple of mushrooms left inside the bag as we where packing up the mess from a night in the van on psychedelics. We decided we what the hell and ate the last two.
Arriving into town 20 minutes later my vision was becoming more vivid, I thought to myself “surely im not tripping yet”, my curiosity was growing. Sophie needed to find a toilet, as I am starting to become slightly stressed behind the wheel of the van trying to find a parking spot amongst the thousands of tourists out to consume everything from the I love Whistler T-shirts and over priced bottles of Maple syrup, to the deep inner depths of my soul. I ended up dropping Sophie on a corner to go find a toilet as I find somewhere to park, finding a spot, and as the trip slowly increases I panicked, in my most casual dirty hippie, cannot find my shoes, haven’t showered or washed anything for over a month now clothing I walked into the town of whistler.
I found the toilet that would have been the most obvious one closest to where I had left her. She wasn’t there, she must have gone into the town, despite the amount of traffic initially walking into town seemed quite until I turned that one corner, suddenly I was immersed into a bustling square. A band plays as the trumpet drowns my thoughts with overwhelming insecurity.
Suddenly surrounded by bars and copious amount of red faced hoarding beasts, laughing from there bellies as they stuff their lunch into their mouths. I was feeling very lost, probably looking quite confused and out of place to the general public, my bare feet drawing more attention then the band. I see Sophie walking towards me from the distance, happy to see she’s also as lost, confused and shoeless as I am. We slowly shuffle closer to one another, our shoulders to our ears, our eyes desperate for support. We lunge into each other arms, both holding one another we try to make it out alive, back to the van, back to that comfortable space to gather our gather our thought. Then back to that ramen restaurant we saw earlier on, that’s what we both really needed, an incredibly tasteful, incredibly expensive bowl of Ramen.
Whistler is a cute town, the alpine/log cabin style setting, the varnished golden cuts of Pine, entire logs as foundations for home and business, a pleasant aesthetic. Though its not really my type of place, not until the day I have a lot of money to spend on nothing but to indulge in the consumerist lifestyle of spending and owning just because we can.
After whistler we continued north east out towards cash creek, taking our sweet ass time, a couple of stops along the way doing the usual thing people do whilst driving a van around Canada. spending a lot of money on fuel, food and the finest BC Buds. still to this day 4 months since I landed in Canada I haven’t paid once for accommodation, the pleasures of owning the van. The hot springs where blocked off due to increased bear activity in the area, continuing through the lush pine forests, the lakes along the drive become more clear and untouched the further we head into the wild.
cash creek the trees slowly dissipate, the land flattens out and the flora suddenly spreads, wide spaces and canyons open. A short stop in cash creek with a quick visit to the back of the local super market for a dig through their dumpster to see what goodies we could find. We had hit the jack pot, a bouquet of fruit and vegetables, enough onions, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, oranges, and at the bottom of it all, at least 10 packets of sealed tofu, enough food to feed us for the next two weeks.
Continuing our trip towards the crossroads. North up to prince George heading deeper into the wild or head south down into the Okanagan to replenish my fast fading funds.
Despite my interaction with customs, and I had two things in mind, one was to pick mushrooms, morels, this can be very profitable, foraging through the burnt out woods of northern Canada scouring the land for those earthly treats. And two, to do what I do bloody well and pick fruit, paid by the weight, cherries in particular, those delicious crimson orbs of easy money. I have been picking cherries for 4 seasons now during the summer in Tasmania, a place I consider home. A place of real magic and wonder, though this place is secret so I will shut up.
Sophie was only along for the adventure, she had no interest to work, though despite what I now know to be the almighty universe sending those oh so precious signals, we came to a decision that two travelers unaware of the danger of the Canadian wilderness, with no idea how to react in a situation such as encountering a grizzly bear, Un-experienced, un-organized and un-prepared should not ignorantly stumble into unfamiliar territory wielding nothing but a butter knife. as much as it pained to drive away from those rolling hills, stained black with soot and ash. With that I flicked the indicator right and turned into the valley.
The sun beginning to set as we see a tumble weed role across the road, struggling to find somewhere to park up for the night that wasn’t the side of the road, though that was seeming to be our only option as the sun was setting and our stomachs where growling. We drove by quite possibly one of the most gorgeous lakes I had seen in my entire trip, inconveniently located of an incredibly narrow road. Deciding that would be our best option, we’ would have endured anything to dive into that water, and I suppose that’s what we did. Parking up in the first and only convenient pull off, so close to the road the van rumbled and shook as every car passes, and the trucks, its as if the world was ending.
Jumping out of the car, down the trodden path to the waters edge, ripping off our clothes we dive on in to purity, a faint familiar buzzing sound slowly approaches. As we splash and dive under the water, washing off the grime of life, Sophie slaps her face, “there here”, it began, hoards of mosquitoes, an amount no one can possible be comfortable with. Swimming into the shore, grabbing my towel, instantly my body coved in welts, these nasty little fuckers, the small kind, higher in pitch, quicker then the average mosquito, with one cunt of a bite. That night was a shit of a sleep. It was worth it.
That morning we had our first encounter with a grizzly bear and her cubs. As we stopped the car, the bears where in a valley below from the road, we where safe, though close enough we where both very aware of each other presence. Mother bear rears up on her two back legs, starring at us, her to cubs begin to climb to the top of the nearest tree, at least 40-45 meters high, as the babies remain at the very top swaying in the wind the mother stands her ground waiting for us to leave, and so we did.
Stopping along the way in salmon arm, a nice little town, staying one night around the area we moved on through to Kamloops, with just a quick visit to the thrift stores, we continued down towards the Okanagan. A day later sometime in the afternoon we arrived to Summerland.
Having time to kill we decided to take a drive through the back roads, trying out our luck in finding a job. Turning down the second road we took, we found our man, a can of Ol’Milwaukee in his hand, driving his little orange tractor, his mobile phone tucked under the right side of his ear muffs. Slowing down we gave him a smile and a wave. He brought the tractor to a stop, we hop out of the van. As we approach his round red face, a very positive energy was in the air. “Hi, I’m matt, this is Sophie”, “Hi I’m Billy”, in a loud, pleasant Dutch/Canadian accent of a man who drinks 6 beers a day. He took a shine to Sophie being from the Nederland’s as he to was Dutch, the farm started by his mother and farther 60 odd years back when they immigrated to Canada. After around about half an hour bonding with Billy he had offered to help us out, though it would start for another 12 days.
It seemed to be possible to find work further south though in all honestly both of us just wanted to spend the rest of our money on seeing the country, knowing we have a job when we get back rather then climb a ladder and pick fruit for the next month, if they choice is there why not take the nicer option.
So the next day Sophie and I decided we would start driving back up north and visit Jasper and Banff. Almost everybody you meet whilst you over here travelling, or anybody’s who’s been to Canada will tell you, “Go and see Jasper/Banff”. So we headed back north through Kamloops towards jasper, the closer we got towards jasper the thicker the clouds grew, as the sky became darker and the storm roles in, for the first time having to use the windscreen wipers, the passenger side missing, we entered the park, granted free entry due to the fact we were arriving on Canada day.
Parking up just outside of town to head to the pub to celebrate the final hours. I happened to get a little too drunk a little too quickly, ending the night and waking up feeling a little shitty. The day was darker then the previous, as it was not really the nicest weather we went and found two short hikes and just played in the mud until it was a little too wet, retiring back to the van and settling for a night in.
The next day was slightly better weather, driving across the Iceland Parkway, the mountains still hiding behind the clouds, the animals all somewhere dry, though still incredibly beautiful, every few kilometers there is a somewhere to pull the car over and look out at some incredibly vivid glacial lake, river or waterfall. The mountain air is fresh, the landscape glistens with the moisture, the feeling is really nice.
A day later we arrived in Banff. Now, I was warned prior to my arrival that this is the travel hub of my fellow Australian. It every Aussies dream is to come work in the mountains of northern Canada rain snow and shine. Not mine. Though I don’t blame them, its stunning, the surrounding mountains have a unique structure, the beauty is endless, the town is very neat and well presented, the tourism here is massive and there is a lot of money in this town. Streets are littered with good food and boutique shopping, a lot catering to hiking and mountain biking during the summer and turning into a mecca for skiing and snowboarding during the winter months. It’s a beautiful place, though during peak summer it’s busy. Walking around a couple of hours it was time to move on.
It was time to shanti it back towards the Okanagan, back to Summerland to see what this good feeling was all about. Taking a couple of days to drive back through the various hot springs, soaking in mineral rich pools in the summer sun. stopping in the little towns along the way, pulling over into a rest stop for the night I notice some boys doing some dabs. My whole time in Canada and I hadn’t done a dab (Concentrated THC Oil), I wander over to say hello, after a hour talking, my eyes stained and lazy, they recommended that we check out a town called Nelson, where they where from. Driving down through the Kootenay’s was amazing, a soft, fairy tale environment surrounding a series of rugged, old western townships, along the drive we saw a Wolfe, a gang of big horn mountain goats, and a lot of Elk, unfortunately we still haven’t come across a moose.
Nelson is an awesome little township, home to the Shambala festival, a quaint little hippy town surrounded by forest, The Kootenay river runs along the edge of town, nice parks, a nice beach, cute houses. The residential areas behind town shaded by Large Beautiful, wise old Maple trees, cute and homely restaurants boasting good food and good music.
I really enjoyed our time in Nelson. Its an awesome place for anyone and everyone to pay a visit and dive into the vibe.
Sad to leave nelson it was time to make our way back into the Okanagan, an incredibly stunning drive through the lush and vivid landscapes, around 6 hours to the southern end of the Okanagan lake, from here a two-hour drive to Summerland. Arriving just before dusk we where greeted by the large bald man, a wide smile with the Ol’ Milwaukee
in his hand as we were welcomed ever so kindly into the last chapter of my time spent in Canada.