Round the world Day 23

I’ve had a lazy day today after the last few days travelling.  There were various jobs that needed doing before heading off to Peru at the weekend.  I started by paying for the hostel and recovering my passport, had breakfast and then headed off in to the city in search of the British Consulate.  I hadn’t had chance to get an international driving permit before I left the UK, too many festivals and problems with motorbikes got in the way, so I hope that somehow I may be able to get one here.  Not at the consulate though because that is only open a few times a week and today isn’t one of them, not only that but they only deal with a very limited range of things and driving licences wasn’t listed.

After leaving the consulate I had to take this picture to send to a lad at Driffield School whose surname is Thurlow.  The only one I know.

After leaving the consulate I had to take this picture to send to a lad at Driffield School whose surname is Thurlow. The only one I know.

After being disappointed at the consulate I spent the day wandering round Vancouver, a city that most visitors like.  It has its share of tall buildings and plenty of people but for me has a really nice feel.  I’m not a fan of London having grown up in a village in the midlands and spent most of my life in small towns or villages in the north of England I find London overpowering.  Vancouver somehow isn’t the same.

The seaplane port with Stanley Park on the left.

The seaplane port with Stanley Park on the left.

In my wanderings I went down Hastings Street to the waterside looking over Stanley Park and the harbour.  I walked along the front reading the tourist information notices that expained some aspects of the history of Vancouver.  At Canada Place, the wharf where the cruise ships berth, there was only one in today one of the Holland-America Lines ships the Westerdam.  It was a big ship with probably a few thousand passengers and there were coaches waiting at the kerb to take them on excursions.

One photography book I read suggested that something bright in the foreground added depth.  I thought the heap of sulphur may do it but...

One photography book I read suggested that something bright in the foreground added depth. I thought the heap of sulphur may do it but…

I joined a few of them in the tourist information office, my request was different from theirs where is there to go that doesn’t cost much and I can get to by public transport.  I was given a map with some ideas but the woman lost interest at the mention of lack of money.  I headed round the corner to a coffee shop and had a latte before heading up in to town to find some galleries and museums.  The Gallery was expensive so I looked in the shop then headed to the library where they had a collection of photographs from early in the 20th century.  I also tried to find books on Autogyros for my next project in my mid-life saga, the library building is quite new but the contents are in the process of being reorganised and lots of the stock was in temporary wooden units so I ended up having to use one of the information phones and an assistant came to help.

At lunch time I went to a shop on the other side of the library mall and on the way back I was accosted by a woman with a party of young people, all of the group including the woman were all deaf and wanted me to take a picture of them.  It turned out to be great opportunity to revisit some of the sign language that I had learnt years ago, much of which I have forgotten.  Though most of the cameras were easy to use one girl wanted a picture on her phone and it took lots of attempts to get it.  It was chance for a good laugh and I think that all of us (with the exception of the typically sullen teenage boy) enjoyed the interaction.

I spent the afternoon reading a book about a pilot of seaplanes who had flown in Alaska and the Puget Sound.  He had started life as a journalist but grew tired and took up flying as an alternative.

This evening I had the hostel daily special which was meatballs and pasta and a local beer called “Angry Scotch”.

Round the world Day 22

After a good nights sleep at the hostel and chatting with an Isreali pharmacist who is travelling round by car, I got up and made my way to the railway station to catch the Greyhound bus to Vancouver.  It turned out that the timetable on the website was wrong and the bus wouldn’t be arriving until 10, at least that gave us chance to take some photos.

Newly refurbished Banff station, a little different to Seamer.

Newly refurbished Banff station, a little different to Seamer.

The view is different too.

The view is different too.

Banff Station

Banff Station

While we waited there was a strange noise from the other side of the railway and a bull elk was walking down.  According to the lady who worked in the office, who came out to look, the noise was a challenge and there was another bull nearby and soon we may hear the clash of antlers.  We listened but didn’t hear a thing.

When the bus arrived it was already crowded with people and we filled it.  I ended up sat just infront of the back seat surrounded by a Chilean family who were travelling from Winnipeg to Vancouver.  Considering how many hours they had been on the bus the two children were very well behaved with the youngest girl crying a few times but her older brother being quiet.  I sat next to the father who was a missionary, we chatted a lot and he tried to talk religion to me a bit but I think realised that I am a lost cause.  I don’t mean that I am an atheist, I would say I’m a Christian, but not religious,  the things that Jesus is reported to have said about how we should treat each other fit with my views and politics and I hope I could live like that, but I have seen a lot of churchgoing people who behaved in very un-Christian ways so got disillusioned with organised religion.

For a lot of the journey I was considering getting off at Kamloops and going down into the Okanagan Valley.  I remember it from a trip to Canada when I was 11, it was full of fruit orchards and I was amazed at the stalls piled high with produce as we drove through.  I remember we bought cherries and ate them as we travelled.  I’m told that it is no longer fruit orchards but mainly vineyards.  I decided with the stuff that I need to sort out before going to Peru I am best to go to Vancouver.

The journey was uneventful and with being on an aisle seat I didn’t get much of a view as we travelled a lot through quite steep valleys.  I was damp and overcast as well so I didn’t feel I missed much.

At one point I did start to panic as we were getting signs for the US border and wasn’t sure how I would go on as I haven’t got a visa, but each time we turned the other way into one of the towns to drop off passengers.

When we arrived I realised that I hadn’t written down the name of the hostel so had to go from memory, having been here a few weeks ago I picked up a map in the coach station and took the metro to Granville Street where I remembered the hostel was.  It was just a matter then of walking up the road.  Of course I picked the wrong direction first so the building numbers were going down not up but I only wasted 5 minutes or so.

At the checkin there was more hassle as my card was declined but they took my passport as deposit and we are going to sort payment in the morning.  I am in a room with 3 bunks and just collapsed into mine.

 

Round the world Day 21

Rang Travelex from the hostel this morning to arrange the Western Union transfer.  At 9.30 the taxi arrived to take me back to Jasper and we went to the Robertsons supermarket where I could pick up the Western Union transfer.  Because they needed the address of the hostel it ended up with the driver coming in to help out.  Eventually all the paperwork was done and the money was handed over, I paid the taxi driver with a big tip and walked down to the Greyhound office to drop off my bags and check on the bus to Banff.  Next I headed to the Tourist Information office who couldn’t suggest much for me to do that was cheap and only took a morning, this had them a bit stumped but they did suggest the town museum and Papa Guiseppies for breakfast.   I had eggs, bacon and hash browns (not quite the same as at home as they were more like fried potatoes) then walked up to the museum.

On the walk up I passed the building site of the new library and a brand new school so Alberta government who must get a lot of oil revenue are obviously spending some of it.  The school was surrounded by bikes and a woman was just turning up on one and chatted for a minute, she was a retired school librarian who was bringing some decorations for the official opening of the new school, she was also able to tell me about the difficulties that they had had with the library building which has been years in the making.  The school looked very smart and made me remember a picture I had cut out of the Beautiful British Columbia magazine 40 or so years ago, it showed the interior of a very colourfully decorated school and made me jealous as the schools I went to were painted in drab colours.

Newly built Jasper School.  Not quite what I'm used to in the UK.

Newly built Jasper School. Not quite what I’m used to in the UK.

The Jasper museum is not large but is well laid-out and tells the story of the town, tourism, railways and the park rangers.

One of the views from Jasper.

One of the views from Jasper.

It was Guiseppies again for baked onion soup with cheese and croutons which was very good and a latte coffee.  Then a wander round the station area to take a few photographs before getting back to the Greyhound office to pick up my bags.

Steam train outside Jasper station.

Steam train outside Jasper station.

The Brewsters coach that I was assured would come into the car park didn’t, but pulled in across the road.  I lifted my bags across and found a seat next to a window. At the next stop the passengers didn’t show despite the driver going in to the hotel reception to ask about them so he radioed the office and set off for Banff. Just after we got on to the highway he got a message to say that the passengers were at a different hotel so we had to turn round and go back through town to pick them up then get back on to the highway at the other end of town.

Once we got up some momentum on the highway the driver did a few announcements warning us amongst other things that he wouldn’t be stopping for people to take pictures of deer or elk but would if there were any Big Horn Sheep.

The Ice Park Highway is listed as a World Heritage site for its natural beauty passing along the valleys between mountain ranges.  There were many rockfalls and lots of scree to be seen so the area is still in a state of change, there were also lots of strata visible.  I could understand why the university group were visiting the area.  As we passed further down the highway there were snowfields, glaciers and morraine and I tried to remember the bits about glaciers that I had learnt for the Mountain Leadership and on our trips to Norway.

At the Icefield centre we stopped for a break and I got hot chocolate and a meringue and took a few pictures from the viewing platform.  I spotted a snow mobile of the type that we had seen years ago in Norway and tried to take a picture of it as we left on the coach.

View from the Icefield centre.  Nearby is the point where the watersheds meet, some rivers run to the Arctic Ocean, some the Pacific and others the Atlantic.

View from the Icefield centre. Nearby is the point where the watersheds meet, some rivers run to the Arctic Ocean, some the Pacific and others the Atlantic.

Glacier from the Icecentre.

Glacier from the Icecentre.

A very blurred Snow Mobile taken through the coach window.

A very blurred Snow Mobile taken through the coach window.

Another view from the coach window, they very rarely work.

Another view from the coach window, they very rarely work.

The descent at the end of the highway is a steep one and the exhaust brake was taking a bit of stick.  At Lake Louise there were drop offs in the village and a final one at the Chateau Lake Louise, unfortunately we only got to the back of the hotel so didn’t get to see the iconic view that is famous from calendars and postcards.  What we did see were the uniforms of the staff whch rather then French as the name Chateau implied looked more like Austrian with long socks and hats with feathers.

At Banff I was dropped at the Brewsters coach station and a taxi was arranged to get me to the HI hostel, unfortunately when I tried to book in it turned out that I was booked in at the International hostel so the same taxi carried me back down to a hostel which we had actually passed on the coach.

When I booked in at the International Hostel I was greeted by a familiar accent,  the young man on reception was from Beverley, had been to uni in Coventry and worked as an engineer at Landrover before giving it up to travel.

Round the world Day 20

I was woken by the maid who was very apologetic when she realised there was someone in the room.  When I emerged it seemed that the receptionist last night had not completed the booking correctly and I went with the manager to sort it out.  After paying (hopefully not for the second time) I headed back towards the station past a very impressive police headquarters building and called in to Margo’s a few doors down for breakfast of French toast and a latte.  There were a few police and a “Community Safety Officer” eating as well as other customers.  I had to smile that like the UK Canada are saving money on policing by having safety officers.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

I walked to the station becoming more alarmed that I may have missed the train as there was no sign of it near the station building.  I checked with the Viarail staff and the train wasn’t due to leave until 9.45.  In fact we left at 9.40 and soon after passed the longest girder bridge on the railway at 2.4 km long.

There were a few extra passengers on the train this morning and Dianne asked them where they needed dropping off one was Muhle Crossing and the other Longworth.  When we stopped at Longworth we got held up as there was a broken rail further up the track, this gave us the chance to get off the train and visit the tiny Post Office which had been moved to the site a few years ago.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Longworth Post office

Longworth Post office

There was also a maintainance team at the crossing with a 4×4 truck with fittings to run on rails.

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

When we moved there was another crew in a siding with a large lorry fitted the same way.

Truck equipped to go on rails

Truck equipped to go on rails

We bagan to leave the plains and climb into the Rockies stopping at McBride to pick up a party from Lion tours from different countries in East Asia.  I know it is a cliche but they were taking pictures of everything.

I found a book called Soldat in the lounge car at the back and began to read it, not forgetting to look outside and take pictures of my own.  The colours of the trees outside were changing from greens to the warm autumn colours but little of the red I had imagined, may be this is too early still.

Looking out of the rear window of the observation car.

Looking out of the rear window of the observation car.

At one point I was taking a picture out of the rear window when I realised one of the younger members of the Lion party was looking out, so I moved to let him to take his pictures.  An older lady came to join us and began to chat.  She came from Shanghai and spoke good english, chatting about the tour they were doing and where the party were from, mainly China, Japan and Taiwan.

We arrived at Jasper only 15 minutes late, which Dianne assured us was pretty much “on-time”, anything upto an hour late is “on-time”, up to 2 hours late is “a bit late” and 3 hours is “late”.  I think Northern Rail would love to get away with a similar policy if they could.

Now I had to throw myself on the mercy of a local cab driver to get me to the youth hostel.  The chip on my credit card stopped working in Campbell River and I have been getting by using the magnetic strip.  Unfortunately modern ATMs don’t use the strip so I have not been able to get any cash.  I have spoken to the card provider and they can send money to me by Western Union and a new card if I have an address to send it too, not much good on my travels.  Luckily the cab driver agreed to take a camera as security and collect me again in the morning to take me to the supermarket which operates Western Union so that I can get cash and pay him.  In fact when we got to the hostel he decided not to bother with the camera and just to pick me up at 9.30 in the morning.

As we arrived at the hostel at 7 there was a wait for reception to open at 7.30 so I chatted with another waiting guest as we listened to the sound of the evening meal being served.  He was a French chemical engineer who had hired a car at Calgary Airport and was doing a roadtrip with Banff as his next stop.  I was tempted to join him as he was looking for a share but with the hassle with the card and the fact that I had booked the Brewster Coach I decided that I couldn’t. Unfortunately he had not made a booking at the hostel so got turned away, through the joys of the internet I had made a booking while in Prince Rupert so having signed in and paid using the magnetic strip I was send downstairs to my bed.  Downstairs is open-plan with 50 or more bunk beds and lockers arranged in three rooms with no dividing doors and mixed sex. I found my bunk at the far end and sorted my stuff out.  I chatted with Emma, a teacher from Eire working in Chenjau next to Hong Kong and travelling round Alaska and Canada in her holiday.  She had been to Denali and Kenai Fjords amongst other places and seen Moose and Sea Otter.  More than Dad and I managed on our trip.  The other guest I chatted to was Brandon a young man who we joked was enjoying not being at school, it turned out that he wasn’t 17 or 18 as I thought but 21 and it was a University geography field trip. He is actually a Psychology major who is thinking of becoming a teacher, needless to say I warned him against it.

Round the world Day 19

A day to don my hat and get on a train for the first time since leaving the UK.  My alarm woke me at 6.45 and I snook my bags out on to the landing to avoid waking everyone up as I got ready to depart.  I had a quick shower, dressed and went down to see if I could find Jim.  He had offered me a lift to the station last night and we agreed that I should knock on his door at 7.15, unfortunately (and nothing to do with drink I am sure) I had forgotten to find out which was his door, I only knew it was the landing below mine.  Luckily he was up and his door was ajar.

We left the hostel at 7.25, found a Tim Hortons to get a coffee and bite to eat and he dropped me at the station at 7.40 in plenty of time for the train.  Jim gave me his email address and promised to give me any help he could about South America.

After a short wait for the gate to the platform to open we climbed aboard the ViaRail Skeena train to Prince George and Jasper.  The train manager Dianne gave us a briefing about the train, its facilities and emergency procedures.  This included telling us that 375 people had lost their fights with cars and trains at level crossings in the last year and that Via meant Very Irratic Arrivals, as the train was rarely on time and could be up to 3 hours late depending on freight traffic and other things.  She counted all 23 of us and told us that we could each have a seat in the viewing dome if we wished as there were 26.  At 8 we left (on time) but had to stop a mile or so from the station to pick up a CN (Canadian National) rail crew from a freight yard.

Lady Di supervising the departure after a picture stop.

Lady Di supervising the arrival at the picture stop.

Dianne had explained that the first few hours from Prince Rupert were the most scenic as we followed the Skeena River and after a few miles we were told that we would be stopping for a picture opportunity.  Not something we have ever been offered on the 6.55 from Seamer to Driffield on any morning.  You could be very cynical and say that what we were looking at was something common to many modern railways as it was aboriginal pictographs, not disimilar from graffiti but older and with more meaning.

These pictures probably marked the edge of a territory.

These pictures probably marked the edge of a territory.

The rail line then followed the river for miles, cutting through the coastal mountains before reaching the flatter land.

The Skeena river near the coast.

The Skeena river near the coast.

A few miles up the Skeena.

A few miles up the Skeena.

Cutting through the Coastal mountains, river, road and rail together.

Cutting through the Coastal mountains, river, road and rail together.

Taking pictures through any window is not great, especially after my decision only to bring my point-and-shoot camera not a SLR, so I haven’t got many from the train.  I just hope that Google Earth will have lots that show the awesome scenery.

We stopped at two towns on the way to Prince George today, the first Terrace was a quick stop with enough time to have a look in the station gift shop and take a picture of the train.

Train 6.  Loco, baggage car, passenger car and sightseeing car.

Train 6. Loco, baggage car, passenger car and sightseeing car.

Happy Commuter in the passenger car at Prince Rupert.

Happy Commuter in the passenger car at Prince Rupert.

From the very back of the train showing the steps to the viewing dome.

From the very back of the train showing the steps to the viewing dome.

The cafeteria.

The cafeteria.

The cafeteria.

The cafeteria.

As well as stopping in Terrace we had to pull in to sidings a few times to let freight trains go the other way laden mainly with shipping containers for Prince Rupert.  They usually had 2 or 3 locos and lots of cars, I counted a couple and 187 trucks was the shorter one.

At Smithers we had a longer break, giving us 45 minutes and chance to walk into town to find something to eat.  Unfortunately it being Sunday there wasn’t lot open but by walking all the way across town I was able to treat myself to an icecream and a milk-shake from MacDonalds.  Canadian towns in themselves tend not to be picturesque,  they have no old places like York or Chester and the buildings tend to be variations on rectangular boxes.  There are always exceptions and often there a murals to brighten up boring walls.

On the way to Smithers.

On the way to Smithers.

Coastal mountains from Smithers.

Coastal mountains from Smithers.

Smithers Firestation

Smithers Firestation

Statue of man with Alpenhorn, I've no idea why as its a long way from Switzerland.

Statue of man with Alpenhorn, I’ve no idea why as its a long way from Switzerland.

The side of the Canadian Legion.

The side of the Canadian Legion.

After leaving Smithers we soon crossed the longest grider bridge in Western Canada at 2.5 km long.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

Dianne opened the back window for us to take photos as we crossed the bridge.

Further on we stopped to let someone off and had to wait for an hour as there was a broken rail ahead.  This gave us chance to get off and visit the local post office and take a few pictures.  The car parked at the crossing had wheels underneath for going on the rails as did a huge truck we say further on when we got the all-clear to proceed.

Post office

Post office

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

Pickup truck equipped to go on rails.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Train 6 waiting patiently.

Truck equipped to go on rails

Truck equipped to go on rails

We eventually got in to Prince George an hour late but not unhappy.

Round the world Day 18

Today started in the most interesting way of any so far.  Breakfast at 8.30 was great if unusual; a bowl of fruit salad followed by something like a souffle, served in a little vertical sided bowl, it had ham, cheese and peppers in and came with home-made salsa sauce if desired.  There was then a pancake already rolled round apple and strawberries and also a muffin and choice of tea or coffee, I chose Earl Grey tea.  If the breakfast wasn’t unusual enough what accompanied it was; Colleen our hostess, who was French-Canadian from Quebec did a performance for us from an act she used to do about Edith Piaff, slipping back into a french accent she told some of the life of Piaff and sang a little of one of her songs.  She only sang a little as her PA system had broken down.  This was then followed by some jokes.  Colleen had a good voice and was entertaining but it made for a very unusual breakfast.  After serving us and entertaining us Colleen reclined on a sofa while the three of us guests, Kelly from Alberta, Jim from Ontario and I, drank our drinks.  Somehow the conversation turned to politics and between Jim and Colleen became quite heated.  This left Kelly and I looking at each other wondering what to do, every time I tried to change the subject I failed so in the end I made a light remark about being a coward and excused my self to pack my bags, Kelly made a break for freedom at the same time.

After I packed Collen kindly rang the Pioneer hostel to see if they had any space for Jim and I as she could not have us tonight.  There were two rooms available, one double and one with bunks, so I headed off quickly with one of my bags to check in.  By the time I arrived the room with bunks had gone and the choice was a double or a bed in a dorm.  I chose the dorm and asked them to hold the double for Jim before heading back to the Pillsbury to get my other bag.  I let Jim know that they were saving him the double and he gave me a lift back to the Pioneer and booked in.

It ended up that we spent the rest of the day together, Jim was looking round for property and we drove round each area of the town looking at what was available and the state of each zone.  At home in Ontario Jim has a buiding firm and is hoping that as Prince Rupert gets more business with the various shipping terminals property will rise in price.  He also quite fancies finding somewhere to retire to and Prince Rupert seems a nice place.  Just as when Glyn and I used to drive coaches abroad I was charged with map-reading while Jim drove.  I was reminded again, as I had been when I met Alex, of the time Glyn and I drove to Hamburg with a school party from near Bedford.  Little did the kids know that their hostel was just across the road from one of the most notorious red-light districts in Europe.

In our travels Jim and I found quite a few houses in various states from dereliction to newly refubished and Jim gave his opinion on each and the possibilities that they held.  For me it was great to explore the town from the comfort of his hire car and hear how things were designed, built and regulated in Canada.  After touring all of the town we ended up back at the hostel where we parked the car before walking down for some lunch at “The Breakers” pub in Cow Bay.  Jim had Wonton Soup and I had a burger, both were very nice as was the Black Lager that we had to accompany them.  Jim has travelled a lot and had lots of information about South America which will be useful.  All in all he is a very interesting man to talk to with wide raninging interests and education.

After lunch we walked round the corner and had a coffee at the Cow Bay Cafe before going down on the pontoons to investigate the sale of Tuna which was widely advertised on homemade signs around the town.  On our way we spotted the head of a young seal who it seems hangs round in the harbour.  The young man on the small fiishing boat chatted aimiably with us though we were not able to make a purchase just because we had no way to eat or store or transport all of a tuna.  This was a shame as Jim was telling me how nice tuna steaks off a barbeque are and the price was about a quarter of the shop price.  We chatted for a while finding out that the boat could spend up to 2 weeks comfortably at sea and that the tuna had been caught off Haida Gwaii on the Pacific side.

By now it was early evening and we headed back towards the hostel.  On the way down we had passed a door which advertised brewery samples and bar, the opening times were 2 ’til 8 and we had been too early, now Jim wondered if we had missed it.  I assured him it was only 6 and we could go in.

Like so much in life, today has been one of those days where things just go right.  To say that the brewery is basic would be very accurate.

The Prince Rupert Micro-brewery.

The Prince Rupert Micro-brewery, Jim can be seen at the bar wearing a blue shirt.

It appears that all the furniture and shelving has been made of local timber with perhaps the exception of the barstools. The sacks of ingredients and some of the brewing vessels are separated from the bar area by a set of wooden shelves.  All in all it was ace.   There were only three beers available, Gillnetter Golden Ale, Flagship Pale Ale and Blacksmiths Dark Ale, there had been a fourth earlier but it had run out. I started the the Gillnetter before moving on to the Blacksmiths while Jim started with the Flagship.  The locals at the bar were very friendly, one was a teacher at the Middle school (9 to 13 year olds) and also worked as a volunteer in the brewery so when James the barman (and master brewer) had to nip out he went behind the bar.  One worked as an accountant for the harbour authority, had family in Cheshire and Portsmouth and chatted about visiting the UK, moving from the rat-race in Vancouver and the merits of big cars.  The last we chatted to worked in HR for the local phone company which as in Hull is independent of the rest of the network in BC.  All were easy to chat to and 8 pm became 8ish and despite having a private party arrive for a tasting session (a stag do) we were still at the bar well after 9.

Eventually Jim and I headed back the few minutes walk to the hostel where we chatted in kitchen with other guests and Jim opened a bottle of Red wine.  Sima was one hosteller we met, she had been an accountant in London but much to the concern of her Asian family had been working on a remote island in Alaska with no communication.  She had to visit Prince Rupert to come out of the US for Visa reasons and hoped to be heading back at the end of the week.  We had a long discussion about the expectations on children from parents, real or percieved.  Soon after 11 I had to make my excuses and head to bed as I need to be up for the train tomorrow.

Round the world Day 17

Woken this morning by a PA announcement that we would be arriving in Prince Rupert in 30 minutes.  Time for a quick shower and breakfast.  More Eagle-down in the bottom of the shower reminded me how good I felt about my visit to Haida Gwaii.

Happy Express Commuter in his stateroom

Happy Express Commuter in his stateroom

For some reason this time we were asked to go down to Deck 2 for disembarkation a bit too early and had to stand among the cars waiting for the bow doors to be opened.  This did give us chance to watch one of the crew breaking in to an Ambulance while its crew looked on.  Whether they had locked themselves out of the central locking failed because the battery had gone flat I will never know.

Eventually we walked off and I hiked in to town vowing again that I would get rid of some of the stuff I was carrying.  I went directly to the Pioneer Hostel where Dad and I had stayed on our trip a few years ago only to discover that I wasn’t booked in there.  When I logged in to my emails to check it turned out to be the Pillsbury B&B so I set off again in the rain.  I arrived just before 9 and a little too early really for Colleen the landlady, but she was very keen to let me in to my room and then do her make-up before feeding her guests.  I took the opportunity to change out of my wet clothes before coming back down and heading out in to Prince Rupert.

Pillsbury B&B the oldest building in Prince Rupert.

Pillsbury B&B the oldest building in Prince Rupert.

First stop was the museum of northern BC which though interesting was not as good as the Haida Heritage centre either in the arrangement of exhibits or the information it gave.  It did have a good history of the town though and a well stocked shop.  I also had a good conversation with the lady on reception when I suggested she was being cynical.  I cannot even remember now what her original comment had been but it led us into a long discussion on politics and modern capitalism which neither of us are fans of.  It also led me to thinking about what I had seen on my travels.  In many places there were signs against the building of a LNG terminal in KIttemat an inlet south of Prince Rupert and for many reasons I would also be against it. But, through out my time in BC cars with engines less than 3 litres seemed to be an exception and though I can see that you need big trucks when you go up the logging roads daily as you might in Bamfield the majority seemed never to leave the tarmac.  In Campbell River there had been a hook up for electric cars outside the Tourist Information office but I had seen very little sign of other attempts to reduce petrol use.  Haida would seem to be an ideal place to start, the distances that people drove appeared to be limited by the size of the island and if people wanted a large truck why not have a car pool arrangement as they do for cars in many cities where people use public transport.  If the oil companies saw us putting ourselves out to reduce their income they would take us much more seriously than when we say we are against them while still giving them our money.

I think this may be another side-effect of my midlife crisis, the easy with which I can begin a rant.

In the museum book shop I succumbed and bought something I didn’t need in the form of a book about called “Lost Nuke” about an american bomber that crashed in mysterious circumstances and probably had a nuclear bomb on board.

From the museum I wandered down to Cow Bay (no idea why its called that but it was themed with the bins and things painted black and white like Fresians).  It was the harbour area and this morning was being host to what I was told later was a small cruise ship.  It was still about twice the size of the ferry from Port Hardy.

The tourist info office on the docks was full of a display about the container port nearby and its benefits for the local economy and that of BC.  I think, in fact, that it was the move of the information office from the museum to Cow Bay that had sparked the chat with the lady at the museum.  Certainly the tourist information took up only about 5% of the space in the new office, the rest was the commercial display.

After a while wandering round the harbour I hit Cow Bay Cafe for some food,  the local fayre this time was pizza al funghi which was very nice and very large.  So large that the man who sat down later with his daughter at the next table offered to take any left-overs, not that there were any.  He had been working at the local golf course for years mainly as the Pro and seemed to know almost all the locals that came in.  He was very chatty with me and everyone that came in that he knew.

In the afternoon I had a good wander round the town as the rain had stopped and then headed to Safeway for some food supplies and back to the hostel. I spent the rest of the night reading and catching up on bits.

Plaque laid by the council and sheriff to honour a gardener.  Not something I have ever seen in the UK.

Plaque laid by the council and sheriff to honour a gardener. Not something I have ever seen in the UK.

The sunken garden that Lloyd "Bud" Pierce had tended.

The sunken garden that Lloyd “Bud” Pierce had tended.

 

Round the world Day 16

Today was meant to be a bad day with storms and therefore my museum day, but I did that yesterday so today I was at a bit of a loose end.  My plans for this week had been to go out sea-kayaking yesterday and the heritage centre today but for some reason the gods are against me sea-kayaking.  I had a leisurely morning and avoided the drizzle by staying in Jags.  Late in the morning I packed up my tent and then walked up to the Haida centre.  I kept a look out on the other side of the road for evidence of any carcass that may have fallen off the cliff last night but didn’t see any.

I got to the centre in time to see two of the newly built sea-kayaks being tested with some other kayaks.

The two kayaks built this week are the two light brown ones left and right.

The two kayaks built this week are the two light brown ones left and right.

I somehow felt really pleased to see these boats being used and they seemed to be performing well against the plastic versions.

I had been told by Jags to try to be at the ferry terminal this afternoon when the ship arrived as members of a native tribe from Bella Bella would be arriving for a potlatch this weekend.  A potlatch is somehow a combination of a feast, a court and a convention.  They are a formal part of the aboriginal culture and can be called by a chief for many reasons.  In this case the potlatch on Saturday is to formalise a peace-treaty between the Heiltsuk nation and the Haida.  The verbal peace agreement was made by chiefs in the 1800′s but for political reasons it needs to be confirmed now.

Jags said that there would be singing and drums as the Heiltsuk came off the ferry and it would be worth taking my camera down.  I had headed down early so walked past the terminal to get some shots of the ferry arriving.  When I walked past there was no sign of activity in the car park so I thought that may be there wouldn’t be much to see.

After a few minutes sat on a rock looking out over the channel the small ferry to Moresby Island came in to view and then the Northern Expedition from Prince Rupert.  I hoped to get a picture of one dwarfed by the other but they refused to pose.

Honestly it only looks smaller 'cos its further away.

Honestly it only looks smaller ‘cos its further away.

I waited until the big ferry had almost docked before walking back round to the terminal to see what may be happening.

The Northern Expedition.  My "stateroom" window is one of those

The Northern Expedition. My “stateroom” window is one of those behind the small boat on the side.

By the time I got back to the ferry terminal it was clear that something was happening, the car park was filling with cars and people stood around.  There were a lot of cameras and people in robes had begun to arrive.  I tried to stand back out of the way as I felt that I shouldn’t get in the way of an important occasion.  I visualised how welcome I would be if I intruded at Heathrow when Barack Obama landed and was greeted by The Queen and felt no reason to see this as less important.  Having said that there was no security perimeter and the only interference from authority was a PA announcement to say that foot passengers would not be leaving until vehicles had disembarked and to make sure that the road was clear.

While I waited a man appeared along the road wearing a flat-cap which, I felt sure, meant he was a Yorkshireman! No, he was a Mormon from Utah recently sent to work on Haida Gwaii and had no idea that his headgear was native to England.

Once the vehicles had come off the crowd moved forward with the Haida chiefs at the front and drummers and singers behind.

A Haida woman in her robes.

A Haida woman in her robes.

Haida waiting to greet the Heiltsuk including children in robes with decorated paddles.

Haida waiting to greet the Heiltsuk including children in robes with decorated paddles.

Haida chiefs from the different villages leading the welcoming party.

Haida chiefs from the different villages leading the welcoming party.

The Heiltsuk disembarking led by the children singing.

The Heiltsuk disembarking led by the children singing.

Haida chiefs

Haida chiefs.

The children with their decorated paddles.

The children with their decorated paddles.

Heiltsuk greeting their hosts.

Heiltsuk greeting their hosts.

HAIDAG

Having made their various speeches of welcome and shaken hands the groups began to disolve and make their way to cars for the trip to Skidegate.  I walked back to Jags feeling very lucky to have been here.

Jags and Sue were in the coffee shop when I got back and suggested that I walk down to the community centre in Skidegate to join in the meal and watch the proceedings.  The assured me that I would be welcome and regarded as a witness to the event.  I walked down in to the village and on the way saw a rainbow over the island in the channel.  I wondered as I took a photograph whether this was an omen.

The rainbow is just at the left-hand end of the island with Sandspit behind.

The rainbow is just at the left-hand end of the island with Sandspit behind.

At the entrance to the community centre I was met by Lydia who was acting as doorkeeper for the evening and made me very welcome and explained what would be happening.  It was very clear that I was welcome to join in with the meal and activities but they wouln’t be starting for a while as the guests had not yet arrived from the Heritage Centre.  I felt that as I would have to leave soon to catch the ferry it was best not to stay, so having chatted for a bit I walked further in to the village before heading back to Jags.

A redundant firetruck in Skidegate.

A redundant firetruck in Skidegate.

When I got back Jags gave me a lift to the ferry terminal and I said Good bye to Haida Gwaii.  That writes much more poetically than intended, but I left feeling very lucky (again).  It was sheer accident that got me to “Jags Beanstalk” coffee shop and his generousity letting me camp in the garden.  Everyone I met has been good to me.  The meal on the first night, Mike taking me fishing, Jags cooking the fish afterwards and telling me about the potlatch, all of my stay has been very special and not what I had planned to do at all.  I have not got to see the UNESCO site at the south of the islands or hiked or kayaked as I had planned to but that only gives me reasons to come back again.  Jag says that May is a good time to come as the Herring will be arriving and bringing lots of whales and other wildlife.

I boarded the ferry, went to the pursers office and got the key to my “stateroom” a cabin with two single beds, a TV and ensuite bathroom.  I smiled as I found several bits of Eagle down.  On Monday as I walked back from Queen Charlotte I met a lady walking her dog who was picking things up off the floor, when I asked her what she was collecting she said it was Eagle-down for celebrations and was a symbol of peace.

Round the world Day 15

Earlier in the week the forecast had said that today would be a good day before storms tomorrow, but when I woke I could here rain falling through the leaves above and the sound of tyres on the wet road. I decided that today would have to be a “museum day” after all.  Museum days were an invention of cadets trips to Norway when we had a day visiting cultural stuff to make sure that the young people recovered from whatever exertions they had been doing.  I’m not sure that they were ever grateful for the opportunities but we got to see some great places.  Today I was going to visit the Haida Heritage Centre.

I had granola and yoghurt again in Jags.  Mike was there finishing his breakfast so I paid for it as he had refused to accept any money towards the fuel yesterday.  Just before 10 I set off to the centre which was about 15 minutes walk along the road to Queen Charlotte and the ferry terminal.

Haida Heritage Centre from the road.

Haida Heritage Centre from the road.

One of the Totem poles outside the centre.

One of the Totem poles outside the centre.

I intended to spent the whole day in the centre to avoid the weather so I was going to read every label. The lady who greeted me had seen me on Monday as I walked to “Charlotte” so was very friendly.  I was the first customer and she had to take payment and open the doors to the museum section for me as the receptionist hadn’t arrived yet.

The first room was a display of Haida arts and dress.

"Mercedes"

“Mercedes”

There were several masks of Raven and other spirits but in amongst them was “Mercedes” and the write up explained that the artist had realised that masks did not always have to be serious and that “Mercedes” liked to play with the audience.  It made it sound much like a drag act.

The most fascinating thing about the objects was the materials that had been used.  Haida had traded with coastal tribes and got wool but also used cedar bark and spruce roots to get fibres to spin.  I didn’t want to handle any of the objects so went out to the shop to see if they had any objects there that I could touch to see how soft they were.  In the past I have had bamboo socks and they were very soft.  Cedar bark was not quite as soft but the only pieces I could find were more like wicker than fabric so perhaps when split further they would be softer.robesc robesb robesa

There was a lot of rules to the design of robes and who could wear them as with most of the traditional objects on display.  Rather than the cost of the materials being the important factor in their value it was more intangible qualities such as how many feasts the wearer had hosted or how many stories they could tell.

I continued to make my way round the displays and had learned about the first contacts between the Haida and europeans, which seemed to be mutual trading.  It all went wrong later when the British government of the mainland tried to take over the islands and used diseases such as smallpox as weapons and later forced all first nation children to attend residential schools where their language was banned and they were forced to speak English.

I ate at the canteen in the museum but was disappointed to find that the choices were very much regular western food not Haida.  I had a very nice chicken sandwich with a latte.  As I was passing through the entrance again to go to the dispays I ran into Alex who had got a lift across from Sandspit for the day.  She was just on her way to eat so I joined her for another drink and a piece of pie.  We swapped stories of our time on the islands so far.  She had had a good time on her tour of Louise Island and had spent yesterday hiking from Sandspit.  They hadn’t seen any bears but lots of evidence of where they had been fishing and left the bits they didn’t like like heads and tails.  They had also found one fish on the top of a hill which was complete apart from a lack of eyes and couldn’t explain it.

We went back and looked round the rest of the displays before heading outside to see the totem poles and the kayaks.

A traditional longboat next to one of the newly built kayaks.

A traditional longboat next to one of the newly built kayaks.

In a shed at the end of the centre there were a few traditional long boats that had been made by Haida workmen in the traditional way and a totem pole that had been outside the Haida centre in Skidegate until it fell down.  In amongst them this week there is an activity week for teenagers where they get to built their own kayak under the supervision of a builder from Washington State.  They are building them from cedar strips with ballistic nylon for the skin, one of the few good things to come from the Gulf war said the older “youth” that I spoke to.  In fact he was there with his 13 year old son.

Father

Father

Son

Son

While I was lookinng at the kayaks Alex disappeared to get her lift back and soon after 4 I walked back to Jags

Jags cooked me more of the salmon this evening which I ate before heading back to the centre to see a talk by members of the Parks Canada staff about their project with Google Streetview.

When I got in to the room where the talk was to take place I was asked where “close to Stoke” I came from.  Pretty remarkable as I haven’t lived in the Midlands for 32 years and my home when growing up was only 40 miles from Stoke.  The man asking me had a soft “Geordie-ish” accent and had moved from Durham only a few years ago and landed himself a job with Parks Canada working on their internet presence.  He had been in Gwaii Haanas for a few weeks working on the Streetview project.  This involved one of the team wandering round with a camera backpack system taking pictures to be uploaded to Google so that people could have a virtual trip round the national park.  It was an interesting presentation and looked like they had a great time.

On the way back to Jags in the dark there were some worrying noises from the top of one of the cliffs overlooking the road.  I hope it was a bad tempered mother bear telling a cub to getaway from the edge.  It was certainly a bad tempered something with something else wimpering.  I got in my tent a little more nervously tonight.

Round the world Day 14

I had thought that with practice getting in and out of the tent would get easier but I don’t think it has.

I ate breakfast in Jags this morning having the homemade Granola and yoghurt (also homemade).  The kitchen is a hive of industry with Sue and the girls baking and preparing food while Jags acts as barrista.

I was introduced to one of Jags friends, Mike Meegan, who was an Irishman who had been living in Queen Charlotte since 1979 and owned a store as well as having a boat and other properties round the town.  He invited me to join him this afternoon on his boat as he and his friend planned to go through the channel to the other side of the islands and the Pacific.  I was given his phone numbers and asked to ring at 11 to check that it was happening.

I stayed in the coffee shop most of the morning catching up on the blog and drinking “London Fog”, Earl Grey tea added to steamed milk.  I’m not sure many people in London know of it but it was a nice drink.

Before I had chance to ring Mike he had phoned Jags to let him know that it was on and to get me to the dock for 12.  It ended up with me rushing as we left soon after 11 to get Davey to the shuttle bus to Sandspit airport.  We called down at the dock and Jags and I looked at another National Geographic ship that had called in while Davey went in to the fish store to get four boxes of fish that they had frozen for him to take back with him.  Because of the “War on Terror” the ship was surrounded by an orange plastic fence (they described it as snow fence) with two people sat on guard.  The woman knew Jags and chatted to us about the security and the cruise that the ship had taken to Alaska.

We helped Davey with his polystyrene boxes of fish and discussed how much extra he would have to pay for weight allowance before dropping him off at the bus stop.  Jag then took me to Mikes store and the dock to try to find him.  It took us a while but I got chance to look inside the shop,  I had passed it yesterday when I walked round the town and assumed it was a sports shop as it had bikes in the window.  Inside it had much more than sports stuff; fishing rods, power tools, nets, all sorts of stuff crowded the shelves.  Jags spoke to Mike on the phone and left me at the top of the slope down to the dock where I would be picked up.  I headed up to the store to get some bait (Anchovies) and when I came back had a bit of a panic as my bag and boots had disappeared with no sign of Mike or Jags,  I soon spotted Mike taking the boat to get fuel.  When he got back I gave him the Anchovies and hoped it would be enough, he suggested that he would have got two packs so I headed back up to the store and took the opportunity to use the restroom as I thought it might be the best one I would see for a few hours.

We hung around until 12.40 hoping that Mikes friend Matt would join us as he said he would but there was no sign and we set off though Mike was reluctant to go without him.  We headed inland through the channel and Mike began to express hopes that there was enough water to let us get through.  The channel is narrow in places and at a very low tide there is so little water that you can walk from one island to the other.  He didn’t seem too confident so I was beginning to get a bit nervous, having visions of us grounding the boat and when I asked he said that it was (as I thought) not aluminium but fibreglass so my imagination had holes appearing as we struck the bottom.  We passed through the narrows with no problem, it is a little bit of a winding route passing left and right of different pillars set in the seabed.  Finally some 15 or so miles later we began to feel the swell of the Pacific and Mikes dog began to get less happy, he suffers sea-sickness and later when he got the chance he hid deep in the bottom of the boat.

There were already 3 or 4 other boats fishing and we joined them going up and down parallel to the rocky shore and cliffs that were the south side of the channel.  Mike had me steer while he set up the rods and lines, this was not the sea-fishing I had done many years ago in Namsos, then we had just dropped lines over the side and jigged them up and down to attract the fish.  Here the lines from the rods were passed through weighted lines to keep them down and we went back and forwards hoping for a bite.  We took two runs up and down the shore and on the second we got a bite.  Mike called me from the cabin to come and take the rod and gave me hurried instruction on how to maintain the tension with the palm of my hand on the reel and not have my fingers near  as they could get broken while he was telling me he was detaching the line from the weight.  I tried to keep the tension on but at one point felt we may have lost the fish as the rod straightened a  bit.  Mike took over for a minute and we still had him then passed the rod back to me and gave me more instruction.  Eventually I could see the fish swimming close to the boat but had to wait for Mike to get the net ready then lift the rod straight to get him close.  Between us we had landed what seemed to me to be a big salmon, Mike estimated 14lbs and deflated me by telling me that last week they had taken a 40 pounder.

As we set up to fish again the radio squarked and someone asked if anyone close-by could help them as their engine had cut out and they were getting close to the rocks.  The first person to respond was 5 miles away so Mike responded and as I steered he pulled the lines in.  Once the lines were in Mike took over and opened up the throttle a bit to get us there quickly.  The boat in trouble belonged to Rob who Mike knew and when we got close they threw a line across to us, I was able to hold it to pull them free of the rocks then we tied it to an eyelet on the stern of the boat to get it further. A few minutes later Mike went down in the cabin to get a rope with a pulley that he had made for towing and it was then that the dog took his opportunity to hid below.

Once the tow was set up so that the load was balanced at both sides of the stern we head back at about 9 knots.  We had done an hour or so fishing and would be towing back for about 3 hours but the time went quick as Mike told me how he had ended up in Queen Charlotte from Prince Rupert after quite a few adventures in Kenya, Australia, Indonesia and the Himilaya, including a day or so in prison for overstaying his visa in Katmandu.  He had been wild in his youth with drink giving him courage but had not had  drink since he was 27.  The journey back to QC went quickly as we chatted and watched the world go by, once again the bears that we hoped to see on the shore stayed hidden as they had on the way out.

The Spring Salmon we caught.  Gutted by Mike as we travelled back to Queen Charlotte.

The Spring Salmon we caught. Gutted by Mike as we travelled back to Queen Charlotte.

At the docks we helped Rob to one of the jetties and then moored up Mikes boat.  The dog had recovered when we got back in the wide waters close to Queen Charlotte and like so many dogs in cars had spent the end of the journey with his head out of the window.  He was still happy to jump on to the dock.

Mike gave me a lift first to his place where he cut up the fish and we put the unused bait in his freezer.  I took half the fish to Jags in  a cardboard box and Mike gave other bits to the lads who were renting buildings from him.

When I was dropped off at Jags there was no one home so put my stuff in the tent then sat in the garden and caught up on my notes while thinking how lucky I had been to have such good fortune.  Mike had seemed disappointed that we didn’t fish longer but I had enjoyed all of the day.

When he got back Jags put the fish in the fridge and promised to cook it tomorrow night.  I stayed up a while longer but soon retired to my tent.