Forgot stuff first.
The flight over with Air France was pretty uneventful. Cape Town to Paris was just like any flight south to north, but the Atlantic hop was a real drag and seemed to go on for ever. Fortunately, Air France’s code share with Delta Airlines meant that the seat back video was chock full of interesting watching. I started with Cirque de Soleil’s Worlds Away.
Did you know CdS had made a movie? I didn’t and this one really rocked me on my heels – like a 21st century Fantasia, full of people floating through the air, extraordinary visuals, costumes and fantasy characters. It was brilliant and I’ve just managed to track it down on Amazon and will be buying the DVD. For a reason I don’t understand, it doesn’t seem to be on iTunes
Senses reeling, I then watched Dave Grohl’s (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) semi-documentary called Sound City, the story of the LA recording studio of the same name. It’s chock full of historic footage, names and faces from the 60s, 70s and 80s, plus way too many household names to mention here. Suffice to say, an electric Bo Diddly-style mandolin-playing Paul McCartney plays the closing song with Grohl – and it’s a blast. Definitely a must watch.
Something else I forgot. The US now has a law which prohibits a dawdling driver from accumulating more than five cars in his wake. Five followers and you are required to pull over and let them pass before resuming the road. If you’ve driven the R44 from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els, you’ll know how badly we need similar legislation – and cops who give enough of a flying fuck to enforce it, of course.
So, there you have it.
Vancouver? Loved it.
It’s easy to see why. Vancouver is a small city – probably not much bigger than Jozi – snuggled against mountains on one side and the huge Strait of Georgia inlet on the other. Ferries prevail and moment by moment, we were reminded of Auckland, Perth and the Jersey side of the Hudson opposite the old WTC.
Light, clean and easy to get round, the city and it’s inhabitants made us entirely welcome and I feasted on smoked chicken wings, while Mrs P got all excited about a plate of polenta battered prawns in Gastown (the re-made turn of the century suburb). The following evening, we re-mortgaged the house to a restaurateur in Yaletown and ploughed our way through an extraordinary dinner of oysters, prawns in a citrus and garlic broth for me and crab cakes with a thai dressing for Di.
Oh yes, we discovered poutine too. I don’t think it’s very French, but seems to have had its genesis in Canada’s French population.
What is it? Sublime is what it is; take a plate of freshly fried chips – made with real potato and not the reconstituted starch most places serve. To your steaming pile of spud love, add a large handful of curd cheese, cut into (appx.) 10mm cubes and then a large ladle brimming with rich, unguent brown meaty gravy. Eat immediately.
We didn’t expect to find a new food staple on this trip, but poutine it is.
And that was Vancouver. Aside from an unusually high number of (seemingly) harmless odd-bods, lurchers, people with blue hair and public dope smokers, it’s a pretty standard city and if it isn’t on your bucket list, it should be, it’s great.
Just two hours drive – we are in a Fiat 500 after all – north of Vancouver is Pendleton and 6km beyond that, Mount Currie. Here we find the Hitching Post Motel, run by a hugely helpful Asian gentleman. Our room is big, clean, self catering, has a massive air conditioner. Just as well, it’s 29C outside.
The Internet doesn’t work though and our host has no crue how fix. Oh well, it’s been a slow kind of day, but I was hoping to stream some Super 14 action and maybe the F1 qualifying in the morning. Watching the Cheetahs win again would have been most entertaining – they didn’t
Oh well, back to mountain, waterfall and stream watching.
Which we did and on our return to the Hitching Post, left the door open to air out our room while domesticity reigned. Washing and various other tasks complete, we settled to watch the most recent season of Justified on our notebook TV.
Note to self: if you leave the door open and the temperature outside is 29C, don’t be surprised when your room fills with huge mosquitoes.
Watching TV and becoming increasingly aware of insects flying in front of the screen, we realise our folly and slam the door. Too late and my always carry reserve of Tabard stick shrunk by another few millimetres. By then there were lots of the buggers and it took a while to find and euthanise them all.
The next day we leave for Kamloops, a city that has sprung up around the local mining community, in rather the same way that Welkom got started. And, that’s all there is to say. It was an overnight stop, clean and full of friendly people.
Next stop Revelstoke, a small town chosen to make our daily drive comfortable at around 240km.
In fact, Revelstoke turns out to be a major railway junction, with its own museum. The rail line is Canada’s main west-east artery and the gateway to the Kicking Horse Pass, site of the extraordinary spiral tunnels. I’d heard of this geological wonder and seen pictures, but never imagined we’d be driving right past the observation platform. That’s for tomorrow however.
Today, we visit the museum and gawk as trains that must measure more than a kilometre in length inching past, hauled by twin diesel 4400HP locomotives, strengthened by another mid-train and a pusher at the rear. The trains seem to be hauling either Canada’s agricultural wealth to the ocean, or it’s imports into the hinterland. Either way, they are huge, many times the size of freight trains in South Africa.
As the day dwindles, we dine on prawns, a burger and fine local dark amber ale in a local bar and once back in our room, catch a couple more episodes of Justified before a weary lights-out.
Monday – on the road
En route to Lake Louise, we surmount Kicking Horse Pass and discover Canadian Railways spiral tunnels. Intended to overcome rail’s inability to climb a gradient greater than 1:40 and the space limitations imposed by the Rocky mountains, the spiral tunnels form an extended figure eight and present a fascinating view of trains looping over and under themselves.
There are any number of images and information on the ‘net, but these pics show the train emerging from the distant portal, while the rest of the consist (below) is still being hauled into the tunnel. The second shot shows how the line snakes back again, with the locomotive(s) just visible through the trees at the bottom, while its train is clearly visible in two other places. The diagramme probably explains it better than I do. The whole thing seems to suspend the possible in favour of the surrreal.
Over the pass and down into Lake Louise. More about that tomorrow.