Day 12 – Saturday the 24th August 2013
We had a nice cooked breakfast and met a young Kiwi couple who live in London, and were on their way to a wedding in Banff. The GPS got us out of Vancouver relatively easily, but once we were on the freeway we ran into trouble. There is a new toll bridge and motorway system and the directions took us around in circles trying to go over a non-toll bridge that is now being demolished. We eventually got back onto the freeway and instead of a toll plaza there is a system like the one on the Orewa bypass. It was a real maze driving around to find where to pay, but we were eventually on our way again.
The drive took us up through mountain passes and near Hope we pulled into a viewing point where there had been a massive landslide in the 1970’s. It was triggered by a small earthquake and millions of cubic metres of rock slid down into the river valley below the road. It forced the river bed and mudflats up the bank, over the road and several hundred metres up the other side of the gorge. Four cars were carried away and two were never found. The present road is built on the slip material, 40 metres above the original road.
Further along the road we stopped for a picnic lunch in the Sumallo Grove that has short walkways through 500 Year old Cedar, Douglas Fir and Western hemlock. These trees are extremely tall. When one falls due to old age and rotten base, it brings others down with it. Quite impressive.
We noticed that through this area that there were a lot of dying or dead trees. We found out later that there was a beetle infestation that was killing the older softer trees. This beetle has been with forest for thousands of years but due to the modern human intervention the life cycle of the trees has changed. In the past for the forest to regularly burn as a result of lightning strikes or native humans. The burning resulted in the trees cones to produce seeds, improved the soil and for a new forest to grow. Younger trees are not infested by the beetle as they are harder. So the cycle went on. Now there is to be introduced controlled burning to reproduce the cycle.
At the Manning Park Cascade area we drove up a ten km road towards the summit of the ranges at 2000 metres to a lookout over the whole valley, which in the years passed was carved by glaciers. Some of the peaks still have ice near the tops, well above the treeline. In the carpark we saw some cheeky little chipmunks and an inquisitive, unidentified bird.
As we came out of the mountain pass we entered the beginning of the Kootenay Rockies at Keremeos where we encountered a large number of roadside fruit stalls. One at which we purchases peaches and pears.The Okanagan Valley is the fruit bowl of Canada and also the beginning of the wine growing region. We drove into Penicton to find accommodation and found out that there was an ironman event on the next day with just on 1000 competitors. However we had no trouble finding a motel (Motel 5000) at what is a standard rate for this region of about $110.00 including taxes. Penticton is a tourist town situated between two of the lakes that dominate this region. We dined again in our room on oysters and tuna washed down with local beer and settled in for the night.
Day 14 -Sunday 25th August 2013
We were up early to watch the cycle leg of the event come past our hotel before heading towards Kelowna for some wine tasting. The road along the lake is very picturesque and the hills are dotted with vineyards.
We stopped at Peachlands which is a pleasant village off the main road on the side of the lake. We walked around a farmers/craft market without spending any money and walked down a beach into the water. It was surprisingly temperate, but not warm enough to tempt us into having a swim.
We then stopped at West Kelowna and visited the Quails Gate Winery where the winemaker was a Kiwi. The winery has a large tasting/sales room and two restaurants with the vineyards running down towards the lake. The tasting room is very well organised, catering for tour buses and carloads of visitors. A bar is set out along a wall of windows looking out over the vineyard down the lake. There are about ten staff serving tastings with two free samples of a reasonable chenin blanc and an almost undrinkable red blend. For five dollars you had a choice of three other wines, and between us we had two chardonnays, a gewürztraminer, two pinot noir and a sauvignon blanc. The gewürztraminer and the premium chardonnay were quite good, but at nearly $30.00 did not stack up against similarly priced NZ wines.
As I still had a long way to drive, we resisted the desire to visit more vineyards and drove onwards to Revelstoke through the Shuswap Highlands and Monashee Mountains. Nearing Revelstoke, we stopped at a small museum commemorating the last spike, which is the spot on the Canadian Pacific railway where the two sections of track finally met and the last spike on the railway line was ceremoniously driven into place. The photo of this act is one of the most well known in Canada and is seen as the point in time when Canada truly became one nation. While looking through this museum we saw up close our first CPR freight train. I only started to count the wagons well after the first ones had past, but there were still over a hundred more. Some of these wagons carry one forty foot container on top of another. (We later drove past a stationary train and it was 1.4km long).
Revelstoke is both a tourist town with winter skiing and summer boating and trekking, and an important railway junction. We checked into the Revelstoke Lodge and had dinner along the road at a local pub.
Day 15 – Monday 26th August 2013
It rained during the night and into the morning. We crossed the road to see thee Revelstoke railway museum, that covers the history of the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, including the huge contribution of Chinese labour. There are a huge steam engine and dining carriage on display inside the museum and several old trains and cars outside.
We then drove about 21km through the clouds, up Mt Revelstoke to an altitude of over 2000metres and walked around in the rain looking at wildflowers and trying to see the distant mountains. The weather cleared enough for us to have lunch near the summit, before driving down and continuing our trip.
We had a long drive through the Columbia and Purcell Mountains and stopped for lunch at Golden which is the turnoff for the road to Banff and Calgarry. The weather had improved, so we decided to carry on to Radium Hot Springs. The road was more like NZ roads, being single lane each way and following a river. There was almost no traffic so we made good time and covered the 110kms in just on one hour. We found a nice motel just off the main road (Cedar Motel for $75 plus taxes) and then drove up the road through the National Park to the Hot Springs. There are two large pools of thermal water, and lots of people. We soaked in the hot pool and I also had a swim in the moderate one. It was quite relaxing, but by the time we got back into radium, all the restaurants had closed (Radium Hot Springs is on Mountain Time, and hour ahead of Pacific Time) so we snacked in our room.