Up again at 4 am. As we are so far behind schedule we will be seeing a lot more of the Thompson and Fraser rivers this morning. Showered again early and, as I said the other day, I am impressed with the ablutions on this train. Temperature control works and the stream is just right.
Sat in the observation deck with the Scouser talking about getting a job in Canada. I wish. Been close twice now. Would love to live here. May be too old now.
We have just enough pre-dawn light to see the river and the snowy peaks on our left. The river looks to be a raging mess. There are scree covers every so often to protect the train and tracks from falling rocks and tunnels carved through the rock.
It is a majestic view. Just passed the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser and the river, now most definitely the Fraser, seems to have double in size. There’s more civilisation visible on both sides of the river and a freight line runs on the opposite side of the river together with a highway.
Still about ten minutes away from sunrise and the sky over the peaks to the east is starting to pink up. Cloud looks light at the moment so hopefully we will see some sun and get some good shots on the run in to Vancouver which must still be about 7 hours away.
I will be hugely sorry to say goodbye to the Canadian. It has been a most engaging experience, and, as one who can’t sit idle, I have not been bored at all, even just sitting watching Canada roll quietly by has been filled with interest, from the forests of Ontario to the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the mountains of Alberta and British Colombia, this ever changing landscape has continued to offer up interest along the entire route. I’ve loved it and I don’t want it to stop. Not sure the bike part of the trip can live up to it.
The food on The Canadian has been absolutely superb. Considering the conditions the chefs work under they regularly turned out very high quality meals. I particularly liked the fact that the options catered for most people. For dinner for example they was usually a beef dish, a fish disk, a foul dish and vegetarian dish. Plenty of choice I think.
My Scouse mate and I have been joined by another early riser as we sweep across bridges and through tunnels watching the rising sun catch the peaks in the west. I do have a feeling that there will be rain again before long though.
Tracks are very sinuous following the curves of the valley and the train snakes smoothly around the bends. A quite mesmerising sight.
Just went to get a tea for Wifey and was passed by a couple coming back from the direction of the restaurant car. They asked rather sheepishly whether we had gone through another time zone. I had to confirm that we had and, yes, indeed, it was only 05:30, and, yes, breakfast is still and hour away.
Just stopped at Boston Bar to pick up more passengers. Schedule was for 04:14 and it is now 05:44 so it seems that the engineers have been able to claw some time back overnight so that we are now only 1:30 behind schedule. Boo.
There’s a lovely old Quebecois couple sat in front of us this morning. She has very little English but they are one of the most romantic couples I think I have ever seen. Every time they have been apart they give each other a kiss. They might have only been apart for two minutes, but they will kiss without fail. Lovely to see and an example to us all.
There are an incredible number of freight trains on the tracks across the Fraser. They are literally lined up one after another. Rush hour in the Rockies you could call it, although, technically, we are no longer in the Rockies. There are also lots of tunnels to pass through and is strange to see some of these 100+ car trains straddled across two or three tunnels and over bridges.
We passed the rapids at Hell’s Gate with the salmon ladder. Immense power of the water pounding through a narrow gap. There are rapids, whirlpools and eddies at every turn of the river.
Breakfast is now over and surprisingly there is a large queue of people waiting to get in there. People that we haven’t seen in this observation deck have descended upon it. Why would everyone want an early breakfast today when we don’t arrive at Vancouver until midday? Most mornings we’ve been first and there have been empty tables as we left.
Not impressed with service this morning. As I write above, generally the service n the train has been superb. However, when we arrived in the restaurant car there were only teo tables occupied, both on the side with the view of the river. The rather officious stweardess said we couldn’t sit on that side as it wouldn’t be easy for her. What? Who is the service being run for. Me or her? Wasn’t happy. Was even less happy that we were the last of her tables to be served after being the first to be seated and that the entire car was filled within 5 minutes.
Hope stop was at 07:11 and should have been 05:45 so still clawing time back bit by bit. Looks very alpine here with the meadows and wooden chalets. We’ll be through Hope again in a week or so on the bike. We’ll be riding the other side of the Fraser into Vancouver than the train taking less travelled roads we Hope. Final bit of Hope factoids is that Rambo First Blood was filmed here.
Chilliwack at 07:50 and should have been 06:40 so we are really pulling the time back now. Still have the stock yards in Vancouver to negotiate though. Still lots and lots of awesome views. Mountains everywhere and snow on many of the peaks,
Valley is widening and flattening now with lots of what look like market gardens and commuter settlements, Lots of raptors as well I’ve seen two bald eagles, one diving to attack a pigeon and another chasing what looked to me like a buzzard. Outside Abbotsford and just seen a flock of small birds chasing a small hawk.
People have been dropped off at Abbotsford. Very strange to see such a huge and prestigious train stop at a ‘village’ with no station. Charming in a way though that this is a request service. Still 2:30 away from Vancouver and the end of the tracks…for now.
Following the Fraser River there are lots of log rafts. The river is still used as a cheap means of transporting lumber down to the mills closer to the coast. Although the lumber mill we passed in Hinton yesterday was one of the biggest factories I’ve seen and that was on the other side of the continental divide.
More and more fishing boats moored along the river the further we get along and here and there expensive riverside developments showing us that we are back in civilisation,
Arrived at the stock yards now. Lots of lines to cross and we crawl through them. Wheat trains and cattle trains are lined up by the mile. So much freight, such a big country. Just gone under the Portman Bridge with the Trans-Canada Highway. About to cross the Fraser River to enter Vancouver. Still 45 minutes from the Pacific Central Station.
Bit of a palaver getting into the station as the train had to turn itself around but eventually we docked at 10:45. Complete pandemonium when it came to the baggage collection. The belt was about 6 feet long, nowhere near big enough for the massed ranks of 24 cars that had just disgorged. Of course, our bags were among the last to be delivered. There were only 3 or 4 couples left waiting when our last bag came off the belt. Quickly checked the helmets for damage after the nightmare of the Virgin flight, but they seem unscathed.
Walked to the taxi rank and typical, when we got to the head of the queue, they’d run out of taxis. Wasn’t a bad thing as some of the taxis we saw were Prius’s which were hideously overloaded with tourists and their bags. Was painful watching some of them going over the vicious speed bumps in the car park. Had to wait a couple of minutes but then we got a larger taxi than a Prius that swallowed our seven bags and us with ease.
Five minute drive in a virtually empty downtown to Pender and the Ramada Downtown hotel. Staff took Wifey by surprise. A doorman took the largest of the bags as we were paying the taxi driver and when we walked up to the desk Mina, the receptionist said “Good afternoon, Mr and Mrs Banks”. Wifey actually took a step back she was that non-plussed. Very pleasant and formalities kept to a minimum but she was very helpful explaining where we were on a map and quickly coming up some places in Gastown that we might like to visit for dinner. We like Mina.
Bellhop service to the room. Last time I had that was in Japan and you couldn’t refuse. Usually carry my own bags, but I suppose that we do have seven on this trip.
Then something happened that has put me on edge since. As Wifey was freshening up I heard the door to the room open, someone say “sorry” and the door close again. My assumption is that it was staff not expecting anyone in the room at 12pm. Not felt comfortable since.
Quickly refreshed we headed down towards Canada Place. I’m struck at how different Downtown Vancouver is in comparison to Downtown Toronto. Toronto is very clean and modern and feels very safe. Not so with Vancouver. It feels dirty and unkempt, and after the interloper in the room I’m starting to put my ‘Liverpool’ head on, on the spot for trouble. There are lots and lots of beggars for a start and lots and lots of shady people watching you. Really do feel uncomfortable. For the first time in a long time I left the camera in its bag.
At Canada Place there were two cruise ships in and loading and so the place was heaving with happy campers. Not a holiday I could do, but might be persuaded to do the Norwegian Fjords one day. Having said that we got into the spirit by taking the Sea Bus to North Vancouver.
As we were trying to work out how to buy a ticket a very friendly lady wandered over and told us how to do it. Obviously some sort of volunteer. Ticketing is all electronic. $2.75 gets you a one zone pass on Vancouver’s transport system for two hors and in our case that equates to one return crossing to North Vancouver as long as we don’t loiter. I thought that a billy bargain. Strange thing is that after buying said tickets we did not need to produce them. There was no-one to check them and all the electronic barriers were open, so we just strolled through. Very strange.
Was hoping to take some shots from the deck, but the Sea Bus is completely enclosed so there was no chance. Quickly to the other side hoping for a shot back to Downtown Vancouver only to find an oil tanker parked in the bay blocking any chance of a decent shot. Ho hum.
At the Lansdale Quay there is a good market. Loads of really good produce and good shops. Wifey did her trademark souvenir shopping. Bought a slice of apple strudel from a stall outside and some fudge from a stall inside. Feel sick now. Lots of other tourists as well.
Back into the Sea Bus and back to Downtown Vancouver. As we were docking we could see that people were starting to populate the cruise ship Princess Sapphire. It is an enormous boat dwarfing the Sea Bus.
Off the Sea Bus and again, not feeling particularly comfortable. Beggars on every corner and shadies everywhere.
Stopped for a coffee at Caffe Artigiano. Highly recommended. Then back to the hotel to pack the pannier and top box bags for tomorrow.
Gave Cycles BC a call to make sure that we’re all ready for tomorrow. Andrew answered the call and said that I have a brand new 2013 RT with less than a 1000 ks on the clock. Goodo says I. Gave me detailed directions to their offices and said a taxi should only be about $10. Sounds good to me. He also said the weather forecast is looking good for the next ten days. Liking it even more.
All packed using the Tardis-like pannier bags and Heine Gericke bag so should now be thinking about dinner.
Following the directions of Mina we end up in Gastown and wander its length past the steam clock. Lots of cafe style establishments, but, being English, we end up in the only Indian restaurant on the strip, the Sitar. Chicken jalfrezzi for Wifey and lamb dhansak for me. Reasonably good. Would eat there again. As we were eating we watched lots of dogs being walked. One Borzoi in particular caught my attention. Truly beautiful dog. Second prize went to a perfectly proportioned fox hound.
After dinner Wifey dragged me souvenir shopping. Sigh. Then back to the hotel for an early night as I will need some rest ahead of the next 9 days. But don’t need to be there until 09:00 when Cycle BC opens. May, if I do wake up earlier, go and take some photos in Gastown. Will feel safer early on a Sunday morning before the drunks and crackheads come round.