Trip Start May 01, 2005
18Trip End Jun 04, 2005
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Where I stayed
It took us about an hour to clear immigration and customs at Vancouver airport. We joined one of the many queues going up and down the terminal while waiting for the not so friendly officials to check passports, and to ask their silly questions about why we were visiting Canada. I think they thought we were trying to get in and stay permanently there. Once in the country we had the choice of taking a shuttle bus into the city or taking a taxi. The choice was not too difficult as we were now very tired and wanted to get to our hotel as soon as possible. The shuttle bus would have got us there eventually but the $35 dollars the taxi cost us was well worthwhile. We booked into the Blue Horizon and immediately jumped into their very comfortable beds and got five hours sleep oblivious to the world. After waking up we took a wander down Robson Street and bought ourselves a subway roll before returning to the hotel where we turned the lights out at 11pm. Monday 2nd May in Canada was now over.
By Tuesday 3rd May we knew it would take a few days for our body clocks to get into wack and this is the reason we decided to stay in Vancouver for a few days so that we could recover before meeting up with our friends on Vancouver Island. We were wide awake by 4am so we phoned Lesley and sent an SMS to Andrew before getting out of bed at 6.30am. We drank a good cup of filter coffee in our room before making our way to the harbour area to find out from where the ferry to Nanaimo departed. We first came across Canada Place where they were at work building, what we were told, a new convention centre. From there we passed the passenger terminal where a huge Princess cruise ship was tied up to the dock. We relaxed at a Starbucks nearby where we had muffins and coffee. After a brief walk through Gastown we eventually found the Harbour Lynx Office where we booked and bought our tickets to Vancouver Island. We walked back to our hotel around 11am and then headed out to find a shop to buy a local SIM card for our mobile phone. We found a Rogers shop close by and then went to a Steam Rollers for a lunch of traditional burritos. Feeling well satisfied we headed back to our room to wait for the call from reception to inform us that the bus to do a tour of Grouse Mountain, a salmon hatchery and the Capilano suspension bridge, which we had booked earlier that day, had arrived to pick us up. At 1.30pm driver Mike arrived at the hotel and he drove us down to Canada Place to pick up other people who were to join us for the afternoon. Our group consisted of a lady from Pretoria, a couple from Kuala Lumpa, another couple from Brighton UK, a girl from Melbourne, a guy from Sydney named Foo Soon Lee and us two Dunns.
The first stop was the Capilano Salmon Hatchery. The Capilano River originates near Capilano Mountain, 32 kms upstream from the west end of Burrard Inlet. As early as 1889, the river was partially dammed to supply water for the growing city of Vancouver. In 1954, the Cleveland Dam was completed 6 kms from the ocean, creating a reservoir that currently supplies 40 per cent of Greater Vancouver's water supply. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Dam blocked the route of coho and steelhead travelling up the Capilano River to spawn. The fish lost more than 95 per cent of their spawning and approximately 75 per cent of their rearing habitat. To mitigate this loss, the Greater Vancouver Water District constructed a concrete river weir and fish ladder. This system collected adult salmon returning to spawn, carried them in transport tanks to a site above the dam and released them to continue their journey. They spawned successfully, but young salmon migrating downstream suffered high losses as they went over the dam. For another decade, Capilano salmon stocks continued to decline. To address this problem, Fisheries and Oceans Canada built Capilano Hatchery to rear and release salmon below the dam. Construction began in 1969 and the $3million facility was completed in 1971. Trucking adult salmon above the dam stopped in 1976 but was reinstated in 1997 for coho. Limited numbers of coho and steelhead fry have been released into the river and tributaries above the reservoir on an annual basis. Capilano Salmon Hatchery is famous for the coho and steelhead it contributes to the Burrard Inlet sport fishery. Chinook salmon also were introduced to establish a self-sustaining run of these prized sport fish for the Capilano River and Vancouver Harbour tidal sport fisheries. Capilano also provides a food and ceremonial fishery for the Squamish First Nations. Scientific research is an important aspect of the hatchery which provides salmon and working facilities for private and public sector research projects. Prior to release, a percentage of the juvenile chinook and coho are tagged with an internal coded-wire nose-tag. An identifying external adipose fin clip identifies these fish. Information gathered, when tags are recovered, is used to analyze experimental work and reveal details on fish migration, ocean survival and the catch in various fisheries. This data helps the federal government develop plans for conservation and sustainable harvests. Public education is another major role of the Capilano Salmon Hatchery which supplies coho eggs and adults used in the Salmonids in the Classroom programs in local schools. Coho fry and smolts are used to support various Community Involvement projects in the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm area of Greater Vancouver. The hatchery is open for public viewing every day, allowing visitors from the local community and around the world a chance to learn more about this magnificent resource.
The hatchery was constructed around the existing concrete river weir, fishway and water supply. The weir diverts adult salmon up the fishway to the capture trap. Immediately downstream of the capture trap you can see migrating adults pass the fishway's plexiglass windows. Best times to view adults are: Chinook October - November, Coho June - November, Steelhead March - April. Adjacent to the fishway viewing windows is one of the adult holding ponds with plexiglass viewing windows. Capilano Salmon Hatchery has unusually long coho returns, which can begin as early as June and continue as late as December. Staff members sort returning coho which are held in these ponds according to return groups - early, mid or late. They are then spawned within these groups to maintain both genetic diversity and the lengthy return time of the run.The juvenile rearing area contains blue Capilano troughs for rearing of fry. The youngest fry are fed every half an hour. As they grow, they are fed less frequently. After the fry have grown to approximately two grams, they are transferred into the large cement rearing ponds. The feeding times in these containers vary from once per day to once per week. Fish are reared in these containers until they are released through the silver coloured floor screens to the river in the spring. Each rearing pond holds approximately 75,000 coho and 200,000 chinook juveniles. Chinook are transferred out of incubation early in the year and are released late May of the same year. In the spring, coho are transferred out of incubation and held over to the following June. Netting overhead and around the rearing area helps to keep predatory birds out. The grey wires around the rearing area are an electric fence to discourage river otter and mink from entering the ponds and taking fish. Our short visit to this hatchery taught us many things that we did not know about this amazing fish and its importance to the Canadian economy.
Not far down the road was our next stop, Grouse Mountain and we arrived at the base station in brilliant sunshine. It was a quick eight minute ride in the cable car to the top of the mountain where the sunshine continued but we could not see the customary views over Vancouver because of mist in the valley below. An alternative route to the top is via the Grouse Grind, a walk track that will take a fit person about 90 minutes to complete. We were glad that we chose the Swiss made cable car and immediately began to explore what the place had to offer. The first things that we saw were a number of large wood carvings dotted around depicting animals, birds and people of Canada. We were told these were carved using chain saws but they were so intricate that we thought this unlikely unless the basic shapes were done with the saws and then finished off with more conventional tools. These carvings are certainly a work of art and well worth visiting.
There are two enclosures on the mountain, one containing two grizzly bear orphans, Grinder and Coola who have lived here since 2001 when they were both found in the wild. Grinders history is not known but Coola was the sole survivor of three cubs whose mother was killed by a truck near Bella Coola, BC. The other enclosure contains Grey Wolves from the movie industry who were raised in captivity and can't therefore be released back into the wild. Another interesting item to visit is the Theatre in the Sky where you can watch the film Born to Fly. This stunning documentary takes you up close on a dramatic journey through the scenic beauty of BC and reveals the highest peaks of BC's mountains, the sparkle of ocean whitecaps and the lushness of rainforest, all from an eagle's perspective. You will also uncover the story of Grouse Mountain's intriguing history as a destination for hikers and nature lovers for over 100 years. It was now time to take the cable car back down as we still had the Capilano Suspension Bridge to visit.
Just another short drive and we came upon the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Originally built in 1889, it stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. Since then much has been added to the twenty-seven acre park. The tree walk consists of seven suspension bridges through the evergreens taking you up to 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor, and offers a unique squirrel's eye perspective of the forest. We spent a good two hours here enjoying the walk high above the forest floor and the views over the Capilano River down below but all good things come to an end and we had to return to our hotel where we were dropped off at 7.30pm. We had seen an Italian restaurant just down the road from our hotel and its decor of bunches of garlic and sausages hanging on the walls had tempted our taste buds so we decided that for dinner that night we would give the place a visit. We enjoyed a very good pasta and salad before tiredness overtook us and we returned to the hotel for another good nights sleep.