Vagrants of Vancouver

Trip Start May 29, 2010
Trip End Oct 09, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Saturday, June 19, 2010

We started to hit the outskirts of Vancouver on the train at around 7:30am after a very long night on the train, Char slept like a log as usual but Al had been up since about 6am after a broken nights sleep.  It took another 1hr and 30 mins to get into Pacific Central Station, the staff on VIA rail kept up their usual friendly high standards but we are starting to think it is because they work such long hours that most of them are delirious, we had many crazy announcements from a conductor called Walter who started each announcement by singing a bell tone then talking in a mock french accent - weird!  The previous day on the train we had seen many amazing sights including another bear at the side of the track feeding on some berries, we got a picture this time but it looks like a blob of brown fur so its as believable as the loch ness monster!  We saw also Pyramid Falls en route, the train slowed as we passed it it is not accessible by any other means so we were very lucky to see it.

We had a good experience on the train and felt we had the opportunity to see the whole range of landscapes Canada has to offer (the mid part being mainly flat and featureless) but we were glad that it was our last journey and marvelled at how people had managed to do the whole 4 night journey from Toronto to Vancouver in one go most people waiting to pick up their luggage looked like zombies.

After having some breakfast and planning our route to the hostel we set about walking there and found that not only had the sun come out but most of our route was uphill so we had a tough walk to the hostel and were thankful that we had selected the downtown hostel rather than central as we passed the central hostel it didn't look particularly desirable and we had heard a lot of bad stories about the surrounding area.  We found the hostel, the room was nice (we were used to basic by this point) and we had the 4 bed coed dorm to ourselves so we were happy.  We made our way out into downtown Vancouver and headed for the tourist information centre as Vancouver is a big place we wanted to know what the main attractions were (the free ones especially).  We found the art gallery but were too late by then to get around the entire thing but instead found out about a Native american art gallery The Bill Reid Gallery. 

Bill Reid, OBC was a Canadian artist whose works included jewelry, sculpture and painting. He was born to a father of European descent and a mother from the Haida (one of the First Nations of the Pacific coast) in Victoria, BC.  His work Raven and the First Men is featured on the $20 note in the Bank of Canada's new Canadian Journey (2004) issue

Ather the gallery we walked into Gastown, Vancouver's first downtown core named after "Gassy" Jack Deighton (nice name he must have been a joy to be around!) , a Geordie seaman, steamboat captain and barkeeper who arrived in 1867 to open the area's first saloon. We had pictures with the famous steam powered clock which was built as a way to harness the steam from the City's steam powered heating system and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather (which is a bit tight dont you think) and sampled some of the local beer in the Gastown Brewery.  Al bought a carving of an eagle from a street vendor who told us some dubious stories about his work being commissioned by the Queen though maybe he made some poor choices in life?!

We were tired after our mammoth journey so headed back to the hostel made a very unimpressive dinner and hit the sack early.

Breakfast was free in the hostel so we got there early as Al planned to have as many helpings as he could eat.  As we sat bleary eyed in the breakfast room watching the world cup football playing Char bumped into Ingo our good friend from Jasper.  We were very pleased to see him as due to some mix up in Jasper we hadn't managed to say goodbye properly when we caught the train.  Ingo introduced us to his friend Tobbi who had joined him the day before from Germany and they told us more about their planned trip to the Yukon Territory.  Once Al had scared Tobbi about the many dangers of the Yukon territory (including bears of course) we took some tips on places to go from Ingo (who had lived in Vancouver for 2 months before coming to Jasper).  We walked down to Davies Street where they had some kind of street festival going on, hired bikes and rode around Stanley Park.  We hired cruisers as we both wanted to experience them and we knew the 10k Stanley Park route was pretty leisurely, they were weird to ride and very heavy so Al found it hard to bunny hop his.  The bike was making an awful crashing sound when he tried so he reluctantly gave up.  

We had a great time posing with the bikes, racing the bladers and oneother around the route.  We stopped at Lions Gate Bridge,officially known as the First Narrows Bridge, a suspension bridge which crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet. The term "Lions Gate" reflects the Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver.  We took some photos and spotted some seals near the bridge looking for fish - amazing looking creatures. 

After the ride, and feeling very cold from the brisk sea air we walked into Vancouver via the street festival where, due to a lack of Canada esqu symbols Char took the opportunity to have her picture taken with the Money Mart man (which he himself found hilarious).  We walked across the Granville Street bridge to Granville Island, a peninsula and shopping district located in False Creek directly across from Downtown Vancouver's peninsula.  We watched some very entertaining street performers, walked around a few shops and got conned by a deaf lady selling key rings.  We decided to catch the 10 minute ferry back to downtown across False Creek which dropped us down the road from our hostel.

We caught up with Ingo and Tobbi that evening and talked about our day, they too had hired bikes and cycled round Stanley Park but theirs were motorised which considering they are both very tall made them look very special!

We had booked a car the day before as we had planned to go to a quieter part of Vancouver then up to Whistler and Vancouver Island but we found that the price we had been quoted when we booked the car did not include insurance which doubled the price.  It seems to happen a lot in Canada that certain costs aren't included such as tax (which in BC is 12%) and insurance which is usually at least the same rate as the daily rental.  We checked the price with a few other companies and reluctantly booked a car for the following day.  We had to go and buy a tent as our budget had been seriously dented by the car but without it we would have to stay in Vancouver which we really didn't want to do. We would be cycling and camping much of our New Zealand trip so we knew the tent would be a good investment.

One thing we noticed about Vancouver were the number of homeless people which we both found very suprising, they are on every corner and often look very desperate which is hard to see.  What this seems to create though is a begging society, you can't walk down the street without someone asking you for money; even respectable well dressed looking people stop you to start a conversation the result of which is that they are asking for money for food, a bus fair, cigarettes, there seems to be no limit to the lengths they will go to (we were in a bar on our last night and a lady came up to us to ask us for $3 which seems to be a common amount, after we turned her away she went round to everyone else in the bar).  It seems a big problem mainly driven by addictions but it really does start to get annoying after the third, fourth fifth time that you start to get immune to it, hence we were ready to leave by our third day and so were very happy to pick up our car and head out of the city over the Lions Gate Bridge.

We stopped at Grouse Mountain on our way to Whistler. In the summer, the mountain features lumberjack shows which we witnessed and a 2.9 km (1.8 m.) hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind a regular hiking route for Vancouverites.  It is an extremely steep and mountainous trail that climbs 853 m (2,799 ft), with an average grade of 30 degrees. The trail, nicknamed "Mother Nature's Stairmaster", is notoriously gruelling due to its steepness and mountainous terrain. Hikers, who often time themselves on the trail, reach the top in approximately 90 minutes on average although some who are very fit can finish in under 30 minutes.  We reached the top in a respectable 59 minutes so we felt quite proud.   We walked around the wildlife reserve at the top and looked around the giftshop then took the lift back down which accomodates 100 people a time as you go over the lift stations the cart jerks around which causes everyone in the lift to scream and cheer which is fun or scary depending on whether you like heights.

Having felt like we had seen as much of Vancouver as we wanted to we set off for Highway 99 the Sea to Sky Highway experienced some amazing scenery of the sea and mountains within like sleeping giants and after a quick stop in Squamish made it to Al's Church - Whistler.
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Katie on

Have just seen the Underworld picture!!! (sorry for taking so long to read it!).




Katie on

Ooh and I've just seen the cakie picture!!!


Lots of love,

Miss Cakie Ward


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