An aliens view of Vancouver and British Columbia
When I heard that a friend of mine who had emigrated to Canada was getting married over there I decided I was going. Never having been out of Europe let alone as far as North America it was a bit of a leap into the unknown.
To be fair I was a Briton going to British Columbia it wasn't akin to a Tibetan Monk from a remote Himalayan village being dropped in the centre of Paris, however in England we're not used to anything much bigger than a squirrel so all the unnecessarily large wildlife was a concern.
Friendly is the word that springs to mind. As an Englishman I'm not used to excessive friendliness, it frightens me and puts me in a state of heightened alert for other imposters like eye contact on public transport and talking about emotions. Canadians on the other hand will chat about anything to anyone.
In England you occasionally get people who like to talk but often they don't need to have you talk back, in fact if you wondered off and left your coat behind they would talk to that instead, these people generally get jobs as taxi drivers, politicians or my wife. Canadians however seem genuinely interested in you and your opinions, I think its a distraction so the bears can sneak up on you.
It was a sunny September day when we arrived so we decided to go for a few beers and get an early night as the jet lag was setting in. To ensure Karma is evenly distributed in Vancouver they make all the attractive girls work in the bars, I can only assume the lawyers and doctors are ugly.
The first morning the groom decided that a gentle hike would sort our jet lag out. To the layman especially a lazy, middle aged non-hiking layman a gentle hike would go across meadows, along babbling brooks and, at a push, near rolling hills it certainly wouldn't be anywhere that had the word Mount in the name.
So we parked at the base station of Mount Seymore at around 6am. This was, as I discovered later, a sedate introduction into what would go on to be dubbed "The Boot Camp".
Bear count: zero.
The Grouse Grind
In England if anyone found a set of stairs 2 miles long it would be given the respect it deserves and nobody would go anywhere near it. In Vancouver someone found one and instead of doing the sensible thing and fencing it off they walk and sometimes run up it for fun.
It was sold to me as a 45 minute walk up an incline similar in elevation to the Mount Seymore hike, just a bit shorter, after successfully negotiating the previous day I was a bit disappointed by the use of the word "shorter", I needn't have been.
After an eternity of climbing I saw a sign ahead. I optimistically hoped for "Nearly there" and the realistic part of me prepared for the disappointment of "1/2 way". It said "1/4", I nearly cried. Anyway by a process of shame, denial and a race with an eighty year old Japanese gentleman I made it to the top, I beat his wrinkly ass btw.
Bear count: Zero
As it turned out the other 2 exertions were just a prelude, an initiation test if you like, to the main event. an 11km/7mile hike up into the mountains with 30kg/70lb on my back.
I felt we had been riding our luck a bit bearwise so I argued for pepperspray, handguns, chainsaws and bear-wrestling hired help but no one agreed so I made my own bearstick out of a 4ft long, 4 inch thick tree branch sharpened to a point.
My intention was, if accosted by a bear, to stab it in the face with my bearstick or more realistically fling the bearstick in the opposite direction in the hope that the bear liked the look of it and go after that instead as I figured that stabbing a bear in the face might annoy it.
Anyway we set off and after about half an hour the first of our party lagged behind, that was OK he'll draw the bears away. After another 1/2 hour I lagged behind but that was OK too because I had the guy behind as bear fodder and the main group ahead to flush 'em out, they would have to broadside me if they wanted me so I waved my bearstick defiantly.
I continued my solitary trek through the pleasant pine forest with the sun now dappling the hillside. Tame birds and chipmunks fed from my hands, I resisted the urge to stab them in the face as I fancied my chances if it came to a fistfight. The climb levelled a bit and I passed small waterfalls and crossed bridges over clear streams.
All at once I turned a corner and suddenly it all made sense, all the blisters and aching joints, I saw the view you can see in the first picture below and thought to myself "oh yeah, get it now".
The lakes up there have a fine particle called glacial flour that is so fine it is suspended in the water giving a sensational blue hue that my phone camera has not done justice to. We camped around the lake for a couple of nights, swimming in the lake, seeing the Milky Way and resting for the second leg of our trip when we would be moving base to Whistler for the actual wedding but that's another story. Maybe I'll do a sequel lens if people like this one.
Bear count: zero.