Wednesday, September 29

Going Coastal

I've finished my little tour through the Okanagan Valley [in the south of B.C.] As near as I can tell, the main appeal of the valley is the weather, which includes more sunshine than almost anywhere else in the country, and mild winters to boot. I've had a week of summer, which was a welcome surprise, since I didn't see too much of it in July and August.

My first stop was Vernon, the highlight of which was a bike trip that I did with a German girl from the town hostel. It's been a while since I did any long bike trips, and this one was a few hours long, so I was a little worried. The concern was my quad. I tore it in the same place four or five times, the last being late last year. As might be expected, each time it healed more and more slowly. And for some reason, going up hill on a bike doesn't make it happy. I've been going as lightly as possible on it all year, and it hasn't bothered me in a few months, but going on the bike trip was probably not the brightest idea.

In the end it held up okay, but the day after I was feeling the tiniest of tingles, which probably mean that I pushed it about as far as it could go - ie I was damn lucky that it didn't end up tearing _again_. Hobbling up stairs for a month is never fun. I've been trying to avoid going under any sort of knife, but I think it should be okay eventually.

The trip itself was a good time, though. We were able to see the back roads, which are much nicer than the highway. The Okanagan is one of the major berry and fruit growing centers in Canada, and seeing fields and fields of apple trees was a nice change from the barley and wheat of Saskatchewan. There are also alot of people that come out here to pick the fruit, which is some of the hardest work I've ever seen. You're hunched over a berry bush for ten hours a day, getting paid by the barrel of berries - which usually works out to less than minimum wage.

In the end, we ended up at a museum. It was a converted ranch, one of the first settlements in the area. The highlight - or at the very least most memorable - part of the visit were the animals. The weirdest of the lot were the sheep. Not only did they seem completely attention deprived, acting like lap dogs following me around wanting to be petted, but they also had five horns... this is even weirder because there were two on the one side, and three on the other. I have no idea what the point of five horns IS exactly...

Kelowna is the 'capital' of the valley, but just seemed to be another run-of-the mill smallish city. The one thing that stuck out was that the place was completely overrun with Australians. The were more of them in the hostel than all other nationalities combined, by a factor of three to one. And that includes Canadians. Most of them were there to snowboard in the winter, as there are two big resorts near by. I'm not sure if it's being Australian, a snowboarder, or some combination of the two, but it felt like being back in highschool again. At times I thought I could cut the machismo with a knife. Don't get me wrong, some were nice enough. It's hard to explain, but somehow things weren't relaxed unless you're throwing back shots of whatever hard liquor is handy. The conversations tended to be a little boring, about previous nights' puke-fests, so I ended up watching movies and going to bed early most of the time I was there.

The last stop was Penticton, where the receptionist at the hostel mentioned a friend who was driving to Vancouver. Since I was going that way anyway, I offered gas money, and off we went. Coincidently enough, she had also just graduated from McGill [the university where I went to school in Montreal], and was heading off to Vancouver to find some work. All well and good, as it gave us something to talk about for the four hour trip. She was a nice enough girl, but beyond McGill, we didn't have much in common. Sometimes she seemed downright uncomfortable. But it got me back out to the coast, and into a big city for the first time in nearly two months. Small towns are all well and good, but in many ways, the anonymity of big cities can feel good. Or then again, maybe I'm just getting tired of being on the road... I'll probably stay here for two weeks, to give myself a chance to catch my breath.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ian, thats pretty funny about the Australians in Kelowna. When I was there for 4 days in july they also outnumbered the other guests. And yeah, the machismo and the puke-fests were the main course of the stay. And although the fruit picking is hard work, the people who get good at it can make up to 30$ an hour (but those are only the special few).

Take care,
M-A (from Mcgill)

12:43 a.m.  

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