The end of the week saw me back on the bus to Vancouver and taking the Greyhound to Kelowna in the Okanagan. It was yet another stunning morning and the ride south from Whistler couldn’t have been better. I had an hour’s wait in Vancouver, part of which I spent in the park opposite the station drinking my coffee. It was not a desirable place to linger though.
The bus was almost full when we left the city and after stopping at Coquitlam and Chilliwack there were no spare seats. The route followed the course of the Fraser River for some distance before branching off at Hope. It included a climb up a spectacular mountain pass and a long descent into the valley on the other side of the ranges where the land became much drier and more barren. The Okanagan is Canada’s only desert area. We arrived about 5.30pm and I caught a city bus to my Airbnb.
The excitement for the day hadn’t ended. I was just going to bed when I heard a loud explosion. My hostess thought it was the petrol station nearby and suggested we evacuate. On closer investigation, it was a house fire, so we climbed a ladder onto the roof and observed from there. One of the other guests was a volunteer firefighter in his home town and had been close to the house when it happened. He rescued an elderly occupant and thought a meth lab may have exploded as it was a very unusual type of explosion for a house. I saw police and firemen searching through the ruins the next day but I never found out the cause.
The following day I picked up my rental car from the airport and explored the eastern side of Lake Okanagan. I stopped for a coffee in Lake Country, set to be the next big development area and later found myself in Okanagan Center. This is a delightful lake side village and home to a quirky cafe called the Patio cafe. Old washing tubs and other artifacts were dotted around and the owner handed me a 1953 newspaper from Alberta to read whilst I waited for my food. The adverts proved entertaining!
Before eating, I had had a stroll along the shore and admired the view. The Okanagan is renowned for its vineyards and there appeared to be hundreds of boutique ones dotting the hillsides around the lakes. Wines from the Naramata Bench between Kelowna and Penticton are deemed especially noteworthy.
I returned to the house but needed more exercise so, having changed into shorts, I headed for the Mission Creek Greenway, a 26km cycle and walkway that follows the river. Needless to say, I didn’t go the entire length! From my starting point, I walked almost 7kms to the lake front along a flat track. At the end of the trail, once I had found the lake, I rested whilst watching a group of kite surfers and summoning the enthusiasm for the walk back. The wind had risen; they were racing along!
The Kettle Valley Rail Trail was my destination for the last day in Kelowna. This is an extensive system of trails along old railway lines that stretch from Hope to Castlegar. The tiny part I did was the Myrna Canyon. The drive to its start was through farmland and orchards and several kilometres of dirt road. My rental car was not so pristine by the time I arrived!
I walked 10kms, according to the markers, ate my sandwich on a convenient seat at a viewpoint overlooking the valley and retraced my steps to the car park. The route was easy and followed a horseshoe-shaped gorge, passing over 12 wooden trestles or bridges and through two tunnels. It was well used by cyclists, including a large Primary School group but few walkers. The scenery was very impressive. At one place I had to wait whilst workers abseiled down the rock face, dislodging loose rocks as they went. It gave me an opportunity to chat to a couple from Edmonton who were building a house at Naramata.
Afterwards, I drove to Big White skifield to see where my eldest son had spent a few weeks ‘working’ several years ago. It wasn’t as close as I assumed from the map! The unsealed road wound on and on through forestry. Signs stood along the fence lines warning people to keep out of the First Nations land. I wondered if I was on the right road and became concerned but was reluctant to turn around. I continued and finally saw directions for the Nordic Ski Club. At last I reached the main highway! Big White was a further 22kms up the mountain. What I thought would be a short detour turned into a marathon. At the top, the village was deserted, and the temperature had dropped to 10°C. I was dressed for 30°C. I took one or two photos and drove back down, passing several deer along the way. I hope my son appreciated my efforts!