After three nights in Kelowna, I moved onto Penticton at the opposite end of the lake. The distance was short, but I took all day to get there. First, I wandered the Saturday market which was in full swing when I arrived. The stalls displayed products from the area which is not only renowned for wine but also peaches, cherries and other delectable stone-fruit. Alas, my timing in the Okanagan was such that I missed the blossom and was too early in the season to enjoy the fruit. I bought a packet of locally produced Earl Grey from a South African immigrant, some home-made muesli bars and ate any samples offered!
Next to the market is Orchard Mall, and I spent far too long looking at the shops before leaving town. The roads were busy as I drove over the bridge to West Kelowna and then south, following the highway that borders the lake. I wasn’t in a rush so stopped at Peachlands a village with an attractive waterfront and many cafes. A town crier was proclaiming a local artists’ exhibition, so I ventured into the hall and spent a while critiquing the paintings with my inexpert eye.
Summerlands was the next short detour. This is a small historic town which had few shops open on a Saturday afternoon. The main street was deserted but the charity shop was doing a roaring trade. I purchased two books to add to my collection (and the weight of my luggage!).
I arrived in Penticton after 4pm and Sandy, my hostess’s Wheaten terrier, greeted me. Rita also appeared, and we had a long chat before taking Sandy to the dog park on the edge of Skaja Lake. From Rita’s house on the hill, the view extends to Penticton and Lake Okanagan in one direction, Lake Skaja in the other and the mountains and airport across the valley in front.
I explored Penticton and its surrounds over the next couple of days. On Sunday, I drove to the waterfront, parked the car next to the Japanese Garden and strolled along until I reached the river and dam. A historic paddle steamer, the SS Sicamous, is beached at the far end. This steamship used to provide a daily service on Okanagan lake and has since been restored. Two old tugboats also await restoration. After coffee in the main street which was undergoing a transformation, I discovered the excellent second-hand bookshop my younger son had told me about. Even though it was Sunday, it was open. I restrained myself and only bought two books.
Later that day and undecided about what to do, I followed signposts to Skaja Bluffs. What a find this was! There were many tracks in all directions and I picked one, hoping that it would afford me views of the lake. Unbeknownst to me, it was a well-known rock climbing area and there were climbers of all ages ascending the rock faces in the gorge. I stopped to chat to one group, and they demonstrated how the first person scaled a rock before the clips and ropes were in place. I admired what they were doing but had no desire to try it myself! According to another young man, people were slack-lining over the gorge further on but I didn’t make it that far.
That night, I went out to dinner with Rita. The pub was on the waterfront and the meals were cheap although it wasn’t the healthiest menu I had seen! I had potato skins covered in pizza sauce and the ‘extras’ of pulled pork and guacamole. It certainly wasn’t representative of my normal diet! We spent an enjoyable evening and after dinner strolled along the promenade as dusk descended. The temperature was balmy and a number of other people were doing the same .
The following day I met with Brad, a friend of a friend who was a vintner and prepared to accompany me on a hike. We drove to the Three Blind Mice trails on the Naramata Bench and walked up and down hills, chatting on a range of subjects. We hiked about 7kms whilst his dog must have done 107km! She was very busy chasing gophers. Afterwards, we stopped for a tasting at Origen vineyard where there were tables and chairs set out with a wonderful view of the lake and mountains. It was a very pleasant interlude.
Afterwards, I bought lunch at The Bench Market, a cafe, and headed back to Naramata village where I found a beach of sorts to sit and eat it. I was all alone, and it was very peaceful looking out at the lake.