Much safer in the passenger seat

‘Thrills’ in Whistler

It was pouring with rain as I left the motel to walk to the Greyhound bus stop. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far (a deliberate decision on my part when booking). I spent the entire day on the bus or rather several buses.

My first destination was Kamloops. We arrived late and the grumpy bus driver was reluctant to let me visit the bathroom before we left. Unlike the previous one, this bus was full. I sat next to a lady who had left Hinton at 2am and was returning home to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Unsurprisingly, she was tired and dozed on and off. In between, she told me her life story. Her latest job was as a cook in a forestry camp. She had been sleeping in a tent and had been getting up at 3am to prepare and cook breakfast and lunches for the workers. The possibility of encountering a bear was high at that time of the morning when she was the only person awake. After 2 months, she decided enough was enough and left. I would not have lasted that long!

Trekking towards Via Ferrata
Trekking towards Via Ferrata

The bus was late leaving Vancouver as the scheduled driver “had issues” with doing the route that day (the mind boggles) and congested roads delayed the relief driver. It was after 9pm by the time I reached Whistler. I then had a 20 minute walk to Robyn’s, dragging my suitcase and carrying a backpack of wine. The temperature was only 10oC and a severe shock to the system! At least it was still daylight (just).

The following week was very busy. I had agreed to house-sit for a friend of Penny’s so had two small dogs to look after. One was bossy and liked attention and the other had a bladder problem that required stopping for a pee 100 times on every walk. The latter was so endearing I couldn’t be cross or impatient and other than that they were no trouble!

Robyn, who works at the Hilton, had two familiarisation tours planned. She suggested I step outside my comfort zone and join her and her colleagues. On Tuesday, therefore, we took the gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain where our guide equipped us with a helmet, boots and ropes. Suitably clad, we hiked across a glacier where all was still and silent apart from the girls chattering. We were at 2,000 metres and the Via Ferrata up the sheer rock face loomed in front of us. It was daunting.

We climbed the first ladder. Many iron rungs (no doubt there is a technical name but I don’t know what it is) were banged into the rocks above. We used these to step on and pull ourselves the steep ascent. Consequently, there were only two or three places where we were forced to search for hand and foot holds. At one point, we had to swing out and around a protruding rock but this was the worst part. I am pleased to say I wasn’t the slowest or most fearful. Several of us were glad to reach the top and at least two of us (who shall be nameless) crawled over the last ledge on our knees!

The hike back to the gondola was along a well-ploughed track between thick walls of ice and beautiful. We appreciated it even more because we had completed the climb! Robyn and I decided hot chocolate was in order and we took these on the gondola to the top of Blackcomb Mountain. This ride has the longest unsupported span of any gondola in the world. It is also silent. By this time sleet had reduced visibility, but the view was still impressive. We didn’t stay long on the other side, but took the two gondolas back to The Village where a late lunch was much enjoyed.

What do I do now?
What do I do now?

The next day, Robyn suggested zip-lining across the valley between the two mountains. I declined.

An ATV (All-Terrain Vehicles) tour was on the agenda on Friday. The same group of ladies met at the Hilton and our guides drove us to the Callaghan Valley where they instructed us on how to drive the vehicles. The others went whizzing off but I couldn’t cope! If I had had more practice time before we set off I might have got the hang of it but I was mindful of holding the others up. My darling daughter had given me strict instructions not to do so. My tour therefore entailed sitting behind a trainee guide, gripping the seat with white knuckles, whilst he drove. After an hour of bouncing up and down with my teeth rattling, we arrived back at base. I don’t think my young driver understood my comment that I preferred to be stirred not shaken. The girls certainly couldn’t comprehend that I would prefer to do the Via Ferrata again than another ATV tour! Robyn, of course, was the leader of the pack the whole way round. I decided I had given birth to an alien as neither her father nor I appreciate these “thrills”!

Sunset from my balcony at the Hilton
Sunset from my balcony at the Hilton

I spent my last night in Whistler at the Hilton as I felt I had outstayed my welcome at Robyn’s. This was not my normal standard of accommodation. Robyn upgraded me so I lounged regally in a luxury suite most of the afternoon, savouring the moment. I ventured out for an hour’s walk to Lost Lake and then sat on the balcony and enjoyed the half bottle of champagne she had so thoughtfully provided. Robyn and Steve joined me and we had a wonderful last dinner together in The Village.

After packing up the following day, I reclined by the pool whilst waiting for Robyn to finish work. She had arranged for a lift through Poparide, a car sharing website they frequently use, to take us to the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay. We arrived with an hour to spare for the 7.30pm sailing to Nanaimo. We adjourned to a bar overlooking the harbour where we drank cocktails and shared a plate of calamari. The crossing was stunning in the evening sunlight. Who needs to pay for an expensive cruise when you can take a B.C. ferry?!

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