View towards the U.S.

Nelson via Osoyoos and Greenwood

At Naramata dog beach
At Naramata dog beach

It was almost lunchtime when I left Penticton to continue my slow crawl around the Okanagan. Before that, I had accompanied Rita to a dog beach near Naramata and visits to one or two of the vineyards she wanted to show me. Much to my disappointment, she wasn’t interested in tasting. There are so many vineyards it is hard to decide which ones to visit. It is not so much fun on your own so I had only been to the one with Brad. I left feeling a little deprived!

I only went as far as Osoyoos, stopping for lunch in Oliver on the way. The latter sprawled along the highway but I had parked on a side street and spotted a cafe away from the centre. The large room had tables spread around the edge and a stage containing a piano at the side. I assumed that it must get lively sometimes! The sandwich and coffee were very good.

Naramata vineyard
Naramata vineyard
Artwork in Osoyoos
Artwork in Osoyoos

The weather had deteriorated by the time I arrived at the motel in Osoyoos. An Indian Fijian couple ran the motel and were familiar with N.Z. so we had a short chat about ‘home’. I did nothing for the rest of the day except visit the supermarket. I was tired and realised I had acquired an enormous blister on the ball of my foot so didn’t feel like walking.

The next day I left about 9am on the 4 hour drive to Nelson, which is in the Kootenays. It was a beautiful morning, and I now observed that Osoyoos is situated between two lakes and is very scenic! What a difference the sun and blue sky make. I drove up and out of town and had to stop at a viewpoint to marvel at the spectacular vista beneath me. I could see the entire valley with lakes and vineyards stretching out in each direction. A group of cyclists had also stopped. The ride up must have been hard work!

Osooyos
Osooyos
View towards the U.S.
View towards the U.S.
Osoyoos vineyards
Osoyoos vineyards

Over the ranges, the scenery turned green and lush again. I had intended to stop at Grand Forks but as I drove through Greenwood, I spotted a cafe that looked intriguing. Intriguing enough for me to turn around after I had driven past. It was worth it. It was also an Art Gallery housing work by local artists and it made coffee how I liked it!

The town appeared small and had an inexplicable big chimney in the trees. When I drove down the main street, it reminded me of the Wild West and I had to stop and investigate. It began as a mining town, transformed into a logging centre and now attracts hikers, skiers and cyclists. I couldn’t decide whether it was being restored, dilapidated or was just quirky! Some ‘shops’ only had frontages like movie sets. I went into several businesses. The first, run by an older gentleman, sold crystals, clothes, paint and quilting supplies. Meditative music was emanating from the speakers. Another had everyday household goods alongside antiques and collectibles. Some of them were just empty. I came away smiling!


 
Grand Forks looked boring from my position in the driver’s seat. It may have had some charm somewhere, but I didn’t find it so continued on my way until I reached Castlegar. I was starving by this time so aimed for the downtown area to look for a cafe that was still serving lunch (having gone past the bewitching lunch hour again). There weren’t any cafes and not much of a downtown area. After wandering around for a while I located two cabins masquerading as a cafe and bought a panini. I ate it sitting on a bench outside the City Hall. It was delicious and I saved the kettle chips to have with my wine later.

The road to Nelson followed the river along which were several dams. It was a beautiful drive, and I easily found my Airbnb near the golf course on one of Nelson’s many hills. The accommodation was perfect. It was very new and well set up. I was the only guest so had the whole apartment to myself. Apart from a bottle of wine, what more could one want?

SS Sicamous

On to Penticton

Kelowna market
Kelowna market

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.

Japanese garden
Japanese garden

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.

Reflections of the lake
Reflections of the lake

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.

Inukshuk in Three Blind Mice trails
Inukshuk in Three Blind Mice trails
Kettle Valley trail

Exploring the Okanagan

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 Patio cafe
The Patio cafe

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!

Okanagan Centre shoreline
Okanagan Centre shoreline

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!

Kettle Valley trail
Kettle Valley trail
View from Kettle Valley track
View from Kettle Valley track

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!

Big White gondola
Big White gondola