Jet-lag defies all rational forms of comprehension: We departed Fiji at 22:00 on the 20th April. After a fourteen hour flight we arrived in Vancouver at 19:00 on the same day.
As a result of the abating time difference the first five days in Canada were primarily spent moping around, tired, lethargic and wanting sleep.
Nevertheless, during this transitional period we managed to explore the venerated metropolis, visiting its eclectic array of markets, districts and suburbs. Vancouver’s street scape exuded the consummate North American aura whilst remaining distinctly Canadian. For such a pivotal and prestigious city it was relatively tranquil with both pedestrian and road traffic emanating a conspicuous presence without ever becoming excessive. There was unfortunately a pervasive drug and homeless problem with the city however. Notably (or even notoriously) when we waled through ‘East Hastings’ near Chinatown, every corner was diffused with vacuous and delirious souls either wanting another ‘hit’, providing one, or, in most cases, both. Whilst this vicinity juxtaposed with the other pristine and almost unblemished districts of Vancouver, this fact and reality lingered throughout.
In the city’s renowned urban park the aforementioned harsher facts eluded us. The first time we visited Stanley Park we simply meandered around the verduous gardens whilst absorbing the sunny milieu. On our return to the park a week later after we had visited Seattle however, we opted to Rollerblade. Jakey with his habitual ostentatious confidence was adamant that he knew how to skate and that furthermore, he was actually quite good at it. Once we fitted the Rollerblades to our and exited the rental shop though, guess who was plummeting down the street unable to brake. Guess who was flailing like a frail child. Guess who subsequently crashed into Pepe…
Elsewhere in Vancouver we visited Granville Island – an adjacent suburb – and the Lynn Canyon National Park where we trekked in the backwoods.
Now, if you try to envisage a minute city that has conglomerated every British stereotype, regardless of how trite or crass, you will inevitably be conjuring up a vividly lucid perception of Victoria, on Vancouver Island. We visited this city in a day, which in retrospect was unjustified, primarily due to the interminable entourage of public transportation services we had to utilise (three buses and one ferry each way), which consequently limited our time to a mere four hours there. Despite this, because of Victoria’s affinity with tourism, everything worthwhile seeing was condensed and dubiously overt, which allowed us to grasp the city’s conception fairly quickly. With big red buses dancing streets laden with Victorian era architecture, Victoria was more like London than the English capital itself!
Contrasting to Victoria, our journey back to base and then onwards to Seattle, USA, returned us to a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Seattle evoked a similar ambiance to Vancouver except possibly being more liberal. On the day we arrived we walked to a viewpoint on the periphery of the city centre which exposed its pre-eminent, voluptuous skyline that invoked awe and inspiration in both of us. The compact proximity of the salient skyscrapers epitomised Seattle; it is vast, prodigious and beautiful whilst still somehow managing to remain quaint and intimate.
The following day we saw the city from a different perspective at the top of the skyline’s centrepiece – The Space Needle. Again there was a distinct tranquility for a city as the cacophonous sundry of noise conventionally emitted by any city was soft and distant from the steep summit.
Before we left Seattle we also visited the ‘Pike Place Market’ which sold a plethora of immaculate and delectable goods. It also hosted the location of the original Starbucks. The urge was too overwhelming, so we succumbed in purchasing a cup of their finest coffee each from there.
Via an overnight stop-over in Vancouver we commuted upwards to the cold and snowy plains of Whistler. There, we spent five days skiing on snow blades (truncated skis). By the third day we had perfected our balance and techniques, thus allowing us to venture down the expert slopes, albeit carefully.
Every night, upon returning to the hostel, we indulged in placating our cold, frozen bodies by relaxing in a teeming hot tub. At the hostel we also met two idiosyncratic characters, both from Vancouver: ‘Jackson’ who was a member of the expansive Chinese community and was capricious but perennially jovial; and Robert, a furtive Christian Missionary whose body was as robustly built as a horses.
After Whistler and our final stop-over in Vancouver (where we saw a man grappling hold of his blood-soaked arm which had just been bludgeoned, upon checking in at our hostel), we visited two of the worlds most revered National Parks: Banff and Jasper. Without access to a vehicle it was difficult to diverge into the solemn backwoods of either park, but nevertheless, particularly in the former, we still managed to view landscapes and scenes of idyllic beauty.
In Banff we witnessed Lake Louise; the immense lake which gloriously shimmers in front of the colossal, protruding rocky mountains. When we visited, the lake was frozen and the vicinity was saturated with icy white snow. This egregious sight was not mitigated by the ice as it still remained as majestic and salubrious as we had anticipated.
From Jasper we travelled to a flamboyant young town in B.C. entitled Nelson, before continuing on to Calgary three days later. Although Calgary is an internationally renowned city, its aesthetic qualities are unequivocally subservient to its inordinated reputation. The buildings there are monolithic and rustic and it generally appeared to be a decadent city with a thriving history.
During our visit there we ambled through the city and the Prince’s Island Park whilst also visiting their celebrated ‘Pengrowth Saddledome’ stadium which hosts the Calgary Flames ice hockey team.
The day we departed Calgary we watched the dismally disappointing Champions League Final before commuting over to Edmonton. That night upon arriving in the provincial capital of Alberta, ‘The Edmonton Oilers’ had just won a pivotal hockey game in the ‘Stanley Cup’ playoffs, so the city ignited with euphoria and alcohol. Propitiously, our experience was augmented as our hostel was adjacent to ‘Whyte Avenue’ where drunk masses of unruly teenagers were gathering, chanting an abundance of outlandish quips and songs in harmonical cadence. Because of this a palpable police force was nearby, prepared to extinguish any remnant of a riot, although, people were still climbing lamp posts, emitting fireworks and sometimes even brawling.
The following day we went to the largest shopping mall in the world, complete with the worlds only indoor bungee jump, the worlds only indoor ‘loop’ rollercoaster, the worlds largest indoor water park and also an ice rink, a crazy golf course and a Sea Lion show, you know, for the kids.
Edmonton was the last destination on the West Coast’ of Canada. Our next amalgamation of stop-offs – Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg – all deemed to be Prairie City’s in the centre of Canada, were small, introvert and secluded.
We found them to be so mundane, so tedious, that we were ineffably impressed at how unimpressive they were. In the latter, whilst waling along a river bank, both of our pairs of feet became absolutely immersed in a beguiling mud swamp. Whilst Pepe managed to adroitly manoeuvre himself out of the viscous substance, Jakey was momentarily stuck and therefore had to consequently remove one of his trainers to enable his escape. This was no substantial loss however as the aforementioned articles of footwear were so torn and ravaged by the toils of trekking and travelling that they were unsuitable for even the most deprived of homeless persons.
To escape the lethargic lands of Winnipeg, we had to endure a 32 hour bus journey to Ottawa. In Canada’s Capital City, the neo-gothic Victorian Parliament House sits comfortably by the river bank. On the same prolonged strip we also toured the Supreme Court of Canada’s building and visited their colossal war museum.
And tomorrow we leave for Toronto!!!