Saturday, June 29, 2013

Island hopping and more visiting

View from train crossing Fraser River in New West
I am on the train heading for Seattle to visit a friend there. I have a "window seat" but really it is between windows so not much of a view. And I overhear another passenger saying that the real view is on the other side of the train anyway. Oh well.

I've been scrambling around, Vancouver Island, Hornby Island, Gambier Island, Whistler, back and forth between North Vancouver and Langley with stops in between in Vancouver proper. Too busy to stop and write about it.

Also repairs to the truck, had to replace all of the tire rims and in the process found out that one rear brake was leaky. After that was fixed then a front brake hose gave out. Then I thought the heater core gave out but I think now that it didn't, I was just low on coolant and there was a bunch of water under the floor carpet that was causing the windows to steam up. The source of the water is as yet unknown but most likely due to intense rain the other day.

My brother did the rear brake repair. It took a long time and he was not pleased to be doing that job, a lot of things went wrong. It took him a whole day. He thought I ought not to be driving such an old truck so far. The mechanic who replaced the tire rims said as much too.

Totem in the woods, Denman Island
Hornby Island deer
Hornby Island water tank, in lieu of fire hydrant
Hapi is staying in Langley and I think she is reasonably content there but I sure do get an ecstatic welcome when I do show up there. One time, she jumped up into my arms and then Hiro thought he should jump on me too---he never jumps on people---so he jumped on my back. Sam had to haul him off, between the two dogs they were going to knock me over. It was gratifying though that Hapi missed me so much.

I think the time I spent on Gambier was the most relaxing, we didn't do much except the occasional dog walk with my hosts' dog.

Whistler was interesting, my hosts there took me to see Nairn Falls and the Sunday Market, and on Sunday evening we went for dinner at one of their friends' place. It was quite magnificent, with a fabulous view from the deck and windows of the mountains, surrounding forest and lake below. Their house is situated on a high slope surrounded by tall trees. The slope is so steep that from the deck you are looking at the tops of the trees below. Besides myself there were four couples, all of whom were recently returned from world travels. Our hostess wanted each couple to give a ten minute synopsis of their travels before dinner, so I heard about Peru and Equador, China, the West Indies, and the El Camino. There were some interesting things from each trip.

View from Whistler home deck
One thing I learned is that there is not one El Camino but many. You can go back again and again to try a different one and some people do exactly that, making the El Camino a kind of obsession.

One night I had dinner with some friends in Vancouver who were recently returned from a vacation on the canals of England. They discovered the canal boats several years ago and every year now they go back to explore another canal. They quite love it. They also often take a guest along so who knows perhaps one day I'll get an invite and go too. It did sound quite lovely.

The train is still moving slowly through the Vancouver area, we are just now crossing the bridge from New Westminster to Surrey over the Fraser River. It is quite neat to see my old home from a very different perspective. At the rate we are going we will reach the US border in maybe an hour! It is probably a 15 minute drive on the highway.

One day in Vancouver I was going to meet a friend in the morning and go for a walk. She had something to do in the afternoon, we thought that I could find something else to do and then we would meet again for dinner. We decided to walk in Van Dusen Gardens, which was very nice but rather brief. I've been there before but each time has also been brief so I hadn't ever seen the entire Gardens. This time I decided to stay in the Gardens while my friend went off to her other activity and I quite enjoyed spending another three hours systematically following every trail and path in the Gardens. I can now check it off my list, I have well and truly "done" the Van Dusen. Of course it changes with the seasons but that's another story. My favourite part of the Gardens was the Canadian Heritage area, where among other things they grow many plants that First Nations use for medicinal purposes. Very interesting.

Harp concert in the Gardens
Model of Haida dugout canoe in Van Dusen

Afterward my friend picked me up and we went to All India Sweets for their all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet. It hasn't changed much, although for $5 you can now get a meat addition to the vegetarian buffet. There are a couple of TVs in the restaurant playing Bollywood movies and music videos all the time, I quite enjoy that as well. They are so colourful and joyful, it is hard not to be uplifted by them. My opinion anyway.

The train has picked up speed so maybe it won't take an hour to get to the border after all.

Once I get back from Seattle I will be just about ready to head back to Nova Scotia. I had intended to be back by this weekend but I won't even leave until sometime after the weekend. There was just so much to do, so many people to see.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Coastal visiting

I've been couch surfing a lot the last week or so, Langley, North Vancouver, Sechelt. Next up: Hornby Island, but that is a few days away so in the meantime I'm visiting friends around Vancouver and trying to get my truck fixed.

While in Sechelt I accompanied my friends there to a workshop at a potter's place. It was a workshop called Spirit in Clay conducted by a former church minister-turned-potter. I was there for only part of the workshop, a couple of hours while my friends glazed their pots and another couple of hours watching the kiln be fired up.

Glazing pots
The latter event was quite interesting, it was an outdoor homemade gas kiln designed and built by the potter's son, a skilled potter in his own right. We watched flames and smoke shooting out of peekaboo holes in the kiln walls, the potter was controlling the rate of rise in temperature by viewing cones in various parts of the kiln and then opening and closing the holes to lower and raise the temperature. Quite fascinating.

Kiln flames
Sometimes the potter would open a viewing hole, flames would shoot out and he would blow them back in to be able to see the cones at that particular viewpoint. Seeing him blowing the flames back in was like watching an imaginary hero battling a flaming dragon. The cones are designed to melt at particular temperatures and they come in sets so you can tell the temperature by which ones and how many are melting and keeling over.

Viewing the cones
The entire family had lived with a tribe in South America, I guess as missionaries or something, and they had interesting stories to tell about that. They now live in a kind of old hippy house on the BC coast, a funky little place that felt quite comfortable. We were offered mate which I didn't drink but my friends did. It is I gather similar to coffee or tea in effect. One of my friends probably had too much of it and was babbling on like a maniac. It is supposed to be healthier than tea or coffee.

My friends' dog is old and probably not going to live much longer. She is partially deaf, blind and lame. I spent a lot of time with that dog, she licked and licked and licked. Watching her try to climb up on the sofa was excruciating, but she made it and laid her head in my lap. She's not supposed to because she leaks, but after watching her great efforts to get up it is very hard to tell her she's not supposed to.

Hapi and Hiro were very glad to see me when I returned to Langley, Hapi made it clear she considered me hers and Hiro should just stay away. We took the dogs for a walk together and then later I took Hapi by herself. At one point we found a place by the Fraser River where we could let both dogs off leash to romp in the water and the mud. They had a wonderful time getting wet and dirty and chasing each other up and down the shore and into a nearby field. A flock of Canada geese watched from a safe distance offshore, I think the dogs were using "their" bit of shore and they were waiting for them to go away. The river current was quite strong so sometimes the geese appeared to be swimming backwards: facing upstream but moving downstream.

Hapi and Hiro in the Fraser River
Wet dogs playing
Hapi is a little more agile than Hiro, she climbed up a muddy embankment and Hiro attempted to follow and slipped and fell backwards. Hapi immediately turned and went back to him. He was fine, they resumed their chase game on the shore below.

Later we met a woman walking her malamute, she was very interested in our dogs. She had just gotten her dog and was finding him tough to control. At four years old with yet another new owner he was pretty independent. She was hoping we could give her advice, but really, with a dog like that you need professional help. He was very handsome, blond-and-tan in colour, and very interested in Hapi and Hiro, I think they would have gotten along but there was a fence between them and my son was reluctant to let Hiro cross the fence. Chances were good it would have been fine but no point taking chances.

I am enjoying being on the west coast again. There is a very distinctive and different "flavour" to this place. I commented to a friend that it felt like being in a different country altogether and she agreed. She's been to Nova Scotia and has the same feeling about going there. Hard to describe, but interesting how different places can be in the same country. This place feels very lush. Lots of green, giant trees, mountains, ocean, rushing rivers... You see it in native art, the lushness of the environment it comes from.

Even the suburbs here have that feel, you can see the mountains from almost everywhere and the trees are still giant, looming over the houses by several house heights. The environment you live in shapes you, you get that meeting people here. I can understand why people put up with terrible rush hour drives home to the suburbs, the peace of those residential areas is quite intoxicating.

I was returning to the mainland on a ferry and waiting to board while watching cars drive off. The cars were full of folks getting out of the city for the weekend, you could see that in their smiling faces, the bikes and kayaks and surfboards strapped to roofs and bike racks. People complain about the ferries all the time, but they do provide an essential service, however inadequately or expensively.