Canadian Adventures 8: Westward Bound

On leaving the national parks, we went to find somewhere where we could make dinner. We found a regional park on the map called James Chabot, so we made a beeline for it.

The park was actually very beautiful, next to a lovely big lake. We parked in the car park and brought our things out to a picnic bench by the shore to make our dinner.

A big raven strutted by as we cooked and ate. It seemed like a really pretty park, with loads of dogs running around enjoying the evening sun.

After dinner, we headed for a campsite in a small place called Yahk. When we arrived, the campsite was completely full, and the day area looked spooky in the dark, so we drove around for ages hoping to find a space.

We didn’t.

We gave up and parked in the day area and settled in for the night. Yahk is a tiny place, but we realised that the full campsite was due to it being Canada Day weekend on Canada’s 150th anniversary.

We got ready for bed and turfed out/ killed several absolutely massive mosquitos. Essentially, they were almost as big as my face.

It was then that we realised we needed the loo and we were too scared to walk there in the dark.

If you’ve ever driven a car with the seats completely tipped back, luggage piled on the back seats blocking the view out of the back, in the dark, on a campsite in Canada, with your sister giggling in a sleeping bag next to you, then you’ll know that it felt a bit odd.

We reached the safety of the toilet and then returned to our spot in the day area to sleep.

The drive the next day began early. As we had stayed in the day area again, we hadn’t paid, so left at maybe 7:30 to avoid the campsite staff.

Coming in late and leaving early without paying was a process we called “Swan Laking” as we first did it at a campsite called “Swan Lake” early on in our car life portion of the trip. And before you say it’s immoral, if the campsite is full anyway, they get all their money and we get a safer place to sleep than a random lay-by.

It was Canada Day and we were heading for the small city of Kelowna. The drive was long, but like any drive we had done in British Columbia, it was beautiful.

We had not slept much and I was the only driver, so after several hours, I began to get very sleepy.

We stopped in a place called Christina Lake and found a lovely cafe called Lisa’s Lakeside Bistro, where we get tasty wraps and I fuelled up with cherry coke.

We drove on and on and on until we reached Kelowna. We drove around for a while until we found somewhere to park, then wandered through the big park, admiring everyone’s patriotic Canada Day costumes.

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Lake Kelowna

We wanted a drink but you aren’t allowed to drink alcohol in the park, so we found a bar that had a happy hour going on.

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Canada Day drinks

After drinks, we headed back to the car, stopping on the way to pick up some more rum for the evening.

We went to Safeway first, and couldn’t find the alcohol aisle, so I asked someone:

“Which alcohol is the alcohol in?”

Shockingly, they didn’t sell alcohol, but they directed us to an off-licence.

We then drove on to find a place to stay for the night. We had three possible campsites to choose from nearby to each other. But it was Canada Day, so the chance of there being space at short notice was slim.

The driving had been a very tiring, so by the time we arrived at the third campsite and found it was full too, we just gave up and parked just outside of it and cooked our dinner. A pair of pretty California Quail wandered around nearby.

We sorted ourselves out for the night and set up the car, we were just about to begin Canada Day rum drinks, when a regional park van pulled up and a man got out.

He came up to the car, so I opened the window.

“Are you planning on staying here tonight?” he said.

“Yes, is that a problem?” I replied.

At this point he could have said “we’d rather you didn’t” and then I would have explained that we’d been driving all day and we’d be gone early and it was Canada Day.

Instead he plumped for: “It’s a campsite, so normally you go in and find a space and pay for it.”

Wow. I was totally unaware about how campsites worked, thank you for explaining to poor little me in nice short words.

Arsehole.

“It’s full.”

He seemed genuinely surprised that the campsite with SEVEN PITCHES was full on CANADA DAY.

Eventually we persuaded him to let us stay and he said we had to pay, despite not being in the campsite. We said we would (spoiler alert: we didn’t).

We settled down to rum drinks and slept, waking very early to begin our drive to Chilliwack, where we had decided to stay because it was near to Vancouver and had a cool name.

We spent the day driving down more lovely roads and eating in various rest areas. The route we took brought us very close to the USA border, and we kept seeing signs for it. I imaged the border would have a massive sign with an American flag and a bald eagle on it, with a big crowd of rowdy Americans with guns and foam fingers shouting “USA! USA!” while cheerleaders danced. I would find out in a few days.

I am aware that image is much like imagining that one is welcomed into the UK by the cast of Downton Abbey, a complimentary cream tea and never-ending drizzle, and you’d only be partially right.

When we arrived in Chilliwack, we had the same issue with campsites as we drove along Chilliwack lake road and it became clear that they were all full.

Eventually we noticed that lots of people had set up camp in the various lay-bys along the road, so we decided to join them.

The lay-by we chose was actually a user maintained area which people often stayed in as they walked a particular trail.

We parked up and began to use our leftover tinfoil to block some of the sunlight coming into the car. As we were taping it to the windows, a man in a campervan ahead of us came over to gift is a foil blanket, which we thanked him for and attached.

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Our foil-encrusted car

We chilled out in the car, chatting until it was time for dinner. We made another adequate meal and then began to set up for the night.

The kind man came over again and brought us some grapes. Friendliest lay-by ever!

We had some more rum, because drinking in the car was the main point of this holiday and then settled in to sleep.

Eva needed a wee, so we had to climb out of our foil encrusted nest so she could attempt to go, but she couldn’t because there were too many cars driving past.

The next morning, we were awakened by a dazzling light, striving around the car. The foil blanket was wafting in the morning breeze and attempting to blind us when the sun hit it.

We got up and rearranged the car for one last time. Just before we drove away, we spotted a little snake in the grass next to the car, another wonderful piece of Canadian wildlife.

We drove back along the Chilliwack Lake Road, down towards Vancouver. The drive was short and smooth.

We drive in and found the accommodation we would be sharing with our parents for the next few days. It was lovely! A far far cry from sleeping in a car for three weeks.

We ate a snack, unpacked, showered and put some washing on, then headed out to the airport to return the car. Our journey had taken us 4100kms or just over 2500 miles.

It had been an incredible adventure. Driving in Canada had proved to be so much fun, despite some irritating motorists who refused to do the speed limit and overtook me on the inside (pickup drivers, I’m looking at you).

I love driving and the roads were an absolute pleasure to drive on – keeping your eyes on the road is the only problem!

The National Parks were just phenomenal and I will never forget the things we saw and did on our journey through them.

I can’t recommend this part of the world enough and I would urge anyone who can go, to go!

 

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