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ReportsMonday, 24 February 2003
West End, Vancouver --> Squamish, Canada After waking up at Gail’s place it was time to pack my pack again. My next destination was going to be the small northern town Squamish (Indian for “Big Wind”). After a cereal breakfast Gail helped me out with the right materials to make myself a hitchhiking sign. Today I would hitchhike through Canada for the very first time!
I thanked Gail for her hospitality. The four days staying at her place and me being spoiled with all the pleasures of being this close to anything in the big city of Vancouver doesn’t fit in the word hospitable anymore. If you think that this is very unique, than imagine that Gail has often strangers over at her house, as she is a member of Globalfreeloaders.com (I am not alone!). “One time I had this guy over for four days, he was from Florida (US), and all he did was sit behind a computer and download music through the internet. He was a freeloader in every sense of the word - raiding my fridge and scratching the bottom off my frying pan,
but thankfully he is not representative of the average person who
uses that website!”
I hope she didn't see me too much as a computer guy, typing away reports and fixing database errors over this weekend.
I had seen a lot of Vancouver and I have appreciated her support very much. There aren’t many people with the mentality towards ‘strangers’ (read: people you don’t know until you meet them) as Gail has!
From her apartment complex I decided to start hitching on Georgia Street. This street continues straight through Stanley Park, goes over the Lions Bridge and become Highway 99 towards Squamish and Whistler. It wouldn’t be that difficult I hoped.
But the entrance of Stanley Park was one big traffic crossing where cars waited for traffic lights and then gassed their way through the big park. Stopping a car would not be easy here.
Luck was on my side anyway, as an old couple was on their way to the ferries to Vancouver Island. The driver did not care much about the other traffic, stopped almost in the middle of the traffic square and let me get my stuff in.
I caught this ride from Joseph and Madeline, who were in their 70s and on their way back home after visiting family in town. After I explained what I was doing, Madeline immediately started talking about her being half Ukrainian and about how her grandparents got to the province of Saskatchewan a long time ago.
“They were almost given the piece of prairie. It cost them some twenty dollar at that time.” She tells me how her family was transported through Canada by train like they were cattle and dropped off in the province. They were with six people and two oxen and had to walk one whole day to reach their piece of property, which would be their new home. “You should imagine the anger of my grandmother,” Madeline told me, “when she found out there was nothing there but a piece of land. I guess the entire province could have heard her get totally emotional to her husband!”
But of course they all survived, otherwise Madeline wasn’t telling me all this in the car. We passed the ferry terminal as the couple decided to take me up a bit more north. Otherwise they’d have to drop me halfway the highway again.
Madeline advices me to go to “that fantastic church” in Regina, Saskatchewan, she once has been there with her sister. And then she gave me a Christian flyer and started talking about her religion. “I am not afraid to die, I am ready for it,” she said. “Unfortunately some people are not ready to die. Read this paper and you will understand what I mean.” I thanked her and put the paper in my camera bag.
They finally dropped me off along the road in the almost-dead former mining town Britannia Beach, 53km north of Vancouver. I exchanged emailaddresses with my drivers (I was surprised 70+ year-olds had an email address!) and got my gear out of their car.
I was dropped in front of a small fish and chips shop. Madeline gave me a twenty dollar note (!) and told me to get myself something good to eat at this shop and she then threw her hands in the air. “Dear God…” and she started asking for blessing for me on my travels and prosperity in my life and all that. Praying for me. Amen. I stuttered thank you and waved them goodbye.
As I had only breakfast and it was past noon, I decided to use the joy of that twenty dollar and bought myself fish and chips with a bottle of A&W Root Beer (no alcohol drink, but more a 200% sugar soda, which I like very much). The lady behind the counter of the shop was on the phone all the time, but told me I could leave my stuff there for a while in case I wanted to wander around the place for a while. “There is a movie set just behind here,” she said.
I could finally understand all the autographed materials and photographs as actors like Robin Williams and Rutger Hauer (Dutch!) on the walls! This place, also the location of an old copper mine and now the location for the BC Museum of Mining, has been the interesting backdrop of many TV-series and movies like MacGyver, the X-Files (which used to be filmed in Greater Vancouver, until ‘Mulder’ declared he did not want to live here anymore), Outer Limits, Stargate, Millennium, 21 Jump Street, Smallville, Streetwalkers, The Crow, Free Willy II and Imsomnia. And these are only the ones that I had heard off!
I had a closer look at this dead movie set, where there was an entire village street built which house that looked so real and populated, however it was all fake. Even the church was made of plastic!
A small hour later I started hitchhiking again. At the general store I got myself another drink, some candy for on the road and I saw this great $9,99 black cap with Canada printed on it. I just had to have that cap, because I am all done with my hair! And then that 20 dollar was nearly finished.
I got the lift to Squamish from a man who works at the local saw mill. He dropped me off where my next hostess Reanne Hamel would live, in the Timbertown trailerpark in Squamish. I looked for the right number and wanted to knock the door of her trailer when I saw this note on her door. She wasn’t home yet, “but come on in”. The door was open. I don’t often just walk into strange people’s houses so I was pretty stunned by this occasion.
I walked in, arrived in the kitchen and dropped my pack. Looking around the kitchen and the living room I could immediately get an impression of Reanne. She owns a nice fluffy cat, loves board games, loves the nature (particularly of Canada, there were flyers about hikes everywhere), loves horses (horse photos every where) and she is a backpacker herself too (the backpack in the kitchen revealed this). Her kitchen was very organised and the rest of the house seemed to be under eternal construction. I could almost guess she is a real backpacker, because you should see the house I live in myself! ;-)
To kill the time waiting for Reanne to get home, I watched some television. When Reanne arrived, some one hour later, she welcomed me in her house - officially. She told me that she lives in this trailer temporary, as it is owned by her parents and under construction so it can be sold soon.
Reanne originates from Langton, a small town in Ontario, and she is hanging between high school and college. “I decided to first do thing I really want to do first and then go study again.” She plans to start studying at the University in Kamloops, BC, in September: ‘bachelor science respiratory therapy’.
While the sun starts to hide behind the mountain tops that surround Squamish almost entirely, she takes me along for a walk around town. “I’ll tell you immediately, it won’t be impressing. During the day time you should be able to see all the beauty of the glimmering granite walls, the greens hills and white mountains in the back.” During the coming darkness I was indeed exposed to… “there isn’t much here.”
We walked on the main streets around town and it was clear that Squamish was a boring small town. And it was Reanne who came up with this and the facts: “Squamish has the highest percentage of teenage pregnancies in Canada and lots of kids are experimenting with drugs.” A simple conclusion of kids who have nothing better to do, I guessed.
The main industry for Squamish is tourism (it’s also called the Recreational Capital of Canada). Lots of active people come here to do any sport you can imagine. Hiking, fishing, diving, racing, golfing, swimming, mountain climbing (Squamish is the top spot for rock climbing, especially with second-biggest freestanding vast granite rock, “The Stawamus Chief”, which overshadows the town), you name it and you can do it here. Except the kids, because the apparently got bored with that. The other industries, the ones that keep the town going, are tree logging and the local saw mill.
Squamish has one supermarket, one restaurant, four pizzerias, one video rental store and a few pubs. But even the pubs looked boring from the outside! (And I certainly hope I counted wrong!)
“And you know? The one and only local drug dealer is known by everybody. We know his name, where he lives, what car he drives and he drives around and sells his stuff. The police knows, everybody knows, but nothing happens…”
Back home Reanne prepares a sweet and sour vegetable meal with rice and during dinner she tells me a lot about her passion: hiking. She has no interest in travelling the world, yet. “There is so much beauty in Canada that I want to see for myself, that it would take a very long time to find a reason to visit another country. I just love Canada!” And: “I would like to hike every valley and every mountain, I love it.”
After dinner her friend Melissa came over and they planned to take me up the so-called The Little Smoke Bluff, which is a lookout over town. We drove there by car and I noticed it was already very cold outside. Much colder than I had experienced in Vancouver ‘til now. And there I was, standing on this rock cliff, overlooking Squamish by night. It wasn’t much, but there were many lights, which gave a mystical feeling to it all.
On our way back to her home, Reanne comes up with the idea of renting a DVD and watch a movie tonight. I agree and we stop by at the rental shop. With walls and walls of new releases I have never heard off, it was difficult to find a few movies that she had not seen yet. When I confronted her with that, she realized she must have been watching a lot of movies lately!
Back home she laid out a mattress in her living room and made my bed. And with a bowl of crisps and lemonade we watched “The Bourne Identity”. A movie with a very weak storyline, but with interesting European sightings. Later that night, Reanne went off to bed and I could stick her ADSL-connection into my laptop and get some work done.
Tomorrow I’d head to Whistler and I already knew it was going to be a day to prepare for. I had to get some good sleep and be fit for tomorrow!
Good night Squamish!