final musings, starting the journey eastwards - towards the rising sun...
24.09.2008 - 26.09.2008
Vancouver is a peculiar place. Stunningly beautiful at times, but quite ordinary at others. I thouroughly enjoyed my week here, but felt the call of the Rockies quite strongly during the past few days. The city is immensly liveable and easy, but when the fantastic wilderness of the Rockies is waiting, it is hard to resist. I ended up leaving 2 days earlier than planned as I had arrived a day earlier from Victoria, and felt that it was time to start the journey eastwards!
The few days before my departure were really busy. I spent a lot of time catching up with old friends, which was fantasic. It also rained, a lot. Apparently it rains a lot in Vancouver; I can believe it! I met up for lunch, ate loads of sushi and wandered around Granville Island again.
I was really impressed by the town planning in Vancouver; there seems to be a lot of educated decision making that has created very positive and friendly public spaces of many different types throughout the downtown area. As I have mentioned previously, the sea wall is one excellent example. Vancouver reminds me a lot of Cape Town - in a sense, it has the feel of the city that Cape Town could become, provided developers and planners are led that way. In a city where it rains most of the time, it is admirable that so much investment is placed in the public spaces, and in Cape Town (where our weather is largely pleasant bar the South Easter and occasional winter downpours) there is so much oppurtunity for guenuine positive change.
One thing that did strike me about Vancouver, was the amount of homeless people around. Apparently most of the vagrants in Canada move westwards to Van because of the milder winters. This may sound incredibly crass, but looking at the situation with South African eyes, it does seem to be more of a lifestyle choice than necessity. While walking down one of the streets at night, I came upon a guy shooting up in front of a shop. He didn't seem to mind that I was walking past (it was in fact, quite a busy street) and simply finished what he was doing before collecting his tools and lurching away. The area around Hastings and Main (east of the downtown area) is renowned for being rough, and most of the vagrants seem to gather there. It is quite a contrast walking around there though, as one road (Hastings) has loads of homeless people in tarpaulin shacks and trollies, while 2 roads up (Cordova) is the centre of Gastown - quite a well-to-do and touristy neighbourhood! The sightseeing bus even stops along Hastings Street so that the tourists can take photos, before they stop in Gastown to spend lots of money in souvenir shops.
After a chilled morning at the Vancouver Public Library using their free internet and fending off a really weird guy who spent the entire time shouting to himself and looking at my screen, I left for the train station. I spent a while trying to draw cash (and not succeeding) and amongst the confusion (as the ticketing server had "gone down") missed the boarding call for the train. Fortunately, all this involved was an extremely long walk down the platform next to the longest passenger train I have seen in my life - there were more than 18 'upper class' carriages alone! I had to sit at the end of one of the train waiting for the economy class carriages to join on...
The train ride itself was a breeze - the train was extremely comfortable, and I was amazed by how many friendly and nice people I met. Instead of sleeping and reading, as I had planned, I ended up playing cards and drinking beer until the early hours of the morning. The skydome / viewing carriage was really special - the windows stretched overhead and the scenery streaming by was stunning. I did watch for the northern lights; to no avail, sadly.
I arrived in Jasper the next morning, after a surprisingly good sleep, in the pouring rain.