There's nothing like absolute darkness to make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. It fascinates me how you can arrive at your destination in the dark, completely unaware of your physical surroundings, and then wake up in the morning to find yourself amidst glorious mountains and lakes. This has been the story of my life this week. I am in the interior of BC for work, and have so far visited the towns of Trail, Cranbrook, Nelson and Penticton. It's only Thursday and I've already put over 1300km on the car!
On the first day, from Kelowna to Trail, I had to drive over a snow-filled, icy pass. I was white-knuckled the whole time and even had to turn off the music to allow complete concentration on the road. Then, on my way to Cranbrook, I drove over the highest pass in BC in complete darkness, and I was the only vehicle on the road. It was sooooo scary! I'm driving this puny little gutless Echo and I was sure I was going to slide right off the side of the mountain! Thankfully, I didn't.
When it came time to drive over to Nelson on Tuesday, I was in a slight state of panic because I didn't want to go over that damn pass again. I figured I tested my luck once already - I didn't need to do it again. So I went to the Visitors' Information Center in Creston, after an amazing small-town lunch, and asked for alternate ways of getting to Nelson. The lady at the desk said that I could only go over the pass if I had chains on the car. Well, the rental didn't come with chains, and even if it did, I wouldn't have a clue what to do with them. Besides, she said her husband worked for the fire department and had done several rescues that morning already, and that the pass would likely be closed later in the day. So, I had no choice but to go the looooooooong way. That was fine by me. It was a gorgeous drive around Kootenay Lake, and I got to take a ferry. So it was all good.
It took me about 5 minutes to realize that I loved Nelson and never, ever wanted to leave. The place is simply stunning. In a weird way it kind of reminded me of Rwanda - when you approach the city, you can see rows upon rows of houses terraced into the mountain, just like the farms and villages were in Rwanda. Anyway, Nelson has an Ashtanga yoga studio, several meditation centers, restaurants with catchy names, like The Treehouse which served vegan entrees and Night Train which claimed to serve "soul food". They had stores geared towards the "responsible consumer" and hemp stores galore. All this I found on a short walk in the evening. Add in all the amazing opportunities for hiking, and you've got paradise, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, morning came and I went to the hospital (half way up a mountain I might add) and finished my work, and then it was on the road again - this time to Penticton. The logical way to get there, according the map, was to retrace my steps. However, this required going over a flippin' pass again. My colleague at the hospital made some comment suggesting that I was brave, if not a little insane, to go over that pass. So I left the hospital, went to my trendy little car, and stared at the map, thinking that I had been brave enough on my first day of driving, and that there was really nothing wrong with choosing to drive several hours longer in order to avoid one hour of sheer terror. Besides, I shouldn't gamble with my life and limbs when I'm on the boss' money.
The drive, again, was beautiful. At least it was while the light lasted. By the time I came to yet another ferry ride across another lake, it was 5pm and therefore dark. I drove up and over another pass, although thankfully the snow chose to stay on the trees and not the roads. But, it was 107km, this trail around the mountain, and the speed limit was usually only 60km/h, sometimes even 20km/h on account of the windiness.
I must admit that I got a bit scared again. You know that you are truly in barren land when you can't even get CBC on am radio. I managed to keep my mind busy during those grueling 107km, mostly contemplating the wildlife in the area. I saw more deer and elk on that stretch than I had the rest of the trip! What I was trying to figure out was why they choose to dash to the far side of the road, and dangerously crossing my path, rather than hop back into the ditch they are standing right beside. It's a mystery. At least the animals kept me company. As did the signs on the road telling me to look out for them.