With a 20kg backpack, laptop bag, day pack and bike box in hand, we left the airport and traveled via skytrain to Vancouver Downtown. After departing the train station we only had 500m to walk to our backpackers hostel. It took us 30 minutes: 10m - rest - 10m - rest...repeat!
Sweaty, hunched over and longing for a massage (so much tension in the shoulders), we arrive at "SameSun" backpackers. Like every other backpackers you have been to, the foul-smelling 6-bed dorm became our home for the next three days as we navigated our way through re-establishing our lives in Canada.
At the airport ("No, really, we need a trolley each!"):
Spring in Vancouver, while in the mountains Winter still reigns:
Facade makeover for the recent 2010 Winter Olympics:
National pride in downtown "Van":
Looking back at the skyline of downtown Vancouver:
Canada Place (Convention and Exhibition Centre) at the waterfront overlooking Burrard Inlet:
Looking towards Stanley Park along the waterfront of Burard Inlet:
Yachts moored in front of downtown Vancouver:
Moving to Squamish
Sufficiently traumatized (and suspecting slight brain damage) from the overwhelming stench of our (I hate to say it) Australian dorm-"mate," we were desperate to find accommodation in the town of Squamish. Located 60km north of Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway, it is tucked in a valley between mountains and the end of the Howe Sound. Heading up, we did as many Canadians do - we hitchhiked: *
Every local that has picked us up since then tells us that the highway was rebuilt for the Olympics and to make it safer for the tourists commuting between Vancouver to Whistler.
With an unobserved speed limit of 90km/hr and a road snaking between coastal mountains and spectacular vistas, we feel like we are on the road to paradise:
Horseshoe Bay, located just north of Vancouver:
Our house, with the Stawamus Chief (702m) behind, claimed to be the world's second largest granite monolith after the rock of Gibralter. It isn't, but the legend is nice and somehow seems fitting for the stern gaze it directs at the sleepy town:
The Chief offers over 300 climbing routes, adding to the other 1000 or so routes located in the Squamish Area. Our neighbour living upstairs enthusiastically tells us about how crazy the climbs on the Chief can get, using every adjective under the sun: "Totally crazy, just wild...AWESOME....Sometimes, they don't finish the climb and actually SLEEP on the rockwall, hanging on their harness...SLEEPING...can you imagine?" His eyes light up imagine these feats.
Then there are the mountain bike trails (perfect for trail running) starting 3 minutes from our doorstep, the excellent windsurfing and kiteboarding on the Howe Sound (considered to be one of the Top 10 windsurfing locations in the world) and Whistler only 40 minutes away for Skiing and Snowboarding.
Here, the Stawamus Squaw (Meaning "woman" in the Algonquian languages) can be seen behind our house. It is a slightly smaller granite dome standing at 665m:
In our backyard:
* Here are some highlights from our hitchhiking to present:
- Very nice man who turned out to be a World mixed-doubles champion in table soccer (his ex-wife was the female world champion once upon a time). And yes, you can get injured!
- An ex-pharmacist, originally from America, now living in Whistler with her second husband - "we are the Brady Bunch." She is now persuing a career in art. The highlight of the trip was when we realised her lapdog had silently jumped out of the car as we climbed in, and was waiting on the side of the road shaking and shivering.
-A biologist researching wetland environments. She was suspiciously vague and asked us to drive. We suspect she was stoned.