ROUND AND ABOUT A visit to Vancouver would not be complete without a trip to Whistler, the No. 1 ski resort in North America
STUNNING SCENERY The Whistler Mountaineer train takes you through rugged mountains and fjords
The people of Vancouver have every reason to be proud, I thought, during our recent visit to this city which not only has a reputation as a world-class destination that is consistently named the number one resort in North America and in 2003, after t hree Olympic bids, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Vancouver/Whistler as the Host City for the 2010 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games. Nestled on Canada’s Pacific Coast, Vancouver in British Columbia, is the third largest city in Canada. There are no direct flights to Vancouver from Chennai and one has to change flights either at London, Seoul or Tokyo. We boarded JAL at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi on May 17 at 9.40 p.m. and changed our flight at Narita, reaching Vancouver on May 18 at 10.45 a.m. Vancouver time. Even as we made our way to the hotel, we noticed preparations were already underway for the big event with barricades placed at different points and traffic diversions being made on the arterial roads.
For Nature lovers
You could cover all the top attractions in and around the city probably in a week’s time if you take the daily tours that are offered by different companies. “But don’t miss seeing Whistler, the number one ski resort in North America. Nature-lovers like you would enjoy travelling via the spectacular ‘Sea-to-Sky Route’ and ‘Sea to Sky Highway’,” suggested our friends in Vancouver. Taking their advice we opted to travel by the Whistler Mountaineer train during our onward journey and by bus while returning to Vancouver and realised the wisdom of our decision at the end of the visit. The 75-mile distance to Whistler was covered by the slow paced train approximately in three hours with intermittent narration of the highlights by our guide.
We were served breakfast soon after we boarded the train. When I opened the carton I found an interesting story of the Thunderbird (the drawing of the bird was on the cover) as retold by a Squamish Nation Member, Tod Baker. It appeared that a giant killer whale ate up all the salmon in the ocean and humans began to starve. The chiefs sought the help of the Thunderbird which on their promise to reproduce the spirit’s likeness as a sign of admiration and respect for all time, dropped the whale on the land where it solidified into a mountain. Native carvers have kept their word ever since.
During our journey we passed through some of the world’s most rugged fjords and mountains. The scenery is stunning as the train hugs the shoreline of the Seton Lake while negotiating the Canyon Curve and the distant Coast mountains appear picture perfect. The colours of Nature’s bounty, a combination of white glaciers, grey mountains and green foliage against the backdrop of an azure sky make a visual treat. The passed through the rich forests of the North Shore, the Coast Mountain Range, the Provincial Park, the Britannia Beach, the Shannon Falls, Squamish, which means “Birth place of the Winds” and Brackendale, a natural home for over 3,000 bald eagles. We ascended the coastal mountains to almost 2,000 ft. and Mount Garibaldi, rising 8,787 ft., came into view. The mountain was named by an Italian sailor after his hero and countryman Guiuseppe Garibaldi, as it was sighted on his birthday.
We passed the 195 ft high Brandywine Falls, and alongside Alta lake formed by an ancient rock slide that damned the Cheakamus River before finally reaching Whistler. According to a legend, the nickname Whistler came about due to the piercing “whistle” sound made by the marmots that abound here.
Once we reached our destination, the driver of the motor coach which was to take us to Whistler village greeted us with a namaste saying, “I am sure you are the Raos.” Whistler reminded us of hill stations in India bubbling with tourists. We could see some of them hiring a bicycle and peddling their way through the streets around the quaint little village.
The Whistler Activity and Information Centre at The Whistler Conference Centre had a concentration of gift shops (which included a few books by Indian authors such as Kiran Desai), restaurants and a studio.
Our return journey to Vancouver by bus was equally exhilarating as we stopped at the Myrtle Philip Elementary School for a Nature walk escorted by a young, enthusiastic naturalist guide who was an instructor at the school. Walking through the majestic rain forest with its 1,000-year-old trees was an adventure.
The next stop was at the base of the Shannon Falls and we could actually touch the flowing waters and take pictures from close quarters. Shannon Falls, the third highest falls in British Columbia at 1,100ft., is named after William Shannon who manufactured bricks here before World War I.
N. MEERA RAGHAVENDRA RAO