As the four day Easter weekend loomed larger and closer at hand, nothing much had been planned as to how we would spend it. I had quite resigned myself to the ways of the workaholic husband and just hoped to chill out at home, sleep in each day, and catch up on my reading the entire time. It so happened that the kid discovered that the stock markets would be closed for the entire weekend, and started getting really nasty about it. Of late, he has been playing the stock market simulators and making some wicked money, so you can imagine the whining and complaining and grumpiness that a bored teenager is capable of when he realizes he can't do what he wants to do! So boom, there we were on the road last Friday, without having planned much at all for the road trip! There was no time to cook ahead, as I had talked about in my previous post, so we just threw in a few clothes, called a couple of hotels for accommodation, and hit the road on Friday, with the agreement that there would be no whining from the teenager, and no discussions about the stock market for the rest of the trip.
The first place we decided to stop at was Chilliwack, a land that boasts of its agricultural roots and has popularized its own version of agri-tourism. The Chilliwackians take pride in their farming way of life that has provided them a stable living for more than a century, and it is a refreshing sight to see acres of farmland dotted with greenhouses, nurseries, orchards, dairy, poultry, hog, and a whole host of assorted livestock farms. It was fun watching the land being irrigated by large-scale sprinklers and low-flying aircraft spreading fertilizers, and hearing the buzz of farm equipment such as cultivators, tractors, and fruit-pickers. Made me think about my own homeland with farmers still toiling on the land the hard way. There is a laid-back rustic charm to Chilliwack, known as the Great Outside, and for the more adventurous, it offers a smorgasbord of outdoor activities such as river rafting, fishing, hiking, water skiing, surfing, swimming, kayaking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, hang gliding, birding, camping, etc., etc., and to do all these in its glorious setting of lakes, rivers, mountains, and beaches is just an awesome experience for outdoor enthusiasts. High octane adventures not being our cup of tea, we just looked on at the paragliding and hang gliding daredevils coming off the mountains and silhouetted against the treed slopes, and decided to take in the Tulip Festival the next day.
We checked into our hotel room and headed out to explore the downtown core of Chilliwack, with its abounding treasures for antique hunters and souvenir shoppers alike. I decided to abandon my strict dieting for the weekend, and if not completely, to at least follow the 80 - 20 rule on the road, that is, eating healthy 80% of the time, and for the remaining 20%, indulging in food that makes life worth living ...so we stopped at the Banana Leaf for some hot and spicy fish and vegetable pakoras! The next day we drove off to Seabird Island (don't know why it's called that, if one can drive to it!) to the tulip fields, and boy, what a memorable sight that was! It was a veritable Eden of sorts, with 40 acres of tulips in the valley stretched as far as the eye could see, with snow-capped mountains all around us. There were busloads of tourists from the US and elsewhere, and it was an unusual experience parking in the fields and walking through the wet, muddy fields to view those gorgeous blooms of various hues. It being the beginning of the festival, half the tulips were yet to bloom, and the kid sauntered along, commenting it was a retarded idea to have come then!
From Seabird Island, we headed to Hell's Gate through the Fraser Canyon, via Boston Bar and North Bend, stopping all along en route to take pictures and marvel at the scenery. It was fascinating going through a series of tunnels with names such as Saddle Rock, Sailor Bar, Hell's Gate, and so on. The place is steeped in history, and my surly teenager soon got caught in the excitement of it all, jumping out of the car at intervals to pose for pictures. The Fraser River's entire flow of water roars through the narrow granite gorge at Hell's Gate, and we were told that nearly 200 million gallons of water poured through the gorge each minute, twice the volume of Niagara Falls! We were also told that the name Hell's Gate came from the early explorer Simon Fraser who found this section of the river to be his biggest challenge, and said it was "a place where no human being should venture, for surely we have entered the gates of hell." The water depth was 110 ft. that day, and riding the airtram that traverses the gorge made our hair stand on end. Hell's Gate is also one of the world's largest sockeye salmon migration routes, thanks to the joint Canada - US Commission's International Fishways, an engineering marvel indeed!
I playfully panned for gold, watched a documentary of the salmon runs, strolled along the suspension bridge eyeing the surging water underneath, dug into fresh salmon chowder at Simon's Cafe and some delectably sinful almond chocolate at the Fudge Factory, before we headed to our next destination, Merritt. It was yet another scenic drive through the mountain passes before we reached our hotel room in the evening. After briefly exploring the town, which was half-empty because of the long weekend, we scouted for some spicy food or whatever came close to it. It was Chinese food for dinner, a sumptuous buffet spread which I could not do justice to, considering my diet, and we retired for the night, sated and eager to rest our weary bones. Out came the laptop and iPad and Blackberry, as we caught up with the rest of the world, something we hadn't been able to do the entire day, as there was no signal in the canyons to use our gadgets.
On Easter Day, the only thing on the agenda was to drive through the Coquihalla Pass, one of the most scenic drives in the Pacific Cascades. As we left the semi-arid Nicola Valley, and started climbing to the summit, we were surprised to see steep snowbanks along the road. We pulled into a rest area on the mountains and had a frolicking time romping in the snow. The kid was wearing shorts because it had been quite sunny in the morning, and it was a ridiculous sight seeing him sprawled on the snow in his shorts, when one of his feet sank into the snow and threw him off balance. We drove back home again with the usual stops on the way, and I was happy to go to a farmers' market and bring home produce straight from the fields. When we reached our city. the husband was considerate enough to drive us to Noor Mahal for some soft idlis, vadas, and lip-smacking, spicy lamb dosas. A weekend well-spent in each other's company, precious moments to savor and treasure till we hit the road again!