Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 340 - 343: Kitsilano, Whistler and the Grouse Grind

How does one have a shower with a broken hand? LIKE THIS!


Since Gilly was still getting used to only having the use of one hand, we managed to get out of the house hours later, and went to Kitsilano where we visited the completely bonkers Sophie's Cosmic Cafe. Home to pretty much everything kitsch in the world, it is packed with oddities, throwbacks, and "what the hell?" items, including some hilarious placemats.




I may have tripped out, as I have absolutely no idea what I ate there. Kitsilano is a lovely beach district in Vancouver. Even in September, the weather was brisk at times but mostly sunny and warm (although the locals might disagree). Some sort of filming was being done there, as there were film trailers and crew all over the place. We didn't spot anyone famous, but the cars certainly looked the part.






Gilly's knack of sniffing out dessert restaurants never ceases to amaze. Before we left Kitsilano, we got dragged in.



The rest of the day was spent planning a trip to Whistler. We'd arranged to stay with a couple of Couchsurfers who had arrived there ahead of the snow season, so all we needed to do was sort out a car and arrange arrival times. We picked up a hire car the next day and set off.

Whistler is only about an hour and a half north of Vancouver, so it made sense to get out into the country and enjoy some hikes whilst we were there. En route, we were spoiled by some truly serene sights.



Special mention should go to our Ford Fiesta Sport which not only came in an amazing green colour which just blended into the surroundings, but was one of the most fun things I've ever driven. I decided to do some free modelling to showcase just how tremendous the vehicle was. You're welcome, Ford.



Halfway to Whistler is Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, which has a few hikes you can do. The Chief is the mountain from which the park gets its name, and Shannon Falls is also nearby.





It wasn't long before we hit Whistler. It's an odd little place, nestled in the mountains like an upmarket parochial village pulled straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting, but it is gorgeous. I can only imagine how beautiful it is when the place is covered in snow.



Our hosts were Chris and Tasha, who were both incredibly welcoming. Chris was a keen snowboarder, whilst (if memory serves!) Tasha was a skier. They hopped around the country during the winter season, working in the hotels, and got to play around in the snow after the tourists had left. Seemed like a fun job if you wanted to immerse yourself in winter sports! We grabbed some food at the Royal Taste of India and then hit the main hub for evening activity - the Crystal Lodge. There was karaoke on, but none of us had drank enough to get up on stage ourselves.


Chris and Tasha both had the next day off so they kindly offered to take us up Blackcomb mountain (adjacent to Whistler) and on the Peak 2 Peak gondola which transports you between both.





Whistler is bear country, and there's a momma bear called Jeanie who hangs around with her cubs in the forest and can occasionally be spotted from the gondolas. However, the closest we got to animal life was this:


Before hitting the mountains, we took a detour. In the middle of one of the nearby trails near Function Junction, just south of Whistler, a train derailed a while ago. It's become something of a cultural icon in the area and is home to some interesting graffiti, made all the more curious by the fact that it's sat in the middle of a forest.







Once we got back to Whistler, a trip on the gondola took us to the Roundhouse Lodge for lunch and spectacular views. Gilly also managed to find some bears!







Then it was time to get back on the gondola again to head up to Whistler's peak. Even though it wasn't snow season quite yet, there was still plenty of hard packed snow on the top of the mountains. You know, because, science.










The Peak 2 Peak gondola is the highest lift of its kind in the world, dangling 1,427 feet over the valley floor. We were pretty lucky to experience the trip up to Whistler, and grateful to Chris and Tasha for putting us up over two nights. It'd be amazing to come back here in winter and do some skiing in the future.

We set off back to Vancouver the next day, and decided to stop off and do the Grouse Grind. Well, I did. Gilly is a trooper, but even she wouldn't have been able to climb a mountain with one hand. I barely managed it. The Grouse Grind is also known as "Mother Nature's Stairmaster", and it becomes apparent why once you hit Grouse Mountain. It's 1.8 miles long, contains 2,830 stairs, and is inclined pretty much the entire way. I had to do it.

The official record for the Grind is 25 minutes. I have absolutely no idea how this time is possible, save for a jetpack or possibly a series of interconnected trampolines. Leaving Gilly in the car park at the base, I hit my stopwatch and set off.


At the 1/4 mark, I was really feeling it, and I'd barely started. I was so glad I hadn't had a haircut, as the extra hair really helped cool me down. No, wait, the opposite of that.


By the halfway point I think I pushed through the barrier where pretty much all liquid had been excreted out of my face. Then it was a slow, methodical crawl right up to the end.




I wish I could say that was my time, but unfortunately I was so slow that the watch was onto its second cycle. Final time - 1 hour, 8 minutes, 14 seconds. As I said, a jetpack is the only viable answer. My reward tasted like heaven.



I didn't climb down again. There was a gondola at the top that took me all the way back to the base. Best $10 I'd spent for a long time. Somehow I had enough energy to drive us back to the rental company, and Ravi's dad was on hand to collect us from there like the star he is. That night, we introduced Ravi and Sunny to the genius of Tim Minchin, and I had an amazing night's sleep.

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