Days 36 - 38
Our first night in a dorm with random strangers had gone really well. It's makes a difference for me not knowing who our room mates are as it means I don't worry about Dan's snoring as much so I woke after a really good night's sleep to find the room empty, I'd been so sound asleep I hadn't heard them leave for breakfast!
We met the others as planned and headed for breakfast. 6$ for two eggs, two sausages and hash browns, oh yes! After we had eaten our fill the five of us (Izzy, Chris, Zoe and Mr & Mrs J) hopped on a bus to go to the UBC to visit the Anthropology Museum. The Museum itself was very enlightening, with some incredible Totem Poles in the Great Hall. I spent a long time wandering from item to item trying to imagine what I was seeing being used hundreds of years ago. We all looked at the other exhibits but found them not to be as interesting as the first one, and for me my mind began to wander, not surprising really. After 90 minutes we called it a day and strolled through the University Campus (under construction surprise surprise!) back to the bus stop.
Dan and I jumped off the bus on the other side of the river at False Creek to spend the afternoon on our own, the first time we had our own space in ten days. It was very quiet and quite strange! We made the most of a nearby Starbucks to call my family before walking along the sea wall once again towards Stanley Park. Once there we crossed the road and went round Lost Lagoon Lake and we found a lovely quiet spot on a bench under a Willow tree. We sat there for a while and watched the world go by together while I contemplated the last ten years. The bench we were sat on was a memorial bench and on it a plaque that said "You are in our hearts, therefore you do not die", very true and it gave me comfort when I was thousands of miles away from the rest of my family.
Eventually we continued our way around the lake and we came across a large family of Raccoons who were scurrying for nuts and seeds in the undergrowth. They look so cuddly but we saw one turn on the other and they can be quite vicious. We left quite swiftly after that!
We walked through town back to the Hostel to meet the others. The girls were late, which did not surprise me. I was fast learning that Zoe was a worse time keeper than me! When they arrived they produced a small keyring Moose that could sit in the palm of my hand. The lovely girls wanted to cheer me up and give me something to remember them by (as if I would ever forget them!) so they bought me a momento of our time together on the Moose Tour. I aptly named him Mini Jaeger and was very touched.
The girls changed quickly and we walked a couple of blocks to a very familiar branded restaurant NANDOS!!!! Mmmmmm, it was yummy and just what was needed! After we had eaten more than our fill we caught a taxi to Gastown, where we had agreed to meet Simon for a few drinks and we spent a very happy couple of hours taking silly photos and reminiscing. Simon unfortunately was delayed some place else but we had a good time nonetheless before the famous five became four as Izzy left in the morning for the Moose Tour to Vancouver Island.
Wednesday brought another lie in and another 6$ breakfast (no point hunting for anywhere else, the food was good and cheap!) Zoe decided to spend the day on her own, catching up on washing and doing one or two other bits so Chris decided to join Dan and I and off we went to Grouse Mountain. We caught the Sea bus over to North Vancouver and then another bus to the base of the mountain. Dan had been talking about the Grouse Grind, which was the path up the mountain instead of the Gondola, for some time. He had told me (after discussing it with John) that if you were very fit you could walk/climb this path in your age in minutes. To me, this meant it was a 45 minute hike as we all know I'm slow at uphill climbs.
At the start there were several warning signs about health risks and rules of the trail, but as there were runners warming up and then setting off at a swift jog I took no notice. We set off on what was a gentle start, for all of 10 yards, and then the path turned vertical. After about 10 minutes Chris, who was following me, decided this wasn't much fun and would turn back to catch the (very pricey) Gondola to the top and meet us there. Dan asked if I wanted to join him, I scoffed in his face. 15 minutes later we approached a marker. "Oh goody" I thought, "we're half way". The sign said "1/4 mark". I launched into a tirade at my husband. "Are you out of your mind?? We've been walking for 25 minutes and we're only quarter of the way there and I'm supposed to complete this in four more minutes?? I'm not even going to finish it in an hour!" He stupidly informed me that the sign at the bottom of the hill had said the average time it takes to complete the grind is ninety minutes. "Ninety minutes?!" I screamed, "I'm not dressed for a ninety minute walk!" and I wasn't, I was dressed for a short hike and a mild day. I was already soaked in sweat and I was only quarter of the way there. The next 20 minutes were spent in silence. Poor Dan. I did start talking to him again once I had got into the correct mindset for the steep climb (over 1000 feet elevation in 1.5 miles), which was so steep and treacherous that hikers were not allowed to descend down the path as it was too dangerous. It had also claimed the lives of people attempting to complete the climb and we passed a couple of memorial wreaths and photographs.
It did feel good when we completed it in 1 hour 21 minutes, not so average or unfit after all. We found Chris watching the Lumberjack Show which was very entertaining for all ages. When it finished we went and found the Bear enclosure which is the home of a Black Bear and a Grizzly Bear. The Bears live in quite a sizeable compound, with a couple of manmade lakes and lots of trees to provide shade from the hot sun. The Bears were very entertaining, with the Black Bear fishing for rocks at the bottom of the lake and throwing them over a log and causing splash. Then he climbed over the log and threw them back over again. He was playing just like a child which was quite endearing to see. Chris and I both noticed the size of the Bear's claws, they were longer than our fingers and a very good reason not to see them at work first hand.
While we were watching the enclosed bears we heard a shout and turned round to see a Black Bear cross the path about two hundred feet above us, closely followed by a ranger. We later found out this was a mother bear and she was following her two cubs, which we had missed. This angered me a bit because I didn't think it was fair that the enclosed bears were living with wild bears nearby. The two bears were orphaned when they were cubs and didn't know life in the wild but surely they don't understand why they are trapped within a wired perimeter when other members of their species can roam free. I wasn't happy!
Grouse Mountain is a ski resort in the winter time and so there were numerous chairlifts around. We caught one to the top of the mountain to look at the rather incredible views of Vancouver below before travelling back down to the very base of the mountain where we went and found the Wolves, again, contained in a much smaller enclosure. They were sleeping so we didn't get a good look at them and left them to it.
We caught the bus and sea bus back to Central Vancouver and went and freshened up before we met Zoe for dinner. We had a couple of drinks with Chris before he retired to bed and then made our way back to Gastown to try again to meet with Simon, this time we succeeded. We also met up with Joyce again (who was on the bus initially but jumped off in Whistler) and a good night was had by all. I got Zoe hooked on Jaegermeister, not a good move for someone who had to sit on the Greyhound for four hours at 8am. We caught a taxi back to the hostel at 1am and ate pizza before saying a temporary goodbye to Zoe. It was an emotional evening.
After a very disturbed night's sleep (too much alcohol!) I woke the next morning to find Zoe had indeed made her 8am bus. What an amazing lady! I wouldn't have done. Dan and I packed up and left our luggage in the store room and met Chris for our final breakfast together. We said goodbye but vowed to meet up in New Zealand when we arrived and Chris went off to educate himself in some museum whilst Dan and I went to nurse our hangovers in Starbucks! We had a short wander pass the Art Gallery and saw one of the Olympic countdown timers before it was time to collect our belongings and make our way to the station to catch the bus to Seattle. Once again we had to get off the bus at the border and go through customs. They took my apple off me as no fruit was allowed in the Us and after approximately 40 minutes the bus was on it's way again.
We pulled in to Seattle and made our way back to the trusty Sixth Avenue Inn (A HOTEL ROOM, A HOTEL ROOM!!) and we called Zoe and agreed to meet her at her hostel. After a very interesting thirty minute walk through the not so nice areas of Seattle we arrived in Chinatown and hooked up with her. We had a very nice Chinese and helped each other fill in the blanks from last night, which was very funny. Far too soon it was time to say goodbye for good, with Zoe vowing to come to England next year and me trying to figure out how I could fit Perth in to our busy Australian schedule? I was very upset for the rest of the evening and for the next couple of days. I couldn't believe how close I had become to someone I had met for the first time just under two weeks ago and find we had so much in common. It seemed cruel that we lived in complete opposite ends of the world but I knew I had met a friend for life.