Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The journey North, part 2

As a Brit, you feel like you know all about rain (and certainly this year) but, as the West Coast of British Columbia is one of the world's last remaining temperate rainforests, when it rains here, it can be a monsoon-like torrent which has the added bonus of being really quite cold.  This exact combo is what greeted us on our arrival in Bella Coola; undeterred we set off on a 'bear-fari' to see if we could spot any of the large population of black and grizzly bears that inhabit the Bella Coola valley.


Our second BBB
We struck gold with BBB score of 3 (Bears Before Breakfast) and 1 BAB.  As the road is fairly quiet, and the locals pretty disinterested in bears, the black bears were happily munching dandelions and we got some good snaps.  Then it was time for 'the Hill'; until the 1950s the government proclaimed the mountainsides between Bella Coola and the Chilcotin plateau too steep to build on.  Locals took matters into their own hands and built the last 65km themselves, with up to 18% grades and too steep to tarmac properly it is an exciting gravel drive with unfenced sheer drops to the valley beneath.  Kat and I maintained a calm silence (yes I know, it was a challenge) as Mark honked the horn round every hairpin bend...

No sticking plaster visible
Into the wilds
The Hill conquered we arrived at Nimpo lake to greet our pilot, Tim, sort our gear and board the 1955 Beaver floatplane to Turner Lake, our home for the next two days.  The clouds cleared enough for him to see the lake and drop us off at the small beach, by the three basic log cabins.  As the buzz of his engine faded, it was replaced by the less friendly buzz of mosquitoes, a LOT of mosquitoes.  Mark secured over 50 bites on his left shoulder alone (through his clothes) and went into mild shock for the next hour or so as his body released a ton of histamine. 

George, on the other hand, seemed unconcerned by northern BC's most popular insects.  Sent to 'clear up' the camps and hiking trails of this enormous park every year, George had huge knowledge and affection for the park and immediately bundled us into a canoe to check out the next lake along, the trail replete with moose and bear droppings...

The picture of the trip?
We unwisely chose a meal which required us to be outside cooking for at least 10 minutes, 9 minutes longer than it took the mosquitoes to find us, but were rewarded with the incredible sight of a full moon rising in twilight over the mountains and lake.  Even George said it was a first for him in the park, so I think a total of 57 photos between us was reasonable...

Planes, boats and ...jettys?
Mark steadies the jetty
The rest of our stay was spent zooming around in George's kindly lent motorboat, canoeing and helping George and Tim chainsaw the cables from and move a jetty (for complicated reasons we all ended up 'riding' the jetty as it was towed through the water, not the most aerodynamic of vessels).  The park has had a tough time over the last five years; forest fire, the mountain pine beetle epidemic and floods in 2010 have made the park less accessible (hence the float plane) and made the trails tougher to navigate.  These calamaties have led to a vicious circle of less visitors means less investment in trails and facilities which means less visitors etc.  But if you're lucky enough to be there, it means that you really feel you have the enormity of the park to yourself. 

So a brilliant stay, now for the final flight over the mountains out....

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