“The Russians are Here!”
The second portion of this ‘Canadian Adventure’ included as many local and driving adventures as we could fit in. Before leaving home territory again, we had many friends and relatives who wanted to meet these “Mysterious Russians” we had talked about for years.
One of the local adventures we planned was a scenic boat excursion on the Delta marshlands, out of the village of Ladner. Some of our friends showed up and added to the fun and enjoyment of the day. Tanya and Tolik were fascinated by the flexibility and friendliness of everyone, and not a policeman in sight! During that day and others, they made many friends who still ask about them.
After we all got onboard and donned our lifejackets, the captain took the vessel out from Ladner harbour and cruised around the marsh, between small groups of islands, and into interesting flocks of birds and other wildlife. I was impressed by both the local knowledge and scientific background our guide/captain provided. When we returned to the dock, we convinced Tanya and Tolik to take out small pedal-boat, and cruise around the harbour.
The Russians surprised many of the locals here. Rather than a sour, serious couple they had expected from the Soviet Union, they were a fun loving popular couple, easy to talk to (at least Tanya was because she could speak English ) and were soon loved by all. After a wonderful visit to Tsawwassen’s “Secret Garden”, we were all invited over to our friends Carol and Irene for an evening barbecue.
The following day, we announced that we had to get packed for a road trip, to see more of B.C.’s scenery and mountains.
So off we went, driving through the coastal mountain range via the ‘Hope-Princeton Highway’ to the famous ‘Okanagan’ wine country. We were rushed for time as I was trying to include too much on one tour. After some scenic B.C. road-side picnics, we soon entered the land of vineyards. We stopped at a few wineries for wine tasting, then stayed in Penticton at a local B.C. chain hotel. We took them to a shopping Mall in Penticton, then returned to the hotel for a quiet dinner.
The next morning, we headed over some more mountains into the ‘Cariboo’ country. This time, we had something very different for our Russians, something very ‘Canadian’, a rugged (yet deluxe) guest ranch, complete with cowboys, log houses and night-time ‘hay-rides’. The place was called the ‘Hills Guest Ranch’, near 108 Mile House.
Once we were checked in to this deluxe ranch style accommodation, we all relaxed and Tolik and I went for beer, while the girls headed in for a special ‘facial’ appointment we had booked. When they arrived for their facial, Tanya was hesitant, and did not want to ‘waste the money’, etc. Diana finally convinced her to go, told her it was already paid for, so they both went in together. Tolik and I continued to drink beer and play billiards while the girls did their beauty treatment. Eventually we met and headed in for dinner, which was a delightful experience, which we all enjoyed.
After dinner, we announced that we were scheduled to go on a ‘hay ride’. This was late September, and it was getting quite dark and cold by the time our scheduled ride took place.
The ‘hay buggy’ was a large, very basic buck-board wagon, pulled by two horses. The seats were hard boards, and we sat up in the front with the ‘driver’, with only a small light bulb hanging from a pole in front of the wagon to show the way, powered by a battery under his seat. It is a good thing the horses knew the way, because we couldn’t see a thing as we headed out in the dark, across some fields, and eventually into the forest. The ‘road’ was just a rough track cleared through the bush, and we bounced and jostled our way along this track, through the mud and large puddles from the recent rains, with the ‘driver’ coaxing the horses to continue into the darkening forest. We sat right in front with the driver, directly behind the horses! Water and mud was being kicked up by the horses as they struggled to keep our buggy on the track. At first we were a little worried what our Russian guests were thinking of all this and we noticed Tanya was laughing her head off. Diana asked if everything was OK and why was she laughing? Tanya replied between fits of laughter “Just think” she said, “We had to get a complete facial to come out here and get spattered with water and mud!”
The track soon opened up to a large clearing, with a massive ‘Teepee’ tent erected in the centre. We got down from the buggy and entered the teepee. Long benches were placed around a large bonfire in the centre of the tent, which immediately eased our concerns and warmed our bodies. They were serving hot chocolate and mulled wine to further warm us up.
A group of local musicians were set up with guitars and banjos along one side of the fire. The rest of the evening was an entertaining session of country and western songs played and sung by this group. By the time we returned to our accommodation later that evening, we felt we had shown our Russians a good time, and they had the muddy faces to prove it!
The next day began with us loading up for another road trip over the mountains again, through the infamous “Duffy Lake Road’, a mountain pass that for years used to be a real challenge, but recently has been improved to a lovely paved road and scenic drive. On the west side of this mountain range, we dropped down into Pemberton and then further into the village of Whistler. We explained to the Russians that this was the location for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which they would soon be watching from home.
Again, a nice hotel and fantastic meal to finish that section of their adventure. The trip home the following day filled in a lot of blanks in their lessons of B.C. west coast geography, from Whistler, through Squamish, past Horseshoe Bay, through Vancouver and back to Tsawwassen.
Once at home, they started to plan their return trip, first trying to pack things they had bought. Tanya had bought a large duvet/quilt from Costco and was having trouble packing it with the lamps and other items in her suitcase. We eventually bought some of those plastic vacuum bags used to pack things in. You then hook the bag up to a vacuum cleaner and it sucks out all the air from the bag, flattening the quilt, reducing the size considerably
Eventually, the day came when we had to say goodbye to our wonderful Russian friends, now much closer friends that ever before. Lots of laughs and many tears as we said farewell at the airport, all with promises to meet again one day.
Their visit to Canada was a fantastic experience for our Russian Family, but we felt we had left so much out of the story for them. In only two weeks, what can you do?
What next? I guess we’ll just have to go and visit them!
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