And here it is. The end of our huge road trip around Western Canada and Alaska. It’s a bit of a long one, but I really wanted to get this written and posted before the next year arrives!
Heading to the sun
As soon as we drove out of Quesnel, I knew we had made the right decision to head to the Okanagan rather than the Rockies or to the Bowron Lakes. It was warm and sunny, and better still, there was corn. Being in the Yukon most of the summer, we had both really missed certain summer fruits and vegetables.
With a single corn on the cob in Dawson City cost $4, certain foods were just out of the budget. We celebrated by visiting a corn maze and then picked-our-own at another farm nearby.
12 cobs for $3, which we happily munched that night (best. corn. ever) by the picturesque Crystal Lake on BC’s ‘Fishing Highway’ (no. 24). No fish caught by us though.
Despite being so ecstatic with the corn situation, we couldn’t ignore that our van, Big Blue, was doing some strange things. First, we smelled our brakes burning while driving on flat, straight roads. When actually braking, Blue would pull sharply to the left, making driving a little difficult at times.
The next biggest town on our way to Kelowna was Kamloops, but being a Thursday we couldn’t get an appointment with a mechanic until Monday. Being that we were still able to drive, we pushed on to our final destination, Kelowna.
As sunshine, wineries and a big beautiful lake, our friends Jane and Seb (met in the Yukon River in July) were there too. Seb also happens to be a heavy duty mechanic.
The driest part of BC
The problems with the van took some of the excitement away about arriving in the Okanagan Valley. But just look at it. Not the typical images most people associate with Canada, that’s for sure.
Dry and ridiculously sunny, the Okanagan regularly receives BC’s hottest summer temperatures (more in the 30s but sometimes up to 40c). While it may have been September, we still were able to enjoy some of the warm temperatures we had been longing for all summer.
Kelowna itself was a little different than any town we had visited recently. With golf courses, wineries, high-rise condos, speedboats and fancy restaurants, it felt a bit out of our league at first. Absolutely beautiful though, and in any case, we got into the spirit quickly.
Having recently decided to finish our trip early, we wanted to enjoy every day we had left. Our friends Jane and Seb had just finished their own Canadian road trip and it was awesome to reflect on our travels with them. The van’s brakes were also fixed as a bonus!
Kelowna is a haven for local food with seemingly endless orchards, farms, vineyards and cideries. Mission Hill, perched on a hill above the shimmering Okanagan Lake, was the most stunning winery I’ve ever visited even though we couldn’t afford the $15 tasting fee!
Thinking that we could always buy Mission Hill’s wine in the shops one day we were feeling richer, we focused on the local vineyards and downtown brewery. I could have happily spent days and days just touring all of them (and there really is a lot) but the lake was calling….
We spent days swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling at the lake, occasionally leaving to buy local fruit and cheese for picnics. At one point I decided to settle down here, but the job opportunities didn’t end up matching to the heaven that is Okanagan life!
Making the most of the outdoors
Our time in Kelowna wasn’t all about the warmth and hedonism in town; we also made sure to enjoy some natural sights too. After all, we would be back to the daily grind and living within four (more solid) walls soon enough!
Camping above Kelowna in the hills was a lot cooler than in town but it was also free and reminded us why we travel the way we do. We baked bread on the fire and fished on the lake under the full moon, all while reminiscing about the trip.
The highlight of the last two weeks? A horseback ride around Myra Canyon followed by a walk on the trestles. We left the Okanagan that evening to start the long drive back to Vancouver, from where we would figure out our next steps.
Our time in Kelowna had felt a bit like a bit of a holiday from a holiday. And like all holidays it had to come to an end sometime. The perfect end to an incredible five months on the road.
Week 20: Quesnel to Vancouver, via 10 days in the Okanagan
1660 kilometres driven
2 paddles, on James and Beaver Lakes
Money spent – $350. Being in the Okanagan (and at the end of our trip) we did a fair bit of wining and dining in the sun…out of budget, but worth it
From clockwise left: Crystal Lake Rec Site, Beaver Lake Rec Site near Kelowna, Monument 83 trailhead in Manning Park (our last night) and James Lake near Kelowna. All free!
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada