Wandering around Lillooet after arriving yesterday afternoon led me to conclude that it was depressed and declining. There were several closed retail outlets, including what seemed to be the only town centre food shop. Those businesses that were open seemed to be doing very little trade. I had a coffee and cake in a café where there was only one other customer to occupy the two staff.
Superficially, the picture of decline was confirmed this morning. However, conversation with the owner of another café offered a different view. She was Scottish, but had lived in Canada for seven years. She and her husband had a year and a half go sold their (expensive) house in Squamish and bought a house and the café in Lillooet. She said that there was no business in the winter, which suited her as she and her husband could then go travelling in the South. In the summer, she said there was a very healthy trade from tourist coaches, which presented her and her staff with a huge peak in demand from early lunch till mid-afternoon. She also said that other businesses were beginning to thrive – she cited vineyards, hop growing and a micro-brewery, and the revival of gold mining using new technology (apparently, a local mine was moving to a three shift system of continuous production). She reported that increasing numbers of outsiders were buying up the cheap housing stock in the town.
The cook, who turned out to be an immigrant originally from Nottingham, came to sit and chat to me about memories of the East Midlands. She had childhood memories of West Bridgford, where her father – in turn an immigrant from India – had settled. She struggled to understand how the British could have voted for Brexit. And then we both sat in silence contemplating the horror of President Trump.
The drive from Lillooet to Vancouver promised much. The second part of this had featured in The Guardian as one of the world’s five best road trips. I set off with high expectations, and the early stages – before reaching the section featured in the paper – were superb.
On the coastal side of the mountains, Spring is more advanced. Not only are the deciduous tress in full leaf, but there’s blossom too.
After Whistler, which had hosted the Winter Olmpics as recently as 2010, Highway 99 became a multi-lane high speed artery. But I have to say that I was much less impressed by the scenery. Eventually there were some lovely coastal scenes, but I was left rather disappointed.
Vancouver was as crowded and hectic as I had expected. I deliberately drove through the city to see the sights. Busy traffic, lights, crossings, queues – nothing like the earlier 4000 km! I handed in the car with no great fuss – apart from finding there was a nail in one tyre, which had fortunately not deflated significantly. And so to the buses and the ferry to complete my journey for the day.
Much to reflect on, which I shall do in the days to come. This has been a significant experience, and I have gained much from it . . . . .