Camping in Vancouver #1

Well this weekend, the last of the summer (officially, although we're not listening to any such blasphemy!) was camping time.

We got our first taste of life outside the city and, boy, were we thirsty!

We hit the road Friday at 6pm, not long before I almost forgot the tent sleeping bags and, in general, anything I'd need to survive out in the open, although of course I did manage to remember the food!

We arrived at Hicks Lake in Sasquatch Provincial Park at about 9pm and it was already dark. In all honesty, it was truly a miracle that we found the site at all as all we knew to do was to shout "KIM" out the window of the car every so often hoping we'd get a reply from one of the lovely girls we were camping with who'd said she'd keep us a tent spot and, low and behold upon a first try into the darkness, we somehow found them!!

Really, what are the chances of that?!

I just loved the eternal optimism of our Canadian driver when I, predictably, started to panic and question his literal 'shot in the dark' methods! I really didn't want to sleep in the car -- you always think it's going to be okay but it never is, I've found that out the hard way one too many times after a crazier than usual night out with nowhere to stay, or at a music festival.

No way Jose...this is my first ever camping trip in BC and it's what I've been dreaming of for months...I ain't sleeping in the car whatever happens, even if we have to pitch the tent in a cramped space beside a boisterous family with small children (although that's not part of my dream either to be honest, sorry parents!)

But, in true PMA style, we found the girls not long into the park and made the necessary introductions by firelight.

Cut to awkward assembling of tents in the dark, followed by attempting to blow up a queen-sized air mattress which ending up taking nearly an hour of drinking and eating time...admittedly as silly billy here had accidentally displaced the plastic top in the dark so myself and my huffing and puffing boyfriend spent much of that time pumping hot air into, well, the air!!

But, finally, we got it done and could start on our most important mission for the weekend - drinking! (Sorry folks, I wish I could say poetry reading or discussing Canada's latest foreign policies, but y'all know the score, ye were young once - and still are I hope!)

However, one of the first issues to arise after the tent debacle that simply highlighted our total lack of camping prowess was the lack of light. We'd remembered to bring a small battery-lit lantern, but really you could only see was a foot in front of you so that was another $20 wasted on nothing!

The only real light we had was from the headlights of the 4x4 parked in front of us so we arranged ourselves strategically around them and happily blinded ourselves away, regalling stories of the trip down and generally loving being out in the open, getting the chance to "reconnect with nature"...if you call getting drunk and making a lot of noise reconnecting with nature!!

Turns out though that this provincial park was very family-oriented (as I had foretold!) so we decided to relocate our shenanigans to the beach so as not to keep the surrounding kiddies awake - plus their angry mothers!

There's nothing more scary than an angry mother protecting her's almost as if they become primal, mere lionesses, ready to pounce at the first moment! I can't wait to have something to protect, something of such importance to me. But not yet (boyfriend breathes huge sigh of relief!)

So off we headed to the nearby beach on our merry travels...NO idea where we were going of course in the pitch black, and now the only light we had was a small but blinding headlamp on one of the girl's heads...until we were rudely interrupted by a not-so-happy-camper park ranger. Boy did he not like us!!

Ranger: "Where do you think you're going?"

Most respectable member of our Canadian troupe: "Sorry Officer, I mean park ranger, we're just going down to the beach to hang out away from the tents."

Ranger: "I don't think so there buddy, do you know what four-legged creatures you could meet down there?

Dramatic pause as he stubs out his cigarette underfoot

"I'm talking bears and wild cats ya know."

Most respectable camp member: "Well ranger, we're sorry about that but we didn't want to wake everyone up and we know the dangers but if you'll just let us on our way, we'll be out of your hair."

Ranger: "Yeah well, don't come runnin' to me if anything happens and you guys get eaten alive. By the way, I hope y'all are not drinking?"

Cue instant hiding of beer cans

Respectable member: "Oh of course not, sir, we're just out for a nocturnal stroll is all, maybe a quick swim."

Ranger: "Well, do it at your own risk and don't say I didn't warn ya. We'll be back in half an hour to see that you're gone," he growled while turing on his heel and off we trotted like bold little school children on some sort of suicide mission to the sand!

This had to be one of the funniest, if not most bizarre, thing I've seen in my life!!

[And no, just in case you're wondering, we DIDN'T get attacked by any bears, or anything of the sort. The only animal to even come near us was mossies and we'd sprayed ourselves in anticipation of those little mischief makers!]

Day 2

Fast-forward to the next morning and many a sore head and many a complaint it seems!

THREE separate campsites made a complaint about us - the fact that we were up till 2.30am did not sit well with them - I mean, shock horror, we're on holidays!! Now, in fairness, we kinda knew it was too much of a family-oriented campsite for us and we should've expected this, but we naively thought we were actually quite respectful and tried to get as far away as we could from the other tents, plus there were only seven of us so surely we couldn't have been that loud (I say both of those words quite dubiously as I know how loud I can be in particular!!) So, that morning -- as watched by many angry glances from the angry lionesses circling us! -- we jump started the car (yeah, that's another thing, we accidentally left the engine on when we went off frolicing on the beach, so the battery ran out too...d'oh!!) And we got the hell outta there amigos!

Another, just as equally angry, park ranger advised us to go to a forestry park where we could make more noise and where we'd be sure to find "more of your kind" (we were drinking water by this stage and thinking about getting some breakfast. You'd swear we were a group of trailer park boys with car stereos pumping and popping people in drive-by shootings, J-Roc!)

We decided to take a quick detour and headed into the picturesque village of Harrison Hot Springs for what we call in Ireland "a big dirty fry" (although it's much less dirty over here - i.e. more healthy and less greasy) and even enjoyed a quick frolic in the water to get our heads together.

Then, with our bellies full and deceptively clear heads we settled down in the car for another hour and a half trip up the mountains to find the perfect spot where we could be deliciously raucous in peace! (Now that's a contradiction I like!)

Finally, after driving through some of the most breathtaking scenery I've seen in my entire life (as demonstrated above!), we arrived at our destination - make that paradise! We originally made a stop at a place called Cogburn Beach outside Chilliwack in BC where we were met with a similar answer of, "we don't want your kind around here!" as if we were criminals, so off we drove once again until about fifteen minutes later when we found a spot we finally belonged!!

And belong we did as, upon arrival, we parked up and met the camp supervisor there, Mike (or Mad Mike as we endearingly nicknamed him as he was nothing of the sort -- hey, it made the story more interesting!) and we were elated when the first words out of his mouth were; "There are no rules here, you guys can make as much noise as you want." To which we all whooped and high-fived, generally basking in our youth (well, relative youth!) at the prospect of being ridiculously rowdy, and rightly so, we deserved it!

Cue bangin' "toons" from the car as we shoddily assembled our makeshift tents (by this stage we really didn't care, plus we couldn't peg them in properly on the beach so it was an 'anything goes' scenario!) and got to drinking, eating and playing, again - ding ding, round two!!

The rest of the day was just a dream. Not a cloud in the sky nor a park ranger to kill our buzz!! We floated on the lake all day sipping drinks and generally being at peace with ourselves, taking in the mind-blowing mountain scene. There were mountains on every side, all at different gradients and all in different shadows, with the furthermost mountain covered in snow as we bathed in our was spectacular and like something I've never seen before.

The only sound we could hear was the gentle ebb and flow of the lake as our floaties skimmed the water, and of course the noise pollution from our car tunes (I've never heard so much funk in my life, it was like George Clinton was there with us!) And boy did he set the scene - all relaxation and happiness with the world, truly amazing.

About 6pm we got off the water (I got off well before that as my pale Irish skin started to bright red in the afternoon sun -- I think it must have been blushing with all the naked flesh around, it's not used to seeing bare skin as it's normally covered up against some blustery Irish rain!!) and started to make hotdogs in buns with lashings of ketchup and mustard - mm, bad food, yum! - and then it was time for the ubiquitous camp fire.

We were very lucky to be allowed to do so as in the previous park we weren't allowed for the threat of forest fires, but this was one of the few far away enough from trees so light up we did! Good ol' Mad Mike also sold firewood by the bucketload so he hooked us up with some supplies and my energetic young friend Neil got it going, big style!

Don't ask me how he did it as we'd no fire lighers (no Bord na Móna peat briquette here!) or fuel, so he just did it with one sheet of paper and his caveman skills I presume! All I know is that one minute we were sitting there wondering under our breaths, "how in the hell is he gonna light that?" and next thing we turn around and there's this massive fire right there! Bravo Neil, you win the survivorman award of the summer!

So, we all sat around the beautiful flames and took in the darkening scenery - the sunset was one of the best I've seen - and all had a fairly early night in preparation for our last day...

Up bright 'n' early on Sunday morning, 7am on the dot no less, not a hangover in sight and the only thing I could think of was that it must be the fresh air and insane amount of crips (sorry, chips, we say crisps in Ireland!) I ate the night before to absorb the booze!

The boys got to playing frisbee - the poor plaything spent more time in the water than we did the day before! - and generally acting as lean, mean, athletic machines, playing American (or should that be Irish/Canadian?!) football and skipping stones etc (check out my homemade video including the camping trip towards the end, so much fun!)

What is it with boys that they always have to DO things??! Girls are perfectly happy just sitting there talking or just being quiet while boys have to be up and about, either making food or kicking a ball or finding some rocks to climb - they really are a different species altogether!!

But, I must admit it was enjoyable getting sucked into the 'boy' thing. I didn't embarrass myself trying to skip stones - I get angry when I'm not good at things, you could call me a bad loser but I prefer perfectionist!! - but I did hit a rock a few times and did attempt to throw the frisbee, although it kept crashing directly left into the tent or right into the sea!! I don't know what it is but I somehow have this innate knack of throwing the frisbee at a 90 degree angle as discussed in previous blogs - I'm sure on its own this is quite a skill in certain circumstances, but when you're trying to hit a target right in front of you, it really doesn't help!!

And then bacon and eggs with cheese for breakfast à la the lovely Danielle (thanks Danielle!), followed by the last of our drink and a quick dip in the tranquil water before we headed home.

All in all, what a fantastic trip. I met some wonderful people and got to see my first glimpse outside Vancouver and some of the beautiful BC, and boy was I blown away!! It's such an amazing place but again it's the people who make it too - apart from an angry mother or park ranger here and there who were just doing their jobs...paid and unpaid! - everyone with whom we came into contact was so friendly and welcoming. In fact, I might even go so far as to say it was "AWESOME" least just in my head for now!

Thanks BC for giving us some lovely times, and if this is the end of the summer well then bring on the winter 'cos it looks like it'll be just as cool. Love it.

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