Tuesday, August 23, 2005

a b.c. travelogue - 8

Prince Rupert

We awake to the smell of damp earth and the patter of raindrops Thursday morning (August 4th). The rain that has been threatening all week, has arrived – just in time for our trip to Prince Rupert.

We are barely finished loading the car when the van drives up with Charlie, Leslie and Skipper inside, exactly at the agreed-on time.

The drive from Hazelton to Prince Rupert is beautiful. For much of the way, the road follows the Skeena River. As you near the coast, the mountains grow steeper. At one place, I lose count of the number of water falls, coming down the rock face. It is as if the whole mountain is weeping.

We arrive in Prince Rupert near noon, check into the motel, and then Charlie and Leslie (who know Rupert well), pilot us to Cow Bay – called that apparently because cows grazing on the hillside were the sight that first greeted boats coming into the harbor when it was a new settlement.

We start off the afternoon with clam chowder at Smiles CafĂ© - yum! Then it’s time to explore and browse. Here Ernie and Charlie are parked in front of a bed and breakfast right on the waterfront.

We go down to the marina to look at the boats. These are fishing boats – it’s thick with them, rusting and unused, docked and double-docked. Fishing, Rupert’s main industry ever since it was founded in the early 1900s, is now in a slump.

Shops have opened seemingly everywhere since C&L were last here. There is a market with table upon table of local and native art work, lots of shops selling imported clothes and souvenir-type things, even a trendy furniture and kitchenware shop.

Soon it becomes apparent why. For sometime while we’ve been ducking in and out of shops, a cruise ship has arrived.

Soon the town is overrun with cruisers of every shape and size, swarming the craft tables, snapping pictures against the backdrop of the boats and ambling through town protected from the rain by plastic ponchos.

Lucky for us we still get a table at Cowpaccino’s – the best coffee in town, Leslie insists. There we shed our damp outer things and enjoy more wonderful conversation as we sip our java and share golden pumpkin scones (and something else – I don’t remember what. But I can’t forget the pumpkin scones – delicately tasty and such a fabulous color!) (Cowpaccinos photo courtesy Charlie VanGorkom)

After more browsing in shops downtown, we head to our motel to make dinner. In the space next to ours, now there is a truck with Alberta plates, and soon we detect a fishy smell coming through the stove vent in the kitchen. On looking outside, a man is cooking a wok-full of some kind of fish and it’s obvious more is cooking /steaming/ frying/whatever, inside. This fish cookout goes on for quite some time. We figure either they’re having a real banquet of a fish feed or they’re canning their catch.

The next morning, though it’s still cloudy, the rain has stopped. C&L take us to see a few more sights. Then it’s back to Cowpaccino’s for one more coffee before we must leave our friends and this fascinating town (too soon) to turn around and start the trek toward home.


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