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Monday, June 22, 2015

Road Trip: From Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley

I like driving so road trips are quite a cathartic experience for me.  And in my humble opinion, Canada is one of the best places in the world to take those four wheels out on a multiple-day spin.  That is exactly what happened this spring when we went on a little scouting mission to Okanagan Valley to ferret out possible locales for a second life.  Our journey took us three languid days and two nights - we weren't exactly hustling it - and introduced us to the pretty towns, fruit orchards and wineries of Osoyoos (pop:4,700,) Oliver (known as the "wine capital of Canada;" pop: 4,370,) Naramata (zero traffic lights; pop: 2,000,) Summerland (pop: 10,828) and Kelowna (the province's largest interior city; pop: 106,710) before making it back to Vancouver.

The temperature was mild but the weather was downright screwy.  You will see exactly what I mean from the photos below; the good news is that I wasn't in much danger of falling asleep as I had to be prepared for whatever nature decided to throw our way.  And she sure pitched us a couple of atmospheric curve balls.

We started our journey on the famed Trans-Canada Highway 1 (the world's longest national highway) passing idyllic dairy farms along the way.  There were some blue skies at first, but then we noticed the heavy clouds rolling in.
 In fact, they got so heavy that they started creeping down the mountain.
And that's when it started pelting rain.  The roads were slick but just as I was thinking, thank god it's not icy, when this happened......
 Yes, boys and girls.  It started snowing.  That's right, snowing.  In May.
The skies were completely clouded over by that point, the sun had beaten a hasty retreat, and all colours were leached out of the landscape within a few minutes.  This ethereal combination of flurries and mist went on for a few kilometers......
And just as we were thinking we were going to hit the Wall and see some wildlings action, we turned around a couple of bends, and voila, the colours started coming back and we were back on dry - and warmer - roads again.  Surreal.
 Yeah, it's like that whole little pseudo-winter patch we drove through never happened.
 Teeny towns as seen along Highway 1.
Continued on our quest to the fruit and wine country of Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. 
This fantastic view of Okanagan Lake pretty much opened up to us in a sudden after coming through the mountains.  It was totally worth driving through that bizarre weather formations just to see this.
The region is known for its sunny climate, comparatively dry landscapes and pretty lakeshore communities.  It comes alive in the summer months between June and September when the domestic tourists descend in droves, some dragging along their boats to float up and down the lake.  Outdoor activities spike with the plethora of watersports, snow skiing and hiking in the valley, lake and the surrounding mountains. Summers are generally very hot: average temperatures in July and August are warmer than in the Napa Valley. Summer daytime temperatures can reach 40°C, and are often above 30°C for several days in a row. The economy is agri-recreation based (I just made up that term) which is focused primarily on fruit orchards and vineyards. 
Currently, the majority of British Columbia's fruit growing trees are located in the Okanagan Valley. Between 2011 and 2013, the province produced over 80 per cent of Canada's apricots (above photo) and sweet cherries, over 40 per cent of pears and plums, and over 20 per cent of apples, nectarines and peaches. (source: Okanagan Valley - The Canadian Encyclopedia.)

We stopped in West Kelowna to take in this outstanding view of the vineyards on the 135km long Okanagan Lake which runs north-south from Vernon to Penticton.
With an impressive 82 per cent of the total vineyard acreage in the province, the Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s premier grapegrowing region.  The valley stretches over 250 kilometers, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a growing range of varietals.  More than 200 mass commercial and family-run boutique vineyards dot the landscape from the north to the south of this valley, and on both sides of the lake.

Fun vino fact: The Okanagan Valley accounts for more than 90 per cent of all wine produced in British Columbia and are second in economic importance for wine production to the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.
Summerland, British Columbia (Photo credit: BC Photo)
 Winery in West Kelowna
Twilight in Osoyoos (population 4,700)
All photos (unless otherwise credited) by Weng Ho.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Day in the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

About an hour northwest of Vancouver is this sweet, Vitamin D-soaked region called the Sunshine Coast.  Although it is still part of British Columbia's "mainland," this 180 km coastal stretch is only accessible by ferries due to the mountainous terrain and fjords that separate the inland from the Strait of Georgia.  Literally named for the abundance of sunshine it gets annually - 2,400 hours as opposed to generally overcast Vancouver's 1,928 hours - this coast is, unsurprisingly, a hugely popular summer destination for tourists who flock to its picturesque towns, water sports activities (sailing, kayaking and fishing to name but a few,) waterfront cottages, and outstanding hiking and mountain biking trails in the national parks. 

Here are some of my favourite photos from my recent day trip to the Sunshine Coast.  I went in the spring when it was still relatively quiet and the wait to get on the ferries (which transport vehicles and passengers) for the 40-minute ride between Horseshoe Bay to Langdale wasn't too crazy long.

All photos by Weng Ho.

In Plane View: Los Angeles

Sometimes I get lucky and the perfect trifecta of a window seat, drama clouds
and a fantastic view of my destination upon approaching the airport.
 This is drought-ridden Los Angeles.

Photo by Weng Ho. April 2015

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