6.30am start. Moving alongside the Thompson river for a while but first a 10 minute pause whilst we wait for a goods train of 126 wagons to oh so slowly crawl clang and crash past us. Soon passing a long deserted TB sanatorium with its own farm, not used since antibiotics gave tuberculosis a cure. Part of the farm is in picture below.
This is hot dry country, a semi-desert. We spotted a chimney pumping out a big plume, way out of town. Turns out it’s part of a paper pulp mill, a very smelly industry, so they set it out of town. Now it pollutes a different and smaller community!
This route now has two railways, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, we are running on the latter. The former is on the opposite side of Lake Kamloops. Both are busy with freight trains because this is the main route for goods in and out of Vancouver for the Orient from nearly all of mid and west Canada.
But you know what, I didn’t take a single picture of another freight train so here is a different vehicle, complete with one of my fingers pointing out the machine. Erosion and flooding are big issues in the desert – I know it sounds daft, but snow melt is a short-lived phenomenon. Anyway, the track owners have to spend a lot of effort on improving the track, clearing material build up and improving avalanche protection. They are also constantly renewing sleepers, the wooden ones last about 10 years. Apparently concrete ones have been tried, but the mix was wrong, they were too porous and this resulted in frost damage. This explains why we kept passing stacks of recently removed concrete sleepers.
Of course the river provides an easy way to green the desert if you happen to be close to it. We also passed pumping plant taking water further afield for mines.
The colours of the exposed rock often indicate metal presence, green and purple indicate copper, yellow for sulphur and red for iron.
Red bluffs on our route, we are heading towards it, our trackbed cuts across it.
Good wildlife spotting opportunities here – we saw lots of ospreys, some on their large nests, lots of bald eagles, many perched on branches of tall dead trees, lots of bighorn sheep, some with big horns (the males) but all with white rears.
Once again this is not the pic I wanted to show you, but I don’t know how to delete it. I think this is a small hydro plant, once again for a mine. You might spot the water pipe coming down from the right. I was going to insert a pic of a bighorn sheep, but . . . .
Just after one of our hosts had been telling us about the importance of fire in the life cycle of the ponders a pine we came to a halt outside of Lytton on the Fraser river. It was a forest fire a few miles ahead.
Here is an early view of the smoke column ahead of our stopped train. Lytton has some of the hottest summers with highs between high 30s and low 40s. Four hours later we spent time watching the smoke column get bigger and more orange and planes and helicopters flying in with water to drop. Soon this began to pawl. The hosts tried amusing us with ‘guess the animal noise’ games, and ‘draw a moose and then interpret it’s meaning’ fun. In desperation they opened the bar.
Beer wines and spirits to choose from. After six hours we got permission to pass through the burnt area, the fire having moved further uphill and downwind. We passed through very slowly to avoid stirring up the ashes and fanning a new outbreak. Lots of trees still burning, but you’ll have to take my word for it – no photos!
As we travelled west we left the semi desert and entered a richer landscape including maples, alders, cotton woods and western hemlock and cedars. This is the coastal rainfall zone, and we are heading down to Vancouver. More trees crusted with mosses, but getting too dark to photograph. Calling the zone rain forest may sound extreme, but I read a short story in a local paper which said of Vancouver Island, ‘It’s the sort of place where you have umbrellas to match your shoes’.
We spent a about 40 minutes passing slowly through sidings and goods yards on the southern side of the city. I was standing beside the open viewing doorway so heard every squeal and clang of slowly moving wagons. When an empty train of wagons stopped, the chain of booms as each wagon ran into the one ahead all down the line was startling. Then everything stopped, and in the sudden silence I heard frogs ribitting loudly in a clump of reeds down beside the track. Really delightful.
Into the station by 11.30pm and cabs laid on to get us to our hotel. If we’d had any choice we’d have walked out straight away. Seemed tatty and rundown, and our room was tiny and crude after previous stops. But no choices existed.