The pink flip flops…


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Charlie – who?

“Let’s plan a trip to Charlevoix”

The metro station? The pink flip flops chuckled!

“Charlevoix – Its a place in northern Quebec” said my friend. Now I have lived in Montreal for two years and the only place I knew with that name was the small metro station on the green line. And it wasn’t even a big fancy metro station – a rather nondescript halt on the way home.

I opened up the map of Quebec to cross check if my fellow British Columbian friend had his facts right. But there it was – Charlevoix.  “What is so great about it?” I wanted to know. Apparently my friend’s boss who lived in Quebec fifteen years ago had been there sometime between the video cassette died and the floppy disc was born, and he had my friend sold on how beautiful the place was and that it should not be missed. We were flying to Montreal for my graduation ceremony and hence around it the trip was planned.

We boarded a plane in sunny Vancouver and landed in rainy Montreal (ironic I say!) The graduation ceremony was in the middle of the week so we planned to leave for Charlevoix early next morning itself. Together with a couple of friends we took off on our Quebecois expedition. The plan was to stop at Quebec city for a few hours, take in all the Canadian-Europe and then carry on until Charlevoix. So apart from some pee breaks and Tim stops there weren’t too many highlights along the way to Quebec city.

The first thing we did was visit the Quebec city tourist information booth, because believe it or not, we were traveling without reservations. We had tried to book accommodation online, but summer time is always very busy there so we could not find any place that could sleep 4 people for one night. Nonetheless, we had set out with the plan that we will figure out accommodation when we reach Charlevoix. And we lucked out too. The lady at the Tourist information center, besides being very beautiful, and very french, was very helpful too. She booked us a room in a motel which was incredibly cheap and could sleep 4 people.  Great! Accommodation – check! With that out of the way, we were free to explore the Quebec city now.

Quebec city is beautiful. The last time I visited Quebec city was during the snow festival – La Carnaval de Quebec and I remember freezing to death there…

For perspective’s sake…

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Yes that was how I remembered Quebec city, but came summer it completely transformed into a different landscape.

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And this is how I knew Quebec – very European, a lot of character and man-made beauty. Quebec city especially reminds one of the fairy tale town where the brute warrior comes looking for treasure and finds the princess instead. Very Don Quixote!

But there was a lot more to Quebec that I did not know, for what lay beyond Quebec city up north – was an incredible surprise.

Stay tuned for more….

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Hello there… Mr. Garibaldi!

“What? … 18 kms? … up and down a mountain? …. the same day? … You’re kidding me right!”  – The pink flip flops were not amused. Neither was I. And I had the same reaction when my friends suggested we should hike up to Lake Garibaldi and back the same day. Lake Garibaldi requires a hike 9 km up Mount Garibaldi which starts around 20 km short of Whistler – while driving up from Vancouver on the Sea to the Sky highway (Man I love that name! – it sounds magical) and unless you are planning to camp up there its 9 km back as well. Doesn’t really sound too appealing to someone like me who definitely enjoys nature but whose idea of nature truly is an ass-print in the sand, watching the seagulls, listening to the melodious waves kinds, 18 km up and down a mountain – err… not so much! Especially when preparation for that hike involves buying a bear spray and packing up all kinds of food and water that you can humanly (again – perspectives differ widely!) carry. I was getting nervous just by the sound of that idea.

When my friends sensed my growing desire to abandon the project and ditch them – they began selling it to me… incessantly … for 2 days! I won’t be lying if I said that every dialogue and discussion ended with them trying to procure a written affirmation from me – that I was “coming for the hike”. Sigh! I finally gave in 15 mins before they were scheduled to leave for (in their words) “the experience I would repent not having if I didn’t go”. The condition – we will turn around and head back if I feel its not worth it. Deal!

We all loaded up in a car and started driving down the sea to the sky (ah! magic again) highway at 7 in the morning. Stopped on our way to load up on Tim Horton’s goodies and off we were to meet Mr. Garibaldi. Soon enough we reached our destination and with a deep breath of incredibly fresh mountain air we started the hike. It started off casually like any other hike – a few rocks, a few stairs and a lot of trees, the best part – no bears! All good so far!  Soon I was beginning to realize what they meant by “it’s not a difficult hike” and “we will turn around whenever it gets too difficult”. It was a simple hike – not a lot of gradient and the forest was actually quite peaceful.

15 mins into the hike, however, we realized that in order to prepare for the hike we made sure we took care of all the big stuff but forgot a very basic yet very important thing – a bug spray! As we got deeper into the forest we were joined by a few escorts. Insects of every shape and size and color and worst of all – with wings and fangs made our journey more interesting. The worst of the lot – giant starving mosquitoes  and nervous bees – they probably thought we were bears scrounging around for their honey (there is a possibility of slight exaggeration here – since I was looking for reasons to prove my friends wrong )

Anyway, soon we got used to the bugs, and started enjoying the forest, and as the minutes went by we got deeper and deeper into the woods. The sound of the waterfall at the beginning of the trail faded away and we started hearing crickets and birds. The hike also grew simpler and the gradient smaller and smaller until it was almost as if we were walking through the forest and not up a mountain. Soon we were half way through. I was surprised. I wasn’t tired at all. A quick status meeting between us and everyone looked at me. I just grinned and the verdict was announced – we move forward!

So scratching and clawing at mosquito bites we reached the 6 km point where we were faced with 2 options – to either go straight to Garibaldi lake which was another 3 km or take a detour through the Taylor meadows and then rejoin the trail towards the lake which added a half km to the hike. I grinned. Verdict – Taylor Meadows!

So another 2 km and we reached Taylor Meadows – now Taylor Meadows is this beautiful patch covered in colorful flowers and are treat to a weary hiker’s sight! Unfortunately, as it turned out we were at the right place but at a wrong time. The flowers do not blossom until late summer – we were early! Felt like this detour was a waste (we realized the significance of it later).

So waddling through snow patches, slush and not to mention the bees on steroids – we covered the remaining 1.5 km towards the lake until we came to a point where there was significant downhill. Coming down the slopes … we caught a glimpse of what makes people hike all the way to this point. When we look at pictures on the internet – we take for granted that the camera adds all the glamour and the real thing will obviously not look like the calendar shots people post.

We were wrong!

This is a view that peeked at us from in between the towering conifers…

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And this wasn’t all…. Walking down the slope all the way to the clearing what came into view was completely, utterly breathtaking…

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A closer look and the water was as turquoise as the most brilliant gem I have ever laid eyes on….

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Undoubtedly one of the most amazing views I have ever seen….

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“Hello Mr. Garibaldi”… the Pink flip flops say…

It felt like I had earned this sight. All the bugs and the bees and the bears were worth this. Ah! Beautiful British Columbia – Indeed!       I hate to admit it but I honestly would have repented not going for this hike. We stayed there for a couple of hours, happily had all the food we had lugged all the way, took in the amazing mountain air. We even ended up taking a dip in the glacial lake. Don’t ask how we immersed ourselves in the freezing cold water but that definitely was one experience I will never ever forget.

The 18 km have vanished from my memory. This is what remains as clear as I first saw it.

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See you again soon Mr. Garibaldi!


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The pink flip flops say hi…

The pink flip flops love to tell stories. Stories about cooking in the kitchen, hiking on vacations, strolls on beautiful evenings or plain lazying beside the couch all day.  Right now they are cozily tucked up under the coffee table beside the big glass window looking at the big blue mountains outside. And boy are they glad they are here… they love Vancouver! So I would let them snooze for now and wait for them to wake up with crazy stories to tell!