I believe I can fly...
I believe I can touch the sky...
I am whizzing along steel zip lines suspended high above the tree tops, with the sunlight streaming through, securely fastened in my harness, over the Fitzsimmons Creek. Though synonymous with winter wonderland, I am in Whistler, British Columbia, enjoying the summer activities which are aplenty! Zip trek eco tours has two young and enthusiastic girls, Vanessa and Cathy, who dispel our fears, give us a lesson on aerodynamics, help us strap on a harness, rope and helmet and make us believe that it’s easy as a walk in the park. The first line is a small trial run near the Whistler Gondola. It seems fairly easy so we take a van on rough roads to the temperate rainforest. There are five incredible zip lines here increasingly progressively in height and length.
The zip lines are connected by boardwalks, trails, aerial stairways and bridges. As the girls teach us to zip line, they also provide commentaries about ecology, wildlife and sustainability. We learn about the pileated woodpecker, a large bird whose drumming is almost like a hammer hitting a tree and who has a long tongue to ferret out insects. We inspect the thick bark of old hemlock trees as well as the hairy witch’s hair lichen that beards the trees. Then there’s the leap of faith… “Take your time”, says Cathy as she checks my harness, one last time. With my heart palpitating, I take the last two steps off the platform, screaming like I am on a roller coaster, my voice bouncing off the valley. It’s a great sense of liberation to just fly, with the wind in your hair! Two zip lines later, we are daredevils who have imbibed the Tarzan spirit. The last line is a freestyle one: Cathy shows us to go upside down for a full ten points. Courage is after all one more moment of fear!
Originally known as Alta Lake, this area was called Whistler by the locals because of the shrill sound made by marmots and was officially changed in 1965! The town is home to a large number of adventurous Australians who are attracted to its adrenalin- fuelled ambience and make up more than thirty percent of its work force. Our Hotel Fairmont, at the base of Mount Blackcomb, looks like a fortress with green steeples. A large lobby with bright rugs, stone floors, local art and a room with soft duvets and a panoramic sweep of the valley sets the tone for our stay. We have dinner in the Wine Room with a menu that caters to all groups: macrobiotic to diabetic. Whistler is very close to the Pemberton valley, a fertile farming area, so chefs can create gourmet dishes with fresh local ingredients.
We take the Peak to Peak gondola, a 4.4 km crossing that connects the mile high Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, and only takes about eleven minutes. It’s a marvel of engineering and its glass bottomed floors give us stunning vistas of snow capped peaks and forest. If you want some more adventure, head to the Mountain Bike Park which attracts a lot of talent from across the world. There are trails graded for advanced and intermediate riders according to difficulty. There are long legions of youth with jazzy helmets like Ninjas waiting to do the trails. And the bonus: black bears up to seventy in number, call Whistler their home, and in the summer are found near the trails, munching on clover, grass and horsetail. We see one the colour of burnt cinnamon, close to the Bike Park! Come evening, we are at festive Whistler village, a cluster of shops, art galleries and lively cafes ,with most people going wild watching the Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks Ice hockey game on giant screens..
Whistler was not always a vacation playground. Located on six acres of lush forest, is the spanking new Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, giving us a glimpse into the culture and heritage of the first settlers (whom the Canadians call poetically the First Nations). Built like a traditional Squamish Longhouse, the spacious Centre in glittering glass and wood has dramatic ceremonial masks, native art and huge weavings suspended from the ceiling. We watch a short film which gives us a glimpse into the language and culture of these people. On the agenda, is an experience of First Nations food: we like bannock, a kind of fried bread.
Our ‘global village moment’ is at Nita Lake Lodge where we meet the owner, Ram Tumuluri, an Indian educated in the UK and the grandson of an Ayurvedic doctor in Kerala. He owns hotels in Vancouver and Whistler and a chain of Ayurvedic wellness centres in India. He speaks about the interest in a healthy lifestyle on the West Coast. The colourful lunch that we have at his restaurant has locally grown vegetables like tightly curled fiddlehead ferns, herbs and goat’s cheese. Most of the top chefs of Canada come from the west Coast he says…we are not surprised. Post lunch we board the Rocky Mountaineer train to Vancouver. Another adventure… Adieu Whistler!
Published in The Hindu Metro Plus 2011