Friday 15th June 2018
Today we are headed for Quaaout Lodge on Little Shuswap Lake near the small village of Chase. It’s going to be a long drive day, partially because one direct route is closed, and partially because we have to back-track to the turn-off at Lillooet. Nothing for it but to be on the coach by 7.30am.
I am going to miss Tyax Wilderness Lodge (see previous posts here and here). Not every tourist would make the effort to get there. It’s 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) from Lillooet to the lodge, along a rough loose-surfaced logging road dotted with potholes and landslips and lined with jaw-dropping wilderness scenery all along the route, especially beside the Carpenter Lake. The lodge itself is a vast log cabin with a backwoods feel, set on a lake and surrounded by snow-capped mountains and forest. Just the setting for one of those boys-own adventures where father and son set off on a bonding session, only to get attacked by a grizzly bear and stagger back barely alive after weeks of hiking around in circles. I feel a story coming on . . .
Gosh, but I am also excited for the next adventure too.
As we reached the bottom of the dirt road which leads to and from Tyax Wilderness Lodge I noticed that their sign is now showing “Open”. Friday 15th June is the official opening of their summer season. I hope the staff made good use of us as their “crash test dummies” 🙂
Now on our outward journey, we had a quick coffee and comfort stop at Lillooet. The weather had improved but was still cool for this time of the year. At least that is what the ladies told us who we bumped into in the cafe we chose. Turns out that a half dozen of them meet Wednesdays and Fridays. They greeted Bill and me the moment we walked in and invited us to join them. Always a great opportunity to hear about local life. Among other things, this group of retired women grow all their own produce and sew quilts. They complain that deer like to forage in their plots, which prompted me to quip they were growing dear food. They got the joke, which is always encouraging.
Back on the bus, the road we had travelled two days before was still challenging for our driver, but without the rain, and with one experience under his belt he handled it well.
Because of the route deviation forced on us by road closure, we travelled south-east to Lytton where we reached the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and marvelled at the changed in water colour. The first is brown and muddied with sediment, while the second is crystal clear because it drops its sediment in lakes along the way. Where the two rivers meet the difference is so stark it looks like a borderline marking.
We hear quite a bit about the Hudson’s Bay Company as we head around this part of Canada, and a bit less about their rival the Northwest Trading Company. Two cartographers associated with these companies were David Thompson and John Fraser. Inevitably place names record their presence as you note by the river names.
At this point we turned around and headed north-east for another hour or more’s driving to a small place called Cache Creek (someone keeps putting mountains in the way of a more direct route). This is where we stop for a late lunch at the Hat Creek Ranch, home to buildings used by the Gold Rush travellers of the 1860s. We are on a section of the original Cariboo Wagon Road.
Here’s just a few photos from the roadhouse Hat Creek House established in 1861 by another Hudon’s Bay Company trader, Donald McLean. It started its life as a log cabin and was later enhanced and extended. Before too long, as in Australia, the alluvial gold finished and the average man moved on but this place stayed popular. We had a talk and guided tour of the parlour, saloon, kitchen and upper guest rooms before being left to roam the various sheds in the grounds.
Then we hitched a ride to the nearby Shuswap Native Village where a delightful young woman explained to us the use and significance of the various displays and artefacts of the original nomadic people of this area. According to the brochure, this complex has been re-constructed by local Stuctwesemc (“Stluck-TOW-uhsen”) of the Bonaparte First Nation reserve.
The sweat lodge was a ritual for cleansing body and spirit. In the below photo our native guide is demonstrating how volcanic lava rocks were heated and placed in the lodge. I was also fascinated by her story of the coming-of-age ritual where the young boys would remain in the sweat lodge until they fell into a trance and had visions.
The summer lodge is also is interesting – made of bullrushes which would shrink in summer to allow a flow-through breeze, or swell in rain to provide a waterproof cover.
There is an “underground lodging pit-house” – a Kekuli – on this site which tourists can rent. It sleeps 25 people. Our tour leader was anxious that its secrets not be revealed to us on this visit. We had to wait a few more hours to find out why.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Quaaoout Lodge (pronounced KWA-OOO-T or something like that) but in this time of the year where daylight stretches on and on it seemed much earlier to us Aussies who are not used to long twilight. Now we learned the reason that our tour leader did not want us to view the kekuli (pit house) earlier in the day. Tanner Francois, a young member of the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band, was waiting to greet us and explain the lifestyle of the First Nations people who used these underground earth lodges as their winter home. Originally accessed by descending a ladder dropped down a hole in the ground, this one now has a side entrance sloping down from ground level. The kekuli is log-roofed which is then covered with bark, earth and grasses for insulation. Knowing I had seen something similar in Scandinavia years ago does make one wonder about the migration of ancient peoples and the skills they brought with them.
Tanner had been cooking local salmon over the fire and served us samples as he talked, which was a tasty entree to the meal we enjoyed later that evening. After dinner we had a walk around the lodge and grounds. Officially the Quaaout Lodge & Spa at Talking Rock Golf Resort, this serene establishment offers both a relaxing holiday AND the opportunity to learn more of the indigenous culture, such as traditional canoe building.
The entire resort is decorated throughout with interesting artwork such as motifs on doors, and sculptures in the most unexpected places. The three-dimensional one in the photo below shows bears catching fish on the salmon run. As always, hard to choose just a few illustrative photos from the dozens we took each day.