August 14: Mission to Hope, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 14: Mission to Hope, British Columbia

Steph spotted a small and deserted Indian cemetery behind trees on the road to Hope. It was no hardship to walk through the shade for a closer look...
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I DON'T KNOW if you know this but Indian areas in Canada are known as reserves rather than reservations. The tribes are called bands. And the areas on which they live are really small. There can be several, little longer than a municipal park, dotted along the same road. They have numbers rather than names.

"Many of them around here are now occupied by single extended families," Thomas Quinn told us as we sat eating sandwiches in the shade of a tree. He said a government anthropologist had forecast the Indians would die off. There was no doubt in his mind. "In fact," said Thomas, "it didn't work out that way at all."

And in modern times, he said, the number of Indians has increased markedly. "That's not because of any increase in the birth rate but because people are no longer as ashamed to say on census forms that they are Indian."

Thomas, Lesley and Steph: the three wise monkeys
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Thomas is a tall, distinguished man with fair skin and light hair that confirms his family background in Sweden. He is the only man I know who speaks Greenlandic, a language I never realised existed. He and his wife, Lesley, a darker, smaller and instantly warm woman, drove out today to find us in Agassiz. The town hides beneath the towering mountain behind it. It's small, the town, between Mission and the portway to the mountains at Hope.

Thomas is another Crazyguy and the original invitation was to stay at his home. But not only is it only 20km out of Vancouver, too far to visit the city but too close to stop the following day, it is up what he confesses is "an interesting hill." We agreed instead to meet for coffee yesterday. We both turned up where and when we agreed but the flood of traffic prevented our uniting. They spent the afternoon trying to find us and then this morning, bless them, started hunting all over again,

Thomas explained how Hastings Street came to be as it is. "When the city was originally established, the first area to be settled was what is now Gastown. The Chinese came, and the Japanese came. The two communities didn't get on and they settled into their own little areas with a gap between them to prevent their fighting all the time. The gap is now Hastings Street and only the desperate wanted to take the chance of living in no man's land between two warring communities.

"The area never really picked up and it's become the worst in Canada. Street people are attracted there because Vancouver has mild winters. You can't live outdoors in other Canadian towns but you can in Vancouver."

The athletes' village built for the winter Olympics just passed will be used to house people from Hastings Street, he said.

How did our day go? A bit better than yesterday, but not a lot. It was a real pleasure to meet Thomas and Lesley and we had an interesting time exploring an old and unsignposted Indian cemetery to the left of the main highway. Most of the crosses were too old for the names to have survived but there were some newer ones and a few carvings in wood and, on one edge, a small black stone marking the plot of a recently passed chief.

We are now obviously on the edge of the mountains. They rear up on two sides and cast a shadow, a welcome but brief one in this heat, as we ride. We finished the day seriously dehydrated and overheated despite our efforts to drink when we were thirsty, when we weren't thirsty and in between.

We are camping on a wooded ground run by the local Indian band. We walked into town for groceries this evening and marvelled at just how many motels a place of only a few hundred people could support.

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