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Full Circle

Day 239: Vancouver to Prince George

Michael Palin - Full CircleRestored and revived by a day off in Vancouver, I set off for the final push, by train through British Columbia, then by ship through the islands into Alaska. Looking at my map as our five-car train pulls out of Vancouver at 7 a.m., I estimate that now only 2200 miles separate us from the Bering Strait.

Summer has come round again and the weather should hold, at least as far as Alaska. Our train is called the Cariboo Prospector after the gold-rush of the 1860s that opened up the interior of British Columbia. Captain Cook had explored and charted the coast eighty years before that, trading with the local Indians, but, as we have seen in nearly every part of the American Pacific Rim, it was the lure of precious metals that drew the Europeans here in numbers.

We have become blasé over the last eleven months, but even by our own severely jaded standards this is a fine morning to be setting out. The waters of the Howe Sound are serene, still, and luminous. Two huge Hyundai car transporters move slowly down the bay towards Vancouver. After a few miles the railway line turns sharply north, clinging precariously to the base of towering cliffs, occasionally squeezing into the gloom of cuttings and tunnels blasted out of the hard black rock. Our route follows the Fraser River four hundred and sixty miles north to Prince George. On the way there are eight scheduled stops and fifty-five 'flag stops', where anyone, provided they're holding the requisite metal rectangle, can flag the train to a halt.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 239
  • Country/sea: Canada
  • Place: Fraser River
  • Book page no: 312

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