Our current hostel (HI Shuswap Lake at Squilax) is exciting because most of the accommodation is in “cabooses” – these are the carriages that you see on the end of the long trains in the old westerns, where the guard sits, and the baddies always meet their untimely end. And, if my memory is right, always the one they detach from the train just as the rest goes plunging into the ravine. Well, anyway, it looks like the picture! In the early 90’s Canadian railways decided they didn’t need them anymore (they were principally for braking and observation), despite the size of their trains. (We counted a train yesterday that had 110 wagons behind 2 engines. And when you’re at a level crossing, that’s a very long, very slow moving train.) But I digress…
The hostel bought three cabooses, laid them on some railway track in the gardens, and turned them into six-bed dormitories. They have a small dining area and kitchen, as well as a desk (originally where the guard watched the track disappear – or the indians charge, if he was in a movie), and the ‘window box’ on top, which is where I’m sitting now, typing this diary.
It’s got two seats, one each side of the carriage, and windows looking forward, sideways and back. You’re reminded that it was a railway carriage everywhere you look, as well as by the engine-grease smells. As you can imagine, the girls are very, very excited about this all.
The rest of the hostel consists of an old storefront (just like the Westerns too!), a campfire and a native sauna. This is basically a 4-foot high circular mud building – it looks like one of those cheaper ‘stand on the lawn’ rigid swimming pools, with a roof. Inside is a small pit, where red hot rocks from the fire are placed, and then water is splashed onto it. The temperature goes skyward, and five minutes later everybody cramped inside is sweating tons! The first time I tried this it was very hot – in fact, so hot that I went straight to the lake and jumped in at midnight. I don’t like swimming in cold water, but this was easy after such a roasting, to get my body to a normal temperature. Anyway, if you get the chance, try it – but make sure you listen well, and don’t mishear ‘native sauna’ for ‘naked sauna’ (another story, another time)!
On the lake shore, sitting on the swimming jetty today, we saw bald eagles, beavers, deer and a small brown bear on the opposite shore. Its a sure sign that we’re starting to get closer to the Rockies, and the National Parks.
Although it all sounds idyllic, we couldn’t recommend the hostel to others, because its nowhere near the same standards of cleanliness and order as the other HI hostels in Canada – if you come here, be prepared for a shock. One of the oddest things is that the hostel keeps two llama’s in a pen, and the eating area is pungent with the smell of hot llama pooh!
Update: Now they are grazing on the lakeside – and the lake nearby is now full of llama poo – Charlotte has stopped swimming, and instead both Charlotte and Emily are using life-saving rings in a game of “Hoop the Poo”. Of course, we caught that on video to show what it looks like: