Cycling in a Rainforest Oasis. No wait, I’m in Stanley Park!?

Next on the agenda – Stanley Park!

The 1,000 acre park has been recognised globally as being one of the best urban parklands, even pipping New York’s Central Park to the post as TripAdvisor’s best park in the world. I had remembered visiting the park on my first trip to Canada and so it was a place I desperately wanted to relive, if not to test my memory, but to refresh it.

The Totem poles were the only real memory I had, alongside walking down seemingly never-ending woodland pathways – I couldn’t quite understand how such vastness could be held within a city. With this in mind, and the desperate need to confirm these childhood memories (and create some new ones), Stanley Park was marked out for day three of my Canadian Adventure.

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The Totem Poles – just as I remember them!

British Columbia had been in a Level 4 drought for some months and so the thought of rain didn’t even enter my mind – despite seeing (and ignoring) a weather forecast predicting showers. I felt sure the weather would humour our desperate quest for sunshine and provide another gloriously sunny day, in a vain attempt to bronze my ghostly white complexion. However, on waking early to the sound of torrential rain, I couldn’t help but laugh – we had brought the rain with us!

It certainly didn’t dampen (pardon the pun!) our spirits and in true British style, never letting the weather get the better of us, we set off across Vancouver – with a detour to buy a better raincoat – towards W Georgia Street in search of bicycle rentals. Bikes seemed to be a perfect way to explore the vast park and having recognised Vancouverites preferred this mode of transport, it was an idea I couldn’t quite shake off – we’d be cycling around Stanley Park no matter what the weather threw at us, come rain or shine!

We decided on Spokes Bicycle Rentals, as they had a good selections of bikes at a reasonable price (approximately $10 per hour) and was merely a stones throw away from the Seawall pathway. After joking with the attendants about our crazy English determination despite the rain, and the likelihood of us being their only rentals for the day, armed with our bikes, helmets and a map, we set off along the Seawall towards the park entrance. Considering I hadn’t ridden a bike for several years – and with my height resembling that of a small child – at first I struggled to get to grips with my bike, wobbling from side to side as if I’d just had my stabilizers removed.

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Sneak peak of the Lions Gate Bridge

Once I’d settled into the pace and muscle memory kicked in, I merrily followed the Seawall path, with the fresh sea breeze and rain cooling my face. It was surprisingly refreshing and the heavy drizzle offered a different, yet equally brilliant, aspect to the city by hanging over the mountains and skyrise buildings, masking their peaks. The air was filled with a rich musty smell of fresh rain soaking in the parched land, as the woodland absorbed up every last drop. Despite leaving rainy England behind in search of the bright blue August skies of Canada, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed our day of cycling was a wet one. I could see the effects of months with no rain, as the grassy banks looked scorched in areas not watered daily. The rain was desperately needed, and in some small way, I felt pleased we had brought it.

Having commented on bicycles being the main mode of transport in Vancouver, the empty bicycle paths proved that perhaps the cyclists were more fair weather riders. We had the Seawall and parkland to ourselves and barely saw another soul – perhaps no one else was a stupid enough to venture outside!

The Seawall is approximately 9km in circumference and is so hugely diverse. From woodland to the steep cliff edges; every corner provided something completely different. Beautiful beaches were strewn with driftwood and pebble stacks and the path offers a unique and private view of the Lionsgate Bridge.

20150805_214720The pathway was dotted with different statues, including the Girl in a Wetsuit, which looked mystical, if not a little spooky, shrouded in mist. Of course, the Totem poles lived up to my expectations and the information plaques alongside them were filled with the history and heritage of the park.

After cycling the Seawall, we decided to head into the park itself. Although we had some difficulty finding the entrance to one of the allocated cycle paths, we soon found ourselves winding through the densely packed woodland, surrounded by towering Douglas firs, Spruce and Red Cedars. It was easy to forget we were still in a city, as the trees seemed to muffle the sound of any traffic, replacing it with the faint, yet comforting rustle of the breeze running through the branches. Such peace and tranquility – I couldn’t help but feel we had been transported into a secret rainforest, rather than an urban park.

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The paths skirted huge lakes, including the Lost Lagoon, with its banks housing Canadian Geese, ducks and other birds, and Beaver Lake which was carpeted with flowering water lilies. It was a colourful oasis – a little slice of heaven which felt as though we were a million miles away from any form of civilisation.

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Water Lilies covering Beaver Lake

Time seemed to fly by so quickly, so much so, it felt as if there was no time at all. I was living completely in the moment, engaging all of my senses and absorbing every new sight and smell; my mind held captive by the ever-changing scenery. Although cycling (in the rain) for several hours, I barely noticed a second go by. It was only when we left the park and handed our trusty steeds back to the rental attendants, did I feel I was back in the present and awoken from my dream.

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