Travel Journal

Kelowna - Vancouver - June 22 - I did it, I did it...

(Saturday 23 June 2007) by Karin
Up and long ready to go at 8 but some of the others only had just gotten back from the pub and the whole lot was still pretty drunk or hungover. Guess I was the only one awake today. But a fun day anyway.
Not too many stops but first one - the Othello tunnels. We walked through some of them and its amazing what was created here but here another little history lesson. Gazing up at the steep cliffs of the canyon, it is difficult to imagine how these tunnels were constructed. A route through this gorge had been deemed impossible by several engineers, but Andrew McCulloch sensed a solution. Lowered from the clifftops above in a small woven basket, McCulloch and his helpers cut out footholds in the rock, set up survey instruments and from this precarious position developed an amazing plan for a series of tunnels. With the tunnels in perfect alignment, and the two bridges between three of them, he had found a route over the forbidding chasm below. Instead of a single mile-long tunnel, the track would thread its way through the entire canyon with only a third of a mile of trackage. The bridges were completed in July 1915 and the Coquihalla Canyon was conquered. For 48 years the railway provided both freight and passenger service between the Kootenays and the Coast. Eventually better roads and air travel drew more and more passengers away. Then in November 1959 heavy rains dealt a crushing blow, washing out sections of the Coquihalla line. The damage was never repaired and in 1961 the Kettle Valley Railway's Coquihalla line was officially closed.
Now why is it called the "Othello" tunnel? The Kettle Valley Railway engineer, A. McCulloch was an avid fan of William Shakespeare. He was said to have sat around the evening camp fire with construction workers reciting Shakespearean poetry, and used the names of characters from the Bard's plays to name stations. In addition to a railway engineering marvel, he created something of a cultural curiosity. Between Brookmere and Hope, some of the stations were named Juliet, Romeo, Iago, Portia, Jessica, Lear and here, just out of Hope, Othello.
The next stop would have been for a picnic but it was raining so we decided to just keep going and have lunch on the bus. Then the big question was popped again .... who wanted to go skydiving. I was still the only candidate and Jeremy, the driver, looking outside told me I shouldn't keep my hopes up as there was little change that the weather was going to be good enough. I was sure it would clear up and that I would be 'flying' today and didn't worry to much about it. The others didn't mind waiting for an hour while I got the instructions and would finally 'parachute' down. I was soooooooooo excited. Have wanted to do this now for several years and this was a great opportunity. And guess what..... when we arrived the sun came out. Hard to explain how I felt but it sure was good and exciting. So I got ready, in a pink suit with a black hat and silly goggles but ready to go. Got some instructions and then we walked to the plane, climbed in and off we went. Debbie, who would be filming the event, the instructor and 'parachute holder' and me. Got attached just before the door was opened. Then I had to go on one knee and put one foot out on a step. Thought I was going to fly off like that so had second thoughts but too late. Crossed my arms in front of me and got pushed out for a 40 seconds lasting free fall before the parachute opened. Wooooooowww. That's also what I screamed (I think). Amazing, wonderful, awesome..... and again, I don't think I can really describe what I felt. Got the handles to steer and we just 'hung in there'. Landing didn't go really as it should have been as I didn't stretch my legs at the right time but wasn't too bad. So that's why we have 'I did it, I did it' in the title. And I would do it again. It sure isn't cheap but worth the trill.
After that we drove on to Vancouver and I was dropped at the Jericho HI. Put my stuff away, made the bed and went for a walk. I like this hostel. Dinner, internet and now it's time to go to bed. Another early start on the Moose tomorrow.
PS. Today, the Angel of Birth accompanied me.


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