As we drive to Mount Revelstoke, in British Columbia, I realize that the mystic beauty of Emerald Lake proves that fairies exist. I keep hearing their soft voices, their whispers in the wind. I feel the presence of the spirits of Nature around me. They hide in the mist that covers the mountains, in the leaves and the rocks. But there’s no spell that can save Canada from fires. Suddenly the air is filled with smoke. We can’t see anything; the smell of burnt wood is almost unbearable. After many months without rain, the forest is burning. There’s something threatening and ominous about the landscape now. We cannot see the glorious scenery of Glacier National Park.
MOUNT REVELSTOKE NATIONAL PARK
It is such a relief when the smoke starts to disappear and the sky gets clear again. We are heading to Mount Revelstoke National Park, and I can’t wait to see the oldest rainforest in British Columbia. This green sanctuary located on the Trans-Canada Highway immediately reminds me of the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter. A walk through the forest leads us through a magical setting, with giant cedars and other ancient trees. Someone says there’s a bear nearby; I can’t see anything but the red cedar and hemlock trees.
AN ENCHANTED PLACE
As I walk on, breathing the exceptionally clean air, I think of yet another movie: Twilight. Those of you who are familiar with the vampire saga set in Forks, US (not far from here), will remember the thick forests, the tall trees and the intense sense of mystery. The state of Washington is not far from here, and part of the movie was shot in Canada. I feel like I’m walking in a green world, filled with mysterious voices and weird noises, inhabited by legendary creatures. There’s a fine line between reality and imagination for those who walk among the ancient cedar trees. They may be more than half a millennium old, and I look at them in awe.
LIFE ON RESERVES
After a quick picnic we leave Mount Revelstoke and drive on, towards Shuswap Lake. It’s getting warmer outside, and as we get off the bus, we are attacked by mosquitos. We have entered an Indian reserve, where we will spend a night in a resort owed by Little Shuswap Indian Band. As compensation for taking the lands away from their rightful owners, the government has established a unique set of rights and benefits for the Indians who accept to live on reserves. However, many aboriginals chose to move out: most reserves are far from large urban centers and lack the economic and educational opportunities that accompany living in a city. But there are people who work to protect their heritage, like the owners of the Quaaout Lodge & Spa. This 4 star hotel by the lake, with a golf course, a beach and other amenities, welcome visitors reminding them that “we know you will agree that truly we have the Land of the Great Spirit.”
sunset AT SHUSWAP LAKE
I leave my bags in the room and run to the beach, but it’s so hot that after a while I decide to go back and wait for the sunset. It’s a great idea: when the sky starts to turn pink and purple, the beach is empty and I have it all for myself. Armed with anti-mosquito spray, I walk on the sand, bewitched by the spectacular sunset. I am alone, but I don’t feel lonely. I sit on a blue chair on the pier and think about the meaning of traveling. I believe we need to go far away to understand where and what is “home”. Some say their home is the world, but I do not agree. Everyone needs a special place to go back to, a house where we keep all the things that are dear to us. A comfort zone.
A REAL CANADIAN DINNER
Talking with our tour guide, I learn that Canada is not the perfect country I thought it was. In the big cities, flats are very expensive and many young people and families decide to move to the countryside. It’s easier to find a job than it is in Italy, but not all jobs are very well paid. And winters are cold and long. Maybe there’s no perfect country after all; we live in one place, and travel to seek beauty and collect special memories.
After the quiet show of sunset, we have dinner in the restaurant with a view over the lake. Oven-baked salmon, red and yellow roasted potatoes, greens and Brussel sprouts are delicious. Canadian cuisine is simple and based on local products, essentially fish and meat. I am told that fishing and hunting are popular activities here, and Indians still believe in spirits. It’s easy to feel connected with nature in Canada, to feel its power. Nature can be exceptionally beautiful as well as extremely cruel, but we are part of it. And we should not try to dominate nature, but to live with it.