It’s day one of the annual B.C. Rotary Exchange Student Summer Tour and they’re off to the rodeo — the 88th annual Williams Lake Stampede, that is.
For Rotarians Lorraine Wareham, Sarah Davies and Dave Bradley from the club in Pender Harbour, it’s the beginning of a fun two-week odyssey of kids, camps and camaraderie.
In all, 12 travellers from across the globe would join the three Rotarians at some point for the once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Beginning at 4 a.m. June 27 on the Sunshine Coast with a pick-up of German student Fabian Schorre hosted by Pender Harbour Rotarians and French student Pierre Martinet, guest of Sunshine Coast Rotarians, the group travelled around the province.
During their two days in Williams Lake the students were billeted in friendly Rotary homes. They started their days with pancake breakfasts at the fairgrounds.
“A big event for hundreds of fairgoers, pancakes, bacon, eggs, toast, juice and coffee are served to the lucky people, all by Williams Lake Rotary Club,” Wareham said.
The kids were photographed with their home flags walking in the annual parade, an impressive sight for the Cariboo folks.
The next day the students were given a private briefing on the humane methods used at the annual rodeo. The presenter explained the point system for the stampede participants and the life of a cowboy on the rodeo circuit.
From there the trek continued on to Clearwater and then north to Blue River. Duties were assigned. Three students were responsible each day to cook and clean up for all three meals.
Day four of the journey was marked by a cold night. After braving the six-degree weather, the group soldiered on to an Alberta side trip. Many stops later the awestruck teens finally made camp in Jasper National Park.
After a really cold night — two degrees — the group was up and running early. In return for the students setting up the town’s Canada Day breakfast venue, they received a free breakfast. Most of them went back for seconds and thirds. Four students bought long red souvenir underwear; they made a great picture along with the Mounties in their red serge that day.
Next it was on to Golden in the Rogers Pass where clear weather made for some spectacular pictures at the Columbia Ice Fields Interpretive Centre. Along the way Mother Nature provided critters of every kind to impress the teens, including bear (grizzly and black), elk, a mountain goat and deer. Three brave souls opted for a quick dip in the glacier’s runoff pool accompanied by loud shrieks to entertain the rest of the group.
“We thought of putting up a polar bear swim club after a record number of swims in places like the ice field and Lake Louise,” Pierre said.
After Golden, the travellers slipped back to Lake Louise (the highlight for Fabian) and Banff. By day seven they were in Radium Hot Spring, and a couple of happy hours were spent in the pools there.
They continued through the Kootenays including a visit to Fort Steele just outside Cranbrook.
“Each building told a story of the occupant and his or her life in the late 1800s. Similar to Barkerville, the town is a living museum filled with working stores, such as a blacksmith, photographer, baker and dressmaker. The students enjoyed sun tea, tea left in a jar in the sun to steep,” Wareham said.
Then it was on to Christina Lake via the Kootenay Pass, the highest mountain pass in B.C.
“Our campsite at Christina Pines Campground was just a few blocks from the lake. The campground had a pool, which provided respite from the 37C heat. An ice cream parlour close by earned repeat visits. That night a few students slept out under the stars,” Wareham said.
The next day the kids were treated to terrific hospitality from Rotarians Ron and Elaine Ross. Ron is a former district governor and has been hosting a day of water skiing and tubing to exchange students for more than 10 years.
“Every student had an opportunity to water ski, many for the first time. Tubing was a huge hit, along with kayaking, swimming and a hamburger barbecue,” Wareham shared.
Day 11 saw the group winding through the Canadian desert.
“We descended into Osoyoos for lunch and a visit of the town, to stock up on M&Ms and other necessities,” Wareham laughed.
Later a quick stop in Keremeos preceded a visit to the old gold mining town of Hedley. A cool dip in the Similkameen River was followed by more Rotarian hospitality at the vacation home of Tom Bracewell and Hansi Natzki.
Then day 12 and it was on to Manning Park and Vancouver. The last leg of the trip covered Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. A fantastic zodiac trip from Paul Hansen of West Coast Wilderness Lodge and then it was home for the happy, tired crew.
“The tour was purely awesome. It was the best tour of my life,” Pierre said.
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