Do bears have Facebook? You know, some sort of social media system where they swap blueberry recipes, or maybe they just look at the scratches on a tree and say “oh dear, Myrtle’s clubs are climbing already!”
It’s day two of our Whistler getaway. I wake to the sound of birds in the trees, and air brakes from the semi unloading in a laneway somewhere nearby. Nanette wakes to the smell of freshly brewed coffee (as she does).
It’s a beautiful day outside, and we can see people streaming into the village. About half are wheeling extreme looking mountain bikes. The rest seem to be dressed in assorted versions of athletic gear. “Hey,” I cry, “they have that five peaks run event today. It doesn’t start for a couple of hours. We could slip down to the outdoor clothing shop and grab some gear. I reckon it would be great fun.” Silence. “Er, well, maybe we could just hang around here, or maybe sit by the pool and read a book.”
It’s now late afternoon – (where did that day go?) We’re sitting outside the hotel waiting for the guy from the adventure tour company to pick us up for the long awaited bear tour. “Enjoy one of the premier black bear viewing spots in Whistler” the brochure says. “Avid photographers will find this a prime opportunity to capture stunning images.” Oops, I just realised that I left my camera back in the room. No time to grab it now as the Land Rover has just skidded to a stop in front of us and the guy, no, wait a minute, the girl looks keen to get rolling.
“Hi, I’m Raylene” drawls the Aussie accent we have met so many times around Whistler. “I’m gunna be yer guide tonight. Jump in and we’ll get goin.” Besides Raylene, the only other intrepid travellers are a couple from Ireland. My gaelic’s a bit rusty, but I remember “dia dhuit” means hello. “Sorry, we’re from the Nort to be sure we are. We don speak gaelic, no we don’t.” Ah well, at least I tried.
Raylene is already into her spiel. “So, I’m taking youse to the best valley in the area to look fer bears, but I gotta warn ya, they’re tricky little b’s to spot.” That doesn’t bode well.
In no time, we leave the highway and start climbing along an abandoned forestry road that even the heartiest mountain goat would think twice about. Everyone is bumping about like fleas in a box. “Ah, don’t worry about the bumps” says Raylene. “I’m seven months pregnant and it doesn’t worry me!” Everyone looks at Raylene. Sure enough, her seatbelt is extended to the limit around an obvious natal bump. It’s ok, I tell myself, if she pops out here in the wilderness, I can find some water to boil somewhere, and Nanette has a first aid certificate.
We spend the next three hours bouncing and bumping through some spectacular scenery until the fading light forces the indomitable Raylene to turn for home. And the bears? Well, actually, well, er – we didn’t spot any. Not even the tip of an ear or the curve of a rump disappearing back into the trees. “Strewth” says Raylene, “we always see at least one. It’s just like they sent some sorta message around sayin not the be in this area tonight.” And again I say, do bears have Facebook.