Canada: City Camping and East Hastings

We’ve made it to Vancouver! The last stop (sort of) for the trip. There’s just a few more job sites in the city, and the last one will be on Vancouver Island. From there we’re just heading back, but taking a slightly different route along the southern Trans-Canada highway so we can hit Banff. 

Obviously camping in downtown Vancouver isn’t a thing, so no matter what we do we’re going to be quite far from all our job sites. Multiple people we’ve met along the way have highly recommended a campsite called the Capilano RV and Trailer park. It’s $77 per night (the most expensive place we’ve stayed by a long shot) but we were assured it would be worth it. But hol’ up, wait – before you add that to your list of possible places to stay on your road trip – keep reading. 

We arrive late at night, hungry and ready to cook a meal. But we roll up to our spot to find we’re sandwiched between two other trailers, and there’s not even so much as a fire pit. The reality is that we’re in a parking lot next to the highway. Technically along the river, like advertise on their map… but you can’t see the river from the campsite and there’s no access to it. 

On their website – misleading

What’s more, is that all the bathrooms and showers are closed due to COVID. I can understand that (mostly, lots of other places have kept them open and just clean them more frequently) but what are we paying almost $80 for exactly? So far we’re not paying for space or amenities. There’s not even room to park our car comfortably, I had to parallel into the space and let me tell you there’s not a lot of wiggle room. What I will give the campsite, is that it has a paved, level parking space. So if the only thing you look for in an RV park is level ground that you don’t need to level your trailer on… this place is for you. 

A fan of the level concrete, makes sense.
I can’t say I understand the “resort feel” or any kind of “flair”.

I don’t know where these people usually go camping, but this is not the life.

Needless to say we’re pretty disappointed, and without bathrooms, it means we have to walk to the nearby mall every time nature calls. We have a little “cassette” (fancy word for a modern, more discrete version of a bed pan) but we don’t use it for everything, if you know what I mean. And since we’re here for 4 work days, showering is pretty important. We have an outdoor shower which I am more than willing to use, but it’ll mean I’m showering on our neighbour’s lawn. A hilarious nightmare. 

I have follow up questions for every single person who hyped this campground up to us. Did they actually hate us and want to cause us pain? They’ve succeeded. 

I’m being dramatic but like… 

But hey, we’re in Vancouver! The weather is stunning, and blue skies forecast every day. Naturally, Chesney wants to hit some breweries. New Zealand is supposed to have the most breweries per capita, but that must be some sort of technicality. Probably a little easier when there’s fewer than 5 million people in the entire country. But in any case, I can’t believe how many breweries are in Vancouver!

We walk from downtown along some random side streets towards an industrial area with lots of breweries so we can do a little patio hopping. Some of the streets seem a little sketchy at times, so we decide to take the main road on our way back, just to be safe. The nearest main road happens to be East Hastings. If you’ve been to Vancouver, that probably means something to you. We had no idea. 

All of a sudden we’re walking down an entire block full of down and out people living on the streets. But it doesn’t get any better on the next block, or the one after that. In fact, it gets worse. I see people smoking pipes of stuff that doesn’t look like weed, one person with a needle hanging out of their arm, another actively shooting up, countless prostitutes. This carries on block after block until we hit an intersection that must constitute as the central city, and immediately everything changes. No more homeless people, no more drugs. The contrast is wild. 

In hindsight, I did have some knowledge of Vancouver’s drug problem. But I didn’t realize it was so bad until I was confronted with it. A quick Google search turned up an article from the Vancouver Sun that described East Hastings as “four blocks of hell”. Which seems harsh… but not wrong. 

I’ve never seen anything like it before. Not in Hanoi, Manila, or Delhi. The open drug use is intense, and it’s strange to see so much of it in my own country, in a city that frequently ranks among the most liveable in the world. It was like being in a parallel universe for a moment.

The drug culture has gotten so bad that Vancouver actually has drug testing centres, where people can visit and have their drugs tested to make sure that whatever they’re taking won’t kill them. No judgement, no questions asked. I think that’s pretty cool, but the problem is just so much deeper than that I wouldn’t know where to start.

I realize my complaints about our RV park not having showers or a fire pit seem a little out of touch, and it puts things in perspective.

4 thoughts on “Canada: City Camping and East Hastings

  1. I remember walking thru East Hastings…one man arguing violently with a garbage can, folks nodding off on the sidewalk, a “safety team” taking a screaming woman into a van and people streaming in and out of a run down but once beautiful building and the smells were intense. All best and thanks for the trip out. Looking forward to the one back.

    Liked by 1 person

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