Backpackers find refuge in the valley



By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Every year, a determined few make the trip through the valley without a motorized vehicle, and two international organizations have grown roots in the valley to show travellers where theyre welcome.

For the many touring cyclists and wandering backpackers that are lured here by the stunning landscapes of the Columbia Valley, they can enjoy homestyle hospitality through two local hosts.

Through www.warmshowers.org and www.couchsurfing.org, travellers and hosts can hook up for hospitality, and both networks extend around the world. David Pacey, who used to run a bed and breakfast in Radium Hot Springs, now offers his residence up to cyclists travelling through. Since retiring, David and his wife have opened their doors to members of Warm Showers.

Everybody you meet is very interesting sometimes a little weird but everyone is interesting, he said.

Mr. Pacey said hes taken in about 12 cyclists through the website so far. The riders are often young adults, though one of the guests was in his 70s.

As active cyclists themselves, Mr. Pacey and his wife often use the network to find a host during their many multi-day excursions.

The service offers an alternative to corporate travelling, said Kirsten Harma, who began hosting couch surfers after using the service herself. Kirsten spent many nights in the homes of hosts in Italy, which she said gave her a deeper understanding of the culture and allowed her to learn the language much more quickly.

I came back to Canada and wanted to give back; pay it backwards and be a host, she said.

Kirsten can understand the hesitancy of those considering hosting, but after backpacking herself, she became trusting of the community.

Theyre not there to steal from you they want to go about travelling the world and have a good

experience.

Users of the websites create profiles before contacting hosts. Profiles are verified, comments can be posted, and references are encouraged to give an idea what kind of traveller each person is.

The hosting services allow travellers an opportunity to see parts of each community that are less common to tourists, Kirsten said, while hosts are given new perspectives by travellers from around the globe.

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