Almost any trip in southern BC brings you sooner or later to KAMLOOPS, a sprawling town 355km northeast of Vancouver and 110km west of Salmon Arm, which has been a transport centre from time immemorial. Its name derives from the Shuswap word for “meeting of the rivers” and today it marks the meeting points of the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead (South) highways, the region’s principal roads, and the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways. One of the region’s largest towns, it’s a bland, unobjectionable but determinedly functional place that’s yet to completely shake off its rough-edged Wild West feel. This is celebrated during the Kamloopa Pow Wow, held the first weekend in August ($10/day; t 250 828 9782), and the early-March Kamloops Cowboy Festival, which celebrates cowboy poetry and music and even has a cowboy church ($10/day; w bcchs.com). Otherwise there’s no particular need to stick around, but it makes a handy provisions stop, especially for those heading north on Hwy-5 or south on the Coquihalla Hwy, neither of which has much in the way of facilities.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the city is its surroundings, dominated by the strange, bare-earthed brown hills, which provide almost surreal touches of near-desert, which are particularly marked in the bare rock and clay outcrops above the bilious waters of the Thompson River and in the bleached scrub and failing stands of pines that spot the barren hills.