Published: October 9th 2010August 10th 2010
On a whim we found ourselves on a bus then another bus and then a ferry and then a van and then a hire car, and you bet, we were back in travelling mode!! Look out Vancouver Island, home to British Columbia's capital city and some of its most amazing beaches and forests.
Even the bus trip to the ferry terminal was interesting, taking us across Vancouver harbour and into North Vancouver for the first time. Much like its north-of-the-harbour counterpart in Sydney, North Vancouver offers little in the way of cultural substance (have you guessed who's writing yet??), but isn't short on nice houses and dog-walkers. From Horseshoe Bay we left the mainland behind, crossing the Georgia Straight for Vancouver Island. In Nanaimo we picked up a rental car, and started south driving on the wrong, but legal, side of the road. We stopped for lunch in the small town of Duncan where our attempt to find a bakery and deli introduced us to the North American version of the local shops - megastores galore situated around a mammoth car park and not an independently owned operator in sight! We did, however, manage to find a quaint cafe to
Jen at the beach
logs are everywhere on BC beaches - we presume they're escapees from the downriver logging transportation
enjoy a bit of small town atmosphere. On to Sooke where we learnt about the logging history of the region and saw cross sections of some ridiculously old (>500 years) and large tree trunk cross sections. A little further again and we were at French Beach Provincial Park and our destination for camping the night. Here we read the information boards with the utmost of attention, after all this was our first night of camping in bear, wolf and coyote country! So it turns out you keep eye contact and talk with the black bears, play dead with the browns, throw stones at the coyotes.... or was that play dead with the coyotes and talk to the browns?? and tickle the blacks??? Oh dear....
And so, completely confused by the overload of information we set up camp underneath the tall pine trees, hid our food deep inside the car, and went for a walk along the beautiful, but very cold and windy gravelly beach. Interspersed with comments of 'wow, look at the scenery?' and 'ooooh, is that a whale?' (it wasn't) we attempted to reassure each other 'no...bears don't like the beach', 'yeah, you're probably right...its far too windy
like a flightless bird
Jeff embraces the chilly coastal wind
and cold for them out here, I wouldn't come out here if this wasn't a holiday!'. And then a rustle in the nearby trees, but it was just a fellow camper going for a walk. Soon enough we were warm inside our tents, sleeping the night through with not even a snore from the bears to wake us up.
The next morning we spent exploring the southern coast of the islands, through small fishing towns, in small-fishing town weather (i.e. grey and windy), before coming across lovely Victoria as the sun finally came shining through. It was quite hard to believe that in just 20 or 30 minutes we had gone from fishing towns to big, capital city Victoria. But here we were, exploring the colonial buildings, flowered parks and hordes of fellow tourists who were let loose on the city in the middle of a now fantastic summer's day.
Hitting the eastern side of the island we hit holiday-land Parksville, which reminded us of any number of beachside towns north or south of Sydney at the height of the school holidays. The only difference is that we wouldn't be tempted to go for a swim in the
ocean, a dip of the toe would suffice. In Parksville we came across a world renowned sand sculpting competition, where the sand is trucked in, as the beaches are mostly pebbly in this part of the world! Nevertheless, the professional sculptures kept us amazed for an hour or two, as we walked around trying to figure out which one would get our highly prized voting chip.
Later we spent quite a lot of time trying to find our way into the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park (not to be confused with the adjoining by land but 40kms by road away Little Qualicum Falls Regional Park). Thankfully our frustrations were eased by another lovely campsite, a wander through the woods to the fairly impressive namesake of both parks, a camp dinner and another good nights sleep. In the absence of showering facilities we took a morning dip in the extremely chilly river where crayfish came and tried to nibble on our toes before we jumped up onto the rocks and dried off in the oh so nice sun.. Fantastic!
The drive across the middle of the island was equally impressive. First, massive stands of huge conifers, then lakes and
Jen freezes at the beach, mid-Summer
will she survive the Canadian winter??? Place your bets now
snow capped mountains, and then back to the west coast where the wind was at it yet again. In Ucluelet we stopped for the most amazing fish (Halibut, where have you been all our lives!?) and chips, or should we say fries... We drove on to the end of the line at Tofino, which on this particular day was far too overun with tourists (including ourselves of course) to really enjoy. But a quick wander down to see a little bit of Clayquot Sound was nice!
Back on the east coast and heading north, we crossed rivers and creeks and got further and further from civilisation. At Miracle Beach Provincial Park we entered a mammoth campground with several hundred sites amongst the pines trees. The welcome from the park ranger went something like 'Good Afternoon, 2 adult campers? $22 please. Just place that on your dash. Third on the right. And there is a bear in the campground. Have a good night.' And all through the campground there were young kids riding their bikes around, small pet dogs wandering about and Jen and I freaking out, 'THERE'S A BEAR IN THE CAMPGROUND!!' And so after setting up camp we
walked around and around looking for the bear, but to no avail. We were also tempted to leave some food out as bait, but thought better of it.
The next morning we checked out Miracle Beach itself, at its famous low tide, when the beach seems to stretch forever. We spotted all sorts of intertidal life that was new and bizarre to us, before packing up into the car, back to the rental centre where they charged us fee after fee for this and that...mental note to ourselves - Jen never does the car bookings again! But eh, who cares.. We had a fantastic island adventure with tall trees and beaches and lakes and mountains...
But the bears will have to wait until next time!
J and J
There are more photos below