What whales?

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August 14th 2016
Published: July 28th 2017
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Geo: 49.2605, -123.114

After waking early (blame the camping body clock) I headed out for a morning run as the city was beginning to wake. I saw huge cruise ships down on the dock as a ran along the Canadian way, the boards on the floor separated out into provinces, their capitals labelled along with major towns.

After breakfast, we walked from downtown over to Granville Island, one of most popular areas of Vancouver to visit. We could have got one of the little tug-boat-style ferries that take you from downtown, over the river to the island. However, we decided to walk and so took the traffic bridge up and over, with sweeping views of the city and the river beyond. The only problem with the road bridge is that we walked straight over Granville Island, and kept walking, and walking and walking. We had no idea how to get off the bridge which seemed to go on for miles. Eventually, we found an exit and then had to walk about a mile back to the island, where we joined our whale watching tour.

Because we had booked an open boat, we had to gear up in the flotation suits that were mandatory for the trip. Huge, and either orange or red, they were like boiler suits with extra padding. Very flattering. They weren't even waterproof so everything we had with us had to be placed into waterproof bags. I was, I admit, a little excited at the prospect of this trip - I've loved killer whales since I was a child and so was desperate to see them in the wild. The tour company offered a guarantee that we would see whales or we could go again for free Whenever we wanted to for life. They also had a huge banner on the website informing potential clients that they had seen a whale every single day since time immemorial. So it was a pretty safe bet that we were in for a treat. The sun was shining, the wind was pretty high and we were warned that it could be s very chunky ride!

We pulled out of the harbour and were told that the strait where they normally see whales was incredibly rough, so the chances of us going there were fairly slim. At this point, I just knew in my heart that we would be seeing no whales today. As we neared the strait, the boat began to bounce around, water flying in all directions, including onto us, into our suits and soaking the clothes we had on underneath. It was freezing. And although the suits weren't waterproof, they certainly kept the water IN.

The captain came to the main part of the boat and told us that we simply couldn't enter the strait, it was too dangerous. Instead, we would be cruising up one of the fjords, where the orcas can 'sometimes' be found. The nightly voice saying, "No whales" got louder. It was a very pretty trip. The sides of the fjords were steeply sloped, their tree-lined edges kissing the water. The sun reflected off the clear surface - no waves out in this protected sound - and pleasure boats pooled past us. We saw a huge baitball of herring, a colony of harbour seals, a nest with a bald eagle, which we saw dive onto the surface and grab a struggling fish in its talons and a rock studded with cormorants, but we saw no whales. Not even a fin, not even the spray from a breath. It was the first disappointment of the trip, and it was a keen one.

The ride had been fun and we had caught the sun and relaxed and so we had to content ourselves with knowing that we had enjoyed what would have been a perfectly pleasant excursion had we booked a cruise of the sound. However, we were desperate to see whales and so after we pulled back into the harbour, with some great views of her skyline from the water, we booked a repeat tour ready for our final day in Vancouver, so keep everything crossed for us please!

Eager to salvage something from the day, we decided to use the good weather to explore Granville Island. A clutter of cute clapboard buildings, like those in any quintessential America beach movie, were arranged next to a pretty harbour. We ducked in and out of a couple of shops, before heading to the famous farmers' market, where we ambled through the array of local produce selecting lunch and dinner for the next couple of days - we had cooking facilities and we were going to use them!

Bags heavily laden, we took the long walk back to Downtown, hands sore and bellies rumbling! Dinner was a fabulous organic sirloin steak with salad, all topped off with some beautiful olive oils and balsamic combinations we had bought at the market in small enough bottles that we were going to be able to take them in our carry-on baggage! Perfection! Bed called after a a long day, where we dreamed of what could have been!


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