Heading to civilisation (slowely!)
31.08.2007 - 07.09.2007 15 °C
Claudia had agreed to give us a lift so we were all up early and headed for the ferry. It was a 7:30am start so having spent an hour or so waiting in line with all the other cars we finally made it onto the ferry.
It was a pretty miserable day so the inside passage trip (supposed to be one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world) was a little drab, however, it was still nice as we sailed through the islands and along side small communities.
We ended up playing poker for a while (using small salt and pepper sachets that we’d borrowed from the canteen as betting chips) and 15hours later we pulled into Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
It was fairly late so Caludia gave us a lift to the C&N Hostel, dropped us off, and having taken our shoes off to get into the place (a rule that seemed to reoccur quite a bit in Vancouver Island) we headed for an early night.
The Hostel was quite empty in the morning as most of the backpackers had rushed off early to catch the greyhound bus out of Port Hardy at 9am.
Steph and I had arranged to meet Claudia at 10am so after a coffee and a quick chat with the owner / manager (the hostel was OK but just for a night… it was clean though!) we headed off South.
For years I’d wanted to go to Telegraph Cove as I’d seen this was one of THE places in the world to see Orcas. Specifically there was a beach where they rubbed themselves on the pebbles on the shore (no one knows why they actually do this).
It was a short drive and having looked around and popper into the Whale Interpretive centre for a quick overview of the local whales and specifically the Orcas we popped to Alder Bay, where we’d arranged for a whale watching tour.
The tour was to be on a sail boat as this meant we didn’t really use engines and were more likely to get close to the Orcas.
There were also only 12 of us on board which meant there was plenty of room.
Unfortunately it wasn’t windy… so the sails were never unfurled.. however the weather did start to improve slightly and we even saw the sun a few times.
We pulled up to Robson Bight (which is a protected area of the passage) and sure enough there were orcas in the distance.
Having not got too close to them, all of a sudden one decided to head straight for us. It swam right underneath the boat and for us all was perhaps the closest we’d all gotten to an Orca.
The Captain recognized the Orca straight away as “Springer”. This is perhaps one of the most famous Orcas in Canada as it was found abandoned and near to death near Vancouver, however, having been relocated to the Passage it had been adopted by it’s Auntie, which was cool and good success story for everyone involved.
We saw plenty of other orcas and spent most of the afternoon just bobbing around watching the whales.
The Company was called Sea Smoke Whale Watching and although it was not cheap it was well worth it.
After getting back onshore intact we headed off to Port McNeil where we’d booked a small hotel room for the three of us.
The next day we headed for Fort Campbell, where it was raining, but of course.
Vancouver Island seems to have a climate very much like Ireland or the North of Scotland. i.e. if it’s not raining… it’s not normal (so to speak!)
We popped past a Classic Cars festival that was being held in the rain and then after a Starbucks, drove to Nanaimo.
The Hostel was nice, if a little impersonal (most of the residents seemed to be Hotely people staying in a cheap hotel) so we didn’t hang around.
We popped for tea to a great little Mexican called Gina’s which was a little walk away, however, well worth it as it was full (perhaps the only place we saw full the whole day) and it was full of locals (always a good sign!)
Today Claudia left for Victoria, so since we were heading for Tofino, we said our goodbyes and headed to the bus station to catch the bus.
We arrived some 5 hours later (after a nice windy road there) and checked into the C&N Backpackers. It was pretty run down, however, the manager (Rich) was great and more than made up for the haphazard setting of the hostel.
It was central however, and unlike many of the other hostels we’d been at in Canada, only had backpackers in and had character!
It was a crappy day though so we ambled around the town for a wee while, before retiring for tea and chatting with a few other backpackers in the place.
Today it was sunny… so we decided to catch the bus to Long Beach.
Unfortunately... the bus service had changed (no longer summer) so there wasn’t a bus to Long Beach… so we had to change our plans quickly whilst there was nice weather.
We stumbled on a hot springs tour which was reduced in price (from $130 to $85) so we both booked on.
It was still quite expensive for the two of us, however, it turned out to be a great little trip and well worth the money,
We boarded a little Jet boat (of sorts) and together with another 6 people we headed out through the islands off Tofino, heading North.
We spotted Bald Eagles, the odd seal every now and again and then as we headed outside the islands for a while a Grey Whale !
Brilliant…. Our first Grey Whale and one of the reasons (together with Orcas) why we’d been excited about coming to Vancouver Island!
This was included in the price and our driver hung about for 15 minutes whilst we watched and photographed this great animal.
We then motored off to the Hot Springs.
We arrived and were told we had 3 hours on the island.
It was a small walk to the Springs through rain forest and this in itself was really nice as the sun shone through the trees.
We arrived, stripped down and, carefully, tip towed through the rocks to the pools.
They were brilliant ! And Hot !!! How Hot !!!
There was a small waterfall where you could stick you whole body underneath… however being higher up the Springs… they were hotter and after about a minute or two… you had to move before you fainted from the heat !!!!
A great place and unlike any other springs we’d seen in Canada, totally natural and at the time we were there… really quite and reviving.
After two hours of soaking we headed back to the boat.
On the way back we managed to spot a sea otter playing in the seaweed right next to the boat however, no photos ! Damn !
Back at the hostel, we made some tea and chilled watching TV before Bed. A good day in all and an unexpected one! Funny how these unorganized trips turn out to be good eh ?
Today we left Tofino and having walked along the local beach, jumped on the Tofino Bus and headed for Ucluelet (or “Uccie” pronounced “You-key” as the locals call it)
We arrived at the C&N Backpackers in Uccie and it was a lovely hostel. Clean and with it’s own massive backyard with a small beach, it was a great place to spend a couple of days and chill out.
The Dorm were a bit big though, however, it was off peak season and there were only two other people in the dorm with us. The next night there was only us as they checked out that morning.
We’d decided to go for a long walk today (Steph wanting to do the Pacific Rim Trail) so having looked at the map, we decided to head North for Long Beach.
We walked up the road for a few K’s before heading into the forest for a few more and then down some steps onto the beach.
We followed the beach, heading into the forest every now and again, for about 15k’s !!! It was a long walk !! but a worthwhile one as we spotted some garter snakes on the track which were cool.
There were loads of them and they seemed to all be curled around a much larger and less colourful female….hmmmmmm.
After 5 hours constant walking …. We hit Long Beach (Finally !!!)
It’s a lovely beach with Surfers all hanging in the waves and loads of Birds and wildlife playing on the beach itself.
We checked out the Rockpools and found some colourful local rock pool life stuff They also have Purple Star fish here... Honest..... Purple !
After a wee while here, we headed to the bus stop so that we were sure we didn’t miss it back to Uccie as it was the last one that day ! Fortunately we made it…just !
Back in Uccie, we grabbed a chippie and headed back to the hostel for tea and a well deserved beer or two!
Today we headed for Vancouver from Uccie and after a few changes in the bus and having to catch a good old American (sorry Canadian) School Bus half way, we pulled onto the ferry in Nanaimo.
The weather was beautiful and the crossing flat so we sat outside all the way across and watched Vancouver as it rose along the horizon towards us.
Civilization ! finally ! Damn !