We took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo where we parked and had a walk around. The town was small and touristy; and while we were there just about everything was closed. Fortunately the liquor store was still open, however while we were browsing the beverages we were informed that they too were closing.
We decided to leave Nanaimo and start our drive to the other coast ultimately aiming for Tofino. As soon as we’d left what we perceived to be the small town of Nanaimo we were surprised by the size of the highway and the countless shopping parks we passed along the way. It seemed like we encountered dozens of Wal-Mart stores, Canadian Tire centres, Starbucks and supermarkets. Nanaimo was not the small town we had originally thought.
We’d heard that Port Alberni was a great spot to watch for black bears. The visitors centre informed us that bears would occasionally venture down to the river at low tide to feed on passing salmon. We didn’t have any luck and after we departed we had to wonder if it was just something they told tourists, how often are bears actually sighted from Port Alberni? Later we found out that the salmon swim upriver in Autumn, making this the best time to spot bears fishing. We had to wonder why the visitors centre couldn’t tell us this in the first instace.
[slickr-flickr tag="Port Alberni"]
Ucluelet (Wild Pacific Trail)
We walked the Wild Pacific Trail. It was a windy overcast day, the waves were crashing and overall I felt the trail lived up to its name.
[slickr-flickr tag="Wild Pacific Trail"]
We caught the sunset at Long Beach while we made diner.
[slickr-flickr tag="Long Beach"]
Driving into Tofino is an amazing sight, the bay is dotted with wild little islands which have green vegetation growing high right from the water’s edge.
On the way back from Tofino we made a quick stop at Kennedy Lake, the water looked inviting but was freezing to the touch so we just had to enjoy the view.
[slickr-flickr tag="Kennedy Lake"]
Not long after Kennedy Lake we were in a high altitude twisty section of road when I rounded a corner and right there on the road in front of me was a black bear. I slowed down to a stop and started groping around wildly for my camera. Renee was a little quicker but we still didn’t manage in time to get a shot of the bear on the road before it headed into the bushes and disappeared. Fortunately there was a second bear on the left side of the road on the rocky down slope which we managed to photograph before it to disappeared.
Later we were pulling into a high wire adventure business driveway in search of a toilet and right there on the driveway verge in front of me was another black bear. “Holy shit another black bear” I yelled as I groped around wildly for my camera. Fortunately this bear didn’t seem in any hurry to disappear or remotely scared of our van barely a few feet from its nose. We took our time clicking many photos and recording a few videos as the bear slowly lumbered away.
[slickr-flickr tag="Black Bear"]
Watch my black bear video at the top of this post – my commentary is good for a laugh
With busy streets and hard to find car parks our impression of Victoria was not what we’d anticipated. We drove downtown, eventually found a car park and on foot went in search of a fish n chip shop. We’d wanted fish n chips for weeks. It had become a craving, an elusive search which had taken us to parts of Vancouver, again in Nanaimo and up further in Qualicum Beach – but always without luck. How hard can it possibly be? Very hard; either the fish was frozen, their batter contained dairy or all too frequently they were closed. I cannot stress how much we were looking forward to eating at this highly rated fish n chip shop on the Victoria docks; and I cannot describe how disappointed we were when it too was closed. Moving on.
Sidney we found to be uneventful other than being pulled over by a police officer. I was wondering ‘what the hell this time’, as the female police approached my door. Once she saw that we were on a road trip and quite harmless she became both friendly and helpful. It turned out someone had called the police about our suspicious behaviour. We’d been parked behind a Starbucks in town using the internet, must have been very close to some up tight persons residence. “You know rich people” the officer said as she explained the call and gave us some tips on navigating the local town.
After the officer incident we went and lined up for the daily ferry to the United States via San Juan Islands. We were in line for two and a half hours, something was going very slow. When we eventually got to the front of the line the ferry was just about to leave and a very stressed customs lady explained the situation. Customs computer systems were down and they were having difficulty processing everyone – especially non-American residents. It was looking very much like we were not going to make it on the ferry but I was politely with-holding my criticism until the ferry departed. There were two customs ladies; one was staunch with the usual ‘I don’t give a shit’ US customs attitude while the other was running around the office on the verge of a breakdown while she tried her very hardest to get everyone onboard. To this ladies credit she eventually got us processed and on the ferry; she was so stressed she literally answered all the required entry questions for us despite the staunch woman’s disapproving stare.