On tuesday April 24 at 7 am Dwane picked me up at the hostel, together with Eric from QuÃ©bec and Yuni (that was her English nickname) from South-Korea. Before getting to the ferry, we picked Karen from Austria (but working as a stewardess at British Airways) and Wayne from England up as well. We took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The view was amazing because the ferry had to go around some of the Gulf Islands.
On Vancouver Island Yuni and I went to Butchart Gardens, really beautiful gardens, but really commercial as well, and we had the bad luck in the beginning that we got off the ferry the same time as a couple of buses with Asian tourists. But those left before us, so we had some time to quietly look at the gardens. Then we took a a bus to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. We checked in at the hostel and enjoyed the sun around downtown and the harbour. In the evening we went to the Irish Pub in the Strathcona Hotel for a couple of beers.
On wednesday April 25 the others of the tour went whale watching (unfortunately they didn’t see any whales), and I went to the Royal British Columbia Museum. There were a lot of displays about the First Nation people (native Canadians), about the wildlife in BC, and about life in the beginning of the century, pretty much like in the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature. Then I walked down to the coast through the Beacon Hill Park. The city parks in BC are really good, the perfect place to relax in the sun. From the coast I could see the mountains in the state of Washington. Victoria seemed much more relaxed than Vancouver, but it could have been the good weather as well.
We left Victoria at 2 pm to drive north to Nanaimo. Along the way we stopped at Chemainus first, where they had large murals painted on almost every wall. We made a second stop at Bungy Zone, the only legal bungy jump bridge in North-America, where Wayne did a swing (swinging down from the bridge), but the bridge seemed to low for me to do a bungy jump. In Nanaimo we walked around the harbour and got a couple of beers at the bar underneath the hostel. So yes, we could hear the music perfectly in our room.
On thursday April 26 we drove from Nanaimo to Tofino. We stopped at the waterfalls in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, and looked at native carvings in the rocks at Sproat Lake. In the Pacific Rim National Park we made a 2-hour walk on Long Beach, a beach completely enclosed by forest and rocks, because it is not allowed to build houses in a National Park. It was almost possible to see Asia on the other side of the ocean… NOT. Afterwards we did a short trail through the rainforest, before getting to the information center to watch (or actually falling asleep during) a documentary about seaotters. In the evening we arrived at the hostel in Tofino, probably the best hostel in Canada, but it was newly built 2 years ago, so that might explain why.
On friday April 27 I met Anna from Ireland and Caitlin from Vancouver (both were studying at the University of Victoria) at the hostel. We were all planning to go to the hot springs, but not really sure if they would be hot and if they would actually go there that day. So in the morning Anna, Caitlin and I went to a small beach south of Tofino. It was a short drive and a short walk through the forest, but the beach was really cosy with seastars on the rocks. Luckily Remote Passages did go to the hot springs that day, so we went with 5 people (Anna, Caitlin, an English couple on a RTW-trip, and I) in a Zodiac (one of these Baywatch boats). It took us two hours to get there, but mainly because we stopped to see grey whales, seals, sealions, and seaotters in their natural environment. It definitely was not my natural environment, though, I got pretty seasick. So we arrived at this remote dock in the middle of nowhere, there was only a small native village on the other side of the shore. Then it was a 30-minute boardwalk through the forest to get to the hot springs, where there was only a tiny cabin to change. But the hot springs are amazing. It is basically a natural waterfall of 45 degrees that flows into four pools in the rocks, and descend into the ocean. So from the pools there is a view on the ocean. The place was really magical, completely in the middle of nowhere, and almost completely private as well, there were only six people there in total. Understandably, we arrived a little bit late at the Zodiac. We went returned through the Clayoquot Sound, a preserved rainforest, really beautiful.
On saturday April 28 we headed back from Tofino to Vancouver. Along the way we stopped at Cathedral Grove, were the huge Douglas Fir and Western Cedar trees are, and at Coombs, where it is legal to build anything you want. We had some lunch at Qualicum Beach, before catching the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, and driving back to Vancouver.