Vancouver Island – out and about.

27 May

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Blue sky and a cold wind accompanied us across from Port Angeles to Victoria to begin our stay on Vancouver Island. We hoped to spot some marine wildlife while crossing but as usual it evaded us.

 

 

 

 

The crossing takes 90 minutes arriving right into the heart of Victoria to disembark. Our RV Park was in West Bay meaning we had to cross  through the middle of down town. It was a little busy but as tour buses regularly go this way there were no size issues for haRVey.

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The Imperial Hotel and government buildings to its right attract visitors because of their quaint styling and history. They overlook the busy harbour area where besides boats there is the constant spectacle of the float planes landing. These small air taxi’s ferry passengers from Vancouver and the main land to the island in around 35 minutes, flying over the Gulf Islands. Having made this trip we know how it enables the traveller to enjoy the beauty of the tiny islands from the air.

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We were delighted to discover our site at West Bay Marina gave us a great view around the bay. A small water taxi called regularly and we could have paid a $10 per person fee to ride to the centre of town. A walkway all around the harbour was more to our liking and even more so when we discovered the Spinnakers Brew Pub was a half way stop along the route! We were restrained on the outward journey and continued to the visitor information centre and main harbour area but on our return we stopped to eat dinner – well it would have been rude to pass by twice!

Spinnakers brew beer, make lovely food from local produce and ingredients and also have a chocolate shop just inside the doorway selling truffles with very imaginative ingredients with even more imaginative names…Friday morning we decided to call for coffee and chocolates en route to a walk around the rest of Victoria. Coffee became lunch and I tasted their very good sea food chowder before sampling a ‘black tie’ (blackcurrant red wine and dark chocolate) Saison(white chocolate with coriander and orange) and Bubbles (dark chocolate peppermint tea and sparkling wine) Robert had a Tipsy Goat a Naughty Fairy and Double Tall No Foam!

 

We were excited to get on the road Saturday morning to drive north to Parksville where we were going to be based for the following week. The main highway on the Island runs from Victoria to Port Hardy. There are not many routes across from east to west and no road which runs the full length of the west coast this being largely protected by the National Park. When I first looked at a map for the Island I thought it was not very detailed, thinking there must be more roads than it showed, but it was totally correct.

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This main highway links the major towns, residential and vacation areas, this was a holiday long week end, the road was very busy not allowing us much opportunity to stop for the occasional view points. We did stop at one, we just squeezed into the parking area looked at the view and then nosed our way back into the traffic flow which was not an easy manoeuvre given the speed it was travelling. Everyone was in a rush to get to their destination and not wishing to drive behind a Motor Home, they were reluctant to let us in.

At Nanaimo we stopped to collect a rental car for the week end, on Sunday evening we were being joined by our good friends George and Aggie who would be staying in a nearby resort. We wanted to do a bit of reconnaissance work before they arrived. A few miles from our RV park is Englishman’s Falls Provincial Park, we took the trail to view the falls. The high falls were quite spectacular with water cascading over smooth rocks into a narrow deep ravine. Two huge tree trunks were lodged in the gap quite a bit above the water and we discussed how high the flow would have been to deposit them there.

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On Monday we returned to the falls to show George and Aggie the spectacle. We were surprised to find even more water gushing down the river and over the falls, there had been some overnight rain but obviously the volume was greater higher up the river causing it to swell to such an extent the tree trunks were now just in the flow. Its amazing how quickly and by how much water volumes can increase.

We called in at Coombs to look for a place to eat. The small town has a Country Store and other small retail establishments. The Country store has made the town famous with its goats. The wooden building has a grassy roof, this is kept in a tidy condition by the goats that live on it munching the lush grass and posing for visitors to take photos!

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Tuesday our hire car was due back in Nanaimo so we all drove over to spend some time exploring the second largest town on the Island . It was a little grey when we set out to walk around the harbour but we were not happy when a sudden sharp rain storm decided to soak us. We found a nice spot in the Lighthouse Pub to dry off while having a drink and watching the traffic on the water from the windows in the bar. From here we were walking to the old town area just a few blocks away but at one point there was a discussion going on as to which was the correct direction to take. We stood in a huddle on the street corner consulting our map when a gentleman commented that we were obviously a little lost and could he help? We explained where we were going and he gave directions saying we would find it very pleasant to visit the old town. He then asked where we were all from and gave us a warm welcome announcing that he was the towns Mayor! George took this opportunity to ask him advice on which of the Nanaimo Bars – a famous treat made in the town which we wished to sample – was the best. He diplomatically said they were all very good as they all paid their taxes and with a grin bid us farewell! We went in search of our sample.

I popped into the local yarn store Mad About Ewe and browsed the lovely yarn there. I was very good and resisted the temptation to purchase. I am now very mindful of my luggage weight allowance for our return and only very special and unique items are going to be added to what I already have in my stash!

We found Mclean’s Speciality food for our lunch and – a Nanaimo Bar!

At this point I should perhaps explain what a Nanaimo Bar consists of. It is made up of three layers, the firm base contains chocolate, crushed biscuit, nuts and butter. The mid layer is butter custard powder and cream all topped off with a butter and chocolate icing! Lots of butter – hmmm!

I expected it to be very sweet but it wasn’t – it was very rich however and a small 3inch square would easily have satisfied four of us – OK George, so you would perhaps prefer half…. (he has a sweet tooth!) We ate 2 and took 2 home with us, they acquired a little squished appearance before they got into the fridge but soon firmed up again!

For our last stop of our days exploring we called at Rathtrevor Beach, a wide flat bay where the incoming tide amazed us with its speed, crawling up the beach at about an inch every 5 seconds or so. A brisk wind blew the days cobwebs away while we enjoyed a view across to the mainland and its high coastal mountains where heavy clouds were draped around the summits.

Next morning we set off to explore the inland of the Island towards Port Albernie making our first stop the old growth forest known as Cathedral Grove.P1270786

Some of the forest trees are up to 800 years old, a mix of Douglas Fir and Redwood. Many however date back a mere 300 years germinating after a forest fire at that time. We found the trail to the oldest tree a bit muddy but on the opposite side of the road a trail through the older growth was much drier.

Not only are these trees of amazing girth their height is such that you almost fall over backwards trying to view the top making it impossible to get the height of one tree into a picture.

 

 

 

Nurse trees, that is stumps of old trees on which saplings have germinated abound. You spot one then another and soon you realise they are everywhere. These ‘young’ trees are not so young either!

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It was a bit damp and cold in the forest and we were glad to get back on our journey in the car. By the time we arrived at Port Albernie itself a damp drizzle was falling and Aggie found it hard to understand why she was walking around eating ice cream – they are on holiday.. that is what you do on holiday….

Within the harbour we spotted a barge towing a raft of logs along the river, upon further exploration we found an area where we could view the loggers at work hauling the timbers and lifting them into a large craft to be transported out of town.

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This would not be the most obvious area to look for a winery but in our visitor information we had details for Chase and Warren. Having bought a picnic with us we decided that perhaps if we found the winery we could sample a little and eat lunch in their grounds.

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Dan at the winery entertained us with stories and information about the wines they P1270817grow while we tasted their white and red wines. He explained growing wine in the local climate is not easy the vines needing constant daily attention, the present task  was disbudding to ensure the vines did not attempt to produce too many grapes.

We were made to feel extremely welcome, even being provided with nice warm cushions to put on the bench while we ate our lunch.

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We called at Sproat Lake which is the home for two water bomber airplane. The huge craft scoop up water and ‘dump’ it on forest fires.

 

 

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Our final stop of a packed day visiting was to Little Qualicum Falls. It was great to stretch our legs after driving most of the day. We were treated to some late afternoon sunshine as we watched the water thundering down the gorge.

Already we were half way through our week, time flies when you are having fun and already we had packed in so much but there was even more we wanted to see.

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One Response to “Vancouver Island – out and about.”

  1. Katy May 29, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    What a great time you’re having! I especially enjoyed the photos of the “rooftop” goats and the ancient trees. Everything looks so beautiful. 🙂

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