Message from haRVey received this morning!

1 Jul

When I realized you weren’t coming back I cried so hard Roy put a bucket under my right eye and Judy had to empty it 2 times. They took good care of me and I think they will be alright as they talk of travels they intend to take. We 3 had good times together but now that I am well travelled I look forward to taking them into their next life experience.

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

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haRVey gets new owners–Goodbye haRVey!

30 Jun

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So this is how it all began – October 2008 we picked up haRVey to begin our 48,000 mile adventure across North America.

 

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We have been delighted to meet Judy and Roy who are now the proud new owners of haRVey. We have spent a fair bit of time together over this past week while we finalised the sale and transfer culminating in us ‘camping’ in their drive while packing our belongings into many bags to carry home (also leaving plenty for the Salvation Army store and a big bag of trash!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roy has a new toy

Once the formalities were completed we could all enjoy the transition period.

 

 

haRVey gets new plates – 692 JVW (Jolly Vehicle Wheels) will be coming home with us!

 

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So, here we are all together –

Robert–me–Judy–Roy

and the star and our hero

haRVey!

Sooke to Port Renfrew,Vancouver Island Pacific Marine Trail

25 Jun

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To begin our exploration of the south west corner of Vancouver Island we spent our week end at Pedder Bay Marina. Newly set out this RV park provides full service on nice spaced sites. A short trail links to the  Galloping Goose trail for hikers and cyclists which starts in Esquimalt near Victoria travels west to Sooke then north along the Sooke river. Our bikes had not been in use for a very long time so we set off with great determination to cycle as far as we felt we might like to go.

Our first hurdle was not far from our site. We followed the way marker toward the Galloping Goose Trail to discover it led into woodland with a rough steep downhill slope to a small creek bridge. This had a deep step to get on and off it, even a keen mountain cyclist would have been hard pressed on this terrain. We returned to haRVey and made a cup of tea while we recovered!

Not to be deterred next morning we set off to hike the same trail, once over the bridge we turned left and immediately found the path very overgrown. We battled our way through for a short distance then gave up once more, returning to the bridge. We spotted a trail which led in the opposite direction along the river, as it looked in reasonable condition at that point we thought we could loose nothing by exploring it further. After a rough climb the trail became easy, pleasant walking with glimpses across to our camp site, the marina and the mouth of the river. We eventually came to the buildings of the Lester B Pearson College, the surroundings were deserted but a sign advised visitors were welcome to walk around but not enter the buildings. We wandered to the small boat dock, around the buildings there and came upon a whale… well the skeleton of one anyway!

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The story of this huge marine mammals demise was displayed on the walls alongside. It had been washed up on a local beach allowing the university students to preserve its bones.

Monday we set off towards Sooke along the Pacific Marine Circle route. We now understand this route to be a link between marine locations rather than a waterside vista road as its name implied to us. Most of the waters edge is sheltered from view by several feet of trees or has dwellings on it. Sooke is the major town along this side of the Island and we stopped to buy groceries before we leapt into the lesser populated section. We have found generally that the island is more suited to smaller vehicles than our own and parking haRVey has been a challenge if a large store car park is not available. Some of the smaller locations we have just not visited as we could not have parked or turned around there.

The Provincial Park at French Beach was our choice for campground, our only choice actually. Whilst a little dark under the trees we had a nice sized spot to park in and an easy walk down to the beach.

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We take very little persuading to spend time poking about on a beach, picking up stones and shells to examine and watching the tide roll in.When the sun is shining it all looks so pretty but don’t be fooled by the blue sky into thinking it was warm I was wearing two fleece while beachcombing.

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After a quiet and peaceful night away from any traffic noise what so ever we spent another day walking the beach this time to the right of the access path where low tide had exposed huge boulders just waiting to be investigated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our amateur geology skills enabled us to determine these boulders were a mix of granite and sedimentary rock.

Mostly grey or black there were some putty green coloured ones too. Our geology vocabulary is still a little limited!

 

 

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It is hard to get a scale from these pictures but the rock above was more than my waist height. The one to the right probably measured four feet across.

 

 

 

 

From French Beach we had thought we would hop to the next Provincial Beach Park at China Beach but while emptying our tanks Robert chatted to another camper who advised that the small site at Jordan River was very nice and right by the water. Only 5 minutes down the road we passed through Jordan River, spotting the site we had been recommended to. We drove on to China Beach, surveyed the site there and opted to return to Jordan River, it certainly was a nice spot.

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The sites were dry camping on rough gravel but I could forgive all that for the million dollar view across the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The sun was shining and I only needed one fleece today, a distinct improvement.

While sitting out for a spot of sun and a cup of tea, newcomers set up alongside us. A friendly welcome was exchanged and soon we were all chatting. Harry and Paula were travelling with Harry’s sister Leona and her husband John in separate pick up campers. From Campbell River we discovered they were true Islanders born and bred here.

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John is an accomplished Backgammon player who spent a deal of time teaching Robert and I the correct way to play. We have been playing our own game rules for about 2 years now. Robert almost always beats me. After being tutored by John I won. I like the proper rules best!

We spent a happy evening around the camp fire exchanging travellers tales and hearing stories from their younger days when the Island was their playground. As we said good night around 10pm there was still a glimmer of light in the sky, this was the longest day of the year.

P1280395Next morning I woke early, too early, just as the day was getting light. Never the less I was awake so got up. The dawn broke over the water giving me a beautiful prize for my early rise.

It wasn’t long before the fog came down covering the sun for the next several hours.

I sat and watched the tide creeping out over the stony beach. A kelp bed just off shore began to show through the water and as I watched I had my second reward for my early awakening. I spotted two sea otters fishing in the kelp bed.

A while later I related my sighting to Robert when he finally got up. The otters were still there, working their way left to right and back across the kelp beds. They seemed to be having a wonderful feast constantly finding more fish to consume for their breakfast.

It would have been easy to sit all day and do nothing but watch the water. We decided we have been lazy enough recently, we would move on to Port Renfrew to visit the beaches there which are well known for their tide pools. We had thought to stop along the road but no suitable places were available to us so at around 1pm we pulled into the parking area at Botanical Beach.

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We followed the 2 mile loop trail from the car park stopping at Botany Bay for our first glimpse of the rocks and tide pools.

The rocks here are diagonal shale layers (which looked to us like slate)and sandstone, tons of flat grey stones and grey sand form the upper beach the lower beach is very rocky with many many depressions for water to gather in as the tide recedes.

We were so lucky to have another lovely day for this visit but we wished we had arrived sooner as the tide was well in covering lots of the pool area. Those which were left still above the tide were teaming with life and crystal clear.

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We continued along the trail through old growth woodland where  twisted trunks and branches  made an interesting tunnel over the sometimes very muddy path.

 

Arriving at Botanical Beach it was obvious we had only a short while before the tide would be right in and covering the rock pools completely.

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Here more sandstone was exposed on the surface again with many depressions for the water to gather. Look carefully in this picture and you can see the bottom of the pool, that is not a reflection.

The pools have many creatures and I spotted red and hermit crabs, some small fishes , sea anemone lots of mussels and chiton (say Kite –on) which we had only seen dead on the beach before! They have to be the best rock pools ever – such a shame the tide was almost in, I wanted to stay and play longer.

 

 

 

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With only one small camp ground in Port Renfrew we were going to drive on a few miles to Fairy Lake recreational site. It was not as far as we had thought and the sites were rather small so we decided to keep going to Lizard Lake about another 10 miles on where the Provincial Park map said there were 26 vehicle accessible sites.

The road from Port Renfrew is still shown on many maps and described in tourist booklets as being a gravel road. It had taken some detective work on our part to discover it was paved 2 years ago. It seems that Provincial recreational information is a little out of date on other things too as on arriving at Lizard Lake we found three campers parked across a gated entrance. It looked closed! Our option now was to continue another 22 miles to Lake Cowichan and the Provincial park at Honeymoon Bay or return to Fairy Lake and its small sites. Fortunately we had time left in the day to drive on. Checking in at the Provincial Park we questioned them about Lizard Lake to be told it has been a tent only site for two years. I think someone needs to look at updating the information being given out to visitors!

Friday we arrived back on the east coast of the Island to stay at Osborne Bay in Crofton. One of the Salt Spring Ferry terminals is located here, we thought we could walk on to the ferry then catch a bus the other end to take us to Ganges the main town on Salt Spring. This was to be our excursion on Saturday.

We had just got settled on our site when the grey skies opened into rain, this continued, became heavier, resulting in an extremely wet night. Saturday morning arrived very damp and chilly. Internet only being available at the main office Robert braved the conditions to check the times the buses were available. This is the sort of time we realise we should sometimes do more research. Yes, there was a bus…but…. it did not arrive at the ferry terminal until just after 1pm and left Ganges again before 4pm. Not really enough time to make a visit worthwhile especially with such a damp nasty day. We gave up on our trip.

In need of exercise we took a short walk out around the small hamlet of Crofton along the board walk from the camp ground. Maybe this picture will describe better what a yuk sort of day it was!

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At this time the wind was blowing up another storm but once that passed through around tea time the skies began to clear and the day eventually ended with some sunshine. Thankfully the better weather was still with us Sunday enabling further exploration around the residential area of Crofton where some beautiful new properties are being constructed with ocean views and many of the older ones are undergoing renovations. We walked back along the same board walk as on the previous day with conditions so different …

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…… what a difference the sunshine makes!

Tomorrow (Monday 25th) we will travel to Parksville for our last camp ground before we say good bye to haRVey. Lots of packing and sorting to be completed in this next week. We will have one final week in a rental property in West Vancouver before we fly home to England on 9th July.

More from Vancouver Island

16 Jun

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Its probably about time I caught up and let everyone know what we have been up to – not a lot!

Having explored by road a little way north and west from Salmon Point near Campbell River we were in need of some exercise. A trail to Ripple Rock, a round trip of 5 miles (they say!) looked interesting. The access was 10 miles north of Campbell River and on a damp Tuesday morning we set off.

To say the trail goes to Ripple Rock is slightly misleading as actually the rock was blown up in a massive explosion in 1958. This was the worlds largest non nuclear explosion and one of the first live television broadcasts in Canada.

The rock had been situated in Seymoor Narrows a half mile wide body of water between Vancouver Island and Quadra Island. This is part of the ‘Inside Passage’ a waterway connecting remote and not so remote places from Washington State north to Alaska. Many cruise ships use this route as well as fishing vessels, commercial barges and pleasure craft.

Back to the rock…. which was 3,000ft by 350ft and only 9ft below the surface at low tide. The currents were treacherous with many ships lost in the whirlpools created by the ebb and flow of the tides through the narrow gap. What must have been an amazing explosion increased the depth to 47 feet and improved the passage for navigation. It is still a notorious stretch of water with all craft needing to take care how and when they travel through avoiding the most severe of the currents.

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P1280190Our hike took us through old growth forest, across this very wobbly suspension bridge, eventually down to a beach, back into the forest, up a flight of steps – until 2hrs from the beginning we arrived on rocks high above ‘The Narrows’

 

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Looking back at the pictures it impresses me more than it did on the day. Maybe the hike, which turned out longer than we anticipated, dulled the impact of the view. I would have  liked to see one of the big Alaska cruise liners pass through I think that would have put a better scale on it for me. However, we did have opportunity to watch as over a very brief period of time many swirling currents became apparent on the  previously calm surface.

P1280222Wednesday the 6th was my Birthday which has a reputation for being wet. For a change we had a bright sunny day. A coffee and cake treat and a walk in the park just suited me fine!

The day could not pass without living up to it’s reputation however and before dark we had heavy rain!

 

 

 

 

 

While having breakfast on Thursday Robert was wondering what some of our neighbours were looking up at. We followed their view and spotted a bald eagle perched about 50ft from our door!

Two days later he had a friend with him too.

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We had only intended to stay a week at Salmon Point but we felt so comfortable we opted for an extra three nights. Enjoyed walking the beach and just looking out at the views.

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Eventually on Sunday we prised ourselves away from this lovely location. We had been undecided which way to go next but eventually settled on visiting the Sooke area and the south west of the island. To break the journey south we stopped off for one night in Parksville then at Crofton, arriving  back at West Bay Marina in Victoria to spend a few nights before setting off westwards!

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Victoria again!

We had enjoyed our stay at West Bay when we first arrived on Vancouver Island as it was so easy for us to get out and about around P1280285the city. Having shunned the water taxi previously this time we opted to take it for a short hop to Fisherman’s Wharf then walk back to West Bay. I felt it was slightly too far to walk both directions in addition to a day of sightseeing.

Apart from the tourist trap stalls we found the wharf to be very similar to West Bay so did not spend too much time here. It was also very cold, the wind blowing into the harbour seemed to particularly catch this corner where as West Bay was a little more sheltered.

We had thought we might tour the BC museum but found an entrance fee of around $24 each more than we were prepared to pay.

The Government Buildings are a well known and much photographed P1280287landmark in Victoria. The totem pole on the lawns outside was carved by members of the Cowichan tribe to commemorate the Commonwealth Games held in Victoria in 1994. Its individual figures represent ‘lessons of the past and hope for the future’ so apt a symbol for us at this point in time.

The buildings are open for the public to take a self guided tour or an accompanied tour every half hour is available – free of charge.

 

 

 

 

We joined around 20 others to be taken through the building. No security checksP1280315, no restrictions we could take as many photos as we wished and the only place normally open which we could not go into was the chamber as a committee was in session. We were amazed at the ease of access!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the descriptive tour we returned into the building to be able to P1280305take pictures in our own time. I was most impressed with the coloured glass windows. This one was commissioned in 1897 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. A beautifully ornate window it was removed when the Legislative Library was to be constructed and placed for safe keeping in a cellar. There it remained for 62 years forgotten about. Thankfully it now has a position opposite to the window to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee.

 

 

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The Golden Jubilee Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The stair well windows all have quotes on them.

This one very appropriate for a place of government!

 

 

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P1280316An unusual view of the Empress Hotel, another well known landmark in Victoria, taken from an upper window in the Government building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day had warmed a little as we left the main city and headed back towards West Bay. Of course we had to make a trip to Spinnakers again and ate there watching the float planes precariously landing in the very breezy conditions.

Our site in West bay this time around overlooked a small inlet from the main harbour area. It proved to be a very busy spot for wild life. We were surrounded by numerous Canada Geese and their little ones. (their ‘deposits’ made walking on the grass interesting and we now know another interpretation for goose stepping!)P1280278

A bald eagle and two young liked to perch on a tree on the opposite bank. We saw deer on the beach when the tide was out grazing on the low branches. Several heron chose spots in the mud to stalk their prey and Robert also spotted something swimming in the water, it had its nose out looking around but disappeared beneath the surface before we were able to decide if it was a seal, sea lion or dolphin.

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Just chillin’

4 Jun

Just sometimes we happen to be in the right place at the right time and when it all comes together its great. While doing my investigations for our Island visit I had come across information for the ‘100 Mile Fleece and Fibre Fair’. This was to be held in Errington not too far from where we were staying in Parksville. I was offered a ride to the event by Angela, a local who I had come into contact with through Ravlery (a knitting and all things woolly web site www.ravelry.com) she collected me around 9.30 and when we arrived at the small local hall I was amazed at how brim full of fibre and yarn it was!

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Fibre from all over the island and the smaller islands around was gathered together in one room! I was overwhelmed… it took about 3 tours of the room for me to get a real feel for everything on offer. I chatted with the producers and locals and had a brilliant morning.

After having had such a full on time with George and Aggie the week before we needed time to decide what we wanted to do next. Monday and Tuesday we spent at Living Forest RV near Nanaimo, we had a lovely site overlooking the water where we could watch the shipping in the channel go up and down, walk a short trail and generally work out our next moves.

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As so often happens the weather plays an important part in these decisions, it looked marginally better in the north of the island so Salmon Point RV and Marina at Campbell River was decided upon for a base. We also booked a vehicle for the week so we could drive out to visit the north island and explore.

We were delighted with our choice of location when we arrived at salmon Point. We had a wonderful view of the coast mountains on the mainland across the water. We could watch the water traffic go north and south, walk the (4mile round trip) beach and woodland trail and to top it off there was a pub and restaurant just 100yds from our door!

The further north you go the more remote and  less populated the island becomes, the roads which are not numerous in the south, become more forest roads when you get away from the main highways. We hired a 4 x 4 vehicle with this in mind. Our first outing was a road trip to Sayward and Kelsey Bay, shown on our map as being a dirt road once you leave the highway 19 it was actually a made up road all the way!

The day was grey and damp but somehow this enhanced the tranquillity and beauty of our destination.

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Former communities which relied upon the logging industry they are now struggling to stay alive. Tourism is a lifeline they cling to but the remoteness hinders this. At the turn off point 47miles  from the main town of Campbell River, there is a small restaurant, gas station and coffee bar, another 7 miles brings you to Kelsey Bay harbour where we found a small campground a few houses and boats and not much more. On the pier is the information point and gift shop. Coffee and snacks were advertised but when we stepped inside we discovered two ladies arranging goods, they laughingly greeted us with ‘Ah, we are not quite ready yet as you can see!’ It transpired a burst water pipe in January had left them flooded out, insurance funds had only recently been acquired to get them back on their feet before the summer season which seems to start around the second week of June.

Another detour on our return journey took us off the 19, this time it was a dirt road of 12 miles, largely a logging road we bumped along but eventually were rewarded with a great view.

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Somewhere down by the waters edge building plots were for sale, we never did find them, we wondered who would build this far out anyway but with this as your daily view you might just be tempted!

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We are actually quite content just sitting in our site and observing the changing scenery as the clouds rise and fall on the mountains opposite. We had a beautiful sunset Saturday evening which we should have realised meant more rain.

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Sunday was grey but we set off inland this time, for Gold River. We spent most of the journey in a tree lined corridor with occasional views of the mountains and a few lake glimpses as we passed by Upper Campbell Lake. Gold River town did not invite us to stop so we drove the few extra miles to the very end of the road… because you have to…. there is not a place named on the map here, it is just the end of the road… a large timber yard and a small float plane base seemed to be ‘it’ wherever it was. However… we did spot an otter in the water!

 

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If this seems all very lazy and laid back – it is, and we are. We are trying to arrange details for the end of our travelling, talking to people about selling haRVey and working out how we are going to get packed up but still enjoy what we have left.

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One of our views from haRVey!

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Drinking it in – evening stroll on the beach!

Vancouver Island–out and about (part two!)

29 May

As we had travelled around on the island the blue square signs with a white ‘A’ which denote a local artisan seemed to be everywhere. Potters, artists, woodworkers or just simply galleries, abound – so we thought.

We set off to do a short tour of our immediate area and take in a few artisan stops along the way. Isn’t it always the case when you look for something like this … they were either closed today, not yet open for the season or just plain not where we expected them to be!

In Qualicum Bay we stopped at Sandbar Cafe and gallery, sustenance was required for this epic day trip. The walls were hung with many paintings by local artists and the view from the window was created by Mother Nature at her best. We chatted to the lady owner and asked for recommendations. I also enquired about alpaca I had spotted along the way and was told it should be fine to stop and say Hi! the owner was a friend.

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This fellow was our absolute favourite with his wonderful face markings. The alpaca were fairly recently shorn and all had nice woolly features and not a lot of wool on their body which was a shame as I really wanted Aggie to experience the feel of running your fingers into the coat of a live alpaca – almost as good as chocolate! 100_1344

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow the morning had rolled into afternoon by the time we turned into Milner Gardens. After paying our entrance fee we strolled through the woodland and onto more formal paths and planted areas eventually, arriving at a huge grassy lawn which sweeps down to an ocean vista through the trees.

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This was the beauty we had all hoped to see on the island but had been eluding us. The Milner house to our right was a chocolate box, picture perfect scene, with the colourful azalea and rhododendron in full bloom. The sky began to clear and sun came out for us.

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The house is open for visitors to view the interior and enjoy afternoon tea overlooking the gardens and bay. Of course we had to indulge – it would have been rude not too!

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The Queen with Prince Phillip and also Prince Charles and Lady Diana have visited the house and gardens. We read in the visitors book the lovely thank you letter sent by Lady Diana expressing how she had enjoyed the tranquillity of the surroundings which gave them time away from the  regular rush of official engagements.

So far our week had mostly been spent on the east side of the island. We had been watching the weather forecast in the hope that by Friday the 225 mile round trip to the west side and the Pacific Rim National Park could be a sunny one.

The road to Port Albernie we had already driven and knew it to be a good one. It had been a cloudy damp day when we drove it before however and we had missed the P1270925beauty of Cameron Lake. Today on a sunny morning we had to stop and enjoy the reflections on the calm water.

 

After this stop, for some considerable distance, the road was still fine, we then came to a twisty hilly stretch before we dropped down to the coast.

 

At the National Park Visitor Centre we took time to look at the exhibits and learn about the best places to walk and enjoy the view. The ranger told us of a short easy trail in Ucluelet, outside the National Park boundary but with great views. (He also explained that to enable us to stop anywhere in the National Park we should purchase a pass for each person costing $7.80.)

We found the Ucluelet (say U-Q-LET) parking area easily and set off to walk the …

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Immediately we were treated to a magnificent view. This coast is so different to the east side where the shallow flat beaches divide the mainland from the islands. To the west it is open Ocean and the prevailing west winds bring it crashing to shore. Even today, a sunny, calm day, the swell and white caps were visible.

 

 

 

 

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Vista followed vista with viewpoints along the trail it seemed like every few yards. This would become a photo blog if I showed you them all, which I would like to do – but won’t.

We looked for bald eagles, and saw one – I spotted a deer on one of the small islands – we just took in the scenery, sunshine and relaxed.

Long Beach is a famous accessible sandy beach in the National Park. It is 12 miles long and was our next stop. It reminded me so much of the California and Oregon beaches we love, we strolled in the sunshine picking up shells and stones and trying not to get caught by the waves as we did so!

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The small town of Torfino sits at the very end of this peninsula on Vancouver Island, we called at the Eagle Dancer gallery a modern building but built in the style of a traditional Indian long house. I called into Knits by the Sea, the local yarn store and we all strolled to view the harbour. Another beautiful location.

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We made two more stops before we left the park behind. The first was to Radar Point which was described as a steep trail to the top. We must have improved our fitness levels as we thought it an easy walk to view the mountains across the valley.

 

 

 

Our second stop I do not have pictures for, it was way too dark. The brief description in the guide book stated Gigantic Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock reach up to the sunlight their boughs thickly carpeted with hanging gardens and moss. Scan the upper canopy for birds, listen to the trickle of water and smell the life of this highly productive forest’

A board walk led us into a dense damp forest, steps continually took us lower and deeper but, kept us above the tangle of fallen trees. Below, water pooled and trickled. We reflected on the height of the huge trees which towered above us, the girth of the old growth and just how much timber debris was on the forest floor. It was an amazing place. It felt like it should have been steamy and tropical, it was chilly even on a sunny late afternoon.

We had packed so much into our trip but it was time to return to our base.

The following day was Aggie and George’s last with us. The week had flown over and in writing all this up I realise just how much we packed in (calories too!). We took a second visit to Coombs market and its goats on the roof to purchase some supplies for dinner.

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Later at the resort where George and Aggie had been staying, Robert and Aggie picked P1270999up kayaks to paddle out around the estuary and small bay close to the resorts gardens. George and I were able to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the view.

 

 

 

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As the tide came in the intrepid explorers returned with tales of fish, seals and sea lions they had spotted on their voyage. They had walked across the sand, escaped the many tiny crabs crawling there, to arrive on dry land a little damp and muddy but very pleased with their expedition.

Our very last night together we were able to sit outside to enjoy dinner in the late sunshine and reflect on our week.

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Great fun with great friends – happy times to be remembered by us all!

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.