Category Archives: Canada

Back on the road again

Leisurely get up, no rush as not really enough time to see downtown and get away at a sensible time, so we concede to visiting next time!

Anyways no point coming to see Elise and then not spending time with her! Instead we all get up a little after nine and have brekkie, swap photo’s and generally chat about various parts of our trips. It’s a fun morning and we eventually decide to make a move around 1300 with a packed lunch to accompany us, thanks Elise 🙂

The border is really quick, much to our surprise and we get to a great campsite “newhalem campsite”, more than a typical forest campsite in that it has real toilet blocks (no showers) and lovely raised gravel tent pitches, it even has a handful of secluded walk-in forest tent pitches. The usual picnic bench and fire grate with every one.

We pitch the tent, pay and head back out to find some supplies. There’s a grocery store 1 mile further on but it’s shut so we need to retrace our path back 10 miles to the nearest town which is well stocked. Smoked sausage pasta for dinner. Oh and toasted flumps (marshmellows to the rest of us – H) 🙂

Then a wee stroll around the campsite, down to the river, along it’s nature trail – complete with plaques telling us about different types of trees and foilage – before bedtime.

Reunion IV, part ii, North Vancouver

We have a brekkie date at 1000 with Josh’s grandad for poached eggs on toast. Yummy!!!

His cousin Victoria is 16 in a week or so and there’s a wee birthday cake so everyone can sing happy birthday to her. With a difference! They have a ritual that involves everyone singing happy birthday as out of tune as possible and at the top of their voice till the recipient blows out the candles!!!! Madness ensues! 🙂

Josh’s grandparents house is facing a slightly different direction and has views around the corner and way down the inlet. Fantastic but very different :-).

After poached eggs Victoria and her brother Duncan show us some card tricks while the others finish eating, then it’s farewells all round as we set off with Josh for the ferry and head over to North Vancouver to see Elise.

On the way to her house we drive to a view point, which is near the top of Cypress Hill, it was used in the Winter Olympics last year. It’s a bit hazy but clear enough to get an idea of the scale of the city.

At Elise’s house we are able to blag some laundry doing. We couldn’t really ask at Josh’s as their water supply comes from a dam that is really low right now. So much so that they’re buying drinking water and rationing the use of what they have got left.

Washing in the machine we all head out for a sushi lunch. Apparently we can’t leave Vancouver till we’ve had sushi – it’s to them what chicken tikka massala is to us!!

Then it’s back to the garden where we while away the afternoon chatting and playing with Mojo and Quitar (think that’s how it’s spelt!) Elise’s border collies, until her parents Brenda and Bruce return from their day out. another great BBQ with homemade burgers, slaw and tattie salad. Yum yum!!!

Who needs Reading Festival when you have Bowfest?!!

We are all up and breakfasted by 0930 so have plenty of time to get into town and parked before the village parade starts. Josh’s dad left earlier as he’s setting up a jewellery stall, the family business used to be jewellery but they’re now lucky enough to have taken early retirement moving permanently to the island. So the stall today is just a weekend thing to sell off leftover stock. It’s a way of meeting the local community and keeping busy.

The walk from the car to the parade takes us past all the floats waiting to start. Among them is a bagpipe band and a Morris dancing troup of all things. There’s also some local police, or should I say Mounties and even one Mountie bear! 🙂 The theme is “under the sea” and there are squids on scooters and smart car submarines!!

Just before the parade starts (it has to time it just right between ferry arrivals!!) a car trying to park in a side street near us drives too far off the road and ends up in the ditch, big time! Huw and Josh and loads of other guys go over to try and right it. When they get the lady out of the car she disappears! Obviously the parade is more important than standing there looking embarrassed!!

It’s really hot and sunny where we stand but not unbearably so. Every float that comes down the street throws sweets at the kids, and when little kids are involved in the float, they even throw sweets at the other kids watching, albeit reluctantly.

Once it’s all gone by, and it is pretty long considering there’s only about 4,000 people living on the island, we head on down to the bottom field where all the festival action is due to take place. We’re pretty excited to take in the slug race. Oh and the beer tent obviously. Where we find real cider and ale (a tad cold though but nice try) which helps wash a lunchtime compulsory burger down.

A bit after lunch we head up to the town baseball park to watch our 1st live baseball game. Here we meet Josh’s cousin Alex who is like a 2nd sister to him as they grew up together. Then we head back to his house to get the dog (Cooper) and possibly his mum to walk around the lake as there’s loads of time before any live music comes on, his friends band playing and is called Wasabi, they’re due on around 5.

By the time we walk the lake which is really lovely, with mum, Cooper and Ginger – his grandparents dog – it’s after 5 and we’re already missing his friends band. We all agree we’re happy to just grab BBQ supplies and head back to the house for GnT time on the beach.

Its been a busy few days and they’re now catching up with us, so much so that we’re all in bed by 2130 rock’n’roll!!!

Reunion IV, part i, Bowen Island, BC

Up nice and early, 0730, to say our farewells and goodlucks to the lads – their helicopter ride is scheduled for 0830. Lots of coffee and last minute checks, they pack the car and we bid them farewell. Then we turn our attention to sorting some photos, packing and showering. Conny offered for us to take his bikes out but the mention of nuisance Cougars was kinda off-putting. Thanks anyway. Next time eh 🙂

On the move again and with the opportunity to see another Island on the area we re-trace our steps back to the ferry port, this time for Bowen Island where Josh lives. We met Josh on the muddy bus trip and again in Sucre, Bolivia. He and Elise got back from their travels a few weeks ago.

The ferry we’re aiming for leaves at 1215, these ones run hourly so hopefully it’s easier to get on the one you want. Fingers crossed. As I write the traffic comes to a halt and we find ourselves in a trafficjam. No obvious reason why. But what is obvious is it’ll defo put a stop to us catching the ferry. Rse!

We’re not having much luck with ferries, maybe we should just be giving them up!! So the reason for the traffic – rubber-necking!!! Same old the world over!!!

On the upside missing the ferry means we can look around Horseshoe Bay, you park you’re car in the ferry line and then are free to wander into town 🙂 it’s quite cute. We grab a some lunch and watch the world go by.

Bowen Island is lovely, just as everyones been telling us. When we arrive we look for a liquor store (you can only buy alcohol in an alcohol shop here) can’t go visiting again without a bottle. We also ask about a petrol station (well technically we ask about the whereabouts of a gas station) and are just about to give up on the directions when we remember we were told it wouldn’t look like one. Sure enough it’s just a hut and an above ground tank. It’s more expensive than the mainland as we guessed it would be, but hurrying to catch the ferry we ignored it then forgot when we knew we’d missed it and would have time to fill up.

Well, well, well. Josh has been hiding a gem. It’s easy to see why he’s happy to have moved back home since he got back from travelling till he finds a job. The house, location and view of his parents house (Bill and Susan) would take anyones breath away. It is built over the beach, in a sheltered cove looking out to neighbouring islands and the mainland. It used to be tea rooms back when it was built in 1910, and they took hold of it and renovated it back in the 90’s, using it as a holiday home till recently, now it’s their full time residence.

We chat for a bit and then join their daily ritual of going down onto the beach with GnT’s and a swim. We meet Josh’s grandparents Daphne and Jim (they live next door and share the beach) and his aunt Alison and her family who are over for the weekend from Vancouver Island, John, Victoria and Duncan. There’s a huge tree trunk washed up on their beach and along with Josh and the kids we get to work on trying to drag it out of the bay and around the corner where hopefully the tide will take it on it’s way. It’s a mammoth task and involves tying it onto a rowing boat and rowing it out as it’s so big and hefty it won’t float.

Quite worn out we all head back up to the verandah and Josh sets about making dinner on the BBQ while his mum and dad prepare the food. We just take in the breathtaking view and chat 🙂 and pretty much that’s how the day ends. Stargazing and listening to the waves lapping the shore below. Ah nice.

Reunion I, part ii, Squamish, BC

So saying goodbye to the Hogg family and also to Vancouver Island we set off for the ferry port hoping to get on the 1045. Alas again we are only about 8 cars from getting on when they announce that it’s full 🙁

Bottom! We have to wait till 1250 for the next one. Which means not getting to Conny till nearly 1500. Oh well guess it means we have some time to chill and sort blog and photo’s.

When we arrive Conny right away suggests going rafting. And there was us thinking we were too late to do anything crazy. 😉

After organising some kit and driving to the finish, we park up our car, hide the key and drive further on up the river. The ride is about 7km and there’s quite a few rapids and eddies to steer through. In a canoe or kayak they would be pretty challenging, but it’s amazing how easily our big old raft handles them. Conny is at the back steering and we take up central positions on either side.

It’s truly great fun and once we get the hang of each others strength we steer her pretty well. Conny tries to take a piccie of us kissing going over some rapids but we don’t quite make the shot 🙂

When we get down stream to where our car is Huw deflates the raft while Bernice drives Conny most of the way back to his car – can’t go all the way as the road is all pitted, so he walks the last wee bit.

Once back at his house and unpacked we nip out for supplies for dinner and offer to cook this while Conny sorts all his kit out. He’s off on a weekend expedition to a nearby mountain with a couple of pals, to lay a new climbing route. They’re being dropped in by helicopter and camping in the snow probably, till Monday when the helicopter returns to pick them up. This isn’t work this is for fun!! It’ll lead to work all the same but the cost just now is all out of their own pocket.

The evening is spent with us swapping photos from the Cascades trip and today as well as Conny and his pals – Jamie and Marshall – packing up their gear for the morning.

Bear bums and so much more

Working within the logging industry (he flies helicopters for them) Mark knows loads of logging roads that are dirt roads and we set out early on a quest to Carmanah Walbran country park. Mark and Dorothy have chosen to talk us to take us there in the hope of us getting a bear sighting and because it’s a park with amazing Sitka Spruse trees in it that are now protected and cannot be felled.

We stop quite a few times along the way at various amazing view points, and at one point because Dorothy spots a bear. Unfortunately we only see it running into the bush at the side of the road – a big furry black bum, unmistakably a bear but not the full thing. That said if we see no more today it’s getting banked!!

One of places we stop is new to them and is a great cliff top clearing where someone had obviously set up camp, maybe even does so on a regular basis. It has a huge stone fire pit (used) and a pile of stakes for cooking smokeys on (that’s kinda hotdog sausages we’re told, not Arbroath smokeys). There’s a view of the Pacific ocean and we can even hear the sea lions barking on the shore.

We arrive at the park after a marathon 3 hours drive and find apart from one other guy, we are the only people there. Awesome! Again we are reminded of how lazy we can be in the UK when it comes to travelling any length of time to get to the amazing outdoors we have available to us. First thing we do is have a picnic lunch. Yummy! Then we set off on our lovely adventure.

The woods are fantastic. There’s duck boards nearly the whole way around to walk on. These not only ensure we don’t damage too much of the vegetation but they also ensure we have something solid to walk on. That’s when they’ve not got beyond repair themselves or been flattened by fallen trees.

There is so much to look at – moss covered trees; really tall creek-in-your-neck trees; huge slugs; fungi of all shapes and sizes … but sadly no bears 🙁

After lots and lots of photo-taking and lots of walking we head back to the car. We haven’t given up hope though and everyone keeps their eyes peeled on the drive home. Which pays off in abundance. Not only do we see a bear and get a couple of piccies before it gets spooked, but we also get a cool photo and water reflection of a blue heron, and a very placid elk by the side of the road.

On the way home once we’re back in coverage Dorothy gets a call from Steven, he’s offering to cook dinner for us all. Spaghetti, hhmm hmmm. We thought we were stopping at the supermarket on the way home and were planning to offer dinner by way of a big thank you, but he’s beat us to it. Unperturbed we arrange to stop at a liquor store instead (you have to buy alcohol in separate shops here) and contribute some wine and beer – we have to at least replenish what we drank last night.

Another wonderful meal and great company we have had a truly great day. Thanks guys. Mark you have a lovely family.

Reunion III, Qualicum, Vancouver Island BC

So Nathan and Donna get up and leave at 0645 this morning – they have a ferry to the mainland booked. We get up briefly to say our goodbyes and then try and get more sleep. It’s not forthcoming so we eventually snap and get up and organised.

We look at some couchsurfing options for Vancouver city Sunday night. The noticeable difference between here and what we’ve seen so far being the response rates – they’re pretty low here so we might not get anywhere with the half dozen or so requests we send.

After brekkie we pack the car and leave a wee note for the guys before we wave goodbye to their lovely house and hit the road to biker Mark’s. He lives in Qualicum Beach about an hour or so from where we are on Sproat Lake. Having taken our time this morning and stopped for Coombs ice-cream as recommended by Elise, we arrive about 1400. Top marks for the tip girl 🙂

Introductions – Mark’s wife Dorothy, daughter Kirsten (she’s just back from an exchange year in Argentina), son Steven (he’s a volunteer fireman hoping to have a career there) and friend Sheldon done, we sit in their garden getting acquainted before heading out for a lovely beach stroll minutes from their house. The tide is in and with it lots of seaweed. We even see a seal in the water.

An amusing thing (to us) we notice as we walk is they call the geese “Canadian Geese” which we do too but we’re in Canada, they’re their geese, why not just call them geese???

We have a lovely BBQ surf’n’turf dinner and make a plan for tomorrow and retire to the garden to enjoy a fire pit and do some amazing stargazing.

What a bare day

The day starts off a wee bit shaky and much later than anticipated. Bernice had arranged to have a Skype call with Kenny, her brov, at 0900 but we don´t even wake up till after 1000. It´s been raining all night, which is better than the forecast of it raining all day today, so fingers crossed it has rained itself out. A late call allows us to sing happy birthday to Sophie so all is not lost.

Nathan and Donna spend some time prepping for their road trip north to Donna´s cousins wedding and then we head out early afternoon to Port Alberni, the main town for them where they can buy a few camping necessities and Bernice fits in a haircut – 2nd only since the trp began and much needed.

On the way we stop by a place called “Stamp River Falls” known for the salmon leaping at this time of year, and surely over run by bears too. You´d think, and normally it is. For us, uh-uh, we dip out again! Jinxed we think!

It is a lovely river gorge though and definitely worth the visit, bears or no bears. And we get a couple photos of the salmon leaping, so time definitely well spent.

In Port Alberni we split up, the guys go off to do their shopping, Bernice has her haircut and Huw has a snooze in the car after doing a toiletry re-supply. On the way home Nathan and Donna visit his folks and we stop off at the towns Harbour Quay which is very windy. We manage to make it back shortly before them and chill with a wee beer while we wait. They arrive back armed with pizza, nice!

They then spend some time trying out the goodies they bought today and finish packing for their trip, while we read, blog, and think about packing too – we´re off to visit Biker Mark tomorrow (so named as we met him and Neil on the Navimag, they´d biked down the whole length of the Americas over a 3 month period), he lives on the Island too, about an hour from here.

Bushwacked, literally!

Boo! Hoo! Donna leaves early for work again 🙁 and we try our best not to enjoy ourselves too much and certainly wouldn´t dream of having any fish tacos today! Honest! Well we weren´t briefed to be fair, and it´s not till after we have ordered and are munching through two each for lunch that we learn that it isn´t fair to go without her…

The day starts off a bit earlier than yesterday and to no-one’s surprise, Bernice has a huge blue bruise forming on her thigh from yesterday’s mischief! When organised we set off for the beach town of Tofino, stopping as mentioned for fish tacos on the way, along with mint-lime slush-puppy drinks… we can´t believe the popularity of the place. It´s a relatively small wagon and the queues are about 8-10 deep the whole hour we´re there. It is just a wee drive-in with half a dozen businesses in, and nothing else for miles around.

Afterwards we drive a further 20km to the town, stopping briefly at Nathans favourite surf spot – Wickaninnish Beach – to check out the state of the surf. He´s pretty impressed and a tad excited too, this´ll be his 1st surf in over a month having been at work. Tofino is a smallish town with a few touristy shops, a few galleries and a few gear shops, not too over-done. We have a pleasant amble around and buy some postcards for framing when we get home, then armed with a take-away coffee we head back to a gear shop near the Wickaninnish Beach for Huw to hire a wetsuit, before the boys get their fill in the water and Bernice holds the post as team photographer. It´s a great stretch of beach and feels a lot like a Cornwall back home.

Heading back home tired but happy, we have only a minor disappointment, that of not seeing any bears today. Nathan had been pretty sure on the trip out this morning and again now, that we have a good chance of seeing some, but nope it´s not happening. They have brown bears here on the Island, smaller and less ferocious than grizzly’s and they look pretty cute actually, well as far as we know they do, not having seen one ourselves! 🙁

On the way back we drop in to pick up our car at Donna´s parents and arrive back at the house just 5 or so minutes in front of Donna getting back from work, perfectly timed and played for.

As Donna does not have work tomorrow we go out to the fish´n´duck for some chicken wings and a fish supper. The food is really nice but the place is rife with mosi´s and Bernice gets eaten to the point she can´t relax anymore, so it´s bushwackers to go and we hi-tail it back to their house. A games evening follows, accompanied with music swaps. Settlers again … and Huw wins … again! We try to go in for a 2nd game but just after we start we all fade pretty quickly, zzzzz

De plane boss, de plane!

Donna has to leave early for her 7-7 shift, ouch 🙁 The rest of us get up around 9am. A coffee (vanilla coffee at that, very nice), a chat and the offer of poached eggs for brekkie make us think we´re in heaven. Mmm mmm. We also sneak a laundry on, which sorts out our stinky campfire and hiking clothes – they were left outside all night. We thought the arrangement was for Gary and Michelle to call round for us all this morning, and take us out on the lake on their boat but they never materialise. The time is pleasantly passed with a rum´n´coke or two, but in the end we decide we´ve waited long enough for them and a trip to Donna´s parents to borrow their boat is the best answer.

Her dad David have a right old speed boat that he keeps in really good nick, mostly for Donna and Nathan to use and so for the cost of some fuel we get to use it for the day. Genius! Their house is right on the beach and very nicely located, Donna´s mum, Bernice – yes that´s right her name is Bernice (only the 2nd ever time Bernice has met face-to-face another Bernice!!) – supplies us with loads of freshly picked blueberries too, yummy scrummy.

Down at the dock, we sit and take in the view for a bit. Huw and Nathan go in for a dip, apparently the water is not that cold … Bernice isn´t that convinced or that hot yet! The boat is great, like something straight out of a James Bond movie, no kidding. We take it for a spin, Nathan giving us a proper tour of the lake (Sproat Lake) which is huge. There are about a dozen house boats and lots of private speed boats jetting about the place. The houseboats are like floating top-heavy caravans, party boats really, complete with BBQ and slide at the back, and hot-tub on the top deck; they are restricted to 5kts/hr, so they can´t do too much damage. They are owned by the fish´n´duck pub and rented out to tourists mostly. The speedboats on the other hand are either just darting about or pulling screaming passengers in huge inflatables or pulling wake-boarders/jet-skiiers. Oh and did we mention the planes, there´s quite a few properties who have their own hanger on their waterfront with a plane in. You know the ones with big floats instead of wheels that allow them to land on the water. Think “Fantasy Island”. Then there are the two big red and white ones for fire-fighting forest fires – Donna´s dad used to work with these. It´s all go here.

Along with jumping into get cool – Bernice does go in the 2nd time – the boys do a little snorkelling too. As part of our tour around the lake, we have to stop at the burnt down hotel – it used to be a hotel with an off-licence attached, but now its burnt down they´ve put a couple of containers in the car park and are still acting as an offie to the lake-dwellers. The lake is huge, vast in fact … with no real comparison back home. Another “must do” stop is to the fish´n´duck pub dock, to sample a bushwacker – this is a cocktail you can buy “to go” by the jug that has allsorts in … very very nice…

At some point in the proceedings, diving in the water to cool down, touring around the lake and sampling the local refreshments, Bernice falls out … while climbing into … the boat. Huw had been giving her a hard time all day for using her knees as leverage to haul herself up, but she still has really stiff calves from the hiking with Conny and Rowan, at least this is her excuse. Well anyway, the ribbing got too much and she attempted to climb in without knees – it ended in disaster and she banged her hip off a metal bracket on the back of the boat. Ouch!…. That´ll be a shiner tomorrow!

Nathan is keen to get the wake board out for a play, so we head back to Donna´s parents’ house to pick up the board, it´s basically a snowboard that you get your feet into and then hold onto a t-bar and ski the lake. Bernice gets to drive the boat (tee hee) while Huw spots for when Nathan falls in so we can go back and pick him up. He´s pretty good so it doesn´t happen too often, till he gets tired anyhow. Next it´s Huw´s turn, but try as he might he just can´t get on his feet, and he has a lot of goes! Shame, maybe next time…

We arrange for Donna to pick us up on her way home from work, and drive us back to theirs, leaving the car there to pick up tomorrow. We have yummy burgers for dinner and are all pretty tired from the day’s exertion … just thinking of calling it a night when their friend Chris and a whole bunch of people just appear at the patio door. Both Donna and Nathan think it´s going to be a session they can´t avoid when suddenly they apologise and leave … maybe remembering Donna has work tomorrow, maybe embarrassed because we are there, or maybe just the tired look on all our faces does it… who knows, all we do know is how relieved the guys are when they leave again so swiftly..