Our departure from Alaska meant our arrival back in British Columbia, and with a late night ferry into Port Hardy we were excited to see what lay ahead in Vancouver Island and visiting our friends in Vancouver. We had a week to make our way along the 290 miles of coastline before taking our final ferry from Victoria to the mainland.
Pretty much all we knew about Vancouver Island was that there was huge logging industry and an abundance of killer whales along the shoreline, something that had so far eluded us. I was sure this would change so I booked an afternoon whale watching excursion with Stubbs Island out of Telegraph Cove, only an hour south. Port Hardy was a picturesque little town, but lacked anything to keep us hanging around for too long – Port McNeill along the coast was our next stop, but not before taking a drive to see a local legend. We had a few people tell us that we must go to Coal Harbour and ask for Joey Eilertsen who would be more than willing to show us around the museum he had created, and chat with us about the history of the small town he calls home. He was fascinating and lucky to be alive after suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that rendered him partially paralyzed, now only suffering from a speech impediment – fortunately he still leads a normal life, other than he no longer takes passengers on the float planes he operates for commercial purposes.
Finally, after spending a lot of time on the water in search of orcas, success came with Stubbs Island whale watching, almost as soon as we departed from the Telegraph Cove harbor. A resident pod were swimming in two separate groups, one on each side of the channel we were passing through. These majestic creatures lived up to all expectations, gliding through the water with the adult males showing off their huge dorsal fin – it would have been nice to see a full breach, or at least a huge head bobbing out of the water. Yes, we always want more! Our allotted hour soon came around and we had to move away from this pod, only to come across humpback whale after humpback whale, and the occasional Dall’s porpoise. The boat crew did not let us down this time.
Due to time restraints we continued south with an overnight stop in Tofino on the west coast – this barely gave us enough time to sign up for a half day kayak tour. Whilst out for dinner in Tofino we discovered that the owner of the restaurant, The Inn at Tough City, also has a cattle ranch next door to a acquaintance of ours on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica who they know very well. What a small world! Kayaking passed away a few hours and left us racing back across the island to spend our final night in Victoria, the capital city. We loved it here, with loads to do and see, and another night spent in a hotel. Life is good!
A walk along the scenic waterfront, brunch at the hectic Fisherman’s Wharf, high tea at the Fairmont Express hotel, and a short drive up to the ferry terminal. Done. Not quite over that fast as we did get to see a lot of the city, or at least the parts that matter – we totally understood why there were so many Washington tags on the cars. The weather is supposedly much drier than both Vancouver and Seattle, and with such a variety of restaurants, bars, and amazing scenery all along the coastline it was definitely a place to spend an extended vacation.
Andrea and I did Ironman New Zealand in 2011 and shared a house with another couple from Vancouver, Andrea and Phil. We promised to make our way to visit them some day and this was the perfect time. They completely opened up their lovely house to us for three nights and we had a bed!! They live in the New Westminster suburb which perfectly located for us to get the train into the downtown area, Andrea could run in the local parks and there was great mt biking near the house – what more can you ask for! We arrived to a beautiful home cooked meal, not once, but twice, by expert cooks! I’ve never had chicken so delicious on the BBQ!
We spent an afternoon in Vancouver biking around Stanley Park with the city profile and cruise ship dock as a back drop. It was pretty impressive, although it would have been far better to be in shape to run the park loop, probably something that is extremely popular each morning before people head into their city offices. A side trip to Squamish for serious mountain biking was a blast and definitely got the blood running in my veins – time to think about registering for the BC Bike race in 2015. The entire Vancouver area is a mecca for mountain biking so being able to get out and ride some pretty good single-track trails close to our friends house was a fun way to spend our last morning.
Time to say goodbye to our very hospitable friends in Canada and head back south, taking our final border crossing into Washington…
August 9th – August 20th 2014