Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Vancouver Island Part IV - Quadra Island 15th April -13th May

So like buses you wait for ages and then 2 come along almost at once, the only excuse we have is we’ve been busy but we wanted to get you all up to speed with the life of the travelling marshs, so here we go welcome to Quadra Island and what a lovely place to be.....

So, WWOOFing here we come! After leaving the eagles and the fish and chips we headed to the Campbell River ferry to take us onto the little island of Quadra heading to our new life of a WWOOFing couple just 10 minutes away, we found where we needed to be with ease, thankfully Quadra isn’t too big: come off the ferry, turn right, then left, keep going to the end of the island, take sharp right then sharp left up road we’re the house with red roof… sorted! So as we parked up Jeremy outside a house with a red roof, it’s right on the sea front we could hear a seal in the sea below snorting,yet again the view was breathtaking, absolutely lovely. We knew, no one would know who we were, as Linda wasn’t due back for a couple of days so we knocked on the door, which was opened by a young German girl (Beke) we introduced ourselves saying Linda had sent us to help, which was greeted with “VUFFERS!!!!” “…Yes, yes we are.”

The first night we met Doug (who we later found out was the owner of the house and descendant of the Lloyds Banking family), Darrell, (helping with the building), Bea (pronounced Beer) and Beke (Baker) who are both German WWOOFers, We were taken on a tour of the many and varied properties Linda has ranging from a float house (which used to be on water but is now on land), a boat-house (right on the water’s edge with an outdoor shower and toilet!), a beautiful cottage and various other rooms in larger houses, and then back to the house for dinner.
Actually Tim & I ended up cooking as quite frankly everyone else was plastered and we didn’t want burnt pasta and pesto, so we rustled up a curry from what we could find and it was good. Then we headed to the local waterhole, the Heriot Bay Inn where myself and a drunk Darrel played pool against some even more drunk locals Katy & Darrel 2: drunk locals 0 (and they were NOT HAPPY about it!) ……Dad you would have been so proud, I still have the gift.

Our first day was greeted with torrential rain which I embraced and ran in to ‘Rebecca Spit’ (an outcrop of land, not an unfortunate girl’s name!), this will my 10k route I will run for quite some time to come, but it’s a good one, with the sea either side of you as run to the end of the spit through the trees, it’s lovely but also very wet. Back at the house, showered and ready to start work which for Tim was painting a room and for me was cleaning the doctor’s tri-maran (not a euphemism) for $50 (woohoo money in!) so Darrel and I headed to a mouldy boat and cleaned everything in sight, $50 thank you very much! With the morning’s work done, it was time to collect oysters off the beach for lunch. Neither of us had tried oysters before and don’t get me wrong they were ok, but just kind of sea watery and fishy. Tim - bless him - tried one gagged and vowed never again, but he tried it, I’m so proud. Maybe I’ll give them another go sometime.
Later that day Linda arrived back with Simon (another German WWOOFer who we’d met previously when she brought him over to Courtenay) and with that our first real job: to move a large metal shed to another part of the property; honestly it took all of us, several long wooden posts and sit on mower to move it (possibly slightly hampered by the language barrier!). We eventually took to rolling the thing along plastic pipes; collecting them as they spit out the back and slotting them back in at the front… I suspect it was very similar to the construction of stone henge (with the exception of the mower). By this stage, Doug decided the chaps should relax by firing golf balls into the sea from the garden (fuelled by a days drinking), the girls did needle point! (Yea right!) I think we cooked. ………

There was no internet connection where we are staying (I know – crazy!) so we had to wander down the road to Linda’s house where she has a lovely Mac which I can play on and am redesigning her website(s) for her. We managed a Skype chat with the White Juniors where I saw white junior junior growing bigger, and Caroline looking fabulous, especially the boobs!, I’m still smiling about being an aunt again :)
We sent out postcards today which cost us $35 in stamps! God knows how much the board bags going to be to send home, may have to sell a kidney!?!??
We previously mentioned Sarah - the Aussie who told us about WWOOFing - well we bumped into her in the pub, she was VERY shocked to see us, but very excited (granted she was quite drunk, but still…). I think she thinks we’re stalking her….. she’s a great bubbly character and we liked her :) we also met her lovely friend Megan also an Aussie who she’s WWOOFing with… small world, even smaller Island!
Tim has been doing skype technical support with his mum trying to sort out his computer he gave Val (sister) so if any of you need technical PC support just give him enough time and he can be there with you for a small charge….i believe it is all now fixed and we had a lovely family Marsh gathering the other morning - it was like seeing a rock band with Alex on drums at the back - so lovely to see and chat them, thank you Skype, unfortunately the reception is awful and the audio would drop out at our end but still so nice to see the people we miss so much.

As the weather got better, Tim has made it his mission to sort out the gardens at Cedar House so we’ve been digging and cutting things off everywhere, I’ve also been on dandelion weeding duty, which entails digging out dandelions at the root with a knife… thousands of them! But it’s not so bad when you have the sound of the sea below you, although I did have some great blisters, I never got that designing for M&S!

Linda is a lovely, lovely lady. By the time we had to leave, we wanted to take her with us, she has 2 dogs Tuna an old jack Russell who makes us laugh, and Pearl who is a very bright barky collie. On occasion, she also has Elmo* who is Tuna’s dad, and also very funny, like a deaf old man; he belongs to Hughie, Linda’s ex husband who is also working on the house. She also has 3 cats and one of them Coal looks just like Tim’s old cat Hancock, Tim wanted to take Coal with him, there is also Space-Cat and Snowy. It’s so nice to be around happy animals. We all go for a walk down to Rebecca Spit and whilst there, start collecting drift-wood… for anyone who hasn’t seen the coastline around here you would be frankly amazed at the amount of driftwood on the beaches… full, milled logs everywhere. People build whole houses from the drift… amazing (it’s all about the drift)! We weren’t trying to build a house (yet!) but were trying to find bits to do interesting things to the house to make a banister or a beam or something for the garden it’s so much fun and soon Linda’s big truck is full and the sun coming down, what a nice way to spend the evening.

For a bit of a break one afternoon, we all headed to the beach to look for clam shells with holes in the top (caused by sea-snails gnawing through to get to the clam… scary!). On the way back we met Paul, a local who is interested in collecting native artifacts (to be honest, they looked liked stones to me but he was adamant that they were spear-heads and cutting tools!). Anyway, he kindly invited us all back to his place for a ‘nice cup of tea’ :o) and what a place he had… a big sloping piece of land leading down to the water’s edge which contained several different buildings. The newest one (still under construction) was for his daughter and looked lovely, further down the pathway (past the fence with dolls heads!) was another place (still under construction) that he should be living in… further on down were another few places (I started to lose count) in one he would sleep, in another he would cook, in another he would just ‘be’! Very interesting guy, very interesting place, very interesting garden ornaments!
Beke read somewhere that there were 10 top things that you had to do before you left Quadra (which she does soon) and one of them is watch the sunrise on Rebecca spit “lovely” I say until I realize I’m going too, so at 4.30am I’m up, we have a flask of tea and our cameras, it is pitch black…..when I ask what time does the sun rise I am greeted with a blank face, now I know any normal person would have checked the lunar or solar site online but no, not us, so we sat there for quite sometime in the dark… until 5.50am actually, when the sun starts to come up and it is beautiful if a little windy, Jeremy is being buffeted quite a bit.
Anyway, job done, back to the house changed into running kit get outside by 6.15am and now the sunrise is awesome….arse! it would seem we had missed the best bit so we went again the following day at 5.55am on borrowed push-bikes to a beautiful still morning and we were greeted by a beautiful display of sunlight :)

Linda decided we all need to get off the island and head over on the ferry to… another island! Cortes Island, is a beautiful Island with beaches and a farmers market and a free store (like a jumble sale but you just take without paying!) so we made a picnic and loaded us all into the 2 vehicles, Linda and Simon in one and Tim, me, Beke and Bea in Jeremy. Cortes is a small island and Linda showed us everything sometimes twice, (she got lost) and somehow we managed to rack up 100km on this small island. Unfortunately it was a wet old day so the beach viewing ‘weren’t all that’, but the free store was fun - I got me a TimBits t-shirt as I’m Tim’s-Bit after all.

We then headed to a very posh retreat called Hollyhocks where we were going to have our picnic
(and the giant lemon meringue we had bought at the farmers market), but it was so very wet, somehow Linda managed to blag a room inside for free by saying that she a bunch of Europeans that were interested in having a look further to a possible stay… it worked! now the only thing was it was a silent retreat… we were ushered into the library area surrounded by all sorts of “interesting” reading you know, if ever you’ve ’lost yourself’ I know a book that could find you, kind of reading.
But we did have a lovely pot of tea and our picnic was delicious and we we’re allowed to whisper. Thank you Hollyhocks, we’ll be in touch – not! On leaving I was greeted by a smiling Tim who had been reading the agenda for the silent retreat, I read it and started giggling it went like this 7am-wake up 7.30am-breakfast 8am-sit-9am-stand, but there were asterisks to let you know it was time to change your position and a bell would be rung, and as Tim was reading this he heard the bell clanging behind him, only to find Simon with a big smile on his face, bell in hand. We left pretty sharpish with the thought of lots of silent retreat people not knowing what to do or where to go and not being able to ask, oh the mayhem!……I know I shouldn’t laugh but I was in tears;)

We had been invited along with Linda, to an evening gathering with the local fishermen who mainly farm oysters and mussels, it was a really interesting evening meeting lots of new people and hear them talking about their work. We tried some of their fishy foods and this time the “shooter” oysters were divine, I get it now :) and there were prawns, crab, mussels, clams, oysters and sea urchin that Tim and I both tried it was really nice an even Tim agreed it was OK. The food and the company were both really special we had a great evening and by the end had landed us a day working on one of the boats. A couple of days later Linda wakes us to see if we can get to the harbor for 7.45amm it’s 7.15am!!! hell why not, so we run around getting a packed lunch and then find Linda with a cup of coffee in her dressing gown and the engine running ready to drop us off for our first day at fish school (you’ve got to love her) there we met up with Troy and his crew onboard a big grey boat with a winch!! We set off into the sunshine towards the islands that we’ve been looking at for the past few weeks from our new home that is the boat house, (we got moved when the paying guests needed to move into the hostel), so hi ho, hi ho it’s off to pick mussels we go!, we drop the crew off at the oyster farm which involves people being put on rafts on boats and oysters being winched from one side to another by the boat, Tim and I feel a tad like spare parts so just try not to get in the way of the winch and keep Charlie the dog from chewing everything in sight including me! Then off the 3 of us go to the mussel farm, now I don’t know about you but I didn’t have clue how mussels grow but let me tell you its quite clever. To cut a long story short you get a rope and leave it in the water! Attached to a beam, every sea thing clings to it (hopefully including mussels!), and you leave it there to do its growing stuff,(hope this isn’t getting too technical for you?) then you come along dressed in something very waterproof from head to toe, with large waterproof gloves, use the winch and pick up said ropes 1 by 1 and starting at the top you pull down everything onto a sorting table, now then whist doing this you will get absolutely covered in what we like to call ‘sea-shit’!
And it smells like the bottom of the sea too, then you sort the mussels from the star fish (an oyster / mussel farmer’s worst nightmare) sponges, squirty things that look like giant blisters, seaweed, and stuff I can’t even describe, but I’m sure it would be great for the garden! Then you sort the mussels into grade sizes and stack the ones that need more time, and put them in crates back in the sea and bag the ones that are good to go, take home and consume. It was a great day, thanks Troy and the best bit was when Troy let Tim catch a fish within seconds of putting the rod in the water, then the fish came aboard, got trod on thrown overboard and then a giant bald eagle swooped down grabbed it mere feet away from us and flew back off to its baby in its nest on the little island opposite. Such an amazing thing to of witnessed, Tim fishing………:) not a bad day at the office as Troy said and he wasn’t wrong.

The weather has finally turned to sunny days, hoorah! So working outside is so much nicer, especially when you’re doing gardening bits and creative building. We loved having so much to do, and trying to finish a job was a challenge… much to do in so little time.

We like to think we have left a legacy in Quadra… Tim’s freshly baked bread. he started to do it as we had flour by the sack load and yeast and we we’re getting through a lot of bread every day so he made a fabulous couple of loaves and they would go pretty quick, he then passed his gift onto Cecile (a lovely little Swiss WWOOFer) who in turn would pass it onto the next WWOOFer (Ben from Oxford) and so on, so there will always be Tim’s bread in Quadra, honestly he could of sold it, if only we’d of had more time we could of made a killing at the Saturday market! We left the recipe in the book for anyone who is passing by so they can bake bread, I also left my carrot cake recipe, which I made for Vinny’s leaving dinner (we’ll get onto Vinny in a minute), which have to be accompanied by Mojitos. We also put in my butternut squash, bacon and feta recipe, but you have to make sure you have proper feta… for some reason Canadian Feta doesn’t melt! Maybe we should publish our recipes when we get back, just a thought?

We met so many nice people on the Island including the lovely Irish Mr Vinny Kelly, who had WWOOFed for Linda 5 months previously and had worked at the Olympics and between times had been exploring Canada. Vinny made it his want to get the hot tub working and bless him 3 days later and we’re all in the tub, well 5 of us anyway, so very funny. Vinny will leave to head to Vegas and win big, and hopefully see a bear on his final travels in Canada before he heads back to the Emerald Isle.

So what did we actually do on Quadra?
Well I made my first mosaic of an Orca Whale to go into the new kitchen unit and I tiled the back of the kitchen unit. I also cooked, I did fishcakes (nearly as good as the ones in Rocket), 2 lemon meringue pies, a rhubarb and apple crumble, many interesting evening meals, so many I can’t remember, I made custard from scratch as the Canadian’s & German's didn’t know what it was, cleaned bedrooms, bathrooms and windows. And designed Linda’s websites, and all you had to was house and feed me... Bargain!

Tim made pizzas, baked bread, cooked curry, did the gardens, and also created a fantastic path and steps (with Simon) to take you safely to the Boat House, which was lined with oyster shells and rocks (I did that bit) and he built many a fire and chopped down many a tree. He and Darrell put up the hammock, that we hope is being well used and he also painted rooms and fitted trim… I think we make a good pair of WWOOFers!

And that was a condensed version of our time on Quadra (too many bits to include here); we could happily have stayed for the rest of the year, but you have to move on sometime… I can highly recommend a stay at but be warned… you might not ever want to leave!

* We recently heard that Elmo was hit by a car and is no longer with us… RIP Elmo :”o(

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Vancouver Island part III - Courtenay 9-15 April

It’s been awhile and it’s time to try and catch up with our blogs, sorry we’ve been a bit behind, we’ve been busy!

Leaving a sunny Tofino behind, we had our first brush with a bear, I say brush he was just “being” bear-like on the side of the road having come out of the woods for a snack as we whizzed past in Jeremy - it was so exciting :) Unfortunately by the time we had parked up, grabbed the camera and gone back he’d had enough and gone back in the woods. So, ‘stoked’ with our first ever bear sighting (sorry Vinny) we got back on the road heading for Courtenay.

We drove into Courtenay, to the Comox Lake Hostel, where we we’re greeted by Bonnie and her 5 dogs, before we knew it there was a fire going and Tim had a beer in hand, we we’re in for a good stay :) as it got darker the sky was filled with so many stars, it was beautiful to see, I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many stars in the sky and Tim saw a few shooting stars… another first! Later we met Maurice who is 74 years young, he’s planning a trip to (push-)bike around the Netherlands (he has already built a small trailer to attach to his bike). He has so much knowledge and seems to have been everywhere (and can still remember every road). He is an amazing guy; always having another travel story up his sleeve and despite what he might’ve thought we never tired of hearing them... We're proud to say he’s our facebook friend! We also met lovely Helen, she’s from England to, and is staying at the hostel doing yoga and finishing off her log-cabin in the mountains ready for sale (if anyone’s interested, let us know!). Our first night was great but we were kept awake at first by the amazing frog chorus (both in number and volume) from the neighbour’s pond.

I went for a lovely run through the woods in the morning along the Puntledge River with my new running buddies, Lucky, Lady, Blue & Tiga (old man Buster stayed at home) it was lovely especially as these are all bear-attacking-dogs, good dogs to have with you I reckon. Unfortunately the running party would slowly dwindled throughout our stay as the dogs got wise to my morning run rather than their morning walk!!!

We headed off to Mount Washington, they have had 700cm of fresh white snow, finally good snow, unfortunately I think it will be our last boarding for the season, it was lovely, such a nice friendly mountain. Today was their “Dummy Run” which involves different groups making dummies, strapping them onto a skis or snowboard and firing them down to the ski jump to see how far they go - quite a sight…..hope you can see the video! It worth watching till the end, honestly.......

We’ve been having some bank issues so having to get up early to spend over an hour on the phone we tried to resolve credit card and endowment policy problems we had telephonic-exhaustion! We were 50% successful (glass half full). As we we’re up so early, we thought we would head out on a long walk round the lake and river past Nymph Falls, Bonnie wisely only let one dog “Blue” the youngest come with us, which was so nice to have a dog to walk with, we followed the river and had lunch by the falls when I looked up and saw behind Tim’s head a sign saying that there had been a cougar sighting, nothing new really until I saw the date was – it was yesterday!!!
So we carried on our walk (with a bit more caution!) and tried to follow the map, but ended up alongside the 6-lane highway with no bridge and a dog without a lead……back into the woods to try and get back on path, thankfully we came across a very sweet house in the woods (sounds very Disney doesn’t it?) but this house was run by a lovely elderly Dutch couple, Betsy & John and they pointed us in the right direction which happened to be way off the map we had, now by this time Tim’s feet were killing him and Blue looked knackered, but only an hour or so more to get home (after the five and a half we’d already done)….at least it was sunny! When we got back we we’re welcomed by Donna & John (from the previous episode, it was so nice to see them again) a beer and a big bowl of water (thanks Bonnie) for Tim’s feet, that we’re blistered up a treat, poor thing :(

That night we had a great fire, Maurice had been building it for quite some and that evening we lit it and watched it burn baby burn!, we all love fire especially Donna, Tim brought the marshmallows, Bonnie brought her homemade wine and chutney, which is very good, Donna & John brought the hotdogs and chips. Helen & I moved broom. It was a great evening we all moved even more “broom” to burn, it was quite a fire and was still going the following evening when we needed to light up the BBQ. Maurice was telling us all about his travels and we mentioned we’re heading to San Francisco soon… the following morning he presented us with a detailed hand drawn map of San Francisco, right down to where to hire the bikes from and where to stay, it was so very lovely, (thank you again Maurice… its safe in our travel book!).

Having Donna & John at the hostel is so lovely, we want to take them with us, they too have travelled a lot in the states and imparted loads of travel tips and knowledge… and they make us laugh. Donna reminds us of Aunty Angela (which is a big compliment for both of you ;).
Now then, we had mentioned the WWOOFIng thing and while Donna, John & Bonnie were on Quadra Island to see Bonnie’s friend it was mentioned that we may be able to help out, so we could be WWOOFER’s before you know it. Well actually by the time they got back to the hostel we were hired so we’re heading off to Quadra Island to begin WWOOFing for Linda.
On our last morning before we headed off I went out on a Kayaking trip with Donna and Craig on Comox lake it was so still it was like glass. So lovely to be out on the water with the mountains in front of you, and huge trees either side, Donna was as supper canoeist, especially as it was her first time and we even managed to paddle home without hitting anything or going to the wrong beach, much to Craig’s relief! We also got really close to a juvenile bald eagle as we floated past its perch in the tree on the lake. Yet another amazing encounter with nature.

We got back to hostel had a cup of tea, Tim returned from town with new “super feet” insoles and a jaunty cowboy hat, it really suits him, this is what he’s been looking for and at only $6 a bargain. After saying a sorry goodbye to people and dogs, we set off following Donna & John who told us of the best fish and chip place with great wildlife viewing, and they weren’t wrong… drive in and your by the river but instead of where you’d find seagulls in the UK there were loads of bald eagles both young and old. It was awesome and so was the Halibut ;) We’ll really miss the Ottawans and the Comoxians (eh?).

So off we go to our new life on Quadra Island to be WWOOFers for Linda for a while………how very exciting :)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Van Island pt II: Tofino

Tofino: 5 - 9 April 2010

So, we’ve fallen behind the blogging again… what are you going to do?! This blog marks a bit of a ‘golden era’ in our Canadian travels. So far things have been good but from hereon things just got better.

From Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island we headed straight across to the west coast. We took what was not only the main route but the only route. I didn’t believe google maps when I first checked, but once we were underway I understood… more mountains! Can’t tell you too much about the scenery as all my concentration was taken up by not driving off the edge of it.

We arrived on fumes alone… the fuel gauge was buried deep into the red – way further than it had gone before. I was just preparing to explain to Katy about the best way to push the van when we rounded a corner to find our saviour (Esso in this case) ready to dispense unleaded for the princely sum of 1.08 Canadian dollars per litre. We filled Jeremy to the brim as we were so relieved to have fuel again and on the other side of the island it was $1.12 / litre. We were happy. We headed off on our way again and less than 50m around the corner was another station… a cheaper station. I couldn’t believe it: $1.05/litre!! Ah well, I guess it’s probably around 4GBP / litre back home by now so I can’t complain.

Not many minutes later, we arrived in Tofino itself. A couple of streets in (and right by the beach) and we reached the Tofino Trek Inn. We were greeted by gorgeous sunshine and our latest host, Joe. I was expecting a burly Canadian (as they all are) but as we later discovered, Joe was originally from Ethiopia and ended up in Tofino via a rather convoluted route. He came to stay at the hostel for a few days and never left! It’s a great story and you really should visit him if you want the full background. Tofino really is worth the trip.

After a brief unpacking (and unpacking of briefs), Joe directed us to a small beach in Tonquin Park. After a few wrong turns we enter through woodland path; uphill, along paths, down newly constructed and sturdy wooden steps and walkways (quite literally a board-walk). Some of the planks had inscriptions carved or branded into them of people’s names (like on some UK benches), others for the local bars and restaurants; it became clear that the walkway had been sponsored a bit like the hoardings around a football pitch (though it has to be said, more tastefully). We emerged at the bottom of the steps and the edge of the woodland to two sheltered coves containing all the key ingredients required for a beach: sand, rocks and waves. One of the coves was already occupied by hippies playing drums… we chose the other one. We sat on a log and watched the setting sun. The sun refused to set and simply hung in the sky in exactly the same way that bricks don’t (thank you Douglas Adams); so we meandered back to our new home and had a lazy evening.

Day two started gloomy but gradually solar energy did its thing, evaporating the clouds leaving a blustery but sunny day. Things got even better: free breakfast! Only fruit and (very nice) bread but it’s the sort of stuff Katy loves and the sort of stuff I should be consuming! Bread comes fresh everyday from the local bakery and is gooood!

This was a day of walking: big provincial parkland with rainforest and many beaches including long beach (20km long apparently!). Joe informed us that this was the best surfing beach in Canada. Being me I pointed out that that is like saying “this is the best table in the kitchen”… it may be, but there are many other better tables in many other kitchens! I obviously haven’t managed to completely exorcise sarcasm from my personality, but he accepted my point in a good natured way (he’s that sort of guy, living here does that to you – it’s a wonderful place).

Anyway, beach walk #1 was found via a rainforest walk for 30mins that brought you out onto Long Beach (it’s over 20km long!) it also brought with it the first squall of bad weather for the day (the only variable in bad weather is ‘when’ not ‘if’ around here). And as Billy Connolly once said, there is no bad weather, just bad choice of clothes. We had a wander around in the “weather” looking in rock pools and watching the waves crash in (it was indeed a good surf beach with nice rolling waves). There is so much wood on the beaches here from all the logging, honestly if we had a bigger van and budget Katy would be sending a lot of the stuff back home for “creative” purposes! As we couldn’t tell if the tide was coming or going we decided not to walk, what with all the logs floating about and the thought of being crushed and stranded we went back through the rainforest and time for lunch. What else but fish and chips? After lunch, more rain forests; they are quite amazing: huge trees that have been doing their thing for 1000’s of years. To help protect these delicate areas, all the rain forests have board-walks.

Upon our return, we made plans to take a trip to the hot-springs; this was to be an all day event due to the 3 hour return boat trip, then another 40 minutes of board-walk. We’d been advised against just going whale watching as that was virtually as expensive with no guarantee of seeing whales and the hot-springs boat takes you on virtually the same route.

The following day broke big and angry and remained so. So you can imagine our relief when we arrived at the boat booking office to find that the boat was not ready after its service. It turned into a lazy day of coffee drinking and book reading (which unbelievably we haven’t really had much time to do since we’ve been away). The day after rained even more. Finished the book and ran out of coffee. Bought beer.

Met a lovely new person back at our new home, by the name of Jenna. An effervescent character (though not so much when we first met as she’d just driven over from Ontario which must be virtually empty by now). The following morning she was much more lively and we had a lovely chat… she too has quite a story which is too long for me to reproduce here but luckily she has her own blog which frankly uses much more complicated wordery than I can achieve. Jenna: if you read this, it was a real pleasure meeting you; hope all your plans work out and love that tattoo (oh, and really sorry about the snoring)!!

We finally got to have our hot-springs boat trip. Weather had improved but waves were still more choppy than I’d normally like. On the way we went through pretty much every type of weather (sun, cloud, fog, rain, hail and yes, even snow!). We saw some nesting bald-eagles (but they are like, so yesterday!) and a little later on we (very briefly) saw our first ever whale! Just the tail (or as katy called it, the ‘arse-end’… hope fully that’s not too technical for you), but it was very exciting nonetheless. And we felt quite smug as the whale watching boats didn’t see any more than we did. On to the hot springs. We were dropped at the island and took the long boardwalk. As we neared the springs, the stench of sulphur got stronger and stronger; thankfully it dissipated (or we just got used to it) by the time we reached the hot springs. They are essentially natural pools carved in to rock on the sea-shore; geo-thermally heated water flows down to the springs ending in a waterfall-shower. The only concession to civilization (apart from some modest landscaping) was a wooden hut to change in. Speedos donned, we headed for the hot pools. I was the first person there so had the pleasure of walking on dry (and therefore much less slippery) stones and boulders. Piled my clothes on a rock and climbed in. Katy followed not long after and was the first casualty of the day; slipping on a stone, another one flew up and hit her in the mouth… a mere flesh-wound! A few minutes after we were joined by the other ~6 people from our boat. This was about all the springs can comfortably accommodate and we had the place to ourselves for around an hour before another boat-load arrived. We stood (or floated) our ground for another half an hour during which we endured bizarre flurries of hailstones. When a further boat-load arrived we figured it was time to exit (all extremities having turned into prunes). Luckily I’d had the sense to cover my clothes with my jacket; less luckily my jacket was absolutely soaked and the hood was full of hailstones… brrrr. During our soaking we started chatting with a lovely aussie called Sarah who introduced us to the concept of WWOOFing (which definitely has nothing to dowith deserted car parks and steamed-up windows). A brisk rub-down and a snifter from the hip-flask brought back the rosy cheeks and we headed for home. By this time the wind had picked up again and I’m sure some of those waves were bigger than our boat. As we were planning to head off the following day, we offered Sarah a lift to her next stop, Uclulet.

Back in the hostel, we meet a newly arrived couple who were even older than us (a rare thing so far on this trip); you will hear more about John and Donna in due course! We had a lovely little chat over wine, beer and chips (by which of course I mean crisps). They had a wealth of information and travel tips for us and were just absolutely lovely. We mentioned we were moving on the following day and seconds later, John had whipped out his iPhone and was calling their friend who they had just left on the other side of the island. A couple of minutes later and we had our next stop all arranged… result!

The following morning we packed (again) and picked up Sarah and travelled the 20+km to Uclulet where the three of us went for a walk along the coastal paths and exchanged the histories of our travels to date. Sarah had been working at the Olympic venues and afterward had been WWOOFing which in brief means doing a few hours work (which can vary greatly depending upon where you are staying) in return for food and lodging (which greatly reduces the strain on the wallet)… we’re thinking of giving it a go (especially as her last WWOOFing job was to look after a puppy)!

So that was Tofino… a virtual cul de sac on Vancouver Island but we’re so glad we visited and is one of the places we will have to return to in future years.