And the Tofino-Long Beach exploration continues with a mass of tourists and backpackers flooding the area. Apparently our first week there was right before the main tourism season got kicking so we had a bit more privacy at the start. The travelers are from all over the world, and we were invited to Israel by one family we met and Alli made friends with two kids from Holland on Wickinnish Beach.
Part of what makes the Tofino area so amazing (and it has a UNESCO protected status) is that not only does it have the intact temperate rainforest, but it also has both access to the ocean on the west and inlets and bays on the east. Perfect for sea kayaking and learning to surf if you don’t mind 100 other people who don’t know what they’re doing out there with you (i.e., duck and swim away).
We’ve explored some of these beaches via different hiking trails – Schooner Cove, Rainforest Trail and the Wild Pacific Trail. All had amazing flora – from giant trees to overgrown skunk cabbage and huge bushes of huckleberries. Put it this way, this side of the island gets over 10 FEET of rain per year! The other side of the island gets half of that.
Monkeys in the Jungle
So after one last night of fine dining at the local botanical garden’s restaurant SOBO (sophisticated bohemian) and a last pour of rain we decided to try and dry out on the other side of the island.
We spent the night at Little Qualicum Falls Campground and came to the decision that people working for the Provincial Parks in Canada ARE THE NICEST CAMPGROUND HOSTS we have ever met. Everyone says hi, tries to help, waves, checks up on you. Hate to admit it but at first it seemed just plain weird and we wondered what was wrong with everyone being so overtly friendly all the time…a bit stingy, eh?
But then we got into the groove and really spent some time with Bob and Lynn. They are a wealth of knowledge about the North Island and gave us all kinds of history about it. Did you know that Canada used to shoot Nazi officers at a place called THE WALL in Coal Harbor (apparently the government won’t own up it) or that the military facility at Comox probably had (has?) nukes in it? All sorts of yummy local info that the official Information Centres don’t give you. When we left, Lynn admonished us to stay in touch and that she would be out BC mom anytime. We LOVE Canadians!
So the next morning we were off, heading north. We drove several hours and stayed at Elk Falls Campground outside of Campbell River (with the World’s Largest Superstore – and a huge ethnic foods section). That night I (Lisa) woke up gasping for air – I was dreaming that it was a gigantic flood and we were being swept away….imagine, it was raining again! Big, beautiful water drops like you just don’t see down south.
Once we arrived up here (here being our campsite at Cluxewe beach on the north end of Vancouver Island) we spent a day drying out, doing laundry and generally trying to keep the mold at bay. Today, as it was beautifully clear but still a bit cool I asked a local if this was normal and she answered “No, it’s a bit warmer than usual.” Still, it beats the heat and fires we’re hearing about back in Hailey. Our campsite is about as good as it gets; Betty is parked amongst the trees about 100 ft from the edge of the bay. Allie can swim (Taku mostly just gets his feet wet and barks at rocks) in the seawater right off of our beach then rinse off in the river water 100 yards behind us.
The big event since arriving up on the North Island was our whale watching excursion yesterday. The Naiad Explorer and her crew took us 85 miles down Johnston Strait amid beautiful mountains and forests in search of two pods of Orcas. Once we found them we had almost two hours of watching the three males and four females feed and travel east down the straight. What graceful and majestic creatures they are, our photos couldn’t do the experience justice. When they lowered the hydro phone into the water to hear how they communicate; the haunting, lonely cries almost brought tears to my eyes.
Aghhh! Missed the shot!
Captain Mackay, Nicola our Naturalist and Lisa
It was a full day of wildlife viewing! Lisa woke at 6am hearing the sound of a blow amidst crystal quiet water. She grabbed the binoculars as we watched as a humpback whale mom and calf played in the water just off the beach. It was so special to have that happen from right where we were staying, on shore. A local we met on the whale watching tripping told us that he thinks it’s more powerful to see whales from shore because we’re grounded to the earth, where we’re meant to be. Part of me agrees.
Later in the morning as we walked to the board the Naiad, we discovered an abandoned bear cub with an injured leg. We reported it and hopefully they’ll find a place for it to heal.
We continue to have the chance to have great long conversations with local folks. Moving slowly seems to provide the opportunity for that as does camping in the regional campgrounds as opposed to “out in the bush.” In fact we’ve been invited out to dinner on one of the neighboring islands for tomorrow and to a wedding next week if we’re around next week! At this rate we may never get off the island!