Whale breath stinks!

Trip Start Mar 31, 2009
Trip End Oct 13, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well I sent my last entry on Sunday, after going for another walk at Port Hardy to look for bears, and we saw another one - yay!  The next day was Monday (Labour Day in Canada) and I did very little, and enjoyed every moment of it.  On Tuesday morning I got the Greyhound bus to Courtenay, a bigger town of about 20,000 people.  I walked to the hostel (about 30 minutes and lots of sweat) and got there at 2.45 to find their office was closed until 4.  So I sat outside on the deck and logged into their wireless network until someone let me in, just as it started to rain.  I did nothing of note the rest of the day. 

I woke up (a good start to any day) on Wednesday morning to find it was raining - bugger - so I spent the day wandering around town and just generally doing not much.  I thought about seeing a movie but they only show movies in the evening.  I read a lot.  I spent a bit of time looking at options for seeing more of Vancouver Island, and came up with a general plan.

Thursday was, according to the forecast, going to be a lovely day.  I woke up and it was overcast and threatening to rain.  But an English guy I met at the hostel, Andy, and myself decided to get the bus to a little town near Courtenay called Comox.  We went out of curiosity and lack of much else to do.  Once we got there the weather cleared up nicely.  We went for a  walk along Goose Spit which was nice.  On the way we saw a Coast Deer Doe with her fawn, in a suburban street!  Anyway, after walking to the end of the spit we headed back to town for lunch then got the bus back.  That was that. 

On Friday (beautiful day) I got the train (a one car railcar) to Nanaimo.  Found my hostel, checked in, dumped my stuff and went for a walk along the waterfront.  There are river otters and seals in the marinas - fun trying to spot them.  Lots of salmon around so lots of people fishing - it looks a bit like the rivers near Turangi with all the fishermen lined up.  I saw one guy lose a fish to a seal - he was not impressed (the seal probably was though).  On Saturday morning myeslf and a Swede called Eric caught the world's smallest ferry to Newcastle Island, a small island just off the coast.  We wandered around the island - it is very beautiful over there, mostly forest but a lake and very nice coastline too.  We then got back on the ferry and asked the bloke to drop us at the floating pub on the neighbouring island.  From there we got another ferry back to town.  Later on I  wandered back along the waterfront to watch the sunset.  The actual sunset was behind me but the sky in front of me was rather nice too.  I like Nanaimo, it is a pleasant place.  There are a few marinas here, lots of boats.  The main difference between the marinas here and those in Prince Rupert and Alaska, is that here the boats are for pleasure, not work.

On Sunday morning I got a bus to Ucluelet, a small coastal town on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.   The bus ride was ok, good scenery along the way and it was over pretty quickly.  The driver dropped me off outside the hostel, which was nice of him.  After checking in I walked into town, but not along the road.  I used the "Wild Pacific Trail", a very nice hike through the forest along the coast.  Once in town I had a look around and went to the supermarket before heading back to the hostel.

The next morning I was up early and wandered back to town where I booked a whale watching tour for 11.30 and filled in time by doing the other bit of the "Wild Pacific Trail".  The 2 pieces are separated by roads.  This was also very nice and I was back in time to don my survival suit for the  boat ride.  The boat was a 8.5 metre rigid hull zodiac which was purpose built for the company with the local conditions in mind.  I was a little bit concerned about sea-sickness but it wasn't a problem at all.  We did see humpback whales, including a mother and calf.  It was interesting to see the 'footprint' whales leave in the water, they leave behind disturbed water which stays visible for several minutes.  Every now and then we would drift through a bit of air which a whale had exhaled, it smelled bad, but I guess Listerine isn't a big seller among whales.  We also saw sea lions (both Stellar and Californian).  It was difficult to get good photos from a boat bobbing up and down ont he ocean, but I gave it a go (I have included a few of them).  I enjoyed  the ride so much that when we got back to the wharf I paid to do bear watching tour in the same boat.  This was also good and we say a mother and 2 cubs.  Unfortunately they were on a beach where the water was too shallow for the boat, so no good photos but nice to see anyway.  While we were watching a single male bear came down to the beach which caused the mother and 2 cubs to leave.  All in all a good day.

On Tuesday I went for a short walk, read a book, went for another walk, looked for bears, and  generally had a relaxing day.  I enjoyed my time in Ucluelet, nice place.  On Wednesday I walked into town with my stuff.  I had some time to fill before my boat left so I wandered into the local Aquarium.  This is housed in what looks like a shed, with enought room in it to park maybe 2.5 cars end to end.  But, it was only $5 and it was brilliant.  Not only can you see the exhibits, all of which are from the waters around Ucluelet, but the staff will spend time explaining them to you, will take them out of the tanks so you can touch them, and will generally take the time to show you how the critters live.  I got talking to the curator about the sea stars (not star fish anymore as they aren't fish) and he spent about 15 minutes showing me and a few others who had gathered around how the sea stars move, eat, and how they react when he introduced some of their food (sea cucumber, scallops (ever seen a scallop swim?  Quite impressive.), and sea urchins) to the tank, and how the prey reacted.  It was fascinating and much better than just looking at them through glass.  They reckon it is the smallest aquarium in North America, but I reckon it must be the most interactive.  It is owned by a non-profit organisation.  They are about to build new premises.  By the way, at the end of tourist season all the exhibits are released back into the oceean.

Anyway just before 2pm I boarded the boat to Port Alberni.  The boat only operates on this run in the Summer and only 3 days a week.  The last run for the boat was on Friday so I timed it well.  The boat ride was fine except for about 40 minutes of not very smooth open ocean between Ucluelet harbour and the Broken Islands (a cluster of 100 islands off the coast).  We didn't see any whales, they usually do from the boat and did on the way to Ucluelet, but I guess I have seen lots of those so I wasn't too disappointed. 

We arrived at Port Alberni at about 7pm and I wandered to the hostel.   That is where I am now.

Anyway, enough!  Take care :-)

Song of the day : The Lumberjack Song by Monty Python

Distance travelled so far:

21776k's by plane
13935k's by train
5536k's by road  
2065 nautical miles  (3824k's) 
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