End of the Road

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Howdy folks,

We left Strathcona Provincial Park around 10am and had a reasonable day's driving to reach our destination of Nanaimo. There wasn’t much planned for the day and Steffie was driving, so I sat back and relaxed in the passenger seat. We made one stop back in Courtenay to fill up on fuel because for some reason we couldn’t figure out it was 10 cents cheaper than anywhere else. It was also a good chance to stop at McDonalds for a $1 drink and some free wi-fi. Soon enough we arrived in Nanaimo at 2pm. We parked in a shopping centre and had some lunch before walking down along the harbour front.  There seemed to be a lot going on and with the nice summer weather and there were a few float planes landing in the harbour. There were quite a few dragon boat teams competing in race finals so there was a hum of activity. There were a few street food vendors making the most of the activity and some handicrafts for sale along the waterfront.

We hung around for a bit then walked back via Front Street and had a look at a few shops and the HBC Bastion built in the mid 19th century. After a big circle we came back to the car and met the boys. Because it was so warm we were all looking forward to go for a swim. Instead of going into the ocean, we decided to go swimming in Westwood Lake because there was a campground nearby. Thankfully we got a nice shady spot out of the sun and set up the tent. It was walking distance to the lake so we got changed and walked down there. It was pretty busy and the 'beach’ was crowded. Before I left Australia, I hadn’t really swum in lakes because the ocean is so close, but many people in Canada swim in lakes because the water is warmer than the ocean. True enough the water was really nice and we all delighted in swimming around and diving off the floating platform.

Once we were all cooled down, we drove back into town to check out Pirate Chips for dinner. It was basically a fish and chip shop with the twist that they also did deep dried chocolate bars. It was fairly expensive compared to a chip shop back home so we only got a few pieces of fish, but thankfully they had some malt vinegar and ketchup. It wasn’t great, but it was filling. After driving back to camp, we spent the night watching Bourne Ultimatum in the recreation room before going to bed.

Westwood Lake had been so fantastic that after breakfast we went back to go for another swim. It was especially good because I found a $5 note in the shallows! Once we were all packed up there was one more thing to do which we had forgotten; eat a Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo! It is basically a slice made of three layers: chocolate, custard and a chocolate and coconut base. It tastes good, but it is very sweet. With that in the belly, it was time to keep moving.

It was only 112kms to Victoria so we made a short stop in Duncan which is apparently the home of totem poles and the world’s largest hockey stick. We found the first, but not the latter. Basically the town grew out of a railway station and there isn’t much there but your typical shops. From there we drove down into Victoria and arrived around 1pm. It was too early to check in, but we parked the car and went for a walk along the waterfront. Victoria is a really beautiful city and the capital of British Columbia. It is also home of Canada’s only seaplane terminal with its own air control tower! This is because the harbour is so busy with water traffic like water taxis, a pirate ship, cruise ships, whale watching and schooners. I found out that seaplanes once they have landed are officially a boat and have to give way to everything else!

We came around to the Fairmont Empress hotel which is the biggest landmark in Victoria short of the Legislative Buildings. It is probably one of the most photographed as well with the ivy covered walls and leaning trees. Linna told me that the afternoon tea here is very popular, but quite expensive so we gave it a miss. We caught up with the boys and headed over to the Legislative Buildings to do a free guided tour. The tour was really good and we got to go in and hear about all the different aspects of the buildings from construction, purpose and symbolism. There were even a few Victorian era characters walking around. It is definitely a recommended thing to do. It is beautiful in its detail and even the government seating looked nice.

It was 5pm so time to head back to the hotel and check in. We lazed around the hotel to relax and Steffie and I went out to Chinatown for dinner which was only 2 blocks away. It was so nice to have a proper Chinese meal again after missing them for so long. We definitely left with our belly’s full.

In the morning, I got up at 8am and went down to the harbour to do a whale watching tour for 10am. I went with Great Pacific Adventures, but there are a dozen or so similar companies around that do the same thing. For $110, we jumped into a warm one piece hazard suit and climbed aboard our zodiac boat which is basically an inflatable dingy with two outboard motors on the back. It seated 12 and was quite fast but at the same time was prone to the bumps of the waves. We cruised out and along the coastline to the west looking to spot orca in the bays. We didn’t see any, but we stopped at a prison where they let the inmates go fishing, a crag with a bald eagle and 2 sea otters, and an island where small birds were swooping a bald eagle that was too close to their nest.

As we turned to head for home, we got a call over the radio that we had missed a grey whale along the way, but that there was a humpback whale heading in our direction. We cruised along until we found two other zodiac boats following it just off the shoreline. It was only a young humpback, but it was better than nothing! It would take 3 or 4 breaths and then dive with its fluke out of the water for 6 minutes. Then it was a guessing game where it would come back up and then we raced to catch up with it. It was more whale chasing than whale watching. No orcas, but after 3 hours I was ready to get off the boat.

I met up with Steffie at the Empress and we spent the rest of the afternoon getting our US currency ready and our travel documents in order at the library. On the way back, we passed the Christchurch Cathedral which sort of looked like the Notre Dame. We met the boys back at the room and went down for some Chinese take away which was pretty good.

Time to say goodbye to Canada for now and hello United States!
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