Right on, dude

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 07, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So, Tofino. I loved it! On Sunday morning Andy and I just hung around the guesthouse before getting the 12pm ferry. I saw my first Canadian rain too- first of lots I fear. When we arrived in the picturesque (read American-back-of-beyond-spaced-out-town) Campbell River again, I set off to buy a new camera... Something about travelling and being away for months on end invariably breaks my camera- this is now my THIRD trip that my camera has broken within the first few weeks. Grrr so anyway I found a semi-decent not-too-pricey camera, and got a Subway for lunch- awesome. As we drove out of Campbell River down South, I tried and failed to eat my sub with any manners whatsoever- it's kinda hard when they're so huuuuge!

Anyway a couple of hours later, we arrived in Parksville, where I bid goodbye to Andy, who was headed on to Vancouver. I had a 40 minute layover, so I'm ashamed to say I hunted down the nearest Starbucks (honestly, less than a week and I'm already an addict) for a quick coffee. My connecting bus took me all the way to Tofino- for another 3 hours... through the mountains and super-green forest, past enormous lakes, all swathed in an ethereal mist. I arrived in Tofino quite late, and so headed straight to Sobo, one of the 'most talked about restaurants in BC'. Well they weren't all that cheap, but I can vouch for their Wild Fish Chowder- A-Mazing. And served with the biggest chunk of cornbread I've ever seen (and incidentally the first cornbread I've ever had!)

Now I can tell I'm waffling, but it's a lot harder to be succinct when you're looking back 3 days and are mentally going through every single thing that happened and just writing as it comes back to you... so bear with me.

The bus driver said I would be fine hitchiking, but even I was wary enough not to try it at 9pm in a town I've never been to before, so I forked out for a taxi down to the Botanical Gardens, where I was staying in an on-site hostel. 

The journey kinda took it out of me, so I decided just to chill on Monday. I hitch-hiked into town to have a look around (and survived, so don't worry!) Tofino's basically like a Canadian Newquay, but smaller. FINALLY- a town I could walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes! There are loads of cool coffee shops, bakeries and seafood restaurants, I was in heaven. And as ever, everyone was so friendly and even more chilled out than Quadra (OK so some of them probably had some help in getting so chilled out but it was a good atmosphere!) After pottering about a bit, and seeing most of the centre, I caught a lift back out again- certainly not quite as easy as on Quadra to hitch-hike but then I think there's more tourists, and it's only really the locals who pick people up. Tofino is a massive holiday destination- and has been packed for the last few months. 

In the afternoon, I went round the Botanical Gardens with their handily produced guide to each of the mini-gardens. I got free entry as I was staying at the hostel. It's a nice place- lots of huge ancient trees, incredible scenery over an estuary and a few good seats to hang out at. Then... the sun came out! I dashed up to my room, grabbed my book and scurried down to the nearest beach. Sadly by the time I'd got there, it was cloudy again. Ah well- can't really expect anything less- Tofino is one of the rainest places on the planet (apparently) received an almighty 135ft rain a year. Paris, by comparison, gets about 27. 

It was low tide though, so I went rockpooling, and saw loads of anenomes, one pool just full of hermit crabs and then as I was leaving spotted a starfish. When I looked closer, I saw the rocks were covered in them- about 10 I reckon at least!

I went back to the hostel after a couple of hours, made some dinner and then set off on my next adventure- indoor rock climbing. I've wanted to do it for a while but it's so expensive to learn the ropes (no pun intended) in England and there's nowhere really close. This place was one block up the road, and Johnny, the guy who set it all up a few months ago, charged $10 for a quick half hour lesson. Before you know it, I'm scurrying up the walls like spiderwoman... almost. My fingertips nearly fell off, my forearms have seized up and I was totally defeated by one slightly overhanging wall- but I've vowed to go back later in the year to tackle it again. Johnny was great- total surfer dude, who used to rock climb loads before an injury a few years ago. The whole rock climbing centre was his baby- 2 years in the making, it opened in July this year.  

The next morning I continued my exercise regime- not with surfing (have you any idea how cold the Pacific is this time of year?!!) but hiring a bike and cycling down the highway (now that was fun...) until I reached the first trail. Radar Hill was a vital comms station during the 1950s where they used a radar to detect any missiles coming in from the Soviet Union. Now it's just a pretty lookout up a huge hill- took me half an hour to very slowly push my bike up the hill- and just 5 mins to shoot back down again!

I continued down the highway and got to Schooner Cove- a trail through again, huge really old trees, to Long beach, a beach that is indeed very long. I got to experience true Tofino weather- it was spitting when I got there. Not great for sitting reading a book, but made for some pretty atmospheric photos.After a couple of hours I got a bit cold, so I headed back to the hostel- via Tofino Chocolates for a half pint of homemade icecream, a basil and white chocolate praline and a wild honey chocolate! Figured I'd done enough exercise to enjoy it properly!

When I got back, I had a long hot shower to soothe my aching muscles and took myself off to write my article for Good Food. I sat on a hand-carved bench, overlooking the mudflats in the estuary, with the oyster catchers swooping in and out, and the sun just breaking through the clouds. As I tapped away on my netbook writing up my cookery school review for Good Food, I thought this is it- I'm living the dream. Now all I need to do is convince GF that they need a Vancouver correspondent to try out all the many restaurants over here...

I hopped back on my bike a bit later to try and catch the sunset- they're generally amazing over here, being on the West coast- so pretty much every beach is spectacular come sunset. It was a little cloudy so wasn't as amazing as it could've been but was still great to see. I headed back to the hostel and met up with Michelle, a girl who I'd met the day before and who not only lives in Vancouver but is also as obsessed with food, restaurants and food magazines as I am. She's going to show me all the decent restaurants in Vancouver when we get back- and we've semi-challenged ourselves to a crab and artichoke cook-off as neither of us know how to cook them yet! She'd gone surfing that morning and had got chatting to the photographer Derek. He'd recommended a bar/lodge/restaurant down the road, so the three of us headed down there with a couple of his friends for a nice glass of wine. It was the first time I'd had Canadian wine I think and it was really good- if a little pricey. We went onto another bar in town and Michelle and I shared a bottle at $40... so about 22 but I figured it was my last night in Tofino and I hadn't been eating out all that much really...! 

The next morning (this morning in fact), I had to return my bike to town... and catch the bus from town. Perfect you'd think- apart from the fact that I had all my luggage, and it was raining hard. Derek had offered the night before to give me a lift into town- so when I saw the weather Michelle gave him a text and he came right over! Not only that, but he managed to squeeze the bike into the back of his minibus and dropped me off more or less at the door to the bus... well the two of them waved me off as I waved goodbye to Tofino. Victoria awaits! 
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