Exploring Vancouver Island

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End Sep 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
Pacific Rim Motel

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Monday, September 20, 2010

Today was an amazing, fantastic day right up until the moment when I was crapped on by a seagull.

We caught a ride to the ferry terminal in Tswassen in the early morning hours with dad on his way to work. I should mention that neither the ferry terminal specifically nor Tswassen in general is anywhere near his route. But since Ally stole her car back from us we had few options and wanted to take the early ferry over so he had almost enough time to take us before starting work.

So, once on the ferry I called the car rental agent to arrange a pickup, which is how we learned that it is nearly impossible to get from Duke Point to Nanaimo. There is no bus and the car rental agencies will not pick you up. The only other option is a taxi or a man running a shuttle service. We met a single traveler lady on the ferry who had booked this shuttle and agreed to split it with us. In fact she wanted to hitch a ride in our rental car all the way to Tofino and fortunately for her I decided it wasn't a good idea in case w didn't actually make it to Tofino today, though that was our target destination.

The ferry ride is pretty boring and so I entertained myself with the tourist brochures on offer. It was good that we had them because we now had a decent accommodation list and also a few different choices for kayak tours, though I had already picked out a favourite on the Internet.

When we were about 20 minutes from Duke Point the scenery got a bit more interesting as we were passing by smaller islands. One was very small with a pretty lighthouse on it and mountains rising from the island further behind it. I took a lot of photos of the lighthouse island because nice scenes make me snap happy.

Finally at the terminal, we walked with the Tofino-bound woman to the shuttle and checked that the price was the same for 3 people, which it was ($31 to downtown Nanaimo), so we split it between us and hopped in. The driver was really friendly and kind. He took the woman to the bus station where she could get the bus to Tofino five minutes later, which was fortunate as there is only one per day. Then he asked where we were going and we said that we were actually going to Enterprise to get our car, but we would get them to pick us up downtown since the agency is actually a little out of town. The driver said he was heading in that direction anyway so he gave us a ride for free and told us to call him for a lift back to Duke Point when we were leaving the island.

The people helping us at Enterprise were also really nice. The guy convinced us to upgrade our car for an extra $5/day so we could get the brand-spanking new Mazda 3 outside their door. It was far roomier and nicer than the compact we had booked so we went for it without much convincing, actually.

On the road in our bright red car, we headed out of Nanaimo down the only road to Tofino. We tried to find a non-highway route with dad's GPS as we wanted to take a more adventurous and hopefully scenic route, but that option didn't exist. So we followed the highway and kept our eyes open for something interesting.

It didn't take long for us to notice the turnoff for Englishman River Falls coming up. We had both seen photos of the falls in the glossy brochures I found on the ferry and decided it was probably worth a detour, and it was.

The falls are really nice and the park around them was good for a short hike. We met a few other couples along the trail but we didn't go far before turning back. It was the sign warning us that many people have gotten lost beyond the point where the sign stood that made us turn back.

On the road again, we drove almost straight through to the other side of the island, enjoying the view where inlets were exposed and surprised at the amount of time it took to get to the point on the road where it forks - left to Ucluelet and right to Tofino. Somewhere along that road before the fork we pulled over to get some fresh air and take a closer look at one of the inlets.

We reached the fork around mid-afternoon and made the decision to go left. We arrived in Ucluelet not long after and pulled out the brochures from the ferry. We tried to find a few kayak tour shops but did not locate them all. In the end we only spoke with two because at the second store, Ocean Kayaking, the man there told us exactly what we wanted to hear, and then made it even better by saying we could go out tonight at 5pm! We thought we would have to wait until tomorrow so we were very pleased with the late afternoon trip and signed up right away.

All we needed now was a place to stay for the night. Easier said than done. Ucluelet has a lot of nice places actually but the cabins were either fully booked or two expensive. The beautiful secluded B&B we found with a breathtaking view was at least double what we wanted to pay (though probably worth the "deal" she offered us). We found a nice-looking hotel on the hill with a sea view and decided to try there. After checking two rooms we continued our search elsewhere because [removed]'s allergies instantly reacted in both rooms. Finally we settled for the rather unattractive motor lodge. The price was right and the room was clean, so it was good enough for one night.

By the time we checked in and got changed into more kayak-able clothes, we were almost late for our tour. However when we arrived we discovered we were the only people signed up so it didn't matter if we were a few minutes late. They offered us some better clothes - shirts and pants that dried a lot faster than cotton - which we gladly changed into. Good thing as I hadn't packed the water-resistant hiking pants I swore I had with me.

At last we were getting our feet wet in the sea, learning the need-to-knows of kayaking and eventually climbing into our kayaks. It was so peaceful! The water in the bay was smooth and clear with very little boat traffic disrupting the calm. We paddled out to a very small island in the middle of the bay and checked around the edges for marine life. There were a few sea stars but not the cool sunburst stars I was hoping to find. I was also distracted by my lack of control over my kayak. I kept bumping into outcrops of rocks while trying to paddle along the edge of the island.

Not long after we passed the little island, our guide started slowing down then doubled over in pain. She told us she was quite sick and she needed to call in for help. She got out her radio and arranged for a new guide to meet us. We pulled over onto the sea shore and waited for help to arrive. She lay on the ground in pain. I felt so bad for her, lying on rocks in wet clothes and nothing we could do to help.

At last the rescue crew arrived. First, our new guide, Ted, also the company owner, arrived by kayak on the bay. As he was getting us organized, our original guide's rescue arrived. They drove in with a trailer so they could drive her and the kayak back to safety. We said good-bye and wished her well before getting back into the water.

By now the sun was low in the sky and the water seemed even quieter than before. We still had a long way to go. Our guide took us across to the other side of the bay where he thought we might have a chance at spotting some bears and he was right - there were two! The first one we saw was quite a distance and I admired the old man's eyesight as it just looked like a black smudge on the rocks through my eyes. But then he pointed out the second bear, much closer to us and this one looked more like a bear to me. We paddled up close to the second bear and watched him flipping over the rocks on the beach looking for some seafood. He (or she) was so preoccupied and there was a lot of noise coming from a warehouse nearby that the bear didn't even notice us. I took several photos and even a terribly shaky video while Ted held my kayak steady for me.

Eventually we moved on, following the shoreline deeper into the bay towards the salmon runs. This was a long way for a beginner kayaker like myself! It was really cool though. Once we got there we could see the huge Coho salmons jumping upstream to the hatcheries. On a separate stream the Chinook salmons run but they were not as active as on the Coho run. However, further downstream we could see a bridge over the Chinook run with a lot of people. And now it was getting dark so we could see a lot of camera flashes too. At last I noticed the dark blob moving beneath the bridge - another black bear! This one was fishing for salmon - picking them off as they jumped up the stream.

It was now getting dark since we had a bit of a delay waiting for our rescue team. We paddled all the way back from the salmon runs to Ocean Kayaking in near silence and at a fast pace. My shoulders were getting a bit tired. By the time we got near our launch point it was pitch black and I could hardly see a few metres in front of me. So it wasn't until I was surrounded by seagulls that I noticed them flying above my head. They came quite close to me so I jabbed at them with an oar, hoping to scare them away. I hate seagulls because they always crap on me. The jabbing had the opposite effect of what I was hoping for because one seagull came back at me, straight for my head, and I felt the wet plop of his shit landing on my head.

I tried to wash it off by leaning over in my kayak and splashing water on my head but it wasn't very effective. I paddled faster than ever before, trying to get to safety where I could clean my head. In my burst of speed I collided with a large log floating in the water. My kayak was now pinned on top of it. I tried to back away by pushing off it with my oar but no luck. That just made my kayak wobble dangerously. I was sure I would end up upside down underwater. So I placed the oar on the log and pushed very gently and steadily. Ever so slowly, the kayak slid backwards off the log. By now the boys were out of the water and pulling their kayaks inland. They shouted back for me but couldn't actually see me. I finally slid off the log completely and frantically paddled to the shore where they were standing.

Ted's wife was waiting for us with a hot bucket of water to put our feet in. I wanted to clean my head right there in the equipment cleaning tanks of water but instead I got out of my gear first and went inside. I made a mess, throwing everything off and running to the bathroom. At last I got to wash my head in front of a mirror. It took awhile to get all the runny crap out but eventually I was clean enough to drive back to the hotel and take a shower.

Ted and his wife recommended a restaurant for us as few were open so late. I think it was 9pm. I showered quickly and we drove practically across the street from our hotel to the pizza place. They were really great there, answered all [removed]'s questions and tolerated his multiple changes to their menu items. We were served very quickly and were out of there by 10pm - when they closed. No wonder they were so attentive! They wanted to get us fed as quickly as possible! But they still did it in a way that didn't make us feel rushed so you have to admire that.
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gypsykat on

Oooh, Kayaking in Ucluelet.. nice! We've been there, but we just drove around and did a little hike. I'd love to kayak there (we've been kayaking once & would love to do more). Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!

Oh, and according to Chinese tradition, it's actually quite good luck to be 'bombed' by a bird! Count yourself as blessed! ;-)

TL on

These pictures are beautiful!

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