CATAWOPINO

Vancouver Island – Bye bye Canada !

We are writing this blog post from Seattle, where we have been staying for several days. The last two weeks were low in mileage, high in rainfall but still full of amazing people !

We left Vancouver for Nanaimo (which is on the east coast of Vancouver Island) on the 30th of September. We were planning on crossing the island from east to west and go to Victoria by following the southern coast. On board the ferry between Tsawwassen and Nanaimo, the captain announced that a pack of orcas (or killer whales) was close and that we might be able to catch a glimpse. Everyone rushed to the upper deck to try and see them, and there were so many that everyone was able to see them. We don’t have pictures unfortunately, as Tracy was so excited to see the whales that she took the pictures without looking in the camera (we have about 20 pictures of the sky that day if anyone is interested!).

As we arrived rather late in Nanaimo, we just got out of the city to find a wild camping spot for the night and left very early the next day only to stop after 11km at Tim Hortons to get a coffee and enjoy the free Wi-Fi. This is when the rain started to fall heavily. We checked the weather forecast : rainfall announced over the whole island. All week. We looked at each other, and decided to go easy on the pedalling 🙂 Change of plan : instead of crossing the island east to west and go through mountainous regions, we we decided to explore the campgrounds on the east coast.

We took advantage of the small number of kilometres we needed to do and a sunny spell to visit Canada’s only tea farm. The very good tea and excellent pastries we enjoyed in a beautiful setting definitely gave us some strength back ! After 2 nights in a campground near Duncan, we started making our way slowly towards the Saanich peninsula. We met Herbie and Laura in Mill Bay, just before taking the ferry, two fellow cycle tourists going to Argentina (https://pedalling2patagonia.com/). We all agreed on the fact that the pouring rain was an excellent excuse to have beer all together 🙂 We then visited Sidney, a beautiful little town on the waterfront, where there were a lot of fishermen trying to catch crabs with cages made with a bit of everything.

We steadily got closer to Victoria, on the way to which we were welcomed by Brandon (Eileen’s son) and Erica, who let us plant our tent in their garden. Erica drives the bus linking Victoria and Tofino (highly touristic place on the west coast of Vancouver Island), and we were lucky enough to be taken under her wing so we did the return trip to Tofino over 2 days and got a guided tour from Erica ! We walked in the rainforest, where nearly millennial trees dwell, and walked along the long sandy beaches that are popular among surfers. Once back from Tofino, Brandon and Erica brought us on a hike to Mt Douglas, with a gorgeous view of Victoria, before heading back to their place for a delicious meal cooked by Brandon.

Our last Canadian stop was to meet Terry, Doug and Scott’s brother (we met Doug and Scott at the beginning of our trip in Ontario and Doug had hosted us on Snake Island), and his wife Barb. Just like his brother, Terry welcomed us with open arms. They made us try their home-brewed beer, and delighted us with wonderful meals, interesting conversations as well as advices for the rest of our trip. We left in the morning to take the ferry which would bring us across the border to the USA.

To conclude the Canadian part of our trip, here are a few things that left their mark on us :
  • Wildlife. As Europeans, we’re not really used to see as many wild animals. It actually seems pretty normal in the middle of a national park, but even in Victoria, the capital of BC, we saw deer every 100m ! And when we talk about the wildlife, we not only mean bears, moose, orcas, cougars, wolves, deer, raccoons, beavers, etc. but also the billion mosquitoes, deer flies, black flies and other insects that can easily ruin your day or night 🙂

  • Nature. The landscapes are absolutely stunning, are very diverse, and are often intact.

  • Distances. Canada is a very big country. We cycled more than 3000km but when we look at what we did on a map it looks like we barely did anything !

  • Roads. Most certainly linked to the big distances and the amount of enormous trucks, the roads are often very big and straight for miles and miles.

  • Private Properties. Canada only has 3% of its territory protected, and most of the rest is actually private. Quite often, the scenic roads on the waterfront turned out to be roads next to the houses that are on the waterfront (very nice for the people living there, but kind of disappointing for the visitors who expect a nice ocean view). A lot of lakes are surrounded by houses with fences and numerous signs reading “Private Property” / ”No Trespassing”, which, effectively, makes these lakes private.

  • RVs and Motor-homes. We are used to camper vans in Europe, but here it’s just on another level entirely. Everyday, we saw about a hundred of these monsters on wheels that are often as big as a central London flat.

  • Canadian people. Before arriving in Canada, we always heard the cliché that Canadian people are the nicest in the world, and it turned out to be true. Everyday, interested and interesting people came to talk to us, gave us advice, offered some help, and often even invited us to their place. Canadians have made these 2 months and a half truly exceptional, and their warm welcome and generosity will remain engraved in our memories.

A thousand Thanks, Miigwech and Mercis to everyone who received us, advised us, fed us, and helped us during our journey.

Bye Bye Canada !

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