Riding Boats, Buses .....and Waves!

January 14, 2011 - Port Hardy, Canada

I was relieved to arrive at Port Hardy, the most northerly town on Vancouver Island.  We "sailed"on the ferry from Prince Rupert which took us south in and among the various islands along the BC coast.  We were told that this route, called the Inside Passage, was an extremely beautiful trip.  That may be true...but only if the ocean is not covered by blinding snow and by the black blanket of night AND the passengers are happy and on their feet, not holding their stomachs while camped out on the bathroom floor!!  Yes, that was me hanging out by the toilets, with another simarilarly-afflicted woman in the stall next to me.  No one told me that gravol was mandatory!!! Luckily Erik did not suffer as we did and brought us pillows for our sore bums.  Quite the adventure and one that I hope never to repeat.  Never will I travel without those magical pills that the locals all seemed to have in their pockets and take at precisely the correct moment!

Fortunately, I felt OK when we left the boat and our hostel was warm, cozy, friendly and a great place to hang out and sleep during the day.  We took a walk on the shore and "downtown" in the grey drizzle.   The rumours we had heard were that Port Hardy was a bit shabby but we eventually found some great places to hang out - a sports bar that turned out to have amazing food (chili calamari!!) and an internet cafe-bookstore-local craft shop where we spent several hours.  We had no plans for this place except to recover from the ferry and prepare for our trip down the mid-eastern part of the island the next day.

No trains in this part of the country, but the bus ride was comfortable and relatively quick.  We got to Parksville, three-quarters of the way down the island strip and relaxed again in a newly renovated friendly motel, across the street from the water, and named after the many arbutus trees that grow in town.  (I now know what an arbutus tree is!)  We had fun watching movies on the TV and eating chinese food.  The next morning we found that the coffee shop across the street was THE place to be in Parksville.  It was 3 times as big as any coffee place in Ottawa and was packed with rowdy senior citizens starting their days.

We got on the Tofino Bus which stopped at Port Alberni for lunch and a few other places to pick up local travellers.  The 3 hour ride was not too bad - beautiful forests - no longer any snow- but it did get a little winedy and hilly at the end.  Then we were dropped off at the Tofino Tourist Info booth on the highway which was across the street from the entrance to our hotel.  We had a 10 minute walk to the door and...heaven!!! The entrance road was lined with cottages that groups of people or families must stay in.  There didn't appear to be too many people staying in them at that time.  We were staying in the lodge building, in a room on the second floor with a large cozy bed, and tub and windows that opened onto the ocean.  Once again, the surf could lull us to sleep....zzz

But no sleep for us..we had gotten there in the mid afternoon and we wanted to check out the beach before the sun went down.  It was a fanastic walk: a sand-dollar in the sand, many green anemones, clam and purple and red starfish clinging to the rocks exposed by the retreated tide.  We climbed over the black rocks and got to places with great views of the sea in one direction and the lodge in the other.  We could see some other resorts as well, and decided ours looked the best!  As we walked back and the tide began rising, so did the moon, a big full one! What a great place!

For the next few days we ate wonderful seafood in the dining room, walked or ran along the path towards the town of Tofino, and relaxed.  Erik went into town with the resort shuttle and explored the shops and cafes while I rested, read or visited the Tourist booth.  Both the people we met working at the booth were very interesting and helpful.  I learned that if we ever go back: the whales come in the spring and the fall, it is VERY crowded in the summer and expensive and, the end of summer is called "August Foggest" for obvious reasons and you can't see a thing!

We really enjoyed meeting people on this trip and having time to chat with people in the tourism business was very fun.  They know everything and they have seen it all and we were lucky to have travelled at a time when they weren't too busy to talk to us.  Especially in BC, we found that people were really interested in our trip and how we had been travelling most of the way on the train. The one tourism info person owned a dive shop and the other woman had moved from Montreal and had decided to stay.  In fact, we encountered a surprising number of people working out west who were originally from Quebec.  The waiter our first night in the dining room was a nice young guy who looked like your average Canadian kid..and he was..his name was Tariq and he was half Lebanese...and a surfer.  The next night his girlfriend was our server and she was from Saskatoon.  Good thing we now knew a little bit about that city! and could talk about it.  She was different than all the other servers, we found out - she was the only one who didn't surf!

And then it was our turn!  At 10am one January morning, we put on our bathing suits and headed over to the surf hut across the parking lot.  I felt a little funny.  Had we just given up some of our hard-earned money in order to walk into the ocean and hang out there for a few hours in the middle of the winter and try to stand up on a piece of plastic while waves knocked us around??!!! YES!!!!!!!

It turned out we were in good hands.  The instuctor was extremely kind and patient, which I guess you have to be if you are teaching surfing!  The first thing to do was to get on our wet suits.  I didn't find that this was an easy thing to do.  I laughed at Erik - he looked like a ninja!  We carried our boards together down to the beach and sat on the sand.  I was happy to discover that the suit was very warm, and even more so when the sun was out and heating up the black rubber...and it was a sunny day!!  We learned about the tides of the area and how to avoid getting caught in them.  We were not going to be going near any of the huge waves that day but it was interesting and just generally good to know how strong currents work in a bay both above and below the water.

We practised the basic moves on land and headed into the water with the waves smacking us in the face.  It was great not to feel wet or cold as we were fully encapsulated.  A rope from your board  is velcroed to your ankle so you won't lose the board and it won't hit you in the head.  I won't say too much about my experience.  I thougt about attempting to try to get up on my feet after lying on my stomach as I rode the waves that the instructor chose for me.  However, I decided not to wear myself out and just had fun surfing on my stomach.  Erik was doing well and even made it up on his feet for a few seconds.  My husband, the dude!!!

I was sad to leave Tofino but there was still more fun to come!  We are going to have to go back  there someday, even if it is just for the gorgeous sunsets....

We took the Tofino Island bus back to Parksville and had a relaxing night back at the Arbutus motel.  The next day, we took a walk by the shore and had a look at more arbutus trees.

The train station in Parksville is a pottery studio.  From a plaque on the wall, we also learned that the old water tower that serviced the steam trains in the old days, was recently renovated.  Money for the renovation came from the sale of a painting of the structure done by a woman who lives near to Parksville and was originally from Orillia, Ontario (the small city I am from)!

The VIA train was a one-car vehicle with an engine at the front and the seating area attached.  We quickly made friends with the local people on their way to "the big city" of Victoria.




March 17, 2011
Great pictures Roses. Who is the guy always sleeping, on the train, in the hotel? Good pics of Surfer Dudes. What is that big sea creature crawling on you dinner plate?
May 4, 2011
You and Erik certainly had a great adventure. I have seen most of your pictures. You did a wonderful job of putting this whole site together. Can you save it to a disc?
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