It has been one of the best and weirdest weeks of our trip away. Last Monday we set off from Victoria to Port Alberni, what a drive, the scenery is breath-taking at times, coasting along next to lakes or open sea waters, the road working its way through mountains and valleys that were a hundred different shades of green, eventually popping out at the township of Port Alberni. After our long drive up – it wasn't so much long, as winding and just a little stomach churning at times with the twisting/turning/undulating nature of the road – we collapsed in our room for a few hours before heading out to locate something for dinner, where we made a rather disappointing discovery.
If what we bought for dinner was from the best, most reputable, most prized fish and chip shop on the island, it's product considered to be the best, then sadly we can say with an informed opinion, Canadians cannot do 'fish and chips' to save themselves. We won't go into why it was such a let down, we'd prefer to think about the dinner we had the following day at the local Bavarian place – again we went the seafood route, and couldn't physically consume all that was brought to us! Even with a distinct German influence on the natural flavours, the seafood platter (with garlic butter prawns, scallops in a white wine velouté, mussels that had been steamed in white wine with vegetables, bacon wrapped scallops or massive crumb encrusted fried oysters, or the two pounds of fresh shrimp) was incredible and left us wondering just how someone could actually finish the whole thing!
The day however had been a rather odd one. We'd heard about the local steam powered sawmill and the steam train that rain out to it. So that was our intended activity for the day, catch the train, have a wander. Simple. Well, we woke up late, missed the train, or so we thought, so we drove out to the mill site, only to discover that the train hadn't run that morning anyway, and as we would find out later, it didn't run that afternoon either! The site itself though was quite interesting however and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around it. We ventured off the beaten track at one point and found ourselves not alone. Some careful and quiet stalking later and we managed to creep up on a local Mule Deer, a young stag who was only a couple of seasons old, we managed to get within ten feet before it turned around and spotted us. Not bad if we do say so ourselves. It was of course only as it ran away that we looked down and noticed the Garter Snake a few feet away, it too saw us and fled. Was it something we said?
On the way back to the mill entrance we met some 'pet' rabbits and explored the salmon hatchery site they have there. The mill itself is very interesting, the site consists of the mill, duh, the site managers quarters as they would have been in the mid 1950s, the pay officers hut, the kitchen/dinning hut and the single mens bunkhouse, and of course the mechanics shop. Whilst the site is not very big, it is interesting to note that it is the last steam powered mill site in Northern America and we're glad we made the effort to see it.
We headed off bright and early on the 25th to Tofino and a days outing on one of Jamie's Whaling Station's boats, we were headed up the coast to the hot springs and were we in for a treat. On the way up we managed to get in a viewing of a Californian Grey Whale, some Harbour Seals, Sea Lions, a Sea Otter, a Black Bear cub and even a Bald Eagle! The boat docked at the jetty a short walk away from the springs, the walk itself being about 2kms long through some untouched rainforest – which sounds really nice, until you take in the humidity, and the 1000 odd steps! We enjoyed the walk however and were delighted when we finally popped out on the coast and saw the springs. Sadly though the tide was out and the pools were considerably smaller and HOTTER than we'd anticipated, so we opted to sit up on the rocks and watch as others scalded themselves where we were joined by a Stellar's Jay and a very cunning crow. On the ride back we managed to squeeze in some more Sea Lions and Harbour Seals. The drive back from Tofino itself was a lot less harrying than the trip out, perhaps because I was expecting the tight twisting and turning roads, for those reading this from Australia, the road was a cross between the Great Ocean Road and the Gellibrand Road! When we did arrive back it was a good few hours before I was able to eat dinner and not worry that I'd be having an unrequested second helping!
Thursday morning we were up and on the road by mid morning, off to our final destination before heading home. Nanaimo (Na-nay-mo) and what we hoped would be an exciting experience for me – getting my open water divers certification. The drive back to the east-coast was lovely, the midday sun breaking through a lot of the incredibly tall cedar trees and garnering us with some spectacular views. Arriving in Nanaimo by early afternoon we checked-in for the final time and settled ourselves before heading out for my first lesson.
Wouldn't you know it though. Things didn't quite go according to plan. When we collected the car in Vancouver we were quick to notice that it wasn't the most user-friendly car around, the seating is honestly some of the most uncomfortable I've ever encountered. So add to that a couple of weeks of usage and my back was beginning to protest rather loudly. Add to that the weight of the air tank and twisting my hips when swimming and you guessed it – for those that know me, you can probably see where this is going – my back locked up, and that as they say, is that! Unable to rotate my upper torso, or lift my arms above my ribs and we've got a serious situation on our hands, one that immediately without question rules out going any further this time. Talk about frustrating.
So now we find ourselves in Nanaimo with an alternative plan – just chill! We watched the opening of the London Olympics and plan on going to both Newcastle and Protection Islands tomorrow to do some more nature watching and walking. Our last blog should be put out on Tuesday night (PST) or Wednesday noon-ish for those in Australia. Until then, we hope you're enjoying yourselves and our ramblings.