Taking the opportunity to explore is definitely one of my top priorities, so an open invitation down to Vancouver Island was the perfect chance to get a holiday from my holiday.
Driving with a friend down to Vancouver was interesting, mostly thanks to the blizzard we drove through at night. Simply following the tracks left by whatever vehicles were in front, not daring to overtake or get too close, with the occasional fright as a truck loomed out of the dark. Getting to Vancouver was pretty smooth, and even finding my accommodation for the night went smoothly, despite the lack of mobile data – I highly recommend Google maps and it’s ability to download regions before you travel, it really makes finding places much simpler even if you don’t have active updates. That night was spent on a friends couch of course, budget travel and seeing friends all in one sofa.
I did some research before I left on the prices of the ferry tickets, and I have to say that it is not cheap to cross over to the island with a car. It’s not cheap as a pedestrian, but a car is a crazy price, especially for just a weekend. So I tried to find one of the private car parks near the port, but no luck. The port parks were still much better value than the crossing though, so I said goodbye to the faithful vehicle and cross on foot intending to hitchhike once on land again.
I missed most of the traffic leaving the port, my first hope, so a shlep up the hill got me onto the main road. Bare in mind that I have my backpack, complete with helmet complete snowboard and even boots strapped into the board, so I got a few funny looks as I stuck my thumb out. Luckily, a lovely gent who used to hitch a lot picked me up and took me all the way to my destination, which was Mt Washington. I had previously looked into working up there, before arriving in Canada, and after visiting I’m quite glad I didn’t. The hill is lovely, great little park and wonderful staff, but it’s also small, and far away from the nearest town, plus the snow was very wet and heavy – but apparently that’s what you get on Canada’s ‘wet’ coast. I did have a good time riding there, watching the hazy sun slowly disappear being the mountain opposite, waiting for the flood lights to come on and the park to disintegrate a little more.
I grabbed a burger from the restaurant up there, then had the un-envious task of hitching a ride back down the hill. But again, the wonderful locals came up trumps for me, and I got a ride right to where my friend was working. Or at least where I thought she was working, but I went to the wrong pool. Well I ditched my board at the lovely lady on the desk and went for a dip, a bit sauna, a touch of hot pool and the odd flume and before I knew it I was hopping out to meet my buddy. A great girl that I had met the summer before while working for Busabout. A trip to her flat, and we were back out to explore the wonders of Courtenay, BC. Not too much to say about that really, but we had some nice food, and a couple quiet drinks in what my friend insisted was the best bar in town. Maybe it was, but not that it wasn’t!
In the morning we hit the road, time to take in some of the glory of Van Island. And a lot like the rest of BCs west coast it’s stunning. Lush forests and a nice hilly landscape lead to some excellent walks, hikes and adventuring. It felt more freestyle here as well, no hordes of tourists tramping the path so no need to fence them in, more families and friends coming out to enjoy the wildlife, to be part of it rather than look at it from the wrong side of a metal railing. So instead of the well worn route through, you could wander freely through the trees and really explore, get close without the fear of others following and the endless feet destroying what made it so special.