Vancouver City and Island

On every trip, there is a time when the dream suddenly becomes reality. On this one, the start of a huge roadtrip from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, it didn’t kick in for a while. Despite buying the exact make and model van that we dreamed about; for just under our budget; then spending a day rummaging through thrift stores to find a cheap mattress and BBQ – it still didn’t feel like it was happening. And then we set off to the lakes surrounding Coquitlam, in our fully equipped van, meddling with the radio. “I have to praise you like I sh-sh-should,”* came blaring out of one speaker (naturally, the others didn’t work). We looked at each other as it dawned on us; we are living out the dream.

*The same song would later come on in a 90’s nightclub and cement it’s place as the soundtrack for the first video edit.

Anmore Lake was a fully recreational lake, people were kayaking and paddleboarding on the still waters, surrounded by rolling mountains and ‘Danger: Bear’ signs. Small trout and perch swam in between our legs as we washed and swam in the cool, green waters. The downside to this otherwise idyllic lake was the ban on charcoal BBQ’s, which was paramount to keeping to our budget. Scavenging the woods for dry woods to burn before grilling burgers and vegetables makes up our cheap staple meal of the day. So we headed to the next lake west: Belcarra. Very similar to Anmore, albeit slightly warmer, we could spark up our grill and cook food in an outstandingly beautiful area, swimming whilst our food cooked over a blazing, foraged fire. Thetis Lake was by far our favourite, we could BBQ and fish (catching 2 perch) and lovely warm waters to bath and swim in.

#VancouverIsland

A post shared by Ben Strickland (@stricksmate) on

There appeared to be many strict rules in Canada, but once we got our heads around them, they all made sense and are cohesive to the happy, relaxed atmosphere that the country and it’s people give off. No alcohol on the beaches, for example – a rule quite poorly upheld – but it still puts locals and travelers alike off binge drinking like we would in England, and the beaches are all clear from beer cans and bottles. The traffic rules are mind-bendingly confusing and not worth trying to explain without experiencing them for yourself; but the one that annoyed us the most was the amount of ‘No overnight parking/camping in vehicles’ signs. Many hours were spent trying to locate a safe-ish area for us to park in and happily fall asleep in without worrying about people poking their heads through the windows and having a ganders. This was most noticeable in Tofino, where we ended up paying for a parking spot, however the tranquility of the beaches and surrounding roads would have been spoilt if every surfing group parked up their RV or van wherever they fancied.

Having no curtains in the van means we never miss a sunrise. #VancouverIsland

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To get to Tofino, we drove from Delta, Vancouver, and paid $88CAD to get across (two people and a van under 18ft). The ferry ride was equipped with wifi, not good enough to FaceTime with, and some breathtaking views; and threw us off just north of Victoria. In Victoria, we parked in Beacon Hill Park and had a BBQ next to the Pacific Ocean (very cold at night!) and the following day we drove north to Tofino, via Nanaimo and Parksville. There’s not much to do in Tofino for those who don’t like the beach/surf life, and we wanted to rent out boards in Oregon, US. Instead, we parked up in the Pacific Rim National Park and hiked up to the Canso plane wreck, a twisting woodland trail through bogs and abandoned houses which eventually led to a WW2 bomber. I believe the plane was headed to Japan/Hawaii, before crashing and landing suspended in cedar trees; there is a perfectly circular pond where the crew/rescue team detonated the bombs to make it safe for explorers to climb and sit on the old, rusty warplane. This was a really cool morning, we had reached the plane by 11am so had the place to ourselves, and was well worth ruining our trainers stomping through the knee-deep bogs to get there.

After a few days exploring the National Park, we decided to head back to Victoria and decide whether to return to Vancouver (before driving to Seattle) or see if we could find a direct ferry. For only $107CAD, we found a ferry to Port Angeles, which we decided to take up. Our van has already done 200,000km and has to make it to southernmost Mexico, and gas costs would surpass $100 anyway, once we take navigational errors into account.

Next stop, the US of A!

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