It’s been nearly a week since we updated the blog, but as we’ve been using WarmShowers quite extensively to hide from the rain, rather than sitting around with only each other for company we have been sociable with our hosts, precluding much blog action. The most important news from this end is that WE HAVE SEEN OUR FIRST BEAR!!!!! Of course this is no big deal to the Canadians, but for us Brits used to living in a benign country with little to fear aside from our politicians, this was a major event.
We spent Monday night in Merville drying out our tent and examining the weather forecasts, with some signs that it would improve over the next few days, and sure enough on Tuesday morning it was definitely brighter and not so damp. From Merville our plan was to head north to Campbell River and jump on the ferry to go and explore Quadra Island (we’re not at all doing the typical Sunshine Coast/Vancouver Island loop, instead taking our time and doing some exploring of this beautiful place).
In order to avoid some of the highway (which actually is fine, but we will take back routes where possible) we headed off down some quieter roads in the direction of Williams Beach. Google maps would have you believe that some of the roads around there are indeed roads, but in fact that was not to be the case, and we ended up on about 1km of forest track. Being very bear aware, I decided it would be a good idea to sing whilst cycling along, just in case, to make sure the bears knew we were coming. And so out of my mouth poured a mashup of “The Teddy Bears Picnic” and the “Bare Necessities” (obviously) coupled with the Elton John/Kiki Dee “Don’t go breaking my heart” (I have no idea why, but whatever). So engrossed was I with my own singing that it wasn’t until Adam shouted “stop stop” that I realised ahead of us was a bear running away as fast as it could. It looked like a very big, very chunky dog. It was very fast. It was also running in the direction we were heading so we stood there for a few minutes, nervously giggling before setting off again. Phew, bear #1 survived. Everyone told me I would feel better about the bears once I had seen one, but I still fear they will eat me in my sleep whilst camping (the Canadian solution is ear plugs and a shot of whisky rather than fretting about every noise all night long).
Thankfully, the rest of Tuesday was rather uneventful in terms of bears, but we met some great people. The local farmer allowed us to cycle through their land when google again led us on a merry dance to what was not a road but a driveway. On Quadra Island we decided to pop in to see the folks at Naked Bikes, Sam and Andrea, and we spent a while chatting with them about life on Quadra and admiring Sam’s handiwork. We got invited to their Wednesday evening club run so were glad we were staying for two nights.
Wednesday was spent lounging around in Quadra admiring the breathtaking view from our host’s veranda and then I walked to the local pub whilst Adam went on the club run with the locals – we already fit right in!
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were bit grey at times, and very wet on Saturday. We worked our way back to Nanaimo. Courtenay, where we stayed on Thursday, was a lovely town with a great cake shop. Friday we headed up into more remote parts and stayed in Errington, passing the tourist trap of Coombs, where there is place called “Goats on the Roof”, which has, erm, goats on its roof. And Saturday was very wet all day all the way to Cedar, where our hosts were waiting with towels and tea and a shower to warm us up. Yay!
From Cedar we came onto Salt Spring Island yesterday (Sunday) and as the sun was out it seemed rude not to go and visit one of the local wineries. We had no idea Canada produced wine so this was a pleasant surprise. We turned up and thought we were gate-crashing a wedding as there was a band and people dancing in the grounds of the vineyard (video here: click), but it was just a Sunday afternoon and people were there picnicking and enjoying the views, so we joined in. Salt Spring is a lovely island, full of artisans and great views of Mount Baker (in Washington, USA), so we gladly accepted when our host offered an additional night’s accommodation.
This has allowed us to firm down plans for the rest of Canada; suffice to say we will be staying in and around Vancouver and the islands until Sunday when we get the train to Jasper. Fingers crossed the weather keeps improving. I’m done with the rain.