Watching the UK leave the EU from our bikes

087. Kinsol TrestleWe’re currently sat in the Cowichan Valley soaking up the news from the UK about the EU referendum.  We left Europe in January to go cycling and have a look at a few other countries to consider whether we’d want to emigrate. We’ve both been fallen in love with Canada, or more accurately British Columbia.  However, being away has also given us a chance to reflect upon life in the UK and we were actually thinking the UK seemed a pretty decent place to live.  OK, it has some downsides (the price of property and population density, especially in the south-east).  That’s now been put into a new perspective with over 50% of the electoral turnout voting to leave the EU.  We’ve not been following the news very closely, but knew that the polls were suggesting a narrow victory for the UK to leave the EU.  Historically referendums have resulted in nothing changing (such as the recent New Zealand flag vote; the Scottish independence question; the Alternative Vote referendum; Quebec’s referendums for independence) and we both assumed the same would happen on this occasion.  At about 2.30pm on Thursday we were sat in a café.  It was 10.30pm in the UK and Farage had admitted defeat.  Whoop.  We cycled down to our hosts, had dinner and then rechecked the news to discover that unbelievably things had changed.  Oh dear God.

The Canadians we’re staying with are as shocked about the result as us and they have also been impacted by the result as share prices fall.  Although it’s probably a good time to visit the UK as it’s now cheaper to buy British pounds!  We’ve spent the day explaining our views of the EU and what we think the future holds for the UK, although at the moment we’ve no real idea what is going to happen.  We are certainly worried and suddenly our view of the UK has changed.  Will it even be the UK for much longer?  Do we want to return to the UK where the majority has spoken to leave the EU?  Canada is now seeming like an even better place to live, although we’ve no idea how easy, or difficult, it would be to get a Canadian visa.  I do know there’s a glut of high school teachers in Canada, which isn’t ideal.

Anyway, back to the cycling.  We left Salt Spring Island on Tuesday, took another ferry back to Vancouver Island and then rode the Lochside Trail to Victoria.  We picked up two Americans who were on our ferry and didn’t know about the trial, so we guided them the 30km into town.  They were staying in Victoria, so after visiting the outdoor shops (Philippa now has a sleeping bag liner that adds 15°C to her sleeping bag rating) we said goodbye and carried on our way to Sooke, where we spent an evening camped by the river.

Wednesday was a tough day riding from Sooke along the west coast of Vancouver Island to Port Renfrew.  The road is a lot narrower than what we’ve experienced so far in Canada and initially there was a fair bit of traffic.  Once the traffic died down the ride improved no end, with fantastic views across the Juan de Fuca Strait to Olympic National Park in Washington State.  It was odd being less than 25km from the USA but knowing it would be another three or four weeks before we’d leave Canada. We even saw two sets of cycle tourist, both going towards Sooke.  Naturally we stopped to talk and discovered Neil and Ali would be starting the Icefields Parkway the same day as us, so we’ll probably see them again.

Port Renfrew felt a bit run down, but we pitched up at Pacheedaht campsite and were relieved that despite what we’d read online they did have drinking water and showers.  We hid from a cloud burst in our tent and then started cooking dinner.  Another rain shower hit, we hid and waited for it to stop.  The rain continued.  We cooked in our tent and went to bed listening to the rain fall on our tent.

After 15 hours the rain stopped so we packed up and set off for the Cowichan Valley to stay with the parents of our Vancouver WarmShower host.  The ride over the 400m hill from Port Renfrew was very quiet, misty, and not too taxing.  The downhill was amazing.  We stopped in Lake Cowichan, a pretty town and then picked up the Trans Canada Trail for 15km before plummeting into the Cowichan Valley, amazing hospitality, a chance to catch up with Jenn and the news that the UK had left the EU.

To SookeTo Port RenfrewTo Cowichan Valley

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