Arrival into Canada and ferry to Victoria

Tsawwassen Travel Blog

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Only Canada's morning water can be THIS still!

Canada! My first memory of Canada stretches way back to 1985. I was in New Jersey playing with my cousins in a suburb near Newark. Given my fondness for planes, I used to curiously watch various airlines fly over their house to Liberty International - PanAm, TWA, etc. And I vividly recall seeing Air Canada. And *that* red leaf. I asked my aunt what the deal was, why an airline would have a red leaf and that's when I found out about Canada and their identity with the Maple. The next time I heard of Canada was on that same trip, when we thought of seeing Niagara from the Canadian side and were refused because we didn't have a visa.

Since then, I've known Canada for a variety of things varying from "America's neighbour upnorth", winters, ice hockey, "aboot" and Celine Dion. Canada's also produced a few of my favourite artists such as Alanis Morissette, Mylene Farmer and Barenaked Ladies.

I've also had the fortune of meeting Cannuck backpackers in the UK, as well as having some really dear friends on travel forums (onward, TravellerPlus, LondonLass). And I'd keep thinking of visiting Canada but it just never worked out. Until 2006 - that's when I decided I have to go, and even found a backpacker network Moose Travel that did a tour of Vancouver Island, and seemed something that I fancy. I almost booked for it, and then had to opt out due to some health problems. And since then, I almost forgot about it. Until 2008...

I had to go to Seattle on business work coinciding with Memorial Day. I had the option of visiting my ever-favourite Snoqualamie or planning a trip to Canada.

Aboard the ferry!
I opted for the later. Now or never in a way as I see it. I heard from fellow Indians in Seattle that getting a multiple entry Visitor's Visa from the Canadian Consulate is a breeze. And it was! I got a 3 year visa in a matter of about 1 hour, and I was all set to go. Only, I had no hostel bookings, no itenenary, no nothing!

So with the help of my KES friends and Frommer's "Vancouver and Victoria 2008" book, I got to planning. I was first tied - Victoria or Vancouver? I was leaning towards the former because it looked like a relaxed touristy place. It had all the elements I look for in a holiday spot - a harbour, fishing industry, Victorian monuments and lots of backpackers. Contrasting this was Vancouver which is cool, but remove the Maple and the mountains and it seemed like any other American cosmo to me.

One of my favourite pics - very mystical
So easy choice... Victoria it was.

Only, Victoria isn't on mainland, one needs to take the ferry. Not a problem - my good friend TravellerPlus pointed me to the ferry schedule and I booked myself and my car a ride on the ferry. The hostel piece was a bit tricky though. Victoria is a bacpackers' haven yet has a limited no. of hostels. Not to mention that it was Memorial Day weekend and I was booking the former night. Still though, I was lucky to find a slot in the Ocean Backpackers Inn in the heart of the city. Booked for 2 nights, looked like I was all set.

I woke up rather early (4am) on Sat morning and drove to the border. I was warned of "long lines" and I had a 9am ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay.

Approaching Swartz Bay
Surprisingly though, everything was a breeze and I was in Canada by 715am. Also, to my good luck, there was a new additional 8am ferry ride so the lady at the BC Ferries counter asked me if I wanted to go on that. Hell yeah! So off I first ferry trip in North America.

I waited for about 20 minutes at Tsawwassen. There wasn't much except long queues of cars and a convenience store. But the view surrounding me was amazing. You can tell straight off that Canada is vast. It was amazing. The sun had risen, yet very tender rays of the sun, a thin sheet of clouds, the sky was alternating between white and pinkish. The water was STILL. Quiet. Amazing. I couldn't pass off this scene for a photo opp now, could I?! I took some pix whilst waiting for the call to board the ferry...

The car was parked at the bottom level of the ship, and I wandered around the deck for some views.

Somehow the ferry ride, rather the scenery along the route reminded me a lot of New Zealand's Milford Sound cruise. Even though that has more of a hilly backdrop, the magnificence factor came running back to me as this BC ferry went through the sea, passing by tons of mountains ranges inc. the Olympic Mountains. I really don't have words to say, I was also briefly reminded of an episode from the X Files when Mulder and Scully track a ship somewhere in the Scandinavian region where some kind of chemical in the water has 'aged' the sailors on board. It felt like we were crusing in the North Pole... everything was white. The water, the sky, the clouds... at times I couldn't tell the difference among the 3 media. It looked so pristine and powerful, and so resistent to change and anything man does.

View of the Olympic Mountains from the ferry
For once in my life, I felt mortal and small in the grand scheme of things. The 90 minute ride (well at least the first half!) left such a deep impression me! Or maybe it was the fog... I've come to the conclusion that I am a BIG SUCKER for fog. Wrap a week's worth of dirty laundry in fog and I'll be hailing it as the next best thing.

Of course when we lost track of the mountains and back to the hills and the coast, the ferry ride started looking very plain! We arrived on time, and I was off and way to the capital of British Columbia - Victoria! Anyways, I'll let the pix do the talking.

pensacolapyro says:
Great pics, I did this voyage several years ago, great place.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2012
mga_galang_paa says:
....and finally ha ha! Congratulations for a big step forward. The whole of Canadian TravBuddies welcomes you!!
Posted on: May 28, 2008
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Only Canadas morning water can be…
Only Canada's morning water can b…
Aboard the ferry!
Aboard the ferry!
One of my favourite pics - very my…
One of my favourite pics - very m…
Approaching Swartz Bay
Approaching Swartz Bay
View of the Olympic Mountains from…
View of the Olympic Mountains fro…
photo by: Vikram