View of Victoria Airport and Swartz Bay en route to Duncan
The previous night at the hostel, but David the German and the Canadian (that works in the hostel) told me to make it to Tofino. 5 hours I said. The ride's worth it they replied. So I started off early Sunday morning headed towards Tofino. The GPS estimated about 4 hours of continuous driving. I really didn't get much out of the scenery when driving. There was one view point which I thought was brilliant - you could see Swartz Bay, the airport, etc. I took a panoramic picture of this. For me, it's really all about the still dark waters. That's why I love early morning drives. It changes when the sun comes up, and as the day progresses the birds come out of hiding, people come out of hiding, there's that X-Factor about early mornings I've come to admire, and photographically take advantage of.
Other than that one stop, the drive was pretty uneventful. TravellerPlus had suggested I visit Chemonius and look at the logs. I passed by the town, but I had left in such a hurry that morning that I forgot to take printouts of suggestions with me. Eventually I ended up passing through a "city centre" of that town and was mildly impressed. I didn't pay much attention to the scenery around me because what everyone said is that the REAL beauty starts from Port Alberni
I reached Port Alberni, had a bagel for breakfast and looked around the town. Again, mildly impressed.
Got back on my car for "the route" - the route that everyone was raving about. But again, somehow the route just didn't click.
Sure, there were mountains, hills, trees and lakes..but it was deja-vu all over again. The same kind of scenery I've seen whilst passing through Yosemite, the Smokies, etc. I think it really failed to meet expectations and the hype. Or maybe I just hyped it a lot myself. But overall, I just didn't feel it. So much so for Canada's "most scenic route". If their most scenic route is as dramatic as this, I shudder to think of what their least scenic route looks like.
Then came the Pacific Rim Park. Again - very very mildly impressed. The problem wasn't so much with the scenery around me, I think it was just more the boredom and oversaturation of this kind of scenery for me. Or maybe travel fatigue, who knows!
I finally reached Tofino. Now this is a pretty little town. It seems like tons of islands all clubbed together with serene water in between.
It's quite nice, reminded me in parts of Ambleside (Lake District, England) with mountains thrown in for good measure. It was nice just spending time here...just standing and doing nothing. I hadn't exactly got kayaking gear, but I was considering doing one of those little flights around the area, but they had predicted rain and so the pilots had gone home it seems! But overall, it appeared that the 5 hrs drive was seeming worth it.
I had lunch at a really nice place there. They have this gorgeous patio that overlooks the lake...it was surreal. The last time I was tempted to eat by the lake was in Queenstown, and that bloody rsnt charges like hell. So this was my first holiday meal by a lake. Bless! By the time I was done with lunch, it was already 215pm. I was feeling sleepy, and generally a bit tired.
View of the mountains from Port Alberni
I went to the beach and walked around for 30 minutes. This again was a good experience. Sure it was a beach, but it was weirdly formed. It was basically water coming from 3 sides, it looked so laidback, so lost. There were people jogging, people walking their dogs, flying kites, couples strolling, it was really nice. It was packed with people but you never really felt it...it was vast. And guess who makes a special appearance again? THE FOG!! It was amazing, the fog coming out of nowhere, and merging with the dust emanating from the sand... just too good. My freeze frame in memory is this elderly gentleman and his dog, flying a kite by the water and the fog slowly and safely engulfing him. It was amazing...
I sat in the car again by 330pm, filled up petrol and I was back in Victoria by 9pm.
The only highlight on our way back was spotting 2-3 grizzly bears eating by the highway and tons of people taking picturs. Dinner was at a seafood place - I had good but very expensive pizza, and took some photos of the harbour my night. The pix came out very well. I went back to the hostel around 11pm. The city seems very safe, although I must say there are lots of homeless people and beggars, I wouldn't think of it in a 'western' country.
I got back to the hostel around 11pm. Met this English guy (from Brighton) and we chatted a bit. He seems very well off, apparently he works for the lighting/electrical industry and just got a revenue of over half a million pounds for his company by working with their client on carbon emission footprints. Quite interesting to hear. So we spoke for a bit about work, travel, etc.
I booked my ferry back to the mainland the next day, and slept by midnight. I was tired, and truth be told I wasn't particularly proud of my day. Had I had more time to do research on the island, I could've gone to a closer place and spent more time than just driving - driving - and seeing nothing spectacular.
On a side note, one big plus of Canada so far is the availability of Cadbury's chocolate. It's so nice to walk into a convenient store in North America and not be bombarded with just Hershey's. And the Cannucks have their own 'burys as well, the bars are lot longer and more chewy over the truffles and hard bars that you get in the US. It was intersting to see. I tried a coconut chocolate, don't remember the name. Although sadly it didn't taste that good, it tasted like Almond Joy in a Cadbury's wrapper (same smell of stale dessicated coconut).