Monday 25th May
Today we tried a new road trip.
It was suggested we could reach the lower west coast of Vancouver Island by travelling to China Beach. A discussion with the local tourist information service commented we might consider taking a loop road trip via Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew then along coastal highway 14 to China Beach, on to Sooke, Victoria and home to Duncan.
Sounds good to me.
Except…the trip was about 200 klms longer than we were led to believe.
The road from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew is an old gravel logging road and had only been sealed in the last few years.
Although the road is a bit rough in places it is still suitable to drive on. It needs care and snow tyres during winter. There were several interesting places to stop. There is a very old Sitka Spruce Tree covered in moss growing just off the road. No signs on the road except a small sign “Place of Interest”. No signs around the tree.
Next were several lakes, one of which, Lizard Lake, we stopped. These remote lakes are set up as summer camps and at present the gates are closed…to vehicular traffic.
Remember most of the places along this road has only recently been available as an all -weather road and has not been visited by many locals. Add to the fact that there are very few directional signs apart from speed advisory on some corners and one way bridges makes for an interesting drive. In fact the entire length of Highway 14 to Victoria does not have one sign to advise which highway you are on and how far to the next town.
We finally found Port Renfrew and on the outskirts drove through the local First Nation reservation. (we took a wrong turn, at an unmarked, no sign, junction) Closer to the main part of the town (there are about three shops) we stopped for lunch at Tomi’s, which at first glance we thought read Tom’s. It was a log cabin style building with a timber deck set out in basic lumberjack decor. Weary backpackers, photographers and lost tourists, like us, found this as the first eatery and in need of hot coffee we stopped. The fare is basic lumberjack.
A kilometre down the road was a hotel on a cute bay and marina where new log cabins are being built for the summer season.
The absence of any directional signs kept us locked in town for 30 minutes longer than we needed to be. (We got lost – twice – trying to get out of Port Renfrew. Considering there are only two roads into Port Renfrew and neither is signposted and both, initially start from the same direction. Confused??? So were we! The road to Victoria in the south heads north while the road to Lake Cowichan to the east also heads north. A third road which eventually goes nowhere heads south)
Grrr! Naturally there are no signs.
It was while driving around – lost- we spied an Elk on the road – actually it was probably a Mrs Elk and certainly not a deer as it was much too big. On the second attempt at getting lost, umm err, finding our way out of town, we saw a Raccoon and a Squirrel but although the camera was in my lap they were too quick for me.
Finally with fingers crossed (and a hand drawn, not to scale map kindly given to us at Tomi’s) we followed a road going out of town over the mountain to the north when we wanted to go south to follow the coast. Eventually the road did begin to loop back to the coast and when a tiny sign declaring China Beach loomed ahead we knew we were on the correct road. The National Park sign at the car park informed us to be aware that Cougars and Black Bears are in the area. Neither animal is human friendly. (Cougars are at the top of the food chain) The encouraging news is that only 5 deaths from Cougar attack have occurred in the last 100 years. Not so encouraging is the news that bears and cougar attacks are known to occur and that by fighting back, not running, chances are you will survive. The steep 1 Klm walk to the beach was fraught with wariness… and in Donnis case some weariness. China Beach, as with almost all the beaches on the west coast are deeply littered with logs and the sand is a concrete grey colour mixed with lots of stones. (Oh for a wonderful golden sand Gold Coast Beach)
The road follows the wild west coast to Sooke before continuing on to Victoria the Province capitol. There are no alternate routes unless you choose to turn around and drive another 120 Klms back to Duncan. Our luck was against us today. A single car accident had blocked the road along with two Police cars, an Ambulance and a Fire Truck from Sooke. Once we reached Sooke, traffic increased dramatically probably because it was peak hour (rush hour) and workers were coming home from Victoria.
At least we had the opportunity to see some of the lower west coast and can plan a return visit.
Tuesday 26th May
Today was a sort of lay day. Joan needed to get some work done in the garden, cut the grass, stack next winter’s firewood and some other jobs that always seem to accumulate. By the time all those were done the day was almost over. The sun made a welcome appearance, finally breaking through the overcast about 4pm.
Wednesday 27th May
Another lay day. It was overcast until midday when the sun finally appeared. It was hot enough to take off my jacket but not hot enough to roll up my sleeves.
Thursday 28th May
It was a special morning. The sun was up since dawn. No overcast.
Time to wear shorts.
We are staying at Duncan on Vancouver Island. Duncan is situated in the Cowichan Valley and is known as the City of Totems.
Today we took Donnis mum for a drive to Crofton and pushed her in her wheelchair, around the boardwalk which we walked last week. The difference is, today the sun was shining.
After Crofton we drove to Chemainus where we had lunch at an old Chinese Restaurant. They have been trading here for 40 years and Donnis mum recalls going there for a meal whenever she went to Chermainus. The prices are still good. Donnis and I both had a filling Beef Chow Mein, each $8.95 plus tax of course.
Chermainus, also in the Cowichan Valley, is know as the Town Murals. (Much like Bowen in north Queensland is also known as the Town of Murals.) I think Chermainus wins simply on the number of murals.
Tomorrow we have an early flight from Victoria to Calgary.
Friday 29th May
We were up early and got away, almost on time and arrived at Victoria airport in plenty of time for our flight. Frank was a bit annoyed at being “randomly selected” for a pat down and scan. He had to go into a circular windowed room, spread eagled with hands outraised as if being patted down by US Police – except I was in Canada. Naturally I passed with flying colours. Once outside in the flight waiting area I was further annoyed to find a women who had passed through security with knitting needles.
Just as the plane (Bombardier Q400 otherwise known as a Dash8 in Australia) flew over the Rockies the cloud cover rolled in. The lovely sunny day on Vancouver Island turned into an overcast cold wet day in Calgary. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calgary
Alecia and Tyler with whom we are staying put on a barbecue and invited several hundred relatives to crowd into their house. It was a great night.
Saturday 30th May
Everybody had little tasks they wanted to do today in preparation for the wedding reception for Simone and Lazar. They married in Antigua last month and decided to have an additional reception at the swankiest hotel in Calgary, the Fairmont, to invite family and friends who could not make it to Antigua.
The reception included a steel band and food spread over two hours. Early in the morning one of the guests decided to turn streaker.
Sunday 31st May
WOT THE! Woke to sunshine and was able to wear shorts. Wow!
What was expected to be a lay day suddenly turned into a barbecue at the home of Lazars parents and they invited another 20 or so guests.
Tomorrow we will plan our next week of travels.
Tags: Black Bears, Bombardier Q40, Calgary, Chemainus Murals, China Beach, Cougars, Dash 8, Duncan City of Totems, Fairmont Hotel, Flanders Poppy, Lake Cowichan, Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew Road, Lake Lizard, Port Renfrew, Sitka Spruce, Slag car, Sooke, Tomi's Diner, Victoria BC