Trekking through temperate (read: cold) rainforests, over deserted beaches to harvest bountiful seafood right on the beach to hiking through the snow in the Canadian Rockies, we jammed so much into to our two week visit. We are happy that squeezed in this country into our world travels two months prior before our arrival. We wouldn’t have want to miss this beauty.
We arrived early in the morning at Vancouver after an uncomfortable night flight from Hawaii. It was cold and grey outside, but luckily the sun was also peeking through once in a while. As we were meeting our friends Pippi and Quin in Victoria, we had to take the sky train, bus and ferry to Vancouver Island. This trip went easy and comfortable, but because we were so tired and hungry it seemed to take longer than it did before we arrived.
Pippi and Quin picked us up by car at the ferry. David grew up with Pippi on Heron Island (the deserted island he lived on for 3 years), so they are more cousins than friends. As it is a long journey to get there, we started our trip right after coming of the ferry. We stopped for the night in Port Albernie, a little town with a big pulp mill next to the river.
We headed out early in the morning over dirt roads with beautiful views to Bamfield.
From there took a water taxi to the house and had a quick lunch outside on the veranda.
We were very lucky to have sunny weather the first two and half days, as it is usually very cold and rainy. So we made the most of it, by going straight out to the local beach (by boat, the normal way to get around in Bamfield).
Truly gorgeous, the sea stacks are beautiful. The shore was lovely to walk along and getting back through the forest was also something of a fun adventure.
Plus the fun boat ride back 😉
The next day we walked the Keeha Trail, 3.5 km through the temperate rainforest. A short distance that takes a LONG time, 2.5hrs each way, for us. It is full of mud, hidden roots, slippery logs and also COUGARS! Whilst we didn’t see one (thankfully, otherwise we’d likely have had our faces bitten off, according to the tales of this ferocious beast that Pippi told), but we saw plenty of fresh tracks.
So, no hanging around by yourself. Especially not the shorter people, as they go for the smaller prey first. Essential, it was Jurassic Park: Do not get separated from everyone else, or you’ll definitely be eaten. To death.
Once we completed this monstrous hike, plus the huge dune at the end (think climbing ropes and slippery slopes), we were greeted by a wild beach, full of logs and silence. And more cougar tracks…
We walked the far end of the beach, in an attempt to gather some gooseneck barnacles. Tide was too high, but at the same place we saw an inquisitive sea otter!
Plus some eagles.
And then a stingray egg, washed up on shore. Some ‘scientific enquiries’ later, we discovered that the embryo was still very much intact. Ah well, all in the name of science. Never mind, more beach to explore, harvesting mussels and goosenecks and then trying to finish the trail before it got too dark.
Nope, no luck. So we took our headlights out and stumbled and slipped our way back to the car. David falling and scraping his face on a stick, narrowly avoiding gouging an eye out. We should mention that David was also carrying about 5kg of mussels harvested from the rocks, along with his foolishly heavy camera bag. It didn’t make it easier, but sure did make dinner a whole lot more delicious ;-).
West Coast Trail
Rising early the following day, we set off on the famous West Coast Trail, aiming to see Maybens Beach and the lighthouse. 10km of track, but this one is in very good condition. So good, that someone managed to ride a motorbike on it. Hmmmm in good condition, most of the time….
Pippi rather unwisely decided to share with us all the epic (and true) bear attack stories that she knew. But no worries, the bears hibernate in winter. As we arrived at the turn-off to Maybens Beach, Pippi was startled on a corner by a bear/bird/shadow/imaginary beast. Running and yelling our way to safety (not the wise way to do it), we regrouped and made a plan. Quinn took Pippi’s beloved walking stick, and led the group bravely down the track. Down through the shady, (likely) bear infested area, we made it to freedom on the beach.
Pippi and David foraged in rock pools for seafood. Gooseneck barnacles: check. Fresh sea urchin: Check. Tamar enjoyed the sun and Quinn explored the far reaches of the beach in search (unfortunately unsuccessfully) of the elusive and magical glass buoy.
So, huge mussel beds. Huge supply of firewood. Mussels. Firewood. Mussels. Firewood. Hmmmmmmmmm. Time to build a bonfire and cook some fresh mussels right there on the beach! We made a bonfire over hot rocks, roasted marshmallows, and then cooked the mussels (plucked straight from the rocks) on the hot rocks and coals. Delicious.
Having enjoyed the afternoon fully, we barely made it alive back through the bear den and walked back in the dark again. This was exciting, particularly when we reached the ladders. Yes, on this trail, instead of making a path down the steep section, they simply build awesome, huge ladders. One of them had about 100 rungs. And we had to go down them, in the dark. Much fun 😉
Then we had two rainy days, which we spent rather lazily. David did some wood chopping and chain sawing, whilst Tamar organised and planned further travels. Much delicious food was eaten (fresh crab. Quin had set out the crab traps two nights in a row, successful each time). Thus, a rather pleasant time.
The last morning, the rain really set in and the wind started blowing. Quin, Pippi and David pulled the boat out of the water, in the foul weather. A short boat ride later (by a friend of Pippi and Quin’s), we got to the car. In the heavy rain we navigated the bumpy road and had to turn around as it was completely unpassable at a certain point. Taking an alternate route, we eventually made it back to Victoria.During our rest day in Victoria, we bought some snow clothes and boots at second-hand shops , which we gave away again after our trip to Jasper.
One week of temperate rainforest down, one week in the Rockies to go!
We left Victoria the next day, catching the ferry with Pippi’s mother (on her way to the airport to go back to Australia). Lovely to catch up with Myriam! Arriving at the Greyhound bus station early, we decided to grab some food, before our overnight bus trip. Deciding on the classy option, we stopped into a bodega and had some delicious Spanish tapas. Quite an excellent preparation for a long bus ride. So, we got the overnight bus, which had wifi, power plugs and lots of legroom, so that was lovely. Having to get out at 00:30 am for 30min, was much less nice, as this stopped us from attempting to sleep through the night.
Very much in a torpor (coma like sleep), we heard the name ‘Jasper’ mentioned briefly over the PA and then we were there! Argh! Took us so long to get ready, people were already boarding. So, Jasper at 7am, -5 degrees is not very inviting. After half freezing to death, we found a place open, ordered hot drinks to warm up.
Some breakfast later, we headed out to get our hire car. After a protracted ‘discussion’ we persuaded the car hire guy to just bloody well give is the bloody hire car we had bloody well hired (a small car with winter tires)! He tried to give us a 4×4, without snow tires. In the Rockies. In the middle of winter. Huh? After all this nonsense, we arrived at our accommodation to find that the heating was not working and we had to wear our ski clothes inside, until they repaired it.
To get this tough morning over with, we headed out to Pyramid Lake to hike and wander, which we successfully accomplished.
As we had heard of a welcome meal for Syrian refugees at the Community centre, we went to this dinner and gave a donation for the meal. Which was incredible yummy,
We had a HUGE sleep in (MUCH needed), and thus a late start. We headed to Malgine Canyon, and stopped to take some photos of a group of wild Big Horn Sheep.
We could get quite close, as this part of the big group contained only females. Cool! We hiked down along the slippery path of the Canyon and then walked into the bottom of the canyon. It was a slippery walk, due to the warmish conditions (+2 degrees), so all the snow had on the path was icy…, but quite fun.
However, as we didn’t have any crampons, we couldn’t explore the frozen floor of the canyon and resolved to return later in the week. To reward ourselves, we grabbed some truly delicious pizza for dinner.
We spent the whole next day driving one of the most majestic highways in the world. We saw some Big Horn rams, glaciers, frozen waterfalls and spectacular scenery. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves
Another easy morning, and then we went ice skating! Tamar could show off her skills, with many nice moves and fast skating, whilst David and Pippi were somewhat less than graceful.
Never the less, they had a fun (read: dangerous and extremely low skilled) game of ice hockey. Let’s just say that Happy Gilmore could ice skate much better than us. After skating, we had some fun with snow ball fights, building a snowman and a slackline.
In search for the famous poutine and root beer we ended up for dinner at a restaurant with a pool table. Unfortunately they didn’t have either of them in their original recipe, but we still enjoyed them!
Medicine and Malgine Lake
Pure blue skies greeted us and we got going to make the most of the day. We drove the 50km to the lake, to find ourselves practically alone. Magic.
Malgine Lake is gorgeous and we had a lot of fun hiking all around during the day, taking a short stop to hammock and slackline. We finally had poutine for dinner (chips and cheese curds), washed down with root beer.
Early morning Ice walk
Argh, it was not easy to get ourselves out of bed on time, but we somehow managed it. We still had our crampons from the previous day and were the first to Malgine Canyon. This made it all the more special, as well as exciting, walking over the thinnish/meltish ice.
Frozen waterfalls and many interesting things to see, must be amazing to see it in full flood. We had a few hours off in the middle of the day, then headed out for an “easy” hike, the 5 Lakes hike. 4km of extremely slippery track later, one fall by Tamar, we finished. We had seen evidence of a recently killed animal (likely by wolves) and a deer, along with some gorgeous scenery. A yummy pasta dinner was prepared by Pippi and we tried unsuccessfully to go to bed early, as we needed to get up at 4am the following day, for the bus.
Back to Victoria
We had to stand at the Greyhound bus stop a bit over 5 am in the freezing cold. The bus didn’t come until 45 minutes later, so we were pretty cold, but in the bus it wasn’t that warm either. Luckily we had the comfy bus again, so we could keep ourselves busy easily. We arrived in Vancouver around 5 pm and had to travel after that with the metro, ferry and car to get to Pippi and Quins home in Victoria. Deep freeze pizza and bed.
A sleep in, some washing, packing and then we headed out towards the city centre for some lunch. As Pippi and Quin had a classical concert date, we let them drop us in the centre for some shopping and dinning. Climbing stuff is quite cheap in Canada, so David wanted to do some shopping. What a fashion store or book store is for Tamar a Climbing/ Outdoor store is for David. He got his fix and afterwards we went looking for a nice place to have some drinks for Valentines day. We found a very nice bar where they sold self brewed beer, good wines and had nice snacks. We treated ourselves and had a splendid time.
When we got picked up we drove home and had our last meal together with Pippi and Quin before going to bed for another very early morning.
Pippi dropped us of at Victoria airport at 5 am. The security check wasn’t even op yet, so we had to wait until not to long before our flight would leave. Pretty tired and annoyed by losing our handy and much needed multi-tool (David had left his Leatherman in his hand luggage) we arrived at Vancouver airport were we had a pleasant surprise at our gate. As we were on the first flight from Canada airline to Cancun, they had a buffet breakfast, a DJ and Mexican decoration in the waiting room.
This was a very nice experience and got us in the mood again for our next destination. Mexico!