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Thursday 29 September 2016

The four Cs

After a good night's sleep we got up and ready for a day of exploring. The four Cs as I called it, Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland and Campbell River, beckoned. It would take two days to do the four... But first; coffee on the beach...
Beautiful Miracle Beach
First to Cumberland. We drove down the slow road and then took the turn off into town. We found a suitable place to park the car and set off on foot. As luck would have it, the township was just then in the process of repaving the high street. This is not a bad thing; this means that the township is keen on rejuvenating the place, a good sign. Cumberland has all the makings of a great attraction, albeit in a few years time. We strolled along for about 30 minutes and moved on.
Courtenay was next. We had seen a few condos in town that struck our fancy and found them easily. And then once we got there we found them too close to the highway and without good access to the shops and such. My goodness, we are so picky, but hey this will probably be our last home, so we had better be picky.
We then went on to Comox and Goose Spit park, a wonderful place with a wide beach and a great place to wile away an afternoon with some good food and wine. Just plain beautiful sand and a fantastic driftwood sea wall. Wow! What a perfect picnic spot. Comox seems a bit more upscale. The real estate looks expensive. Some of the older homes are very well kept and there are quite a few places under complete renovation. We will be spending the autumn months doing research on the island's real estate market to see how quickly or slowly properties get sold here...
Goose Spit
Another Beglaw moment
Vancouver Island has plenty of deer
By now we were ready for a bite and we stopped in Courtenay along the river for some lunch. Across the river some people were enjoying the waterfront and soaking up the last rays of summer. Well served with the day's activities we returned to our campsite and settled in for the night...
The view from our lunch spot
The next morning we had a plan to go to Campbell River and Elk Falls Provincial park. Campbell River has some beautiful green spaces within the city's reach. A lot of opportunity for great hikes. We cruised through town and found Elk Falls Provincial park.
Elk Falls Provincial park is 1,807 hectares in size and is located at the east end of John Hart Lake on the northwest side of the city of Campbell River. The park was established in 1940 to protect the waterfall and canyon. In 1947 the John Hart dam and generating station was completed, followed by two other dams upstream, Strathcona and Ladore. Most of the water that used to flow over the falls is now diverted for power production. A suspension bridge over the canyon was completed in 2015, and provides a good view of Elk Falls. At certain times the water in the river is diverted to power the generators that supply electricity to the region. At these times the falls supposedly go down to a trickle. There are signs posted in the park explaining that when the water is "turned back on" there will be a surge in the flow of the river and the falls. Thus it would be a good idea not to get too close to the edge of the babbling brook that is supposed to be a river. A siren will sound before this happens...
A river runs through these
We walked up to the falls and the suspension bridge. Along the way there are large culverts that carry water to the turbines that produce the electricity. Shelagh, having vertigo, could not even look at the bridge so I ventured on by myself. The bridge is 65 meters long and 64 meters high above the canyon. It has a very steep descent and ascent, and a metal corrugated deck that is quite see-through. I looked down through the deck a few times and figured that Shelagh was quite right to stay put. At the other side is a platform leading to nowhere. I took some pictures and crossed the bridge again, keeping my eyes focused on my destination. Then once again on the other side I took the stairs down to a viewing platform and took some more pictures. I climbed the stairs back up and found Shelagh patiently waiting for me on a bench. We hiked back to the parking lot and got into the car for our trek to Campbell River.
It is said that this bridge can support 20 elephants
Campbell River is a pretty town with everything you could possibly want available. We had lunch in Robert V. Ostler park within the city and watched a father and son play in the jungle gym area. The sun was warm and the weather comfortable. There are plenty of shops and eateries in town, and we found this is a very livable place but a bit far from the Nanaimo ferry terminals. We headed home to our tent and I started working on the kindling for the fire. A lazy rest of the day followed with a visit to the beach, dinner, a comfy fire and bed. The next day was time to break camp and head home to the busy lower mainland.
Up early, no coffee, no breakfast. Shelagh went to the showers while I took down the tent and started getting things stowed. We each have our jobs both when camping and living together. We are like a well lubed machine when things need to get done, and we were ready for the road in no time...
We planned on taking the ferry from Dukes Point, south of Nanaimo, to Tsawwassen. Driving on highway 19, the inland island highway, we cruised along at the speed limit of 120 kmh and saw the sign near Nanaimo stating that the ferry was 87% full, we had 29 km to go, yikes. If we miss this ship we will have a 2.5 hour wait! Shelagh, who is a very law abiding citizen, suggested I step on it and don't spare the horses... We creeped up to ten km over the speed limit. When we got to the terminal the ship was already loading, we paid our fare and got in line. Seeing all these cars roll onto the ship while our line is not even close to moving sure puts some weight in your stomach. Then suddenly the car ahead of us started moving and we followed. When we got near the front of our line the attendant put up his hand and stopped us in our tracks. We waited and waited, Shelagh was praying... Then suddenly he pointed at us and gave us the go ahead! Two more cars eventually followed us onto the ship. We were boarded!
We celebrated our good fortune with eggs benny and coffee in the ship's restaurant and had a pleasant sailing home bound. The ferries' restaurants used to be just alright, but now they are run by White Spot, the Bread Garden and Starbucks. What an improvement! The two hour crossing went without any problems and we were soon home. Back in our pretty house, unpacked and ready for my shower and three loads of laundry, a house husband's work is never done...
Now we ponder, island life suits us, but where on the island will be our next home? Stay tuned for that...


Sunday 25 September 2016

Meeting Family and moving on

After our usual breakfast of yoghurt and berries we set off to Duncan via Nanaimo. Taking the coastal route nice and easy we ended up in downtown Nanaimo for a look around. We parked at the local Thrifty's and started walking along the waterfront. I only took two pictures in Nanaimo. The city did not impress me at all. Bear in mind that that is just my personal opinion, but I found the town messy and confusing. There were also a lot of angry homeless people roaming the streets. After an hour or so we had enough and got back to the car to continue our drive south bound for Duncan.

Nanaimo harbour
Always looking

Coming up to Ladysmith we drove the high street through town and liked the older part of the city. There are so many things to do and see here, and the newer part of town has all the conveniences of the big box stores present on the mainland. This town is worthy of a longer visit.

We cruised on to Duncan and asked at a gas station for directions to the local Brew Pub. It was just up the street a bit. We found a good parking spot nearby and walked to the pub to meet Michael and Derval from Drogheda, Ireland. The last time Shelagh saw her cousin was 45 years ago. We opened the door to the pub and they recognized each other immediately. We spent a wonderful couple of hours chatting and enjoyed some beer and lunch. The next day Michael and Derval travelled on to Whistler, BC. We drove the scenic highway back to Parksville and made plans for the next day. Time to move on up island to Miracle Beach park...

Michael, Shelagh and Derval

The next morning we packed up our camp and headed north. Along the way we stopped at a real estate development called Qualicum Landing. We had found this place with our realtor app and we were interested in taking a closer look. The complex property is ocean front and has a number of cottages built around a communal pool and clubhouse. The whole thing is just beautiful with your own waterfront. The gate was open and we ventured in and parked the car in a visitor's spot. We walked around and found the shared path to the beach with stunning views over Georgia Straight. There are fire pits and benches on the beach, a tennis court, swimming pool with hot tubs and a club house with exercise equipment and a pool table. We could not get this place out of our heads for many days but ultimately decided that with a walk score of zero we would hop into the car for every outing and that, for us, is a deal breaker...

The beach at Qualicum Landing
Some of the cottages

We drove on through Courtenay and Comox and then to Miracle Beach park. We found a nice large site for our next home and began setting things up. After 20 minutes we were all done and ready for a simple lunch. Then on to the beach for a look around. The beach is awesome and the park as well. This has to be one of the cleanest camp grounds we have stayed at. A serious effort is made to keep the outhouses clean and well stocked. The areas around the facilities are neatly raked and manicured. Kudos to the team that maintains this park. We had a nice evening with a generous helping of firewood, and crawled into bed well and content...

Sunset at Miracle Beach


Thursday 22 September 2016

Touring the area

What followed was a day of pure R&R. We limed the day away going for walks and relaxing in the sunshine, pure bliss... Then the next day we hit the road to do some exploring in the area. I remembered from a long time ago when I visited the Island frequently that there are some fine parks in the area and we set out to do some nature stuff.

First up was MacMillan park, or more popularly known as Cathedral park. When H. R. MacMillan set out to log the area he came upon these enormous Western Redwood Cedar trees and decided to leave them be for future generations. Some of these giants are estimated to be about 800 years old. In a recent storm a few of them have come down and there are warning signs telling people not to enter the park on stormy days. Western Redwood Cedars grow in moist climates and therefore do not need to root deep, but this is exactly what makes them dangerous... The park was quite busy with tourists from all over the world, a lot of them travelling in rental RVs. It's quite funny to walk behind a group and hear Dutch spoken. When we had walked the park on both sides of the highway we drove on and went to visit Port Alberni.

Port Alberni was built on the lumber industry, with both lumber and pulp mills employing the locals. All of that great commerce has dwindled down and the town suffered some set backs. The downtown high street looks mostly abandoned. However the waterfront is going through a revival and looks wonderful. When we walked along the waterfront the farmers market was on and some vendors were busy flaunting their wares. The path is lined with benches, all adorned with commemorative plaques.

Port Alberni waterfront

There are also plans to start a passenger railway, with a steam locomotive, between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni. This will bring in some much needed business. Port Alberni is also a good town to stop in and stock up on supplies for those who continue to Ucluelet and Tofino.

We stopped in at Save on Foods and bought a couple of sandwiches to enjoy at Little Qualicum Falls park, our next stop. There are two falls at this park, the upper and the lower falls. A relatively easy loop walk takes you along both of them and with two bridges you cross the river and get great views of the roaring water. At the parking lot is a picnic area and we stopped there first to have our lunch. The weather was so nice and sunny, it sure makes for a better day when it's not raining.

Eventually we ended up back in Parsville and decided to stop in at the local Save on Foods to use their free wifi. Shelagh's cousin from Drogheda, Ireland was visiting Canada and would be in Duncan the next day. We had been in touch with Michael and his wife Derval off and on for a few days trying to coordinate a meeting. It was finally set for 14:00 the next day at the local brew pub in Duncan. The next day's itinerary had been set.

A quick stop at the Goats on Roof market in Coombs

In the same mall as the Save on Foods is a Pizza Hut and we had the idea of just getting a pizza for dinner. Two medium super supreme pizzas were ordered and we were soon on our way back to our campsite. After wine on the beach we reheated one of the pizzas on the barbecue. It was dry and boring but what can you do? Live and learn... The other pizza went into the cooler and I had a slice here and there, but eventually the last two slices went into the bin.


Monday 19 September 2016

Heading north

View point along the Malahat

With the sun shining and the car neatly packed to the rafters we headed out of the wet microclimate that is Goldstream park. We chose the scenic route, highway 19A along the coast and passed through the small coastal towns along Georgia Straight. We stopped for a while in Chemainus to look at the old town with its many murals and decided to return here for a closer look. We also drove through the towns of Duncan and Ladysmith and we were surprised by the size of them. All the big box stores were there. The drive to Parksville was easy and uneventful and we arrived at beautiful Rathtrevor park, chose our camping spot close to the beach and registered with the gate house for a three night stay.

The tent looks so much happier in the sunshine

In about 20 minutes our camp was set up and we were ready for a walk about the park. It seemed that the local high school had a weekend camping trip on the go because there were a large number of young kids in the group campground for some kind if orientation gig. They were all having a good time on the beach. It was lightly overcast but not the kind of cloud cover that produces rain. However there was a cool breeze.

This kid was tearin' up the trails on his bike
Nice homes along the shore
Just a special shot for the Beglaws

Our walk lasted nearly 90 minutes and we scored our 10k steps on Shelagh's fitbit. Along the way we came across sandcastles made by the students and took some pictures, some were very creative and very well executed. It was time to go to town and stock up on a few things, we bought a rotisserie chicken, tortellini and some sauce both made by Mr. Olivieri, and some fresh fruit and veggies.

Blissful sunshine, but a cool breeze

Once back at our campsite we decided to go to the beach near our new home and have some wine and a soak in the sunshine, the change of weather was a very welcome experience... At the check in station we ordered and paid for three bundles of firewood and asked for it to be delivered to our site. When a man arrived with firewood he filled three large plastic bins with wood and we ended up with an enormous pile. Typically a bundle of wood is about half the size of this generous helping. I went to work on some of the straightest logs and turned them into kindling. After a dinner of chicken and Caesar salad we lit our fire and enjoyed a wonderful evening with no rain...

A parallel fire works best