Alan and I were off to Tofino for five and it was fantastic. It's a small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island and is very eco-touristy. We had to leave the house to catch a 6.15 bus, and we didn't hit Tofino until 3 because there was a one-hour wait for construction crews to blast some rocks. We attempted to visit Cathedral Grove during the wait, but it was too far back along the road. Nice walk in the sun though. However, by the time we got to Tofino the sun was gone. We wandered around the town, booked a couple of tours and bought some postcards. And broke Alan's camera lens. Alan will say I broke it, and certainly I was involved, but he had a minor role as well... Since we had forgotten my camera as well, we were left with a telephoto lens-not so good for pictures of huge cedar trees, though we may end up with some interesting pictures of bark. We picked up some disposables.
The HI hostel is really nice-the rooms are big enough that they could have squeezed another bunk bed in, but had chosen not to. The place was fully booked-even the overflow was full. We saw hummingbirds at the feeders and outside our window each morning we were woken by loud birds. One morning in particular there was a lot of noise and we assumed that some birds were chasing a bald eagle away from their nest. There were bald eagles everywhere-there are more in Tofino than the entire United States. The first day we were there one glided to a tree just feet above our heads. I was never much of a bird person until last summer, when my visit to Shetland and Orkney demanded that I become interested and now I'm fairly hooked. I don't think I'll ever become a bona fide "twitcher" but they are quite interesting.
Anyway, on our first full day the weather was still dull. We went on a Zodiac over the open ocean to the Hot Springs. We saw two grey whales (no orcas, sadly), some really cool sea lions who bob around the sea in groups, seals, tufted puffins (I've seen puffins on both oceans now). The half hour walk to the Springs was cool, though once we'd been in the pools relaxing, it was hard to drag my lethargic self along the boardwalk back to the Zodiac. The springs were cool, made up of a small waterfall and three pools. The last pool periodically filled with very cold water from the sea when the waves came in. There were only 3 couples on our tour and I'm glad we went the day we did. It wouldn't have been much fun if there had been too many more people there. There were a couple of other tour companies, some sailboats but there weren't too many people. One of the couples was in Tofino for their honeymoon. Just before we left for the tour, there was a guy from the local Global TV station doing a story on Luna, an orca who has been separated from his pod and has become very friendly with humans-bumping boats, that sort of thing. They've spotted Luna's pod nearby so are hoping to reunite them. There were shots of us going off on the Zodiac and listening to the guide tell us about the area.
We went on another Zodiac trip the next morning, this time up an inlet at low tide to see Black Bears. We saw 8 adults and 4 very cute cubs. The telephoto lens came in handy. And it was sunny! Alan preferred being in the inlet, as he had felt a bit ill on the sea the day before. It was really beautiful. That afternoon we went kayaking. Double kayaks being more stable, we went in one and I was forced to sit in the back and do all the steering as Alan's legs were too long for the steering lines connected to the rudder. I loved kayaking-very similar to canoeing really but you are that much closer to the water. Very cool. We kayaked around the islands and went ashore on Meares Island to walk part of the Big Tree trail. Huge cedars, banana slugs, salamander eggs, nurse logs-very interesting generally. We saw another seal and an osprey. After a day of ocean air, Alan wanted fish for dinner so we ended up at Schooners. The food was fantastic.
That evening we went along to Tonquin Beach, just a short walk from the hostel. It was pretty and a very normal being-on-a-beach experience until two police officers showed up. Alan suggested that maybe they just wanted a wee walk on such a beautiful evening, but I think it was more likely they were looking for illegal campers, drink and drugs.
The next day we took the beach bus out to walk the Rainforest trails in the national park. They were only about a half hour each, but were interesting. Then we went to Combers Beach, part of Long Beach, and wandered along for hours to the next bus pickup point. The waves and the mist coming off the water made the whole place so beautiful. There were other people there, but not many for the huge size of the beach and it all felt very cut off from the rest of the world. Slightly burnt our noses. We got back to town in time to see the Roy Henry Vickers art gallery-I was quite devious-I like his prints but they were very expensive. However, he has also illustrated a book and there were cheap Chinese copies of it on sale, so I bought that and can cut my favourite pictures out. We had fish and chips at a picnic table in the sun for dinner.
Our last day we just relaxed around the hostel, with the fantastic views across the bay and of the islands and read the paper while waiting for the bus back to the Nanaimo ferry. The ferry was very crowded and they had a Celtic fiddler performing to keep us all entertained. Didn't get back home until about 10.