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Vancouver Island Part 1
Text and photos: Eckart Winkler, Bad Nauheim, http://www.eckart-winkler.de
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Common and touristic Information about Canada


Capital Victoria: Empress Hotel, Chinatown, Thunderbird Park, Many Historic Buildings - Original Forests and Numerous Waterfalls - Provincial Parks with Romantic Campsites - The Long Beach at Pacific Rim National Park - And Totem Poles Everywhere

Travel data
Date of the journeySeptember 2001
Duration6 days
Report online since25.11.2019

Day 1: Ferry to Vancouver Island; Capital Victoria
Ferry to Vancouver Island

Around noon we are at the ferry port Tsawassen for our crossing to Vancouver Iceland. We pay about 33 euros for the passage with a rental car plus two people, and we can join the queue. At 12.45 pm we finally get on the ferry and leave at 1.10pm.

It is a typical car ferry, as they are everywhere. Below two car decks, on the passenger decks there are only a few cabins, but more seats, on two decks you can walk around the outside. Inside two cafeterias and a souvenir shop.

Out of the harbor, it goes first over the open sea. After 45 minutes we reach some smaller islands, between which we slalom during the rest of the time. Here it gets interesting, every moment a different view. An announcement from the captain, on the left there are a few orcas to see. Immediately all passengers flow there. When the last arrive, they have already disappeared. After all, the powerful dorsal fins of the animals known as "killer whales" could be seen for a few seconds.
Empress Hotel
The first address in Victoria: The Empress Hotel

At 2.45 pm we dock in Swartz Bay. Only half an hour drive on the Saanich Peninsula, and we are in Victoria. We find a hotel relatively quickly and have a few more hours to see the city.

Victoria is by far the largest city on Vancouver Island. Of course it is the capital of the island. And - this may be surprising - it is even the capital of the province of British Columbia. Of course one would have expected this honor to be given to Vancouver, which is much more important internationally, but that's not the way it is.

It is sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. We first look at the harbor area with Wharf Street, the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Building. The so-called "Inner Harbor" is the first address of the city. Here, the tourists are bustling, and here is therefore the best hotel, just the Empress. You can drive with carriages and bicycle rickshaws through the area. But downtown is not that big that it would be necessary.

Day 2: Victoria, Chemainus, Little Qualicum Falls

At 7.30 am we leave the hotel for a short morning walk. There is not much going on yet. People go to work. A few cafés are open and offer breakfast.
China Town
The 'Gateway of Harmonic Attraction' to the Chinatown of Victoria

We walk past the nearby City Hall with the Centennial Square to the China Town. A typical Chinese gate with a typical Chinese name, the "gate of harmonic attraction", whatever that means. Maybe it's a translation error. The tiny and only a meter narrow Fan Tan Alley offers small shops with handicrafts, they seem a bit made for tourists. Other streets indicate their affiliation to China Town by Chinese characters and offer of Chinese articles.

Towards the harbor, Yates Street is interesting. Almost all buildings can be called historic, they date from the 19th century and have a story. This is clearly illustrated on small boards. Most buildings are beautifully renovated, some painted very colorful. Whether this is the original painting is not apparent.

After a typical breakfast of coffee and muffins, we take Government Street, the main shopping area. The end is the visit of the Thunderbird Park with its collection of totem poles. These should not be missed, if you have not already seen enough totem poles elsewhere.
Motive on a totem pole in Thunderbird Park

Shortly before noon, we leave the city on Highway 1 northbound. The weather is not so good, it is overcast, but dry at least. The traffic in Greater Victoria is still quite strong, the road expanded like a highway. We stop at two vantage points, there is a beautiful view over Saanich Inlet, the Saanich Peninsula and the offshore islands. Far in the mist, you even think you can see the high peaks of the Coast Mountains on the mainland.

We come to Duncan, the self-proclaimed city of totem poles. There is a fabrication facility of totems to visit, and the products are scattered all over the city. Unfortunately, in a little beautiful surroundings on the bypass and not in a park as in Victoria.

The next city to mention is Chemainus. Here, until 20 years ago, the people lived from the only employer, a sawmill. After their closure, the city was abandoned to decay, so they had to quickly come up with something new. A 30-meter-long mural was commissioned on which the history of the place was artistically designed. This painting was so powerful that more paintings were created and the place became a tourist destination. There are now more than 30 paintings, and on the pavement a path is marked, which leads past all.

One and a half hours we stay here, at 3.15pm we continue north on the Highway 1. Turn off at Parksville towards Pacific Rim National Park, our destination for tomorrow. We stop at Little Qualicum Falls, it's 4:45 pm. The tour to the Lower and Upper Falls takes 20 minutes. Deep down, the river has dug its bed into the rocks, and the Upper Falls are certainly 10-15m high.
On the campsite

In the immediate vicinity of the falls there is a campsite and we decide to stay here. Waterfalls and campground are located in Little Qualicum Provincial Park, under the British Columbia Government. To use the campsite you have to register and pay a fee, here it costs about 11 euros. There is self service. This means that you put this amount in a prepared envelope with the necessary information and throw it into a waiting box.

The pitches are widely distributed in the forest, each place has a fireplace and a table with benches. We are looking for a place near the toilet, now in September there is hardly anything going on, and we have almost free choice. The underground is quite hard, as intended for campers. With a little effort and a few bent pegs it finally works.

The fire making is quite laborious, the branches are too damp. The solution to the problem is brought by the pine cones lying everywhere and the newspaper we got on the way there. By reading it will probably be nothing more. After all, we actually manage to make the big block of wood burn. Not that it would all be done! No, it still takes forever to boil a small pot of water. Maybe we should think about a gas cooker.

The water should cook for 5 minutes on the recommendation of the park administration, because it contains bacteria that are killed by cooking. In addition, it should be mushroom cream soup, and the lukewarm tastes probably not so good. At 8.30 pm we finally have the soup on the table. It tastes fantastic, we worked for it long enough. No comparison with a soup that was cooked at home on the electric stove.

At 9.30 pm we crawl into the tent. Just in time, because it starts to rain.

DAy 3: Cathedral Grove, Port Alberni, Tofino

We sleep quite well while lapping the Qualicum River and raindrops on the tent roof. However, it does not rain all the time and not very hard. Anyway, in the morning everything is wet and damp. Tent dismantling, packing, breakfast in the car.
Cathedral Grove
Original rainforest in Cathedral Grove

At about 10am we leave the campsite and arrive at McMillan Provincial Park around 10.15am, better known as Cathedral Grove. A small forest with huge Douglas firs and old red cedars. An own ecosystem, in which also the fallen trees are involved. Because they are not removed, they remain lying, and soon grow on it and from it new plants, even new trees.

A storm hit some holes in 1997. This has done the mysterious mood that prevails here, but no demolition. That it is raining, you hardly notice under the canopy.

At 11am we drive on to reach Port Alberni, which is something of a center of the area and, as we say, the gateway to the Pacific Rim National Park. A small, tranquil place whose main meaning lies in the harbor. There we get a portion of fish and chips, where else would you do that?

At 1.30 pm we continue. The weather is now a bit friendlier, but it is still overcast. Photo stop at Sprout Lake, the mountains all around hang in the fog. Despite all wetness and humidity, the area seems to be very vulnerable to forest fire. Signs remind of past forest fires and reforestation, in some areas only stumps remain.

Now it's raining again. We come to Ucluelet on the edge of the Pacific Rim National Park, and the rain reaches its peak. It's enough for a small tour of the place, but since the windows are fogged, we do not have much of it. At the visitor information we get a brochure with all walks in the national park, and with it we leave this place.

Now it goes into the national park. First, we drive to the Wickaninnish Center, here is the seat of the administration of the National Park. And here you can buy tickets to the park. It works like this in the Pacific Rim National Park: Wherever you park your car in the park, there are vending machines for parking tickets. You buy them and put them under the windshield. This is constantly monitored, and with "wrong parking" it can be expensive.

The day ticket costs about 6 euros. If you intend to visit other national parks, you can also buy an annual ticket for 50 euros. This then applies to all national parks in British Columbia and Alberta, including the Rocky Mountains.
Long Beach
Driftwood on Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park

Impressive is the view from the center over the Long Beach. Heap-wise there are tree trunks, all washed ashore by the open Pacific. No island can stop the surf here, the next major land mass is Japan, a few thousand kilometers away.

The weather is still rainy, and much of the coast is under fog. One of the wettest parts of the earth is this area. And while we're here, we're also heading to the South Beach Trail, which leads to South Beach, a little further south. Right at the beginning a bear warning. The last bear was seen here 8 days ago.

Through dense forest, it is partly on wooden planks. Past a small stretch of beach on which as much driftwood can be found. Finally to the South Beach, which impressed by a few huge rocks. Again, the bear warning. However, and that's the reassuring thing, there are no Grizzlies on Vancouver Island, just black bears. They are not exactly small, but they can not be so dangerous. Let's hope that's true.

And back to the parking lot, at 6pm we start towards Tofino. Since the weather has not improved, we do not camp, but seek accommodation. After some back and forth we find a price still acceptable motel. As it turns out, this is the most expensive accommodation of the whole trip. We have shower and toilet, TV, hair dryer and coffee machine.

Continue with Vancouver Island Part 2


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