Off To Canada (Again)

Holidays in Canada

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A very long drive

So we (Amanda) decided that we should drive straight to Whistler after my disastrous decision to stop at Nimpo Lake instead of driving straight to Williams Lake. Well it wasn’t exactly disastrous it was just a bit too quiet at Nimpo to spend  a sunday afternoon when everything except the shop was shut, even the phone box was shut to cash transactions. I won’t lie it wasn’t the easiest of days but man what a drive it was.

Amanda drove the first 5 and a bit hours, the countryside was spectacular we saw loads of cattle alongside the road which we found a bit strange until we happened upon a real cowboy with chaps and all at which Amanda was a little too excited. We also saw two coyotes, black-tail deer, eagles, wild horses,  loons and really cute dogs. Amanda didn’t slow down soon enough to scoop the one puppy into the car, I even had a name ready for him (Patch). We started listening to country music, it was that country, well Nashville series soundtrack anyway. The terrain then changed pretty quick and Amanda found herself driving on really steep mountain roads with runaway lanes dotted every 500 meters. This was to allow lorries with failed brakes to exit the road hopefully safely.

Nearly at the bottom


We hardly passed any other vehicles on this section of the drive, so when we hit Williams Lake it felt like driving in London  when in reality it was more like driving in a small town. That’s where the weather decided to change and provide us with natures car wash to clean our very dirty Jeep.

Car before the rain gave it a washThe rain was really heavy and the sky turned really black; we even had lightning it was pretty spectacular to watch, as a passenger, but I did feel a bit for Amanda (only a little bit though). Once the rain slowed to a spit we pulled over to have a car picnic, well we are british you know. I then took over the driving and I have to say I did a much better job as I’m so awesome at driving (tongue  planted firmly in cheek). Joking aside it was just as well we shared the driving that way around as the roads began to get very hairy, steep and mountainous. It actually felt in some points as high as The Hill but it did provide some truly awesome sights. We really felt quite insignificant, mother nature is a clever woman. Pictures to follow.

The final section before we arrived at Whistler was some of the most awe-inspiring scenery we have seen since arriving in Canada (this time) and we are so glad we (I) decided to drive this route.

We finally arrived at Whistler at 19:30 after leaving at 08:10, a long days drive by any normal person”s standards. I must confess that the Four Seasons was a very welcome bit of luxury after ‘slumming’ it since Ucluelet.  Amanda has decided she’s definitely not cut out for anything less than five-star accommodation, I agree. Amanda spent what seemed like an hour in the shower getting ready for dinner, I think she was scraping 5 days of slumming it out of her hair.



That long long long wet drive…….

Well we set off on our mammoth drive at 10:15 and the weather was a bit drizzly but nothing two hardy Welsh wonders couldn’t handle, right? It then went on to absolutely pissistently  chuck it down, so the drive became a bit of a chore rather than being able to enjoy the scenery. We had to really concentrate on the road so there’s not an awful lot to write about other than to say we made it in one piece to the pub where we’re staying tonight. It’s a really homely place that reminds me of the Jolly Sailor in Heybridge, there are a few more boats in Port Hardy though.

Ian’s on his second pint of Rickards Red so I’ve taken over the writing for one night only. I thought I ‘d update you on things Ian missed in previous updates. On the first day in Brentwood Bay I went for an early morning swim to stave off my jet lag. It was raining and that’s my second favourite time to swim outdoors, the first is in a heated pool while it’s snowing. I have to say the Brentwood Bay was as excellent as we remembered from our last stay. The service was exemplary. We read a stupid post on TripAdviser where someone was being a dick and moaned about the view and the service, he was sooooo wrong.  In particular jennifer and Leah who boxed up our uneaten pastries from breakfast so we could enjoy them later, and Nolan who explained everything we were ordering in the restaurant and made the meal really enjoyable.

You may not have heard but I’m having a few technology issues with my beloved iPhone5. The bloody thing will not connect to any wifi, I’m so annoyed as I (well Ian) took some really good photo’s with it on the plane and now I can’t sync and post them. Not a happy bunny!!

I have to commend my husband on bring the sat nav from home, it’s been brilliant, it even showed us driving on the ferry across to Mill Bay from Brentwood bay. It was really strange to see the car in the middle of the water and it saying ‘on ferry to Mill Bay’.


I was a bit disappointed with our room when we arrived but I soon came round when the teenagers stopped screaming and left the pool area at nine, as our room overlooked it.  I did have a surprise with my breakfast on the first morning, I ordered granola, fresh fruit  and yoghurt which sounded delightful. When it came, it looked and tasted lovely but then……… I found an undiscovered species of green tiny crawly caterpillar in my cherry. The waiting staff had never seen anything like it before, lucky me eh? We were well protected though as the sheriff was in having breakfast.  It did however get me the breakfast free but today I had porridge.  We filled on up on supplies in Ucluelet and I must say our food prices are so much cheaper. We spent £63 on coffee, water, sandwich stuff and tomatoes. We only ever spend around £50 when we just pop into Waitrose for a loaf of bread.

On our lovely beach walk Ian forgot to mention he fell over on the rocks despite being told to take care. There were loads of washed up kelp pieces on the beach, they looked like aliens (as in the baby chest bursting things from the film Alien) and Ian thought it was so funny to come up behind me with one trying to bite me until that is he saw how the tail end was moving and I was freaking out because it looked like a snake….. He quickly threw it away before I murdered him with my stick.

Ian negated to mention a species from his list, Olive, a lovely boxer dog from the whale watching tour office. She was so friendly and cute. The mosquito he did mention got into our room last night and had a feast off both of us, I can’t wait until we get to the wilderness where there will be loads of them. I hope the jungle spray works.

Ian’s now on his third pint so I’m signing off to catch up with him. xx


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Wildlife Day

When we woke this morning we noticed that someone had stolen the ocean while we were sleeping. Actually it turned out to be fog but this was bad news for whale watching. We were supposed to drive north to Tofino for a 9:30am whale watching trip and while I was wondering whether to call the company, they phoned me. The regular larger boat wasn’t available that morning so would we be willing to change our trip to the 2pm sailing instead? It turned out to be a stroke of luck as this afternoon was glorious but first we had some time to kill. We took a drive to check out the local area and visited a place called Terrace Beach, had a little walk around and took some photos. This was wildlife day wasn’t it, so we should start a list I suppose. Earlier we saw a bald eagle (1) but I didn’t get a decent photo as I’d just got out of the shower and only managed to nab a pic later with my phone. At Terrace Beach I saw a dead crab (2) … nobody said they all had to be alive did they? We also saw sea anemones (3) both sort of dried up and in a rock pool so they definitely count.

Later we visited the local supermarket and got provisions for the big drive tomorrow (you’ll find out more about that another time) and then popped back to the hotel to drop some stuff off and grab a little lunch then it was off to Tofino.

We had a spot of bother parking as the disabled spot by the boats was taken so Amanda had to walk down to the awaiting vessel and as we all know people rush when there are seats up for grabs and as we were a little slower than the others we ended up squashed in a tiny space while we sat through the obligatory safety talk. Thankfully it didn’t last too long and once underway every one spread out and we had space to move ourselves.

Little islands everywhere

We first saw a young humpback whale (4) who quite frankly was a disappointment as all he did was loiter and basically fart about. Obviously a teenager. The skipper moved on so we could see some harbour seals (5) and then as we stopped I saw some tiny jellyfish (6)… I told you, they all count. You’re lucky I’m not including sea gulls and other sea birds, we’d be here all night. The possibly the best bit of the day…sea otters (7). They were anchored to some kelp and had pups too. They were incredibly cute and it’s a good job Amanda has short arms or one would be coming home in our hand luggage.

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

After spending time with those cuties we headed out and saw some Stellar Sealions (8) and then a small porpoise (9) travelled along with us for a bit, before stopping at a bird sanctuary to see a Tufted Puffin (10) which was incredibly cute. While staring at birds (and not in a lewd manner) I also spotted a California Sealion (11). By this time I think they were a bit embarrassed about the sheer lack of whale action so we stormed off to see a couple of other humpbacks (actually it was the same one joined by a larger one) and then we struck out for home but on the way we took a slight detour and saw a Grey Whale (12) which was really what we wanted to see as it’s our 4th whale species (Minke, Sperm, Humpback and now Grey). Blue whales next perhaps?

Stellar Sealions

Then we really went home (well the skipper took us back to port and then I drove us back to the hotel).  Now after all that sea air we’re both exhausted and fit to drop.

By the way, Amanda just reminded me that we saw two deer on the way to Terrace Beach so that’s 13 but that’s obviously unlucky so we’re including a huge mosquito (14) that was trying to get in to the pub while we ate.

Tomorrow we drive all the way up to the northern tip of the Island, which will take us a bout 7 hours or so so I’m going to bed.

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I finally drove

We had a short ferry journey from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay which saved us about 20 mins or so driving  and was a lot more scenic, and then it was a four hour drive to our next Hotel in Ucluelet. I should point out that so far Amanda has done all the driving and was driving today also. If I’d been sensible I’d have packed beer or a hip flask as I was being passenger but I didn’t so finally after about 3 hours it was time for me  to take the wheel for the last 40 mins (it seemed a lot longer but Amanda made me put that in there).  In the previous 3 hours it was dull old wide highway driving and then  it got a little more interesting with mountains and lakes to look at. When we changed over and I drove FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, it turned into some strange slalom route which seemed as wide as a goat herders track not the main road to the west coast of the Island. Thankfully, due to me being a man and having amazing driving skills <cough>, I triumphed and got us to the destination in one piece.

The Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is actually right on the ocean so we won’t be suing for mis-advertising. Our room has a great view of the water but with a slight downside in that it’s directly over the pool and hot tubs, so all we hear with the door open is voices/screaming/splashing. What on earth are they doing enjoying themselves like this? I think it’s disgusting. I simply wouldn’t be doing it.

The resort is proud to be quite eco friendly and as such it has no air conditioning. Thankfully they have the Pacific Ocean which has it’s own, so all we do is open the door to the balcony and enjoy the sound of the waves and the smell of the sea (and of course those annoying people).

In the book they leave in  hotel rooms giving you helpful info about the tv channels and the opening times of the restaurants, there is also advice on what to do if we have an earthquake or indeed a tsunami. Yes, we’re sort of in that part of the world and so I’m keeping that section by my bed and will read it if the room starts to shake. Also helpful is ‘what to do if you come across a bear’ and ‘what to do if you come across a cougar’ and no, that’s not an older woman looking for a toy boy, we’re talking wild critter here. Actually I already know what I’d do in those situations and it mostly consists of crying and screaming like a small child told to turn off CBeebies and wait for my impending death. I might read it though in case it has some pearls of wisdom I hadn’t thought about. I’m sure that they did this to add the illusion of danger and excitement but in the restaurant and at reception they have posters telling everyone to watch out for a bear that seems to be hanging around the area. I’ll send Amanda out to investigate with a picnic basket and a jar of honey. Either Yogi Bear or Winnie the Pooh will come running.

We have to be up quite early tomorrow to go on our whale watching trip and I forgot to buy sea sickness tablets. This’ll be fun because as calm as the ocean is right now, as soon as we set off it’ll get bouncy, I just know it.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort View from our balcony of the Pacific

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Day 2 – aka get over jet lag day

Our full day at Brentwood Bay was always meant to be a rest day. A day to get over the rigours and stresses of the journey. It turned out to be exactly that. Woke up at stupid o’clock (as expected), had coffee, wrote the blog, watched the rain, had more coffee, watched the rain, went to breakfast, watched the rain, Amanda went for a swim, watched the rain, then went out to find a supermarket. We wanted a few bits and bobs to have in the car for the longer drives ahead. Stuff like bottles of water, granola bars things like that. We ended up spending a bit more as we got sidetracked in there but nothing too horrendous ( although we’re brining back 100 mini ziploc bags which we can’t get at home).

When we got back to the hotel I took a little time trying to get to know the car and most importantly how to get decent music on it. It has satellite radio which is pretty cool but I have no idea how to get particular stations or indeed what stations are available. The good thing is that I found out how to plug in our iPhones so they can not only charge as we drive but we can play our music through the (excellent) sound system. It even shows the album artwork on the colour screen. Not sure want to give this car back.

We took a slow walk after the rain had stopped just outside the hotel and along the bay. It’s really beautiful here, a really lovely place to live or work or just visit. If you get the chance to come, you really should.

The Brentwood Bay Spa and Hotel

The Brentwood Bay Spa and Hotel

We had a bit of lunch around 3 in the pub (with a few locally brewed lagers) and then went back to the room to slouch (jet lag induced slumpage). Watched a show on NBC introducing US viewers (the channel is based in Seattle, which is pretty close) to the English Premier League. Thankfully it was being done by Brits and was quite entertaining. It’s strange to see something so familiar being explained to people completely unfamiliar to it. The premise was to get viewers who were interested in ‘soccer’ to choose a team in the Premier League to support and then, importantly, to stick by that team through thick and thin. This leads me to think that Americans, and I could be wrong, could possibly change allegiances depending on how that team is doing in the league. This notion fills me with shock and horror. You choose your team, or it chooses you, and then that’s it. As someone on the show said, ‘you can change your wife but you can’t change your team’.

Later on we went out for dinner in the Seagrille Restaurant in the hotel which was very nice. We both had salon and tuna sashimi to start, then I had slow braised pork belly with scallops and Amanda had Halibut with lentils. I chose to have a local BC Pinot Noir with the food. Not the best Pinot I’ve tasted but probably not the worst either. I like to try the local brews whether it’s beer or wine. Sometimes you’re nicely surprised…sometimes not so nice.

The Brentwood Bay Spa & Hotel.

The Brentwood Bay Spa & Hotel.

Today, we drive to Ucluelet., which is about 4 – 5 hours away. Another ferry (a little one this time) and then over to the other side of the island, the proper Pacific Ocean.

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North then North again

I realised something the other day. I might have to do some major re-jigging if BC Ferries change the schedule, as the one we want to catch only goes once a week and at the moment it’s on a Thursday. When the new schedule comes out at the end of the year I’m hoping to find that this ferry still goes on a Thursday. Let’s pretend it will for now, ok? The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

So, on Wednesday morning, bright and early we’ll be leaving Ucluelet and making our way back to the east coast of the island taking the Pacific Rim Highway to Port Alberni (where it becomes the Alberni Highway) and then to Qualicum Beach. We might stop for a break here or push on, taking the Inland Island Highway north. Seeing a place called Fanny Bay along the route really makes me want to pause but I think my wife will insist on driving past. Either way we’ll have to stop for provisions and loo breaks as it’s over 6 hours to Port Hardy (I do hope she wants to share the driving).

Everything I read about Port Hardy told me to book in advance as the hotels/motels get booked up quickly when the ferry is due to leave so I booked us in The Quarterdeck Inn for the night. It’s quite near the ferry terminal but after that long on the road I think all I’ll want is a couple of drinks in the pub and my bed.

The ferry (going by this years schedule) leaves 10:15am and you have to be there a couple of hours before departure apparently, but I’ll check that nearer the time. It takes about 13 hours to get to Bella Coola and you travel through some amazing scenery, so I think I’ll be spending a lot of time on deck  with my camera in my hand.

We arrive in Bella Coola at around 11pm and so will have to find our hotel in the dark. That should be fun. We’re staying at the BC Mountain Lodge which I have to say looks great. We’re booked for three nights as we wanted time there to do a bit of exploring and most importantly of all, go Grizzly Bear watching.

The Lodge organises this and this is the highlight of the holiday for us (you might say actually it’s the whole reason I arranged this trip). You go upstream from the bears and then float past them in a boat and from the looks of things I’m hoping to get some amazing photographs (although perhaps not like the one above).

The day after our Grizzly experience we hit the road again and begin heading back to Vancouver…..slowly.