After leaving the Hermitage and hitting the road again, I rode my bike to the ferry and arrived just as it was pulling into bay. As I stepped onboard, a woman of about 40 years with her own touring bike asked me where I was headed.
“Tofino”, I told her.
“Oh, nice. Tofino is beautiful.” So everyone says.
“What about you, where are you headed?” I asked.
“Back to Vancouver. I’ve been staying at a lodge on Hornby for the last week.”
“Great. Yeah, I did that as well, stayed at Hornby for a week before I came to the hermitage here on Denman.”
As the ferry pulled back to the mainland, I asked her which route she was taking. There weren’t many options. Highway 19A was the route along the coast that we would both be taking. I told her about how I got to Hornby, and how I met a cyclist around my age on the way, and how we rode together for a while before we reached the ferry.
“Do you want to ride with me?” I asked. I always enjoyed the company on long rides.
“Sure! I just have to use the washroom then I’ll be right with you.”
After riding back onto mainland off the ferry, I filled up my water bottle and waited for Sarah, my new cycling partner for the day. After a few minutes, she came walking up the hill with her bike and we began riding.
“Just a forewarning, I’m not very fast, so feel free to go ahead of me,” she said.
“Somehow I doubt you’ll be going much slower than I am with all of this luggage. My bags weigh about 70 pounds,” I told her.
“Wow. That’s quite the load,” she responded.
“I know. I have some heavy equipment like this SLR camera and my laptop.”
It was true, the load was pretty heavy. That just meant that my legs would be stronger than ever after this trip was over, so I was alright with it. So we began pedaling south. The weather had cleared, it was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, just a bit cloudy and no rain. I was excited that I wouldn’t have to ride in the rain for the day. As we continued riding, we talked about life and inspiration and what we were both up to. I told her about the retreat I had just come from. She herself had been to a few retreats and we exchanged stories about them. She was reading a book that had inspired her to live a more fulfilling life doing things she loved. She really didn’t like driving in cars all that much, and had recently purchased an awesome touring bike. I told her how I would like some of the features she had on her bike, like disc brakes for quick stopping in rain, and a thick frame tube so the bike wouldn’t wobble like mine did. As we rolled up and down hills, we tried not to push each other off into the gravelly shoulder, and we stopped halfway there so she could use some of my chain lube. She gave me an energy bar and offered to give me as much water as I needed. She was a really kind person, and I was glad to share the ride. A few hours later, we reached the road where I would turn off to head to Uclulet. She thanked me for the company, and I wished her well on the rest of her ride. Another 45 minutes, and I was in Coombs.
I found the army surplus store and began my hours-long wait for Nayte and company to show up. I was really hoping he didn’t forget about me, because I was so excited to do this DJ gig at this outdoor party. I checked out the store and found a really cool fork/knife/spoon combo and decided to get it (my wooden spoon was getting kind of gross when I didn’t have extra water to wash it) A few hours later, Nayte showed up with his buddies in a huge Dodge Ram 2500 truck. There was more than enough space to throw my bike up there. We picked a few blackberries and headed out. On the way to Uclulet, we passed through the most beautiful rolling tree-blanketed hills and winding emerald green rivers. The hills here were so impressive. The fog was passing through these enormous rolling hills, creating such beautiful scenery. I kind of wished I was on my bike so I could stop to take photos. But I was still thankful for the ride.
We drove to Nayte’s dad’s place in Uclulet to run an errand. There was some sort of family gathering going on. They had fired up the deep fryers and were making fried fish sandwiches. Nayte’s dad insisted I must have one, even though we had already stopped at a pub for some food. I couldn’t resist, it smelled so good. I bit into the crunchy fresh fish and loved it. Afterwards, Nayte gave me a few CD-R’s for me to put together my set for the party. I burned all my music onto a few discs and crashed on a bed in this empty room while he ran errands for an hour or so. I was so exhausted, I needed that little nap. And then at around 10PM, we drove off into the dark woods to set up camp at the party. We arrived after 45 minutes of driving on pothole-laden gravel roads, and I found my way through a soaking wet rainforest along a slippery boardwalk to a nice place to pitch my tent. It was uneven, but soft due to the years of tree litter all piled up. I went down to the beach of this huge lake, where the party was happening. Ambling through the forest, I heard blips and wah-wahs and pounding bass filtered through the old growth trees. Onto the beach I stumbled, and was greeted by crowds of young people gathered around a big fire and underneath a huge tarp set up in front of the DJ booth. I walked down to the lake, and the wind was whipping, the rain was falling, and the surf was like an ocean. I hoped to myself that it wouldn’t rain the whole time, but at the same time, I soaked in the beauty of the rainforest and was glad for the moisture. Still exhausted, I didn’t stay up too much longer. Back to my tent I went and fell asleep.
The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of the music still playing. I was eager to check out the lake in the morning sunlight. What I saw was a gorgeous morning sunrise, a placid lake and fog rolling through the old growth forests along the water’s edge.
I got some great photos and continued to tour the forest. It was nice to finally see the beauty of the place. What a perfect spot for a party. I wandered around the beach, weaving in between sandy shores and the dance floor by the forest’s edge. Some of the music was good, most of it was ok, and some of it was just terrible. It was almost all electronic music though. There was just a lot of bad dubstep. Luckily, there was a lot of woods to explore, so most of the time I wasn’t even at the dance area.
Nayte introduced me to a friend of his from high school, her name was Tsimka. She was a beautiful girl from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations people. Her hair was almost down to her shoulders, jet black, she had deep brown eyes, a few freckles on her cheeks, and an unmistakable smile. Tsimka was born and raised in Tofino, which I took note of, because that was my next destination. I asked her if she could show me around to some of her favorite “locals only” spots in Tofino, to which she agreed. I’ve made it a habit to network with locals because they take me beyond what most tourists will see.
Later that evening, I was wandering back to my camp site when I noticed that the guy who camped next to me had all his cooking gear out. Paul was his name. I asked if he was going to be using it that night, and if he wanted to collaborate on a meal. Tsimka was there too. We all decided to pitch in for dinner, which I thought was a brilliant idea because all I had was beans, lentils, and quinoa. Paul had a ton of home-grown lettuces and tomatoes, broccoli, and zucchinis. Tsimka had raviolis and pesto sauce. So, around nightfall, we met up at Paul’s tent, laid out all our ingredients on the boardwalk, and set up some stumps to sit on. We all pulled out our stoves and got to chopping and cooking. Paul lit some candles; we were having a gourmet dinner in the woods.
“I’m all about collaboration,” I told Paul after suggesting cooking together.
“I like to do things myself,” he replied.
“Well, you can’t do everything yourself. Some things you just need other people for.”
He must have realized I was right, because he told me to come visit him at his little farm on in Lund; he needed the help with all the work that was to be done. He would give me three meals a day in exchange for some help. I told him I just might take him up on the offer. He also said he could give me a ride to Cortes island on his boat. That would be pretty sweet!
That night, I decided to stay up a little later than I had usually been staying up, so I could see if there was any good music going on. It began to rain pretty hard, and the wind was whipping. The shore of the lake almost seemed like the ocean because waves were pounding in. There was a good sized crowd underneath the tarp in front of the DJ booth. Everybody seemed to be having a pretty good time. I danced for an hour or so, then decided I had gotten my fill of the party vibe, and headed back to my tent.
The next day, I slept in because it had been raining all night and didn’t stop until 10:30 AM or so. I was glad to get the extra sleep. A few hours later, Nayte told me I should get ready to DJ because I was up next. Finally, my chance to shine! I got my laptop, some CD’s, and headed to the DJ booth. I opened up with Cave Dweller, which is one of my most unique songs. The people who were already at the dancefloor seemed pleasantly surprised. One of the girls came up and asked who I was. Modcam, I told her. I also mentioned that it was all original tunes I was going to be playing, unlike everybody else. I was feeling quite pleased with the reactions I got. After that song, I started with my dancier tracks, and soon there was a small crowd dancing and smiling at me. This is what I missed about DJ’ing. I just love that feeling. Midway through my set, this guy named Aaron comes up with a necklace that he made with his girlfriend. It had some sort of crazy seed pod that looked like a falcon head on it. I was really happy to receive it.
After my set, I heard cheers erupt from off in the distance. People who weren’t on the dance floor were still listening to everything. Later, several people told me how they loved my set. All in all, it was a great way to spend the afternoon. I was thankful that Nayte contacted me to come play this party, because I never would have seen this beautiful lake (I wouldn’t have gone in that far past that long gravel road with my skinny road bike tires)
Later, as I was packing up my tent, one of the women who was dancing during my set saw my bike and told me that several years back, she rode her bike from Vancouver to Tofino, back before it was all touristy. We started talking, and she helped me with a few things while I was packing up. She asked if I had been inside the huge old growth tree along the board walk. I hadn’t, so we walked over there and stepped inside. This thing was massive. I hadn’t seen trees like this since my trip to Northern California. It could easily be as old as Jesus.
She told me that any time I was going through Courtenay, I should give her a call and she would have a place for me to stay. I thanked her, and then left the party with Nayte to get a ride closer to Tofino. He and his friends were headed back to Uclulet, so they dropped me off on the road closest to Tofino. It was another two hours of riding, which I was happy to undertake, because I hadn’t gotten a whole lot of exercise the past few days. I unloaded my bike off the truck, said my goodbyes, and was on the road again.
On the way, I was feeling a bit weak, so I filled up on some peanut butter sandwiches, then started riding again. It wasn’t too long before nightfall, so I sped up. Luckily the rain had stopped for the day, and I was able to ride all the way to Tofino without getting wet. My gear was still pretty wet, but I was thinking about going to a hostel for the night to dry stuff off, take a shower, and catch up on e-mails and writing. Back at the hermitage, Shannon had told me to check out Whalers hostel, so I headed in that direction once I entered Tofino. As I pulled into the hostel, there was a gorgeous sunset on the placid ocean. All these little tree-covered islands made Tofino really amazingly beautiful. I got some great photos.
That night, I slept in a real bed for the first time in a while. It smelled like Febreze or some sort of smelly chemical perfume. I realized then how much I prefer the smell of dirt and trees over fake industrially produced smells.
I awoke at 7AM and made a big pot of my favorite breakfast, peanut butter oatmeal. Sipping a hot cup of tea, I sat by the large windows that overlooked the bay. My favorite part about Whalers hostel was the lodge-style dining and socializing area with a lot of natural light streaming through all the windows.
As I pondered what to do for the day, I checked over my list of things to do given to me by Shannon from Vancouver. I decided that I would check out Tonquin beach first. The thought crossed my mind that it would be great to do some kayaking, since there are so many little islands to explore in the sound. After biking down to the beach and back, I inquired about how much it would cost to go. It was going to be $70 for about 5 hours of kayaking. The trip would stop at Meares island, which had a lot of old-growth Sitka Spruce and Coastal Red Cedar trees. This sounded right up my alley, and I thought to myself, “if I don’t do some kayaking here, I might regret it later.” So, I decided to go ahead and sign up for the 2:30 trip. Whenever I start worrying about budgeting, I just think… Would I rather spend money on things or experiences? And, to that, I always think, experiences are the best way to spend money! Though, it would be even nicer if I had a friend who would take me kayaking for free!
Around 2:30, I showed up at the office of Tofino Sea Kayaking, prepared for a mini-adventure. They gave us a brief instructional talk, and we went over the basics. I was eager to just jump in.
When we put on the life jackets and spray skirts, we got in and learned the controls. Inside the kayak were two foot pedals for controlling the rudder in the back. I’ve only been canoeing before, so this seemed really fancy. I finally slid my kayak into the glassy water and got in. I was loving every minute of it. It made me wonder how much it would cost to get into kayaking, I could do this every day. The group of us began paddling out to Meares island on this remarkably sunny day (which is a rarity for this time of year in Tofino).
After I took a few photos, the battery on the camera died. I had gotten used to not having to charge the battery because it lasted so long. I had gone almost two weeks without charging it. I was kind of bummed because I would miss out on some really sweet sunset photos on the way back into the bay. Oh well, such is life. At least I got one decent photo from on the water.
During the Kayaking tour, I chatted with a German girl named Catherine. She was taking a month off of her job as a pharmacist. I told her I was a web designer, hoping to work and travel at the same time. After we pulled back into the bay, I asked where she was staying. She was camping at Long Beach, which was pretty empty due to a recent cougar attack. She wasn’t afraid, though.
Catherine needed to check her e-mail, so I brought her back to the hostel for the wi-fi connection. We were both hungry, so I asked if she wanted to go get a burger at the Weigh West, which was one of the things on my checklist of things to do. It was burger monday. For $6 you could get a plain burger and fries. That was pretty damn cheap considering the cost of corn puffs at the grocery store was $13! We happily munched our dinner while looking out the windows to the bay. I tried a local Tofino beer, it was pretty good. She didn’t like it that much, she liked lagers better.
It was kind of a fun challenge talking with her. Her English was sometimes a little broken, and it was like playing charades when she couldn’t remember the right words. She would tell me the German word she was trying to say in English, which I of course had no idea what it meant, and she would try to draw it in the air or describe it. I thought it was cute. I thought at that moment that I was being so much more forgiving for lack of English skills than the French would be for my lacking French skills. It’s too bad not everybody is very forgiving when communicating across a language barrier.
After dinner, we walked back to her car and said goodbye. I was happy to have had someone to socialize with for the night. I told her if the cougar came around, she should consider spending a night or two at Whalers hostel. I walked back the rest of the way under the cool, crisp air and shining stars, and headed back to bed for a good night’s rest.
After a few blissfully sunny days here on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the real, rainy Tofino has finally reared its wet head. It is, after all, the end of tourist season. I consider myself lucky to have seen the of the gorgeous weather of the year in one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on the island. Now, the gray skies are keeping most people indoors, as buckets of rain are dumped on the city.
On Tuesday, I got an e-mail from Tsimka, who I met at the Lake Party. She was available in the afternoon to go bike riding with me. I was curious and excited for what she had in store. I had a few hours to explore Tofino some more before then, so I hopped on my bike (sans luggage) and rode around. After a half hour of aimless cycling, a car pulls up alongside me. Guess who it was? Catherine, from the kayak tour and dinner the previous day. We never planned to meet up again, but here she was again. I signaled for her to pull into the nearest parking lot so we could chat and not hold up traffic. So she did, and I gave her a big hug and told her I was glad she didn’t get eaten by that cougar that recently attacked someone near her camp site. We laughed. She had gone whale watching earlier and saw breeching orcas. I was the tiniest bit envious, I wanted to photograph some whales. But I didn’t really want to pay however much it cost to go on that tour. I told her we should go check out Tonquin beach. So I biked as fast as I could to lead her car down to the beach. We walked down the boardwalk and talked about how beautiful BC was. On the beach, we took our shoes off and splashed in the ocean. We walked barefoot on barnacle-carpeted boulders and admired the multi-colored starfish and neon-green sea anemones. She asked if I could do a handstand, and we both did various gymnastic feats on the sand. Soon, I realized it was almost 1:30, and I told her I had to get going to meet up with another friend. I had the idea to ask for her contact information, but I decided to accept the transitory nature of friendships on the road, and didn’t even bother. If I tried to keep in touch with everybody I met on the road, I would constantly be e-mailing people that I would probably never see again.e
So, off I rode back to the hostel to meet Tsimka. With impeccable timing, we both arrived at our meetup spot at exactly 1:30. She came down the hill with a red mountain bike. It looked like it could handle any trail on the whole island. I told her we probably wouldn’t want to do any crazy off-roading because my bike wasn’t made for that. I realized as I was looking over my bike that the chain had accumulated a bit of rust from leaving it in the rain for three days at the Lake Party. I rubbed it down with some chain lube, filled my tires, and she told me we were going to go pick chanterelles. I thought this was a great idea, because it was a pastime of mine, and I had a family recipe for delicious mushroom gravy to use for dinner. Off we went riding. On the way there, we stopped at her mom’s house by the beach, and they invited me in for a hot cup of tea. The weather was getting colder, so a hot cup of tea sounded like the perfect recharge as the wind was picking up and the clouds were taking over the sky. The house overlooked a bay with a small tree-covered island. Tsimka’s mom lived alone, but she used the house as a B & B for travelers. I could see why, it was a really nice place. After lounging on plush leather couches sipping hot honey-mint tea, I said we should probably get going if we were to have much light left in the forest. Tsimka’s mom told us we should take this big stick with us to scare off the cougar. Tsimka laughed and told her mom not to worry — she had a pocket knife with her.
After about an hour of biking, we found the spot. We hopped off the bikes and left them in the bushes off the side of the road. Ambling down the path through thick foliage, it grew darker. Before too long, we were in the middle of a chanterelle jackpot. There were tons of them, which we quickly collected, exclaiming how perfect they were. I told her it was great that we were getting them before the heavy rains came, otherwise they might go to waste. I asked if she wanted to cook them for dinner with me, and she said sure. She was feeling anemic, and said she really wanted to eat them with a grilled steak. That sounded good to me. I don’t eat steak too often, but I do enjoy it from time to time. After we collected all that we could find, we headed back. One of the First Nations reserves was coming up on our left, and Tsimka told me she wanted to give some of the mushrooms to one of her friends. As we pulled into the street, I noticed many empty lots. Seemed like they were going to be building houses, but the funding wasn’t there, so there was just a lot of treeless lots waiting to be built upon. We got to her friend’s house, and we all chatted for a bit. I was feeling privileged to spend time with people who lived in Tofino rather than people who were just passing through like myself.
On the way back to the hostel, I stopped at the grocery store and got the steak, potatoes, broccoli, and corn. Tsimka brought the soy sauce, flour, and salad fixings. Back at the hostel, we met up again, and began to cook in the hectic kitchen. There were at least 6 people trying to prepare dinners all at once in the kitchen. I was weaving in between people, dodging hot pans and dull knives as people were rushing all around the kitchen. I laughed to myself about how certain people I know would be freaking out if they had to cook in such a busy, crowded kitchen. I utilized my zen focus to prepare mashed potatoes and chanterelle gravy amongst the chaos. Finally, everything was finished cooking, and we ate out on the patio with the cool night gracing our skins. After dinner, Tsimka found some playing cards and taught me how to play speed. We had fun slapping cards down as quickly as possible and laughing when the other person made a mistake. After three games, suddenly all the lights in the city shut off. The power had gone out, and everybody pulled out their phones for light. I asked if anybody had a candle, to which everybody responded, “no”. I joked, saying out loud, “quick, everybody get out your candle app!” The pitch black left us with not much to do in the dark, so Tsimka decided to head home. I was glad to have had a full day of company. We hugged goodbye.
The next day, the rain continued to pour all day long. It was because of the rain that I decided I was ready to move on. I also had been talking with Shannon about spending some time together. She wanted to try out bicycle touring, and we talked about renting a cabin with a wood stove on one of the southern gulf islands. I was looking forward to seeing her sweet smile again, so I booked a bus for Vancouver the next day. Due to the lack of disc brakes, the heavy rain, and the treacherous road, I decided that a bus would probably be the best way to get back east. Who knows what’s in store for me next?