Vancouver to Nanaimo

The ride to Horse Shoe Bay was kind of grueling and sweaty. The weather was rather hot on Monday, and the 23 mile ride to the ferry seemed longer than 23 miles. The elevation gain was something around 2,500 feet! Part of the huge elevation gain was an unnecessary climb to follow the road signs to the ferry. Little did I know, that route was only for cars, and I could have skipped the whole detour and saved myself some sweat. Oh well, I don’t regret it now, my legs are stronger for it. But, boy, was I exhausted when I got to the ferry.

The ferry ride was uneventful, and I just rested and recuperated from the ride. I found the most fascinating thing about the ferry ride to be the textures of the water as the ferry pulled into Nanaimo.

Looking down at the water as the ferry pulled into harbor

I also got a few photos of an inspiring sunset from the decks of the ferry.

An inspiring sunset on the shimmering crystalline waters of Departure Bay

I pulled into Nanaimo around 7pm or so, and set out to figure out where I would be camping. I rode around the city and took a few photos, and before I knew it, the light was gone and I was going to find a place to pitch a tent after dark. I saw a group of young people gathered on my ride. I asked what was going on, one of the guys told me it was a rock concert and his band was playing. I asked him where a good place to crash for the night would be. He recommended a place called Piper’s Lagoon. He gave me directions and I tried to follow them. After riding on a highway (which was really not pleasant, I might add), I gave up and decided to find an interim location to spend the night. Luckily, I was riding down a steep hill when I saw a couple sitting still, watching a deer up the hill. I figured if a deer thought it was an alright place to hang out, so would I. I asked if they thought it would be a good place to pitch a tent, they said yes. So, I pushed my 100 pound bike (not very gracefully, I might add) up a gravel-laden hill and pitched my tent in a corner where there was a lot of tall grass.

My first night in Nanaimo was spent in this public field. In the morning, I talked with a woman who was afraid that I was some sort of junkie/thief before I introduced myself to her and her children as they were picking blackberries the next morning.

When I awoke in the morning, I realized it had been raining. Thankfully, I had the foresight to put up my rain fly the day before. It rained until about 10:30am, and I stayed in my tent the whole morning to write in my journal and relax. It was then that I heard some children picking blackberries, and heard their mother say “don’t go near the tent”. I realized they were talking about my tent. Funny (and understandable) how mothers assume the worst about people who are camping in cities. To them I was a potential threat. Luckily, she was rather friendly once I came out of my tent and introduced myself. After eating many delicious blackberries, I packed up my bike and headed out to see if I could find Piper’s Lagoon. Well, I did end up finding it. It was beautiful, but not a very good place to go bike camping. To get on the trail, you had to hike up above some boulders. Not ideal for my heavy bike. I was also somewhat disappointed that it was cloudy that day, because I didn’t get any spectacular photos of the lagoon. I told myself I would come back another day when the sunset would be free of clouds. I was feeling rather hot and sticky, like I really needed a shower from the hard climbs the day before. So, I decided to head back into downtown Nanaimo to stay at a hostel for the night. I ended up at the Cambie again (different city this time) because it seemed to be the only hostel around. It was, like in Vancouver, above a bar. Not nearly as noisy though, thankfully. I got a room for the night, and made sure to take advantage of the free wireless internet, power, and showers. I felt much better after that shower.

The next day, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, so I packed up my things and tried to contact a few people that were mentioned to my by a friend in Portland named August, who had lived in BC for several years. Without any luck, I decided to try something else. I rode down to the area where the ferries arrived, and saw a sign for “Newcastle Island”. I read on the internet that it was a rather nice destination, and a short ferry ride, not to mention not that pricey. It was $9 for a two-way trip to the island. It was a no-brainer, because the whole island was a nature preserve, there were no cars, and you could camp there.

My bike, loaded up on top of the Newcastle Island ferry.

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