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Flashpacking

Vancouver Island

CANADA | Wednesday, 10 September 2008 | Views [482]

I seem to pick big countries to explore (with the exception of New Zealand). It took foive hours to get from Toronto to get to Vancouver, stunning views on the last couple of hours or so. Not exactly sure which part of the mountains we flew over but there was at least 45 minutes of flying over snow capped mountains. For some rason we flew quite low too which was good cause the weather was perfect and you got a great view.

It took less than a hour to get from the airport to Horseshoe Bay where we got the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, which took about 90 minutes. We stayed here one night before driving up to Port Mcneill the following day. Not much to say about Nanaimo its pretty much a port town.

We drove up to Port Mcneill on the coastal road thinking it would be more scenic than the Highway which I guess it was but there was nowhere that really stood out all the way to Campbell River. After a stop off at C.R for lunch the scenery got more like your stereotypical Canada, non stop lakes surrounded by non stop pine trees. It was like that all the way to our destination. The only annoying thing ws that there weren't too many places to stop to take photos and when there was there were invariably blocked by pine trees, but its a minor complaint and its nice to be surrounded by the suburban wilderness.

Port Mcneill is quite a small town so I'll skip straigh to the following day and the reason we were up that far north, the Mckay Families Whale Watching Tour. We set sail 9am on a warm September day....... The day before people had seen bears, so i spent the whole time on deck making sure I didn't miss anything. It was a fair while until we got to where the Orcas were, I had already seen humpbacks in Aus so I was looking forward to seeing different whales. We saw a large pod and followed them around for a while, they were resting and only really coming up for air and then going back under water. The guide knew where they were heading though and went to a point where one pod was meeting up with another, at this point he turned the sonar on and we listened to them communicate which was pretty cool and a first in real life for me.

We hung around for a while but nothing dramatic was happening, you never really know what you can expect to see but after the activities of the Humpbacks in Surfers Paradise my expectations have been raised. We entered a little cove for lunch, afterwards we headed stright back out and things stared to pick up. There was a huge Orca crusing on its side flapping its fin in the air which was good and some other smaller Killer Whales started to come out of the water a bit more and you could see their distinctive white markings. We were all hoping (or me at least) they would feed that's when they come out of the water to stun their prey like sea lions, not that I'm into killing but it would be a great photo op and its how they survive so its just nature doing what it does.

After an hour or so we headed off to find some humpbacks, I was less bothered as that was the only type of whale I'd see in Australia. That doesn't mean they arn't spectacular and I was rewarded with better tail shots than I managed in Oz. Again like the Orcas they weren't in a playfull mood but I was happy just to see them up close again. The day was rounded off by a colony of sea lions all jostling for space on the rocks.

The next day we had a leisurly drive back down to Campbell River for a bear watching tour. In theory I was hoping to see bears in the Rockies but you never know and since they are quite timid creatures I wanted to give myself the best chance of seeing them. So we headed out early, there were quite a few people 16 in total which is larger than average for this trip and we got put on a boat with a native to the Island Tommy. He was funny and warned people before they got onto his boat that he drives it like an F18 and would stop it at a moments notice if he saw debris in the water that could damage the prop. Anyway he was a character and had plenty of stories about landmarks and aboriginal tribes and culture.

It took a couple of hours to get to Bute inlet where we were split into two groups, there was a small coach and a mini bus waiting for us. Luckily we managed to have our group reduced to just 7 of us including Tommy then two guides. There are 4 watch towers and the finale is a place called "The Point" where two rivers meet and you can watch the bears from the bank but not the safety of a tower although one of the guides carried a shot gun which instilled confidence in me.

As there were 2 groups we actually did the tour in reverse and it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. We parked up at the point and imediately saw a male Grizzly working its way down to where the two rivers meet where we were also heading to observe. We followed the male to see a female and three cubs which I was told was quite a rare number for a ber litter. We must have been there well over an hour watching them and two other males come back and forth hence getting some photos I'm really pleased with.

I'm not sure if the sound of the vehicles spooked them but when we swapped over with the other group, all the bears that had been wandering around left and they didn't get to see too much. We raced through the watch towers as on the first two we didn't see anything but on the lat one again unlike the other group we got to see another mother and cub and a male heading in oposite directions. We were a bit further away so it wasn't as good as the first lot but I feel very lucky to have seen 19 bears that day. I missed that part when we docked there were some on the oposite side of the water that were feeding on muscles but left after they saw the boats. Again on the way back we got to see some seals and south pacific porpoises, but they just swam next to the boat so I didn't get and decent pics of them. The previous day Tommy saw a cougar swiming between two islands so we were hoping to see that at a place called the Gap, but it was wishfull thinking although the Bear guide had also seen one the previous week run accross the track, but that was his first and he had been working there for years so I would have been buying a lottery ticket as soon as we got onto dry land if I had seen one too.

The next day was the last full day on the Island and with limited time and the fact we needed to end up back in Nanaimo we went to Mount Washington a few k's down the road from Capmbell River. It had a nice boadwalk trail around some lakes, after walking for 3 hours I wanted to go up the ski lift to the summit. I had met a couple of locals on the bear tour and asked for ome good things to do in the time we had left and this was one of them. Being the end of summer the mountain was snowless but that doesn't top them making money, they turn it into a mountain bike resort.

So I went of a ski lift for the first time - never been interested in skiing therefore never been on a ski lift. Anyway about half way up I saw my first bear in the wild (the ones at Bute were wild but we were taken to them), at this point i was glad of being on the lift cause it wasn't too far away from civilisation. Once at the top I had great veiws of Campbell River and mountain ranges.

That was it for Vancouver Island...................

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