Friday, October 22, 2010

Tofino, BC

Days 58-60
I left Vancouver in time to catch the Ferry from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island before noon.  Once I got off the ferry and refueled, I headed to a place I had never heard of until Chester and Randi told me I could not pass it up.  Tofino is a small town about three hours in the middle of the island on the west coast.  The drive to Tofino is beautiful, it is one of thirty or so Rand McNally "best of the road" type routes to the beach (Incidentally, I had driven along many of these roads without having planned it).  You drive for miles through the National Pacific Rim Reserve, which is a Cedar rainforest that dominates both sides of the ten mile spit of land that pokes out from Vancouver Island.  Unbeknownst to me, Tofino is Canada's surfing capital so I was determined to try to surf.  The east side of the spit holds a large bay that is a world class salmon and steelhead fishery.  Basically, Tofino is a surfing and fishing mecca and its culture is equally wild and unique. 

I camped the first night in a spot that was recommended to me in secret, but rest assured it was ideal.  The next morning I scurried to one of the surf shops and tried to sign up for a lesson.  If I wanted the cheapest group rental rate I was told I had to wait until tomorrow because I was the only person wanting one, but the manager pulled some strings for me and called a buddy who ended up giving me a private lesson at a group rental rate!  I met up with Jeffro and immediately bonded over our shared affection for 4Runners, his being more beach worthy.  
I missed an O'Neil surfing competition by a day.  Winner took home $125K and the waves were consistently over 8' !!
Anyway, we drove to what looked like was the side of a road in the middle of forested suburbia.  We put our wet suits on since the water temperature runs 58 degrees or colder.  Through a narrow pathway through the woods we came to Chesterman Beach, which is the perfect spot to learn: no reefs, no rocks, just sand.  The waves were on average two to four feet, some that rolled in were over six.  Jeffro was a great instructor because most of the lesson hinged on advice like, "feel the ocean" or "its you and the board," and I found a way to pop up a couple times.  I learned what an Ice Cream headache means, how to read the water in terms of where the waves crash, and to respect the rip currents.  I certainly have a long long way to go, but it was outrageously fun to wipe out, get up, try again, and simply being in the water.  In the distance, Jeffro saw two 1,000+ pound sea lions that scared him so we went back to shore and chilled for a bit.  The instruction did not last much longer but I was introduced to surfing and I will have to make time for it because it was SICK!  
Jeffro suggested I hit up a local taco shop called Tacofino, and I gobbled down fish and beef tacos.  I then took time to get to know the Island and found the fly shop.  I met a Frenchman named Flo, who talked up the Steelhead fishing a whole lot.  For $600 he said we would have the chance to find twenty pounders, but there was no way I could afford it.  Since the Cohos had come in a few weeks prior, I repressed my need to fish since licenses are not cheap for foreigners.  After digesting for a bit, I decided to surf again since I had rented my equipment for the day.  This time, the tide was up so the waves were more consistent and averaging five feet or larger.  I got up a couple times, but my wrist began to bother me a lot so I worked on my balance.  It was great to be out there because I felt that I had a general idea of how to surf.
I had forgotten where Jeffro had told me where the public showers were so I asked a girl who was walking her dog if she knew and she said, "Why don't you just come down to my house, I have an outdoor shower?"  So I did, and she had the perfect set up: an outdoor shower with curtains, hot water, and place to hang her wetsuit to dry.  We talked for a bit and she suggested some places to see on the island and on the drive down to Victoria!  Aren't Canucks nice?  
I found a parking lot where I could camp overnight and was very exhausted from working out new muscles. 

The next day I returned my board and wet suit and checked out a view point of Tofino.  The views were not incredible, but I found a trail that was unreal.  Down about 100 feet from the mouth of the trail was a sign that read, "This is not a government authorized trail. Use not recommended."  To me, that meant keep going.  Downhill for an hour through the dense rainforest, repelling over roots with ropes, through creeks, and mud pits, the trail opened at a sand dune that led into a rocky beach that was completely isolated.  I had found paradise by accident.  Now totally enamored by Tofino, I knew it was okay to leave.   

Along the hike

Carona commercial material.

I then headed to Victoria to catch a ferry back to the US.  After driving nearly fifteen minutes, I saw a black bear and her cub a few feet from the street!  Later, my cigarette lighter broke so I lost power to my phone, ipod, computer, and GPS.  I tried two hostels downtown and again, I didn't realize it was Saturday, so they were booked and I ended up camping in a sailboat parking lot near the water.  I bought a few beers and strolled through downtown Victoria getting some great night time photos. 
By the water in Victoria

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