Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A trip to Vancouver Island

So last time I just got back from skydiving in Vernon, and made my way back to the apple orchard to work for a little bit.
I stayed at the apple orchard for three weeks instead of just one or two, because I wasn't satisfied with my saved up money yet but now I made around 900 dollars, which I intend to keep me going for as long as possible in the U.S. If I don't spend too much it should last me for around 2,5 months, which means I have to camp out as much as possible!
But before going down south I decided I wanted to reach the west coast of Canada, and that meant going to Vancouver Island.

I have heard a lot of stories about Tofino, a town on the Island. Tons of people told me about how beautiful it was there, and because it is right on the western coast I made that my goal.
I got lucky when leaving, because the boss's sister in law was going to drive there on the day of my departure (Thanksgiving Day).
And so I made it all the way to Vancouver that day, arriving at the end of the day, where I got dropped off in Coquitlam from which I took a bus to downtown Vancouver.
By then it was dark, and I was looking up at skyscrapers (by my standards anyway) and having no clue as to where I was exactly, or where to go now. I asked the bus driver about hostels in town and he pointed me to a possible location, and so I set to walking hoping for the best.

Downtown Vancouver, just after arriving.

Also, I took a shave at the orchard! 

The first thing that struck me as I walked about was the amount of homeless people on the street.
Every few streets I would run into a person sitting on the sidewalk with a cap or a small cup out, most of the time holding a small sign asking for help. Some were sleeping tucked away in corners.
This is something I am not used to, as you might see a homeless person downtown Amsterdam but they are very few and far between as far as I have ever seen, and in other cities I can't recall ever having seen a homeless person. It felt strange, like walking in a movie, suddenly made real.
I found a building that looked like some form of hostel and so I walked in, but it turned out to be something else. It wasn't a mission building as far as I know, but it looked pretty run down.
The people at the desk gave me a description on how to get to a hostel (after pointing me toward a mission first, assuming I was homeless) from their location, but I ended up not finding it. I walked too far after taking a wrong turn somewhere, as the description I had received was rather vague on this point.
I ended up asking a passing woman, and as we were talking another young man walked by who turned out to be a backpacker, and he pointed me the way to his own hostel in the opposite direction I was going. At this point I had been searching for quite a while and I was getting tired of this goose chase.
Luckily though, I found the place! And even better, they had free breakfast from 8 till 9:15 every morning. I ended up staying there for two nights, as the next day I explored the downtown area and got some stuff taken care off. (sending home some Warhammer 40k books (The Horus Heresy series, which I started in Kelowna) and cashing my cheque!)

During my stay I talked to a roommate who turned out to be from Japan called Ryo, who was very interested in traveling and asked me to show pictures of the places I've been, after which he showed me pictures of his adventures in Japan, and he had been to Amsterdam as well.
Then he baffled me by showing me pictures of him mountainbiking up Mount Fuji. And there I was thinking the hills of Belgium were hell haha.... I can't even imagine trying to bike up Mount Fuji!
Quite the achievement!

After my second night I took a bus to the ferry terminal (after a gentleman generously offered to take me along, as I was getting on the wrong bus. So I tagged along with him!).
Unfortunately the weather had turned bad, going from sunny to cloudy, with promises of a week's worth of rain.
I got to the island at around 17:00, but I didnt make it to the actual town of Nanaimo before the day was over. I tried getting a ride but there were almost zero cars on the road, and it was hopeless that way. So I kept walking down the road and eventually found a way off into the woods to my right, which then dropped down into a deep gulch. But I managed to find just enough flat ground to put up my tent, although a bit awkwardly.
Unfortunately I found out that my tent was ripped at the rear end, and it was a rather large tear too. If I got stuck out in the rain I was going to be screwed.

I slept in the next morning, getting up at 11:30.
That day I set my sights on Tofino.

The first ride I caught on the road to Nanaimo after walking for about a kilometer.
Joe was around his fifties and headed to Nanaimo, but not having much to do that day he decided to take me around the town and drop me off at a gas station a few kilometers further down the road.
From there I caught a ride from Jeff, who took me along for quite a bit and dropped me off at a cross section where two highways joined and headed toward Port Alberni.
As I got out of the car I noticed a car pulling over at the other side of the road, dropping off another hitchhiker who signalled me to come over. Apparently he wanted to talk.
So I crossed the road and dodged a few cars, and shook hands with Clement from France who was hitchhiking around much in the same way as I was. He had just come from Tofino that morning, and wanted to get to another town that I can't recall the name of, but it was still quite a bit away and so after a short conversation he moved off to a better hitching spot, and I resumed my position by the side of the road as well.
Next ride was given to me by Darren, a young guy in his late twenties, who drove me to Port Alberni and dropped me off at the far side, where I got a ride from Jan and Jason, father and son, who would go all the way to Tofino. We made a few stops along the way, the best of which was an excellent beach flanked by woods. We got out and as they watched I walked to the ocean and stepped into the surf up to my ankles, touching the far coast of Canada at last!
After that we finished the drive to Tofino, where I was dropped off outside another hostel of Hostelling International.

There I stayed for two nights as well, wanting to dry and repair my tent. Unfortunately they did not have any room other than outside to dry my tent, and it was raining all day. There was a little roof to hide it under but it had holes in it, and so when I still tried to fix my tent regardless of the weather, the glue didnt stick and dry up due to all the moisture in the air.
After a second night I decided to go back, because the weather wasn't getting any better. Regardless of the weather Tofino was quite pretty, but I would have preferred to have visited while the sun was still shining. I would have gone on a hike for sure. Now though I decided to head back and to try to get to Vancouver that same day, where I would find a better way to fix my tent.

Tofino bay, as viewed from inside the hostel.

Here you can see some small islands out in the bay. Those would be great to explore on a sunny day! Too bad I didn't get to do it this time around. Maybe in Spring?

After having walked through Tofino and stood in a drizzle in the outskirts for a while I got a ride.
My first ride of the new day was given to me by Lewis, a young guy of my own age. He drove me around half an hour down the road to a junction of a road heading toward Port Alberni.

Said junction, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Soon after I got out a car pulled over and as I opened the door I heard a casette playing, but it didn't have music on it. It sounded like a reading of the bible to me, but it got turned off before I was sure.
I put my pack in the back and shook hands with Harmen, who turned out to be from South Africa originally. He spoke with quite the Afrikaner accent, but he was quite interested in me and where I was from. Eventually the conversation turned to what I had thought it would: religion.
He was quite the religious Christian and was trying to convince me of the realness of the bible.
I was not raised to be religious though and no matter what anybody says to me, I will probably always be skeptical. To me there are simply too many different religions out there for me to consider just one as the whole truth.
At any rate, he wasn't very pushy and I managed to steer the conversation in a different direction.
He dropped me off at some kind of gas station/food store in between towns, from where I got a new ride after another short wait.

Jim took me to the next town which I can't recall the name of. He was a quiet guy and he didnt take me all that far so I didnt get a chance to talk with him too much.
He did drop me off in a much better position though, another gas station but it was way bigger with much more traffic.

From there I got a ride from Nicky, an older woman somewhere in her sixties I think.
She took me all the way to Port Alberni, and after hearing my tent got ripped she advised me to buy some Speedsew, a special type of glue for tents and stuff, and so she drove me to a Wal-mart where I bought some. After that she dropped me off outside of town at another junction of roads, going towards Nanaimo.

I just love the clouds hanging low over the mountains.

From there I got a ride from Frank, who took me to the on-ramp of a highway going to Nanaimo itself. I sat in his car for quite a bit, and we talked about all kinds of things. He was a very nice guy, and I really enjoyed the conversation. He drove me through a place called Coombs, apparently famous for having grass on their roofs, on wich goats live. I wouldnt have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself, but it's true haha. 
Frank thought I would have a ride real quick on the new highway, but when I walked onto it I saw a sign that said 'No hitchhiking! Pick-up is illegal!' 
Not easily dissuaded easily I decided to walk back down the on-ramp and to hitchhike from there, and claim ignorance should a cop pull over. Thankfully I got a ride before that happened though.
Mike was my last ride of the day, and he drove me to Nanaimo, from where I caught a bus to the ferry.

The place where the ferry arrives.

When I got back to Vancouver it had begun to rain, and the busdrive from the ferry back downtown didnt get me out from under the clouds either. I got back to the hostel I stayed at before at around 22:30, and I found a place to dry my tent in the basement. 
The next day was used to dry and repair my tent and do some laundry, and hanging out in my room watching some movies and reading Micro by Michael Crichton, which I have yet to finish.
In all I spent three nights at the hostel, before trying to leave the city on the first semi-sunny day I've seen since the rains began.

I took the skytrain out of the downtown area and into Surrey, from where I started walking to the #1 Highway to take me out of the city.
As I walked into a park to find a place to take a leak I came across a place I suspect somebody used to sleep.

Looks that way to me at least.

I ended up taking another bus which I happened across, because it was still quite a walk, but when I got out I had a favourable position at an on-ramp going east. Within a few minutes I had a ride from a very nice guy called Bob. He was driving a truck carrying fallen leafs out of the city, so I dumped my backpack in the back of his car and onto a soft bed of that stuff. Bob was a seemingly very happy guy who loved to laugh at his own jokes. Thankfully they were funny ones, which isn't usually the case haha. A very nice guy.
He drove me to the far side of Abbotsford, where I had another good position at yet another on-ramp. And again I got a ride very fast, this time from Darius, a guy from around my own age who drove me to the far side of Chiliwack, from where he claimed I would get a ride real fast as well, within ten minutes at least.
I ended up waiting for over two hours before getting my last ride of the day from yet another young guy called Ryan who drove me maybe 20 minutes out of town, to a turn-off where there wasn't much of anything to be found. I tried getting another ride from there, but it was around 18:00 already and I wouldnt get to my destination before dark anyway, so I gave up for the day and tried to find a place to sleep.
I ended up finding a clump of trees somewhere in a field with just enough room to put up my tent.
I was just in time too, because almost immediately after I was done setting up camp it started to rain. And so I withdrew into my tent, and instead of cooking some noodles like I planned to I contented myself with three slices of bread dipped into a jar of Nutella. 

Nicely tucked away and out of sight for anybody passing by on the highway.

Early this morning I was pretty hungry but I wasn't in the mood for eating a lot of slices of dry bread, so I ate just one to fight off some of the hunger at least.
I packed up my camp and stepped back onto the road, and stuck out my thumb.

This time I got fairly lucky again, as I caught a ride from Ken in around 15 minutes.
Ken was a truck-driver driving a semi, on his way to Kamloops. He advised me to take a different route than the one I had planned on (which was based on Google Maps).
I had thought to get off the #1 Highway at Hope and heading east towards Osoyoos and the U.S border from there, but he told me it would be better to head up further north from Hope to a town called Merritt, from where I could get a ride to Kelowna, and from Kelowna I could go down to Osoyoos on a much busier highway, where I would not get stuck.
He has more experience with these roads than I so I took his advice and decided to go for Merritt and Kelowna. We drove for quite some time, talking about all kinds of things. I learned that he had spent 5 years in jail for selling cocaine, which was his first time ever. He had sold pot before, and being led on by an undercover cop. Before that he had only ever sold marijuana, as do a lot of people in the area.
By this time however I was quite confident in the fact that Ken was a trustworthy guy and so it didnt bother me at all to know this. As we drove through the mountains I kept staring out of the window. It had snowed during the night! It was quite a pretty sight.
The mountains covered in pine trees, snow on the ground, and low hanging clouds obscuring the tops but hanging like a mist.

Ken told me about the drive on this highway during the winter, talking about avalanches occurring quite frequently, and how it scared him to be on the road during that period. 
And looking out at the mountains you can clearly see how avalanches have ripped entire strips of trees out of the ground. If you didnt know better you might mistake them for ski-routes.
Still, it's a beautiful area. 
I got dropped off outside of Merritt, at a cross-section. From there I had to wait for about half an hour before a van pulled over. In it was Tim, my second and last ride of the day.
He had traveled for over 15 years, spending several in Europe, and 5 more in Asia. He had seen a lot of places, but he didnt tell me much about his experiences, which was a shame.
He dropped me off in Kelowna, at the shopping mall I now know so well, and it is here I still am, sitting at the same old Wendy's as before. I bought the next book in the Horus Heresy series, and bought some new bread and noodles at the Canadian Superstore.

Tomorrow I will head to Osoyoos, and hopefully cross the border into the U.S. 
If I follow that road further down I will get to a T-section where I can go either left, heading straight for Utah, or right towards Oregon. I am not sure yet which way to go, so that will be a surprise for next time, even for me! :)


  1. Hey we stayed at the same hostel in Tofino ! :-p
    I was there last June, after giving a conference at the University of Victoria. I think I was lucky because I enjoyed an excellent weather, so I could hike for all day in Pacific Rim and around the town. Anyway, rainy weather or not, I really want to come back there ...

    Did you see, while you were on the road after leaving Tofino, a small town called Coombs ? There is a big house with a vegetal roof and goats grazing on it ... and the town is full of strange stores and houses. This is quite place ! xD

    1. Yeah I actually passed through it with a guy that gave me a ride. It was really cool, looked European in some ways. Well, kind of Austrian or Swiss, I guess. I would love to go back to Tofino at some point when there is good weather, you can do some really good exploring around there I think. I just had the bad luck of getting there when the weather turned for the worse.