Tofino, Vancouver and Victoria

September 3 – 15, 2015

After our incredible day watching the orcas and humpbacks we had a quick lunch at our new favorite restaurant the Killer Whale Cafe in Telegraph Cove. Based on the advise of Jen and Dave we decided to spend a couple of days in Tofino. It’s a beautiful windy drive out to Tofino. For some time we drive along a river and then through a temperate rainforest. We camped at Bella Playa which is set amid a coastal forest. The coast was just a few steps away from our campsite and we spent every evening enjoying the colorful sunsets.

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With so much to do in Tofino, our time here was far too short. There are a number of hikes in the Pacific Rim Rainforest park but we only did a couple of them. We spent most of the time walking along the beach where I enjoyed watching the star fish action. It’s a little like watching paint dry but I think it’s much more entertaining. 🙂 We also went on a couple of short hikes through the rainforest. I love walking through these forests which are so different from the pine forests I’m more familiar with in Tahoe or the massive redwoods along the Santa Cruz mountains.

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We had a chance to break out our kayaking skills in Tofino on the Islander Tour with Tofino Sea Kayaking. This tour explores the Clayoquot Sound and the islands near Tofino. It was nice getting out on the water and seeing the area from a different perspective. I’m kind of enjoying this kayaking sport! Maybe we’ll be good enough one day to kayak the Napali Coast one day in Kauai!

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We took a short side trip to Vancouver where we spent a few days enjoying the city. From Nanaimo on Vancouver Island we took the short ferry ride over to Vancouver. There is a great campground, Capilano RV Park, just under the north entrance of Lion’s Gate Bridge. The campground’s location made for easy access to the city.

On our first day in Vancouver we visited the Vancouver Aquarium. In 1996 the Vancouver Aquarium became the first aquarium in the world to commit to no longer capturing cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) from the wild. All of the whales, dolphins, and porpoises cared for by the aquarium were either born in an aquarium or suffered some sort of trauma in the wild and now considered unreleasable due to their situation. These ambassadors from the wild hopefully can impress upon visitors the importance of safeguarding our oceans and the planet.

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I find the jellyfish exhibits to be the most beautiful at any aquarium. I love watching their graceful movements through the water.

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One of the two pacific white sided dolphins at the aquarium. Both of these dolphins were rescued from entanglement from fixed fishing nets and were rehabilitated by Japan’s Enoshima Aquarium. Unfortunately their injuries were too severe to release them back into the wild.

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This is either Helen or Hana. I can’t tell them apart.

The beluga whales at the aquarium are a mother (Aurora) / daughter (Qila) pair.  Qila is the first beluga whale conceived and born in a Canadian aquarium. The pair will spend the rest of their days at the aquarium entertaining the visitors. It’s disappointing to learn that the aquarium promotes the breeding of captive whales rather than strictly limiting the number of cetaceans to rescued and rehabilitated animals.

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Beluga whale spraying the trainer.

 

We spent one of our days walking through much of Vancouver. We started with a stroll across Lion’s Gate Bridge then spent some time enjoying the sprawling Stanley Park along its southern entrance. As we walked across the bridge we were passed by dozens of bike commuters. Vancouver is a beautiful city that seems to be commuter friendly although my research for this blog post seems to contradict what I assumed based on my observations. There are bike lanes everywhere and we saw public transportation full of riders making it look like a lot of people actually use these two commute options yet the city is struggling to meet ridership projections to support the extensive network.

Darryl and I spent much of our time exploring Vancouver on foot. which is a favorite way for us to explore the cities that we visit. Driving through an area feels too sterile but walking the streets gives me a real sense of a place. It’s the perfect way to get a vibe on the city and its people.

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Entrance to Lion’s Gate Bridge

 

Vancouver reminds me of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz with buildings of glass creating a skyline that looks at once fragile and solid. I can’t imagine how it must feel to live in these steel framed glass houses growing out of a concrete landscape, disconnected from nature.

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Orca street art along Vancouver wharf.

 

We walked along the waterfront from the park to the gaslight district enjoying the changing scenery. Eventually we succombed to taking a cab rather than walking to the Science Museum across town. After the museum we stopped at The Patty Shop which quickly hit my list of must try restaurants after reading the reviews on Yelp. If you ever make it to Vancouver you absolutely must make a side trip to The Patty Shop! This is a very small restaurant that only makes Jamaican patties (think empanadas). There is no place to sit inside but trust me that it’s worth a trip. Our first taste made it mandatory that we make a special side trip on our way out of town to stock up on the spinach patties and vegetable curry patties. I packed our refrigerator / freezer in the back of the cab with enough frozen patties to last us a couple of weeks!

We returned to Vancouver Island and continued south toward the beautiful city of Victoria. There was the cutest neighborhood of floating houses where we passed a few hours watching the local seals begging for food and photographing the quirky homes. What a fun little neighborhood! It might be a fun place to live if it weren’t for all of the tourists disturbing the peaceful setting.

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The Royal BC Museum had the most beautiful exhibits that I have seen yet in a museum. Many of the exhibits had a wonderful interactive element to them which I found to be extremely engaging. All of the displays were impeccably designed giving me a new appreciation for the talents of museum curators.

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Part of the beautiful natural history exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.

 

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Totem Pole exhibit at Victoria’s Royal BC Museum.

 

At the museum we learned about the chalk festival that would start the following day. Below are a couple of artists working on their 3-D chalk art piece inside the Royal BC Museum. The museum did a wonderful job promoting the existence of the chalk art exhibit but nowhere on their brochures or website could be found a location for the exhibit! None of the museum employees knew where to find the street exhibits either. Luckily we found a local who directed us to where the exhibit was staged.

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We spent the following afternoon admiring the chalk art on the streets of town. There were a few blocks that were cordoned off for the artists to display their talent. They spent one to two days drawing the art for the public to enjoy before traffic or the elements wiped their street canvas clean.

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The streets were packed with admirers.

 

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No, we didn’t stage this photo of a tourist with a matching tie die shirt!

 

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Our time on Vancouver Island drew to a close as we bumped up to a previously scheduled engagement on the East Coast. We jumped on the ferry to Port Angeles, Washington then drove to Seattle to catch a flight out of Seattle for a wedding. On the way to Seattle we had our first mechanical failure with our truck. Wouldn’t you know it, the one time during the trip when we have to meet a schedule we would break down! We called AAA and had our truck towed back to Ford in Port Angeles then made alternate arrangements to fly to Seattle to catch our flight. Now for a short break from the trip to spend time with family and friends.

Goodbye Vancouver and Vancouver Island. I’m sure we’ll be back some day to explore more of this area!

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