My first visit to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island was awesome. I went with a friend who knew the area. That helped me to make good use of time.
The bus ride there and back in itself was lovely. The bus travelled through glacier-covered mountains, lakes and forests, including Cathederal Grove. At the high altitudes there still was snow on the forest floor.
Another first for me was staying in a hostel. I was spoiled by the award-winning Whalers on the Point Guesthouse. It has a view worthy of a multi-million dollar hotel. It's very clean and comfortable, and I enjoyed chatting with fellow guests from Canada, Australia and Germany.
Still another first was kayaking. Although I was a bit clumsy while I learned the technique, I enjoyed it. Led by a guide, we kayaked to Meares Island, and hiked in the old growth rainforest there. I loved the huge trees, the ferns, and the moss.
On another day we caught the bus to Ucluelet and did the circular walk, through the magical forest, overlooking the cliffs, to the lighthouse.
We then caught the bus back to Long Beach, where we walked, ran, explored rock pools, and played on a teeter totter [see saw] made of driftwood. I loved the roar of the waves on Long Beach. Fond as I am of Nanaimo, that is one thing we lack. We're protected by several islands just offshore, and we don't get that pounding surf.
Returning to Tofino from Long Beach involved yet another first for me -- hitch hiking. Luckily, a friendly couple who were visiting from San Francisco stopped within minutes and gave us a ride. (They said they'd seen us using the teeter totter they'd made.)
Tofino and Ucluelet are 40 kilometres (25 miles) from each other, and Long Beach is about a third of the way from Tofino to Ucluelet. It would have been a challenge to visit Ucluelet and Long Beach by bus in a single day. Hence the need to augment the bus with hitch hiking.
Had we gone to Tofino a few days later -- from April 9th, 2009 onwards -- it would have been easier. Each day there would have been two southbound buses to Ucluelet and two northbound buses back to Tofino instead of just one bus in each direction.
With that said, I feel we visited Tofino at an ideal time. The town was relatively empty and quiet, compared with the summer months, when the population reportedly swells by 20,000.
Everyone warned me that rain was very common on the west cost of Vancouver Island. They all said that the area's outdoor activities still were wonderful in wet weather, as long as you dressed appropriately.
I packed a Goretex jacket and rain trousers, but didn't use them. As it turned out, we had glorious weather. Local residents were astonished at how warm and sunny it was.
Walking around the quaint little town centre was fun. The art gallery that housed the paintings of Roy Henry Vickers was particularly inspiring. This was recommended by both my real life friend and my cyber friend, Rob. The Common Loaf Bakery was a cute place to stop for hot chocolate.
Stupendous as the west coast of Vancouver Island is, it is not immune to imprudent exploitation. Clearcut logging already has taken place. The only stands of old growth temperate rainforest left are those in Pacific Rim National Park and on Meares Island. (By comparison, the First Nations people of Canada harvested bark and planks in such a way that trees continued to grow.) Local residents are concerned about plans for a copper mine on Catface, a mountain just across the bay from Tofino.
There are complex relationships amongst old growth forests, wild salmon, the ocean, streams, and bears. Human activity, unless it is conducted with care, upsets the natural balance that sustains us. The guide who led us on the expedition to Meares Island gave us a great explanation of this.
I was attracted to Vancouver Island because it felt to me like Paradise. But, even during my mini-vacation, when I would have been more than happy to escape from the real world, I received many reminders that our unparalleled quality of life depended on dedicated stewards.
British Columbia is gearing up for a provincial election on May 12th, 2009. I am more conscious than ever that I want a government that values different kinds of capital -- ecological, social and financial. Our environment is the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. God forbid that we should kill it. Then we may as well kiss our financial capital goodbye, and I dare say our social capital as well.