At the beginning of June 2018 I went to Canada to see the most interesting kind of place, where the ocean meets the mountains. The West Coast of Canada confirmed everything I imagined about such a place. It is the ideal place to live, surrounded by majestic landscapes, the freshness of the great mountain ranges combined with the ocean breeze. The ocean, the mountains, the lakes, the rivers, the wildlife and the freedom of man – that’s what the Canadian West Coast means to me.
Of all, Vancouver Island is the most precious, it has all this without being affected by major urban developments, and this on an area about the size of a small European country.
Being from Europe, In Canada it had that feeling of Terra Nova, at least on the west coast where I was.
You are looking at the wild nature, full of wild life and huge trees and if you have imagination you see the cities that will probably develop there in the next hundred years. Canada is still a land little touched by urban development, despite the fact that the Canadian state is perceived as one of the most developed in the world. Speaking of which, shock ..it’s not, not as developed as I and others perceived it to be from a distance.
Compared to Western Europe, in terms of infrastructure development and societal sophistication, Canada appears modest. And it is very similar to the United States, culturally and in terms of everyday life. Canadians will say differently, Americans will say differently, but seen by a European, there is not much difference. The same stores, the same huge cars, the same language and accents as in neighboring American states, the same culture, the same values centered on work and money, money and work, the same practicality and the same freedom of development and expression. I’m not comparing British Columbia with Texas, but I’m comparing British Columbia with the American states further north such as Washington or Montana. Same stuff. By the same token, you’re not going to be able to discuss this easily with a Canadian because they feel like they’re very technologically advanced and the rest of the world is in the chaos of terrorism and immigrants and violence and poverty. Maybe the immigrants who come to Canada in very large numbers, percentage wise, tell them how bad it is where they came from (China, India, Southwest Asia, Arab countries), maybe they don’t travel much outside the American continent, no I know why, but it seems that Canadians also have that typical North American narcissism, but in a very polite and politically correct tone.
The gossip being said, let’s get back to what is interesting about Canada and that is the nature, the low population density and the civilized behavior of the people, which shock is the same in the United States and only those who have not had an extensive trip across America have not experienced this working with pictures specific to certain places and times. Economically speaking, you can feel the money pouring into coastal Canada. Enormous natural resources are being exploited and without any visible impact. The fact that it is not technological does not mean that they do not have new technologies, but I am referring to the presence of technology in the physical space, its spread, which is not significant. Canadians in rural areas or smaller towns don’t necessarily have sewers, but they have the technology to get by. Cities don’t all have electrical cables buried like in European cities, even large areas of Vancouver, the signal and internet is very weak, bad and expensive, banking is the same. That’s because there aren’t that many people in this area. Unlike in Europe full of cities – where only if you have half a brain or if you never left the house as a child you can get lost in nature, in Canada you can drive for days without seeing anyone, the highways turn from asphalt on dirt roads and I still call them highways, and if you don’t have enough fuel, you’re done, you don’t have a signal and no rescue teams a few kilometers away. You’re on your own really.
What I mean is that there are differences that cannot be easily explained in a few sentences in black and white. North America as a whole is very similar in some ways and very different in others to Europe.
I left on June 8 for Vancouver but I didn’t arrive until June 10. As the flight had a stopover in London, I took a few days to explore the European megacity. The plan was to go with the metal detector on the Thames, for which I had applied for a special permit. But I ran out of detector a few days before I left because it was stolen from my car in Bucharest. Besides, a series of bad luck before leaving had kind of sunk my ships, but I recovered once I arrived in the West, in the fresh air, psychologically speaking. I had been to London before, so I rather explored the surrounding small towns, where I discovered a lot of nature full of animals – rabbits, foxes, horses. I met a lot of Romanians with more basic jobs, they were everywhere – airport, pizzerias, etc. Dealing with any British authority for permits, forms, red tape restores confidence in the world. Everything flows logically, without long waiting times, everything is clear and people are clearly interested in helping you because they directly gain from the effort they put into it. The same with the London Port Authority, probably they were directly profiting from the tax I was paying, otherwise I can’t imagine how they were so interested in helping me as I called and someone answered the phone who in a few seconds told me – found the request in the database. Finally, the Eastern European – Western European comparisons never end.
I stayed at the Maple Manor Hotel Charlwood Road, Crawley. I recommend because it is exactly how you would imagine a British countryside mansion from the 18th century. Surrounded by lots of greenery and meadows with rabbits, foxes, horses. It is near Gatwick Airport. Be aware if you need to change airports for your flight, it takes quite a while to get from Gatwick to Heathrow, it can take up to 4 hours. Many don’t realize that London is huge, one of the largest urban centers in the world.
It is not by chance that I told a little about it because Canada and the US and Australia and New Zealand are also part of the Anglo-Saxon world, the way of posing the problem, doing business, interacting and valuing the individual. It is a world in which I find myself very well, a world suitable for normal, logical and practical people.
In Vancouver, accommodation was provided by a very good friend who was living there at the time. But for about 5 nights we camped in various places with the tent.
But let me take it in chronological order.
On the first day, together with Claudia, I visited the port of Stevetson, located in the southwest of the city. Claudia had moved to Vancouver relatively recently and as we have a close friendship, when it came to visiting I didn’t hesitate for a second.
It should be noted that the Vancouver metropolitan area represents a continuous urban area made up of several adjacent towns. It was a chill start to my presence in Canada. The tourist port is a chic area, full of yachts, taverns where you can eat good and very cheap seafood and fish. Incidentally, on the west coast of Canada, seafood, sushi, is very good at lower prices than other types of food. Because the famous Pacific salmon is actually a Canadian resident.
Over the next few days I set my sights on the city at a slow, appropriate pace. I didn’t want to repeat the mistake made in the United States tour where I condensed a lot in a relatively insufficient time.
Sure, now I can say I’ve seen a lot and have a lot of memories and pictures all at a cool price but then during the tour it was a bit tiring.
But in 2017 in the States there was an organized trip while here, I organized my time as I wanted and I did not regret it at all.
I spent almost a month in Canada, only on the west coast, and I pretty much saw everything I set my mind to.
I had planned to go to Seattle as well, but the fact that I didn’t have an e-passport and a change in the rules at customs made me give up the trip, otherwise I would have risked not being able to enter Canada again from
where I had to take a return flight to Bucharest. Too bad, because in Seattle I had a friend to visit and the area is definitely worth doing, with the city but also with the surrounding mountains. Maybe some another time.
So the next few days I took it for a walk, down town Vancouver, weed shops – weed is legal in the British state
Columbia – the science museum. The museum is more for children than adults and is not worth visiting unless you have plenty of time. It has some interesting interactive games and activities.
Speaking of weed, the center reeks of Cannabis everywhere. It’s almost as common as regular cigarettes here. One of the first days I also walked into a Weeds ® weed shop. They have everything and it smells specific. I got a grinder as a souvenir even though I don’t have a place to use it because I don’t really like smoke in my mouth, nose and lungs, whatever it is.
We went to Downtown Vancouver on the skytrain, a kind of modern suspended streetcar without a driver. You are struck by the percentage of people of Asian origin. In cities like Vancouver, Asians are almost the majority. Although Canadians value political correctness and anti-discrimination policies, in reality you rarely see mixed careers, mixed groups of people. Perhaps also because Asians in Canada are predominantly first generation on the North American continent.
I couldn’t say that you have anything in particular to visit in Vancouver. The whole city is cool. There would be a rotating tower, from where you can take great pictures at sunset, a steam clock, the waterfront, Stanley Park, the suspension bridges near the city. In fact, the interesting places, from my point of view, are around the city and are related to nature, bay (strait actually), ocean, mountain.
To give you a little understanding of the way of life in North America, in the way as I have seen it and understood, you have to take my word for some things. If in Romania, going to the mountains is considered something for ‘athletics’, for ‘the young’ and not infrequently for ‘students’ or for those who cannot afford other more expensive activities such as the Therme or tennis – and maybe I’m being a little mean here – in Canada, all categories of people, young, not so young, fit or not, fit or not, exercise and exercise mostly in nature.
I know it is hard to imagine for an Eastern European to combine the word pitzi and mountain but in Canada it is possible. To do sports or not, to climb the mountain or not, is not about being a snob.
Snobs also play sports there. Shock. Eh, if you didn’t have that dimension before, now you’re getting a little closer to understanding the culture of the west coast of the North American continent.
It is strange, yes, that a country like Romania, with mountains from west to east and from south to north, has no mountain culture.
It’s strange how we have so many people who consider themselves townspeople recounting that they’ve never eaten hazelnuts before as a label.
It’s strange how people give stupid dimensions to situations that separate them, set them apart.
If you think about the logic of things, the fact that you have mountains nearby and you haven’t been there, you’ve never camped in a tent, this says about you how limited you are, how comfortable, how little curious and passionate about life.
In North America there really is a culture of camping, of spending time in nature, regardless of your social category. There is no statistically relevant number of people who have not been to a scout camp, with their parents at the lake, or fishing in the mountains.
In Romania I often feel special, adventurous, sporty, I am the first on the mountain.
Grouse Grind is a mountain practically in the city. You can get there by bus. There are several routes, but the most used one does not exceed 2.5 hours if you struggle to climb slowly. However, it is not easy. It is very steep. But when I climbed, towards the end I passed a family with 2 children aged 2 and 5 respectively who had climbed the entire length on their feet. That’s what I’m talking about.
You can reach the top of the Grouse by cab. Or you can walk up and down with the cab.
At the end of the first route and at the junction point with other routes to other peaks there is a kind of small town with restaurants, shops, live shows, 2 grizzly bears. The bears are in a pen and are the permanent residents of the area. I sit easily for the picture.
We also caught an extraordinary show with large birds, raptors – owls, white-headed eagle, bald eagle, peregrine falcon. It worked really well for my photo portfolio, especially since I had a very nice Sigma 85 f1.4 lens with me. The shows are free. There was another one with live chainsaw wood carvings. Besides, in Vancouver you often come across carved wood, either first nations totems or modern wood sculptures. Especially up the Grouse.
Here is where I make a small parenthesis, the plants in British Columbia seem to be on steroids. The trees are very large so that some wood carvings are actually 3:1 scale representations of people or animals. I was surprised by the fact that the vegetation is quite similar to our mountain vegetation. I saw all kinds of familiar plants whose names I do not know.
But for example, they have mouse tails, fir trees like ours, weeds like ours. The landscape is very similar except for the hummingbirds and very imposing cedars. And there would be a small difference, there the berry bushes are about 2 meters all over and sometimes stretch for tens of km. Nature on steroids. Another notable difference, they have a lot of lakes unlike Eastern Europe.
After Grouse I visited my girlfriend’s relatives in Vancouver, in a nearby town, Abbotsford. The road infrastructure is much higher than that of Eastern Europe but not more developed than that of Western Europe. But it drives pretty well in general.
From Abbotsford, from the terrace of our hosts’ house you could see the mountains to the West and South and South East, including Mt Baker in the States. Oh, I should mention that Vancouver is on the Canadian border with the United States and about 100 or so km from Seattle.
On the 5th day, at the beginning of the weekend, I left for the continent, about 300 km from the coast, to my host’s family friends, in the town of Oliver. We thus spent the weekend hosted by an elderly Canadian couple. We were not the only guests, as several family friends of the hosts gathered there.
The host is of German origin and grew up in Bessarabia. One guest’s mother was a Saxon from Transylvania. They had heard of many Romanians moving to Canada. Surprise, in Canada Romanians have a pretty good image, unlike how they are seen in Europe. But I won’t go into the details of why and how.
It is certain that our hosts were very welcoming. Being Adventists, we went to church on Saturday, which is more of a discussion club where you eat together.
They say that this region becomes very dry around July – August – September and that it actually represents the end of the Californian desert. Strange. It didn’t seem like a desert to me at all. But it is certain that there are often quite large forest fires in the area. As you get further away from the coast, the heavenly weather is no more sustained by the Ocean’s current and the climate becomes continental – temperate.
The difference with Romania is that they also had lakes there and a lot of animals.
Deer were around all the time. Being also outside the hunting season, they were even considered annoying. There were so many, meeting them in the morning in the gardens, in the yard or on the street.
Deer can become aggressive with pet dogs and even people if they are accompanied by the fawn. The difference with Romania is that from time to time you still see bald eagles flying and hummingbirds at the window. Otherwise, the indoor area is pretty much the same.
In Oliver, behind the living room window, I stalked the hummingbirds that came to the specially arranged container and fed with sugar water, hanging from the window, for a picture. For us, the equivalent would be those large hummingbird-beaked insects. I think that I spent more than an hour with the camera in hand. It was as if they only came to drink when I turned my head, at which point the others in the room shouted to me that I had missed the event for a second.
I left Oliver on Sunday for Vancouver. But we stopped on the way. A nice section of road was the one next to the huge Kelowna Lake. Next to this lake, on the highway, I actually saw for a few seconds, a huge white-headed eagle with a freshly caught fish in its claws. A scene taken from the Discovery Channel.
But the whole way was incredible, past lakes, hills, through mountains. It’s fascinating to drive on the highway with landscapes like those of Western Canada. We stopped first at a winery with a restaurant on the shores of Lake Kelowna.
Then we stopped at an amusement center and then at an interesting place where we had dinner.
But the whole way was incredible, past lakes, hills, through mountains. It’s fascinating to drive on the highway with landscapes like those of Western Canada. We stopped first at a winery with a restaurant on the shores of Lake Kelowna.
Then we stopped at an amusement center and then at an interesting place where we had dinner.
I spent the next day in Vancouver digesting all the information from the weekend. The life stories of our hosts, their son’s impressive collection of guns, movies, figurines, model cars and anything you could imagine in the home of a North American asset geek with a collection obsession. The life stories of their friends, in the 3rd age, the images from the Adventist service. Miscellaneous information about things that deviated from my pattern of Canada: some strange redneck neighbors, a maximum security prison nearby, the discovery of corpses nearby, and drug dealers gaining more and more ground even in the small towns of interior of the continent, too frequent stories of car overturns – apparently it was something common due to aloe, wild animals or carelessness. And mindblowing was the picture Canadians painted of the rest of the world.
They generally seem a bit out of touch with what’s really going on and have a sort of Canadian narcissism or hilarious naive ignorance of what’s actually going on in the rest of the world. In other words, a Canadian in his thirties who had been born in Germany but left the country as an immigrant at a very young age asked me if it was safe to travel to Germany and if they had good quality tourist services. Well, what can I say… it’s good in Germany too, not only in Canada :)).
But to come back, I took the day off on Monday to delve deeper into Vancouver. I also bought some souvenirs on this occasion, not for myself but for friends because I only buy fridge magnets. I caught a fascinating sunset from the Skytrain but came back relatively early because I had planned my first serious mountain tour the next day.
I don’t know how much you know about the various apps that can connect you with other tourists, but there is an excellent and famous one called Couchsurfing. Basically, you can travel for free if someone is willing to host you, and they would if you’ve hosted yourself and have a good image and references. But otherwise I used the application more for the events and hang-out part. So I entered the events and asked who was coming with me on X and Y.
During my stay in Canada I met 9 people like this. In Vancouver I went for a walk with 3 girls – a German, a Korean and a Vietnamese – sightseeing in the north of the city, near the famous suspension bridge. Then for the 19th, the day after my trip to Oliver, I met up with a New Zealander who had moved to British Columbia since the winter to find a job in nature. Just got an interview and was very interested in telling me how and why he left New Zealand – not because the nature isn’t fabulous but because the opportunities and social networks seem to be more limited . All of these meetings were excellent as you will see I also did the 4 day Vancouver Island tour with 3 other guys and the cost and convenience benefits were brilliant – but I will cover that later in the article.
Deci spre Seymour summit am plecat la drum cu Marlon, un neozeelandez de 20siceva de ani, înalt slab și blond, împătimit de natură. Am plecat cu intenția de a campa peste noapte undeva, ceea ce am și realizat.
After discussing the details on Couchsurfing, we met at the bus station, not before I stopped by a mountain shop to rent a sleeping pad. I paid $5 Canadian plus tax – in North America you don’t pay the price on the tag and that price plus tax but others have written about different situations that may looks weird in the eyes of an European but are totally normal in North America. I find this renting process a great way to test out expensive name brand products or get rid of carrying gear when you’re traveling away from home like I was in Canada. That store, a kind of mountain and water sports mall, very cool and very comprehensive and the employees can even give you information about the products, unlike in Romania where you don’t understand why they are actually in stores. The store in Vancouver is called MEC and the trick is that you have to get a $5 customer card to be able to buy or rent anything.
From where the bus left us, we still had to walk about 20 km to the entrance to the national park, on the hiking trail. We started walking on the road, past whole kilometers of huge blackberry bushes. A recurring thought in Canada was why are they so big, why are there so many and no one eats them :)).
The first time I raised my finger to hitchhike, someone stopped, a couple. For her, for the driver it was the same as the first time he took someone to the occasion. They were also going up the mountain. Besides, on the way back the next day, the first car that got off took us, a funny Asian guy with whom we talked a lot. Canadians are super polite and help you at any opportunity, I think they enjoy it.
What you can notice in the trails relatively close to Vancouver, that there are many tourists without a backpack. It’s strange to see so many people on the mountain without gear on their backs.
But it’s super natural, because in Vancouver, the mountain is practically in the city and many people do trails on the mountain as if we were going to run in Herăstrau. As well as two tourists, probably Slavic immigrants, with whom I shared the route on the way up, they and their Husky dogs, which in the pictures from a distance look like wolves.
And the interesting thing was that it was super hot – June but we were walking on snow. Mushy, this type of snow gets into your boots the fastest, you’d rather walk your boots through the river than through this type of snow.
When orange colors mark the end of day and the heavenly shapes of night are falling on the mountains of British Columbia – Seymour Mt
The route was pretty easy, but we didn’t cover everything we planned for an unexpected reason. After about 4 hours of walking we already stopped to set up the tents, some time after we reached the first peak – First Peak.
Definitive for this shift was an unpleasant thing. Flies, but not like here, not even like in the Delta, no.. like in insect hell probably, yes. Flies so many that they entered your nose or mouth when you breathed, flies, mosquitoes, very many and very aggressive. On a whole other level, so much so that after summiting First Peak, I gave up on Seymour Peak and set up tents. At one point I had a few mini panic moments as I couldn’t see, breathe so I could set up my tent – and I was on its first set up. That’s why it’s good to practice with a new tent at home.
Then I could hear the bugs hitting the tent like you hear a light rain. Although it was early, we each went into our tent and stayed there until after sunset. Then all the insects disappeared and I was able to take some really cool pictures.
Like Hitchcock … Canadians are so positive that you will rarely see bad reviews or that they don’t like something related to nature especially, although sometimes it would be useful. Although you can’t see it in these pictures, they were there..a lot.. But you can see them in this one photo posted on Facebook.
So I didn’t make it to Seymour Peak because of the..flies, but I did manage to camp my first night in Canada. Very pleased with the ultralight 2 person tent ordered from New York and delivered by courier in two days to Canada. This brand of tent is not found in Europe and is 900 grams with pegs and everything, also being two pieces. Interesting no. Maybe it’s fragile, but I haven’t had any problems so far and I’ve camped in the rain in Canada and Romania for days on end.
The tent is called Nemo and I first saw it at a friend from Romania who also bought it in the States.
In the morning the flies reappeared. I made a kind of mask out of the buff and the hat. We did catch a fascinating double rainbow over Vancouver though, as from where we were you could see Vancouver and its bay or the Strait of Georgia. At night you could also see the lights of the city bathed in the moonlight. Nice views, shame about the flies. Canadians have a lot of good things but also some crazy things. They would never say anything directly negative about you or anyone else.
The fly phase did not appear anywhere in the route description. Don’t think of the mountains over there in the Vancouver area as the mountains here, where we call the ponds lakes. Canada’s mountains have many large lakes, estuaries, ponds, snow that remains late into the summer even at low elevations. On the way back, the Asian who took us on the occasion: “Yes! It’s the only area with flies around here and there are a lot of them..”.
As I said earlier, the Canadian tour was a leisurely one where I did my schedule as I wanted, at a friendly pace. So the day after Seymour, I took some time to be lazy and clean my equipment of flies but also to edit some pictures. I don’t like this photo editing thing at all and it has become a chore. I never remind myself that I take too many pictures that then have to be selected edited and posted. What I thought would be very enjoyable and could be an occupation now I don’t like it at all. But then I like to re-read the articles and facebook posts and rekindle my memory of fascinating moments much better. Why do I edit them, and when I say edit I mean tuning general things like contrast, warmth, brightness, etc.. because I know I can get a lot more out than the camera edits and because many of my pictures are taken in slightly more special conditions, sunrise, against the sun, sunset, night etc.
I wish I had when I was in British Columbia, the information on this very helpful site with hiking options in the region.
After the rest day, I went again for a walk through the Vancouver area. An interesting place where you can see the sunset is Kitsilano beach.
A beach area with a lot of young people, an area with restaurants nearby but also with a space museum.
This area has a pleasant energy. The beach is arranged with some natural way with huge wooden logs that you can sit on or next to and smoke weed at sunset.
People also swim in the bay, although I imagine the water is quite cold because there are not many of them. I was there with Claudia, my host.
Many people practice sports on the beach. Others just sit at a joint, weed being legal throughout the state of British Columbia.
After the walk on the beach we stopped at a tavern where of course we ordered fish and a cocktail. I would have ordered wine, but since they didn’t have any European wine, I put my finger on the table for now.
More I don’t know what I could say about this area than the pictures can.
Maybe it’s just that the restaurants are interesting and the fish, especially the salmon, is very cheap and good.
Also in the Kitsilano area you can also visit the HR Mc Millan Space Centre. Except that when we arrived, that is, in the evening, only the souvenir shop was open. But I understood that it is worth visiting.
From the cliff you have access to many marinas and ports. Boats of all types can be seen constantly entering and exiting Burrand Inlet towards the Strait of Georgia.
Vancouver – Capilano trail
I did the Capilano trail which is more of a long walk than a mountain trail. Somewhere along the route I lost the girls because I stayed to visit the salmon run on the river there in more detail.
On this occasion I also saw how wild salmon are collected. On the bad side, some concrete channels are made and where mini waterfalls are created where the salmon swim up the hill.
The less fortunate who get to swim in the channels on the side end up in the somonery, first in aquariums for public display – because the somonery is also set up for tourists with posters, explanations and transparent aquariums – then somewhere where we don’t like to think anymore – somewhere where they probably become sushi.
Capilano bridge is not worth visiting in my opinion. There are many similar bridges in Squamish and at Capilano, being mostly in the Vancouver area, there was a very long queue at the entrance. Anything involving queuing disgusts me.
However, the suspension bridges in Nepal are probably several orders of magnitude more interesting.
I make a parenthesis in the article. Remembering the crowds at Capilano also reminded me of Vancouver’s traffic jams.
It’s a city that gets quite crowded during peak hours, especially if you have some bridges to cross. And I also remembered something interesting, which I did not expect. Vancouver at rush hour is a polluted city.
Although Canada, although you have such a low population density and the area is surrounded by mountains and the ocean, if you are on the pavement at rush hour you feel the noise of the cars.
That’s because Canadians, just like the Americans further south, have a mania for huge cars, personal trucks.
It can happen quite often like at a traffic light, if you sit with the window open and turn your head to the left you can see either the wheel of a huge pickup truck or the exhaust pipe of a commercial truck.
But if I lived in Canada or America I’d probably do the same thing and never get off my truck.
So this was Capilano trail..
In the following days we also arrived in Stanley Park, a rather large area but which I heard must be visited. I also managed to get to English Beach but I didn’t have much time to stay there because I had rented a bike that I had to return at a certain time.
I also spied a couple practicing acroyoga next to a huge stone totem on the cliff.
This time I was not very discreet and the situation turned into a real photo session with the different interesting positions that the two practiced.
I photographed them intensively, first asking for their consent and receiving it with the promise of sharing or tagging the pictures on Instagram.
The park is a very generous area for photography. You can very well take something to take away, sit on a bench and the photo opportunities will show up with a very high frequency: I in about an hour had as a subject a graduation ceremony, Buddhist monks, seaplanes with tourists landing the bay by the strait right next to the park, birds, seals, acoryoga, interesting statues, a mini lighthouse, Indian totem poles, fascinating landscapes with bridges and estuary rocks.
Stanley Park has segregated bike lanes and lane-separated and pedestrian-separated lanes. These rules are followed as far as I have seen.
After cycling through the park, I went out into the city, where I covered quite a bit of distance on the road.
Vancouver is very bike friendly.
I wanted to get to Granville Square but I kind of messed up the bridges and the exit from the bridge and ended up at the end of the market schedule.
Then I rushed back to hand over the bike. I estimate that we walked over 50 km through the city and the park that day.
I recommend at least one day to visit the city by bike.
This was Stanley Park.
On the 23rd we left for Vancouver Island, the icing on the cake of the trip. The unexpected put me in touch with 3 super cool guys through couchsurfing.
Nobody knew each other. Yossi, a Jewish American from NY who was touring North America in a rental truck that was otherwise very useful. Pedro a young Portuguese who had done work&travel in the States and was now doing a tour of Canada and Emille, a Quebec artist sculptor and fruit picker who had simply come to visit the other coast.
The fact that 4 of us went on the trip with an uncertain number of days in Vancouver island, without a specific plan, could also have risks, let’s not get along well, to go wrong. But it was the opposite, we got along great and remained good friends.
But actually our serendipitous meeting brought us mega fun but also lower transport costs across the Georgia Strait, lower fuel costs and thanks to that 4×4 van we got to places I don’t think we would have otherwise, near the shores of isolated lakes in the middle of the forests on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
I drove that Ford dozens of miles on dirt roads in search of the best camping spots, roads on which I occasionally saw black bears, as the roads were flanked by huge berry bushes. I later learned from a tourist information board that they are called Thimbleberries or Blackcaps.
But until we got to the island we took the ferry which is an experience in itself.
The trip takes about 2 hours during which you leave the car where they say and you can walk on the 3 levels of decks of the ship, you can have a meal, read on deck, sit at the bow facing the wind or admire the ocean, the ships around or the mountains in the distance or you can just take a nap on one of the deck benches.. The ferry ride is worth all the time spent on the ship, and don’t imagine a ferry from us but a pretty impressive ship.
Ucluelet and The Wild Coast Trail
On the first day on the island we arrived at Ucluelet. I wanted to go there to tick off certain points of interest and my argument was unbeatable for the rest of the group as well. We arrived at Ucluelet, in the southwest part, we passed by the visitor center where a nice girl greeted us then, after thoroughly informing ourselves about the area, we set off on the Wild Pacific Trail. As the Wild Pacific Trail sounds, it sounds like something big and weeks long. No, it’s more like a local route of several tens of km collected.
I didn’t do everything, but I ticked off the most interesting points, the forest of huge cedars, the coast, the lighthouse. Although I have a bit of a rainy day, it was totally worth it, the scenery is incredible even in rainy weather. On the coast it’s as if you were somewhere in Southeast Asia during the monsoon, or in New Zealand.
Cedars are not only large, but young ones can take very strange shapes. I have seen many growing from the huge trunk of the old ones.
We had lunch under one of the many shelters on the route, with a view of grade 20. Everyone put everything they had in their bags to the test. It seems that olives are not very popular with North Americans, just as wine is not really fashionable either. It seems that in both the States and Canada, drinking wine is more of a social fitze thing. And olives are just those weird things you still find in pizza. It’s their loss.
On the way we crossed paths with other tourists. I spent about 40 minutes talking with a girl with a dog. That’s just how Canadians are. Talkative and not at all suspicious, like Europeans or especially those from
East. It was raining and she and the dog and it wasn’t exactly warm, but what do you think she really cared. There it seems that people are not paper people like here.
I didn’t stay in Ucluelet itself, except that I crossed it by car and went into a cafe for the much sought after wi-fi.
The rest, I don’t know what to say, so it’s worth going to the small town of Ucluelet even if it takes a while before you can remember to say the name correctly every time. That’s how I managed to remember U (you) – Clue (scooby doo) – elet (from the chalet). The huge trees are definitely a must go.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Wild Pacific Trail
After that we headed to Tofino, a small town but a bit more youthful, more cosmopolitan, with surfers, more hippies and the place where the boys from Vancouver wanted to go. The distances between Ucluelet and Tofino are not that big – about 30 km.
It takes longer to reach the west side of the island.
First day of camping
We took a tour of Tofino and then headed back on the side roads somewhere we had previously identified a potential camping spot.
It was more the intuition of the driver, of Yossi, because from the exit from the asphalt we walked a few more kilometers to a place and a campsite where there were several caravans and tents.
We had no idea that we would find something like that there, was it luck or intuition.
So the first night on Vancouver Island we camped near Sproat Lake. We set up the tents and then to the table. I cooked pasta and topped it off with what we had on hand, in my case with nachos.
After a night in a tent under the moonlight by a lake on an island in the Pacific Ocean, and after a near-perfect night’s sleep, we headed back to Tofino, the town of surfers and hippies.
The second night we camped in a completely different place, an even nicer place maybe because it was just us. We drove until the road was clogged and then we saw some nicely made wooden paths that led to an interesting beach section of a lake. The place had been used before, as there were ropes in the trees and a large and beautifully arranged fire place with boulders.
We also made a fire, the boys bathed in the lake at night – the lake is called Kennedy – but I allocated a bit more time to more or less successful picture setups. That’s how it came out.
The second day of camping on Vancouver Island – on the shore of Kennedy lake
And here I tried to document the place with a short video the next day in the morning before we left for other places. That night it rained. My tent held up brilliantly even though it’s only 900 grams.
I have to admit that I didn’t sleep very well on the 2nd night, because the previous day our truck had crossed paths – at some distance, of course – with a black bear.
I fell asleep with some thoughts about bears and they weren’t pink ones, but consciously I realized that it was an insignificant risk, that black bears are not aggressive and have no reason to approach the camping area and the fire… but you you make an exaggerated film when you camp in the area where you saw bears the other day.
You know the part about not keeping food or toothpaste or anything smelly in the tent other than you and your clothes.
Tofino is very cool. We met many interesting characters.
Like 3 Germans and a German woman, apprentices in manual metallurgy who had a tradition to go on a field trip after completing their studies dressed in their popular attire which was more like a steampunk costume in my eyes.
Then the surfers who were exactly what you would expect. A blonde and talkative girl at the reception who gave us advice about hippie campsites but also about what interested us, namely surfing. Then our surf instructor – yes! I took my first real surf lesson and that too in the Pacific Ocean.
The curly-blonde, New Zealand, broad-shouldered instructor with thin legs. Interesting surf but harder than it looks on the camera. We didn’t have big waves but enough. The water is icy, but with the wetsuit you have no problems. I managed to get on the board a few times and keep my balance, but that was the maximum. It is very
demanding to ride the board so often against the waves when you are in a lesson and you don’t enjoy standing on the board even more next to it.
Otherwise, we walked around Tofino which is no more than 20 streets long and stayed on the beach. Then one day and I don’t know which we went to explore the hippie camp, Mike s place.
Mike, a guy who has set up a kind of campsite on his land with tents, caravans or vans converted into semi-permanent settlements. Probably a lot of North American nomads, crazy kids, a lot of drifters and certainly a lot of free and happy young people.
We could remain at Mike’s because the hole place was full. With hippies. But full.
Two of the boys, Pedro and the Quebecan Emille stayed after Yossi and I drove to Vancouver. I was approaching my deadline in Canada and Yossi had a meeting that was later cancelled.
I don’t need to mention how sorry I was when I heard that we could actually stay a night too as our friends had stuck with some Quebec girls and let them set up their tent in their place. camping.
But that was after another night spent in a tight formation of 4 near another beach area of the same Kennedy Lake.
3rd day camping on Vancouver Island
The lakes in the area have fine sand like in Mamaia. We bathed and washed in the lake, built a fire and drank what everyone had, beer because the average priced Tofino wine from the store was worse than our country grocery wine. Well, that’s why North Americans don’t like wine.. I improvised a glass of red wine from a 0.5 bottle but still in vain. I turned to the beer bought earlier and then Emille’s cider. Emille made the feat of finishing 2 liters of cider in one evening even though his physique is quite slender.
Well, we’re back in Vancouver after 3 days on the island. It was one of the coolest trips on the island. An incredibly cool atmosphere, lots of young people, lots of freedom, fascinating nature with fine sand lakes, lots of wildlife, ocean beaches, lake beaches, small mountains, big mountains, small population, surf, cool girls and green and green over all. Or green from green, blue from the ocean and yellow from the beach.
I got back relatively early so, together with Yossi, in the second part of the day we visited the Granville Island market, the place I had not managed to get to by bike before sailing to Vancouver Island.
The road to the island is a bit winding, if you arrive from the center you have to go on one of the big roads in the area and then go back under the big bridge to get to the island.
Granville Square is worth a visit. It is also a classic market but also a bunch of taverns with food. I of course opted for good and cheap sushi. It’s maximum fun if you choose to sit on the benches outside the hall because the seagulls are all out to steal food.
It’s a great place for walking and crowd bathing.
Then, towards sunset, I also took Yosii to Kitsilano beach. And sunset pictures, walk. This time I took some portrait pictures with the teenagers on the beach.
The next day, I contacted Yossi again to propose that we also go to Wistler in the north. Wistler is a super famous mountain resort in the area, where winter games, Olympics, etc. have often been held.
At Wistler and up to Wistler there are many trails on the right of the road, the road itself is fascinating because it takes you along the ocean coast. Trails, peaks, small peaks, lakes with various attributes, which are many. Not having a lot of time at our disposal, we chose to visit the Chief area, about the junction of the Vancouver – Whistler road, where the Sea-to-Sky gondola is also located.
The Chief is a world-leading mountaineering/climbing route. Even when we visited you could see climbers on the mountain face.
What can I say you can do the route on foot or you can take the gondola or you can only take the gondola back.
Upstairs, shops, restaurants, same as on the Grouse. And very well-maintained trails – at least the portion in the immediate vicinity of the gondola station. Then from this very well laid out route, which is actually more of a walk, you can go on other classic routes to various destinations a bit more distant from the area.
I dined up there – Poutine – with the coolest scenery of my entire stay in Canada. Poutine is a local specialty, potatoes with cheese and a special sauce. It should be noted that Sea to Sky Gongola is located in the Squamish region.
Moreover, north of Vancouver, in British Columbia and further up in the northern territories, the culture of the first nations – generically called Indians – makes its presence felt shyly through signs and museums.
However, I didn’t see much of the Indians. With the white Canadians on the other hand I entered into conversation at every opportunity, at their initiative because they are very friendly and probably more silent than the Europeans – at the store, in the gondola, at the gas station everywhere.
Again, I’ll let the pictures speak louder than the text.
Both from the ferry a day earlier and also from the car, while we were on the way back from Squamish, we admired for a long time the houses of the Canadians located on the coastal mountains. What kind of view do they have from those terraces?
Anyway the area is very rich and you can see everywhere signs of the wealth as well as the source of the money namely immigrants and natural resources. I haven’t really seen many cities, not even in Europe, with so many luxury or not necessarily luxury cars that are very expensive. Classic cars, expensive cars, big cars, personal trucks, expensive caravans, yachts.
Canada feels like terra nova, there are few people, the nature is ideal on the coast, there are a lot of business opportunities but as an immigrant you have to start from scratch there, real estate is excessively expensive – prices being pushed by immigrants and the part missing cultural. Canadians live in a really special place, although I’m not sure most of them realize the reasons why that place is special.
For better or worse as a tourist, Canada’s west coast is a must-see destination for those to whom nature whispers from afar Into the wild.
Maybe next time I’ll go even further north, even wilder and more.
Lessons learnt in Canada, tips & tricks:
- nature is gorgeous, one of the few places where you have ocean, mountains, lakes, animals, few people and civilization as much as possible.
- real estate is very expensive.
- internet and telephone services as well as banking services are very bad. You don’t really have a way to get a prepaid card in Canada, so you have to make do with wi-fi or pay a lot for calls. I had roaming 22 calls from Romania and the rest wi-fi. But if you go outdoors, a Garmin with telephone or satellite service and GPS tracking might be a good idea.
- medicines are also available at the supermarket.
- wine is bad, but sushi and anything fishy is good and cheap.
- Canada doesn’t feel like a country with better infrastructure than in Western Europe, and it doesn’t feel like a highly industrialized country.
- society feels North American and, more broadly, Anglo-Saxon; in other words Canadians are part of the Anglo-Saxon world and very similar to Americans and as a European it is hard to notice notable differences between Canadians and Americans.
- the distances are indeed enormous between places of interest.
- why are North American toilets different from European ones – you can read more on google but basically the drain pipes are different, one is push force the other (American) is vacuum force (like in the airplane) – with pros and cons.
- how light can be an ultralight tent – for 2 people with a double layer, waterproof and sticks and nails – 900 gr.
- what are the advantages of renting equipment.
- how fast does an order get to you from the states to canada.
- how friendly and talkative Canadians are.
- the police is very present everywhere and very friendly.
- Vancouver city center feels Asian because it has over 50% Asian immigrants.
- surfing is excellent on Vancouver Island, which has a wild and hippie vibe anyway, and also has 4 shipwrecks you can visit.
- the girls are very beautiful in Canada.
- Canadians, like Americans, are a bit cut off from the rest of the world – awarness.
- Seymour Mountain is to be avoided in June – July due to flies and mosquitoes.
- If you get to Vancouver and have an e-passport and a US visa it is also worth going to Seattle and maybe see the mountains in the states, Mt Baker and Mt Rainier.
Other places to visit – need more details on google regarding the distance from the accommodation and the duration of the route:
Vancouver: Stanley Park (with bike), Granville, Capilano Trail and the salmon place Capilano Salmon Hatchery, Kitsilano Beach, English Beach, Grouse trail, Cliffwalk, Canada Place, BCIT Planetarium, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Historic Gastown, The Vancouver Aquarium, Science World (children’s center or for adults also if you have time and feel like puzzles)
Grouse Grind/BCMC – 3 km / 2h – at 12 km = The Peak of Vancouver
Crown Mountain – snow – 10 km / 7h – at 12 km – may be accessed Grouse.
Wreck Beach, the city’s official nude beach.
In the area:
Vancouver Island (Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet, Wild Pacific Trail), Squamish, lakes nearby.
Port Stevenson. Whale watching – 125 dolars – kind of expensive but this is relative right?
Squamish – Lynn Canyon
Lynn Lake – 22 km / 10 h – la 17 km. / Lynn Peak 9 km – 5 h.
– easy and relatively close to the city
– 2 busses
Sea to sky Gondola – Squamish, Stawamus Chief(The Chief = climbing) and Shannon Falls.
Murrin Provincial Park – Easy
MacMillan Provincial Park.
St. Mark’s Summit, Cypress Provincial Park – 11 km / 5h – at 30 km.
Eagle Bluffs, Cypress Provincial Park – 8 km / 4h – at 30 km.
– rock, slopes and forests, amazing landscapes.
– Baden Powel Trail
Dog Mountain, Seymour Provincial Park – 5 km / 2h – at 30 km
– Vista on Vancouver at night.
– kind of shitty if raining.
Quarry Rock, Deep Cove – 4 km / 2h.
Baden Powell, Horseshoe Bay – Deep Cove – 48 km / 20h – at 20 km.
North Shore mountains.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridges or Black Mountain.
The Lions, West Vancouver – 16 km / 7h – at 32 km.
The Binkert Trail – 16 km.
Sendero Diez Vistas Buntzen Lake/Anmore – 15 km / 7 h – at 35 km.
Mount Cheam, Fraser Valley – 9,5 km / 5h – at 125 km.
cu Elk Mt – 7 km / 5h.
– vista on Mt Baker
Big Cedar and Kennedy Falls, North Vancouver – 10 km / 5h – at 20 km –
– huge trees and large forests
– unclear trail markings
Killarney Lake Loop – Bowen Island – 4km / 2h – at 30 km.
– easy and there is a buss and a ferry.
Lindeman Lake, Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park – 4 km / 2h – at 140 km.
Watersprite Lake – 2 h
– turquoise water
Stoney Hill Regional Park
Reginald Hill, Salt Spring Island
Black Tusk – 30 km / 1 day
(Taylor Meadow or Garibaldi Lake trails, camp overnight, and tackle Black Tusk the next day.)
Whistler – Joffre lakes trail – 10 km.
Elfin lakes – there are nice lodges – 22 km.
Fisher Peak / Assiniboine / Mt Robson (tallest one) – rockies.
In SUA, close to the area:
Mt Baker – the highest in the immediate area, close to Vancouver. – to search on the net for equipment rental guides. 800 dollars – a bit expensive.
Mt Rainier – highest.
.. and some useful links: