We cruised into Nanaimo on a warm and cloudless day stopping at a sushi bar for a quick bite. A large screen showed Germany had Brazil by the throat with a 3-0 lead. By the time we’d chosen a table that was 5-0 and Rich’s prediction that Germany would win the World Cup was one step closer to reality. We had no particular plan for Nanaimo, except we’d choose an island to camp on. The options were Galliano Island, Protection Island or Newcastle Island and we opted for the latter.
We had a great excuse for a late start next day with the first ferry not due to leave the island until 9.15. It was a tiny ferry that collected us and all our stuff, but the captain was a cheerful fellow and helped us to load the bikes, panniers and trailer as though this would be the highlight of his day. After a good coffee (but not as good as YCR) we were headed north again with a nice broad shoulder to keep us suitably distanced from the trucks, RV’s, buses and other traffic roaring along in the same direction but at a much greater pace.
Qualicum Beach was our destination and we coasted downhill into a pretty seaside village where the lady at the information centre gave us some guidance. It turned out that we didn’t follow it and we’ve since learned that information from ALL unknown sources should be taken with a large amount of skepticism. We stayed in a great little spot not mentioned by the info centre and at 5.45 next morning were up and preparing for another day in this beautiful part of the world.
Denman Island was our goal and it was easy riding to Fanny Bay where we stopped at the most unlikely of places and found a very gourmet organic shop which sold excellent coffee…happiness! We also bought a bottle (yes, heavy glass stuff) filled with a favourite of ours, Cholula.
As we arrived on Denman Island a fellow cyclist came up to chat. He was dressed in Lycra and had clearly spent many years on his bike. He told us of his multiple trans-continent encounters. He was serious, intense and asked where we were going. We gave him a quick overview of our rough schedule which takes us to Leduc (near Edmonton). ‘From there, we’ll fly to New York’, I told him. His entire demeanour lightened and with a wry smile he said ‘that’s cheat’n’.
We’d only done 38km when we arrived on Denman. ‘The arlands elevn marles larng frum tarp t bartm,’ our formerly serious companion told us, so we decided to go exploring the north of the island. This proved to be a somewhat torturous adventure since the island is primarily unsealed and the roads are loaded up with deep gravel…not to mention the hills! We logged 78km for the day in the end, there are kms and there are kms.
Sleep is a wonderful thing and next morning we were ready to go again. We took a leisurely stroll in the forest and wandered back into camp for breakfast, then suddenly we realised the time. We burst into action, jumped on our bikes and rode at full speed toward the ferry. It was further than we remembered, and hillier. We went flying down the final hill at breakneck speed, and onto the ramp with not a moment to spare. Another passenger must have told the ferry officer that there were two cyclist flogging along the road toward the ferry because as we arrived he said ‘go right on, we’re waiting for you.’ The ramp was lifted and we were gone.
Next we headed for Courtney where we set up camp then rode out to Stotan Falls. This turned out to be a magnificent swimming spot in clean, cold mountain water coming off nearby Mt Washington. We stayed here for ages. It reminded us of NZ, and of how much we love rivers, energetic and purposeful transit channels of life and refreshment.
After a long soak in several of the choice swimming holes we rode back to camp, cooked up a storm, cleaned up the mess and hit the sack. We had a rendezvous next morning with Maggot!
After a great catch-up we farewelled Mags until we meet again Australia. She went to work, we went to the ferry which would take us off Vancouver Island and back onto the Sunshine Coast of the mainland.
While we were on the ferry we struck up conversation with another pair of cycle travellers, Vince and Gregoire. These guys had been on the road for 56 days, starting in Nevada and travelling through to Whistler. We decided to spend the rest of the day together and after another short ferry trip to Earls Cove we headed for a place with the most appealing name, Skookumchuck Rapids. It was a hot late afternoon when we reached the campground only to be told that it was full. This meant backtracking a few kms to try another campground down a benign looking road with a friendly enough name – North Lake Road. It started well and being unsealed wasn’t a problemeither. But soon we started climbing, then we rounded a bend to find an impossibly steep road ahead. Our powerful young companions surged up the hill. I got the wobbles, hit gravel and was off. Nothing for it but to push to the top. Grieg did the same moments later. Vince and Greg left their bikes at the top and came back to offer moral support. Greg said to me ‘I’d offer to take your bike for you but I don’t think you’d accept.’ Ahh the Swiss, so perceptive!
Back on our bikes we rode on in search of somewhere to rest our weary bones. Finally we reached the campground of 26 sites spread over a large area. One after another we rode by to find them occupied, every last one. What on earth are all these people doing out here in the middle of nowhere! By now it was 7pm and we really needed to stop. The lads asked a couple if we could share their spot and they welcomed us kindly.
We squeezed together, our rather large tent and their minuscule one. These guys have travelled with the barest of necessities
– one pot for cooking and eating from, one spoon to share, no sleeping mats. But they did have heavy ropes and all the paraphernalia required for climbing. Vince and Grieg cooked up a storm, laid it out buffet style on a log and we shared the feast.
Next morning we broke camp and hit the road again by 8am. The plan was to make the World Cup final kickoff in Sechelt by midday, a 60km ride, should be a breeze.
We suggested that the lads go on ahead and meet us at the pub but they would have none of it. It was another hot day and we opted for the road less travelled – a hilly challenge but very scenic. We stopped at a little market long enough to hear a folksy little band strum out some cheerful tunes, and to savour a punnet of fresh raspberries, then off we went again. At one point we came upon a brutal hill and Vince rode up alongside when the going got really tough, ‘c’mon Jules, you can do it, dig deep, stay strong, c’mon…’ All the way to the top he stayed right there, encouraging. Those guys are great! We reached the pub at Sechelt and I asked the woman on the counter if there was a place we could store all our gear while we watched the game. ‘Oh sure, just stick it in the cool room with the beer’, she said. So we dumped all our gear (there was a LOT) in with the beer and went to watch the game.
After the match, we piled our chilled gear back onto the bikes and churned out another 30km in the hot afternoon sun. We parted company with Vince and Greg, all the richer for the time we spent together. They caught the ferry onto Squamish and some more climbing, we stopped at a campground pretty well whacked after 96km.