Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 14

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Cumberland to Sechelt

Another leisurely start on a warm day with sunny intervals soon found us waiting at Little River for the ferry across to Powell River on the mainland. So ends our sojourn on Vancouver Island, and we diverge for the moment from the route taken by the Brexton Travelers two years ago. They drove all the way up to Port Hardy for the ferry to Prince Rupert.

The Riding Fool hostel in Cumberland was very good, with a massive kitchen and living area and lots of polished floorboards and wood paneling. Cumberland is an old coal mining town, settled by people from guess where in the UK. Closure of the mines led to hard times, but it is now reinvented as a mountain biking centre, with lots of trails, albeit I suspect most of them are in the trees. It's a shame I didn't have the time (or the gold bars to pay for the hire costs) to try any of them.

The visibility is now much better than when we arrived. I've noted 'lots of totem poles' and 'a proliferation of psychic mediums and tarot carders' during our stay on the island.

The sea was calm for our 1.5 hour crossing to Powell River, where we had time for a short exploration of the town's heritage buildings - many of them century-old Arts and Crafts constructions, including the Patrician Theatre, Canada's oldest continually operating cinema, before moving on to a second, shorter, ferry from Saltery Bay to Earls Cove.

We pass under an incredible span of power lines to an island, as the high mountains on the horizon draw closer. Then after the ferry journey, an easy 50 km drive to Sechelt and Bayside Camp Ground.

A short walk takes us to a beach within this long inlet. We can look at water instead of just trees.

Pictures should be pretty much self explanatory, chronological as usual.

3 km of walking, 120 km on the road, and 2+ hours on ferries.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 13

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Three easy walks

The plan for today, which turned out to be sunny and warm, was to walk up a nearby hill, Mount Becher (1390 metres). After the usual chores - breakfast, shopping, etc - we drove up to the 800 metre roadhead for a 10.45 start and headed up a well used footpath. Elevenses after half an hour, featuring delicious 'Chips Ahoy' biscuits. There were good views down to Comox Lake and across the sea to the mountainous mainland. After another half hour we passed a small lake and paused to check the route description Sue had photographed from the internet. There was no correlation. We decided to backtrack to a point where the description matched our route. We finished up back at the car, having walked about 4 km. Had we ignored the route description we'd probably have made the summit, but with no map and no idea where the summit was (it was no doubt shrouded in trees) we had felt that following a detailed route description would be our best bet. Annoyingly, this particular route description appears to have been a work of fiction, which is worse than no route description at all.

So, with another travelling day tomorrow, our time in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island has elicited just one full day's walking, and a summit of just over 200 metres. I'm sure we will soon make up for that!

We decided to give up on Mount Becher and descend to a network of short trails based around the Nymph Falls, which turned out to be a bit like Aysgarth's Lower Falls, with lots of cairns strewn across the shallows above the falls, and a chap sitting on a deckchair on a slab of rock in the middle of the river above the falls. We found a spot for lunch and appreciated the continuing joy of having no biting insects to contend with. 4 km on easy manicured paths.

Next we decided to head up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, in the massive Strathcona Provincial Park. Time constraints involving supermarket opening times meant that we had little more than an hour to explore the vast area now available to us at over 1000 metres in altitude. We did our best, zooming in a 3.5 km circuit around the boardwalks that have been specially designed to cater for unicycles, as mountain biking along them is considered unsafe for pedestrians.

Distant snow capped mountains were visible for the first time this trip. The ones in the Strathcona PP were actually fairly close, and mainly shielded by trees, with a foreground of salad burnet and bog cotton. But views across to the mainland north of Vancouver revealed slightly more than hazy outlines of some high coastal mountains. At last!

Sue kept pausing to dodge the unicycles and photograph orchids, the most profligate of which was the White Bog Orchid. There was also lots of Northern Bedstraw and many other damp loving plants including several varieties of gentian.

Other denizens of this area that made themselves known to us were a chatty red squirrel, some attentive grey jays - the 'Don't feed the Birds, it's Bad for their Diet' signs were largely being ignored - and a number of woodpeckers and LBJs.

After Sue had come to the aid of a parched old lady who was about to drink the water put out for dogs whilst she awaited the rescue and delivery (by unicycle) of an injured companion, we rejoined Charlie, who happily coasted us down to a supermarket before its 5.30 closing time. That resulted in an excellent baked potato and tuna mayo with salad meal in this excellent hostel, followed by strawberries and cream, following tea, beer, and a twenty minute run for Sue.

Today's photos:

• Sue on the Mt Becher trail
• Elevenses on the Mt Becher trail, with the first 'clear' view we have had, with mainland summits visible
• Giant slugs near Nymph Falls
• Nymph Falls - can you spot the man in the deck chair?
• Looking down river from Nymph Falls
• A Mount Washington trail - spot the boardwalk
• A unicycle trail
• A mountain view from a Mount Washington boardwalk

4.2 km in 23.15 for morning exercise, then 11.5 km of walking in three leisurely ambles.

We are camping for the next couple of nights, and may not be able to get an Internet connection, so you may have to bear with us for a few days. I'm sure you'll manage.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 12

Monday 14 August 2017

Five easy walks

A leisurely start saw Charlie springing into action after a two day break. Items accidentally 'borrowed' from Alan and Toddy were dropped off, and provisions were acquired.

A short drive to beyond the Port Alberni turn took us to Wick Road and the 'Bog Trail' for our first exercise of the day. An 800 metre loop on a boardwalk through a bog. There were supposed to be sundew but we couldn't spot any. Just a blue gentian-like flower that was struggling to bloom. The top picture shows the ambience...

Next, we drove to the end of Wick Road and strolled for a kilometre or so along Wickaninnish Beach. It's the first of a series of beaches ending with Long Beach, all of which merge into a 16 km continuous strip of sand. Despite the cool, overcast morning, some surfers were demonstrating their skill in the breakers. Others were learning.

Curious marks in the sand were analysed as deriving from dogs and ravens. There were lots of shells in the sand as well as seaweed and small jellyfish. The entire beach was backed by a rim of bleached tree trunks, then forest. The tree trunks are everywhere. We are told that they derive from many years of carelessness when transporting lumber by sea. The washed up trunks are now so ingrained with sand and other impurities that they are totally useless and are therefore left to litter the shores of the whole area. (See second and third pictures.)

After a brief visit to a nearby visitor centre we embarked on another 2 km stroll. This was along the South Beach Trail, a woodland route leading past a totem pole, some large slugs and a garter snake, to a beach of soft shingle. The path was mainly another boardwalk. It passed through an area inhabited by a large family of noisy ravens. (See fourth picture.)

Continuing our drive we reached Sproat Lake, where a café satisfied our thirst for coffee and some picnic benches provided a suitable venue for our picnic lunch.

By now it was hot and sunny, so we were glad of a bit of shade for our next outing, another 2 km stroll. We had reached the tourist trap known as the Cathedral Trail, in the MacMillan Provincial Park. The Douglas Fir trees and the Western Red Cedars reach up to about 70 metres in height, so there's no problem with shade. The latter live for up to 800 years. There is evidence of a serious fire here around 350 years ago, but many trees survived that event. (See fifth picture.)

We left the crowds and the very smelly washrooms (aka toilets) in favour of heading to the Qualicum Falls. Here we managed a circuit of over 4 km (wow!), taking in the lower and the upper falls (sixth picture) plus a pleasant diversion to an upper bridge next to a campsite. All this was not unexpectedly in woodland, with the twisting nature of the river providing excellent views that neither of us had the skill to photograph effectively.

After this quieter and much more pleasant stroll than that along the Cathedral Trail, we hopped back into Charlie for the hour's drive to Cumberland, where we are spending two nights in the Riding Fool Hostel, part of the Hostelling International network.

The Waverley Hotel provided a very tasty and filling supper.

11 km of walking in five short bursts, and a 210 km drive.

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 11

Sunday 13 August 2017

An 'Archipelago Cruise'

On their visit two years ago, Robert, Lyn and Louise had enjoyed their day cruising with Alan and Toddy as much as any other on their holiday. So Sue and I cashed another gold bar and set off for a 9.40 am rendezvous at the harbour.

The Raincoast Maiden, a 53ft Canoe Cove motor yacht, was fully subscribed today with over twenty passengers. There was plenty of room for everyone on this grand tour to the Broken Group Islands and back. It was a luxurious trip with a gourmet lunch. Today's passengers were American and Canadian, plus half a dozen from Italy, a German family and a chap from London being the only other Brit on board.

We headed off briskly after Alan's safety briefing as Toddy had spotted a black bear on a nearby beach. It was oblivious to our presence as we watched it turning over rocks in a search for crabs.

We then continued past numerous points of interest:

• Bald eagles - there are apparently around 170 nests in the vicinity, so no shortage of sightings of these beauties. We watched one of them eating a fish on a rocky bluff
• A raccoon on an island - one of a family of three who live there
• Frozen tuna being offloaded from a small fishing boat - the authorities here have a firm hand in ensuring that fishing is sustainable, with a 'no throwback' policy that seems to work
• A scarecrow to keep sealions off a jetty (their weight might destroy it)
• Harbour seals
• Californian sealions. These are smaller sealions that we saw in the water. The cruise would normally visit some larger Steller sealions, but the crossing to the reef where they live was too rough in today's brisk westerly
• Kelp forests. Sea urchins eat the kelp, which is like giant oarweed that grows up to two feet a day, up to about 20 metres.
• Sea otter, on its back, chomping on a sea urchin that it was bashing with a stone. Kelp forests are proliferating where sea otters - once persecuted so that none remained in the area - have returned to feed on the sea urchins that eat the kelp
• Red-breasted mergansers, guillemots, common murres, oyster catchers (here they are black with red beaks) and numerous other sea and shore birds
• No whales. We looked for them but this was not a whale watching trip although it often encounters whales, who today must have been further out to sea - beyond our range.
It was a lovely 64 km trip in sunny weather, after last night's rain had cleared the atmosphere sufficiently to see a bit more detail in the nearby hills than the grey outlines we've been seeing to date.

The cruise lasted from 10 am to 3.30 pm, after which a trip to the Co-op provided us with the ingredients for a tasty salad and a strawberry croissant.

It was a lovely afternoon. We returned to the 'Lighthouse Circuit' - the section of the Wild Pacific Trail that we walked in over two hours yesterday morning. This time we chose the opposite direction which must be flatter, as it took us less than half an hour to cover the 4.6 km.

That left us plenty of time to laze in the sun on the bench outside our chalet, edit the day's pictures, enjoy a leisurely sauna/meal, and catch up with some correspondence before a further immersion in our giant bath.

Today's pictures are in chronological order as usual, all taken on or before the cruise, apart from the bottom three, two of which were taken on the Lighthouse Loop to show how much conditions for photography have improved since yesterday.

2 km of walking, 64 km boat cruising and a 4.6 km run in 27.30.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 10

Saturday 12 August 2017

The Wild Pacific Trail

It was cool and cloudy this morning, but we couldn't tell whether the visibility was any better as our views are out to the Pacific, the nearest land to our west being Russia, which is just a tad beyond our horizon!

A morning stroll took us on a 5 km loop from our chalet at Little Beach Resort, the Lighthouse Loop, around a small peninsula at the southern end of Ucluelet. The Amphitrite Lighthouse is the focus of the route. Today's benign conditions bely the fact that numerous shipwrecks have occurred around this reef strewn coast - 'the graveyard of the Pacific' - hence the need for a lighthouse.

There were many tourists on the highly manicured path that has a resting bench or/and a viewpoint every 50 metres or so. And lots of foreign languages, notably German.

We met an English child who was looking for a sea otter, and a Canadian child who was cuddling a giant black slug. Birdlife included the ubiquitous American Robin - an orange breasted blackbird, and Steller's Jay - a sort of glossy crested crow.

Back at our chalet, the men's 5000 metres race in the athletics World Championships was about to take place. Sadly Mo Farah could only manage second place in the last major track race of his career. We lunched on the remains of last night's salad and lingered to enjoy the excitement of the 4x100 metre relays. Joy for GB in both races, but disaster for the legendary Usain Bolt as his left leg gave way. 

This afternoon we completed our walk along the Wild Pacific Trail, setting off from our lodgings in the opposite direction to this morning. By now the hazy sun that had appeared mid morning was long gone. After passing an expectant wedding party - they were waiting for the principal players - we encountered a wet mist arriving from the west, slowly turning to drizzle then ever heavier steady rain.
The coastal path passes many small bays strewn with driftwood, which here equates to tree trunk sized logs. It was as heavily manicured but quieter than the morning route. Perhaps warnings about the increasing activity of wolves in this area... "pick up small children and dogs if you encounter a wolf" ... had put people off coming out. Or perhaps it was the weather forecast?

The trail ends at a rocky bluff. Today's views were very limited, so we took a rare 'selfie'. Nearby there's an optional loop in the trail to see some giant cedar trees. They really are massive.

After that we made our way quickly back home in the rain. Coastal trails are all very well - this one passes through pleasant woodland adjacent to a series of very similar bays - but for a wider variety of scenery the coastal walks in Pembroke and the South West of England are far superior to the routes we've found here.

Diary note for Sue: sort out Anglesey Coast Path trip.

We managed a quick turnaround and five minutes after getting back from our walk we set off to Hanks 'untraditional bbq' restaurant, where we both enjoyed  clams, mussels and Dungeness crab in a spicy tomato sauce, plus fries. Too dark for a photo I'm afraid (or would it just have looked like a jumbled pile of sea shells?). It was delicious, and followed by a tasty berry crumble with vanilla ice cream.

Then it was back out into the rain.

Today's pictures are in chronological order and track our progress along the coast path.

About 18 km of easy walking today, with maybe 200 metres ascent.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 9

Friday 11 August 2017

Nanaimo to Ucluelet via McLean Mill and Tofino - a journey of about 250 km.

Another 'blue sky apart from the smog day'. To start with anyway.

I managed a 4 km jog along the seafront in cooler conditions than yesterday's 35°C. Then we said goodbye to the Painted Turtle, stashed our overnight bags in Charlie, and wandered down to the seafront for breakfast.

A supermarket expedition ensured we wouldn't go hungry for a while, then we set off towards Port Alberni with the intention of getting elevenses there. Whilst we weren't distracted by the vineyard that delayed Robert, Lyn and Louise in 2015, we were distracted by some slightly clearer visibility by Cameron Lake, and by signs on the outskirts of Port Alberni for the McLean Mill. This had been recommended by Jonathan. Coffee was duly sourced, after which we enjoyed a stroll around the site of the sawmill that operated from 1926 until its closure in 1985. Most of the buildings had fallen into a state of dereliction before the City of Port Alberni acquired the site in 1988. It has been a challenging project to restore the buildings and return the mill to a properly operating condition.

Our visit coincided with the final stages of the setting up of the site for a music festival, the Five Acre Shaker, which takes place this weekend and features about forty performers on two stages, together with the usual accoutrements of a music festival. We were sorry to be moving on just before the first visitors arrived. We would have been interested to see bands like 'The Hip Replacements' and 'Looprechaun' in action. (Or would we?)

Lunch was taken - a couple of tasty quiches from the supermarket - under a canopy by the second stage - deserted before the arrival of the hordes, in hot sunny weather.

The drive to Tofino saw clouds appear for the first time on this trip (Day 9!), and with the clouds, which were partly sea fret, came plummeting temperatures - 25°C suddenly dropped to 15°C. By the time we reached Tofino our fleeces were being dragged from the depths of our luggage.

Tofino turns out to be Canada's answer to St Ives. Surfboards and other watersporty things abound and there are long sandy beaches nearby. The town was full, as Sue discovered when she tried to book accommodation there.

Like St Ives, Tofino isn't short of galleries. A Canadian artist, Roy Henry Vickers, owns the most upmarket of these. He's the brother of Arthur, who we met yesterday, but whilst Arthur sells just his 'high end' full size originals and limited edition prints, Roy reduces his masterpieces to cards and small block mounted items, one of which we bought for Sue to add to some nice earrings she acquired yesterday.

Back along the road we finally arrived at Ucluelet at around 5 pm. The receptionist at Little Beach Resort was expecting us and we were soon installed in chalet number 10, at one end of three adjoining chalets. We have all manner of facilities in one room, with a separate toilet. It's a  bit odd to have both a king size bed and a huge bath with jacuzzi in the same smallish room, not to mention the refrigerator, TV and microwave, dining table etc, etc.

Ucluelet is a place that despite being in the shadow of Tofino, is a notable destination in its own right. Lucy is still trying to get over her dismay when, some sixteen or seventeen years ago she brought my daughter here, only to be informed by the stroppy teenage nanny "It's bloody cold here, let's get back in the car" - she might have said the same today.

Sue went for a run whilst I made some tea that tasted awful so we strolled up the road for some beer to wash down our salady meal. Excellent. We still can't identify the reason for the horrible tea - all the components seem fine.

A most enjoyable interlude this evening involved readings from Robert's 'Brexton Travels' blog from his own Canadian Adventure with Lyn and Louise in 2015. Apart from the interest deriving from their route and activities, whatever gadget or addled brain Robert was using produced some very entertaining predictive text.

Today's pictures:

• The Painted Turtle Guest House
• By Cameron Lake
• McLean Sawmill locomotive 
• McLean Sawmill - the mill
• "Dead or Alive?"
• A Tofino view
• Our chalet at the Little Beach Resort

4 km run and about 7 km of walking in several outings.

Friday, 11 August 2017

A Canadian Adventure - Day 8

Thursday 10 August 2017

Victoria to Nanaimo - a journey of about 100 km.

A note about the delicious salmon we've been eating. It's the sockeye variety that has a deep red flesh as opposed to the paler flesh we see in the UK.

I didn't see any salmon, or even any seals, as I repeated the 4 km seafront run that we set about on arrival on Monday. Sue didn't join me this time.

After breakfast on Lucy's new deck in the hazy sunshine, Lucy and Jonathan gave us a conducted tour of their Winnebago, a large caravan that is towed behind a truck. It's a brilliant piece of kit, but I wouldn't like to have to reverse it down the driveway.

It was a shame to have to leave the Mears household; we only just touched the surface of Victoria in the three nights we stayed there. Thanks go to Lucy and Jonathan and the boys for hosting us at a time when they had just returned from one holiday and were about to set off on another to see the forthcoming eclipse of the sun in Idaho.

We eventually set off at 10.15, with the first stop at MEC to buy bear spray and camping gas. It turns out that bear spray is a protected substance that we could only buy after producing ID. We had to jog back to the place we'd parked as Charlie (our Toyota Camry) was on a meter for just 36 minutes!

Then we headed off up Highway 1 towards Mill Bay where we picked up fuel after midday, after which a coffee stop turned into lunch and coffee at the Rusticana Coffee café, where we sat in the shade in the garden. There were photos of nearby roads showing cars driving on the left prior to 1922 when driving on the right was introduced.

Cowichan Bay was our next stop. This village has galleries and craft shops, and a wharf where we saw boats that are designed for sustainable fishing. The Shipyard Gallery of Arthur Vickers was particularly good, although the screen prints and beautiful wooden bowls were out of our price range. The ones using gold sell for 200,000 CAD, and others were 5,000 CAD. The artist told us he had spent 8 years developing his 'inverse' technique, which was very unusual.

Onwards to Chemainus, a small town whose industry has suffered and many murals have been painted since the early 1980's that have become a tourist attraction. Many depict historic scenes and cover large areas of wall. Lemonade was being sold on a street corner by two young girls who were collecting funds for gymnastics equipment. It was welcome as temperatures were now in the 30's!

Onwards to Stocking Creek Farm, where Jonathan's sister Penny and her husband Dave have a PYO blueberry farm that also sells eggs, chickens and turkeys. We had a 'shindown' (blueberry milkshake) on their deck - it was an amazing colour, cold and very refreshing.

So, it wasn't until 6.45pm that we got to the Painted Turtle Guest House in Nanaimo, 'the harbour city', where we have a double room - our first 'paid for' room of the trip. Close by Shukkho Thai provided an excellent dinner, then we strolled down to the harbour and watched Chinese families crab fishing off a pier in the cooler air.

The outline of some nearby mountains appeared today, dark grey under a light grey sky. There were several good viewpoints on the coast road that we took, but only those who like an image that approximates to a wash of blue/grey/green paint, all mixed together, would bother with photography today.

Having said that, I've tried to offer something for readers - starting from the top:

• Outside Lucy and Jonathan's spacious house with its new deck
• Inspecting Winnebago
• Lunch at Rusticana Coffee cafe
• Houseboats at Cowichan Bay
• A mural at Chemainus
• Shindowns at Stocking Creek Farm
• David and Penny ("Hello, and thanks for the shindowns")
• Dinner at Sukkho Thai
• Nanaimo harbour

4 km run and about 7 km of walking in four separate outings.