Slight delay in getting this blog uploaded as we’ve been away from an internet connection for the past while. We last left you with us about to set off north along the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. Another incredible road to add to the lengthening list of incredible roads we’ve driven. We spent a night in Jasper, spoiled ourselves on a big diner breakfast the next morning and set off west.
A day later, on the steep road down into Whistler we had our first car trouble. Sam’s inexperience with driving (before setting off on the trip he’d only driven once since passing his driving test, on flat rural roads in Iceland) was largely to blame for the four smoking, seized brakes that greeted us at the bottom of the mountain descent – we didn’t know that the T&C’s ‘L’ gear was meant to be used when descending steep slopes and so drove the 3-ton fully loaded minivan down the mountain solely on the breaks. Oops. We started joking about the fact that we at least made it to the other side of the country but to be honest, we all thought it would be the end of our beautiful trip. The car was towed to the nearest garage in Whistler – a place on the edge of town called Barney’s. There, we sullenly unpacked our gear to spend the night in a nearby campsite contemplating our options. Happily in the end, the mechanics simply needed to flush out our boiled brake fluid and top it off again. We were on the road towards Vancouver Island again the next morning, having found the name of our car, Barney.
That evening we had our very first view of the Pacific Ocean. As we drove north along the road to Tofino we had glimpses of it through the trees but it took until we arrived at our campground to get a proper view. Every night of the journey so far we’ve been following the setting sun west. At Tofino we ran barefoot down a sandy beach towards the ocean. In front of us the sun approached the horizon and we felt a quiet contentment knowing that we’d reached a huge milestone in our journey. We had driven across Canada, as far west as we could possibly go.
We slept that night within earshot of the waves rolling onto shore and woke the next morning to the same sound. After months of cold Canadian winter, Tofino became our little paradise. Sun, sea sand – it was perfect. We could stay there forever – all these feelings, just from our first morning in the campsite.
That day, we rented sea kayaks and explored the islands of Clayoquot Sound. We landed on Meares Island and walked the Big Tree Trail through the rainforest, walking amongst thousand-year-old western red cedars with their characteristic rotted centres big enough for us all to stand inside.
With Tofino being such a haven for surfers we couldn’t possibly visit without getting out in the water ourselves. The next day we linked up with a local surf school to give four of us our first lessons in how to catch a wave. Jethro, our surf instructor, quickly got us out in the water and up standing on our boards. Most of the time standing on our boards was almost immediately followed by falling from them but the occasions where everything came together and we were able to ride our way in towards shore on the crest of a breaking wave made all the falls worth it.
Our time in Tofino was all too brief and when we left it was with mixed feelings. The next stop was the city of Vancouver where we would meet up with another group of European friends who were also travelling around Canada after the end of our studies in Ontario. After spending the entire year together at the university and already having travelled through North America together it felt strange that the four days we had together would be the last we would all spend together in Canada. We didn’t make specific plans for what to do in Vancouver but simply spent our days together strolling around city. The city offered the perfect atmosphere for such lazy days, which was exactly what we all needed. English Bay Beach and Queen Elisabeth Park became our favourite places and combined with some of Vancouver’s excellent diverse dining gave us renewed energy to continue our trip.
Our final day in Vancouver came with many sad goodbyes to our friends and the end of a perfect time in Canada but also the prospect of an international border and a whole new country to discover. See you in the USA!
Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.
Keep up with us throughout our journey via the weekly blogs posted here that we’ll be writing for Osprey Packs or follow us on Instagram:
Photos by Sam.