Vancouver Island: Ucluelet to Victoria

photo: Two people looking at and photographing 'Niagara Falls' in Goldstream Provincial Park, B.C.

Very tall falls in Goldstream Provincial Park with a couple people in front of it.

I started the day at the Blue Room in Ucluelet for breakfast: "hearty," but only so-so (eggs, ham, pancakes, coffee). I had packed and left the hotel by 0815, with my eye on a long day of driving. I had to get from Ucluelet to Victoria to return the car by late afternoon, and the drive is 305 km and 4 hours even if you did it straight through (and if you believe Google, who're quite optimistic in this case), which I had no intention of doing.

I stopped in Nanaimo to pick up some smoked oysters at St. Jeans Cannery: I've bought from them by mail previously, I thought it would be cool to walk in the door. Not an exciting visit, but I got my oysters.

I also stopped in Goldstream Park, and did the very short hike to Niagara Falls. If we're comparing it to its namesake in Ontario, I have to go with the height as the reason for the name: the one in Ontario is only a little taller than this one, which is 46 metres. But this one can't quite match the volume: by the time the water gets 30 metres downstream, it's been completely absorbed by the rock bed and disappears. Entirely. Strange. The falls are really lovely: I hope I got pictures to do it justice.

You know how the 400 gets north of Toronto on a Friday afternoon in summer? The highway out of Victoria that passes through Goldstream goes from four lanes to two, right as the road enters Goldstream. Friday at 1500 on this mostly sunny day, the stack of cars went back three kilometres from where the road constricts. Given that Victoria is also (like Ucluelet and Tofino) on a peninsula, there aren't a lot of ways out of town if you want to leave.

I got the car back to the airport just before 1600, with 1130 km more on the odometer. I caught public transit back into town, where I'm staying at Paul's Motor Inn. I had thought I'd go to Vancouver tomorrow and leave from Vancouver, but Air Canada makes that very difficult (even though I'd be freeing a seat on the Victoria-Vancouver flight I'd probably have to pay a change fee). So I decided that wouldn't be worth the fight, I'd stay in Victoria. It means I don't get to see Vancouver at all, but - less than 24 hours in each city, maybe just as well I stay here. But it turns out the Highland Games are here this weekend. As is some kind of high school band competition that coincides with the games. And, on a rather random note, a gathering of scooter fans that seems to centre at this hotel. When I asked one of the riders what was going on, he said "the old bikes" like it in this hotel, thus I have 20 Vespas outside. Really: that wasn't counting the Piaggios or other models. Although most of them departed in a couple of loud flurries around 2220, and I was very glad of it ...

Getting a hotel room for Saturday night turned out to be quite a struggle. In the end I'm paying almost twice as much (and happy of it - I was looking at possibly having to book one of the luxury hotels at $430 a night) but I have a very short commute: my next hotel is directly across the street from my current place. I went downtown - this is a very lovely town. Loaded to the gills with tourists: I wonder if that's because of the games or if that's normal? The provincial parliament is outlined in lights every night.

I wanted to have dinner at the well-reviewed Rockn'Rolls (sushi), but when I got there I found out the hours were 12-6, seven days a week. Fortunately, directly across from it was Barb's Fish and Chips, THE place to go for fish and chips in Victoria. I'm hitting a limit on fish and particularly chips, but I'll give them this: the fish was very good. As was the seafood chowder.

This is all down at Fisherman's Wharf, which is a very interesting place: we have a set of docks, with about 20 floating houses moored to them. I don't mean "house boats," there's no "boat" about these things: they're houses on floating platforms, period. Tiny houses, and some of them are incredibly eccentric. Definitely a lot of fun to look at. One of my first thoughts was "this must be a very well protected harbour!" Any waves over a foot would cause significant problems. Again, I hope I have good pictures. One of the places was for sale: I'd guess 450 square feet, the listed price was $250,000. I assume that came with moorage rights ...

Back downtown, the first bar I visited was packed to the point of having no seating at all. I ended up at "the mint," which had a longer beer list anyway and considerably more room. I had a Longhouse Chocolate Porter, which was quite good (surprisingly light for a porter, chocolately, and slightly sweet).

One vehicle that's popular around here - both out on the island and in Victoria - that I've never seen in Ontario, is the tall Mitsubishi mini-van with about a foot of ground clearance. It makes a lot of sense with the abundance of gravel roads and the desire to access the back woods camping sites, but it's a fairly specialized vehicle ...

A bright red Vespa scooter with sidecar