Well, we are now back on our travel schedule after a long day of driving yesterday. We left Kamloops just before 9.00 am and arrived at Tofino on Vancouver Island just before 8.00 pm. Our trip was a little over 600 km including a 1 1/2 hour ferry trip to the island.
We had about 1/4 of a tankful of petrol as we left Kamloops in the morning and I was intending to fill up from a gas station when I found one on the right hand side of the road. As it happened, we didn’t see any as we drove, so we calculated that the next town called Merritt was some 80 kms away and we had about 120 kms of petrol in the tank. Merritt is billed as Canada’s Country and Western capital; this is a place that I wold normally avoid.
We didn’t allow for the fact that the road climbed high over an alpine plateau and I watched the amount of fuel declining much faster than the kilometres we were travelling. Thanks to the fact that Merritt sits at the bottom of a very long hill from the same plateau (perhaps 13 km), we used a lot less petrol going down. When we arrived at the first gas station, we had less than 2 litres in the tank. A close call indeed! Our car is a new Ford Escape 4WD and I am quite impressed with the way it drives. It has an extensive entertainment and information system which runs on Microsoft software and It seems that the fuel information system, at least, is very accurate. The only disadvantage is that it only has a 50 litre fuel tank. The range is therefore only a little over 550 kms which is a lot less than the 1000 kms that I get from a tankful in my diesel powered BMW.
We traveled through hilly, if not mountainous country nearly all the way back to Vancouver where the last 80 kms or so, consists of flat market gardens and farming land. Our travel through the suburban areas was typically slow, but we did reach the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay in sufficient time to grab a bite of late lunch in the quaint little village before our ferry departed at 3.10 pm. It arrived at Departure Bay on Vancouver Island 1 hour and 40 minutes later. We had originally had a reservation on the 1.10 pm ferry (which would have made much better arrival time for us) but we couldn’t make up all that time with the extra distance that we had to drive from Kamloops.
Tofino is a real Gem. There is only one road in, and that’s over Sutton Pass. It’s a long and windy road but exceptionally beautiful. It passes by lakes, travels along valleys and crosses rushing mountain streams. We pushed on hard and without stopping yesterday, but we look forward to a more leisurely trip back with plenty of stops to enjoy the grandeur of the rainforest and mountain scenery. This area fronts the Pacific Ocean is right on the 49th Parallel. It is a proclaimed Tsunami Zone and there are lots of signs on the road pointing to tsunami escape routes. I guess that the threat comes from the large earthquakes that can occur around Japan.
I have learned that there are three compulsory things to have with you if you are ever travelling to Tofino. Firstly, make sure that you have adequate rain gear. The total annual rainfall here is about 3250 mm – that’s why the rain forest is so lush. That rainfall averages out to 8mm of rain per day, but of course it is not equally distributed throughout the year. Secondly, make sure that you have a hotel reservation – most of the hotels are fully booked in summer. Thirdly, bring a camera with a large memory card.
Down the road is another little town called Ucluelot, which is pronounced exactly as it is written ( U-Clue-Lot). Sometimes, it seems easier to just refer to it as ‘Ukelele’. Between these two towns, there are many things to do here. Whale watching tours are a specialty, as are bear watching tours, in season. On a nice sunny day, it would be great to walk along some of the very scenic beaches. They feel very remote and could be quite scenic. Unfortunately, it has rained all day today, and a sea fog has blown in this afternoon meaning that any long vistas have been ruled out. Visibility at any of the beaches that we visited has been very limited.
Instead, we have concentrated on looking at the rainforest. Tofino is famous for having the Pacific Rim National Park on its doorstep. (Perhaps the fourth thing that you should have, if visit here, is a National Parks Pass). The forests are very grand and and lush. There are large stands of big cedars, firs, spruce and hemlock. Most of them have large amounts of moss hanging from their lower branches and this gives an appearance of an ‘enhanced forest’. We found a couple of boardwalks that provided circular walks through the forest and while they were wet and quite slippery, they provided an easy way to experience a very scenic view of this very damp environment. We also spent a little while exploring a walk around an area of bog, but it wasn’t very interesting and it rained solidly al the time. The forest canopy at least provided some protection.
Tonight, we will look through some of the dozens of nice restaurants around here to see if we can find as a nice place to have dinner. Tomorrow, we drive back to Victoria – the last stop on this trip before heading back home.
Would you believe that as I write this, the fog has cleared and the sun has now come out. We are tempted to drive back along the coast and revisit some of the beaches that we tried to see earlier in the day.