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  • Writer's pictureSandra

Vancouver Island 🇨🇦

Sunday, July 17th, 2022 was one of the few days we set our alarm clock. We're usually up early anyway, but we wanted to make sure not to pass the booked 9am ferry to Vancouver Island (British Columbia). We had stayed the night before in a golf course parking lot not far from the ferry crossing in Tsawwassen, so it was quite a short drive.

However, we had underestimated the queue; so it was quite close to be there at least 30 minutes before the departure time. That would have been expensive because the approximately 180 Canadian dollars would have been gone and the booking would have expired. When booking we had stated the RV/Motorhome and truthfully the correct dimensions of the Skoolie which was in fact checked on arrival at the ferry terminal. But the "nice" lady saw another problem and said our booking was invalid because we had not specified the vehicle type "bus". Sebastian made it clear to her that this is not a bus in the traditional sense (for transporting passengers), but a mobile home. She consulted us and (reluctantly) let us do it.

The crossing to Swartz Bay took about 1 ½ hours. Since we were not allowed to stay in the vehicle below deck and there was no space to open the rear door, I could not use my ramp to get out. Seb had to carry me out. 🙄

Luckily there was an elevator from the lower deck to the top. As an assistance dog, Lennox was of course allowed into the passenger area.

The fairy ride was relaxed. You didn't notice that the ferry was going full steam ahead, you just saw it. Shortly before docking, the passengers were allowed back to the vehicles, so that unloading went very quickly after arrival. We drove straight to Victoria - the capital of British Columbia. We weren't used to so much hustle and bustle, especially not since Canada.

We first inspected the parking facilities at the port, as we had a "date" there the next day. Then drove to Finlayson Point Beach; a real dog paradise as it turned out. You could stroll along the promenade and let the dogs run and romp officially off-leash.

We spent the night at Elk Lake not far from town because I was planning to launch the recently purchased kayak the next morning. But the morning temperatures didn't really suit me. We postponed the project and drove again to the dog paradise on the coast, where this time it was much less busy. Some skilfully used the prevailing updrafts.

In the early afternoon we parked the bus on a side street scouted the day before and walked to Fisherman's Warf. In bright sunshine and meanwhile quite pleasant temperatures, we sat down in a small Mexican harbor restaurant and enjoyed the view.

Then it was back to the bus, where I prepared myself for the evening excursion: warm socks, merino wool shirt, hooded sweatshirt + wind and waterproof jacket; I stowed my sweater and jacket in my backpack for the time being. At least Seb' exchanged the flip-flops for stockings and closed shoes and a long-sleeved shirt; he was even forced to take a jacket with him. I knew it would be fresh. Lennox stayed on the bus. I had thought about taking him with me - he would have been allowed to come as an assistance dog - but I decided against it. For his sake and for ours too. Around half past five we reported to Eagle Wing Tours and we were ready for the booked whale watching sunset tour.

After a brief introduction by the guide, we boarded the 18 m long catamaran "Wild 4 Whales". There were a few safety instructions in the closed area of ​​the boat before we were allowed to move freely on the boat. However, moving freely was easier said than done for me. There were a lot of people on board whose way I or THEMIR stood in their way. When everyone had spread out a bit, I wanted to go from the back of the boat through a narrow passage to the bow. The passage was narrow, I was aware of that. Seb' stood next to me shaking his head, but I didn't want to give up without a fight. When I got stuck and couldn't advance a millimeter, he felt vindicated and I was super frustrated. I hadn't booked an open boat tour so that I could end up sitting in the protected area where I was guaranteed not to see anything. 😠I rolled back, pouting, but it worked inside me. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm persistent and don't give up easily. 😈 I rolled to the other side of the catamaran where the same narrow passage led to the front. I took a run-up and conquered the first 30 cm. A staff member noticed my vehement attempt and supported me with a little push from behind. The push rims of my wheelchair squeaked when I brushed against the ship's side while I pulled myself forward on the railing. Lo and behold, I got through! Yeah!!! Seb' hadn't noticed anything about this action and of course I couldn't go back either... I would have loved to rub his nose in that it did work out. 😝 Sometimes 1-2 cm more is decisive after all 😉😂... I was happy, I no longer had to eke out my existence at the stern of the boat and could let the wind blow in my face. 🤩 Eventually, Seb' noticed I'd run away and surprisingly found me where he least expected me to be. I proudly reported on my successful hijacking. As far as I'm concerned, the whales could finally show up. 🐳 Shortly thereafter, a minke whale appeared in the distance. These usually live individually and are not as small as the name suggests. However, I cannot say how big it was. Unfortunately, he didn't show too much of himself. Still, a good start! We left "Minke" alone and the captain gave full thrust ahead... until he saw another whale watching boat standing still. We slowed down until the engine stopped altogether. The reason for this was killer whales. We followed every movement of the orca mother and her calf spellbound.

The time went by faster than I would have liked and when the engine of the boat started again I suspected that this whale encounter would also be the last for today. Too bad, a couple of humpback whales would have been nice. On our way back we steered past a sea lion fortress.

as we drove towards the sunset.

I felt like Rose on Titanic - only without Jack...🤷‍♀️

When we returned we were happily greeted by the best dog in the world who had obviously fended off any potential burglars. The subsequent search for a parking space was chaotic, but successful and ended in a quiet part of town. We spent the next day mainly driving and without any noteworthy events. Here and there we looked for a suitable lake to launch the kayak, but the banks were difficult to access, too steep and rocky. It just wasn't meant to be. We stayed at Qualicum Beach and the next morning drove to Ucluelet on the western part of the island for the Wild Pacific Trail.

We contested the 2.6 km long "Lighthouse Loop Trail"; Unfortunately, it wasn't suitable for wheelchair users, but it was doable despite a few chicanes. The west coast was shrouded in a mystical fog.

Then we went to the "Ancient Cedars". A 1 km long loop led to the oldest cedar trees of the Ucuelet Peninsula (approx. 800 years old).

If you are on the coast, a visit to the beach should not be missed. We drove to the surfer hotspot Longbeach, which lies between Ucluelet and Tofino. Unfortunately, visibility was very limited and the wind was brisk.

Tofino was only a stone's throw away. The small tourist place was nice to look at and well frequented... too well, because finding a parking space was almost impossible. It stayed with the passage. It was already evening and we decided to drive to a campground that was on the way. Too bad it was already full. Just as we were paying the porter an outrageous $30 for an overnight stay in the "Overflow" lot, a black bear walked behind us.

The young man armed himself with bear spray, instructed us to stay in the vehicle and went in search of the bear, which had meanwhile disappeared into the hedge. After what felt like 10 minutes he came back and finally let us drive to the parking lot. We complained about the fact that he was constantly running back and forth and making a lot of fanfare about the short visitor 🐻. In his defence, the campsite and campground was packed with lots of kiddies running around. The night passed quietly and without any special incidents.

In the morning we made our way back to the east side of the island. On the way there we had already passed McMillan Provincial Park, but hadn't stopped. This time we made a stop at the "giant Douglas fir trees", some of which are more than 800 years old and which felt like a fairytale forest.

I had read that further north Campbell River is famous for its salmon fishing and decided to go there. An overnight stay at the local dropzone seemed like a good idea. How wrong you can be... 😏 We actually stayed there, but I've never felt so out of place at any drop zone in the world. I'm actually used to the fact that jumpers are open-minded and interested. Here we encountered rather disinterest. I gave up relatively quickly and retreated to the bus. Maybe Seb' had "better luck" alone. After about 10 minutes he realized how tough the task was and gave up. The only interesting thing about this place was the exit dummy. (Here you practice the jump from the plane).

Not far from the dropzone was Elk Falls Park, which had good reviews on Google.

The trail through the forest was flat and easy. However, the view of the waterfalls is sparse - at least as a wheelchair user.

For pedestrians, a steep stairway with countless steps led to a suspension bridge that offered views of Elk Falls. You have to ask Seb' what it looked like there. 😉 In the meantime I had found out that the salmon season in Campbell River doesn't start until August, but I still insisted on having a salmon fillet for lunch and ordered it at the harbor restaurant "Moxies".

On Saturday, July 23rd, 2022, the time had finally come. After circumnavigating Shawnigan Lake 1 ½ times, we found the right section of beach for the "MISSION Kayak". With the help of the supplied hand pump, the "dinghy" was ready for use in no time at all. I sat down on the sandy beach and Seb pushed me into the water before he got in himself. Surprisingly, the boat was stable in the water and I was super comfortable. I would have loved to have had Lennox with me, but I wanted to test it myself before we all went swimming. However, the test drive was successful and not as wet as expected and was a lot of fun! 🤩

Next time I would definitely take provisions 🍇🧀🥂🍾 and of course Lennox. After this optimally used morning, it got increasingly hot around noon, whereupon we decided to treat ourselves to an ice cream. At Mill Bay Softys, Seb ordered a Strawberry Fields mug and I ordered a Black Forest mug. The sight took a lot of getting used to and the taste even more.

This ice cream tasted like cardboard with coconut. If the strawberry or amarena sauce hadn't been on top, we both probably would have spat it out again. Shortly thereafter I realized the mistake: vegan ice cream 🤢 Towards evening we aimed for a higher goal, the Malahat Skywalk, Vancouver Island's treetop walkway.

The 600 m long, barrier-free stairway led to a 32 m high viewing platform with views of Finlayson Arm, the Saanich Peninsula, Mount Baker and the distant Coast Mountains. A nice end to say goodbye to the island.

Am nächsten Morgen um 9 Uhr fuhren wir zurück aufs kanadische Festland und verließen Kanada nur wenige Stunden später.

🇨🇦 Thank you Canada, it was a blast! 🇨🇦❤️

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