We leave early after bidding Josie and Warwick goodbye. They are heading on a different adventure. Completely at home driving our new Jeep Cherokee Ren is negotiating city highways and byways with ease. It’s hard to believe she had never driven in Canada until last week when we arrived.
We are making our way from Victoria in the south of Vancouver Island, to Port Hardy at the other end, and while both she and Gilbert are keeping an eye on different GPS systems, it’s basically North, North and more North. I doze as is usual for me in a moving vehicle, and Ren is chatting to either of us, depending who is awake. Gilbert leans forward to adjust the air con. “Dad! She shouts, what are you doing?” as he drops the temperature further. Whenever we traveled somewhere in the car, it was always Ren complaining about the temperature being too low and Gilbert would say, “the driver decides”. “Leave that alone!, she demands, I’m the driver now” but he won’t leave it, and he wins as we grab a scarf and Ren’s trying to close and redirect the vents away from her.
He’s perusing some trip advisor and tells us Coombs is a good place to stop for a break. There’s speciality cheese, craft markets, an arts centre and a rain forest we can explore…He’s still perusing the options as we sail past. “Too late Dad, Ren laughs, you snooze, you lose. We just passed the exit”.
But some have signs of logging, leaving them scarred and brown. Deer fencing on the right side and signs caution of elk. Not sure how hard it would be to avoid those if they tear out on the road at 120 either? Ren shows us the fences on the left hand side have gates that allow the animals to go in, but prongs stop them from coming out to keep them off the highway.
We stop for a break at Chemainus. ‘The mural capital’ and they are everywhere, on almost every building, depicting a bygone era. A market is being set up so it must be market Wednesday as we see the signs up all over the place at exits. We decide to pop into the museum first and I point out all the things I have at home that are similar. “See that sewing pattern Renny, I point it out, I think I have that exact same pattern at home…Actually.” “I don’t doubt it Mum, she replies rolling her eyes, I don’t doubt it.” We wander on and see homemaking tips 1800’s pioneer women have written. Life was tough. Gilbert’s enthralled in the video they are playing showing logging techniques, so we head out to the markets.
Chemainus gets its name from a Shayman/Prophet, Tsa-Meean-Is, who arrived into the area with a massive chest wound which healed. He was revered and soon became Chief of the village and now the river, bay, bush and town all carry his name. A logging town like most, there are logs a plenty floating neatly in the river. We walk down to take a closer look, before heading back up to the markets.
I’m wandering past a table laden with cute hand knitted knee rugs and I smile to myself thinking it’s just what Ren needs, when I hear her squealing. I turn and she’s laughing pretty hard as she comes up to me. “The old lady on that stall just told me she had ‘just met my husband’, she shrieks, I look back wondering what she’s on about when she tells me the lady asked her where she was from, and when she answered ‘NZ’, she replied “Oh lovely, I just met your husband”. Haha! I’m laughing pretty hard now as I realise. Ren continues “I told her ‘what! He’s my Dad, and he’s about a hundred!” Gilbert comes up beside us and tells us chuckling that it’s because he looks so young”. Ummm….
We spot a cafe and see there is full grain bread that looks amazing, and homemade biscuits and a proper coffee machine. Coffee is so shit here, we are hopeful that these signs might bode for something better, but while she grinds, taps, steams and froths, it still tastes like muddy water. “I can’t take this anymore, I tell Ren. I’m going to have to get herbal teas from now on”. I’ve always said herbal teas taste like I imagine compost would taste, but I can tell you that’s actually preferable. Ren tells us NZ is regarded as having the best coffee in the world, and Gilbert says it’s the milk, as we leave Chemainus behind.
Next stop is Gilbert’s recommendation at Campbell River. We are looking for lunch and we have barely got out of the car before Ren has found ‘best food options’ in Campbell River are Java shack and a Fish n Chip place that she points out to Gilbert across the road. Gilbert looks around. “Over there”, she points again to a place on the waters edge “or this one, Java Shack”, that has a sign up saying ‘Freakin delicious breakfasts’. We are still deciding when a couple of fat older guys across the road start yelling out and leering at us, or I should say Lauren. “What are they saying?” I ask Ren looking around, but no one else is near us. Ren starts laughing, “I think they thought I was waving at them”, she says. “Jeepers Ren. You should be more careful how you point!”
Next stop is Woss lake in the middle of Nimpkiah valley. We stop for a walk and wander down to the lake which except for the rain is quite pretty. Ren points out the bear proof rubbish bins and we look at each other eyes wide, as we are down a hill in amongst the trees. It’s pretty unusual to come across a bear, we have been told and if you are out walking to make a good amount of noise, even to the point of wearing a bell on your backpack to warn bears of your presence. They don’t like to be surprised and if they hear you coming will move away. But if you have the misfortune of wandering between a Mama bear and her babies, you’re pretty much screwed. I hope to never meet a Mama and her babies as you wouldn’t stand a chance. Have you seen their nails?