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Nick, Tim & Pip’s Travel Diary

Monday, 12 May 2003

Location: Vancouver, Canada

MapWell folks, the time for the Hillbilly house is very limited. Only three weeks until we disband. With Nick and Tim heading off to cross Canada on bikes, leaving their sanity firmly on the couch watching the 30 channels of cable (remember we lost a few channels not so long ago!). We'll be leaving poor little Pipsta on her own in the couv - but we know she'll be okay, because the sun has come out. Its been out for two weeks straight. You would not believe the affect that has had on our moods!
Nick and Tim (that's Nick and me - for those who haven't guessed that its Tim writing this update) set out for a little test ride on the weekend. A sort of pre-canada-crossing check to make sure we have all the gear we need. We went to Galiano Island. A long thin island in the Gulf Islands of Canada - a short ferry ride from Tsawassen - south of Vancouver.
Little did we know that we were riding headlong into the kind of nature documentary you can't turn off (the kind on the outdoor life network that was so cruelly removed from us by the cable police not so long ago). The weekend was nothing short of amazing - hopefully our photos of it attest to this.
We set out Friday morning, wobbled our bikes over to the bus stop in downtown. The first ride with full panniers is a wobbly one, but we soon got used to it. The buses have a rack on the front that fits only two bikes, lucky that we got there early, more on that later.

Off the bus and onto the ferry. An uneventful ferry ride and we ended up on the Island. Our aim was to go to the end of the island and camp in the national park there. We were told that access was blocked to the park because of a land dispute, but we thought we'd give it a try anyway. The ride along the island was beautiful, leafy streets - sunny day, amazing views. We stopped at a lookout for lunch that was breathtaking. Nature experience one happened there with a sitting of what had to be a whale. A massive splash at the other side of the water separating us and another island. We also met the postman. He'd been living there 32 years and sorted his mail at the lookout every day. Can't blame the man.
After lunch we continued on the ride towards the end of the island. We got there only to find the way blocked by "The Rah" No not an Indian band, we're not sure what in fact - just a bunch of signs saying "No trespassing" and "trespassers will be composted". We think maybe they were some strange alien worshipping cult. We trespassed, but never did find the way into the park. We think it might have overgrown. Such a waste - a national park ruined over a selfish political debate.
Next we tried riding through the Indian reserve. It was pretty much deserted and didn't provide us with a nice camping spot, it did have a nice bay to have a look at though.
So we rode back down the island to Montague Harbour. As always good came from bad and we discovered a beautiful place indeed. The beach next to the campsite was literally a living organism. Thousands of crabs and molluscs and other little marine things were feeding, fighting and shagging wherever they could. The local birds were everywhere and just as the sun was going down, a head bobbed up out of the water and let out a breath - a seal was seeing what all the fuss was about.
We decided that day two was going to have to be spent kayaking instead of riding. A very good decision indeed. The Gulf Islands are just an incredible place to kayak. The water was glassy smooth and the sun was beating down (first sunburn of the season!) Within minutes of leaving the harbour we saw our first seal. They would just bob up out of the water to have a look at you! We kayaked over to the row of islands opposite Galiano, mostly uninhabited - except by birds. Every one had something different to look at. We stopped for lunch on one that was covered in birds. They weren't so happy about us being there, but we were careful to be sensitive and stayed on the beach. The island had another inhabitant as well - a sea otter. Cool little animals that scamper and swim around. After lunch we kayaked back over to Galiano - first stop a cliff, that was a bird nesting area. Amazingly loud and covered in crap, but incredible to watch. We stayed mesmerised for quite some time. After this we paddled down the coast of Galiano back to the harbour. It was just crazy how many things there were to see along the way. Massive (no really - they were huge) bright purple and pink starfish, more otters, a deer and lesbian only Buddhist retreat (we guess so anyway). Best of all we came across a number of seals sunning themselves on the rocks. The first few freaked when we went near them, but we got the hang of it by the end. By paddling against the current and just drifting past them they let us get real close. Check out the photo of one of the characters sun baking.
Another sunset and nights sleep and it was up to spend a lazy day waiting for the ferry. As we rode our bikes out of the camp ground - we had to stop for some pannier adjustments. As we did, these two minks ran out of the forest about 20 metres away from us. They started bolting straight at is making there strange little noise. It was quite strange. Soon as the got close to us they changed course by just a little and scampered on there way - way too quick for a camera I'm afraid! How anyone can wear a mink coat I don't know.
We went for some more rides around the island - over to Bluff Park - a place with some nice views (and steep hills!) and then to Bellhouse Park. Where we spotted an eagle fly into its gargantuan nest in a pine tree. Nick stood for quite some time waiting to snap it fly out again, but we saw our ferry sail into port and that pesky eagle never did take off again.
When we arrived back on the mainland - the whole zen of the trip was nearly destroyed by one a--hole. We were first to the bus stop and waited for half an hour for the first bus. Two came at once and some jerk tried to jump the queue on us and put his bike on the bus going direct to Vancouver. After we told him we were first he said there was nothing he was going to do for us. At first we backed off, but then anger got the better of us and we went back to confront him. With the whole bus queue watching Nick forcibly removed his bike from the bus - the guy started to put up a fight, but saw the logic, with two guys bigger and angrier than him. It ended with a Canadian shouting "Aussie rules" from the queue. Not a display we liked to put on, but we were in the right (as most of the people in the queue seemed to think). Oh well, nothing could ruin the trip though. We got home to the pipstar - and ate pizza very happy!