We are divided between two options today – to drive one hour north to Campbell River, and then take a short ferry ride to Quadra Island, where we might be able to kayak with orcas – or travel about three hours to a beach. We toss a coin, and end up on the road to Tofino, the world famous surfing capital of Canada.
Our first stop is Sproat Lake. We get an insight into Canadian holidays as we drive through the camping area beside the lake. Each camp site has a spot to park your RV camper, and also your own personal picnic table courtesy of Parks Canada – no wonder these Canadians are so tough. The main attraction at Sproat Lake, beside the chance to hunt and fish for things smaller than you, while avoiding being hunted by things larger than you, is the Mars Water Bombers. These float planes are the largest water bombers in the world and can scoop up 27 tonnes of water at a time for fighting forest fires.
Excitement mounts as we climb back into the Dodge for the run to Ucluelet, our first beach stop. This is where things get a little, er, challenging. We’ve reached the southern end of the mountains that we have seen from our various outings further down The Island. Great – we’ll get some really pretty scenery. Not so great – the road will be steep, winding and bumpy. We go up a bit, round a bit, and down a bit many times over during next hour or so. I’m up front behind the wheel, so I feel it’s necessary to point out some of the great views. “Look at that mountain!” Groans. “Hey, wasn’t that logging truck going fast round the bend.” Groans. I’m a bit disappointed that the others just don’t seem to be quite in the right mood today.
Ucluelet is a bit disappointing, but we stop anyway. The family all look like palish Martians when they emerge from their seats, but I’m sure a nice lunch will see them right again. We can’t see a Maccas or Tim Horton’s anywhere and have to settle for the deep fried offerings at the local takeaway. No worries, we’ll be in Tofino and on the beach real soon. It’s only a short drive, and there are no mountains. Along the way, I’m amazed at the ingenuity of the early explorers in naming the places they visited. Ucluelet has Big Beach and Small Beach, Tofino has Long Beach, and we pass over the famous Lost Shoe #2 Creek.
We reach Tofino at last and head to the beach. Wow, look at the long expanse of sand! OK, it’s grey sand, but it’s still sand. Hey! Why are people putting on wetsuits before they leave the car park? You guessed it. It’s FREEZING! We have come all this way and are determined to get up close and personal with the northeast Pacific. There’s a moment of doubt when one of the surfers is thrown off his/her board when the wave freezes halfway to the shore, but – this is Canada after all. Kai still has lots of fun running in and out of the waves, though his parka is going to take a while to dry out. Finally it’s time to head back home, with a quick stop at Qualicum Beach to see how the sandcastle builders have gone today.
…. Some time later, we’re all sitting beside a fire on our little private beach watching our last sunset before we head back to the mainland tomorrow. We wonder what our day would have been like if the coin toss had gone the other way this morning. Besides the beach and the mountains, we saw a male deer in downtown Ucluelet, a bald eagle at Tofino, a black bear beside the road on the way home, and a seal has just popped its head up about a hundred metres from where we are sitting. If the coin had fallen differently? Who cares?