Friday, we drove. And drove and drove and drove. Again, pathetic speed limits and even more pathetic drivers hampered our efforts to get to Vancouver Island. On the island, there are two tiny cities. Victoria is the capital of BC and is supposed to be a totally British tourist trap. We had no interest. Nanaimo is an even tinier city with a history of depression and drug use. Plus, it has a Cambie hostel. So we tried to get there.
We arrived at the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen at about 4, but had to wait two hours for a boat. The terminal proved its own posh little world. A mall sold upscale, overpriced treats. Two actors, one in a cow suit, provided a live action infomercial for the Daisy Dairy Co. to all the toddlers in the terminal. Children were invited to sing, over and over:
Daisy makes it good for you!
It was fucking annoying, and it's still stuck in my head. Who could possibly feel comfortable taking in part in producing an infomercial for kids? From the jingle writer to the singer to the performers. I want to join the alliance for an ad-free childhood, or whatever it's called.
Fed up with Daisy, I used my new 300mm lens to check out the action at the nearby port. A Chinese containership left (great shots), an Israeli one was still unloading, and a huge bulk ship was taking on probably 100,000 tons of Canadian coal for whatever developing nation bid the highest.
Once the ferry got underway, true relaxation commenced. People read
on the ferry, just like they read on the train. The ferry even has its own bookstore! Dan caught up on blog posts, and I read some more Thomas (not Tom) Wolfe.
Once we got onto Vancouver Island, I was a little surprised. It looked more like Atlantic Canada, with lumber mills everywhere. Nanaimo's run-down downtown boasted a scary casino in a strip mall. We checked right into the Cambie there, where the bar actually was
the front desk. Our room was a dark, windowless piece of shit with a giant bunk bed made from rough cut lumber. The walls were painted garish non-colors, almost orange and almost cream. It could have been 1966 in there. Immediately we went downstairs and drank. Almost three pitchers of Kokanee, in fact, with some burgers to wash it down. The nightly entertainment, for which we escaped paying the cover charge, consisted of Mouth Full of Bees, a seemingly straightedge band with an anorexic male violin/guitar player and a chubby kid singer who dedicated songs to his son, and Autopilot, a friendly trio all the way from Saskatoon, SK. The were like a baby Nirvana, with a longhaired weirdo playing strat and singing, an anorexic waif playing incredibly nimble pick-bass, and a really outgoing lefty drummer who looked exactly like my brother.
As the bands played, basic cable broadcast sports news and then a pretty hard-core porn show called "Sin Cities." It was distracting. Nothing is censored in order to Save The Children in Canada, not even classic rock radio. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, fuckin' up the scenery, breakin' my mind. It's embarrassing to finally hear the real versions of songs you've heard your whole life, or at least since you turned 13.
We really wanted to see the old-growth rainforest in Pacific Rim Nat'l Park, so we tried to get up at 6 and race over in time to return our rented car. Neither of us set our cell phones, and there was no window, so there was no sunlight. We got up at 830, and emerged from the Cambie looking destroyed. Surprisingly, a group of four girls from Quebec had also just emerged, looking overprimped, shiny, and ready for a day at the mall. We had no idea how they could have looked so together after spending a night there.
We called the car rental place, and they had already authorized an additional day of rental. So we lumbered across the island to the Pacific Rim. Dan took a bad turn end ended us up in a Canada Day parade detour in the town of Parksville. By the time we got to the park, it was noon. We were glad to hear that the big, bad government of Canada had decided to make all national park admission free in honor of the country's 139th birthday.
If you've never been to a rainforest, go to one! Even at the chilly, northern reaches of the Pacific Rim, the diversity and abundance of life is utterly amazing. Overwhelming, in fact. Monkeylike bird caws resound from the spruce canopy. Big yellow banana slugs eat holes through whatever leaves they can find (or whatever ones they actually eat). New trees grow out of nutrient rich fallen trunks, and when the trunks are finally decomposed after a few hundred years or so, trees are left standing several feet above the ground. The gentle wooden path built generously by Parks Canada never fails you.
We hear that 2/3 of the Vancouver Island rainforests have been logged, and after seeing all the woodchip barges and log tows (hundreds of logs dragged behind a tug) crossing the Strait of Georgia, it's not hard to imagine how or why.
We also stopped for a long while at Wickaninnish Beach. Shrouds of gray mist covered the spotty crowds of Canada Day revelers, surfers, and sandcastle builders there. More foreboding than the icy water were the heavily eroded dead trees that marked the sand line. There were also many signs telling you that sudden surges will trap you in floating logs and kill you.
An additional hour behind schedule, we high-tailed it back over the winding mountains and 'ululating' scenery, stopping at our first McDonald's of the trip. (The food on this one has been particularly bad--we've already had two feet of Subway each, and I had one lunch that consisted of a vanilla milkshake and a slurpee). We were glad to find that the McD's had little packets of white vinegar and summarily doused our fries with them.
We made the 6:20 ferry from Departure Bay on the Island to Horseshoe Bay on the mainland. The 90-minute ride allowed me to catch up on this writing, the first time I've ever caught up on a big vacation. I still have unfinished posts from my 2004 trip, and I'm pretty sure I gave up on last year's.
We're now arriving at the mainland. We have to check into the Cambie here, ditch the car, and take a cab back downtown for Canada Day revelry. We have five nights downtown--now is the time for the vacation from our vacation! I hope to bike, to continue to learn real photography, and to kick-start some fiction. Five nights and almost five days of Vancouver. I have to make it work.