Friday, May 2, 2014

Vancouver 2014 – Day 5. Across Vancouver Island

I started early on my trip to Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I was not quite sure how far it was, so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there. At the end it was about 250 km, and considering that my top speed is 50 km per hour, and closer to 30 km/hour on average, it is not surprising that it took me about 9 hours to complete the trip.

The first leg, to Nanaimo, is due north from Victoria, along the east coast of the island along Highway 1. It was a busy road, but once again I did alright riding on the shoulder. The weather changed every 10 minutes from sunny to overcast, to drizzly but was overall quite pleasant. I passed many beautiful mountains, but didn’t take time to go for a little hike because I felt I had to gain miles before crossing the mountains. I had been told that the road across the mountains was very twisted and steep, so I was giving myself enough time to negotiate it.

After Nanaimo the road veers to the west, along a road full of cracks and differential settlement, so in that regard it is challenging. As far as steepness or curves it was not challenging at all. I hope these good folks never have to drive through southern Mexico or northern Vietnam, where they would have to redefine their conception of tough driving. But then again they have their mercurial weather, don’t they. As I drove up the mountains the temperature started dropping and the wind started picking up speed. It must have been 10ºC, but with the wind chill factor it felt more like 5ºC. And then it started to rain. Like in other occasions I managed to get damp between the first drops of rain and the time I donned my rain poncho, after which the rain started to fall in earnest, chilling me to the bone.

As my body temperature dropped I started to feel sleepy. Yes, it is possible to fall asleep on a scooter, and more than once I found myself perilously close to the edge of the road, or swinging wildly toward the middle of the road. I stopped once to walk a little and clear my head, just in time for a big deluge to hit. I was under the shelter of a rest area, but my poor scooter got drenched (it is a good thing that I had jerry-rigged saddle bags with two water proof river bags, so my computer and other personal belongings remained totally dry).

I started to shiver when I got back on the scooter, and the last 50 km were actually quite miserable. This is too bad because for the last 30 km I was riding on a narrow peninsula, and I had to miss several opportunities to park and walk to the beach. The west coast is very popular with surfers, so I imagine it is quite spectacular, but I was a man on a mission (namely to get out of my wet, freezing boots) and I kept going until I got to Tofino and my hostel. I got there around 5:30, and promptly got rid of my wet clothes, but it took me a good half hour to thaw and stop shivering.

Tofino is a nice touristy little town that overlooks a beautiful bay. The town caters to surfers and beach combers, and has the regular array of shops and amenities. I checked a couple of restaurants and thought they were pricey, so I stopped at the supermarket and bought what I needed to make a nice Jambalaya for dinner. I still need to take a hot shower and wash and dry clothes, but for the time being I am enjoying a cup of coffee while I write this blog. A warm bed has never beckoned in a more alluring way.    

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