|Posted by Tara Mulvany on July 5, 2014 at 1:20 PM|
Right now I'm sitting on the ferry on my way back to the mainland after an incredible six weeks on Vancouver Island. I'm sad but content - it is with regret that I'm leaving this magical island that I have grown to love, but at the same time I'm happy that I've achieved what I set out to do, and excited about the adventures that lie ahead.
The last time I blogged was in Tofino, a little west coast town beside the ocean, complete with a lively, surfy vibe. I spent two nights under a roof at Tofino Traveller's Guesthouse, owned by the sweetest guy ever named Nick. If you're ever in Tofino I thoroughly recommend staying here, it's chilled and friendly, and Nick makes the most gigantic waffles for breakfast. It was a relaxing break after having spent more than two weeks alone on the remote west coast, and it was a hard decision to load up my boat with fresh supplies, wheel her down to the waters edge, and paddle away.
The sea was still a bit lumpy after several windy days, and it wasn't long before I was paddling along to the mantra of 'don't vomit, keep paddling, nooo... don't vomit..' To add to my discomfort I had a seriously sore bum, so bad in fact that the odd rogue wave sent a splash of salty water rolling down my face. Luckily my planned island home for the night was not far away, and soon I was lying in the sun on a white beach of crushed shells. A sign nailed to a tree hanging above had an interesting picture of a torpedo exploding, and some bold words saying "Danger! Keep Out!". Turns out my camping island was an old torpedo testing ground, but all good, I pitched my tent on the beach and decided not to venture into the forest. To be attacked by a bear would make a good story, but half blown up by a torpedo? Maybe not so.
From my torpedo island I busted out a couple of big days, clocking around 150km in three days on a mission to get to the end. The seas were calm and seals basked in the sun on rocky outcrops. A couple of whales swam close by, occasionally lifting their giant tails before disappearing for a few minutes. They puffed huge breaths each time they surfaced, blowing up a small cloud of mist. Then one decided to blow in my face. If you've ever been this close to such a massive marine creature, you'll realise that this really isn't as cool as it sounds. Describing whale breath as being stinky would be more than an under statement. It was bad, very bad.
Nearing Sooke, and the point where I would turn towards the north once again, the forest slowly melted into houses, and lots of them. It was getting late, the sky was grey, I was soaked, and sneaky camping possibilities didn't look good. But luck was on my side, and rounding a headland I spotted a small building just above a stony beach with an upside down dingy hanging from it's deck. I was stoked, and dragged my boat up high and dry, jumped under the dinghy and cooked a delicious feed. An hour later the rain had cleared and I noticed that the house on the hill above had no lights on, and the blinds were down on all it's windows. Perfect, time for investigating! Soon I discovered that the shelter above was unlocked.. That only meant one thing, my home for the night! It's not trespassing if it's unlocked right? I went to sleep feeling smug and happy, and took a few pictures just to prove to Max Grant (the master of sneaky camp outs in unlocked buildings of all sorts) of my amazing find.
It was on this foggy night that I came to the realisation that I really didn't want the trip to end anymore. I wasn't ready to finish, and I certainty didn't want to leave my simple hobo life behind, for one of your average tourist. So instead of finishing my trip in two days like I could have, I took eight, soaking in what was left of another awesome journey alone.
I ran nude down more beaches than I can count on my fingers and toes. Why? because I didn't want to sleep in the clothes that I cooked in, otherwise I'd get eaten. So all my clothes, and food were sealed away in my kayak each night, hence a mad dash to the safety of my tent. The good thing about this, is that if I did happen to run into a bear, I'm certain he'd freak and never be seen again. Smart thinking I say.
On a sunny afternoon I paddled into the harbour at Victoria to spent a day in the bustling city. I kept well clear of the boat traffic, paddling along the far side of the channel, but alas, I found myself dodging a float plane that decided to try and land on my head. Or perhaps maybe I shouldn't have been paddling on the runway! A minute later a patrol boat motored up beside me. Leaning over the side, a rather stern looking man called out, "Do you know you're on a very busy runway?!" Time to play dumb tourist. "Hmm yeah, I just discovered that.. Sorry.. I'm not from here.." Note to self, watch out for planes, and keep off runways whilst kayaking in Canada.
That evening I found myself racing yachts, across to some islands a few km offshore. The sea was glass and I dominated, overtaking a number of boats and winning the race. If only I entered. My days from here to the end are all a bit of a blur, but filled with calm seas, countless islands and hazy horizons, all set under a temperamental sky.
On the last night of my journey I camped on a tiny island - the same place where Jaime and I camped on the first night of my trip. Mosquitos buzzed, flames flew high, and sitting on a pile of logs I couldn't help but reflect on yet another memorable trip. I did not feel much of a sense of achievement, other than the fact that I'd paddled around the island without shoes, I'd navigated the entire west coast with a road map, and I'd guessed the tide and current times each day and survived. This trip wasn't about doing anything hard core, and it lacked the excitement that had come with paddling the west coast of NZ - nothing will ever compare. Instead it was about experiencing a new country from kayak level, chasing wildlife, and living life under a stary sky for as long as possible.
In the past 9 months, I have paddled more than 4000 km and life has been easy and good. But it's hasn't been all glowing sunsets and calm seas. There have been days when all I wished for was a home (it's been two and a half years since I have had a home, other than my tent), a warm bed and a non leaky therm-a-rest. Days when I was wet, cold and hungry, but all I could do was keep paddling, battling into the wind for hours and hours, salt water running down my face and my hands stinging beyond numbness. But like always, the intensity of these 'character building' moments fades with time, and I'm glad that I can look back and just giggle, feeling happy that I gave it my best shot.
So now that it's all come to an end, I find myself sitting on the ferry, looking out towards the hazy outline of the Gulf Islands, and the smoky blue hills of Vancouver Island behind. The features of the land are slowly fading away, but the memories of my experiences on this coastal island will stay with me, I hope for a long time.
From here, I'm on my way to the Rockies and Jasper to visit Abi James and Eve Thomas, two friends from NZ, who are living the rafting and bus driving dream here in Canada. Then from Jasper my rough plan is to head to the US with Jaime Sharp, on tour with Trak Kayaks. Hopefully I will find myself paddling some awesome whitewater, huge goofy grin and all, and making the most of this unemployed freedom.