On Friday 27th February, the Fella and I set off in high spirits from Vancouver to be married next to the Pacific Ocean in Tofino. As neither of us have the ability to travel light, the car was stuffed with everything we could think of that we might need for a four day hotel wedding stay at the seaside. This included an emergency corkscrew and my nifty, petroleum based meringue (zipped out of sight in a suit carrier and wrapped in two black plastic bin liners).
Now, just in case you are not familiar with the West Coast of Canada, this map shows our journey to Tofino (you may need to shrink the map a bit to see our start and end points):
The journey is about 322 km (200 or so miles) but it took us most of the day to get there. Partly because the last 85 km of the route before you hit the coast road to Tofino is a twisty mountain affair. Now the journey had a very promising start. We took a ferry from Tsawassen and, believe it or not, the sun was shining which gave us a fairly clear view back towards Vancouver as we sailed away!
Once on the island, we opted to go through a place called Coombs so that we could stop for a coffee at Goats on the Roof. Now, if you ever trek across to Tofino (particularly if you are camping or staying in self-catering accommodation) this is a great place to stock up on a few deli treats.
They even had some Neal's Yard Dairy cheese in their fridge. I thought that I was hallucinating when I lifted out a small wedge of Stichelton Blue, "Oh my precious, my pretty," I thought as I stumbled towards the check-out, dazzled by its little specks of blue mould and promise of stilton-like richness, "How on earth did you end up here, so far from home? Oh! Let me carry you to safety where your every mouthful will be appreciated!"
Mind you, it is not just homesick Brits clutching cheese, chutney and a single sachet of Colman's Spaghetti Bolognese flavouring that makes the rest of the Old Country Market complex around Goats on the Roof a little odd - the remaining units are an interesting mix of gift shops, a second hand bookstore and an eclectic mix of statues.
Now, I realise that I am not from around here but even I am fairly certain that these creatures are not native to British Columbia?! Feeling a little startled (possibly, starting to worry that someone might have slipped something into our coffees), we headed back to our car, past this gentleman strumming 60s folk tunes on his guitar and hastily got back on the road to Tofino.
Well, we drove and we drove. We stopped for the Fella to smoke a cigarette outside in the snow.
Then we also chewed on some salmon jerky to keep our strengths up (or feel like proper frontier people, I am not sure which) and then, we drove a whole lot more. Some-hours-later and rather fed up with our journey, I took this photo:
Now this could have been taken almost anywhere along our entire route. Except that the mountain road was a bit more up-down and twisty with the occasional view across a lake.
In actual fact, this photo was taken as we were driving along the coast road towards our hotel. It was about 16:00 and we had been traveling since 09:00. This might seem a strange photo to include in this blog post but you need to know that while I love driving, I make a bad car passenger.
After 85 kms of being thrown up, down and from side to side on a mountain road, I was feeling a bit green around the gills. The only thing that had kept me going was the Fella's promise that the ocean would be waiting for us.
Now in the UK, the chances are that you will pass over the crest of a hill on your way to the seaside and there it will be! A glittering, beautiful, white capped blue sea. This is the sight that I watch out for throughout every journey towards a beach - the only satisfactory reward for being cooped up inside a moving vehicle!
Well, um, not here in Canada (or not near Tofino, at least). It seems that dense rainforest swallows the land all the way up to the very edge of the beach.
Now, as it turns out, the Pacific Ocean is just through those trees on the left hand side of the photograph and, beyond those trees, the next significant land mass is Japan. I am only telling you this because this is the information that the Fella was telling me - after 7 hours of travel, feeling quite carsick and while we were driving along this road.
There was an unhappy, disbelieving silence in the car. "We are almost there," he tried to console me. I was not having any of it. I broke my silence.
"Fella - you've dragged me all the way to a road in the middle of nowhere. It has taken hours, and now you tell me that we are next to the ocean, only minutes from our hotel and you have clearly fibbed - there is NO SEA here at all; it is just a road and some trees."
"Ocean," he corrected gently.
I pouted (if I am honest), "Ocean, sea, water – what does it matter?! Whatever it is called, there really isn't any here at all!"
Grumpily, I took the above picture as evidence. I like to hope, looking back on this, that my carsick, travel weary distress was obvious and not causing him to worry that he might be marrying a complete harridan!
Luckily the Fella is quite a patient man and he does realise when it is time to stop arguing a point with me - particularly when I have solid, fact based evidence to support my case.
So he stopped telling me about the ocean. Instead, he tried to distract me by pointing out the bullet-dents in the signs along the road. Apparently, or so he was once told many years ago by a local resident, it is quite a feat to hit a road sign with a handgun from a fast moving vehicle when your mate is driving as fast as they can and trying to swipe the bottle of alcohol out of your non gun-toting hand?
For some reason, this did not cheer me up at all.
Shortly after this, the Fella turned the car left into the trees, where it crept slowly down a little dark tree-shaded lane, past little hotel cottages and we finally parked in the hotel car park. In the middle of the forest.
I tumbled ungainly out of the car. As I opened my mouth to protest that he'd absconded with me to a very gloomy wet wood and not the seaside at all, I realised that I could hear the ocean! So I perked up and bundled the Fella into the hotel with all our luggage. As we walked up the steps and into the hotel reception, my sense of relief increased.
We had stepped into a luxurious oasis of warm and efficient calm. The delicious aroma of food and the smell of a wood fire were emanating from the hotel's Great Room along with the gentle tinkle of glasses, happy chatter and a bit of music. From this, it seemed that I might escape a challenge from a local to compete in a roadside bow and arrow contest during our stay?!
We checked in, went straight up to our room and then headed out onto our balcony and do you know what? Right there in front of me, was the ocean.
At last! Great big gobs of wavy, noisy, fabulous ocean! This was the view from our balcony. (If you click, you may be able to increase the size of this image in Flickr to see it better.)
This is the view of our hotel, The Long Beach Lodge Resort Hotel, looking back up from the beach.
Yes - the Fella got a great big kiss and an apology for my travel weary grumpiness!