Vancouver Island 2007       Picasa Photo Album

After a year of saving money and a few months of planning and emails with brother and sister, I'm back in Victoria. The weather is so nice, I switch into shorts as I get off the airport shuttle, and remain that way for the entire trip. I've been here before and lived in Smither's, B.C. back in the 70's but can't seem to separate the details out. I think Gary Wong and I came out from Vancouver to visit Sandy MacIntosh, a long ways back. Early dementia, or just a result of my forms of personal entertainment back then?

Like the trip to Ireland last year, the sense of freedom is exhilarating. Time, money, health and mobility, all wrapped up in a headspace that means to take advantage of such an exquisite slice of time.

Last year, everything was so new. This year, I'm still in Canada and I'll be visiting family as well. Will be interesting to see how the headspace part works out on this trip.


I like this city, the way it's laid out, the harbour, the downtown. I'm off to visit my niece Becky, who I haven't seen since she was 5 years old. Because of family visiting and pictures and the planned bike trip, I have 2 bags weighing about 25 kg all told. A real pain in the behind to slog about. It will only be here and there that I need to have both going, thank goodness.

Dropping in on Becky was a shock all around. I'm used to meeting new people all the time and enjoy that. Meeting a long-lost relative is different, as you have a connection, basically with someone you know very little about. Weird. Got to meet grand-nieces Maya and Lola almost right away, as well as Becky's partner, John and friend Anna.

The plan was to drive up to my sister Michelle's as soon as I arrived, so off we went. Got a chance to speak with everyone a bit and feel more comfy.

We arrive at Michelle's and it's a quick call to brother John to get him to come over. To say that I'm shocked when I see him is an understatement. I didn't come with much in the way of expectations for this whole trip but am still quite blown away. Have not been able to cipher why seeing John was such as shock, but that it was. We're about the same weight and height. He has most of his hair and keeps it long. He has the same eyes and nose that I can see in my kids, but something about his eyes is so different, I think I'd not know the man if I had come across him randomly. Weird, huh?


The next few days are a lot of fun. Lots of family about, so I get to talk and hang with people informally. I get in an early run in some crisp, clean air, and work my way down to the park my brother lives in as well as the beach called The Spit, that the family photos will be at later in the day. I also get in a bike ride to Courtney, which is much busier than last time I was here, but also has big strips of fast-food type wasteland. Lost a lot of it's little funky town flavor.

The photo session at the beach is a blast. Enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to Michelle for pulling all this together. I get to see brother John's partner Linda, as well as their son Ben and his partner Meaghan. Ben is bigger than me and John together. Good news for the Murphy clan...we have a 6 footer in the gene pool!!!.

I also get to see JoAnne for the first time since she was around 8. She has a husband Kyle and daughter Livea. Bit of stress meeting so many new family members. The photographer (Karen) is a real pro, and the session is a lot of fun. After the pics, me and brother John head off to a bar for a few beer and start to get re-acquainted. We have been emailing back and forth for a few months after many years of no contact, so it's nice to have a real person to deal with. Email misses a lot of context and can be quite confusing at times. The look on someone's face or the tilt of their head or crook of their smile adds so much to a conversation.

Saturday is a great day all around. I get in another early run and some ball hockey. I start working on the bikes that brother has set me up with. They're quite old, which is not a problem in itself (my road bike is from the 70's as well), but they haven't been ridden in years, which is a problem. Hard to work with nuts/bolts, cables and spokes that are that past their due date. I get a bike assembled that I can live with, but the brakes/wheels combo has me too nervous. Can't be nervous tooling down the highway with 15 kgs on the bike and cars whizzing by.

Easter dinner is a lot of fun. Great to be part of a scene that I've only seen in pictures the past few years. Once again, kudos to my big sister for pulling this all together and giving the family some center.


Sunday, its off at 5:30 AM with Kyle to go surfing in Tofino with his good buddy, Ed. These guys have been surfing for years and it's a lot of fun to be part of their surfing rituals. We end up at some part of Long Beach called Chesterman's? The wetsuit is something else. You enter it thru a slit just behind the headpiece. Left foot, right foot, left arm, right arm. Lots of contorting. Would love a video of that initial entry into the suit. It's a mix of 3mm, 4mm and 5mm bits, so it moves well and keeps you nice and toasty in April ocean water that sits around 4C.

The waves are nice and big. Yikes! I figure I use up about 80% of my day's energy tilting at those oncoming waves. The boys did come back and give me some pointers and I used much less energy as the day went on. Lunch was in Tofino at a pub and included a trip to the coffee shop and Eagle Aerie Gallery that has a lot of amazing art by Roy Henry Vickers.

The afternoon session brought some nicely spaced, fair-sized waves and I actually got on top of my board here and there. To put this all in perspective, I spent 5 hours in the water that day and a grand total of 5 seconds standing on my board, with the longest stretch being about 1.5 seconds.

The entire day was a blast! Hope to buy a boogie board and try some more this summer.


Monday, I still got out for an early run, but it hurt bigtime. Got a laundry done and some book work, then Michelle and I headed up to Mount Washington, 1700 feet vertical drop, biggest hill I've been to. The size of the place blew me away. Their lift capacity is over 12,000 riders an hour. Yikes! Lucky for me, we were headed for the Nordic runs, which were a lot more peaceful. It was nice to do some sports with my big sister. I actually can't remember when we last lived in the same house, but it would be late sixties. Dinner, brother John and Linda came over for a nice big meal and some chat afterwards. Brother and I got into some sort of tiff and left on bad terms. Having only dealt with my immediate nuclear family and a bunch of crazy Jewish in-laws for the past 20 some years, the entire situation came as quite a shock. We did agree to keep the communications lines open, which is a start.

Tuesday, oddly enough, I skipped the run. My body was running down a bit. I did bike out to Courtney to check on bike rentals, then had lunch with Michelle and some of her workmates. A quick change of clothes and it was off for a light dragon boat session with more of my sister's buddies. Great to see so many active people my age and up. Just like the Gonzos, the coffee session afterward lasted longer than the workout. My kind of crowd! Michelle got her friend Mary to lend me a bike and I spent the next few hours getting ready to take off.

Wednesday, it's off to Denman Island after stocking up the bike, including a nice, waterproof handlebar bag that I intend to give to Michelle as a house gift, since she is off to Kettle Creek for a week of biking later in the summer. The ride is easy enough, but the combination of 15 kg on the bike and some mild hills has the bike skipping in a few of the main riding gears. As well, the left shifter will not pick up the big ring and it's not an adjustment problem.

Denman Island is a cool place and I use the opportunity to take a nice break and finally catch up on email. I've been going full-bore for almost a week and both the brain and body are showing the white flag. I meet Andre from Montreal and we get in a nice chat. As well, a few more people drop in and the hostel owner also drops by. A nice day all around.


Thursday, it's off to Nanaimo on the bike. Only problem is, I keep losing gears. I make a decision to cut my losses, bike back to Comox, re-pack with just my backpack and take off again. I arrive in Nanaimo by bus for suppertime. The Painted Turtle hostel is a good one, very well laid out and run by a young Aussie couple with a brand-new baby. I find a great bar with a really good blues band and enjoy the end of a pretty long day.

Friday, it is raining cats and dogs all day. This is to be expected on a 3 week trip in B.C. in April, so I don't fight it. Get in a laundry, some email and blog stuff and lots of reading and some chatting with other hostel people. I only have 2 or three of everything in my clothes, so can never miss a chance for laundry. Evening is a jazz bar with another Aussie. They're everywhere.

Bungy Jump

Bungy Jump. Notice the graceful start and classy finish. Sound bolted on Trip Video. Family on beach, Hot Springs, Hummingbird Hostel, Butchart Gardens, Lola on solid food

Saturday is a gorgeous morning. I decide to walk the 12 km out of Nanaimo to the Bungy Jump place. They get a kick out of that when I arrive. I'm the first jumper of the day. To say that I had fun would be an understatement. The difference between the initial anticipation, the fear of actually getting ready to jump and the exhilaration once you let go of land. Whew! Worth every penny. I had asked for a spongy rope, knowing that this led to the possibility of maybe touching the water. In reality, I ended up 2 feet into the water. Not expected, but icing on the cake. The whole experience was a blast! They shuttled me back into town and I celebrated at a bar, watching Pittsburgh win a hockey game. Spent a pretty quiet evening.


Sunday, it's back to Tofino. I just enter my dorm room and a young guy (Joe) is knocking on the door, looking for a fourth to help rent a float plane flying up to Hot Springs Cove for the rest of the day. Off I go with Joe, Bayden, and another Aussie, Mitch. I've been in and out of lots of small planes and helicopters, but I've never been in a float plane, so this was a special treat. The hot springs are a 2km walk thru a rainforest atmosphere, all up on a boardwalk built with lots of donations. Give enough money and you get to supply one of the boards with some sort of personalized engraving in it. Too cool.

The springs themselves are small, but there is only 4 of us. I alternate between the springs and the ocean and am just getting all soggy inside about 4 hours later, when it's time to head back. We just hit the grocery store before it closes, then the beer store. The hostel is hopping. No room in the kitchen at 8:00 PM on a Sunday night! My kind of crowd. I get to meet my roommates (Ivo and Sara from Germany) and after a few hours of schmoozing, I end up in a bar listening to a head-banging band play songs from my youth. Finally get back to my room almost 12 hours after first stepping into it. A very cool day. One of the main reasons to travel with no set itinerary.

Monday, it's raining and sleeting almost all day. Nice day guessed it, another laundry, hang out in the local coffee shop, check out the water taxis going north, check out the whale watching tours, browse the funky little shops, and later, see a movie (Babel) in the local library. A quiet, busy day.


Tuesday, it's off on the water taxi to Flores Island and the Hummingbird Hostel on the Ahousat Reservation. The hostel is run by a slight, 40 year old Japanese guy (Yuki) whose been there for 8 years. He had travelled there and met some locals, made a good buddy who had actually visited him in Japan. Started up the hostel and had been going along great until a falling out put quite a bit of strain on the relationship.

The hostel is surrounded by hummingbirds, feeding on the deck. It's a wonderful, sunny, crisp spring day, and I decide to spend it sitting on the dock, just watching the life of this village go around me. One of the nicer days I've ever spent. A gorgeous little harbour, planes taking off and landing every 1/2 hour or so, fishing boats going back and forth all day. Eagles and hawks in the air, and locals going by and chatting every so often. Very cool indeed. I hitch a ride with a local over to the main reservation. They had made a movie about it back in the 70's: I Heard the Owl Call My Name. I was lucky enough to see that movie later in the day. Hang out at the beach for a bit, talking with locals, then hitch a ride back to my little dock with the clam-diggers. One of the big things I notice is what rough shape the reservation houses are in, yet from all signs, the local economy is chugging along real fine. It is suggested that if anyone tries to stick out from the group, the payback can be quite nasty, like sugaring someone's new boat engine. Will spend more time trying to see if this makes any sense. Later in the evening, I visit the clam-diggers again as they haul in and weight their catch for the day. All in all a very good day.


Wednesday is another gorgeous day. Makes one happy to be alive. I head back to Tofino by boat. Get to see some cows grazing on seaweed on the beach. Weird . I try to book a whale watching tour, but the hostel and tours are packed with a large pack of school kids. One of the disadvantages of not booking things in advance. My bed that night is on the floor of the hostel. Missing the tour, I walk out of Tofino about 5km to the Botanical Gardens. Such a peaceful place, right along the water. Stayed a few hours there and really enjoyed myself. A very funky spot, lots of local sculpture to go along with the plants. Back at the hostel, I opt to go for a run. No sneaks with me, so I plod along in the hiking shoes. Feet don't really like that. After dinner I hit a supper club to see 2 female folk artists (Selena and Sabrina). Very enjoyable. I buy their CDs, and am enjoying them and the CD my daughter Emily made for me for my 53rd birthday as I write this up. All in all, a very enjoyable day

I am starting to spend my thinking time, trying to figure out just what sort of travelling I like to do. I haven't spent any real time in shops, haven't bought anything. Spent a lot of time outdoors. The highlight reel parts like the surfing, skiiing, bungy jumping and float plane are a lot of fun and make great memories. But the real enjoyment I get out of walking, meeting new people, hanging out on a wharf or in a park. Whew. I enjoy this stuff more than anything else. Very interesting.

Since I have been visiting family, I am also thinking about them, my brother and sister and how we all got to be who we are, and how we deal with the really tough times that we had with the s.o.b that was my dad. I start working on a haiku, trying to see if I can compress some of my thoughts into some sort of readable form. This will take some time. It is Salt Spring before I nail down something I can live with.

Thursday is yet again another gorgeous day. My plan is to walk from Tofino to Uclulet, about 41 kms. I chat a little with one of the young Japanese girls working in the hostel. Like the Spanish girls in Ireland and London, they come here to work on their English and visit another country/culture. I head out of town nice and early, stopping along the way at beaches such as Incinerator Rock. Feels good to be mobile again. I stop at Wikkannish beach for lunch and the waiter tells me that I can get to Uclulet without going back on the road. After 25+ kms of asphalt, I'm ready. Nice hike thru the woods, 5-6 km on Florentia Beach, a little skinny-dip, back thru the woods and onto the Uclulet bike path. Sweet!


Uclulet is a pretty place, but it's late and I'm beat up. Various parts of my body hurt a lot. To a bar for beer and burgers, watch some hockey, have a bath and hit the sack. A great day. I really love this walking stuff.

Friday, the weather is still gorgeous. Breakfast is with a very attractive German girl (Edith). I love swapping travel stories with people. I decide to head back to Comox and spend the weekend there, visiting everyone I can. My sister picks me up at the bus station and we head off to a local pub for dinner and a beer. I love being on vacation.


Saturday is Earth Day. We go visit JoAnne and Kyle at their new house, and take Livea with us to the fairgrounds for a few hours. It's great hanging out with little kids. They're so easy to keep happy, as long as you remember that what they are doing is way more important than what you are doing. Michelle and I have a big meal and spend the evening chatting.

Sunday is my day off. I head out for a long walk, hang out in a coffee shop, drop in on the brother, who unfortunately had gotten called into work. We chat later in the day on the phone. The afternoon, I get to visit Michelle's ex-hubby Jim. Haven't seen him in 25+ years either. He looks great, seems to be leading a good life. Michelle and I have another big meal, dessert with her friend Maxine and spend the evening chatting and sharing pictures and looking at the family album she did up for my Mom's 80th birthday.


Monday, I slog all my packed gear the 5 miles to the bus station in Courtney. Lesson in stubbornness. Get to Victoria in time for a Bbq and Game7 of Vancouver Canuck's first round matchup. Great to see everyone again. I even get to meet Jamie, Maya's Dad. The weather is nice and sunny and I enjoy the day a lot.

Salt Spring Island

Tuesday morning, the rain starts again, and lasts till I leave. I search out and find a funky, little diner (Beacon Hill) for breakfast, then start walking the Galloping Goose trail in downtown Victoria. The trail would take me right up the peninsula if I wanted. I put in about 20kms by mid-afternoon, then step off the tail and bus up to Departure Bay. By supper, the weather has turned and it's a wonderful, sunny day. End up in Fulford, Saltspring Island, staying at a nice, little B&B for the night. Have the best food/beer/newspaper/music combo of the entire trip. End up sharing a few beer with the B&B proprietor and his friends at the pub. A pretty good day, all around.

Wednesday morning, I hitch-hike to Ganges, the biggest place on the island. Housing costs here are quite shocking, even after Victoria. It's a very funky, little spot and I would like to have stayed a day or so. Neither time or $$$ budget could handle that. I spend a nice morning tooling about town, checking out the docks and writing in a local coffee shop.

I decide to walk to the ferry, then walk to Duncan from there. All in all, another 20+ kms, of course, in the rain. During this little slog, I finish up my haiku about my father.

wolf eyes find the boy
his heart is frozen with fear
- the sun melts his tears

I am physically beat up by the time I hit Duncan. I treat myself to a motel room. Whoowee! All that space, a real bed, TV to watch. Once again, dinner in the downstairs pub, with a hockey game to boot. Soak in the tub for more than an hour. Delicious!


Thursday is a really busy day. Bus to Victoria, bus back up to Butchart Gardens...a stunning place, back to Victoria and the Opera (Mozart - Don Giovanni). I had a great seat at the opera, front-row balcony. All the main characters had good, strong voices, and the set design was really good. Enjoyed the entire day, once again.

Friday, another rainy day. Off to Beacon Hill for brekkie, then spend the day at the Royal Museum (Titanic display and First Nations display including newly acquired Tsimshian treasures). Pick up some beer to see the latest hockey game at Becky's and it's a done day.

Up at 4:00 AM Saturday morning, shuttle to airport and a quick flight home. Never remember if flying east is worse than west. All I know is between the end of a 3 week trip and the time change, my head felt like a basketcase for a few days. Was back in time to help Sophie clean her old house and move to a new spot, then celebrate my 53rd birthday.


I enjoyed this trip a lot. I got to see the rest of my extended family and learned a lot about just what it is I enjoy about this type of travel. Visiting family is not like living in the area, but when everyone is a continent apart, you do the best you can. My sister Michelle comes to the East Coast for a visit every summer, and we keep in touch with emails.

There were a number of highlight days on this trip (Surfing, Skiing, Dragon Boat Paddling, Bungy Jump, Float Plane, Opera), but realistically, the best days had a simpler theme. I was outside, usually under my own power, and not really busy (walking, Botanical Gardens, Butchart Gardens, Indian Reservation, hike to Uclulet, sitting on dock in Tofino). I spent a few days outside from sunup to sundown. In Ireland, most of my days were spent this way...a small backpack, lots of mobility, nothing in particular to do, lots of time for stillness in my head. I just re-read my Ireland writeup, and it put me back in that headspace.

Travelling in B.C. was a bit too much like any part of Canada. There is so much to see and do in Canada, but for the type of travelling I seem to enjoy, being in another country is an even bigger bonus. Next year, I think a few Gonzos are planning to do a week long bike trip in Cuba. Group bike trips are a lot of fun. Depending on time and cash, I may stay there an extra week or so by myself.

Cheers! Bruce