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
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
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
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
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
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.
Saturday is a gorgeous morning. I decide to walk the 12 km out of
Nanaimo to the
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
Monday, it's raining and sleeting almost all day. Nice day for...you
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
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
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
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
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.