(click on picturesto enlarge)
Living in Italy where people like to enjoy life, I have come to appreciate the joys of celebrating all sorts of things. As my niece says, “best to celebrate as much as possible before the final celebration” (at which, of course, you yourself will be absent!). So I decided to fly to Vancouver Island to celebrate my sister’s birthday and to see her family who I do not get a chance to see much of. We had a great family re-union and I also got to enjoy the BC wilderness.
Vancouver Island has mountains, forests, rivers and of course the ocean. The best part is that it is possible to experience all of these in a day. The West Coast temperate rainforests with their tall redwood and red cyprus trees are spectacular, many growing to over 100 ft tall.
We walked along part of the BC trail in the Cowichan Valley and came across the Kinsol Trestle, a wooden railway trestle bridge built in 1920 over the Koksilah river. Reputed to be one of the highest railway trestles in the world, it is around 145 ft high and over 600 ft long. All the vertical supporting beams are fashioned from single tree trunks which is quite amazing when you think about it.
Although I’ve lived in Canada for 20 years, I had never actually seen a bear in the wild. One morning, we went for a walk in the forest, stopped at a farmhouse cafe for lunch and as we were driving back, we rounded a bend and suddenly came across a black bear calmly wandering accross the road.
Good thing I didn’t hit it but I did manage to stop the car and get a photo. What surprised me was that we were well out of the forested area where we had seen signs warning people about bears and we had just passed several houses. Apparently, at this time of year, bears go around foraging for food to build up their stores of fat before winter sets in.
Taking the ferry from the island to Vancouver city is a short and picturesque trip as you pass other Gulf islands and often see dolphins or whales. Vancouver has a wonderful geographical location, with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. My friend Evelyn does some work for the tourist board and has free access to all the major tourist sites. She took took me on a great tour of the city starting with a walk across a 450 ft long and 230 ft high rope suspension bridge over the Capilano river in north Vancouver. The bridge sways a little as you walk along it which is a little disconcerting at first but you soon get used to it. I wouldn’t recommend it for people with a fear of heights!
This is the time of year when salmon swim upriver from the ocean to spawn and I was lucky to see them in the Capilano river. There a few different species of salmon and it is quite a sight to actually see them swimming against the flow and jumping out of the water. Fishing depletes their numbers and in order to repopulate the stock, a salmon hatchery close to the mouth of the river traps them as they come upriver. The trap consists of a small wall built across the river such that the fish are diverted into a narrow trench leading into the hatchery. Here, the fish spawn, the spawn is allowed to hatch and when the fish are big enough, they are put back into the river again to continue their lifecycle in the ocean. At the end of their lifecycle which may last for 1 to 5 years depending on the species, they return to the same river to spawn.
I stayed with my niece Charmaine and family who live in the city. They have a little garden where surprisingly for a small city space, they keep a beehive. This year, they harvested around 100 lbs of honey and had a spring, a summer and an autumn collection. The spring and summer varieties are lighter in colour and more fluid while the autumn variety is a rich brown. I have samples of each and we are going to do a tasting this Thanksgiving weekend, back in Ontario.