Returning to Victoria
We left Anacortes, weaving our way through the gulf islands, (you can peruse pictures of our journey here) and got off the ferry in Sidney, British Columbia about 3 hours later. We then proceeded to what turned out to be our smoothest border crossing yet.
I'd tried to determine what fresh produce we could bring with us on the official Canadian Food Inspection Agency website but they sure don't make it very clear. In the end we decided to play it safe and hardly took anything with us. Having said that I did push the envelope a wee bit and marinated a huge container full of veggies the night before, figuring that if they were ever to check they'd think they were cooked. ;-) We also transformed the last of our avos into guacamole and tomatoes into salsa. As it turned out the border guy was super friendly and didn't give us any trouble whatsoever.
And so we headed south on highway 17 towards Victoria where Don and I used to live. It's actually where we met when I first relocated from Quebec to British Columbia in 2000. We drove right by Elk/Beaver Lake park just across the road from where we shared a house. To our surprise, Kylo started scratching at the van's door, obviously recognizing the place. You see, we used to walk there with him pretty much every day. We decided that some fresh air indeed sounded like a mighty good idea so we stopped for a stroll.
It was strange to return after over 10 years. I couldn't help but think of the person I was back in those days; so excited at the prospect of a new life opening to me. It's also during that period that I first started dabbling into raw. While I was doing a master cleanse the people next door had a yard sale. Browsing through their books I found one about raw foods. I've forgotten the name of it now but it was a small thing. About half of it was devoted to explaining the premise behind the raw lifestyle and the other was some simple recipes. Anyhoo it totally spoke to me and I took it home. A few months later I was beginning my raw journey in earnest.
Our next stop was a health food store called Lifestyle where we used to shop. I was rather dismayed at the price of their organics and how sad these looked, especially after the wonderful farmers markets we visited in California. While browsing around I noticed that they had a book section so on the spur of the moment I thought I'd talk to somebody to see if they'd be willing to carry my Delightfully Raw. The man that I approached happened to be the one in charge of that kind of stuff and was immediately interested. In fact he bought 9 books right on the spot! Woo hoo! What a positive note to begin our Canadian travels on, I thought!
One of the main incentives for us to come to the island was to spend time with Don's daughter, Amber. She lives in Victoria and we hadn't seen her since 2008 so we arranged to drop by before going camping. As we usually do, we had no fixed idea of how long we'd be staying, waiting to see how things would unfold. I must admit that neither of us had foreseen, though, that our time with Am would turn out to be so short! She's going to a private massage therapy school that is demanding virtually all of her focus and energy and, as a result, she wasn't feeling up to entertaining guests. At least we got to hang out with her and her roommate Lindsay the next day. We'd lived with both of them for several months prior to moving to the Slocan Valley. We hadn't seen Linds since 2002, yet we picked things up right where we had left off, as if it was only yesterday!
Off to the Boondocks
Before getting out of Victoria we drove to Chinatown to buy some seaweed and to eat at Cafe Bliss, a raw restaurant that opened its doors a couple of years ago. (More about our experience there in this post!) We then headed out of the city and kept following the coast in the hope of finding a quiet spot to bushwhack for a few days. After about an hour or so we were almost ready to turn back and settle for an official campground when I noticed an old RV emerging from a small gravel road. Of course it could have been that they were coming out of their own driveway but we had nothing to loose by checking it out. Sure enough, we soon noticed a few other campers along what turned out to be a service road. We found a space to park further down and away from the others. Wow, were we being guided or what!?! I mean if it wasn't for that camper coming out at the exact moment that we passed by we would have no doubt missed it altogether!
As soon as we got out of the van we were welcomed by the sound of hummingbirds zooming around; a good omen in our books. Unfortunately we soon found out that the next road over led to an active gravel pit and could hear the trucks working on weekdays, but at least we were in Nature and the price was right.
Shortly before leaving the US we invested in an inverter and a deep cell battery that would allow us to use our appliances wherever we go. We could have thought of it earlier and it would have certainly been handy on this trip, but what can you do? It only makes us appreciate it the more! We put our new system to the test for the first time and it worked like a charm! Woo hoo! It feels like such a luxury to be able to enjoy fresh fruit and veggie juices, smoothies and other blended yummies while being surrounded by, well, nothing but trees and birds! ;-)
Puss had a wonderful time exploring the area. She was out and about during most of the day, then would snuggle in with us at night. I love this shot of her; I think it really captures the wild nature that awakens in her whenever she's in the woods.
As we often do when we find ourselves surrounded by wilderness we completely slowed down our pace, spending our waking hours doing exercises, walking, meditating, resting and reading. We had a couple of really miserable rainy days while we were there, forcing us to stay cooped up in the van. It gave us no choice but to chill out which is actually a very good thing. In spite of how much more laid back this trip has been, I felt some accumulated tiredness catch up with me and was glad for the excuse to not do much.
French Beach Provincial Park
After about a week or so we decided to change location and move a little closer to civilization as we had to get online every 3 or 4 days. And so we set up camp at French Beach Provincial Park, about a 20 minute drive west of Sooke. It was one of the better campgrounds we've been to; it offers only water and pit toilets but has nice, mostly private sites among lots of trees. As a bonus we discovered that at this time of year seniors only pay half price. Yippee!
There were various paths leading from the campsites to the beach. I love the rain forest; everything is always soooooo lush and vibrant!
Our site was only a short walk away from the ocean. In fact we were so close that we could hear the soothing sound of the waves crashing rhythmically against the shore. The forecast had been predicting rain but to our surprise (and delight!) Mr. Sun joined us instead! Woo hoo!
Kyky at the beach
There was a great big fallen tree right behind our site and it quickly became Puss' most favorite place to explore and hang out.
Bamberton Park before the long weekend craziness hit.
We had a quiet spot right next to a trail that led to the lake shore.
On the Move Again
When we left the next morning, the campground was full by 10am!!! Eeek! We were sure glad that we were out of there! We continued north, pausing briefly in Duncan to buy some groceries. Later in the afternoon we made a little detour through Qualicum Beach as we wanted to go to Rawthentic Eatery (review coming up!) Don was turning 63 years young that day, so it proved to be the perfect birthday treat since I couldn't whip him up some wicked raw dessert.
We'd made arrangements to meet our host Pat at Zen Zero - a vegan cafe in Courtenay that offers some raw options. From there we followed her to the nearby community of Comox where she lives. The town is right on the water and offers a lovely view of yet more snowy mountaintops.
When we first talked about the possibility of our visiting the area Pat had offered us to stay at her mother in law's house, as Margaret is now living in a retirement home. Once again, Life seemed to have another idea as at the last possible minute something came up and the space was no longer available. For a while we thought that we wouldn't have a roof over our heads but Pat was determined to find a solution. She invited us to stay at her house which she shares with her hubby, Doug, and her two beloved doggies, Skeena and Maggi-May. The place is real teeny and has no spare bedroom, but since we were prepared to sleep in the van that wasn't an insurmountable obstacle. After emptying the van we had a late dinner of a simple salad and Pat's famous Banana Pudding, a staple of hers. It's super easy to prepare, is full of goodness and oh-so-colorful!
Pat's Banana Chia Pudding
A few hours or overnight I soak 1 Tablespoon each of chia, flax, sesame & sunflower seeds in 1/2 cup of water.
In a food processor I pulse chop the following ingredients, one at a time, & put each into a mixing bowl (each ingredient is optional - do any or all):
bananas (for a single portion use 1 or 2 bananas - more to make a larger pudding)
Sometimes all I do is the banana with apple & perhaps one other fruit - raspberries or blueberries - whatever! & that still tastes fabulous - has a bit of texture.
A House to Ourselves
When we got up the next morning we learned that another possible accommodation had turned up. Her friend Arabella has a house for sale that is empty at the moment and she graciously offered us to stay there. The only hick up was that our animals wouldn't be welcome inside. It was an offer that we couldn't refuse, though, and we quickly found an answer to the furry situation. Kylo stayed on the patio and Puss in the van during the day, then in the evening we all hung out and slept together in the van. And so we had this great big house all to ourselves for an entire week! Woo hoo! What a blessing!
We mostly went to what Pat calls the 'Mack&Mac' - officially the Mack Laign Park that joins with MacDonald Wood - in Comox. It's a lovely lovely park by the water with lots of trails among the lush green forest. Kylo and Maggi-May (poor Skeena the great Dane had to stay home as her back end has gone) just adored their walks there!
Pat caught me taking the above pics.
More rain forest lushness.
Posing in front of an old growth. Don pointed out that these look like teenagers compared to the Giant Sequoias that we saw in California.
We also went to the horse trail in Courtenay a couple of times, which meanders through the woods...
... then takes us along a river.
Kyky, who's no big water lover, even went for a little dip!
Raw Feasting at Arabella's
One evening the owners of the house where we stayed, Arabella and Fraser, came over for dinner. They have attended retreats at Tree of Life in Arizona and have experienced the health benefits of including more raw in their diet. We started off the meal with a Smokey Tomato Soup that turned out to have a little more of a bite that I would have liked. (I guess not all chipotle peppers are equal, eh?) I thought I'd remedy to the situation by adding more tomato and zucchini, but Arabella likes spicy and wanted to try the original version. She loved it! It was still quite hot even after I doctored it but it was still a hit. Phfew! *wiping her brow*
Pat had thoughtfully brought Don the perfect birthday gift: an absolutely gorgeous wooden bowl that she found at the thrift store. We truly couldn't think of a better pick as Don has been eating out of wood plates and bowls for over 30 years.
Next we had a Mexican style entree. Pat brought dehydrated crackers, guacamole, salsa and cashew sour cream and I contributed Not 'Refried' Beans and Corn Chips.
At last I was able to make a special birthday sweet treat for Don: a slight variation of my Blueberry Dream Pie with fresh blueberries and raspberries folded in. Yummy!
I think I'll stop here for now or this will turn out to be waaaaaaay too long of a post. Part 2 of our adventures on Vancouver Island coming right up!