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Reports

Thursday, 27 February 2003
Whistler --> Saachi, Vancouver Island, Canada

I got a wake-up call at 8.30am, waffles for breakfast and joined the company of a few new guests in the lodge. After breakfast I did something that had to be done a long time ago. I borrowed Joern’s clippers and cut my hair. That just felt much better!
Today Joern had to be the working man at the lodge and Jacqueline took me out for today’s last activity in Whistler. She took me along on a tour with Ziptrek. We had to sign a waver again and joined an American family and a German man on this adventure.

A giant snow cat mobile took us to a small house up a bumpy road, where we all got our safety gear strapped on. First we would go on a practice line, where we learned how to sit, hang and go – and then slide down a thin rope to the other side. When everybody had tried it, we walked to our fist challenge: a 300 metres long line over the river in the valley between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

It was all about securing, strapping on and go! – and we all slide one by one to the other side. For the kids of that family it was great and Jacqueline and I were getting in to it, as the long one was still to come.

There were a total of five one-way river crossings and their length differed from 300 metres to 1100 metres (!) and then you are talking about the longest zip trek in North-America!

I went down that one and looked at the beautiful scenery surrounding me, passing me fast too, and enjoyed the hastening river below me. On the other side, two of the three guides on this tour would catch everybody and get them off the rope again.

If you have never done something like this, it is a must-do! And every time we got a bit more certain of our possibilities when we zipped down that line. At one moment I just let go of the rope, which is still secured on the body gear I was wearing, and just waved my hands around to circle in the sky!

The last zip was from the other side of the river back to the base camp and that is where we were recommended to do some stunting. “Why don’t you go upside down?” said one of the guides. Well, why not? And I took off for the other side and halfway threw my feet in the air, my head and shoulders backwards and there I was swinging in the air!

The entire tour in the valley with Ziptrek took just over two hours and all exited we got back in Whistler. I thanked the guides for their enthusiastic and safety concerned supervision (and this complimentary trip) and Jacqueline and I got back to the lodge again.

It was past 1pm and back at the lodge it was time to pack my stuff together again, as today I would leave Whistler. I was going to Saanich, a town on Vancouver Island and I first had to catch the ferry to get to this island!

I thanked Jackie and Joern for their hospitality of letting me get extremely spoiled with freebies in Whistler. Joern was happy enough to give me a ride to the ferry terminal in [url= www.britishcolumbia.com/regions/towns/?townID=3978]Horseshoe Bay[/url] (some 45 minutes driving south from Whistler) where I was supposed to catch the 3 o’clock ferry.

Unfortunately I just missed that one and I had to wait for two hours in the terminal. That was okay for me, got some time to reminisce about those last few days in Whistler. They were awesome!

I got myself on the ferry to Vancouver Island, where it would strand me in Departure Bay, that’s how they called that bay of the town Nanaimo. On board I had some great views on to the calm Georgia Strait, the mainland with downtown Vancouver far away, the Gulf Islands and at the horizon at the west: the island!

Vancouver Island was originally inhabited by Salish Natives, who had a string of villages on the island. Captain George Vancouver, apparently mindless on the native presence, described his feelings on first glimpsing Vancouver Island: “The serenity of the climate, the innumerable pleasing landscapes and the abundant fertility that nature puts forth, require only to be enriched by the industry of men with villages, mansions, cottages and other buildings, to render it the most lovely country that can be imagined.”

The first step in this process began in 1842, when the then small town Victoria received some of its earliest white visitors, when James Douglas came ashore during a search for a new local headquarters for the Hudsons Bay Company. One look at the natural harbour and its surroundings was enough, this, he declared, was a “perfect Eden”, a feeling only reinforced by the friendliness of the indigenous population.

It’s difficult to find one word to describe North America’s largest Pacific Island, because it character is so diverse. Whereas Victoria is genteel and cultivated, rugged and remote would more accurately describe some of the more northern fishing and logging communities.

Today I had to go to Saanich, which is merely a northern suburb of the now pretty big city Victoria. But the ferry ride took 90 minutes and I arrived in Nanaimo after dark. It was 6.30pm.

I got my travel bag at the luggage department of the terminal and made my way on the roads of Nanaimo. There I was standing in the middle of a quiet town, and it was after dark. I would not take a hitchhiker with me if I was driving here.

So I called my host in Saanich. He had expected me much earlier today and was quite surprised I was still in Nanaimo. “Okay, Ramon, try to catch a ride down south, towards Victoria. Meanwhile I’ll drive towards you and we might be able to meet up halfway.”

It was Darren McQuitty, my host in Saanich, who drove to Nanaimo in 1.5 hours to pick me up. I had succeeded to walk myself through sleeping downtown Nanaimo, but had no luck in catching a ride.

He picked me up at the parking lot of a motel south of Nanaimo and drove me back to his house in Saanich. In the car he expressed his admiration of my travel venture and we got to know each other better.

Darren is addicted to Geocaches.com, which is hard to explain, but comes down to high-tech treasure hunting.

Huh? Yep, with the current technology of a GPS (Global Positioning System) device people hide boxes, so-called caches, all over the world. With the exact coordinates the fanatic adventures travel down to this spot with that device and try to find that cache.

In the cache is mostly a logbook which you can sign. Sometimes there are little presents in it. You can take one, but must leave a gift from yourself to the next finder. And then you log on to that website and write about how you found this cache in an interesting story (without revealing where exactly it was or what was in it of course).

“We might be able to do some geocaching the coming days,” Darren said. “The coming days? But I have already planned out my next places to stay!”
“Ramon, you have to stay a few more days with me and my wife Tamra, because we have fun things planned for you! You can’t leave tomorrow already!” And I guess I had to go along with that. I had to cancel on my next hosts and let me know I will be a few days later. On the other had I was very appreciative for Darren’s offer.

Darren was surprised that I had never heard about geocashing before. It seems to be a big thing for the folks who have these gadgets to go treasure hunting.

Darren is in control of the inside sales within the office of Reliable Controls, a company in Victoria that produces products for the building automation industry, like the hardware you need to have air-conditioning running through entire schools or skyscrapers. With pride he tells me about his job and the people who work there. Tomorrow he wants to take me there and show me around.

“Have you ever kayaked before?” he asked. “A long time ago,” I answered. “Cool! Then we’ll go kayaking this weekend! On the Strait or in the Pacific Ocean?”
”The ocean? Wow…”

So there I went again, I was going to stay with the McQuitty's in Saanish for a couple days.

When we arrived at his home I met up his wife Tamra and the bunch of cats that walk and sleep around in the house. It was clear they were both very internet minded, as they were both stalking Geocaches.com, waiting for the news about any new boxes set out on the island.

With a cold beer passed into my hands I enjoyed their world of interactive high-tech travel hunting.

“There is this strange thing going on. Some people are setting out caches for us to find and they put lots of money in them. Last month somebody found 200 dollar in a cache, three weeks ago I found a cache that had one of these big search lights and a digital camera in it. It seems there are a few people out that who have a lot of money and give it away in this game. Because for them it is also interested to hide something pretty difficult and publish the coordinates of that location online.”

“When the news is out, several people, or entire teams, get out and start the hunt for this treasure. Because we gets it first, gets the gadgets. Or the money.” Darren smiles. “It really is a lot of fun!”

And with the long ferry ride and drive to Saanich, it was already very late in the evening and I had to be honest to my hosts, I couldn’t easily keep my eyes open that easily.

“That’s okay. We’ll prepare your bed on the big sofa in the living room and you can sleep as long as you want!” Tamra said. Sounded great to me! I won’t be leaving this island too soon anyway ;-)

Good night Saanich!

Ramon.




Read the latest news from the Cedars Spring B&B Lodge to see what Joern and Jackie thought about my days at their place!