Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Canada travel log part 5

Day 5:

We got up at the crack of dawn to get a taxi to take us to the bus station. Wait, when is the crack of dawn in Canada? It's earlier than L.A. Oh, I exaggerate anyway. I recall it was dark when we got our taxi. We got up way before dawn. Our bus was scheduled to leave at 5:30. We were on our way to the northernmost part of Vancouver Island, to a town called Port Hardy.

When we were planning our trip to Canada, we got the Globe Trekker Canada DVD. It has 2 episodes. The travelers go to a few destinations that look close together on the map, but they repeatedly describe each destination like: "It takes a whole day to get there, and you have to change planes loads of times." and "It's not cheap, but it's a must." Their quotes kept running through my head over the next several days.

It takes a whole day to get to Port Hardy from Vancouver. We chose to take the Greyhound instead of a rental car, partly because in B.C. the rental cars are pricey and moving a car via ferry is especially expensive, and partly because Mike has been driving the ambulance a lot lately and did not want to spend more time driving. The tradeoff, of course, was getting to the station so early, but it ended up being worth it.

We checked our suitcase and loaded it ourselves onto the bus. No one checked it's contents or searched us getting on the bus. Got to leave our shoes on and everything. The last person on the bus was a guy in his early 20s who was sort of running and looked like he had just bought his ticket a few minutes before. He was traveling with a girl who had her dreads in a hat and carried a guitar onto the bus. They smelled like they bathed in oils periodically, instead of with soap and water every day.

To get to Port Hardy from Vancouver you have to take a ferry to Vancouver Island. That is a big reason I'm glad we didn't have our own vehicle. First, I didn't know anything about getting a car onto a ferry, though it appears you just line up and drive forward when told, so it's simple enough. But I did not know that the particular ferry we needed to take, which drops you in a town called Nanaimo, is extremely popular and crowded. The bus gets priority, gets to zip right to the front of the line and is first on the boat and first off the boat. From my bus window I looked down at several mile-long lines of cars where it was clear that they had slept in their cars overnight in order to get on this ferry. There were people in pajamas in the back of pickup trucks. Crazy. If we had taken our own car we'd probably still be in that line. Ok, maybe not. We saw the same scene on the way back, only it was miles and miles and miles that time, but heard people say that you could get through the line (in Canadian English it's a "lineup") in 1-2 hours. Still, that's 1-2 hours that Mike and I wouldn't have anticipated. (Why didn't our guidebooks mention that?)

When we got to Nanaimo we had to change buses, and our bus driver changed as well. The new bus driver was cranky. He wasn't from Vancouver and wasn't striving to be the world's friendliest bus driver. I was careful to say Please and Thank You when I was talking to him. I think I figured out he was cranky when some people sat down in the front row and he told them that they could sit there but they couldn't talk, because he wanted it quiet. I was disappointed when we got on the new bus because I didn't get to sit next to Mike.

The Greyhound bus makes a lot of stops, just like a city bus, which I wasn't aware of by looking at my itinerary, but I guess the itinerary only shows stops with luggage service. Also, the potty was way low on tp and then I remembered Mike telling me that when you go Greyhound you have to bring everything you could possibly need because they provide nothing. I'm glad this bus was clean and smelled ok, but unfortunately I was seated across the aisle from one of the smelly twins (the girl) and though it was a mild odor I was sort of annoyed.

After the first stop the other smelly twin got up and spoke to the driver. Their tones were somewhat low but rising, and I finally gathered that the twins had figured out that they had been sold incorrect tickets or misled about their itinerary; at any rate, the bus wasn't going the way they wanted to go. The cranky driver was unsympathetic, of course, but gave them some advice about which stop they could use instead and re-route themselves. This didn't seem to satisfy Smelly Twin, who apparently wanted the driver to re-route the bus, or hang himself, or something else. ST said something rude to the driver and then sat down again. He got on his cell phone and called Greyhound. Again, I'm not entirely sure what he wanted, but it seemed he would not be satisfied and I assume was getting just rude enough that Mr. Crank could not handle it. He pulled the bus over practically in the middle of nowhere (because I was learning by looking out the window that nearly all of Vancouver Island qualifies as the middle of nowhere) and ordered the Smelly Twins off the bus. Actually, the driver was very sweet for a moment when he told the girl that she could stay if she wanted to. I think she was considering it for a second. But after some drama in which Mike actually had to strongly suggest to ST that he do what the driver says, both twins exited the bus, and I imagined that as soon as we were out of sight, the girl bashed the guy over the head with her guitar.

We got to Port Hardy around 3 or 4pm. It is an extremely charming little fishing town. The "bus station" which mimicked a broom closet was across the street from the Visitor Center, so we all just ran over there and got directions to our hotels. There isn't a rental car facility in Port Hardy, but you don't need one. Mike and I had booked a room at the Quarterdeck Inn, the fanciest hotel in Port Hardy and one of the furthest from their tiny "downtown". It took us about 15 minutes to walk to it. The Quarterdeck Inn is very lovely and is the most expensive at $150/night. We were only going to be there one night, as we were getting on a ferry in the morning. We asked the desk clerk if there was a shuttle bus to the ferry, and she said yes, be here at 6am. I was surprised, since check-in at the ferry is at 5:30am, but then I decided that was probably for people with cars, so I was relieved that we'd be able to "sleep in".

Mike and I walked around the little port and we found wild raspberries growing on the roadside and we ate some. I found out later that we're lucky we didn't find bears who also like to eat the berries.

We saw fishermen come in and we exclaimed over the size of the fish.

Then we went to a restaurant and ate some of the local fish. Mike had halibut, and I had salmon, and it was the best fish we ever ate.

To go to the last chapter of the travel log, click here.

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