Tofino surfing success


Tofino is without a doubt my favourite  place so far. It’s a really small laid back seaside town with only one road in and out. It feels like a well kept secret.

The surfers here are nuts about surfing – they’ll go surfing all day everyday if they can – or go out in the morning, break for lunch, then back out in the afternoon.

23/11/12 – Stunning Tofino, BC Canada. The Tonquin trail lookout.
23/11/12 – The Tonguin trail in Tofino, BC

I achieved a goal – I stood up on a surfboard and caught a wave! Yay.

Something that I couldn’t do on my attempt back home. It was so much fun – even when the water temperature was 7 degrees. A thick wetsuit with hoodie, boots and gloves works wonders. Even caught some waves!

24/11/12 – Surfing Chestermans Beach, Tofino

The Schooner Cove trail was well worth the 30km round trip bike ride

And the ferry trip from Nanaimo back to Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver wasn’t too bad either.

27/11/12 – Looking back towards Vancouver Island at 4pm

Now I’m in Calgary on a cattle farming ranch. Today it was -10 degrees! I’ll post some pictures up in my next post.


“Whale watching” in the US of A

Yep I like to call it a “whale watching” tour. The company that runs it calls it a “wildlife” tour since it’s winter and not the best time of year to see whales. They don’t want you to get your hopes up too much!

It was a bit of a late decision but I made it to fisherman’s wharf in Victoria right on time. Brett, our cheery tour guide, said “it’s about a 50/50 chance we’ll see a whale.” I was feeling lucky.

Weather was heavily overcast (no rain luckily) and 8 degrees. Wind chill at 50km/hr on the water makes it waayyyy colder though so thankfully he gave out big, dorky looking jackets, pants, beanies, and mits.

The twelve of us hit the Canadian waters of Juan de Fuca Strait at 1pm in search of “30 foot high sprays of water.” The air was unbelievably clear – the snow-capped Olympic mountains were far away but appeared in full HD display. Almost touchable.

22/11/12 – The Olympic Peninsula in the U.S.
22/11/12 – The Race Rocks lighthouse with the Olympic mountains in the distance

Today we were the only whale watching boat out (20-30 in summer) so it felt pretty special.

Brett got a call from one of his U.S. mates who’s friend had spotted a humpback 28 nautical miles away in U.S. waters. We decided to go for it.

It was now that I fully appreciated the intricate art of driving a speed boat fast through choppy water. On the gas – back off – bang – ON THE GAS – OFF THE GAS – BANG – BANG.

We stopped by Race Rocks to the definite smell, sound, and sight of steller sea lions. “Grizzly bears with flippers,” Brett called them.

22/11/12 - Stellar sea lions on Race Rocks, British Columbia Canada
22/11/12 – Stellar sea lions on Race Rocks, British Columbia Canada

Also on the rocks were elephant seals and harbour seals. Quite stunning. These harbour seals have lived their whole life at Race Rocks, 80% of the time just laying on the rocks. In fact, only when the tide comes in and literally lifts them off the rocks do they bother moving.

22/11/12 - The lazy but efficient hunters - harbour seals on Race Rocks
22/11/12 – The lazy but efficient hunters – harbour seals on Race Rocks

Anyway, an hour later we arrived where the humpback was sighted earlier – Spieden Island (owned by the owner of Oakley as a random fact).

We looked and looked, but nowhere to be seen – the Americans just couldn’t deliver. Bit of a shame but hey the wildlife we did see here was well worth it. Bald eagles, brown pelicans, and hundreds of other birds. Plus big-horned sheep (who would have thought), and Dall’s porpoise came swimming alongside us jumping the bow waves.

So all in all a really enjoyable, educational and freezing day out. But yep they got me. I think I’ll call it a “wildlife” tour after all.

22/11/12 - Dall's porpoise on the way back to Victoria, BC
22/11/12 – Dall’s porpoise on the way back to Victoria, BC
21/11/12 – The famous parliament buildings in Victoria, BC Canada

Vancouver to Victoria by mistake

Rain rain and more rain. I didn’t know the sun could play hide and seek so exceptionally. 5 days!

This afternoon I finally caught a glimpse of him – he really needs to learn to come out of hiding when everyone has given up looking.

So now I realise how lucky we were to have a perfect blue sky day. Vancouver – the rainy capital of Canada.

Besides the rain putting an end to Lynn Canyon plans, I had fun exploring the city.

In particular the Aquarium – first 4D movie experience was a blast…literally. Granville Island was also cool – had the local market vibe to it, and Gastown – the oldest part of town is even equipped with a steam grandfather clock on the street.

16/11/12 – The Gastown steam clock in Vancouver
20/11/12 – Penguins! at Vancouver aquarium
20/11/12 – Jellyfish at Vancouver aquarium
20/11/12 – Sleeping python

Today I left Vancouver and my German mates behind in pursuit of Tofino, a laid back seaside town on the very west of Vancouver Island.

And here I am in Victoria, a very british city on the south of Vancouver Island. How did I end up here you might be wondering?

iPod research error.

Turns out that bus I thought was leaving at 3pm only runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday. But not to worry, I’ll make it there soon enough.

In the meantime I’ll try to get my head around these ginormous take away coffees every man and their dog can’t get enough of.

Vancouver first day

I made it to Vancouver!

My first day here I’ve spent exploring the downtown area. It is amazing seeing snow capped mountains full stop, but you can see them from the city! A vast inlet in the foreground, bordered by lush green flora and beyond that snowy mountains…with ski runs. Impressive.

16/11/12 – Stanley Park in the foreground and West Vancouver behind

I checked out the BC Sports Museum, and caught a glimpse of the BC Lions (gridiron) going through their paces in their newly roofed stadium – museum was really interesting but the training was boring to tell the truth.

This afternoon I faced the chilly winds on a bike tour around the Stanley Park seawall. Amazing picturesque views all round, and we even saw squirrels and raccoons in real life – not in picture books. Yes they really exist! Raccoons are like wombats crossed with a cat – fat and lazy. And squirrels are so small like a possum crossed with a hang glider.

Today was a perfect blue sky and cloudless day. Apparently we hit the jackpot cause it rains here a lot.

Some quirky Canadian observances are cars on the right hand side of the road. This is really strange! This translates to walking on the footpath. Everyone wants to walk on the right.

It also gets dark around 5 and even in the middle of the day it looks like it’s 4pm.

On top of that are the 1 cent coins, the yellow traffic lights (instead of black) and no pedestrian crossing buttons to push (it’s automatic everywhere) and there’s no sound either. And then there’s the electric buses too.

Well that’s about as much as I want to type on this little iPod and plus it’s 10pm and I need to go eat dinner. Might even catch a game of ice hockey tomorrow with one of my three German room mates.

16/11/12 – The British Columbia Lions in training
16/11/12 – The suspension bridge over to the expensive North and West Vancouver
16/11/12 – North Vancouver mountains
16/11/12 – A raccoon in Stanley Park

“You know your holiday is close when…”

It’s only hit me in the last couple of days how close my trip actually is, and it got me thinking…

You know your holiday is close when…

  • You start seeing people for what you know will be the last time before you leave
  • You think “where will I be in a week today?”
  • You can’t sleep
  • You wear that favourite shirt for the last time
  • The necessity for you to be at home slowly disappears
  • You write a list of “things to pack”
  • Your finishing up your last assignment for the semester
  • What are the tell tale signs for you?

First time surfing…help

03/11/2012 – Matt catching a wave at The Spit, Goldcoast QLD

You know how you catch glimpses of pro surfers on the news, “that looks easy enough” you think – or at least I did. Well wasn’t I in for a bit of a shock.

No it’s not “easy enough”. What was I thinking? It’s not even “easy enough” to stay on your board while laying down paddling, let alone sitting up waiting for “the one”.

And standing up? Well forget it. It ain’t happening. Not for me and not now!

Do I sound frustrated? Not at one with those annoying things called “waves”? Well you’d be right.

But I’ll be back, don’t worry about that “wave”. I will stand on top of you and look down on you some day so be ready!

I guess surfing is like learning to do anything for the first time though. Like riding a bike, or skiing, or driving. It’s hard at first but in time it all becomes second nature and you think it’s “easy enough”.

I used to skateboard and picked up snowboarding pretty quick so I thought I might catch on in an hour…give me a longboard and I’ll be set. (Oh yeah I was set – fast forward to my first surf in Canada here)

Thanks for the day out Matt, next time we’ll get me going.

How to: Getting you to the slopes

So you’re an 18 to 30 year old Aussie and think a Canadian working holiday has your name written all over it? Yep I can see why…

Maybe it’s the postcard perfect surrounds? The friend who says it was the “best thing they have ever done”? The freedom to explore a new country and meet like-minded travellers? Or maybe it’s that white, fluffy stuff so foreign to us Aussies. Those are my reasons. What are yours?

Canada at sunrise. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.
Canada’s northern lights. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.
Banff, Canada after recent snowfall. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.

Over the past few months I’ve learnt a bit and I’d like to share it. A “How to guide” to Canada if you will. Here’s the process I’ve been through over the past four months.

1.   Canadian Working Holiday Visa ($150)

  •      Australian Federal Police (AFP) name check ($40)
  •      Queensland Department of Transport traffic history report ($20)
  •      Passport
  •      Passport photos ($10)

This was the most time consuming task. Do it first! The AFP name check, traffic history report, passport and passport photos need to be sorted first so they can be included in the application. Luckily I already had my passport which saved me time; however the AFP name check took a month to go through the system. After submitting the Visa application it took another two months for the Visa to be approved. It can be up to three months so get in early.

The other option available is to pay a company $800 and they’ll do the application for you and set you up with a job and accommodation before you leave. Up to you but I’m happy to sort that out myself – all part of the travelling experience in my opinion.

I went through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program on a Working Holiday permit.

2.   Flights/Tours

When you’ve got your Visa confirmation letter you’re finally free to book flights. I booked a one way flight to Vancouver through the very helpful team at Student Flights for $1200 (good value – flight was only a month away too).

At this stage I also locked in what is going to be a breathtakingly beautiful trekking tour in Iceland. Google “midnight sun Iceland”. Wow!

3.   Travel Insurance

Can definitely be exxy so price around, make sure snow cover is included if you’re skiing. I saved $800 through Student Flights after they price beat an online quote for me.

4.   International Drivers Permit

This entitles you to drive overseas as long as you have a valid Open drivers licence in Australia. Quick and easy $40 visit to RACQ.

5.   Visa Waiver Program (for travel to America)

Feel like you might take a quick sticky beak into the USA? Road trip down the California coast? 10 minutes online and $14 later you will be free to travel (not work) in the USA for a three month period.

6.   Lights, Camera, Action

12 days to go! Wow it’s really creeping up!

7.   To Do in Canada

Social Insurance Number (SIN) – the Canadian version of our Tax File Number (TFN)

Phone (cheap brick = bulletproof)

Accommodation (bit of a biggie)

Job (I’ve heard there’s plenty)

Ski gear and pass (top priority)

Flights home (remind me in 6 months)