A first sense of the vast expanse I would eventually traverse hit me at 20,000 feet, coming down over the Rocky Mountains about 300 miles out of Vancouver. I was looking north, up the spine of those great peaks, and they never ended. As far as I could see there were snow-capped mountains, disappearing off into the horizon. I was dazed…Stunned. My mind was still reeling as we touched down in Vancouver, and after meeting Irina, my constant companion and right arm in this escapade, whisked through the city to try and catch a mid-afternoon ferry. To a Montrealer, Vancouver all seems quite new…But pretty. Some architectural influences from the orient and a modernist feel. And yet what truly stands out is that every main street in the city is backdropped by some beautiful mountain. Nature is the real architect in this part of the world…The human space just tries to compliment it. And in many spots, it actually works.
Sat on the Vancouver-Nanaimo ferry in the warm afternoon sun. As we move out into open water, the wind picks up. At the front of the ferry, it’s incredibly strong. We sit in a sheltered spot for a while, soaking up the view. The smell of the sea puts me in fine form, and the hour and a half ride is magical. It’s over too soon.
Nanaimo hugs the coast and is nice. After finding Irina’s truck in the lot (hereafter referred to as “the big hot honking truck from hell” or “Betty” for short), we drove Betty up the island highway to the Comox Valley, stopping briefly at a sharp little pub and microbrewery for dinner and a nice pint of raspberry beer. After Nanaimo the road turns wild, and there’s trees and mountains aplenty.
As one reaches the valley there is a completely breathtaking view, and a first look at the Comox Glacier (The above photograph was taken in winter). To actually live in a valley looking up at a glacier. Incredible. We get off the main road for the final stretch of the drive through Royston and Union Bay; two cute, timeless towns on the coast. Looking east across the water, you can make out the Cascades beyond the softer, greener coastal mountains. In among the trees and ferns are little homes, seemingly all decorated with an old decrepit and derelict VW bus. So many of them. I think I even saw one being used as a planter…Some of these people must have just driven out here and never left. I can’t blame them…
Upon arrival we sit and talk and smoke on the deck, and I meet Irina’s friend Brent. He’s the perfect beach boy, bleached by the sun from working outside all day. His humour and good spirit are infectious. I suddenly wonder what I’m doing reading books and writing for a living. Maybe there’s something for me out here, I think.
The sun never seems to set. I insist on sitting there till dusk disappears entirely…That happens around midnight. The stars sparkle in the crisp, dry mountain air. By the time it’s actually dark I’m tired; content enough to say goodnight and see more of it all tomorrow.