Oh my. Did we ever have a vacation saga. Our five day sojourn to the Sunshine Coast was like the Odyssey. I'm in talks with Homer right now to see if he's willing to translate our story into dactylic hexameters.
For ease of reading, I'll break the tale into sections.
We began our journey bright eyed and eager to see the famed Sunshine Coast. Having lived in BC for over five years, we were slightly ashamed of the fact that we had never once rode the 40 minute ferry to Langdale. We decided to remedy this sad fact and go camping all in the same trip! We are nothing if not efficient.
Here's some foreshadowing for you: the ferry right was the highlight of the first day.
We reserved a camp site at a place called "Bayside", which sounds quite pleasant and unassuming. It should have been called "Bayside: Camping Purgatory".
We had trepidations from the outset. We followed a convoy of big rigs down to the campsite and started to notice that Bayside was suspiciously close to:
a) an industrial truck site
b) a landfill
But! It was our first day of vacation and we were still optimistic. We drove around the campsite several times, trying to muster some enthusiasm for the place and we managed to convince ourselves that the truck noises and horrible traffic noise would stop in the evening (foreshadowing: HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA).
We went to the campsite office and confirmed our reservation. When the lady in the office asked if we were sure we wanted to pay for all four nights in advance, we should have taken it as a sign. Instead, we smiled through our doubts, and paid up.
And then we set up camp.
While we (ie: Adam) were setting up the camp, we stopped grumbling at the industrial noises long enough to admire the fact that the majority of the tenting sites were empty. At least we had some space to ourselves! (foreshadowing: Not for long...)
After the site was set up, we found ourselves a nice beach and played frisbee. It's a little known fact, but I'm a pretty damn fierce frisbee champion.
So, after some frisbee and some ocean swimming, we were all "la la la, camping is great!1" and we skipped back (down the scary industrial road) to our campsite.
And then, as our campsite came into view, I uttered these infamous words:
"Hey...do we have neighbours?!"
I squinted into the sunlight and saw a soccer-mom vehicle parked in the spot right next to ours.
We kind of stumbled in disbelief and just...stared at this family who had moved in next door.
Literally an hour ago, we were marveling at the emptiness of the campsite. It wasn't as if there were no other spots available. And these tedious people, drawn inexplicably to our animal magnetism, picked the spot right beside us.
RIGHT. BESIDE. US.
I don't know about you, but I go camping so that I can hopefully try and get away from having neighbours for a few days.
I would understand the family moving next to us under the following circumstances:
1. Every other campsite in the place was on fire
2. Every other campsite in the place was under water
3. Every other campsite in the place is over run by zombies
Seeing as none of these contingencies were in effect, we were more than a little put out by these people and their shrieking three year old.
In a fit of madness borne of desperation and heat, we collapsed our tent and dismantled our campsite in about two minutes flat.
We then hauled everything five campsites down.
I'm sure we looked incredibly insane with our air mattress inflated and shoved onto the roof of our SUV, driving slowly and ragefully down the road.
So, we (ie: Adam), set up another campsite and settled down for dinner, a campfire and some intense Scrabble.
One thing we noticed, as the sun began to set on our first (foreshadowing: and last) night of camp, was that the traffic noise really didn't cease. What did happen was that it became more sporadic, so we'd be enjoying the natural sounds of camping when a gigantic truck would come out of nowhere and belch all over our serenity.
Adam and I packed it in early because we were kind of weary of everything by this point.
It's at this point in the story where I have to profess my profound thankfulness at the fact that I wear earplugs to bed.
So, while I drifted off to a nicely muffled sleep, Adam was kept awake by the fact that we were practically camping on a highway. It was like trying to take a nap in a ditch.
So, I slept soundly while Adam seethed and grew slowly insane thanks to a combination of truck fumes and broken dreams.
And because of this, he was up at four in the morning chopping wood. Because, that's what you do when you are running on about two hours worth of sleep. Luckily, he did not lose any fingers or other appendages.
When I crawled out of the tent several hours later, he turned to me with seething, blood shot eyes and said "Get me out of here".
I looked at him, and then I looked at the hatchet he was gripping, and I decided that the best thing to do under the circumstances was to eat several marshmallows for breakfast.
After the sugar kicked in, I made the best decision of the whole trip. I decided to find us somewhere else to lay our weary heads for the remainder of our time on the Coast.
I refused to let this mockery of a campsite defeat us!
I called several places. I did not call any campsites, because Adam gave me A LOOK when I suggested that we might need to put the tent up for a third time in two days.
Lady Luck smiled down on me and there was a cancellation at a place called Fisherman's Resort.
We secured a cabin for the remainder of our trip. With this bit of serendipity on our side, we packed up the campsite and tried to bid a hasty retreat out of Bayside.
It turns out, that from all of the packing and unpacking we'd been doing, we left the doors to the SUV open too long, and our battery had died.
We managed to convince one of the Bayside workers to give us a boost, and then we bid a hasty retreat.
And we never did get a refund on the other three days that we booked at Bayside. But, by this time, it was worth it to eat the money and get the hell out.
So we hit the road and made our way north, away from Sechelt to the area of Pender Harbour. Specifically, we traveled to Garden Bay, which became our home for the remainder of our vacation.
The resort (which was really just a wee cabin, perched at the ocean's edge near a marina), was a breath of fresh air. It was quiet, beautiful and serene. It absolutely redeemed the trip. Also, our cabin was named "Mussel Beach", which just amused the heck out of us.
We spent the second half of the day in a happiness coma, enjoying our cabin and watching the boats in the marina.
Waking up to the waves lapping the shore, we had our breakfast outside and watched the marina stir to life.
This was the day that we explored Skookumchuk Rapids, which is an area of very fast, very narrow tidal flows. As a result, the tidal changes are spectacular and incredibly dramatic. Skookumchuk is a haven for thrill seeking sea kayakers and we watched a few of them in action.
The hike to and from Skookumchuk left us feeling hot and tired, so on our way back to our cabin, we stopped for a swim at beautiful Ruby Lake.
Back home, we took the Pub Path to the Garden Bay Restaurant, where we dined on west coast food while taking in the sunset over the ocean.
As we retired for the night, listening to a loon call out in the growing darkness, I didn't think our trip could get any better (foreshadowing: I was wrong).
Adam works with a guy named Scott whose parents have a summer home near the area of Halfmoon Bay. Scott happened to be heading to his parents place the same time we were on the Coast, so he kindly invited us for a visit.
Scott's parents home is beautifully situated with panoramic ocean views of the bay. We met up with Scott and he took us out on his boat for a tour of the waterways, including Secret Cove and Smuggler's Cove. Fun Fact: Smuggler's Cove was used by rum-runners during the prohibition!
Scott also took us to a beach that's a favorite with locals. It's a sand spit with campsites. We should have stayed here!
After a brief stopover back at Scott's parents place, we went back out on the boat to journey a little farther into the inlets and coves around the area. We saw seals! And lighthouses!
So, we were out on the water for a while and then the waves started getting a bit too choppy for comfort, so we headed back.
Almost as soon as we turned the boat around, I heard Scott exclaim "What was that?!". I turned to where he was pointing and I saw it. A magnificent, 17 metre grey whale. And it was swimming and feeding about 100 feet from the boat.
It was, in all honesty, one of the most amazing sights I've witnessed. Seeing the sheer size of this creature and watching it move in front of me was enough to give me goosebumps.
Adam, Scott and I watched the whale feed and swim for several minutes and we felt incredibly privileged to have witnessed it. We were the only boat in proximity and it felt like we alone were watching this whale.
After getting pictures and a video, we left the whale in peace and proceeded back to the house.
After telling Scott's family about our whale siting, we settled down for a fantastic dinner.
Here's the sunset view from their balcony.
On Day 5, we sadly had to say goodbye to our cabin and start the journey home.
We left early and headed to Gibsons, home of the famous CBC television series "The Beachcombers".
The town was a cute tourist destination and made for an excellent end to our Sunshine Coast trip.
I have to say that, despite a horrible first day, our vacation was fantastic. I emerged from it a little sunburned, but with a definite appreciation for Pender Harbour and the beauty of the Sunshine Coast.
We'll definitely be returning, but not to Bayside.