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Saturday, 3 September 2016

The (Vancouver) Island Connection

The latest leg of my adventures took me to magical Vancouver Island. To say I have been here before is a half-truth, like someone saying they've been to France, when they only visited Paris. That's because I have only visited Victoria, the largest city on the island.

This time I intended to change that. And though I cut my stay much shorter than I originally hoped, I still stayed 10 days and experienced the true island culture. The theme of my summer has been nature and people. So far I have camped maybe 90% of the summer and explored some really beautiful parts of western Canada. I have also made meaningful connections with lots of wonderful people.

Mat showing me the swim holes in Cumberland
The first meaningful connection on the island actually began on the mainland. Several weeks ago, I drove Mat, a Kijiji rideshare, from Vancouver to Kelowna, and in the course of the 5 hour drive, we were chatting like old friends. Our timing somehow aligned so that I later drove him back to Vancouver to the ferry. About one week later, my deed came full circle, as I visited him on the island.

On the way there, I wondered why he settled in this no name small town... Cumberland far exceeded my expectations! I connected easily with his roommate and some of their friends that came in and out of their cozy home. They took me to some beautiful swim holes in the area, as well as an abandoned ski resort, where we picked huckleberries and admired the sunset. I was getting stuck in Cumberland, already staying a few days longer than planned, so I reluctantly said goodbye to my new friends and took off to the west coast.
Exploring the ancient (for us, anyway) ruins of an old ski resort

I was in search of Rainbow Beach, a wild camping spot on Kennedy Lake, and found it a half hour drive down a forest road, just under an hour inland from Tofino. There was a lovely boardwalk that led down to the beach, through a grove of magnificent cedars. The place was absolute magic.

I wasn't totally surprised to see a bunch of crazy hippies already camping there, some already for a few months, just living a free existence. I knew this would be my kind of place. When I arrived, the free spirits were hula hooping and dancing on the beach. That night a campfire party swelled to more than 20 young people from different places all across Canada.

On the second day I visited the surfing towns of Ucluelet and Tofino. I ran all around the rocks on Big Beach, like it was a big playground. I later checked out Poole's Land, a welcoming ecovillage just on the outskirts of Tofino. I picked up a hitchhiker, a gentle native man, and he shared his story of loss and inspiration. That night, back at Rainbow Beach, the group shrunk to a more intimate size, and everyone took psychedelics and partied like it was the 70's all over again. I admired beautiful and awe inspiring displays of fire spinning with staffs.

On my last day, the grey skies finally opened up and it started to pour. Back at camp, we all worked together to put up more tarps, gather dry wood and keep a fire going. Huddled around the fire, we shared our life stories about how we arrived here in this point in our lives, coming together on this blissful beach in the Canadian wilderness.
Big Beach, Ucluelet

I've watched and been inspired by lots of fire spinning this summer
The next day I picked up a hitchhiking traveler and we connected the whole 4 hour drive to Victoria, swapping travel stories, people stories, good music and positive vibes. We got together later that evening, where she experimented for the first time with psychedelics, while we chatted on the beach.

In Victoria I got together with several friends, continuing the string of meaningful conversations and deepening connections across my entire island trip. I even randomly saw a friend on the bus, who I cherry picked with earlier that year! It's no surprise then that I spent a few more days there than expected, and eventually had to cut fabled Salt Spring Island out of my plans.

Vancouver Island was everything I heard about, and more. Beautiful nature, beautiful people. Here, the further and further I got off the beaten path, the crazier and more wondrous people I run into. And that's just how I like it.
Thanks May, for hosting me near Vic, and connecting about the island and Chinese things!

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