Friday, January 05, 2007

Fortune Favours the Brave

Our penultimate day in Vancouver started out with a disappointed peek out of the window at the weather - grey and rainy - probably because of my good weather-related post yesterday. We had planned a day trip out to Bowen Island, a small forested isle a short bus ride/ferry trip from the city. By the time we got to the bus stop for the express to Horseshoe Bay, the rain was verging on the torrential. We're used to getting wet, being British, and a still day of rain is something you can just about cope with - but this was combined with a heavy wind, so it whipped into our faces and was generally awful. But having come this far, we decided to get on the bus with the 'it might brighten up' mentality Brits are renowned for. And boy, did it ever brighten up, as you can see from the ferry crossing.

Bowen Island sits in the Howe Sound, and covers only 20sq miles. The ferry from Horseshoe Bay chugged out towards a small conical island, which we all started taking pictures of - before slowly turning left and heading for a completely different one, the real Bowen Island. A crafty deletion of photos later, and no-one would ever know. Howe Sound is littered with small craggy communities, perched between sea and forest. Massive cliffs rose off in every direction, sprinkled with snow at their peaks. When we docked at Snug Cove, we walked up the hill from the jetty to get a view, and found a small square with artist's studios and bookshops ('Sherlock's Tomes'). The only place open was a small cafe, so we had a great meal and looked out of the window at this view. Well, all except me as I drew the short straw and couldn't see it. But the muddy cliff I could see was delightful.

At the centre of Bowen Island is a large forested hill called Mount Gardiner (2500ft), and Killarney Lake. After our excellent meal, we took a walk in the woods for a few hours around the lake. It was just delightful with the late afternoon sun coming through the trees and the birds flitting about. Apparently Bowen is a haven for wildlife - being an island - but sadly we failed to spot any of the unusual ones, Blacktailed Deer, Great Horned Owl, Pacific Tree Frog or wonderfully named Calliope Hummingbird. Locals have to erect large fences against the deer in particular - the island is home to 2,951 people as of the 2001 census Here's Bowen's Wikipedia entry).

Neither did we see any waterbirds, apart from the occasional duck-type bird, so we didn't catch a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron either. But it didn't matter, as the low season meant we passed about half a dozen people the whole time we were there. The picnic grounds at the southern end of the water had several tables and a large car park, but the only trace of people we found was a child's lost baseball cap. The overwhelming feeling was silence, as the only sound we could hear was the wind blowing in the trees, and the sporadic rustling of a Chips Ahoy packet, or as the French side of the packet calls them - Pepites de chocolat de M.Christie

On the ferry back through Howe Sound, with the last of the sun colouring the tops of the surrounding mountains. We were passed by a small tugboat pulling an enormous wake of logs, that stretched out for about half a mile behind. Trees dominate this landscape, even present above the snowline on the mountain tops, looking like miniature cake decorations covered with icing sugar. It was a great day, and we wrapped it up after a busy express bus back to the city with some sushi takeout - a huge bento box of sashimi, tempura and eel for about £4. Things are so amazingly cheap here for the UK visitor, and to get as much Japanese food as I could eat (and I can eat a lot) for less than a couple of pints back home was a fantastic end to a fantastic day. This is why people go on holiday.