Island Life

Just about every person I’ve met lately has warned me that this is not the right time of year to be cycling on Vancouver Island.Pretty non-the-lessIt seemed pretty right to me though!

Sure it got a bit wet at times, but if that’s what you’re expecting and prepare for then it doesn’t seem too bad. And if I have to wait for better weather there is a change I need to wait until halfway through next year.

So I geared up, put on my rain clothes and climbed on the bike to take a ferry across. No spectacular sights of whale or other wildlife,

but I rode along the perfectly manicured bicycle lanes towards Victoria and onto the galloping goose trail. Another old railway line conveniently converted to bike trail.

Pretty lakeI still severely dislike rain. And do try to avoid it the best I can. (Like cycling Vancouver Island in November…)

So when I passed the Kemp Lake store just outside the small town of Sooke I called in and was pleasantly surprised by a whole bunch of friendly folk playing music and eating cake.

Kemp Lakes StoreThe only issue I have cycling here this time of year is that days seem to finish hours before I do. Especially when the clock changed and dark comes in around 4 now.

Since I had left my tent in Vancouver and now just travelled with my glorious new hammock I asked around to find a nice place to string it up. Gary over heard and invited me to come and stay in his cabin by the lake. Kemp Lake.

I parked my bike near the cafe where it sure was well guarded.

Photo: Cindy Caspersen

Photo: Cindy Caspersen

A wonderful little hide away, nice and quiet tucked in at the edge of the lake with plenty of trees to hang a hammock, but also a nice fireplace inside and Gary with his guitar.Gary and his Guitar

This song he wrote brings the feel of the place across rather well. (250-217-3004 if you want to hear more of Gary’s songs)Cabin at the lake

The forecast wasn’t very good for the next few days.

But my luck would have it that the one sunny day got me all the way to Port Renfrew.

Stopping at the only one little coffee shop along the way where the friendly man behind the counter paid for my coffee & scone! He supported my cause he told me. I still need to figure out what the cause is exactly. But it’s lovely to hear I am supported!

First thing I did in Port Renfrew was run into Billy,Billy

born in Belfast but a fisherman in Canada for many many years now. These days he works at the docks and stays at the PR Hotel. When he heard I was planning to string up my hammock he would have non of that so took me to the hotel where I was given a room all for myself at no charge (!) -if I promised to leave it as I found!

So I did exactly that.

Six days later…

It was a good thing I did have shelter as a storm swept through, knocked over a bunch of trees that closed the roads and cut off power lines.

But Don, the manager and his son Chris, over for a holiday, took wonderful care of me.

We played games, went for walks, listen to music and both men are, with their Italian background, excellent cooks! Lucky me 🙂

Check out Don, with his accordion. He puts a smile on my face.

The Coast and surrounding areas are gorgeous no matter what the weather is like. The giant old-growth red cedar and Douglas fir along the Gordon river makes for a magical scene.

And that sunset wasn’t bad either.

Chris found a Matsutake or pine mushroom.

MatsutakeThey’re not easy to find as they grow under the ground. Highly sought-after in Japanese cuisine. A kg of the stuff can fetch up to $2000 if it’s good (Japanese) quality!

I really like the place. But with a turn in the weather, the temperature dropping but clear blue skies I couldn’t do anything but get back on my bicycle and make some tracks. Right after Don gave me a wonderful warm wooly garment.

When I wore the half-sweater/half-dress people commented  that it’s a ‘Stanfield‘. The typical island uniform for fisherman, loggers and miners. And although mine is about 25 sizes too big it’s so comfortable I lived in it for about a week.Me and my Stenfield

I got this Facebook message just before I left Port Renfrew.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 5.13.08 PM

And true to his word David showed up that evening at Cowichan lake with his motor home stuffed to the brim with food. He’s a keen bike-tourer and got with him two touring bikes and a shop-worth of gear.

When he saw my hammock in the trees;My Hammockhe didn’t think that was good enough and gave me one of his five tents! I didn’t have the right isolation and have to admit it was rather chilly. So that was extremely appreciated!

Not just that, he pulled bag after bag of food from the van, there was steak, pie, apple crumble, cookies, chips, dips, cheeses, meat, bread, eggs, lemonade, juice, etc, etc…


He doesn’t do things by halves.

We talked about travel, had a glorious breakfast Breakfast with Davidand I hit the road with only a rough idea of what direction to head in and a full belly.

I’ve had some real good maps on the mainland, but for the amount of time I was going to be here I didn’t think buying this map book would warrant the cost.

So I asked a fellow if I could take some picture of the pages.

In this area with a million logging roads it seems easy to take the wrong one.

PageSure” He said. “But take the book, I got another one at home”IMG_5105Whooah!! Thank you 🙂

This weather!

And so I didn’t get lost.

good road

You can’t tell from the pictures, but the temperature had dropped below freezing.

When I spotted a fire, I rode towards it to warm my hands and feet.

It belonged to Jay, Stew, Jose, Ed and dog Miley.  They were ‘Man campingMan Camping

For the last 11 years they take a week and go camping. There were another 14-odd men to join them. Not particularly ‘manly’ they assured me. But only guys none-the-less.

After getting up early that morning to attend a remembrance-day ceremony high up in the hills, where a Lockheed Ventura Coastal Patrol Plane crashed in 1944, they’d seen me riding along the road.

The guys have been friends a long time. From Newfoundland originally and now based in Victoria.


I was happy to share stories around the fire and check out their camping set up. Things are done differently in different part of the word. But everywhere sitting around a fire and drinking beer discussing sausages is enjoyable.

I have the dubious honour to be the first-ever girl on their ‘men camp’. It was good fun. (it just made me cycle a little bit slower the next day)

I was impressed with a nifty candle holder that pushes the candle up as they burn and can heat up a small space (tent) Jay donated his to me! And it has come in very handy since.

Candle lantern

Stew gave me a pair of warm wooly army socks that I later complimented with a pair of suiting boots.Socks & Boots The owner at the army dump-store gave me an awesome discount. He had fond memories of Dutch girls. His first girlfriend (1960) happened to be one. He still carries her picture in his wallet…

And my feet are warm.Be careful.

Dry & dusty are not words I would’ve associated with Vancouver Island, but this is exactly what the logging road into Port Alberni was, a fair amount of vehicles use the road so I was happy to get a warm shower  at Kevin’s place.

I had decided I needed some more warm clothes if I’m gonna hang around over winter. So I visited some thrift stores, and bought a skirt…

what was I thinking!

Ah yes. Practical and warm it may not be. But hey. Something could be said for a skirt (don’t ask me what exactly)

I continued the frosty ride along Sproat LakeCool

and over a small hump -they call it a pass, Sutton Pass- towards Tofino.

Just over that pass I found a lovely little camp spot at Marian creek

Marian Creek

Where I made sure to hang my food high in the trees so the bear I spotted earlier wouldn’t get to it


Although Tofino was a little busy to my liking the west coast scenery sure is spectacular!View from Lone Cone mountain

And even more so when the sun shines…Success🙂

Bring it on!

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24 thoughts on “Island Life

  1. Oh, Mirjam, I cannot express in words how much reading this blog post meant to me…the serendipity of meeting strangers and sharing stories is what makes traveling by bike so wonderful. Your photos excellently portray your emotions. Whata special sweater gift! If you get to Victoria, take the short ferry ride over to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and ride the Olympic Discovery Trail. It’s in the “banana belt” or rain shadow of the Olympic Mtns and doesn’t get as much rain, especially in the Sequim area. I look forward to you next post! You are awesome!

  2. Hallo Mirjam,
    Wat heb je weer prachtige foto’s met fijne muziek erbij.
    Ik was ook op Vancouver Island, maar alleen in Victoria en omgeving. Men beweert dat het daar nooit vriest, maar van jou begrijp ik wat anders. Koud hoor in een hangmat met nachtvorst. Hier hebben we inmiddels ook de eerste koude nacht gehad na een tijd van erg zacht weer.
    Geniet van je prachtige tocht en een groet van Heleen Smit.

  3. Het is zo prachtig om je te volgen Mirjam, ik hoop dat ik ooit de “strenght ” heb om je achterna te reizen, het is a true delight to enjoy your beautiful pictures, love the guitar ( remember like my dad used to play ) Heel veel plezier en blijf je prachtige verhalen volgen Much love Dory XXXXX

  4. Hoi Mirjam! Alweer van die geweldige foto’s, en wat een geweldige mensen ontmoet je ook daar weer.
    Geniet er van 🙂 !

  5. ach ja, voor een nederlander is het altijd goed weer om te fietsen.
    mocht je je nieuwe kaarsje voor in de duisternis kwijt raken… d’r ligt er hier eentje al 20 jaar stof te vergaren

  6. Aloha Mirjam! You made it to the Pacific Ocean! The kittens weigh 4 Kilos each, there’s four inches of new snow this morning and this distant soul finds great joy in learning you’re still seeking the horizon. Pedal on!

  7. I love reading this blog, makes me want to get out and ride (though not on one of my race bikes for intervals and hill reps; I want to be on a fully loaded tourer out there exploring the world). Let me know if you’re ever passing through Washington, DC!

  8. Hi Mirjam,
    Happy Easter.
    This morning I had a notification about a new blog post from Vancouver friends about cycletouring with a a 4 month old (, and ended up having a look at your blog again, nice to see some updates. 🙂
    We have met briefly at that warmshower host at Port Alberni. That were record low temperatures during that time for that month. The next day I road the logging road past Comox lake with that road bike back wheel I got at Port Alberni a week earlier as temporary fix. Got a puncture from lose spokes at 5 pm above Comox lake and hitched a ride with a logger to the town of my next warmshower host. Camped on the Sunshine Coast, then rode to Squamish to have the hub of my backwheel exchanged where I bought it initially.
    After that I went to England, did some cycling and working there, hosted 3 times, twice in England and once in Germany. Cycled Prague-Munich, Munich-Vienna, Stuttgart-Salzburg-Graz-Pfitscher Joch-Memmingen (starting a East West traverse of the Alps), Stuttgart-Munich-Venice and Stuttgart-Vienna the past years among other shorter trips.
    Take care,
    Frank (now off for a short ride on the bike into the sun and the forest)

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