(31st October – 7th December, 2015)
After almost 7 months living like free roaming gypsies we felt that it was time to start thinking a bit about our finances. Our budget was pretty small to begin with and if we wanted to be able to travel longer we would need to sooner or later take a break from travelling and earn some money. Thankfully we (or more correctly one of us) was able to work remotely. Gary’s former employer Contens GmbH had agreed to let him work as a freelancer from time to time – naturally if they have enough work available. Gary had already contacted Contens and arranged work for November and so we needed to find a suitable and affordable apartment, which turned out to be quite a lot more difficult than we imagined. It wasn’t about finding a place in the perfect location or with super amenities or anything like that, it was more important to find a place that had a separate room so that Gary could work undisturbed. Of course and full kitchen and Internet were also a must. We searched the entire southern British Columbia online for apartments or similar only to discover that just about everything was way over our budget. It took quite a while until we finally found a relatively affordable place through AirBnB. Thankfully November is shoulder season so we were able to get a halfway good price too; that the apartment we found was on Vancouver Island was just icing on the cake – we wanted to spend time on the island anyway.
Ready for a Break
We are definitely ready for a pause and realized it more and more every day. The last two months we were travelling in mostly cold and wet conditions and that really started to take its toll – not only with us but also our gear had suffered and need some serious attention. So it really worked out perfectly that Gary had already arranged to work the month, as we were really looking forward to being out of the cold and wet. We moved into our apartment on the east coast of Vancouver Island in the little town of Qualicum Beach and made ourselves at home. It was really nice to have a roof over our head once again with winter fast approaching. Though it was a bit strange for us to be indoors after such a long time, cooking in a real kitchen, sleeping in a real bed; it actually took a few days for us to get used to it all again.
A little routine
Gary settled rather quickly into his work routine and had fun with all the new tasks and I certainly didn’t get bored either. Our equipment and the Landy desperately needed some TLC. What’s more we had developed a mold problem that urgently needed to be taken care of. With us sleeping constantly in the auto we had condensation on the wood panels under the mattress every morning, which ended up starting to mold. Apparently the two coats of paint were simply not enough to seal the wood and now a major cleaning and repainting were in order. We took the couch/bed apart as much as we could and I had enough time to sand them all down, wash with an anti-mold solution and repaint – though this time a minimum of 3 coats on the panels that had mold, better safe than sorry.
Qualicum Beach has a cute downtown with little shops, cafes, restaurants and the excellent “Qualicum Foods” super market. It was fun to drive into town with the bikes and stroll along the main shopping area. On Saturdays we visited the farmers market and loaded up on local produce, eggs, apples (the last of the season), fish, honey and baked goods – which of course we, as usual, went straight home and had a big brunch to try out all the new goodies. With the Christmas season coming we got to experience Qualicums “Midnight Madness” with music, Christmas lights and to our delight real German Bratwurst! The stand was run by a German expat master baker so we had 2 things that are really difficult to find in North America: good sausages and good bread.
Our apartment was only a stones throw from the pacific and we were woken almost every morning by Sea lions playing in the bay. With the constantly changing weather our daily walk to the beach was always a new experience sometimes sunny, rainy, foggy and even hoar frost on driftwood and sea grass. Not only Sea lions came to call as we also saw all manner of birds and on one day counted 11 eagles patrolling the beach!
With us all settled in we also had to partake a little in the nightlife of Qualicum. Just down the road from us is Shady’s Rest Pub, where you can enjoy live music twice a week and on top of that the food was really good too! In the nearby town of Nanaimo (yes where the Nanaimo bar was invented – yummy!!) we even went to the movies; we certainly enjoyed the change of pace.
We had a lot of luck with the weather! We had actually prepared ourselves for the worst; after all we were really in the wrong season to be on the island and were expected lots of rain, though it ended up being quite different. Of course it did rain every now and again and even a couple of days in a row, but the weekends were, for the most part, super – perfect to explore the island. The east coast is heavily [settled], but you don’t have drive far to leave it all behind and dive into the wonderful nature. There is quite a diverse ecosystem on the island, from rain forest to beaches and mountains. We visited the surfer paradise of Long Beach and Tofino on the west coast and were thrilled with the huge waves – packed with surfers, sandy beaches and many little coves. The mountain provincial park of Strathcona provided a completely different experience; we hiked a winter wonderland that was almost ready for the ski hills to be opened. At Cathedral Gove we visited a stand of massive ancient cedars and were awed by the size and age. We soon realized that our original plan to visit the entire island was rather optimistic and soon gave up on it; after all it was simply too cozy in our little apartment not to spend some time simply hanging out on the couch in the warm indoors.
After almost 5 weeks in one place it was the beginning of December and time to get back on the road; and so was said our goodbyes to our hosts in Qualicum Beach in the pouring rain. Before heading to the USA we wanted to spend a couple of days in Victoria and so we once again turned to AirBnB and rented a room within walking distance – a quaint well appointed spare room of a young hardworking couple. We didn’t really know much at all about the city, other than it’s supposed to be very pretty. So as we walked to the old town we were pleasantly surprised by what awaited us. The old town is wonderful and has a decidedly European feeling to it, not only that we were right in time to see the city decorated for Christmas, a real treat! On our last night in Canada we once again strolled through the town and visited a couple of the pubs. With beer, music and dancing we said our goodbyes to Canada – 8 wonderfully and adventurous months we’ve spent in this huge country and were a little sad to be closing this chapter of our tour. Of course we are also looking forward to the next leg of our trip. The next day we took the ferry across into the USA and the adventure continues.
A big thank you to Contens – from Gary (and of course from me too)
The possibility to work remotely while we travel is a huge advantage and allows us a lot more leeway in organizing our travels. It’s not something that can be taken for granted, requires flexibility and shows a certain level of trust that you (Contens) have in me. I had a lot of fun helping to bring the next version of the software a little closer. Therefore I would like to once again thank you and look forward to helping out again in the not too distant future :)
More Photos on Flickr: Vancouver Island