Day 5 Road Trip : Ucluelet to Tofino .
Weather on the west coast of Vancouver Island can be unpredictable at best , so even in the driest summer experienced by Western Canada in years ,you can still get a damp start to your day .
After a large cooked breakfast made on the barbecue , which involves a great deal of water to douse the flames ,( not sure what it is about men and barbecues ) and enough smoke to worry the locals that an idiot tourist had somehow managed to start a forest fire during a rain storm , we decided to make the best of the situation and set of the neighbouring town on the west coast , Tofino.
Coastal fog is a common morning phenomenon in the summer months and today was one of those mornings . Tofino is located at the western end of Highway 4 , which follows the coast line between the two towns.
While driving this road at a ” I’m on holiday bollocks to you pace” , you soon notice the rather unique roadside sign warning you that you are in fact in a Tsunami zone .The signs inform you of this by using a symbol similar to a wave chasing some poor individual across the beach , a similar mental picture to that of a dog chasing a postman, if you get my meaning .
Fact time : Scientist believe that a giant slab of rock sliding in from the pacific, has been building pressure up in the area for over 300 years . There is so much pressure that the shape on the Island is being altered by a few centimeters every year .
The result of this will be a sudden and unpredictable release of this pressure in the form of a massive off shore earthquake , effecting an area from British Columbia right the way south to Northern California . Experts cannot tell when this is going to happen , only that it is inevitable .Inevitable they say !
The last mega quake happened in Jan 1700 and experts believe that when it does happen parts of the coast will sink over a meter then move to the west between 10 and 15 meters . Now I am not sure how they know this , as I don’t believe there was a great deal of accurate measuring equipment available or trained scientist to measure this in 1700 and Canada didn’t convert to the metric system till 1970, but for ease of conversation lets assume that they are right .
Great . Now I find this out! Didn’t read this is any of the numerous tourist guides on the ferry crossing did I?. Guess they forgot to mention that , bit of a type ” O “.
Managed to find some instructions in the cabin , four pages worth to be exact . When you consider there was only one page on eating out in the area , clearly the owner was as concerned as I’ve just become .
So, what to do in the event of an earthquake followed by a Tsunami? Considering Vancouver Island is covered in tourists for most of the year , and considering how tourists drive when on vacation ( see previous Post: Are you one of those drivers ?)I already have my doubts on how successful any plan is likely to be , however once more let’s get serious.The plan in the event of this happening is as follows :
1/ Drop and take cover under a desk. Good start . Drop , well as most people will be lazing on their beach towel, they’ve got a head start . However , if the earth is shaking for five or so minutes would you be able to do anything else but drop ? A desk ? Well I’ve already been on several beaches in the area and I’ve seen numerous surf board and kayak rentals , but yet to see one that supplies desks , but lets improvise and once the ground starts to move, everyone will calmly walk to the nearest beach store where they will collect their surf board and take cover , got it .Next ?
2/ Hold On .Really ? at this stage I don’t really need to be bloody told to hold on ! Trust me I have that one covered !
3. DO not pack and Do not go to the beach to watch . What twat (Non Brits may need to google this word for clarivication )wrote this one and how much did they get paid ? Firstly , I’m already at the beach along with thousands of others and try telling my wife not to pack !!!!
4. Be Calm and make you way to the nearest evacuation zone : Oh you bloody think so do you ? So while the sea retreats at 600 mph , you want me to calmly get my car keys walk to my vehicle, then everyone drives carefully , observing the speed limit obviously, to the nearest high ground ?
5.It then goes into detail how the if the earthquake is more than a 9.0 in magnitude and lasts for more than 5 minutes, a series of Tsunami waves are expected to reach the area in twenty minutes and be 20 m high and goes on to lists the areas in that zone that are more than 20 meters higher than sea level .
Fantastic , so while all this shit is happening , I have to time the duration the ground is shaking , reach in my pocket for my seismograph ( which everyone carries don’t you know?) , get the local seismologist ( who just happens to be wondering the beach when I need an expert scientist ) to measure the strength so knowing which area I supposed to go .
Now I don’t mean to make light of this very serious and real possibility of a huge loss of life and damage to the area and an evacuation plan is certainly required . But seriously, does anyone actually think this plan will work ? or do you think there would be complete panic, mass killings and breakdown of societies rules , while people scramble to where ever the think is best?
Personally, I’ve decided that if this happens during my stay in the area , forget the plan . Sit back , have a beer, smoke a joint , have sex ( after all apparently we have twenty minutes )enjoy the view and kiss my ass goodbye!
So now that we have decided not to worry about any impending disasters we make our way along Highway 4 towards Tafino, when we come across a rare occurrence around here , a traffic jam . Living in Calgary, I see these on a daily basis ( mainly caused by bad city planners and the inability of drivers here to understand the meaning of Merge , or give way ,to you Brits reading this ) but here they are somewhat of a rarity and frankly I wasn’t interested in joining , so instant reaction, take a left, park up and walk to the beach. So we did.
Combers beach .After a short five-minute walk from the car park through the rain forest that runs adjacent to the coast line , you come out on a wide open flat plain of sand .The Sitka Spruce forest makes for dramatic walk down to sandy Combers Beach .Part of the Pacific Rim National Park .
The beach has miles of clean sand , with pockets of dead shell fish, where the last feast took place in the retreating tide . As with any beach which has heavily forested boarders , drift wood is in plentiful supply . Some of it has been carved so smooth by the ocean, it almost looks to perfect .
I’m told camping on the beach is a favoured past time of the area , especially amongst the surf lovers . My theory for these man-made structures littering the beach ? Obvious, people know there’s no desks available and built their own covers as per the tsunami survival plan . Brilliant .
After a walk ( not hike ) along the endless sands , its time to head back to the truck in the hope that the traffic jam has cleared .Thankfully normal service had resumed and traffic was back to acceptable levels .
On the approach into Tafino , the explanation for why we were delayed earlier came clear .Half the road was excavated away as part of a programme to install culverts( Large open-ended pipes buried under the road) to allow salmon runs from the rivers to the nearby ocean . Mystery solved .
Tafino . What can I say ? Fact time .
Located at the top of Highway 4 , it is a very popular tourist destination attracting surfers , nature lovers,whale watchers and campers.The more well-known of the two towns on the west coast, Tafino has mild winters and temperate summer temperatures ……………………………..ah enough of this I can’t do any more .
I hate the place . All I found is want to be hippies wandering around the town cramming the small coffee shops , so you can’t get a seat , all sharing one cup of hot chocolate. It seems compulsory for women to not wear a bra ,that’s ok by me in certain circumstances , but not on a cold chilly day and when years of gravity have taken its effect .The most famous Bra of all was in fact a Canadian invention, so be patriotic and do the rest of us a favour and wear the bloody thing ! . Mini Rant .
Tafino used to be Hip . Back in the day when it was cool to be a society drop out , living on the beach . Now it suffers from an identity crisis . It still attracts the next generation of hipsters ( minus their bra, but with cell phones, probably paid for by mommy and daddy ) while the place has now become too commercialised and big business . All the clothes stores sell the same stuff all with the town’s name plastered over it , as if I didn’t know where I was .Obviously once you purchase the surfer logo infested clothing, it makes you a cool surfer and totally hip.
Hotels , RV Parks and restaurants are all over priced and over crowded .
Tafino does have a great food scene , that’s part of the problem . Your average city slick , trying to look cool wearing his Tafino T and sandals( whilst still answering his Emails from the office )loves to sit at the fancy eatery and pay top dollar for fish and chips , pretending to be part of the cool surfer hippie brigade . It’s a little like every one on St Patrick’s day seems to be Irish , or as I call it “Plastic Paddy Day “.
Personally, I know I’m in the minority , but it all over priced and over rated . I’m out of here .
Back on Highway 4 heading south, past the road works, and back to the real world in Ucluelet . To get over the disappointment of the other place ( no bra town ) we decided to book a meal at the local floating restaurant, sit down with real people, instead of a bunch of wannabe’s and enjoy a plate of reasonably priced fish and chips .That’s when it happened , for the second time today , whats going on ?A long line up , and an hour and a half wait for a table .
I was then informed for the reason for the mayhem . The road has collapsed between the two towns , so trapping all the day trippers from ” No Bra Town ” in Ucluelet and obviously they now want to eat , hence the long line up ( Que for you Brits ).Well I guess it’s not their fault and thankfully the women seemed to have put their bra on for their day trip , so at least we didn’t have to face that ordeal. Could have put me off my food , but I doubt it .
So with an evening walk around the harbour to pass away the time waiting for our table , the reason for the road closure was discovered . Not as I thought the beginning of a massive earthquake, but the second half of the road had collapsed, where they were installing the salmon runs .What a relief . This turned to absolute joy when I heard a local fisherman describe the extent of the damage .
Now small town people speak in a certain way. A way in which is calm, understated and to be honest hilarious, without them meaning to be . Coming from a small town myself I simply love it and miss it immensely.
He quotes ” The road collapsed while they were digging those round things into the road for the fish to use . Its pretty bad as I”ve heard they had to bring the professionals in from the other side of the island ” ( Assume he meant from Victoria or another large town all situated on the East Coast ) Laugh? I damn near hurt myself .
“Bring in the professionals?” I asked him for clarification, ” So does that mean around here anyone can dig the main highway up?”
Calmly and without any emotion he replied with “I think so , it”s not the first time it:s happened this year ‘
Oh my God , I laughed so hard . Brilliant . Suddenly my inconvenience waiting for a table to come available at the local eatery all became worth it .
Finally we received notice from the restaurant that our table was ready and ended our eventful day with a fantastic plate of local fish and chips, complete with a couple of beers, fine company and all the women in the building had a Bra on. Perfect .
Ucluelet Marina , in all its splendor. Great to see numerous working boats still active in the area .
Start Point : Ucluelet British Columbia
Finish Point Ucluelet British Columbia( via No Bra Town )
Distance Travelled : 82 Kilometers