Well, here we are at the second official camping stop, the Barkley Sound area, or to be more specific, Secret Beach in Torquaht Bay, Vancouver Island. We had thought Secret Beach, being a wilderness, no-service campsite, would be quiet. Wrong. The August long weekend is not quiet anywhere, apparently, and this is no different. However, we have met some great people and most of all, are able to do our favorite activity, kayaking on the ocean.
Kayaking on the ocean is a unique thrill, especially to those of us raised on the prairies. So, on the very evening we have arrived in Torquaht Bay, we are in the Klepper and ready to go. The wind is down, the waves are minimal and the water is very very clear. We set off out of a little bay and all I can think is wow, what a thrill.
As we pull away from the shore, I can’t get my eyes off the bottom. Every manner of creature appears to be there, some in the thousands. Oysters, clams, crabs, snails, fish – all of them sit on the bottom or swim right past us as if we don’t exist. Jim has a great habit of stopping the paddling action and then I stop, and everything slows , and like magic, we start moving in a silent drift. We stay close to shore and gaze in wonder. As if the underwater action is not enough, the shoreline is incredible. Enormous rainforest trees, long tendrils, moss everywhere and gorgeous rocks of all colours line the sand and shore. Driftwood is so beautiful in places it takes your breath away. And then, look down, there’s a creature that looks like a fried egg on top (a jellyfish?) moving past the boat within touching distance. It has long white tendrils for legs that look a lot like rice noodles that go on and on and on. The thing must be six feet long and we can’t stop staring and exclaiming over it. And after that particular rush, we think to look up again because, remember, there’s always a really good chance around here to see a bear or a wolf or a deer. I remind myself one more time – wow, this is the life.
Having said all that, the fact remains that at Torquaht Bay, the kayaking is not ideal. The shore and the underwater scenes as we set out are great, but the really good stuff is across the bay among the islands. Most of the islands are too far for us to do in an evening or even a day, but there are a couple right across the big water from us that are in our league. Jim decides that we can do this particular adventure tonight and so off we go. However, being the ultimate chicken, I am nervous about doing it. It’s a 20 minute hard paddle with light winds to get there across open water and I spend the whole time worrying silently. I worry that the wind will come up, that the waves will become ugly, that it will rain, that we will get in trouble. I have brought along enough safety supplies for ten people for two weeks (that may be a slight exaggeration), but still I worry. In the meantime, Jim sits behind me, paddling like a trooper, ignoring my fears. What a man.
And so we go. The Stopper Islands, as they are known, are straight ahead. As we cross the big water and I look to my right, I can see the wide open Pacific about a mile or two away. My awe knows no bounds. In front of me, those islands are slowly getting closer and closer. It seems like forever and I’m paddling as hard and as fast as I can. I tell myself this is just good exercise, that Jim has good judgement, that the wind dies in the evening. But still the other, bothersome part of my mind says, paddle harder, Glenda. Faster.
And then, we are there. Suddenly I can only see the upcoming shore and the water that is calm and beautiful. These islands are really gorgeous. As we get closer, I feel okay again and can’t wait to get in among them.
Now we are not only there, but really there. There’s a sudden hush in the air and the water is even more clear. And the sealife is amazing! Beautiful starfish (actually called “sea stars” because they are not fish) are abundant right in front of us. There’s a purple one and a bright orange one right beside it. They cling to the rocks, hang upside down, sit in the water underneath us and look utterly serene and lovely. Apparently when they eat they are not so lovely, though, as their preferred method of dining is to extend their stomachs, suck out their victims innards and then bring their stomachs back in again. Wow. Apparently it’s true that appearances can be deceiving.
And there’s the oysters. Millions of them. I can’t stop looking and what I see is that they are everywhere and in some places are piled on top of each other three and four feet deep. Jim is doing that stop-paddling, gliding thing again and when we slow down we can see that the abandoned shells are incredibly beautiful, some with layers and layers of very thin shell substance and ribbon-like edges and colourful insides. Some of them are said to contain pearls, but how to find those remains a mystery to us. As is how to eat all this shellfish when apparently there are certain times when it can (but its so beautiful!) quickly and cold- heartedly kill you without a qualm. Hmm, its tough to be a prairie girl in an environment like this. All I used to worry about was blizzards. Now its stomach sucking sea stars and gorgeous poisonous oysters.
Then, after a idyllic couple of hours of drifting around between the islands, it’s time to make the crossing again. The sun has gone behind the mountains and its getting a touch dim already. Oh boy, something else to worry about. I get the flashlight out and put it on my lap, grab the paddle and off we go. Paddle faster, Glenda. Harder. This is good exercise, no worries. But just the same, as the lights of the campground on our side of the big water come into view, I am relieved. But wow, was that the life!