It always seems to take me a while to write blog posts about my favourite trips, probably because I’m in denial about them being over. So the fact that it’s taken me almost a month to start writing this post is a good indication that it was an amazing adventure in my new favourite kayaking destination!
The start of the trip was an almost exact replica of our last one – drive, ferry, drive, stay at mother-in-law’s, drive, ferry, drive, buy food and other supplies*, drive – but instead of continuing up the road to Lund, we turned right and headed for the kayak rental company’s other location, in Okeover Inlet. As before, we’d booked a beast of a double kayak with a central hatch for all our gear, but got loaded up and in the water in record time. In fact we beat the couple next to us, who’d started loading a good half an hour before we did!
There was much friendly banter between us as we raced to launch… and again as we crossed their path on a brief trip back to the beach to retrieve Mr E Man’s hat… and yet again as we passed them on our way back up the inlet, heading for Desolation Sound proper.
This part of the trip was pleasant enough, with nice cabins dotted about on the wooded slopes of the low-lying hills. As usual after a long land-locked spell, it was bliss just to be back out on the water, feeling the rhythm of the paddle strokes and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean. The cabins became more widely dispersed as we passed from Okeover into Malaspina Inlet, but I was beginning to be ever so slightly disappointed in the low-lying hills, the signs of habitation, and the lack of any wildlife.
All this changed, however, when we turned right into Desolation Sound itself. There was some chop and some rebound waves to cope with as we rounded the point, but we’ve been through much, much worse before, and our heavily loaded double kayak wasn’t going to flip unless we wanted it to**. But even as we zig-zagged around to make sure none of the many waves and boat wakes hit us broadside, we were already starting to admire the snow-capped mountains at either end of the Sound, and seeing an abundance of seals and eagles.
And here are some views from the other side of the island (spoiled only slightly by some water on the lens):
We kept expecting more kayakers to show up, but luckily when a group did come they chose another island, and we had ours completely to ourselves all day and all night. We cooked another yummy dinner, and settled in on the West-facing rock behind our campsite to watch the gorgeous sunset.
After another surprisingly decent night’s sleep we got out of the tent early the next morning to find another beautiful day waiting for us, and jumped straight off a rock and into the ocean to celebrate. This was the only time on the whole trip I ever felt cold. After a brief swim and some breakfast, we hauled the kayak back down onto the beach in a series of painful steps (the low tides were all at really inconvenient times on this trip!), and set off on a day trip to Tenedos Bay. It was another gorgeous paddle, followed by a short walk through the woods to Unwin Lake for a freshwater swim. Unfortunately we had to clamber over a bunch of floating and semi-floating driftwood logs to get to the water… like that bit in Insomnia… this is the kind of thing I have nightmares about, and I fell off once into some shallow water and got covered in stinking black mud (and scraped my leg in the process), so I wasn’t exactly happy. The lake was nice though,
and we met the couple we’d raced against to load and launch on day one. They were looking for a new campsite after being a little disappointed in how crowded their first two had been, so we told them how great our island was, and they promised to check it out.
After a couple of hours of enjoying the really very pleasant lake, Mr E Man said what I’d been thinking: “this is nice, but it’s not as nice as our campsite. I love our campsite. It’s awesome”. So we agreed to head back to base to see who had invaded our island while we’d been gone. The couple we’d talked to had, as had one other couple and another group of four much younger kayakers, but we were still nicely spread out and everyone had their own space and privacy.
Our new friends from the loading beach and the lake were surviving on freeze-dried food, whereas we had an overabundance of real food, so we shared our pasta dinner with them in exchange for some additional wine. After dinner the other couple joined the four of us on the sunset rock with yet more wine (the group of four younger paddlers kept to themselves), and we all proceeded to spend an extremely lovely evening chatting and getting pleasantly drunk together as the sun went down (and for a few hours afterwards too).
After a not so good night’s sleep (too much wine), our drinking partners all left for home or for pastures new. Mr E Man and I had a swim and then a discussion over breakfast, and decided that we really weren’t going to find anywhere better than where we already were (based on our own observations and on tales from our new friends), and that lifting the kayak up and down all the rocky ledges was going to be more trouble than it was worth. So we celebrated BC Day by spending a lazy day at camp: swimming, playing cards, swimming, playing Scrabble, swimming, reading, swimming, eating, and swimming. It was bliss, and we felt no guilt at all about our “enjoy the destination” mode of ocean kayaking***.
Some new kayakers showed up, and we pointed out the best campsites and chatted briefly, but they seemed inclined to keep to themselves, as did the younger paddlers when they returned from their day trip. But yet again we had a fabulous evening chatting and snuggling and watching the sunset and drinking the last of the wine.
That night I crawled into the tent to sleep, little suspecting the horrors that awaited me. The first three nights had been fine, with little more than the sound of the waves to disturb my sleep, so I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. This made it all the worse when I was awoken at about 2:45 am by The Noise.
It was a kind of combination barking/snorting/coughing/teeth chomping noise. Definitely an animal. A big animal. A big, loud, scary animal. The Noise started on one side of the tent, then moved to the other.
Unbelievably, Mr E Man was still asleep at this point. But not for long, because I switched on the flashlight that hangs from the ceiling of our tent and started shaking him and frantically whispering “DO YOU HEAR THAT???!!! I THINK THERE’S A BEAR!!!!!!”
As a born and bred Canadian, Mr E Man does not share my terror of bears. I keep trying to explain to him that to Europeans, big scary animals with huge teeth that live in the woods and make scary noises are the domain of fairy tales, things that frighten and thrill you when you’re a kid, but aren’t supposed to be real. So when we do something ridiculously foolhardy like move to Canada, we freak the hell out as our childhood nightmares come to life.
Anyway, Mr E Man initially seemed freaked out by the noise too, but then calmly tried to talk me out of my own fear by saying “it’s probably a seal. Maybe a sea lion. It’s low tide, right? It’s probably eating those oysters and clams we saw on the beach when we arrived at low tide”.
Yeah, nice try dude. Bears swim and eat shellfish too – our new friends had met someone who’d had a bear wander through his nearby island campsite the day before, also at low tide – and anyway I’ve heard seals and sea lions, and they just don’t make that kind of noise. Or move that fast, on land (The Noise was moving. A lot).
At this point Mr E Man realised that I was too scared to be talked down, so he decided to get out of the tent to see what was happening. Bear spray in one hand and air horn in the other, he peered bravely out into the darkness, but couldn’t see anything. A new and slightly different (chompier) occurrence of The Noise, closer this time, persuaded him that he really didn’t want to startle or otherwise disturb the maker of The Noise, so he slipped discretely back into the tent. Luckily The Noise soon started to gradually move a little further away, and after a couple of hours of listening intently into the night while sitting up facing the door of the tent, gripping the can of bear spray with white knuckles, I relaxed enough to fall back asleep (Mr E Man had been snoring away within a few minutes of getting back into the tent).
I left the light on, though.
I’d had maybe 20 minutes of sleep when The Noise came back, closer than ever. It was now 5:45 and starting to get light, but it was still too dark for courage. I shook poor Mr E Man awake again, and he declared that he absolutely had to know what it was, and picked up the air horn and bear spray again. I begged him not to go outside – The Noise sounded different, more aggressive somehow, than it had earlier – and he reluctantly relented. After another half hour or so The Noise was gone for good, taking my capacity for sleep along with it.
Of course, as soon as it was properly light and I was brave (or at least slightly braver) again, I regretted not finding out what had been making The Noise. We looked everywhere for prints or scat, but none were to be found on the rocks or scrubby grass and parched, hard crust of soil. Our bag of food, hanging on the end of a rope slung over a tree branch that we’d thought was probably too low, was undisturbed. Our neighbours had all heard The Noise, too, and everyone thought it was a bear. Even Mr E Man says that the more he thinks about it, the more he agrees that it couldn’t have been a seal or sea lion. (Our neighbours had met someone who’d claimed to have seen a couple of wolves a few kilometres away the week before, but that’s just silly).
Anyway, the thought of The Noise made me feel slightly better about having to leave our idyllic island campsite and head home. We had one last swim before hauling the kayak back down to the beach, packing up, and retracing our route from the first two days, back along the Sound, round the point, and into the Malaspina and Okeover Inlets. It was another nice paddle, although after the splendour of the last few days, the last hour’s scenery seemed rather tame and pedestrian in comparison.
Overall it was an amazing trip and I got out of the kayak at the end covered in bruises, bug bites, sun burn, blisters, cuts and scrapes, but with a grin as wide as the Sound itself. Great weather, spectacular scenery, gorgeous campsites, great people, good times. Yes there are scary noises in the dark, but hey, now that I’ve had a bear in my campsite at night (one of my worst nightmares) and survived unscathed, maybe I’ll be a bit braver in future.
A very little bit.
My fear of clambering over floating driftwood logs remains intact, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of more kayaking trips, either.
*shopping while hungry caused a serious kayak hatch overload problem. We ate a ton of food, gave some away, and still brought a whole bunch back. Maybe next time Mr E Man will take my “let’s plan meals in advance and make a shopping list” idea more seriously.
**having said that, I feel more vulnerable in the front of a double than I do in a single or in the back of a double. It’s all about having control of your own rudder – without that control over my direction I get a bit nervous in choppy water!
***in the past, we’ve gone kayaking with people whose idea of a good trip is to cover as much distance as they possibly can each day. To each their own… but what we like most about kayaking is the access you get to beautiful, isolated camping spots. So we try to enjoy them as much as we can once we get there. Also, we’re a wee bit lazy.