The rain falls outside the foggy windows of the van, inside, the smoke curls in the condensed air, wrapped under the multiple layers of blankets, my head nestled into the excessive number of throw pillows. Ignoring the water leaking through a series of invisible cracks in the window seals, that I still haven’t fixed for some reason. Cold, and the perfect weather to park up outside of the library and download a couple of films using their Wi-Fi, enjoying a moment of ease to wind down and write out this chapter in the more then reliable hunk of steel that has carried me throughout this country and guided the adventures. My home, my place of rest, my space to relax and disappear from the outside world
all I have to do is close the curtains and be warm inside the belly of my Beautiful beast.
3 months ago I landed in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Straight back into the commonwealth, a comfortable and familiar society of routine and expectation, far from the unpredictable excitement inside the entropic nature that was India and Nepal.
I had a general idea of how I would like to travel, that being I set an intention to find the perfect van, another being I wanted to see a lot of nature and the local wildlife. Other then that I had no plans and no idea what It is I would like to do/see during my time in this part of the world, once again I would leave it up to the universe to guide me and show me what it is it thinks my eyes must see.
Arriving into Vancouver airport at a rare and very comfortable time of 9am, sweaty and exhausted after 3 transfers over a 38-hour flight, dragging my feet, moving my hands to the music in my head phones as I approach the Canadian customs in my Nepalese wear, the officers strike up a concern as they stare me down with daggers in there eyes, just itching to question me on my motives, looking confused as how I possibly have any money, how am I in Canada after months though Asia, un-convinced that this scruffy character kind of has any kind of job, “will you be working in Canada whilst you’re here”?, they ask me, “of course not”, “have you got any goods to declare”, “nope” (not any that I’m going to tell them about anyway). with very little trust in our interaction my entry form was aggressively marked with three numbers written in a large red marker, then to be directed into an individual line for further inspection.
As I stand in a line all to myself watching every other tourist walk straight out through the doors out into freedom I calmly try to think of some ignorant excuse I could use once they open my pack and see the amount of Indian, Ayurveda medicine, my jewelry from Australia, the various nick naks hanging off the outside of my pack that have accumulated over the last three years through Asia, America Europe, not to mention the 2 tabs of acid that were recently lost somewhere between the pages of one of the many books/notepads I lug with me somewhere amongst the crumbs of terrible weed crushed into the fabric and Velcro’s of my pack, oh the excitement of travelling.
I personally find great comfort in airports, in the last 8 years I have flown in around 50 planes, both long and short distance and despite how sweaty, how much I reek of weed or booze, how tired, how dirty, how frantic, how happy, how sad, how weird, how grumpy, how social/unsocial, any state that I seem to present myself in after flying, (ironically I hate flying), it seems that I am greeted with a suppressed smile and waved on through to my destination, I believe as long as I truly believe, which I do, that I’m not doing anything wrong and of harm that there is no reason to be worried, all I want to do is live my life and make it as exciting as I can, to fill it full of experiences, to grow with the world and my brothers and sisters without restriction to culture and belief, To be taught and to teach, so I’ll do what I do and they seem to just leave me be.
Just as I thought, the woman who’s searching the bags approaches me and asks, are you planning on working whilst your over here, with a confident “No Miss, I’m just visiting” I was waved on through to the outside world to breathe in the freshest air I had been exposed to over the last 3 Months.
I had been spoilt, living for nothing over $10 a day, now suddenly having to search for a bed in a dorm room from $60 and upwards, that and dealing with the rejection of almost every couch surfing host in all of Vancouver I begun to think why I ever left Nepal in the first place.
I was eventually saved by one of those incredibly kind and helpful human beings who offered me a nice piece of floor in his little home, my gratitude and well wishes to the man Eloy, thank you for and your heart, I am wishing you the best on your journey in the coming surgery, you really deserve the best.
As I was sitting on the couch transitioning from looking out my glass window at the still image of the mountains reflecting off of Pakhora lake to now, looking through a glass window trying to decide what is is I would like to sit through on Netflix. Connecting to my first steady stream of Wi-Fi in the last couple of months, I start my search for a van that I will be able to live and be reliable enough to get me to where I’m destined to go.
A day after I had landed, an advertisement appears for what was advertised as a 1997 dodge ram, (converted campervan), later to come across the beautiful beast who turns out to be a 1979, to the much later discovers she’s born in 1975 There was no question, I had seen what she looks like and had instantly envisioned myself driving her where ever it was we took each other on our journey into the wild.
Next stop was Vancouver Island, I took the ferry from horse shoe bay to Nanaimo and hitched down towards Ladysmith to check out what I knew was my destiny, upon arrival to the address I was graced with the presence of this old heap of rusted junk in all her glory, Big and ever so blue, much bigger then any thing I had ever driven prior, they don’t make cars like this in Australia, a sheer pleasure and an absolute novelty to drive.
It was love at first sight, those circular light fittings, the wide chrome grill above the front bumper, the wide smile and curious eyes she seems to wear, this was the one, I step inside, I am able to stand, with a slight bend of the neck. Equipped with a stove, a fridge, full lighting, a sink with a working tap, this is more luxurious then I am usually dealing with out on the road. The interiors a little tacky though with a bit of imagination it would became a place of comfort and well being, a temple on wheels, and ode to the adventurous spirit.
I was told the vans name was Fiona, it didn’t feel rite to change her name once I found out, as I’m slightly superstitious and hearing somewhere that you shouldn’t re-name your boat as it is seen as bad luck, and I realize she isn’t a boat, though once I knew the name I didn’t see any necessity to change after however many years she’s been on the road, enough to be 40 years old and have the odometer read 58,476 kilometers, so Fiona it is. She is far from what you would call good condition, though its what’s on the inside that counts rite? A big heart and warm and cozy space I can call home, if not more spacious then half the rooms or tents I’m usually settling in through the fluctuating weather conditions.
After an impulsive purchase of the old bucket’o’rust it was time to hit the road,
my first stop was Salt spring island with plans to surprise a friend of mine who I knew was staying in the area, a cute, well structure, trashy little town known as Ganges, a coincidence as the last place I was with my mate was in Rishikesh on the river Ganges, and now here we were, on the other side of the world reuniting in the port of Ganges, the world is funny like this.
As I pull into the parking bay along side the bank in the center of town, before I could turn the ignition off the engine slowly putters and dies out. I try to turn the key a couple of times and its obvious the battery has died.
Opening the hood and checking the alternator, there was a cable that had not been attached, I decided to leave it for now and go search for a couple of friends staying off shore in one of the many boats docked in the bay.
As the sun sets and projects an incredible orange sky, the colors reflecting of the brown, pine stained waters, the voice of the overly excited Australian echo’s through the air, “River, where are you?”
Not more then 5 minutes a paddle boat starts to come my way, a head full of golden dreadlocks, “are you ok?” captain jack yells out, “I’m fine, I’m looking for a guy called River, do you know him?”
“of course!” Jack says with an incredibly large smile, “where all on the boat drinking some beers, you wanna lift?”
Its as easy as that!
I hung around salt springs with a couple of friends for a week sleeping in the car park where I was stuck for the time being, doors open wide receiving weird looks from the locals as I sand and varnish the interior to pass the time, giving Fiona a warmer feeling, I had also conveniently broken down out the front of the bank, this being my discovery of parking the van outside of Wi-Fi spots and enjoying to simple comforts of the road.
Hanging out in what is a very beautiful part of the country, the gulf islands, in-between Vancouver Island and the mainland, a sprawl of islands sitting within a grey area of the government, mostly without a municipality and run buy the local communities, a mixture of the rich, the simple, the content, the artistic and the homeless.
People who wish are free to dock their boats or even build a house\float house on the water free of charge, two talented musicians in particular have erected a home that floats just off shore of Ganges, it is made of 100% recycled/re-used materials and is floating on a mound of trash, you may have seen it on VICE, it sounds a little shabby though its incredible in its presence as it sits floating amongst the tattered boats around it. As you enter, your eyes are in awe of the intricacy and detail that went into building the structure, the mind behind the design, two rooms, bathroom, kitchen and the living area, host to a gran piano and a drum kit, guitars, banjos, ukes, flutes and tambourines align the walls, The Dump Shine.
Monday rolled around and the new/old alternator that I ordered had arrived, I went to the mechanic and picked it up, I had it in my hands, looking at it I instantly new that the old one was not broken and that it hadn’t been connected correctly when the last owner put it back in, as I re-attached the wiring and secured the grounding cable, turning the key she roared, the alternator was charging once again, I knew this somewhere in the back of my mind, that wire that was hanging off didn’t seem write, though the two mechanics who took a look didn’t notice either, and in the end it didn’t cost a thing, and something else I learn about bringing a car back to life.
A Good friend of mine Sophie was planning to arrive into Canada that week, both keen to see the country we organized to meet up, after a couple day reunion on the island I was eager to get going, as it had been almost 2 weeks with the van and Fiona and I had only driving around 200km, so we said our goodbyes and started making our way around Vancouver Island.
The first thing our eyes saw was the lush, green landscapes of our surrounding, everywhere you look the mountains cascade in the distance, every corner is a fresh body of water, wild flowers sprawl along side the roads fading into an endless eye sore of cedar forest.
From Salt spring we took the ferry back to The Island, first point of interest, down to the southern point to Victoria, Canada’s oldest City, very small and very beautiful, though a city none the less. Deciding all cities are somewhat the same and that it wasn’t why we where here to admire the concrete we set off straight away to the far west coast, driving down the south edge around the coast up until we hit port Renfew, heading inland towards Lake Cowichan then back to Nanaimo. This first taste of Canada was beautiful but personally nothing outstanding as we had been told, it wasn’t until the left form Nanaimo towards Tofino where we had stepped into the fairy tale.
Driving the pacific rim from Nanaimo out far west to Ucelet and Tofino is a spectacular drive, the road winds through dense cedar forest, along the way we encounter black bears, deer, elk, bold eagle, seals, and sea otters, the trees rose tall, the mountains taller. Since that day until now we have taken every opportunity on a daily basis to dive into the pristine waters of Canada, every lake passed is the clearest and the most naturally vivid blue body of fresh water I have ever seen.
Tofino is high on my list of place to visit if you ever make it over to this side of the world, a beautiful coastal community nestled in the dense woods of the far west rugged coastlines of BC.
Ending up in an eccentric little community know as Poole’s land, meeting some good people, spending a couple of days tripping on mushrooms throughout the woods, swimming in the freezing waters of long beach, trekking the landscape in search of the old world war two plane crash, getting involved in the free community lunch put on by the church and discovering the life saving efforts/contributions on the local food banks it was time to leave and make own way back towards the Mainland, taking our time, having to pleasure of being able to park up anywhere you want and have your entire home there, back door open, in bed facing the snow capped peaks that reflect over the mirrored surface of the water in front of you, the life, this life, we have no reason to rush.
All and all I had spent 2 and a half weeks on the island, Sophie and I had been driving for around 10 days as pretty as it is we had our minds set of discovering a more rugged representation of Canada. Our eyes set on something a little more real, fisticuffs with a grizzly, tickling a trout, riding a moose, maybe joining a pack of wolves? Maybe see a hockey game, and chug a bottle of maple syrup? Who knows, all I knew is that as nice as the island is, it wasn’t fulfilling these needs.
From the beach life vibrations into the business of the evening hours in Vancouver city, deciding to meet a friend that night for a beer I nervously maneuvered Fiona through the CBD in hopes of finding a convenient parking space, after the accomplishment of that particular task we went to enjoy a couple of beers in the west end on Vancouver, an Alternative/hipster part of town, the place boasting a much nicer feeling the the center of the CBD.
It was a short night, heading back to the van we passed out to the sounds of the city.
In the morning we begin the journey north!