Day 1: Austin to Port Hardy

Trip Log for 13 August 2009

Whew, what a long day. I've been up since 03:30 CDT and it's nearing midnight PDT, meaning I've been up for 22 hours! The flight to Vancouver left a little bit late so we landed at about 11:20 PDT and made it through customs without a hitch, putting us on the road just after noon.

Driving through Vancouver was trying since "highway" 99 is city streets and stop lights and the Google Maps printouts were not very helpful. Thankfully the rental car came with GPS and we were able to find the Granville Market, stopping just long enough for me to run in and get a smashed penny souvenir. Then we made haste to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal for our 14:30 reservation.

Just after 14:00, I decided to see I could find us some food because we were starving and the ferry had yet to board. I must have walked about a quarter of a mile when I saw the Good Karma Cafe. I got two sandwiches and a coffee and started hoofing it back to the car, going through contingency plans of what I'd do if traffic started moving. Then, it started to rain. But I made it back with a few minutes to spare.

We ended up leaving at 15:07 due to some mechanical trouble. It was cold, windy and rainy—and a lot of fun! We didn't really see any wildlife on the 60 km voyage to Nanaimo. The ferry landed around 16:45 and we were on the Island Highway (19) shortly after 17:00.

The drive was rugged and beautiful with lots of pine trees. We stopped in Campbell River, which is about half way to Port Hardy, to eat dinner and look for orca whales in the estuary but no luck there. With around 280 km to go, it started to get dark. At the same time, the road got very remote with lots of unmarked windy turns and no lights. I'm sure it would have been a fun road to drive in the daylight with spectacular scenery.

It was hard to stay awake that last hour but we rolled into town at 23:15 and checked into the C&N Backpackers Hostel. It seemed ok for my first hostel experience, though I forwent the communal showers and decided to shower on the ferry to Prince Rupert in the morning.