© 2011 jemma

Nanaimo – not the bar


Who’s ever had a Nanaimo bar? I have and I thought it was delicious. Jess on the other hand confused it with a Monaco bar, but felt after much convincing and the consumption of half my treat, they were just as delicious.

Where was this Nanaimo bar from? Why Nanaimo of course! A harbour city on the eastern side of Vancouver Island.


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We caught the ferry to Nanaimo from Horseshoe Bay. It is a large ferry, that can carry everything from a tiny baby to a massive truck. It also has two eateries and a gift shop. I guess the trip is an hour and a half. It is also much, much, much cheaper than a float plane, which takes twenty min but costs $90 a person one way (the ferry is $15 pp).

The ferry and I had a few issues. Let’s just say that it was a windy day and the seats we were sitting in were facing backwards. Closing my eyes was the only way I stopped swaying. By the time we got there, I was feeling pretty sick. Jess was excited because he had almost finished his book. I think he was at 80% or something. He claimed there was no swaying, but there was, liar!

We arrived in the dark and the rain. The only way to our hostel was to get a cab. When we finally arrived at the Painted Turtle Guesthouse, it was quiet and lovely. It was near the harbour in Downtown Nanaimo, and the girl who served us was quite adamant about the 10pm Shhh policy. A shame no one obviously listened to her from the noise through the night, through the paper thin walls and floors. The bed though was very comfy, and the pillows were great! – I don’t want to sound too negative.

Our first day in Nanaimo began with a walk along the harbour front. From the harbour you can look out the various islands close to the shore – Newcastle Is, Protection Is (with the floating pub) and Gabriola Is. There are also a lot of fishing boats and people living in boats in the harbour. It is quite a nice place, however I think it would be nicer in summer.

The plan for the day was to walk to Westwood lake, through Bowen Park and past a bird sanctuary marsh. We had no idea how far any of these places were, so with map in hand and our grocery store bought lunch packed, we began our walk.
The map was a little hazy with the trail details. To get to Bowen Park for example, there was a trail on the map that was not accessible (real) in non-map world. We ended up walking down some dingy track beside the railway tracks towards a big warehouse. The only thing that made me feel safe was the amount of older people that live here. Hopefully they weren’t vigilantes prior to retirement.

Walking around the front of the warehouse, we realised – much to Jess’ excitement – it was a curling centre. Yes curling as in the brooms, slippery shoes and a massive target. Jess insistent we go in because it was the Canadian thing to do. They were having a competition at the time and had just begun playing. Was it just me or did the players even look bored? Anyway, it was fun to see but we had a lot more walking ahead of us so had to go. So sad.

From the wonderful, exciting world of curling we began our hike along the side of a nameless river (can’t find the name). There was so much water rushing down the river. More I think than normal. When we reached the salmon ladder and the waterfall, you realised how much power the water had, from the bent trees and plants. I felt for the poor little salmon who would soon be pummelled whilst traversing the ladder. It was so loud that in the video Jess took, you can hardly hear his voice. It is a really beautiful park though. All the robins were out but the only mammals we saw were the dogs people were walking.

From Bowen Park, we walked up the road to Buttertubs Lane – such a cute name. Nanaimo was once a mining town, which is most visible by the cuttings in the cliffs and the street names. There is a also an old miners cottage that looks almost 10 years old. Yes I meant 10. It wasn’t all that authentic looking. I was thinking more bark hut, newspaper walls, that kind of thing, not a one bedroom brick house.

At the end of the Lane is a bird sanctuary. Its a large marsh with a track around it. We saw lots ducks and wrens and robins. Apparently raccoons also live there, but alas there were none. (In unrelated news, Jess and I saw beavers yesterday at the lost lagoon!)

By this time we had been walking for 2hrs and still had no idea how far we had to go, but the sun was out so spirits were high. We turned and walked up Jinglepot Rd (my favourite name) towards Westwood Lake. Westwood lake has to be the highest lake ever. I know this isn’t true, but that’s how it felt walking up street after street. The view at the top however was worth it.

The lake is beautiful, with tall trees and a beach complete with lifesaver stands and pontoons. Sadly it was far too cold for a swim. We began by eating our little picnic as a shower of rain passed over and we watched a bald eagle searching for his lunch – thankfully they don’t eat cold quiche and sandwiches. After lunch we decided to do the 6km walk around it.

It was a very peaceful walk, only interrupted by the occasional jogger with a cute dog and the sound of a large semi-automatic weapon being fired at the shooting range. (Thankfully they don’t have these at Malabar eh T!) Other than that it was a great walk with beautiful scenery, taking you through different parts of the forest, while also following the lake. Jess rather enjoyed walking through all the muddy parts, and at one stage I made him play pooh sticks at one of the bridges. The game was a big failure though as the water was going too fast and we couldn’t see the sticks 🙁

By the time we we got back to town, we had been walking for a good five and a half hours and were looking forward to a break! Fortunately the Javawocky cafe – cool name – had seats to sit on, sold good drinks and the famous Nanaimo bars! Delicious! For those who don’t know – they have like a brownie bottom, a custard type middle and a chocolate top. One of the fish and chip shops in town (Pirate Chips) will even deep fry you one. Mmmmmm count the calories! Or not.

After our break, we walked down to the pier to see what all the people on it were doing. There were lots of people and ropes in the water. We had no idea what was going on, so Jess asked the nearest man – who turned out to be a really nice guy – who informed us that they were catching crab. Sure enough one by one they would pull up the rope and on the end would be 3 or 5 crabs all trying to eat the chicken. Some were quite large. The lovely guy (perhaps Jeff? – Jess has forgotten) then called some seals over really close. The funniest thing was when his youngest son was trying to get a seal to come over with a tissue and another one came up from the depths and scared the crap out of him. To give the kid kudos, he could send crabs to sleep using his fingers.

The next day, after a crappy nights sleep we weren’t feeling much in the mood for anything. It was pouring rain, but we persisted enough to take a stroll around the other side of town and on the pier to look at the big fishing boats. It was also weird because daylight savings had begun without our knowledge, sending us into some sort of time paradox for a few hours.

We had planned to walk to the ferry and catch an early one home. However in the end – much to my stomachs delight and my brains horror we decided to get a float plane. Not the most money conscious thing to do, however at the time it was the saving grace of the day.

Now seaplanes are small planes. It was windy and raining. We moved around a lot and it was scary, but it was really fun too. You get to see a lot because you are close to the ground, and even when it dips and swings side to side you kind of feel safe knowing you can land on water – which by the way is the smoothest landing, take off, not so much. I’d like to go again but on a sunny day – whenever that will be – just to experience both. You would see a lot more.

So the weekend getaway ended prematurely, but finished on a high note with the best ramen with extra pork I have ever had at a new place down the street. Now that’s something to make even the worst day into something good. 🙂