I am on a perfect little island where there are no motorized vehicles (except a couple of golf cart type cars) and not that many people. But, let's back up to the beginning of the day.
I started from the dust bowl of Sproat Lake Park at 8:15 this morning. Val was up before I left so I was able to say goodbye. Chrissy (on the other side) offered me wood for a fire, but I told her I was almost ready to go. When she asked where I was headed today, I told her I was hoping there was camping on Newcastle Island, but that Val had said there wasn't. She said she was pretty sure there was and, since she's from Nanaimo, I was much more hopeful.
I made pretty quick work of getting back to Port Alberni. I rode past the restaurant where Chris, Nathan, and I had eaten dinner and recalled how delicious it was! From there, in downtown Port Alberni, it was pretty much an uphill climb to not only get out of the valley, but back over the "hump" that is the middle of Vancouver Island. Before I started the climb in earnest, I stopped at Coombs Country Candy. They just so happened to be having a special on fudge (buy two slabs get the third free)! Yes, BEFORE I started the climb back over Port Alberni Summit, I added a hefty pound (or so) of fudge to my load (it was worth it though--yum, yum)!
Since I had a pretty good idea what I was in for, having come the other direction, the climb didn't really seem that bad. Of course I was in Super Granny most of the time, but it seemed like, before I knew it, I was at the top. The descent down the other side was good. I did check my speed since it looked like it had just rained a bit.
This time I stopped at Cathedral Grove, but just to use the potty shack. I've seen plenty of big trees. I didn't need to take a walk to see more.
As I came into Coombs (crawling with tourists!) and then went past the Parrot Refuge, I really wanted to stop again and visit Socrates. But, since I wasn't too sure about being able to camp on Newcastle Island and therefore having to find someplace else if I couldn't, I figured I'd better keep pedaling.
I came back into Parksville and stopped at Starbucks to post blogs from the last few days. I also checked my email and saw I had one from Diane on Pender (met at Fox Glacier in NZ) with directions to her place. Should be pretty easy. Then I checked the BC Parks website about Newcastle Marine Provincial Park. Everything pointed to there being camping on the island so I was pretty happy. Now, all I had to do was get there!
I continued riding down Hwy 19A until it appeared I was forced to go onto Hwy 19 itself. I wasn't sure I was supposed to get on the freeway until I pulled out the book and, sure enough, it said to "get on the busy freeway". I'm certainly used to riding on freeways, so it wasn't a big deal.
From there I followed 19 to Nanaimo where I exited to get back on 19A. It is a busy road in its own right with tons of shopping places. I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some produce. I was even able to get the "card specials" as a visitor. Saved me a bit of change.
A mile or so after the store I got onto a bike path that took me all the way to the park where the ferry to Newcastle Island docked. I wheeled Betsy down to the dock and saw the tiniest little boat. It said Harbor Tours on it so I thought it couldn't possibly be the ferry to the island. Well, it was! Dale, the pilot, asked if I was going to the island. I said I was, and he helped me load Betsy. It was a little tricky since there wasn't a lot of room (did I mention it was a very very small boat?). Fortunately, there were only two other people going over. I paid Dale the $10 for Betsy and I, and we shoved off. We chugged our way across the harbor to the island. In about 10 minutes we arrived. Since Betsy is a little weighty with all her bags on, I opted to remove them in order to make it easier to get her off the boat. Dale was very nice and held Betsy while I put the bags back on up on the dock.
From there I just walked Betsy up the path to figure out about the camping situation. There is actually quite a bit of camping spots here. There are huge group sites (of which it appears many are occupied with groups of kids) and the individual sites are tucked just in the trees. It is really a spectacular place. It is so close to Nanaimo that I can actually hear the traffic, yet it is still a boat ride away. The seaplanes were taking off frequently from the harbor on the Nanaimo side. I think I'm the only one who rode my bike here. The guys that work here said they had never seen a cycle tourist on the island. The book (Bicycling the Pacific Coast) mentions Newcastle as a side trip. It is definitely worth the trip and even more awesome to camp here!
I'll catch the first boat tomorrow at 9:30 (tomorrow is a 3-boat-ride day). I think I will take the bags off to load Betsy this time!