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Day 5 : Wednesday 29th September 2004

A day of driving...

We decided to head up the Pacific coast to Port Renfrew, then head over to Nanaimo via some roads that crossed the middle of the island that were shown on our road map (see Maps section). So after a sumptuous breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns in the hotel restaurant, we departed for the drive up to Port Renfrew. My previous experience of Canadian roads was that they are long, but generally straight and not very busy. This means that you can usually get where you want fairly quickly if you are prepared to be a little economical with the speed limits .

However, the drive to Port Renfrew was very slow. Initially traffic and road works were the major problems, but as we progressed up the Pacific coast, the road became quite winding and not conducive to fast progress. Consequently, with a few stop-offs of interest, our route to Port Renfrew took up most of the morning.

Port Renfrew is actually a much smaller place than it looks on the map, if you understand what I mean. We did a couple of very interesting coastal walks, but I must say that the plethora of signs about the local bears (of the Grizzly and Black variety) made the walk somewhat nerve-wracking. I must declare an interest - I am not that keen on wild animals, especially ones that can attack you! Even walking through a field of cows is something that fills me with terror!

After the walk, we headed to a lovely little cafe overlooking the inlet and I had a very wholesome fish and chips. On the way back out of Port Renfrew, we stopped off at the Tourist Info office to check our route. Disaster! The roads shown on our map were not actual roads, but logging roads. They're available for public access, but their condition depends on when the logging last re-laid them. We decided to chance our arm and drove down to where the logging road started. There was a big sign there saying "Road closed". All that was left for us to do was to retrace our route almost all the way back to Victoria and then make our way up to Nanaimo from there. This was somewhat frustrating, if we had realised that the roads were that inaccessible, we wouldn't have come all the way out to Port Renfrew in the first place. Needless to say, the drive to Nanaimo, a lovely port town on the inside passage side of Vancouver Island took most of the rest of the daylight day.

On reaching Nanaimo, we checked into our hotel, the ... wait for it ... Dorchester! That's the Best Western Dorchester, before you get any fancy ideas . It was very nice and comfortable for the rate we paid. We popped out to a local pub on the water front, where a few pints were sampled and a few postcards written. Then it was off to locate a lovely looking Italian restaurant, that had been recommended to us by the hotel staff. However, we didn't manage to find it and ended up in a New York style cafe, which was surprisingly homely, served good quality food and was bestowed with that essential element of regional eateries, a very personable and chatty owner.