Before we begin...
I know my posts located on other sites have been getting less love lately, but I feel compelled to tell you that my all-time favourite post is published over on Lauren's wonderful Testament series today. (just one click away... seriously!)
To continue on the warm and fuzzy theme...
By Friday afternoon, I have convinced myself that my chosen profession is rife with pompous jackasses, after a rather unfortunate professional workshop-- although, granted, the day was nearly made worth it, not due to exciting new information on the latest version of the IQ test, but rather as a result of large platters of free cheese.
Still, when I see the Duke waiting at a bench outside the venue, I sprint across the walkway in sheer excitement... for all I know is that he is picking me up to drive somewhere mysterious for our anniversary, and that he had forced me to pack and/or point out clothing for nearly every plausible occasion so as not to clue me in on our intended destination.
He leads me to a beige rented Corolla, stocked with all the trip necessities, including suitably convoluted Google Map directions and five cent candies. The map only leads us on the first half of the trip, to the ferry terminal. We manage to be one of the first cars on the ferry and are located at the very front, so, instead of joining the masses upstairs amongst screaming children and overpriced chicken fingers, we remain in the car, listening to the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, and watching the lights of the port slowly approaching.
As our tires rolled from the ferry dock to the road, and we struggled with nonsensical directions, I gradually became aware of our destination-- a small, rugged community on the opposite side of the island, known for its forests, surfing beaches, and wildlife.
The road there is one of the crazier highways I've been on-- full of twists and turns, fringed by enormous trees. As we edge closer to our destination, the fog grows so thick that we have to forego headlights and inch along. One of the first things we see once the mist cleared were signs warning us of the possibility of tsunamis. Welcome to the open ocean.
We pull into our hotel around midnight, the air thick as we stepped out of the car. As we open the glass door in our room, we can hear the ocean below, though the fog prevents us from seeing it. We walk towards the water, the orange glow of a beach fire glowing in the distance. It is almost eerie how far we walk, with the blurry view of the waves still crashing distances away.
Shockingly, the Duke, the king of lazy mornings, suggests that we set the alarm the next morning to make the most of the day. I have my morning coffee looking onto the misty ocean. Breakfast is Eggs Benny with delicious local ingredients, like smoked salmon and dungeness crab.
We then take a walk along the ocean shore. It is funny how the lack of sunlight, something I would find depressing in the city, somehow adds to the mystique of the area.
The shores are oddly smooth, so smooth than the sheen of a millimitre of icy water acts like a mirror.
We drive the five minutes to town, which is more aptly described as a village, free of traffic lights. Wandering around it does not take long.
The fog is starting to peel away, so we decide to book a late afternoon whale watching trip. We are lucky to only have to share our yellow ship, the Miss B Haven, with two other people, and our captain, Tim Tom, who has an natural ease on the ocean. We skim across the water at first, wind whipping through our air, sailing by green islands and rocks piercing the water. Gradually, we start hopping over waves.
We near two other paused boats. Between them is a school of sided dolphins, frolicking in the waves. As the boats slowly skip along the ocean, the dolphins leap about in their wake.
TimTom, a grin on his face, simply states "Pretty cool, eh?"
The dolphins gradually bore of us, and scamper away.
It is, however, only about ten minutes later than we see the next fellow on our list... a grey whale.
We first detect him by the spray of his blow hole. He swoops up and down multiple times. Another one joins him, surprising us by his rapid surfacing mere feet away from us. Tim Tom tells us that, were they to use their blow hole too nearby, we would be greeted by a tremendous stench.
It is hard not to be overwhelmed by something so monumental and exotic.
Next, it is the island of stellar sealions. They are the true stinkers, massively lolling about on the rocks, roaring at us passerbys.
Seals great us as we float by, bobbing in the current. We drift by a rocky island rife with seabirds, and a family of otters cavorts amongst the seaweed, their heads barely distinguishable.
And, as a final farewell, we catch site of a juvenile humpback whale. He moves quicker than the grey whales, swimming through the water at speeds that seem impossible for a creature so gigantic. But, just before he disappears from sight, he dives below the water with his tail reaching towards the sky.
As we make our way back to the harbour, the rocking of the ship nearly lulls me to sleep.
The evening was capped off by an amazing meal, and drinking red wine out on the beach.
(Oh, and maybe watching E! True Hollywood's story on the New Kids on the Block. Shut up.)
The next morning, we check out of the hotel set ourselves off to exploring the nearby national park, stopping every few kilometers to see a new sight.
There were boardwalks running through the temperate rainforest...
Yet, somehow, a few minutes down the road, the landscape of a bog felt like nearly another planet, with broccoli like trees with pallid grey limbs spurting from the spongy moss.
Soon afterwards, to finish where we started, an open beach.
After that, it was back on the open road, with stopovers at random small town restaurants and to ogle more looming trees, pulling back into our apartment at midnight to alarm clocks and a backlog of emails. Still, it is the escapes like this that make that day-to-day tedium so much more bearable.
And me? I'm still in awe that someone likes me so much to plan something like this. And I'm one hell of a lucky girl.