Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Klemtu/BC/Motorhome - Staff Visit by Sandra Potter

With my two nearly adult children, we rented a 24 foot motorhome in Calgary and drove to Vancouver. Those are the bold facts; what they hide is my fear of driving the motorhome, how difficult it would be to manoeuvre, the difficulties of operating the septic tanks and the propane. I need not have worried! After very careful instruction from Westcoast Mountain Campers, between the three of us, we quickly became experts and came to appreciate both the space inside the vehicle and the freedom the RV gave us. We travelled through the Rockies, the Okanagan Valley (sampling the wine and fruit stands) and then drove to Siwash Lake Ranch where we abandoned the motorhome for the considerable comforts of the ranch. After a couple of days wonderful riding and having been thoroughly spoiled by our hosts, we said our reluctant goodbyes to one of the most luxurious ranches in Canada and hit the road again. This time, we headed west along the little travelled highway 20 towards Bella Coola on the coast. Being part holiday and part “educational” we looked at several properties more or less on our way. I particularly liked the Elkin Creek Ranch for a relaxed family holiday and Chaunigan Lake Lodge for the fishing. Dean on Nimpo would have been a lovely place to stay for a couple of nights and Tweedsmuir Lodge is in a beautiful position.

One of the joys of staying either at Tweedsmuir or the less expensive Brockton Place in Hagensborg is the bear watching. We were lucky enough to be there in September when the grizzly bears are stoking up for winter. Their favourite diet (like mine) is salmon and a float trip down the river allows you to watch the bears fishing. We took the ferry from Bella Coola through the inside passage seeing hump back whales and white sided dolphins en route to Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island where we again parked the RV and flew north to Klemtu.

Although I have been going to Canada for over 30 years, I have never been anywhere quite like this. For starters you take off from Port Hardy in the normal way, but find yourself landing on water in Klemtu – the plane has both wheels and floats! Klemtu is a tiny Indian village 450 miles north of Vancouver. With 315 residents, 2 miles of roads, this is somewhere special. There is now a new hotel which has 6 bedrooms and a restaurant. However, you don’t come to Klemtu for the accommodation or the food; you come to see the Kermode bears. If you are lucky (and sadly we weren’t) you will see the Spirit Bear. This white bear is a genetic freak – actually a black bear, just born white! It is not unheard of to see a family of bears where one cub is black and the other white. We did see lots of bears and some humpback whales. Seeing the bears was awesome, the boat dropped us each morning on Princess Royal Island and we walked through the forest to a river bank where we waited until the bears came and they did in good numbers. We watched as they ate, swam and played in the river, we heard wolves and saw their tracks and we were guided by a passionate and very well informed guide for whom nothing was too much trouble.

That sadly ended our adventure, we flew back to Port Hardy, collected our trusty RV, drove the length of Vancouver Island to Victoria where my daughter inspected the university as she too has fallen in love with Canada, then the ferry to Vancouver to drop the motorhome and spend a few days with friends before flying home – a trip that will live long in the memory.

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