Having arrived on Vancouver Island before I had expected to, I was now ready to push on hard to get to the end of the TCAT. We’d have to zigzag the length of the island but the end couldn’t come soon enough. Leaving Nanaimo on Wednesday, 30th July, we headed south to get to the first trail. No sooner had we got on the trail then we had to return to the main road. The trail was closed with a very solid gate due to fire risk. We skirted around the closed trail and picked up the TCAT on a main logging road. I got a little nervous as the route description for the TCAT warned about the fat truck logging lorries that are used on Vancouver Island. The only vehicles we came across were normal pickup trucks until we got to the end of the road and an empty fat truck came towards. I’m very glad it was empty as those things are huge! The fat trucks are so big they’re only allowed to be used on the logging roads and not on paved highways. One of the logging roads we should have taken was closed for active logging on the side of the road. So we took the main logging road to Port Alberni instead.
Thanks to logging companies closing roads to the public the rest of the TCAT that day was on paved roads. That’s not to say it was boring. The route went past Cathedral Grove, a stand of old growth trees that have never been harvested. The trees are huge beyond imagination and covered in mosses. Next the route took us along Qualicum bay where we stopped to admire the views across the water to the mountains off mainland B.C., marvelling at the fact that only the day before we’d been riding through them. Arriving in the small town of Cumberland, we checked into the hostel. A large group of Harley Davidson riders were also staying in the hostel, which is more frequently used by mountain bikers rather than motorcyclists, so my dirty and battered GS looked neglected beside their polished bikes with glittering chrome. Yet it was their Harley riders that were envious of me and my bike o bike I told them about my adventure. That night we ate at a cool pizzeria. We sat outside on the pavement, the table was a bicycle wheel and the pizzas were great.
The next day I hoped we could make it to Port Hardy, at the northeastern end of Vancouver Island but it was a long way, and if we met too many fat trucks we’d end up stopping a lot and wouldn’t make it before dark. The morning ride was great, along good logging roads. Towards lunch time we took a wrong turn thanks to an inaccurate GPS track and freshly graded logging roads that made a spur road look bigger that the main road we should have been taking. Five after minutes of riding up a crazy steep road in obviously the wrong direction I turned around and found the right road. We soon passed crossed a bridge over a crystal clear river where a couple and their son were splashing about in the water. We stopped and ate our lunch there and got talking to them. It turns out that the man worked for a logging company. He told us that we should be quite safe riding on the logging roads up to Port Hardy. I thought I’d got lucky not seeing any logging trucks but he said logging had been suspended due to the increased fire risk of the hot, dry conditions. And he was right, we didn’t see a logging truck for the rest of the day. With the absence of logging trucks, i was able to pick up the pace. This meant we had a bit of time to go see a natural cave and bridge system. The section that we saw was beautiful but it was hot work climbing the rocks in full motorbike gear. It would have been nice to spend a whole day in the area, as there were more caves we didn’t see, but the end of the TCAT was calling. We made it into Port Hardy at sunset and found the hostel and checked in. The hostel itself is a little different but the owners are really nice people.
Friday, 1st August was the day I finally got to the end of the TCAT. It wasn’t fat from Port Hardy to where the route finished. Talking to the hostel owners they said that, as it was a public holiday on Monday, logging would be finishing at midday. We had a lazy morning and set off about lunchtime. We didn’t meet any logging trucks but there were plenty of SUV’s with people going camping for them long weekend. On the way we stopped at the town of Winter Harbour, not that it’s really big enough to be called a town. The original settlement here was a row of buildings along the water’s edge with a boardwalk instead of a road to access them. Whilst there is a road that runs behind the buildings now, the boardwalk is still there. Apparently it’s a popular destination for Americans who charter boats to go out fishing. We say outside the general store eating an ice cream talking to a local guy when Ingrid squealed, jumped up and ran down to the end of the fishing wharf. The g guy we were talking to was a little surprised but I’ve known Ingrid long enough to realise it was an animal of some sort that she’d spotted and most likely a marine one. Sure enough, when I got down to where she was I could see the sea otter that was bobbing around in the water near the wharf and occasionally diving down. It didn’t seem at all concerned about us being there and even a couple of b boats that arrived didn’t scare it off.
However we couldn’t stay there watching the otter all day. We had the TCAT to finish. We rode the last 15km to the end of the track but still had another kilometre to walk through forest to get to the beach that marks the end of them TCAT. I expected a rugged, waved battered beach and was therefore completely unprepared for the scene that awaited us. As we emerged from them trees, I swear we could have just stepped out onto a beach on a tropical island. The sand was almost pure white, the sea w was a wonderful turquoise blue and crystal clear, the sun was shining. I was very glad I’d brought my swimming trunks with me, to be able to celebrate with a swim on that beach – even if the water was a bit on the chilly side. The beach is a provincial park that allows camping on the beach. There were several groups of campers there who were using the piles of drift wood to build shelters. It really was a most magical place to finish the TCAT and after at eight weeks to the day since I started on the TCAT, it was just what I needed.