Monday 11th August 11:00 p.m Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
Well, how about that? I ended up staying here two nights after all- not just for the great food, but I haven't been able to get in touch with my next host who lives on a neighbouring island. Cindy and Bruce didn't seem to mind putting up with me for another night, so here I stil am. Poor Bruce was called out on another rescue in the middle of the night. The phone woke me, then I heard his car drive out. I went straight back to sleep, but Bruce spent the next four hours traipsing round in the bush looking for two lost hikers. He didn't look real keen for work this morning, but after a few of Cindy's blueberry pancakes, off he went.

The view from their deck, at high tide. At low tide, you can walk to these islands. Low tide. The huts on this island belong to the descendants of early settlers. They have squatters rights on the island, and can maintain the buildings but can never rebuild, modify or extend them.

Although I generally don't want hosts to go out of their way to entertain me, Cindy convinced me that she felt like getting out and doing a few things today. So that's what we did; today was probably the most active day I've had so far. We started with a walk along the rocky beach. It was low tide, so we could walk right across to the little islands that you can see from Cindy and Bruce's deck. I was quite taken with the various starfish. I'd never seen one alive before, except in aquariums. They came in all shapes and sizes; pink, purple, orange and red. Most had five legs, as is apparently the norm for starfish, but the sunstar had about fifteen.

Purple starfish, as if I really needed to tell you that. Cindy with a multi legged sunstar.

Sea anenomes in a tide pool. Nice photo, I thought. Time to practice my diving.

After three hours peering into tide pools and slipping on slimy rocks, we drove into town to undertake a challenge. Mrs Ritchie's restaurant in Nanaimo challenges anyone to eat their rather generous sized mountain burger. If you can finish the whole burger and the fries that come with it, in less than an hour....the feast is free. Have a look at the photograph of the giant burger, and guess for yourself whether I completed the challenge or not. I'll give you a hint- the damn thing weighs seven pounds!

A burger speaks a thousand words.

After the Mrs Ritchie's challenge, Cindy drove us north to a beautiful forested area about half an hour to the north. It's a forest of giant spruce trees. One of the most interesting things about this forest was the number of fallen trees. All around us were fallen giants, some a couple of hundred feet high *well, now a couple of hundred feet long*. I read that in 1997 a ferocious storm whipped through the forest, uprooting literally hundreds of trees. The highway had to be closed for days, there were so many trees across it. The forest itself was closed for much longer, as rangers waited for the fallen trees to 'settle' before it was safe enough to begin the clean up. I find something comforting about being around such huge trees, and it seemed like a perfect way to top off a fun day.

This local produce market has goats living on the roof of the shop. Of course.

But wait...there's more! When we got back from the hike, Bruce was home from work and had some shishkebabs firing away on the barbie. We had another veritable feast, then Cindy and I loaded their two sea kayaks onto her car and headed to the boat ramp. It was a gorgeous evening for a paddle- quiet and still at high tide. We saw several seals, and on the way back in a couple of curious otters came by to check us out. By nine o'clock it was getting quite dark and I think Bruce would have been worried if we didn't get back soon. It didn't take long to unload and wash the kayaks, and then I kicked back in the hot tub. What a busy day! What a great stay in Nanaimo!

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