Monday, February 29, 2016

'Shroom bloom

Mushrooms take root on our wheel barrow.

Victoria is... moist.

How moist? Enough that you can find fungi growing on your wheel barrow over the course of a rainy winter.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Top of the 'hat to you

Totem pole at the top of the Malahat on Vancouver Island...
Travel to the north end of Vancouver Island from Victoria, BC requires a drive up and over the Malahat mountain (aka the 'hat). At the peak you'll find this scenic lookout with views overlooking Finlayson Arm leading to Saanich Inlet in the distance.

For years this viewpoint was guarded by a weathered looking totem pole. It disappeared about two years ago when the provincial government upgraded the highway and the lookout. It turns out that it was taken to the nearby city of Duncan for a 'little touch up and a little paint' (to quote Bruce Springsteen). It's now back in its rightful place greeting tourists. It has been enhanced with an explanatory plaque that shares the details of the totem's creator, Coast Salish carver Stan Modeste.

This photo is something of an accomplishment for me. For years, I've been trying to get a photo of this totem that included unobstructed views of the landscape behind it, but it seemed that nature never wanted to cooperate with me before now.

Saanich Inlet from the totem pole on Vancouver Island's Malahat lookout...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Strong and Silent

A father and daughter watch the parade...

Moms tend to get all the love and mentions from children. But who's your daddy when you need a set of good sturdy shoulders to sit on and a pair of hands to hold you as you watch the parade go by?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Magic Monday: Mean and Green

Things go horribly bad after Bruce Banner's fourth cup of coffee...

Somebody needs to dial down the caffeine on Monday mornings...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Philosophical Friday: On being smart...

When you are the smartest person in the room, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is to not let the others know about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sea to Sky

Near whiteout conditions at the top of the mountain...
Skiing into the void at the top of Mt Washington...
In an post from early last week I reported how a trio of us were surfing ...erm...trying not to fall off our surfboards near Vancouver Island's Jordan River.

Six days later my wife and I were up island skiing down Mt Washington again. How great is living here where you can go from sea to sky in the course of a few days?

A blowing wind and heavy snowfall created chaotic near-whiteout conditions at the top. But you won't hear me complain about it...

Not so bad really when compared to eastern Canada where a record cold snap is dropping temperatures down to -40 C with the wind chill factor.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Feeding frenzy

Turtles can move fast when they want to.
Do NOT get between a large turtle and its food!
'Turtles' and 'frenzy' aren't two words that you would normally read in the same sentence. However, it turns out that sea turtles can move pretty fast when there is a free food buffet.

At the Xcaret eco-park close to Playa del Carmen last fall, the water at the sea turtle enclosure turned into a churning mass of flippers, shells and snapping mouths when staff tossed in shovelfuls of food at feeding time.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Kiteboarders off Jordan River on Vancouver Island...
Enviously watching the wind chasers...
Earlier this week, a burst of spring weather (in February!) was all it took for me and a couple of friends to head back to Jordan River to try some standup paddle surfing.

I had slightly better luck than my two friends. One broke a board fin and lost another to the surf. The other was a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the surf and chose to quit early.

As I took a break later in the morning, I enviously watched the kiteboarders zipping back and forth over the water. It's a sport that I hope to get into later this year, but for now all I can do is sit on the sidelines.   :(

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wayback Wednesday: Wendy Huntbatch

Wendy Huntbatch of the World Parrot Refuge...
Wendy holds artwork created by one of her parrots.
I've written several times about the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs, BC. It rescues parrots that have been abandoned or abused and currently houses about 900 of these highly intelligent birds.

The organizer behind this charity was Wendy Huntbatch who died a few days ago from cancer. I met her several years ago when we offered up our ocean view condo as part of a fundraising promotion. Unfortunately, the logistics of tickets sales and distribution were too difficult to overcome and it didn't happen.

However, I've been a frequent visitor to the refuge.

What will happen with the refuge is unknown. Although there is a board of directors that can carry on operations, Wendy was the driving force behind fundraising. In this photo, she's holding up one of her fundraising ideas... paintings done by the parrots of the refuge. According to one staff member who works there, the cockatoos are the most creative painters of the bunch.

An African grey parrot munches on a nut.
An African grey parrot makes a meal of a peanut.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Winter Blues

Wind and waves at Oceanside's Columbia Beach...
Waves and wind at Columbia Beach near Oceanside on Vancouver Island...
It's about this time of year that Victorians really start to get sick of the perpetual grey clouds of winter and look forward to brighter days and spring.

I'm anxious to start SUKing* and am looking for locations. This is Columbia Bay near Parksville... and these are... windsurfers?

Really? I thought this sport had gone the way of the dinosaur but it seems to be alive and popular in Parksville.

To be fair these two were very good at it, getting some serious air time in the strong wind that was blowing.

*SUKing: What ARE you thinking?! SUKing is the geriatric version of kiteboarding. It combines a kite and a larger standup paddle board rather than a true kiteboard.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sea, spray and Sombrio

Waves meet the beach on Vancouver Island.
Waves crash over a tree stump at Sombrio Beach.
Further down the road from Jordan River is Sombrio Beach, another popular surfing spot at this end of the lower island.

It's a bit tricky to get to it. The gravel road off the highway isn't clearly marked, nor is it maintained. It's full of ruts and deep potholes that will make short work of the bottom of your vehicle if you're not careful. You have to really love your surfing to make Sombrio a regular experience.

On the day I stopped by, the surf was wild and turbulent. Nobody was in the water that day but it did make for some dramatic photos.

Sombrio Beach surf on Vancouver Island...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Surf City

Surfers at Jordon River on Vancouver Island...
Winter surfing at Jordan River on Vancouver Island...

Tofino is Vancouver Island's undisputed surf mecca. However, it's off the beaten track, and it takes some planning and time to get there.

What's a local surfer to do in the meantime?

Head to Jordan River,that's what. Jordan River is located about ninety minutes west of Victoria along the route to Port Renfrew. It's not much more than a couple of cafes and a collection of homes along the waterfront. However, it's home to the best waves to be found locally.

They don't compare to Tofino's surf. The stretch of surf waves is relatively short too. The result is that local surfers have developed a reputation for being hostile towards outsiders to protect their turf.

I have no idea if that's true. I talked to one of them about the best place to launch my stand up paddle board and he seemed fine with it, although he did refer me to a different part of the beach.

Sunset over Jordan River...
The sun sets over Jordan River...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Feet feed fish

Feeding the fish at Xel Ha eco-park...
Fish nibble on the feet of guests at Xel Ha eco-park...

We saw this offbeat form of foot pedicure at Xel Ha in Mexico. You put your feet into a tank of tiny Gurra rufa fish and they nibble off the dead skin cells. The woman in this photo told me that the sensation was pleasant... a very light tickling.

In BC, some other provinces and some states, this practice has been banned as unhygienic and I can see that. It's not the fish per se, but the fact that people are sharing the same water with their feet.