Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Cool is Ucluelet?

And what/where is Ucluelet, anyway?


Ucluelet is this cool little town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Cool because it sits on the foggy coast of the Pacific. Cool because it is surrounded on either side by the Pacific Rim National Park. Cool because the Canadian locals are friendly and easy-going. And cool because, amongst other activities, there's surf!

We arrived by car from Victoria, a long 5-6 hour drive through fantastic scenery, but such harrowing roads that it quickly earned a place on my list of "never again" travel experiences. Never again, that is, until we had to leave the same way we came. But I'll get to that later.

The Pacific coast of Vancouver Island is known to be a storm-watcher's paradise. Winter is the best season for storm-watching, but any time of year one can appreciate the ocean's dramatic meeting with the land on this rugged and wild coast. For surfers, they've probably heard of Tofino, which is up the road about 40 minutes drive from Ucluelet. We had every intention of checking it out, but found that Ucluelet offered everything we could need or want for a surf safari, wildlife safari, ocean safari, great dining options, and great lodging...less the crowds of visitors to Tofino.

As a "Native of Paradise" (born in Coronado, California), there are few places in the world I would considering moving to, if I absolutely had to. I could live in Ucluelet, quite happily. That says alot.

Of course, it helped that our accommodations were absolutely gorgeous at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, perfectly situated on a rugged rocky promontory surrounded by expansive ocean, rocky inlet, and lush forest. The lobby entrance is perhaps the most dramatic and tasteful architecture I have ever seen, beautifully bringing the outside in. And the views from the rooms are equally and unquestionably spectacular.

We took a stroll down the road at dusk on the evening of our arrival. We were told to "make yourselves heard" so as not to startle any bears that might be wandering around. My 7-year-old daughter clung to my legs and begged my husband to carry her. I took this opportunity to teach her the camp song "The other day...I met a bear..." and soon her fear turned to courage. We sang and laughed and laughed and sang, and skipped gleefully down the road. We must have been sufficiently loud, as no bears crossed our path; and we only quieted enough to watch a doe and her fawn foraging on the roadside ahead of us. The peace of the forest contrasted nicely with the roar of the ocean. That first night - falling asleep listening to the rising tide and the waves crashing into the rocky shore all around - is something I won't put into words, it simply must be experienced.

It doesn't take a trip into Pacific Rim National Park boundaries to sight the wildlife, it's everywhere. In fact, most of our wildlife sightings occurred roadside or just around town...or even just from our balcony at Black Rock.

Bald Eagles are most abundant, with pairs nesting in the treetops and fishing in the waters, or simply soaring in the fresh cool ocean air.

And speaking of ocean, the marine life is pretty incredible. While much can be viewed from shore, we opted for an afternoon out on a cruise to explore the Broken Group Islands unit of the park. Whales are a given, especially with resident Humpbacks in the area. Harbor Seals are often spotted. Stellar Sea Lions are easily seen...and heard. But the elusive Sea Otter is not so cooperative for most visitors. We got lucky.

BC Marine Wildlife - Images by Kymri Wilt

That's not to say there isn't anything to find if you don't have sea legs. The beaches offer plenty of tidepool creatures, for a touchy feely encounter.

And speaking of squishy things, if you plan to hike on any rainforest segment of the West Coast Trail, best watch your step so as to avoid an encounter with these guys:

The park boasts several beaches, including one really long one appropriately referred to as"Long Beach". Between exploring tidepools, surfing, and building forts of driftwood, one can easily pass the day away at the beach.

We did just that, and found a great spot for a scenic lunch (or dinner) at the Wickaninish Restaurant. They offer a nice selection of vegetarian entrees and kid's menu as well - a welcome change (and the only disappointment) from our resort.

But our favorite foodie find was right in town in Ucluelet, this little local's spot hit the spot every time with healthy, yummy, tasty homemade food. Delicado's has something for everyone, and if you're a surfer, or a lover of southwestern flavors, don't even think of looking further! The owner and crew are totally cool, and the decor is fun, too.

Time both flew and stood still. Days passed with no set agenda and spontaneous adventures. Nights passed being lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean. And then, it was time to leave.

Remember that horrendous drive I mentioned earning a spot on my "never again" list? Well, since we had not opted to fly in and out of Tofino, we had a rental car which had to get back to Victoria, and tickets on a plane which had to leave Victoria that same day. All of that meant a very early morning departure to hit the road. Our time was too short. We'd seen alot, experienced a dose of both adventure and serenity found nowhere else on the planet, and captured plenty of wildlife with a lens.

Everything but the bear - the Black Bear - for which we booked a cruise and scanned the shores and hoped to spot on our guided wildlife outings. Nope. Of course, it's not until the bags are packed with miles to cross and a flight to catch that the elusive black bear presented itself. Right smack on the side of the road, who would have thought, drive-by wildlife viewing free of charge?! So much for the "never again" list entry - had we flown into and out of Tofino, we'd never have seen a bear. So that 5-6-hour-totally-stressful-but-scenic-harrowing-road-drive from Victoria to, TOTALLY WORTH IT. (I still think I'll fly next time).

It marked the perfect ending of our British Columbian adventure, and so this video marks the perfect ending to the story. (turn off the sound if you don't want to be humming camp songs all day....)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kids Around the World: Hang In There!

Two young girls can't resist a peak over the wall of the local futbol stadium in Puerto Natales, Chile. Caught in mid-hang, did the little one fall before the other girl got the bike seat under her feet? No! She didn't! I still can't figure out how no feet are touching the ground anywhere in the shot.

I took this back in the days of film, and I remember it was the last frame on the roll. It was one of those moments I just grabbed and forgot about, and was pleasantly surprised when back I got the slides back from the lab weeks later. The whole scene unfolded so quickly, by the time I changed rolls both girls were on the bike halfway home, smiles and laughter all the way.

See what other bloggers are up to at Delicious Baby.

Happy Photo Friday, and hang in there!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Between Travels: Theatrical Production and Publicity Shoot

In case you're thinking I'm always on the road, I'm thinking it's about time I share some of the work I do between travels. Every week can be something totally different, but it usually involves one or more of the following subjects: actors/theatre, surfing, dogs, urban wildlife, local events, or kids.

This past weekend I saw an excellent show for which I happened to shoot the publicity stills a few weeks back. I felt the actors, and the production, deserved as much publicity as they could get, so I decided to feature them on my blog this week!

So without further adieu, here are Kevin Six, Tom Hall, and Tyler Richards Hewes in the Lotus Theatre Collective and Talent 2 Amuse's production of:

"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged"

Images by Kymri Wilt

The shows runs through August 29 at Swedenborg Hall, directed by Sophie Anderson-Ziebell. For reviews and ticket information, visit the Lotus Theatre Collective website.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Photo Friday: Kids Around the World - Have bubbles, will travel!

Happy Photo Friday!

One sure way to befriend a child while traveling is to have some bubbles on hand. And, it only takes a few bubbles for this little girl in Chongqing to have some new playmates!

The initial invitation...

Looking around to see who notices...

She has the attention of the adults...

quickly followed by someone her own size!

and another!

Anywhere in the world, the combination of kids and bubbles is a sure photo opportunity, as well as friendship opportunity.

So, my fellow bloggers at Delicious Baby...I'd love to see your kids and bubbles photos too!