Day 2 Tofino

I woke up to sun and airplanes taking off.  The campground is right between the golf course and the airport. The airport is more like a runway, but it suffices.  Most of the air traffic I have seen up here has been seaplanes.

After a quick breakfast I decided to look for some surf.  I packed up and drove down to Long Beach, the spot I first checked out upon arrival.  I pulled into the parking lot among around 2 dozen other vehicles, many with board racks on top.

The sun was shining and the wind was light. I walked what seemed like a quarter mile from the head of the beach to the water.  The gentle slope of the sand made for some great skim-boarding, which a few kids were enjoying while their frightened parents looked on, fearing a trip to the emergency room.

I strapped on my leash and padded out with the Stewart long board.  The waves were 2-3’ clean and fun.  I paddled around about 5 guys and found a spot where the wave seemed to break left.  I picked off 3 or 4 right away.  The sun was warm and the water wasn’t too cold.

A newcomer paddled out and came up to me.  He asked if I was the guy with the VW Bus from the liquor store yesterday.  Turns out it was Johnny, the cashier who told me about Cox Bay.  He told me this is his typical spot, and he tries to get out here every day before work.  He only had about 30 minutes, and it WAS his spot, so I made sure he got every wave he wanted.  He pointed out how some of the waves would reflect off the big rock and sometimes if they stand up you get really long rights.  I watched him pick off a few before he had to head in for work.

I paddled closer to the rock to try to pick off a few of those long right-handers, but to no avail.  I stayed out for another hour, as the weather was perfect and I was pretty much out alone. It was a fun session; definitely the most fun I’d had since Santa Cruz.

I trekked back to the bus, stripped off the neoprene, loaded the board back on the rack, and decided it was time to check out Uclulet, home of the Otalith Music Festival.  Ukee, as it’s affectionately known, is the sister city to Tofino.  It rests at the southern end of the peninsula.  It’s definitely less well known, but no less charming.

According to the festival website, it was being held at the community center, which was across the the Uclulet Campground.  The assumption was that everyone would either know where that was, or figure it out.  Since Google maps was no help, I guessed I would just figure it out too.  I initially drove past a turnoff to a site I suspected as the site, and got a nice tour of the town.  I quick u-turn took me back to what turned out to be the festival grounds.  I could see the two stages being setup side by side, and a small sea of easy-up shelters defining the boundaries of numerous vendors.  I noticed of the banners was from the Tofino Brewing Company, and my heart skipped a bear.

I parked the bus and walked up the street to the campground.  I knew they were sold out, but was hoping I would find an angle to get into the campground.  My experience at Coachella has told me that the experience at a music festival is amplified by camping onsite.  Especially when you are flying solo.  People tend to adopt you into their groups more easily, and that makes for a more social experience. And I certainly didn’t want to have to drive after a day drinking and dancing, and whatever.

I walked up to the registration table, and make my plea.  “I just drove all the way here from Southern California in an old VW Bus, and saw the posted for the festival at the co-op in Tofino.  I bought a weekend pass but you guys were sold out of camping.  Is there any chance you could squeeze one more person it?”

The young girl looked me over and must have felt sorry for me.  “Do you have to sleep in the bus, or do you have a tent?  I don’t have room for another vehicle.”

I told her I had a tent and would gladly rely on it if she could accommodate me.  And I was in.

She said I could pull the bus in to unload, and they escorted me through the crowd.  There were tents strewn everywhere, a few other VW Buses, and a lot of cars.  The guy who was escorting me through the crowd led me to a spot where the field opened up into a giant cul de sac.  He had me snuggle the bus up to a tree, and gave me the thumbs up.

“You should be good here” he exclaimed.  I asked him if I could keep the bus here all weekend and he said, “Sure!”

I was faced with a bit of an ethical dilemma. I’d made an agreement with the girl at the check-in desk that I would tent camp.  But this guy was giving me permission to keep the bus here.  And there was plenty of room really.  I parked the bus and figured I’d pitch my tent anyway and see what developed.

As I opened up the back to grab my tent, the group of 10 or “kids” (they were in their early 20’s) eagerly greeted the old guy in the hippie bus.  They offered me a beer and introduced themselves.  They’d all driven over from Victoria for the festival, and were eagerly looking forward to seeing their local hero, Jessie Roper, perform.

They offered to let me setup up in their camp, but I spied a cluster of trees just above their spot that was appealing to me.  It was just far enough for some privacy and close enough to feel apart of the crew.  I dragged my stuff up the small hill, found a clear spot big enough for the 4-man tent I’d brought (maybe I should consider something smaller) and set up camp.  After the tent I put down my rug, setup my table, planted my chair, and broke open a cold Tofino Brewery beer.

Then it dawned on me: this was the perfect place to hang the hammock.  Finding two pine trees the perfect distance apart, I strung up the pink and purple nylon cocoon.  “You going to sleep in that?” I one of my neighbors called from below.  “As long as it doesn’t rain, why not?” I replied.

One of the girls must have been inspired because next thing I know she’s up above me in the copse of trees stringing up her hammock.  “How come mine’s black and yours is pink?” she wondered aloud.  I chuckled to myself and wondered the same thing.

I sat down in the chair, sipped my beer and read for a while.  Then I decided that the tent and hammock combination made the bus redundant.  I had everything I needed, and having the bus in the parking lot of the festival across the way would make it more convenient later into the night.

I made a quick beer and ice run into Uclulet, and drove back to the campground to drop off my bounty.  On the way in, I stopped at the tent and passed around some ice cold brews the to volunteers working the registration desk as a thank you for accommodating me.  I then found a parking spot on the edge of the dirt lot by the entrance to the festival.  I briefly wondered if it would be OK to park there overnight, but quickly dismissed the thought. I was in the middle of nowhere at a remote music festival.  Who was going to care?

I wandered back to the campground taking in the sights along the way.  It looked a little like a refugee camp.  People had grouped together into camps, and the fires were just starting.  There were quite a few VW’s here.  A couple of Type VW Vanagons camped together in an alcove; and old air-cooled white Bay Window amongst a bunch of tent campers.  Another group had set up a big safari tent, which a portable fire pit and what looked like cots.  Their version of “glamping”.

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As I approached my tent, the kids from Victoria told me to pull up a chair and join them.  They passed around some cheap Lucky beer.  They were a cool group, very chill and respectful to the old guy.  I soaked up the youthful energy, knowing I was going to need it over the next two days.

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