Ad­ven­ture afoot

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION CANADA - CATHER­INE MAR­SHALL

It’s pour­ing but I’m well cov­ered in a bil­low­ing red Mus­tang Sur­vival suit. I’ve wad­dled like an as­tro­naut to the boat, awk­wardly taken my seat, and now find my­self thrust back­wards as though by zero grav­ity as we bul­let across Howe Sound.

We’re wedged be­tween a low grey sky and the sur­face of this steely wa­ter­way, a net­work of squig­gly fjords bur­row­ing into the coast­line north­east of Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia.

The clouds have parted to re­veal densely wooded moun­tain­sides. Ac­cord­ing to le­gend a Sasquatch, or Big­foot, lives here­abouts, an ape-like crea­ture said to roam the forests of the Pa­cific North­west.

As if to shake this alarm­ing no­tion, our guide Darryn Ghis­lieri steers the boat sharply star­board, pulls the throt­tle and pro­pels us into a 360-de­gree, cen­trifu­gal arc. Wa­ter rushes at us but we’re pro­tected in those ridicu­lous-look­ing, yet cosy, wa­ter­proof suits and so chor­tle at the merry-go-round ef­fect of this sud­den ma­noeu­vre.

Bring­ing us to a rest, Ghis­lieri points to the moun­tains and the ex­pen­sive hol­i­day homes cush­ioned by dense, Sasquatch-con­ceal­ing fo­liage.

The glaciers that carved out this fjord were much taller than those moun­tains, he says, and were es­ti­mated to mea­sure 1500m thick. But over eons, the icy be­he­moths sand­pa­pered away at the jagged peaks, break­ing off large chunks of rock that rolled down­hill and came to rest on the shores of Lion’s Bay, through which we’re now cruis­ing. It’s upon that rocky de­bris field that those hol­i­day homes were built.

“We can only imag­ine what could pos­si­bly hap­pen if we ever get the big shake [earth­quake] they say we’re due for,” Ghis­lieri laments. “If that does hap­pen, th­ese very ex­pen­sive sea­side homes could be­come very ex­pen­sive un­der­wa­ter homes.”

With that he pulls the throt­tle and the boat flies north­wards to Anvil Is­land, skat­ing along the wa­ter’s sur­face as it goes.

The first surf scot­ers (black mi­gra­tory sea ducks) of spring have ar­rived; when the weather warms up, Ghisli- eri says, they’ll de­scend upon the bay in a car­pet of black. Though Anvil Is­land is com­posed mostly of gran­ite cliffs, cab­ins are scat­tered on the gen­tler east­ern shores.

It’s not just the Sasquatch their in­hab­i­tants have to fear but ham­mer­ing waves as big as 2.5m can oc­cur out here in win­ter, even in the rel­a­tively pro­tected Howe Sound.

Al­though rain­drops are pop­ping and crack­ling against our sur­vival suits, we can see signs of spring in rocks dressed in vel­vety moss, yel­low wild­flow­ers emerg­ing from cracks and broody birds con­struct­ing their nests.

“The next gen­er­a­tion of pelagic cor­morants will be born here,” Ghis­lieri de­clares as we cruise past the rocky out­crop of Christie Is­land.

We’re at the cross­roads of three bod­ies of wa­ter now: Howe Sound to the north; the Strait of Ge­or­gia to the south; English Bay di­rectly ahead. The city stretches out, flank­ing the wa­ter­way in a glit­ter­ing arc.

We make our way slowly along the shore­line of West Van­cou­ver, a pod of dol­phins danc­ing in our wake.

There’s a cave gouged from a gran­ite cliff­side here, and Ghis­lieri ma­noeu­vres the boat into its mouth. If the Sasquatch is here, he says, this is where we’ll find it. We shout hello, but our voices echo cold and hol­low back at us. Maybe he’s not feel­ing so­cial to­day. Or maybe he doesn’t like the look of us in th­ese red as­tro­naut suits.

Cather­ine Mar­shall was a guest of Sewell’s Ma­rina.

A Sewell’s Ma­rina Sea Sa­fari Zo­diac in Van­cou­ver

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