Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bella Bella, An Little Known British Columbia Destination

Part One: Getting to Bella Bella

Bella Bella; an Italian kayaking destination? No, it’s a village on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, that is a study in contrasts as a kayak destination. Remote and accessible; challenging with benign options; rugged and beautiful; protected or ocean paddling. The Bella Bella area is worth the trip.

Located on Campbell Island, the village of Bella Bella is less a destination than a starting point. As the raven flies the village lays 100 miles north of Vancouver Island and getting there takes planning and ferry schedule coordination.

Load everything you will need, including food and a few days water, before heading for the ferry. You can purchase supplies along the way, on Vancouver Island, but who wants to go shopping on the travel day. There is a village store in Bella Bella but, after that, you are on your own. Cross the Canadian border and head for the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen, south of the City of Vancouver. The ferries are often busy but they do accept reservations; a nice feature ( ).

A two hour ride across the Straits of Georgia will take you to the bustling city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, the starting point for your four and one half hour drive north to Port Hardy, your jumping off place. It’s a long drive so enjoy the experience. It’s a beautiful island and don’t get all worked up about the clear cuts you will pass. Logging is a part of the island culture and there are plenty of uncut areas to gaze at.

Depending on arrival time and the ferry schedule you may have to spend the night in Port Hardy. You can dig out your camping gear or settle into one of the fine motels in town ( ). I recommend the motel option. Kayakers have a reputation for being cheap so it’s nice to leave a little money in the local economy, which depends heavily on tourism for its survival. It will be your last shower for a while so enjoy it.

The ferry to Bella Bella sails only twice a week. Check the schedule to plan both your northbound and southbound sailing. A schedule reading error will cost you a couple of days. The system runs a boat tailored to this run, the Queen of Chilliwack. If you make the ten hour sailing at night reclining seats are available. We skipped the chairs, pulled out our pads and sleeping bags and slept on the carpeted floor. An informal atmosphere prevails and the crew is very accommodating. Food is available on board.

Upon arrival you simple carry your kayaks and gear to the nearby beach, pack and prepare to launch. Since you will need to haul your kayaks and gear both on and off the ferry, mesh duffle bags are useful. Small items can be stuffed in the bags, minimizing the number of trips required. Since the ferry crew is anxious to stay on schedule a quick unload is encouraged (though it is unlikely they will assist you.) You’ve arrived and are ready to paddle.

Next post I’ll tell you about our trip that included sea otters, whales, ocean paddling and running a rapid.

Key Words: Vancouver Island, Bella Bella, Ocean, BC Ferries, Port Hardy

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