We sent the night on the ferry dock at Port Hardy. That night was worse than any night we have spent in a Walmart parking lot, at one point in the wee hours of the morning I thought someone was cutting the grass with an electric lawnmower except there was no grass?
The ferry loaded at 6:30am, so we took what we might need for the next few hours as we would have limited access to our vehicle while we sailed to Bella Bella. On the way, we caught a glimpse of a whale’s water spout off in the distance.
After approximately 5.5hrs we pulled into Bella Bella where we disembarked with others that were staying in Bella Bella and those going on to catch a smaller ferry to Bella Coola, this ferry only had room for approximately 12 vehicles as compared the first ferry which was like a cruise ship and held well over 100 vehicles. You can see the two ferries together and get an idea of the differences.
While at Bella Bella we were talking to Dave who was trying to sort out water purification problems at the local fish processing plant. While discussing the problem Stewart was offered a job to help out.
Had we known we were going to Bella Bella, we would have planned a stay over. So, for anybody thinking of doing this trip, be fore warned. Also, the smaller ferry has no food services available, so make sure you are prepared. The crew of the Nimpkish were amazing, they would announce wildlife sightings and even slow the ferry right down for us to enjoy the encounter.
After loading on to the small ferry we set off for Bella Coola, on the way we stopped at Shearwater where nobody disembarked or got on, I understand regulations dictate that the ferry has to stop regardless. From here we continued to Ocean Falls where everyone disembarked and reloaded on the ferry in the opposite direction. Ocean Falls at one time was a thriving town. We have heard so much about Ocean Falls and read stories from it’s hay days, sadly it is now almost a ghost town. We did meet a couple Americans who seized the opportunity of buying cheap property and visit every year for the fishing.We have to give kudos to the guys who work the ferries, they are masters of loading, positioning and maneuvering. After reloading we continued on to Bella Coola, while on route we spotted whales breaching and also pod porpoises out in the open waters.
Upon reaching Bella Coola after a 10hr sail we disembarked after midnight. We drove into town and found a nice quite spot on main street to park up and sleep. We were up early the next morning to discover we stayed in the safest place possible, outside the RCMP office. Across the street was a local restaurant that served a good breakfast before touring the town. The town’s people were readying for the local rodeo that was going to happen on the weekend.
After our quick tour of town, we headed towards Williams Lake, about 50kms/30mls of this road was gravel and had many uphill switchbacks with no guard rail going up the mountain. Catherine was happy to be going up and not down, as we had heard many horror stories of people traveling westward!! As you can see the road isn’t much wider than the truck. We left behind the green and lush coastal area and entered the semi arid region.
We arrived a Williams lake to find they had their own Stampede and Rodeo going on that weekend. We stayed in the overflow camping area of the campground for two nights, this was also Canada Day weekend, we wanted somewhere to celebrate.
We had hoped to enjoy fireworks on Canada Day, but were told due to the extreme dry conditions, there would be no fireworks. Sadly, not long after we left Williams Lake wild fires ignited by lightening which forced the town to be evacuated. Williams Lake was one of many central BC towns to be evacuated and summer 2017 will be history making, with the entire province under a fire ban and many major highways closed. Thank you to all the amazing fire fighters who helped to keep the loss to a minimum.
From Williams Lake, we travelled up HWY-97 to Prince George and called in at Costco to pick-up some items. We then headed west towards Prince Rupert. We found a campsite at Beaumont Provincial Park.
Next morning, we had an invitation to stay with friends in Kitimat which is only 40 minutes off the highway to Prince Rupert, we stayed for 2 nights where we caught up with Bill, Sharon & their dog Minnie. Catherine and Sharon did some serious hiking on the local trails.
We left Bill & Sharon’s and continued on to Prince Rupert as we had a ferry to catch and they were heading out into the channel on their boat for the weekend. The road to Prince Rupert was picturesque, following the Skeena River along the valley.
On the way, we took another detour to Port Edward and found an old Cannery that had been turned into a museum.
In Prince Rupert, we stocked up on groceries and filled the diesel tanks before catching the ferry.
Next: Haida Gwaii