Ocean Island Backpackers hostel where I had a room for the night. It was a wonderful hostel, full of quirky character and happy people. My room was tiny, with just enough floor space to unfold the cushions to make my bed. No matter, only one night there and then I was booked into a hotel for the conference.
The next morning I took the short stroll slightly further into town, found my hotel, dropped off my bag, and checked in to the FOSS4G07 conference. I won't say much about the conference here, I met some new people, gave my talk, watched plenty more talks and presentations, and was entertained by the keynote address from Damian Conway.
So I had a couple of days to explore Victoria after the conference. Its a very pretty town, with a lot of history. The statue of the queen after which it was named stands outside the government buildings which are lit up with thousands of lights at night.
The streets of Victoria were a pleasure to stroll along, from the conference centre, to my hotel, and down to the harbour area where Captain Cook stood looking not out to sea as you might expect, but towards a rather large hotel...
The ferries share the harbour with seaplanes. This is a busy airport. Small single-engine float planes take tourists on trips round Vancouver Island, and bigger planes are bringing people in from Vancouver or further afield.
This seal was hanging around in the waters of the harbour by Grilligans, a little food shack with the awful subtitle "Where buoy meets grill". It was clearly waiting to be fed, and later in the day I did see someone feeding it. She made the seal spin round before letting it jump up and take a piece of crab from her hands. Most of the time the seal lurked in the waters, sometimes hanging underwater staring up at me staring down.
Punning titles seem de rigueur in Victoria, so I booked myself on a trip with the Prince Of Whales company. I recognised a few of my co-watchers as being from the conference as we got into our buoyant survival suits and waited by the whale statues to get into our boat.
As we left the harbour's sheltered water it started to get a bit choppy, and I was getting regularly sprayed with water. I was the only one getting sprayed, since I was sitting at the back on the side where the spray was getting blown in. Position on one of these boats is a compromise - its dry but rough at the front as the boat bounces over the waves, and wet but smooth at the back. The roughness at the front was a bit much for one guy, who dropped back to sit with our captain, 'Brian', aka 'Beamer'.
Eventually after a frantic chase out into the open water guided by frequent radio contact from other boats in the area Beamer dropped the throttle and told us that the resident orca pod was heading for us. Then we saw our first dorsal fin popping up, then the tail fin disappearing with a splash. Several whales came up for us, as the pod slid past. The rough conditions made pictures very difficult, so I spent the time just watching.
After a round of 'wow!'s and such from the passengers Beamer took us to see some more of the local residents, a collection of seals basking on the rocks and small islands off Victoria.
The ride back to harbour was as tricky as the ride out, with Beamer carefully riding the waves to try and keep the boat on the water. At one or two points we hit big waves and were almost bounced out of our seats. On return Beamer told us it wasn't the roughest trip he'd done, but in the top three. He's been doing this a while too.
When we got back to the offices most of us were wet, and we were offered the use of the dryers for our clothes. I just decided to walk back to my hotel in soggy trousers and change there.
Later in the day a storm passed and a rainbow appeared low over the town. I headed for the heights of a small park to try and get a clear photograph, and find this woman has had the same idea. Shame about the crane. Eventually I find a fairly clean angle, but it's not a great shot. Never mind, it's a rainbow.
This bridge presents a profile which reminded me of a horse. The concrete blocks on the right are counterweights for when the bridge tilts open. It comes up in two parts, one for the railway and one for the road.
Quality Inn Downtown and checked my rucksack in at the Victoria Clipper office. I went for a random walk out of town, up to a long breakwater that marked the start of the Victoria harbour area. After assessing the danger and hence ignoring the danger signs, I walked to the end, round the lighthouse, and back. Plenty of joggers were heading out and back too. Gulls sat on the breakwater and looked out to sea. I walked on along the coast, and at a park overlooking some cliffs I saw a distance marker. It had zero on one side and 2980m on the other. I figured this was a jogging route in metres, and decided to walk until I found the next marker. After a few hundred metres I decided it was miles, and this was the start of some long-distance path. Indeed it was the marker for the TransCanada highway...
But this was the end of Canada for me. That evening I took the Victoria Clipper to Seattle...