Cowichan Valley is the region where we drove back and forth to meet Betsy’s appointed repair schedule. Our campgrounds were at Crofton, Chemainus, and Duncan, which make up some of the communities surrounding the area. It wasn’t a bad place to be stuck for a few extra days, as it offered many activities and gorgeous summer weather. We even discussed coming back for an extended visit someday, minus Betsy and the border crossings!
The valley is a farming community, with fresh produce and eggs sold from farms dotting the roadsides. We stopped to get both at an “honor box” stand, happy to see they still exist in this part of the world 🙂
We happened to be here on a Saturday to visit the farmers market in Duncan, one of the largest markets of its kind in B.C. The last two markets we had visited in Washington State had been duds, so we were happy to see many vendors with fruits, vegetables, baked goods and even beer and wine tasting booths!
We haven’t been very impressed with the craft beers here, but some of the wines were outstanding (notably at Unsworth and Averill Creek wineries). They bragged that the valley is the “Napa of the North”, and being from a California wine mecca we can say that at least in our opinion some of these were very good, and without the crowds.
On the historical side, we walked the Kinsol Trestle Trail, with the former train trestle that’s considered noteworthy because of its unusual seven-degree curve and massive size. It was built in the 1920’s as part of a network of railways and trestles threading through the wilderness of Vancouver Island. It’s one of the tallest free-standing timber railway trestles in the world, built by local farmers and loggers.
Culturally, we stopped by Petroglyph Provincial Park to see examples of early First Nation rock carvings. We noticed that their style was a bit different than what the ancient people in the U.S. have created, although the intent is similar in that the carvings were intended to record important ceremonies and events. These were dated by radio-carbon analysis to around 2,000 years ago:
The town of Chemainus attracted me as a place to learn some local history and capture the 53 striking murals painted on many buildings and walls. It’s art with a story to tell, and a community-driven project to revitalize the town.
I embarked on this walking tour solo, as Steve had to drive back to Duncan to get the correct remote for our new inverter/charger. He was very happy that they had it in stock and corrected their mistake. Finally got that problem resolved!
Steve felt like celebrating and brought some live Dungeness crabs and a bottle of good wine home for dinner. I wasted no time cleaning and cooking them while he set up the table outside. Now, this is the way we like to camp!
Duncan’s claim to fame is its collection of 44 colorful totem poles displayed around town. The community acknowledges the collection that is located on traditional lands of the Quw’utsun’(Cowichan) people. And what better way to celebrate their cross-cultural cooperation than by raising these beautiful works of art throughout the city?
We followed the painted yellow footprints for a self-guided tour to each totem pole. It was a nice day to walk around town as homeless people, since Betsy was in the shop for several hours. We appreciated the effort the city had gone to in displaying dedicated signage for each totem pole. Oral history undertaken with the carvers and their families told the stories depicted on the poles, helping us to understand the meaning of the carved symbols on each of them.
The Thunderbird is a mythical creature that is common in First Nations stories, and the Killer Whale is often shown on poles with the Thunderbird.
Each totem pole design told a family’s story. The designs represent family crests or traditional symbols in Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw culture. It’s their way of passing information down to future generations.
Our week of stressful waiting for Betsy’s repair turned out OK, with a lot of distractions to keep us busy. After the successful inverter/charger installation we were ready to roll!
Next up: The Heart of the Island