Wednesday 29th June 2011
I started the day in Victoria, right at the bottom of Vancouver Island. I went to the station of VIA Rail Canada. Sadly I wasn't going to get a train as I already knew that it would be a bus. Some of the wooden trestle bridges were unsafe and the whole line closed.
It ran from Victoria northwards through the port of Nanaimo, my destination, to Courtenay. Throughout it was 225 kms long and the single daily train took four and three quarter hours each way. The ticket agent at Victoria said that she thought it would never reopen as the costs would out way the benefits. Before leaving Victoria look at the miniscule roadside station and the massive bascule bridge (in the up position) that the train once crossed.
The bus, complete with VIA Conductor, made the journey in less time than the train, including a 20 minute "comfort" stop. Yet that wasn't the point, I felt cheated by not being able to see the real backwoods scenery the railway traverses.
I walked from the bus station to the Nanaimo waterfront. It was before 11.00 so the only pub I saw was closed. But I did see a taxi, so I got in. By the time it got to the pub it had opened. It's at 5775 Turner Road in the community of Longwood, about five miles north of Nanaimo.
On entering this pub I was greeted with the sight of four hand pumps and what's more there was a different cask beer on each.
So, starting with the keg beers there was: Czech Pilsener (5.0%), Longwood Ale (aka Woodies Ale) (5.0%), India Pale Ale (6.5%), Dunkelweizenbrau (5.0%) and Vienna Lager (5.0%). The cask beers were Extra Special Bitter (5.0%), Irish Red Ale (5.0%), Two Penny Ale (4.0%) and Russian Imperial Stout (7.5%).
They did 6oz sampler glasses (quite large) and I ordered six, the four cask beers and the two keg ales. I seemed to have a thirst on that morning as went through them very quickly. Of course the cask ales tasted better than the keg offerings, but what I did notice was how well the cask beers retained their head compared with their gaseous partners.
They were all pretty good with the Russian Imperial Stout standing out dramatically. I had demolished them all so quickly that I had time for another pint. I had the cask ESB.
So from arriving at the pub a couple of minutes after 11.00, I was able to catch a pre-ordered taxi at 12.15 to the BC Ferries terminal at Departure Bay, about two miles north of Nanaimo town centre.
I bought a ticket and walked on to the ferry departing at 12.50. It was very busy and they were loading cars well after the booked departure time. We eventually left about twenty minutes down for the 30 mile crossing to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. It took one hour and forty minutes. There is no bar as it is regarded as part of the highway network, so I was told by the Purser. I must assume there are no bars on Canadian highways.
Longwood Brew Pub and Restaurant, 5775 Turner Road, Longwood, Nanaimo BC. V9T 6L8.
Tel: 250 729 8225
Open: Monday to Saturday 11.00-24.00; Sunday 10.00-24.00
Some Nanaimo city buses run to Longwood, please check schedules.
Nanaimo (Horseshoe Bay) has ferry services to the mainland.