Duncan and Chemainus

Duncan CN

It was time to head ‘up island’, as they say, and our first stop was Duncan. Duncan is not the prettiest town, redeveloped in the wrong era, though founded in the late 1800’s by an Ontarian named William Chalmers Duncan.

Duncan calls itself the “City of Totems” and it is easy to see why. Literally on every block of the small city, of just under 5000, are beautifully handcrafted totem poles, erected in the late 1980’s.

Duncan is located in the Cowichan valley, and it is the Coast Salish People – the Cowichan tribes that are the makers of world famous Cowichan sweaters.

On a much darker note, Duncan was the home of terrorist bomber Inderjit Singh Reyat, responsible for Canada’s largest murder case.

From Wikipedia;

In the 1980s, Duncan was linked to the 1985 bombings at Narita Airport in Japan and aboard Air India Flight 182, Canada’s largest murder case. Resident Inderjit Singh Reyat purchased bomb parts and a radio used to conceal a bomb at Duncan stores.

Furthermore, it appears that they didn’t just purchase supplies in Duncan – they also tested them in the neighbouring forests;

Less than two weeks prior to the bombings, Reyat and suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar were observed testing explosives in the woods outside of Duncan by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

We didn’t stay long in Duncan, it was rainy, grim and miserable. The streets were empty and it seemed like everything was closed. A ghost town – for Sunday afternoon.

Train Station Duncan Duncan Totem Poles

We hopped back in the car and continued our way up the Island Highway to the quaint town of Chemainus, a place I have visited often.

Chemainus is famous for its murals, though it was cute before them. Still filled with historic homes and original buildings from its founding in 1858, Chemainus is very pretty to look at and has great ocean access for picnicking and shell collecting.

Train mural Chemainus

The beautiful outdoor murals, 39 of them, have brought life back into the logging town. As has a shift in economic focus. After the fall of the logging industry in the late 1980’s, Chemainus diversified its local economy. It calls itself ‘the little town that DID’.

Live theatre came to town after the muraling project, so did the tourists.

Chemainus Murals

The 3000 or so people from Chemainus refer to themselves as ‘Chemainiacs’!

If you are interested in behaving like a Chemainiac, you might want to head over for some underwater exploration. In 2006 a Boeing 737 aircraft was sunk off the coast to create an artificial reef. Divers are encouraged to stop in and give it a tour.

It was starting to get dark so we zipped off to Nanaimo for a nights rest before checking out incredible MacMillan Park and Cathedral Grove rainforest.

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Follow this trip by heading to the ‘Vancouver Island‘ section. Many more photos at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


One response to “Duncan and Chemainus

  1. Pingback: Chemainus Theater and Artistic Murals·

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