We had finally made it to our final destination, Tofino – the last stop on the Canadian west coast.
Just under 2,000 people live here full-time, but that number dramatically increases during the summer months. Housing is scarce in Tofino. Most people who live here are staying – and very little new development takes place.
Years ago, I was accepted for a social work job in Tofino, and was asked if I had secured housing.
When I replied that I had not, but figured I could live at the campground until I found something, she told me of another worker who thought the same and has now been living in a tent at the campsite – with her children – for 2 years!
I didn’t take the job, but I do return for visits often enough.
Tofino has an interesting history around the development of the Trans Canada Highway. The community was a major player in pushing its expansion, only to be left behind in the long run.
The hopeful sign still stands today, and is believed to have been erected in the early 1950’s, before Tofino was ultimately left out of final decisions. From Wikipedia;
‘…Pacific terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway at Tofino, British Columbia, where Highway 4 terminates in the west, but it was most likely erected before 1953. Tofino was a strong proponent of a Trans-Canada Highway since the 1920s, when the only roads in the area were gravel, recognizing the need for tourism. The community was bypassed by the official Trans-Canada Highway in the 1950s, when government prioritized the connection of major communities in its budgets, choosing instead to connect Nanaimo with Victoria.’
Tofino, named in 1792 by Spanish commanders in honour of Admiral Vicente Tofiño, an expert cartographer, has such an issue with fog that even in the summer float plane flight schedules are disturbed regularly in the mornings – until the weather clears.
There are plenty of annual festivities taking place in Tofino. Every March the grey whales migrate and a celebration is held in honour of this event.
There is the Shorebird Festival in April, Food & Wine Festival in June and August is the Lantern Festival, to begin with.
One thing that can’t be changed about this small isolated community, is that the people of Tofino are on their own time, and generally, they don’t care much about what that means to others.
After making the long drive, I just wanted to stop in and pick up a Tofino magnet, and perhaps something for my daughter. You may remember my fridge magnet issue.
It was only just after 3pm in the afternoon on a Monday. Sure it was drizzling and grey, but the sign on the door of the shop said they were open 9-5, 7 days a week.
I excitedly opened the door, knowing this particular shop was full of delightful trinkets, when the man behind the counter let out a very rude;
“Aaaaah….. EXCUSE ME we’re CLOSED.”
I replied (with a cheery voice and big smile on my face – not quite realizing what was happening yet);
“Oh really, gee – what time is it?”
I was sure I had just looked and it was only after 3pm. This is when I saw him looking me up and down with disdain clearly smeared across his face;
“I close when I want to, and as of right now – I am closed.”
We about faced and left the shop. Now, as the former owner of two retail shops in Toronto, I have to say I was offended. There is no reason for that! Your door sign says you are open, the door was open, and you are standing behind the cash desk counter!
If I had been planning to close early and had forgot to put said notice on my door, I would let the people standing in front of me through, while letting them know I am just about to head out because business is slow (or whatever – so hurry up!). And then when they were done, I would put a proper sign on the door and leave. Not so hard.
REALLY offended. What? Is it the new purple hair? You don’t want my money?
Anyway, as much as I like Tofino, it is a bit insular. I have found it to be somewhat unfriendly on more than one occasion over the years (that particular shop more than once!), and have been given many ‘excuses’ for my findings – tourists make the locals cranky, people here live on their own time and are eccentric, we don’t see many outsiders in the winter – and so on.
Sure, I understand. But this time it was the locals who made this tourist cranky! Without tourism, Tofino would have some serious economic issues – and it takes a long time on a dangerous road to get there – we felt unwanted!
Surely we only stayed a half hour, as we left immediately after our unfriendly experience. It worked out better for us that way in the long run – as it would turn out we had less than a half hour before ferry departure when we arrived back to the terminal in Nanaimo. Sometimes it is more about the journey than the destination anyway!
So, as usual – things happen for a reason – but I would have liked my fridge magnet!
Additional photos in the slideshow.