Ucluelet is on the tip of the world. The phone book is the size of an info pamphlet. It looks like it was compiled by a socially active stay-at-home mom. Containing approximately 3000 people, it is the phone book for the local 3 small “communities”, as the residents call these “small towns” (re-categorized by yours truly, the know-it-all tourist).
Ucluelet is on the edge of my self-centred world. How so? Well, Israel is my centre. Travel 12 hours West by plane and arrive in Toronto, the place I was born. Travel another 5 hours West by air and you’re in Vancouver, the West Coast of Canada, the place of my current residence. Take an hour and a half ferry ride West and you’re on the East coast of Vancouver Island. Drive 4 hours West and you’re on the edge of the world – Ucluelet which is West Coast Vancouver Island. Here you shall be able to honestly say the blessing, “He who made the big sea”. Past the rocks and trees you see the big ocean, open to the horizon.
Ucluelet signs often include warnings of death. “Do or die” they say (paraphrased). Obviously dramatic, you-don’t-wanna-go-this-way deaths.
Wild animals like cougars and black bears are peaking out from behind the trees as you walk in the forests. Tsunamis are just revving up, waiting for the perfect moment to make their move.
Rules given to you when heading to the ocean: “Never walk on the rocks.” “Never play on the logs.” “Never turn your back to the ocean.” One imagines the ocean creeping up and grabbing you for its own.
And who knows, maybe those eagles, as adorable and pretty as their call sounds, will swoop down and carry you off to their large nests to feed you to their babies.
Or, maybe it’s not that dramatic at all. The locals do not fear these animals for a moment. And it is not 3-4 locals who are washed away annually while standing on the rocks by the ocean. It is, of course, the know-it-all tourists.
The locals scoff at the idea that one needs fear the bears. “They are scared of you!”
Well, whatever they say, a tiny part of my heart is in worry-mode as I walk in the beautiful forests surrounding the area. And, of course, I will not be climbing on the rocks next to the ocean.
But the real question is, if I am faced with a bear (which I pray I will not be), will I be able to stand facing it, slowly walk backwards and talk to it? Or will I do the instinctual act of turning and running with all the energy the adrenaline rush can support? I hope to never know.