During the last two years, I have had the good fortune to have been provided with an opportunity to get to know the tiny community of Ahousat on Flores Island. This is an aboriginal community accessible only by small boat or float plane on an island off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Like many aboriginal communities around the world, it is often difficult to visit these places without a personal invitation by somebody who lives there. The people I have been visiting will only be here for another three months so I know I will only be returning once or twice more before this opportunity disappears.
It is possible to visit Ahousat without knowing somebody here, but it does take some planning. If you arrive from outside the country, you will need to start with a ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo. From there, it is a three-hour drive, or longer if you take the Tofino bus, to arrive at the town of Tofino. From Tofino, it is about a forty minute ride in a water taxi to the fuel dock on Flores Island. There is a very small hotel and a post office/convenience store here.
The old town section of Ahousat, across the inlet from the fuel dock, faces northeast towards Vancouver Island while the newer section of town faces east towards some wild, misty islets and the open Pacific.
The main reason people visit Ahousat is to walk the Wild Side trail to Cow Bay. It is a fairly short, but scenic hike along beautiful beaches and through forest when the tide is high. The 22 kilometre return hike can be hiked in one day, but most people choose to camp overnight at Cow Bay and return the next day. The trail fee of $15 is payable at the fuel dock where you will also be given instructions for getting to the trailhead.
If you choose to wander through the village, the locals will typically greet anybody passing by. The free-roaming dogs are all friendly to people, but not always so friendly to each other as they are constantly sorting out their hierarchy in the pack. Ahousat has an elementary school and high school (both in the same complex), a lodge and a small community centre, but you won’t find any cafes or restaurants here so you must bring in everything you plan to eat.
Being so isolated, it is no wonder that the community thrives on regular gatherings; usually involving food. Every other week or so, the town puts on a dinner or lunch. The lunches may just be hotdogs, but dinners tend to be traditional with plenty of seafood caught locally. Some residents purchase bulk supplies of snacks and then sell these from their homes while others cook some specialty foods. One fellow makes carrot cakes by order while another sets up a small trailer to cook burgers and hotdogs whenever he decides to be open.
Sometimes there are major events and one will be happening in June. The Ahousaht First Nation will be hosting a huge feast and the town will swell from its usual 500 people to about 2000. Many of these people will be camping at the lodge or staying with relatives, but I understand that it is typical for locals to make trips to Tofino in their boats all night long to transport people back and forth during this kind of event. I’m not sure if my next trip here in June will fall during these dates; if so, it will be a little wild here no doubt.
Just about 100 metres behind the school, there is a lovely boardwalk stroll through the cranberry fields. These berries are used in some of the local dishes when in season.