“Goats on Roof” and Fish in the Fountain ~ Highway 4a, BC, Canada
Billy on the Roof
The sod roof of the Old Country Market building, Coombs, BC, is very attractive to the local goats.
It’s not a long drive along Highway 4a from the (relatively) populous east coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to the more remote and storm-battered west coast. From the small city of Parksville in the east to the district of Tofino on the west takes only about 2.75 hours (174 Kms), so there is really no reason to stop en route.
But, how could anyone resist the idea of “Goats on Roof”?
I certainly couldn’t!
The small community Coombs is only 10 km west of Parksville, but we had started our drive in Nanaimo, 30 minutes further south, so it was a good time for a coffee break.
Old Country Market
Originally established in 1973, the Coombs Country Market – with its distinctive sod roof – houses a restaurant, a fresh produce market, and various other shops.
“The Root Cellar”
Dark and cool, the covered open-air produce market is the modern incarnation of the original road-side fruit stand.
The Root Cellar
We weren’t in the market for anything other than coffee and cake, but we still enjoyed the crisp, clean colours of the fresh vegetables.
It was all the rich green grass on and around the market buildings that inspired the idea of goats.
Sod roofs are insulating: retaining warmth in colder weather and promoting evaporation in summer.
Kristian Graaten, who emigrated from Norway to Vancouver Island in the 1950s, modelled the original market building structure on Norwegian sod-roofed houses.
The Old Country Market houses a range of emporium products, as well as imported and Canadian foodstuffs.
Other shops feature a range of local crafts…
… and arts.
Of course, the goats on the roofs of the buildings are the real attraction.
Goats have been trimming the sod roof of the Coombs market buildings for more than thirty years.
From Coombs, it is a 40 minute drive west along the winding Alberni Highway past Cameron Lake and through the tall stands of old-growth Douglas-fir trees known as Cathedral Grove, to Port Alberni, at the head of the Alberni Inlet, where we arrived in time for lunch.
Fish in the Fountain
In the courtyard at Alberni Harbour Quays, Alberni’s fishing is celebrated: the area boasts halibut, five different species of salmon, and yearly runs of steelhead.
Alberni Harbour Quay
Alberni is a deep-port city in the heart of logging territory.
It is a working harbour, busy with log boats, tugs, and fishing boats.
The Canadian and British Columbian flags fly on the winds on the inlet.
Guys on the Pier…
… enjoying coffee in the sunshine.
Just around the corner, a local group is practicing their swing.
From Port Alberni, the Pacific Rim Highway winds and climbs and drops a further 126 kilometres (two hours driving) to Tofino on the west coast.
We arrived with enough time to settle into our accommodation, explore the small, but charming, town, and plan the next day’s excursion, before watching the mist roll in over the neighbouring islands and the late afternoon sun slant over the water.
The waters between Tofino and the neighbouring islands are quiet as the mists roll in …
… and the afternoon sun glints on the seaplanes and boats.
Boats on their Moorings
As the fog descended, the view from our room became more atmospheric.
It’s certainly not a long drive, but it is an enjoyable one.
And, our brief taste of the west coast had whetted our appetites. I was looking forward to our planned exploration of the surrounding waters more fully by boat the next day.
But, that is a story for another time…
Till then, Happy Travels.