Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Vancouver Island Part IV - Quadra Island 15th April -13th May

So like buses you wait for ages and then 2 come along almost at once, the only excuse we have is we’ve been busy but we wanted to get you all up to speed with the life of the travelling marshs, so here we go welcome to Quadra Island and what a lovely place to be.....

So, WWOOFing here we come! After leaving the eagles and the fish and chips we headed to the Campbell River ferry to take us onto the little island of Quadra heading to our new life of a WWOOFing couple just 10 minutes away, we found where we needed to be with ease, thankfully Quadra isn’t too big: come off the ferry, turn right, then left, keep going to the end of the island, take sharp right then sharp left up road we’re the house with red roof… sorted! So as we parked up Jeremy outside a house with a red roof, it’s right on the sea front we could hear a seal in the sea below snorting,yet again the view was breathtaking, absolutely lovely. We knew, no one would know who we were, as Linda wasn’t due back for a couple of days so we knocked on the door, which was opened by a young German girl (Beke) we introduced ourselves saying Linda had sent us to help, which was greeted with “VUFFERS!!!!” “…Yes, yes we are.”

The first night we met Doug (who we later found out was the owner of the house and descendant of the Lloyds Banking family), Darrell, (helping with the building), Bea (pronounced Beer) and Beke (Baker) who are both German WWOOFers, We were taken on a tour of the many and varied properties Linda has ranging from a float house (which used to be on water but is now on land), a boat-house (right on the water’s edge with an outdoor shower and toilet!), a beautiful cottage and various other rooms in larger houses, and then back to the house for dinner.
Actually Tim & I ended up cooking as quite frankly everyone else was plastered and we didn’t want burnt pasta and pesto, so we rustled up a curry from what we could find and it was good. Then we headed to the local waterhole, the Heriot Bay Inn where myself and a drunk Darrel played pool against some even more drunk locals Katy & Darrel 2: drunk locals 0 (and they were NOT HAPPY about it!) ……Dad you would have been so proud, I still have the gift.

Our first day was greeted with torrential rain which I embraced and ran in to ‘Rebecca Spit’ (an outcrop of land, not an unfortunate girl’s name!), this will my 10k route I will run for quite some time to come, but it’s a good one, with the sea either side of you as run to the end of the spit through the trees, it’s lovely but also very wet. Back at the house, showered and ready to start work which for Tim was painting a room and for me was cleaning the doctor’s tri-maran (not a euphemism) for $50 (woohoo money in!) so Darrel and I headed to a mouldy boat and cleaned everything in sight, $50 thank you very much! With the morning’s work done, it was time to collect oysters off the beach for lunch. Neither of us had tried oysters before and don’t get me wrong they were ok, but just kind of sea watery and fishy. Tim - bless him - tried one gagged and vowed never again, but he tried it, I’m so proud. Maybe I’ll give them another go sometime.
Later that day Linda arrived back with Simon (another German WWOOFer who we’d met previously when she brought him over to Courtenay) and with that our first real job: to move a large metal shed to another part of the property; honestly it took all of us, several long wooden posts and sit on mower to move it (possibly slightly hampered by the language barrier!). We eventually took to rolling the thing along plastic pipes; collecting them as they spit out the back and slotting them back in at the front… I suspect it was very similar to the construction of stone henge (with the exception of the mower). By this stage, Doug decided the chaps should relax by firing golf balls into the sea from the garden (fuelled by a days drinking), the girls did needle point! (Yea right!) I think we cooked. ………

There was no internet connection where we are staying (I know – crazy!) so we had to wander down the road to Linda’s house where she has a lovely Mac which I can play on and am redesigning her website(s) for her. We managed a Skype chat with the White Juniors where I saw white junior junior growing bigger, and Caroline looking fabulous, especially the boobs!, I’m still smiling about being an aunt again :)
We sent out postcards today which cost us $35 in stamps! God knows how much the board bags going to be to send home, may have to sell a kidney!?!??
We previously mentioned Sarah - the Aussie who told us about WWOOFing - well we bumped into her in the pub, she was VERY shocked to see us, but very excited (granted she was quite drunk, but still…). I think she thinks we’re stalking her….. she’s a great bubbly character and we liked her :) we also met her lovely friend Megan also an Aussie who she’s WWOOFing with… small world, even smaller Island!
Tim has been doing skype technical support with his mum trying to sort out his computer he gave Val (sister) so if any of you need technical PC support just give him enough time and he can be there with you for a small charge….i believe it is all now fixed and we had a lovely family Marsh gathering the other morning - it was like seeing a rock band with Alex on drums at the back - so lovely to see and chat them, thank you Skype, unfortunately the reception is awful and the audio would drop out at our end but still so nice to see the people we miss so much.

As the weather got better, Tim has made it his mission to sort out the gardens at Cedar House so we’ve been digging and cutting things off everywhere, I’ve also been on dandelion weeding duty, which entails digging out dandelions at the root with a knife… thousands of them! But it’s not so bad when you have the sound of the sea below you, although I did have some great blisters, I never got that designing for M&S!

Linda is a lovely, lovely lady. By the time we had to leave, we wanted to take her with us, she has 2 dogs Tuna an old jack Russell who makes us laugh, and Pearl who is a very bright barky collie. On occasion, she also has Elmo* who is Tuna’s dad, and also very funny, like a deaf old man; he belongs to Hughie, Linda’s ex husband who is also working on the house. She also has 3 cats and one of them Coal looks just like Tim’s old cat Hancock, Tim wanted to take Coal with him, there is also Space-Cat and Snowy. It’s so nice to be around happy animals. We all go for a walk down to Rebecca Spit and whilst there, start collecting drift-wood… for anyone who hasn’t seen the coastline around here you would be frankly amazed at the amount of driftwood on the beaches… full, milled logs everywhere. People build whole houses from the drift… amazing (it’s all about the drift)! We weren’t trying to build a house (yet!) but were trying to find bits to do interesting things to the house to make a banister or a beam or something for the garden it’s so much fun and soon Linda’s big truck is full and the sun coming down, what a nice way to spend the evening.

For a bit of a break one afternoon, we all headed to the beach to look for clam shells with holes in the top (caused by sea-snails gnawing through to get to the clam… scary!). On the way back we met Paul, a local who is interested in collecting native artifacts (to be honest, they looked liked stones to me but he was adamant that they were spear-heads and cutting tools!). Anyway, he kindly invited us all back to his place for a ‘nice cup of tea’ :o) and what a place he had… a big sloping piece of land leading down to the water’s edge which contained several different buildings. The newest one (still under construction) was for his daughter and looked lovely, further down the pathway (past the fence with dolls heads!) was another place (still under construction) that he should be living in… further on down were another few places (I started to lose count) in one he would sleep, in another he would cook, in another he would just ‘be’! Very interesting guy, very interesting place, very interesting garden ornaments!
Beke read somewhere that there were 10 top things that you had to do before you left Quadra (which she does soon) and one of them is watch the sunrise on Rebecca spit “lovely” I say until I realize I’m going too, so at 4.30am I’m up, we have a flask of tea and our cameras, it is pitch black…..when I ask what time does the sun rise I am greeted with a blank face, now I know any normal person would have checked the lunar or solar site online but no, not us, so we sat there for quite sometime in the dark… until 5.50am actually, when the sun starts to come up and it is beautiful if a little windy, Jeremy is being buffeted quite a bit.
Anyway, job done, back to the house changed into running kit get outside by 6.15am and now the sunrise is awesome….arse! it would seem we had missed the best bit so we went again the following day at 5.55am on borrowed push-bikes to a beautiful still morning and we were greeted by a beautiful display of sunlight :)

Linda decided we all need to get off the island and head over on the ferry to… another island! Cortes Island, is a beautiful Island with beaches and a farmers market and a free store (like a jumble sale but you just take without paying!) so we made a picnic and loaded us all into the 2 vehicles, Linda and Simon in one and Tim, me, Beke and Bea in Jeremy. Cortes is a small island and Linda showed us everything sometimes twice, (she got lost) and somehow we managed to rack up 100km on this small island. Unfortunately it was a wet old day so the beach viewing ‘weren’t all that’, but the free store was fun - I got me a TimBits t-shirt as I’m Tim’s-Bit after all.

We then headed to a very posh retreat called Hollyhocks where we were going to have our picnic
(and the giant lemon meringue we had bought at the farmers market), but it was so very wet, somehow Linda managed to blag a room inside for free by saying that she a bunch of Europeans that were interested in having a look further to a possible stay… it worked! now the only thing was it was a silent retreat… we were ushered into the library area surrounded by all sorts of “interesting” reading you know, if ever you’ve ’lost yourself’ I know a book that could find you, kind of reading.
But we did have a lovely pot of tea and our picnic was delicious and we we’re allowed to whisper. Thank you Hollyhocks, we’ll be in touch – not! On leaving I was greeted by a smiling Tim who had been reading the agenda for the silent retreat, I read it and started giggling it went like this 7am-wake up 7.30am-breakfast 8am-sit-9am-stand, but there were asterisks to let you know it was time to change your position and a bell would be rung, and as Tim was reading this he heard the bell clanging behind him, only to find Simon with a big smile on his face, bell in hand. We left pretty sharpish with the thought of lots of silent retreat people not knowing what to do or where to go and not being able to ask, oh the mayhem!……I know I shouldn’t laugh but I was in tears;)

We had been invited along with Linda, to an evening gathering with the local fishermen who mainly farm oysters and mussels, it was a really interesting evening meeting lots of new people and hear them talking about their work. We tried some of their fishy foods and this time the “shooter” oysters were divine, I get it now :) and there were prawns, crab, mussels, clams, oysters and sea urchin that Tim and I both tried it was really nice an even Tim agreed it was OK. The food and the company were both really special we had a great evening and by the end had landed us a day working on one of the boats. A couple of days later Linda wakes us to see if we can get to the harbor for 7.45amm it’s 7.15am!!! hell why not, so we run around getting a packed lunch and then find Linda with a cup of coffee in her dressing gown and the engine running ready to drop us off for our first day at fish school (you’ve got to love her) there we met up with Troy and his crew onboard a big grey boat with a winch!! We set off into the sunshine towards the islands that we’ve been looking at for the past few weeks from our new home that is the boat house, (we got moved when the paying guests needed to move into the hostel), so hi ho, hi ho it’s off to pick mussels we go!, we drop the crew off at the oyster farm which involves people being put on rafts on boats and oysters being winched from one side to another by the boat, Tim and I feel a tad like spare parts so just try not to get in the way of the winch and keep Charlie the dog from chewing everything in sight including me! Then off the 3 of us go to the mussel farm, now I don’t know about you but I didn’t have clue how mussels grow but let me tell you its quite clever. To cut a long story short you get a rope and leave it in the water! Attached to a beam, every sea thing clings to it (hopefully including mussels!), and you leave it there to do its growing stuff,(hope this isn’t getting too technical for you?) then you come along dressed in something very waterproof from head to toe, with large waterproof gloves, use the winch and pick up said ropes 1 by 1 and starting at the top you pull down everything onto a sorting table, now then whist doing this you will get absolutely covered in what we like to call ‘sea-shit’!
And it smells like the bottom of the sea too, then you sort the mussels from the star fish (an oyster / mussel farmer’s worst nightmare) sponges, squirty things that look like giant blisters, seaweed, and stuff I can’t even describe, but I’m sure it would be great for the garden! Then you sort the mussels into grade sizes and stack the ones that need more time, and put them in crates back in the sea and bag the ones that are good to go, take home and consume. It was a great day, thanks Troy and the best bit was when Troy let Tim catch a fish within seconds of putting the rod in the water, then the fish came aboard, got trod on thrown overboard and then a giant bald eagle swooped down grabbed it mere feet away from us and flew back off to its baby in its nest on the little island opposite. Such an amazing thing to of witnessed, Tim fishing………:) not a bad day at the office as Troy said and he wasn’t wrong.

The weather has finally turned to sunny days, hoorah! So working outside is so much nicer, especially when you’re doing gardening bits and creative building. We loved having so much to do, and trying to finish a job was a challenge… much to do in so little time.

We like to think we have left a legacy in Quadra… Tim’s freshly baked bread. he started to do it as we had flour by the sack load and yeast and we we’re getting through a lot of bread every day so he made a fabulous couple of loaves and they would go pretty quick, he then passed his gift onto Cecile (a lovely little Swiss WWOOFer) who in turn would pass it onto the next WWOOFer (Ben from Oxford) and so on, so there will always be Tim’s bread in Quadra, honestly he could of sold it, if only we’d of had more time we could of made a killing at the Saturday market! We left the recipe in the book for anyone who is passing by so they can bake bread, I also left my carrot cake recipe, which I made for Vinny’s leaving dinner (we’ll get onto Vinny in a minute), which have to be accompanied by Mojitos. We also put in my butternut squash, bacon and feta recipe, but you have to make sure you have proper feta… for some reason Canadian Feta doesn’t melt! Maybe we should publish our recipes when we get back, just a thought?

We met so many nice people on the Island including the lovely Irish Mr Vinny Kelly, who had WWOOFed for Linda 5 months previously and had worked at the Olympics and between times had been exploring Canada. Vinny made it his want to get the hot tub working and bless him 3 days later and we’re all in the tub, well 5 of us anyway, so very funny. Vinny will leave to head to Vegas and win big, and hopefully see a bear on his final travels in Canada before he heads back to the Emerald Isle.

So what did we actually do on Quadra?
Well I made my first mosaic of an Orca Whale to go into the new kitchen unit and I tiled the back of the kitchen unit. I also cooked, I did fishcakes (nearly as good as the ones in Rocket), 2 lemon meringue pies, a rhubarb and apple crumble, many interesting evening meals, so many I can’t remember, I made custard from scratch as the Canadian’s & German's didn’t know what it was, cleaned bedrooms, bathrooms and windows. And designed Linda’s websites, and all you had to was house and feed me... Bargain!

Tim made pizzas, baked bread, cooked curry, did the gardens, and also created a fantastic path and steps (with Simon) to take you safely to the Boat House, which was lined with oyster shells and rocks (I did that bit) and he built many a fire and chopped down many a tree. He and Darrell put up the hammock, that we hope is being well used and he also painted rooms and fitted trim… I think we make a good pair of WWOOFers!

And that was a condensed version of our time on Quadra (too many bits to include here); we could happily have stayed for the rest of the year, but you have to move on sometime… I can highly recommend a stay at but be warned… you might not ever want to leave!

* We recently heard that Elmo was hit by a car and is no longer with us… RIP Elmo :”o(

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