Party!

I have so much to share, I’m going to have to do two posts (this little phone struggles a bit). I want to tell you about the wilderness, endless sunshine, wild life and all but first – I went to a dinner party! I’m staying at Premier Creek a homey, heritage (vintage/quirky) hostel with additional self contained rooms. I have discount for being vegetarian – I found out why, later.

After a long, hot and dusty walk yesterday I was lolling on their balcony feeding muffin to a raven. Peter, one of the owners, invited me to dinner. I just had time for a wash and to put my last clean top on. All I had to offer was 2/3 of a bottle of wine. But what a great, crazy, kooky evening! There was an australian man who lives outside the village, two men who are building a house together and the brilliant Paul. A reclusive, eccentric genius neuroscientist who lives with 6 cats on a remote island. Oh, and a big dog that snarled and growled at me all night.
And the best bit? At the end Peter and Lenore said they had been complaining together that they hadn’t met anyone interesting all year – and then I walked in (hint: I count as interesting). I have chosen to take it as a compliment…

I have no pictures of dinner, but here’s Premier Creek Inn and my room.

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Moving on

I left Masset on the ‘hospital bus’ this morning – a little van that runs once a day north or south carrying tiny packages for the health clinic, patients or travellers with giant suitcases. I seem to be the only person in on this secret budget travel, $30 as opposed to $175 for a taxi. There is no other public transport. As the driver is also a logger, and he talked about logs for an hour and a half (and I really don’t think he had exhausted the subject) I had time to reflect on the past few days and realised I had shared barely anything! So, in stream of consciousness style here is a mini update and some random pictures.

It has been gloriously, unusually sunny and will be until I leave. No use for the sweatshirt, waterproofs etc that I packed.

I have been staying at Eagles Feast with a Haida artist, April White or Sgaana Jaad, Killer Whale Woman. It has been quite a privilege to share breakfast and learn so much about Haida culture. She has her nephew Charlie living with her, who is half Maori, and is being immersed in Haida culture to better connect with his incredible heritage. It was a warm and hospitable household, and April is related to other local artists who I got to meet.

Everyone is nice and says hello everywhere. Many of them say ‘I like your hair’….

I hijacked an elderly kiwi couple as they had a car and I got them to drive me on a trip for the day. I think they imagined I was their daughter.

Some pictures.

Downtown Masset with the all-important liquor store, far right.

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More anti-oil graffiti. Harper is the prime minister of Canada.

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The most perfect find – organic crepes and stationery!

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The view from Queen Charlotte, where I am tonight. Jealous?

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Haida

It may not be a huge surprise that I had a meticulous spreadsheet for this trip, which hasn’t exactly gone to plan (other than the travel). Firstly, hitchhiking. I’ve knocked that idea on the head as I’m getting a bit too much attention. I think my red hair and pink skin is a bit exotic to the black haired, swarthy menfolk. And I’m a Brit travelling alone. So, I’m walking instead (and getting lots of friendly waves from trucks).

Secondly, the tiny tourist industry is restricted to summer so quite a few things (carving sheds, interpretative centres) are closed.

Thirdly, it seems I have developed a healthy respect of black bears with big claws and teeth ( not absolute terror, honest). As I have spotted 4 on the edge of the village, I am less keen on wandering around the estuary on my own.

I have had a great time going up to Old Massett, a First Nation area, and met a couple of artists. Was lucky to come across Jim Hart at his carving shed working on a monumental whale sculpture.

However, I also became aware of the First Nation battle against Enbridge who are proposing to extract oil, lay pipelines and send giant tankers down the pristine and delicately balanced Hecate Strait. Haida Gwaii is likened to the Galapagos for its uniqueness and untouched wilderness, and the impact could be devastating environmentally and culturally. As the Canadian Government have approved it in part, and generally oil-money wins, I suspect they haven’t got a chance. Just in case, I will be checking to see if Greenpeace have a petition going.

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Sleeping on boats

I’m sitting in a cafe eating second breakfast (a new marine influenced phenomenon) watching sea otters play while I wait for the hospital bus. I just arrived on Haida Gwaii after leaving on Saturday and getting 2 boats.
So after 2 nights, here are my seasoned tips for sleeping on boats:

1. If you find you have booked a cabin with more beds than you need and in a fit of generosity offer your spare key to a bedless stranger on the boat, I strongly recommend – and this is crucial – that you screen them carefully for snoring tendencies. You will rue your generosity and get no sleep!

2. A recommendation to BC Ferries. If passengers want to get off at Bella Bella or Nantu at 2am, make them responsible for setting alarm clocks. Do not announce over the tannoy at half hour intervals that the stop is coming up, is here, has gone.

3. If you really want to get some sleep on your second night or risk having an over tired tantrum, rent a blanket, pull your hood over your face and sleep under the chairs in the lounge. You’ll be so tired that the wild rolling of the boat will stop terrifying you after an hour or so and rock you off like a cradle. And don’t forget the purple satin eye shades as they will entertain the other passengers.

You will be awarded at 5am by an ocean sunrise, the misty peaks of Haida Gwaii on the horizon, porpoise, humpbacks, and the sea otters.

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Miracle medicine or rock and roll afternoon

Oh boy, did I make a great discovery on Thursday! I awoke feeling sorry for myself with a thumping headache (delayed jet lag, I think) and an overreacting bug bite covering my whole forearm from elbow to wrist. After a lay in, as a treat I got to hang out with Dr No Bob (Davids DJ alter ego) as he did his stint at the local radio station. A blend of easy listening and hard core stuff. I then met Andrea when she finished her nursing shift at the clinic, and she took me to her friends distillery – Phrog – for a private gin tasting session! Its an amazing place set up by two retired chemists who are seeking the purest, cleanest gin process (and therefore no hangovers). So, I leant at the bar, admired the beautiful Heath Robinson copper still, and tried orange peel gin and fennel gin and vanilla gin and raspberry gin and beer vodka and … and….

I wasn’t a gin fan before, but now I am! Best afternoon EVER. And a miraculous cure for all my ailments. I don’t know if it really helped the bug bite or not, but as I ceased to have any feeling in my limbs I really didn’t care!

Pics of Dr No Bob and Port Hardy – where I am now after a mammoth bus journey.

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Little house on hornby

I’m a bus ride, two ferry trips and a million miles away from Vancouver. I’m on Hornby Island, at Davids cabin overlooking the sea. David lives here with his wife Andrea and their three girls; Chaya, Beatrix and Vivian. They grow vegetables, raise tiny goats, bake bread, make stuff, play stuff and generally have a great life. I’m in Beatrix’s bed, but she doesn’t mind.

I have to stop getting excited about bald eagles flying over and humming birds round the windows as they are commonplace – but we were all excited about the pod of orcas that swam by as we sat on the deck.

Today, Chaya escorted me round the beaches and the trails (after maths work, she is home schooled) and filled me in on everything I need to know about salmon berries, gooey ducks, bantam hens and sexing crabs. All useful knowledge – except the Canadian ‘robin red breast’. Its not a real robin, its a large blackbird with a vest on.

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Halibut feet

Not much to account for Sunday, except it was an elongated kind of day and when I finally got to Ashby House, I was quite frazzled and my suitcase was twice as heavy as when I set off at 6am.  I offered to leave it outside on the sidewalk (see, Canadian lingo) but the nice man carried it up the steps. Oh, and I forgot to pay on the bus – I was so pleased to have wrestled my case up on to it, I didnt think about paying.

There is a dog here with a haircut that makes him look like a hovercraft – will try and take a pic before I leave.

After breakfast I realised – I’m IN VANCOUVER! In short: its hot, I’ve drunk too much coffee, there are a lot of junkies, I saw a dog wearing tiny trainers and watched seaplanes land in by the seawall.
Met a lovely woman working at the Bill Reid North West Coast Art Gallery (Haida art) who talked to me for ages. She was amazed I was going to Haida Gwaii (as is everyone – including immigration, especially on public transport. Seems like its a bit of a mythical place that most Canadians dont even manage to visit) and spent ages telling me about her people, her cousins on the island, art, stories, talking to trees, history and culture. She said a feature of her heritage was ‘halibut feet’ – feet so wide everyone wears German sandals. And then looked down at my Birkenstocks….

This is my B and B for two nights, and view from my bedroom window. Its deceptive, as though there are patches of wild flowers everywhere in the streets and tiny water features, its also nestled amongst tower blocks and busy roads.

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