It’s a month now that we’ve been on the road and can count on one hand the days it’s been ideal for riding. We’ve had to ride at times out of necessity, but in insanely crazy weather, so mostly we’ve been hunkering down, waiting for the weather to improve. Our reality is that Canada has experienced the worst winter in decades, delaying Spring by about 2 months and frustrating our plans for traveling North. (As an example of the extent of the delay, friends who did the same trip a year ago were by now riding across the Rockys.) We are constantly monitoring the weather North and it’s not improving so we’ve made the really tough decision to head South. We are just not prepared to risk riding extensively through snow, across these vast distances.
Through Help-X we are currently working on a free range chicken farm on the South West Coast of Vancouver Island and having a blast! Clara, Crispen and their children Juniper, Jasper and Camelia are wonderful, as are their farm dogs Indigo and Lucky. Lucky growled at us for arriving on bikes wearing helmets for the first few days, but we are now close friends, through bribery with treats. Help-X assignments have offered us the experience of living Canadian lives, just for a moment and it’s been a great saving too, in terms of accommodation and food.
The farm is insanely spectacular, heaven in fact, located in the forest on the top of a mountain near Sooke with views across the ocean. Our duties are varied – feeding and watering chickens, collecting eggs, fixing the swing, carting fire wood, planting potatoes, gardening and building a stone wall for a strawberry patch…oh and reading to the kids! I’ve had many moments of reflection about my dad and the things he taught me as a child when we lived on a small holding. I did not appreciate it at the time, but because of him I know how to look after chickens, build a vegetable garden and a stone wall…
We have found the manual labor meditative and relaxing and we’ve loved seeing what we’ve achieved! Today Paul and I went into town in the truck to get cement from the hardware store. It was great fun to experience riding in one of these massive trucks, driving on the right (wrong?!) side of the road and seeing the massive hardware store which had lanes to drive your truck through, depending on your need. (We are used to things being much smaller in Australia and getting out of our vehicle to push a trolley through Bunnings!)
We work until 2pm, so with the long days this grants us about 4 hours for exploring each afternoon. We’ve loved riding through this area, which is incredibly beautiful and with much milder weather. I’ve yet to succeed at fishing, but Paul has mastered the art of catching a nap at lakes and rivers whilst I try yet again. We rode up to Port Renfrew yesterday and it was a beautifully clear (yet freezing!) day – offering us spectacular views across the ocean of the United States.
A few nights ago we were debating what to do, considering the weather. I am really longing to experience Alaska, so my disappointment at heading South instead of North was huge. Crispen offered advice and mentioned ‘last minute deals’ on Alaskan cruises out of Seattle. We struck gold – managing to get a ‘last minute deal’ on a cruise to Alaska for 80% off the usual price! I laughed at the irony once we’d secured our booking…saying: “Canada is just too cold…so we’re heading to Alaska!”