A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jonny-w

It's a Mini Adventure

My quest to find a lake

rain 16 °C

When I arrived on Vancouver Island, on Victoria Farm, it was wet.

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Very wet...

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Now, I already knew the coat I brought with me wasn't, how you would say, waterproof, like at all. So I had two options, get wet, or borrow a mac from my lovely hosts Carol and Fred. It was a tough choice...

3_Sexy_Mac.jpg

None the less, with my plastic coat employed, looking slightly like I should be directing traffic I ventured out into the wilderness of the area around the farm. And by ventured out I mean Carol drove me around the immediate area to get my bearings and dropped me off. By wilderness I mean the immaculately maintained Galloping Goose Trail.

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So, yeah. An ambitious start to my Canadian 'Adventure.' Ah well. Even the best of us have to start somewhere, I bet Scott didn't immediately start by going to the Antarctic, that would have been foolish, I mean something terrible could have... oh.
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Too soon? Ahem. Moving on.

After wandering the Goose for a while I made it back onto the road. I had been out walking less than half and hour by this point so figured I should press on and see what happens. I remembered Carol saying something about a pub. Ok, cool. I went in search of this mystical place. I got a little distracted though.

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'Ohh... a park. I bet there'll e exciting things there!' As it turned out... there was, which is nice. It was pretty small, and, as far as I can tell, the only reason for its existence is because of the local construction laws requiring a certain amount of green space, but it was nice none the less. The sun even came out and, in what I assume was in no way a reference to a popular nursary rhyme about a certain spider, actually began to dry up all the rain.

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It also did quite a good job of roasting me alive in my absolutely, completely non-breathable rain keep-offer device. So I did the only thing I could in the situation. I stripped it off, tied it around my waist like the bad boy I am and unashamedly posed for a picture. Marvellous.

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I did a little bit more wandering around the park (it didn't take long) and spotted, among other things, this:

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Which I quite liked. I also saw, way off in the distance what looked like a lake. Excellent. My days travel now has a goal. To the lake!
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  • Close to an hour later*

'Ok, how the hell far away is this damned lake.' On the way I had to travel through a small suburb, which was fun, although infuriatingly difficult to get out of. I was further hindered by this:

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Now what you are looking at there, is actually kind of ingenious. Right behind that nice wooden fence, and I mean right behind, a matter of three or four feet is the highway. This thing surrounded most of the area, turning what would otherwise have been a highway side community into what felt like a little isolated village. Which was nice. It did kind of hinder visibility though.

Now, I don't want to bore you with the details here, but getting to this lake was a royal pain in the ass. Now, I could get within about thirty feet of it, but no closer. The reason for this is that, as far as I can tell at least, the entirety of this particular lake's shore is surrounded by houses. As such I spent what seemed like days strolling up and down cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac, crescent after crescent, so close to my goal, but unable to reach it without tramping through someone's garden. I was all but ready to give, when:

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Halleh-freaking-ulah. I had found a gap in the houses. It was literally less than twenty feet apart and consisted of a patch of grass, a couple of benches and a dog-poop bin, but damn-it, I had reached my goal for the day.

I returned to the farm a man who had accomplished something.

Next time... This

Posted by jonny-w 18:42 Tagged rain victoria knockan_park Comments (0)

From Vancouver to Vancouver Island and Victoria Farm

Brief Ferry Ride at Night and a summary of my first WWOOFing experience.

sunny 20 °C

So, there I was. I had somehow managed to navigate Vancouver's transport network and brought myself a Ferry ticket to Vancouver Island from Tsawwassen (which, incidentally has become one of my favourite place names- say it a few times and savour the way it feels in the mouth, good eh?).

The Spirit of British Columbia- The ferry that brought me to Vancouver Island

The Spirit of British Columbia- The ferry that brought me to Vancouver Island

When I arrived at Swartz Bay (also a good name, actually) it was dark, very rainy and busy. I had arranged with Carol (my host here) to be picked up at The Royal Oak Exchange on the bus route, only problem- the bus was full. And when I say full, I mean packed like sardines, you could barely move, people were sitting in the luggage rack at the front of the bus, the aisle and on that little raised area around the drivers seat, yeah, full. I suppose that will teach me to come to Vancouver Island on a Friday night, when, as far as I could tell, the entire student population of Vancouver University had decided to come to Victoria for the weekend. Anyway, I managed to convince the bus driver to let me on none the less and spent the first 20 minutes of the journey squashed up against the dashboard with my 20 kilogram backpack crucifying my shoulders. I think the driver must have felt sorry for me as he said I could take off my bag and place it on the dashboard(!), this helped a little, but I still had to spend the second half of the trip holding it in place to make sure it didn't fly into the driver on sharp turns. So, good times.

Anywho, I eventually managed to get off the portable people compactor and was greeted by Fred, Carol's husband and was brought back to the farm for a sandwich, a little wine, and, most importantly, a warm bed.

Carol and Fred- My Hosts at Victoria Farm

Carol and Fred- My Hosts at Victoria Farm

So, after a night in a warm bed, which didn't creak like the screaming of the damned every time I rolled over (a major improvement over the SameSun hostel beds) I awoke early, still fairly jet-lagged and had a nice hearty (read: huge) breakfast of porridge and toast with peanut butter. Honesty time now, I love peanut butter, a lot however no one else in my family did, so I never had it growing up, and now, my girlfriend Pinaz doesn't like it either, as such I am taking the time this year to eat as much of the stuff as humanly possible. Where was I? Ah yes, food. Large meals would become a recurring theme when it comes to WWOOFing I've found. 'Work on an organic farm?' I though 'excellent, maybe I can burn off some of the excess body fat I put on spending 3 years studying for a computer science degree' but nooooo you work hard, you eat hard. Looking back (after two months of WWOOFing I can honestly say I have never eaten so much good food in my damned life (sorry Mum) but them I suppose manual labour does require a lot of calories. Ah well.

There was something I was going to say... yes WWOOFing, that's it. 'What in the name of hell is WWOOFing?' I hear you cry. Well, it stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It used to stand for a couple of other things, but capitalising just the first letter of words is hard work, so just go and look it up if you want and/or care. So, yes, I am a volunteer on an Organic farm, sweet.

Right, so, whilst I was on Victoria Farm I got up to lots of interesting things (thanks mainly go out to Carol for pointing me in the direction of excitement filled days out), however I will be commenting on each of those is separate blog posts. (Aside: why isn't 'blog' in Firefox's built in dictionary...*grumble grumble grumble*) As such I will just be highlighting the exciting things that happened on the farm in this post, which, as I type this, I realise could get quite long, so strap on your seatbelts and lets go, shall we?

A little about Carol and Fred. Fred is a lecturer at the Royal Roads university just up the road (but more about that in a future blog post) and Carol spends most of her time running the farm. They moved to Victoria from the prairies a few years ago and are still trying to get the farm back into shape after it was left abandoned for a few years.

Right, ok, onto WWOOFers. So, first off: Cody. Cody is a Canadian from Ontario, he decided to move away from the frigid prairies and come out to the East coast. He figured WWOOFing would be a good way of getting to know the place cheaply before looking into getting a place or a proper job. Interesting, as Carol and Fred are both from the United States the other WWOOFers are from international locales, Cody was the only Canadian in the house whilst I was there.

Cody- A fellow WWOOFer

Cody- A fellow WWOOFer


Cody is very much into his forestry and conservation work, and we spend many hours discussing what it is like tree planting and doing fall and burn work to get rid of the Mountain Pine Beetle (which is killing off many of British Columbias pine trees because they in turn are not being killed off due to rising temperatures in the region). And yes, the latter is basically just cutting down trees and setting fire to them in the snow, if that doesn't sound like the perfect job, I'm not sure what is.

Next Killian and Clare. These two are an Irish couple from the Galway region in Ireland and have just spent the last 6 months living in Toronto. The decided they wanted to get some jobs working at the resorts in Whistler and figured they stop off near Victoria for a couple of weeks.

Killian and Clare- Fellow WWOOFers

Killian and Clare- Fellow WWOOFers


They were a lot of fun chatting too, especially our discussion about the animosity (or lack thereof) between this generations English and Irish population. Something which Carol found interesting was the fact that, despite K&C live on the West coast of Ireland, and I live on the East coast of England we shared the same time zone. Something which is probably a little weird when you live in a country with six of the bastards.

Finally there was Katherine and José. They are Columbia originally, but have lived in Canada for about 5 years. They are moving to Victoria on Vancouver Island so that José can go to the university and work upgrade his nursing qualification. They are WWOOFing for a couple of months to get used to the area before getting a place of their own.

Katherine and José- Fellow WWOOFers

Katherine and José- Fellow WWOOFers

The farm has a resident population of chickens. Their are, broadly two categories these birds fit into. The peaceful, dumb ones that live by the pear trees, and the violent, sociopathic ones that live out in the fields. Also, if I've learned one thing from my time there it was that chickens will eat almost anything. So, that's good to know I suppose. I think it put Cody off of the meat, I just don't care that much however.

Also partolling the farm is Bijou. A Border Collie, who is getting on in years, but who had only been on the farm about 2 weeks when I arrived. Despite her advanced years (about 9 I think) she was always full on energy, absolutely loved chickens to heard and had a lot of fun barking at raccoons. All of this paled in comparison for her love of shovels however. It was literally impossible to do any digging whilst she was about as she would attempt to eat your digging implement. Yes, despite allusions of intelligence, she was just as dumb as most dogs. Very cute though.

Myself and Bijou in the back field

Myself and Bijou in the back field

So onto work. Well, I mainly moved earth, I'm going to be honest. The previous owners did a lot of landscaping to the farm, like digging a drainage ditch around the edge and then just dumped the waste soil on top of the fertile, growing land. Well done genius'. Anyway, as a result Carol and Fred are doing a lot of work to flatten out the farm and expose the good soil once more. That is where I and me fellows came in. Dig the soil, rake the soil, move wheelbarrows full of the stuff. The work was hard and at time boring, but not unpleasant, at least it gave me a chance to work on my biceps! When I wasn't landscaping I was digging potatoes... which is done by moving soil. Ah well I suppose it was the best. One of the few times I branched out from earth moving and had a crack at mowing the lawn the lawnmower caught fire. Perhaps leaving me to play in the dirt was the safest thing after all. Yeah, the lawnmower fire, now that was fun. I stopped to move a bit of wood that was obstructing my mowing path, went back to the things and pulled the chord. WHOOSH, flames. And an almost full tank of gas. I'm going to be honest here, I ran away. I ran away like a little girl. And the worst thing, there was not a thing I could do about it. I had to just stand and watch it burn from a distance. I honestly had no idea whether the gas tank was capable of building up pressure and exploding. After a few minutes it began to spurt (burning) petrol out over the grass however, at ts point I figured it was safe to return, the threat of explosion now gone. I dumped buckets of damp earth on the thing and finally put it out. It was too late however, the thing was a write off. One of my biggest regrets about my time here was that I have no photos of any of this, ah well, it will live in my memories forever I suppose.

There was another fire at the house (this one entirely not my fault, I promise).I am a little hazy on how exactly it started, in fact I'm pretty sure no one knows. All I do know is this. It was Canadian Thanksgiving. Cody and I were watching a movie The Paper when we heard Fred call, a slight panic in his voice for us to come downstairs immediately. Now, Fred is one of the most easy going, chilled out people I have never met, if he sounded even mildly concerned, you know shit is getting real. Cody and I came down to see the kitchen was on fire. Things were a little panicked, but no one was hurt and the fire was put out with minimal damage to the house and no need for the fire department. The whole place did smell quite strongly of smoke for quite some time however. The Thanksgiving ham was unharmed however and afterwards we went out for some beers. So everything worked out in the end.

The weather here was weird. It started off very wet and then, bam, sunny for about 3 straight weeks, which is apparently kind of crazy. I did manage to get a pretty good tan going from working out in the sun all day however, that along with my crazy guns is giving me a figure all man kind would be jealous of... ok maybe not, but still.

Next time: It's a mini adventure.

Ok, I hope that keeps you going for a while, including photo upload time I've been staring at my screen for over 2 hours and my eyes are starting to go. Hope you had fun reading it. Speak to you later.

Posted by jonny-w 15:03 Archived in Canada Tagged victoria_farm Comments (0)

Quick Update

overcast 5 °C

Ok, so, first of all, let me assure you that I have not abandoned this blog. I also feel I should say that I do indeed intend to tell you all the interesting things I've been up to, even if that means writing about things that happened a couple of months ago, but I figure you won't mind too much. I am keeping a personal journal too, so if memory fails me I have a backup, fear not.

Now, excuse time for why I haven't been updating this thing as much as I should. The primary reason is pictures. I assume that you would like very much to see pictures of the things I get up to, which is good because I have hundreds of them (I wont upload them all, I promise) and would very much like to share the choice ones with you. There are however, three major problems I'm running into.
1. The first is that, because of the way the internet works it takes a lot more time to upload pictures than to download them, this is obviously something I had anticipated but it is being severely exacerbated by problems 2 and 3.
2. The exact technical reasons are boring and slightly confusing, but for one reason or another I cannot use the bulk photo uploader on this site with either of my browsers, so I am forced to upload each photo individually, this, in turn wouldn't be so bad but for...
3. The photo navigation software on my netbook is terrible. It is slow, unwieldy and much less user friendly than on Windows. The long and the short of this is that it is very difficult to tell what exactly each photo contains (the previews are tiny) unless I want to spend a good 10 seconds loading up the photo-viewer and scrutinising each one. Ten seconds may not sound like a lot, but try doing it over 100 times and you've got a real time sink on your hands. My last blog entry? It took me about 15 minutes to write the thing and about 45 to upload the half dozen or so photos. It is something I just need to suck up and spend some time doing, but my procrastination kicks in and I get easily distracted.

So, my point? I will get around to doing blog entries and you won't miss out on anything I've been doing, it's just, so far I haven't yet plucked up the courage to wrestle with my photo collection. I have spent the last hour or so reorganising my photos into small sub-folders, which should dramatically increase navigation efficiency. This means that I will get on to delivering high quality content revolving around my year in Canada soon.

Now for a slight update. I have spent the last month or so in Port Alberni, in central Vancouver Island on Avalon Farm. My next plans are to move onto the East coast of the Island for a couple of days and spend some time in Tofino and possibly Ucluelet. Once I am done there I will be returning to Vancouver to (hopefully) catch up with some of the BUNACers who are still in the area.

Until next time.

Posted by jonny-w 13:50 Archived in Canada Tagged update photo_problems Comments (0)

Vancouver

A city is, really, just a city

overcast

Day 1 saw us touch down In Vancouver during early afternoon. Bearing in mind that many of us had been up since 3am that morning, spent 10 hours on a plane and were now 8 hours behind the time we were used to, we were pretty tired. And by pretty I mean really, really tired. All told, by the time we got to the end of the day the 15th of September 2010 would have lasted 32 hours for us. So, yeah. Fun times.

The other BUNACers are all very cool. Bramm, Scott, Rob, Chris and myself decided to go and get some food at a Chinese place, which was nice (I got a seaweed salad, which really hit the spot) and then go for a couple of (very expensive) pints at an Irish bar. I had the Rickards dark, which was very nice. Chris had the Rickards light, which was also good. I would later have the Rickards red, which was... utterly average. Well, Two Out of Three Ain't Bad as they say. We headed back to the hostel, Samesun, which, incidentally was not that great, but we'll get to that. Anyway, we headed back to the Hostel had a couple more pints and played some cards before heading to bed for a very well deserved rest. Ok, by this point I've been up for, what, maybe 28 hours? I was knackered, but still slept terribly. It was hot, damn hot, so we had to keep the window open all night, the problem with that? The huge AC unit just outside for the building next door, so it was also noisy. Oh and the beds were creaky, not just mildly, but to the point where you couldn't move without bringing on the wrath of the squeaky spring spirits. So yeah, fun times. Oh and to top it all off, the jet lag woke me up at 5am they next morning. SO, a good start to my trip all in all.

First Beer in Canada

First Beer in Canada

Bramm and Chris in the Irish Pub

Bramm and Chris in the Irish Pub


Rob and Scott at the Irish Bar

Rob and Scott at the Irish Bar

Seriously though, it was a great first day. On the second day of my Canadian adventure we would start off with an orientation at the SWAP offices. This was, predictably, fairly boring, but it did give us some pretty useful information. Once we had got that out of the way we headed to Vancouver's Stanley Park (via a coffee shop, black coffee and pumpkin muffin, yum!). Stanley park is very odd. It almost seems like an anomaly this, huge, pretty lush area of woodland, right in the heart of Vancouver. The trees are high and block both the view of the city and most of its noise. If you travel deep enough and in the right direction you come out on a little beach by the harbour. Very nice. Very nice indeed. Once we were done here we had a couple of beers at a Bar and Grill, (not called Bruce's, unfortunately.) We headed back to the SWAP office and I got the email address of a little place called Victoria Farm, out on Vancouver Island (which, I've heard is beautiful) and made a mental note to email Carol later that evening. The job doesn't pay, but I do get food and housing in exchange for a few hours work a day. Not bad.

Chris, Simon, Rob, Katy, Catherine, Mel and Andrew by the Harbour

Chris, Simon, Rob, Katy, Catherine, Mel and Andrew by the Harbour

Fun in Stanley Park

Fun in Stanley Park

Me on the Beach, some skimming was done here

Me on the Beach, some skimming was done here

Fooling around with some statues

Fooling around with some statues

Had an awesome burger at The Famous Warehouse bar, and actually ate at the bar itself, which was a novelty for me, but the meal was very generous and very delicious. There was a quiz that night at the bar in Samesun, where I teamed up with 3 German lads and we got thoroughly spanked. I don't think our team had a wide enough knowledge base to really provide any competition unfortunately. Never mind, it was still a fun evening, even if I was knackered by this point.

Day Three saw a reply from Carol at Victoria farm asking if I would like to head out that day. I decided that that was indeed a good plan as it would save me quite some money on hostel fares. That would be the late afternoon though, so, for now, the gang and I (as I feel we had become) decided to check out another hostel down on the beach front, that would hopefully be cheaper and nicer. Not too hard, I wouldn't have thought. On the way we passed through Point Gray, a very rich neighbourhood, each and every house was different and obviously custom built. It was this area that really showed me why Vancouver is currently one of the most desirable places to live in the world. Anyway, we eventually got to the hostel and it is beautiful and in a fantastic location. If I come back to Vancouver I will definitely be staying here!

Catherine chilling on some driftwood

Catherine chilling on some driftwood

A house in Point Grey

A house in Point Grey

How many people does it take to read a map?

How many people does it take to read a map?

Mel is very excited to be in beautiful Canada

Mel is very excited to be in beautiful Canada


After that bit of adventure we made our way back to Samesun, I picked up my stuff and said my goodbyes to the other BUNACers, which was pretty sad. We may have only known each other for a few days, but they all felt like friends by this point. Hopefully I can meet up with at least some of them again. With that I headed across town to the Ferry terminal, Vancouver Island and Victoria Farm. But that trip I will save for my next entry.

Posted by jonny-w 09:15 Archived in Canada Tagged vancouver stanley_park point_grey Comments (0)

An Introduction

I.e. The Set-up

overcast

Hello everybody.

For one reason or another, before I left I never really gave much thought to writing a travel blog whilst on my Canadian adventure. Now I am here however, I feel that there is a lot that people may want to know about how I am spending my time in this beautiful country. I will, of course fill you in on the details in later posts, for now however I thought I'd get this site set up and give you some insight as to why I chose to some here in the first place.

The first thing I should probably mention is that I will, as far as I am able, upload lots of pictures for you to see and ogle, they will however only be a small sampling of those I actually take, that way, if you want to spend hours going through the thousands of photos I will likely take when I get home, you can, otherwise you can just check here for the highlights.

Now, with that said, let me tell you a little about myself (although somehow, I figure that if you are reading this you probably already know a fair amount about me anyway, and if you don't, hi!)

I am a 23 years old Englishman named Jonathan, but most everyone I know calls me Jonny, which is good, because I have come to grow quite fond of the shortening. I recently graduated from the Universoty of Nottingham with a 2:1 in Computer Science. Now, as many of you may know, that wasn't the plan when I started uni in 2005. I originally began studying Physics with Theoretical Astrophysics, which was, in all honesty, very, very interesting, it was also very challenging however and as such I ended up dropping out of the course at the end of my second year and transferring to Computer Science, the natural progression 80% of failed physicists make, as far as I can tell at least.

Fast forward another 3 years and I am exiting university after 19 years in full time education with no idea what the hell I want to do with my life. Let's review my options briefly shall we?
1) Get a job- Now, whilst this, for many is the natural progression after one leaves university it was far from desirable for me. Apart from the fact that the economic downturn of late has made it all but impossible for graduates to get anything but the most basic jobs I did not like the idea of starting a career at 23 (regardless of the fact that I had no idea what I actually wanted to do.) 'So don't start a career' I hear you cry, well, there's my other problem, I didn't simply want a placeholder job either. Simply getting a job any job to make some money to live off of seems to me like a waste of a year of my (let's be honest, all too short) life. So, jobs were out of the question. Next.
2) Get on a Graduate Training Scheme. Now this is the next logical exit point from uni. Get trained to do one job well. Now there were problems here too. Firstly they are hugely competitive, and, as we mentioned in point 1, with fewer graduates being able to get an actual job, even more were turning to this avenue of continuation. Secondly, the only, and I mean only one that even remotely interested me was The Forestry Commission's scheme... which required you to have a full drivers licence... which for one reason or another, I don't have, and couldn't possibly get before their application deadline closed. Excellent. Next
3) Get a PGCE, or, in other words, train to become a teacher. Now, this did, in all honesty, at first glance look appealing. Train to teach I.T. to people, how hard can teaching people how to use Word be? Then I met a few people who were doing it and they, how shall we put this lightly? Put me off. Let's leave it at that, teaching kids is a bastard of a job to do in the best of conditions. For now at least this is being put to one side, but who knows whether I will return to it in the future. Oh, and also, if I'd done this it would have marked a full 2 decades in full time education for me. Yeah. No thanks.
4) Go travelling. Now we are getting somewhere! I know a few people who have done this, most notably my good friend Michael Gravenstede, who spent 9 months skiing in the Alps, and Clare Déry, who is currently teaching English in Tokyo. Her blog can be found here. They made travelling sound very appealing, and combined with the number of people I know who have just done general holidaying in exotic far off places I decided to go for it.

So, with the decision to go travelling made the next question was 'where to?' For me there was no choice, it would be Canada or New Zealand, if you havn't worked out which one I picked by now, well, let's just say I haven't seen any Kiwis yet.

So that was it, I applied for a scheme through BUNAC, who helped me with my visa, and on the 15th of September 2010, feeling shattered and drained I arrived in Vancouver via Air Canada flight AC855, my first time stepping on soil outside of Europe, exciting. This then, really is where the adventure begins, but I'll save that for another entry. I will attempt to keep this updated as much as possible, if there is an internet connection, I will let you know what I am doing. Have no fear!

Posted by jonny-w 16:06 Archived in Canada Tagged preamble introduction first_post Comments (0)

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