I arrived on Canadian soil in the port city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Colombia. It was a peaceful ferry crossing that brought me to a very clean and beautiful city. I spent a few nights in Victoria, exploring the best local hotspots before deciding it was time to escape the city confines and to make the most of the incredible Canadian nature. Reach the city limits and you drive through hours of pine forests speckled with autumnal trees that shock you as you drive; their rich colours contrasting with the green and brown hues around.
And so began my adventure in Canadian rural life. Needless to say it's my kind of heaven! The last two weeks I have been fortunate to stay with an incredibly welcoming family in an incredibly welcoming island community. I drove five hours up Vancouver Island to cross the ferry to Malcolm Island and to the village of Sointula. Now, Sointula has a unique and rich history where three generations ago, a settlement of Finnish folk uprooted and moved here to escape their circumstances back home in Finland. The Finnish heritage is still prevalent in Sointula with many families having Finnish names and saunas in their homes. This is also an active fishing and logging community with a real connection to the landscape around them. Many men and women work on the fishing boats and fish seasonally within strict ocean bylaws and quotas. One of the things that stands out about the people here is their closeness and their motivation to engage with their environment and support one another with tasks. If clams need shucking, everyone pitches in. If boats need moving, everyone gives a hand.
I have been lucky enough to be fully immersed in island life and have experienced clam digging and crab fishing in the dark, helping to move a boat from the water to land with an excavator, shucking clams, and building bridges through mud so deep that it deserves it's own classification!
The landscape of Solintula is both wild and serene. Think misty mountain mornings on ocean as still as glass or choppy gale winds and driving rain. When going for a hike on a trail, one must be prepared to, at times, essentially fight your way through the densest growth, following trails that deers have made! It is a place where the weather defines what jobs can be done and they are lucky enough to have oceans teeming with whale life. There is even a pebble beach that Orcas swim onto in high tide to rub their stomachs on. It is a truly magical and beautiful place and I can't describe how thankful I am to have been able to experience life here, if only for a tiny slice of time.
A beautiful little glade in the forest - the trees and bushes grow so close to one another
A 4x4 is needed to tackle this driveway
Mud, mud, glorious mud!
Alder that is being logged - it is such a beautiful colour!
What a view!
This steep beach is Bere Point - where the Orcas come and rub their stomachs
Driftwood on the beach
Huge trees wash up as driftwood - this is a Red Cedar tree
A smoke house for smoking fish
Muscle parts of the clam that are sorted to be smoked - marinated in sea salt, brown sugar and soy sauce first
The smoke house
Deer are hunted here and eaten regularly
These are good parts of the clam to eat - the lips and the stomach
Sorting clams! To dig them up - you venture to the beach at low tide (often in the dark) Here in Sointula it also worth noting that the forests border the beaches so it is a very fun and adventurous journey through the woods to the beach! And back again, complete with heavy buckets of clams! Necessary clamming equipment includes torches, wellies, buckets to collect the clams and garden forks referred to as 'guns'. When clam digging, you work as a team to dig and sort the clams that are good to eat; one person digs whilst another collects the clams that are found beneath the sand. They are commonly cooked up into clam chowder, clam fritters and other exciting delicacies such as being smoked.
This is one way to move a boat!
A calm day
An Alder forest - Alder trees spring up in areas that have been cleared - they look very similar to Silver Birch