Tuesday, 19 June 2012

It was a cold dark April morning but excitement filled the air at 344 Beaver St, Banff. Suitcase upon suitcase upon ski bag was being piled up in the front room with worrying glances being shared between the soon to be passengers of the notorious ‘Dorris’ the Dodge Ram campervan. 
After a few stalls and some more worrying glares we set off on an 11-hour drive from Banff to Vancouver. There was sleeping, sightseeing and a couple of close calls, although at no fault of either of our expert drivers. You don’t really appreciate how expansive Canada is until you take the time to drive it…everything is huge!
John (one of our expert drivers) confidently negotiated city streets of Vancouver, to safely deliver us to our hotel where we met up with family and friends. We were all pretty tired, not least our heroic drivers and with the adventure continuing tomorrow we turned in for a sleep in the city.
The next day bore a beautiful sunrise over Vancouver soaking the city in soft light; we knew we had an awesome day ahead of us! 
Our destination…Saturna Island!
Saturna Island is part of the Gulf Islands close to Vancouver Island, it is a mere 31km²  and home to only 350 people. Two of those people you may already know…
Noel and Nancy kindly invited our group of close friends to enjoy some time at their oasis getaway, obviously we gratefully accepted. We drove from our hotel to the port of Tsawwassen where we boarded Dorris onto the ferry. Usually there is only one ferry a day to Saturna; fortunately for us it was at sunset gifting us with awe-inspiring views of the bay areas. Upon arriving we met with Noel at the Saturna Lighthouse pub that was conveniently located a few yards from the ferry port!

We arrived at the cottage on Saturna after dark, we could tell we were somewhere special but it was not until the following day we realized how breathtaking our surrounding were. The cottage sits maybe 20 meters from the sea, easily a stones through. It overlooks an uninhabited island and a vast expanse of sea; in the distance you can see the U.S.A whilst oil tankers casually drift past on the horizon, a stark reminder of how lucky we were.
Whilst in Banff I lost count of how many breathtaking views I witnesses, this pattern didn’t stop on Saturna. Day after day I was stunned by the beauty of the natural surroundings, everything is peaceful everything is calm. 
Saturna really is an outdoors enthusiasts dream; untouched by modernism the whole ethos is that of sustainability and caring. Everything is recycled; one woman told us that she only has to throw out one bag of garbage a year! Everything else is recycled or used to make compost. It was so refreshing to see, people who cared about where they lived and did something about it. 
During the days we worked for our keep but had plenty of opportunities to explore what the island had to offer. We kayaked to untouched bays, explored uninhabited islands and got to know the island’s locals.
Everyday we caught our own dinners, fresh lingcod, crab, mussels and shrimp were a plenty!  Noel was more than happy to take us out on his powerboat, an experience in itself, yet we also saw Seals and large groups of Sea Lions. We took crab/shrimp traps and multiple fishing rods to provide for dinner; I had never been fishing in my life and after only 5 minutes I had caught a 20-inch lingcod…amazing!! 
We all took turns in teams of two to cook a gourmet dinner for the rest of the gang. This was no chore by any stretch; we all thoroughly enjoyed cooking what we caught and making an effort to impress the rest. We unanimously agreed that we hadn’t eaten so well all year!
Most nights after dinner included a roaring fire and friendly games and banter. Numerous board games and homemade quizzes were played, sprinkled with hilarious embarrassing stories from both ourselves and our host…all helped along with a few drinks of course!
Saturna for us I think was the perfect end to a season in Banff and the perfect beginning for a life in Vancouver. It is a world away but yet so close, unknown to most it is a haven for those wanting to immerse themselves in calm and nature.