Hitch-Hiking around Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island is just to the North of Vancouver Island, a ferry ride away from Swartz Bay, which is itself an hour plus bus ride from Victoria. Not a difficult trip, just one for which to allow some time. Ferries leave frequently, see www.bcferries.com (Southern Gulf islands) for info about times and prices. I left the hostel at 11 and was in Swartz Bay in plenty of time to get a ticket and hop on the 1.10pm ferry. Just be sure to find your own way to the berth; the ferry to Vancouver (Tsawwassen) is the big event, so most people wait for that. Don’t be sucked in.

 

 

The island is just over 70 square miles; small enough to cycle around, though be prepared for some hills and narrow roads. I walked up to my accommodation, a community at Aloha Aina farms, from Fulford, which was a hilly but not overly difficult or stressful walk, despite being along a roadside. People here are well accustomed to give pedestrians space, or lifts.

Plenty of berries to pick
Plenty of berries to pick, just up the hill from Fulford.

On the latter subject, I hitch-hiked, which is a first for me on my own. It is super-safe here, everyone said, and the best way to get about. On Saturdays there is a market in the main town, Ganges, so I headed there. It took 10-15 minutes or so to cadge a lift, first from a yoga instructor who was happy to chat about life on the island, telling me all about the long weekend (which is now), life on the island, and the main event tonight, a gig with Ganga Giri and the sound of the didgeridoo, in Fulford’s community hall. My second lift was a gent who was just as happy to sit in companionable silence, dropping me in the centre of Ganges itself, right by the market.

Produce for sale. Outside most places
Produce for sale. Outside most places.

I wandered around the market, which was varied and lively, but not particularly interesting to someone unbothered by collecting any more things. There was food, but much more arts and crafts. I was more interested in the view of the waterfront, and in looking round the antiquarian and nearly new (plus, not-so secretly, some new) book shop.

 

 

Walking on a little, I had already decided to turn right along Upper Ganges road before I saw the sign saying ‘Cold beer, 1 min walk!’. That convinced me, though, and any thoughts of a cheap late lunch from a shop disappeared into Moby’s pub and its beer and burger. With a view over the harbour, US sports on the TV and wifi, for multiple distractions.

 

 

Returning, I hopped into a wagon driven by a lady who sells leatherwork at the market. It must be going reasonably well, as she was out of buckles and other parts. She dropped me at a junction, and although traffic was sparse, shortly afterwards a car dropped a passenger on the other side of the road, then cruised up to me. The lady driver became the second of the day to recommend Ganga Giri at the community hall – she was on her way to pick up a friend and eventually get down there herself.

 

 

I thought it was only 5pm when I returned, but it was soon 7.30, so I probably read it wrong. With a community, including visitors, of about 30, people came and went from house to land (it’s not a garden, but space that includes a fire pit, drive, parking, sitting area outside the kitchen and so on) and around; in the melee, there was no clear idea of whether people were headed down to Fulford or not, but just as it got dark, decisions were made and a couple of cars left. A fellow guest had put it when I expressed curiosity as to how a didgeridoo group might sound “Is it worth $25 to you to find out?” and I decided it was. As we milled about outside, it was clear that we were not too late – the intro DJ was still playing. Time to be greeted with hugs by Doug and Phil, pay and move in. I lost my group immediately, some of them I’d only seen in passing, so might not recognise in any case. Standing at the back, it took me some time, at least 15 minutes, to get into the swing, but after that, the DJ did a job in starting the party. Ganga Giri, on stage around 10.30, got us moving with thanks to the traditional owners of the land, several guests singers who melted back into the audience after their piece. Most of us stayed on the dancefloor throughout, enjoying the mix of reggae, dance and didgeridoo. The audience was mostly fairly young, but all ages were there and welcome, with all sorts of styles and work put in on the dance floor. I felt out of place for a few moments; I knew none of the locals, and my only interesting facial hair was a result purely of not shaving. But I soon picked up on the fact that there was a lot of love in the room; there might have been a lot of E or something similar, too, for all I know, but it was friendly for sure. By the end of the evening, even with all the doors full open, there was a lot of sweat, too. Anyone with slick-soled footwear had long-since abandoned it in favour of bouncing around barefoot.

I hadn’t realised I needed to move so much, but still left 15 mins or so before the end; the offer of a lift up the hill, avoiding a 45 minute walk, tilting the balance away from staying to hear every minute.

Ganga Giri in Fulford
Ganga Giri in Fulford.

I got back to the farm/community in which I am staying a little after midnight, full of love for my hippy companions. It is a very lively and tolerant place to be. Even being in a ‘stage 4 drought’, encouraged to swim in one of the fresh-water lakes nearby rather than shower and to keep showers under 3 minutes if we absolutely must. After a week or so, we’ll all smell the same anyway. And why be a hippy if you’re not doing it properly?

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