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10 April 2011

Cortes Island British Columbia, Canada



Springtime

We came back to Cortes Island for more of John and Ruby's homemade Loganberry ice cream. The community hall at Mansons Landing was packed. Fridays between 12:30 and 3pm is the weekly market on Cortes Island. Everybody is meeting, neighbours, locals and those semi-permanent migrants like us.

Locals and Tourists on Cortes Day

Two ferry rides away from Vancouver Island, Cortes Island has its own culture,
people, and their way of living. Fridays is one of the three weekly mail days. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Jamie, the postmistress is the most visited person on the island. She knows everybody's box number and private life. The post office, the radio station, the library and the coffee shop are all in the same building.

Smelt Bay Park Walk

The Cortes people, mostly early retired or voluntary out of the regular job market, are selling a gamut of wares: from wild smoked canned Salmon, homemade bread for $ 7.50 a loaf, Emu salve against soar joints, homemade jewelry, Blue Jay Farm sells their organically grown vegetables, Sue is selling kamikaze hot jellies, and in the hallway there are always a couple of associations looking for donations or new members.

Kayakers


There are so many people in the hall inside, on a hot summer's day the odours and smells range from fresh pizza, to fish, to........... The fashion is at the least very colourful, from the latest of the 60's flower-power flowing skirts and hairdo, naturally by now the hair is graying and thinning or going even wilder, the young kids with all the tattoos and studs everywhere, to the city slickers' Boss slacks and Gucci shoes.
Beachcombers


We came back for the delicious ice cream, but four years has passed since the market was like we remembered, but time has changed even on Cortes. John and Ruby retired, and some of the regular market people moved on, and some new ones are setting up shop.

Change is certain, even on Cortes Island. First Nations of the Coast Salish people lived or visited Cortes Island for many years. The village of Squirrel Cove was established in the late 1800s when the Klahoosie Salish from Toba Inlet were moved here. The Klahoosie People within the last year built a brand new meeting hall overlooking the cove and Desolation Sound.

First Nations Salmon BBQ

From the 1790 Captains Vancouver and Valdes started to explore this area and they gave the name Cortes to this beautiful island. Many of its neighbouring islands have exotic names : Marina, Hernando, Ulloa, Quadra.... These first explorers were mostly charting the area. The first white settlers on Cortes were fishermen, whalers, and loggers.

Evening sun Smelt Bay Park

Today we travel here by taking the ferry in Campbell River to Quadra Island. We then drive about 10 minutes to the Heriot Bay ferry terminal to Cortes Island. Ferry service to Cortes was established in 1969. Even today the service on the Tenaka is relaxed and travelers better take a book and a thermos of tea along. In summer, the waits can be long because of the tourists. 

In winter, if the South Easterlies blows up a storm, the ferry will simply not run. In summer many visitors to Cortes are sailing here on their boats. This is the gateway to the gorgeous Desolation Sound for sailors. Cortes can also be reached by water taxis which can be hired in Campbell River or on Quadra Island. In summer the float planes have regular / irregular services according to demand and weather.

Float plane leaving Mansons Lagoon

Just under 1000 people live permanently on Cortes, mostly on the Southern tip. Most of them are fiercely independent and came here for their own reasons, be it solitude, freedom to live off the land and sea, or to live simply away from the hustle and bustle. Many have Scandinavian and British names. Then there are the semi-permanent migrants just like us. We come here, besides for ice cream, for the same reasons the permanent people came for, but we are still having an "outside" place to go to. For us it''s Victoria, for the neighbour to the right it's Campbell River and her neighbour is from Alberta.

Library in Whaletown

We newcomers learn local customs like to wave to everybody we pass in the car and trucks. We also give everybody a ride on the side of the road. There are no public buses or taxis. There are no police on the island, unless something drastic happens and the officers come from Quadra. 

We have a Health Centre with a physician on duty, but if we need an x-ray or a broken bone fixed, we have to go to Campbell River. 

We listen to the local politics and will never understand it. It is as intricate, emotional, and unique like in a little Swiss mountain village. Everybody knows everybody and their 150 year history, and everyone and their family has its spot in the Cortes grid.
Boaters in Gorge Harbour Marina

Anders and I are here on Cortes for a while. We do not know if we will stay permanently and for how long. 

In the meantime we enjoy the quietness, the great walks, the beach and its ever changing scenery, the birds, and the wild animals. Especially we love all the visitors coming to see us for a little while and spending quality time with us. We then can share this relaxing island life with them.

Life is good.


Next month we will be travelling off the island. Our plan is to take the Trans Canada Highway and to travel all the way from here the West Coast of Canada to the East Coast of Canada to Newfoundland and Labrador. During that time relatives and friends will be here at our place on Cortes adding to the mix of people. We are so exited to get to know more people and places in our great country.

Evening glow over the Royals
Greetings from Cortes Island,
Liz




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