Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been slogging away digging trenches, shifting and raking out gravel, I aided in the building of a tent platform and an indoor couch. I supervised archery, canoeing and paddle boarding and at all times I’ve fought a loosing battle against mosquitoes. It’s been absolutely great!
I managed to find this place last minute through a website called ‘workaway.org’. It’s a site I’ve used throughout my trip to find places where I could stay whilst balancing a work/play lifestyle. I did a Workaway in Crete, Serbia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic. I hadn’t anticipated that I’d do one in Canada, but I’m very thankful I did.
The place is called Lighthouse Landing, it’s on Lake Cecebe, near a lighthouse, hence the name… The nearest town to Lighthouse Landing is a place called Magnetawan, it’s a 3 min drive, a 3 km jog or a 45 min canoe ride from camp. It’s small, but pretty, and has an ice cream trailer, a general store, a hardware store, a bakery and a grill and 5 churches on the same street. Lighthouse landing is a small camp on a big property that runs autistic camps during July and they rent out their beautiful rustic cabins during the inhabitable times of the year. I managed to check out their website before I came and it looked very scenic, I even read some reviews which all spoke of the genuine friendliness of the staff, so it was reassuring knowing people had good things to say about where I was headed.
I chose it because it’s kinda in the area where I spent a lot of time from 2007-09, that being the beautiful wooded and lake areas surrounding Algonquin park, 4 hours north of Toronto. So it was nice to watch out for familiar scenery as I sat on the bus.
When I checked the weather forecast on the bus coming up it didn’t look good, rain and thunderstorms guaranteed. And rain it did. It’s been a wet summer in Ontario all round, people haven’t been too stoked with it but what can you do. I remember a quote of Robert Laidlaw’s, “The man who smiles when the sun shines and frowns when storms gather is but a creature of circumstance, whereas the joy of life ought to come from the joy of living, not from the surrounding conditions.” The folk I joined up here certainly take the joy of living seriously. Jim and his wife Alyssa with their wee boy Asher, volunteer up here over the summer months, helping his mum, Fran, who acquired this place off her dad. It’s been in their family for 50 odd years. It was really easy to settle into life amidst this small community, I was instantly made to feel welcomed and comfortable. Everyone was just so friendly and genuinely stoked at my willingness to come and help them out.
I’ve always found Canadians to be exceptionally friendly people, and that is always multiplied when they find out you are from New Zealand, which doesn’t take long, and usually only after a couple wrong guesses. One little fella who I was helping on a paddle board said my voice sounded like a Movie… that was funny, though he couldn’t recall which one. Others have been genuinely surprised to meet someone from NZ all the way up in Magnatawan, one lady when she was told I was a kiwi, got out of her car and walked over to tell me how much she enjoyed visiting there earlier this year. Others asked me to help them find the right t-shirts for their friend, just to hear me talk, another lady, when i was grabbing a coffee from bakery couldn’t get over the accent, kept chuckling to herself as I ordered. She told me I made her day, so thats nice.
So here I am sitting on a comfy couch in the office, the day before I catch my early morning bus that will take me back down the line, trying to sum up the past 2 weeks. We’re about to head out on a field trip, to celebrate my time here. I can see how some would find this sought of experience a little daunting, staying with strangers, in a fairly remote place in the northern wilderness, surrounded by trees and on the banks of a deep and dark lake. And yet, with Fran, who would be deaf except for an amazing gizmo that attaches to her ear has provided endless laughter as she has called me at least 8 alternative names, I’ve been called Jo-no, Jonah, Jocko, and Joso, Rono, Rona Rocko and Rosco. It became such a common occurrence that soon Asher the 2 and a bit year old started calling me all of them as well, so yes, happy days.
I started my stay in an old powerless campervan parked in a clearing in the woods and true to prediction it rained. I quickly saw the areas of concern and set pick axe to the path to set about figuring out a proper drainage system. Tis some good honest work that. But I was happy to do it. There’s something about the clean fresh air of northern Ontario, surrounded by trees, pested by mosquitoes but encouraged and thanked all the way by my hosts. It’s easy to work when you like the people you work for and with. Plus, I was moved into my own spacious cabin, flush with the marvels of a fridge, lights and electricity, so I was much comfier.
I’ve had some significant down time as well, which has been nice. I kayaked up the airily calm waters of the Distressed river, where later we went out for a successful beaver spotting as the sun was setting, that was cool. I canoed over to Magnetawan numerous times for ice cream and beer. I swam in the lake and in some rapids, got on the paddle board a bundle of times, read, watched movies, visited the world famous screaming heads, chilled out with great people and chatted the night away on numerous occasions. One of the big highlights was my late night walks back to my cabin, as I’d have enough repellant on to be able to stand in the darkness and just look up. One forgets the beauty that is above us, when living in brightly lit cities.
It’s going to be sad to say goodbye to this place and more significantly to it’s people tomorrow. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here, getting to know them all and become part of the family. I’ve learnt a lot, laughed a lot more, tasted some really fantastic Vegan food and have much to consider as I move into my future. I’m sure it wont be the last time, as we share the love of travel, so we’ll meet again somewhere soon.
I was told the other day that I’ve have 2 weeks till I’m back in New Zealand. I’m beginning to get a little nervous about that, as there’s a lot of things that will need to happen once I’m back. I do however, still have plenty to see and do until then. I’ve still got friends to catch up with, and a new part of the world to explore, Seattle. A lot can happen in 2 weeks, something I’ve become very familiar with.