Saturday, 28 April 2012

Work Week at Camas

Work week at Camas and a group of willing and eager volunteers make their way down the track to help prepare the centre for the arrival of a new season of guests. For some of the volunteers the week represented a return to a place of fond memories, whether having attended previous work weeks or worked at Camas as a volunteer. For me this was my first visit to Camas and immediately I was struck by the beautiful setting, warm welcome and abundant enthusiasm of the Camas staff team, not forgetting Tawhai who has settled in to his recently acquired role as Camas ‘top dog’… After a quick tour and a much appreciated tea and scone, a few of us set off for a walk to nearby Market Bay. Trying hard to avoid sinking into a deep bog (despite the sunshine the ground was still very wet) we arrived at the bay to be greeted by white sands and a calm sea. As pleasant as it looked I was more than happy to enjoy it from the beach but, after a long days travelling, one of the volunteers braved the cold waters for what I can only imagine was a very refreshing dip!

Tawhai at Market Bay

During our week we were blessed by some unusual spring sunshine which, along with the views of the bay from my bedroom window, made getting up in the morning an all the more pleasant experience. Even the lack of wind towards the end of the week which meant that there wasn’t enough energy harnessed from the wind turbine for a warm shower didn’t put me off!
Starting the day with a hearty breakfast of porridge, fruit and scones provided us with the sustenance we needed to set to work. On the list of jobs for the week:
·         Repairing the track
·         Sanding and painting ceilings, walls and floors
·         Clearing brambles
·         Chopping up kindling
·         Cleaning windows
·         Sanding and painting wheelbarrows
·         Repairing the sheds
·         Planting seeds
Whilst the father and son duo headed off up the track with their wheelbarrows to carry out the ongoing hard task of track maintenance for the first few days, the rest of us stayed closer to home working in the dorms and in the garden. There was never a dull day with lots of varied work to keep us busy punctuated by plenty of laughter and, of course, plenty of tea breaks. Nature too provided us with opportunities to reflect on the beauty of the place in which we were staying; from the local sheep making their daily pilgrimage to the small tidal island to the fins of a pod of dolphins spotted out in the bay, there was no forgetting that Camas is a special place.

The sense of community is something that I think we all found truly inspiring about life on Camas. Whether you are a member of staff, a volunteer or a passing visitor, you are welcomed into the community with open arms. Mealtimes provided the opportunity to not only reflect on the day but also to get to know each other and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend my time at Camas with. Thanks to some talented staff and volunteers I can also honestly say that I haven’t eaten so well in a long time. There is nothing better than home cooked food and freshly baked bread and cakes. Amazing! Being a less adept cook, I set myself my own personal culinary goal to bake bread for the first time with Jon, the Camas Coordinator, another bread making novice. The timing was touch and go for a while but it all worked out well in the end with everyone fed and happy. Shop bought bread will never taste the same again!
At the end of a day of fresh air and hard work the log fire provided welcome relief (or a blazing inferno depending on who was in charge of keeping the fire going!) from the coolness of the starry night outside and the perfect setting for evening reflection, some music, reading and even knitting lessons by candlelight! A walk to the top of a nearby hill was also a magical moment as we watched the sun setting over the islands. On the final night we looked back at our week together and what a week it was. I think that I speak for all of us when I say that there are memories of that week that will be forever with us. Thank you to everyone who made it so special.