Last September, I stayed on a tiny island near Guernsey called Sark for a little over 3 weeks. I was volunteering to help set up a small Permaculture themed festival with music, local beer and workshops. My girlfriend enrolled on a Permaculture Design Course running up to the festival, taught by Aranya who was my PDC teacher too when I did it a few years back.
We drove all night from Edinburgh to Poole, then caught a ferry to Guernsey where we ate some tastey oysters, then another hour or so on a smaller boat to arrive on Sark. The island has no cars – only tractors, bicycles and horse carriages, and no paved roads either. Everything seemed to move at a human pace here.
There are also no street lights or towns nearby and as the night fell, the skies lit up with jaw dropping number of stars – the milky way clearly visible as a backdrop. We visited a small observatory while we were there and learnt the location of the center of our galaxy, how to pin point the North star and dribble at the powerful laser beam that the guy used to point at the stars. There was a really generous islander who allowed us to come use their outdoor swimming pool kept at 30 degrees and their outdoor hot tub. What an experience to float, with ice cold beer, and look up at the skies.
Sark lifts out of the ocean to about 30 or more meters with sheer cliffs surrounding it. Multiple steep paths descend to hundreds of hidden coves with magical caves and funky geological features. The Channel islands has one of the biggest tidal differences in the world, and it creates beautiful rock pools only accessible at low tides and allows plenty of seafood foraging too.
As we neared the festival time, more volunteers turned up and faster things seemed to get done. Compost loos were erected, children’s play areas completed, the main stage, marquees and stalls were up and most importantly the bar was running. The weather was absolutely spot on all throughout the weekend and people arrived in boat loads to enjoy the party.
The festival had a capacity of little under a thousand and there was a prevailing atmosphere of a big party rather than a strict systematised festival. I loved the fact that during the festival, most of the crew remained at a level of functional drunk/hungover state in which we could fix things if need be. A half naked Asian could be seen wobbling with a pint re-stocking toilet papers, or hobbling and groaning from a banging headache re-building a tepee with a machete and a sledge hammer. But unfortunately too incapacitated to trust myself with a proper camera hence the lack of images of the actual festival.
After a rather hurried pack down of the festival, pushed on by approaching 70km/h gale and stormy weather, we were treated with a feast of grilled lobsters and giant crabs caught off the island. The sizzling garlic herb butter over succulent lobster meat cooked on charcoal was the best I’ve ever tried. Not overcooked, nor undercooked, just at the perfect balance.
We then went night fishing on a pier where we caught few scads and mackerel. I’ve always wanted to try fishing but didn’t know anyone who could introduce me to it. But here were local guys who knew exactly where to cast, what bait to use, which time of the day you’re most likely to catch and how to cook it. It was a spectacular moonlight fishing experience.
We also went during the day to the tip of a rugged rock formation, with dolphins jumping 30m away and massive waves crashing to our feet. I managed to catch two big basses and foraged giant winkles, which were then made into the most delicious soup by Yuri.
The biggest thing that I took away from the experience on Sark was the people I’ve met. There were people with whom we shared similar visions of what we wanted to achieve in life, with matching work ethic and the knowledge of how to enjoy life. I’ve lived long enough and met enough people to know that it’s not easy to find someone with so many common grounds. I’m really happy to have met them and quite certain our paths will cross again in the future.
A big thanks to everyone at Sark for such an amazing time!