On the happy side, we are back home in Rotorua. But only just. A 4am rising in the UK for the taxi ride to Heathrow and a 10.15am flight. We nearly never made the flight!
When checking in for our Vancouver destination, the clerk seemed to be taking an inordinate time to present our boarding passes. This issue was, my ETA (electronic visa) for Canada, was missing a number. “Sorry, you can’t board”, she said. Can’t board, you have to be joking!! “I suggest you re-apply online and I’ll help you”., she said. This is all with two hours before boarding was due to commence. With so much at stake, It was time to draw a deep breath and contemplate options. After making the online application, I felt there was little chance of receiving a new ETA in time for boarding. We tried not to think of the consequences. Having to rebook the entire return journey, was one. With 30min till gate close, Jen went back to the check-in counter, to find the original helpful clerk had gone, her replacement couldn’t be less interested.
Jen suggested talking with the Air Canada ticket clerk, nearby. At first, the Filipino agent was skeptical that she could help but said she would give it a go. She got straight onto someone in Canada at Immigration and with 5 minutes till Gate Close, gave us the thumbs up!! It transpires that either I, or someone in Immigration had omitted the first number of my passport, in the ETA process. She was a Star and if I could have reached through the perspex screen, I would have hugged her. We were hurried through the check-in process and sat down on board, as the cabin doors were shut.
Youngest daughter Sarah, met us at YVR for the hour and a bit drive to Whistler. To recap, Sarah moved to Whistler in the 1990’s for skiing. Met a Canadian and settled down. Tim, her husband and two children Charley 11 and Jaxon 9 were excited to see us again. We were last together in Guatemala two and a half years ago.
For the next 6 days Sarah had us hiking and exploring the magnificent environment they live in. A 5 hour hike to the three lakes Joffre was challenging but we loved it. The lakes are at different elevations and fed by a glacier at the top of the mountain. The kids had great fun attracting the ‘Whisky Jacks’, birds that don’t fear humans, when crushed almonds are on the menu. Charley is the bird officianado and kept us informed of the different species encountered.
It was a stunning day and while a challenging climb, the trails were busy with hikers of all age and ethnicity.
In 1956 there was a train crash just south of Whistler. A freight train fully loaded with logs was trying to make up time and travelling way too fast for the track and weight. It jumped the lines and completely blocked the vital BC link with the rest of Canada. In order to unblock the wreckage, in a very steep and narrow mountain pass, the wagons were dragged into the forest and left. The seven wagons remain and have been covered in artistic graffiti over the years. Sarah took us to see them. The sign at the entrance of the track saying there is a bear nearby, was a little disconcerting.
Sarah obtained tickets for us to ride the gondola system in the mountains. Not operating for skiers in the summer but sightseers and trampers. Here’s a photo from the world longest gondola ride, the Peak to Peak, between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
All too soon it was time to catch another flight. Friends Bill & Joan, whom we met about 10 years ago on one of my NZ tours, drove up to Whistler to pick us up and drive us to Vancouver airport. Not before enjoying a great meal in a Grenville Island restaurant and a catch up chat, which could have gone on much longer.
Now the sad news.
In our last blog, Jen mentioned that our travel companion Adam’s twin brother had been hospitalised in South Africa. Two days after our return to the UK, Adam flew down to be with his brother. Tragically Mark passed away. We were so looking forward to meeting with Mark once we arrived in South Africa. Our sincerest condolences go to Adam and his family.
Back home and it didn’t take Jen long to immerse herself in a weed filled garden. Temperatures are on the cooler side. Following recent near 40deg in the UK, it’s a shock to the system.
After reading Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt, I enjoyed her writing so much that I am reading her Between River & Sea. A travel story of her experiences travelling in both Israel & Palestine. A sobering read.