I’ve been everywhere, man!

26 03 2008

What a view on my flight to Hong Kong – and I wasn’t even in a window seat!

Instead of going over the Pacific, the flight followed the west coasts of Canada and Alaska, then Siberia and China. Even though many had their window shades down, thus missing the most spectacular views of glaciers, mountains, snow, rivers, etc., I was able to see much of the Alaskan coast and a little of Siberia. The lady sitting next to me kept the window open for quite some time until the stewards asked her to close it for ‘the comfort of the other passengers’. That was such a shame as this is an AMAZING part of the earth and seeing it from 11kms up is an amazing experience.

I took LOTS of photos!

Alaskan coast

Alaska coast

Trains, and boats, and planes

26 03 2008

… but without the trains!

I was up at 5:30am and said my goodbyes to Jill and Brian just after 6:00am. I was on my way again, this time to catch the 7:45am ferry back to Vancouver from Duke Point (south of Nanaimo). I had a reservation so had to arrive between 6:45 and 7:15. I got to the terminal at 7:00am, which was a tad longer than expected as the drive was a little hairy.

It was dark and raining when I left and the windscreen was partly iced. The roads were wet and there were warning signs for deer, icy bridges, and aquaplaning. It was very cold (about 1 to 2C) and my biggest concern was ice on the roads—especially black ice! So I took it slow and arrived at the ferry terminal safe and sound.

It’s now 7:15am and the sky is getting lighter. I’m at the head of my queue for the ferry  (Queen of Alberni) which hasn’t arrived from Vancouver yet, but I expect it’ll get here soon. The trip takes 2 hours.

After I arrive, it’s off to Vancouver Airport (refuelling on the way) to return the rental car and then to check in for my Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong, which is due to leave around 3:30pm. I lose Wednesday night (tonight) and much of Thursday, arriving in Hong Kong around 9pm Thursday night.

Update 1: The ferry left on time and my car was the first in one of the lines, so it’ll be one of the first off. Guess that reservation was worth it! Actually, it was the peace of mind that was worth the $15 booking fee (which is deducted from your fare—I didn’t know that, so it was a pleasant surprise!). Without knowing anything about the schedules, the capacity, and the usage, I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a ferry vetween Vancouver Island and the mainland when my flight took off.

Update 2: I’m now in the Cathay Pacific lounge. I got fuel, but only just. There was not a single gas station from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to the airport, except one on the other side of the busy highway. I thought I’d have to pay Hertz’s exhorbitant fuel charge, but luckily there’s a gas station on the airport land just before the parking area and the rental car return place. Its price was higher than outside ($1.217 per litre compared to $1.179 on the Island), but it was cheaper than the $3 per litre Hertz were charging!

Vancouver Airport, like SeaTac, is undergoing some major construction to put in a rail line. So it was quite a long haul from the rental car return to the International Terminal—at least, when you followed their detour signs. I think if I’d ignored those and gone straight across the road to the domestic terminal, I’d have been able to walk through to international anyway. And the signage in the terminal! Don’t get me started!! You walk in to the International Terminal and there are NO signs as to what to do next or where to go. A red cap guy told me I had to go up a level to Departures. When I got there, there are no clear signs to tell you where to go if you AREN’T travelling to the US. I eventually found the correct place, but only after asking someone else who worked there. After that it was all very painless.

So now I have another 3 hours before the flight is called. Next post will probably be from Hong Kong unless something grabs my attention that I feel like writing about!

Islands in the Stream

26 03 2008

Well, my three days/four nights on Vancouver Island are at a close. I had a totally relaxing time with our friends, Jill and Brian. But, by God, it was COLD!

The usual daytime temperature for this time of year is around 12C, but the days I was there the maximum ranged from 4 to 8C and no higher. We went walking quite a bit (they have a big dog), and the wind just cut through whatever you were wearing.  For our long walk yesterday, I had on my new polar fleece vest, my polar fleece jacket, borrowed wool gloves, and my wool footy scarf. I was still cold…

Thanks Jill and Brian, as always, for your wonderful friendship and hospitality.

With them windshield wipers slappin’

26 03 2008

The Chevy Malibu I rented had the windscreen washer nozzles cleverly concealed on the actual wipers. This feature is probably on other vehicles, but it was the first time I’d seen it. Very clever and sensible—the water goes on the windscreen, not all over the roof if the sprayers have been shifted when you last washed the car!

Doing the eagle rock

26 03 2008

One of the delights with staying with Jill and Brian (other than their company, of course!) is their location in a most beautiful part of the world. Add to that the trees in front of their house that are home to a pair of Bald Eagles, and you really can’t get much better than that.

I’ve heard the eagles a few times this trip—and they always surprise me by having such a tweetering sound, not a booming and majestic noise as you’d expect from such a magnificent bird. But this time—unlike previous visits—there are no babies.

Jill and Brian said that they haven’t had babies for a couple of years now, though they still mate and build a nest. Sad. This pair of eagles can no longer reproduce, and seeing as how few Bald Eagles there are in the wild in the world, it’s a real loss. But I guess I can take comfort that this pair has been together for at least 15 years, and both are still alive and well.

However, I do miss the early morning sounds of the babies in the nest, way up in the top of the tree just outside the guest bedroom.