Monday, 30 November 2015

Here we go AGAIN (YVR to HKG)

I'm taking the bus to the airport again.  It's becoming routine. 

These pictures should indicate what Vancouver temperatures are like these days
NOT some kind of meat-eating plant.  This is frozen water !!!

I can't remember the last day that the cold or the rain have made me substantially uncomfortable. A cold draft along the waistline; knuckles complaining about imagined frostbite, etc etc.

Oh, hang on, there were these countries in Asia where I had a completely different problem, namely changing my shirt at least twice a day because I was sweating a lot.  The temptation proved too much.

The place I'm going to is served by 2 (TWO) airlines with direct flights departing within one hour of each other.  I booked a seat with the more expensive airline and NOT with Air Canada.

Why in the world would I do that?  Do I like wasting money?  NO. But as someone said in a rather famous play: There is method to the madness!

1)  The more expensive airline departs my destination city 4 hours after hotel check-out time compared to 7 hours for Air Canada.  3 hours less being stranded in Limbo with luggage.

2)  Since every sane person will book the cheaper flight and that cheaper flight is not fully booked yet, I have a good chance of flying in an empty plane. Once before, the Economy section of the Boeing 777 with a capacity of 300 was occupied by about 20 people and I am hoping for a similar miracle this time.   It was rather comical to see those few people wander the empty plane trying to decide on which 3 or 4-seater bench they should try to sleep.  You can imagine that this almost was the most relaxing flight ever and in my opinion the chance of a re-occurrence  is well worth spending a bit extra on ;-)

4 am view out of my window
When I am typing this wide awake at 3:10 am local time in Kong Kong, I have to admit that the plan backfired .  The plane was booked to the last seat. I didn't even get an emergency exit seat, which for some reason I have been lucky enough to get on more than 75% of all recent flights and which I have become used to.

On the bright side, I managed to not stuff myself every time I was bored at the airport or in the plane, and after 6 hours of sleep  in  Hong Kong my stomach has not acted up in the least.  

This encourages me sufficiently to book my flight to Vietnam.  Now WHAT madness is this?  A return flight costs $287 and a one-way flight costs $317 ????  I have no idea where I will be at the time of the return flight, but just in case I am in Hanoi, I'll get it for free ;-)  

HINT: always check several websites for the cheapest flight. It'll save you surprisingly large amounts of money !!!

At 4:30 am it's time to go for a walk towards the  harbour
In most cities I'd be uncomfortable entering a dark park at this hour
The worst thing that could  happen here is being hit by an elder person in the midst of waving their arms windmill-like as part of their morning Tai Chi exercise
Same moon as the  one you can see !
close to Victoria Harbour (waaay overexposed by 'helpful' camera automatic

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The BIG Five Oh and life on the downhill

The title of this blog should be an indication which Big Five Oh (50) I'm talking about.

I fully realized that I'm 'old' for the first time a couple of years ago when on one of those web-sites where you have to enter your birth date by selecting numbers from a drop-down list, I had to down-click TWICE to reach my birth year.

Despite initial fears voiced to very few people that I would turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, that didn't happen. So I used the opportunity of non-pumpkin-likeness to board a ferry and visit my friends Hans & Denise on the Sunshine Coast.  Here are a few pictures of my evening (afternoon actually) walk with Denise and Max the dog along the beach very close to Denise's place.
Blubber is our friend!  A seal in the frigid waters.

the view of Vancouver Island across the strait
Roberts Creek beach

seagull in evening ligbht

a creek I crossed balancing on a bouncy log

Max doesn't mind the cold water

The sun sets, temperatures plummet below the freezing point, and we hurry home to get out of the cold. It;s dinner time and Denise prepares a delicious curry with vegetables and meat.  YUMMY

The fabulous dinner is only surpassed by the presents I am given by Denise. Quilted place mats from native motive fabric.  LOVE IT!!  Thank you Denise !!!!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Living without loved ones (or How long is a year?)

November 17th, 2014.  I was on a ferry back from Horseshoe Bay, when I received the news that my spare mother had died.

When something amazing happens to me or if I'm deeply appalled at something, I still reach for my phone to call her and tell her about it.  At least for a split second.  Then that nasty realization comes back. She won't answer the phone.   

There is also a lesson to be learned from the above picture.

I've known my spare mom for 35 years.  Most of those years she was single and even a second marriage provided nothing but grief and a second divorce.

Then she discovered this LOVELY BIG FRUIT (pictured above) and they became best friends and his husband lent him out to my spare mom for cuddling sessions ;-)

The moral?

Happiness is waiting in places where you least suspect it !  
Your gut knows where.  
Don't wait ! 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

In Hualapai country (ticking another UNESCO World Heritage Site off my to-do list)

A bus picks me up at 7:39 at the hotel entrance. After driving to some other hotels we are transferred to a larger bus with a grumpy kill-joy bus driveress that drives us to Boulder City Airport. Boulder City originally was planned and built to house the workers that built Hoover Dam.
Boulder City airport

After checking in, being weighed (!), we get to board a modified Twin Otter De-Havilland about half an hour later.  

I have a window seat so the camera can see some action

a steep turn so the people on the other side can see Hoover Dam too

the sun reflecting in areas of fine-feathered waves

first hints of a canyon
The plane lands on Hualapai territory in Grand Canyon West.

The 4 people of my tour that booked a boat ride at the bottom of the canyon get directed to one helicopter, whereas I (no slow-boating here) get directed to a separate helicopter in which I am directed to sit next to the pilot.  Oh, did I mention that I have NEVER flown in a 'copter before?  When the thing slowly lifts and the pilot catapults it and me into a sharp bank the only thing escaping my lips is a ghostly "WOW!"

Not visible in these pictures:  Only a VERY small area delimited by white ropes is accessible to tourists and to take the above I had to step over one of those.

A shadowy figure kept in bounds by white rope!

Then it's time to sit next to a helicopter pilot again for the flight back up

When the helicopter has dropped me off (I am the only passenger again) I realize how well organized this outfit is.  An employee is waiting at the helicopter pad, knows my name and my schedule, and provides me with a scanable wristband that includes my lunch ticket and entrance ticket to the Skybridge.  A short bus ride takes me and other tourists to Eagle Point:

I'm in the no-pay zone but the PAY  Skybridge is in the top left corner
I pre-paid for the Skybridge (~$30) and in retrospect must say that it is NOT worth it.  Right outside the building I can walk right to the edge and jump if I want to. That takes the thrill out of the glass-bottom Skybridge.  Add to that the fact that cameras, cell phones, etc are not allowed on the glass floor and must be left in a locker.  Nominally to keep the glass safe from falling objects but I realize it also keeps their revenue safe when I spot company photographers snapping away at the guests and offering these pictures for sale at the exit.
NOT happy after the Sky bridge
Why is this place called Eagle Point?  Spot the spread wings (made of stone) in the following picture. 
After a couple of days it finally comes to me.  I have seen this view before.  As  a kid on a poster on my wall!  But then it was known as a painting by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.

Just one step ...

OK, I got the eebie-jeebies and CAREFULLY sat on my bum before taking this picture right at the abyss
I've seen enough of Eagle Point and walk over to the bus stop to be transported to the next destination: Guano Point.   Far from being a pile of bird shit, this proves to  be fun!
Always nice to be reminded that we're guests here
Eating time.  The  food is served  'prison-style' (Beef or chicken followed by a slop of the corresponding meat) by Hualapai and reminds me very much of the great food I've eaten at my Cree 'in-laws' at Thanksgiving.  Baked chicken, corn, mashed potatoes with gravy.  YUMMY!
What  surprises me is the large number of Chinese tourists here. Of the ~200 people milling around at least 50% are Asians.   This also explains the following: since when the Hualapai food servers are faced with Chinese tourists that can't understand the phrase "Beef or Chicken?" they quickly  say words that I can't decypher, but that make the Chinese nod their heads, receive chicken or beef, and reply Xie Xie.  The young Hualapai servers have learned Chinese !!!

On n the edge again

The landscape puts my shadow into perspective

The Colorado River below

Chinese mountaineers

The food place is at the other end of narrow Guano Point

Chinese ant hill

One last look and I board the bus that takes me back to the airport. I'm about 1/2 hour early so I use it to look at the jewelry, pottery, etc available in the Trading Post.  I hate to say it, but I'll keep buying my native jewelry on eBay; much better prices for comparable items to be had in auction land.

For the flight back we are not directed towards the twin engine Otter that brought us here, but towards a single engine Cessna

the eastern areas of Lake Mead again. Note the light water's edge regions indicating the missing water

at least he's not texting ;-(

Hoover dam is right behind that bridgge

An hour later I'm back at my hotel and can reflect on the day.  Today's excursion wasn't  cheap, but is one I will remember for a long time.  Again, I've seen and done things that I thought I'd never see/do and I believe I've broadened my mental horizon again, so money well spent!