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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

This video brings home the fact that here in Vancouver we have a tremendous amount of rain. So excuse us when we wax lyrical when we get the odd dose of sunshine…….

There was much excitement today when 2 massive cruise ships sailed and docked on our north shore. We are used to watching them disembark with all the usual hooting and fanfare across the bay. This was different as it was right on our doorstep!

A local company were refitting this 27 000 ton, 680 passenger liner in 16 days. Each cabin was to be gutted and remodeled as well as the hull stripped and repainted along with updates to the propulsion system and rudder. As you can imagine this is a tall order and it would require a large workforce to complete this scale of job. It proved to be no problem to the organisers. I can imagine there was some bright young spark on that team……the second boat was drawn alongside that could accommodate the 2000 strong band of workers. How ingenious is that? Imagine falling out of bed…. a quick brush of the teeth and then a walk across the gangplank to the office. Once the day was done you could meet on the deck for a quick sun downer with a view across the Bay. Not too shabby for a day in the working life of the crew!

A surprise on our North Shore…

I had to smile as the company doing the refitting apologised for the noise that the locals would have to endure during the fitting out of the boat. How amazingly polite we are as Canadians and conscious of our environment.

I took this all in on my walk down to the quay last night. As the sun was setting a resident tugboat pulled in right next to me. A ship’s pilot shot me a greeting over his shoulder and then jumped aboard. He was obviously going out to one of the tankers to bring them into the port.

There is so much to see if we just take the time to stand and stare.

A tugboat greeting along the pier….

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing –half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame

Wind in the Willows

 

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Go for it!

Good one!

The words ring in my head as I spectate on the side of yet another match. There is a stash of supplies close by of protein rich sustenance and plenty of liquid to quench even the most insatiable thirst. It has been almost 25 years of running up and down the side lines. There were times when excitement pushed me to the limits and I took being the family ‘cheerleader’ to the next level! Many a red face gave me ‘the look’ while mom did her thing oblivious to any observers.

Oh I think I have found myself a cheerleader….

Ever since I joined the ranks of being ‘a senior’ and have hung up my proverbial ‘teacher boots,’ I have questioned my function not only in my family but in society. It is a humbling experience to go from this active role to one of finding purpose in your day. Yes, I know there is lots to be grateful for and I am. I also know how fortunate I am to be able to stay at home. I have revelled in this time and the many new exploits and endeavours have filled my days. But fortune has changed that lately as our main bread winner was given the handshake.   Initially there is the shock and the insecurity that floods one’s thoughts. Then the reality check and the deliberation of “what to do next.”

A spot of camping maybe.....

A spot of camping maybe…..

The prospect of moving countries again was entertained but quickly dismissed as we decided as a family that Canada is definitely to be our home. This was no idle thought as some promising openings came up and it had to be considered. So what were we to do in the meantime? We could go into overdrive and take the first job that came along or…..take some time off and get to know what that little voice sounds like again. The latter seemed to be much more attractive as extensive global travel and long hours had robbed us of our head of the household for far too long.

Our tentotik, a Canadian version of 'glamping.'

Our tentotik, a Canadian version of ‘glamping.’

Deep in a drawer was a folder. I had been collecting articles of all the local places that I would like to visit. It had been gathering dust as we could not find a gap in this busy schedule. As I was the one who would have to organise such outings, I had the advantage of choosing the first break away activity. I knew exactly which one it would be and pulled out the article on tentotiks. These are tent like structures that have been erected by the Canadian Parks Board in rural areas to encourage the intrepid camper. I love camping as it conjures up so many happy memories of lazy holidays along the coast of South Africa. Therefore there were no illusions as to the thought and effort that would go into making a trip like this happen.  So ‘glamping’ in style was an easier option. This meant that our heavy, thick canvas lion-proof tent could be left at home. Food, bedding and fishing paraphernalia was all that was needed. What a win!

The road less traveled...

The road less traveled…

In the last 2 months we have explored the ‘road less traveled.’ It has been a time to reflect and to consider what we feel is important to us as a family. One thing I know, there is still an active part for me to play here at home. I have been reminded never to underestimate the importance of this role. It might be unseen and sometimes feel trivial, but vital nevertheless.

All I need now is a colourful tutu and the largest pair of pompoms I can find!

 

 

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You can call me queen bee…..

The bright face turned around in the queue at Starbucks. She smiled when she heard us discuss the prospect of our ‘grab and go’ breakfast. Changing her stance discreetly, she continued to examine our faces. I wondered what could possibly be of interest to her so early in the morning. I felt like I had egg on my face! Most of us were just trying to hold ourselves together before that first cup of coffee! The morning face had been slapped together haphazardly and all other faffing had been done in record time. We had a plane to catch and we still had to make it through the Seattle commuter traffic.

That familiar coffee aroma wafted through past us. Mmmm….. I could not wait to take my first sip of the delicious bean beverage. The intrigued onlooker darted another glance our way. Was it our South African accents? Did I have some remnant of our cuddles with the twins stuck to the front of my raincoat? I thought back to those two sleepy faces and their precious sweet baby smell. We were going to miss them but would keep a close watch through skype and rejoice in all their milestones.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

The queue shortened and we placed our orders. In no time the frothy steaming cups were passed across the counter.

Two grande latté

At last, I made my way across to the service table to grab the cinnamon. In my mind this was the piece de resistance. Three shakes would suffice and I automatically continued my routine as if in my own kitchen.

How y’all doing?

I glanced up and there stood the friendly face of our gawker. Did I really need this now? All I wanted to do was to knock back my first cup and to be left to wake up properly.

The melodious southern twang continued to tumble out. The questions ensued and we gave answers between the first sips of our coffee. It turned out that she had been to South Africa and was drawn to us as it brought back so many happy memories. Her eyes sparkled as she recounted her trip up to Kenya too. Then she stopped, almost in mid-sentence and looked us in the eye.

Y’all look like Ken and Barbie!

There was much laughter. Those who were old enough to recall my favourite toy joined in. Maybe we could pass for Ken and Barbie’s grandparents!

What a delight our stranger was. She brought amusement and a feeling of rejuvenation.  On those mornings when we creak out of bed and dare to look in the mirror, I gently toss over my shoulder…..

“So how is my Ken doing this morning?”

Ken in his other role....

Ken in his other role….

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer....

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer….

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The water rustled as it rushed down past the nests and over red sandstone rocks. The sharp corners resisted the flow and the water bounced out as it tumbled into the clear dark pool below. The black eagle nests were perched right up close to the edge. The deceptive array of tumbled sticks was sure to have a soft lining of feathers for the family. It was the penthouse suite and ‘nogal’ a room with a view! The only urban nesting pair of these magnificent Black Eagles had chosen well and had the most breath taking view over the Magaliesberg Mountains. The mountains that I knew so well…..

Witpoortjie Falls, the domain of the black eagle.

Witpoortjie Falls, the domain of the black eagle.

Emoyeni (Upon the wind), the female was about 35 years old and had captured the heart of her toy boy, Thulane (The shy one). She had been taken in by this strong and silent type when her first husband had disappeared some years prior. She had pined for a respectable period and then resolutely went out and surveyed the local talent in the nearby Pilanesberg. His mysterious ways had won her over and they set up home next to the Witpoortjie Falls. What a vantage point over the valley with the added dimension of an ensuite bathroom too! Emoyeni and Thulane had raised many chicks out of the pile of sticks nest that perched on the edge of the rock face.  It stood as a testament to the brood that had once lived there. But their little angels had grown up and moved out. I gazed up at blue sky that framed this rocky outcrop. The parents were there, flying high up over their home. These ‘empty nesters’ appeared to be rejoicing in the warmth of the African sun.

A rare sighting.....

A rare sighting…..thanks to Judy Haechler for this photo.

 

I stood and stared as Thulane and Emoyeni swooped overhead with an acrobatic display of delight. What a sighting! I turned and watched them soar high above the Witpoortjie Falls. As they caught the thermals, I could feel my spirit soar alongside them.  They hovered carefree and motionless for a while, then down they plummeted across the rock face and up the other side. Those in the know maintain that this was their courtship dance.

It was both elegant and had the required romance. Emoyeni was in her sleek little black number accompanied by the dapper Thulane in his best bib and tucker! There is bound to be the flutter of tiny black wings at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens soon. Gone are the carefree days to be replaced by pyjama drill escapades into the nearby mountains to keep the hungry mouths fed. It is the circle of life……

There is a constant to watching nature and the creatures that inhabit our world.  I am always mindful of the things that remain in sequence when I return to South Africa for a visit. It gives comfort when one faces the obvious changes that have occurred while I have been away.

 

 

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

The two pairs of eyes were fixed on me as I danced back and forth clicking my fingers to the rhythm. I had fetched the twins just after 6 that morning as their parents were in dire need of some catch up sleep.
‘Ok kids, it is you and me for the next few hours!’

We turned up the volume and the sounds of “Old MacDonald had a Farm’ wafted through the air.
I bounced down the staircase to the basement guest room with Leo, the family dog, at my heels. My arms were bursting with all baby katunda that I could carry.  This included two soothers, two baby seats, and a healthy supply of nappies. I remembered that I had forgotten the toys and decided that whatever I could pull out of my case would have to suffice. My silver bracelets are always firm favourites and the shine usually did the trick.

Jack with his Nan.

Jack with his Nan.

I gazed across at them as they snuggled into the covers. Jack with his long gazes and his slow wide smile. Those deep blue eyes shone with wisdom. Heaven help us! I could just imagine some of the questions that would no doubt arise on my watch …..

‘Nan, where does the sky go to? ‘All the more reason to keep on my toes and to keep the head sharp.

Kate with the cute button switched on.

Kate with the cute button switched on.

Then there was Kate with her twinkly mischievous eyes and the smile that filled her little face. She had already mastered the cuteness button and was bound to use it masterfully. The game was on as they interacted with one another and Nan watched from the side.
The Seattle sun streamed in through the window and 2 little soporific heads nodded off.  But the reprieve was short lived and the relay of wet nappies and hungry tummies kept me on the hop.

The morning had raced by and it was time to get myself up and dressed. A warm shower was called for but i would have to think of a way of amusing the twins so that i could do just that.

Jack and Kate before the finale.

Jack and Kate before the finale.

So the finale began…..my fingers clicked again to the music. I must add that the said music was a collection of nursery rhymes that I had pulled up on YouTube. The little eyes followed me as I moved backwards and forwards. I turned on the water and adjusted the temperature and placed my towel where I could reach it. The 2 little bodies began to squirm in their seats. This was just not exciting enough and I was going to have to add some other dimension to ‘Jack and Jill climbed up the hill.’ I pulled off my sock and swirled it around and tossed it to the other side of the room. Peals of laughter ensued from the two bouncing seats. Then I pulled off another sock and added some clicking, singing and a few dance moves. The amusement continued and I managed to plunge myself under the water and wash. Every now and again I would stick my head out and throw something else into the air. A stray toothbrush and a comb went winging across the room. Some wobbly singing was added to the mix and a few intricate dance steps topped off the whole ritual. Then little chairs bobbed and looked over in anticipation. Yes, it was done. Nan was dressed and ready for the day.

But first I had to gather up the whole array of articles that I had flung around during my final act.
I think my second childhood has begun.

Can’t start a fire without a spark……..

 

 

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It is FREEZING here and my thermometer on our deck reads minus 20 degrees centigrade! The weatherman adds another dimension to this bone chilling report by explaining that with the wind chill factor, it should feel closer to minus 30! I have developed my own parameters for measuring how cold I am….one being that if my nose hairs start to freeze then I need to get my little behind inside!  I just cannot get my head around these temperatures. I do believe they exist but have developed certain coping mechanisms to make ‘it all go away.’ It is a case of adapt or die…..

ATT00021

Canadians dream up all sorts of activities to hurry this brutal winter along. One such activity is the Polo Bear Dip……

Crazy Polar Bear Dippers on New Year's Day.

Crazy Polar Bear Dippers on New Year’s Day.

It was New Year’s Day and the sun shone out over Ontario Lake.  Today was the big day that 700 dippers would plunge into the Ontario Lake. As I watched these frozen bodies descend down to the icy shore many questions filled my head.

What could have possibly possessed them to do this insane act? Was it the indulgences from the night before that gave them the courage? Did a group of friends set up the challenge? Where they just trying to test their endurance or bravery? Whatever the reason, it was for a good cause as the funds generated would help supply clean drinking water in developing countries. I hate to admit it publically but another question popped into my head….

Would I take the plunge next year!

 Many of the winter activities do test the endurance level like skiing and ice wall climbing. As you can imagine they all require an element of fitness and in my mind, bravery. For those of us that prefer something more sedate, you can try snow shoeing. Slip on a pair of ‘paddle like shoes’ and head for the hills. The layers of snow buffer the sound and the tranquility up in the forests is food for the soul.

As winter progresses the ice layer thickens on the rivers and harbours. This is when the ice fishermen appear.  They bore a hole through the ice and drop their fishing line into the icy waters. Once set up they erect a small tent over the area for protection. I can imagine that these fishermen have a huge reserve of patience and endurance! But believe it or not, there are still fish to be caught here in our Canadian waters. I think I would have migrated to warmer lands if I had been a fish!

Patience and a loyal dog....

Patience and a loyal dog….

So with the era of the polar vortex firmly in place we strive to get out there. We are constantly exploring new ways to outfox and to take pleasure in winter. Thank goodness for wood burning fires, glowing saunas, hot tubs and a glass of red wine!

 

I just want to see you be brave…..

IMAG0618

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The intrepid traveler gazes out into the grey morning over the tarmac at Heathrow….Terminal 2…the Queen’s Terminal. The first leg of the journey is over. Thank goodness! I survived a snoring old soul, a fractious baby and an over active gentleman in the seat in front of me. The writing was on the wall when I sat down in my seat. I was just getting settled….book positioned glasses near at hand and earphones in my pocket. Suddenly the chair in front of me surged back into my face. The plane had not even moved onto the runway and he was in relaxation mode! I debated whether to say something to this over zealous passenger as I envisaged eating my dinner lying on my back. There was another concern….. I shuddered at the thought of his rather oiled hairdo slipping into my delectable airline food. Thank goodness that I had recently acquired the status of ’advanced years’ and it had magically transformed me into a patient and tolerant  human being. I decided to wait and contemplated the result of such an intervention. Would revenge set in from the vantage  position of the front seat as a result of me meddling? Instead I would pull out my much practiced teacher’s voice.

“Young man, would you be so kind as to raise your seat?’

My squashed legs ached and I would far rather have just taken a swing at him with my handbag but I am sure that the civil aviation rules would just not allow that sort of  behaviour.  Pity! As this course of action would have gone a long way at assuaging my pent up frustration. All that was behind me now and thank goodness my ‘dark side’ did not get the better of me!

The bag lady......

The bag lady……


So here I was sitting back people watching for the next 10 hours.
There was the obvious ‘not so young’ honeymoon couple off to Portugal. They gazed into each other’s eyes and whispered to each other.

 A pair of over anxious parents were next with their clearly genius son…..the questions were enough to make any brain ache! But the wonder and curiosity in that little face was precious. Pity we cannot harness that energy. I am sure it could provide enough fuel for a plane to take off!


I must have been a soft target as I then got nailed to take part in a survey. You know the kind….. What do you like about this place? What would you improve? I tried to take it seriously as I realised I was representing a carefully chosen group which would affect their statistics.
There were many positives in this recently overhauled terminal 2. But I don’t think the surveyer expected the replies that she got from her carefully selected person.
“I like the chairs without arms as you can sleep across them when you have a long delay like mine. The extra length allows you to have a place for your makeshift cushion and there is space for my feet to curl up too.”
I would love to be able to have access to a shower. One for the ‘common man’ that does not cost £60! All my earlier research drew a blank and even the sweet talking of the gentleman at the rather elegant public lounge came to no avail.
So I will continue to ‘slum it’ and sit right at the back of the plane.

 It is all part of it……the pain with the pleasure. The intrepid traveler is getting to see the world.

Nothing quite like a coffee to wake one up....

Safely at my destination………

 

No matter where you are, no matter where you go in the world, you will need someone to stand by you.

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