Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Notes from the Far side of the world

Well I am back in town, actually I've been back in town for a while now but haven't had the oomph to do any updates on my blog for a while; i'll call it jet lag, you can call it laziness...... 

The trip to Vancouver and beyond was for business but with a tad of pleasure thrown in, got off to an excellent start, the plane I was flying on was almost empty, if there were 50 of us on board it was a lot, so basically we all had full 4 seat rows to ourselves to be able to lie down fully stretched out and comfortable - who needs first class, well maybe for the great food and for the flights when there are two billion people all with screaming puking babies on board, and having said all that the stewardesses were fantastic, we didn't want for anything during the entire flight from Johannesburg to London.
And lo and behold not a single screaming puking baby on board.... it was heaven in the air. 

4 seats for me

When we landed at Heathrow it was snowed in at 2C and grey I had slept across 4 seats so woke up absolutely refreshed. 
The Pilots however let the plane land itself, conditions not good for a person landing, now let me say this, the landing was the best I have ever experienced - why don't they do it all the time?

London layover

Interesting side story - on leaving Johannesburg I was busy doing some duty free purchases as one is want to do in such a circumstance, I bought a bottle of perfume for Pam (100ml - this amount is significant to the story) and then went on to get some bottles of wine for colleagues, stepped up to the pay-point and get asked a leading question - "Where am I flying to?" now I had also answered this question at the previous pay point when purchasing the perfume and received no comment save to wish me a pleasant journey, Sooo I tell them I am going through Heathrow and onto Vancouver, no can do says the cashier; " you cannot take any more than 100ml of liquid through Heathrow", so grumbling and muttering I went off to the boarding gate to wait for my flight

Now back to London.....Brilliant discovery passengers are not allowed to bring ANY liquids through UK when transiting to another flight and I had a 100ml bottle of perfume that I had bought for Pam in Johannesburg, and I will say as soon as they saw my South African passport they became incredibly cautious like I was going to blow the place up, supervisors were called in to deal with me. 
Thank heavens I had a full visa and not just a transit visa as I had to leave the airport and come back in through departures and check in a carry on bag with the perfume in it, at which point I was told it would cost me GBP45.00 I sort of lost it, and after a bit of blubbering and gnashing of teeth they waived the costs - South Africans have become real pariah's having to now have visa's to go to the UK and even just to transit through the airport.

And onwards to Vancouver

Flight to Vancouver fantastic, nothing like last one - only had two seats to myself, but they certainly one kept us fed and watered whole flight.
On Arriving in Vancouver I caught the sky train to the centre of town then walked about 4 blocks to get to hotel , this all at 10:30 at night..... walking through a city loaded with luggage at 10:30 at night - very interesting experience for a South African. 

Flight path - London to Vancouver
Now as I said the trip was business and I wont go into all the boring details of the work work work; But the people I was working with entertained me after hours absolutely fantastically and it wasn't just the eating out bit.... 
I went skiing for the first time in my 52 year old life; let me start off by saying I didn't hate it I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of hurtling off uncontrolled down a slope and then crashing my sorry ass off - snow is hard, real hard, and you go fast, and as with a previous skating experience I was 1000% useless and that spoiled the skiing experience a tad and I had to stop.
I was a bit disappointed in myself as one of the other guys who had also never skied was handling it brilliantly after about 10 mins of learning. 
While attempting to ski, I found that I had to involuntarily lie down an rest .... A LOT.....then I would struggle to my feet and a couple of seconds later I would have to lie down again, I also found that when I took off uncontrollably promptly lying down to rest again proved to be a very good way of stopping and preventing a nasty accident.....

Exhaustion and frustration eventually got the better of me so I surrendered my ski's to my colleague and with ski's under his arm he sailed away down the slope leaving me to a very long ignominiously slow walk down the slope back to the lodge before I either killed myself or killed my instructor, so I walked.... and walked ...... and..... well you get the picture,   I probably will never try it again and just put another tick in my bucket list.
Inuit Statue on Cypress Mountain
Cypress Ski Lodge
Off to the slopes
Just before I had to lie down and rest
During lunch times I got to stroll around town a bit, Vancouver is a simply stunning city, it is clean safe and everything works, I took a couple of trips down to Granville Island (fantastic permanent market) and also across the bay to Lonsdale key to do some more shopping.

Inside Granville Market
Aquabus that I took back to Yaletown

Burrard Inlet
Entrance to Granville Island market

I then flew down to Denver to work at our office there, again I wont go into the boring details of work, but we did go up into the Rockies to a town called Evergreen, here we walked around on a frozen lake, watched fishermen fishing through the 

ice, and as a grande finale we took in a Monster Truck Show....... I have one thing to say about the whole experience OHMYGAWD!!!!!!
Large Ice Sculpture on a frozen Lake
Ice Fishing... aren't we just having fun
One Moose... Two Meece.....
Monster truck
"I believe I can fly..........."
I can run faster than you.......

Back to Vancouver

Back in Vancouver we took in an Ice Hockey Game.... these people really know and I mean REALLY KNOW how to enjoy themselves, I am still not sure if I took in as much as I would have liked as by now I was in the depths of a monstrous dose of flu, one of those flu's you are worried you are going to die.... then you are worried you aren't going to die.... horrible beyond words and I still had to work on regardless.

Ice Hockey

Each day I ploughed through waist deep snow, the wind howling round my ears, sleet driving into my bloodshot eyes as I struggled bravely onwards for the office, sometimes reduced to crawling as the energy sapped from my flagging body, the sled dogs howling as they also struggled through the blizzard..... NAH thats just the cough syrup talking..... strong stuff.... each day was nice and crisp with a great walk down to a rather nice little breakfast spot with Mike from the Vancouver office and then onto the office for work - my office had the greatest view as well.

Breakfast spot

Office view

Down to Seattle

I then grabbed a couple of days to pop down to Seattle to visit an old school friend that I hadn't seen in 30 years, since I hiked across Europe from Israel and visited with him in the UK.
It was really great to see Ian again and meet his wife Bunny, they treated me fantastically and took me around a number of sites that could be done in the shortest possible time I had available, I also got to drive around with Ian in an all electric car, the Nissan Leaf, a really unique experience.

Underground Tour of Seattle

Space needle

Ian and Bunny's House

Ian & Bunny

Old Gas Works

Pike Market

And round the world I go....

Then it was back to Vancouver and onwards on a flight to Hong Kong, while it was incredibly long, this completed yet another bucket list tick - to do a round the world flight - Total trip distance 42000km - not too worse.......

Flight home

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