Harder to enter Canada than I thought
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLOMBIA – If memory serves, this is the first time I’ve ever communicated with you from British Columbia. You’ll recall that I once came to you from Halifax. Remember the thick Haligonian accent I acquired?
Kay and I toured Halifax during our cruise to Nova Scotia. Today, we toured Victoria because it is the next to the last stop on our Alaskan Cruise. I gave no heads-up on our cruise plans, because I feared some of you would want to come over and mow my lawn while we were gone. Maybe wax the floors. You readers are the glaze on my donut.
Our cruise actually started in Vancouver. We had a direct flight from Bush. I thought sure we would have a stopover in Atlanta, but we flew straight to Canada. Seating arrangements on a commercial flight are every bit as comfortable as sharing a lawn chair with a stranger.
Those of you who have been concerned about weak border security between Canada and the U.S. can stop worrying. We had to wait four hours in 11 monstrously long lines while trying to go through the security at the airport and the port terminal. That was 11 times that we had to show our passports.
|Scott: the PhD who wheeled us through Victoria|
But forget that. We’re on the boat, just back from a bicycle tour of Victoria, a beautifully flowered city on Vancouver Island. I believe Victoria was named after Queen Ester of Britain. No, that doesn’t sound right. I lose my ability to listen while on any tour that lasts more than 90 minutes. This 90-minute tour took four hours.
I thought we’d signed up for a bus tour, but the kiosk salesman confused me. After buying the tickets, we were directed to a line of bicycles, each of which was attached to a two-seated carriage. I hated that, because I don’t enjoy having anyone pull, push or carry me any distance. I just hate to be a bother.
Our bicycle guide wore a weird-looking floppy straw hat. I thought it uncharacteristic of a guy with a PhD in religious history. (I asked him about his background because I need to know something about the person who’s peddling my carriage. It’s just the way I’m wired.) The peddler (Scott) was so kind and so intelligent that I felt especially uneasy having him go to so much trouble to get us across town. If anyone should be peddling the bike, it was me. Or I. It was one of us.
Victoria is splendid; the people swell; and Scott way too informative. I went into shutdown mode during a discussion on the history behind one of the hundreds of Chinese restaurants. Kay, on the other hand, “hung in there like grim death, and I loved her for it.” (A quote from an old Robby Benson movie.)
Right before the stop in Victoria, we anchored in Skagway, Alaska. Yes, Skagway, named after the wife of one of their mayors. At least I think that’s what I heard from the tour guide who drove us in a short bus to the mountains north of town. The ride took over two hours, so, again, I was unconscious during much of the return trip.
The mountain views were magnificent and there was plenty of ice to see. Just not as much as usual, according to our guide. We saw two bears, an eagle and two mountain goats. Spotting a mountain goat standing on the side of a mountain that has scattered ice patches all over it, is like trying to find lettuce on a chilidog. I saw two goats and four patches of ice that the guide mistook for goats. Nevertheless, we had a great time.
Before Skagway we visited the port of Juneau where we searched for whales. On the bus ride to the tour boat we saw the State Capitol and the little white structure that some Alaskans call “Russia.” It’s what they surmise Sarah Palin was referring to when she said she could see Russia from her house.
While on our four-hour whale watching tour, we did get to see some humpbacks. They were so named for the odd shape of their heads. I noted this bit of information immediately after the three-hour part of the boat ride. I believe the captain was referring to the humpback when he mentioned the flat head, but it just as well could’ve been referring to a rock formation.
We did get to see a bunch of humpback whale tails. Humpbacks always show their tails when taking a dive. Boxers generally show their feet. The greatest scene was that of three whales doing the breach thing. You know, where half their body comes out of the water and they turn and make a big splash? I don’t know where they learned that, but it’s a most impressive maneuver. And, yes, instead three whales, it could’ve been one whale breaching three times. I have trouble distinguishing between humpbacks. I may have mentioned that before.
The two giant breaches were well worth the arm-and-a-leg cost of the tour. Kay enjoyed the experience even more than I did, because she has a call-of-the-sea. I have a call-of-the-buffet. And it is the buffet and our many adventures aboard ship that I hope to discuss -- next time. Till then, stay dry, my friend.