Friday, 30 July 2010

And then...

Seaplane Ride

Yesterday we were up at an easy time to be down at the dock at 0930 for our Whale Watching boat ride. We signed our forms, saying if we died it was our own damn fault, and were fitted with what are NOT wet suits, not the suits you wear for white water, but a red, cushy jumpsuit, with zippers and Velcro – a kind of bumper suit with a hood and tie down. Once everyone was zippered in – now you know of course mine was tied about my waist until we got out of harbour and hit some real water and a breeze – the very informative and chatty young woman (who when queried, said yes the tourists count had been down in June (it was cold and rainy, and they DIDN’T call me!?) but now in July it was picked up to normal and August was booked well – so the economy does not seem to be hitting them hard which is good to hear.

I would have assumed that mostly they get Americans up here, but the day before when I went walkabout I heard German, Dutch, Israeli, French, Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese, and English (the original :-). She confirmed that observation and said they really get a lot of Germans and Dutch. I told her it has been my observation in my travels that EVERYONE gets a lot of Germans, but I was surprised about the Dutch – they don’t get enough water at home? I think the common denominator is that Canada is so stunningly beautiful, and the people are so lovely. I will say overall as a tourist’s destination, the residents here are more kindly disposed toward the tourists than many places I have visited.

The whale-watching ride was brilliant in as far as the “boat ride” part of it! Wheel! The boat is an overgrown dinghy that seats 14 – 16, and hits the water hard once they crank up those two HUGE motors on the back. I have many times explained to the husband that the reason I don’t listen to those safety lectures when flying over water is that if you hit the water after falling from 35, 000 feet, the water is like concrete, and you are not walking away from that so you may as well listen to your IPod. Yesterday he acknowledge the truth of it after the front of the boat (and you KNOW that’s where I jumped in, and he followed, the sweet man) slammed down on the water, bounced us up out of the seat, and slammed us hard back into the seat, our teeth became one with the jaw, and our backs said, “What ARE you doing?”

We first spotted some Harbour Seals who apparently to survive the verrrrryyy chilly water here, spend a lot of time on the rocks. One of the babies showed off his swimming skills for us and we remarked on the very effective camouflage of their fur.

Next we came upon a young Grey Whale, most likely a teenager, (groan) like I don’t have enough teenagers on this trip. He was feeding in quite close to the shore in about twenty or thirty feet of water, diving deep to feed, then surfacing with a spray, and rolling through the water like a huge spotted serpent as he made for the bottom again.

British Columbia has over 300 species of breeding birds – more than any province in Canada. Seabirds constitute only three percent of the world’s bird species, although two thirds of the planet is covered by water. They are more numerous in polar than in tropical waters, and much more diverse in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. Typically they feed either on small fishes or on small organisms called zooplankton, and lay eggs that have been an important source of food for coastal people around the world for thousands of years.

Heading further out we came upon seagulls, cormorants, puffin (unusual according to our driver), and some chap who had feathers on his upper bill to aid in hunting and is called a rhino- (didn’t catch the last part) in a great flock in what I can only assume is a great place for lunch. Noisy, they were very noisy.

Some more fast travel punctuated by jaw breaking bounces, brought us in sight of a Minke whale, who the driver says is a favourite prey of the Japanese hunters. He showed us one breach and left.

We passed behind a huge shipping tanker, the China Seas, and found out just how high we could bounce crossing his wake! It was too much fun, like a water roller coaster.

Now to backtrack just a bit to morning where the adorable husband, recovered but for a sore throat and a voice that sounded like Darth Vader, drank two full liters of water rather than eat as he was afraid he might have another “incident” in the boat if he had any food in his stomach. Just about the time we exited the harbour the water made its way through his system and he “needed to go to the toilet”, by the time we had gone full out, he was “in pain”, as we pulled into the inlet where we saw the Blue Heron, he was moaning every time we hit a swell. The ride back was excruciating for him and he gingerly made his way out of the boat only saying, “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me, it doesn’t help.” He walked from the boat, up the hill (!) to the office where the toilet was located, like a man on his last legs making his way to his final resting place. He swears ten people got off the next boat that was prepared to go out when they saw him heading to the toilet, deciding that if that was the result of the ride, it was simply too frightening.

Once the adorable husband made his way from the toilet and out of the jumpsuit, we walked back to the hotel for our bags. We headed back toward the harbour, stopping at the Shoppe for ice crème for S., an assortment of foods for Magnus and the adorable husband, and a luscious latte’ with Red Bull on the side for me. We were entertained by a creative chap on the corner playing the fiddle dressed in full Darth Vader attire and posing for photographs by passing tourists.

Thus fortified we made our way to the Seaplane Terminal, only to find the flight was on hold due to fog. Fog? In Victoria one would assume they would have fog quite often and would therefore be set up with instrumentation to fly through it, but apparently not. Not to fear as all went well. We were taken on a very comfortable forty-minute shuttle ride to Pat’s Bay to take a seaplane out of there. The ride over was grand with the water spread out underneath us, and watching the boats – lots of boats.

The ride included a complementary shuttle ride to the hotel where we re-registered and I collapsed on the VERY COMFORTABLE bed after unpacking and settling us in for another stay.

The adorable husband took the children out for a requested Japanese meal while I stayed in with room service, which was up to the best standards of the Fairmont.

Today we are off to Stanley Park to walk the five-mile sea walk around the park, and see what we can see.


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