Tank travels 2 blocks – witnesses birth

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Pew, pew, pew. Turtle/tortoise mama digs hole, drops babies.

Ah, the miracle of birth. Not what Tank expected to see today when she took her new camera and 45mm prime lens out for a spin. Was expecting the usual: used syringes and people sleeping rough.

I’ve lived two blocks from Sun Yat Sen Gardens and park for more than a decade. Run past it a bazillion times. Never been in. Not even to the park, which is free and lovely. Who knew? Not I, til now.

So, today I went in. Wow. Lots of great things to photograph. A turtle laying eggs, a Koi being coy and lots of greenery.

Very exciting. A great place to practice my photography.

Tank needs to travel more at home!

Fool fails to board airplane without ID

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“Hey dude, where’s my ID?”

So, here I am at YVR waiting to board an Air Canada flight. Heading to Edmonton. It’s 6:45 am.

Electronic boarding pass is on my phone and “government-issued photo ID” is tucked into a pocket in my purse.

Tank is nothing if not well-organized. Other travellers, not so much.

Can’t help but notice the ‘Dude’ seated behind. What I picture a 62-year-old former roadie for Uriah Heep to look like. 

As the flight begins to board, Dude realizes he has no picture ID. Gets his buddy on the smartphone and says, “hey, you forgot to give me back my ID last night.” 

WTF? 

Who lends their ID to someone, except when you’re an underage teen and your older sibling lends you his/her ID to get into the bar?

Next, Dude is at the counter in search of something ID-ish in his wallet. Found nothing. 

Next, he asks the nice Air Canada lady if he can get on the plane without photo ID. Nope to that.

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Being told he’s NOT getting on the plane without photo ID.

So, Dude never makes it on this flight. Dude is a dud. Methinks this could be a teachable moment for Dude. On second thought, maybe not. To his credit, he never raised his voice to anyone. Didn’t freak out on airline staff.

I’m always surprised people this incredibly stupid travel. I suppose I shouldn’t be.

Remember Andres & Black Tower?

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Remember when B.C. wine sucked? When you joked about how spectacularly awful it was? When you gagged on Baby Duck, but bought it anyway because you couldn’t afford champagne? When Black Tower and Schloss Laderheim were the go to ‘party’ wines?

Who’d have thunk B.C. wine would become so awesome? In my lifetime.

Just back from a few days in Osoyoos-Oliver. Mission to bring home a couple of cases of wine accomplished. Only my budget prevented a larger haul.

I’m no lush, really, but could drink wine from this region exclusively.

My faves wineries are: Desert Hills, Gehringer Brothers, Burrowing Owl and Tinhorn Creek. Mostly dry whites, but the odd Pinot Noir and Gamay.

Also, a good place to play with my new camera, an Olympus mirrorless micro 4/3, I bought for my Galapagos trip in December.

I now have a presence on 500px, where I’m posting some of my better pics, above and below ground. Might even try to sell a few.

Meantime, I’ve got good wine to sip. Planning a return trip to wine country, maybe later this summer.

 

Living on stilts – Mabul Village, Malaysia

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Playing, washing and snorkelling. Local children in Mabul Village.

Getting around to posting some of the pics from recent trips. Pics without tales of horrid travellers or other stories.

The images are from Mabul Island, in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. They depict local housing, tourist accommodations and new construction aimed at mostly Chinese travellers.

Travel by mainland Chinese is a HUGE moneymaker for places like Malaysia, Indonesia and Palau. So much, that tour companies and specialized services are being created with them in mind.

The big draw in this area is scuba diving in Sipadan, an island close by that offers some of the world’s best diving. Probably the best diving I’ve ever experienced.

Workers in the service/tourism sector here work long hours. Many live in housing supplied by the resort in which they work. Some never really know when they’ll get their next day off. If they’re on a regular schedule, they will work six days a week. I met a cabbie in Kota Kinabalu who slept in his car, and saw his wife and children only monthly for a couple of days. My wilderness resort guide lived on site and visited his family on a irregular basis. Incomes are low and workers depend on tips.

Those of us fortunate enough to travel should be grateful, respectful and generous.

@AirCanada challenge – 20 days, seven flights – kill me now?

 

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Mummified on Air Canada.

Let’s imagine Air Canada is a good airline.

Do your homework and you’ll discover Air Canada doesn’t suck as much as we think. Don’t believe me? Check out what it’s like to be a frequent flyer on United or American Airlines.

ACs counter service is usually good. I haven’t projectile vomited on the food since the late 1960s. (Or maybe that was BOAC). As a bonus, AC tends to not crash its planes and kill people. (Google ‘plane crashes in Russia’).

Still, it’s not perfect. Air Canada’s public affairs department is clueless and delusional. I frequently, as a CBC reporter, sought quotes for stories and they always failed me. When they did speak, it was crazy talk.

Conversely, the folks who staff the Air Canada Twitter feed are quick to respond and act on complaints. They, evidently, didn’t come from the public affairs department.

Here’s the challenge. Seven Air Canada flights in 20 days. Five with a checked bag. Economy seating. Epic failure or utopia?

Leg #1: Vancouver to Montreal: So, AC switched out the plane I originally booked on for a smaller one. Airbus 320 to the 319. Meant seats got changed. I still got a window seat. My brother got his aisle seat. Sat further away from each other than expected. I’m guessing this made him extremely happy.

Plane is packed, the overhead compartments filled to the brim, but there’s leg room. The barbarian in the row in front has reclined. This always pisses me off.

Flight attendant found a way to save me money on my food purchase, as long as I agreed to buy chocolate. Who could refuse that deal? Since brother is across the aisle, I don’t have to share. Score 10/10. Service excellent. Flight staff cheerful. Left the gate ten minutes early.

Leg #2 Montreal to Quebec City: Arrived at the airport I call Dorval. Which is what I’ve called this airport since I was a child growing up in Montreal. Which I’ll always call this airport. My brother says I have to call it Trudeau airport. This ridiculous practice of naming airports after politicians has got to stop. Because if we don’t we’re going to end up with Mulroney International Airport and Harper International.

Flight delayed for two hours, then cancelled. Then, put on the late flight. New boarding passes issued without hassle. Checked luggage made it. Score 7/10. (Marks lost for a surly customer service rep at Dorval who didn’t want to talk about the delayed/cancelled flight).

Leg #3 Montreal to Vancouver: Check-in fine. Boarding fine. Got space in the overhead bin. Barbarian in row ahead reclined. In-flight service fine. Luggage arrived. Nothing to moan about. Score 10/10.

27/30 – interim score.

Legs #4 & #5: Vancouver to Portland – Portland to Vancouver: Prop plane. Jam packed. ‘Skychecked’ my carry on, so no fighting or crying about overhead bin space. Nothing to bitch about. Score: 10/10 & 10/10.

47/50 – interim score.

Legs #6 & #7: Vancouver to Fort St John – Fort St John to Vancouver: Another packed flight, which I didn’t expect, since oil & gas is in the toilet. Small seats. Big people. Woman next to me and her buddy on the return flight mummified themselves by covering up their heads and faces with scarves, ball caps and a hoodie. I think they were from Alberta. Checked luggage arrived. ‘Plane-ing’ and ‘deplane-ing’ without a hitch. Score 10/10 & 10/10.

  • FINAL SCORE: 67/70. 

I feel like I’ve failed all the Air Canada haters out there.

Next flight: Edmonton on Canada Day. Let’s see how Air Canada performs on Canada’s national holiday.

 

Barbarians behind the wheel: driving in Montreal

Very close to where the jerk in the Mercedes nearly ran me over.

Very close to where the jerk in the Mercedes nearly ran me over.

So, if I wanted a vacation with dangerous lunatics, I would’ve gone to North Korea or where ever the Mexican drug cartel guys are shooting at each other this week.

I went to Montreal. Where dangerous lunatics lurk behind steering wheels. A phenomenon so pronounced, it merits a Tank’s Travels first. Awarding a Tank’s Travels barbarian behaviour award to a group of people.

This one goes to the drivers of Montreal. The worst of the worst of the worst. I’ve never witnessed such spectacular rudeness behind the wheel. Anywhere.

Where to begin. First of all, they won’t let you in. When Montreal drivers see you try to change lanes they will speed up so you can’t get in. This happened several times to me. Pulling out of a driveway or parking lot? They won’t let you in. There is no such thing as courtesy on the roads of Montreal.

Signalling to change lanes? Forget it. Not in their repertoire.

Roaring through intersections, then putting on their breaks and cutting you off? Routine stuff in Montreal.

There are no painted lines on most streets. So, these barbarians drive on the left or on the right or in the middle of the road. And, if they don’t like where you’ve positioned yourself (in an effort to avoid them) they’ll honk and shake their fist at you.

Then, there was the asshole in a Mercedes who didn’t look like he was going to slow down at the stop sign, when I was already in the intersection. I’d come to expect this high level of motorist douche-baggery by this point of my trip. It was day two.

Ugly stuff.

Folks like to joke about the horribleness of Montreal drivers. As if it’s a badge of honour. Dishonour more like. They’re dangerous – a curse on an otherwise nice city. Bad for tourism.

Oh and BTW. I was born in Montreal. I spent much of my childhood there. I’m not anti-Montreal. Just anti-Montreal drivers. What these drivers are signalling with their bad behaviour is this: we don’t care if we injure or kill you and your passengers – children included –  or whether we destroy your vehicle.

Lovely.

Are cave #divers thrill-seeking nutcases?

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This is me in a cave in Palau. That’s a fake smile. I’m hating every minute of this. This one had air pockets and breathable air. I still wanted out.

Thrill seekers, yes. Adventurers, yes. Nutcases? Um, who am I to say?!

I don’t get the appeal of cave diving. Scares the hell out of me. I imagine there will be an earthquake, the exit will be sealed shut by boulders and I won’t be able to get out. I’ll drown when my air runs out.

In an effort to try to understand the cave diving-loving mindset, I read with interest the BBC article this week about the Finnish cave divers in Norway who retrieved the bodies of their two friends.

I once dove with an obsessive cave diver. His wife dove caves too. They were parents of a toddler. They never dove together, at least not in caves. In case one died, the other would raise the child. And, one would hope, give up cave diving.

Wow. You gotta really love cave diving to make that agreement.

So, you know where you won’t find me. I am planning, however, to dive cenotes (caverns) near Playa Del Carmen in August. An overhead environment, in some spots, but a bit different from a dark cave with one way in and out. You can always see natural light in cenotes, usually to the upper left or right of you. Will probably give up cenote diving after this, since I’m not completely comfortable.

Cave diving is dangerous. Don’t get me started on the people who dive the Andrea Doria shipwreck and others on the east coast of the USA. Not that they aren’t well trained and experienced. Responsible divers get a lot of training before they enter overhead environments. They take precautions. They test and retest their gear. They cut dives short when they get twitchy. Still, when those ‘perfect storms’ occur, some of them die.

As weird as it sounds, I’m interested in the way divers kill themselves. So that I don’t repeat their mistakes. Here are a few of the more interesting stories.

  • Dave Shaw (A Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific pilot who died in a cave system in South Africa while trying to retrieve the body of a man who had died a decade earlier. Filmed his death.)
  • Chris and Chrissy Rouse (father and son who died wreck diving in the Atlantic. China fever.)
  • Doc Deep died in August 2015 attempting a world record. Not worth dying for IMHO. Not cave diving.

So, why did I pay to dive Chandelier Cave in Palau? When I knew cave diving made me anxious? Because it was a tourist attraction everyone told me couldn’t be missed. There was no requirement for cave diving certification, so I thought it would be okay. Mostly, because I’m an idiot.

Here are some more pics. Amazing to see and never to be repeated!