Category Archives: plane

Call for Backup

 

When my sister was in Mexico she was fascinated by a scene that unfolded outside her all-inclusive hotel. She snapped these pictures of the baggage truck being loaded, presumably to distribute the bags to the individual residences and suites.

The hotel staff are doing their best to solve the giant puzzle of how to fit 150 suitcases into a space designed to hold half that number.

Juan must juggle the bags, holding those that threaten to slip until he can wedge the next one on top to pin it down. Supervisor Federico, on the left,  isn’t getting involved except perhaps to offer some tips.

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Manuel, in the brighter hard hat, reports to Federico, “The people are expecting their bags within one hour as promised. Should we call for backup? Another truck, perhaps?”

While Federico makes the call, Manuel tells Juan, “Don’t let go of that blue one. Now find a tall one to put in front of it. You shouldn’t have put that one in the middle like that. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me.”

Juan mutters some words that I’m not allowed to print here.

Manuel says, “Now listen! You get these bags loaded or you won’t have a job to come to tomorrow. There are still quite a few bags to load, and the baggage must be delivered within one hour, so do your job!

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Manuel turns to the supervisor who has just returned. “So are they sending another truck, Federico?”

Por supuesto! Of course! What do you think! We can’t fit all these bags into the one truck.”

Bueno. So when are they sending the truck? You know, the bags are expected–”

“In one hour. Sì, sì, sì! I know.”

“But the truck. What did they say? When?!”

Federico shrugs. “What do you think they said? ‘Mañana!’

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Wet ’nuff fer ya?

In 1977 we lived in the Queen Charlotte Islands and thought there was no place wetter in the world. Imagine our surprise when we saw a sign during our stay on Kauai that said, “Wettest Spot in the World.” Apparently Mt. Wai’ale’ale gets about 452 inches of rain a year and five years after our 1977 visit there, it would receive a record 683 inches.

The biggest difference in the rain in the Charlottes and the rain in Kauai is the temperature. Much warmer in this Hawaiian Island.

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Near Poipu Beach, our favourite beach on Kauai, we visited the blowhole called Spouting Horn. The water that sprays through this blowhole in the lava can reach as high as 50 feet. A person could stand and watch for hours.

img046On our last day in the Hawaiian Islands, we flew back to Oahu to wait for our flight  to Vancouver. We had all day to explore  Honolulu, so we went to the beach that had interested us the least, Waikiki. I like the quieter  beaches with fewer people. Waikiki was not high on my priority list of places to visit. What an impression it left with me – and not a particularly good one. At that time, Waikiki was notable for having the most cigarette butts I have ever seen in the sand.

img045The zoo was nearby so we wandered through it. I was amazed at the black tongues of the giraffes. How tough their tongues must be to curl around the tree leaves and rip them off.

Sightseeing on foot, we got tired and hungry. We found a hotel that was having a lot of Happy Hour goodies. All we had to do was pay for our drinks. The appetizer portions were generous and best of all, they were free. The idea was to interest us in a stay at this hotel, but since we were on our way home, we had to save that hotel information for our next visit.

They even put on a little performance where a group of Hawaiians danced and banged on the drum between the Tiki torches.

img124At last we had to go to the airport to check in. My husband snapped a quick photo of me near the airport. He was having some trouble getting me centered in the photo and asked me to back up a little. I did and immediately let out a shriek. Strung between those lovely hibiscus flowers was a spider web with a black and bright yellow spider in the center. Can you see the goosebumps on my arms?

img125In the airport, we checked in and then had time to kill before our flight. We wandered through the Duty Free shop and had another big surprise. There, newly arrived in Honolulu, stood our friends from home.

“What are you doing here?” we said. “You’re supposed to be in the Charlottes!”

“Well, what are you doing here?” they asked. “You’re supposed to be in Europe!”

And, of course, after all the explanations, we ended with the unavoidable cliché (and I apologize) – “It’s a small world.”

Hawaii

Our Europe trip was done and we were on our way home to the Queen Charlotte Islands, but our Greek suntans had already begun to fade.

“We can’t go home like this! Where could we go to have one more blast of sunshine before we go back to a winter of wind and rain?” Moments later the decision was made. “Hawaii, here we come.”

From London to New York, New York to Chicago, Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Honolulu, Honolulu to Kauai, we traveled with short stops in between. We left London sometime Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Kauai late Thursday afternoon, but in fact it took much longer than that because we were flying west, playing catch-up with the clock.

When we landed in Lihue, on Kauai, we phoned around for a place to stay. How hard could it be? It was October, the off season. Wrong! It was Aloha Week! Every hotel, motel, and B&B was booked solid. We were on the last of a dollar’s worth of dimes (yes, those were the days when local calls cost a dime and you used those big payphones that hang on the wall or in cubicles for the convenience of Superman/Clark Kent. Remember those?) and used it to call the place that the cleaning lady at the airport suggested – Kahili Mountain Park. Yes, they had a place for us. We needed a car. Rent-a-Wreck was popular in those days and in this case they lived up to their name. (We returned it the next day for a more reliable wreck.)

And so, asleep on our feet, we coaxed the wreck up the mountain and collapsed in our new digs. It’s an indication of how tired I was that I didn’t care too much about the big spiders, lizards, and earwigs in the place. I just wanted a place to lay my head.

That’s our blue wreck with the door open.

img043Definitely a bad hair day the next day, so I’ve painted my head a lovely shade of green. But never mind. The main point of this photo is to show you our very rough camping set-up. Inside you can’t see the bare spring iron frame beds or the geckos on the ceiling, but you can see that we’re going to bbq something and have salad with it for supper that night.

img158aWe hung around the campsite through several cloudy days, but beach weather didn’t happen. Finally we went for a drive anyway. The road down the mountain to the beach ended in a beautiful drive through a tunnel of huge trees. Some, not shown on this photo, had giant philodendrons growing up their trunks. Beyond them were sugar cane fields. All new to us.

img044For that matter, I don’t think I had seen coconuts growing on a tree before, either.

img040At the end of this road, we were amazed to see the sun shining on a perfect beach. Day after day we came down the hill to the beach and laughed at our naiveté about the weather. It was always cloudy up by the mountain, and always sunny at the beach. That’s how it worked here.

At Poipu Beach we learned about body surfing.

img041We waded out through the waves and stood waist deep, waiting for a big wave to come. When it was almost on us we turned and swam for the beach, letting the wave catch us and scoot us in to shore.

That was great fun. Once or twice, the waves were extra big and I was pounded on the beach. Some skin was  sanded off my thighs, but still, I went back out, as did several others, to look for another pummeling.

A young man about my age stood nearby waiting for a wave. When the giant swept us up, I concentrated on not letting it break my back as it lifted my legs over my head. In the wildly frothing foam I stood up after another pounding in the sand. But wait! Where were my bikini bottoms? Fortunately the foam was still boiling at least thigh high as I shrank into an instant crouch and retrieved my bikini from my ankles, swishing three pounds of sand out of it as I pulled it up.

The fellow next to me stood up and gawked.

“Whoa!” I panted. “Nearly lost my bathing suit there with all that sand!”

A big smile spread across his face as he drawled, “I know….”

London

The ferry from St. Malo to Portsmouth was not fancy but it got us there after 10 long hours. Going past the Isle of Man was special for me because I had heard of this tiny island in crossword puzzles and always thought what a funny name it was for an island. So now I had seen it with my own eyes.

In Portsmouth, we stayed at the Y and were shocked at the bedding in our assigned room. There were 7 beds in this room and no other guests in it, so we had our choice of beds. The first had obviously been slept in, so I checked out another. This one looked made up more smartly, but when I pulled back the covers I saw that the sheets were less than clean. The third one shocked me. Dark curly hairs were entwined in the weave of the sheets. I expected to see crawlers next. By this time I was quite dismayed. Finally we chose the least dirty, least slept-in beds and slept on top of the bedding using our clothing as blankets. I didn’t sleep much.

In the morning, we sat down to the breakfast that came with the price of the room. Beans, coffee, and toast that was drenched in bacon grease. We were happy to get out of there as our taxi whisked us to the station where we caught the train to London in the nick of time.

At Victoria Station, we checked our luggage in a locker. Free of our burdens, we set off for a day of sightseeing in London.

Our first sight of a bobby called for photo time. The poor man was caught unawares, scratching his ear. When he realized we had snapped his picture, he turned a bit red, but shrugged good-naturedly as we smiled our thanks.

img059Nearby, at Charing Cross Station, I stopped in mid-stride and grabbed my husband’s arm.

“That’s GOT to be the same guy that was here five years ago when I was here with my sister. I remember his big nose.”

“Well, go ask him, and maybe we can get a photo.”

I approached the man and said, “Were you here selling flowers five years ago? Because I think I remember you from when I was here with my sister.”

“Unless I was sick that day, that would’ve been me. This is my spot. Who else would it be?”

And so it was that he agreed to have his picture taken with me. He was a very nice man.

img153From there we visited Trafalgar Square and saw the statue of King George IV on his horse. Admiral Nelson was nearby guarded by four lion statues.

img053But the highlight of Trafalgar Square is the huge flock of pigeons that are so used to people that they don’t mind perching on them. One woman (I didn’t get her photo) stood with her arms stretched out and had pigeons sitting on the whole length of her arms as well as on her head and shoulders. My first thought was where will she go to change her clothes which were bound to be full of bird droppings.

img055The old-fashioned look of new taxis surprised me.

img028And of course, thinking of Joni Mitchell, we had to go for a ride in “one of those double-decker buses” and sure enough, “there was no driver on the top.”

img054From Victoria Station to Buckingham Palace, we saw the huge gap in wealth and lifestyle. This man kept lifting a brown paper bag to his lips. It was heartbreaking to see him.

img155On the other end of the spectrum, some very important people were arriving at Buckingham Palace by horse-drawn carriage, with a mounted escort in front and behind.

img024 img025 img026 img027When we’d had our fill of culture for the day, we took the train to Gatwick Airport and took the new “Skytrain” (Laker Airlines) to New York for only $120 each. Skytrain made its first London-to-New York flight 16 days earlier. We thought it would be like a freight run judging by the price, but we just wanted to get across the pond. What a surprise we had. The service, food, and comfort level were all top quality – a wonderful flight. It was no wonder though, that sadly, they went bankrupt soon afterwards when the economy took a dive in 1980.

The trip continues from New York next time.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas – submitted by Lorne

I was teaching in Masset in 1972 and had not been with Mother and the family in Saskatchewan for Christmas in some three years. The big magnet of family was drawing me to them, as well as the need to flee from the rain, fog, and grayness of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The first chance after school was out I gathered my stuff together, checked to see if my reservations to Vancouver and thence to Saskatoon were in order, and then caught the rickety ex-school bus to Sandspit and jetted away to the Big Smoke and thence to the prairies.

Fine and dandy, so far, but no sooner had we landed than the fog settled in and all flights out of Vancouver were delayed. And, then cancelled until further notice. Along with dozens, nay hundreds, of disgruntled travellers, I camped in the passenger section of the airport all that night. And, all the next day, and all the next night. The weather system that had brought the fog was stagnant with no hint of change. Time was wasting before Christmas Day arrived and what to do? What to do?

I had a friend who lived in North Delta, not that far away from the airport. I phoned him to see if he could come and get me, which he did. At his place, his wife found me a razor, for all my luggage had disappeared into the bowels of the old Pacific Western Airlines baggage warehouse. After a shave and a shower, he drove me down to the train station where I was able to get a seat to Saskatoon. It was a long day and a half on the train, but at least I was moving.

At that time the CNR station was still situated in the centre of the Saskatoon so it was a short walk to a hotel and a good day and night’s sleep. By the time I awoke it was late in the day, cold as a banker’s heart and me with no warm winter clothes. By the time that problem was taken care of I had reserved a Volkwagen Superbug from Rent-a-Bug, but I couldn’t pick it up until very late that evening. As that was the case, I figured I would stay in the City that night, and then head out for Carrot River, some five hours away, very early in the morning.

And, so I did head out just as the gray dawn was breaking in the east. For some reason lost in the mists of time, I had not done any gift shopping. All my Masset purchases were in my lost luggage. The only stores open that Christmas morning were attached to gas stations. That is where I did my Christmas shopping. A box of chocolates here, a souvenir there, a toy somewhere else plastered with a gasoline company logo for a little niece or nephew.

As the miles, and the gas stations, zoomed by and I neared my mother’s place, the list was filled—not well filled, but filled nevertheless.

Mother was living in a seniors’ residence at that time. I drove the VW up to the parking lot and let myself into the complex. When I found myself at Mother’s unit I turned the doorknob and, lo and behold, the door swung open. There she was sitting in a chair by the sink, peeling potatoes in anticipation of the rest of the family’s arrival. I think she had given up on me, for the look she gave me was one that only a mother could give to wayward son, all full of love and relief that I had made it for Christmas with her.

After the holiday period I had to return to the Charlottes, and I almost did not go. But duty called and this time I had no trouble with fog or flights. Sometime towards the end of January my long lost luggage appeared at the school where I was teaching. There was no indication where it had been and I liked to think it had been flown to Singapore or Paris or Timbuktu. Or, maybe even Saskatoon.