SA Jesters outbound tour to Canada – September 7 to 24, 2016
The following is an excerpt from the journal of the SA Jesters’ tour to Canada.
We arrived at Kelowna in the dark, so it was great to have a little time to see it during daylight. A most pretty harbour and downtown area, and where the homeless people living in the gardens are quite upmarket, as one was quite gently lying in the gardens reading his iPad…. Question: where does he charge it? Then it was time to drive through to Vancouver. First stop was at the simply beautiful setting of Mission Hills Wine Estate, for a quick stop and a quick look around. From there, we drove through to meet Paul Stevenson, David Adams and Rashid Aziz at Othello Tunnels, some 2 hours east of Vancouver. After a lovely picnic lunch, it was time to explore the tunnels. These tunnels were built for the railroads, and were a means to work the railroad through the hills and winding river. Quite an engineering feat, and really nice environment to wander around in, especially trying to figure out how these towering trees manage to stay secured on virtually bare rock face. Then it was time to face the famous, or infamous, Vancouver traffic, which was surprisingly light. We managed to drop off the hire cars, but not before Via Canada tried to fleece us to the tune of CAN$75 per vehicle, as we had parked in the incorrect parking bay. Once all this was sorted out, it was off to our billets for the first of 4 nights in Vancouver.
A visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was spectacular not just for the engineering feat of actually building the bridge, but also for the new record of the Bluck’s by being 60 minutes late for our meeting time. We really should have had a stronger drinks fines protocol in place….. In their defence, they were on the south side of Vancouver, and therefore had a bit of a trip, but was it also because they were staying with John Hungerford? What was also spectacular was the trees that were in the surrounding gardens, the tallest being a Douglas Fir some 600 years old and 250 feet tall. The suspension bridge itself was 117m long and at its low point you were at the same height as the top of the Statue of Liberty. So – quite a morning for those of us who aren’t too crazy about heights, but good to conquer these fears, even in just some small way. After Capilano, we went straight to a most delicious lunch at Canyon Restaurant close to Capilano, with menu’s especially made out for us with the Jesters logo on it. Detail, again, and much acknowledged and appreciated. The regular liquid lunch ensued, with us following the maxim of a bird can’t fly on one wing, so everything had to be in even numbers. From there we went to Evergreen Squash Club for some casual and creative (I.e. High wall) squash. And then it was off to the formal dinner at the Capilano Golf Club, with all of us actually scrubbing up quite decently. The setting was amazing, looking out over Vancouver. Everyone in jacket and tie, or evening dress, and looking quite dapper, even in the rather distinctive blue and orange blazer of WPCC…. After some brief introductions from Paul and Duncan, it was left to Terry Owen to present the plaque on behalf of the SA Jesters, which he did excellently, although perhaps breaking doctor-patient confidentiality, and then we were royally entertained by Mike Jackson singing us a few songs, one about the Canadian BC Jesters, and then the infamous Dog Song. Very amusing. Absolutely spoiled with the most incredible spread of food, and that brought to an end a really full day in Vancouver.
First up was a drive to Squamish, stopping at Furry Creek, Shannon Falls and Chief. The great news is we didn’t lose Willy along the way. The drive there was absolutely gorgeous, with the most incredible views. Vancouver truly is a very pretty city. The walk at Furry Creek was beautiful, in gloriously sunny weather, and on a great little walkway around the waters edge. The only thing missing was a whale popping up, but not to be. Next stop was Shannon Falls, which is a very impressive waterfall. What was equally impressive was Chief very near by, which is a sheer rock face, and world famous as a Mecca for climbers. The rock face is so enormous, and so sheer, that you actually think no-one is on it, and then suddenly you start seeing these climbers – that literarily look like tiny ants on the rock face – and once you have picked one, you start to see more and more. Crazy people. From there it was a short drive to lunch at a picture perfect setting in Squamish, right next to a beautiful river, with salmon jumping and seals pottering around in the water. It was so picturesque that jugs of Sangria were ordered, which seemed most appropriate. After lunch off we headed to Grouse Mountain. Andrew, Carol, Pieter, Ryan, Terry and Tracey were the intrepid souls who tackled the Grouse Grind, whilst the rest of us took the leisurely 4 minute gondola up. Broomy popped up at the top of the Grind in roughly 55 minutes, basically saying he had taken it relatively easy, and with hardly a drop of sweat on him. Legend. There must be something in this mountain biking thing. The rest followed shortly thereafter, in differing degrees of humour and sweat. The two grizzly bears at the top put on a bit of a show for us, and the lumberjack demonstration was most amusing. Down Grouse Mountain and off to smaller, separate dinner parties this evening, in anticipation of, rather sadly, our final full day tomorrow on this ridiculously awesome tour.
Our final full day of this 2016 SA Jesters outbound tour to Canada. And for the first time in 17 days, a day of rain greeted us. This scuppered the planned cycle ride through Stanley Park, which would have been awesome, but we ended up going to watch a movie called Fly Over Canada. What a fabulous movie – think IMAX meets virtual reality. You are strapped in to seats and then you are immersed in this birds-eye view of Canada, as you fly over the country from east to west – much like we had just done. Together with mist sprays, and wind and smell experiences as you flew over different parts of the country. Quite spectacular – almost as spectacular as Deidre Smith-Baker’s maneuver to outthink a fellow battling parker in the Canada Place parking lot. If truth be told, she needed to interject as Doug Macdougall was not making much headway. After Fly Over Canada it was time to make a hasty retreat to Jericho, for our final squash match of the tour. I’ve always been told that the squash is secondary on these tours, but perhaps news had reached Vancouver that we had been all-conquering on our travels. This resulted in a very strong line-up being trotted out to face us in our final fixture. And what a fixture it was. Ebb and flow, ying and yang. Tracey got us off to her customary strong start – finishing undefeated throughout the tour. Legendary, ma’am, legendary. Up against it as Ryan came up against a strong opponent. But no worry, Big Willie brought us back to a 2-1 lead. Broomy finally succumbed in 5 high-quality games, to the recently crowned US 45 years and up champion, so a high quality opponent. 2-2…. Piet unfortunately went down, but your humble scribe managed to pull it back to 3-3, so it all came down to the final match, with Terry on court. Before we knew it, it was 2-2 in games, with Terry deploying the dual strategy of Luftwaffe-like aerial attacks with high lobs, and then deft, surgeon-like touch with his drops. Deep in to the 5th, but unfortunately Terry went down in 5, and so it happened that our flag was finally lowered, albeit in the most Jesterly fashion.
And so on to our final function, at the most impressive residence of Russell and Gillian Smith, but not before Ryan and I had dashed off to pick up a hire car, which will make more sense later. A really fantastic turnout, ably supported by the Vancouver Jesters. Kind final words from Paul Stevenson, and a final bit of Jesterly entertainment from Lou Duys, and it was time to say our farewells, at which stage I started questioning where my passport was….. to recall that I believe I left it in the hire car…. A few frantic phone calls later and said passport was found. My wife continues to shake her head at me. A huge thank you to our hosts in Vancouver, Paul and Jackie Stevenson, Russell and Gillian Smith, Doug and Jan MacDougall, John and Debbie Hungerford, Deirdre Smith-Baker and Steve Baker, and Toni and Bruni Goodson.