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Centralia to Victoria

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 23, 2017 – Centralia, WA to Victoria, BC

I’m up at 7:30AM despite being in no hurry today. I find a coffee shop open nearby so I can get my morning cappuccino, and drink it on the Parkside Patio back at the Centralia Square Grand Ballroom and Hotel – a nice start to the day. After finishing my cappuccino, I go downstairs to have breakfast in the Berry Fields Cafe – two eggs in a thick slice of their oat bread and fried. It is yummy! I check out of the hotel and drive over to the Centralia Supercharger for a top-up before driving for two hours through Olympia and up the Olympic Peninsula to Sequim. There are no congestion problems today and I don’t have to pay the toll to cross on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge northbound, thank goodness.

I stop at the Sequim Supercharger, not that I need a charge, but I want to try it out and see where it is located for when I might need it on future trips. It is at a Holiday Inn Express, and I’m in need of another cappuccino, so I drive by the Supercharger and go downtown. I find a coffee bar which makes a decent cappuccino, and they also have apple strudel, so that will be lunch! After topping up my charge, i drive the short distance to Port Angeles. I’m three hours early, so I waste an hour parked downtown, and then check into the Coho ferry parking lot to wait to depart for home. Canadian Customs and Immigration don’t have pre clearance like the Americans do, so there are no formalities before driving onto the 5:20PM ferry. Before arriving in Victoria, I switch my iPhone back to using my Rogers SIM. After our arrival, I drive off the ferry and am directed to the slowest line clearing Canadian Customs and Immigration, but eventually I’m free to drive the few blocks to my home. The eclipse trip is over!

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Victoria to Lakewood

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 19, 2017 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Lakewood, WA, USA

Slideshow of Victoria's Inner Harbour

Slideshow of Victoria’s Inner Harbour

I show up for the 7:30PM sailing of the Coho ferry a bit early at 5:40PM, but since we have to pre-clear US Customs, there are lots of others showing up early as well, so the parking lot is mostly full. I pre-clear US Customs and Immigration, and the Coho leaves on time at 7:30PM. It is a funky old ship, and very small – only taking just over 100 cars. I am jammed in, as is everyone – so much so, it’s difficult to get out of the car. Once we clear the harbour and get underway, the ship is rolling pretty well, despite it being a calm summer evening. I wouldn’t want to take this route when there are winter storms!

A half hour out of Victoria as we head for Port Angeles, I take out my Rogers SIM from my iPhone and install the Roam Mobility SIM, which flashes up after a few minutes. I fiddle with the cellular settings and soon get the LTE data working. For my 4 days on their daily plan I am allotted 512Mb/day, so I have 2Gb total up front – more than enough data service for this short trip. Total cost is about $20.

Tacoma Narrows bridge at sunset

Tacoma Narrows bridge at sunset

Despite pre-clearing US Customs and Immigration before we left Victoria, all vehicles are stopped before leaving the Port Angeles terminal to be sniffed by a dog and talk to yet another agent. It takes a bit over two hours to drive from Port Angeles, pay a US$6 toll to cross the Tacoma Narrows bridge, arriving just before midnight at the Best Western hotel in Lakewood. I would never have found the hotel in the dark without the in-vehicle navigation, since it is embedded in the outskirts of Tacoma.

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Seattle to Victoria by Victoria Clipper

March 5, 2017 Sunday – Seattle to Victoria on the Victoria Clipper fast ferry

I’m up at 5:30AM, since the Victoria Clipper boards at 7:15AM for an 8AM departure for Victoria. Unfortunately I don’t have time for the included breakfast at the hotel, but grab a coffee in the lobby as I wait for my taxi to Pier 69, where the Victoria Clipper departs from. I have a few minutes before they open the departure area, so I get a cappuccino at the adjacent cafe. I check my big bag through to Victoria and go through pre-clearance where they check my passport against my boarding pass.

Rough seas as the Victoria Clipper passes Port Townsend into Juan de Fuca Strait

Rough seas as the Victoria Clipper passes Port Townsend into Juan de Fuca Strait

I’m soon settled onboard and the Victoria Clipper departs on time. We encounter some wave action as we pass Port Townsend into the open waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, but it smooths out again once we are in open water. There is no Wi-fi aboard, but my US data roaming gives me a good LTE connection for most of the trip, as I work on my photos and blog for most of the time anyway.

After our arrival in Victoria, the Canada Customs agent asks me the usual questions, then welcomes me back home to Canada. There is slush coming down outside as I catch a taxi home.

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Flights from Singapore to Victoria

March 17, 2016 – Thu – Singapore to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

I’m up at 3AM this morning and leave the Volendam for the last time to take the prearranged 4AM shuttle to the airport. The bus takes Holland America’s passengers to Terminal 1 at Changi Airport, where I check in with Cathay Pacific for my 8:05AM flight to Hong Kong and onward to Vancouver. I will get to live today almost twice over, since we cross the International Date Line mid-flight as we fly eastward across the Pacific Ocean.

After clearing customs and immigration, I find my gate and hit Starbucks for a cappuccino. I have several hours to kill, but Changi airport has free wifi, so the time goes by. By 6AM the airport comes alive with more people, so people watching keeps me entertained. The 3.5 hour Cathay Pacific flight from Singapore to Hong Kong goes well. They serve us breakfast, which I certainly appreciate!

When departing the aircraft in Hong Kong airport, I remember it is important to stay in the “Transfer” stream when you already have a boarding pass issued for the next flight segment. You still have to go through security, but then you can go directly to the Departures level and roam around. Otherwise you will find yourself on the Arrivals level, and have to take a lot more time to find your way back to the Departure level.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t load the flight to Vancouver by row. Everyone simply lines up at the gate and we are let on the aircraft after our boarding pass is scanned and our passport is verified.

Pre-dawn light over the wing south of the Aleutian Islands

Pre-dawn light over the wing south of the Aleutian Islands

This flight is excruciatingly long, however service by the cabin crew is very good. The first time I check my watch is an hour or so after they serve us dinner at the beginning of the flight. At that point we are five hours into the flight. Not even being half way is pretty depressing! The next time I check the time, we are about five hours out of Vancouver…still a very long time to sit. By then I’ve listened to all the music I can handle; I’ve read all the magazines on my iPad I can stand; so I haul down my MacBook Air from the overhead bin and write my journal and process photos for awhile. It would be great if I could sleep aboard aircraft, but that doesn’t happen no matter how tired I am. The sunrise is beautiful as we fly south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Looking North across the city of Vancouver to the North Shore mountains on final approach to Vancouver airport

Looking North across the city of Vancouver to the North Shore mountains on final approach to Vancouver airport

Our approach to Vancouver is over Northern Vancouver Island and the coast range of mountains of British Columbia. The pilot refers to it as “the Whistler approach” to Vancouver airport, taking us over the famed ski resort. We fly east of the city and then turn west on final approach over Surrey, Richmond, and New Westminster, giving us great views of the city against the North Shore mountains. I think we land on Vancouver runway 26R. I take some nice photos of the scenery out the window.

This time I’m prepared for the long stretches of walking required in Vancouver airport to get from the arrival gate to the Immigration kiosks, and then onward to the baggage carousels, and finally a long way to the end of the departure concourse to check in at the Westjet kiosks. I don’t have a through ticket, so can’t use Westjet’s transfer check-in (much closer to the carousels). After clearing security again, I find the domestic departure area and the gates for the local Westjet flights. It is only a 20 minute flight to Victoria, and I am soon home…greeted at the door by Rolly and Tanner, our Jack Russell Terriers, and the rest of the family. It’s time to go to bed for a well-deserved sleep after enduring some 27 hours elapsed time from when I left my cabin aboard the Volendam in Singapore earlier today.

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Departing Vancouver aboard Volendam

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 – the start of the South Pacific Cruise

Leaving Lions Gate Bridge behind as we depart Vancouver

Leaving Lions Gate Bridge behind as we depart Vancouver

Pacific Coach Lines (now the BC Ferries Connector) takes us from Victoria across the water to the mainland on BC Ferries to the Canada Place Cruise Terminal in Vancouver without a hitch. They drop us off right inside the terminal, and our bags are delivered to our cabin aboard ship…what terrific service!

Boarding the Volendam is pretty easy, despite having to go through three stages before actually stepping aboard: security screening (like airports), US Customs and Immigration, then Holland America’s own check-in.

Somehow I manage to leave my dress jacket at home, so once I’m settled in my cabin, I leave the ship and make a quick dash to Dunn’s Tailors on lower Georgia Street where I buy a new dress jacket. So now I will be ready for the seven formal nights we have scheduled while on board this cruise. I arrive back on board in time for the compulsory lifejacket drill just before our departure.

The Volendam slips away from the dock at 5PM, and we are on our way! There are some folks who boarded today in Vancouver and who will leave the ship tomorrow in Seattle – a one day overnight cruise! No doubt they will party hard tonight to take advantage of all the fun stuff aboard.

Sailing under Lions Gate Bridge is spectacular this evening, with great views of the North Shore Mountains, the harbour, and Stanley Park. It brings back memories of when I sailed under the same bridge in 1981 aboard the Cunard Princess bound for the Caribbean. Everyone is very excited as we pass under the bridge, but then it is time for dinner. We opt for a BBQ dinner served alfresco on the (covered) Lido deck beside the pool. We watch the sun set over Georgia Strait and Vancouver Island as the ship slowly makes its way overnight to Seattle.

Vancouver Departure of the Volendam 2010 from JoeTourist InfoSystems on Vimeo.

HINT: Click on the little four segment icon beside the “HD” in the lower right corner of the video window to view the video in high definition mode.
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Cape Town to Victoria

November 9, 2008 – Sunday – Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria, BC, Canada

I kill time in my hotel room until it is time for my 4:30pm transfer to Cape Town airport. The hotel insists that I pay 450 Rand (US$54) for a late departure, and I have to change rooms, so I feel entitled to take full advantage of the facilities before I depart. I use the time to catch up on my travel journal, annotate photos, have a couple of naps, and have a shower before leaving for the airport. I will be traveling for over 30 hours before I arrive back home!

I have a panic attack after going through security at the Cape Town airport. I can’t find my passport and boarding pass! As it turns out, I put it in a different pocket as I prepare to walk through the security scanner! The South African Airways flight from Cape Town to London/Heathrow is 12 hours long. SAA serves a wonderful dinner and complimentary wine after we leave Cape Town, and then the cabin lights are shut off until a couple of hours before our arrival. As usual I don’t sleep during the flight. We are in a holding pattern over Heathrow since we arrive a bit early. Apparently they have a 6am curfew at Heathrow – no doubt to give the surrounding neighbourhoods a bit of respite overnight.

South African Airways uses Terminal 1 at Heathrow and Air Canada uses Terminal 3, so I catch the shuttle. At least Terminal 3 is a more modern and civilized place to wait five hours for my 12:05pm departure, although I still can’t find any Wi-Fi networks. This is a prime people-watching place, since Heathrow is probably the busiest transfer point in the world. After boarding my Air Canada flight to Vancouver, I notice right away the more “basic” service provided as compared with the full service provided by SAA on my previous flight. The Air Canada flight departs on time and goes smoothly. I don’t see any aurora over the polar region this time, like I did on the Victoria to London flight.

I only have an hour and forty minutes connection time in Vancouver, but manage to clear customs and immigration and board my flight for Victoria with time to spare. I’m home by dinner time on November 10th, having gained 10 hours as I cross so many time zones traveling in a westerly direction for some 32 hours elapsed time. The marathon flights are over!

Southern Africa 2008

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Victoria to Johannesburg

October 13, 2008 – Monday – Victoria, BC, Canada to Johannesburg, South Africa

JoeTourist: Victoria to Johannesburg &emdash; Native scupture in the secure departures waiting area

Native scupture in the secure departures waiting area at Vancouver airport

Today is my 56th birthday, and it is also the day I leave for Africa – what a birthday present this is! I am writing this entry as I sit in Vancouver Airport waiting for my flight to London/Heathrow. I had to take a 1:30pm flight from Victoria; however I don’t depart for Heathrow until 7:50pm, so I have five hours to kill. I also have another five hours to wait in Heathrow before I depart for Johannesburg. I left Victoria at 1:30pm on the 13th and I should arrive in Johannesburg at 7:10pm on the 15th!

At least I don’t have to clear security again here in Vancouver, however I’m in the area where Air Canada’s flight leaves and there are no shops open. At the moment, it is completely empty except for the odd passer-by. It looks like the Vancouver airport is being expanded in a fairly major way. Unfortunately, they have turned it into a maze of corridors.

People watching – I spot a woman packing her own pillow. I have to wonder if she is really going to drag that thing along with her wherever she is going. Another woman is wearing a small backpack which has a teddy bear in it. There appears to be nothing else in the backpack. She is busy on the Internet terminal doing her email. Perhaps the teddy bear has a large circle of friends?

It was drizzling when we left Victoria Airport, and it is raining pretty hard outside Vancouver Airport right now. It will be a welcome change to experience the hot and dry climate of Northern Botswana. By the looks of the climate tables, it should cool down a bit from the 40°C in Northern Botswana to the 25°C range by the time I travel down the South African coast to Cape Town.

I have a hot meatball sub from Subway for an appetizer around 4:30pm this afternoon after finding a food court about five minutes’ walk from where I had setup beside the gate. I am still in a secure area, so at least I don’t have to go through another security check just to have a meal. I’m not sure what Air Canada will serve after we are onboard, since our 7:50pm departure is well past the dinner hour. We are scheduled to arrive at London/Heathrow at 1:25pm local time, so I expect they will serve us a meal before our arrival. The stories about how Air Canada has cut back on in-flight services and meals makes me wonder what to expect on the upcoming flight.

There are a few dozen people in this area with the food court and shops, but the airport still looks pretty empty to me. There are only seven international departures up on the notice board for this evening: Amsterdam, two to London, JFK New York, Sydney, Taipei, and Hong Kong. I’m bored already, and I really haven’t started my journey. It seems everyone else is in the same situation: bored and killing time until their evening flights depart. One bonus: there is free Wireless Internet in the airport, so I can read and send email and browse some news and other online sources. I check my weather website: it is raining at home.

It is now 6:00pm and I’m back at the gate. There are sensible stout women waiting for the flight “home” to England (I assume). Almost all of them have a bag of duty free goods, and some of their feet are already swollen. The shops in the gate area are now open, so they obviously know there is little business when there are no flights scheduled (like this afternoon). It looks like the rain is settling in, so I will be glad to soon escape from this grey, cold and wet dreariness.

My time spent traveling is precious to me.

The holding lounge fills up by departure time. People are constantly after the gate staff to change their seat assignments, and they seem to good-naturedly put up with this endless parade. When I board there are no spare seats. I have a window seat and the seat beside me is occupied by a woman from Victoria. I’m happy she is quite small build, so we both have room to move. We will be over nine hours in the same seat.

The aircraft pulls away from the terminal and then just sits there for about 20 minutes. The pilot finally tells us there is a mechanical problem, so we pull back into another gate at the terminal and spend the next two hours sitting around while they fix the aircraft. The crew and pilot keep us informed along the way, and we finally depart two hours late. It’s not a problem for me, since I have a five hour layover in London/Heathrow, but other passengers with tighter connections are justifiably worried.

JoeTourist: Victoria to Johannesburg &emdash; Aurora over the North polar region

Aurora over the North polar region out the aircraft window

Once we level out at cruising altitude, a nice dinner is served with drinks included. I am peeking out the window regularly, and I notice a nice aurora visible over the wing as we fly over the polar region. A couple of hours before we arrive, a nice breakfast is served. Thank goodness I managed to get a couple of hours sleep in-between.

We have a 100 knot tailwind for most of the flight which saves us a full 45 minutes, so we end up arriving just over an hour late at 2:00pm local time.

October 14, 2008 – Tuesday – enroute Vancouver to London/Heathrow to Johannesburg

It is 3:45pm as I write this in Terminal 1 at Heathrow. We arrived at Terminal 3, so I had to catch a shuttle bus to Terminal 1 and clear security again. Terminal 3 is modern, but Terminal 1 is decrepit by comparison. I can’t find any Internet connections – even if I am willing to pay. All I can do is wait around. They don’t post the gate numbers until 30 minutes before boarding time. When I’m in strange airports, I like to find a gate early so I’m not rushed, but I can’t do that here. Posting to my blog will have to wait until I get to the hotel in Johannesburg.

JoeTourist: Victoria to Johannesburg &emdash; SAA A340 tail fin

SAA A340 tail fin at the gate at Johannesburg airport

The woman with the teddy bear shows up at the gate for my flight to Johannesburg. I hope she’s not on my safari! There are a few empty seats on this flight; however most people have spread out to take advantage of the extra space so they can stretch out and sleep. The rest of us make do with trying to get some rest in a single seat. South African Airways in-flight service is very good – the meals are tasty, the cabin crew gives us good service, and the aircraft appears to be brand new (unlike Air Canada). We depart on time, and arrive early – what more could one ask for from an airline?

I rest fitfully throughout the flight, but I flip open the window shade regularly to see what is visible outside. The Orion constellation is lying on its side and is a pretty sight despite the illumination from the full Moon. Toward dawn there is a beautiful sunrise over Southern Africa as I am served breakfast just before our landing. The man sitting beside me is from Mozambique, and regularly travels to/from Johannesburg since he is involved with airport equipment. He is returning from a training trip to London.

October 15, 2008 – Wednesday – Johannesburg

Despite arriving at Johannesburg airport a bit ahead of schedule, Derek from Wilderness Safaris is there to meet me this morning. He suggests I get some South African Rand currency from the ABM in the terminal, and then he puts me on the shuttle to the Mondior Concorde Hotel. It is only a 15 minute drive from the airport. This hotel is part of a larger gambling complex called The Emperors Palace, which is obviously a direct copy of Las Vegas – including all the shops, the fancy concourses, and of course the noise! The hotel is nice and quiet, and although they don’t have any non-smoking rooms available at 8:30am, I take a smoking room in the interest of getting to bed as quickly as possible.

JoeTourist: Johnannesburg &emdash; Emperors Palace Casino interior

Emperors Palace Casino interior

I sleep for four hours and then get up to walk around the casino this afternoon – they obviously took liberal use of the designs of Caesars Palace or the Venetian in Las Vegas. I have dinner this evening at Squisto Ristorante in the casino mall area. It is recommended by the desk clerk, since their own Oriana restaurant is closed. I ordered a Spanikopita (spinach & feta pie) to start and Pescatore (seafood) pasta as a main. They only have a red house wine – no selection, but it was good (not too dry). This place reminds me of the Venetian in Las Vegas, except the prices are about a third of the Venetian’s. This evening’s dinner cost about 180 Rand (CD$23) including two glasses of wine and tip.

This evening I have to repack my two bags, since I will be storing the large one at the Mondior Concorde hotel here in Johannesburg while I take the small bag on the Botswana Safari. I’ll leave my notebook computer and some of the bulkier stuff here. All I need is cameras, clothes and my more compact electronic technology while I’m off on safari. When I’m traveling in Northern Botswana we will be transferred between camps in small aircraft. The maximum dimension for a bag is only 9″x12″x24″ due to the small cargo holds of these aircraft. It’s a good thing I purchased a new backpack MEC Fast-Track Roller from Mountain Equipment Co-op. It is actually two bags in one: a rolling bag with a handle that also has shoulder straps, and a smaller over-the-shoulder bag that is…you guessed it, only 9″ high. The small bag is is the one I’m taking to Botswana.

Speaking of technology, my power adapters all work here on the 220v 50Hz power. The 2 prong conversion plug I brought along works fine. My Rogers cellphone works from here – I call home successfully to check in with the family. I expect the next time I can use my cellphone will be when I return to Johannesburg on Oct 25th, since I’ll be staying in remote bush camps most of the next 12 days. Internet is not free from the Mondior Concorde hotel, but I purchase a low cost plan and the wireless connection works fine from my room. I post an update to my JoeTourist blog, and I also post a few preliminary photos on my Flickr space before going back to bed.

Tomorrow I start my safari adventure by flying to Livingston, Zambia!