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Golden to Calgary

June 28, 2018 – Golden, BC to Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

After eating the very modest continental breakfast the motel offers, I drive across the street to charge at the Tesla Supercharger in Golden. I pickup an acceptable cappuccino from the nearby MacDonald’s drive-thru before starting my journey. This is one of the shorter road trip segments today, which I planned to allow me to enjoy the scenery along the way through Yoho and Banff National Parks and the Kananaskis area on my way to Calgary. The Canadian Rocky Mountains are awe-inspiring on this beautiful sunny day as I take my time along the route.

Flying drones in national parks is prohibited in Canada, so I wait until I’m out of Banff National Park near Canmore before launching my drone, and capturing some beautiful panoramic photos and video of Mount Rundle and the Bow River. I stop to recharge my Model S at the Canmore Supercharger, and have a quick bowl of soup at Craig’s Waystation restaurant before continuing down the valley and emerging from the Foothills and onto the flat prairie farmlands east of Calgary.

Bow River Valley from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

I am staying at the Hotel Alma on the campus of the University of Calgary, which is easy to access from the Trans-Canada Highway. As I park in front of the hotel, I meet several astronomy buddies even before I check-in. The hotel arranges for me to charge my vehicle at the Level-2 chargers available on the campus in Lot 22, which I take advantage of a couple of times during my week-long stay.

JoeTourist: Rural southern Alberta &emdash; First Nations dancing at the opening of the General Assembly

The RASC General Assembly registration desk is setup in the hotel lobby, so after I get settled in my room, I go downstairs to pick up my delegate’s package. I connect with a few people I know in the lobby while we wait for buses to take us to the Members’ Welcome BBQ dinner and First Nations performances at the Rothney Observatory, in the country south of Calgary. We also get to tour the observatories operating from this site.

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The Transkei & Coffee Bay

November 2, 2008 – Sunday – Drakensberg to Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape – the Wild Coast of South Africa

JoeTourist: Eastern Cape Province &emdash; A woman and her cow alongside the highway
A woman and her cow alongside the highway in Transkei Province

We drive through the Transkei Province on our way to Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast. Transkei is a former homeland area for blacks when apartheid was still in force in South Africa. Many black people continue to live in this region despite there being a chronic lack of water.

We travel through Mtatha aka Umtata, which is the provincial capital and home of South Africa’s most famous citizen, Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela no longer lives here, however some of his family continue to live in the region. He comes back to his hometown to celebrate his birthdays. He celebrated his 90th awhile ago, so he is getting to be quite old.

Update: Nelson Mandela died December 5, 2013 after suffering from a long illness, and was buried in his hometown of Qunu.

JoeTourist: Eastern Cape Province &emdash; View of the beach and the Indian Ocean from the hotel
View of the beach and the Indian Ocean from the hotel at Coffee Bay

It takes almost an hour to drive from the main highway just south of Umtata to the Ocean View Hotel at Coffee Bay. It’s like traveling to another country, since the coastline along the Indian Ocean is warm, wet, and tropical. I have a room with a view of the ocean. This is a nice hotel, but well off the beaten track.

I join the wake-boarders, taking my first dip in the Indian Ocean surf before dinner, and body surf for awhile, which is great fun! Coffee Bay is spectacular, with dramatic headlands at either end of a beautiful curved one kilometre long sandy beach. There is also an estuary at one end of the beach where a stream enters the ocean.

After dinner this evening, an African dance troupe comes in and does a similar floor show of Zulu singing and dancing as we saw at the Drakensberg Gardens with one difference – the young women are topless. Some of the men in our group go crazy, taking pictures and generally acting goofy. As I leave the dining room after dinner, the dance troupe are in the lobby counting the money they collected from us after the show. I compliment them on their dancing and singing, but take no photos or video.

November 3, 2008 – Monday – Coffee Bay to East London

We have a late 10:30am departure from Coffee Bay, which gives everyone time to have a leisurely breakfast. There are some surfers and wake boarders out this morning, as well as some porpoises just past the surf line. I have plenty of time to walk the full length of the beach before we depart.

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Drakensberg Mountains

November 1, 2008 – Saturday – Durban to the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

Farming in the Drakensberg Mountains area

We are up at 5am this morning so we can arrive in Underberg early enough for people to embark on a 4×4 expedition to Lesthoto, a mountainous land-locked nation within South Africa. I opt to skip this excursion, so I stay with the bus, and go for an early check-in at the Drakensberg Gardens Resort. We are warmly greeted at this nicely appointed and vast resort. They have their own 18 hole golf course, multiple dining rooms and bars, hiking trails, a pool, spa, and lots more to do. I have a nice lunch on the patio and then go back to my room and sleep for a couple of hours this afternoon to recover from all the early mornings on this tour. Later, I go for a hike along the river for an hour before dinner. It’s always good to have some down time away from the group when on such a long tour.

Drakensberg is a strikingly beautiful area of South Africa. The mountains are the main feature, however there are also some vast farms in this area. Most seem to be raising livestock – cattle or sheep.

This evening’s dinner is included in the tour and is served buffet style. I’m seated with the Dutch contingent this evening. Some of them speak good English, and they are always a lot of fun. We get along very well, as they buy me wine and I buy them beer. The staff of the resort performs a floor show of Zulu singing and dancing. They are quite good, so I take some video.

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Tripoli

2006 Total Solar Eclipse – Libya

March 25, 2006 – Saturday – It’s 6:30am when I wake up, and when I stick my head out the hotel window, I hear the Muslims being called to worship by chanting being broadcast from loudspeakers in minaret towers in the mosques around the city. Today we travel to the ancient Roman city of Sabratha, about 80km west of Tripoli.

March 26, 2006 – Sunday – Today we travel to the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna, just over 100km east of Tripoli. There are lots of olive trees along the highways around Tripoli. Sheep are sometimes being grazed in the olive groves, and are always being watched by shepherds. I even spotted a sheep dog once!

This afternoon, I join three of our group for a walk through the Souk (market) in the Medina (old city). This evening, there is a Tuareg cultural display across the street from our hotel, so after dinner a few of us walk over to see the displays. The Tuarag women are very camera shy, so I put my camera away. Later in the evening there is Tuarag folkloric dancing and singing, and our little group end up being the guests of honour! Despite it being very dark, I take some video and hope for the best.

March 27, 2006 – Monday – This morning Fatid takes us on a walking tour of the Medina, which included a tour of the Souk. I take several photos in the Souk today because it is less busy. I’m very careful to avoid taking photos of local people whose faces would be recognizable. The Tuarag women last night were shielding themselves from any cameras. I know Arabs do not like their photos to be taken, especially women.

On the way back to our hotel, we stop at the Safir Restaurant for lunch. One of the other Libyan tour guides joins our table, so I ask him what one litre of gas costs. He tells us most cars use diesel, which costs 0.15 Dinar/litre (about 0.09€/litre). Later, Fatid helps me find some Arab headgear: a Ghutra (fabric) and an Igal (rope) to go with it in the men’s wear section of the Souk just before it closes. I now have a “Lawrence of Arabia” head cover to wear when we get to the desert, so I will probably use it during the eclipse observations to ward off the expected hot temperatures.

We are told that Libya has about 40 years of oil supply left, and coincidentally, they also have about 40 years of water supply left. Our bottled water comes from the Great Manmade River – a water supply system that pipes water from aquifers found deep under the Sahara to the coastal cities in a huge network of aqueducts.

After lunch, we go to the airport to catch our flight to Benghazi, our jumping off point to see the Total Solar Eclipse from the eclipse camp south of Jalu, in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

March 31, 2006 – Friday – After breakfast this morning we walk through Tripoli to see the Jamahiriya Museum, which houses many of the originals of the statues we saw copies of earlier at Sabratha and Leptis Magna. There is a 5 Dinar camera charge at the Museum (10 Dinars for video), which we encountered at all historical sites in Libya. It would have been valuable to have an English-speaking guide, since all the informational signs were in Arabic.

Our time in Libya ends today with a flight to Rome aboard Alitalia airline.