Royal Treatment

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Monday, May 14, 2007

Imagine receiving an e-mail from someone you don't know and have never met, offering you the use of a cottage on Salt Spring Island. Over the past three years, we have referred again and again to acts of kindness bestowed upon us by Latin Americans along our journey. We sincerely believed that the hospitality accorded us was above and beyond anything that might be expected in Canada where everyone is far too preoccupied with the fast paced life of our modern world. Hmmm.....seems it's time once again for a taste of humble pie!

Yes, we graciously accepted the cottage invitation on Salt Spring Island - extended to us simply because the owner has a VW van the same colour as ours, and he enjoys reading our travel blog. Thanks so much for that wonderful gesture, Yves - we thoroughly enjoyed our tranquil four day retreat. Wandering through the Farmers' Market in Ganges on a cool and drizzly Saturday evoked vivid memories of the endless Saturdays we spent selling herbs at the Carp Farmers Market in the Ottawa Valley. And hiking the local trails in spite of the seemingly endless rainy weather made us appreciate all the more the cozy wood-stove warmth back in the cottage.

Yves wasn't alone in extending unbelievable hospitality to complete strangers. Mary & Carl, having travelled extensively overland in a campervan to China as well as throughout South America, found our website almost a year ago and invited us to spend time with them when we reached Vancouver. The travel and international development discussions over dinner on the first evening were so intense and exhilarating that we found it was early morning before we finally dropped off to sleep. There was no doubt that a second night's stay was essential to accommodate the picnic at Lighthouse Point, a CESO meeting in the local library, CUSO discussions with sister Juanita, and of course incessant swapping of travel stories. It feels now that we've known Mary & Carl all our lives!

But let's return to the initial reason for crossing Canada before returning to Ontario - to revisit friends from various facets of our lives. Diana (former boss, colleague and friend from CHEA) and Forrest discovered a property with potential in Victoria in 1998. We were truly impressed that several years and of course many dollars later they have transformed both the dated house and the bedrock garden into a stunning "House Beautiful" rendition. Going one step further, Paul (CUSO volunteer - Tanzania days in the late 60s) and Mike have not only renovated but also professionally restored a magnificent three story home in Victoria into a work of art. Watching them concoct a gourmet meal for dinner that evening, we could just imagine the multi-talented twosome at work with hammers, screwdrivers and paint rollers.

And so the list of visits continued, and we were overwhelmed with warm hospitality at every stop along the way. But when it reached the point of having breakfast with Marian in Vancouver, lunch with Peg in Langley and dinner with Sue & David in Abbotsford - all on the same day, we realized that perhaps we'd better slow down and camp for a night or two, to catch our breath. After all, we knew that many hours of reminiscing and catching up were in store for us in Penticton with Barry and Alex - friends that we worked with in the late 70s on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Their warm welcome included a whirlwind "Okanagan Valley in a Nutshell" drive, as well as an in-depth private tour of the Summerland Research Centre - helps to be the Science Director, eh Barry? And with barely time to digest either the delicious meals or the scintillating conversation, we spent another pleasant evening with David and Marilyn in Kelowna. Unfortunately though, we did have time along the way to notice the devastating effects of the pine beetle on the province's spectacular forested landscape.

Although we are being treated royally, the ambiguous emotions associated with being back in North America continue to wreck havoc with that euphoric sense that should have enveloped us on coming close to completing a major journey. Everything seems far too easy: smoothly paved road surfaces have replaced the potholed and dusty tracks to which we had become accustomed; numerous clean and well organized campsites leave nothing to the imagination; border crossings are no longer an impediment; propane tanks can be filled simply by pulling into a gas station; and we can even enjoy listening to CBC radio whenever the mood takes us. It seems that the real challenge and adventure of travel has been left behind in Latin America, and we still yearn to return to roads less travelled.

But as always, the Channers can quite easily change their minds. After today's sightings of two black bears with their cubs, several wolves, numerous deer, nesting osprey, and countless majestic snow-capped mountains, we are beginning to appreciate being back in this wonderful country we call home. Hearing the latest news bulletin report that a mudslide has closed the TransCanada Highway west of Golden - our designated route for tomorrow's journey, indicates that perhaps there are travel challenges even in Canada. Things are definitely looking up! And with Ottawa three games up in the playoffs against Buffalo, we're really riding high. GO SENS GO!!
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