Starting out on the 2015 trip I was completely underprepared. So much so that the days running up to our departure were not filled with excitement, but more anticipation laced with anxiousness. Looking out above Wales from the flight to Dublin I honestly wondered just how we would cope, but it was too late now. I would have to think on my feet and hope that everything fell into place.
Our flight from Dublin took us to the farthest east of Canada and to the first discovered part of North America – St Johns, Newfoundland. As the plane descended through the thick fog it bounced around the sky, when we finally cut through the cloud the ground was just feet away, the engines roared into life and the plane climbed quickly. Silence filled the aircraft as we ascended steeply back into the air. When we finally found out what was going on the Captain explained how the fog was just too thick to land and the ceiling much lower than anticipated. We were diverting to Deer Lake, and airport 40 minutes away where we would refuel the aircraft, wait for the weather to clear and then head back to St Johns. The whole diversion took around three hours off our day meaning we landed in Canada around 3pm, too late to head to town and do what I had planned. So we made for the hotel and relaxed.
The following flight was a long distance one which took us across Canada to Calgary, and after an uneventful flight we started what can only be described as a horrendous descent. The flight was thrown around the sky, everything was on lockdown, the engines keeping speeding up and slowing down, we dropped, rolled and as Abi sat beside me crying I tried my best to comfort her. I doubt there was anyone on that flight that wasn’t at least a little concerned. It was awful, and we were all grateful for the magical landing we eventually had.
It was our first time in Canada, and we were all exhausted, but excited about what the next week would hold. We had crossed the Atlantic and North America to see our longtime friend Lisa. We first met Lisa four years ago on a bus in Nepal. She had just escaped a tumultuous marriage and had taken her teenage kids (Jaad and Mahara) travelling for six months around Asia. We hit it off right away and ultimately went into India together before parting ways and promising to stay in touch. Roll forward two years and I got a message saying she was coming to the UK, would we like to meet up, we refreshed our friendship in London and again parted ways. This year, whilst planning the summer I realized that going via Canada would be a viable option and contacted Lisa. “That’s fantastic news, what would you like to do”, was her response. She was filled with enthusiasm as I had long promised we would go out to Vancouver and see her. “Plan whatever you want, we will do anything you like” I responded. And genuinely, setting out to Canada I had only a brief idea of what we would be doing.
“Hey Stu”, a familiar voice broke the monotony of waiting at baggage reclaim, and before I could respond arms were slung around me and kisses were being handed out to the kids. We grabbed our bags, headed to Lisa’s SUV and within ten minutes were headed south down the highway to hook up with Lisa’s family on a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies. It was raining, foggy and I had serious reservations about camping. We agreed that if the rain hadn’t stopped by the next day we would bail. Nonetheless we eventually arrived at the national park we were staying out and found a campground. To cut a long, wet story short it was the wrong campground. When we finally figured out where we needed to be it was getting late, the kids and I were completely wiped out with jet lag. But, I knew it was important to stay up and try and get into a routine (GMT – 7). Pulling into the campground we were actually staying at, the rain had slowed down and ground hogs were scurrying about everywhere, (so tempted to repeat that sentence!). We had been told that the family would be in an enclosed cookhouse. It took us ages, but we finally found where that was and walked into the warmest welcome imaginable. Within five minutes of arriving we had been welcomed into the family, were anticipating what smelt like a lovely dinner, the kids were playing cards and I had a cold Canadian beer in my hand.
The summer had begun.