??Journey or destination??

Exploring life experiences at home and beyond – Destination Happiness


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11th October 2021 – Freedom Day

What a day that was. NSW, Australia came out of what was to be the last Covid lockdown (to date).

Starting 22 February 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations began in Australia. Groups were prioritised. They were told when they would get their turn. People anxiously waited. Some made up excuses to jump the queue. Some like myself were hopeful this disease would run itself out so no vaccine would be needed.

May 6th saw masking reintroduced in stores and public transport , limits on wedding dance floor numbers and only 20 guests to a family gathering. This was the Mothers Day weekend so families had to start deciding who were the favourites that could visit.

Numbers of cases rising in late June saw first some parts of Sydney go into lockdown. Then, on the 26th June, it was announced that all of Sydney and Greater Sydney would also be included.

For the next 3 and a half months I was isolated from contact with my children and grandchildren. It was a hard time. It was such a depressing time. My son and daughter in law were still spending time working outside of their home and I feared them catching this hideous disease and that I wouldn’t be able to go comfort or help them. I thought darker thoughts too. My kids were still waiting for their vaccination turn.

At beginning of October I had a major health issue. With extreme medical anxiety at the best of times, I had to face this alone in hospital. My head was in no space to deal with this. I truly thought I’d never see my family again and I had had enforced wasted 3 months of no physical contact with them.

But the operations went well. I was released from hospital on the 8th October, but still couldn’t visit my kids and grandkids for up the lockdown. Emotionally and physically I was defeated. I had the operation so I could have more time with my family but the government rules still blocked this.

On the 11th October the state reopened. FREEDOM DAY! First thing I did was hug my kids, not tightly for I was still experiencing pain at the surgery site.

What did I learn from that lockdown? I appreciate it gave people time to be vaccinated. That was important. The Media reported lots of benefits, but for me there wasn’t a lot.

I already valued the simple everyday things. Seeing family and friends is what makes life worth living for me. But this was denied.

I don’t want to slow my pace down. Time is finite. I want to cram in as much as I can. But we couldn’t leave our homes.

My well-being was debilitated by the lack of family contact, the fear of this silent stalking disease snd the lack of choice I had in where I could and couldn’t go. I became depressed and anxious about everything. But I’m working on leaving that behind now.

And I definitely didn’t see much compassion . The amount of people I saw turn on each other over varying rules about masking, following rules about lockdown etc was appalling. Many people became so self centred about their own safety they forgot those that went out to the Covid war zone daily providing services for them, so they could stay in their own little safe bunker. People ranked others as ‘good’ for not catching the disease and as careless and lacking care about others if they did. People scrambled to point the finger of blame as to where they caught it, for what reason I never understood.

Masking and vaccinating is a choice now. No longer do these things give us a status of what we can and can’t do or where we can and can’t go . I hope we never have to repeat lockdowns.


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Sailing through glaciers or…Not every paradise is tropical

Over two days we have glided close to glaciers. The twin Sawyer Glaciers, North Sawyer and South Sawyer were first. They are located at the end of Tracy Arm. Next was a day in Glacier Park. In the park we saw many glaciers, including the John Hopkins Glacier where we spent about an hour, with the ship moving in a very slow circular pattern so all sides of the ship had an excellent view at some time.

The first trip was my favourite though. The weather was extra kind to us. We transferred from the ship to a catamaran basically in the middle of the ocean … well, where Stephens Passage meets the North Pacific Ocean. The morning was foggy and as the catamaran took off, the ship’s horn was all we had to connect us to it as it was shrouded more heavily in fog with each metre we sailed away. It felt like a promo for a eerie Netflix drama along the lines of ‘Lost’.

We were extremely lucky because within a short distance from the ship the sky cleared to a brilliant blue with a few shifty white fluffy clouds. Apparently recent trips had been cancelled into Tracy Arm due to poor weather conditions.

However the wind chill factor meant it was freezing and we were standing out on deck waiting for those first glimpses of ice.

As we travelled up the arm the magical visions began. We stopped to watch a humpback whale dance for us, spurting and tail flapping before it did a dive deep into the water only to resurface and repeat the show again.

Then in grand Disney style the parade of ice began. The performers were bergy bits (1-5 metres above the water) growlers ( about a metre above the water) and brash ice ( all other smaller ice chunks ). There was one performer in the line up that our marine specialist said looked to be an iceberg.

At North Sawyer Glacier I witnessed 3 calvings. There was an audible loud boom and the ice cracked off the edge of the glacier a splash as it toppled into the water. Of course I let out the same enthusiastic shout of glee as I do when watching fireworks.

By the next glacier I couldn’t feel my hands so much so that I was eating chips and had to look to see I had chips in my fingers. As we approached the glacier and Brian pointed to the glacier a quote from Griswald’s Christmas Vacation came to mind. “She’ll see it later honey, her eyes are frozen shut.”-Ellen

I saw several more calvings at this glacier each as exciting as the next. . Apparently it was a good show day! Sometimes nothing happens.

With blue skies still above we sailed to Juneau where the ship now awaited us.

Before returning to the ship we rode the Goldbelt tram for views over the city. The cloud has followed the ship so the views were a bit misty. It was a very sharp incline and descent but this has been a YOLO trip for me, so I enjoyed it for what it was- a fearful journey up a mountain.


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Rocky Mountaineer Day 2… or deserts and cities and delicious food

7:10am was to be our departure from the hotel to the train. Of course at 7:15am the driver was still chasing up a few stragglers before we could head to the stations. The sky was just starting to gain a faint blue hue, changing from the darkness of night.I always find it exciting to head off on journeys at this time of day.

Our drive to the station took us via a two-way bridge- a slim bridge- and this coach was anything but slim. The bus entered it as other cars joined from their end. In the middle there were fists raised and not so friendly words shouted from the cars as they reversed off the bridge to let the bus through. Think Google maps got this a bit wrong.

Soon it once again was “All aboard”.

Coffee was served as wafts of bacon and waffles filtered through the carriage. I grabbed the menu from the seat pocket and had my food sorted way, way before I was asked what I wanted.

Again food didn’t disappoint.

Breakfast entree was a cinnamon croissant and fruit salad – crisp grapes that crunched when you bit them, extra sweet pineapple that dripped juice, honey dew and rockmelon.The flavour of the melons took me back to childhood when melons were only eaten in season.

I chose the frittata with bacon. I just love the thinness of bacon in Canada. It fries up crinkly, with just the perfect amount of crispness and saltiness. I will miss this at home.

Jagged rock faces of black, red and grey reflecting their base minerals thrilled our eyes. Kamloops lake was fringed like the beaches we had seen on Vancouver island. Big boulders and tree logs washed to shore, resting on the boulders grey and white rounded boulders.

The environment began to change as we left Kamloops behind. The grasses dried, the trees were shorter and sparser.

We enjoyed lunch as watched the scenery pass by. The chicken had a mushroom sauce and it was so succulent. My favourite – baked cheesecake- was the dessert. Only thing missing was a huge dollop of whipped cream ( well that’s my opinion).

All too soon the scenery began urbanising, with scattered houses and barns first then suburban housing. Just before arriving into Vancouver the instrumental theme from Rocky the movie was blared through the carriage, and biscuits not unlike an ANZAC biscuit ( but with dried fruit) was handed out- and one more beverage from the cart. My beverage was another Caesar,. It is considered Canada’s national cocktail the hostess told me.. The ingredients are vodka, clam juice, tomato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.

With a few toots our arrival was announced coming into the station. The Rocky Mountaineer has its very own station. It was easy to navigate and fast to collect luggage and to be on our way into Downtown Vancouver to spend a day before ( hopefully ) boarding our shop bound to Alaska.


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Meeting Alaska

With snow-capped mountains outstretched she welcomes us. The sky is soft azure without even a whisp of a cloud. A single star twinkles up high. The scene is silent, except for the soft purr of the ship’s engines. The ship is gliding so slowly it barely makes a wake as we greet her.

The sun is yet to get out of bed. It will be 30 minutes before she properly wakes. But, she is starting to stretch. She slowly brings out her scarves of red hues, waving them softly to us.

My phone cannot do justice to the colours but my mind enjoyed them.

This is my first morning in Alaska. It’s a special meeting, one I have been waiting for for a long time. This image will be mine forever.

A reward for being an early riser.


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The Rocky Mountaineer or… train whistle blowing

The system of the Rocky Mountaineer is a well oiled machine. You can tell this isn’t a new activity.

People line up awaiting their turn to drop off their bags at the hotel starting point. The faces are a mixture of deadpan, excited, anxious, those lacking coffee and those jumping around from lack of sleep and too much early coffee.

From there we were herded on to waiting buses. The buses’ bellies are filled with suitcases…extra large, floral, tiny, duffels and a few too many turquoises just like mine. The buses take us first to a baggage drop at a nearby huge car park. Here the buses are emptied of bags and sorted by Kamloops hotels ( their destination). They don’t travel on the train. They go via truck. Then it’s off to the train station for us.

We travelled ‘Silver Leaf’, akin to premium economy plane seats. ‘Gold Leaf’ is the business class equivalent ( but it comes with stairs and sharing eating tables with others-not for me). People set out to find their carriage. The numbers are jumbled to add to the confusion- oops, ‘adventure’. Some dawdled like me, others a speedy step, some hobbled with walking stick sticks. “All aboard” called the carriage host. We piled onboard obediently, located our seat, to be ours for the 2 day journey.

With a lurch and a shudder and horn blown loud and proud the trip began. It had the familiarity of a school camp to me. Some with loud voices letting everyone know their were there. Some quietly chatting to to a partner or friend. Some staring out the windows. Some even waving goodbye to those there to see them off. A staff member strolled the aisle, re-counting the heads.

The scenery was the initial draw card . As we left Banff mist shrouded the majestic mountains. One might say they were farewell tears-I like to think so.

We traced the Bow River in all its colourful beauty. The white boulders … mixed with those of greyish tones give the water its turquoise hue.

Breakfast arrived, momentarily distracting from the scenery outside the window. Laid out on white cloths with silver cutlery, it too is special. Tasty morsels of fresh fruit along with a croissant began the feast. My choice for mains was scrambled eggs with salmon. A delicious plate it was. Coffee complimented it.There were an assortment of juices for those desiring it as well.

The scenery continued to be of tall trees, gigantic mountains, turquoise rivers and interesting bridges. Someone shouted, ‘Bear to the right!’ People for a moment forgot politeness clambering and pushing and grappling for a prime window spot. I’m not convinced it was a bear. I think it was a blackened log.

Snacks of chocolates, nuts, savoury crackers and trail mix and an array of drinks are offered…hot,cold,alcoholic, soft drink and juices. I sampled my first Caesar cocktail and enjoyed the flavours.

Lunch is also provided- as delicious as breakfast. The ribs melted in my mouth and the parsnip and potato mash teased my tastebuds. No ketchup was offered and (a first for me) I didn’t need it. Dessert was a tangy lemon tart with a sweet berry compote.

More drinks and snacks were offered at regular intervals- the hungry/thirsty could collect extras at their desire.

The journey took us late into the night. The scenery changed slightly. The mountains lost some height, but the rivers still enticed with their colour and fast moving rapids. Eagles zoomed overhead as if taking the train on in a challenge. Lights started to twinkle in streets,and in homesteads and along roads as the train snaked on.

Dinner was included, though this is not part of the regular package. Our due arrival time at the hotel was to be 2.5 hours late at Kamloops our bed for the night. The town options for food for 800 people at 9 pm would be challenging. So they whipped up butter chicken and rice.

Arriving at Kamloops buses took us to our hotels. Entering our room our luggage was all there awaiting us, almost magically. You know how many people are losing luggage when travelling? Well we didn’t lose anything but did end up with an extra suitcase in our room.

Tomorrow starts with a 7:10am bus back to the station. 💤💤💤

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Exploring Lake Louise…or Lake Louise through my senses

The photo is framed with trees layered to reach the sky. The turquoise lake ripples silently, except for the occasional splash or drip from the paddle of a red canoe cutting through the water.

Gravel crunches under the feet of travellers who have made this pilgrimage. Occasionally the rhythm of the crunch is broken by a brief stumble but with a quick pick up the rhythm commences again. Bells rattle from ankles and walking poles and dog collars and bags, a message to the bears of humans approaching. I am yet to spy one of these magnificent creatures.

The scene begins to lose crispness as smoke wafts through. The stark white of the glacier watching over us becomes a muted grey. The smell of weak pine wood assaults the nose.

Chipmunks gather and scramble over the rocky edges of the lake. They perform like a busker, then pose for the cameras, hopeful for a tasty morsel. The tourists obey the “Do not feed the wildlife” signs though. Yet still the chipmunks perform, ever hopeful.

Voices break the serenity. They share their thoughts, amazement, and gossip. They speak to strangers, loved ones, new friends. They have their stories to share like these gigantic rugged mountains watching over us.

My tummy rumbles without food for none is available to purchase here. I munch on a cookie I’d bought the day before, but hadn’t eaten. The crisp crunch of an apple nearby reminds me how hungry I am. I can smell the sweet juice from where I sit. I watch in envy, the stranger eating it.

Time for a selfie or two.


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Exploring Calgary…or wearing my shoe soles away.

Have feet will travel some say but I’m a motorised or rail type traveller …usually. But recently this hasn’t been the case.

Lucky for me Calgary downtown is a ‘flat as a pancake’ walking area. With so much to see I didn’t whinge until I was on the last block back to our hotel ( how out of character…not). There was nothing to see there.

We crossed the Peace Bridge but it’s not too peaceful at the moment. Vandals have been destroying it with rocks and paint. I took my photos between the grid fence panels put up to replace the removed damaged glass panels.

Our walk took us along Bow River in Prince’s Island Park. I was singing “The first thing you know I’ll be back at Bow River again” ( small word change haha). I will be back at Bow River in a few days time when I arrive in Banff.

The park was a delight of bird calls, chirping squirrels, rushing water rapids, and plants gently rustling in the wind. I loved the varying soft gravel sound as people strolled and ran the paths.

There was colour everywhere in the flower beds – bright colour, subtle colour – pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, purples, greens. Some geraniums like my red one were planted around.

I got excited when walking I saw two squirrels in amongst the trees. Unlike my first encounter with a squirrel around 35 years ago in the USA, this time I knew they weren’t baby squirrels because they were small. I didn’t need to embarrass myself this time with squeals of, “Look at the baby squirrels”. Turns out there weren’t just two. They were everywhere. They danced and played, chasing each other, climbing trees and eating berries. Most were black but I saw 2 grey/brown ones. Apparently they are all Eastern Greys but some have black fur the opposite of albinos. They reminded me of Blacky my cat.

Although we had a good breakfast at the hotel, the waft of coffee drew me to a cafe along the way. I tried the Pumpkin Spice Cafe Latte. It tasted so good I googled a recipe (making good use of the free wifi) as I sipped it. I will be making this when I get home! I had a strawberry and coconut scone with it. Scones are in every bakery. They are even pronounced to rhyme with con, like I say it. They are called biscuits in Tim Horton’s though.

Our walk took us past statues and parks. We saw one called the Family of man. They stand 6.5 metres high. You can read more about them here if you are interested. We used a few of the Plus 15 pedestrian walkways that connect buildings throughout the downtown core. They are above ground and heated- stark contrast to the chilled winds we had on the streets

We caught the local free light rail for a change of pace. We hopped on and off a few places.

At one stop we hopped off to get some lunch at an A & W ( a burger chain). We like chains so thought we’d try it. We saw ( and heard) 3 police attempting to move on two hookers. We walked past nonchalantly ( after I had sticky beaked pretending to consult my map).

At the burger store while we’re were ordering I heard the staff call security about a person who was sleeping in a corner of the store. They tried to move him but he stayed asleep so they put bread crates up and closed that bit of the restaurant. Next thing as we sit eating our burgers and all looks calm, a patron approaches the counter screaming abuse about his order being wrong. He had extra cheese and he had asked for no cheese. I couldn’t understand anyone complaining about getting extra cheese. He went on and on sweating loudly about the order and when they were trying to replace it he refused saying he would eat it anyway even though he was allergic to cheese. Of course his dad was, “ the top lawyer of all lawyers in Canada and the store would be hearing from him.”( just like we were hearing from him). When the store manager said they were on the phone to the police he said he would stay and show them the extra cheese😀. He left but not before throwing his drink at the counter. Luckily he had only ordered a kids meal so the drink was only as big as our medium drinks. Remember everything is larger here.

He returned and apologised that he shouldn’t have said that. Sure right he shouldn’t!

He walked quietly back to the table, collected his kids burger with extra cheese and left again- with a tirade of abuse. Dinner and a show !

No complaints about my burger- look at all that iceberg lettuce! 🤪

We finished our walk at Devonian Gardens, an indoor botanical garden in a shopping centre.


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West Coast bound… or Goats, mountains, tall trees and lakes.

Driving across to Ucluelet and Tofino our first stop was to see goats on a roof. Yes – goats grazing on a grassy roof. They are in the Country Markets of Coombs. You really must take a look at this place using this link! I am not a shopper but was in awe of what was offered here ( more than goats). No way could you leave here without finding the obscure thing you needed ( or decided you needed).

We ate our breakfast with views of the goats ( occasionally a less than good for eating view 😂) Tried a Nanaimo Bar and enjoyed is version as much as the ice cream.

The road trip then took as past HUGE mountains , some with snow caps. The lakes were a beautiful blue green hue and not as cold as I thought they’d be. Yes, I tested with my feet.

We passed rivers with deep swimming holes and rapids. Brian was more adventurous clambering down rocks to reach the rapids. Someone had to stay up the top to document it on the camera 🙂

At Port Alberni we strolled the waterfront and funnily enough Brian found yet another ice cream and lolly store.

The mountains were majestic as we drove across the island. Not a bear or elk or cougar was seen. And I tell you I was looking! 😂

Tofino beaches had a mist rolling in by the time we arrived. The sand was hard packed. People rode bikes on the sand! Beach combing was interesting. Pity I can’t bring anything home.

Ucluelet was our base for the night. Dinner was at Howlers, a restaurant that had food as well as a bowling lane and pool tables.


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On the road to Nanaimo … Towers, totems and murals.

Leaving Victoria in a rental car , we headed off on the wrong ( well right) side of the road. As a pedestrian I struggled with which way to check traffic . As a passenger I’m no better. Luckily Brian has the road sense, since he is driving.

Our first destination was Malahat Skywalk. You can read about it here if you like.

Entry to the walk

The walk was an easy spiral walk. It lures you into a false sense of security until you face someone stopped in front of you. You have to go around them on the barrier side – and you accidentally ( on purpose thinking it will be fine) look down.🫣 I had to consciously look out not down.

Big chairs with a view. My first experience looking down. At this height it was ok… but the walk kept going higher and higher.
From the top
The slide
The real deal 😂

As we walked back along the path to the exit my eyes were constantly watching in the hope of seeing a beer or elk . The signs said they could be there. I was excited but saw none. All I saw was a wasp as it stung me 3 times on my hand as I fought gallantly to shoo it away. As you can imagine, I did a good display for others around us.

Then we took off to Duncan, the city of totems. We tried to decipher the parking rules and decided we thought we were parking legally. Guess we’ll know the result if any parking fines turn up for us. We visited the museum to learn about the area. Of course I read everything Kath Day-Knight style, while Brian read like we had no more places to visit. We were on a schedule I had predetermined. How was I to know the museum would have so much to read.

After the museum we filled ourselves with essential food ( bagels ) and hit the totem trail before a rushed departure to Charmainus- the city of murals.

Chemainus not only had murals it had a fabulous ice cream shop where I tried Nanaimo Bar ice cream. Nanaimo Bar are a chocolate slice base , custard filling and a thick hard chocolate icing ( similar to a caramel slice). The ice cream – if presented on a show like MKR would be called a deconstructed frozen Nanaimo Bar.

The gardens at Waterwheel park were in colourful blooms.

It was as time to complete our journey to Nanaimo. I am enrolling in lessons so I can pronounce this correctly. 🤣

Nanaimo was not lacking in the BIG size competition. The pizza for one sure filled the plate. 😂 No complaints here.

I’m really starting the test the stretch ability of my elastic waists 😂


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Exploring Vancouver Island…or Big, bigger, biggest.

Everything is so fabulously large here. Ironically I’ve only included a small selection of items.

Nachos for two.

A small watermelon ice cream dipped in candy gloss flavoured white chocolate.

Bottomless Coke glasses.

Pizza for one

Fish and chips with one serve of a freckle (deep fried battered dill pickle)

A cinnamon pop over ( I didn’t actually try this but it fitted the story title)

Chairs

Totem poles

Mountains and trees

Us 🥰