Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Longest Tuesday ever

After a day of packing and last minute errands, we had a short night's anxious sleep before the taxi arrived at ten to five to take us to the bus station, to catch the first coach to Heathrow. As we queued to board, a young woman behind me asked if this ewas the Heathrow coach, as she couldn't see the route indicator on the second vehicle. I said yes, and asked where she was flying to. Saudi Arabia she told me. A student going home at term's end maybe? Though not for Christmas. She was going south east to forty degrees of heat, and we were going north west to minus five degrees of cold. Heathrow, global crossroads.

We arrived at Heathrow, sleepy from our journey, mostly in the dark. We had with plenty of time to spare for panics about misplaced items - mostly mine - it takes me a long time to get back into long distance travel mode, so much have I adjusted to a quiet homey sort of town life over the past six months. Having checked in on-line, all we had to do was drop off our bags and endure airport security clearance queues. It was busy, but it took us just half an hour from start to finish, leaving us with a two hour wait before boarding. The free wifi access was so congested that this will not be my first ever posting from a laptop in an airport Departure lounge. Dozens of people were using laptops, and doubtless hundreds using wifi enabled phones. I wonder what kind of system manages so many simultaneous users?

At the appointed time over three hundred of us were herded politely on to a huge Air Canada Airbus A330 for the nine hour flight. The last time I went West around the globe was when I went to Jamaica in 1982. This time, even further West, past the southern tip of Greenland over northern Labrador and Hudsons Bay, to Calgary in the snow covered plains of Alberta. Hudsons Bay is mostly iced over, but with huge dark fissures dramatically revealing the chilly waters beneath. It was hard to get any decent photos, as the double glazed window was partly iced up on the inside, not surprisingly when the outside air temperature is minus eighty.

Because of head-winds we arrived twenty minutes late but were soon through immigration, with a dozen courteous officers on duty to check arrivals from two international flights arriving close to each other. Our luggage, being almost first on, was among the last to be delivered, which made us nervous, with a bus check in deadline to meet. Nevertheless, we were on our way through the downtown evening rush hour in a taxi, with a chatty Punjabi driver (just like being back in Cardiff), and arrived at the Greyhound bus terminal well in time to check in with our e-tickets bought on line 4,600 miles away.

Coach security measures were as strict as at the airports, and not suprisingly after a passenger in the USA went on a killing spree last year. At six thirty we were on our way in the dark on the highway heading south into the Banff national park, with tantalising glimpses of snow shrouded beauty along the way. Just over three hours later we were re-united with Rachel at the coach drop-off point in Radium, half an hour's drive from Fairmont Hot Springs, and driven home in her posh Jeep SUV - a nice robust vehicle, something of a necessity in a region where where snow packed road surfaces are common in the early part of the season when the snow layer builds up quickly.

After a drink and bite to eat and an email home, after twenty hours on the move, it was time for bed.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you arrived safely with no hitches. I see you have found the wi-fi now :-)
    Big kisses to everyone xxx