First Stop
Full Circle

Vancouver's a place we love coming back to
Vancouver's such a familiar, easy place for us. New Zealand is lovely but, after living overseas for five years, it didn't feel like coming home any more than returning to Vancouver did.

We got ourselves to R&E'S place and the conversation seemed to just pick up where we left it, as though we'd been away for the weekend, not a whole year.

A and I spent the first week buying some last-minute things that we couldn't find in NZ and I took myself to Central Hobbies on Grandview Highway. It's one of the few dedicated model railway stores left in the world, from what I can tell. There are boxes and boxes of random stuff there. Finding what you want can be a challenge, but the chance of spotting an amazing old kit or detail part during the search makes the extra time worthwhile. If that's your thing, of course.

Part of coming back to Vancouver is continuing traditions, including the weekly Hike Night with R&P.

Hike Night means climbing in the forest for a few hours, chatting with irreverent humour, then capped off by a takeaway meal of questionable health benefits.

Thank goodness we all became friends back in 2014 because without exaggeration, the weekly routine of exercise and companionship went a long way towards saving my sanity. I quickly realised that my then-new workplace had an incredibly destructive atmosphere and Hike Night was my safety valve.

In summer we'd head up an old trail to the Grouse Mountain lodge and back. Not the Grouse Grind, with its lycra-clad, sports-drink-clutching city types but a real trail in the forest, carrying backpacks and using head torches. In winter we'd skin up the BC trail next to Mt Seymour and ski down. Two runs a night. My skiing up until then had been on fields in NZ, so using skins and turning through ungroomed snow at night, between trees and with a full backpack was a step up. At least the darkness meant nobody could see my crap technique.

So, five years later here was Hike Night again, up on Cypress ski hill with R. We thought the snow would have left, so went on foot. The view from the top over the city on one side and Howe Sound the other is well worth it. As it turned out we could have brought our skis - there was more than enough to get a few turns on. My fitness was what you'd call sub-optimal, but I managed to get up and back down again without expiring.

R was also happy to keep me company on a day at Whistler, the first weekend. It's not cheap but, oh man, there's nowhere else near Vancouver where you can get so much skiing. The locals had clearly put Whistler out of mind for the season and the groomed spring slopes were empty. It took a few runs for me to remember what this skiing bizzo was all about but after that it was magical.

Just as well, because next weekend was the Big Trip

While I was sliding down hills badly, A visited some friends and then we took a roadie down to the States in R&E's camper. An awesome drive, but long. It's easy to forget how big the States is, plus the two and a half hour wait at the border was neither awesome, nor welcoming. I've had a faster, smoother visa-on-arrival process landing in Bangladesh.

Quietly on the nest
A hummingbird in the Dollarton sanctuary
Old Trucks
There seems to be a lot of them around here
The Desert
Beauty right at your feet
Within Sage
The seeming wilderness
The Cascades
Big mountains
The US of A is a funny place to visit. Canada shares a border but culturally they are totally different. I dunno how it happened historically but as soon as we cross the border south, we can always feel the tension. One way to illustrate it is by the road signs. In Canada there's a friendly motorway sign saying "Please don't Litter". Sure, sounds reasonable. In the States, the sign that addresses the same issue proclaims, "Litter and it will Hurt". There's the fundamental separation: a polite, reasonable request versus a base threat. One encourages thoughtfulness; one engenders fear. A pity, because the people we meet are great.

It was lovely to cruise through the Cascades for a couple of days, but also really nice to come back into Canada! To celebrate our return, we had a deliciously unhealthy iced mocha coffee at Tim Horton's.

R had asked us to help crew his trimaran on Saturday so a potential buyer could see how awesome it was, and we got a sail on his new boat on Sunday. We loved both days out and I personally liked his new monohull because I didn't get seasick on it! Considering I can feel queasy standing on a floating dock, that's something to be happy about.

We had a couple of final days seeing friends then got on the plane to Malta to begin our trip in earnest. Since this was where the rubber hit the road, we were both nervous. What if travelling the world wasn't what we wanted to do after all? What if the thing we really wanted was to scuttle back to our Hobbit-Hole and do some knitting?

What if we ended up loving it?
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