Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Page 2 of 53

Day 17 – Canada/Alaska: Ketchikan.

Here’s my wonky attempt at showing you the view from our balcony this morning. We were all set to have a seafood feast at Ketchikan this morning, so we elected to have Ruby bring breakfast to our cabin this morning.

Having a butler is turning out to be quite handy.

While we were waiting with many others for our tour to be called, I started talking to an English woman called Suze. This is her 18th Silver Seas cruise.

Can you imagine?

She says she likes to go on 3 or 4 cruises a year, plus she tries to fit in a land tour. She’s been doing this all her life. She’s in her mid 70’s now and a knee replacement is trying its best to slow her down, but she’s having none of it.

“I’m booked to the end of 2027,” she said. “After that, I’ll probably slow down a bit.”

Oof. I thought I was pretty swish, booking myself to the end of September 2025. Clearly, I’ll have to lift my game!

Ketchikan usually has a population of around 9,000, but in summer the cruise ships hit town. The Silver Muse has around 500 passengers, which seems big to me. But 4 other cruise ships were docking at Ketchikan this morning – this monster has over 5,000 passengers!

It looks like a wall! This town was crowded…

Ketchikan has a lot of these huge steps that have been here so long – before the actual streets were built – that they also have street names. This one is Elliot street.

Imagine hauling your groceries all the way up here?

The fishing village was down a long, steep walk to the dock.

Look at how sparkling this water is. There’s a 20-foot difference between the tides.

It was a 25-minute boat ride to where the feast was going to be held. We saw some stunning scenery.

A lot of shrimp (prawn) hunting goes on here. One of the unwritten laws is that if you are fishing, you’re hungry and you need to eat something, you can pull up someone else’s shrimp pit and have a feed. You have to re-bait it and put it back, along with a 6-pack of beer as a thank-you.

We also saw this Bald Eagle swoop down to get a fish that our guide threw into the water. This happened 3 times and I was able to see them all. The way the eagle stretches out his white legs to grab the fish just before he hits the water was something to see.

It was spectacular!

The guide said that for every mile of coastline there’s a pair of eagles.

This is the view from the dock as we walked up from our boat.

They also farm oysters here. They don’t grow in Alaska naturally. The oyster farmers have to bring them in as ‘seedlings’ or very young oysters. The water is so cold for them here, so they grow large and fatty, which some people prefer.

There are quite a few chainsaw sculptures here at the lodge This was the first one.

The story is that a guy visited the fishing shack and asked if they had any timber that he could use to make some art. They said, “We have a few trees out the back!”

In exchange for his art, he was able to come and fish whenever he wanted.

There were people in the restaurant, so we went on a ‘nature walk’ behind the buildings. This was code for a short boardwalk.

The ground was a quagmire. The guide said that there were deer here, but I couldn’t see how they’d be able to walk.

Moss hung from nearly every tree. I wondered if the trees wanted to shake their branches free of the encroaching weight of it.

This tree is the 4th biggest Red Cedar in the world. It’s on the fishing lodge’s 5 acres, so they officially own it.

A hummingbird buzzed Megan’s face. I’m so envious. I still haven’t seen one.

I don’t see why Americans are so patriotic.

I think that you can feel love for your country without needing to make a huge display of it.

More taxidermy.

He was over a handwashing station, which I was glad to use later on.

We were told that this was a “Southern Style” feast, which meant nothing to me.

I should’ve taken more notice of the tablecloth of newspapers.

Yep. She just tipped out the whole lot in the middle of the table. Megan found my reaction very funny. I leapt back and said, “Jesus!”

I soon grabbed the crab-claw cutters and got stuck in.

Everything was fresh and delicious.

There wasn’t much left by the time we finished. We talked to one of the workers and she said that she often takes the leftovers home.

“We get a bit sick of crab claws, mussels and shrimp, but the neighbours love us if we make a big seafood bake and ask them around to help us eat it!”

OK, so the guide was right and I was wrong.

Here’s a deer.

I’ve seen many a movie where the actors loll around on these benches screwed to the roof. I had to have a go.

It was surprisingly comfortable. I wonder if I could do this on MY verandah?

We sped back to the dock. Megan, not the best traveller, sat at the back with her eyes on the horizon.

I sat at the front and enjoyed every bump. But seriously, it seemed like a bit of a risk. Pump everyone full of seafood and warm chocolate-ship cookies and then give them a rollercoaster ride back?

We had a very funny, very camp driver on the way back to Ketchikan. He was halfway through an Indigenous legend about how the world began when suddenly we all yelled, “BEAR!”

He slammed on the brakes as a teenage bear ran out on the road, made as if to double-back, then changed his mind and ran across the road to disappear in the foliage. It happened so fast that no one had a chance to grab a photo.

“Hmmm, lucky I stopped,” said the driver. That bear was lucky that he didn’t end up sprawled all over the windscreen.

Ok, I bought a souvenir here. It’s a small piece of white quartz with some gold running through it.

It’s a useful souvenir because I could wear it every day and it’ll go with anything. I stand by my shopping choices.

The mountains hug this town. It’s so odd to think that behind these buildings are bears and wolves.

Every single thing the people here need to support life comes in via barge.

Even babushka dolls. There’s a shop full of them. I took this photo for Scott since it reminded me of when we went shopping for them in Lincoln.

Imagine living over this tunnel?

As we walked closer to the dock, I liked the house on the top of the hill, but I also liked the trio of blue hats so close together.

Got them all in the one shot!

You’ve got to be careful of the wildlife here.

Our tender boat to get back to the Silver Muse took ages to dock.

“it’s because he’s being watched by the captain!” said someone.

I looked to my right and sure enough, our captain was there. He eventually had had enough, grabbed a rope and helped the guy on the dock bring the tender in.

We dressed up a bit and went for dinner at the same restaurant I went to the night before. It was only a ‘smart, elegant’ night on the calendar.

Now that we’re in the inside passage, Megan has her equilibrium back and we’re ready for more. Someone said to us that there are more animal sightings the further North we go, so that’ll be exciting.

Dad joke of the day:

Days 15/16 – Canada/Alaska. The Silver Muse.

Our reconnaissance mission two days ago went as planned. Our taxi driver took us straight through to the Silver Seas check-in.

Here’s our ship – the Silver Muse. We sat and watched her as we drank coffee, waiting for the check-in to open at 12.

There were lots of kids walking around with Didney t-shirts and Mickey Mouse ears. I was scared that they were going to be on our cruise until I saw the huge Disney cruise ship. Thank god.

A sniffer dog, making sure that no contraband was going aboard. Good girl!

On one of our last nights on the Canada tour, we had dinner with the couple who’d been chased by the bear at Whistler. She’s a travel agent, so they’ve been on many cruises. When we were going with Silver Seas, she said, “Wow! That’s impressive!”

Her husband, a ‘try hard’ with a large, expensive watch that he flashed everywhere, said, “What? Better than what? The cruises we’ve been on?”
“Yes,” she said.

“Better than the Queen Mary?”

“YES, ” she said.

He was very put out that we’d upstaged him, even if it was totally unintentional on our part!

I wasn’t all that hungry, but when we were presented with a smorgasbord, all sense went out the window. I had sushi and roast goose.

Goose! Like a medieval princess.

We struck a slight snag when we opened the door to our suite. There was a lovely Queen-sized bed there.

Megan and I don’t cuddle.

Fortunately, Megan called our Ruby, our butler and soon a nice steward came with armfuls of bedding and turned it into two singles.

Goodbye Canada!

It was so much fun seeing you.

The next day was the first sailing day we had on this cruise. Thank goodness! I can catch up on the blog posts.

It turns out that Megan suffers from seasickness, so she spent much of the afternoon sleeping, while I had a mixture of exploring the ship and catching up here. I always feel so much better when my blog posts are up-to-date.

When we walked into breakfast, it was just past 9 AM. I’d already been productive, having read 100+ pages of a young adult novel while waiting for Megan to wake up, so I was already feeling good.

Delphine, our server, led us into a side room from the buffet with sweeping views of the vista outside. I was sure this would be just the thing to aid digestion, so I sat down, ordered an Americano and raced out to see what was on offer at the buffet.

The service on this ship is amazing. There are wall-to-wall people waiting to get you a drink, bring you some food and pretty much anything else you want. But no contraband – remember the sniffer dog from yesterday? Luckily, I was born to be straight.

We walked around the top deck of the boar for a while. There was an empty pool and a few other brave souls taking photos.

When we went to a smaller place for lunch, there were 5 servers for the 11 customers in the place. Crazy. They were desperate to do something for us, especially because a big proportion of the passengers were feeling sick and weren’t around.

Naturally, I had to help them out by ordering a morsel of food and a couple of glasses of bubbly.

I’m worried I might get used to this level of service. I’m going back on the Hondius in September next year. That’s the same ship that I went to Antarctica in. I hope I’m not wistfully looking around for my butler!

After lunch, Megan fell asleep. Deeply asleep.

I stayed for a while in the room, then when I finished blogging I had a quick nanna nap. Daytime drinkies do that to me.

Then I got up and walked the ship.

It wasn’t too cold outside. I was wearing the famous Grey Dress, 1 merino top and my cowl and I was plenty warm enough.

Every bar I walked into from the deck had a wall of warm air hit me as I came in.

I saw a lemon tart. I decided I needed to replenish my strength.

Georgia rang as I was sitting on the back deck, gazing contemplatively at the sea. She sounds so much brighter now that the worry of Poppy has been dealt with. She’s submitted all of her uni assignments and is going through all of her “change of name and gender” stuff, now that she has her new birth certificate.

She held the phone up so the dogs could hear me. Scout got very excited, especially when I asked, “Are you Mummy’s baby?”

Jeff is very clingy, Georgia said. Poor little man. He’s never been apart from Poppy before.

But I’m so glad that Georgia sounds back to her old self.

After a while, I went back to the room.

Megan was awake and had booked herself a massage. I realised that it was “formal night” tonight, so I’d better iron all my linen clothes.

Here I am, with clothes as wrinkle-free as linen is ever likely to get. (I had to go down 4 floors before I found a working iron…)

Megan wasn’t up for dinner, and I wasn’t about to waste all that ironing! So I dressed in the outfit I wore to David31 and Izzy’s wedding and swept myself off to crash the captain’s cocktail party.

I was given a Cosmopolitan as I walked through the door, and I sat with some lovely people from England. It was a bit of fun.

It was hungry work though, so I decided to see if I could find a nice place to eat. The buffet on level 7 is always available if this plan didn’t work out.

I found a place at a restaurant called ‘Indochine’ which was complimentary. I was given a table beside a window and the waiter and I conferred solemnly about every choice I made.

The meal started with a free cocktail – don’t mind if I do! – and wine was paired with each course.

The crême brulee was paired with chilled limoncello… naturally, darling.

I chatted with a few people seated near me, but mostly I stared out of the window and the magnificent view that changed every minute, sometimes thinking of my Poppy. I let the realisation sink in that I was actually on a luxury ship cruising in Alaska.

Tomorrow I set foot on American soil for the first time. It’s funny that I chose Alaska to be my US introduction. It’s not everyone’s first choice!

After dinner I didn’t feel like going back to the cabin just yet, so I went to a show.

Rachel York has played Fantine on Broadway, has worked with Julie Andrews and lots of other way famous people. I knew that Izzy and Jenna would love to see her sing, so I took a few sneaky vids that the ship won’t let me send to them because they’re too big.

She has a good set of lungs on her. Most of her show has her imitating famous singers like Streisand, Parton, and Andrews. She’s very good at it. She’s also VERY enthusiastic, which in a small venue is a little off-putting. I felt like asking her to tone it down a little.

Still, it was a great way to spend the evening.

When I got back Megan was watching James Bond in her pjs. Her massage, some beer and the (now) gentle rocking of the boat had all done the trick and she was feeling much better.

Let’s see what Alaska has to offer tomorrow!

Dad joke of the first day:

Dad joke for the second day:

Day 14: Canada/Alaska – A Day with Martha!

It’s always lovely meeting up with blog readers. We’re guaranteed to like each other – because why read the blog of someone you dislike? – and we can jump straight into conversations without much of that ‘getting to know you’ stuff.

At least on their side. As it happens, most of the people I’ve met up with from the blog are people who have NEVER COMMENTED!! They simply pop up when I mention I’ll be travelling in their area. (I’m looking at you, Deana, Loretta and Martha… haha!)

Here we are, posing at the bird sanctuary Martha and her husband John took us to. I think you can all tell who the Canadian is in the photo. Coat casually unzipped. Meanwhile, Megan and I were rugged up to the eyeballs.

Canadians are made of sterner stuff than Australians.

The sanctuary takes in injured birds and, if possible, rehabilitates them to be released out into the wild. Some birds, though, are too badly hurt and have to live their lives in big outdoor aviaries.

Big Daddy, was brought here in 1992. He’s a Bald Eagle who flew into power lines and had one wing amputated after he was electrocuted.

He has a partner, but at the moment she’s off in another cage, fostering new eagle babies and teaching them that they’re birds, not humans. She’ll be back once the new babies have flown the coop.

 After the group had moved down to cages further down the row, John, Martha’s husband, called us back.

“I think Big Daddy wants some more attention!” he said.

Our guide said that over 80% of birds of prey don’t live past their first year.


But in captivity, things are different. I’m not sure how I feel about this poor old thing:

Blinky has been here since 1983. They think that he’s about 45 years old.

He’s completely blind and deaf, though he can sense vibrations around him. Due to this, he’s hand-fed.

He’s usually with another owl who takes care of him, but she’s in another cage fostering real babies. When she finishes with that, she’ll be back to keep him company.

Cessna was hit by a plane, while Connie was confiscated from someone who had her in a parrot cage in their lounge room for 12 years. Imagine what an awful life that would have been for her?

They were put together and they decided that life was for the living. They’ve had babies.

There used to be two females here called Laverne and Shirley, but Shirley exhibited an unexpected aptitude for flying, so she was released two weeks ago and they put young Squizzy in here to keep Laverne company.

Snowy owls can eat more than 1,600 lemmings a year.

Interesting fact.

They sure like their taxidermy in this country!

After the aviaries, there was an indoor museum.

A happy woodland scene…

… in which this owl was NOT happy about spending eternity.

Martha – who is an absolute powerhouse! – and John drove us to Granville Island. Remember we were there for a little while on the first day of the coach tour? This time, we were back to look at the Art.

Two things stopped me from buying this exuberant bust for almost 1K… the fact that I’d just spent $2,200 at the emergency vet for Poppy, and the fact that it was stone and weighed a tonne.

There was a blacksmith there who had incredible things for sale. I loved so many of them, but they were either too big or too expensive.


Martha took us for a walk along the wharves, where we could see some of the beautiful buildings that Vancouver has.

I was able to get wifi on GranvilleIsland, and that when Georgia told me that our vet was hopeful that Poppy may have Addison’s Disease. He gave her an injection of a hormone that would make her appear much better in only a few hours, if that was the case. I spent most of today crossing my fingers and feeling hopeful. All of her symptoms matched the ones for Addisons.

Meanwhile, we talked and talked and talked. Here’s an action shot:

Look at these BROOMS!!!! Martha has a broom from here.

Aren’t they amazing? I didn’t get one because they’d never get through customs, but they were amazing – and the people who make them were busy at the back of the shop, making more.

I told Megan one of the steroid seagulls from Canada was behind her. It’s a scary thought!

We all caught a bus to the mainland and we said goodbye to Martha at the end of the day. When we walked back to the room and had dinner, I received a phone call from Georgia, saying that the injection hadn’t worked and Poppy was crashing again. She was calling it, and I agreed. Later that day, they were heading in for the Green Dream.

Poppy was in her bed, with her nose in the top I’d worn the last day I was home. Georgia had fished it out from the washing and given it to her.

Jordan came around to be with Georgia. By the time he drove over there, Georgia had already dug Poppy’s grave, right where I wanted it.

I waited for the phone call. It came at 2 AM Vancouver time.

Poppy was gone. She had a peaceful death with Georgia and Jordan at her side.

They did everything for Poppy exactly as I would have done it. I’m so proud of them. She was given the dignified, painless death she deserved.

I stayed up for a while. Then I snuck into bed without waking Megan.

The cruise starts tomorrow.

Day 13- Canada/Alaska: The end of the coach tour and the results of the wifi experiment.

We were on the bus, about to leave the hotel in Victoria when the first messages from Georgia came through.


“I’m so sorry.”

“Poppy just had a seizure. I’m taking her to the emergency vet.”

It was the middle of the night in Australian time. The rest of the day was a nightmare of me searching for wifi and Megan relaying messages between us. She has roaming.

The wifi experiment is a big NO. I’m never doing this again. Plus the time zones were a nightmare, with Canada being 17 hours behind Melbourne time. There were very few hours where it was instantaneous to communicate.

The coach dropped us off at the hotel we originally stayed in, but our paperwork told us that we were booked in to the other Sandman hotel downtown.

A $20 taxi ride there – only to be told that our paperwork was wrong and we had to go back to where we started. Terrific. A $20 taxi ride back.

After all of that was sorted out, we sat in the room. I was beside myself with worry about Poppy and was checking my messages all the time for anything new from Georgia.

At the same time, this was a day in an overseas city. We needed to get out and about, for Megan’s sake. She was chilled, but I knew it wasn’t fair. So we decided to go to Canada Place and see where we’d be getting dropped off for the cruise in two day’s time.

I had enough anxiety about Poppy going on – I didn’t need any anxiety over the next stage of our trip to be hanging around as well! So we went for a walk.

Vancouver is filled with a lot of trees, like Melbourne. They have leaves imprinted into the footpaths, but they’re only under where trees are planted. I loved it.

Megan photobombed the shot of the sculptures.

We went down and made sure we knew where we’d be going on Monday. It looked idiot-proof.

This was reassuring.

Look at the size of this frog!

The wharf has lots of these boards documenting quirky stories about Canada. We walked slowly along the boards, taking them in and looking at the ships that were docked.

An overly large ship pulled away, music BLARING and a try-hard guy on the microphone urging everyone to “Get excited!!!”

I hope our cruise isn’t like this…

Later that night, Georgia sent me this picture of Poppy and Jeff at home, snuggled up in my dressing gown. It’s the second-last photo I have of her. I didn’t know that then.

Day 12 Canada/Alaska – Victoria and the racing yacht.

This is the hallway of our hotel in Victoria, Vancouver Island. If twin girls holding hands suddenly appeared at the other end, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I spent most of the morning catching up with the blog, leaving the room just as I received an ecstatic message from Megan, who had gone on a whale-watching excursion: “We saw 22 Orcas!!!”


As I was walking along the foreshore, bells rang out from a nearby Cathedral. They sounded absolutely beautiful. It was 1 o’clock on the dot and yes, it reminded me of the church bells ringing over from Kent when Deana, Kathleen and I were walking along the shore in Essex almost a year ago. 

I was wandering around, trying to find where I could book a water taxi to have a look at the harbour when I bumped into Bob, the man on the left.

He instantly became my new best friend. When he asked if I wanted to have a look at the yachts in the harbour, of course, I said yes.

There was a huge race due to start tomorrow, so the regular boats were booted off and the racing yachts were all crammed in, getting ready for the big day.

This one was beautiful. It was a wooden boat and the man had owned it for 25 years.

“She was left tied up in a yard and allowed to fill with rainwater for I don’t know how many years,” he said. “This was when we were able to afford her.”

He restored her and re-varnishes her every year. It’s a labour of love.

The people here venerate the wooden boats. It’s almost like they’re the ‘real’ boats.

Here’s another one. She’s called Martha.

She’s her own Foundation. She’s here to allow kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to sail to have the chance to get into it.

The next 3 photos are educational. Bob used the example of a ‘block’ to show me the differences between the yachts.

Martha is an old boat, so she has the original blocks, which are made of wood. Very heavy.

The more modern ones are made of metal alloys and are hollow, which makes them lighter.

Then he pointed.

“This yacht here is called Smoke,” he said. “She’s one of the fastest boats on the water. See what they’ve done here? They’ve just screwed the whole thing into the deck. Much lighter.

“This is a real racing yacht. On my yacht, I have a stove on gimbals with 3 burners. I’ll bet all they have is a propane flame. It’s all about conserving weight.”

This girl was doing some work on board. I asked her about the stove and she invited me to come aboard.

Bob’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

He’s no fool, though. He scrambled aboard after me.

Chrissie led me below decks.

NOTHING was there that didn’t need to be. She also said that weight was the most important thing.

Bob was pretty much right. There was a flame to make water hot, but that was it.


The loo is a new addition. No walls, so, as Chrissie said, “You squat there and hope that no one comes down, but if they do… bad luck!”

Here’s the bottom of the mast, screwed into the bottom of the deck.

And here’s the whole thing.

I asked Chrissie who owns Smoke and she said, “Oh, my father!”

She and Bob got into a conversation where it was all about racing experiences.

“The worst thing, Chrissie said, “is when she tops over and the mast is in the water and it’s 3 AM and pitch black. The crew is calling for me to ‘find a lull” and I can’t find anything anywhere!”

It was an impressive racing yacht, but of course, most of the details went right over my head. It was a glimpse into another world, and I love having experiences like this.

When we walked away, Bob leaned close to me and said, “She’s the Skipper over that crew and she’s very good.”

(I just looked up the results of the race and unfortunately Smoke didn’t finish.)

We walked around a little more, then we said our goodbyes and I booked a seat on the next water taxi, leaving in 40 minutes.

The actual water taxi tour was a bit dull, to tell you the truth, but the captain told an interesting story about the statue on top of their Houses of Parliament.

“You’d expect the statue to be one of Queen Victoria,” he said, “But it’s actually George Vancouver. A while ago, they brought his statue down for cleaning and discovered that his left foot was completely missing. It had rusted clean away. So they took a cast of his other foot and repaired it. So there he is, standing there on two right feet. He’s no good at dancing anymore!”

This waterside restaurant is shaped like a whale’s tail.

These birdhouses on top of the logs are there to encourage the Purple Martens to stay. 

They’re migratory birds who will eat their weight in mosquitoes every day. I’d encourage them to stick around too!

Seaplanes are allowed to land in the harbour and the boats and planes have it all worked out. Whoever has their lights flashing is cleared to go.

There’s an air and water traffic control tower to keep everyone apart from each other.

As I said before, the harbour cruise was a bit boring but I’m so glad I got off at Fishermans wharf.

It is beautiful, so quirky, with all of the floating houses.

Every single floating house is a different colour and has different things around it.

Some of them are very welcoming, with flowers and everything. Others are obviously sick of people like me, milling about outside. Well,  I didn’t try and peep into any windows but apparently, some people do. Some of the houses had lots of ‘keep out’ signs and stuff like that, which I can quite understand.

I bought this pendant at a shop at the edge of the village.

It was fan fucking tastic! The bold use of colour was the best.

I was wandering around and I had two Aldi nut bars for lunch. I thought, ‘It’s not wine o’clock yet, but I just like the idea of sitting down, having a glass of wine and looking out over the water.’

Dammit! I’m going to do it.

I said to the girl who served me that I used to have that hairdo. As you could see she’s bald.

She said, “I have alopecia. I’ve got this haircut all the time.”

Anyway we chatted for a little while. She was so much fun! She got a hefty tip.

As I’m sitting here talking into my phone, it’s 4:15 in the afternoon. The sky is grey. There’s a light wind blowing and the water is a deep colour. People are talking all around me but I’m simply sitting here, sipping my wine and enjoying peace and quiet.

Beautiful bright houses are all around me, bright yellow water taxis are coming in. It’s a pretty nice way to spend an afternoon.

This day has been unexpectedly full of boats. I’ve learned more about racing yachts than I ever thought possible and have been so lucky to set foot into the fastest yacht of them all. What a day!

It’s been really lovely. Just quiet and peaceful and learning about new things and seeing new things. It’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Dad joke of the day:


Poppy has gone rapidly downhill, and Georgia has made the call that it’s time to green dream.

She’ll be going over the rainbow bridge later today.

This is her on our last walk on the beach, eagerly waiting for me to throw the ball.

This is her last night, home from the Emergency Vet, lying on my dressing gown with her brother Jeffrey beside her on the left. They were probably lying like that in the womb.

I’ll miss my constant shadow. The only quality she lacks is a sense of humour – she’s the most intense Cavalier I’ve ever owned – and the most beautiful. I’m not sure how I’ll ever get anything done without my little helper by my side at all times. (Well, except when there was someone in the kitchen!)

Goodbye my baby girl.

I love you.

Day 11 – Canada/Alaska – Butchart Gardens

Woo hoo! Megan and I got the coveted front seat on the bus! She’s sure it’s because she bumped into Sharon in Whistler yesterday and mentioned that she had here yes shit all the way from Jasper to Whistler because of travel sickness.

Being in the front seat, we were on Wildlife Duty. No wildlife showed themselves, so it was pretty easy.

Or maybe we were just really bad at it…?

This is the second biggest granite outcrop after Gibraltar.

The white patch on the mountain is said to look like a witch flying on a broomstick, but I see a duck looking over its shoulder.

We stopped along the way back into Vancouver for a look at the Shannon Falls. 

It’s 3 times higher than Niagara Falls.

When Sharon said this, I thought I’d heard wrong. Isn’t Niagara Falls supposed to be HUGE? When I asked Sharon about it, she smiled and said, “Niagara Falls is only about 51 metres tall. But it’s wide,” and she spread her arms wide to illustrate what she meant. 

The falls started from way above our heads.

I don’t know what it is about running water, but everyone seems to love it.

Here’s a photo of Megan taking a photo of some of the people from the coach.

There was a path along the side of the falls that wound back towards where the coach was parked. The stream running alongside was very pretty.

Here’s an action shot.

The temperate rainforest reminded me a little of the Dandenongs.

I must take a drive up there when I get back.

There were some wonderful vistas on the drive.

Also, some very pretty number plates.

We saw that in Canada some provinces don’t require front number plates on their cars. That seems bizarre to me, but Sharon said it was the poorer provinces, to save money.

Here’s a tunnel under the Fraser River in Vancouver.

Seems crazy that they don’t have an emergency lane. How would they clear the tunnel if someone had an accident?

We had to take the ferry to Vancouver Island. We grabbed lunch and then we sat by a window.

Megan was following the course of the ferry, on a map on her phone, while I sat and wrote this post, looking out of the window now and then to enjoy the scenery. Once I finished, I took a nap with my head down on the table. People kept coming up and asking Megan if I was all right, which spoiled the nap a little. But I felt rejuvenated once we got back on the coach.

I was worried about Poppy. Georgia had to take her to the vet because she wasn’t eating, which for Poppy is UNTHINKABLE.

This is the photo Georgia sent me as proof of life. She’s now on a course of antibiotics and we’re waiting to hear the results of the blood tests. Our vet is very ‘hands-off’ when it comes to ordering expensive tests, so the fact that Poppy had them is making me even more worried.

She’s my shadow.

Anyway, I can’t do anything about it from here and I trust Georgia implicitly with the dogs so they’re in the best hands. Georgia said that Jeffrey doesn’t have a care in the world, but Scout is sticking closely to Poppy.

We went to Butchart Gardens, where even the rubbish bins are pretty.

This was a fabulous place. A rich family moved here in the mid-1880’s and ran a quarry right near the house that they lived in. When the quarry was empty, there was a great big hole left. What an eyesore!

Mrs Jenny Butchart bet her husband Robert 25c that she could create a beautiful garden there. Safe to say, she won the bet.

It shows what money can do. There’s no denying that she had the vision to see what could be done. But she had the money behind her to make it happen.

She laid rocks around where the garden beds were to be, then had tip trucks full of topsoil come and dump their loads to create the canvas for the garden.

She had guts. When the garden beds were completed, the bare walls of the old quarry looked awful. So she swung from ropes as she went down the sides of the quarry, putting some soil and a vine in every hole and crevice that she could.

It transformed the place.

We bumped into the couple who were chased by the bear yesterday. He showed me a picture of how close the bear got. Mehgan moved away, and I had to listen to his ideas about how much this garden would be worth if the heirs sold it all to create housing.

“I reckon there’d be at least 50 million,” he said. “Imagine getting your hands on all that money?”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” I said. “It seems like there’s it’s a family legacy.”

“But there’s always one grandchild who wants to get their hands on the money,” he argued.

“Yes, but it looks like there’s always one who wants to carry the legacy onwards. Sharon said there’s a great-granddaughter running the place now,” I said.

It was strange. Amid such beauty and obvious dedication to the upkeep, all he could see was dollar signs.

As time went on, the Butcharts expanded the garden by buying more land around them. There was also a formal Italian garden that they put on top of their tennis court.

I think they got a little bit carried away by this stage.

I saw a gardener and went over to have a chat. The garden is full of flowers and the gardeners are committed to making sure that whatever the season, the place will be full of colour and fragrance.

They achieve this by extensive use of annuals, overplanting them around the permanent plants.

They don’t plant anything unless it has at least a couple of flowers out. These plants will last until October, when they’ll be pulled out and something else will take their place.

A Monkey-Puzzle tree! I remember this from the estate we went to in Ireland. The Victorians loved them.

Here’s one that Megan spotted, covered with blossoms.

The gardens were dotted with water features. Here’s Megan, enraptured by the dragon.

I was very excited by this one. My first Redwood!

I liked the line of tiles on the steps here. Maybe I could try this at home?

See how the boar’s snout is gold? You get good luck from touching it. I, of course, am Fortunate Frogdancer so I’m already lucky, but I loaded up on some more luck, just in case.

Megan’s loading up on good luck too.

There was colour everywhere.

And I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I like a good sculpture.

Here’s the one that was in the background of the previous photo. Hermes was the messenger for the gods of ancient Greece.

It’s a pity that a bird pooed on his shoulder.

Everyone kept talking about the signature Blue Poppies that these gardens are renowned for. When I finally tracked them down after asking if any were blooming, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed.

I thought they’d be a cornflower blue, instead of this more subtle shade.

I liked how the lanterns were the same shade as the wisteria. I had no idea it came in yellow!

I love azaleas.

These were massive.

I also ran a little mad in the gift shop:

Some silver earrings, and…

… these wonderful ceramic numbers for The Best House in Melbourne.

All I have to do is figure out how to attach them to the fence…

That’s all for today. We have a free day in Victoria, Vancouver Island tomorrow.

(Well, I have a free AFTERNOON. Megan is out whale-watching while I’ve been getting this blog up to date. It’s 11:50 now. I’m going to jump into the shower and then go and explore Victoria!)

Our tour ends tomorrow. Amazing how quickly it’s passed.

Dad joke of the day:

Day 10 Canada/Alaska – Whistler -one of the moments I’ll remember forever.

Today was a free day in Whistler. Both Megan and I had elected to do different activities in the morning. I did zip lining; she did a tree top walk. I raced out to the room first, then realised about an hour later that we hadn’t organised a time to meet up afterwards.

‘Oh well, too late now,’ I thought. ‘If we meet up, we meet up. If not, we’ll just share our adventure stories at the end of the day.’

The zip lining was a series of 4 zip lines, each getting longer. It was fun, but of course the actual time on the lines was all too short.

The scenery was great, though.

Here’s me, just to prove that I actually did it.

The lines all went over this river. As it turned out, Megan was down below one of the lines and saw us all fly merrily by over her.

Now, I know this bird looks like it’s a fake, but I promise you it isn’t. It’s called a Stellar Jay. I’ve read about blue Jays all my life, but I had no idea they were THIS blue!

We all had lunch together at the Irish pub when we got back to town, then I decided to go and see the Lost Lake, a place one of the zip-lining guys told me about.

I took the free shuttle bus from the town, then walked the last little bit.

There were a few other people on the path.

Look up!

Here it is.


The river that I was zip-lining over this morning drains into this lake.

I stayed here for about fifteen minutes, then headed back into town, walking with a nice American family for a little while.

I waited at the bus stop, but it was taking SO LONG. So I decided to walk back into town beside the golf course.

I’m pretty sure this is bear poo.

I was unconcerned and snapped a picture. The next day, I discovered that the bear near the gold course had charged at a couple from our tour. I should probably have been a bit more cautious about walking alone.

I got back to town and decided that I might as well take a gondola ride up Black Comb Mountain. I was a tiny bit outraged at the cost – $75. But my mantra of “You only have to do it once” kicked in and I paid.

When I asked how to get there, I was told that I needed to take the bus again. I walked up the steps and down the steps (again). I went back to the number 5 bus stop, threw my jumper and drink bottle down on the seat and let out a loud sigh as I sat down.

An American couple walking past laughed and the man said, “ That was heartfelt!”

Yes, I was getting tired.

Black Comb Mountain is named because the top looks like a rooster’s comb.

Another tourist I talked to told me that she had seen a bear from the gondola on the left-hand side. I kept my eyes peeled but saw nothing.

The gondola rose and rose. I could see the snow line slowly getting closer. I saw a building and gathered my things together, ready to get off.

Really? I was happy for this to be the height of the ride.

As we rose higher and higher still, my annoyance at the $75 fee quickly wore off. This was a big gondola. Surely the view would be worth it.

I started to hear wind whistling, so I did up my Antarctica windbreaker. I decided that before I did anything else, I’d duck into the café and buy an icecream, just like I did in Santiago a couple of years earlier, and The Great Wall a few years before that. (I enjoyed reading the Great Wall post. It brought back memories.)

Every time I use a gondola – I must have an icecream!

It’s my new travel tradition.

Fortunate Frogdancer scored a free icecream! This is a new flavour, especially commissioned for the mountain. I was the first tourist to try it – for free in exchange for an honest review. It was nice, but I wouldn’t book a plane trip from Australia just to try it.

I sat next to a window overlooking the mountains, eating the ice cream and staring at the view.

As I was sitting gazing over the Rocky Mountains I had a Moment. I was just really emotional thinking that it was so crazy that I was actually here – just me, Frogdancer Jones. Then as I was looking at the snow glinting on the mountain tops with the blue sky behind them, the Beatles came over the sound system with “Here Comes The Sun.”

It was perfect.

I’m actually dictating this paragraph on my phone and I’m seriously choked up. I nearly didn’t do this gondola ride and I’m very glad that I changed my mind. This is one of those special moments, as I’m gazing across all of these mountains stretched out before me.

It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget. 

And makes me feel so humble and at the same time so glad that I’m here. I really, really don’t understand people who don’t want to travel.

I walked to the side window and chatted with a couple of women from England. The mountains stretching off into the distance were stunning from every angle.

After I’d delivered my honest review, I went outside to see if I could get a better photo. The wind was picking up, so it was a bit chilly, but the views more than made up for it.

When I was out there, an Irish girl asked if I’d take a photo of her and her mum. We got to talking, as you do, and it turns out that her mum also had 4 kids, is divorced and is only now starting to travel.

Her daughter has been living in Calgary for the past 18 months.

She was saying that in Calgary last winter was the coldest she’d ever experienced. It got down to -46C, and she said she went outside with her hair wet. It froze in icicles and you can break it off.

“Nobody warned me that when you go out and your eyes tear up from the cold, your eyes can freeze shut. Snot freezes in your nose and the next day after I went walking around I had all these little tiny red spots on my face which turned out to be frostbite, or frostburn anyway. Nobody warned me!”

They were absolutely lovely. We stood out in the wind talking away until common sense prevailed. We went onto the deck out of the wind and kept nattering away.

Another similarity is that the mother and I both bought ourselves almost the exact same emerald ring. Hers, on the right, is more impressive than mine, but mine was bought in a far more exotic place. Thailand. 🙂

Anyway, we had a lovely chat for about 20 minutes. Travellers are great because we all just have a zest for seeing things and doing things. We’re like kindred spirits. It doesn’t matter what age you are or where you’re from – we’re happy to have a chat and swap experiences.

I’m so glad I took this tour up the mountain on the gondola. I so very nearly didn’t and I would’ve been just wandering around the streets of Whistler looking at shops. I’ve had a Moment and I’ve met some really lovely people.

Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice.

The icecream alone may not be worth jumping on a plane and coming over, but this view certainly is!

I was waiting to get back onto the gondola to go back down. I was savouring every last second of the mountains. I was eye-level with the ring of mountains behind the town and it was beautiful.

Back down the mountain!

My last eye-level view of the mountain tops.

See the flag on top of the fire hydrant? This is so when it’s snowed under, the fireman can see where it is under all the snow.

It’s difficult to imagine everything being covered with snow to that extent.

When I got back to my hotel, there were some people in the vodka room I told you about yesterday. I took a quick snap on my to the lift.

When I got there, Megan was back and we talked about our days and then had dinner with a dull couple from the tour.

Since being in Canada, Megan and I have become invested in ‘Jeopardy Grand Masters’ and tonight was the Grand Final. We made sure we were back in time to see it.

Tomorrow – back towards Vancouver!

Dad joke of the day:

Day 9: Canada/Alaska – more yellow chairs!

As the bus set off from Jasper in the morning, Sharon passed down some maple cookies. We all took one from the pack and passed them down. After we’d all eaten them, she chirpily said, “These aren’t the best cookies. These ones were on sale!”

We drove through the town of Cache Creek. This was named after a guy who was a prospector who was in the tavern and was boasting about the cache of gold that he had hidden in the creek.

That night he was murdered and nobody has ever found his gold.

Hat Creek Ranch was out first stop and is very set up for tourists. It was once a historic place but it now has a very much ‘milk ’em for all they’ve got ‘ kind of vibe. There was a miscommunication between Sharon and the operators of this place, because they obviously weren’t expecting any visitors when the bus rolled up. A woman hurriedly manned the gift shop, while the rest of us milled around, uncomfortably aware that the promised coffees weren’t going to be forthcoming.

I wasn’t happy. The one coffee of the day that I make each morning in the Aeropress has clearly sunk its teeth into me far deeper than I realised!

Of course, I had to go and have a look at the covered wagon that was right at the front of the property, being such a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. I was only there for about 3 minutes and then Sharon called out, “Quick, back to the bus! We’re stopping off for coffee!”

I thought yeah, I want a coffee so I have absolutely no problem with that!

I snapped a quick look at the inside of the wagon and honestly, imagining closing up your house and all your belongings, putting them in a wagon and just going…?

It would’ve been pretty hard.

Horstings Farm was the place we went to after the dude ranch place was a bust. It was fantastic. In fact, I think Sharon should ditch the dude ranch and take people to this place instead.

We were all queued up for coffee, then Mike, our bus driver, wandered over with half a dozen jam jars in his basket.
I always git my jams from here,” he said.

So much fresh produce. Look at this asparagus!

I’ve been trying to grow asparagus for the last 3 or 4 years but it hasn’t taken off. I think I have asparagus envy.

If I lived here, I’d be at this shop all the time.

A while later, we drove beside a river that looked like the Yarra.

An early explorer said it was” too thick to drink and too thin to plough!”

Lillooet is a little mining village where we stopped for lunch.

Sharon told the story about how 3 entrepreneurs thought they could make their fortunes by importing camels to work the trails, rather than horses or donkeys, because they could go much longer distances, survive longer without water and food, and carry more weight for the prospectors. They thought they’d be able to rent out their camels and make their fortune and expected to make about $60,000. That was their projection.

They didn’t realise that camels have soft feet and their soft padded feet were getting torn to shred on the rocks of the trails. Not only that, camels can be awfully ‘ornery’ and they said if they weren’t spitting at the prospectors or everyone else, then they were trying to rip the shirts from their backs.

So this business investment went belly up and the camels were set loose and, unlike Australia’s feral camels, they didn’t survive the harsh conditions. There was one lady camel that lived to about the age of 25 just as a curiosity in somebody’s yard but other than that the other ones just vanished and never reproduced and that was the end of Canada’s camels.

Years, later, when they were thinking of naming their new bridge that goes over the river into the town, they had a contest for someone to find a name for the bridge and the one that was chosen was the ‘Bridge of the 23 Camels.’

Margaret Murray was born in Kansas 1880. She was from a poor family, and she only received a third grade education.

When she and her sister were teenagers, they worked in a saddlery in Kansas City. They were shipping the saddles to Calgary where the Calgary stampede takes place. Both Margaret and her sister wanted to marry a cowboy so they would leave little notes with their contact Information in the packaging of the saddles to titillate the Cowboys who were purchasing them. This didn’t work so well, so they decided If they ever wanted to meet their cowboys, they had to move up to where they were.

They made their way up to Washington state where her sister met and married someone. 

Margaret continued on into Columbia and she was working her way until she made it to Calgary. That’s where she startedworking in the office of the local newspaper.

The owner was a very well-educated man called William Murray. After a year or so she decided to leave because she had to find her cowboy.

Even though she was really rough around the edges, when she gave her notice to leave, William Murray, the educated man, proposed to her. Soon after this,  they left to settle in Lillooet and run the newspaper there.

Margaret, (or ‘Ma Murphy’ as she was known by), in the early 1900’s was well known for her open door policy. At any time, if you wanted to talk to her about what was right or what was wrong with the government you could walk right in.

Margaret was very opinionated. She had her own column and she let fly with whatever she wanted to write about.

Her spelling was atrocious and she never tried to fix it. She also used expressions that were less than polite. Often, after she had given her opinion about whatever she was writing about, she’d finish with the phrase “And that’s for damshur!”

She was a colourful character in this area. Her husband decided to go into politics and become a member of Parliament and she was his strong advocate.

Her campaign slogan for her husband was “Just like underwear, you need to change politicians every once in a while.”

That was her slogan – he did get elected the first time but then they thought because of her roughness she wasn’t really set out to be a politician or member of Parliament’s wife. So he only had the one term as an MP.

She lived a full life in Lillooet, even getting the Order of Canada by the Prime Minister in her later years.

Here’s the frock she was wearing at the time. The local museum has a section devoted to her, which is where I found all of this.

Late in the afternoon, as we drove past Seton Lake, we heard that it has 8 trains in it, as they kept falling in over the edge. To be fair, it’s a glacial lake, so the sides were pretty steep.


Hooray! That was my side and I was sitting by the window.

We were so close!

I love the reflection in the water!

We were listening to Canadian music while we drove through all of this wonderful scenery. It was unexpectedly pleasant.

Naturally, my favourite singer of all time, k.d.lang, was there.

And then in the late afternoon, we arrived in Whistler. Tulips are planted everywhere. It’s delightful.

Our hotel has an ice room, where people get handed warm coats and they go in and drink vodka at -32C.

Apparently, vodka tastes smooth in these temperatures.

Am I a vodka drinker?


So we won’t be doing it. But it’s crazy to think that such a thing is right here in this hotel!

After we unpacked, Megan and I went out to look for dinner.

Whistler looks like a pretty little town.

We walked around both before and after dinner, getting our bearings.

The town seems to fold in on itself. It has a little park in the middle where these trees are.

Also a teepee.

And some smaller yellow chairs than yesterday.

Dad joke of the day:

Day 8 Canada/Alaska – The tallest mountain in the Rockies and a MOOSE!

Here is the tallest mountain in the Rockies – Mt Robson. We were pretty lucky to see as much of it as we did. but the top was shrouded in clouds.

I didn’t mind that. It makes the height of the mountain more mysterious.

Have you noticed the person in blue standing in the field?

Remember how I learned to take panoramas a couple of days ago? Here’s my attempt at Mt Robson. It’s a pity I failed to notice Megan’s water bottle in the bottom left…

This was our longest driving day of the tour, with our destination at the end being a ski lodge called Sun Peaks. Here are a few of the shots I took while we were driving.

Honestly, the scenery is spectacular.

Sharon told us this story as we were driving along:

A man was out hiking when he rounded a corner and came face to face with a bear.

The bear reared up and grunted “Woosh!!”

The man covered his face with his hands. The bear covered his own face with his hands.

The man scratched behind his ear. The bear scratched behind his own ear.

The man lifted a leg.

So did the bear. 

As the man watched the bear in astonishment, the bear turned around and did a bowel movement. 

The guy looked at the bear and said, “Oh, I already did that when you said ‘Woosh!’”

Suddenly, the call went out:


Everyone was galvanised into activity. Those of us on the wrong side of the bus leapt to our feet and raced to get to the centre aisle. The people on the right were frantically clicking away.

I didn’t get to take any pictures. Luckily, Bernie shared these ones with me.


And here’s a zoomed-in one. Crazy looking animals, aren’t they?

This is Megan feeling happy that we saw a moose.

A train!

This is a typical view. The forest grows right up to the road, just like the English and Irish lanes, only different.

I love how the road so often goes beside rivers. There’s something about seeing the water rushing by that makes me feel happy.

Also, to an Australian, it’s incredible just how much water is here.

It doesn’t seem so to the Canadians. They keep saying what a dry winter it’s been and how the water levels are so low.

But to my eyes, there’s water everywhere!

This was taken as Megan informed me that she was starting to feel travel-sick…

Thankfully, the bus soon stopped and Megan recovered her equilibrium.

We went to see a waterfall.

I’m glad that they showed us this place. It was so lovely.

This was the first view we saw. The river is so far below us. But we could hear the sound of a waterfall.

It was so long and so spectacular. Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Rona and I stood there for ages, she snapping away on her fancy camera, me on my trusty iPhone6.

Another log jam!

Look at how the trees are so thickly blanketed at the top. I don’t think you could get a single tree more up there.

This is my attempt at trying to show how the water at the top was swirling around near the log jam. I liked the look of it.

This shot shows the action of the river over thousands of years. When you think that once, the river was level with the tops of the canyon and now it’s so far below… it’s incredible, isn’t it?

Sun Peaks is a very isolated, family-style ski resort. There were very few people other than ourselves out and about, as there was a major ice hockey game on so everyone in Canada was at home watching it.

The place reminded me of a movie set.

This was us after I finally managed to get into the chair.

This is us trying to get out of it:

Dad joke of the day:

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