I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Welcome to British Columbia

I'm wide awake after not nearly enough sleep, listening to the gulls crying in the harbor from my hotel bed in Victoria.

I still have almost an hour to kill before they start serving breakfast, so here's a brief recap of yesterday's adventures. It's a four-hour trip from Vancouver Airport to Victoria -- a bus drives you onto the ferry, you disembark and enjoy the scenery for an hour and a half, then reboard the bus for the 40 minute drive to downtown Victoria. The buses leave every two hours, and I had reserved the one scheduled to depart two and a half hours after my plane landed.  That would give me plenty of time to go through immigration and collect my luggage, and possibly grab a coffee or something to eat before settling in for the trip to Victoria.

The flight was uneventful, and we actually landed a few minutes early. So far, so good. I was scurrying along the corridors on my way to Immigration when I noticed a crowd up ahead blocking the way, and a guard herding us over against the wall into what was apparently a feeder line leading to the actual Immigration area. Vancouver has become a very popular destination for vacationers from Asia, and I had heard that the immigration lines could be very long. This was apparently an understatement, but I had plenty of time so I wasn't worried.

We shuffled past the main line and it was impressively long -- a huge room with a line that snaked back and forth into twenty long columns of people. (Yes, I counted. There wasn't really anything else to do.) Then we turned a corner and there were ten more columns to the line! At least it was moving fairly quickly, and I still had plenty of time to make my bus, so I just kept my head down and trudged along for what turned out to be more than half a mile of line. (Yes, I checked my Fitbit. There wasn't really anything else to do.)

Finally, after 45 minutes, I got close to the end and learned that the line I had been standing in wasn't actually the immigration line; it was the line to get on the escalator to go down to Immigration and stand in the REAL line. I did not count the columns there. By that point I was dizzy from all the switchbacks, and my backpack was digging into my shoulders and I just focused on getting to the end of the row, turning, and getting to the end of the next one, and fantasizing about the lengths I would go to to avoid ever having to go through immigration in Vancouver again. For example, would I be willing to fly into Saskatoon, go through immigration there, then take a thirty-hour bus ride across the prairies to British Columbia? Why yes I would.

Retrieving my suitcase turned out to be the next hurdle. I only had twenty minutes before my bus left, and I had been in line so long my flight no longer appeared on the information board so I had no idea which carousel was mine, and I had to wander around and check each one. Finally, suitcase! Ten minutes to go! A quick pee, a Kind bar and a bottle of water from a newsstand which was going to have to hold me until I got on the ferry, and I made my bus with almost a minute to spare.

I settled back in the seat, caught my breath, and learned that due to mechanical difficulties -- a polite way of saying that the engine wouldn't turn over -- we were waiting for a replacement bus and wouldn't be leaving immediately after all. The replacement bus turned out to be a borrowed Air Canada shuttle, and after somehow managing to cram all of our luggage inside, we raced off to catch the ferry.

And the shuttle caught on fire half a mile from the ferry terminal -- I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say -- and we found ourselves standing by the side of the highway with all of our luggage (see picture above), while the BC police secured the scene and attempted to commandeer a third bus to take us the rest of the way.

We missed the ferry. It was a two hour wait for the next one. But I got here eventually, and the little I saw of Victoria through my half-closed eyes looked quite charming.

Now I need my breakfast.

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