Sunday, March 31, 2019

Toronto, Canada, March 30-31, 2019

I stayed in a studio condo on the 30th floor of the Sun Life Building downtown.  It had a bed, couch, kitchen and bathroom.  I could see Lake Ontario to the south and the Rogers Centre was a block away.  It was on York Street and it was awesome because there was an excellent grocery store on the second floor and inside walkways all over downtown.  There was a BlueJay game on but I didn't go because it's painful enough to watch it on tv if I watch so why would I pay to see it live.  I've seen enough ball games live.  I did go to the musical Come From Away which is the story of the people in Gander, Newfoundland hosting over 30 jets that were grounded after the 9-11 attacks.  I was at the four hundred and eightieth or so performance; most shows have sold out.  I wasn't that impressed with the singing but I always like the way they do the sets and this one did not disappoint.  Only about a dozen or so people played all the roles and the floor rotated to change the scene from the local coffee shop to the bar to the planes.  I think one of the reasons it's so popular is because people, especially big city people, are looking for that sense of community.  In fact, Gander could be small town Saskatchewan where people just help out and do what needs to be done.  That helped me understand why I hate Toronto.  It's the only place on my six month journey where I felt slightly nervous.  Homeless people lie in the middle of the sidewalk wrapped in sleeping bags hollering at passerbys.  No one will look you in the eye or dare say hello.  A woman was coming towards me and when she was about six feet away I called out to her, hoping for directions.  She didn't even look at me, spun on her heel and walked back from where she came.  I finally came unglued in the Intercontinental Hotel where they, thankfully, store luggage.  I had tried to keep my backpack at the security desk in the Sun Life Building, customer service in Union Station, the Royal York Hotel lockers (which do not exist) so was grateful the Intercontinental stored luggage.  Upon arriving, I had my big blue backpack, my statue from Cameroun, my day pack and a grocery bag.  The concierge told me it was $5/bag and that I had 2 bags.  I smiled and said "No I don't!  Watch!" I proceeded to put everything in my grey backpack bag.  He still said it was still 2 bags because it was heavy.  I easily lifted it to show him it wasn't heavy so he called his partner over and asked how many bags that looked like to him. "Two", he said.  WTF I thought.  That's when I went off on a little tirade, telling them Toronto was the worst place I had visited the last six months and why, as a Canadian,  I was ashamed to say Toronto was a Canadian city.  They apologized and still charged me for two bags and became offended when I asked them where they wanted me to put the bag.  They said they could do it but I reminded them they told me it was heavy and then accused me of mocking them, which I was.  Anyway, I got the hell out of there before I said too much and went exploring Toronto.

The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the wind was howling.  I was freezing but day 2 was better than day 1 because it wasn't a snowstorm-

I was on my way to the Desigual store which was a mile away.  Buildings along the route-

Nice trompe l'oeil-

A fountain for thirsty dogs-

A lock covered sign which always baffles me.  I mean, what's the attraction?

I did a lot of looking, shopping and wandering around.  You can't eat much for less than $25 and then they expect at least a 20% tip for doing their job?  If you time how much time they actually spend with you, it's often less than a minute.  I'm not a tipper.  Sorry.  

I was happy to get the hell out of Toronto and truly hope the airport is the only part of the city I will ever visit again!

Mom and Dad were waiting at the airport in Saskatoon and my awesome adventure was over for this year!  Now to adjust to "real" life!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Luanda, Angola to Dublin, Ireland to Toronto, Ontario, Forever, 2019

We finally got away at 2:40 am which was 3h40 minutes late. We are on a Boeing 787 which I thought were all grounded but so far so good.  I've been lucky because I've slept a lot and after 7 hours we've had 2 meals.  They don't taste too good so I only eat a few mouthfuls but just the storage capacities of the plane's kitchen are amazing.
So, I was awoken for breakfast and I asked the waitress how much longer and she said an hour and ten minutes.  Good I though, I've survived.  What was funny though was that we were supposed to stop in Dublin but we hadn't so I thought because of our long delay there'd been a change in flight plans.  So the 1h10 passed and the pilot came on and said we would be landing soon, in Dublin!  Dublin?  WTF?  Did I get on the wrong plane?  We've been flying 7.5 hours and we're only in Dublin?  OMG, I'm going to have another birthday before we get to Toronto.  I've exhausted the music the plane provides and guess I'll just have to continue sorting through my pictures.  How long is this flight anyway?

Well it turns out it's 17 hours!  17 hours I will never get back!  We've had snacks and another meal and I kind of think we are done as far as food goes.  I've had a Dad and his 7 year old son beside me and the son has no idea about personal space.  Oh well, I'm going crazy and I'm 57  I can't imagine what he's feeling.  I know what the 5 year old across the aisle was feeling.  A while ago, my neighbor had his eye shade across his nose because he smelled something awful. I told him I thought that was our next meal.  He looked at me horrified and said he hoped not.  I inhaled a big one and yuck, he was right.  Someone had crapped themselves!  I asked the dad ahead of me ( who is travelling with his wife and 5 children, repeat 5!)  If maybe one of them had had an accident.  Oh no he said, none is in diapers.  They're all older than that.  Well, he must have got a whiff and all of a sudden wasn't so sure so he sniffed the wild one and sure enough, off they went to the bathroom to get cleaned up.  Poor kid.  

We are supposed to land at 11:20.  I'm sitting near the back of the plane so it will take awhile to get off and through customs.

Well we finally landed and what a culture shock to walk through the Toronto airport.  There are tables with charging stations with power that seems to be on.  The bathrooms have sit down toilets with toilet seats and toilet paper, hot running water at the sinks, soap and paper towels.  This all seems so weird and luxurious!  I got through customs quickly and without trouble.  I was worried about my wooden statues but they're varnished so not raw wood.  I bought a train ticket to Union Station and called Freddie who came and let me into the cubicle, I mean condo that I've rented for two days.  It's in the Sun Life Building on York, right downtown and on the 30th floor.  I've got a view? Of the lake and Roger's Stadium, in fact there's a ball game on this afternoon but I don't watch the Bluejays on tv so why would I go to a game?  I think I'll enjoy my room!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Luanda, Angola to Toronto, March 29, 2019

The view from my room was across the bay to the skyline of Luanda.  It looks pretty modern-

We had quite a storm last night.  The wind came up and was howling through the windows of my room and if I didn't know any better, I'd have though I was in the middle of a blizzard.  It also rained and was still drizzling this morning.  I was so glad I wasn't in my tent!  Apparently the 3 who were supposed to be camping slept in the truck and another slept in a room in the hotel on the floor.  

After breakfast and saying goodbye once again, I went to the airport where in typical African style, the computers were down so security was collecting our passports while we waited in line.  They disappeared but came back with our boarding passes, then we could move forward to a counter where they wrote out our baggage tag by hand.  I said farewell to my stuff - what are the chances I'll see it again?  Slim to none?  The Luanda airport is miniature with only 4 gates and as per usual in warm climates, we were bussed to the plane.  I lucked out and was alone in 3 seats.  The entertainment is first class - I watched A Star is Born - Bradley Cooper is so hot!  I arrived early in Addis, Ethiopia and because of numerous delays am still in the airport.  I'm supposed to arrive at 9 am so that too will be delayed but that's okay because I can't get into the condo I've rented until 3 pm. 

I haven't spent much time in Toronto so I'm looking forward to the next couple of days. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bushcamp to Luanda, Angola, March 28, 2019

I was awake every hour and I know that becasue I had my IPad with me for an alarm for our early breakfast.  The night was cool and there was a great breeze.  We were on the road by 6:30, heading to Luanda.  The countryside hasn't changed - trees, tall grass, little human life and no animal life.  

I've checked flights and it looks like I can fly tomorrow and eventually get to Toronto for a little over $1300, so that means today is my last day with the group.  I've loved most of the group and they have made this journey so worth it-

Victoria is from Norway and a linguist.  Once the trip is over she will go home and look for work.  She always has something positive to say-

Ella is Canadian but living in Malaga, Spain.  She leaves today and heads for São Tomé for a few days and has only been with us a month-

Clarissa has malaria but is feeling a lot better today.  She's from Holland and a retired scientific researcher.  She studied homeless people and drug addicts in Utrecht and is the best cook on the truck, always willing to help out anyone who asks for spice advice-

Brad is Will's nephew and a farmer from New Zealand.  He's been an awesome help this trip whether finding food under the floorboards, loading luggage or truck maintenance.  I'll always remember Shitface Monday's or Friday's or ........

Hills is from England and a huge Chelsea supporter who is always helping in the kitchen.  She's very witty and has had me laughing a lot-

Brian is a retired electrician from England who loves to sing and play the guitar-

Michelle is from Alberta but has been living and teaching English in Chile the last few years-

Leanne and Ryan are from England.  She works in Iceland at a hotel and he is a greenskeeper who has been volunteering in Afriica.  They met on the trip.  Leanne loves to laugh and you can hear her all over the truck-

April is from Queens and a retired  computer geek.  She spends most of her time on the truck like this and she has the best laugh ever.  She eats a lot of ginger and garlic and is very helpful chopping in the kitchen-

Brian is a retired financial wizard from San Diego.  He has the best sense of humour ever:  " This is going to be good!"-

Lutz is German but lives in Australia.  He's always up early, rustling around with his tent, making sure none of us sleep in-

Terry makes me laugh all the time!  He's a retired corrections worker from England but lives in Thailand, is a massive hoarder, a collector of masks and smelly beer cans and completely insane.  He trims his beard with scissors and a towel draped across his chest while sitting around mountains of his shit in the back of the truck.  He was part of the #1 Cook Group-

Norm is also part of the #1 Cook Group and I get a morning hug every day!  He spends a lot of time like this because most of the time he's pissed.  He drinks morning and night, either brandy, rum or pastis.  He's happy all the time and bursts into If You're Happy and You Know It and Kumbaya.  I love Norm-

Richard is British but now lives in Lisbon.  He's been a great truck packer and is always helping with the electrics-

Don is from North Carolina and retired from a metal coating business.  He's become a minimalist and avid traveller and has been a calming presence most of the time, until he explodes at Thomas-

Will has driven us safely the past 3 months and is very easy going.  He's made our life easy and the trip fun-

We arrived in Luanda before 2 pm and parked in the parking lot of the yacht club which is very conveniently located to restaurants and the water.  Most people headed straight for a close by hotel because it's so hot and humid and we upgrade when we can.  
For lunch, I had an espetada.  I've never seen such a thing before.  It's grilled vegetables and different meats on a skewer-

After lunch I checked into the hotel, enjoyed the jacuzzi tub, the wifi and the air conditionning.  Supper was Chinese room service.   I've booked my flight for Toronto, leaving tomorrow at 2 pm to arrive March 30 at 9 am.  Flights with Westjet are sold out for the weekend so I'm flying to Saskatoon Monday at 8 pm to arrive at 9:30 pm.  I'm starting to look forward to going home!  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Boma to I'm Retarded, DRC then to a Bushcamp, Angola, March 27, 2019

The countdown is on.  We have two days to get to Luanda which is over 500 km away.  I'm hoping to fly to Toronto on the 29th at 2 pm and Ella is also leaving that day.  However, Boma did not want to cooperate and we spent an hour in a traffic jam.  It was interesting because there is so much to see including food stalls along the way, so I was able to find an omelette, eat it in the truck and then drop off the plate on the way by the stall once we got moving!  That's one thing I love about Africa!  I can't imagine their "normal"-

Apparently there were road works ahead but once through, I didn't see that happening.  It seemed like too many motorcycles blocking the way of too many big trucks-

The market was well stocked and lively-

DRC has been one of the worst countries for yelling at us when we take pictures.  Once I took a photo of the chicken woman, she was grumping at me, but then, pulled out her phone and took a picture of me with the truck.  She thought that was quite funny-
Leaving Boma, the countryside is lovely- 

We stopped in Matadi to see an old church but I was on cook group so had to shop.  I didn't mind because I'm 99.9% sure it was 100% underwhelming.  We carried on-

and got to the DRC border at Luvo which had at least one kilometre of stalls and many carts selling everything imaginable-
I've never seen so many cripples either.  Many of them drive carts that have to be pushed when they fail.  Many are missing a foot or lower limbs and moving around on crutches.  The DRC border crossing itself was sort of painless but slow.  First, the inspector had to look at each visa while he also dealt with two women that I think had been arrested for thieving because he told them that it took money to travel and then he asked me if that wasn't true.  I said yes of course and he looked at them and said "See?"  Then our passports were handed off to a couple of finger typers who scanned each one and entered a bit of information and finally given to the chef who was in a lovely air conditionned office with three of our older passengers - he said it was too hot for them to be outside so they were crammed in his office as well as Carol who only has a few passport pages left so she wants to make sure the stamp goes in a specific spot.  It's quite annoying because numerous people have fewer pages and rely on whoever is handling our passports on a particular day to look after things, but I regress.....Eventually we had our stamps and were on our way to the Angola side, through another kilometer of shops.  Here, our passports were very professionally handled.  Only two of us were allowed in the office so Carol and Thomas were kicked out!  That was the best part.  Oh, did I say that out loud?  We had a document from the Angolan embassy in Dolisie where we got our visas with all our details and that sped up the process.  Once they had checked the visas (we also submitted a copy of our passport and Angola visa), they took the passports away to have them stamped while we enjoyed the AC.  After 2.5 hours total (both borders and customs for the truck), we were on the road.  
Angola feels first world:  the highway is nice-

for the most part and the land is green and rolling-
The grass along the edges of the road is taller than me.  It's a coarse plant that I don't think animals will eat beause besides a few goats and chickens, we haven't seen any life.  Africans eat cassava. It's why they are so skinny.I was riding shotgun again so it was a hard day, hopping in and out of the cab at numerous police checks.  About 6 pm we found a quarry for a great Bushcamp.  For supper we are having black bean burgers and avocado/onion/tomato salad.  We have 5:30 breakfast and a 6:30 departure as we try to get to Luanda tomorrow.  We are making omelettes with tomatoes and onions.  It's not hard even though it's early.  Some cook groups can't be bothered doing much at breakfast - cereal and dry bread.  I don't understand their attitude.  If people eat well, they are happier but some people are too selfish? Or lazy? Or I don't know what? to do a good job.  Oh well, tomorrow is my last day!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bushcamp to Boma, DRC, March 26, 2019

We had an almost dry night and were on the road early.  Unfortunately, the roads hadn't improved over night-

But we were luckier than some-

These boys were selling a Rock Python that they were holding with a fishhook through its throat.  It was still alive.  Will was feeling badly afterwards that he hadn't bought it and set it free but it would 
have been caught again.  That's the thing here; there is no wildlife. It's all been eaten-

The sides of the road are either swamps or solid grass-

Villages in DRC are typical:  sometimes homes are made of wood but usually mud bricks, all with tin roofs.  Coal or peat is available for sale to burn -

Areas that need to be protected from animals, such as wells, are fenced-

Carrying on, the roads didn't improve- 

I would not like to be here in rainy season but most people, if they have any form of transportation, use a motorcycle and with that, they weave all over following a narrow track.  Most people don't travel away from their village, but if they do they walk or take public transport-

The scenery continues to be jungle with nothing domestically planted.  Come on you people!  Get a garden growing-

Vehicles are loaded to the max-

Vehicles that wreck or break down are left, where ever, forever.  This truck was in the middle of the highway and has been here for what looks like ages.  Everyone just drives around it-

Christian cemeteries line the roads-

Arriving at Boma, we had our first sighting of the mighty Congo River-

The bridge is new and cost us, a 3 axle truck, $65 US to cross-

We drove in to Boma, in search of a hotel that also allows camping.  Carrefour statues can be so weird-

After a couple of stops, we were led to Le Couvent des Soeurs where we could camp and they had 3 hot, stuffy rooms.  Next door was a cripple's hospital which is amazing when you remember where we are, and they had 3 rooms too, but as our negotiations progressed, it turned out they also had rooms with AC so I snagged one of them.  A few of us went to a Lebanese restaurant but it was less than average.  Oh well.  I thought I'd already learned the lesson that I shouldn't eat Western in Africa.  

I'm hoping for a great, cool, sleep.  

  Cancun, Mexico to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,     December 31, 2023 I was up at 4:30 and walking to the bus depot by 5:30.  I wore my headlam...