Monday July 11, 2016

Yeehaa, it’s actually HAPPENING! After days and weeks and months of AAA (Absolute Alaskan Anticipation), we’re actually DOING IT!

We departed Auckland aboard an Air New Zealand jet two days ago (or was it three? I’ve already lost track) – arriving 13 hours later in Vancouver (British Columbia), where, a couple of hours later, we added a 1½-hr Air Canada flight to Calgary (Alberta). We were flying BACKWARDS, of course, through the time zones, and eventually touched down at 7:50pm Saturday … 15 minutes (believe it or not) BEFORE WE LEFT AUCKLAND!

After those long hours in the air, by the time we got to the Calgary Arts Hotel our Mad Midlifers weren’t up for much – so we kept the advice to a minimum: “Grab some food (if you’re hungry) … grab some body (if you need a hug) … and grab some shut-eye (if you’re ready to sleep). It’s over to you!”

A century ago, Calgary was a sleepy little Wild West outpost, but this Canadian ‘cowtown’ has become one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. No, we didn’t see any outlaws shootin’ up the sheriff in a rundown saloon, but we did see some significant landmarks: architecture, sculptures, the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, etc.

The truth is, however, our attention was focused elsewhere: on the legendary once-a-year Calgary Stampede – a 10-day rodeo, horse-show, festival and showtime-extravaganza that promises visitors “the most fun you can have with yer boots on …”

We just happened to be there on Day #3 … and we just happened to have admission tickets. So Sunday morning, after downing our weetbix and toast, we Kiwis did as instructed – “Saddle yer horses, strap on yer jodhpurs, polish yer spurs …” and we galloped off for a day of fun, food and entertainment with the Stetson-clad, corndog-chompin’ crowds!

All one-hundred-and-forty-five-THOUSAND of them!

STILL TO COME: Leaving the vast flat plains of Alberta … we head for thumping great mountains, fast-flowing rivers, tumbling icy glaciers, dazzling turquoise lakes, and the winter-resort town of Banff. Whatever you do, stay tuned!

PEOPLE-NEWS: Three of our ever-popular Yellow Ducks have already quacked their way into new hands …

  • Rob (Hungerford) claimed our Thievin’ Varmints’ Award – for losing his nice black jacket, just a day into the tour. We all suspect he absent-mindedly left it somewhere – in a toilet, on the plane, in a coach, at a restaurant – but Rob’s convinced some dirty, low-down critter nicked it while he was busy trying to put his six-gun back into the holster!
  • Beth earned herself our frequently won Abandon Ship’ Award (despite the fact that we’re not yet on a ship). Very simply, Beth was spotted making a determined effort to join a different group by getting on their coach instead of ours.
  • Frankie sneaked off with our Unoccupied’ Award – for standing patiently at the door of an outside loo for at least 10 minutes, waiting for the-man-she-knew-was-inside to finish his business. Can you imagine how embarrassed Frankie looked when another of our Kiwi blokes finally pulled the door open to discover … nothing! Nobody was there! It was empty, unoccupied, and had been all along! Frankie’s conclusion? “He must’ve escaped out some secret back door!”

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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