Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sioux Falls to Sydney via Port Alberni, BC

All the flights from Sioux Falls to Vancouver were on time and connections were made without problems. I knew it must have been a good day because even the Canadian immigration official was pleasant. And that was a first!
Despite an uncooperative cargo door on our little Dash 8 that was to take me on the 14 minute flight to Victoria, I was not too late and was picked up by friends and driven up the coast three hours north to Port Alberni. It was only a few days before my departure that I learned how far Port Alberni was from Victoria. There were at least two airports closer but at least this way I got to see more of the country side.

Once we left the suburban sprawl of Victoria, the landscape became what I has always imagined. Green tree covered hills, ocean vistas and snow covered mountains. Quite a contrast to Tucson. And it was 20 degrees cooler!
We stopped en route at Chemainus. Once a town that relied solely on its sawmills, it has broken free of its dependence on the logging industry and has become Canada’s largest outdoor gallery with its wonderful life-sized murals. All professionally painted on the sides of downtown buildings, the murals reflect the history and the people of this small town. Chemainus now boasts over 30 of these murals. You can also shop until you drop at over 100 antique dealers. And they had great coffee shops too.

The drive to Port Alberni provides some incredible scenery. Fast running rivers, secluded lakes and forests of giant trees towering above you. MacMillian Provincial Park contains Cathedral Grove. Over 1000 years old, this old growth forest is home to ancient red cedars and majestic 900-year-old Douglas firs.
Next morning we headed into Stamp River Provincial Park to visit the fish ladder and hopefully see some salmon trying to make it up Stamp Falls. The fish ladder was put here to help them circumnavigate the torrent and increase the level of spawning upstream. Despite the fact that a huge number of fish (some whoppers) could be seen congregating in the clear pools below the falls, none were making the attempt to get up further.

We then visited the McLean Mill National Historical Site to discover the rustic beginnings of BC's timber industry. You step back in time here on a walk through the original camp of the loggers and mill workers, the 1920s era steam mill, the dam, mill pond, and over 30 other buildings. It has been restored to working condition but unfortunately not on the day we visited. A steam train brings visitors up from the town on specific days and it is then the huge old saws get humming.

A small detour took us to the Chase and Warren vineyard and winery. The BC wine industry produces under pretty adverse conditions with a very short growing season, variable weather conditions and potential deer ravages. As a result early maturing whites eg. Gewuerztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir is about all they can grow. We tasted the whole range and I was quite surprised at the quality. They say they get the grapes reasonably ripe but they are allowed to add sugar and acid and the vigneron was not too forthcoming on the additions he had made to the wines we were trying. We bought a few bottles for dinner and one to take home to Aus so he did ok from our visit.

Next morning we drove back down to Victoria. It is a pretty city on the water with some impressive buildings. We only had time for a quick look around and a great lunch, a wild salmon burger, before I had to head back to the airport.
The problem with the London Airport security situation was just starting to filter through as we left Vancouver, so we were virtually unaffected by the new regulations. So it was a pleasant six hour flight to Honolulu for a 2 hour stopover, then a little less enjoyable 10 hour leg to Sydney. Luckily the plane was not that full so I was able to stretch out a bit and sleep for a good deal of the way.

We made it early but because of the silly airport curfew we were forced to circle off shore for quite a while before landing. Then the aircraft was sprayed! I thought that process had been abandoned a decade ago when residual sprays were introduced.
Welcome to Sydney.....cough, cough; splutter, splutter.
You wonder what visitors must think!
Anyway I was soon through customs with my booty of Caribou Coffee, Godiva chocies and and real Canadian maple syrup.
Another adventure was over!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Zuni Fetishes

Zuni Fetishes are small (several cm long at most) carvings from various stones, made by the Zuni Indians. These carving serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators, or they can be sold to collectors worldwide. Typically they depict animals such as horses, wolves, bears, buffalo and others. Even insects may be the subject of the artist. Stones could be turquoise, fishrock, jasper, pipestone, marble, even artificial substances such as slag glass.
The artists’ styles are as unique as the artists themselves, and there are many whose works are highly sought after by collectors. Some carvers prefer a delicate, realistic figure that appears to stalk one from a shelf or curio cabinet, and others carve blocky, heavy styles more suitable to ride in a pocket.

Each animal is believed to have inherent powers or qualities that may aid the owner. The wolf for example, provides guidance through life's journeys, while the raven and the horse are thought to have the power to provide healing. A fetish in the shape of a horse might also be carried during travel in hopes of a safe, swift journey.
A fetish may be signed by the carver, or not. Often, though, a fetishes style will be enough to identify the carver as surely as any other mark would. A horse by Abby Quam, for example, is pretty unmistakable. Some carvers have parents, grand parents or children who also carve fetishes. Besides being made from various stones, (each stone also has unique properties) the fetish can be embellished with small beads of bright red coral, shell, or turquoise. They may carry a miniature arrowhead made from shiny abalone shell. These small items, although colorful to the eye, are intended to protect and feed the fetish itself.

On the subject of feeding, it is believed that the fetishes require a meal of cornmeal and ground turquoise periodically. Fetishes may be kept in a clay pot as it is the tradition, although collectors usually like to keep theirs somewhere where they can be admired. Any but the very delicate fetishes could be carried by the owner in a pocket, pouch or bag.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Escape from Tucson

We made it to Sioux Falls.......just!
After getting up at 4am to get ready for an early departure to Phoenix to get our flight,I noticed it was sprinkling when I was packing the car. By the time we were ready to leave it was bucketing down. We waited about 15 minutes but there was no let up so we left anyway. Our street was like a river with water halfway up our wheels. Our usual way out of town was blocked by a wash running at a million miles an hour, so I tried another way which was also flooded.
So we headed back home, called the airline to change our flights and waited.....and waited. It just didn't stop.
The tv was issuing warnings about flash flooding and dangerous conditions every ten minutes or so. After a few hours we made another attempt. It was still bad but not as dangerous as before. Once we got on the interstate we knew we had made the right decision to wait.There was a huge number of cars that had come to grief spinning out in the wet treacherous conditions and crashing into safety barriers.
We got to Phoenix ok and then had to fill up before returning our car to the rental office. The only gas station we could find was right in the middle of the area where the Phoenix sniper has been operating so it was a little disconcerting filling up the car and watching out for a beige truck that he is supposed to be driving.
Sioux Falls was hot too and also very humid.
I think I like the desert climate better.
During the week we caught up with family and friends. I even made it to a batting cage and had my first hit of a baseball.....medium speed.
On our last weekend, the family threw a a surprise early 60th birthday for me.
We had a ball.
It had a distinct Elvis theme. Lots of nice Elvis orientated presents, a keg of Coors, roasted pork loin and beans and a disco. The more energetic played volley ball, the more sensible sat back and drank beer.
I lasted until midnight, some others until 2:30am!
It was great way to end my USA visit.
So, after a short detour to Vancouver Island, Canada, I would be on my way home.