It seems like every morning when I wake up in this hostel bed in Vancouver, it takes a few seconds to remember where I am, and only a few more for the horrible reality to sink in that I am currently not going home in two days’ time as planned. With the nine hour time difference, I spend the first hour or so of each day emailing my travel agent and parents during their working hours. A new flight back to Cape Town will cost well over R16 000 (crazy!) and that’s also because I have to find a country in which to stop over that doesn’t require a transit or entry visa. As a South African, those options are about as scarce as a parking space at Contantia Village on a Saturday morning.
Out of desperation, I begin the tedious and lengthy process of applying for this UK Transit visa, but my heart is definitely not in it. I simply can’t imagine them issuing a visa sticker for something other than an original passport book.
I need answers. And so, Megan and I find ourselves in search of the South African consulate here in Vancouver. There’s a jovial atmosphere in the foyer of the offices, and I’m greeted by a table of prepped skottels for braai and a man wearing an apron and a big smile on his face. And he’s just the guy I’m looking for. Chris, the High Commissioner. Surely he can help! I relay my story while we sit in his office and he listens sympathetically, makes copies of my documents, and promises to try speak to the British Consulate and keep me posted. I’m feeling remarkably encouraged by this encounter, but my high dissipates the moment I try speak to someone at the British Consulate to find out about this transit visa. Granted, I didn’t have an appointment and this place is actually for British people living in Canada and their issues, but being turned away rudely by a voice over an intercom by a locked door is just not ayoba. British consulate, I am not impressed with you. Thanks for nothing.
I go to a little photo shop to have some photos taken for this visa I’m not really applying for and as I look at my black and white face on these paper squares, I wonder if it’s possible to look bleaker with life.
But there’s no more admin to do today and there’s still daytime left (and we’re still technically on holiday!), so we hop on a bus to visit Stanley Park.
Stanley Park is a densely forested 1,001-acre public park that borders the downtown of Vancouver and is almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Majestic trees – some over 70m tall – line the kilometres of paths that cross over and through the green lawns inland. The walk in the park is wonderfully soothing and refreshing.
We also stroll down the paved route known as the Seawall, Stanley Park’s most famous feature. It’s about 8,8km in its entirety (we only do part of it!) and runs all along the edge. It’s a bustling road of walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists, and after a history of conflict and collisions it was decided in 1984 that the bicycle lane of the seawall was designated one-way in a counterclockwise direction around the park.
It offers beautiful views of the city skyline and we stop to photograph Hallelujah point, Girl in a Wetsuit (and seagull on her head), and one of my favourites, Olympic runner Harry Jerome cast in a state of eternal sprinting. On the North shore we visit the quirky and intriguing Ttem poles.
At one point I fall back in my walk – probably just because I need a moment alone with my thoughts – but inevitable lose Megan and we’re both relieved when we find each other around the lighthouse not long after. The trouble with not having phones …
An observation about the people of Vancouver back in the city: There are quite a lot of homeless people lining the sidewalks. Not unusual for a big city no, but a large majority of these people are my age! Twenty-somethings who are either incompetent, troubled or lazy to work and instead wile away their days smoking pot (their cardboard signs unashamedly asking for money to buy some!), making jewellery and accepting food from passersby. They also enjoy bantering with them and one guy actually asks if I can let him have a shower in my hostel because he’s ‘cuddly when he’s clean’. Uhm, no.
Megan and I pick a funny Will Ferrell movie for the evening’s entertainment and try to have as much fun as we can on her last night in Canada.